Chapter IV

Note: BOLD type, [ brackets], color are mine. Dwayne

 

WISDOM HIDDEN IN A MYSTERY

We have remained stodgily and stupidly impervious to the infiltration of ancient truth because we have remained blind to the method of its presentation and preservation. We have lost the power to grasp the premises of true knowledge laid down by sage ancestors because we have been too dull to see through the subtleties of a methodology different from our own. These premises for thought will only be regained as the devices resorted to in their statement are comprehended. The very possibility of making the interpretation at all is intimately bound up with the use of abstruse keys to bring to light meanings covered under an adroit strategy of concealment. Modern mentality almost instinctively resents the presumption that sages of old put truth under a mask of subtle disguise. Modern canons of utility can admit no sense or sanity in a procedure of the sort. Truth is for general broadcasting, if only that its discoverer or author may get his financial reward for his contribution. But truth in ancient days was not sold to the public. There were, in the first place, no printing presses to manage its general and quick distribution. Secondly, it had to be safeguarded from the undisciplined who would misuse it. And thirdly, it had to be preserved. To this end it had to be embalmed in the amber of such myths, legends, folk-tales, parables and structures of natural symmetry as would become unforgettable mnemonics through the power of tradition. And finally it had to be expressed in a language that would be universally comprehensible—a language of living symbols. Therefore truth was dramatized and symbolized. The figures in the drama were the elements of divine and human nature; and the symbols were an alphabet of truth because they were phrases of truth itself in the world of flesh and matter. They carried to the mind their message of invisible truths because they were those invisible truths themselves appearing in man’s cognizable world clothed in a garment

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of concreteness. Words are themselves but symbols. Objects of living nature are more definite speech to a discerning mind than formal language. It is as if one could throw the ideas of the mind on a screen. And Universal Mind did throw its archetypal ideas onto the screen of matter, where mortal man may look at them in their appearance that is not false, as philosophy has so mistakenly alleged, but true.

Unable to decipher the archaic language used, we have made hash of the true meaning of sacred love. The grandest of structures for truth-telling have been made into the grossest of fabrications. What the Bible has been declared to mean is inane nonsense; what it does actually mean is splendid truth. And the gross perversion and loss of its sense have come solely through our unfamiliarity with the special and involved techniques employed in writing the sacred books. Our efforts to read the texts in total ignorance of their art of literary indirection have run into the territory of the ridiculous.

The ancient scribes were, first of all, esotericists and wrote esoterically. All spiritual wisdom was held in secret brotherhoods and rigorously safeguarded from common dissemination. There existed a spiritual aristocracy quite difficult for us to conceive of, based on considerations the force of which we have lost the insight to appreciate. There were intellectual and spiritual castes, and the lower orders of mental capacity were not regarded as fitted to receive information where the qualifications for its social use were not fulfilled. Sheer pious faith could not alone gain one admission into the Mystery Schools. Actual discipline of body and mind, and certain inner unfoldments of faculty were held as requisite for the grasp of deeper truth. Initiation was to some real extent a matter of the mastery of theurgic powers dependent in the main upon purity of life. Esotericism arose primarily from the necessity of safeguarding the use of dynamic knowledge. Religion was far from being the jejune shell of social or mystical sentimentalism that it has so largely come to be at this epoch. It aimed to liberate the powerful forces hidden in the depths of man’s psyche. It bore an immediate reference to individual evolution, in the processes of which nature’s dynamic energies had to be controlled and intelligently directed. What we have derided as “magic” in the religion of old was just the control of subtle powers which we mostly permit to slumber in dormancy beneath the surface of our superficial life. Religion touched man so deeply in olden times that it awakened the

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potencies of his godlike endowment, an enterprise which concerns us rather little now. The imputation of sacredness to the rites of religion flowed directly from recognition of the vital issues at stake in the soul’s incarnation on earth. And the right to participate in the higher mysteries, of which St. Paul speaks, belonged to those who had won it from nature by the payment of the full price—a life schooled to harmony by intelligent consecration of every personal force.

