Plato and Aristotle.rnNot that radical Afroccntrists are persuaded by these arguments,rnor any other arguments, just because they arc based onrnwarranted evidence. Perhaps 30 years ago arguments from e’idenccrnmight have carried some conviction. But these days thevrnarc less effective. People no longer judge an argument on thernbasis of facts, but on the basis of cultural motives. These arernthe motives which are thought to arise from being part t)f anrnetlmic or geographical culture or subculture. Ihercforc, if vournare a historian of European descent, it is assumed that you willrnnaturally want to favor other European cultures. As a result,rnyour account of ancient history can be regarded as biased brnmembers of another cultural group.rnCriticisms of this sort cannot be automatically dismissed.rnSome of them are even justified. It is completely reasonable tornargue that the study of the civilizations of ancient Egypt andrnNubia has been neglected in favor of Greece and Rome, and tornobscrx’c that the Greeo-Roman way of doing things is notrnalways superior to the Egyptian. The Greeks themselves completelyrnmisunderstood the deeply spiritual nature of thernEgyptian gods, who manifested themseKes in different forms,rnincluding those of animals. The Greeks found such “animalrnworship” deeply uncongenial, and made fun of the ligyptiansrnfor the respect with which they treated certain animals, includingrncats. But considerable harm has been done to animalsrnbecause of the European belief that only human beings havernsouls.rnThe radical Afroccntrists also have reason to complain thatrnmany h’uropcan scholars have not sufficiently emphasized thatrnthe ancient Egyptians were an African people. According tornHerodotus, who had visited Egypt, the Egyptians were darkskinnedrnand woolK-haired. His portrait of the Egyptians appearsrnto be supported by archaeological evidence that suggestsrnthat Egyptians were brown-skinned and had dark wavy hair.rnTheir gene pool contained both southern African and Semiticrnelements. It is probabK fair to say that if a person from Memphis,rnEgpt, in 1930 B.C. turned up in N4cmphis, Tennessee, inrnAt:). 1930, he would have had to sit at the back of the bus.rnNo one should blame the Afroccntrists for pointing outrnthat European historians have ovcdooked the question ofrnEgypt’s connection with other peoples on the African continent.rnAlso, they are certainly right to obscre that Enro])eans,rnbeginning with Herodotus, have given only a disjointedrnaccount of the Egyptians’ religious beliefs and practices. Thernproblem is that the radical Afroccntrists are not interested simplyrnin promoting more study of ancient I’.gypt, however reasonablernthat goal. For example, they do not point out that thernancient Egyptians distinguished themscKcs from the Nubians,rnwho lived further to the south, and from the Phoenicians,rnHebrews, and Philistines. T’heir physical characteristics werernnot identical with those of African people from whom theyrnwere separated by natural divisions of geography, such as thernpeoples of West, Central, and South Africa.rnIn fact, the radical Afroccntrists arc not interested in ancientrnEgypt as it actually vas. Instead, the Egpt the want all childrenrnto learn about is a distinctively Europeanized Egpt, inventedrnfirst by Greek travelers to that country and later elaboratedrnon by Europeans in the 18th century. Most ironically, thernEgyptian philosophy that the Greeks were supposed to havernstolen was originally Greek.rnThe earliest descriptions of academics for Eg}ptian priests.rnwith large libraries and art galleries, occur not in anv ancientrntext, but in an 18th-eentur I’rench work of historical fiction,rnSethos by the Abbe Jean Terrasson, first published in 1731. lerrasson’srnnovel was widely read, and it had a [)rofound influencernon portrayals of k’.gyptian religion in later literature, and inrnworks such as Mozart’s Magic Flute.rnSethos had a particularly lasting effect on Erecmasoiir-.rnSince 18th-century readers regarded Tcrrasson’s account asrnbasically factual, the Masons based their initiation rituals onrnthe ceremonies and trials that Tcrrasson’s hero underwent inrnhis training as an h’.gyptian priest. It is from these rituals, andrnfrom the Ereemasonie notions of their own origins, that thernradical Afroccntrists derive their notion that there was an elaboraternF,gyptian mystery system in antiquity. They assume diatrnthe Greek |)hilosophers came to Egypt to learn about this mysteryrnsystem and that it was practiced at the CJrand Lodge atrnMemphis and at other subordinate lodges.rnBut the idea of an Egyptian mv.stcry system is an anachronismrnno less farfetched than the notion that Aristotle rolibedrnthe Librarv of Alexandria. There were no “mystery” or initiationrncults in l^.gypt until the CTrccks settled in Alexandria in thernthird century B.C., after Alexander’s invasion. The “mystery system”rnin Tcrrasson’s novel, which formed the basis of Masonicrnritual, was derived entirely from (.keck and Roman sources; on-rn1 a few aspects of the ritual he dcscril^cs are authenticallvrnF’gyptian. T he basic narrative is patterned on the experience ofrnthe heroes of Greek and Roman epics.rnIt is completely understandable that Terrasson relied onrnGreek and Roman writers. He had no other choice. Before thern1830’s, when the Egyptian writing on the Rosctta Stone wasrndeciphered, no one had access to anv authentic I’.gvptian materials,rnbecause no one could read any of the Egyptian scripts.rnAnd of course the .4asons, who do not pretend to be seriousrnscholars, did not revise their rituals and notions of their ownrnhistory in the light of the new information about Egypt thatrnbecame available once hieroglvphies could be read.rnWhy do the radical Afroccntrists still maintain that therernwas an “Egyptian Mystery System,” when in fact it has beenrnknown for more than 150 years that no such thing everrnexisted? The answer, in large part, is that they would like it tornbe true, because it gives an /Vfrican civilization credit for therngreatest achievements of human history, the development ofrnphilosophy and of scientific thought. But in so doing, theyrnoveriook the fact that they arc assigning to an African peoplernthe primary blame for many of the troubles that they blame onrnP’uropean rationalism.rnThe notion of a conspiracy also has great ap]3cal. It makes thernhistory of Egypt conform to the later pattern of Europeanrnaggression against Africa. It offers a poignant explanation ofrnwli’ Africa’s intellectual culture has had only a small impact onrnthe rest of the world. Since E.gypt stands for all of Africa andrnpeoples of African descent, it enables African jjcoples to regardrnthemselves as innocent victims.rnBecause the idea of a “Stolen r,egacy” allows peoplesrnof African descent to take pride in their heritage and to feelrnnioralK and culturally superior to the Europeans who have persecutedrnthem, the myth has a positive function. Ultimately,rnhowever, it will do much more harm than good. It can onlyrnincrease resentment against |)coples of European descent andrnwiden a rift that is already difficult to bridge. But even morernimportantlv, it should not be taught as history in schoolsrnbecause it is not historical. Rather, it is a form of propaganda.rn18/CHRONICLESrnrnrn