EGYPTIAN WISDOM AND THE HEBREW GENESIS
THE Egyptian system of uranographic representation has been outlined and many of its details have been identified in the chapters on the astronomical mythology. It has now to be shown that the so-called “legends of creation” chiefly known as Semitic are the detritus of the Egyptian wisdom. These legends did not wait for their beginning until the Mosaic Pentateuch had been carried round the wide circumference of the world either by the scattered Jewish people or the Christian missionaries. As we have seen, the Semitic theologians did not know enough of the ancient sign-language to distinguish the evil serpent from the good, the great Earth-mother from the chimerical dragon of the deep, or the beneficent spirits of elemental nature from the Sebau, the Sami or fiendish forces of external phenomena. The Semitic versions of the legends, Babylonian, Assyrian, or Hebrew, mainly reproduce the débris of the astronomical mythology, which has so often been reduced to the status of the nursery-tale. It is their fatal defect that they are not the original documents, and have no firsthand authority. In these the primitive wisdom of old Egypt has been perverted, and the mythical beginnings, which had their own meaning, have been transmogrified into what is herein termed a cosmogonical creation. For example, the mythical abyss or deep was not the mother of all things. That was the Mother-earth in the abyss, the nun, or firmamental water. As the Mother-earth she brought forth her elemental progeny in and from the abyss. Hence she was the wateress, or wet-nurse who suckled her young within the earth, as it is said of the monster Tiamat, because, as primordial bringer-forth, she was the Mother-earth. In the Babylonian legends of creation the seven associate-gods, who are the creators in the Egyptian mythos, have been converted into the seven evil spirits of a later theology. And on one of the tablets (W.A.I.4.I.I.36, 37) it is said of these seven evil spirits, “The woman from the loins of the man they bring forth.” Thus the creation of woman is made to be the work of seven evil spirits, who, as the Kamite wisdom witnesses, did not originate as wicked spirits or as powers of evil. (Sayce, H. L., p. 395.) The legends of creation are known, more or less, as Hebrew, Phœnician, Babylonian, and Assyrian, but as Kamite they have not been known. And when the mythical representations of natural phenomena first
portrayed by the Egyptians were turned into cosmographical creations by the Semites, they had no verifiable meaning either as history or mythology. Even Lenormant held that the Chaldaic and Hebrew versions had one common origin and were not derived from each other, but he made no attempt to trace that origin to the Egyptian astronomical mythology, which was to him a sealed and secret book. Egypt’s knowledge of beginnings was laboriously derived by the long, unceasing verification of scientific naturalists. Their ancient wisdom did not fall from heaven ready-made, nor had it any claims to a miraculous birth. It was dug for and quarried out from the rock of reality. It was smelted, shaped, stamped, and warranted for current coin as perpetual symbol of the truth, however primitive. It was and is, to-day and for ever, a coinage genuinely golden, though the figures on it may be sometimes difficult to decipher. The ancient wisdom in the Hebrew books has been converted into a spurious specie, and passed off on the ignorant and unsuspecting as a brand-new issue from the mint of God. According to Egyptian thought, “creation” was mainly limited to the bringing forth of life—the life of water, fish and fowl, animal, reptile, and other forms from the meskhen or creatory of earth, when this was represented by the womb of Apt the pregnant water-cow. This idea of birth from the womb is portrayed in Apt the first Great Mother (fig., p. 124). Next the idea of birth from the womb is repeated in the making of Amenta with the Tuat as the creatory or the place of rebirth for the manes. And thirdly, in the astronomical mythology the meskhen, womb or place of birth, was constellated in the “thigh” of the cow as the sign of rebirth in the celestial rebirthplace. We have now to formulate the Egyptian origins of the creation legends that have come to us in a Semitic guise or disguise.
