SCIENTISTS AND SHAMAN | 2001-11-17
There is the way of scientist and the way of shaman. The scientist does things. Everybody else who claims authority but does nothing is a shaman.
Shaman come in many forms. A shaman may wear masks and do dances around a fire in the Congo. Other shamans have PhDs and everybody agrees to call them "Professors" and "Authorities" on a subject. For our purposes, these are precisely the same. Shaman substitute impressiveness for accomplishment.
At its beginning stage, a civilization must have scientists. They become shaman only later.
In the case of Egypt or the Mayans or the Incas or ancient China, history rushes through the development of real technology, to get to the mythology and art. In the case of Egypt, a popular book will explain briefly that the Egyptians learned to plant and harvest in harmony with the ebb and flood of the Nile each year, thereby increasing their production and population enormously.
Then a possibly mythical king Menes united Egypt so that it became one enormous and united power. So now Egypt had overwhelming money and power from these real accomplishments.
After breathlessly rushing through the basis of all the wealth and power, history turns with relief to the fun part, which is the Learned Nonsense that followed. From here until the collapse, the story of a Great Civilization becomes a history of shamans and exactly what kind of nonsense they indulged in.
To us, Egyptian history is battles between the god Amon and Aton, how the god Thoth brought man writing. We get detailed explanations about which god wore the head of which animal.