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Ancient Egyptian

Category: Mystic groups and systems

 

 Egypt's ancient kingdom spans at least 3000 years - in some estimates 5000 years and during that entire time a Mystery religion was in operation.  It covered four/five dynastic periods and at least 30 dynasties:

  • Early Dynastic period - 1st and 2nd dynasties; 3,100 BC - 2,686 BC
  • Old Kingdom -  3rd to 6th and 7th to 10th dynasties; 2,686 BC - 2,055 BC [including intermediate period]
  • Middle Kingdom - 11th to 12th and 13th to 17th dynasties;  2055 BC - 1550 BC
  • New Kingdom - 18th to 20th; 21st to 25th; 26th and 27th to 30th dynasties; 1550- 664BC [including intermediate period]
  • Late period - 664BC - 332 BC and after as the kingdom tailed away after the introduction of Christianity

 The Old Kingdom was the age of the pyramids, when a series of able monarchs established a culture of great refinement which ended in feudal disorder and bloodshed.  The Middle Kingdom saw the country restored to national discipline by force of arms and culture again flourished.  This period ended when the Hyksos, a warlike people who had settled in the delta, successfully challenged the monarchy.  Following the war of liberation, the monarchy emerged with a stronger government, a regular army and an era of foreign trade and expansion of territory.  This was the New Kingdom when Egypt controlled a vast empire and tributes from the conquered nations poured into the state capital at Thebes.

The ancient Egyptians themselves, however, spoke of and recalled a Golden Age, when justice was strong and the 'gods' emerged - all of whom were men and women, whose link with the Intelligences was so strong, they were virtually inseparable.  The sphinx was built, the basic stages of the spiritual path and hence the Mysteries was established and understanding of the spirit world encapsulated in symbol and myth as a means of recall in an age without the means of recording it.  

The Book of the Dead - Call to the Initiates
O blind soul, arm yourself with the torch of the Mysteries and in terrestrial night you will discover your luminous reflection, your immortal soul.  Follow the divine guide, letting him be your Genius.  For he holds the key to your past and future lives.

The staring and bulging eyes of the Initiate in trance
[Cairo museum]

It is impossible to understand anything of Ancient Egyptian culture unless one has a belief in the existence of the spiritual realm, as everything we now see in the remains of the buildings, the paintings and statues describes the spiritual and their Mystery religion.  Everything is symbolic, and the symbolism of numerous other Mystery religions derives from the Universal symbolism of the Egyptians. 

Sir James Frazer
Herodotus found the similarity between the rites of Osiris and Dionysus so great he supposed they had been borrowed, with slight variations, by the Greeks from the Egyptians; Plutarch, a keen student of comparative religion insists upon the same.

The Mystery religion

There are two main stages in all Mystery religions.  The first stage is a time of learning once one has been 'called' or accepted and a series of trials to ensure one is worthy of further progress.  This stage culminates in a rebirth experience.  If this stage is successful, the second stage is split into two, the first part of which is a long period of 'purification', followed by a second stage in which one gradually is united with one's Higher spirit, or it is achieved via deliberate means. 

Emile Prisse d’Avennes

The Egyptian Mysteries used the pyramids to provoke rebirth experiences.  They did this by incarcerating the Initiate inside the pyramids in total darkness for at least 3 days.  The incarceration was preceeded by a number of tests on the way.  The second stage and particularly the latter stage was achieved principally via Sex magick and sexual stimulationLove with visualisation was also used.

Socrates, for example who attended the Egyptian Mysteries said  "those who are acquainted with the Mysteries insure to themselves very pleasing hopes against death".  Socrates was helped by Diotima, a  High priestess from Mantinea.  Diotoma  “taught him all he knows about eros, or love” where eros here is symbolically the Higher spirit – so love of the Higher spirit.  Through love one achieves love. 

There is also some evidence that the Egyptians practised headbinding in order to induce brain damage in those they wished to include in the Mysteries.
A great number of other highly influential people also attended the Egyptian mysteries including Moses, who was himself half Egyptian.  More details can be found in the general section on the Mysteries.

Within the organised society which was based on the Mysteries, various roles emerged for its key people:

Picture 073, Book of the Dead - and some just tamed crocodiles for the
ceremonies, which is like taming the lion, but more reptilian.....
  • Hierophant - teachers, priests and judges, who were largely involved in the first stage of the Mysteries
  • King and Queen - Adepts capable of taking power and thus ruling wisely
  • The prophet or hermit - an Adept with the ability to prophecy and obtain wisdom for the good of all the people
  • Magi or magician - those capable of achieving environmental control
  • The High priestess - a helper with the first stage but the principle helper in the second stages if the person was a man. 
  • Knight - the warrior class, capable of defending the kingdom from its aggressors

One key figure in the Mystery religion was Osiris.  Osiris was an Egyptian ‘god’, which means he was a person who had achieved annihilation on the spiritual path. His dismemberment story was a rebirth experience.  He gave his name to a cult, but he also became a symbol.  Being cut up into pieces is an allegorical reference to what happens during rebirth, which is a form of tearing apart of the Personality and a rewriting of the 'software ' of soul.  Romulus suffered the same fate, and in Chios stories raged [with the normal lack of understanding of things symbolic] of how men were being 'rent in pieces' as part of the Dionysian Mysteries.  The Thracian Orpheus was similarly torn limb from limb - allegorically.

