* Typed and edited by Juan Schoch. It was Vitvan’s wish to reprint the complete works of Gerald Massey (i.e. see The Problem of Good and Evil). Alvin Boyd Kuhn in The Lost Meaning of Death says of Massey that he was “the sole Egyptologist in the ranks of scholars who measurably understood what the sages of Egypt were talking about”, saying in passing, “that the renowned Egyptologists have missed the import of that body of sublime material utterly. Massey came nearer the inner sanctuary of understanding than any other.” This disclaimer is not to be removed. Any donations, support, comments are not only wanted but welcome. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. I include this message in the case that it be your will to contribute something, i.e. for continuance of the work, i.e., for easier access to more information, seeking out and purchasing of books, donating of textual materials, etc. Thank you and much exuberance. Ref: Juan Schoch > members.tripod.com/~pc93 > www.enlightenment-engine.net > Join gnosis284! - Send e-mail to: email@example.com
I have written other books, but this I look on as the exceptional labour which has made my life worth living. Comparatively speaking, “A Book of the Beginnings” (London, 1881) was written in the dark, “The Natural Genesis” (London, 1883) was written in the twilight, whereas “Ancient Egypt” has been written in the light of day. The earlier books were met in England with the truly orthodox conspiracy of silence. Nevertheless, four thousand volumes have got into circulation somewhere or other up and down the reading world, where they are slowly working in their unacknowledged way. Probably the present book will be appraised at home in proportion as it comes back piecemeal from abroad, from Germany, or France, or maybe from the Country of the Rising Sun.
To all dear lovers of the truth the writer now commends the verifiable truths that wait for recognition in these pages. Truth is all-potent with its silent power
Before you hear the thunder.
For myself, it is enough to know that in despite of many hindrances from straitened circumstances, chronic ailments, and the deepening shadows of encroaching age, my book is printed, and the subject-matter that I cared for most is now entrusted safely to the keeping of John Gutenberg, on this my nine-and-seventieth birthday.
SIGN-LANGUAGE AND MYTHOLOGY AS PRIMITIVE MODES OF REPRESENTATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
TOTEMISM, TATTOO AND FETISHISM AS FORMS OF SIGN-LANGUAGE . . .
ELEMENTAL AND ANCESTRAL SPIRITS, OR THE GODS AND THE GLORIFIED .
EGYPTIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD AND THE MYSTERIES OF AMENTA . . .
THE FLAMING SWORD WHICH GUARDED THE TREE . . . . . . . . . .
HORUS BRUISING THE SERPENT’S HEAD . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
SIGN-LANGUAGE AND MYTHOLOGY AS PRIMITIVE
MODES OF REPRESENTATION
THE other day a lad from London who had been taken to the seaside for the first time in his life was standing with his mother looking at the rolling breakers tossing and tumbling in upon the sands, when he was heard to exclaim, “Oh, mother, who is it chucking them heaps o’ water about?” This expression showed the boy’s ability to think of the power that was “doing it” in the human likeness. But, then, ignorant as he might be, he was more or less the heir to human faculty as it is manifested in all its triumphs over external nature at the present time. Now, it has been and still is a prevalent and practically universal assumption that the same mental standpoint might have been occupied by primitive man, and a like question asked in presence of the same or similar phenomena of physical nature. Nothing is more common or more unquestioned than the inference that primitive man would or could have asked, “Who is doing it?” and that the Who could have been personified in the human likeness. Indeed, it has become an axiom with modern metaphysicians and a postulate of the anthropologists that, from the beginning, man imposed his own human image upon external nature; that he personified its elemental energies and fierce physical forces after his own likeness; also that this was in accordance with the fundamental character and constitution of the human mind. To adduce a few examples taken almost at random:—David Hume declares that “there is a universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves.” In support of which he instances the seeing of human faces in the moon. Reid on the Active Powers (4th Essay) says our first thoughts are that “the objects in which we perceive motion have understanding and power as we have.” Francis Bacon had long before remarked that we human beings “set stamps and seals of our own images upon God’s creatures and works.” (Exp. History.) Herbert Spencer argued that human personality applied to the powers of nature was the primary mode of representation, and that the identification of this with some natural force or object is due to identity of name. (Data of Sociology, ch. XXIV, 184.) “In early philosophy throughout the world,” says Mr. Tylor, “the
sun and moon are alive and as it were human in their nature.” Professor Max Müller, who taught that Mythology was a disease of language, and that the Myths have been made out of words which had lost their senses, asserts that “the whole animal world has been conceived as a copy of our own. And not only the animal world, but the whole of nature was liable to be conceived and named by an assimilation to human nature.” (Science of Thought, p. 503.) And “such was the propensity in the earliest men of whom we have any authentic record to see personal agency in everything,” that it could not be otherwise, for “there was really no way of conceiving or naming anything objective except after the similitude of the subjective, or of ourselves.” (Ib., p. 495.) Illustration of this modern position might be indefinitely multiplied. The assumption has been supported by a consensus of assertion, and here, as elsewhere, the present writer is compelled to doubt, deny, and disprove the popular postulate of the accepted orthodox authorities.
