The Egyptians gave a primary and permanent expression to the dumb thought of the non-speaking, sign-making races that preceded them in the old African home. But they did not begin by personifying any vague infinite with a definite face and form, nor by worshipping an abstraction which is but the shadow of a shade, and not the image of any substance known. In the Book of the Dead (ch. 144) the adorations are addressed to the Great Mother Sekhet-Bast as the supreme being, she who was uncreated by the gods and who was worshipped as the “Only One”; she who existed with no one before her, the only one mightier than all the gods, who were born of her, the Great Mother, the All-Mother when she was the “Only One.” By a cunning contrivance this Great Mother is shown to be the only one who could bring forth both sexes. As Apt, and again as Neith, the genetrix or creatress is portrayed as female in nature, but also having the virile member of the male. This was the only one who could bring forth both sexes. She was figured as male in front and female in the hinder part (Birch, Egyptian Gallery). Here we may refer to the Arunta traditions of the Alcheringa ancestors relating to the beings who were half women and half men when they first started on their journey, but before they had proceeded very far their organs were modified and they became as other women are (N. T., p. 442).
The mother was indeed the Only One in the beginning, however various her manifestations in nature. She was the birthplace and abode. She was the Earth-mother as the bringer forth, the giver of food and drink who was invoked as the provider of plenty. As the Great Mother she was depicted by a pregnant hippopotamus. As a crocodile she brought the water of the inundation. As Apt the water-cow, Hathor the milch-cow, or Rerit the sow she was the suckler. As Rannut she was the serpent of renewal in the fruits of earth. As the Mother of Life in vegetation, she was Apt in the dom-palm, Uati in the papyrus, Hathor in the sycamore-fig, Isis in the persea-tree. In one character, as the Mother of Corn, she is called the Sekhet or field, a title of Isis; all of which preceded her being imaged in the human likeness, because she was the mother
divinized. This is the “only one” who is said to have been extant from the time when as yet there had been no birth (Brugsch, Theosaurus In. Eg., p. 637). The mother gave birth to the child as Horus, who came by water in the fish, the shoot of the papyrus, the branch of the tree, and other forms of food and drink that were most sorely needed. Hence the child as bringer was a saviour to the land of Egypt.
In the beginning of the Egyptian theology, then, the Word was not the god, but the goddess. The fecundity, the power, the glory, and the wisdom of the primordial bringer forth were divinized in the Great Mother, who was worshipped at Ombos as the “Living Word.” In one of her many forms she is the lioness-headed Sekhet-Bast, who was the object of adoration in Inner Africa as “the Only One.” Following the mythical mother, the son became her word or logos, and in Sebek-Horus the Word was god. This was in the mythology that preceded the eschatology. The earliest mode of worship recognizable was in propitiation of the superhuman power. This power of necessity was elemental, a power that was objectified by means of the living type; and again of necessity the object of propitiation, invocation, and solicitation was the power itself, and not the types by which it was imaged in the language of signs.
But, if we use the word worship at all, then serpent worship is the propitiation of the power that was represented by the serpent as a proxy for the superhuman force. The power might be that of renewal in the fruits of earth which was divinized in the serpent goddess Rannut or in the serpent of the inundation. “Tree worship” was the propitiation of a power in nature that was represented by the tree and by the vegetation that was given for food. Although the votive offerings were hung upon its branches, the tree itself was not the object of the offering, but the power personified in Hathor or Nut as giver in the tree. Waitz tells the story of a Negro who was making an offering of food to a tree, when a bystander remarked that a “tree did not eat food.” The Negro replied: “Oh, the tree is not fetish; the fetish is a spirit and invisible, but he has descended into this tree. Certainly he cannot devour our bodily food, but he enjoys its spiritual part, and leaves behind the bodily part which we see.” This, then, was not tree worship as commonly assumed; the tree was not the object of religious regard. There was a spirit or power beyond that manifested in the tree. In like manner, earth worship was the propitiation of the power in nature that was worshipped as the Great Mother, the bringer forth and nurse of life, the “only one” who was the producer of plenty. The most primitive man knew what he wanted. The objects of perpetual desire and longing were food and fecundity.
