The Ashmolean museum in Oxford offers daily free tours with different thematic concepts and contexts. This is, by far, a superb way to visit a museum on a course of some weeks. That is due probably because of the obvious reason that what is usually an interested curious walk amongst the eras suddenly becomes a learning experience about cultures and hence, about life.
One thing that is constantly repeating while visiting a museum is the multiplicity of faiths and general dispositions of belief-based traditions and ceremonies that qualify and quantify the society.
In one of these visits I had the pleasure to walk through the Egyptian era. While listening to the explanation of the volunteering Egyptologist, I couldn´t help myself but take few notes I find to be extremely relevant to the way we perceive the interaction between older cultures and traditions and our own. Today, any curious person that is interested to know where and when her beliefs began can simply look at the vast and growing number of web pages (both official and amateurs) that delightfully narrate the passing of concepts and faith from one culture to the one that followed. This tour was no different, staring at Amun Ra’s human or ram´s face, one cannot not be awe striking by its majestic power. This divine Sun God usually appears holding in one hand a spear and in the other the Ankh, the key of life by the gods (still represented to this very day in various beliefs). As creator god, he is considered to be the father of kings, meaning the father of the great Pharaohs.
As even the great god cannot stay without the universal need of a feminine wisdom and natural connections, the belief in the Mother God (known as Mut) was also part of the divine. The Goddess was venerated as both Virgin and Mother and in many representations was depicted as a gyps (a vulture). The Pharaoh, on the other hand, was praised as an earthly god, as the son of both the creator god and the great wise goddess (though by parthenogenesis of course). He can no doubt create miracles and even holds the balance between Ka and Ba (concepts of the soul). The first being the sheut (close to the word ‘sheol’ in Hebrew which in general terms means ‘hell’), it is the shadow of the human soul. In direct opposition to Ka is Ba, depicted by a bird with a human head that flies to the field of Reeds (or Aaru, similar to the modern notion of paradise). No doubt, the assimilations and reconfiguration of cultures and symbols gave way for Ba to have a strong resemblance to the famous Al-Buraq that followed in the same region.
A museum, the great palace of knowledge, where a person not only journeys to the past but also to her own culture and origins. It is our universal, our extension to the farther realms that altogether are closer than we can imagine to our own perception. As pattern seeking mammals, it seems that there is a desire to create these magnificent artifacts of aesthetic emotional experience in order to give rise to reasons and explanations. Yet let us not forget (and any visit in a museum should reminds us), what was once sacred, today, is a mere curious piece of history and beauty.
The geographical journey that instigates and inspires the mental one will be the action that will carry us to distant and unknown regions of the intrinsic as well as the extrinsic world. A journey can be many things, but it is not a week’s vacation in a beach town, or a trip to a cosmopolitan city in a foreign country. A journey is always a trip of learning, differentiating itself from tourism (a short vacation) or traveling (a longer period of time).
A journey has no time limit, but it involves diving into new cultures, into a unique path in an unfamiliar environment. A vacation, on the other hand, usually ends up with many “I’ve been there” photos and some nice stories to make friends and family jealous, while a journey consists of connecting to other cultures, learning about them, losing yourself to mother nature, whether alone or with a companion. The importance of the number of people who can join is crucial for the experience: one can never really contemplate nature or one’s surroundings when accompanied by a group of ten people. There will constantly be things to do and someone to talk to, and your attention will be more focused on the group itself than toward the new of the outside. In my personal opinion and experience, the solo journey is the most exhilarating and wholesome; followed by a journey of two friends, three if you really have to, and only after that comes a couple. Yes, two to three friends are better partners on a journey than your significant other, for as great as it is for couples to have these experiences, this bonding does not contribute the connection to the outside. In a couple’s journey, you do not change or evolve as a person but as a couple (a wonderful thing on its own).
Solo journeys of psychological and physical development are not rare in our world. The most commonplace, though, are found in literature, both fiction and biographies. In the Odyssey, for example, Homer’s Ulysses undergoes many tests, but the most important one, among the wars and quarrels with the gods, is the journey back to Ithaca. The journey is far from peaceful sailing along the Mediterranean shoreline—he faces hardships, death, and recognition in life. Many times he confronts the gods, good as well as evil, withstanding sacrifice and misery, through sorrow and, at times, joy and ecstasy. Many years pass before he can return to reign side by side with his dear wife.
What do you think would have happened if Ulysses had managed to get right back home after the war of Troy? It would not have been long until he would have found some other war to fight, or the next adventurous opportunity, always in a degenerating dissatisfaction. However, after the countless sights, fatigue, experiences, suffering, and death he survived, his perspective changed and he proved to himself that priorities change when they are viewed from a broader perspective.
In the old world of the sage Greeks, with their idols and stories of heroism, there is a leitmotif—the long walk, the journey of many years. It is what every hero must undertake before being approved by the gods. Those years away from his confidence, far from the security of home, are the most important years of developing his character. Those are years in which the hero’s edification and his mode of action are shaped, and it is then when he becomes the person he is supposed to be, a savior and a hero of the gods. The weaker ones die on the way, but the survivors, the chosen ones, are strong—they are the ones who, with the right combination of strength and shrewdness, can overcome any obstacles and defeat the strongest of their enemy. Even Jesus, king of the Christians, is said to have traveled for many years before he started spreading the word. Moses had a revelation in the mountains before he could lead the children of Israel in the desert. The ancient Babylonian god Dagon disappeared at sea only to reappear years later in a hybrid form, half man, half fish, to lead his people to justice and greatness. Jacob fled his brother Esau and saw an angel descend a ladder from God to tell him the good news.
Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, learned from the many heroic stories of his predecessors; he went for years until that glorious moment when Allah called him to pass down to him the sacred word and distribute it among the lost, heterogeneous, scattered tribes throughout the Arab territory. He did his job so effectively that about two hundred years later the Muslims had become the most powerful union in that part of the world. Buddha is said to have journeyed for long years until he reached enlightenment and nirvana. Whether the Law of Moses or the New Testament, Islam, Buddhism, or other religions and beliefs (monotheistic, polytheistic, or animistic), almost every story of spiritual discovery unravels and begins with the story of the hero’s journey. In it, while facing the unknown, you need to re-examine your abilities every day as another reality, other problems that require new and creative solutions come about. You will spend many hours with yourself in constant introspection, sometimes conscious of the struggle inside and other times the enlightenment will arrive only in retrospect. A journey is one of the strongest examinations of the third division in trispectivism, the intercommunication, the interaction you, as an individual All, have to acknowledge in the face of the world, the universal All. Strengthening one aspect in the three divisions (whether the awareness of the individual, widening the perspectives of the universal, or simply improving the interaction) is also empowering and reinforces the other two.
[This post is taken from Trispectivism, the section titled “Journeys” p. 183]