In spite of the enormous quantity of evidence pointing to the existence of a great body of esoteric teaching in the Mystery Brotherhoods, such a scholar as Renouf asks:1 “Was there really, as is frequently asserted, an esoteric doctrine known to the scribes and priests alone, as distinct from the popular belief?” And his answer is: “No evidence has yet been provided in favor of this hypothesis.” But how can Renouf support so negative a statement in the face of the positive testimony offered by Plato, Porphyry, Apuleius, Herodotus, Plotinus, Proclus, Iamblichus, Euripides and Cicero? He is decisively contradicted also by many modern writers, among them Angus, Kennedy and Halliday, who have undertaken profound and searching studies of the Mysteries. Certainly a man like Cicero can not be scorned when he testifies as follows:

“There is nothing better than those Mysteries by which, from a rough and fierce life, we are polished to gentleness and softened. And Initia, as they are called, we have thus known as the beginnings of life in truth; not only have we received from them the doctrine of living with happiness, but even of dying with a better hope.”2

And is such a statement as the following from Plato without weight:

“But it was then lawful to survey the most splendid beauty, when we obtained, together with that blessed choir, this happy vision and contemplation. And we indeed enjoyed this blessed spectacle in conjunction with Jupiter . . . at the same time being initiated in those Mysteries which it is lawful to call the most blessed of all Mysteries. . . . Likewise in consequence of this divine initiation, we became spectators of entire, simple, immovable and blessed visions in the pure light. . . .”3

To Renouf’s ill-founded assertion it need only be rejoined that, to be sure, there is little or no evidence of esotericism, for the good reason

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that esotericism is the one thing in the world that is bound by its nature to leave little evidence! Does the scholar expect that the members of the Mysteries would have published their secrets abroad? On the contrary, they were bound to secrecy by the severest of all pledges.

Religious books have been written, if written at all, in cryptic form, with truth heavily veiled under the garb of cipher and symbol. Figures and glyphs had to be devised that would convey meaning to the initiated, but conceal it from the uninstructed. To interpret archaic literature one must learn to discern the intent of truth under the disguise of designed duplicity in the telling.

And it is further absurd for a Christian apologist to protest the fact of ancient esotericism, seeing that Christianity itself perpetuated esoteric distinctions in its own practices for two centuries. To this effect there is a mountain of evidence. Even the Christian Creed was kept largely a secret down to the fifth century. It was to be preserved in memory only. St. Augustine urged that no writing be done about the Creed because God had said that he would write his laws in our hearts and minds. According to J. R. Lumby, in his History of the Creeds (pp. 2, 3) there is found no specimen of a Creed until the end of the second century, and the oldest written Creed dates about the end of the third century.

The demands of an esoteric methodology account for the ancient use of mythopoeia. Here we encounter that feature of ancient procedure that has bred the prevalent wide confusion with respect to past wisdom, and find the solution of our bewilderment and ineptitude in face of ancient mythology. Our childish misconstruction that has written the record of our dull incomprehension across the scroll of literature for a millennium and a half, comes out in glaring silhouette as we fathom the devices of this cryptic treatment. We have mistaken symbolic language for direct speech. We have pitying condescension toward early races who explained the discovery of “fire” by the Promethean legend. We laugh at Hindus for saying that the earth is upheld by an elephant, which stands on a tortoise. We pridefully ask them on what the tortoise stood. Their pertinent answer might well be: “On modern stupidity.” Not the ancients, but we, are the puerile party in the case. We, not they, have “believed” their myths. The apparent childishness of the myths is far overmatched by our real childishness in supposing they were taken as factual. One can not read in any mod-

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ern academic work on ancient culture in Greece, Egypt, Chaldea or India without having to witness the birth anguish of the laboring idea that the myths reveal an inceptive stage of the slow evolution from primitive infantilism to our smug all-knowing wisdom.