It has been shown that the Egyptian gods were primarily the elemental powers, and how the ancestral spirits became the glorified elect in the Egyptian eschatology. It is now possible to trace the one god of the Osirian religion as the final outcome from the original rootage, the culmination and consummate flower of all.
Before the human father could be personalized as the progenitor it would seem that causation was represented by the embryo in utero, the child, whom the Egyptians called the fecundator of the
mother. The eternal child is thus addressed in one of the solar litanies: “O, thou beautiful being, who renewest within thyself in season as the disk within thy mother Hathor”; as “the Heir of Eternity, self-begotten and self-born.” According to the Ritual, life was apprehended as a mode of motion or renewal coming of itself, in the water welling from the earth, the vegetation springing from the water, or, more mystically manifested, in the blood of the pubescent virgin. The type of this self-motion is the eternal, ever-coming child. Hence Child-Horus claims to be “the primary power of motion” (Rit., ch. 63A). This was as the child of her who came from herself, the seventh soul that was imaged as Horus, the mortal who was incarnated in the virgin blood. There is another curious thing worth noting. The seven elemental powers or animistic souls were all male, and male only, which may account for the tradition that women have no souls, unless they derive them from the male; whereas the second Horus, Horus in spirit, represented a soul of both sexes, as the typical witness for the parent in heaven. With the Egyptians (of the Ritual) real existence and enduring personality were spiritual, and these were imaged by the Ka type of an existence and personality which could only be attained in spirit. The Ka image represented an enduring or eternal soul as a divine ideal that was already realized, even in this life, by the born immortals who were mediums of the spirit. But for others it was a type of that which had to be attained by individual effort. On entering Amenta the soul of the deceased was not necessarily immortal. He had to be born again as a spirit in the likeness of Horus divinized. Thus the man of seven souls was said to be attended or accompanied all life through by the Ka likeness of an immortal spirit, which was his genius, guardian, guide, or protector, to be realized in death, when he rose again and manifested as the Ka or eidōlon of the dead—that is, as the ghost, the eighth man, the man from heaven, the Christ or risen Horus of the gnosis.
The process of compounding the many gods in one is made apparent when Osiris says, “I am one, and the powers of all the gods are my powers” (Rit., ch. 7). In the course of unifying the nature powers in one, the mother goddess with the father god was blended first in Ptah, the biune being, as a type of dual source such as was illustrated by the customs of couvade and subincision, in which the figure of the female was assumed by the man with a vulva or the divinity as parturient male, the type that was repeated in both Atum and Osiris, as well as in Brahma and Jehovah. In the inscription of Shabaka from Memphis, Ptah, in one of his divine forms, is called “the mother giving birth to Atum and the associate gods” (line 14).
The highest of the elemental powers was divinized as solar in the astronomical mythology. This was the Elder Horus, who had been the soul of vegetation in the shoot of the papyrus plant as product of the inundation. As the young sun god he was now the calf or child upon the Western Mount and leader of the seven glorious Khuti (Rit., ch. 17). In his second advent, at his resurrection from Amenta, he became the Horus in spirit, Horus of the resurrection, he who arose hawk-headed on the Eastern Mount. This was Atum-
Horus, he in whom the spirit or ghost was blended with the elemental power in Atum-Ra, who had attained the status of the holy spirit in the Egyptian eschatology. The eighth was now the highest of the series as the god who demonstrated the power of resurrection by his rising from the dead, first as the sun, next as the soul which was represented by the Ka as the image of the reappearing other self. The gods were thus “essentialized in the one” (as Thomas Taylor phrased it): the seven in Horus the mortal, the eight in Horus of the resurrection, the nine in Ptah, or, as Damascius observed, “speaking Chaldaically,” “in the paternal peculiarity” (Iamblichus on the Mysteries, by Thomas Taylor, note, p. 74, ed. 1895). This god was impersonated as the one in Atum-Ra, the “Holy Spirit.” There was no god personified as the father in spirit until the All-One was uniquely imaged in Atum-Ra as the first wearer of the Atef crown, and in him the god in spirit was based upon the ghost instead of the earlier elemental soul. Not only was the “paternal peculiarity” represented in Atum as a begetter, he was the begetter of souls, or rather of soul and spirit; the one being personalized in his son Hu, the other in his son Sa (or Ka). The soul of man the mortal had been derived from the seven elemental powers, including the mother blood (Rit., ch. 85). This was divinized in Horus, who was Atum as the child (Tum) the first Adam in the Hebrew creation. The soul of man the immortal was now derived from Atum-Ra, the father in spirit, and imaged in Nefer-Atum, the Hebrew second Adam. This was Horus of the resurrection as an eighth soul, the outcome of the seven. The soul with power to reproduce itself in death was now an image of eternal life as Horus who became the resurrection and the life to men.
