Entries from the Theosophical Glossary
Aahla (Eg.). One of the divisions of the Kerneter or infernal regions, or Amenti; the word means the “Field of Peace”.
Aanroo (Eg.). The second division of Amenti. The celestial field of Aanroo is encircled by an iron wall. The field is covered with wheat, and the “Defunct” are represented gleaning it, for the “Master of Eternity”; some stalks being three, others five, and the highest seven cubits high. Those who reached the last two numbers entered the state of bliss (which is called in Theosophy Devachan); the disembodied spirits whose harvest was but three cubits high went into lower regions (Kâmaloka). Wheat was with the Egyptians the symbol of the Law of retribution or Karma. The cubits had reference to the seven, five and three human “principles”.
Akar (Eg.). The proper name of that division of the Ker-neter infernal regions, which may be called Hell. [w. w. w.].
Alexadrian School (of Philosophers). This famous school arose in Alexandria (Egypt) which was for several centuries the great seat of learning and philosophy. Famous for its library, which bears the name of “Alexandrian”, founded by Ptolemy Soter, who died in 283 B.C., at the very beginning of his reign; that library which once boasted of 700,000 rolls or volumes (Aulus Gellius); for its museum, the first real academy of sciences and arts; for its world-famous scholars, such as Euclid (the father of scientific geometry), Apollonius of Perga (the author of the still extant work on conic sections), Nicomachus (the arithmetician); astronomers, natural philosophers, anatomists such as Herophilus and
Erasistratus, physicians, musicians, artists, etc., etc.; it became still more famous for its Eclectic, or the New Platonic school, founded in 193 a.d., by Ammonius Saccas, whose disciples were Origen, Plotinus, and many others now famous in history. The most celebrated schools of Gnostics had their origin in Alexandria. Philo Judæus Josephus, lamblichus, Porphyry, Clement of Alexandria, Eratosthenes the astronomer, Hypatia the virgin philosopher, and numberless other stars of second magnitude, all belonged at various times to these great schools, and helped to make Alexandria one of the most justly renowned seats of learning that the world has ever produced.
Amenti (Eg.). Esoterically and literally, the dwelling of the God Amen, or Amoun, or the “hidden”, secret god. Exoterically the kingdom of Osiris divided into fourteen parts, each of which was set aside for some purpose connected with the after state of the defunct. Among other things, in one of these was the Hall of Judgment. It was the “Land of the West”, the “Secret Dwelling”, the dark land, and the “doorless house”. But it was also Ker-neter, the “abode of the gods”, and the “land of ghosts” like the “Hades” of the Greeks (q.v.). It was also the “Good Father’s House” (in which there are “many mansions”). The fourteen divisions comprised, among many others, Aanroo (q.v.), the hall of the Two Truths, the Land of Bliss, Neter-xer “the funeral (or burial) place” Otamer-xer, the “Silence-loving Fields”, and also many other mystical halls and dwellings, one like the Sheol of the Hebrews, another like the Devachan of the Occultists, etc., etc. Out of the fifteen gates of the abode of Osiris, there were two chief ones, the “gate of entrance” or Rustu, and the “gate of exit” (reincarnation) Amh. But there was no room in Amenti to represent the orthodox Christian Hell. The worst of all was the Hall of the eternal Sleep and Darkness. As Lepsius has it, the defunct “sleep (therein) in incorruptible forms, they wake not to see their brethren, they recognize no longer father and mother, their hearts feel nought toward their wife and children. This is the dwelling of the god All-Dead. . . . Each trembles to pray to him, for he hears not. Nobody can praise him, for he regards not those who adore him. Neither does he notice any offering brought to him.” This god is Karmic Decree; the land of Silence—the abode of those who die absolute disbelievers, those dead from accident before their allotted time, and finally the dead on the threshold of Avitchi, which is never in Amenti or any other subjective state, save in one case, but on this land of forced re-birth. These tarried not very long even in their state of heavy sleep, of oblivion and darkness, but, were carried more or less speedily toward Amh the “exit gate”.
Ammon (Eg.). One of the great gods of Egypt. Ammon or Amoun is far older than Amoun-Ra, and is identified with Baal. Hammon, the Lord of Heaven. Amoun-Ra was Ra the Spiritual Sun, the “Sun of Righteousness”, etc., for—“the Lord God is a Sun”. He is the God of Mystery and the hieroglyphics of his name are often reversed. He is Pan, All-Nature esoterically, and therefore the universe, and the “Lord of Eternity”. Ra, as declared by an old inscription, was “begotten by Neith but not engendered”. He is called the “self-begotten” Ra,, and created goodness from a glance of his fiery eye, as Set-Typhon created evil from his. As Ammon (also Amoun and Amen), Ra, he is “Lord of the worlds enthroned on the Sun’s disk and appears in the abyss of heaven”. A very ancient hymn spells the name “Amen-ra”, and hails the “Lord of the thrones of the earth. . . Lord of Truth, father of the gods, maker of man, creator of the beasts, Lord of Existence, Enlightener of the Earth, sailing in heaven in tranquillity . . . All hearts are softened at beholding thee, sovereign of life, health and strength! We worship thy spirit who alone made us”, etc., etc. (See Bonwick’s Egyptian Belief.) Ammon Ra is called “his mother’s husband” and her son. (See “Chnourmis” and “Chnouphis” and also Secret Doctrine I, pp. 91 and 393). It was to the “ram-headed” god that the Jews sacrificed lambs, and the lamb of Christian theology is a disguised reminiscence of the ram.
Amun (Copt.). The Egyptian god of wisdom, who had only Initiates or Hierophants to serve him as priests.
Anouki (Eg.). A form of Isis; the goddess of life, from which name the Hebrew Ank, life. (See “Anuki.”)
Anubis (Gr.) The dog-headed god, identical, in a certain aspect, with Horus. He is pre-eminently the god who deals with the disembodied, or the resurrected in post mortem life. Anepou is his Egyptian Name. He is a psychopompic deity, “the Lord of the Silent Land of the West, the land of the Dead, the preparer of the way to the other world”, to whom the dead were entrusted, to be led by him to Osiris, the Judge. In short, he is the “embalmer” and the “guardian of the dead”. One of the oldest deities in Egypt, Mariette Bey having found the image of this deity in tombs of the Third Dynasty.
Anuki (Eg.). “See Anouki” supra. “The word Ank in Hebrew, means ‘my life’, my being, which is the personal pronoun Anocki, from the name of the Egyptian goddess Anouki”, says the author of the Hebrew Mystery, or the Source of Measures.
Apap (Eg.), in Greek Apophis. The symbolical Serpent of Evil. The Solar Boat and the Sun are the great Slayers of Apap in the Book of the Dead. It is Typhon, who having killed Osiris, incarnates in Apap, seeking to kill Horus. Like Taoër (or Ta-ap-oer) the female aspect of Typhon, Apap is called “the devourer of the Souls”, and truly, since Apap symbolizes the animal body, as matter left soulless and to itself. Osiris, being, like all the other Solar gods, a type of the Higher Ego (Christos), Horus (his son) is the lower Manas or the personal Ego. On many a monument one can see Horus, helped by a number of dog-headed gods armed with crosses and spears, killing Apap. Says an Orientalist: “The God Horus standing as conqueror upon the Serpent of Evil, may be considered as the earliest form of our well-known group of St. George (who is Michael) and the Dragon, or holiness trampling down sin.” Draconianism did not die with the ancient religions, but has passed bodily into the latest Christian form of the worship.
Apis (Eg.), or Hapi-ankh. The “living deceased one” or Osiris incarnate in the sacred white Bull. Apis was the bull-god that, on reaching the age of twenty-eight, the age when Osiris was killed by Typhon—was put to death with great ceremony. It was not the Bull that was worshipped but the Osiridian symbol; just as Christians kneel now before the Lamb, the symbol of Jesus Christ, in their churches.
Aporrheta (Gr.). Secret instructions upon esoteric subjects given during the Egyptian and Grecian Mysteries.
Ark of Isis. At the great Egyptian annual ceremony, which took place in the month of Athyr, the boat of Isis was borne in procession by the priests, and Collyrian cakes or buns, marked with the sign of the cross (Tat), were eaten. This was in commemoration of the weeping of Isis for the loss of Osiris, the Athyr festival being very impressive. “Plato refers to the melodies on the occasion as being very ancient,” writes Mr. Bonwick (Eg. Belief and Mod. Thought). “The Miserere in Rome has been said to be similar to its melancholy cadence, and to be derived from it Weeping, veiled virgins followed the ark. The Nornes, or veiled virgins, wept also for the loss of our Saxon forefathers’ god, the ill-fated but good Baldur.”
Ark of the Covenant. Every ark-shrine, whether with the Egyptians, Hindus, Chaldeans or Mexicans, was a phallic shrine, the symbol of the yoni or womb of nature. The seket of the Egyptians, the ark, or sacred chest, stood on the ara—its pedestal. The ark of Osiris, with the sacred relics of the god, was “of the same size as the Jewish ark”, says S. Sharpe, the Egyptologist, carried by priests with staves passed through its rings in sacred procession, as the ark round which danced David, the King of Israel. Mexican gods also had their arks. Diana, Ceres, and other goddesses as well as gods had theirs. The ark was a boat—a vehicle in every case. “Thebes had a sacred ark 300 cubits long,” and “the word Thebes is said to mean ark in Hebrew,” which is but a natural recognition of the place to which the chosen people are indebted for their ark. Moreover, as Bauer writes, “the Cherub was not first used by Moses.” The winged Isis was the cherub or Arieh in Egypt, centuries before the arrival there of even Abram or Sarai. “The external likeness of some of the Egyptian arks, surmounted by their two winged human figures, to the ark of the covenant, has often been noticed.” (Bible Educator.) And not only the “external” but the internal “likeness” and sameness are now known to all. The arks, whether of the covenant, or of honest, straightforward, Pagan symbolism, had originally and now have one and the same meaning. The chosen people appropriated the idea and forgot to acknowledge its source. It is the same as in the case of the “Urim” and “Thummin” (q.v.). In Egypt, as shown by many Egyptologists, the two objects were the emblems of the Two Truths. “Two figures of Ré and Thmei were worn on the breast-plate of the Egyptian High Priest. Thmé, plural thmin, meant truth in Hebrew. Wilkinson says the figure of Truth had closed eyes. Rosellini speaks of the Thmei being worn as a necklace. Diodorus gives such a necklace of gold and stones to the High Priest when delivering judgment. The Septuagint translates Thummin as Truth”. (Bonwick’s Egyp. Belief.)
Arkites. The ancient priests who were attached to the Ark, whether of Isis, or the Hindu Argua, and who were seven in number, like the priests of the Egyptian Tat or any other cruciform symbol of the three and the four, the combination of which gives a male-female number. The Argha (or ark) was the four-fold female principle, and the flame burning over it the triple lingham.
Artes (Eg.). The Earth; the Egyptian god Mars.
Atef (Eg.), or Crown of Horus. It consisted of a tall white cap with ram’s horns, and the urœus in front. Its two feathers represent the two truths—life and death.
Athor (Eg.) “Mother Night.” Primeval Chaos, in the Egyptian cosmogony. The goddess of night.
Atlantidæ (Gr.) The ancestors of the Pharaohs and the forefathers of the Egyptians, according to some, and as the Esoteric Science teaches. (See Sec. Doct., Vol. II., and Esoteric Buddhism.) Plato heard of this highly civilized people, the last remnant of which was submerged 9,000 years before his day, from Solon, who had it from the High Priests of Egypt. Voltaire, the eternal scoffer, was right in stating that “the Atlantidæ (our fourth Root Race) made their appearance in Egypt It was in Syria and in Phrygia, as well as Egypt, that they established the worship of the Sun.” Occult philosophy teaches that the Egyptians were a remnant of the last Aryan Atlantidæ.
Batoo (Eg.). The first man in Egyptian folk-lore. Noum, the heavenly artist, creates a beautiful girl—the original of the Grecian Pandora—and sends her to Batoo, after which the happiness of the first man is destroyed.
Batria (Eg.). According to tradition, the wife of the Pharaoh and the teacher of Moses.
Benoo (Eg.). A word applied to two symbols, both taken to mean “Phœnix”. One was the Shen-shen (the heron), and the other a nondescript bird, called the Rech (the red one), and both were sacred to Osiris. It was the latter that was the regular Phœnix of the great Mysteries, the typical symbol of self-creation and resurrection through death—a type of the Solar Osiris and of the divine Ego in man. Yet both the Heron and the Rech were symbols of cycles; the former, of the Solar year of 365 days; the latter of the tropical year or a period covering almost 26,000 years. In both cases the cycles were the types of the return of light from darkness, the yearly and great cyclic return of the sun-god to his birth-place, or—his Resurrection. The Rech-Benoo is described by Macrobius as living 660 years and then dying; while others stretched its life as long as 1,460 years. Pliny, the Naturalist, describes the Rech as a large bird with gold and purple wings, and a long blue tail. As every reader is aware, the Phœnix on feeling its end approaching, according to tradition, builds for itself a funeral pile on the top of the sacrificial altar, and then proceeds to consume himself thereon as a burnt-offering. Then a worm appears in the ashes, which grows and developes rapidly into a new Phœnix, resurrected from the ashes of its predecessor.
Bes (Eg.). A phallic god, the god of concupiscence and pleasure. He is represented standing on a lotus ready to devour his own progeny (Abydos). A rather modern deity of foreign origin.
Boat of the Sun. This sacred solar boat was called Sekti, and it was steered by the dead. With the Egyptians the highest exaltation of the Sun was in Aries and the depression in Libya. (See “Pharaoh”, the “Son of the Sun”.) A blue light—which is the “Sun’s Son”— is seen streaming from the bark. The ancient Egyptians taught that the real colour of the Sun was blue, and Macrobius also states that his colour is of a pure blue before he reaches the horizon and after he disappears below. It is curious to note in this relation the fact that it is only since 1881 that physicists and astronomers discovered that “our Sun is really blue”. Professor Langley devoted many years to ascertaining the fact. Helped in this by the magnificent scientific apparatus of physical science, he has succeeded finally in proving that the apparent yellow-orange colour of the Sun is due only to the effect of absorption exerted by its atmosphere of vapours, chiefly metallic; but that in sober truth and reality, it is not “a white Sun but a blue one”, i.e., something which the Egyptian priests had discovered without any known scientific instruments, many thousands of years ago!
Book of the Dead. An ancient Egyptian ritualistic and occult work attributed to Thot-Hermes. Found in the coffins of ancient mummies.
Bread and Wine. Baptism and the Eucharist have their direct origin in pagan Egypt. There the “waters of purification” were used (the Mithraic font for baptism being borrowed by the Persians from the Egyptians) and so were bread and wine. “Wine in the Dionysiak cult, as in the Christian religion, represents that blood which in different senses is the life of the world” (Brown, in the Dionysiak Myth). Justin Martyr says, “In imitation of which the devil did the like in the Mysteries of Mithras, for you either know or mayknow that they also take bread and a cup of water in the sacrifices of those that are initiated and pronounce certain words over it”. (See “Holy Water”.)
Bubasté (Eg.) A city in Egypt which was sacred to the cats, and where was their principal shrine. Many hundreds of thousands of cats were embalmed and buried in the grottoes of Beni-Hassan-el Amar. The cat being a symbol of the moon was sacred to Isis, her goddess. It sees in the dark and its eyes have a phosphorescent lustre which frightens the night-birds of evil omen. The cat was also sacred to Bast, and thence called “the destroyer of the Sun’s (Osiris’) enemies”.
Caduceus (Gr.). The Greek poets and mythologists took the idea of the Caduceus of Mercury from the Egyptians. The Caduceus is found as two serpents twisted round a rod, on Egyptian monuments built before Osiris. The Greeks altered this. We find it again in the hands of Æsculapius assuming a different form to the wand of Mercurius or Hermes. It is a cosmic, sidereal or astronomical, as well as a spiritual and even physiological symbol, its significance changing with its application. Metaphysically, the Caduceus represents the fall of primeval and primordial matter into gross terrestrial matter, the one Reality becoming Illusion. (See Sect. Doct. I. 550.) Astronomically, the head and tail represent the points of the ecliptic where the planets and even the sun and moon meet in close embrace. Physiologically, it is the symbol of the restoration of the equilibrium lost between Life, as a unit, and the currents of life performing various functions in the human body.
Calvary Cross. This form of cross does not date from Christianity. It was known and used for mystical purposes, thousands of years before our era. It formed part and parcel of the various Rituals, in Egypt and Greece, in Babylon and India, as well as in China, Mexico, and Peru. It is a cosmic, as well as a physiological (or phallic) symbol. That it existed among all the “heathen” nations is testified to by Tertullian. “How doth the Athenian Minerva differ from the body of a cross?” he queries. “The origin of your gods is derived from figures moulded on a cross. All those rows of images on your standards are the appendages of crosses; those hangings on your banners are the robes of crosses.” And the fiery champion was right. The tau or is the most ancient of all forms, and the cross or the tat (q.v.) as ancient. The crux ansata, the cross with a handle, is in the hands of almost every god, including Baal and the Phœnician Astarte. The croix cramponnée is the Indian Swastica. It has been exhumed from the lowest foundations of the ancient site of Troy, and it appears on Etruscan and Chaldean relics of antiquity. As Mrs. Jamieson shows: “The ankh of Egypt was the crutch of St. Anthony and the cross of St. Philip. The Labarum of Constantine . . . was an emblem long before, in Etruria. Osiris had the Labarum for his sign; Horus appears sometimes with the long Latin cross. The Greek pectoral cross is Egyptian. It was called by the Fathers ‘the devil’s invention before Christ’. The crux ansata is upon the old coins of Tarsus, as the Maltese upon the breast of an Assyrian king . . . The cross of Calvary, so common in Europe, occurs on the breasts of mummies . . . it was suspended round the necks of sacred Serpents in Egypt. . . . Strange Asiatic tribes bringing tribute in Egypt are noticed with garments studded with crosses, and Sir Gardner Wilkinson dates this picture B.C. 1500.” Finally, “Typhon, the Evil One, is chained by a cross!”. (Eg. Belief and Mod. Thought).
Cerberus (Gr., Lat.). Cerberus, the three-headed canine monster, which was supposed to watch at the threshold of Hades, came to the Greeks and Romans from Egypt. It was the monster, half-dog and half-hippopotamus, that guarded the gates of Amenti. The mother of Cerberus was Echidna—a being, half-woman, half-serpent, much honoured in Etruria. Both the Egyptian and the Greek Cerberus are symbols of Kâmaloka and its uncouth monsters, the cast-off shells of mortals.
Chaos (Gr.) The Abyss, the “Great Deep”. It was personified in Egypt by the Goddess Neïth, anterior to all gods. As Deveria says, “the only God, without form and sex, who gave birth to itself, and without fecundation, is adored under the form of a Virgin Mother”. She is the vulture-headed Goddess found in the oldest period of Abydos, who belongs, accordingly to Mariette Bey, to the first Dynasty, which would make her, even on the confession of the time-dwarfing Orientalists, about 7,000 years old. As Mr. Bonwick tells us in his excellent work on Egyptian belief—“Neïth, Nut, Nepte, Nuk (her names as variously read!) is a philosophical conception worthy of the nineteenth century after the Christian era, rather than the thirty-ninth before it or earlier than that”. And he adds: “Neith or Nout is neither more nor less than the Great Mother, a yet the Immaculate Virgin, or female God from whom all things proceeded”. Neïth is the “Father-mother” of the Stanzas of the Secret Doctrine, the Swabhâvat of the Northern Buddhists, the immaculate Mother indeed, the prototype of the latest “Virgin” of all; for, as Sharpe says, “the Feast of Candlemas—in honour of the goddess Neïth—is yet marked in our Almanacs as Candlemas day, or the Purification of the Virgin Mary”; and Beauregard tells us of “the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, who can henceforth, as well as the Egyptian Minerva, the mysterious Neïth, boast of having come from herself, and of having given birth to God”. He who would deny the working of cycles and the recurrence of events, let him read what Neïth was years ago, in the conception of the Egyptian Initiates, trying to popularize a philosophy too abstract for the masses; and then remember the subjects of dispute at the Council of Ephesus in 431, when Mary was declared Mother of God; and her Immaculate Conception forced on the World as by command of God, by Pope and Council in 1858. Neïth is Swabhâvat and also the Vedic Aditi and the Puranic Akâsa, for “she is not only the celestial vault, or ether, but is made to appear in a tree, from which she gives the fruit of the Tree of Life (like another Eve) or pours upon her worshippers some of the divine water of life”. Hence she gained the favourite appellation of “Lady of the Sycamore”, an epithet applied to another Virgin (Bonwick). The resemblance becomes still more marked when Neïth is found on old pictures represented as a Mother embracing the ram-headed god, the “Lamb”. An ancient stele declares her to be “Neut, the luminous, who has engendered the gods”—the Sun included, for Aditi is the mother of the Marttanda, the Sun—an Aditya. She is Naus, the celestial ship; hence we find her on the prow of the Egyptian vessels, like Dido on the prow of the ships of the Phœnician mariners, and forth with we have the Virgin Mary, from Mar, the “Sea”, called the “Virgin of the Sea”, and the “Lady Patroness” of all Roman Catholic seamen. The Rev. Sayce is quoted by Bonwick, explaining her as a principle in the Babylonian Bahu (Chaos, or confusion) i.e., “merely the Chaos of Genesis . . . and perhaps also Môt, the primitive substance that was the mother of all the gods”. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been in the mind of the learned professor, since he left the following witness in cuneiform language, “I built a temple to the Great Goddess, my Mother”. We may close with the words of Mr. Bonwick with which we thoroughly agree “She (Neïth) is the Zerouâna of the Avesta, ‘time without limits’. She is the Nerfe of the Etruscans, half a woman and half a fish” (whence the connection of the Virgin Mary with the fish and pisces); of whom it is said: “From holy good Nerfe the navigation is happy. She is the Bythos of the Gnostics, the One of the Neoplatonists, the All of German metaphysicians, the Anaita of Assyria.”
Charon (Gr.) The Egyptian Khu-en-ua, the hawk-headed Steersman of the boat conveying the Souls across the black waters that separate life from death. Charon, the Sun of Erebus and Nox, is a variant of Khu-en-ua. The dead were obliged to pay an obolus, a small piece of money, to this grim ferryman of the Styx and Acheron; therefore the ancients always placed a coin under the tongue of the deceased. This custom has been preserved in our own times, for most of the lower classes in Russia place coppers in the coffin under the head of the dead for post mortem expenses.
Chemi (Eg.). The ancient name of Egypt.
Chnouphis (Gr.). Nouf in Egyptian. Another aspect of Ammon, and the personification of his generative power in actu, as Kneph is of the same in potentia. He is also ram-headed. If in his aspect as Kneph he is the Holy Spirit with the creative ideation brooding in him, as Chnouphis, he is the angel who “comes in” into the Virgin soil and flesh. A prayer on a papyrus, translated by the French Egyptologist Chabas, says; “O Sepui, Cause of being, who hast formed thine own body! O only Lord, proceeding from Noum! O divine substance, created from itself! O God, who hast made the substance which is in him! O God, who has made his own father and impregnated his own mother.” This shows the origin of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and immaculate conception. He is seen on a monument seated near a potter’s wheel, and forming men out of clay. The fig-leaf is sacred to him, which is alone sufficient to prove him a phallic god—an idea which is carried out by the inscription: “he who made that which is, the creator of beings, the first existing, he who made to exist all that exists.” Some see in him the incarnation of Ammon-Ra, but he is the latter himself in his phallic aspect, for, like Ammon, he is “his mother’s husband”, i.e., the male or impregnating side of Nature. His names vary, as Cnouphis, Noum, Khem, and Khnum or Chnoumis. As he represents the Demiurgos (or Logos) from the material, lower aspect of the Soul of the World, he is the Agathodæmon, symbolized sometimes by a Serpent; and his wife Athor or Maut (Môt mother), or Sate, “the daughter of the Sun”, carrying an arrow on a sunbeam (the ray of conception), stretches “mistress over the lower portions of the atmosphere”. below the constellations, as Neïth expands over the starry heavens. (See “Chaos”.)
Coffin-Rite, or Pastos. This was the final rite of Initiation in the Mysteries in Egypt, Greece and elsewhere. The last and supreme secrets of Occultism could not be revealed to the Disciple until he had passed through this allegorical ceremony of Death and Resurrection into new light. “The Greek verb teleutaó,” says Vronsky, “signifies in the active voice ‘I die’, and in the middle voice “I am initiated”. Stobæus quotes an ancient author, who says, “The mind is affected in death, just as it is in the initiation into the Mysteries; and word answers to word, as well as thing to thing; for teleutan is ‘to die’, and teleisthai‘to be initiated’”. And thus, as Mackenzie corroborates, when the Aspirant was placed in the Pastos, Bed, or Coffin (in India on the lathe, as explained in the Secret Doctrine), “he was symbolically said to die.”
Criocephale (Gr.). Ram-headed, applied to several deities and emblematic figures, notably those of ancient Egypt, which were designed about the period when the Sun passed, at the Vernal Equinox, from the sign Taurus to the sign Aries. Previously to this period, bull-headed and horned deities prevailed. Apis was the type of the Bull deity, Ammon that of the ram-headed type: Isis, too, had a Cow’s head allotted to her. Porphyry writes that the Greeks united the Ram to Jupiter and the Bull to Bacchus. [w. w. w.]
Crocodile. “The great reptile of Typhon.” The seat of its “worship” was Crocodilopolis and it was sacred to Set and Sebak—its alleged creators. The primitive Rishis in India, the Manus, and Sons of Brahmâ, are each the progenitors of some animal species, of which he is the alleged “father”; in Egypt, each god was credited with the formation or creation of certain animals which were sacred to him. Crocodiles must have been numerous in Egypt during the early dynasties, if one has to judge by the almost incalculable number of their mummies. Thousands upon thousands have been excavated from the grottoes of Moabdeh, and many a vast necropolis of that Typhonic animal is still left untouched. But the Crocodile was only worshipped where his god and “father” received honours. Typhon (q.v.) had once received such honours and, as Bunsen shows, had been considered a great god. His words are, “Down to the time of Ramses B.C. 1300, Typhon was one of the most venerated and powerful gods, a god who pours blessings and life on the rulers of Egypt.” As explained elsewhere, Typhon is the material aspect of Osiris. When Typhon, the Quaternary, kills Osiris, the triad or divine Light, and cuts it metaphorically into 14 pieces, and separates himself from the “god”, he incurs the execration of the masses; he becomes the evil god, the storm and hurricane god, the burning sand of the Desert, the constant enemy of the Nile, and the “slayer of the evening beneficent dew”, because Osiris is the ideal Universe, Siva the great Regenerative Force, and Typhon the material portion of it, the evil side of the god, or the Destroying Siva. This is why the crocodile is also partly venerated and partly execrated. The appearance of the crocodile in the Desert, far from the water, prognosticated the happy event of the coming inundation—hence its adoration at Thebes and Ombos. But he destroyed thousands of human and animal beings yearly—hence also the hatred and persecution of the Crocodile at Elephantine and Tentyra.
Cross. Mariette Bey has shown its antiquity in Egypt by proving that in all the primitive sepulchres “the plan of the chamber has the form of a cross”. It is the symbol of the Brotherhood of races and men; and was laid on the breast of the corpses in Egypt, as it is now placed on the corpses of deceased Christians, and, in its Swastica form (croix cramponnée) on the hearts of the Buddhist adepts and Buddhas. (See “Calvary Cross”.)
Crux Ansata (Lat.). The handled cross, ; whereas the tau is , in this form, and the oldest Egyptian cross or the tat is thus . The crux ansata was the symbol of immortality, but the tat-cross was that of spirit-matter and had the significance of a sexual emblem. The crux ansata was the foremost symbol in the Egyptian Masonry instituted by Count Cagliostro; and Masons must have indeed forgotten the primitive significance of their highest symbols, if some of their authorities still insist that the crux ansata is only a combination of the cteis (or yoni) and phallus (or lingham). Far from this. The handle or ansa had a double significance, but never a phallic one; as an attribute of Isis it was the mundane circle; as symbol of law on the breast of a mummy it was that of immortality, of an endless and beginningless eternity, that which descends upon and grows out of the plane of material nature, the horizontal feminine line, surmounting the vertical male line—the fructifying male principle in nature or spirit. Without the handle the crux ansata became the tau , which, left by itself, is an androgyne symbol, and becomes purely phallic or sexual only when it takes the shape .
Cynocephalus (Gr.) The Egyptian Hapi. There was a notable difference between the ape-headed gods and the “Cynocephalus” (Simia hamadryas), a dog-headed baboon from upper Egypt. The latter, whose sacred city was Hermopolis, was sacred to the lunar deities and Thoth Hermes, hence an emblem of secret wisdom—as was Hanuman, the monkey-god of India, and later, the elephant-headed Ganesha. The mission of the Cynocephalus was to show the way for the Dead to the Seat of Judgment and Osiris, whereas the ape-gods were all phallic. They are almost invariably found in a crouching posture, holding on one hand the outa (the eye of Horus), and in the other the sexual cross. Isis is seen sometimes riding on an ape, to designate the fall of divine nature into generation.
Disk-worship. This was very common in Egypt but not till later times, as it began with Amenoph III., a Dravidian, who brought it from Southern India and Ceylon. It was Sun-worship under another form, the Aten-Nephru, Aten-Ra being identical with the Adonaï of the Jews, the “Lord of Heaven” or the Sun. The winged disk was the emblem of the Soul. The Sun was at one time the symbol of Universal Deity shining on the whole world and all creatures; the Sabæans regarded the Sun as the Demiurge and a Universal Deity, as did also the Hindus, and as do the Zoroastrians to this day. The Sun is undeniably the one creator of physical nature. Lenormant was obliged, notwithstanding his orthodox Christianity, to denounce the resemblance between disk and Jewish worship. “Aten represents the Adonaï or Lord, the Assyrian Tammuz, and the Syrian Adonis. . . .” (The Gr. Dionys. Myth.)
Eggs (Easter). Eggs were symbolical from an early time. There was the “Mundane Egg”, in which Brahmâ gestated, with the Hindus the Hiranya-Gharba, and the Mundane Egg of the Egyptians, which proceeds from the mouth of the “unmade and eternal deity”, Kneph, and which is the emblem of generative power. Then the Egg of Babylon, which hatched Ishtar, and was said to have fallen from heaven into the Euphrates. Therefore coloured eggs were used yearly during spring in almost every country, and in Egypt were exchanged as sacred symbols in the spring-time, which was, is, and ever will be, the emblem of birth or rebirth, cosmic and human, celestial and terrestrial. They were hung up in Egyptian temples and are so suspended to this day in Mahometan mosques.
Eye of Horus. A very sacred symbol in ancient Egypt. It was called the outa the right eye represented the sun, the left, the moon. Says Macrobius: “The outo (or uta) is it not the emblem of the sun, king of the world, who from his elevated throne sees all the Universe below him?”
Hades (Gr.), or Aïdes. The “invisible”, i.e., the land of the shadows, one of whose regions was Tartarus, a place of complete darkness, like the region of profound dreamless sleep in the Egyptian Amenti. Judging by the allegorical description of the various punishments inflicted therein, the place was purely Karmic. Neither Hades nor Amenti were the hell still preached by some retrograde priests and clergymen; but whether represented by the Elysian Fields or by Tartarus, Hades was a place of retributive justice and no more. This could only be reached by crossing the river to the “other shore”, i.e. by crossing the river Death, and being once more reborn, for weal or for woe. As well expressed in Egyptian Belief: “The story of Charon, the ferryman (of the Styx) is to be found not only in Homer, but in the poetry of many lands. The River must be crossed before gaining the Isles of the Blest. The Ritual of Egypt described a Charon and his boat long ages before Homer. He is Khu-en-ua, the hawk-headed steersman.” (See “Amenti”, “Hel” and “Happy Fields”.)
Harmachus (Gr.) The Egyptian Sphinx, called Har-em-chu or “Horus (the Sun) in the Horizon”, a form of Ra the sun-god; esoterically the risen god. An inscription on a tablet reads “O blessed Ra Harmachus! Thou careerest by him in triumph. O shine, Amoun-Ra Harmachus self-generated”. The temple of the Sphinx was discovered by Mariette Bey close to the Sphinx, near the great Pyramid of Gizeh All the Egyptologists agree in pronouncing the Sphinx and her temple the “oldest religious monument of the world”—at any rate of Egypt. “The principal chamber”, writes the late Mr. Fergusson “in the form of a cross, is supported by piers, simple prisms of Syenite granite without base or capital . . no sculptures or inscriptions of any sort are found on the walls of this temple, no ornament or symbol nor any image in the sanctuary”. This proves the enormous antiquity of both the Sphinx and the temple. “The great bearded Sphinx of the Pyramids of Gizeh is the symbol of Harmachus, the same as each Egyptian Pharaoh who bore, in the inscriptions, the name of ‘living form of the Solar Sphinx upon the Earth’,” writes Brugsh Bey. And Renan recalls that “at one time the Egyptians were said to have temples without sculptured images” (Bonwick). Not only the Egyptians but every nation of the earth began with temples devoid of idols and even of symbols. It is only when the remembrance of the great abstract truths and of the primordial Wisdom taught to humanity by the dynasties of the divine kings died out that men had to resort to mementos and symbology. In the story of Horus in some tablets of Edfou, Rougé found an inscription showing that the god had once assumed “the shape of a human-headed lion to gain advantage over his enemy Typhon. Certainly Horus was so adored in Leontopolis. He is the real Sphinx. That accounts, too, for the lion figure being sometimes seen on each side of Isis. . . It was her child.” (Bonwick.) And yet the story of Harmachus, or Har em-chu, is still left untold to the world, nor is it likely to he divulged to this generation. (See “Sphinx”.)