That, said the lion, is your version of the story: let us be the sculptor’s, and for one lion under the feet of a man you shall see a dozen men beneath the pad of one lion.
“Myth-making man” did not create the Gods in his own image. The primary divinities of Egypt, such as Sut, Sebek, and Shu, three of the earliest, were represented in the likeness of the Hippopotamus, the Crocodile, and the Lion; whilst Hapi was imaged as an Ape, Anup as a Jackal, Ptah as a Beetle, Taht as an Ibis, Seb as a Goose. So was it with the Goddesses. They are the likenesses of powers that were Super-human, not human. Hence Apt was imaged as a Water-cow, Hekat as a Frog, Tefnut as a Lioness, Serkh as a Scorpion, Rannut as a Serpent, Hathor as a Fruit-tree. A huge mistake has hitherto been made in assuming that the Myth-Makers began by fashioning the Nature-Powers in their own human likeness. Totemism was formulated by myth-making man with types that were the very opposite of human, and in mythology the Anthropomorphic representation was preceded by the whole menagerie of Totemic Zootypes.
The idea of Force, for instance, was not derived from the thews and muscles of a Man. As the Kamite Sign-Language shows, the Force that was “chucking them heaps of water about” was perceived to be the wind; the Spirit that moved upon the face of the waters from the beginning. This power was divinised in Shu, the God of breathing Force, whose zootype is the Lion as a fitting figure of this panting Power of the Air. The element audible in the howling wind, but dimly apprehended otherwise, was given shape and substance as the roaring Lion in this substitution of similars. The Force of the element was equated by the power of the Animal; and no human thews and sinews could compare with those of the Lion as a figure of Force. Thus the Lion speaks for itself, in the language of Ideographic Signs. And in this way the Gods and Goddesses of ancient Egypt were at first portrayed as Superhuman Powers by means of living Superhuman types.
If primitive man had projected the shadow of himself upon external nature, to shape its elemental forces in his own image, or if the unfeatured Vast had unveiled to him any likeness of the human face,
then the primary representation of the Nature-Powers (which became the later divinities) ought to have been anthropomorphic, and the likeness reflected in the mirror of the most ancient mythologies should have been human. Whereas the Powers and Divinities were first represented by animals, birds, and reptiles, or, to employ a word that includes all classes, they were portrayed by means of zootypes. The Sun and Moon were not considered “human in their nature” when the one was imaged as a Crocodile, a Lion, a Bull, a Beetle, or a Hawk, and the other as a Hare, a Frog, an Ape, or an Ibis, as they are represented in the Egyptian hieroglyphics by means of the zootypes. Until Har-Ur, the Elder Horus, had been depicted as the Child in place of the Calf or Lamb, the Fish, or Shoot of the Papyrus-plant (which was comparatively late), there was no human figure personalised in the Mythology of Egypt.
Primitive or Paleolithic Man was too beggarly poor in possessions to dream of shaping the Superhuman Powers of Nature in the human likeness. There is one all-sufficient reason why he did not; he simply could not. And it is precisely because the Makers of the Myths had not the power to animate the universe in their own likeness that we have the zoomorphic mode of representation as the Sign-Language of Totemism and Mythology. On every line of research we discover that the representation of nature was pre-anthropomorphic at first, as we see on going back far enough, and on every line of descent the zoomorphic passes ultimately into the human representation. Modern metaphysicians have so developed the faculty of abstraction and the disease of Subjectivity that their own mental operations offer no true guidance for generalisations concerning primitive or early man, who thought in things and almost apprehended with the physical sense alone.
They overlook the fact that imaging by means of object-pictures preceded the imagining so often ascribed to primitive men. These did not busy themselves and bother their brains with all sorts of vagrant fancies instead of getting an actual grasp of the homeliest facts. It was not “Primitive Man” but two German metaphysicians who were looking out of window at a falling shower of rain when one of them remarked, “Perhaps it is I who am doing that.” “Or I,” chimed in the other.
The present writer once had a cat before whom he placed a sheet of polished tin. The cat saw herself reflected as in a mirror, and looked for a short time at her own image. So far as sight and appearance went, this might have been another cat. But she proceeded to apply the comparative process and test one sense by another, deliberately smelling at the likeness to find out if any cat was there. She did not sit down as a non-verifying visionary to formulate hypotheses or conjure up the ghost of a cat. Her sense of smell told her that as a matter of fact there was no other cat present; therefore she was not to be misled by a false appearance, in which she took no further interest. That, we may infer, was more like the action of Primitive Man, who would find no human likeness behind the phenomena of external nature. Indeed, man was so generally represented by the animals that the appearance could be mistaken for a primitive belief that the animals were his ancestors. But the powers
first perceived in external nature were not only unlike the human; they were very emphatically and distinctly more than human, and therefore could not be adequately expressed by features recognisable as merely human. Primitive men were all too abjectly helpless in presence of these powers to think of them or to conceive them in their own similitude. The one primordial and most definite fact of the whole matter was the distinct and absolute unlikeness to themselves. Also they themselves were too little the cause of anything by the work of their own hands to enter into the sphere of causation mentally. They could only apprehend the nature-forces by their effects, and try to represent these by means of other powers that were present in nature, but which were also necessarily superior to the human and were not the human faculties indefinitely magnified. The human being could only impress his own image on external nature in proportion to his mastery over natural conditions. He could not have figured the Thunder-bolt as a Stone-axe in the hands of a destroying Power until he himself had made and could wield the axe of stone as the weapon of his own power. But he could think of it in the likeness of the Serpent already known to him in external nature as a figure of fatal force.