The one god in spirit and in truth, personified in Atum-Ra, was worshipped at Annu as Huhi the eternal, also as the Ankhu or ever-living one in the character and with the title of the Holy Spirit. He is described as the divinized ghost. Hence it is said that “it is Atum who nourishes the doubles” of the dead, he who is first of the divine ennead, “perfect ghost among the ghosts” (Hymn to Osiris, lines 3 and 4.) There was no father god or divinized begetter among the seven primordial powers. They were a company of brothers. Ptah was the first type of a father individualized as the father who transforms into his own son, and also as a father and mother in one person. Ra, as the name implies, is the creator god, the god in spirit founded on the ghost. He is god of the ancestral spirits, the first to attain that spiritual basis for the next life which the Ka or double in this life vouched for after death. Hence Atum-Ra was deified as “the perfect ghost among the ghosts,” or the god in spirit at the head of the nine. The elemental souls were blended with the human in the deity Ptah, and in Atum-Ra, his successor, the ancestral spirit was typified and divinized as a god in perfect human form, who became the typical father of the human race and of immortal souls proceeding from him as their creator, who is now to be distinguished from all previous gods which had reproduced by transformation and by reincorporation or incarnation of the elemental powers.
Thus the gods of Egypt originated in various modes of natural
phenomena, but the phenomena were also spiritual as well as physical, the one god being ultimately worshipped as the holy spirit. Both categories of the gods and the glorified were, so to speak, combined and blended in the one person of Atum-Ra, who imaged the highest elemental power as soul of the sun in the mythology, and was divinized as Ra the holy spirit, the ghost of ghosts, in the Egyptian eschatology. The reappearing human spirit thus supplied the type of an eternal spirit that was divinized and worshipped as the Holy Ghost in Egypt and in Rome.
Maspero has said of Egypt that she never accepted the idea of the one sole god beside whom there is none other (The Dawn of Civilization, Eng. tr., p. 152). But here the “one god” is a phrase. What is meant by the phrase? Which, or who, is the one god intended? Every description applied to the one god in the Hebrew writings was pre-extant in the Egyptian. Atum-Ra declares that he is the one god, the one just or righteous god, the one living god, the one god living in truth. He is Unicus, the sole and only one (Rit., chs. 2 and 17), beside whom there is none other; only, as the later Egyptians put it, he is the only one from whom all other powers in nature were derived in the earlier types of deity. When Atum is said to be “the Lord of oneness,” that is but another way of calling him the one god and of recognizing the development and unification of the one supreme god from the many, and acknowledging the birth of monotheism from polytheism, the culmination of manifold powers in one supreme power, which was in accordance with the course of evolution. In the Ritual (ch. 62) the Everlasting is described as Neb-Huhi Nuti Terui-f, the Eternal Lord, he who is without limit. And, again, the infinite god is portrayed as he who dilates without limit, or who is the god of limitless dilation, Fu-nen-tera, as a mode of describing the infinite by means of the illimitable. And it is this Nen-tera that we claim to be at the root of the word Nnuter or Nûter. Here the conception is nothing so indefinite or general as that of power. Without limit is beyond the finite, and consequently equal to the infinite. Teru also signifies time. The name, therefore, conveyed the conception of beyond time. Thus Nnuter (or Nuter) denoted the illimitable and eternal in one, which is something more expressive than mere power. Power is of course included, and the Nuter sign, the stone axe, is a very primitive sign of power.