Harvîri (Eg.) Horns, the elder: the ancient name of a solar god: the rising sun represented as a god reclining on a full-blown lotus, the symbol of the Universe.
Hatchet. In the Egyptian Hieroglyphics a symbol of power, and also of death. The hatchet is called the “Severer of the Knot” i.e., of marriage or any other tie.
Hathor (Eg.) The lower or infernal aspect of Isis, corresponding to the Hecate of Greek mythology.
Hermes Trismegistus (Gr.). The “thrice great Hermes”, the Egyptian. The mythical personage after whom the Hermetic philosophy was named. In Egypt the God Thoth or Thot. A generic name of many ancient Greek writers on philosophy and Alchemy. Hermes Trismegistus is the name of Hermes or Thoth in his human aspect, as a god he is far more than this. As Hermes-Thoth-Aah, he is Thoth, the moon, i.e., his symbol is the bright side of the moon, supposed to contain the essence of creative Wisdom, “the elixir of Hermes”. As such he is associated with the Cynocephalus, the dog-headed monkey, for the same reason as was Anubis, one of the aspects of Thoth. (See “Hermanubis”.) The same idea underlies the form of the Hindu God of Wisdom, the elephant-headed Ganesa, or Ganpat, the son of Parvati and Siva. (See “Ganesa”.) When he has the head of an ibis, he is the sacred scribe of the gods; but even then he wears the crown atef and the lunar disk. He is the most mysterious of gods. As a serpent, Hermes Thoth is the divine creative Wisdom. The Church Fathers speak at length of Thoth-Hermes. (See “Hermetic”.)
Hermetic. Any doctrine or writing connected with the esoteric teachings of Hermes, who, whether as the Egyptian Thoth or the Greek Hermes, was the God of Wisdom with the Ancients, and, according to Plato, “discovered numbers, geometry, astronomy and letters”. Though mostly considered as spurious, nevertheless the Hermetic writings were highly prized by St. Augustine, Lactantius, Cyril and others. In the words of Mr. J. Bonwick, “They are more or less touched up by the Platonic philosophers among the early Christians (such as Origen and Clemens Alexandrinus) who sought to substantiate their Christian arguments by appeals to these heathen and revered writings, though they could not resist the temptation of making them say a little too much”. Though represented by some clever and interested writers as teaching pure monotheism, the Hermetic or Trismegistic books are, nevertheless, purely pantheistic. The Deity referred to in them is defined by Paul as that in which “we live, and move and have our being”—notwithstanding the “in Him” of the translators.
Hierogrammatists. The title given to those Egyptian priests who were entrusted with the writing and reading of the sacred and secret records. The “scribes of the secret records” literally. They were the instructors of the neophytes preparing for initiation.
Hippopotamus (Gr.) In Egyptian symbolism Typhon was called “the hippopotamus who slew his father and violated his mother,” Rhea (mother of the gods). His father was Chronos. As applied therefore to Time and Nature (Chronos and Rhea), the accusation becomes comprehensible. The type of Cosmic Disharmony, Typhon, who is also Python, the monster formed of the slime of the Deluge of Deucalion, “violates” his mother, Primordial Harmony, whose beneficence was so great that she was called “The Mother of the Golden Age”. It was Typhon, who put an end to the latter, i.e., produced the first war of elements.
Hiquet (Eg.). The frog-goddess; one of the symbols of immortality and of the “water” principle. The early Christians had their church lamps made in the form of a frog, to denote that baptism in water led to immortality.
Holy Water. This is one of the oldest rites practised in Egypt, and thence in Pagan Rome. It accompanied the rite of bread and wine. “Holy water was sprinkled by the Egyptian priest alike upon his gods’ images and the faithful. It was both poured and sprinkled. A brush has been found, supposed to have been used for that purpose, as at this day.” (Bonwick’s Egyptian Belief.) As to the bread, “the cakes of Isis . . . were placed upon the altar. Gliddon writes that they were ‘identical in shape with the consecrated cake of the Roman and Eastern Churches’. Melville assures us ‘the Egyptians marked this holy bread with St. Andrew’s cross’. The Presence bread was broken before being distributed by the priests to the people, and was supposed to become the flesh and blood of the Deity. The miracle was wrought by the hand of the officiating priest, who blessed the food. . . . Rougé tells us ‘the bread offerings bear the imprint of the fingers, the mark of consecration’.” (Ibid, page 458.) (See also “Bread and Wine”.)
Hor Ammon (Eg.). “The Self-engendered”, a word in theogony which answers to the Sanskrit Anupadaka, parentless. Hor-Ammon is a combination of the ram-headed god of Thebes and of Horus.
Horus (Eg.). The last in the line of divine Sovereigns in Egypt, said to he the son of Osiris and Isis. He is the great god “loved of Heaven”, the “beloved of the Sun, the offspring of the gods, the subjugator of the world”. At the time of the Winter Solstice (our Christmas), his image, in the form of a small newly-born infant, was brought out from the sanctuary for the adoration of the worshipping crowds. As he is the type of the vault of heaven, he is said to have come from the Maem Misi, the sacred birth-place (the womb of the World), and is, therefore, the “mystic Child of the Ark” or the argha, the symbol of the matrix. Cosmically, he is the Winter Sun. A tablet describes him as the “substance of his father”, Osiris, of whom he is an incarnation and also identical with him. Horus is a chaste deity, and “like Apollo has no amours. His part in the lower world is associated with the judgment. He introduces souls to his father, the judge” (Bonwick). An ancient hymn says of him, “By him the world is judged in that which it contains. Heaven and earth are under his immediate presence. He rules all human beings. The sun goes round according to his purpose. He brings forth abundance and dispenses it to all the earth. Everyone adores his beauty. Sweet is his love in us.”
Hyksos (Eg.). The mysterious nomads, the Shepherds, who invaded Egypt at a period unknown and far anteceding the days of Moses. They are called the “Shepherd Kings”.
Iachus (Gr.). An Egyptian physician, whose memory, according to Ælian, was venerated for long centuries on account of his wonderful occult knowledge. Iachus is credited with having stopped epidemics simply by certainfumigations, and cured diseases by making his patients inhale herbs.
Ibis Worship. The Ibis, in Egyptian Hab, was sacred to Thoth at Hermopolis. It was called the messenger of Osiris, for it is the symbol of Wisdom, Discrimination, and Purity, as it loathes water if it is the least impure. Its usefulness in devouring the eggs of the crocodiles and serpents was great, and its credentials for divine honours as a symbol were: (a) its black wings, which related it to primeval darkness—chaos; and (b) the triangular shape of them—the triangle being the first geometrical figure and a symbol of the trinitarian mystery. To this day the Ibis is a sacred bird with some tribes of Kopts who live along the Nile.
Incarnations (Divine) or Avatars. The Immaculate Conception is as pre-eminently Egyptian as it is Indian. As the author of Egyptian Belief has it: “It is not the vulgar, coarse and sensual story as in Greek mythology, but refined, moral and spiritual”; and again the incarnation idea was found revealed on the wall of a Theban temple by Samuel Sharpe, who thus analyzes it: “First the god Thoth . . . as the messenger of the gods, like the Mercury of the Greeks (or the Gabriel of the first Gospel), tells the maiden queen Mautmes, that she is to give birth to a son, who is to be king Amunotaph III. Secondly, the god Kneph, the Spirit . . . . and the goddess Hathor (Nature) . . . both take hold of the queen by the hands and put into her mouth the character for life, a cross, which is to be the life of the coming child”, etc., etc. Truly divine incarnation, or the avatar doctrine, constituted the grandest mystery of every old religious system!
Imhot-pou or Imhotep (Eg.). The god of learning (the Greek Imouthes). He was the son of Ptah, and in one aspect Hermes, as he is represented as imparting wisdom with a book before him. He is a solar god; lit., “the god of the handsome face”.
Isiac table. A true monument of Egyptian art. It represents the goddess Isis under many of her aspects. The Jesuit Kircher describes it as a table of copper overlaid with black enamel and silver incrustations. It was in the possession of Cardinal Bembo, and therefore called “Tabula Bembina sive Mensa Isiaca”. Under this title it is described by W. Wynn Westcott, M.B., who gives its “History and Occult Significance” in an extremely interesting and learned volume (with photographs and illustrations). The tablet was believed to have been a votive offering to Isis in one of her numerous temples. At the sack of Rome in 1525, it came into the possession of a soldier who sold it to Cardinal Bembo. Then it passed to the Duke of Mantua in 1630, when it was lost.
Isis. In Egyptian Issa, the goddess Virgin-Mother; personified nature. In Egyptian or Koptic Uasi, the female reflection of Uasar or Osiris. She is the “woman clothed with the sun” of the land of Chemi. Isis Latona is the Roman Isis.
Karnak (Eg.). The ruins of the ancient temples, and palaces which now stand on the emplacement of ancient Thebes. The most magnificent representatives of the art and skill of the earliest Egyptians. A few lines quoted from Champollion, Denon and an English traveller, show most eloquently what these ruins are. Of Karnak Champollion writes:—“The ground covered by the mass of remaining buildings is square; and each side measures 1,800 feet. One is astounded and overcome by the grandeur of the sublime remnants, the prodigality and magnificence of workmanship to be seen everywhere. No people of ancient or modern times has conceived the art of architecture upon a scale so sublime, so grandiose as it existed among the ancient Egyptians; and the imagination, which in Europe soars far above our porticos, arrests itself and falls powerless at the foot of the hundred and forty columns of the hypostyle of Karnak! In one of its halls, the Cathedral of Notre Dame might stand and not touch the ceiling, but be considered as a small ornament in the centre of the hall.”
Another writer exclaims: “Courts, halls, gateways, pillars, obelisks, monolithic figures, sculptures, long rows of sphinxes, are found in such profusion at Karnak, that the sight is too much for modern comprehension.” Says Denon, the French traveller: “It is hardly possible to believe, after seeing it, in the reality of the existence of so many buildings collected together on a single point, in their dimensions, in the resolute perseverance which their construction required, and in the incalculable expenses of so much magnificence! It is necessary that the reader should fancy what is before him to be a dream, as he who views the objects themselves occasionally yields to the doubt whether he be perfectly awake. . . . There are lakes and mountains within the periphery of the sanctuary. These two edifices are selected as examples from a list next to inexhaustible. The whole valley and delta of the Nile, from the cataracts to the sea, was covered with temples, palaces, tombs, pyramids, obelisks, and pillars. The execution of the sculptures is beyond praise. The mechanical perfection with which artists wrought in granite, serpentine, breccia, and basalt, is wonderful, according to all the experts . . . animals and plants look as good as natural, and artificial objects are beautifully sculptured; battles by sea and land, and scenes of domestic life are to be found in all their bas-reliefs.”
Khamism. A name given by the Egyptologists to the ancient language of Egypt. Khami, also.
Khem (Eg.). The same as Horus. “The God Khem will avenge his father Osiris”; says a text in a papyrus.
Khepra (Eg.). An Egyptian god presiding over rebirth and transmigration. He is represented with a scarabæus instead of a head.
Khnoom (Eg.). The great Deep, or Primordial Space.
Khons, or Chonso. (Eg.) The Son of Maut and Ammon, the personification of morning. He is the Theban Harpocrates, according to some. Like Horus he crushes under his foot a crocodile, emblem of night and darkness or Seb (Sebek) who is Typhon. But in the inscriptions, he is addressed as “the Healer of diseases and banisher of all evil”. He is also the “god of the hunt”, and Sir Gardner Wilkinson would see in him the Egyptian Hercules, probably because the Romans had a god named Consus who presided over horse races and was therefore called “the concealer of secrets”. But the latter is a later variant on the Egyptian Khons, who is more probably an aspect of Horus, as he wears a hawk’s head, carries the whip and crook of Osiris the tat and the crux ansata.
Khoom (Eg.), or Knooph. The Soul of the world; a variant of Khnoom.
Kneph (Eg.). Also Cneph and Nef, endowed with the same attributes as Khem. One of the gods of creative Force, for he is connected with the Mundane Egg. He is called by Porphyry “the creator of the world”; by Plutarch the “unmade and eternal deity”; by Eusebius he is identified with the Logos; and Jamblichus goes so far as almost to identify him with Brahmâ since he says of him that “this god is intellect itself, intellectually perceiving itself, and consecrating intellections to itself; and is to be worshipped in silence”. One form of him, adds Mr. Bonwick “was Av meaning flesh. He was criocephalus, with a solar disk on his head, and standing on the serpent Mehen. In his left hand was a viper, and a cross was in his right. He was actively engaged in the underworld upon a mission of creation.” Deveria writes: “His journey to the lower hemisphere appears to symbolise the evolutions of substances which are born to die and to be reborn”. Thousands of years before Kardec, Swedenborg, and Darwin appeared, the old Egyptians entertained their several philosophies. (Eg. Belief and Mod. Thought.)
Labyrinth (Gr.). Egypt had the “celestial labyrinth” whereinto the souls of the departed plunged, and also its type on earth, the famous Labyrinth, a subterranean series of halls and passages with the most extraordinary windings. Herodotus describes it as consisting of 3,000 chambers, half below and half above ground. Even in his day strangers were not allowed into the subterranean portions of it as they contained the sepulchres of the kings who built it and other mysteries. The “Father of History” found the Labyrinth already almost in ruins, yet regarded it even in its state of dilapidation as far more marvellous than the pyramids.
Lady of the Sycamore. A title of the Egyptian goddess Neïth, who is often represented as appearing in a tree and handing therefrom the fruit of the Tree of Life, as also the Water of Life, to her worshippers.
Ma, Mut (Eg.). The goddess of the lower world, another form of Isis, as she is nature, the eternal mother. She was the sovereign and Ruler of the North wind, the precursor of the overflow of the Nile, and thus called “the opener of the nostrils of the living”. She is represented offering the ankh, or cross, emblem of physical life to her worshippers, and is called the “Lady of Heaven”.
Mastaba (Eg.). The upper portion of an Egyptian tomb, which, say the Egyptologists, consisted always of three parts: namely (1) the Mastaba or memorial chapel above ground, (2) a Pit from twenty to ninety feet in depth, which led by a passage, to (3) the Burial Chamber, where stood the Sarcophagus, containing the mummy sleeping its sleep of long ages. Once the latter interred, the pit was filled up and the entrance to it concealed. Thus say the Orientalists, who divide the last resting place of the mummy on almost the same principles as theologians do man—into body, soul, and spirit or mind. The fact is, that these tombs of the ancients were symbolical like the rest of their sacred edifices, and that this symbology points directly to the septenary division of man. But in death the order is reversed; and while the Mastaba with its scenes of daily life painted on the walls, its table of offerings, to the Larva, the ghost, or “Linga Sarira”, was a memorial raised to the two Principles and Life which had quitted that which was a lower trio on earth; the Pit, the Passage, the Burial Chambers and the mummy in the Sarcophagus, were the objective symbols raised to the two perishable “principles”, the personal mind and Kama, and the three imperishable, the higher Triad, now merged into one. This “One” was the Spirit of the Blessed now resting in the Happy Circle of Aanroo.
Mehen (Eg.). In popular myths, the great serpent which represents the lower atmosphere. In Occultism, the world of the Astral light, called symbolically the Cosmic Dragon and the Serpent. (See the works of Eliphaz Lévi, who called this light le Serpent du Mal, and by other names, attributing to it all the evil influences on the earth.)
Mizraim (Eg.). The name of Egypt in very ancient times, This name is now connected with Freemasonry. See the rite of Mizraim and the rite of Memphis in Masonic Cyclopædias.
Mnevis (Eg.). The bull Mnevis, the Son of Ptah, and the symbol of the Sun-god Ra, as Apis was supposed to be Osiris in the sacred bull-form. His abode was at Heliopolis, the City of the Sun. He was black and carried on his horns the sacred uræus and disk.
Mout or Mooth (Eg.). The mother goddess; the primordial goddess, for “all the gods are born from Mooth”, it is said. Astronomically, the moon.
Mummy. The name for human bodies embalmed and preserved according to the ancient Egyptian method. The process of mummification is a rite of extreme antiquity in the land of the Pharaohs, and was considered as one of the most sacred ceremonies. It was, moreover, a process showing considerable learning in chemistry and surgery. Mummies 5,000 years old and more, reappear among us a preserved and fresh as when they first came from the hands of the Parashistes.
Neith (Eg.). Neithes. The Queen of Heaven; the moon-goddess in Egypt. She is variously called Nout, Nepte, Nur. (For symbolism, see “Nout”.)
Nephtys (Eg.). The sister of Isis, philosophically only one of her aspects. As Osiris and Typhon are one under two aspects, so Isis and Nephtys are one and the same symbol of nature under its dual aspect. Thus, while Isis is the wife of Osiris, Nephtys is the wife of Typhon, the foe of Osiris and his slayer, although she weeps for him. She is often represented at the bier of the great Sun-god, having on her head a disk between the two horns of a crescent. She is the genius of the lower world, and Anubis, the Egyptian Pluto, is called her son. Plutarch has given a fair esoteric explanation of the two sisters. Thus he writes: Nephtys designs that which is under the earth, and which one sees not (i.e., its disintegrating and reproducing power), and Isis that which is above earth, and which is visible (or physical nature). . . . The circle of the horizon which divides these two hemispheres and which is common to both, is Anubis.” The identity of the two goddesses is shown in that Isis is also called the mother of Anubis. Thus the two are the Alpha and Omega of Nature.
Nile-God (Eg.). Represented by a wooden image of the river god receiving honours in gratitude for the bounties its waters afford the country. There was a “celestial” Nile, called in the Ritual Nen-naou or “primordial waters”; and a terrestrial Nile, worshipped at Nilopolis and Hapimoo. The latter was represented as an androgynous being with a beard and breasts, and a fat blue face; green limbs and reddish body. At the approach of the yearly inundation, the image was carried from one place to another in solemn procession.
Nofir-hotpoo (Eg.). The same as the god Khonsoo, the lunar god of Thebes. Lit., “he who is in absolute rest”. Nofir-hotpoo is one of the three persons of the Egyptian trinity, composed of Ammon, Mooth, and their son Khonsoo or Nofir-hotpoo.
Noo (Eg.). Primordial waters of space called “Father-Mother”; the “face of the deep” of the Bible; for above Noo hovers the Breath of Kneph, who is represented with the Mundane Egg in his mouth.
Noom (Eg.). A celestial sculptor, in the Egyptian legends, who creates a beautiful girl whom he sends like another Pandora to Batoo (or “man”), whose happiness is thereafter destroyed. The “sculptor” or artist is the same as Jehovah, the architect of the world, and the girl is “Eve”.
Noon (Eg.). The celestial river which flows in Noot, the cosmic abyss or Noo. As all the gods have been generated in the river (the Gnostic Pleroma), it is called “the Father-Mother of the gods”.
Noot (Eg.). The heavenly abyss in the Ritual or the Book of the Dead. It is infinite space personified in the Vedas by Aditi, the goddess who, like Noon (q.v.) is the “mother of all the gods”.
Nout. (Gr.). In the Pantheon of the Egyptians it meant the “One-only-One”, because they did not proceed in their popular or exoteric religion higher than the third manifestation which radiates from the Unknown and the Unknowable, the first unmanifested and the second logoi in the esoteric philosophy of every nation. The Nous of Anaxagoras was the Mahat of the Hindu Brahmâ, the first manifested Deity—“the Mind or Spirit self-potent”; this creative Principle being of course the primum mobile of everything in the Universe—its Soul and Ideation. (See “Seven Principles” in man.)
Onnofre or Oun-nofre (Eg.). The King of the land of the Dead, the Underworld, and in this capacity the same as Osiris, “who resides in Amenti at Oun-nefer, king of eternity, great god manifested in the celestial abyss”. (A hymn of the XIXth dynasty.) (See also “Osiris”.)
Osiris. (Eg.). The greatest God of Egypt, the Son of Seb (Saturn), celestial fire, and of Neith, primordial matter and infinite space. This shows him as the self-existent and self-created god, the first manifesting deity (our third Logos), identical with Ahura Mazda and other “First Causes”. For as Ahura Mazda is one with, or the synthesis of, the Amshaspends, so Osiris, the collective unit, when differentiated and personified, becomes Typhon, his brother, Isis and Nephtys his sisters, Horus his son and his other aspects. He was born at Mount Sinai, the Nyssa of the O. T. (See Exodus xvii. 15), and buried at Abydos, after being killed by Typhon at the early age of twenty-eight, according to the allegory. According to Euripides he is the same as Zeus and Dionysos or Dio-Nysos “the god of Nysa”, for Osiris is said by him to have been brought up in Nysa, in Arabia “the Happy”. Query: how much did the latter tradition influence, or have anything in common with, the statement in the Bible, that “Moses built an altar and called the name Jehovah Nissi”, or Kabbalistically—“Dio-Iao-Nyssi”? (See Isis Unveiled Vol. II. p. 165.) The four chief aspects of Osiris were—Osiris-Phtah (Light), the spiritual aspect; Osiris-Horus (Mind), the intellectual manasic aspect; Osiris-Lunus, the “Lunar” or psychic, astral aspect; Osiris-Typhon, Daïmonic, or physical, material, therefore passional turbulent aspect. In these four aspects he symbolizes the dual Ego—the divine and the human, the cosmico-spiritual and the terrestrial.
Of the many supreme gods, this Egyptian conception is the most suggestive and the grandest, as it embraces the whole range of physical and metaphysical thought. As a solar deity he had twelve minor gods under him—the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Though his name is the “Ineffable”, his forty-two attributes bore each one of his names, and his seven dual aspects completed the forty-nine, or 7 x 7; the former symbolized by the fourteen members of his body, or twice seven. Thus the god is blended in man, and the man is deified into a god. He was addressed as Osiris-Eloh. Mr. Dunbar T. Heath speaks of a Phœnician inscription which, when read, yielded the following tumular inscription in honour of the mummy: “Blessed be Ta-Bai, daughter of Ta-Hapi, priest of Osiris-Eloh. She did nothing against anyone in anger. She spoke no falsehood against any one. Justified before Osiris, blessed be thou from before Osiris! Peace be to thee.” And then he adds the following remarks: “The author of this inscription ought, I suppose, to be called a heathen, as justification before Osiris is the object of his religious aspirations. We find, however, that he gives to Osiris the appellation Eloh. Eloh is the name used by the Ten Tribes of Israel for the Elohim of Two Tribes. Jehovah-Eloh (Gen. iii. 21.) in the version used by Ephraim corresponds to Jehovah Elohim in that used by Judah and ourselves. This being so, the question is sure to be asked, and ought to be humbly answered—What was the meaning meant to be conveyed by the two phrases respectively, Osiris-Eloh and Jehovah-Eloh? For my part I can imagine but one answer, viz., that Osiris was the national God of Egypt, Jehovah that of Israel, and that Eloh is equivalent to Deus, Gott or Dieu”. As to his human development, he is, as the author of the Egyptian Belief has it . . . “One of the Saviours or Deliverers of Humanity. . . . . As such he is born in the world. He came as a benefactor, to relieve man of trouble. . . . . In his efforts to do good he encounters evil . . . and he is temporarily overcome. He is killed . . Osiris is buried. His tomb was the object of pilgrimage for thousands of years. But he did not rest in his grave. At the end of three days, or forty, he rose again and ascended to Heaven. This is the story of his Humanity” (Egypt. Belief ). And Mariette Bey, speaking of the Sixth Dynasty, tells us that “the name of Osiris . . commences to be more used. The formula of Justified is met with”: and adds that “it proves that this name (of the Justified or Makheru was not given to the dead only”. But it also proves that the legend of Christ was found ready in almost all its details thousands of years before the Christian era, and that the Church fathers had no greater difficulty than to simply apply it to a new personage.
Pasht (Eg.). The cat-headed goddess, the Moon, called also Sekhet. Her statues and representations are seen in great numbers at the British Museum. She is the wife or female aspect of Ptah (the son of Kneph), the creative principle, or the Egyptian Demiurgus. She is also called Beset or Bubastis, being then both the re-uniting and the separating principle. Her motto is: “punish the guilty and remove defilement”, and one of her emblems is the cat. According to Viscount Rougé, her worship is extremely ancient (B.C. 3000), and she is the mother of the Asiatic race, the race that settled in Northern Egypt. As such she is called Ouato.
Per-M-Rhu (Eg.). This name is the recognised pronunciation of the ancient title of the collection of mystical lectures, called in English The Book of the Dead. Several almost complete papyri have been found, and there are numberless extant copies of portions of the work. [w. w. w.]
Phtah (Eg.). The God of death; similar to Siva, the destroyer. In later Egyptian mythology a sun-god. It is the seat or locality of the Sun and its occult Genius or Regent in esoteric philosophy.
Phta-Ra (Eg.). One of the 49 mystic (occult) Fires.
Pot-Amun. Said to be a Coptic term. The name of an Egyptian priest and hierophant who lived under the earlier Ptolemies. Diogenes Laertius tells us that it signifies one consecrated to the “Amun”, the god of wisdom and secret learning, such as were Hermes, Thoth, and Nebo of the Chaldees. This must be so, since in Chaldea the priests consecrated to Nebo also bore his name, being called the Neboïm, or in some old Hebrew Kabbalistic works, “Abba Nebu”. The priests generally took the names of their gods. Pot-Amun is credited with having been the first to teach Theosophy, or the outlines of the Secret Wisdom-Religion, to the uninitiated.
Pschent (Eg.). A symbol in the form of a double crown, meaning the presence of Deity in death as in life, on earth as in heaven. This Pschent is only worn by certain gods.
Ptah, or Pthah (Eg.). The son of Kneph in the Egyptian Pantheon. He is the Principle of Light and Life through which “creation” or rather evolution took place. The Egyptian logos and creator, the Demiurgos. A very old deity, as, according to Herodotus, he had a temple erected to him by Menes, the first king of Egypt. He is “giver of life” and the self-born, and the father of Apis, the sacred bull, conceived through a ray from the Sun. Ptah is thus the prototype of Osiris, a later deity. Herodotus makes him the father of the Kabiri, the mystery-gods; and the Targum of Jerusalem says: “Egyptians called the wisdom of the First Intellect Ptah”; hence he is Mahat the “divine wisdom”; though from another aspect he is Swabhâvat, the self-created substance, as a prayer addressed to him in the Ritual of the Dead says, after calling Ptah “father of fathers and of all gods, generator of all men produced from his substance”: “Thou art without father, being. engendered by thy own will; thou art without mother, being born by the renewal of thine own substance from whom proceeds substance”.
Pymander (Gr.). The “Thought divine”. The Egyptian Prometheus and the personified Nous or divine light, which appears to and instructs Hermes Trismegistus, in a hermetic work called “Pymander”.
Ra (Eg.). The divine Universal Soul in its manifested aspect—the ever-burning light; also the personified Sun.
Rasshoo (Eg.). The solar fires formed in and out of the primordial “waters”, or substance, of Space.
Rekh-get-Amen (Eg.). The name of the priests, hierophants, and teachers of Magic, who, according to Lenormant, Maspero, the Champollions, etc., etc., “could levitate, walk the air, live under water, sustain great pressure, harmlessly suffer mutilation, read the past, foretell the future, make themselves invisible, and cure diseases” (Bonwick, Religion of Magic). And the same author adds: “Admission to the mysteries did not confer magical powers. These depended upon two things: the possession of innate capacities, and the knowledge of certain formulæ employed under suitable circumstances”. Just the same as it is now.
RoandRu (Eg.). The gate or outlet, the spot in the heavens whence proceeded or was born primeval light; synonymous with “cosmic womb”.
Rowhanee (Eg.) or Er-Roohanee. is the Magic of modern Egypt, supposed to proceed from Angels and Spirits, that is Genii, and by the use of the mystery names of Allah; they distinguish two forms—Ilwee, that is the Higher or White Magic; and Suflee and Sheytanee, the Lower or Black Demoniac Magic. There is also Es-Seemuja, which is deception or conjuring. Opinions differ as to the importance of a branch of Magic called Darb el Mendel, or as Barker calls it in English, the Mendal: by this is meant a form of artificial clairvoyance, exhibited by a young boy before puberty, or a virgin, who, as the result of self-fascination by gazing on a pool of ink in the hand, with coincident use of incense and incantation, sees certain scenes of real life passing over its surface. Many Eastern travellers have narrated instances, as E. W. Lane in his Modern Egyptians and his Thousand and One Nights, and E. B. Barker; the incidents have been introduced also into many works of fiction, such as Marryat’s Phantom Ship, and a similar idea is interwoven with the story of Rose Mary and the Beryl stone, a poem by Rossetti. For a superficial attempt at explanation, see the Quarterly Review, No. 117. [w. w. w.]
Safekh (Eg.). Written also Sebek and Sebakh, god of darkness and night, with the crocodile for his emblem. In the Typhonic legend and transformation he is the same as Typhon. He is connected with both Osiris and Horus, and is their great enemy on earth. We find him often called the “triple crocodile”. In astronomy he is the same as Mâkâra or Capricorn, the most mystical of the signs of the Zodiac.
Sais (Eg.). The place where the celebrated temple of Isis-Neith was found, wherein was the ever-veiled statue of Neith (Neith and Isis being interchangeable), with the famous inscription, “I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my peplum no mortal has withdrawn”. (See “Sirius”.)
Sati (Eg.). The triadic goddess, with Anouki of the Egyptian god Khnoum.
Scarabæus, In Egypt, the symbol of resurrection, and also of rebirth; of resurrection for the mummy or rather of the highest aspects of the personality which animated it, and of rebirth for the Ego, the “spiritual body” of the lower, human Soul. Egyptologists give us but half of the truth, when in speculating upon the meaning of certain inscriptions, they say, “the justified soul, once arrived at a certain period of its peregrinations (simply at the death of the physical body) should be united to its body (i.e., the Ego) never more to be separated from it”. (Rougé.) What is this so-called body? Can it be the mummy? Certainly not, for the emptied mummified corpse can never resurrect. It can only be the eternal, spiritual vestment, the Ego that never dies but gives immortality to whatsoever becomes united with it. “The delivered Intelligence (which) retakes its luminous envelope and (re)becomes Daïmon”, as Prof. Maspero says, is the spiritual Ego; the personal Ego or Kâma Manas, its direct ray, or the lower soul, is that which aspires to become Osirified, i.e., to unite itself with its “god”; and that portion of it which will succeed in so doing, will never more be separated from it (the god), not even when the latter incarnates again and again, descending periodically on earth in its pilgrimage, in search of further experiences and following the decrees of Karma. Khem, “the sower of seed”, is shown on a stele in a picture of Resurrection after physical death, as the creator and the sower of the grain of corn, which, after corruption, springs up afresh each time into a new ear, on which a scarab beetle is seen poised; and Deveria shows very justly that “Ptah is the inert, material form of Osiris, who will become Sokari (the eternal Ego) to be reborn, and afterwards be Harmachus”, or Horus in his transformation, the risen god. The prayer so often found in the tumular inscriptions, “the wish for the resurrection in one’s living soul” or the Higher Ego, has ever a scarabæus at the end, standing for the personal soul. The scarabæus is the most honoured, as the most frequent and familiar, of all Egyptian symbols. No mummy is without several of them; the favourite ornament on engravings, house hold furniture and utensils is this sacred beetle, and Pierret pertinently shows in his Livre des Morts that the secret meaning of this hieroglyph is sufficiently explained in that the Egyptian name for the scarabæus Kheper signifies to be, to become, to build again.
Scheo (Eg.). The god who, conjointly with Tefnant and Seb, inhabits Aanroo, the region called “the land of the rebirth of the gods”.
Schesoo-Hor (Eg.). Lit., the servants of Horus; the early people who settled in Egypt and who were Aryans.
Seb (Eg.). The Egyptian Saturn; the father of Osiris and Isis. Esoterically, the sole principle before creation, nearer in meaning to Parabrahm than Brahmâ. From as early as the second Dynasty, there were records of him, and statues of Seb are to be seen in the museums represented with the goose or black swan that laid the egg of the world on his head. Nout or Neith, the “Great Mother” and yet the “Immaculate Virgin”, is Seb’s wife; she is the oldest goddess on record, and is to be found on monuments of the first dynasty, to which Mariette Bey assigns the date of almost 7000 years B.C.
Sekhem (Eg.). The same as Sekten.
Sekhet (Eg.). See “Pasht”.
Sekten (Eg.). Dêvâchân; the place of post mortem reward, a state of bliss, not a locality.
Serapis (Eg.). A great solar god who replaced Osiris in the popular worship, and in whose honour the seven vowels were sung. He was often made to appear in his representations as a serpent, a “Dragon of Wisdom”. The greatest god of Egypt during the first centuries of Christianity.