We cast in the face of this presupposition the statement that the mythos was the designed instrument of consummate poetic and dramatic art!

The stories were devised to convey cosmical history, theogony, anthropogenesis, and finally individual experience of humans in the psycho-physiological development of mortal life. The whole cycle of the history of unfolding divinity in humanity was dramatized for stage enactment in the annual round of Mystery festivals. And portions of this drama have filtered down into the ritualism of practically every religion in the world. The epic of the human soul in earthly embodiment was the theme of every ancient poet and dramatist, and each strove to dress out the elements of the struggle in a new allegorical garb, with a new hero, whether Achilles, Hercules, Horus, Theseus, Aeneas, Orpheus, Jason, Dionysus, Buddha, Ulysses or Jesus, enacting the central role of the divine genius conquering the animal nature. In lieu of love, sex, detective, murder and gangster novels, the writers of the bygone era could deal but with one theme, that of the pilgrimage of the soul through the gamut of the elements. Each work was a Pilgrim’s Progress. And novelty could be introduced only by the device of depicting the soul’s experiences under a new allegorical situation, symbolizing afresh the old, old story of the immortal spirit’s immersion in the sea of matter. In all, combats with dragons, wrestling with serpents, harassments by brute creatures, enchantments by Sirens, plottings of conspirators, imprisonment in dungeons and struggling through to an ultimate return to the original home of felicity, find their place. In one type of adventure after another the many features of the history of the divine Ego in its progress from earth back to the skies were allegorically portrayed. Every aspect of the experience had its appropriate myth.

Indeed there is every presumption in favor of the belief that the mythos was an infinitely more profound instrument in the hands of its inventors than we yet can fathom. It is hardly too much to affirm that it was the echo of the Logos itself carrying the form of the emanational Voice out into the material realm. The mythos brought the

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unseen forms of abstract truth out into physical representation for the grasp of thought. There is warrant for believing that mutheomai, the Greek, meaning “to fable,” “represent,” “invent,” is derivable from the Egyptian mutu, “quick utterance.” It would suggest a form of direct speech to the intuitions. The myth made an outward picture of ideal forms. It dramatized truth. It had the graphic impressiveness of a cinematograph. This view is upheld by a writer who yet refutes at every turn the mythological basis of religion:4 “It is the property of the mystic to proceed by way of images to the summit of a pure idea and the intellectual vision of the substance.” That the myths were thus the vehicles for conveying the realization of abstract truths which could not be presented so forcefully in words alone seems indisputably clear. What is equally clear now is that, in the hands of ignorance, an exoteric rendering has taken the place of the esoteric, depriving the mind of its grasp on the essential truth intended in the adumbration. The danger of such a confusion was seen by Philo, the learned Jew, who when speaking of the Mosaic writings told his countrymen that “the literal statement is a fabulous one, and it is in the mythical that we shall find the true.”5 Philo’s statement is not less apt for the present age.

Reluctant as is the modern scholar of repute to assent to the ascription of vital hidden meaning to the ancient legends, the truth in this regard is occasionally seen and admitted. It is refreshing to read such a passage as the following from one of the accredited authorities in the field of Egyptology. Speaking of the Mysteries of Osiris and the dramatic representations enacted each year at Abydos, he says:

“Every act was symbolical in character and represented some ancient belief or tradition. The paste, the mixture of wheat and water, the egg, the naked goddess Shenti, i.e., Isis in her chamber, the placing of the paste on her bed, the kneading of the paste into moulds, etc., represented the great processes of Nature which are set in motion when human beings are begotten and conceived, as well as the inscrutable powers which preside over growth and development. . . . And there was not the smallest action on the part of any member of the band who acted the ‘miracle Play’ of Osiris, and not a sentence in the Liturgy which did not possess importance and vital significance to the followers of Osiris.”6

In the light of such true words from one of the most eminent of Egyptologists it becomes next to incomprehensible that modern schol-

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ars have so wretchedly misconceived the inner purport of these old Mystery rituals and that the same scholar has himself most ridiculously misconstrued their meaning in many particulars. The broad modern assumption has been that the mythos was in toto a lot of mummery and that the rituals were a lot of hollow ceremonialism based on superstition. That they shadowed the greatest of spiritual truths has not yet entered the mind of any man highly received in the ranks of orthodox scholarship. No one has yet been able to tell these savants that they have been handling pearls, and not rubbish.

