The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Since the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is in San Jose, we happen to visit it just about every year. But this was the first year we went there after a course of study on ancient Egypt. Needless to say, we noticed and absorbed more than we had on other visits. For one thing, after taking the tomb tour, Neil and I quizzed our poor guide until she fled. But in the process, we found out that the museum, which (though owned by the Rosicrucians) is run as an educational venture, is largely (if not wholly) staffed by real Egyptologists. On staff the same day we were there was an expert in predynastic Egypt, one if Ptomolomaic Egypt, and one on Coptic Egypt (who even spoke Coptic, which is only used for certain rites in the Coptic church.)

On the other hand, it was interesting to finally be able to notice how the museum differs, ever so slightly, from typical texts on ancient Egyptian history. It isn’t organized by time periods (which is how I prefered to teach it), but rather on themes of ancient Egypt, such as Religion and the Afterlife, Pharaoh Akhenaten and his reforms towards monotheism, and relations with Babylonia/Assyria. From our texts, Neil had one take on Egyptian history, such as King Tutankhamen was poisoned by his sinister vizier Ay, but our guide had information that implied Tutankhamen was killed in a chariot accident, whether accidental or deliberate we don’t know (but we can guess!). It was also only clear at the museum that ancient Egypt was almost certainly richer, at least in consumables, than Sumeria, because a lot of Mesopotamian artifacts have been found in Egyptian digs, but not so much Egyptian stuff near the Euphrates river: this (at least according to the museum) implies Sumerians were sending their goods to Egypt in exchange for Egypt’s grains.

But my favorite part of the museum is their Coptic artifacts. I was actually surprised to find the Coptic (early medieval Christian) period almost ignored in most texts on ancient Egypt, but the Egyptian Museum seems to give the Coptic period as much weight as the Ptolomaic period. And if you consider a Rosicrucian point of view, it makes sense. After all, both period are ancient-Egyptian-derivative: no Egyptians were in charge any more, but the rules, Greek and Roman, kind of had a (scuse the irony) “when in Rome” sort of mindset. Here’s one example I took particular note of:

The jackal-headed god Anubis was in charge of bringing the mummified dead to the afterlife as shown in the picture above. Though the Romans officially had their own set of gods, the Romans living in Egypt thought it was prudent to play it safe, like this Roman guy who had Anubis engraved on his (?) headstone:

Just recently, the museum started selling “passports” for children, so they can go through the galleries in sort of a scavenger-hunt sort of way. I bought the passports (only $3.75 each) for Neil and Kelly, and they both loved stamping them in each gallery. The passports also came with pencils, so the children could take note (or draw pictures) of things they noted in each gallery, and a little blue flashlight which allowed them to read “secret messages” of information secreted in various places. I still think it wasn’t lowbrow enough for some children (who wouldn’t want to read the whole two sentences of text) but it was a lot of fun for Neil and Kelly.

Before and after we saw the museum, we walked through Rosicrucian Park, which is a worthwhile tourist attraction all on its own. It has faux-Egyptian buildings done up in an art-deco sort of way:

plus the secret-looking temple. At the Tapestry of Arts, the not-so-secret secret Rosicrucians invited us to visit their library, but it was closed this weekend, since the Rosicrucians were busy being not so secret at the Tapestry of Arts festival downtown. Someday, though, we may just take them up on their offer. because it’s cool to find out more about our local secret society.

Neil and Kelly posed Egyptian style in front of one of the sphinxes, though I’m not sure it came out all that Egyptian-looking:

But maybe someday in the far future someone will find that digitized picture and ponder how the mysteries of Egypt influenced the people of the 21st century. That mystery established, we went to visit Peter in his office downtown and have some coffee with him.

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