Set or Seth (Eg.). The same as the Son of Noah and Typhon—who is the dark side of Osiris. The same as Thoth and Satan, the adversary, not the devil represented by Christians.
Sevekh (Eg.). The god of time; Chronos; the same as Sefekh. Some Orientalists translate it as the “Seventh”.
Sirius (Gr.). In Egyptian, Sothis. The dog-star: the star worshipped in Egypt and reverenced by the Occultists; by the former because its heliacal rising with the Sun was a sign of the beneficent inundation of the Nile, and by the latter because it is mysteriously associated with Thoth-Hermes, god of wisdom, and Mercury, in another form. Thus Sothis-Sirius had, and still has, a mystic and direct influence over the whole living heaven, and is connected with almost every god and goddess. It was “Isis in the heaven” and called Isis-Sothis, for Isis was “in the constellation of the dog”, as is declared on her monuments. “The soul of Osiris was believed to reside in a personage who walks with great steps in front of Sothis, sceptre in hand and a whip upon his shoulder.” Sirius is also Anuhis, and is directly connected with the ring “Pass me not”; it is, moreover, identical with Mithra, the Persian Mystery god, and with Horus and even Hathor, called sometimes the goddess Sothis. Being connected with the Pyramid, Sirius was, therefore, connected with the initiations which took place in it. A temple to Sirius-Sothis once existed within the great temple of Denderah. To sum up, all religions are not, as Dufeu, the French Egyptologist, sought to prove, derived from Sirius, the dog-star, but Sirius-Sothis is certainly found in connection with every religion of antiquity.
Shoo (Eg.). A personification of the god Ra; represented as the “great cat of the Basin of Persea in Anu”.
Sokaris (Eg.). A fire-god; a solar deity of many forms. He is Ptah Sokaris, when the symbol is purely cosmic, and “Ptah-Sokaris-Osiris” when it is phallic. This deity is hermaphrodite, the sacred bull Apis being its son, conceived in it by a solar ray. According to Smith’s History of the East, Ptah is a “second Demiurgus, an emanation from the first creative Principle” (the first Logos). The upright Ptah, with cross and staff, is the “creator of the eggs of the sun and moon”. Pierret thinks that he represents the primordial Force that preceded the gods and “created the stars, and the eggs of the sun and moon”. Mariette Bey sees in him “Divine Wisdom scattering the stars in immensity”, and he is corroborated by the Targum of Jerusalem, which states that the “Egyptians called the Wisdom of the First Intellect Ptah”.
Sokhit (Eg.). A deity to whom the cat was sacred.
Tafne (Eg.). A goddess; daughter of the sun, represented with the head of a lioness.
Taht Esmun (Eg.). The Egyptian Adam; the first human ancestor.
Tamarisk, or Erica. A sacred tree in Egypt of great occult virtues. Many of the temples were surrounded with such trees, pre-eminently one at Philæ, sacred among the sacred, as the body of Osiris was s to lie buried under it.
Taöer (Eg.). The female Typhon, the hippopotamus, called also Ta-ur, Ta-op-oer, etc.; she is the Thoueris of the Greeks. This wife of Typhon was represented as a monstrous hippopotamus, sitting on her hind legs with a knife in one hand and the sacred knot in the other the pâsa of Siva). Her back was covered with the scales of a crocodile, and she had a crocodile’s tail. She is also called Teb, whence the name of Typhon is also, sometimes, Tebh. On a monument of the sixth dynasty she is called “the nurse of the gods”. She was feared in Egypt even more than Typhon. (See “Typhon”.)
Tat (Eg.). An Egyptian symbol: an upright round standard tapering toward the summit, with four cross-pieces placed on the top. It was used as an amulet. The top part is a regular equilateral cross. This, on its phallic basis, represented the two principles of creation, the male and the female, and related to nature and cosmos; but when the tat stood by itself, crowned with the atf (or atef), the triple crown of Horus—two feathers with the uræus in front—it represented the septenary man; the cross, or the two cross-pieces, standing for the lower quaternary, and the atf for the higher triad. As Dr. Birch well remarks: “The four horizontal bars . . . represent the four foundations of all things, the tat being an emblem of stability”.
Tefnant (Eg.). One of the three deities who inhabit “the land of the rebirth of gods” and good men, i.e., Aamroo (Devâchân) The three deities are Scheo, Tefnant, and Seb.
Thermutis (Eg.). The asp-crown of the goddess Isis; also the name of the legendary daughter of Pharaoh who is alleged to have saved Moses from the Nile.
Thomei (Eg.). The Goddess of Justice, with eyes bandaged and holding a cross. The same as the Greek Themis.
Thoth (Eg.). The most mysterious and the least understood of gods, whose personal character is entirely distinct from all other ancient deities. While the permutations of Osiris, Isis, Horus, and the rest, are so numberless that their individuality is all but lost, Thoth remains changeless from the first to the last Dynasty. He is the god of wisdom and of authority over all other gods. He is the recorder and the judge. His ibis-head, the pen and tablet of the celestial scribe, who records the thoughts, words and deeds of men and weighs them in the balance, liken him to the type of the esoteric Lipikas. His name is one of the first that appears on the oldest monuments. He is the lunar god of the first dynasties, the master of Cynocephalus—the dog-headed ape who stood in Egypt as a living symbol and remembrance of the Third Root-Race. (Secret Doctrine, II. pp. 184 and 185). He is the “Lord of Hermopolis”—Janus, Hermes and Mercury combined. He is crowned with an atef and the lunar disk, and bears the “Eye of Horus”, the third eye, in his hand. He is the Greek Hermes, the god of learning, and Hermes Trismegistus, the “Thrice-great Hermes”, the patron of physical sciences and the patron and very soul of the occult esoteric knowledge. As Mr. J. Bonwick, F.R.G.S., beautifully expresses it: “Thoth . . . has a powerful effect on the imagination . . . in this intricate yet beautiful phantasmagoria of thought and moral sentiment of that shadowy past. It is in vain we ask ourselves however man, in the infancy of this world of humanity, in the rudeness of supposed incipient civilization, could have dreamed of such a heavenly being as Thoth. The lines are so delicately drawn, so intimately and tastefully interwoven, that we seem to regard a picture designed by the genius of a Milton, and executed with the skill of a Raphael.” Verily, there was some truth in that old saying, “The wisdom of the Egyptians”. . . . “When it is shown that the wife of Cephren, builder of the second Pyramid, was a priestess of Thoth, one sees that the ideas comprehended in him were fixed 6,000 years ago”. According to Plato, “Thoth-Hermes was the discoverer and inventor of numbers, geometry, astronomy and letters”. Proclus, the disciple of Plotinus, speaking of this mysterious deity, says: “He presides over every species of condition, leading us to an intelligible essence from this mortal abode, governing the different herds of souls”. In other words Thoth, as the Registrar and Recorder of Osiris in Amenti, the Judgment Hall of the Dead was a psychopompic deity; while Iamblichus hints that “the cross with a handle (the thau or tau) which Tot holds in his hand, was none other than the monogram of his name”. Besides the Tau, as the prototype of Mercury, Thoth carries the serpent-rod, emblem of Wisdom, the rod that became the Caduceus. Says Mr. Bonwick, “Hermes was the serpent itself in a mystical sense. He glides like that creature, noiselessly, without apparent exertion, along the course of ages. He is . . . a representative of the spangled heavens. But he is the foe of the bad serpent, for the ibis devoured the snakes of Egypt.”
Tiaou (Eg.). A kind of Devachanic post mortem state.
Toom (Eg.). A god issued from Osiris in his character of the Great Deep Noot. He is the Protean god who generates other gods, “assuming the form he likes”. He is Fohat. (Secret Doctrine, I., 673.)
Typhon (Eg.). An aspect or shadow of Osiris. Typhon is not, as Plutarch asserts, the distinct “Evil Principle” or the Satan of the Jews; but rather the lower cosmic “principles” of the divine body of Osiris, the god in them—Osiris being the personified universe as an ideation, and Typhon as that same universe in its material realization. The two in one are Vishnu-Siva. The true meaning of the Egyptian myth is that Typhon is the terrestrial and material envelope of Osiris, who is the indwelling spirit thereof. In chapter 42 of the Ritual (“Book of the Dead”), Typhon is described as “Set, formerly called Thoth”. Orientalists find themselves greatly perplexed by discovering Set-Typhon addressed in some papyri as “a great and good god”, and in others as the embodiment of evil. But is not Siva, one of the Hindu Trimûrti, described in some places as “the best and most bountiful of gods”, and at other times, “a dark, black, destroying, terrible” and “fierce god”? Did not Loki, the Scandinavian Typhon, after having been described in earlier times as a beneficent being, as the god of fire, the presiding genius of the peaceful domestic hearth, suddenly lose caste and become forthwith a power of evil, a cold-hell Satan and a demon of the worst kind? There is a good reason for such an invariable transformation. So long as these dual gods, symbols of good and necessary evil, of light and darkness, keep closely allied, i.e., stand for a combination of differentiated human qualities, or of the element they represent—they are simply an embodiment of the average personal god. No sooner, however, are they separated into two entities, each with its two characteristics, than they become respectively the two opposite poles of good and evil, of light and darkness; they become in short, two independent and distinct entities or rather personalities. It is only by dint of sophistry that the Churches have succeeded to this day in preserving in the minds of the few the Jewish deity in his primeval integrity. Had they been logical they would have separated Christ from Jehovah, light and goodness from darkness and badness. And this was what happened to Osiris Typhon; but no Orientalist has understood it, and thus their perplexity goes on increasing. Once accepted—as in the case of the Occultists—as an integral part of Osiris, just as Ahriman is an inseparable part of Ahura Mazda, and the Serpent of Genesis the dark aspect of the Elohim, blended into our “Lord God”—every difficulty in the nature of Typhon disappears. Typhon is a later name of Set, later but ancient—as early in fact as the fourth Dynasty; for in the Ritual one reads: “O Typhon-Set! I invoke thee, terrible, invisible, all-powerful god of gods, thou who destroyest and renderest desert”. Typhon belongs most decidedly to the same symbolical category as Siva the Destroyer, and Saturn—the “dark god”. In the Book of the Dead, Set, in his battle with Thoth (wisdom)—who is his spiritual counterpart—is emasculated as Saturn-Kronos was and Ouranos before him. As Siva is closely connected with the bull Nandi—an aspect of Brahmâ-Vishnu, the creative and preserving powers—so is Set-Typhon allied with the bull Apis, both bulls being sacred to, and allied with, their respective deities. As Typhon was originally worshipped as an upright stone, the phallus, so is Siva to this day represented and worshipped as a lingham. Siva is Saturn. Indeed, Typhon-Set seems to have served as a prototype for more than one god of the later ritualistic cycle, including even the god of the Jews, some of his ritualistic observances having passed bodily into the code of laws and the canon of religious rites of the “chosen people”. Who of the Bible-worshippers knows the origin of the scape-goat (ez or aza) sent into the wilderness as an atonement? Do they know that ages before the exodus of Moses the goat was sacred to Typhon, and that it is over the head of that Typhonic goat that the Egyptians confessed their sins, after which the animal was turned into the desert? “And Aaron shall take the scapegoat (Azâzel) . . . . and lay his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel . . . and shall send him away . . . into the wilderness” (Levit., xvi.). And as the goat of the Egyptians made an atonement with Typhon, so the goat of the Israelites “made an atonement before the Lord” (Ibid., v. 10). Thus, if one only remembers that every anthropomorphic creative god was with the philosophical ancients the “Life-giver” and the “Death-dealer”—Osiris and Typhon, Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, etc., etc.—it will be easy for him to comprehend the assertion made by the Occultists, that Typhon was but a symbol for the lower quaternary, the ever conflicting and turbulent principles of differentiated chaotic matter, whether in the Universe or in Man, while Osiris symbolized the higher spiritual triad. Typhon is accused in the Ritual of being one who “steals reason from the soul”. Hence, he is shown fighting with Osiris and cutting him into fourteen (twice seven) pieces, after which, left without his counterbalancing power of good and light, he remains steeped in evil and darkness. In this way the fable told by Plutarch becomes comprehensible as an allegory. He asserts that, overcome in his fight with Horus, Typhon “fled seven days on an ass, and escaping begat the boys Ierosolumos and Ioudaios”. Now as Typhon was worshipped at a later period under the form of an ass, and as the name of the ass is AO, or (phonetically) IAO, the vowels mimicking the braying of the animal, it becomes evident that Typhon was purposely blended with the name of the Jewish God, as the two names of Judea and Jerusalem, begotten by Typhon—sufficiently imply.
Uasar (Eg.). The same as Osiris, the latter name being Greek. Uasar is described as the “Egg-born “, like Brahmâ. “He is the egg-sprung Eros of Aristophanes, whose creative energy brings all things into existence; the demiurge who made and animates the world, a being who is a sort of personification of Amen, the invisible god, as Dionysos is a link between mankind and the Zeus Hypsistos” (The Great Dionysiak Myth, Brown). Isis is called Uasi, as she is the Sakti of Osiris, his female aspect, both symbolizing the creating, energising, vital forces of nature in its aspect of male and female deity.
Uræus (Gr.). In Egyptian Urhek, a serpent and a sacred symbol. Some see in it a cobra, while others say it is an asp. Cooper explains that “the asp is not a uræus but a cerastes, or kind of viper, i.e., a two-horned viper. It is the royal serpent, wearing the pschent . . . the naya hâje.” The uræus is “round the disk of Horus and forms the ornament of the cap of Osiris, besides overhanging the brows of other divinities” (Bonwick). Occultism explains that the uræus is the symbol of initiation and also of hidden wisdom, as the serpent always is. The gods were all patrons of the hierophants and their instructors.
Is There Only One Egyptian Religion?
“Every time I hear people talking of the religion of Egypt,” writes M. Gaston Maspero, the great French Egyptologist and the successor of Mariette Bey, “I am tempted to ask which of the Egyptian religions they are talking about? Is it of the Egyptian religion of the 4th Dynasty, or of the Egyptian religion of the Ptolemaic period? Is it of the religion of the rabble, or of that of the learned men? Of that which was taught in the schools of Heliopolis, or of that other which was in the minds and conceptions of the Theban sacerdotal class? For, between the first tomb of Memphis, which bears the cartouche of a king of the third dynasty, and the last stones at Esneh under Caesar-Philippus, the Arabian, there is an interval of at least five thousand years. Leaving aside the invasion of the Shepherds, the Ethiopian and Assyrian dominions, the Persian conquest, Greek colonization, and the thousand revolutions of its political life, Egypt has passed during those five thousand years through many vicissitudes of life, moral and intellectual. Chapter XVII. of the Book of the Dead which seems to contain the exposition of the system of the world as it was understood at Heliopolis during the time of the first dynasties, is known to us only by a few copies of the eleventh and twelfth dynasties. Each of the verses composing it was already at the time interpreted in three or four different ways; so different, indeed, that according to this or another school, the Demiurge became the solar fire —Ra-shoo, or the primordial water. Fifteen centuries later, the number of readings had increased considerably. Time had, in its course, modified the ideas about the universe and the forces that ruled it. During the hardly 18 centuries that Christianity exists, it has worked, developed and transformed most of its dogmas; how many times, then, might not the Egyptian clergy have altered its dogmas during those fifty centuries that separate Theodosius from the King Builders of the Pyramids?”
Here we believe the eminent Egyptologist is going too far. The exoteric dogmas may often have been altered, the esoteric never. He does not take into account the sacred immutability of the primitive truths, revealed only during the mysteries of initiation. The Egyptian priests have forgotten much, they altered nothing. The loss of a good deal of the primitive teaching was due to the sudden deaths of the great Hierophants, who passed away before they had time to reveal all to their successors; mostly, to the absence of worthy heirs to the knowledge. Yet they have preserved in their rituals and dogmas the principal teachings of the secret doctrine.
—Secret Doctrine I:311-12
Was the Egyptian Religion Monotheistic?
In the Egyptian Papyri the whole Cosmogony of the Secret Doctrine is found scattered about in isolated sentences, even in the “Book of Dead.” Number seven is quite as much insisted upon and emphasized therein as in the Book of Dzyan. “The Great Water (the Deep or Chaos) is said to be seven cubits deep” — “cubits” standing here of course for divisions, zones, and principles. Therein, “in the great mother, all the Gods, and the seven great ones are born.” (See chapter cviii., 4, Book of the Dead and Egyptian Pantheon). Both Fohat and Toum are addressed as the “Great ones of the Seven Magic Forces,” who, “conquer the Serpent Apap” or Matter.
No student of occultism, however, ought to be betrayed, by the usual phraseology used in the translations of Hermetic Works, into believing that the ancient Egyptians or Greeks spoke of, and referred, monk-like, at every moment in conversation, to a Supreme Being, God, the “One Father and Creator of all,” etc., as found on every page of such translations. No such thing indeed; and those texts are not the original Egyptian texts. They are Greek compilations, the earliest of which does not go beyond the early period of Neo-Platonism. No Hermetic work written by Egyptians (vide “Book of the Dead”) would speak of the one universal God of the Monotheistic systems; the one Absolute cause of all, was as unnameable and unpronounceable in the mind of the ancient philosopher of Egypt, as it is for ever Unknowable in the conception of Mr. Herbert Spencer. As for the Egyptian in general, as M. Maspero well remarks, whenever he “arrived at the notion of divine Unity, the God One was never ‘God,’ simply.” And Lepage Renouf very justly observed that the word Nouter, nouti, “god” had never ceased being a generic name with the Egyptians, nor has it ever become a personal pronoun. Every God was the “one living and unique God” with them. Their “monotheism was purely geographical. If the Egyptian of Memphis proclaimed the unity of Phtah to the exclusion of Ammon, the Thebeian Egyptian proclaimed the unity of Ammon to the exclusion of Phtah,” as we now see done in India in the case of the Saivas and the Vaishnavas. “Ra, the ‘One God’ at Heliopolis is not the same as Osiris, the ‘One God’ at Abydos, and can be worshipped side by side with him, without being absorbed by his neighbour. The one god is but the god of the nome or the city, noutir, noutti, and does not exclude the existence of the one god of that town or of the neighbouring nome. In short, whenever speaking of Egyptian Monotheism, one ought to speak of the Gods ‘One’ of Egypt, and not of the one god” (Maspero, in the Guide au Musee de Boulak.) It is by this feature, pre-eminently Egyptian, that the authenticity of the various so-called Hermetic Books, ought to be tested; and it is totally absent from the Greek fragments known as such. This proves that a Greek Neo-Platonic, or even a Christian hand, had no small share in the editing of such works. Of course the fundamental philosophy is there, and in many a place—intact. But the style has been altered and smoothed in a monotheistic direction, as much, if not more than that of the Hebrew Genesis in its Greek and Latin translations. They may be Hermetic works, but not works written by either of the two Hermes—or rather, by Thot (Hermes) the directing intelligence of the Universe (See ch. xciv., Book of the Dead), or by Thot, his terrestrial incarnation called Trismegistus, of the Rosetta stone.
—Secret Doctrine I:674-75
The Egyptian Book of the Dead (Book of Going-Forth by Day)
The Pyramid Texts
The Sacred Volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes
“Hermes, the god of Wisdom, known in Egypt, Syria, and Phoenicia as Thoth, Tat, Adad, Seth, and Sat-an (the latter not to be taken in the sense applied to it by Moslems and Christians), and in Greece as Kadmus. The kabalists identify him with Adam Kadmon, the first manifestation of the Divine Power, and with Enoch. There were two Hermes: the elder was the Trismegistus, and the second an emanation, or “permutation” of himself; the friend and instructor of Isis and Osiris. Hermes is the god of the priestly wisdom, like Mazeus.” (Isis Unveiled I:xxxiii)
“Isis and Osiris are said, in the Egyptian sacred books, to have appeared (i.e., been worshipped), on earth, later than Thot, the first Hermes, called Trismegistus, who wrote all their sacred books according to the command of God or by “divine revelation.” The companion and instructor of Isis and Osiris was Thot, or Hermes II., who was an incarnation of the celestial Hermes.” (Isis Unveiled II:49)
“Seth, Adam’s third son, and the forefather of all Israel, the ancestor of Noah, and the progenitor of the “chosen people,” is but Hermes, the god of wisdom, called also Thoth, Tat, Seth, Set, and Sat-an; and that he was, furthermore, when viewed under his bad aspect, Typhon, the Egyptian Satan, who was also Set.” (Isis Unveiled I:554)
“Hermes, or rather Thot, was a generic name. Abul Teda shows in “Historia Anti-Islamitica” five Hermes, and the names of Hermes, Nebo, Thot were given respectively in various countries to great Initiates. … It is not the proper name of any one living man, but a generic title of many adepts.” (Secret Doctrine II:210fn & 211)
“And here we may as well mention the works of Hermes Trismegistus. Who, or how many have had the opportunity to read them as they were in the Egyptian sanctuaries? In his Egyptian Mysteries, Iamblichus attributes to Hermes 1,100 books, and Seleucus reckons no less than 20,000 of his works before the period of Menes. Eusebius saw but forty-two of these “in his time,” he says, and the last of the six books on medicine treated on that art as practiced in the darkest ages; and Diodorus says that it was the oldest of the legislators Mnevis, the third successor of Menes, who received them from Hermes.
“Of such manuscripts as have descended to us, most are but Latin retranslations of Greek translations, made principally by the Neo-platonists from the original books preserved by some adepts. Marcilius Ficinus, who was the first to publish them in Venice, in 1488, has given us mere extracts, and the most important portions seemed to have been either overlooked, or purposely omitted as too dangerous to publish in those days of Auto da fe.” (Isis Unveiled I:406-07)
“There are then forty-two books of Hermes indispensably necessary; of which the six-and-thirty containing the whole philosophy of the Egyptians are learned by the forementioned personages; and the other six, which are medical, by the Pastophoroi (image- bearers),—treating of the structure of the body, and of diseases, and instruments, and medicines, and about the eyes, and the last about women.” (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book VI, Chapter IV)
“The forty-two Sacred Books of the Egyptians mentioned by Clement of Alexandria as having existed in his time, were but a portion of the Books of Hermes. Iamblichus, on the authority of the Egyptian priest Abammon, attributes 1200 of such books to Hermes, and Manetho 36,000.” (Isis Unveiled I:33)
“It was Ammonius who first taught that every religion was based on one and the same truth; which is the wisdom found in the Books of Thoth (Hermes Trismegistus), from which books Pythagoras and Plato had learned all their philosophy. And the doctrines of the former he affirmed to have been identical with the earliest teachings of the Brahmans—now embodied in the oldest Vedas.” (Isis Unveiled I:444)
The Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, by Anna Kingsford (1885) | Review by T. Subba Row
“… it may be shown that all the fundamental truths of nature were universal in antiquity, and that the basic ideas upon spirit, matter, and the universe, or upon God, Substance, and man, were identical. Taking the two most ancient religious philosophies on the globe, Hinduism and Hermetism, from the scriptures of India and Egypt, the identity of the two is easily recognisable. This becomes apparent to one who reads the latest translation and rendering of the “Hermetic Fragments” just mentioned, by our late lamented friend, Dr. Anna Kingsford. Disfigured and tortured as these have been in their passage through Sectarian Greek and Christian hands, the translator has most ably and intuitionally seized the weak points and tried to remedy them by means of explanations and foot-notes. (Secret Doctrine I:285)
“… whenever speaking of Egyptian Monotheism, one ought to speak of the Gods ‘One’ of Egypt, and not of the one god” (Maspero, in the Guide au Musee de Boulak.) It is by this feature, pre-eminently Egyptian, that the authenticity of the various so-called Hermetic Books, ought to be tested; and it is totally absent from the Greek fragments known as such. This proves that a Greek Neo-Platonic, or even a Christian hand, had no small share in the editing of such works. Of course the fundamental philosophy is there, and in many a place—intact. But the style has been altered and smoothed in a monotheistic direction, as much, if not more than that of the Hebrew Genesis in its Greek and Latin translations. They may be Hermetic works, but not works written by either of the two Hermes—or rather, by Thot (Hermes) the directing intelligence of the Universe (See ch. xciv., Book of the Dead), or by Thot, his terrestrial incarnation called Trismegistus, of the Rosetta stone.” (Secret Doctrine I:675)
The Corpus Hermeticum, translated by G. R. S. Mead
Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius, translated by Brian P. Copenhaver
The Divine Pymander, translated by Dr. John Everard
Commentary on the Pymander, by G.R.S. Mead
“How truly esoteric and consonant with the Secret Doctrine is “Pymander the Thought Divine” of Hermes, may be inferred from its original and primitive translations in Latin and Greek only. On the other hand how disfigured it has been later on by Christians in Europe, is seen from the remarks and unconscious confessions made by de St. Marc, in his Preface and letter to the Bishop of Ayre, in 1578. Therein, the whole cycle of transformations from a Pantheistic and Egyptian into a mystic Roman Catholic treatise is given, and we see how Pymander has become what it is now. Still, even in St. Marc’s translation, traces are found of the real Pymander—the “Universal Thought” or “Mind.”” (Secret Doctrine II:491)
“Tradition declares that on the dead body of Hermes, at Hebron, was found by an Isarim, an initiate, the tablet known as the Smaragdine. It contains, in a few sentences, the essence of the Hermetic wisdom. To those who read but with their bodily eyes, the precepts will suggest nothing new or extraordinary, for it merely begins by saying that it speaks not fictitious things, but that which is true and most certain.” (Isis Unveiled I:507)
The Hermetic Book of Numbers or Book of the Keys (not extant) (see also Chaldean Book of Numbers)
“We are not aware that a copy of this ancient work is embraced in the catalogue of any European library; but it is one of the “Books of Hermes,” and it is referred to and quotations are made from it in the works of a number of ancient and mediaeval philosophical authors. Among these authorities are Arnoldo di Villanova’s “Rosarium philosoph.”; Francesco Arnolphim’s “Lucensis opus de Iapide.” Hermes Trismegistus’ “Tractatus de transmutatione metallorum,” “Tabula smaragdina,” and above all in the treatise of Raymond Lulli, “Ab angelis opus divinum de quinta essentia.”” (Isis Unveiled I:254)
“… the Chaldean Book of Numbers, the original of which, if now extant, is certainly not to be found in libraries, as it formed one of the most ancient Books of Hermes, the number of which is at present undetermined.” (Isis Unveiled I:32-33)
See: Isis Unveiled II:281, 298, etc.
Papyrus Ebers, The Hermetic Book of Medicine of the Ancient Egyptians, in Hieratic writing (facsimile, 1875)
The Ebers Papyrus: A New English Translation, Commentaries and Glossaries, by Paul Ghalioungui
“As to their knowledge in medicine, now that one of the lost Books of Hermes has been found and translated by Ebers, the Egyptians can speak for themselves. That they understood about the circulation of the blood, appears certain from the healing manipulations of the priests, who knew how to draw blood downward, stop its circulation for awhile, etc. A more careful study of their bas-reliefs representing scenes taking place in the healing hall of various temples will easily demonstrate it. They had their dentists and oculists, and no doctor was allowed to practice more than one specialty; which certainly warrants the belief that they lost fewer patients in those days than our physicians do now.” (Isis Unveiled I:544-45)
On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians, by Iamblichus (trans. Thomas Taylor, 1821)
On Isis and Osiris, from Plutarch's Moralia
Plutarch: Concerning the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris, translated by G.R.S. Mead (1906)
Of Isis and Osiris, Or of the Ancient Religion and Philosophy of Egypt, translated from the Greek by several hands, corrected by William W. Goodwin (1878)
On Isis and Osiris, translated by Charles William King (1908)
Isis and Osiris, translated by Frank Cole Babbitt (1936)
Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, by James Bonwick (1878)
Thrice-Greatest Hermes, by G. R. S. Mead (1906)
Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth: From Ancient Egypt to Neoplatonism, by Algis Uzdavinys (2008)
Modern Works on the Antiquity of Egypt
“The date of the hundreds of pyramids in the Valley of the Nile is impossible to fix by any of the rules of modern science; but Herodotus informs us that each successive king erected one to commemorate his reign, and serve as his sepulchre. But, Herodotus did not tell all, although he knew that the real purpose of the pyramid was very different from that which he assigns to it. Were it not for his religious scruples, he might have added that, externally, it symbolized the creative principle of nature, and illustrated also the principles of geometry, mathematics, astrology, and astronomy. Internally, it was a majestic fane, in whose sombre recesses were performed the Mysteries, and whose walls had often witnessed the initiation-scenes of members of the royal family. The porphyry sarcophagus, which Professor Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal of Scotland, degrades into a corn-bin, was the baptismal font, upon emerging from which, the neophyte was “born again,” and became an adept. …
“One of the books of Hermes describes certain of the pyramids as standing upon the sea-shore, “the waves of which dashed in powerless fury against its base.” This implies that the geographical features of the country have been changed, and may indicate that we must accord to these ancient “granaries,” “magico-astrological observatories,” and “royal sepulchres,” an origin antedating the upheaval of the Sahara and other deserts. This would imply rather more of an antiquity than the poor few thousands of years, so generously accorded to them by Egyptologists.” (Isis Unveiled I:518-20)
For modern explorations in this area, see:
Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth’s Lost Civilization, by Graham Hancock (1995)
The Orion Mystery, by Robert Bauval (1995)
The Message of the Sphinx: A Quest for the Hidden Legacy of Mankind, by Graham Hancock & Robert Bauval (1996)
Secret Chamber, by Robert Bauval (1999)
The Seven Souls of the Egyptologists, from The Secret Doctrine by H.P. Blavatsky
Egyptian Wisdom, from Isis Unveiled by H.P. Blavatsky
Egypt and the Egyptian Dynasties
— Article Series by Alexander Wilder
Articles from The Path
The Hermetic Philosophy
The Path, June, July, December, 1886
Fragments of the Ancient Wisdom Religion have come down to us from the remotest past, through many channels, and in various forms.
The study of philology alone will be inadequate to discover the true meaning of ancient sacred writings, though it may very greatly assist the labors of those who have already gained a clue to the Secret Doctrine. The Theosophist and the Antiquarian differ very widely, and though the former has sometimes been accused of searching out obsolete doctrines and magnifying the achievements of the past, but little observation will be required to reveal the fact, that that for which they search may be very old because it is valuable, but never valuable merely because it is old. In short that of which they are in search may truly be said to never fade, and ne’er grow old, though it is often lost sight of. Occultism is not a new craze as some suppose, it is not simply a line of the marvelous, it is rather the profoundest of all sciences, conforming in its methods of research and the character of its results to those of all sciences. The naturalist does not hesitate to construct from a single tooth or a few fragments of bone, the entire animal and assign to it its proper place, declare its habits, modes of life, size, &c., &c., even though he fixed its era centuries ago, and no one nowadays questions the general correctness of the result; the study of comparative anatomy and the science of biology testify all this. In like manner and by similar methods may one familiar with the science of occultism, which deals with the operation of uniform laws in the higher realms of nature, arrive at exact data from very small beginnings, and with this advantage, viz., that he has the means at hand to verify his conclusions, which the naturalist has not, for in this realm there are no extinct species, the elements of human nature, and the laws which underlie their unfoldment and manifestation are the same now, as thousands of years ago.
It is the custom of many who are entirely ignorant of this higher science, to deny its existence and ridicule its cultivators. Just as an uneducated and conceited boor would ridicule an Agassiz for attempting to reconstruct an animal from its thigh bone. When, therefore, one entirely ignorant not only of the principles but of the existence of such a thing as occult science, examines ancient records in which it is concealed, he will arise from his task possibly better satisfied with his own possessions as contrasted with the “ignorance” of past ages, but seldom wiser for his endeavor. Few persons nowadays are ignorant of the form of most ancient hierarchic writings, as consisting of, or containing a double meaning under the garb of allegory or parable. It is moreover becoming quite generally known that many of these ancient records are of vital importance to us of the present day, as containing the very knowledge of which we stand most in need, and the amount of attention they are receiving may be determined by observing the interest in, and almost unprecedented sales of, such works as Arnold’s Light of Asia, while the labors of men like Max Muller in rendering the ancient scriptures into English have made it possible for everyone to gain some familiarity with the religious casts of antiquity. Bearing in mind these general observations, let us briefly examine one of the most ancient, most famous, and yet least comprehended sources of ancient wisdom. As to the questions who was Hermes? which Hermes? when did he write? we have these points for the philologists and historians, quoting here the remark of Iamblichus in his treatise on the Mysteries: “Hermes, the God who presides over language, was formerly very properly considered as common to all priests; and the power who presides over the true science concerning the Gods is one and the same in the whole of things. Hence our ancestors dedicated the inventions of their wisdom to this deity, inscribing all their own writings with the name of Hermes,” and “the late learned Divine Doctor Everard” in the preface to his translation of the Divine Pymander 1650, contends that Hermes Trismegistus lived a long time before Moses, that he had “perfect and exact knowledge of all things contained in the world,” ** “that he was the first that invented the art of communicating knowledge to the world by writing, that he was King of Egypt, that he styled himself the son of Saturn, and that he was believed to have come from heaven, and not to have been born on earth.”1
The above writer goes on to say that Hermes did excel in the right understanding of, because he attained to, the knowledge of the quintessence of the whole universe, otherwise called the Elixir of the philosophers, which secret many ignorantly deny, many have sought after, and some have found. A description of this great Treasure is said to have been found engraved upon a Smaragdine Tablet in the valley of Hebron after the flood.2
To the modern reader, all this sounds very queer, a bundle of contradictions and vagaries, taxing reason and even credulity. But suppose we are told that it was designed for exactly that purpose, that only they who were determined to find the truth, and who therefore had faith that it existed somewhere, were expected to walk around or dig under this stumbling-block. If we turn now to Isis Unveiled p. 507, Vol. I, we shall find the inscription said to have been found on the tablet.