Yet they have been told, and by no one more courageously and vehemently than Gerald Massey, a scholar of surpassing ability whose sterling work has not yet won for him the place of eminence which he deserves. The wrecking of the mythos by ignorant literalism stirred Massey to bitter resentment against the perpetrators of the crime. His own words will speak best for him, while they support our own contentions:

“The aborigines did not mistake the facts of nature as we have mistaken the primitive method of representing them. It is we, not they, who are the most deluded victims of false belief. Christian capacity for believing the impossible is unparalleled in any time past amongst the race of men. Christian readers denounce the primitive realities of the mythical representations as puerile indeed, and yet their own realities alleged to be eternal, from the fall of Adam to the redemption by means of a crucified Jew, are little or nothing more than the shadows of these primitive simplicities of an earlier time. It will yet be seen that the culmination of credulity, the meanest emasculation of mental manhood, the densest obscuration of the inward light of nature, the completest imbecility of shut-eye belief, the nearest approach to a total and eternal eclipse of common sense, has been attained beyond all chance of competition by the victims of the Christian creeds. The genesis of delusive superstition is late, not early. It is not the direct work of nature herself. Nature was not the mother who began her work of development by nursing her child in all sorts of illusions concerning things in general. . . . Primitive man was not a metaphysician, but a man of common sense. . . . The realities without and around him were too pressing for the senses to allow him to play the fool with delusive idealities. . . . Modern ignorance of the mythical mode of representation has led to the ascribing of innumerable false beliefs not only to primitive men and present-day savages, but also to the most learned and highly civilized people of antiquity, the Egyptians.”7

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He asserts again that the Egyptians “knew, more or less, that their own legends were mythical, whereas the Christians were vouching for their Mythos being historical.” Concerning symbolism and mythical representation he emphasizes that “the insanity lies in mistaking it for human history or Divine Revelation.” Mythology, he avers, is the repository of man’s most ancient science, and “when truly interpreted once more, it is destined to be the death of those false theologies to which it has unwittingly given birth.” Holding that all mythologizing originated in Egypt, he fights the conclusion of Renouf that “neither Hebrews nor Greeks borrowed any of their ideas from Egypt.” The eminent scholar could not have known of Herodotus’ statement that it was Melampus, the son of Amytheon, who introduced into Greece the name of Dionysus (Bacchus) and the ceremonial of his worship, having become acquainted with these and other practices in Egypt. Herodotus concludes:

“For I can by no means allow that it is by mere coincidence that the Bacchic ceremonies in Greece are so nearly the same as the Egyptian.”8

Elsewhere (II, 81) he repeats:

“. . . the rites called Orphic or Bacchic are in reality Egyptian and Pythagorean.”

Massey claims that modern misinterpretation of ancient typology has made a terrible tyranny in the mental domain, much of our folklore and most of our popular beliefs being fossilized symbolism. “Misinterpreted mythology has so profoundly infected religion, poetry, art and criticism that it has created a cult of the unreal.” He asserts that “a great deal of what has been imposed upon us as God’s direct, true and sole revelation to man is a mass of inverted myths.”