An ignorant explanation of the Egyptian Sign-Language was begun by the Greeks, who could not read the hieroglyphics. It was repeated by the Romans, and has been perpetuated by “Classical Scholars” ever since. But, as the interpreter of Egypt, that kind of scholastic knowledge is entirely obsolete. Ignorance of primitive sign-language has been and is a fertile source of false belief. For example, Juvenal asks, “Who does not know what kind of monsters Egypt insanely worships?” (Sat., 15, 1.) And having seen or heard of the long-tailed Ape in an Egyptian temple, the satirist assumed without question that this animal was set up as an object of worship. He did not know that the Ape itself was the worshipper, as an image in Sign-Language and as the Saluter of the Gods. Ani, the name of this particular Ape, denotes the Saluter, and to salute was an Egyptian gesture of adoration. The Ape or Cynocephalus with its paws uplifted is the typical worshipper as Saluter of the Light. It was, and still is, looked upon in Africa generally as a pre-human Moon-worshipper, who laments and bewails the disappearance of its night-light and rejoices at the renewal and return of that luminary. (Hor-Apollo, B. I, 14. Also Captain Burton, in a letter to the author.) In the Vignettes to the Ritual, Ani the Ape is the Saluter of the rising Sun, that is of Ra, upon the Mount of Sunrise. One of the most profound perversions of the past has been made in misapprehending this primitive sign-language for what is designated “Worship,” whether as “Sun-Worship,” “Serpent-Worship,” “Tree-Worship,” or “Phallic-Worship.” The Tree, for example, is a type, but the type is not necessarily an object of worship, as misunderstood by those who do not read the types when these are rooted in the ground of natural fact. The forest-folk were dwellers in the trees, or in the bush. The tree that gave them food and shelter grew to be an object of regard. Hence it became a type of the Mother-Earth as the birthplace and abode. Hence Hathor was the hut or house of Horus (Har) in the tree. But worship is a word of cant employed by writers who are
ignorant of sign-language in general. Such phrases as “Stock-and-stone worship” explain nothing and are worse than useless. The Mother and Child of all mythology are represented in the Tree and Branch. The Tree was a type of the abode, the Roof-tree; the Mother of food and drink; the giver of life and shelter; the wet-nurse in the dew or rain; the producer of her offspring as the branch and promise of periodic continuity. Was it the Tree then the Egyptians worshipped, or the Giver of food and shelter in the Tree? On the Apis Stele in the Berlin Museum two priests are saluting the Apis-Bull. This is designated “Apis-worship.” But the Apis carries the Solar Disk betwixt its horns. This also is being saluted. Which then is the object of worship? There are two objects of religious regard, but neither is the object of adoration. That is the God in spirit who was represented as the Soul of life in the Sun and in the Tree, also by the fecundating Bull. In this and a thousand other instances it is not a question of worship but of sign-language.
Nor did Mythology spring from fifty or a hundred different sources, as frequently assumed. It is one as a system of representation, one as a mould of thought, one as a mode of expression, and all its great primordial types are virtually universal. Neither do the myths that were inherited and repeated for ages by the later races of men afford any direct criterion to the intellectual status of such races. A mythical representation may be savage without those who preserve it being savages. When the Egyptians in the time of Unas speak of the deities devouring souls it is no proof of their being cannibals at the time. Mythology has had an almost limitless descent. It was in a savage or crudely primitive state in the most ancient Egypt, but the Egyptians who continued to repeat the Myths did not remain savages. The same mythical mode of representing nature that was probably extant in Africa 100,000 years ago survives to-day amongst races who are no longer the producers of the Myths and Märchen than they are of language itself. Egyptian mythology is the oldest in the world, and it did not begin as an explanation of natural phenomena, but as a representation by such primitive means as were available at the time. It does not explain that the Sun is a Hawk or the Moon a Cat, or the solar God a Crocodile. Such figures of fact belong to the symbolical mode of rendering in the language of animals or zootypes. No better definition of “Myth” or Mythology could be given than is conveyed by the word “Sem” in Egyptian. This signifies representation on the ground of likeness. Mythology, then, is “representation on the ground of likeness,” which led to all the forms of sign-language that could ever be employed. The matter has been touched upon in previous volumes, but for the purpose of completeness it has to be demonstrated in the present work that external nature was primarily imaged in the pre-human likeness. It was the same here as in external nature: the animals came first, and the predecessors of Man are primary in Sign-Language, Mythology, and Totemism.