In their account of “the beginnings” the Egyptians make no pretence of knowing anything about a cosmical creation. Theirs is the natural genesis. A common Egyptian phrase for creation was “of the first time,” and the expression is well represented in the opening words of the Hebrew book of Genesis, which are rendered “in the beginning” (Stele of the Sphinx, “Of the first time”). This beginning was “in the domain of Sut,” “that sacred place of the first time.” This first time, says the inscription, goes back to the domain of Sut and to the days of the masters of Khar, the later Akar and Neter-kar of the under-world. Darkness was the domain of Sut, as a condition of commencement, and the birthplace was where light broke forth from out the darkness. It was the African birthplace of the black and white twins of night and day. Otherwise the beginning in “the first time” described by the Ritual was with birth from the abyss, which was the birthplace of water within the earth. It is portrayed as “the Tuat which nobody can fathom,” the place that “sent out light in the dark night,” which was the birthplace of water and of eatable plants (Rit., ch. 172). Thus we have the Deep, the darkness on the face of the deep, the light breaking out of the darkness; the waters and the life springing forth from the waters in eatable plants, grouped together in Amenta the earth of eternity. Water had revealed the secret of creation in the life which came as food by water from the Mother-earth in the unfathomable deep. The
secret of water as the source of life was the primal mystery to the Egyptians, as is shown by Kep (or Apt), the ancient mother of mystery, when the mystery was that of fertilization by means of water, as in the inundation of Egypt by the river Nile.
That secret of the precious water-source, the divulgence of which was the cause of the deluge at Lake Tanganyika, the secret that is so persistently preserved as a matter of life or death by the Bushmen amongst other African races, had been entrusted with occult significance to the keeping of the Sphinx. The Sphinx was a figure of the primitive abyss called Akar, the unfathomable deep of earth or womb of life, and it is a monument that marked the sacred place of creation or “the first time.” As the inscription says, “The Sphinx reposes in this very place”—the place, that is, where life came into the world by water with food from the unfathomable abyss and light from the primeval darkness. This was also the sacred way by which the elemental powers or gods came into being, who originated as the masters of the nether earth. The number is not given, but these are known under several types and names as the primordial seven powers, the seven spirits of earth, or seven Uræus divinities, who were born in the lower earth before this had been hollowed out by Ptah in the making of Amenta.
In the several Semitic accounts of the first time, or in the beginning, more especially that of the Hebrew Genesis, the astro-mythological representation has been merged in a material creation, as the result of a later and more literal rendering of the subject matter; the later the version, the more exoteric the rendering. In the Assyrian epic the upper and lower firmaments, called “Ansar and Kisar were created.” This is identical with the creation of the upper and lower firmament in the Hebrew Genesis. But in the Egyptian wisdom only can we make out what “creation” means as a mode of representation in the ancient sign-language. There are some remains, however, of the astronomical mythology in the Babylonian and Assyrian legends. One of these is the beginning with a world all water as an image of the firmament, or, when otherwise expressed, with the lands that were wholly sea. This is followed by the stream that divided the celestial Okeanos, and the consequent formation of a firmamental abyss, where the lower waters were gathered together into one place. In the Babylonian account of creation there was a time when the upper region was not yet called heaven; the lower region was not yet called earth, and the abyss was not yet formed. So, in the “non-Semitic” version the abyss had not been fashioned, the waters had not been gathered into one place; the whole of the lands were sea, and there was no stream yet configurated in the celestial ocean (Talbot, Records of the Past, vol. IX; Pinches, Records of the Past, 2nd series, vol. VI). Beginning in the heavens was with the uncreated Nun. When this was divided into an upper and lower firmament so-called “creation” had commenced. When the waters were gathered into one place the firmamental abyss had been opened, and a basis laid for the astronomical mythology or uranographic representation. The same beginning with the uncreated undivided Nun, as in the Egyptian myth and Babylonian legend, is apparent in the book of Genesis. The Nun, or Nnu, was the firma-
mental water. This is “the water” of the Hebrew version; the water on which darkness brooded and from which the spirit of the Elohim emerged; the water that was divided into the upper and lower firmaments, as an act of so-called “creation.” The Nun was likewise the celestial water of the Akkadians and Babylonians, as well as the Egyptians. When Nuna or Anuna signifies the sky that is as the primordial water, the same as in the Kamite Nnu or Nun. The Irish firmament or celestial water is also called the Nion, an equivalent for the Kamite Nun.