Massey insists that theology is a diseased state of primitive mythology, contradicting the renowned Max Müller, who has stated the contrary—that mythology was a disease of theology. Elsewhere he says that the Marchen are not reflections, but refractions, of the ancient myths. The mythos passed over into the folk-tale, not the folk-tale into the mythos. He contends that in truth the myths were the earliest forms taken by primitive thought in formulating representations of reality. Simple-minded early man saw life pictured by the living processes under his observation. Our own opinion diverges considerably from

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Massey’s at this point, since there is massive evidence, of the general type adduced in this work, to show that the myths were not the product of “primitive” simplicity, but on the contrary were devised by the highest mythopoetic genius. They were the output of a line of sages who knew the truth of what Paul has told us, that the inner world of ideality is understood by those things which are made, in the outer world of physis. They traced a marvelous series of parallels, correspondences, analogies between things seen and things unseen, the better to illustrate the latter. They knew that physical nature typed spiritual reality, and used the outlines of the former to pictorialize the latter. They took the tadpole or the serpent as the type of resurrected life, because they saw the spiritual process exemplified in these creatures. They took the hawk as the symbol of the risen soul because they saw the bird soar into the airy heights. They found in the mole a fit symbol of the soul immersed in the dark underworld of flesh, because the analogy was evident and under their eye. Nature supplied the suggestive identity, and they used it to teach subjective truths. Primitive man may well known the simple processes of nature from first-hand contact; but he will not know that they bespeak a spiritual counterpart of themselves in the interior life of man unless the sages so inform him. Massey’s view was not well considered in this regard. Whole generations of civilized folks have gazed upon the phenomena of nature and failed to be instructed spiritually by the spectacle. One must ask Massey if primitive fancy could construct allegories so profoundly elaborated that the united intelligence of the world for centuries has been unable to fathom their hidden significance. Millions of intelligent persons today have looked upon the sun and moon throughout the whole of their lives and have never yet discerned in their movements and phases an iota of the astonishing spiritual drama which the two heavenly bodies enact each month, a drama disclosed to our own astonished comprehension only by the books of ancient Egypt. Hundreds of celebrities in the field of Egyptology have mulled over the same material and have not yet lifted as much as a corner of the veil of Isis. Primitive simplicity could not have concocted what the age-long study of an intelligent world could not fathom. Not aboriginal naïveté, but exalted spiritual and intellectual acumen, formulated the myths. Reflection of the realities of a higher world in the phenomena of a lower world could not be detected when only the one world, the

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lower, was known. You can not see that nature reflects spiritual truth unless you know the form of spiritual truth. And such knowledge would be an a priori requirement to making the comparison at all! Did primitive man possess such profound knowledge of subjective truth?

But whence, it will be asked, came such exalted intelligence amongst the early undeveloped races? This question has been answered by the earlier statement that graduates of this or other cycles of growth had parented and tutored early mankind. A parent or guardian gives to the immature child a set of high maxims into the practical wisdom of which he is to grow in the course of his later development. Humanity was the ward of the demi-gods in remote times. And none but an intelligence beyond Shakespeare’s, beyond Plato’s, could have framed so marvelous a quiver of myths, the interior purport of which cannot even now be grasped save by the help of most recondite keys, themselves the distillation of a whole course of philosophical education. We have not read into the myths, as Massey claims, an unwarranted implication; we are only now, all too belatedly, drawing out of them some portion of a meaning deep as life itself, which they were from the first designed to embody. We do not have to superimpose extraneous meaning upon them. We find them already pregnant with truth. They shine with the flashing light of an inner connotation which they were intended to reflect. They were themselves the shadow in objective form of the substance of truth, and Massey must not object to our working from the shadow, as Plato suggested in the “cave allegory,” back to the substance. It is the only method operable by men in the “cave.”

