Embodying Wisdom: United Planet Egypt Expedition and the mystery of my ancestor, Count Potocki
Today I have been designing the 2021 United Planet expedition to Egypt on Embodying Wisdom. I’ve been ‘remembering the future’ of the sound ceremony we will have in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramids and other such magic. I know this is going to be a historic gathering for the design of the United Planet Game. I am enormously excited about it.
While I was doing this I felt an intuitive call to look into my ancestors' connection to Egypt. I know of many stories here but decided to focus my learning on my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Count Jan Potocki (1761–1815). I learnt today that he was a famous Egyptologist, an early Ethnographer and one of the most popular writers of the Enlightenment period. He spent much of his life in Egypt studying mysticism and the civilization of the ancient Egyptians. I believe he must have been an alchemist. He is portrayed here with pyramids and various other esoteric Egyptian symbolism behind him.
I found it particularly interesting that he committed suicide at the age of 54 by shooting himself through his head with a silver bullet that he had blessed by his village priest in December 1815. The reason he committed suicide was a condition I’ve just learned about called Lycanthropy where he believed he was turning into a werewolf. The plot thickens…
He is most famous for his novel The Manuscript Found in Saragossa which he wrote in the 1790s. The sixty-six stories cover a wide range of themes, subjects, and styles, including gothic horror, picaresque adventures, and comic, erotic, and moral tales. The stories reflect my grandfathers interest in secret societies, the supernatural, and oriental cultures, and they are illustrated with his detailed observations of 18th-century European manners and customs, particularly those of upper-class Spanish society. Many of the locations described in the tales are real places and regions which he visited during his travels, while others are fictionalized accounts of actual places.
Count Potocki used his wealth and privilege to live a colourful life often in exotic places where he embroiled himself in political intrigues, flirted with secret societies and contributed to the birth of ethnology — he was one of the first to study the precursors of the Slavic peoples from a linguistic and historical standpoint. He travelled extensively about Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia, visiting Italy, Sicily, Malta, the Netherlands, Germany, France, England, Russia, Turkey, Dalmatia, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Spain, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and even Mongolia. He was also one of the first travel writers of the modern era, penning lively accounts of many of his journeys, during which he also undertook extensive historical, linguistic, and ethnographic studies.
He was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest award for merit, Order of Saint Stanislaus, Poland’s order of knighthood and the Order of St. Vladimir, the Imperial Russian Order created by my Seventh Generation Grandmother, the Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great.
In 1790 he became the first person in Poland to fly in a hot air balloon when he made an ascent over Warsaw with the aeronaut Jean-Pierre Blanchard, an exploit that earned him great public acclaim. He also spent some time in France, and upon his return to Poland, he became a known publicist, publishing newspapers and pamphlets, in which he argued for various societal reforms. He also established in 1788 in a publishing house named Drukarnia Wolna (Free Press) as well as Warsaw’s first free reading room.
I have the privilege of all of my family lines being storied through history. I am fascinated by the wisdom I can embody through the lives of my ancestors. I believe that the panacea to the fracturing between left and right modernity lies in a different dimension. I believe our collective path forward into a thriving civilization in harmony with all life is to go backwards and forwards into the ancient future. Rather than getting stuck in the quagmire of left and right we can elevate through our shared ancestry and remember who we are and what we individually and collectively are here to embody. This will be the focus of next year’s United Planet expedition to Egypt on Embodying Wisdom.
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