The first three of the seven powers born of the Kamite mother of the elements were represented by Sut the power of darkness, Horus the power of light, and Shu the power of the air or breathing force. These three Ali or Elohim appear in the opening statement of Genesis. Though unpersonified, they are present as the primary elemental powers. In the Hebrew beginning, darkness brooded on the face of the deep, and the spirit of the Elohim moved upon the waters. The beginning, therefore, is with night or darkness. The spirit of Elohim was the breathing force of Shu or the breeze of dawn. The name of Tefnut, who was born twin with him, denotes the dews of dawn. Thus the powers or elements of dawn emerged from out the darkness of the firmamental deep with Shu and Tefnut as the elemental powers of breath and liquid life. The next two offspring of Neb-er-ter, the All-one in the Egyptian account of creation, are Seb and Nut, or earth and heaven. These were unformulated by night, but the two were separated by Shu at dawn when Nut was lifted up from Seb, and heaven and earth were thus created or distinguished in the only possible way. It is this “beginning” that was followed in the book of Genesis and in what has been made to look like a cosmical creation of the physical universe.
This creation is a representation of natural phenomena which might have been seen any day and night. But the gods of Egypt have been defeatured and dislimned and resolved into their elements of darkness and the firmamental deep, the breeze of Shu, the moisture of Tefnut; and the earth of Seb distinguished from the heaven of Nut. The action of the spirit moving on the waters had been perfectly expressed in the Egyptian version, when Neb-er-ter says that he created by means of divine soul, and that in founding a place where he could obtain foothold, he “worked with the spirit which was in his breast.” This, according to Egyptian thought, was the breathing spirit first divinized in Shu as the power of the air or animistic soul of life. In the Hebrew version the elements of earth, heaven, darkness, light, water, spirit (or breathing force) are directly called into being, whereas in the Egyptian, four of these come into existence or are made apparent by means of divine types. Shu was the figure of breathing force with which the darkness was dispersed at dawn. This likewise was the breathing spirit with which Neb-er-ter created. In a vignette copied by Maspero (Dawn of Civilization, p. 169) Shu is accompanied by a group of gods in lifting up the firmament. There are seven altogether, chief of whom is Shu himself standing underneath the upraised heaven. These seven as the Ali who are co-workers with Shu are equivalent to the Elohim in the Hebrew book. Shu is called the separator of heaven from the
earth, the elevator of heaven for millions of years above the earth. He is the conqueror of chaos and the progeny of darkness. Instead of the Elohim saying, “Let there be light” with this uplifting of the firmament, the Egyptian version represents Shu first as raising the firmament and next as bringing Ra his eyes to see with after the nocturnal heaven had been raised. In a Japanese account of creation the starting-point is also with the uplifting of the heaven from the earth. In the preface to the Japanese Kojiki this beginning with the separation of heaven and earth is described by Yasumaro, the editor: “Heaven and earth first parted, and the three Kami performed the commencement of creation. The passive and active essences then developed, and the two spirits became the ancestors of all things.” These two are identified with Izanagi and Izanami in the Japanese system, and with the Yin and Yang in the Chinese. The three Kami called the “alone born Kami, who hid their beings,” are one with Sut, Horus, and Shu, whilst the twin brother and sister are identical with Shu and Tefnut, who represented breathing power, or air, and moisture, as the two halves of a soul of life—Shu of breathing, Tefnut of liquid life, the active and passive essences which blended and became the creative spirit moving on the face of the firmament. In Genesis the powers of darkness and light are present when the drama opens, not as powers personified, but as elements. “Darkness was upon the face of the deep,” and the Elohim said, “Let there be light.” These, as Sut and Horus, were the first of the primordial powers in an elemental phase, the black Neh being the bird of night or Sut, and the solar hawk of Horus the bird of day. There was Sut the power of darkness on the one hand, and on the other Horus the hawk of light; these are equivalent to “there was evening and there was morning one day.” It is noticeable, too, that the Hebrew word for evening, bri, is also the name for the raven, the black bird of Sut. It is said in later texts that these nature-powers were derived from the primeval stuff or matter of the Nun, which means that they originated in and were embodied from the physical elements, such as Sut from darkness, Horus from light, Shu from air, Hapi from water, Kabhsenuf from the solar fire, Tuamutef from earth, Amsta from the mother-blood.