The inscription said to have been found on the Smaragdine Tablet and to which reference was made in a former article, and which Dr. Everard refers to as containing the “Elixir of the philosophers,” is further explained by the author of Isis, where it is also said “It is for the Hermetic student to watch its motions, to catch its subtile currents, to guide and direct them with the help of the Athanor, the Archimedean lever of the Alchemist.”3 It is further stated in plain words that this mysterious agent “is the universal magical agent, the astral light, which in the correlation of its forces furnishes the Alkahest, the philosophers’ stone, and the elixir of life.”4 Now one great advantage to the student who follows carefully these hints is, that he soon discovers certain basic principles which reach far and wide, and in Hermetic language enable him to ascend from Earth to Heaven, and descend from Heaven to Earth, not in a vague, fanciful way, but as applicable to physical phenomena as to philosophical synthesis. These basic principles are not hypothesis, they are the first principles of Nature, as manifested in the phenomenal universe, a thread or clue to the labyrinth of phenomena.
There is a vast difference between modern and ancient science in regard to the Ether: The former hypothecates it to bridge a gap in phenomena and at once, as if ashamed of its weakness, turns its back upon it. Not so our ancient Hermetic brethren. Modern speculation regarding a fourth dimension of space apprehends the necessity for something beyond the old conception, as does physical science. And yet the latter reaches no solid ground, though the problem lies in the rubbish derived from analytical science, and the necessity which has compelled it to pay tribute. There is a logical, uniform, invariable antithesis in all manifested nature, which at once suggests the unmanifested. Sometimes the change of a letter or an accent in a word or its division into syllables produces wonderful results, e.g., atonement, at-one-ment. So here in the phenomenal universe, nothing and no-thing are not synonymous. To say that the ether tills all space, penetrates the densest matter, and gives rise by emanation to the whole phenomenal universe, and yet that it is nothing is nonsense, but that it is no-thing is perfectly true. The ether is to the phenomenal universe what the 0 is to the mathematician, nothing in itself and yet from association, implication or involution, it enters into even form and quantity. Oken has shown5 that there are really two zeros, or that zero exists as 0+ and 0–, and even here begins the science of symbolism in the ancient Mathesis. It is in this shoreless ocean of ether that suns and solar systems are suspended. It is the alkahest or universal solvent from which all forms and qualities of matter and life proceeds, and into which they return. It is luminous, and yet the abode of darkness, the Unmoved Mover of Plato.
Take now the three dimensions of space, and we find the idea of length, breadth and thickness are associated with objects. Where there is no object upon which the eye can rest, we have then no length, no breadth, no thickness, i.e., Ether, the antithesis of objective forms in which occur all phenomena. This ether is called the Mirror of Isis, because in it are impressed or mirrored all forms. When these forms are clothed upon then occurs, first, a positing; second, motion; third, the “picture” in the ether is involved and the outer material shape evolved. Nay, there is no first, second, third about it, for all occurs coincidently. The last analysis of physics is matter, force and motion; and these three, inseparable on the physical visual plane, resolve back into the ocean of ether, which contains them all potentially, and which sends them out as an indissoluble trinity. Compared with matter then, the ether is transcendental, and yet we cannot say it is nothing, as has already been pointed out. Now all life, all matter, all forms, are in their essence cyclic. This is readily seen in the colloidal forms incident to organic life, but even in crystalline forms, though often overlooked, it is none the less apparent.
In relation to objective manifestation, preserving the idea of cyclic form, the ether is spoken of as the center which is everywhere, and the circumference which is nowhere.
Proceeding now with the idea of center and circumference (as yet only an idea) let us imagine a globule of protoplasm to spring instantly into visual existence. The act of positing was geometrical, i.e., “position without extension.” Let this positing represent force, and extension represent matter, typically, (in all directions) but this tension and extension begets motion, all together; creation, from the hitherto “without form and void” i.e., the ether.
What was the immediate coefficient of the positing? a picture, a Divine idea, an essential form, projected in the ether. This idea is now being clothed upon, or involved in matter, and coincidently the outer material shape and structure is being evolved. Here is an equation being solved, and from this on, it is easy to trace what occurs even under a good microscope. We are, however, interested in principles rather than processes, therefore we will preserve our typical sphere with its center and circumference.
We shall presently come back to the Smaragdine inscription, and then be able to see what a revelation it contains, and what a magical key it affords to unlock the doors of knowledge.
“The music of the spheres” is not a mere figure of speech, but an actuality.
The Soul of the World has its central Sun whose life throbs pulsate throughout immensity. If we study the phenomena and conditions of either crystallization or organization we shall find that every atom in the vast universe is set to music. There is the pean of life, and the dirge of death, the major and the minor key. The rhythm is the same whether in the ebb or flow of life, but the serried columns march in opposite directions. The Unity lies back of all phenomena in the infinite ocean, the universal solvent, as the crystal lies latent, potential, unmanifested, in the solution of salt. So all things exist potentially in the ether. The real form of everything is perfect, essential, divine. Only the effigy appears with ebb and flow; with swell and cadence like martial music. Only in the Garden of the Gods can the perfect flower and fruit appear. There is but one approximation to perfect form to be apprehended by mortals—the Sphere—and even this is ideal or geometrical, not actual. The dimensions of space pertain to objects: objects exist in time, and the essence of time is motion.6 Imagine the intelligence of man posited in an ocean of Ether, a thinking principle, without form or extension, and the fallacy of space as generally conceived becomes manifest, and disappears. Matter, space, time, and motion, these pertain to outwardly manifested existence. Read backward the genesis of crystal, plant, animal or man, and one plan, one basis is discovered in all.
“Out from the shore of the great unknown” come trooping these effigies of diviner being, these shapes of diviner forms. In the beginning was the Word, the Fiat has gone forth. Listen O! man to the music of Bath Col the voice of thine own soul. Adonai speaks. If thou art conscious, His voice is conscience. It is the memory of the voice of God in fields elysian, thy former divine abode. Thou mayest involve in thy life on earth thine Augoeides, “being of light,” a “gleaming brightness.” This is thy holy mission, the meaning of thy human shape, thy manly powers, thy subtle intellect, thy holy intuitions. These are but the seed of larger life, the bird of promise. The unfolded flower shall be thy highest aspiration, thy holiest wish, and its ripened fruit shall bear thee to the garden of the gods, with knowledge and power as thy servants. Ask but thine own soul, counsel with thy better self, and if thou findest not within the silence the answering voice, then return to thy wallowing in the mire, and the husks which the swine do eat, rather than to thy father’s house which thou hast made, and will henceforth continue to make a den of thieves, at best, a whited sepulchre.
Now let us read the Tablet of Hermes, bearing in mind the fact that man is an epitome of the universe, thus actually or potentially containing all that is, and if he knows how to read and to unfold his own nature, powers and possibilities, he may read thereby the universe, unfold its laws, comprehend its plan, and if he be master of himself, thus revealed to his understanding, his powers shall be co-extensive with knowledge. He shall possess the MASTERS’ WORD.
This tablet is printed in full in September Path, at p. 167.
The reader is referred to Isis Unveiled for explanation of the Azoth to which, on the physical plane, the tablet refers,7 and I might say in passing, that those who complain that the Brothers closely guard occult secrets, will do well, even at this late day, to read Isis Unveiled, There are several matters contained in those two volumes which the careless reader, and complaining “theosophist” has possibly overlooked. In fact there is less concealment in all occult matters than the ignorant and time-serving suppose. There can be no better safe-guards to Royal Secrets, than ignorance and defective vision, for which defects there is no surgery or remedy outside ourselves.
“God saith, Let the man endued with a mind, mark, consider, and know himself well. ** And before they give up their bodies to the death of them, they hate their senses, knowing their works and operations.
“Rather, I, that am the mind itself, will not suffer the operations or works, which belong to the body, to be finished and brought to perfection in them, but being the Porter and Doorkeeper I will shut up the entrances of evil, and cut off the thoughtful desires of filthy works.
“But to the foolish, and evil, and wicked, and envious, and covetous, and profane, I am far off, giving place to the revenging demon **
“For the sleep of the body is the sober watchfulness of the mind, and the shutting of my eyes, the true sight, and my silence great with child; and full of good, and the pronouncing of my words the blossoms and fruits of good things.”8
“Wherefore we must be bold to say that an earthly man is a mortal god, and that the heavenly God is an immortal Man.“9
Compare with this the following from the writings of Plato:
“He who has not even a knowledge of common things, is a brute among men; he who has an accurate knowledge of human concerns alone, is a man among brutes; but he who knows all that can be known by intelligent inquiry is a god among men.”
In these brief and imperfect outlines enough has been given to show the thoughtful student, the agreement of the Hermetic doctrines with the teachings of Theosophy, indeed, any real progress in the comprehension of the one, may be taken as a key to the other. These, together with the teachings of the Kabbala, are but different forms of the Secret Doctrine; none of them are to be fully apprehended by the intellect alone; but only when the mind is illuminated by the light of understanding, and the process by which this illumination is to he achieved, through diligent inquiry, unselfish work, and repression of the senses, appetites and passion, has been often pointed out, and is found repeated and reiterated in all these writings. If any, therefore, are disposed to complain that they are left to grope in darkness, they have no one to blame but themselves. To the conscientious student, the constant wonder is at the richness of the feast spread out on every hand.
Like a beautiful landscape to the blind, or music to the deaf, are the pages of wisdom to the ignorant and selfish. Eyes have they but they see not, ears have they but they hear not, and so long as they are joined to their idols they may as well be let alone. But to the earnest disciple, to the true seeker of The Path these are the everlasting verities: let them run and not be weary, walk and not faint, seek, and they shall surely find, desire, and they shall attain, knock, and the door of knowledge shall open, obey, and they shall in turn command, labor, and they shall obtain rest.
“Rest is not quitting
The busy career,
Rest is the fitting
Of self to one’s sphere.
‘Tis the brook’s motion,
Clear, without strife,
Fleeting to ocean
After this life.
‘Tis living and serving
The highest and best,
‘Tis onward unswerving,
And this is true rest.”
1. See Introduction to The Divine Pymander p. VI et. seq. Edition 1650.
3. Isis Unveiled, p. 507, vol. I.
6. “We take no notice of time save by its loss” i.e. its passage or motion.
7. Isis Unveiled, vol. 1, p. 507, et seq.
8. Pymander, p. 33, et seq, edition of 1650.
9. IV Book, p 60.
The Path, September 1886
THE FOURTH STATE OF MATTER DESCRIBED IN THE TABLET
That a tablet, now called the SMARAGDINE, was found there is no doubt. Its discovery is attributed by tradition to an isarim or initiate, who it is said, took it from the dead body of Hermes—this could not have been the Egyptian god Thoth—which was buried at Hebron, in an obscure ditch. The tablet was held between the hands of the corpse. Some authors say that it was of emerald, which I do not believe; it probably was of green strass or paste, an imitation of emerald, in the manufacture of which the Egyptians excelled. Be it as it may, the contents evidently refer to that subtile body, called by the great scientist Sir William Thompson, “the luminiferous aether,”—to that mysterious, invisible to us, some-thing, in which the matter-atoms float, the azoth of the Hermetic philosophers, the astral light of the occultists, the akasa of the Hindus; which physical science attempts to grasp, comprehend and sometimes use, under the name of electricity, magnetism, heat, light, etc; which is experimentally made visible, in one of its forms, by means of Professor Crooke’s “radiant matter” and which he terms the fourth state of matter. It permeates all things, going through flesh and blood, and steel and glass, the diamond and sapphire, with the facility of water through a net. A translation of this tablet is:1
“It is true without falsehood, certain and very veritable, that that which is below, is as that which is above, and that that which is on high, is as that which is below, so as to perpetuate the miracles of all things.
And as all things have been and come from One, by the mental desire of One, so all things have been produced from that One only by adaptation.
The Sun (Osiris) is thence the father, and the Moon (Isis) the mother. The Air, its womb, carries it thence, and the Earth is its nurse.
Here is the producer of all, the talisman of all the world.
Its force (or potentiality) is entire, if it is changed into the Earth, you separate the Earth from the Fire, the subtile from the gross. Sweetly, but with great energy, it mounts from the Earth to the Heaven, and again descends to the Earth with powerful energy, and receives the potentiality of the superior and inferior things.
You have, by this means, the light (or fire) of the whole universe. And upon account of this, all obscurity itself, with that, will fly entirely thence.
In this is the energy the strongest of all energy, for it vanquishes all subtile things and penetrates all the solid things.
Thus the world was created. From this will be and will go out admirable adaptations, of which the medium is here.
And because of these reasons I am called Hermes Trismegistus, possessing the three divisions of the philosophy of the universe.
It is complete, this that I have said of the operation of the Sun.”
The reader must take note, that the fire referred to here, is not the perceptible fire, but the hidden occult fire, which is concealed in all things, and only becomes evident through a tearing asunder of the atoms. The fire, which we see, is the black fire, the other the unseen, is the white fire. So the ancient Hebrew philosophy says, the Tablets of the Law given to Moses, were written by the Deity with black fire on white fire. It is referred to but concealed in the Maasey B’reshith, the great occult book of which is the Book of Genesis.
1. The emerald table is from the collection commencing with Le Miroirs d’Alquimie de Jean de Mehun, philosophe, tres—excellent. Traduict de Latin en Francois, A Paris, 1613, pp. 36 – 39, to which is also attached, the Petit Commentaire de L’Hortulain, philosphe, dict des Jardins maritimes, sur la Table d’Esmerande d’Hermes Trismegiste pp. 42 – 64.
Articles from Theosophy Magazine
Civilization and Religion of Egypt
When broke the dawn of that civilization in Egypt whose wondrous perfection is suggested by the fragments supplied to us by the archaeologists? Alas! the lips of Memnon are silent, and no longer utter oracles; the Sphinx has become a greater riddle in her speechlessness than was the enigma propounded to the king of Thebes; the Pyramids still keep their secrets unbroken through the lapse of centuries. It is these vast and timeless monuments which make Egypt to us “the land of mystery.” How came Egypt by her knowledge? From whom did she learn her wondrous arts, the secrets of which died with her? She sent no agents throughout the world to learn what others knew; but to her the wise men of neighboring nations resorted for knowledge. We have to seek in the religion of Egypt the key to all her mysteries; also have we to seek in the kinship of Egypt and India, the source and inspiration of her wisdom.
Just as in the case of Persia and China, modern historians are blinded by their Christian biblical chronology to her immense antiquity. We have to go back to another race than the Aryan—to the Atlantean race of giants, and even to the Lemurians, to find the origin of those records in Egypt of a civilization passed and gone before the great builders of the pyramids came on the scene. For Egypt is far older than Europe as now traced on the map, and Atlanto-Aryan tribes began to settle on it when France and the British Isles had not risen from the ocean bed. The Delta was far later in formation than Southern Egypt, but even it has been inhabited as firm and fertile land for more than 100,000 years. The Great Labyrinth was in ruins at the beginning of history; Thebes was in ruins when Memphis, founded by Menes, was the capital city; an ancient book of Hermes describes some pyramids as standing on the seashore, the waves dashing against their base—now they stand amid the arid vastness of desert sands. The Great Pyramid, even now untouched by time is, according to the Denderah zodiac, more than 78,000 years old. This planisphere on the ceiling of one of the oldest Egyptian temples, with its mysterious three Virgins between Leo and Libra, has found its Œdipus, who understood the riddle of its signs and justified the truthfulness of the Egyptian priests who affirmed that even since their first zodiacal records were commenced, the Poles had been three times within the plane of the ecliptic. This means that three sidereal cycles of 25,868 years each have passed.* The civilization of Egypt is untold ages old. Never was there a time when it appears to have been in its infancy, but all her arts and sciences were ever in full flower.
* Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, 368; 432-433.
Herodotus, the Greek born about 500 B.C., called “The Father of History,” is scoffed at by modern historians as being “unreliable,” but we shall do well to note what he says the priests told him when they showed him colossal wooden statues of their kings—345 in all, inscribed with their names and annals, including the super-human kings who reigned before their first human sovereign; that no one could understand or write an account of these super-human kings unless he had studied and learned the history of the three dynasties that preceded the human. And they traced the origin of these dynasties to a period of the earth’s formation which geologists say was millions of years ago! The priests referred to these pre-human reigns as the dynasties of the Gods, Demi-gods, and Heroes or Giants. It was these Great Beings who left “everlasting monuments to commemorate their stay.”
Since we have found similar Divine Instructors—Dragons of Wisdom—in Persia and China, all teaching the same doctrines, there must have been a common source of Wisdom. That was India—though not the India of today. Great India once included Persia (Iran), Tibet, Mongolia, and Great Tartary. There was an upper and a lower India, and Hindustan was once called Æthiopia. So these various peoples must have come originally from one center and were of one root, though various in the color of their skin—white, yellow, red and dark. It was from India that the eastern Æthiopians came into Egypt, bringing their civilization with them—all the knowledge of the Atlanteans, though they had no Atlantean blood in their veins—under their first great human king, Menes. In a Hindu work it is stated that “Under the reign of Visvamitra … in consequence of a battle which lasted five days, Manu-Vina … being abandoned by the Brahmins, emigrated with all his companions … to the shore of Masra.” Unquestionably this Manu-Vina and Menes were identical. Masra was the name of Cairo, which to this day is called Masr and Masra. If this occurred 4,100 B.C. as historians claim, it was long after many of the pyramids had been built. However, the ancient knowledge of a by-gone race now again flowered in the land under Menes.
It may be wholesome, because humbling, for us to realize that some of the discoveries, inventions and achievements on which we most pride ourselves as a civilization are but revived again, because recollected, by those among us who once lived in Ancient Egypt. Is our Panama Canal and its lock system a great achievement? One of the Pharaohs made an artificial lake 450 miles around and 300 feet deep, fed by artificial channels from the Nile, with floodgates, dams and locks. Do we think our engineering feats so remarkable when we learn that Menes turned the course of the three principal branches of the Nile so that they could come to Memphis? Do we think our reclamation of desert lands a miracle? 500 miles of desert land were reclaimed above Cairo by these ancient peoples. Do we think our telephones and wireless systems inventions new to the world? The Egyptians had them, as they had railroads and telescopes, and understood the use of electricity.
Egypt is called the birthplace of Chemistry. The science had, in fact, its perfection in Chem—Chem being one of the names of the country. The Egyptians knew and used poisonous gases centuries before they were used in the great World War; they knew the science of anaesthetics and of fumigations. They had their dentists, their books on anatomy, and such accurate knowledge of medicine that there were specialists—some for the right and some for the left eye. They apparently had what is termed “osteopathy” in our day: that is, they had a science of healing manipulations, and were able to inhibit and to restore the circulation of the blood. It is well to remember this when we read in our text-books that Harvey first discovered the circulation of the blood in the seventeenth century. They knew the healing power in color and music. Music, in fact, was in a state of perfection among them while their musical instruments of all kinds have not been surpassed by those of our day. They manufactured the finest of linens, and they have never yet been equalled in the art of bandaging. They wove more beautiful tapestries than have since been known; they made paper that is practically indestructible; they knew how to make malleable glass and their art of dyeing is one of the “lost arts.” Some of their paintings are bright in their colors as they were 4,000 years ago and as they will be 4,000 years hence. Mathematics, geometry, astronomy, and astrology were at their summit with them. When Galileo was sentenced to imprisonment by the Inquisition in the seventeenth century in Europe for declaring that the earth moved around the sun—as every schoolboy knows now—he was simply repeating what the Egyptians knew and demonstrated thousands of years before. Some idea of the size of their temples may be had from the fact that the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, if set inside the temple of Karnak, would look like a small ornament in the center of the hall. The blocks in all these great buildings are cemented so closely together that it is impossible to insert the point of a sharp knife between them. There must have been some strange device, or magic unknown to us, which moved the huge blocks weighing from two to fifty tons each to their desired position.
Some Magic, it may be, still lingers within these vast piles, for Madame Blavatsky says that “travelers have brushed against ….. adepts in the silent ruins of Thebes, and in the mysterious chambers of Luxor … They have been encountered again on the arid and desolate plains of the Great Sahara, as in the caves of Elephanta.” And it is also said that within the sombre recesses of these wonderful pyramids were performed the mysteries, and that their walls often witnessed the initiation of members of the royal family. The pyramids are symbols of the Tree of Life. The apex is the root, the link between heaven and earth; the base represents the spreading branches extending to the four cardinal points of the universe of matter. They also illustrated the principles of geometry, astrology and astronomy. The porphyry sarcophagus, which Prof. Piazzi Smyth, of Great Britain, degrades into a corn-bin, was the baptismal font, upon emerging from which the neophyte was “born again” and became an adept. During the solemn ceremony the neophyte was “crucified”—that is tied, not nailed — on a couch in the form of the Egyptian cross (the Tau), and plunged into a deep sleep for three days and three nights, during which time the Spiritual Ego was said to descend into Hades (the Amenti of the Egyptians); his body meantime lying in the Sarcophagus in the Kings Chamber of the Pyramids of Cheops. During the night of the approaching third day, it was removed to the entrance of the gallery where the beams of the rising sun, striking him full in the face, awoke the candidate. Then the Hierophant entered and pronounced the sacramental words, addressed ostensibly to Osiris—the Sun—but in reality to the Spiritual Ego-Sun within.
So, too, the Sphinx was Harmachus—Horus (the Sun) in the Horizon, or Christ. As a couchant lion with human head it represents the union of spiritual man with animal matter, from which crucifixion in matter it challenges him to rise and become conscious of himself as Osiris or Horus. Might we not well ponder the ancient formulary in the Book of the Dead, which very possibly in Egyptian bodies, we repeated time and again: “I am Horus, I am Osiris.” “I am Yesterday, and Seer of millions of years is my name.”
The Wisdom-Religion, veiled from the masses and often distorted by allegory and myth, had nevertheless its own mystery language. This language had its seven “dialects,” so to say, each referring to one of seven mysteries of Nature. Each had its own symbolism, so that Nature could be read either in all its fulness or viewed from one of its aspects. The only country in the world whose adept-sons have the knowledge of all the seven sub-systems is India. In Egypt these keys were lost one by one after the fall of Memphis, due in part to the death of the Great Hierophants before they had time to reveal all to their successors, but mostly to the absence of worthy heirs to the knowledge. The many cycles of Egyptian history—its periods of flower and decay—may be attributed to the people’s devotion to, or disregard of, their country’s two great Principles: TRUTH and RIGHT. Yet, in their rituals and dogmas, for those who can interpret them, have been preserved the main teachings of the Secret Doctrine.
In spite of the arduous labors of many Egyptologists, were it not for the work of Madame Blavatsky, who lifted a corner of the veil of Isis for us, we should look at the bewildering prodigality of animal, human-animal, and divine-animal forms, at the multiplicity of strange hieroglyphics and their stranger form of expression, and gain little or no wisdom. When one seeks to discover what the religion of Egypt was, as Prof. Maspero has pointed out, he is confronted by a perplexing number of contradictory statements and theological systems. Just as from the teaching of Christ have sprung some four hundred or more sects in nineteen centuries, so in the five thousand years intervening from the time of Menes to the Ptolemaic period many divergent streams of thought arose. Then, as now, the ideas and worship of the masses were totally different from the concepts held by the educated classes and the sacerdotal caste. True, the esoteric doctrine never altered, but we have only to regard the present day situation in religious thought to infer that the Wisdom-Religion, even in part, was known to or adopted by only a small minority.
When we attempt to study the sacred book of the Egyptians, the Pert-Em-Hru, familiarly known as the Book of the Dead — in fact a collection of Chapters on the Coming Forth by Day, we meet the same difficulties as confront us in an approach to the Christian Bible. While it is impossible to assign a date to this ritual, it is certain, says the Egyptologist Budge, that it was known before the first dynasty. It was preserved for a long time orally and perhaps not committed to writing before the people began to forget it, or the meanings began to be doubtful. Then, as always, copyists made many errors in transcribing, often misreading the original, also adding comments of their own and other interpolations totally at variance with the original teaching. Thus many versions arose, so that now no two papyri are identical as to number of chapters—which increased as time went on; no two preserve the same arrangement, and none are complete in themselves. Budge gives three recensions of the Book: the Heliopolitan, used in the Vth and VIth dynasties, found inscribed in hieroglyphs upon the walls of the Pyramids of Sakkara (hence our Pyramid Texts), also written upon coffins of the XIth and XIIth dynasties; the Theban, painted upon coffins and papyri in hieroglyphics, from the XVIIth to the XVIIIth dynasties; and the Saïte, used during the following dynasties, which may be regarded as its last form. In later times it was customary to place a copy in the tomb or coffin of the deceased. While no name is attached to any chapter as its author or reviser, as a whole it was considered to be the work of the god Thot, and thus believed to be of divine origin.
Until the unearthing of the Rosetta stone in 1799, upon which was an inscription both in Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics, scholars possessed no key to the latter form of writing. Since then the work of deciphering has gone rapidly forward, but in the process there has naturally been much uncertainty, much speculation and difference of opinion as to the correct reading. To add to the confusion of the lay reader, no two English translations are alike; there has been a continual change both in the transliteration and spelling of names, so that the student who compares the extracts given in the Secret Doctrine, for instance, with the latest edition of the Pert-Em-Hru by Wallis Budge, or with other Egyptologists, has to orient himself anew again and again.
In view of these difficulties the average reader can get little sense, let alone a system of philosophy, from a perusal of this ancient work. Never does the need of a new type of Orientalist become more apparent than in such an attempt on the part of the reader. One familiar both with Theosophical teachings and the hieroglyphics, would be enabled to give a translation, in general accordance at least, with the original esoteric intent. And again, in the case of translating the words to designate the various principles or “souls”—the Egyptians recognizing seven—much indefiniteness exists because the Christian scholar knows but one word for soul, and is thrown back on the New Testament classification of body, soul, and spirit, to which the words “double” and “shadow” are added, but without a true understanding of what they are or a precise application.
Therefore, out of an enormous mass of material, only a few extracts from the Chapters of the Coming Forth By Day can be given, nor can these be sequentially arranged nor dogmatized upon. Nor will any attempt be made to untangle the many combinations of triads and enneads. What follows is for the purpose of arousing the student to make use of the law of correspondence and analogy and fill out for himself what aims to be merely a suggestive outline.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 7, May, 1927, Pages 316-321
The Gods of Egypt
Every cosmogony purports to deal with the origin of the universe, its manifestation marking the beginning of time. Before the beginning, however, time was—it pre-existed as timelessness or duration. So the “beginning” is the first moment of a definite period of time, or a cycle. And what produces the cycle? The action of beings, whose field is limitless Space. The cycles of the Egyptians extended over millions of years. “Millions of years” was the epithet applied to the Sun-god Amen-Ra, “who maketh decrees for millions of double millions of years.” Vastness, profundity, boundlessness, “all-existence,” immortality and infinite possibility meet us at the very outset of Egyptian thought.
Never was time when the germs of things were not, but there were cycles when they had slept for ages upon ages in the bosom of Nu—”Nu, of the dark waters.” Nu was the incomprehensible source of all things—Chaos or Space. In a Hymn to Hapi, the Nile-god, whose origin was traced back to Nu, the latter is set forth as being that “which cannot be sculptured in stone … It cannot be seen. Service cannot be rendered to It. Gifts cannot be presented to It. It is not to be approached in the sanctuaries. Where it is, is not known. No habitation can contain It.” Within Nu was the One ever-concealed, Mon (Monad?) or Amen—the origin undoubtedly of our word “Amen,” which is not “Verily” as the translators would have it, but rather an affirmation of the omnipresent One Life or Deity. In the Book of the Dead, “Chaos ceases, through the effulgence of the Ray of Primordial light dissipating total darkness by the help of the great magic power of the WORD of the (Central) Sun.” Chaos becomes Father-Mother, the “dark waters” incubated through Light, in other words Spirit acting in matter. (Secret Doctrine, I, 231).
All action, even of the highest Deity, is necessarily a limitation, a circumscribing or drawing around of some portion of the eternal spirit-substance for the purpose of manifestation. What is this “drawing around” but a circle or egg, the primal form of all things from atoms to universes? Mathematically expressed this egg is the nought (zero) which contains the potentiality of all forms. In this “egg” the One becomes the Dual Force, the secondary aspect of the One, or Amen-Ra the generator. All the Egyptians’ gods become dual—positive and negative “forces” necessary both for the maintenance of equilibrium and the production of life. Hence Amen-Ra was Neith (or Nuit, the feminine of Nu considered in its positive aspect) in his other half. He was the Spiritual Sun, the “Sun of Righteousness,” whose son is the Sun. For “When the One becomes two, the three-fold appears.”
Nu in late times, says Budge, was regarded as “Father of the Gods.” “A something in the water, which formed an essential part of it, felt the desire to create.” Let us connote here that “Desire first arose in IT, which was the primal germ of mind.” “Having imagined in itself the forms of the beings and things that it intended to create, it became operative, and the first creature produced was the god Tem or Khepera, who was the personification of the creative power in the primeval water. …. Tem fashioned the form of everything in his mind and made known his desire to create to his heart, which was personified as Thoth. This god received the creative impulse and invented in his mind a name for the object that was to be created, and when he uttered the name, the object came into being.”*
* Tutankhamen, Amenism, Atenism, and Egyptian Monotheism, p. 142.
Now Tem (Tum or Toum) is the Fohat of the Secret Doctrine. Fohat is said to be “….that potential creative power in virtue of whose action the NOUMENON of all future phenomena divides, so to speak, but to reunite in a mystic supersensuous act, and emit the creative ray. When the ‘Divine Son’ breaks forth, then Fohat becomes the propelling force, the active Power which causes the ONE to become TWO and THREE — on the Cosmic plane of manifestation.” (S.D., I, 109). So we find that Tem emanates from his own body Shu and Tefnut, the two Lion-gods, the three forming the first triad, Tem saying: “From [being] god one, I became three.”
So fundamental was this trinitarian concept in the Egyptian teaching that there is an almost endless number of triads, each district and city having its special triad. While not all consist of Father-Mother-Son, this combination was the most common and the origin of the Christian Holy Family. In fact, three aspects are essential in every act of creation or thought. For example, let us try to recollect something we have forgotten—arouse the sleeping “germs” of thought, which is analogous to the “desire” present before the evolution of a world. The former ideas, memories, or forms are “asleep” in the empty egg of the mind, but by brooding over them, by trying to bring them back to mind, we move upon the “dark waters” within, until finally in a flash the latent forms wake up, and then we see what before was not in manifestation. Yet, even in this simple illustration is much of mystery. If we could observe the entire process with our physical eyes, if it could be demonstrated to us as creative processes were demonstrated in the Mysteries, we would comprehend far better than if we were told. However, these mysteries never were told. Hence all these personifications were for the easier comprehension of people, who knowing the relations between persons, could by analogy apply similar relations and correlations to “powers” and elements. It is for us to revitalize these ancient dramatis personae and recognize in them not merely personifications employed ages ago in Egypt, but as living forces in ourselves.
The triad which the French Egyptologist Champollion said was the starting-point of Egyptian mythology included Kneph, Neith and Ptah. Herodotus said that Menes erected a temple to Ptah in Memphis. Kneph, called “the Eternal Unrevealed,” was nevertheless represented by a snake, emblem of eternity, encircling a water-urn, his head containing the “Concealed Breath” hovering over the water. This again is the “water” of Nu, the prototype of that element which is essential to the germination and growth of all living things.
Neith was the Virgin-Mother, “anterior to all the gods, without form or sex, who gave birth to itself and without fecundation.” An ancient stele declares her to be Neut, “the luminous, who has engendered the gods.” For the primordial substance is luminous—the garment of light covering the darkness. So Neith of Sais was a weaver and made the universe of warp and woof as a mother weaves her children’s garments. In the Stanzas of Dzyan, “Father-Mother spin a web whose upper end is fastened to Spirit, the light of the one Darkness, and the lower one to Matter …; and this web is the Universe spun out of the two substances made in one, which is Swabhavat.” (S.D., I, 83). And we, too, having the same power to think and act, weave the web of our own world which often becomes an inscrutable net of fate instead of a vesture of light. Being connected with water, Neith was found on the prow of Egyptian vessels. Another form of her name is Naus (Latin navis, boat), hence the boat became a symbol of the container or vehicle of the sun. Neith is found in the oldest period at Abydos, to which Mariette Bey assigns the date of 7000 B.C. Neith and Isis are interchangeable and we may find a hint as to the mission of Madame Blavatsky in the title of her first great work, “Isis Un-veiled,” by referring to the famous inscription in the temple of Neith at Sais: “I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my peplum no mortal has withdrawn.” Although a rent in the veil that conceals the arcane truths of the ancient Wisdom-Religion was made, mortal eyes are so blinded by false ideas, prejudice and selfishness, that they cannot see through it nor accept the ideas presented.