Of this one supreme god it is said in the Hymn to the Nile or to Osiris, as “the water of renewal”: “He careth for the state of the poor. He maketh his might a buckler. He is not graven in marble. He is not beheld. He hath neither ministrants nor offerings. He is not adored in sanctuaries. No shrine is found with painted figures. There is no building that can contain him. He doth not manifest his forms. Vain are all representations.” (Records of the Past, vol. IV.) Also, in the hymn to the hidden god Amen-Ra, a title of Atum, he is saluted as “the one in his works,” “the one alone with many hands, lying awake while all men sleep to seek out or consider the good of his creatures,” “the one maker of existence,” “the one alone without a peer,” “king alone, single among the gods” (Records of the Past, vol. II, 129). Surely this is equivalent to the one god with none beside him, so far as language can go. The Egyptians had all
that ever went to the making of the one god, only they built on foundations that were laid in nature, and did not begin en l’air with an idea of the “sole god” in any abstract way. Their one god was begotten before he was conceived. Egypt did not accept the idea. She evolved and revealed it from the only data in existence, including those of phenomenal spiritualism which supplied the idea of a holy ghost that was divinized in the likeness of the human—the only data, as matter of fact, from which the concept could have ever been evolved; and but for the Egyptians, neither Jews nor Christians would have had a god at all, either as the one, or three, or three-in-one. There is no beginning anywhere with the concept of a “one god” as male ideationally evolved. But for thousands of years before the era called Christian the Egyptians had attained the idea, and were trying to express it, of the one god who was the one soul of life, the one self-generating, self-sustaining force, the one mind manifesting in all modes of phenomena; the self-existent one, the almighty one, the eternal one; the pillar of earth, the ark of heaven, the backbone of the universe, the bread of heaven and water of life; the Ka of the human soul, the way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life everlasting; the one who made all things, but himself was not made.
But, once more, what is the idea of the one god as a Christian concept? The one god of the Christians is a father manifesting through one historic son by means of a virgin Jewess. Whereas the father was the one god of the Egyptians in the cult of Atum-Ra which was extant before the monuments began ten thousand years ago. Only, the son of the one god in Egypt was not historic nor limited to an individual personality. It was the divine nature manifesting as the soul of both sexes in humanity. The one god of the Christians is a trinity of persons consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and these three constituted the one god in the religion which is at least as old as the coffin of Men-Ka-Ra, who is called “Osiris living eternally, king of the double earth,” nearly six thousand years ago.
Finally, in the Egyptian theology Osiris is Neb-Ua, the one and only lord. All previous powers were united in his power. Where Ra had seventy-two names denoting his attributes, Osiris has over one hundred and fifty. All that was recognized as beneficent in nature was summarized in Osiris. All the superhuman powers previously extant were combined and blended in the final form of the all-in-one—the motherhood included. For in the trinity of Osiris, Horus, and Ra, which three are one, the first person is imaged in the likeness of both sexes. Osiris as male with female mammæ is a figure of the nourisher and source of life, who had been from the beginning when the mother was the “only one.” The one god of the Egyptian theology culminated as the eternal power of evolution, reproduction, transformation, renewal, and rebirth from death to life, on earth in food, and to a life of the soul that is perpetuated in the spirit. The oneness of the godhead unified from all the goddesses and gods was finally compounded in this supreme one inclusive deity, in whom all others were absorbed—Horus and Sut, as twins of light and darkness; the seven elemental powers, as the seven souls;
Nnu, father of the celestial water, as the water of renewal in Osiris; Seb, the father of food on earth, as the father of divine food or bread of heaven in Amenta. The mother and father were combined in Ptah as the one parent. Atum-Horus assumed the form of man, as son of Seb on earth; Osiris-Sekeri that of the mummy in Amenta, as god the ever-living in matter; and Ra, bird-headed, as an image of the holy spirit. Horus the elder was the manifestor as the eternal child of Isis the virgin mother and his foster-father Seb, the god of earth; and at his second advent in Amenta Horus became the son of the father in heaven as a final character in the Osirian drama. Taht gave place to Osiris in the moon, Ptah to Osiris in the Tat, Anup to Osiris as the guide of ways at the pole. It is said in the Hymn to Osiris that “he contains the double ennead of the double land.” He is “the principle of abundance in Annu”; he gives the water of renewal in the Nile, the breath of life in the blessed breezes of the north, the bread of life in the grain. And, lastly, he is the food that never perishes; the god who gives his own body and blood as the sacramental sustenance of souls; the Bull of Eternity who is reincorporated periodically as the calf, or, under the anthropomorphic type, as Horus the ever reincarnating, ever-coming child who rose up from the dead to image an eternal soul. Such was the god in whom the all at last was unified in oneness and as One.
EGYPTIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD AND THE MYSTERIES
The Egyptian Book of the Dead contains the oldest known religious writings in the world. As it comes to us it is mainly Osirian, but the Osirian group of gods was the latest of all the divine dynasties, although these, as shown at Abydos (by Prof. Flinders Petrie), will account for some ten thousand years of time in Egypt. The antiquity of the collection is not to be judged by the age of the coffins in which the papyrus rolls were found. Amongst other criteria of length in time the absence of Amen, Maut, and Khunsu supplies a gauge. The presence and importance of Tum affords another, whilst the persistence of Apt and her son Sebek-Horus tells a tale of times incalculably remote.
As a key to the mysteries and the method of the book it must be understood at starting that the eschatology or doctrine of Last Things was founded in the mould of the mythology, and that the one can only be unraveled by means of the other. Moreover, there is plenty of evidence to prove that the Ritual was based on the mythology, and not the mythology upon the Ritual. The serpent, of darkness, was the evil reptile in mythology. In theology it becomes the deluder of mankind. Here the beginning was with darkness itself, which was the deceiver from the first. The serpent, being a figure of darkness, was continued by theology as the official adversary of souls in the eschatological domain. The eschatology of the Ritual, then, can only be comprehended by means of the mythology. And it is the mythos out of view that has made the Ritual so profoundly difficult to understand. Reading it may be compared with a dance seen by a deaf man who does not hear the music to which the motion is timed, and who has no clue to the characters being performed in the dumb drama. You cannot understand what they are doing and saying as Manes in another world without knowing what was thought and said by human beings in this concerning that representation of the nature powers, the gods and goddesses, which constitutes mythology.
Amenta is a huge fossil formation crowded with the dead forms of a past life in which the horny conspectuities of learned ignorance will only see dead shells for a modern museum. As a rule, Egypt is always treated differently from the rest of the world. No Egyptologist has ever dreamed that the Ritual still exists under the
disguise of both the gnostic and canonical gospels, or that it was the fountain-head and source of all the books of wisdom claimed to be divine. In the mythology–that is, in the primitive mode of rendering the phenomena of external nature–Osiris as light-giver in the moon was torn in fourteen pieces during the latter half of the lunation by the evil Sut, the opposing power of darkness. He was put together again and reconstituted by his son, beloved Horus, the young solar god. This representation could not have been made until it was known that the lunar light was replenished monthly from the solar source. Then Horus as the sun god and the vanquisher of Sut, the power of darkness, could be called the reconstituter of Osiris in the moon. In that way a foundation was laid in natural fact according to the science of mythology, and a mystery bequeathed to the eschatology which is doctrinal. For as it had been with the dismembered, mutilated god in the mythos, so it is with the Osiris deceased, who has to be reconstructed for a future life and put together bit by bit as a spiritual body in one of the great mysteries of Amenta. In the mythos Har-Makhu was the solar god of both horizons, or the double equinox, who represented the sun of to-day that rose up from the nether world as conqueror of darkness to join the west and east together on the Mount of Glory, as the connecting link of continuity in time betwixt yesterday and to-morrow. The type was continued in the eschatology, when Har-Makhu became the Horus of the greater mysteries, Horus of the religious legend who suffered, died, and was buried in Amenta, and who rose again from the dead like the winter sun, as Horus in spirit, lifting aloft the insignia of his sovereignty. This was he who made the pathway, not merely betwixt the two horizons, but to eternal life, as son of Ra, the holy spirit in the eschatology. The intermediate link in the mythos, which “connects the solar orb with yesterday,” is now the intermediary betwixt the two worlds and two lives in time and eternity. This is he who exclaims, “I am the link! I am the everlasting one! I am Horus who steppeth onwards through eternity” (Rit., ch. 42.) This was he who, in the words of the gnostic Paul, “broke down the wall of partition” and “made both one,” “that he might create in himself one new man” and “reconcile them both in one body,” even as the double Horus, Har-Sam-Taui, was made one when blended and established as one person in another mystery of Amenta (Rit., ch. 42).