Certain matters of mythology were differently manipulated in various versions of the mythos. The process had already begun in Egypt. In the creation performed by Kheper-Neb-er-ter the first two powers produced as breathing force and moisture, or wind and water, are divinized in Shu and Tefnut. The next two are Seb the god of earth and Nut the goddess of heaven. These are now portrayed in the after-thought as having been emaned or emitted from the body of the one Supreme Being who had now become the Lord over all, whereas in an earlier myth the earth and heaven came into existence or were discreted when Shu upraised the heaven, or Nut, and separated her from Seb the god of earth. The coming into being of these four, Shu and Tefnut, Seb and Nut, is traceable in the Hebrew Genesis, but in a different mode and order of setting forth. “In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth.” These in the original are Nut and Seb, who were divided from each other (not created) and permanently propped apart by Shu and the supporting
powers or Elohim. But, instead of a cosmogonical creation, the Egyptian wisdom shows that the making of heaven and earth was a mode of representation in the astronomical mythology. Some hints of this natural origin may be gathered from the Babylonian fragments of legendary lore. In the first tablet of the Chaldean account of creation, rendered by Talbot, the process is partially described (Records of the Past, vol. IX, 117). It is said of the Creator, “He fixed up constellations, whose figures were like animals.” It is also said on the seventh tablet, “At that time the gods in their assembly created (the beasts). They made perfect the mighty (monsters).” These, as is shown by the context, were figures of the constellations. But in the Hebrew rendering the living creatures of the water, air, earth, or other element have been literalized, whereas they were as much figures in the astronomical mythology as were the two firmaments, the abyss, or the constellated lights of heaven. The Chaldean account of creation also describes the construction of “dwellings for the great gods.” These were celestial habitations, as we say “houses” of the sun and moon. In the Kamite creation by Ptah they are called the shrines of the gods. “He formed the gods, he made the towns, he designed the nomes, he placed the gods in their shrines which he had prepared for them” (Inscription of Shabaka, lines 6, 7). Thus “creation” in this phase was a mode of representation in the heavens. It began with the abyss and the water, the creatures of the abyss, such as the Southern Fish and Ketos, the Water-serpent, and other “constellations whose figures were in the likeness of animals”: and the habitations of the gods that were built upon “a glorious foundation.” When the abyss had not been made, and Eridu had not yet been constructed, it is said that the whole of the lands were water. But when a stream was figured within the firmamental sea, “in that day Eridu was made; E-Sagila was constructed which the god Lugal-Du-Azaga had founded within the abyss.” Two earthly cities were built upon a heavenly model, and the earthly Eridu corresponded to a celestial or divine original. Thus the earliest seats of civilization founded in Babylonia were modelled on cities that were already celestial and therefore considered to be of divine origin; the seats in heaven that were founded first in the astronomical mythology, as we hold, of Egypt.
But it was not the genesis of the universe that is imaged in astronomical mythology. The firmament was there, already waiting to be distinguished as upper and lower, and divided into the domains of night and day, or Sut and Horus, or Ansar and Kisar. The constellations were not created from nothing when they were figured out of stars. The firmamental water was not created by being divided into upper and lower. The earth was not created because distinguished from water as ground to go upon. Darkness was not created when it was portrayed as a devouring dragon. The pole of heaven was not created in being represented by a tree or mount or altar-mound. Heaven and earth existed when these were nameless, and did not come into existence on account of being named. Things were not created when images were assigned to them, nor because names were conferred upon them. The confusion of names and things is modern, not ancient; Aryan, not African.