Ptah, the product of spirit and matter, was called the Wisdom of the First Intellect, the manifested Mahat or Universal Mind. In another aspect he, too, is Swabhavat, as indicated by a passage in the Book of the Dead where homage is paid to him in these words: “Thou art without father, being engendered by thy Will, Thou art without mother, being born by the renewal of thine own substance from whom proceeds substance.” He is usually represented as making men on a potter’s wheel, for he was the “generator of all men produced from his substance.” He was also called “the Blacksmith God of Thebes,” identified by the Greeks with Vulcan. He, together with Khnoum or Khnemu (who is sometimes substituted for Kneph), carried out the commands of Thot concerning the creation of the universe, Ptah’s special task being the creation of the eggs of the sun and the moon. Ptah, or Osiris-Ptah, is Ra, the manifested sun, or more properly its Regent.
From earliest times the great cosmopolitan center of Anu (or Annu) the On of the Bible and the Heliopolis of the Greeks—the City of the Sun—was the seat of the worship of Tem. Another form of the solar-god, according to Budge, was worshipped in Lower Egypt, known as Ra, whose name does not seem to be Egyptian and whose origin is unknown—it may be Asiatic. (!!) In Anu was the famous Well of the Sun, from which tradition declares that the Virgin Mary drew water when the Holy Family halted in the city. Fortunately for the story this well had its source in the inexhaustible waters of Nu, otherwise it might have dried up during the thirty odd centuries before the Christian era and we might have considered it a well of wisdom of which the youthful Jesus partook. This well was the property of the priests of Ra, who became so rich and powerful from the tribute received from grateful travellers for the watering of their beasts, that they were able by the VIth dynasty to elevate Ra to the position of over-lord of all the other gods and from that time Tem, Khepera, Horus became Ra-Tem, Ra-Khepera, Ra-Herakhuti (Horus of the two horizons) and so on. Maspero claims that the complex beings (?) resulting from these combinations never attained to any pronounced individuality, the distinctions referring merely to details of their functions and attributes.
During the many centuries of Egyptian history many teachers must have come from time to time, their presentations of the Wisdom-Religion differing according to the period, the need and the nature of the Egos whom they taught. That the Heliopolitan system was distinct from that of Amen at Thebes, that the priests of Hermopolis held to their particular form of doctrine, and those of Osiris to theirs, and that all as cults differed from one another and from Atenism is evident; nevertheless Ptah of Memphis, Ra of Heliopolis, Amen of Thebes, and Osiris of Abydos, in certain of their aspects—and in all when considered as septenary, and esoterically understood—are one and the same. Consequently wherever their fusion occurs it apparently was an attempt at unity of systems tending toward unity of thought and understanding among a cosmopolitan people rather than an effort to establish monotheism, as many Christian scholars would fain prove.
Maspero says that the sun appearing before the world was called Tumu (Tem) or Atum, while our earthly sun was Khepera. The similarity between the word “Atum” and “Atma,” the Spirit, is too striking to require comment. Atum, according to this author, was also the prototype of man, (Coptic TME, man) becoming a perfect “Tum” after his resurrection; that is, Perfected Man. There were several traditions as to how Atum became Ra, but according to the most generally accepted, Atum had suddenly cried across the water, “Come unto me”! and immediately the mysterious lotus had unfolded its petals, and Ra appeared at the edge of its open cup as a disk, a new-born child, or a disk-crowned sparrow-hawk. The Egyptians called the first day of the year, Come-unto-me.
In Chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead, the opening passage reads: “I am Tem in rising. I am the only One. I came into being in Nu. I am Ra who rose in the beginning… The pillars of Shu were not as yet created. It is Ra, the creator of the names of his limbs, which came into being in the form of the gods, who are in the train of Ra” (i.e., the gods who personify his phases)—fourteen Spirits, seven dark and seven light… “I am the Bennu bird (the Phoenix, type of resurrection) which is in Anu, and I am the keeper of the volume of the book of things which are and of things which shall be.” In the eternity of his being occur vast cycles of activity followed by equal periods of rest: “Millions of years” is the name of the one, “Great Green Lake” is the name of the other, the “Lake” representing the cycle in which are swallowed up all things produced by “The Begetter of millions of years.” In Chapter XLII he “who dwelleth in his eye” is beaming in “the solar egg, the egg to which is given life among the gods.” In Chapter XV he is “Yesterday,” “Today,” and “Tomorrow,” the one “who reposeth upon law which changeth not nor can it be altered.” In Chapter LXXV he is the self-created god: “I gave birth unto myself together with Nu in my name of Khepera, in whom I come into being day by day. I am the creator of the darkness who maketh his habitation in the uttermost parts of the sky … and I arrive at the confines thereof. I sail over the sky which formeth the division betwixt heaven and earth… None sees my nest, none can break my egg.”
In these extracts are all the fundamental teachings of Theosophy: Space, the One Life, the Self-existing Deity, Law, Cycles, Reincarnation, Being, and a hint of the septenary nature of cosmos.
In a Hymn to the Setting Sun, the deceased says: “Praise be unto thee, O Ra, praise be unto thee, O Tem.” Chapter LXXIX reads: “I am the god Tem, the maker of heaven, the creator of things which are, who cometh forth from the earth, who maketh to come into being the seed which shall be, who gave birth to the gods; [I am] the great god who made himself, the lord of life, who maketh to flourish the company of the gods.” Tem, as already said, is Fohat, whose influence on the Cosmic plane “is present in the constructive power that carries out, in the formation of things—from the planetary system down to the glowworm and simple daisy—the plan in the mind of nature, or in the Divine Thought, with regard to the development and growth of that special thing.” (S.D., I, 111). He is “the north wind and the spirit of the west;” as “the setting sun of life” he is the vital electric force that leaves the body at death, wherefore the defunct begs that Toum should give him the breath from his right nostril (positive electricity) that he might live in his second form. Both the hieroglyphic* and the text of Chapter LXII show the identity of Toum with Fohat. The former represents a man standing erect with the hieroglyph of the breaths in his hands. The latter says: “I open to the chief of An… I am Toum. I cross the water spilt by Thot-Hapi, the lord of the horizon, and am the divider of the earth.” (Fohat divides Space and, with his Sons, the earth into seven zones) … “I cross the heavens, and am the two Lions. I am Ra, I am Aam, I ate my heir…. I am Toum, to whom eternity is accorded….” (S.D., I, 674).
* In Budge’s edition these hieroglyphs are attached to Chaps. liv and lvii.
The above metaphor expresses the succession of divine functions, the substitution from one form into another, or the correlation of forces. Aam is the electro-positive force, devouring all others as Saturn devoured his progeny. The Egyptians used the forcible expression to eat where we would use the word absorb, or assimilate. The Rev. James Baikie, writing for the National Geographic, Sept., 1913, quotes one of the Pyramid Texts which to him reveals an “almost savage set of religious conceptions,” contrasting strangely with their high civilization. The deceased is ascending to heaven as a fierce huntsman who lassoes the stars and devours the gods. “The great ones among them are his morning meal, the middle ones are his evening meal, and the small ones his night meal…. Their magic is in his body; he swallows the understanding of every god.” The last sentence contains the explanation of the Text. It is difficult to understand why a Christian who eats the body of Christ and drinks his blood, should consider the ancient Egyptians as more “cannibalistic” than himself!
Amen, whose name means “concealed,” was regarded as an ancient nature-god in the Vth dynasty, says Budge; esoterically he is All-Nature, therefore the universe, and the “Lord of Eternity.” Later his worship was established at Thebes, where his sanctuary seems to have absorbed the shrine of the ancient goddess Apit, from whom T-Ape (Coptic) the city derived its name. It was far later that Thebes was known as the City of Amen—Nut Amen, the No Amon of the Bible (Nahum iii, 8). The worship of Amen was carried into Nubia and the Soudan by the Pharaohs of the XIIth dynasty; in the name of Amen the Hyksos had been expelled from the country, so that in the course of time Amen became known as the god of successful warriors. The booty obtained from many campaigns was shared with the priests of Amen who became exceedingly rich and powerful and, little by little, Amen absorbed the titles and attributes of the other gods. While the priests of Amen worshipped Amen, or Amen-Ra, as the Spiritual Sun, the masses of people adored Ra, the visible luminary of the heavens.
An interesting passage from the Papyrus of Nesi-Khonsu, a Priestess of Amen-Ra, written about 1000 B.C., proves that this order considered the visible sun, the Disk, merely as a focus or “substitute” for the Central Sun, as Theosophy teaches. The apostrophe to Amen-Ra reads: “This holy god, the lord of all the gods, Amen-Ra…. the holy soul who came into being in the beginning; the great god who liveth by Maat (order and regularity); the first divine matter which gave birth unto subsequent matter! the being through whom every other god hath existence; the One One …; the being whose births are hidden, whose evolutions are manifold, and whose growths are unknown;… the divine form who dwelleth in the forms of all the gods, the Lion-god with awesome eye;… the god Nu, the prince who advanceth at his hour to vivify that which cometh forth upon his potter’s wheel;… the traverser of eternity … with myriads of pairs of eyes and numberless pairs of ears, whose light is the guide of the god of millions of years;… whose substitute is the divine Disk.”
Connected with this very distinction is an important epoch in Egyptian history. Amenhotep IV, according to Pro. Breasted, believing in only one god, whom he called Aten, the Disk, attempted to destroy the old gods of Egypt, and introduce monotheism. He particularly hated Amen, closed the temples, cast out the priests, had the names of the gods cut out of the inscriptions, and changed his own name containing Amen to Akhen-aten, meaning “Aten is satisfied.” He abandoned Thebes and built a new capital at Amarna where he devoted himself to art and religion. He is represented as receiving the light and heat of Aten through the Heavenly Father’s Hands—the sun’s rays terminating in hands. A few years ago hundreds of clay tablets in the Babylonian cuneiform were dug up at Amarna, which reveal that the dependencies of Egypt were gradually throwing off her yoke, dissatisfaction among both priests and soldiers was fomenting trouble, all of which led to Egypt’s loss of prestige and power. So the “monotheism” which Akhen-aten tried to introduce died with him. That his reform was aimed in part at a corrupt priesthood is undoubtedly true, but to suppose that, “In all the progress of men which we have followed through thousands of years, no one had ever before caught such a vision of the Great Father of all” is a gross misconception. Budge states that the old Heliopolitan system made Tem or Tem-Ra the creator of Aten, the Disk; but this view Amenhotep IV rejected, asserting that the Disk was self-created and self-existent. Since from the esoteric and philosophical point of view, this was the substitution of a material and personal god for the ever-concealed Deity, or Amen, Akhenaten could not have received the backing of the Hierophants, and being himself a pacifist, Egypt suffered greatly as a result of his reign. In the conflict waged around this Pharaoh some Egyptologists have attempted to prove that his monotheism was not new; but no amount of mere scholarship can adequately deal with the situation; nor until authors rid themselves of the idea of the superiority of monotheism, with its Christian implication of a personal God, over all other forms of belief, will they ever judge aright.
Tutankhamen, whose tomb was discovered in 1922 by the late Lord Carnarvon, married Akhenaten’s daughter. When he came to the throne he professed the same religion as his father-in-law; but soon realizing the failure of Atenism, substituted the name of Amen in his wife’s and in his own name, which had originally been Tutankhaten. The honor accorded to this now famous Pharaoh by the Egyptians rests upon the fact that he restored the national worship of Amen, rehabilitated the decaying temples and reestablished the priesthood of Amen-Ra. The priests of Amen gradually lost this temporarily restored power, as they had already lost their spiritual power, and the people brought their rule to an end about 700 B.C.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 8, June, 1927, Pages 353-360
Egyptian Symbolism and Animal Worship
The sincere and unprejudiced student of comparative religions comes at last to see that without the help of symbology no ancient Scripture can ever be correctly understood. No Egyptian papyrus, no Indian olla, no Assyrian tile, or Hebrew scroll, should be read and accepted literally. Besides, the symbology must be studied from every one of its aspects, for each nation had its own peculiar methods of expression. The point to which even the most truth-loving and truth-searching Orientalist seems to remain blind, is the fact that every symbol is a many-faced diamond, each face of which not merely bears several interpretations, but relates likewise to several sciences. Many myths which, on the surface, have only an astronomical bearing, conceal facts in regard to the evolution of rounds and races which are of the utmost significance.
One of the best known, at least the most frequently represented, is that of the sun. Ra made his passage across the heavens in a boat from which streamed a blue light—the “Sun’s son.” A first bark, the Saktit (Sakti?) boat, received him at birth and carried him from the Eastern to the Southern extremity of the world. Mazit, the second bark, received him at noon and bore him into the land of Manu, which is at the entrance of Hades; other barks … conveyed him by night, from his setting until his arising at morn. In the formulae of the “Book of Knowing that which is in Hades,” the dead sun remains in the bark Saktit during part of the night, and it is only to traverse the fourth and fifth hours that he changesinto another. Sometimes he entered the barks alone, and then they were magic and self-directed. Such is the bark of the sun in the other world, for although carrying a full crew, yet for the most part it progresses at its own will, and without their help. Sometimes they were equipped with a full crew, having a pilot at the prow to take soundings in the channel and forecast the wind, a pilot astern to steer, a quartermaster in the midst to transmit the orders of the pilot at the prow to the pilot at the stern, and half a dozen sailors to handle the oars. (Maspero, “Dawn of Civilization,” p. 90).
If we may be permitted to identify the boats with the Saktis, considered as the “principles”—whose powers they are, the above symbolism is most suggestive. According to Theosophical teaching, at each round or period of evolution, man enters a body or “boat” composed of the substance of that particular round. At “noon,” or the mid-point of evolution, man was borne into “the land of Manu, which is at the entrance into Hades;” Hades is the earth of physical existence, into which the “Manu,” or man, enters and becomes a seven-fold being having his “full crew” on board. The barks referred to in the “Book of Knowing that which is in Hades” at the fourth and fifth hours of the night, correspond at least to the fourth and fifth rounds, when man has donned his “coats of skin,” which after the fifth “hour” or round, will give place to more ethereal “barks” or vestures. After death the “crew” is of no use to the magic boat, for the lower principles which these useless sailors represent, die out and disappear.
The first-born of Ra by the goddess Hathor was Shu. He is solar energy. “The blossoms of Shu” are the sun’s rays. In Chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead, Shu places the sky on top of the staircase in the City of the Eight. According to tradition earth and sky, or Seb and Neith, were two lovers lost in Nu, fast locked in each other’s embrace. On the day of creation Shu, coming forth from the primeval waters, stepped between them and seizing Neith with both hands lifted her above his head. Although the starry body of the goddess extended in space, her head to the West, her feet and hands touched the earth, forming the four pillars of the firmament. Usually these supports are referred to as the pillars of Shu. It was Shu who was depicted holding up the sky and possibly from him the Greeks derived their representations of Atlas.
Seb is the Egyptian Saturn, ushering in a new cycle of evolution. Esoterically he is nearer to Parabrahman than Brahma. He is called the “Great Cackler,” who laid the world upon his head, and is represented with a black swan or goose. Darkness, always associated with “beginnings,” is symbolized in all religions by black birds. Two black doves flew from Egypt and settling on the oaks of Dodona, gave their names to the Grecian gods. In Chapter LIV of the Book of the Dead Seb’s egg is referred to as the “egg conceived at the hour of the great one of the Dual Force.”
According to tradition the golden age of Ra had gone, for even the gods die. All of them were represented as mummies and in Chapter VIII, are the words, “I am that Osiris in the West, and Osiris knoweth the day in which he shall be no more.” The children of earth had become rebellious, bringing down upon themselves the wrath of Ra and their almost complete destruction by Hathor, whose hand was stayed by the repentant god, and a new race produced from mandragora plants. Afterwards mounting upon the back of a cow, Ra disappeared into the heavens. Shu and Tefnut (the double Lion-god) reigned in his stead. They represent the first differentiation of substance: as applied to Rounds and Races, the second in descending order. In this aspect, Seb ushers in the third and more material world, while his four children rule over the fourth.
This line of descent formed the basis of the Egyptian Enneads, or four pairs proceeding from the One. This gives us the ogdoad, or eight (the double cube of good and evil) of which Ra, or Tem, was the ninth, counting from below up. In the City of the Eight (Hermopolis) where Hermes was adored, Hermes was the One who contained in himself the double cube. Eight was the number of the caduceus or wand of Mercury, the figure being made by the intertwining of the two serpents of good and evil, or the joining of two cubes. There were as many Enneads as there were cities, but all are merely personifications covering the one general scheme or idea. Considering, then, a typical one, we have Tem (or Ra) who is said to have emanated Shu from himself; Shu and Tefnut; Seb and Neith; Osiris and Isis; Set and Nepthys—lower aspects of Osiris and Isis. Thus the exoteric system of the Egyptians, as H. P. Blavatsky has pointed out, dealt with but five planes out of the seven, the pairs having to do with the four lower ones.
Hathor was always represented as a cow, sacred also to Isis, the Universal Mother—Nature. Both goddesses were allied to the sun and the moon, as the disk and the cow’s horns (which form a crescent) prove. In the Vedas the dawn of creation is represented by a cow. This dawn is Hathor, and the day which follows—or Nature already formed—is Isis, for both are one except in point of time. Isis is cow-horned, the cow of plenty, and as the mother of Horus (the physical world) she is the “mother of all that lives.” The right eye of Horus, or the Sun, was called the cow of Hathor. In Chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead, the cow Meh-urt, is called “the Eye of Ra;” while in Chapter CIX the sun is represented as a spotted calf when Sibu (Seb) its father was a bull and Hathor a heifer. The vignette to Chapter CLXX shows a cow wearing the solar disk upon her head and around her neck the symbol of life.
The symbol of life is the ankh or ansated cross of the Egyptians—the Tau with a handle. In illustrations of the Sunrise the sun’s disk is upheld by two arms emerging from the ankh, the ankh itself supported by the Tet or Didu or Osiris. This emblem is a short pillar or disbranched tree-trunk surmounted by four cross bars, reminiscent of the tree fabled to have held the dead body of Osiris. Might it not be the sacred Ashwatta tree which the Egyptian Avatar had cut down with the strong axe of dispassion? It was also thought to be the backbone of Osiris after he had been “reconstructed” and “set up” by Isis. In Chapter LXXVIII of the Ritual the deceased says: “He (Osiris) hath stablished my heart through his own backbone; he hath stablished my heart through his own great and exceeding strength.” This is evidence that the tree-like formation of the nerves radiating from the spine had not escaped the attention of the Egyptians, nor were they without their Trees of Life.
The sycamores planted on the edge of the desert were supposed to be inhabited by Hathor, Neith and other goddesses, and numerous vignettes represent the deceased as stopping before these trees to receive water and bread—the Water and Bread of Life—from the goddess whose body emerges from the sheltering foliage. The persea tree was the symbol of the “Sacred Heart” of Horus. The pear-like shape of its fruit, especially of its kernel, resembles the heart. It is sometimes seen on the head of Isis, the mother of Horus, the fruit being cut open and the heart-like kernel exposed to view. Here again we trace a form of worship, that of the “Sacred Heart” of Jesus and of the Virgin Mary by the Catholics, back to Egypt.
The use of these symbols seems fitting and justifiable, but why did the Egyptians worship animals? Why was the sun represented as a beetle? Why was the cat sacred to Bast, the jackal to Anubis, the hawk to Horus, the ibis to Thot? And how came Set to be incarnated in the fennec and Osiris and Ptah in the bull? The wise Egyptians never did worship animals, although as the true ideas were lost, the ignorant masses did. In “A Weird Tale”* a hint in regard to this symbolism is given. It is stated therein that there was an occult reason back of it and that the ancient Egyptians never did anything unscientifically; that there are undoubtedly types (of forms and intelligences) and that forms having been once assumed and seen by the seers always repeated the same forms to those persons. Therefore having taken a certain view of invisible nature, every symbol was made to conform or be consistent with that view. This partial explanation might also be applied to the fairies seen sometimes by children and psychic persons. The form of the fairy, or of an idea for the matter of that, once seen or held by an individual repeats itself and may even be photographed, which picture is then taken to be the real form or the fact; but this form is very often merely in the imagination that fashioned it and may neither be true to the type of elemental seen or to the fact. It is true, nevertheless, that Nature has evolved certain patterns which she copies wherever feasible; and just as the tree pattern may be traced in the formation of certain crystals on up through the vegetable, animal and human kingdoms, so there are likewise types of sentiency and function found in the vegetable and animal kingdoms which are reproduced in man, for Nature is One. “All beings are the same in kind and differ only in degree.” If we realized the unity of all the kingdoms, if we saw, as the Egyptians did, the divine form of Amen-Ra in all forms, we would treat our younger brothers better—we would neither wantonly kill animals nor torture them in the perverted belief that thereby man is better served or benefited.
* Reprinted in THEOSOPHY, Vol. IV, pp. 314 and 343.
A passage from the Book of the Dead, (quoted in the Secret Doctrine, II, p. 635) reads: “I am the mouse.” “I am the hawk.” “I am the ape.” … “I am the crocodile whose soul comes FROM MEN.” This corroborates the teaching that “while the human monad has passed on globe A and others, in the First Round, through all the three kingdoms—the mineral, the vegetable, and the animal—in this our Fourth Round, every mammal has sprung from Man … not the form of flesh, blood, and bones, now referred to as Man,… but the inner divine MONAD with its manifold principles or aspects.” Furthermore, all animals are the cast-off clothing of man; for man impresses all the lives in his body by his thought and feeling, and these lives entering into the bodies of animals, give them their peculiar characteristics. Thus, in a sense, they become the mirror in which man may see his own features and have frequent occasion to scorn his own image. The types in the early periods of evolution, therefore, must have been brought over from a prior mankind. As might be expected, then, in Egyptian symbolism there is a correspondence between the characteristics and functions of the animals and of the gods.
The cat, associated with the moon, was sacred to the cat-goddess Bast or Pasht, and to kill one was to court death. The Egyptian word for cat is mau, meaning to see, and both the moon and the cat were seers by night. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so the cat was supposed to reflect the moon on account of its phosphorescent eyes. In the form of the goddess Bast the cat keeps watch for the sun, with her paw holding down and bruising the head of the serpent of darkness, the sun’s eternal enemy. In Chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead, “The male cat is Ra himself, and he is called ‘Mau'” (Seer), while the illustrations represent him in action similar to Bast. The chief-priest of Amen-Ra was called “Oiru mau,” Master of Visions, he who beheld God “face to face.”
The sun is represented as a beetle in the solar boat—the “Boat of millions of years”—and is referred to as giving birth to beings in his name of Khepera. Khepera is the beetle or scarabaeus, the symbol of rebirth. The word is derived from the verb kheper, to become, to build again. Like the beetle the sun appeared to come up out of the earth and to ascend aloft as with wings. The winged globe is but another form of the scarabaeus and the egg, relating both to the rebirth of man and to his spiritual regeneration. No mummy is found without several of these green or blue beetles.
The jackal-headed god was Anubis, the “Opener of the Ways.” The jackal’s omniscience as to where any dead body is hidden, his absolute certainty of direction in the trackless desert, made him a fitting symbol of Anubis, who not only guided the dead along the trackless path of the underworld, but also led the reincarnating entity into the underworld of physical existence. Anubis is often identified with Horus and with Hermes, the Higher Mind; he is the knowledge on any plane which leads one whithersoever he has need to go. Anubis is also connected with the dog-star, the Sothis of the Egyptians.
The ibis, sacred to Thot, was held in the greatest veneration. It kills the land serpents and makes havoc among the crocodile eggs, thus saving Egypt from being overrun by these saurians. The black and white ibis was sacred to the moon, because this planet has a dark as well as a light side. Under the form of an ibis Thot watched over the Egyptians and taught them the occult arts and sciences. Maspero affirms that the word “Thot” means ibis. The ibis religiosa is said to have magical properties, in common with many other birds. At all events, he who killed either an ibis or the golden sparrow-hawk risked death. The hawk, the keen-sighted, was the symbol of the sun, of Horus and of the human soul.
The fennec is the Egyptian fox, appropriate symbol of Set whose craftiness conceived the coffin into which Osiris was enticed and confined, thus causing his death. Apis the white bull, sacred to Osiris and into which he was supposed to incarnate, was typical of the universal generative or evolving power in nature. Mariette Bey discovered near Memphis the Serapaeum, an imposing subterranean crypt containing the mummies of thirty sacred bulls. The mummification of various sacred animals would show that the Egyptians took the utmost care to conserve the “lives” in any highly evolved type or species. The bull is also the Taurus of the zodiac, connected with all the “First-born” solar gods. Christians associated this constellation with Christ. Here again, the Egyptians no more worshipped the bull than Christians worship the lamb. The ram is always a symbol of physical generation, the ram or the goat of Mendes being another symbol of Osiris.
Maspero suggests that the habit of certain monkeys assembling, as it were in full court, and chattering noisily a little before sunrise and just before sunset, may have justified the Egyptians in entrusting the apes with the duty of hailing Ra morning and evening. In the illustrations of the Sunrise previously mentioned, six apes hail the sun; the Papyrus of Hu-nefer gives seven. In Chapter C of the Book of the Dead, the deceased says, “I have united myself unto the divine apes who sing at the dawn and I am a divine Being among them.” The dog-headed ape was a Hermetic symbol, filling the same office in Egypt that Hanuman did in India. In Chapter XLII the defunct says, “I am the dog-headed ape of gold, three palms and two fingers high.”
The crocodiles in the Celestial Nile are five, and the god Toum calls them forth in his fifth creation. When Osiris, “the defunct Sun,” is buried and enters into Amenti, the sacred crocodiles plunge into the abyss of primordial waters. When the Sun of life rises, they re-emerge from the sacred river. In the Secret Doctrine the Fifth Group is said to be a very mysterious one, as it is connected with the Microcosmic Pentagon, the five-pointed star representing man. In India and in Egypt those Dhyanis were connected with the crocodile, and their abode is in the zodiacal sign of Capricorn. In Egypt the defunct was transformed into a crocodile—Sebakh or Sevekh, the “Seventh”—showing it to be a type of intelligence, a dragon in reality, not a crocodile. (S.D. I, 219; II, 580). The mummy donned the head of a crocodile to indicate that it was a soul arriving from earth. The instructions appended to Chapter CLXIII are that it should be read before a serpent with two legs, meaning thereby a Dragon of Wisdom, or Hierophant. The evil serpent, “the enemy of Ra” was Apep (Apophis) whose power was greatest at the full of the moon, his overthrow being the subject of Chapter XXXIX.
Chapter LXXIII is devoted to the transformation into the Bennu bird, the Egyptian phoenix, symbol of the cycle of rebirth. The deceased says: “I came (literally ‘I flew’) into being from unformed matter. I came into existence like the god Khepera. I have germinated like the things (i.e., the plants) which germinate, and I have dressed myself like the tortoise. I am [of] the germs of every god.”
In this incomplete list of animal symbols must be included a curious little insect called the praying mantis, the “diviner” who led the deceased unerringly to the underworld. It was greatly honored in Egypt, the Greeks attributed to it supernatural powers, and the Arabs declare that it always prays with its head toward Mecca. We might connote with it the state called manticism, during which the gift of prophecy is developed. (See chapter in Isis Unveiled, “Before the Veil.”)
The lotus was pre-eminently the flower of Egypt. The lotus seeds, even before they germinate, contain perfectly formed leaves—the miniature of the perfect plants they will some day become, thus showing how idea comes to be made visible, which is true of the birth of a world as of a man. Its roots growing in the mud, and its blossoms in the air typify the human nature—its body grown out of the lower kingdoms, and the soul belonging to the higher spiritual regions. In Chapter LXXI of the Ritual — making the transformation into a lotus, a human head springs from the flower, and the god exclaims: “I am the pure Lotus, emerging from the Luminous One… I carry the messages of Horus. I am the pure lotus which comes from the Solar Fields.” So the god Khnoom, the moist principle of life, sits on a throne within a lotus. Thot is often seated on a lotus. Finally, it is the goddess Hiquet, under the shape of a frog, who rests on the lotus. This undeniably most ancient of goddesses, on account of her amphibious nature, was one of the chief cosmic deities connected with creation. Because the frog comes to life after being buried for years under rocks or in old walls, it was typical of resurrection. A frog or toad enshrined in a lotus, or simply without the flower, was the form chosen by the early Christians for their church lamps, on which were engraved the words, “I am the resurrection.”
Was the general character of Egyptian religion monotheistic, polytheistic or pantheistic, is a question that has caused endless discussion. The epithet “the only god,” which on the surface might imply monotheism, was applied to several gods. In the Papyrus of Nesi-Khonsu, Amen-Ra is addressed as “the One One,” “the divine form who dwelleth in the forms of all the gods;” but this concept was held only by the educated and the priesthood. Then, as now, the true teaching existed: that behind all forms is a nameless, invisible Power, the source of all manifested life, expressed in such passages as this: “You look and you see it not—it is colorless; you listen and you hear it not—it is voiceless; you desire to handle it—you touch it not—it is formless.”
Budge says in the Collection of Moral Aphorisms composed by ancient sages are several allusions to a divine power to which no personal name is given. The word used to indicate this is Neter, translated “God” by him in the following examples taken from the Precepts of Kagema and the Precepts of Ptah-hotep, whose many instructions remind one of the Proverbs of Solomon:
“The things which God doeth cannot be known.”
“Terrify not men. God is opposed thereto.”
“When thou ploughest, labour in the field God (Karma) hath given thee.”
The Teaching of Amenemapht clearly shows, says this author, that the writer distinguished between Deity and the gods Ra, Thot, etc.
“Leave the angry man in the hands of God. God (Karma) knows how to requite him.”
“Take good heed to the Lord of the Universe.” (The Self).
“Truth is the great bearer of Deity.”
In the Teaching of Khensu-hetep, Budge finds a more intimate, personal Heavenly Being:
“It is God who gives thee existence.”
“The Deity is the judge of the truth.”
“The house of God abominates overmuch speaking. Pray with a loving heart, the words of which are hidden. He will do what is needful for thee, he will hear thy petitions and will accept thy oblations.” (The God within each being).
In Chapter CXXV of the Book of the Dead, the defunct says, “I have not cursed God” and “I have not contemned the god of my city,” showing the Egyptian admitted the existence of another Neter besides the god of his native place.
Whatever the Egyptian thought as to Deity or to the gods, he knew he was himself “of the germs of every god.” He never considered himself a poor worm of the dust, as do Christians, but ever declared,
“Thou, Ra, art in me and I am in thee; and thy
attributes are my attributes.”
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 9, July, 1927, Pages 404-412
Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Set
“Salutations to thee, O Osiris, thou the greatest of the six gods issued from the Goddess Noo; thou the great favorite of thy father Ra; Father of Fathers; King of Duration; Master in the Eternity; multiform God, whose name is unknown and who hast many names in towns and provinces.”
Osiris Un-nefer, “the Good Being,” in a Hymn from the Papyrus of Ani is “eldest son of Nut, (primordial matter and infinite space) engendered by Seb (celestial fire) … lord of the lofty white crown; as prince of gods and of men he hath received the crook and the whip and the dignity of his divine fathers.” His “body is of bright and shining metal,” his “head is of azure blue, and the brilliance of the turquoise encircleth him.” As Ahura-Mazda is one with, or the synthesis of the Amshaspends, so Osiris, the collective unit, when differentiated and personified becomes Osiris, Isis, and Horus—the upper triad—and their reflection, Anubis, Nephtys (sister of Isis and mother of Anubis by Osiris) and Set—the latter when alone standing for the lower quaternary. These two triads together with the body make up the seven principles of man. All these gods and goddesses were worshipped independently of Osiris, but when the Osirian cult became dominant were fused into his nature.* So, also, Osiris-Ptah (Light) represented his spiritual aspect; Osiris-Horus, the intellectual, manasic aspect; Osiris-Lunus, the psychic; Osiris-Typhon (Set), the physical, therefore passional, turbulent aspect. In these four phases he symbolized the dual Ego, the divine and human, the cosmico-spiritual and the terrestrial. Although his name is the “Ineffable,” his forty-two attributes bore each one of his names, which added to his seven dual aspects complete the forty-nine “fires.” Thus the god is blended in man and the man is deified into a god.
* Prof. Sayce in The Religion of the Ancient Egyptians reminds us that “The religion of the Egyptians which is best known to us was highly composite, the product of different races and different streams of culture and thought; and the task of uniting them all into a homogeneous whole was never fully completed. To the last, Egyptian religion remained a combination of ill-assorted survivals rather than a system, a confederation of separate cults rather than a definite theology”: (i.e., exoterically). The name of Osiris was very rare before the 6th Dynasty, says Mariette Bey.
Osiris was born at Mount Sinai, the Nyssi of the Old Testament, (Exodus XVII, 15) the birthplace of nearly all the solar gods of antiquity, although Osiris actually lived in human form some 75,000 years ago. One of the Great Teachers, civilizers and benefactors of humanity, in the course of his mission he encountered evil, was murdered by his brother Set at the age of twenty-eight, and buried at Abydos. According to Bonwick (Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought) he did not remain in the grave, but at the end of three, or forty,* days rose again and ascended to Heaven and thenceforth became the judge of the dead and the hope of a future life for the Egyptians. All of which proves that the story of Christ was found ready in most of its details thousands of years before the Christian era, and the Christian fathers had no greater task than to apply it to a new personage. This detracts no whit from Christ; it only goes to show that the biographies of all these Divine Instructors are practically identical because all are similar in nature and mission, and in a mystical sense their legendary life-record is true.