The religious texts of old are at least one thing that did not arise from “primitive” ignorance. Says Budge, in speaking of the Egyptian Book of the Dead: “They can’t be the literary product of savages or negroes.”9 He adds elsewhere:

“The descriptions of the heaven of the Egyptian depicted in the Pyramid Texts represent the conceptions of countless generations of theologians.”10

Yet he refers to these Egyptian people as primitives. He reveals his mental obfuscation again in speaking of the Egyptian judgment:

“The pictorial form of the Judgment Scene cannot fail to strike us as belonging to a primitive period, when the Egyptians believed that hearts were actually weighed in the Balance before Osiris, while the words of the

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texts . . . suggest a development of ethics which we are accustomed to associate with the most civilized nations of the world.”11

Apart from the fact that almost certainly no age of Egyptian history was so stupid as to believe that a living Osiris ever observed the weighing of physical hearts in an actual Judgment Scene—it being all a symbolical depiction—the passage discloses the confusion of the scholastic mind at the contemporaneous presence of elevated spirituality or ethics with alleged primitive culture. We see the same inadequacy of the “primitive” theory to meet the facts again in the following quotation from Budge:

“Mr. Dennett, after a long study of the religions of many tribes in Western Africa, says that the Bavili conception of God is so spiritual, or abstract, that he fears the reader will think him mad to suppose that so evidently degenerate a race can have formed so logical an idea of God.”12

It seems never to have occurred to either Budge or Mr. Dennett or others that some saner age might some time pass upon our scholars the judgment of madness in thinking that the sublime spiritual conceptions of the Book of the Dead, the Chaldean Oracles, the Orphic Hymns, could have been the product of primitive peoples.

In discussing the (figurative) partaking by the ancient votaries of the bodies of their gods in the Eucharistic festival, which he mistakes for a literal eating (!), Budge traces the practice to a savage custom of cutting out and eating the vital organs of the bodies of captives in order to imbibe their courage, and says that “it is hard to understand the retention of such a notion in a text filled with sublime thoughts and ideas.” Could not this distinguished scholar see that the sole difficulty in the matter was caused by the foolish attempt to read poetry and allegory as objective occurrence?

It is perhaps permissible to interject here an instance of the incapacity of modern academicians to interpret the ancient use of symbols. Says Budge again:

“The Egyptian Christian also associated the frog with new birth and on a Christian lamp described by Lauzone, is a figure of a frog surrounded by the legend ‘Ego eimi Anastasis,’ ‘I am the Resurrection.’ It is not easy at first sight to understand why the frog should have been a symbol of new life to the Egyptian any more than the beetle. . . .”13

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He finally arrives at the solution: “The frog appears with the coming of the rain, just as the beetle appears with the rising of the Nile, and so the ideas of new life and fertility became associated with them.” That so eminent a scholar as Budge should admit the difficulty of understanding why the frog—which transforms from the tadpole—and the beetle—which goes into the ground only to reissue after an incubation of twenty-eight days as a new generation of himself—should have been taken as apt symbols of the resurrection is a sufficiently striking demonstration of the blindness with which modern presumption has approached the study of the lore of antiquity. The frog, the beetle, the snake, the worm becoming the chrysalis, were the obvious visible types of transfiguration and regeneration, the outward mark of the spiritual idea. Massey states that the Christian Fathers, with the exception perhaps of Clement of Alexandria, “had scarcely enough knowledge of the ancient symbolism to put any perceptible boundary to their ignorance.”14 They did not know that their Gospels were old Egyptian myths ignorantly literalized. Massey notes that Celsus “asked concerning the Christian legends, made false to fact by the ignorant literalization of the Gnosis,--‘What nurse would not be ashamed to tell such fables to a child?’” One might paraphrase Celsus’ question today by asking: “What age would not be ashamed to confess that it could not tell the difference between myths and actual history?”