The starting-point of a beginning was from the Nun, the firmamental water, which encircled all the world with the aërial ocean of surrounding space. This was the world all water. The earth was imaged mentally, thence figured mythically, as a fixed and solid substance in the waters of the Nun. These have been mixed up together by recent writers in a watery mass or mush of primordial matter, from which the cosmos is assumed to have been solidified or created out of chaos. But that is an exoteric misinterpretation of the ancient wisdom. There was no such creation. The earth stood on its own foundation in the lower Nun. The name of earth or land in Egyptian is Ta. Hence, land or earth in the Nun is “Ta-nen,” which is the name of the earth in the waters of the Nun, the lower earth of the Egyptian Tanen. Tanen as a locality was earlier than Amenta, and the name was continued in the title of Ptah-Tanen, the opener of the earth, which had been founded in the Nun by the order of gods or powers called the “Nunu,” as fellow-males, and a form of the first company, who were seven in number. In the Hebrew account of creation, the earth and firmament were already extant, but “the earth was waste and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.” Therefore the beginning is with the formlessness of the unfeatured Nun. Darkness existed. Light came forth. The light was then divided from the darkness as a mode of differentiating and describing day and night. Next, the upper firmament was separated from the lower, or, as it is otherwise stated, the waters above were divided from the waters below; whereas in the genuine mythos the upper and lower waters were the upper and lower firmament because the water was a figure of the firmament. Then follows the formation of the abyss, the waters “under heaven” being gathered together unto one “place”—the same as in the Chaldean account of creation (first tablet, line 5). The dry land is made to appear. “And the Elohim called the dry land, earth, and the gathering together of the waters they called seas.”
In the beginning, then, was the unformed firmament or uncreated Nun. This was the universal, undivided water of the mythos and the legends. Creation, as uranographic formation, followed in the astronomical sign-language. A stream was seen and figured in the atmospheric ocean as a dividing line. The firmament was discreted into upper and lower. In the lower the celestial abyss was formed. This was figured, as the Chaldean and Semitic legends tell us, when the waters were gathered into one place and were given the constellation of The Water as their uranographic sign in astronomical mythology. According to Esdras (II Es. VI. 41-2), the waters were “gathered in the seventh part of the earth.” In this seventh part, “where the waters were gathered together,” the two monsters of the deep were figured, which are here called “Enoch and Leviathan,” who represent the water and dry land, as do Leviathan and Behemoth in the book of Enoch, and whose images, as we have suggested, still survive in “the southern fish” and the monster “Ketos.” Taking the foothold of earth as a basis of beginning, there was nought around it but the firmamental water of space. This was without form or void throughout pre-constellational time. In an Aztec version of the beginning earth is separated from the waters in the form or under the type of shell-fish emerging from the deep. In
other legends, one of which is Japanese, this shell-fish was the earth-tortoise amidst the waters. The earth emerging from the waters under the fish-type is constellated, as we show, in the gasping “Ketos,” or it was represented by the hippopotamus which came up from the water to bring forth its young upon dry ground.
The firmament at first was thought of as water raised on high. In the Hebrew Genesis the water is one with the firmament. This celestial water was figured by the Egyptians as a lake, the largest water known to Inner Africa. In Greece the firmamental water became the Okeanos of Homer, flowing round the earth. It is the water that was first divided in twain. If we call the one water a lake, we find the one was divided into two lakes, one to the south and one to the north of the circumpolar enclosure. The Okeanos was divided by a river that encircled all the earth. This is visible in the river of the Milky Way. In the Ritual it is called “the stream which has no end.” It is also described as “the stream of the lake in Sekhet-Hetep” or paradise (ch. 149). Further, the two lakes are portrayed as “the lake of Sa and the lake of the northern sky (Rit., ch. 153, A). It was observed that a stream came forth from the great lake in a white river that divided the one water into two great lakes. In this we see “the stream of the lake in the Sekhet-Hetep,” just as “the river went out of Eden to water the garden.”