* The festival of Osiris lasted forty days, the number of days of Jesus’ temptation.
The name Osiris (Asar in Egyptian) is connected with fire, as is Asari in Babylonia; Aesar in old Etruscan means a god, derived possibly from the Asura of the Vedas, a modified form of which is Is’war or Iswara of the Bhagavad-Gita. In his universal aspect of destroying fire necessary to regeneration, Osiris is the “Lord of Terror,” and in Chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead he is “the devourer of all slaughtered things,” just as Krishna in the eleventh Gita is “Time matured, come hither for the destruction of these creatures.”
Among the many titles ascribed to Osiris, one frequently used is “the god of the staircase.” In Chapter XXII of the Ritual the deceased prays that he may “have a portion with him who is on the top of the staircase,” and there are any number of illustrations of a stairway of seven steps. What can this be but “the stairway of the seven worlds, the stairs of which each step becomes denser and darker. It is of this seven-times-seven scale thou art the faithful climber and mirror, O little man! Thou art this, but thou knowest it not.” But great beings like Osiris know it, because by their own efforts they have become Perfected Men, at the top of this septenary stairway of evolution, which they descend and ascend knowingly, without ever losing their consciousness of Self. Whether in a body or out of it, they preserve an unbroken memory of all the states (or stairs) through which they pass. This uninterrupted memory is the realization of immortality. Although we are immortal we do not realize it, our memory being broken every night during sleep and also at death. So we find in many chapters of the Book of the Dead the deceased implores that he may retain his memory; that he may not forget the names of the guardians of the doors as his disembodied soul passes from one Aat (or state) to another; and, as a prerequisite—to which the utmost importance was attached, that his mouth may be opened and that he may regain his speech (Chapter XXIII); for speech is “manasic,” indicative of and associated only with self-consciousness.
The real meaning of immortality, including life before birth as well as life after death, seems to have been as much misunderstood by many of the Egyptians as by Christians today, whose heritage of ideas, true and false, comes in unbroken continuity from that far past. Judging from the Book of the Dead, resurrection was insured by the recitation of magical formulae, or conferred upon the dead by Osiris. As Christians believe their resurrection possible because Christ rose from the dead and appeared in one of his finer “sheaths” on Easter morn, so the Egyptians thought that the body of Osiris had been dismembered* and afterwards reconstructed into a living being, therefore their members would also be reunited into a living whole. In Chapter XLIII the deceased says: “I am Fire, the son of Fire, to whom was given his head after it had been cut off. The head of Osiris was not taken away from him, let not the head of Osiris Ani (the deceased) be taken away from him. I have knit myself together,… I have renewed my youth; I am Osiris, the lord of eternity.” In the Papyrus of Hu-nefer, Osiris is thus addressed by Thot: “Homage to thee, O Governor of Amentet, who dost make men and women to be born again.”
* There was a time when some of the inhabitants of Egypt dismembered the body previous to burial, for mummification was not always practised, nor was it ever universal in that country as is commonly supposed.
Budge thinks the offerings placed in the tomb indicate that pre-dynastic man thought he would live again in the identical body he had upon earth, an opinion apparently contradicted in a statement immediately following: “In later times although the funeral offerings were made as before, the belief in a material resurrection was given up by the educated Egyptians and in texts, both of the earliest and the latest periods,… it is distinctly stated that the material part of man rests in earth, whilst the immortal part has its abode in heaven.” Now the belief was common that the Ka, or double, for which food and drink were placed in the tomb, was liable to annoy the living. The offerings and the many personal effects, such as were found in great and exquisite variety in the tomb of Tutankhamen and other notables, permeated with their owners’ magnetism, would have a tendency to attract and hold the Ka. So might they not prevent it from being evoked or attracted elsewhere?—a danger against which the wise Egyptians would wish to take the utmost precaution. Mummification was practised in order to keep all the atoms of the body intact, so that they might again be used—not the same body, but the same aggregation of lives.
Abydos was the object of pilgrimage for thousands of years. From all parts of Egypt kings and princes were brought to this sacred spot that their remains might rest near those of their beloved lord. Here was the celebrated Osireion with its inclined passage leading to some underground chamber where were enacted “the Mysteries of Osiris,” by which it was said that the beholders were so affected that death lost its sting and the grave its terror. Here was preserved the relic of Osiris, “the living One,” carried in all the great religious processions, and here was performed one of the earliest Miracle Plays, which presented in dramatic form the story of the life and death and resurrection of this “Golden One of Millions of Years.”
Isis is the Virgin-Mother, sister and wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. She is “the woman clothed with the sun” of the land of Chem. In the litany apostrophizing her, she is the “Immaculate Lady,” “Queen of Heaven,” “Illustrious Isis, most powerful, merciful and just,” titles transferred entire or with slight change to the Virgin-Mary. (See Isis Unveiled, II, 209, for comparison of litanies). And not only was the adoration of Isis restored under a new name, but even her image standing on the crescent moon was adopted by the Christians, while her well-known effigy with Horus in arms has descended to our time in the many pictures of the Madonna and child. The “Black Virgins,” so highly reverenced in certain French cathedrals were found, upon critical examination, to be basalt figures of Isis! But behind the symbolism of Isis were sublime spiritual and cosmical truths never conveyed to her worshippers by the mother of Christ.
Isis-Osiris is the equivalent of Kwan-Shai-Yin and Kwan-Yin in China. Coming later than Thot-Hermes, the companion and instructor of this pair was Hermes II, an incarnation of the celestial Hermes. In connection with her beneficent mission, Isis taught the women to spin the most wonderful linen, the priests devoted to her service being called the Linigera on account of the exquisite linen robes they wore. Isis was the great healer, hence the name Isis was given to a universal panacea. Her power to make men immortal is told in several legends, none with more tender charm than an episode connected with her search for Osiris, which has come down to us from Plutarch. Having traced the body of her lord to a tamarisk pillar built into the presence hall of King Malkander, she gained audience with his Queen, Athenais, and was engaged by the latter to nurse her sickly child Diktys. Isis agreed to restore him on condition that her ministrations be not observed. The child soon waxing strong and beautiful aroused the curiosity of Queen Athenais, who secreted herself in the chamber where nightly some mysterious work went on. From her hiding place she saw Isis build a great fire and place the child therein as in a cradle, changing herself thereupon into a twittering swallow. Horrified at the proceedings, Queen Athenais sprang forward and snatched her son from the flames, only to be confronted by the majestic but angry goddess, who upbraided her for her folly and told her that in the space of only a few days more her son would have been completely purified and immortal, but now he must live and die like other men. It was through the word and touch of Isis that Osiris, whose fourteen members (his seven dual aspects) having been found and put together, became once more a living being. So, in the Book of the Dead she is called the Lady of Life.
Horus was the last in the line of divine sovereigns in Egypt. A tablet describes him as the “substance of his father,” of whom he is an incarnation and identical with him. There is an elder Horus (Haroeris) to be distinguished from the son of Isis, although in the legends they appear to be inextricably fused.* In one aspect, the elder Horus is the Idea of the world in the demiurgic mind; the younger is the same Idea going forth from the Logos, clothed with matter and assuming actual existence. The elder was from remotest times fused with Ra at Heliopolis, and worshipped as Ra-Haremkhuti (Horus of the two mountains), or the rising and the setting sun. In a beautiful illustration of sunrise from the Papyrus of Hu-nefer, Horus-Ra as a golden sparrow-hawk, wearing a disk encircled by a serpent, is adored by seven apes. Astronomically Horus the younger is the winter-sun, and at the time of the winter-solstice (our Christmas) his image in the form of a new-born babe was brought out of the sanctuary and adored by the worshipping crowd. Several references are made in the Book of the Dead to “the followers of Horus”—Aryans who settled in Egypt when it had hardly risen from the waters. Yet they possessed the hieroglyphic form of writing peculiar to the Egyptians, founded the principal cities of Egypt and built some of the most important sanctuaries. They were said to be smiths (mesnitiu) armed with weapons of iron, and the mesnit or “Forge” was the name given to the passage opening into the shrine of the temple at Edfu, where Horus was worshipped under the form of the winged solar disk. An inscription on the temple wall, which Prof. Sayce thinks a late invention of the priests, declares that in the 363rd year of Ra-Harmachis on earth, he fled from the rebels who had risen against him in Nubia and found refuge in Edfu. Thereafter, his followers smote the enemies of their leader from the southern to the northern boundary of Egypt.
* “The celestial Horuses one by one were identified with Horus, the son of Isis, and their attributes were given to him, as his in the same way became theirs.” (Maspero).
While Osiris subdued the world by gentleness and persuasion, by song and flute (which he invented) his son Horus from first to last was a warrior. Born to be the avenger of his father, he is said to have assumed the shape of a human-headed lion to gain advantage over Set. In this form he is the Sphinx—Har-em-chu—which is verily his image. He is also represented standing on a boat of serpentine form, with spear in hand, killing the serpent. His constant warfare with Set covers many facts, cosmical, spiritual and historical. In one aspect it is the struggle with the lower, personal nature and symbolizes the trials of adeptship; the fact that his triumphs are but temporary shows that his adeptship has to be regained in each new birth. The magnet was called the “bone of Horus” and iron, “the bone of Typhon,” the latter being the rough Titanic power which opposes its force to the divine magnetic spirit trying to harmonize everything in nature. The dual nature of Horus is referred to in Chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead in these words: “It is Horus when he riseth up with a double head, whereof one beareth right and truth and the other wickedness” (Set). In Chapter CLXXVII he is “the blue-eyed” and “the red-eyed Horus,”—Set was always depicted red. In Chapter XXIX B, Horus is the Universal Ego; the deceased says: “My heart is with me, and it shall never come to pass that it shall be carried away…. I am Horus, the dweller in hearts, who is within the dweller in the body.” In Chapter LXXVIII, The Chapter of Making the Transformation into the Divine Hawk, the deceased says: “And behold, when as yet Isis had not given birth to Horus, I had germinated, and had flourished, and I had become aged. (pre-existence) … And I had risen up like the divine hawk, and Horus made for me a spiritual body (sahu) containing his own soul…. I, even I, am Horus, who dwelleth in the divine Khu (luminous form). I have gained power over his crown, I have gained power over his radiance, and I have travelled over the remote, illimitable parts of heaven… Horus is both the divine food and the sacrifice…. The gods labor for him, and they toil for him for millions of years.” In later times the Pharaohs, by way of asserting (rightfully or otherwise) their divine nature, assumed the title “The Golden Horus,” for according to Chapter LXXXIII of the Book of the Dead, Horus was one of those Illuminated Beings “who emitted light from his divine body,” and “who never lie down in death.”
Set, as we have just seen, is an integral part of both Osiris and Horus, just as Ahriman is an inseparable part of Ahura-Mazda. Typhon is a later name for Set, but still very ancient, his turbulent nature finding expression in the word “typhoon.” In Chapter XXXIX, Apep, the serpent of evil is slain by Set’s serpent; therefore Set could not have been originally evil. In Chapter XLII, Typhon is described as “Set, formerly Thot,” who was also Seth—a puzzle indeed to the Orientalist, but in which we may recognize a Serpent of Wisdom. Cosmologically, all these serpents conquered by their slayers stand for the turbulent, confused principles in chaos, brought to order by the Sun-gods, or creative forces in their evolutionary processes. Elsewhere these principles are called “the sons of Rebellion.” “In that night, the oppressor, the murderer of Osiris, otherwise called the deceiving Serpent… calls the Sons of Rebellion in Air, and when they arrive to the East of Heaven, then there is War in Heaven and in the entire World.”
Set was once a great god universally adored throughout Egypt. Manetho, an Egyptian priest, says that he treacherously murdered Osiris and allied himself with the Shemites (the Israelites). This may possibly have originated the fable told by Plutarch that after the fight between Typhon and Horus, Typhon overcome with fright at the mischief he had caused, “fled seven days on an ass, and escaping begat the boys Jerusalem and Judaea.” He is evidently connected with the Hyksos, the ancestors of the Jews according to Josephus, and both Typhon and the Jews were “an abomination” to the Egyptians.
The goat was sacred to Typhon, and it was over the goat that the Egyptians confessed their sins, after which the animal was turned into the desert. This was ages before the time of Moses, and the origin of the Jewish scape-goat. Turning to Leviticus XVI, 21, we read; “And Aaron shall … lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel… and shall send him away…. into the wilderness.” It is also easy to trace the evolution of Sat (Set)-an to the Egyptian devil.
Although the seven principles of man are symbolized under the various aspects of Osiris, the Egyptians had special names for the sheaths of the soul. While the Egyptologists differ as to their classification, as to spelling of names and in many other details, we quote from Budge’s Book of the Dead. His list does not exactly agree with the theosophical division of principles, nevertheless it practically covers them, as we shall see, and proves conclusively that the Egyptians were familiar with our seven “souls” in spite of the fact that the translations do not fully bring out the distinctions.
Khat, the physical body. Ka, the double, which could become a vampire (Kama-rupa). Ba, the heart-soul, connected with the Ka, and depicted as a human-headed hawk; it could die a second time (Animal soul or Kama-Manas). Khaibit, the shadow, the hieroglyph of which was an umbrella. Budge regards it as a kind of third soul (Astral body). Khu, meaning “luminous,” the spiritual soul which under no circumstances could die; it dwelt in the Sahu (Higher Manas). Sahu, the spiritual body, which formed the habitation of the soul (Atma-Buddhi individualized). It was supposed to spring from the body on account of the prayers that were said, but this could have been merely popular belief, for the author describes it as a “body which had attained to a degree of knowledge and power and glory whereby it becomes henceforth lasting and incorruptible.” Sa was the mysterious fluid of the gods, and Hu was one of the celestial foods. In the Judgment Scene Hu and Sa, as gods, head the deities who preside over the weighing of the heart. Sekhem, or power, Budge says is the incorporeal personification of the vital force of a man, which dwelt in heaven with the Khus. Se-Khem is the residence or loka of the god Khem, the devachan of Atma-Buddhi, hence we might think of Sekhem as the devachanic body. To this list our author adds Ren, the name, to preserve which the Egyptians took the most extraordinary care, for the belief was widespread that unless the name of a man was preserved he ceased to exist; and Ab, the heart, an organ rather than a principle, although Budge says it was considered the center of the spiritual and thinking life, in short, the conscience. In Chapter XXVI the deceased says: “I understand with my heart.” In Chapter CLXIX two hearts are mentioned, “thy heart (ab), thy mother, and thy heart (hat) that is in thy body.”
In Chapter XCII, souls and spirits and shadows are mentioned together. The deceased says: “… let a way be opened for my soul and for my shade, and let them see the Great God in the shrine on the day of the judgment of souls, and let them recite the utterances of Osiris…. to those who guard the members of Osiris, and who keep ward over the Spirits, and who hold captive the shadows of the dead who would work evil against me. May a way for my double (Ka) … be prepared by those who keep ward over the members of Osiris, and who hold captive the shades of the dead.” In Chapter LXXXIX the deceased addresses “the gods who make souls to enter into their sahu” and at the close of the chapter it begs that it may “look upon its material body, may it rest upon its spiritual body (sahu); and may it neither perish nor suffer corruption for ever.”
The soul of every defunct, from the Hierophant down to the sacred bull Apis, became an Osiris after death—was Osirified; Ani, for instance, became Osiris Ani. In Chapter CXIX the deceased says: “I am the spiritual body of the God;” and not only this, but all his members were identified with Osiris or some other of the gods. In Chapter XLII, entitled The Deification of Members, the disembodied soul says: “My hair is the hair of Nu. My face is the face of the Disk. My eyes are the eyes of Hathor… My neck is the neck of the divine goddess Isis…. My forearms are the forearms of Neith. My feet are the feet of Ptah…. There is no member of my body which is not the member of some god.” What is this but the teaching that man is verily the microcosm of the macrocosm? And the chapter continues: “I am Ra… I am Horus and traverse millions of years. In very truth, my forms are inverted. I am Un-nefer from one season unto another, and what I have is within me…. I am he whose being has been moulded in his eye and I shall not die again.” The real Osirification is the final assimilation with the One Life—the Egyptian Day of Come-Unto-Us (or Me) which refers to the long pralaya after the Mahamanvantara. “The ‘Monad’ … has to perform its septenary gyration throughout the Cycle of Being and forms, from the highest to the lowest; and then from man to God.” (S.D., I, 135). Those who cross the “iron-bound world” “will rest in the bosom of Parabrahm or the “Unknown Darkness,” which shall then become for all of them Light—during the whole period of Mahapralaya, namely, 311,040,000,000,000 years. (S.D., I, 134).
“Hail, O Egg! Hail, O Egg! I am Horus, he who liveth
for millions of years, whose flame shineth upon
you and bringeth your hearts to me.”
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 10, August, 1927, Pages 447-455
Had nothing remained to us of the Book of the Dead but the Judgment Scene, it alone furnishes abundant evidence of the Egyptian teaching of Karma—the universal Law of Balance; clear indication, too, of the origin of the handwriting on the wall of Balshazzar’s palace: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” In the Papyrus of Ani, the scene is made up of five “acts,” so to say, the first three constituting the portion assigned to the judgment proper, the last two completing the drama of the soul by depicting its resurrection and introduction by Horus into the presence of Osiris. In the upper left register sit twelve great gods. Underneath, Ani (the deceased) leading his wife, enters the Hall of the double Maati—Truth and Right. In the second act, Ani, separated into his component parts, stands before the scales. These parts are represented by a human-headed bird—the soul; a tri-colored cubit bearing a human head, which Budge calls Ani’s embryo (the cubit symbolizes the “principles”); a human figure representing his destiny; the two goddesses of birth; and the heart enclosed in a vase balanced against the feather of Truth and Right in the opposite scale-pan. Here are plainly typified the ideas that death involves a separation of the principles; that out of these is to come another body; and that the future birth or destiny, whether into post-mortem states or into a new human form, will be the result of the life just passed. On the standard of the scales sits the dog-headed ape, sacred to Thot, marking the middle point in the evolutionary round when the Sons of Wisdom incarnated in the human-animal forms in the equilibrizing sign of Libra; for Libra and Thot-Hermes are one. (See Isis Unveiled, II, 463). At the right of the scales, testing the tongue of the balance, kneels the jackal-headed god, Anubis, he who guides the justified soul to the Fields of Aanroo.
The soul seeking admission to the Judgment Hall is at once confronted by its doors and even the various parts of its gates—all forbidding his entrance unless he tells them their mystery names. What can this indicate, but a recognition of the potentiality of the “Word”? After death the good or purified soul in conjunction with its higher or uncreated spirit, is more or less the victim of the dark influence of the dragon Apophis. If it has attained the final knowledge of the heavenly and infernal mysteries—the gnosis, or complete reunion with the spirit, it will triumph over its enemies; if not, the soul cannot escape its second death, “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone” (elements), a purely Egyptian idea. But this awful fate can be avoided by the knowledge of the “Mysterious Name.” The defunct, having complied with this initial requirement, begins a recital of his good deeds, enumerating first those which relate to his conduct towards his family, his servants and his fellowmen; and not until he has given evidence that he has acted with justice and mercy towards his fellows, is he allowed to pass on to prove he has faithfully performed his duties towards the gods. He is then brought before the forty-two assessors who assist Osiris nightly in the examination of souls, and pleads his innocence of the particular sins which they are appointed to judge. After this “negative confession” he recounts numerous services he has rendered, such as: “I have performed the commandments of men as well as the things whereat are gratified the gods. I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man, and apparel to the naked man and a boat to the shipwrecked mariner…. I am clean of mouth and clean of heart: therefore let it be said unto me…’Come in peace’.” (Chap. CXXV). While this protestation of righteousness has been going on, Thot, with reed and palette in hand, records the weighing of the heart; for in spite of the attempt of the deceased to justify himself, it is the heart that determines the balance up or down.
The Egyptians well knew that although one may think the good deeds done or the evils not committed are the measure of character, the feeling in the heart that accompanied the actions is the true estimate of one’s righteousness and its ultimate determinant. The man of unrighteous heart will be found wanting. He whose heart was evil, and works utterly wanting, was devoured by Ammet, the “Eater of the Dead,” a composite creature with crocodile head, lion body and hinder parts of the hippopotamus, sitting by the side of Anubis. Hence the fear voiced by the deceased in Chap. XXX: “My heart, my mother! My heart, my mother! My heart of transformation! (i.e., necessary for my reincarnation)… May there be no parting of thee from me in the presence of him that keepeth the Balance!” The hieroglyph of the heart was a vase, and when we remember Ammonius Saccas taught that Hermes got his wisdom from India, there would seem to be no mere coincidence that in the Gayatri the True Sun is said to be “hidden by a vase of golden light,”—by the kamic principle coursing through the blood of the heart. In the New Testament (Matthew XXV, 34-36) occurs an almost exact reproduction of the setting of the Judgment Scene: the Son of Man sits upon his throne judging the nations and says to the justified: “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you … For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink… Naked, and ye clothed me.”
The progress of the soul after death consists in a series of transformations by means of which the defunct divests himself, one by one, of his principles, materialized for the sake of clearness into ethereal entities or bodies. The shadow, the astral form, is annihilated, “devoured by the Uræus,”* the Manes (kama-rupa) will be annihilated; but the Soul-bird, “the divine Swallow—and the Uræus of the Flame” (Manas and Atma-Buddhi) will live in the eternity, for they are their mother’s husbands. (S.D. I, 227). Those who think the Egyptians did not teach reincarnation should remember that the Soul (the Ego) of the defunct is said to be living in Eternity: it is immortal, “coeval with and disappearing with the Solar boat”—symbol of the cycle of Necessity. The Soul emerges from the Tiaou, or Tuat, (the realm of the cause of life) and joins the living on Earth by day, to return to the Tuat every night.
* Uræus, the serpent, son of the earth—in another sense the primordial vital principle in the sun.
What is the Tuat? The frequent allusions to it in the Book of the Dead contain a mystery. The Tuat is the path of the Night Sun, the inferior hemisphere or the infernal regions of the Egyptians, placed by them on the concealed side of the moon. In their esotericism, the human being came out of the moon (a triple mystery—astronomical, physiological and psychological at once); he crossed the whole cycle of existence and then returned to his birth-place (the moon) before issuing from it again into a new birth. Thus the defunct is shown arriving at the West where he receives his judgment, passes through Amenti, resurrects as Horus, and then circles around the sidereal heavens, which is an allegorical assimilation to Ra, when he becomes once more the free and self-conscious God. In Chap. CXXX we read: “The Osiris Nu (the defunct) embarketh in thy boat, O Ra, he is furnished with thy throne and he receiveth thy spiritual form.” Then begins the descent into matter. He crosses the celestial abyss (Nu), and returns once more to the Tuat, where he is assimilated to Osiris-Lunus, who in his aspect of god of reproduction, inhabits the moon. Plutarch says the Egyptians celebrated a festival called “The Ingress of Osiris into the Moon.”
Chapter LXIV of the Book of the Dead, entitled the “Chapter of the Coming Forth By Day in a Single Chapter,” was looked upon as an abridgement of the entire Book. Birth in the Tuat, Amenti, or heaven, hence means death on another plane, and vice versa. Birth and death, endless transformation, universal reincarnation, proclaim themselves on every page of the Book of the Dead. “I am Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow; and I have the power to be born a second time. I am the hidden Soul who createth the gods and who giveth celestial meals unto the denizens of the Tuat, Amentet, and heaven. I am the Lord of those who are raised up from the dead… Make thou thy roads glad for me, and make broad for me my paths, when I set forth from earth for life in the celestial region… Send forth thy light upon me, O Soul unknown, for I am one of those who are about to enter, and the divine speech is in my ears in the Tuat, and let no defects of my mother be imputed unto me… The god (Anubis) transporteth me to the chamber and my nurse is the double Lion-god himself… Let me journey on in peace; let me pass over the sky;… Let me soar like a bird to see the hosts of the spirits in the presence of Ra day by day…. I shall come into being in the form of the Lion-god and like the blossoms of Shu. I am he who is never overwhelmed in the waters… I have come to see him that dwelleth in his divine Uræus, face to face and eye to eye. Thou art in me and I am in thee; and thy attributes are my attributes… My forms are the forms of the god Khepera… I have entered in as a man of no understanding, and I shall come forth in the form of a strong spirit, and I shall look upon my form which shall be that of men and women for ever and for ever.”
Amenti, literally the dwelling of Amen, the hidden God, was the kingdom of Osiris, in which were fourteen halls or “mansions,” (Chap. CXLIX, Book of the Dead), each one set aside for some special purpose connected with the after-death state of the soul. Besides the Hall of Judgment there were the Elysian Fields, or Fields of Aanroo, and many other mystical halls—one of torment in which the waters were of fire, and though the spirits wished to enter and quench their thirst, they dare not. The worst of all was the Hall of eternal Sleep and Darkness. As Lepsius portrays it, the defunct “sleep therein in incorruptible forms, they wake not to see their brethren, they recognize no longer father and mother, their hearts feel naught toward their wife and children. This is the dwelling of the All-Dead…. Each trembles to pray to him, for he hears not.” This god is Karmic Decree; the abode of those who die absolute disbelievers, those killed by accident before their allotted time, and finally the dead on the threshold of Avitchi, which save in one case, is not in Amenti but on this earth of forced re-birth. These tarried not long in their state of oblivion, but were carried speedily toward the gate of exit (Amh). The two chief gates of the abode of Osiris were the gate of entrance, Re-stau, and the gate of exit, or reincarnation.
The second Aat of Amenti was Aarru (Chap. CIX), “the walls of which are of iron. The height of the wheat thereof is five cubits…; the barley thereof is seven cubits in height…. And the Khus (Spirits) therein, who are nine cubits in height reap the wheat and the barley side by side with the divine Souls of the East.” In this instance the ninefold division is used and refers to those spirits who have just been translated—before the separation of the principles. The reaping of the grain is a very graphic representation of the Law of Retribution or Karma. Those who reaped the two highest numbers entered into the state of Devachan; the disembodied souls whose harvest was less went into the lower regions (Kamaloka). However, in Chap. CX is a region called the place of the Khus who are seven cubits high, the wheat is three cubits high and it is the Spirits who have become perfect who reap it. These perfected souls are the Atma-Buddhi-Manasic entities, symbolized by the wheat of three cubits, already separated from their lower principles and ready for the Devachanic state. (S.D. II, 374).
Thot is the great Dragon of Wisdom in Egypt. He is the lunar god of the first dynasties, the master of cynocephalus (the dog-headed ape who stood as the living symbol and remembrance of the Third Root Race), therefore a divine being who took on the human-animal form. For here, too, is to be found the Theosophical teaching of evolution. The moon-god Taht-Esmun represented the first human “ancestor,” expressing the seven powers of nature prior to himself as his seven souls, he being the manifestor of them as the eighth. Thus Thot is the god who looks both ways—Janus, Hermes and Mercury combined. With reed and palette, as we have seen him, he is the scribe of the gods and the recorder of Karma. He is “the Lord of Hermopolis,” wearing the atef crown and lunar disk, and bearing “the Eye of Horus” (the third eye) in his hand. Protector of Egypt under the form of the ibis, the foe of the bad serpent, he was the good serpent whose mysteries are concealed in the caduceus or wand of Mercury. Thot is connected with our word thought, and since to think is to create, Thot was said to have created the world by his Word, the articulate word being considered the most potent of creative forces. The deceased in the Book of the Dead time and again implores Thot to give him the “correct voice,” name or pronunciation of those beings who bar his passage that they may open the way to him. To Thot are ascribed all the arts and sciences and the invention of the Egyptian alphabet. It is as difficult to place his era as to assign to their pyramids their exact date, but his name is found on the oldest monuments. The 4th of January is held sacred to him as Christians hold December 25th sacred to Jesus of Nazareth.
Thot-Hermes is both god and human Teacher, and as Teacher there are at least five personages in the line. Hermes Trismegistus, the “thrice-great” is Hermes great in Secret Wisdom, great as king or divine ruler, and great as law-giver and instructor in the arts of civilization. Hermes was called “the trainer of Christs,” since he taught men the eternal verities and showed how to live them that they, too, might be Christs in their turn and know their own nature as he did his. Hermes is not the proper name of any individual, but a generic title applied to Adepts in the Secret Wisdom, the great name having crept into our every-day language in the word “hermetic”—sealed. The teachings of the Hermes are recorded in the Book of the Dead, on monuments and tombs and tablets, and in the Books of Thot. The Greek writer Iamblichus says there were 1200 books of Hermes, and another writer, Seleucus, says there were 20,000 before the time of Menes. Eusebius, an early Church Father, speaks of seeing forty-two. Some of these books were works on anatomy, medicine and other arts. The name Hermes came to be used by mystics of every shade for generations, consequently great discrimination has to be used in accepting so-called Hermetic writings. Almost all the Fragments bearing the name have been greatly distorted and exhibit a tendency to the personal God idea, while the original teachings were purely pantheistic. The Deity referred to in them is the one defined by Paul as that in which “we live, and move and have our being,” the “in Him” of the translators notwithstanding.
In the Book of Hermes, Pymander appears to Hermes in the shape of a Fiery Dragon of “Light, Fire, and Flame.” Pymander, the “Thought Divine” personified, says:
“The Light is me, I am the Nous (the mind or Manu), I am thy God, and I am far older than the human principle which escapes from the shadow (“Darkness,” or the concealed Deity). I am the germ of thought, the resplendent Word, the Son of God. All that thus sees and hears in thee is the Verbum of the Master, it is the Thought (Mahat) which is God, the Father.” (The seventh principle in Man and Kosmos are here meant.) (S.D., I, 74).
“That Universal Being, that contains all, and which is all, put into motion the Soul and the World, all that nature comprises, says Hermes. In the manifold unity of universal life, the innumerable individualities distinguished by their variations, are, nevertheless, united in such a manner that the whole is one, and that everything proceeds from Unity.”
“My judgment is that void space does not exist, that it never has existed, and that it never will exist, for all the various parts of the universe are filled, as the earth also is complete and full of bodies, differing in quality and in form.”
“God is not a mind, but the cause that the mind is; not a spirit, but the cause that the Spirit is; not light, but the cause that the Light is.”
“To speak of God is impossible. For corporeal cannot express the incorporeal…. That which has not any body nor appearance, nor form, nor matter, cannot be comprehended by sense … that which it is impossible to define—that is God.”
Trismegistos: Reality is not upon earth, my son, and it cannot be thereon…. Nothing on earth is real, there are only appearances…. He (man) is not real, my son, as man. The real consists solely in itself and remains what it is… Man is transient, therefore he is not real, he is but appearance, and appearance is the supreme illusion.
Tatios: Then the celestial bodies themselves are not real, my father, since they also vary?
Trismegistos: That which is subject to birth and to change is not real … There is in them a certain falsity, seeing that they too are variable.
Tatios: And what then is the primordial Reality?
Trismegistos: That which is one and alone, O Tatios; That which is not made of matter, nor in any body. Which has neither colour nor form, which changes not nor is transmitted but which always is. (S.D., I, 285-287).
“…matter becomes; formerly it was; for matter is the vehicle of becoming. Becoming is the mode of activity of the uncreate deity. Having been endowed with the germs of becoming, matter (objective) is brought into birth, for the creative force fashions it according to the ideal forms. Matter not yet engendered had no form; it becomes when it is put into operation.”
“Everything is the product of one universal creative effort…. There is nothing dead in Nature. Everything is organic and living, and therefore the whole world appears to be a living organism.” (S.D., I, 281).
“From one Soul, that of All, spring all the Souls, which spread themselves as if purposely distributed through the world. These souls undergo many transformations; those which are already creeping creatures turn into aquatic animals; from these aquatic animals are derived land animals; and from the latter the birds. From the beings who live aloft in the air (heaven) men are born. On reaching that status of men, the Souls receive the principle of (conscious) immortality, become Spirits, then pass into the choir of the gods.”
“The creation of Life by the Sun is as continuous as his light; nothing arrests or limits it. Around him, like an army of Satellites, are innumerable choirs of genii … All these Genii preside over mundane affairs….they imprint their likeness on our Souls … But the reasonable part of the Soul is not subject to the genii; it is designed for the reception of (the) God, who enlightens it with a sunny ray. Those who are thus illumined are few in number…” (high Initiates and Adepts are here meant). Students should read the entire passage: (S.D., I, 294-295).
“Thou art from old, O Soul of Man; yea, thou art from everlasting.
“The Soul passeth from form to form; and the mansions of her pilgrimage are manifold. Thou puttest off thy bodies as raiment; and as vesture dost thou fold them up.”
The Egyptians are accused of teaching the doctrine of transmigration—that men reincarnate in the bodies of animals. The following extract might be thought to corroborate this opinion:
“But the Soul entering into the Body of a Man, if it continue evil, shall neither taste of Immortality nor be partaker of the Good; but being drawn back the same Way, it returneth into Creeping Things. And this is the condemnation of an evil Soul.”