Every religion apparently has begun at a high level and become corrupted until it stood in need of reformation and purification. Religions decay through atrophy of spiritual vision. Their course is marked by a blurring of the original light. Their fiery motivating spirit ever tends to become static. Early passion for radical regeneration of the life dwindles into a conservative tendency. The early dynamic symbols and slogans after a time lose their pristine significance. Hence the traditions, legends and rites found to be cherished by many semi-civilized tribes of our day are doubtless the decadent remnants or mere husks of former grand representations of spiritual truth. They do not represent the beginnings of crude religious apprehension; they are the crumbling ruins of once noble structures of wisdom and genius. Modern insight has entirely failed to sense this status of the religious material in anthropological study, in consequence of which the handling of religion as a sociological investigation has been

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marked by the grossest misconception, bewilderment and confusion. Academic opinion is that the myths and folk-tales are the groping efforts of undeveloped mind to interpret nature. But, on the contrary, they are the floating debris of splendid old formulations that once brimmed with the golden wine of high meaning. They are the wrack of mythology. “Whoever begins with the myths as a product of the ‘savage’ mind as savages are known today is fatally in error.”15 Years of study convinced Massey that all the Marchen were the flotsam of old Egyptian wisdom-structures. He avers:

“We must go back to the Proto-Aryan beginnings which are Egyptian and Kamite. In Africa we find those things next to Nature where we can go no further back in search of origins. Egypt alone goes back far enough to touch Nature in these beginnings, and . . . Egypt alone has faithfully and intelligently kept the record.”16

In Budge’s Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection (Vol. I, p. 365) the author writes of the people of West Africa in relation to the assertion that they were primitive savages:

“This is a great mistake, for they possess the remnants of a noble and sublime religion, the precepts of which they have forgotten and the ceremonies of which they have debased.”

Here for once the scholar glimpsed the truth of the anthropological situation as regards religious origins and subsequent decadence, and had he followed the light which here shone in his mind for the moment, he would have been spared the floundering in bogs and swamps of misconception which makes his treatises so nearly worthless in the end. In treating of that supposedly most debased of African religious customs, fetishism, he writes:

“Wherever we find fetishism it seems to be a corruption or modification of some former system of worship rather than the result of a primitive faith.”

“All this is only theory as far as the Egyptians are concerned, but authorities on modern African religions tell us that this is exactly what has taken place among the peoples of West Africa. Thus Col. Ellis says that there is more fetishism among the negroes of the West Indies, who have been Christianized for more than half a century, than amongst those of West Africa; for side by side with the new religion have lingered the old superstitions, whose true import has been forgotten or corrupted.”17

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It served partisan ecclesiastical purposes in early times to weave some history into the texture of the allegory or to use certain bold historical events as the frame for the allegorical depiction. And this mixture has made the determination difficult in places. It is not an overstatement of truth to aver that the systems of mythology have served little better purpose in the Christian era than to detail the entire train of meaning. They have proved to be insoluble puzzles and enigmas. Our inability to make sense of them has totally distorted our estimate of Greek, Egyptian, Hindu and Chinese mentality, causing us to belittle their product most egregiously. Evidences of our erroneous estimates of their work are abundant. Lewis Spence quotes Budge (Egyptian Magic) as asserting that the Egyptians believed the gods could assume at will the forms of animals, and that this belief was the origin of the most sacred position accorded to animals in Kamite religion.

“This was the fundamental idea of so-called ‘Egyptian animal-worship’ which provoked the merriment of the cultured Greeks and drew down upon the Egyptians the ridicule and abuse of the early Christian writers.”18

Budge is of record in a statement that

“it is doubtful if the Egyptian, at that time, had developed any spiritual conceptions, in our sense of the word; for although his ideas were very definite as to the reality of a future existence, I think that he had formulated few details about it, and that he had no idea as to where or how it was to be enjoyed.”

Such a quotation provokes the comment that it might be heartily agreed that the Egyptians had no “spiritual conceptions in our sense of the word,” for their understanding of eschatology far transcended ours in definiteness and lucidity, being both scientific and consistent, while ours is hazy and conjectural. And again, one could ask Budge just where in modern life the details as to the future state have been so expressly “formulated” on an accepted basis, and where one can gain explicit information nowadays as to “where and how it is to be enjoyed.” For the Spiritualists are the only ones who have tried to set forth these matters with definiteness, and are we to understand that Budge regards their theories as the accepted knowledge of our brilliant era? Have not both science and the academic world scoffed at Spirit-

