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The Unfounded Obsession That Letters Were Derived from Pictures

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The Unfounded Obsession That Letters Were Derived from Pictures
All early Greek and Roman writers affirmed that there were basically two forms of Ancient Egyptian writings: an imagery form of expression [the pictorial hieroglyphics] and alphabetical form of writing. The pictorial forms are a series of images conveying conceptual meanings and not individual sound values. [More about this form in the book The Egyptian Hieroglyph Metaphysical Language by Moustafa Gadalla.]
Despite all contrary evidence, a loud group of Western academics has dominated the subject of the ‘genesis of alphabets’ in Egypt and elsewhere. With no basis whatsoever, they declared that the graphic form of letters was originally derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs, and that they were given the sound value of the first consonant of the Semitic translation of the hieroglyph.
It must be emphasized that not a single classical writer—including Clement of Alexandria (in Stromata Book V [chapter IV]) - ever indicated that the Egyptian alphabetical form of writing was a “cursive” or “degenerated” form of Ancient Egyptian pictorial hieroglyphics. Yet, shamelessly, some “scholars” invoked the writing of Clement of Alexandria to insist that out of hieroglyphs sprang a more cursive writing known to us as hieratic, and out of hieratic there again emerged a very rapid script sometimes called enchorial or demotic.
Many rational scholars, however, recognized that the pictorial writings are a series of images conveying conceptual meanings and not individual sound values, such as the British Egyptologist W.M. Flinders Petrie, who wrote in his book, The Formation of the Alphabets [pg. 6],
"The question as to whether the [alphabetical] signs were derived from the more pictorial hieroglyphs, or were an independent system, has been so little observed by writers on the subject, that the matter has been decided more than once without any consideration of the various details involved."
Differences Between Ideograms, Signs and Alphabetical Writing
- Ideograms are what the Egyptian hieroglyphics represent.
Each pictorial symbol is worth a thousand words, representing that function or principle on all levels simultaneously; from the simplest, most obvious physical manifestation of that function to the most abstract and metaphysical. This symbolic language represents a wealth of physical, physiological, psychological and spiritual data in the presented symbols.
The metaphorical and symbolic concept of the hieroglyphs was unanimously acknowledged by all early writers on the subject such as Plutarch, Diodorus, Clement, etc.
The best description came from Plotinus, who wrote in The Enneads [Vol. V-6]:
"The wise men of Egypt, either by scientific or innate knowledge, and when they wished to signify something wisely, did not use the forms of letters which follow the order of words and propositions and imitate sounds and the enunciations of philosophical statements, but by drawing images and inscribing in their temples one particular image of each particular thing, they manifested the non-discursiveness of the intelligible world, that is, that every image is a kind of knowledge and wisdom and is a subject of statements, all together in one, and not discourse or deliberation. But [only] afterwards [others] discovered, starting from it in its concentrated unity, a representation in something else, already unfolded and speaking it discursively and giving the reasons why things are like this, so that, because what has come into existence is so beautifully disposed, if anyone knows how to admire it he expresses his admiration of how this wisdom, which does not itself possess the reasons why substance is as it is, gives them to the things which are made according to it."
Clement of Alexandria, in Stromata, Book V, chapter IV, never associated alphabetical writing system with that of hieroglyphics and/or that hieratic was a “cursive” or “degenerated” form of hieroglyphics. He clearly did not make the hieroglyphic as the origin/basis of other forms/styles when he stated “and finally, and last of all, the Hieroglyphic.”
"Now those instructed among the Egyptians learned first of all that style of the Egyptian letters which is called Epistolographic [cursive i.e. 'composed as a series of letters']; and second, the Hieratic style, which the Priestly scribes perform; and finally, and last of all, the Hieroglyphic..."
[For more details read The Egyptian Hieroglyphic Metaphysical Language by Moustafa Gadalla.]
- Signs are indicative symbols, just like our modern traffic signs. Such signs represent things such as the seven astronomical planets, astronomical constellations, particular stars, zodiac constellations, metals, the four elements, %, #, @, etc. Signs can also be for trade and/or a profession’s uses.
- Alphabetical Writing signifies a unity of form and sound; i.e. one sound value for each letter-form.
[Excerpts from The Ancient Egyptian Universal Writing Modes by Moustafa Gadalla]
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