We need only to refer to the symbol of the Sphinx to see that Soul never came from the lower kingdom—it enters into the body. Only the lower soul returns to the lower kingdoms; the Spirit-Soul likewise returns the Way it came to higher regions of Spirit. The teaching is: “Once a man, always a man.” But, to be immortal one must have body and spirit conjoined in harmony on earth. Consequently, by living selfishly and evilly, a man condemns every atom of his lower sheaths to be drawn into the bodies of lower animals, and he will meet those effects when again he comes into incarnation.
The teaching of Hermes, AS ABOVE SO BELOW—”the whole of magic”—is found in the Smaragdine Tablet which is alleged to have been found by Sarai, Abraham’s wife, on the dead body of Hermes. This is pure allegory. May it not be, suggests Madame Blavatsky, that Saraiswati, the goddess of secret wisdom and learning, finding still much of the ancient wisdom latent in the dead body of Humanity, revivified that wisdom? This led to the rebirth of the Occult Sciences, so long forgotten and neglected, the world over.
“What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is similar to that which is below, to accomplish the wonders of one only thing,”—which is MAN.
“The Father of THAT ONE ONLY THING is the Sun; its Mother the Moon; the Wind carries it in his bosom; and its nurse is the Spirituous Earth.” In the occult rendering of the same it is added: “and Spiritual Fire is its instructor (Guru).”
Rudimentary man, having been nursed by the “air” or the “wind,” becomes the perfect man later on; when, with the development of “Spiritual Fire” … he acquires from his inner Self, or Instructor, the Wisdom of Self-Consciousness, which he does not possess in the beginning. This fire is the higher Self, which, on this plane, is in bondage to the lower. Unless the Ego takes refuge in the Atman, the ALL-SPIRIT, and merges entirely into the essence thereof, the personal Ego may goad it to the bitter end. (S.D., II, 109, 113).
“Separate the earth from the fire, the subtile from the gross.”
“Ascend from the earth to heaven and then descend again to earth, and unite together the power of things inferior and superior; thus you will possess the light of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly from you.”
In these words is contained the riddle of the cross, and its double mystery is solved—to the Occultist. “The philosophical cross … symbolizes our human existence, for the circle of life circumscribes the four points of the cross, which represents in succession birth, life, death, and Immortality.”
From a study of the foregoing fragments some comprehension may be gained of how one man may impress himself upon his own epoch so forcibly that the influence may be carried—through the ever-interchanging currents of energy between the two worlds, the visible and the invisible—from one succeeding age to another, until it affects the whole of mankind. Hermes has been an universal source of knowledge.
The glories of now-subject Egypt are of the past—of a past so remote that we can find no later writings recorded to show that there were witnesses left upon the scene. The knowledge once in Egypt went on to Greece and shone there under Pythagoras and Plato, who studied in Egypt, and other Hermetic philosophers who taught the TRUTH and RIGHT of Thot-Hermes and Hermes Trismegistus. We have seen, too, how much of Egyptian doctrine and practice found its way, although greatly distorted, into the Old Testament and the Apocalypse. Moses was an Egyptian priest before he became leader of the Israelites, Jesus spent part of his youth in Egypt, and all the most learned Jews drank at her fount of wisdom.
Madame Blavatsky told, we suspect, what was personally known to her, in saying that there are still some solitary students of the ancient lore—sole remnants of the true Egyptian race, Copts, who are aware of the existence of many a secret treasure of the sanctuary, and keep silent. These Copts wear monkish attire of Arab-Christians, and live in poor desolate convents on the borders of the Libyan desert. Some believe the attire is but a disguise. These Copts are held in great esteem by the Greek monks of Palestine, and “there is a rumor current among the Christian pilgrims of Jerusalem, who throng the Holy Sepulcher at every Easter, that the holy fire from heaven will never descend so miraculously as when these monks of the desert are present to draw it down with their prayers. Thousands of pilgrims are there waiting with their tapers to light them at this sacred fire, which at the precise hour and when needed descends from the chapel-vault and hovers about the sepulcher in tongues of fire until every one of the thousand pilgrims has lighted his wax taper at it.” Thus we see the holders of the flame, now in one country and now in another, form an unbroken sacrificial chain down the ages.
If it were possible to summarize in a sentence Egypt’s contribution to the human race, it might be expressed in the Hermetic teaching “Death does not exist, and man never steps outside of universal life; nevertheless, conscious immortality must be gained by each individual for himself.” “Oh, men, live soberly. Win your immortality. Instructor and guide of humanity, I will lead you on to salvation”—the clarion cry of Hermes Trismegistus rings vital still, because vitalized by the message of H.P.B. The term “scribe of the gods”—Thot-Hermes—can be no more fitly applied than to this recorder of the most complete teaching yet written down. She, as in the allegory of Saraiswati, found the body of Humanity dying, and tried to arouse its Soul by restating the ancient eternal Truth, the Right application of which alone will save the world.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 11, September, 1927, Pages 499-507
Great Theosophists: Alchemy and the Alchemists
The word Alchemy is a combination of Al and Chemi—Al, like the Hebrew El, meaning the Mighty Sun, Chemi meaning Fire. As Khem was the name of ancient Egypt, it is commonly supposed that the science of Alchemy originated in the land of the Pharaohs. But actually it was born on the old continent of Atlantis. Egypt was merely the land of its rebirth.
Alchemy is said to have been introduced into Egypt by Hermes Trismegistus. Who was the “Thrice-Great”? The name Hermes, like so many other famous names of history, was a generic one common to a long line of Initiates. Thoth-Hermes was one of the King-Instructors, the “Sons of the Fire” who incarnated in the Third Race to instruct infant humanity in the arts and sciences. The Egyptians always regarded Thoth-Hermes as a symbol of the Third Race. But in whichever of his characters Hermes appears, he is always credited as the first to teach the science of magic to the Egyptians.
Since “Hermes” implies a Fraternity of Initiates rather than a single individual, the Books of Hermes must be considered as a collection of writings and not the work of any one man. In the third century B.C. Manetho mentioned 36,000 manuscripts and Seleucus spoke of 20,000. In the fourth century Iamblichus said that he knew of 1200, forty-two of which he had seen. This Neoplatonist declared that the whole of human knowledge was contained in thirty-six of these books, the other six dealing particularly with the science of medicine. A facsimile of one of these medical treatises of Hermes was acquired by the Astor Library of New York many years ago. The original treatise, known as the Ebers Papyrus, consists of a single scroll of yellow-brown papyrus of the finest quality divided into 110 pages, each of which is carefully numbered. It contains a description of over 700 medicines, many of which are unknown to the physicians of the present day.
The Hermetic philosophy passed from Egypt to Greece about the middle of the seventh century B.C. From that time on the Books of Hermes were the text-books of the Greek philosophers and the Egyptian Hermes became the Greek God of Wisdom.
One of the earliest Greek alchemists was Anaxagoras, about whom Norton wrote in his quaint Ordinall of Alchemy:
Anaxagoras wrote plainest of them all
In his Boke of Conversions Naturall;
Of all the old Fathers that I ever founde,
He most discloses of this Science the grounde.
The Alchemy of Anaxagoras concerned itself with Cosmic physics. He taught that Space is filled with a countless number of atoms of infinite variety and divisibility, declaring that the intelligence animating the atoms caused them to aggregate and form the various physical substances. His atomic theory was elaborated by Leucippus and his pupil Democritus of Abdera, who taught that the atoms in space are actuated by ceaseless motion which in turn generates rotatory motion. It is strange that men who erected the modern science of physics upon the basis of Democritus’ atomic theory, as restated by John Dalton, should have overlooked or ignored the fact that Democritus called himself an Alchemist and claimed to have gained all his knowledge from the Books of Hermes.
The line of the Hermetic philosophy was continued by Apollonius of Tyana, whose life reveals his knowledge of many of the secret teachings of Hermes. The Neoplatonists drank deep of the wisdom of Egypt, and one of their number—Iamblichus—founded a school for the perpetuation of the Hermetic philosophy. From that time on the Hermetic and Neoplatonic lines of the Theosophical Movement were closely interwoven. In the fourth century the word Alchemy appeared in the works of Julius Firmicus Maternus. In the following century Zosimus wrote an encyclopedic work on the subject which is now preserved in the Imperial Library in Paris.
During the fifth and sixth centuries, when the Christian Church had come into complete power, the study of Alchemy was prohibited. It was revived, however, with the Mohammedan invasion, and from then on the number of European Alchemists grew. Some of them, unfortunately, were interested only in the physical side of Alchemy. Others were great philosophers who treated with its inner meaning and used the alchemical symbols to keep the ancient Wisdom-Religion alive in the world. These men toiled for something far greater than fame or worldly wealth. Like Plato, they considered knowledge as the only goal worthy of their endeavor. All of them were bound by a single pledge: to dare, to know, and to keep silent. The aim of each was the same: to benefit mankind. The names of these Alchemists are engraved on the records of the Theosophical Movement in letters of gold, for it was they who kept science and philosophy alive during the Dark Ages and paved the way for H.P.B.
What did they understand by Alchemy? Would any of themhave declared, as our modern dictionaries do, that the object of Alchemy was to transmute base metals into gold? The great Alchemist, Eiranaeus Philalethes, writing in the seventeenth century, says:
Would to God that all men might become Adepts in our art. For then gold, the great idol of mankind, would lose its value, and we should prize it only for its scientific teaching. (Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King.)
Let us therefore judge the science of Alchemy by its real exponents, not by the quacks and charlatans who degraded the noble art. A true definition of Alchemy was given by Paracelsus 400 years ago: “To grasp the invisible elements; to attract them by their material correspondences; to control, purify and transform them by the living power of the spirit—this is Alchemy.” (Paragranum.)
This refers to the fact, taught by all true Alchemists and particularly stressed by H.P.B., that nature and man are triune, being composed of a physical body, a soul or indwelling energy, and spirit, which is above the other two. An old alchemical work, published in 1678, says that the art of Alchemy
. . . is carried to perfection according to the virtue of body, soul and spirit. For the body would never be penetrable were it not for the spirit, nor could these two act upon one another without the soul. For the spirit is an invisible thing, nor could it ever appear without another garment, which garment is the soul. (Ripley Revived.)
Of the three constituents of nature and man, the physical body alone is visible. The soul and the spirit are invisible. Alchemy, therefore, is the science which deals with the invisible constituents of nature and man. According to Paracelsus, Alchemy shows men how to attract these invisible elements by their material correspondences. The Hermetic philosophy is based upon the Law of Correspondences, a statement of which was found on the Smaragdine Tablet of Hermes, which opens with the words: “What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is similar to that which is below.”
This Law of analogy and correspondence, says H.P.B., is “the guiding law of nature, the only true Ariadne’s thread that can lead us through the inextricable paths of her domain toward her primal and final mysteries.” In Occult Science, this Law is the first and most important key to Cosmic physics, and is therefore the key which will unlock the secrets of Alchemy. Under the operation of this Law the whole of nature is seen to be evolving on parallel lines. From gods to men, from worlds to atoms, from the Sun to the vital heat in the lowest organic being, the entire universe is an immense chain, every link of which is joined to the one which precedes and the one which follows. Thus, Alchemy is the science which discloses the correspondences existing throughout the whole of nature.
The medieval Alchemists knew these correspondences and gave out many hints concerning them, without, however, revealing the whole secret. H.P.B. did the same thing, explaining at the same time the reason for her reticence:
Each principle is correlated to a plane, a planet and a race; and the human principles are, on every plane, correlated to the sevenfold occult forces—those of the higher planes being of tremendous occult power. So that any septenary division at once gives a clue to tremendous occult powers, the abuse of which would cause incalculable evil to humanity. (The Secret Doctrine I, xxxv.)
Paracelsus defines Alchemy as the ability to control, purify and transform nature by the living power of the spirit. Although this is the third and last clause in his definition, it is where every student of Alchemy was obliged to begin. Purification was the first step, a process which must start in the man himself. An old alchemical treatise contains this warning:
Let none set himself up to study Alchemy until, having cleared and purified his heart, he be emptied of all things impure. Let him be charitable, and let him enjoy constant tranquility, so that his mind be lifted up. For, unless it be kindled with the beam of the divine light, it will hardly be able to penetrate the mysteries of nature. (Canons of Espagnet.)
Purification of the mind and heart is the first step. Self-knowledge is the second. The Alchemist Geber, writing in the eighth century, says: “He who knows not natural principles in himself is very remote from the Sacred Science.” In that great alchemical work, Centrum Naturae Concentratum, it is stated that the highest wisdom possible to man is self-knowledge. The student of Alchemy, Alipili says, must apply the art of transmutation to himself, and “then he may go on prosperously and seek with good success the mysteries of all natural things.” The Moravian Alchemist Sendivogius spoke of the esteem which all men felt toward the science of Alchemy, “which, if thou knowest how to know thyself, thou canst easily comprehend.” The subject of the alchemical art is man himself, its object the regeneration and ultimate perfection of man, gained through self-knowledge and the recognition of man’s unity with the whole of nature.
The medieval Alchemists presented these ideas to the world in the form of symbols. Paracelsus declared that man and the universe are composed of “Three Substances”—Salt, Sulphur and Mercury. Salt referred to the physical form, Sulphur symbolized the inner, energizing principles, while Mercury represented the spiritual essence above the other two. When the medieval Alchemists spoke of the four elements they were really describing the four planes of being—physical, psychic, mental, and spiritual. When they spoke of transmutation they meant the process by which the lower nature of man may be transmuted into the pure gold of the Higher Trinity. Their Alkahest was the Higher Self, their Philosopher’s Stone was Atma-Buddhi-Manas, “a triune, or trinity in nature,” as Philalethes expressed it.
The science of Alchemy may be studied under three aspects, the lowest of which is the physical. From this lowest aspect of AIchemy has arisen our modern science of chemistry. How does modern chemistry differ from ancient Alchemy? This question was answered in 1910 by a prominent English chemist, H. Stanley Redgrove:
If I were asked to contrast Alchemy with the chemical and physical science of the nineteenth century I would say that whereas the latter abounds in a wealth of much accurate detail and much relative truth it lacks philosophical depth and insight; whilst Alchemy was characterized by a greater degree of philosophical depth and insight. For the Alchemists did grasp the fundamental truth of the Cosmos. (Alchemy, Ancient and Modern.)
That fundamental truth is that Nature is a living organism, every particle of which is animated by the One Life. The Alchemists declared:
Everything is an expression of the Principle of Life in a material form. The Life is the real thing; the external form is merely the house in which it resides. (Paracelusus: De Pestilate.)
Modern science is rapidly approaching this fundamental proposition of the science of Alchemy, every step forward being a fulfilment of the prediction made fifty years ago by H.P.B., that the science of chemistry would be reborn as the New Alchemy. One of the first of these steps was taken a century ago by an eminent Scottish biologist, Robert Brown. While observing the biological movements of microscopic organisms in liquids he noticed that each variety of animalcule had a specific motion, and that tiny particles of “inert” material such as gamboge, charcoal, etc., showed similar characteristic motions. Theosophical students recognize in the “Brownian Movement” the ceaseless motion of the One Life—the Great Breath—and in the “characteristic” motion the operation of the Law of Karma which “operates on all things and beings from the minutest conceivable atom up to Brahmâ.”
In 1927 Prof. Paul Walden, non-resident lecturer at Cornell University, spoke on the subject: “What can the modern chemist learn from old Alchemy?” “Why,” he asked, “do we modern chemists and narrow specialists not glean some teachings from these past times?” He accused scientists of losing all connection with nature, telling his listeners that chemistry is no longer a natural science, that it no longer represents a knowledge of nature as a whole. He took up the defense of the medieval Alchemists, assuring his listeners that “Alchemy was a Science which included all branches of the technical-chemical industry,” and commenting that: “The modern successors of the old Alchemists, the hyper-chemists and Theosophists, could well maintain from their point of view that the transformation or materialization of energy has long been known to them.”
H.P.B. spent much of her energy pointing out to the scientists of her day that these things were known to the Theosophists, noting that even then Science was “slowly but also surely approaching our domains of the Occult.” During the fifty years since those words were written, science has come still closer to these domains, but the real nature of matter is still unknown. According to a modern writer:
The new 20th century entities—electron, proton, neutron, positron—are just as mystifying in their fundamental meaning as the old conception of the atom was. The long path which men of science followed in the chase of the will-of-the-wisp called Matter has led them to another ghost—Radiation. If we conquer Radiation we may yet understand Matter. (Jaffe: Outposts of Science.)
Perhaps the modern scientists would find the key to the mystery if they followed the advice of the old Alchemists. Dr. Carrel seems inclined to take this point of view. He says that the science of man will be the science of the future. Following in the footsteps of Paracelsus, he deplores the fact that man “as a whole” is still not understood, admitting with regret that “scientific investigation has destroyed the world of the soul.” A new day will dawn for modern knowledge when scientists seriously consider the three fundamental propositions of Alchemy, as stated by Trithemius in the sixteenth century:
The spirit of man is a Unity, creating and forming everything, and by acting through the instrumentality of man it may produce wonderful things. Such processes take place according to Law. You will learn the Law by which these things are accomplished if you learn to know yourselves.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25, No. 11, September, 1937
Articles from Sunrise Magazine
The Riddle of Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptian civilizations is still strange to us after many decades of research into its features and history. It seems so contradictory and presents a life-style far removed in spirit from our own. Some sensitive writers who have lived there have confessed their bafflement. The riddle of the Sphinx—symbol of the spiritual and material elements—applies not only to the culture of early Egypt, but to the enigma of our own lives. The head stands for the inner man of intuition and higher mind (or, on a cosmic level, the Christos-Horus aspect), while the body betokens the animal side of man and nature generally.
Lately, many of the books dealing with old Egypt have tended to concentrate either on the art aspect or a restatement of certain historical events. However, most of these reappraisals leave us with an aftertaste of our own century’s mores and psychology rather than with the distinctive flavor of a civilization vastly different from ours. Mere knowledge of the language does not automatically unlock the doors into how the Egyptians thought about man and the universe.
Among the new books are the sumptuously produced Art of Ancient Egypt by Polish Professor Kazimierz; Michalowski (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., N.Y., 1968. 600 pp. including 904 illustrations, $40.00.) and the much smaller but very valuable advance report on recent finds made by Egyptian Dr. Zaki Y. Saad: The Excavations at Helwan: Art and Civilization in the First and Second Dynasties. (University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. 207 pages, $6.95.) Both men are distinguished Egyptologists, and their works represent two approaches to the subject.
Professor Michalowski’s text serves to link together the spectacular plates. The effect of the whole tableau is rich and stunning. However, the author’s simplistic stance on the history follows the fashion of the day—seeing events through lenses colored by the theories of modern political scientists, economists, sociologists, psychologists, and religious sectarians. The pictures speak to us louder than the text, suggesting the spiritual quality of a high civilization more successfully than the verbal speculation about it.
Nevertheless, the author makes some important statements. The sweeping generalizations of experts, he points out, are based after all only on paintings and reliefs from a few tombs out of the many there must have been during the three to four thousands of years involved. He calculates that those found belong to about 13 individuals per generation! How could anyone justly summarize our own civilization merely from information drawn from a similar number of individuals? He claims furthermore, that we must be confusing their chronology because the Egyptians themselves used three calendars simultaneously, each fulfilling a different purpose, which we may loosely designate as religious, civil and agricultural. They were based on cycles of the star Sirius (Sothis), the sun and the moon. These in turn have influenced the variations in dating the beginning of ‘historic’ Egypt: Borchardt offering 4341 B.C. as the first date of reliable observation of the recurrent appearance of the star Sirius, while Professor Flinders Petrie, on archaeological grounds, preferred 5000 B.C. (approximately) for the unification of the country under Menes. Later Egyptologists base their preferments for 3500 B.C. or 2850 B.C. on various considerations, and Professor Michalowski disarms us by admitting that his own choice of 3100 B.C. is purely arbitrary—a compromise, as it were.
Then again, quite apart from treating kings and their reigns solely from the political aspect as our historians do with European history, there is some misunderstanding of the meaning and intent of Egyptian religion. This may be due in part to habits of thinking molded by many centuries of European theology. There is no question that ethical principles were deeply embedded in the religious aspect and reached throughout all phases of everyday life. Still, Professor Michalowski finds the available evidence insufficient to enable him (or anyone else!) to formulate a theory of the beginning of Egypt’s beliefs. In one place, he says there was no uniform doctrine arising out of a single tradition or revelation as ours is, but there appears to be an accumulation of many, often dissimilar traditions. Further on, he states that it is possible to draw a completely different conclusion about the origin of Egyptian religion, “by assuming that it began as a coherent system, which, over the centuries, was altered and distorted by popular beliefs.” A bold leap is made by his statement that even the priests themselves were incompetent to present a consistent system of ideas because the myths and legends were so many and diverse that confusion reigned even for them:
This theory was advanced by those who believed that the Egyptian religion originated in the mythical island of Atlantis; this explanation, mentioned in Plato’s Critias, was suggested earlier by Pythagoras and other Greek philosophers who had come into contact with Egyptian culture. Later the Alexandrian Gnostics expressed the same view in a more obscure form.
It is conceivable that a cultural traffic existed between Egypt and other old civilizations far distant from its shores. If not, we must assume, as the Professor implies, a common parentage predating our historical records, and in a land that has long since disappeared. Whatever the case, there is much to support the contention. The ruined pyramids of Egypt are not unique—for instance, Central America has its own pyramidal remains, much older than some scholars surmise. Certain religious and artistic motifs prevalent in these and other countries now separated by the oceans could conceivably have flowered on different branches from the trunk of a common ancestral tree. The legends of many ancient peoples tell of such an antediluvian continent with a far-flung civilization, of which Plato’s Atlantic isle was but a remnant. This would account for some of the resemblances between Egyptian life and that of the Americas.
Many commentators have rejected, while others appear to have overlooked, evidence of the existence of a Sacred College or Brotherhood, called in different eras by various names. One tradition has it that the Egyptian fraternity, known as sekhemu, eventually retreated into Upper Egypt and elsewhere: into the ‘silence,’ as the popular civilization materialized. Late in its history, it is believed, a portion dispersed into other lands and became known by the Grecian name of the “Dionysian Artificers”— the initiated architects, builders and artists who embodied in their crafts the symbols and tokens of a highly advanced wisdom-religion. The sudden transformation in Greek temple building and art into their acclaimed perfection has been ascribed to their influence. However different their expression and style, the underlying canons may derive from a common ‘law.’ It is known that the Pharaohs had their own skilled architects who occupied a leading place in the hierarchy of national governance, many of whom were famous as wise men in addition to their professional eminence. For instance, Im-hotep, who planned and supervised the erection of Zoser’s pyramid at Saqqarah and later became the popular patron of medicine; or Amen-hotep, the son of Hapu, and Senenmut, architect of Hatshepsut’s superb temple compound in the Libyan cliffs at Deir el Bahari.
Scattered throughout Professor Michalowski’s study are such flashes as “the Egyptian temple is an image of Egypt’s earthly nature,” and “among the most interesting and least-known relics of the Predynastic Period are drawings incised or hammered into rock. . . . They represent boats and also animals, including some species that disappeared from Nubia thousands of years ago.” There are allusions also to the temperate climate many thousands of years before recorded history, when forests of a semitropical kind covered some areas, and the description of trees not now found there appear in a few texts.
The Denderah Zodiac, as another example in point, shows three Virgos, which could mean that someone may have wanted to record the completion of three precessional cycles of more than 25,000 years each! Herodotus also noted the priests’ claim to having records of the time when the Nile Delta was scarcely formed and the sea washed at the base of the Great Pyramid. This would date it as far older than the time of Cheops, in which case his name may have been associated with it because he altered, repaired or added to it. The Gizeh structure has been called a “stupendous hieroglyph.” We have only to consider the subtlety of thought required to calculate how much the enormous weight of the pyramid would sink it into the softer stone beneath it, thereby deflecting its orientation slightly, and then equating this variation with the shift in the plane of the ecliptic over cycles of time, so that the orientation to the galactic North and South would remain true!
If we contemplate the general ruins, the priests of Egypt appear to have had a considerable knowledge of engineering and other sciences and technology. But we do not have any surviving texts dealing explicitly with such matters. Why not? It may be because they were concealed in some way, perhaps in the material that we do have. Until today, it was thought that stonework flowered suddenly in the period of the early 4th Dynasty (c. 2700 B.C.- c. 2600 B.C.) after a beginning not long before that—the pyramid complex at Gizeh supposedly indicating the acme of such skill in use and dressing of stone.
The work of Dr. Zaki Y. Saad changes our whole outlook on Egypt before the period of the Dynasties, which commenced around 6,000 years ago. In his excavations at Helwan—20 miles from Cairo, on the eastern part of the Nile, opposite the remains of Memphis—he has uncovered a vast necropolis which he identifies with the lost city Iwnw, the early capital before Memphis was designed and built on Menes’ orders. These tombs are of 1st and 2nd Dynasty officials (3200-278013 B.C.) and, although many had already been ransacked for treasures, enough pottery and other artifacts were left intact to indicate an accomplished civilization of considerable aesthetic taste and sophistication. More important, however, are the facts that good stonework has been found in large blocks used for steps, walls and ceilings, and also inscriptions showing that the Egyptian religious myths familiar to us actually extend far back into the Predynastic period (some pieces were sealed with Predynastic emblems).
Dr. Saad is one of the few outstanding Egyptologists born in the country. He has been Director of Excavation at many important sites, including the earliest, such as those at Saqqarah. His work, therefore, overlaps Professor Michalowski’s in that area, but offers different conclusions. He claims that the word Helwan is the Arabized version of the ancient Egyptian Her-Iwnw, the ‘City above Iwnw’ (the shift from r to l being common in many languages), and the latter word being the name of the capital preceding Memphis. Iwnw appears in a few very old texts, and Dr. Saad feels Her-lwnw was the residential suburb of high officials, about 3200 B.C.
Professor Flinders Petrie, the father of Predynastic archaeology in Egypt, found remains of three distinctive cultural types to which he gave a far earlier date than the 5000 B.C. he ascribed to Menes, the unifier of the historic state of Egypt. There is a suggestion that far back into the night of time, Egypt was originally one nation, but that the decay wrought by the ages eventually loosened the central control and eroded the fabric of the state. Various self-seeking splits were assumed to have resulted in two main sectors, now called Upper and Lower Egypt, which were eventually molded by the strong will of Menes into one. It is assumed the ‘Double Crown’ worn by the Pharaohs symbolized this event. There may be another more mystical explanation for this, however. For deeply rooted in Egyptian religion and philosophy was the recognition of duality—of soul and body, spirit and matter, one the mirror-image of the other. Hence some of the place-names in the Pert-em-hru (‘Book of the Dead’) are located opposite to their position on the actual map of the physical country.
We have here barely touched on a few aspects of the Egyptian civilization and modern scholarship about it. In a subsequent article we hope to devote attention to the tree that produced the fruit, the roots of which tree drew sustenance from the human soul trained in the mysteries of life.
—I. M. Oderberg, Sunrise magazine, November, 1970
The Two Faces of Egypt
The resurgence of life during the vernal equinox has been celebrated by all peoples who have inherited from remotest antiquity the meaning of what occurs in nature at that period. The many Saviors associated with the legends that have come down to us imbodied the myth of the cosmic spirit incarnating into matter, imparting something of its essence to the entities slowly evolving there, and then returning to its divine state. In the ancient Mysteries, symbolic geography was often used to teach both cosmic and human values. An example of this practice is the system of the ancient Egyptians.
The ritual adventures of Horus of Edfu—known also as the Winged Disk myth—dramatizes the soul’s descent into matter and, through purification and self-conquest, its re-ascent to its source. Horus typifies the soul, and the country of Egypt, its towns, terrain, and the river Nile, the field of activity of that soul. We can thus visualize the mystical history of Egypt, the deeds of its gods and heroes standing for mans qualities in conflict with Typhon-Set or materiality.
If we read this account of what ensues in the arena of life in conjunction with a picture of the country of Egypt, we should look at the map facing the south, the position assumed by the Egyptian neophyte, and then we see the Delta as a triangle with point uppermost, suspended from a thread, the Nile. Imagine its source as representing the higher ranges of consciousness, with the divine ray falling downwards through the spiritual, mental, emotional and energic levels, to the Delta, the material realms. We now see Lower Egypt as the field of operations of the lower part of the mind, the “place of thick darkness,” while Upper Egypt is the higher or more refined mental plane impinging on the intuitive level, called the “country of light,” with the Nile as the stream bringing from above life, light and vitality to the soul, mind and body. There was a celestial Nile, distinct from the terrestrial.
Keeping this image in mind, we can see how the adventures of Horus in each particular locality symbolize and conform with the idea of soul development. Indeed, the whole of the legend with all its details of place names, localities—whether on the hills or the water, even the very weapons used—conveys to the student of symbolism the following story: Horus, the offspring of Osiris, the divine element in the universe and ourselves, and of Isis, goddess of wisdom and the spiritual chalice of that godspark, sails down river, after bidding farewell to his father, and does battle with Typhon-Set—material life and the egoism it engenders.
If we compare the names of physical sites with the geographical description given the same words in those religious texts where they occur, we often find their locations do not match each other. For instance, as Edouard Naville has pointed out, (The Old Egyptian Faith.) Osiris is referred to as the god of Dadon, supposedly the city of Busiris in the Delta. This implies he was a divinity of Lower Egypt. But the Book of the Dead (The correct title is Pert-em-Hru, Coming Forth by Day (or: of Light) clearly locates Dadon not in the Delta but in a region to the east where Osiris is to be born and receive the breath of life. He is represented there as the rising sun.
Some of the most valuable material about the culture of ancient Egypt published in the last 30 or 40 years has been the least noticed in specialist circles. We refer to the fruit of the labors of the French Egyptologist R.A.Schwaller de Lubicz and his wife Isha. His magnum opus, The Temple of Man, in three massive volumes, is a thorough examination of the small temple of Apet south of Luxor, and indicates a profound study of the inner aspect of the Egyptian civilization. M. Schwaller de Lubicz took the grid used as a canon for drawing the human figure and superimposed it upon a ground plan of the unusually shaped temple of Apet (a birth goddess), and in the process discovered much of interest about the knowledge of the Egyptians and the way they preserved it while veiling its essence. His wife’s contribution bears the same vein of gold—her immense learning and remarkable insights finally being imbodied in two works, the English titles being: Her-Bak, the Living Face of Ancient Egypt, and Her-Bak, Egyptian Initiate. (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1954 and 1967 respectively. The original French editions of both books contain large appendices beautifully illustrated and richly documented, but unfortunately the English edition of volume 2 lacks these.)
Her books are a melding of Egyptian texts and an exposition of their meaning, threaded together by a story involving a farmer boy who is recognized to have latent capacities for training in the Sacred College of Initiates. The work deals with Her-Bak’s education, the first volume treating of the normal school experiences leading into the “Lesser Mysteries”; his response to intimations of a higher teaching brings him to the doors of the “Greater Mysteries,” the subject of the second volume. There the unfoldment of knowledge about life, the universe and man’s self results in wisdom and understanding. He is tested all along the line to ensure that he may be entrusted with knowledge about natural forces—that he will not use the information gained for selfish purposes—culminating in the recognition that Altruism is the mark of a superior being.
In the course of this, the boy has learned that life is a manifestation of the divine presence, obscured for man only by his own self-centered pursuits. As he gains in knowledge, he is told that ambition “does to intuition what a weevil does in a granary,” and that the Egyptian sages have seen the phenomenal world as stages of consciousness in a process of becoming. Her-Bak learns at last that the aim of his training was self-knowledge. “All is in yourself. Know your inmost self and look for what corresponds with it in nature.” Further, that the path of progress through temple-training revolves also around the meaning of ‘ternple,’ which to the ancient Egyptian imbodied the whole of science, knowledge and wisdom. The living temple is man, himself a replica of the macrocosmic principles and functions, the “Neters.”
Mme. Schwaller de Lubicz spent 15 years in Egypt, living among the ruined temples and steeping herself in the ancient culture. By her empathy as well as technical knowledge, she seems to have entered into and understood the idiom of the old times. Only when she felt she had achieved this did she embark on her effort to share her understanding of the overall method used in the Egyptian Mysteries to train the character of the neophytes. Her monumental books correlate the architecture of certain temples where initiations took place, with the ‘blueprint’ of cosmos and the nature of man. Initiation means a new ‘beginning,’ an inner change—not a ceremony that by itself confers a change, for such would be an empty ritual without the prior interior unfoldment of faculty and quality.
Egypt acquires a different face when considered against this background. It was called the Two Lands, not primarily to commemorate a historic event when the warrior Menes unified the divided country, but rather to denote the duality of spirit and matter: on earth, the subjective and objective spheres of activity; in man, his higher and lower selves.
Egyptologists often exclaim about the lack of a nationally coordinated religion in Egypt, stating that there were many sectarian systems of belief derived from various, unconnected sources. May it not be that what the Egyptians visualized as taking place in the cosmos at large they also saw reflected in the history of their nation? From this standpoint, what we regard as the megalomania of Rameses II in his claim of a great victory at Kadesh—really just an indecisive battle—or in the creation of his colossal statues, could be a misreading of what these represented on the solar and human scales: the materialization of cosmic life processes. Or we can take the so-called Memphite Theology, a cosmogony that could well be the prototype of the birth of a universe—or that of a civilization—in the subjective realms of Being, materializing through different epochs as the evolving forces become denser, more involved with matter. In this context, the Pharaoh (literally the ‘Great House’ or vessel of a particular quality prevalent at the time) was a living symbol representing something that as a person he may or may not actually have imbodied in himself. Behind him stood the members of the Sacred College, supervising the ‘buildings’ sealed by the emblematic name they chose for him when he became king.
