Who were the Egyptians? They are an identifiable group of people who developed agrarian technology along the fertile plains of the Nile River, at least as early as 10th millennium BCE to the present. The Egyptians today are a populous and powerful Arab country, whose ideas have...changed over the course of all those Eons. But the identity of the Egyptian people has not changed, even after their firm embrace of Islam. While the Judeans had few resources, specifically water, the Nile's regular flooding provided the Egyptian people with water in the desert, and rich farm soil. Marshaling that technology of transforming these resources into a stable food source helped them towards social cohesion, a standing army, and Empire over the years. Herodotus said "Egypt is the gift of the Nile".
Geology predicts civilization, where there are resources like water and farm-able (or pastoral) land, populations grow. Once food can be produced in abundance, the technology must develop to store it properly (grains such as Wheat and Barley, cheese from domesticated animals, non indigenous to the area). Once not everyone needs to farm to survive, Culture can develop more fully. This holds true for the three earliest Civilizations, in Babylon between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers @ 4500 and 4000 BCE, the Indus River civilization that predated the Ganges civilization of India/ Pakistan @ 3300 BCE and Egypt with the Nile @ 10,000 BCE. Rivers allow Civilization to start, but tend not to have much metal ore. Often these Civilizations fell under the control of "barbarians" who developed metallurgy long after their more prosperous neighbors discovered and harnessed agriculture. In Egypt, both pre-Greek invaders (The Philistines) and Assyrians technological improvements in warfare gave the Egyptian great trouble in the later years, especially after the Libyan Pharaohs took over.
Although separated by waterfalls into two lands (Upper and Lower Kingdoms), The Upper Kingdom was united in 3150 BCE by Pharaoh Menes, and in 3100 BCE, Pharaoh Narmer of Upper Egypt conquered the southern lands near the Mediterranean Sea and forged the United Kingdom. The Pharaoh wore two crowns, to symbolize this union. The Dynasty's of Egypt's rulers are generally divided into three distinct periods, with chaos in between. In the First Kingdom, they built the pyramids, only to discover they were like neon signs to grave robbers. Then came the chaos of the First Intermediate Period. In the Second Kingdom, outside forces produced a more democratized version of Egyptian religion and economics, where other rich people who could afford the Rites could make the same after life journey as the Pharaoh, though they would not end up as Gods. During this period there were some General and Visir Pharaohs, rather than Royal Family line Kingdoms. Even poor people could make the journey, using the resources they could get. The Tombs of the Kings went underground to prevent grave robbers. In the Third Kingdom, Egypt expanded it's empire considerably and the Tombs began to be hidden in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes / Luxor.
Imhotep, engineer / architect for Pharaoh Djoser builds the first step pyramid, very similar to the Ziggurat Pyramids of Babylon. Pharaoh Sneferu follows with 3 attempts at a real pyramid, The Meidum pyramid., the Bent Pyramid and finally the squat but functional Red Pyramid. Pharaoh Cheops follows that with the Great Pyramid, the last great enduring work of the First Kingdom. In a bizarre move for a very conservative, successful kingdom, Pharaoh Akhenaten AKA Amenhotep IV destroyed Egyptian religion by declaring the Sun (the Aten) the monotheistic God and closing all the other Temples. He moved the center of power, disenfranchising the upper class, and paid more attention to writing new hymns than conquest. It was so disastrous his own son King Tut aka Pharaoh Tutankhamun was originally named for the Aten as TutankhATEN, meaning "Living Image of Aten", changed it and his ancestry to the God Amoun, TutankhAMUN as more traditional. He died young, perhaps murdered by his Vizier Ay, who rules for 2 years after him. But with no living children (his sister Queen has two miscarriages) the Royal Line of the First Kingdom ends. Pharaoh Ramesses the Great (AKA Ramesses II AKA Ozymandias AKA The Chisler) brought the Kingdom back to power after the monotheistic disaster of Pharaoh Akhenaten, and carved his name on every standing monument in Egypt.
With the rise of Kings came the rise of leisure, and time to contemplate one's place in the universe (and if you were a King, it must be a Big Place, right) came an interest in the afterlife which was more focused that the fetishistic burial items of the past. The Pharaohs created vast monuments, but even more elaborate cosmologies ( see E. A. Wallis Budge) over time, including a very brief Monotheism / Christianity focus under Akhenaten. But for the most part, a complex, Pagan supernatural awaiting after Death and the rising of the New Sun in the New lands.
