It’s quite common online to run across people who claim to be Egyptologists arguing for “metaphysical” meanings of hieroglyphs. I’m thinking of people like John Anthony West, who by his own admission cannot read Egyptian.  But in his mind, he doesn’t need to — since he has mastered the esoteric and metaphysical meanings of the hieroglyphs.

Such an approach is unfortunate, in that it fails to take the Egyptians at their own word (as in letting their literature just communicate to us by boring rules of Egyptian grammar and vocabulary — those silly Egyptians). It’s also antiquated (and that’s being kind). This notion of mystical meanings behind hieroglyphs was en vogue in the 17th and 18th centuries — it was the scholarly approach BEFORE EGYPTIAN WAS CRACKED AS A LANGUAGE AND TRANSLATED. Yes, you read correctly. West and others want us to approach Egyptian the way academics did before the language was actually translated and its grammar understood. This is nothing by Euro-centric paleobabble. Here’s a scholarly article that overviews these mystical approaches to hieroglyphs. We don’t need to bodly march into the 17th century to understand the Egyptians.