The brotherhood of wise men provided that remarkable continuity of pattern, design or expression, that has been noted by so many scholars and laymen alike. Their communal identity, continuing through the ages, enabled the Egyptian inheritance to survive invasions and other vicissitudes during its long history. The names of the gods prominent in certain places at various times, which later merged with others, in the beginning designated several aspects of the original cosmic divinities (seen to be intelligent forces), now and again wearing the guises of the new times and conditions.
The Egyptians rejected our own kind of physically-based concept of evolution, claiming instead the ongoing unfoldment of quality and faculty from within: the evolving aspect being “the spiritual factor in creatures, the causes of becoming.” In short, the inherent essence of any entity expresses itself in increasingly more perfected vehicles, the latter resembling the clothes we take off and cast aside when they are worn out. Thus the central emanator of quality, the magnet drawing together the material atoms, was described as “the impersonal being whose voice is the intelligence of the heart.” Or as another author expressed the thought: the self in the center of each entity constantly influences the innermost structure of matter throughout aeons of time, and is that which led (and leads!) to the life forms on every rung of the evolutionary ladder.
The psychology of the Two Lands symbol, or the inner and outer selves of the cosmos and man, may seem a strange distillation from ancient Egyptian history—the use of an event in time to represent a timeless, profound concept about the essence of Being and its manifestations. It may also sound odd to regard temples of stone as seats or dwelling places of cosmic principles, “a projection on Earth of some aspect of the cosmic organism.” But it is not so strange if we bear in mind that each hieroglyph was not only a letter in a word, but also an ideograph, containing meanings for every facet of man’s nature and activities. In this light, the “rhythm of Osiris” was the rhythm of becoming, in which its opposite, that of disbecoming or return is latent.
Her-Bak stresses that the open-hearted see the principles by living the life that unfolds the qualities of the many selves in man—aspects of body, soul and spirit. These aspects of the mythic gods represent qualities in us all, processes we may help forward by orienting to the spiritual north: the center within the heart.
There is a glyph of Osiris as the god at the top of a series of steps; and a text that says: “it is his own ladder that a man must climb”—he must ascend his own nature. If we remember that everything is evolving, and that a divine spark is at the core of every entity, we shall recognize the common bond that binds together all on earth. Altruism is indeed the mark of the superior being, who renounces personal salvation in order to shed light upon all, remaining with mankind until that day when everyone will have grown to be a transparent imbodiment of his own inner Osiris. There is a purpose in every important act of Nature, whose acts are all cyclic and periodical.
—I. M. Oderberg, Sunrise magazine, April 1972
The Radiant Thread of Egyptian Myth
The ancient Egyptians believed that the numerous gods of their pantheon were emanations from the First Cause of all life which, before the moment of the new creation of the universe, rested or was potential in the primeval Waters of Space. It was through these individual gods that the qualities of the divine essence were manifested. They had their own name, figure and special share and duty in the management of the universe, presiding over the production of their particular orders of phenomena and ensuring their regularity. Each of these deities was represented in the vignettes and hieroglyphs in three forms:
1. the purely human figure with attributes peculiar to the god;
2. a human body bearing the head of an animal dedicated to the deity because of some symbolic or biologic resemblance to the powers possessed or expressed by the god; and
3. the same animal depicted with the attributes of the god.
Life, proceeding through the phenomena of birth, death, rebirth or resurrection, and immortality, was the thread connecting many symbolic stories that enriched the mythology of Egypt.
The creation myths bear inner and outer meanings, and although they might appear to differ among themselves, they actually form a single stream of thought. The secrets of their inner interpretation will not yield unless the right keys are applied to their locks, and these keys are to be found in an understanding of their religio-philosophical roots. The temples had a public section, and a private sanctuary comprising many rooms and corridors covered with hieroglyphs that both revealed and yet veiled their essential meaning. For the Egyptian Mysteries—alluded to in guarded fashion by Herodotus, Diogenes Laertius, Diodorus Siculus, and later by Iamblichus and others—imparted their instruction by degrees. But the light of understanding comes only after adequate training in character as well as intellectual comprehension.
The Egyptian myths of creation presented the many entities of the cosmos, world and man as being emanations from the one High God who was and is formless, concealed, unrevealed. In the Osirian cycle, he was the Dark Face of that god, so refulgent with light to lesser beings that he seemed dark, for they could not perceive or comprehend it. Creation thus was seen as a continuing process, and while the main myths dealing with it seem to derive from four rival religions based on the cities we know through their Greek-given names—Memphis, Heliopolis, Hermopolis and Thebes—there is enough internal evidence to suggest they were really phases of one grand ongoing theme.
This was the ensoulment of matter and the latter’s refinement into spirit at the end of an age—”the millions of years.” The Egyptians did not conceive of this present universe as the first one destined to endure forever. Various vignettes, glyphs and texts show, for instance, the symbol of the new Sun being raised at the dawn of creation above the quiescent matter (Nun) of Space (Neith, the ever-fecund Mother of all), regulated by Maat, the “Breath of Life.”
The four main creation myths communicated their inherent message to the people as a whole through dramatic presentations of the cosmic and global development. As the priestly actors in their masks and robes moved in stately procession through the rituals and ceremonies conveying the story of the birth of worlds or men, it was easy for a spectator to project his consciousness into it and thus become identified with its meaning. Hence the importance of the lector-priests, who read the texts aloud and helped the celebrant to moderate the performance so the audience would respond inwardly and deeply.
The Egyptians conceived the universe not as a sudden production, but rather as being organized into existence from the subjective plan in steps, developing gradually into the multifarious operations and phenomena we perceive. The whole civilization was geared to the concept of orderliness, it being the duty of Maat—Justice, Truth and Order—to restore it in the cosmos and on earth whenever harmonious balance became disturbed. “She is the Presence of beginning and end, in all Times and all Worlds, . . .” (Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Her-Bak: The Living Face of Ancient Egypt, pp. 334-44). Thus the land of Egypt and its people were represented as “organized in the image of heaven”; they were the reflection of the subjective realm of being, a paradigm of the whole planet and humanity.
The cycle associated with Heliopolis deals with the first glimmer of divinity in motion: out of the primordial Waters of Space—Chaos—rose Ra, the self-creating Sun; not the physical orb but its divine-spiritual essence. At his rising Ra becomes Atum, and in this aspect emanates the first duality, the twins Shu—both light and air*—and Tefnut, not defined but possibly the ideative aspect of Maat. (*The essences of the elements and not their physical counterparts of earth are meant here.)
“As light [Shu] separates the earth from the sky and as air he upholds the sky vault.” (R. T. Rundle Clark, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, p. 45.) Shu-Tefnut produce Geb (Earth) and Nut (Sky) by this separation, and Geb and Nut in their turn give birth to Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephtys. Set should be seen as the nether pole of Osiris-spirit. He was not the personification of evil as we know this term in Western culture. These last four represent those Neters—the causal powers—operating in nature. They, together with the younger Horus, son of Osiris and Isis, were born successively on the five intercalary days that were added to the ideal year of 360. The birth of these five Neters, taken from the Osirian cycle of myths, does not refer to time as such but to five cosmic planes of increasing materiality, commencing from the most subjective, in which each of them manifested or “ruled.” The range of these planes collectively extended from the border of the Unmanifest into the most substantial realm, that of Set and Nephtys—our globe in the earth scheme, the observable universe on the larger scale.
The Egyptians thought of manifestation as taking place in three main gradations of crystallization that they called “worlds.” There was the celestial world or heaven, the domain or condition of being of the Neters, the inherent qualities in nature. The second sphere was the Duat or Dwat, intermediate between the celestial realm and our more tangible earth. It has been described as the “moment between night and day.” It is the condition when causal forces are in transition from the abstract phase to the material aspects of nature. Because of this it is really a duality, representing the state of an entity’s ‘becoming’ into and ’emerging’ from different sets of qualities or levels of experience. The third world is the concreted, material globe. “It is the world of Ptah—the innate fire of terrestrial matter—who created it, who is its secret motive force and the agent of its future development” (Schwaller de Lubicz, p. 341).
The “Memphite Theology” is a term given to one of the most ancient and profound formulations of creation we possess from Egypt, its origin has been attributed to the enlightened king reputed to have reunited a divided Egypt and known to the Greeks as Menes, or to the order he gave to the new priesthood of Memphis that he set up after he moved the capital from Thinis. This remarkable cosmogony, going back as it surely does to the First Dynasty, exists for us in the restatement commanded by Shabaka about 700 BC. It names Ptah the High God. He emerges out of the primeval Waters which are no longer so inert as previously, becoming the first subjective/objective manifestation. He projects his Heart (the elder Horus, brother of all the sequential gods, including Osiris), and his Voice-Mind (Thoth).
The subjective or concealed aspect of Ptah becomes the active, ‘revealed,’ creative Ptah, Fire “who is upon the great (i.e., Primeval) place” (Clark, pp. 60-1) known in Egyptian symbology as Ptah-Tatenen, the “Primeval Mound” and often depicted by a staff. This mount or mound represents the first appearance of highly subtle or ethereal matter above the Waters. Ptah had an Octad or a family of eight emanations, four pairs of Neters. As Ptah he is the creator of all on earth; as Ptah-Tatenen he is “the first Earth emerging from chaos.” One of the Octad is Atum, “whose divine intelligence is Horus; and whose will is . . . Thoth” (Schwaller de Lubicz, p. 337).
At Hermopolis, Thoth was the Supreme God; he has come farther into manifestation, guiding it through his Octad of Neters, four pairs that produce the more materialized globe newly risen from the still unorganized space and substance that is Nun. This globe is in the form of an egg laid by the cosmic bird of time—a concept remarkably similar to the Upanishadic Kalahansa that also produces the universe in the form of an egg. In the latter case, the swanlike bird is associated with the Unmanifest Brahman, the ideative or architect-creator, as well as Brahma, the objective or active-creator in the form of hansa-vahana or vehicle of the swan. That it moves both in and out of time suggests the Egyptian sun-bird “who illumines the world” (Clark, pp. 56, 74.) and says:
I can see right through to the limits of the darkness, I can behold everything right through to the Primeval Waters. –– Leiden Papyrus (quoted Clark, p. 35)
The egglike globe has now come under the Sun, the essence of Ra and not the visible solar body, who organizes it into the physical world. In other words, Thoth speaks and Horus organizes the “ectypal forms” or facsimiles of the subjective spheres—the patterns of their entities and denizens.
Finally, the Theban version stressed the threefold aspect of the “Creative Principle,” as “Amun-Ra-Ptah, the Three-in-One,” divine, spiritual and material.
During more than fifty centuries, Egyptian ideas about the creation have percolated into other cultures in the Mediterranean area. We perceive their incidence, often under various terms and turns of phrase, in the religious heritage of that part of the globe. Their influence has even penetrated into our own, Westernized cultural patterns.
In addition to the four main creation myths enumerated here, we receive an extraordinary inheritance from ancient Egypt through Grecianized Alexandria. It is known nowadays as the Corpus Hermeticum* and consists mainly of Greek and some Latin translations of material attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, Hermes the “Thrice-Great,” not a former philosopher-king but the god himself. A few of them long pieces, the rest are fragments our scholars have extracted from classic authors and also from early Church Fathers who bitterly opposed these writings and quoted from them in their attacks. Because some of the phraseology rings of Neoplatonic and early Christian expressions, such scholars as Festugiere, Ferguson, Scott and Walton dismiss these scriptures as a relatively late production, though they extol the contents. However, the kernel of the myths themselves shows unmistakable connections with the oldest Egyptian thought. When Ptolemy Philadelphus pushed forward the development of the Alexandrian Library, he called for translations of all the major cultural works into Greek from the non-Greek languages. We can reasonably assume this work continued until the Library was destroyed in the fifth century AD.
There is no wonder that at various times these texts have stirred students to a high pitch of enthusiasm—a word meaning for Plato the “inspiration” stimulated by a god, now interpreted as an ardent excitement or interest. Full of a sublime ethics and glowing picture of the causative aspect of life and its phenomena, the Hermetic writings give an unveiled insight into the creation of our world, and indeed the cosmos at large, through the mediatorship of Thoth. The benign god whose interest it is to raise mankind to a higher level of humanhood than it now manifests, was identified by the Greeks with their Hermes. He is represented as the Divine Mind, “incarnated thought,” as one commentator describes him: “the living Word, the primitive type of the Logos of Plato and the Word of the Christians.” He was the firstborn son of the Great God; at once the Divine Mind and Word whose instrumentality brought the cosmos into being. A very old text says in effect: In the beginning was Thoth; and Thoth was in Atum; and Thoth was Atum in the unfathomable reaches of primordial space.
In Egyptian terms, Thoth was considered
to be the “heart” and “tongue” of Ra the Supreme—that is, not only the reason and mental powers of the god Ra, and the means whereby they were translated into speech, but rather the Controller of the life and Instrument of the utterance of the Supreme Will; He was the Logos in the fullest sense of that mysterious name, the Creative Word.—G. R. S. Mead, Thrice-Greatest Hermes, 1:44
The concept of all that Thoth stands for runs like a golden thread through all of the manifestations of the creative spirit contained in Egyptian mythology. He is the Divine Mind transmitted via the halls of the Alexandrian Library and its wise men into the opening verses of the Fourth Gospel as its Word, Logos or Verbum. The Pymander or Poimandres text of the Hermetica presents its uplifting description of the creation as an ongoing universal happening, clothing ancient Egyptian ideas in the then modern, musical language of Ptolemaic and post-Ptolemaic Greek. It also tells of man’s sevenfold composition, each quality contributed by a deity; of the after-death journey when the soul sheds the elements composing its vestures, one by one at the relevant planetary stops until reaching the purificatory auricles of the spiritual Sun, clearing the ventricles for the return to earth, en route magnetically re-attracting the element-qualities that will compose its vestures again.
In the Mysteries, the culminating splendor was said to be the meeting face-to-face with one’s Higher Self, and deities. In Pymander, the narrator, “son” of Thoth, has such a guerdon:
Once, when I had begun to think about the things that are, and my thoughts had soared . . . I thought I beheld a presence of immeasurable greatness that called my name and said to me: “What do you wish to hear and see, and to learn and come to know by thought?” “Who are you?” I said. “I,” said he, “am Poimandres, Nous [Mind] of the Sovereignty [or Absolute Power].” I said: “I desire to be taught about the things that are, and understand their nature and know God. . . .” And he replied: “I know what you wish, for indeed I am with you everywhere; keep in mind all that you desire to learn, and I will teach you.”
With these words, he changed his form, and suddenly everything was opened before me in a flash, and I beheld a boundless view, everything become light, a mild and joyous light. And I became enamored with the sight.”*
Then he beheld the darkness of the Unmanifest, the stirring in the waters of substance, the birth from within the heart of Space of the energies matterizing to make the worlds. This exaltation of view transmuted and transformed the narrator so that he became the veritable “son” of the ensouled Wisdom of the spiritual side of nature. He had “Osirified” his previously barren existence with the green shoots of a new birth. He has Self-created himself.
[*I have melded the translations of Hans Jonas in his The Gnostic Religion (p. 148) and of Walter Scott in his Hermetica (I, 115). I have been greatly indebted to a number of other works, especially Isis Unveiled by H. P. Blavatsky; various works by Sir Wallis Budge; translations of the Pert em Hru (Book of the Dead), and the definitive edition of the Hermetica texts: Hermes Tresmegistus, text, translations into French and notes by A. J. Festugiere from A. D. Nock’s edition.]
—I. M. Oderberg, Sunrise magazine, November, 1976
Light from Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians conceived man and kosmos to be dual: firstly, the High God or Divine Mind arose out of the Primeval Waters of space at the beginning of manifestation*; secondly, the material aspect expressing what is in the Divine Mind must be in a process of ever-becoming. In other words, the kosmos consists of body and soul. Man emanated in the image of divinity is similarly dual and his evolutionary goal is a fully conscious return to the Divine Mind.
* Space, symbolized by the Primeval Waters, contains the seeds and possibilities of all living things in their quiescent state. At the right moment for awakenment, all will take up forms in accordance with inherent qualities. Or to express it in another way: the Word uttered by the Divine Mind calls manifested life to begin once more.
Growth is effected through a succession of lives, a concept that is found in texts and implied in symbolism. Herodotus, the Greek historian (5th century B.C.), wrote that:
the Egyptians were the first to teach that the human soul is immortal, and at the death of the body enters into some other living thing then coming to birth; and after passing through all creatures of land, sea, and air (which cycle it completes in three thousand years) it enters once more into a human body, at birth.
The theory of reincarnation is often ascribed to Pythagoras, since he spent some time in Egypt studying its philosophy and, according to Herodotus (bk. ii, § 123), “adopted this opinion as if it were his own.”
Dr. Margaret A. Murray, who worked with Professor Flinders Petrie, illustrates the Egyptian belief by referring to the ka-names* of three kings; the first two of the twelfth dynasty: that of Amonemhat I means “He who repeats births,” Senusert I: “He whose births live,” and the ka-name of Setekhy I of the nineteenth dynasty was “Repeater of births.” (The Splendour That Was Egypt, 1949; p. 211)
* The ka-name relates to the vital essence of an individual.
Reincarnation has been connected with the rites of Osiris, one of the Mysteries or cycles of initiation perpetuated in Egypt. The concept of transformation as recorded in the Egyptian texts has been interpreted in various ways. De Briere expresses it in astronomical terms: “The sensitive soul re-entered by the gate of the gods, or the Capricorn, into the Amenthe, the watery heavens, where it dwelt always with pleasure; until, descending by the gate of men, or the Cancer, it came to animate a new body.”1
Herodotus writes of transmigration, i.e., that the soul passes through various animals before being reborn in human form. This refers not to the human soul but to the molecules, atoms, and other components that clothe it. They gravitate to vehicles similar in qualities to their former host’s, drawn magnetically to the new milieu by the imprint made by the human soul, whether it be fine or gross. It is quite clear from the Book of the Dead and other texts that the soul itself after death undergoes experiences in the Duat (Dwat) or Underworld, the realm and condition between heaven and earth, or beneath the earth, supposedly traversed by the sun from sunset to sunrise.
The evolution of consciousness is symbolized by the Solar Barque moving through the Duat. In this context the “hours” of travel represent stages of development. Bika Reed states that at a certain “hour” the individual meets the “Rebel in the Soul,”2 that is, at the “hour of spiritual transformation.” And translating from the scroll Reed gives: “the soul warns, only if a man is allowed to continue evolving, can the intellect reach the heart.”
One text recently translated as part of a doctoral thesis by Leonard H. Lesko is entitled The Ancient Egyptian Book of Two Ways. Not only does this scripture deal with rituals assumed to apply to after-death conditions—in some respects similar to the Book of the Dead—but also it seems quite patently a ritual connected with initiation from one level of self-becoming to another. Lesko regards his work as a pioneering effort. He found his difficulty in translating and interpreting the texts compounded by the inclusion of “earlier material which often degenerated through the errors of copyists” (p. 3). Nevertheless the picture that emerges is that of the “deceased” or candidate for initiation reaching a fork offering two paths called “The Two Paths of Liberation” and, while each may take the neophyte to the abode of the Akhu (the “Blessed”)—a name for the gods, and also for the successful initiates—they involve different experiences. One path, passing over land and water, is that of Osiris or cyclic nature and involves many incarnations. The other way leads through fire in a direct or shortened passage along the route of Horus who in many texts symbolizes the divine spark in the heart.
In the Corpus Hermeticum,* Thoth—Tehuti—was the Mind of the Deity, whom the Alexandrian Greeks identified with Hermes. For example, one of the chief books in the Hermetica is the Poimandres treatise, or Pymander. The early trinity Atum-Ptah-Thoth was rendered into Greek as theos (god)—demiourgos or demourgos-nous (Demiurge or Demiurgic Mind)—nous and logos (Mind and Word). The text states that Thoth, after planning and engineering the kosmos, unites himself with the Demiurgic Mind. There are other expressions proving that the Poimandres text is a Hellenized version of Egyptian doctrine. An important concept therein is that of “making-new-again.” The treatise claims that all animal and vegetable forms contain in themselves “the seed of again-becoming”—a clear reference to reimbodiment—”every birth of flesh ensouled . . . shall of necessity renew itself.” G. R. S. Mead interprets this as palingenesis or reincarnation—”the renewal on the karmic wheel of birth-and-death.” (Thrice-Greatest Hermes, 1: 94; 2:55.)
* The Corpus Hermeticum or Books of Hermes are believed by some scholars to have been borrowed from Christian texts, but their concepts are definitely ancient Egyptian in origin, translated into Alexandrian Greek, and Latin.
Let us look at Walter Scott’s translation of Poimandres. (Hermetica: The Ancient Greek and Latin Writings which Contain Religious or Philosophic Teachings Ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, 1:517.) Book 1, § 24 states that “At the dissolution of your material body, you first yield up the body itself to be changed,” and it will be absorbed by nature. The rest of the individual’s components return to “their own sources, becoming parts of the universe, and entering into fresh combinations to do other work.” After this, the real or inner man “mounts upward through the structure of the heavens,” leaving off in each of the seven zones certain energies and related substances. The first zone is that of the Moon; the second, the planet Mercury; the third, Venus; fourth, the Sun; fifth, Mars; sixth, Jupiter; and seventh, Saturn. “Having been stripped of all that was wrought upon him” in his previous descent into incarnation on Earth, he ascends to the highest sphere, “being now possessed of his own proper power.” Finally, he enters into divinity. “This is the Good; this is the consummation, for those who have got gnosis.” (According to Scott, gnosis in this context means not only knowledge of divinity but also the relationship between man’s real self and the godhead.)
Further on, in Book X, § 17 the Poimandres explains that the mind and soul can be conjoined only by means of an earth-body, because the mind by itself cannot do so, and an earthly body would not be able to endure “the presence of that mighty and immortal being, nor could so great a power submit to contact with a body defiled by passion. And so the mind takes to itself the soul for a wrap” (Scott translation).
In Hermetica, Excerpt XXIII, Isis to Horus, there is the statement:
. . . . For there are [in the world above, two gods] who are attendants of the Providence that governs all. One of them is Keeper of souls; the other is Conductor of souls. The Keeper is he that has in his charge the unembodied souls; the Conductor is he that sends down to earth the souls that are from time to time embodied, and assigns to them their several places. And both he that keeps watch over the souls, and he that sends them forth, act in accordance with God’s will.
There are many texts using the term “transformations” and a good commentary on the concept by R. T. Rundle Clark follows:
In order to reach the heights of the sky the soul had to undergo those transformations which the High God had gone through as he developed from a spirit in the Primeval Waters to his final position as Sun God . . .”—Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, 1959, p. 31
This would appear to mean that in entering upon physical manifestation human souls follow the path of the divine and spiritual artificers of the universe.
There is reason to believe that the after-death adventures met with by the soul through the Duat or Underworld were also undergone by a neophyte during initiation. If the trial ends in success, the awakened human being thereafter speaks with the authority of direct experience. In the most ancient days of Egypt, such an initiate was called a “Son of the Sun” for he embodied the solar splendor. For the rest of mankind, the way is slower, progressing certainly, but more gradually, through many lives. The ultimate achievement is the same: to radiate the highest qualities of the spiritual element locked within the aspiring soul.
—I. M. Oderberg, Sunrise magazine, April/May 1985
1 . Quoted in Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, by James Bonwick, 1956 reprint; p. 80.
2. Rebel in the Soul, a sacred text of ancient Egypt, trans. and commentary by Bika Reed of the Berlin Papyrus 3024, 1978; pp. 10, 114. The text was first translated by Adolph Erman (into German) in 1896 as “A Man Tired of Life in Dispute with his Soul.” Dr. Helmuth Jacobsohn, a Jungian psychologist and Egyptologist, examined the text critically and in Timeless Documents of the Soul (1968), published his own translation and commentary as “The Dialogue of a World-Weary Man with his Ba.” He concluded that the author of the text rejected suicide rather than taking that course as some Egyptologists had claimed. Written in the hieratic or priestly language, Dr. Jacobsohn indicated the scroll was really about the unio mystica or “mystical union” of the soul with a god. Bika Reed perceives the scroll to be an “initiatic text.”
The Papyrus of Ani—Initiation and the After-Life
By Gerald J. Schueler
The idea that man has an immortal spiritual nature, or at least an ethereal body which survives death, has been expressed over the centuries in many ways. An important corollary to this idea is the existence of a series of planes or worlds originating in spiritual heights and increasing in materiality until our earth, the lowest and most concrete, is reached. Furthermore, man has a series of subtle bodies corresponding to those planes: a physical body on the physical plane, a mental body on the mental plane, and so on.
Consciousness survives death and undergoes experiences in appropriate after-death states which are the effects of karma made during life. In order to prepare for these after-death experiences without dying, a process of training was developed known as initiation. In the ancient world it apparently took the form of a “drama” wherein the candidate for initiation into the Mysteries was led through a series of encounters of psychic and spiritual dimension. Stories and drawings of people being led through the underworld were also scripts for initiation ceremonies. G. de Purucker explains:
Initiation is a kind of temporary ‘death’ of all the lower man, ‘a sleep’ of the lower psychological nature, and a magical awakening to an intense awareness of the higher psychological part upon which is then radiating the inner light of the man’s monadic consciousness. — Fountain-Source of Occultism, pp. 608-9
Initiation is thus a means whereby one may become aware of the inner planes or worlds into which we enter nightly in sleep and periodically in death. In brief, the process of initiation, while otherwise similar to death and sleep, is undergone in full consciousness and with memory intact.
Perhaps one of the best known portrayals of the after-death states is that of the ancient Egyptians. They believed that everyone was judged in a place called Amentet. In the Papyrus of Ani, for example, the scribe Ani in his ethereal body (ka)is shown entering Amentet. Here the jackal-headed god, Anubis, son of Osiris and Nephthys, operates a large balance in which Ani’s heart, symbolizing his past thoughts and deeds, is being weighed against a feather. This evaluation must occur before he can receive a “divine heart” in the higher planes. The feather is symbolic of justice and truth personified by the goddess Maat, who corresponds to karma in its universal (macrocosmic) and individual (microcosmic) aspects, both of which are implicit in the term maati. The heart (ab)stands for the personality which links the emotions of the ka with the thoughts of the ba (soul or higher mind). (The ka corresponds to kama-rupa, the desire-body of theosophy; the ab to kama-manas, the desire-mind; and the ba to buddhi-manas, the illumined mind.)
Above Ani and the balance is the Company of the Gods, presiding over this evaluation, while on the other side of the balance the ibis-headed Thoth records the result. Thoth is the god of wisdom, consort of the goddess Maat. Behind Thoth waits an unusual creature called Amemit, which seeks to gain “forceful mastery” over the deceased. Amemit has the forepart of a crocodile, the midsection of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus. His name can mean “the hunger of the dead,” imbodiment of insatiable desire. This monster of his own fears and passions the deceased must face and conquer or it will surely conquer him.
This scene depicts not only the experiences encountered in Amentet by the deceased scribe Ani, but also symbolizes initiation. In this ritual a candidate must temporarily leave his physical body (khat)and travel in his ethereal body (ka)to Amentet, where he undergoes the evaluation process. If he prevails, he becomes one with Osiris, presiding god of the cycle of rebirth. (This function is implicit in the meaning of the term asar from which the name Osiris is derived.) Like Osiris, Ani thus becomes consciously reborn.
The legend near Ani reads:
To be spoken by the Osirified Ani: / My heart (ab), my mother, my heart, my mother, / My outer-heart (hati-ab) that I have transformed; / Rise up for me in the form of potentiality. / Return to me before the divine Chiefs (Tchatchau).* / Cause no burden for me in the presence of the Guardian of the Balance (Anubis). / You are my ka which dwells in my body and joins in strength my body-components. / May you come forth to the place of beauty and harmony without impediment, in my name of Shenit,** / That I may maintain speech with the god of beauty and harmony. / May you hear this. — Pert em Hru, ch. XXXB (literally “Coming Forth into the Day; the title Book of the Dead was given to this collection of papyri by modern Egyptologists).
*E. A. Wallis Budge translation: “May there not be resistance to me in the judgment. / May there not be repulse to me by the Divine Chiefs.” The Egyptian Book of the Dead, p. 11.
**The Shenit were special ministers to the king. According to Budge they were the “officials of the Court of Osiris” (Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, vol. 1, p. 333). However, a deeper meaning can be obtained from the glyphs, because shenit contains shen (cycle) and ser (prince or great man). The hieroglyph therefore can mean “cycles of the prince,” where prince, like mother, is a glyph for the reincarnating ego.
The judgment in Amentet is a prerequisite to going further. Only one whose heart is as pure as truth (maat)can go beyond this stage into higher planes or worlds.
Thoth, the Recorder, stands opposite Ani, writing down the outcome. The caption near him says:
To be spoken by Thoth, Opener of Truth, / to the Great Company of the Gods who are in the presence of Osiris: / May you hear these words that exist in truth / concerning the Evaluation according to the heart of the Osirified. / His soul (ba)rose up in the form of potentiality (testimony) for / him at the time of Truth on the Great Balance. / He was found not to have done any evil. / No unfulfilled desires nourished him. / His Source of Light has not been split up. / He has not been affected by the transition. / He will be subject to you until he can exist as a Master of the Earth.
The heart (ab)of the candidate is found to be pure and the karmic residue of his life can rise beyond his ka to his ba. Had impurities been present, the karmic residue (potentialities for further experience) would have been too heavy to rise and would have tipped the scales in the wrong direction.
Upon the balance sits the dog-headed Ape of Thoth. Because Thoth is divine intelligence, his “ape,” the distorted image of divine intelligence, is human intelligence, the logic and reason of the human mind.
The Company of the Gods then make the following declaration in unison to Thoth:
That which has come forth from your mouth is true concerning the potentiality of the Osirified Scribe Ani, who is truth-speaking. / He has done no evil. / He has made no infringement against us. / He has not allowed Amemit forcefully to master him here. / May he be nourished and allowed to come forth into the presence of Osiris in the realm established in Sekhet-Hetepet (“Fields of Peace and Nourishment”) appropriate for the followers of Horus.
This pronouncement by the Company of the Gods allows the candidate to advance to the next stage, the confrontation with Osiris, Lord of Amentet. The god Horus, son of Osiris and Isis, now leads Ani to the throne of Osiris. Horus addresses his father and says that the weighing was done in accordance with divine law and the candidate found to be without evil. At this point the Osirified Ani must speak in his own defense. He says to Osiris:
May you allow me into your presence, O Divine Lord of Amentet. No defects are in my body nor in my speech [to prevent me from] maintaining full consciousness. / None! None! / May there be given to me an existence like that of the Favored Ones who dwell with you, O Osiris. / May I be greatly favored by the beautiful god, and loved by the Lord of the Two Lands.
To summarize, the ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation (Osiris) and karma (Maat), and in an after-death judgment (Anubis) of one’s life record (Thoth), followed by the assimilation of the personality (ab). They held that when consciousness left the body (khat) at death in a subtle body (ka), came face to face with its own unfulfilled desires (Amemit). It was their contention that the after-death state (Neter-khert) was characterized by powerful forces of dissociation (Set) and incoherence (Apep), counterbalanced by complementary forces of cohesion and creativity (Isis). If left alone, most people would succumb to these forces and lose consciousness. The entire after-death state, completely karmic in nature, would thereby be passed in a dreamlike swoon and rebirth would take place with the past life totally forgotten. But they also believed that the deceased need not undergo these processes alone. If worthy, he could be aided by telepathic communion with a Kher-heb priest still on earth, who reminds him of his true spiritual essence (Horus), of that higher counterpart of himself that does not die (Osiris) and is not subject to the awesome forces that now surround him (Nephthys). The objective, which is fully attainable only by the most advanced, is to maintain continuity of consciousness throughout the process and to be reborn with clear memory of the past life. One who successfully achieved this was called a “Master of the Earth.”
Although few of us today worry about meeting deities or monsters, perhaps the teachings of the Egyptians are not as outdated as they may first appear. Ancient tradition holds that sleep and death are brothers. If so, then the meeting with Amemit has its counterpart in the phenomenon of the nightmare, and the weighing process of Anubis has its counterpart in the nightly workings of the human conscience, where Thoth assumes the form of our memory and the Ape of Thoth appears as our rationalizations.
According to the Egyptians, the only way to pass safely through these awesome processes is to prepare oneself for them during life. Initiations such as that described for Ani were an essential part of Egyptian culture and the insights gained contributed to the longevity of that nation. These insights were not mere accumulations of external data, but rather the bringing forth into conscious expression of the aspirant’s divine potential. Initiation is not to be undertaken lightly, for it requires long years, usually lifetimes, of preparation before one can successfully undergo even the preliminary trials. Only he who is totally without soul-defect can be Osirified. It is the sublime goal of the candidate one day to become a Master of the Earth so that he in turn may help others join the Company of the Gods.
— Sunrise magazine, April/May 1982