Like Tibet's reputation in the late 1800s, Egypt became synonymous with the Ancient Mysteries after Napoleon's conquest in the early 1800s. British archaeologists and other European powers.... forcibly exported this long and rich history to Museums saving it from obscurity but severing it from it's land and people.
The "Egyptian Mysteries" studied in Occultism are a mixture of early Greek Neoplatonism and Gnostic thought, combined with a democratized Egyptian Cosmology in which Every Man is a King, with his or her own journey back to the Godhead. It has aspects of the Sepher Yetzirah of the Qabalists Creation philosophy, combined with Arabic NUMBERs, the Judeans' system of letters and NAMEs , early Alchemy; Babylonian Astrology and early Natural Science.
Much of our understanding comes from the archeology of Victorian England after the Napoleonic Wars opened Egypt to Europe. Explorers and aruthors such as Samual Sharp AKA Samuel Sharpe, Pierre-François Hugues d'Hancarville, Leonard W. King, Austen Henry Layard, Hans Sloane, JSM Ward, Paolo Alessandro Maffei, Richard Payne Knight and of course E. A. Wallis Budge all made great contributions to the Museum, and therefore to Western knowledge of Egypt and the Ancient World. They detailed the ruins, collected pottery, gems, books and artifacts, and invested them into the British Museum.
Early Practitioners such as Plutarch, Basil Valentine, Heinrich Khunrath and Iamblichus give way to Hermes Trismegistus, as well as collectors like GRS Mead, Antoine Joseph Pernety and the fertile minds of Max Theon of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and MacGregor Mathers of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Decent idea of the approach and scope may be had by reading Thomas Burgoyne's Light of Egypt, V II, by Wagner/Burgoyne (that is his patron / student, Bella Wagner, co-author) at http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/1650/pg1650.html); see also - Apuleius; Giovanni Pico della Mirandola; Athanasius Kircher; Antoine Count de Gébelin; H.P. Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner; Ellen Cannon Reed; Jean Houston; Diane Wolkstein; Godfrey Higgins; Monica Hughes novels; R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz; Lucie Lamy; Isha Schwaller de Lubicz; Andre VandenBroeck; Elisabeth Haich; Paulos Metamon; P. B. Randolph; H. Spencer Lewis; Manly P. Hall; Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie; Saint-Yves d'Alveydre; Florence Farr; J. H. Brennan; Christopher McIntosh; Margaret Murray; Murry Hope; Edgar Cayce; Gerald Massey; Alan Richardson; Tamara Bourkoun; Dr. M. Doreal; David Macaulay; Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson ; Christopher Knight; John Romer ; E. Raymond Capt; Noah Hutchings; Serge V. King; Normandi Ellis; Gloria Taylor Brown; Nicki Scully; Donald B. Redford; M Isidora Forrest ; Olivia Robertson; Cagliostro; Robert Wentworth Little; William De Laurence; Charles Stansfeld Jones; Nema of the Cincinnati Journal of Magick and Black Sun; James Wasserman; Sax Rohmer in his ill-informed fiction; Alan Moore, comic writer; Robert Masters, psychologist;
To understand the Egyptian Way, study the history, maps and artifacts, and then open yourself up to the philosophy through the prose poetry of William S. Burroughs The Western Lands trilogy, through The Papyrus of Ani (The Egyptian Book of the Dead)AKA the Book of the Coming Forth by Day, Normandi Ellis translation is excellent; practice doing the ritual called The Knot of Isis (see Diane Wolkstein); Weigh your own Soul against Ma'at's feather of Truth
Quotes; "Ankh zetta heh"--living for ever, eternal;
- - in progress - -
Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt#Prehistory_and_Ancient_Egypt; Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations lectures by Kenneth W. Harl; http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/professors/professor_detail.aspx?pid=101, lectures and his books, all great, especially ANCIENT EGYPTIAN MAGIC; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_burial_customs; http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/literature/religious/pyramid.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_Of_The_Kings ; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23947820 on carbon dating ; http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2014/1022/When-did-Europeans-start-drinking-milk-Skull-analysis-reveals-clues on early herding/ milk/ cheese digestion; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/07/temple-unearthed-egypt-illegal-dig_n_6115000.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular ; Echoes of Egypt exhibit and How Egyptian Hieroglyphs Changed the World lecture, both at the Yale Peabody Museum, curated by Prof. Colleen Manassa Darnell;