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ualistic offerings? Budge goes on to say that the student who views Egyptian religion “from the lofty standpoint of Christianity only,” will regard it as gross polytheism or pantheism, expressed through rites that were cruel, bloodthirsty and savage, embellished with legends of the gods that are childish, the outcome of debased minds and imaginations, featuring a story of the resurrection of Osiris that is a farrago of nonsense in which absurd magical ceremonies play an impossible part, and a conception of heaven that bespeaks the imagination of a half-savage people. Yet he has more than once expressed his surprise at the sublimity and lofty purity of their presentments!

In his sorry effort at interpretation of the Egyptian Myths and Legends Lewis Spence adds clinching evidence of the utter incapacity of academic brains to discern in the least degree what the sages of old were laboring to do, when he permits himself to place the following shameful appraisal upon archaic intelligence:

“Again, to the Egyptian mind, incapable of abstract thought, an immaterial and intangible deity was an impossible conception. A god, and more so by reason of his godhead, must manifest and function in an actual body. . . . As the Egyptian everywhere craved the manifestation of and communion with his gods, it thus came about that incarnations of deity and its many attributes were multiplied.”19

The consummate obtuseness that could prompt the ascription to the ancient Egyptian seers of the flat incapacity for abstract thought may not be comprehended in its bald grossness until the reader has finished the perusal of the present volume. We have not hitherto had the presentation of the lucid meaning of Egypt’s religion to enable us to gauge the amazing injustice, as well as the crass stupidity, of so rank a judgment pronounced by ignorance against wisdom. In spiritual science we are still the barbarians.

Further comment would call attention to the sagacity of the Egyptians in refraining from doing the very thing of which Spence accused them,--of actualizing their deities as persons. Not the Egyptians but the Christians did this, in the person of Jesus. Personal gods were precisely the kind they did not have. What they had was representations of the gods, which is a whole kingdom’s length away from the other conception. Their “gods” were in reality the actual energies of nature, of matter and of mind in the universe, graded in a wonderful hier-

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archy. These are intangible powers, and what can puny man do other than represent them by one or another type of image? The Egyptians had quite unaccountable knowledge of these sublimer forces, with some of which, as the ethers and the rays, modern science is now slowly becoming acquainted, and they poetically imaged them under deific names, as Thoth, Anup, Kheper, Khnum, Osiris, Horus, Ptah, Set, Isis, Nephthys and Ra. But gods in human flesh (except by personation) they expressly did not have. Budge wastes pages over the discussion as to whether Osiris was a living character; and decided that his tomb, with his actual bodily remains, was at Abydos. The time has come to cry out against such incompetent muddling and to bend ourselves with what capacity we have to unravel the golden threads of supernal wisdom running their magnificent design through the old books of Egypt.

Budge was a few times astute and fair enough to admit that injustice had been done to pagans by Christian aspersions as to their addiction to idol-worship and fetishism. He well recalls that the Portuguese Christian explorers adjudged the African tribes to be practitioners of witchcraft and sorcery simply because they were themselves familiar with it and gratuitously translated observed African ceremonies as such. He is good enough to say that “neither the Egyptian nor the modern African ever believed in the divinity of their amulets or fetishes, and they never considered them to represent deities.” He quotes Dr. Nassau as a final authority in stating that “the thing itself, the material itself, is not worshipped. . . . Low as is fetishism, it nevertheless has its philosophy, a philosophy that is the same in kind as that of the higher forms of worship.” The apex of fairness is reached in Budge’s statement in the Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, Vol. I, p. 198:

“From first to last there is no evidence whatever that the Egyptians worshipped a figure or symbol, whether made of metal or wood, stone, porcelain or any other substance, unless they believed it to be the abode of a spirit of some kind. So far from fetishism being peculiarly characteristic of Egyptian religion, it seems to me that this religion, at all events in its oldest forms, was remarkably free from it.”

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