One of the customs of the people at this time was the burying of a sheaf of wheat which they called the Old Man in the harvest field.  They stood over the buried sheaf and prayed for his resurrection

An Egyptian Feast - Thisbe Edwin Longsden [open the box .................]

Model of the Mind

The ancient Egyptians had a very good model of the human mind in its totality and divided it up into five sub-systems: the Ren, the Ba, the Ka, the Sheut, and the Ib. In addition to these spiritual sub-systems, there was the human body, called the ha with the autonomic system.  If we cross reference the parts above with the Model and definitions:

  • Gilded ib, heart amulet, Dyn.18
    showing the little wings
    Ib – is the Subconscious feminine with its emotions and perceptions.  On death the perceptions survived and were used in ‘judgement being a true record of what happened.  The seat of the emotions was the heart – a feature we now recognise ourselves if we say we are heart broken.  The emotions had to be in balance in Egyptian society not too cold hearted but not over emotional. The heart in Egyptian symbolism was examined by Anubis and the deities during the Weighing of the Heart ceremony. If the heart weighed more than the feather of Maat, it was immediately consumed by the monster Ammit.  There is the assumption by many Egyptologists that this happened on death, but an Egyptian on the spiritual path was being continually judged in this way
  • This wooden structure depicts
    the Ka statue of King Hor I
    /Au-ib-Re.  He has the twin
    horns and uses the left leg, an
    indication he had achieved
    mastery over the right
    Ren – the name, our unique identifier in the spiritual world – see Names – analogously like the identifier for our computer that enables us to link into the Internet
  • Ka – our Personality and to a certain extent as a consequence the Will.  The Personality drives the will and is a determinant of activity thus they do go together.  The ka was allocated on birth according to destiny and left the body on death
  • Ba – the Higher spirit, it was the objective of all Egyptians on the spiritual path to merge the ka with the ba – the chemical wedding or 'mystical marriage' - producing as a result initially union of the two - moksha - and then annihilation of the Personality, after which one became  a living god - an akh – and a person allied to the symbolic Sun and ultimately the Stars
This golden Ba amulet from the Ptolemaic period is from the Walters
Art Museum, Baltimore

A person who had in life achieved the merger of these two aspects had, in effect, opened up both tunnels to the sun and moon and was thus entitled to wear the twin horns with the sun between the two.

Intelligences and the Egyptian pantheon

Egg carving in striped alabaster  1000BC

 The Ancient Egyptians had an extensive cosmology that included both Intelligences with the Intelligence hierarchy and gods – people who had achieved Annihilation.  It is often quite difficult to determine which is which, however, those with animal heads are usually gods, simply because the symbolism incorporates ‘shape shifting’ as a concept – a human ability.  There is one all powerful creator/destroyer Intelligence – the Ultimate Intelligence - variously represented symbolically, but often as the Sun.

The numbers nine, twelve, and three are used in explanations of the different facets of the Intelligences. 

The order of creation is shown as a bandage unwinding around a pole or an Egg – an extremely sophisticated concept, as unlike the spider and web analogy used in some other cultures, the Egyptian symbolism incorporates the idea of time as an axis in evolution.

 

One common element of the Egyptian cosmology is the familiar symbol of the cosmic Egg, the serpent winding round it is the Ouroboros.

The creation myth of Heliopolis is key in understanding the cosmology and was probably the blueprint for numerous subsequent creation myths, including that in the Bible.  As it is quite long I have provided it as an observation so that all the links to the concepts and symbols employed can be referenced.

Symbolism

It is impossible to understand the Ancient Egyptian culture without understanding its symbolism, thus the following brief sections will provide an overview of some example symbols.  The Universal symbol system on this site provides the meaning for many other symbols

Some symbolic badges of office

Rameses1

The beard  - worn by pharaohs male and female  was stylised and in the case of female pharaohs clearly false.  A beard is a universal symbol of wisdom.  It takes some of its symbolism from hair.  But in Ancient Egyptian symbolism an added symbolic meaning appears to have been that the person had been through the first stage of the Mysteries - 'done the dive' - and thus forced a rebirth.  The beard was usually bound to look like a tunnel and bore a certain resemblance to the Inferno realm of Dante's!

The hair style  - of the key gods of the Ancient Egyptian pantheon served to either signify the symbolic concept of Big Ears or to emphasise ears by pushing them forward.  The hairstyle could have been a wig, which also incorporates symbolic meaning, - both Hair and Curls

Emile Prisse d’Avennes

The more hair the better as the Wig is a symbol of being in touch with the spiritual world and usually means a person who obtains the input of wisdom.  The long flaps often seen in judges' wigs today derive from this source and are the same symbol of Big ears!  A person with big ears, especially if they stick out a long way, is a permanently enlightened being.

The throne - where a person had gained a certain level within the Mystery religions, he or she was allowed to be seated.  Thus any seated figure whether the figure is one in the Ancient Egyptian system, or is in the Tarot or is in the Feudal system signified a certain level of achievement spiritually.

 

Impressive by any standards

Apron - The apron now worn in Freemason ceremonies  goes back to Ancient Egypt and the Great Mystery Ceremonies. The apron then performed two functions.  Just like the pyramid it was a symbolic reference to the Cone.  In effect it was an indicator that the person was on the spiritual path.  But its practical use was as a temporary cover for the genitals. We have enough information to know that  Sexual stimulation was used extensively to initiate candidates in the Egyptian Mysteries.  In those days you were assessed by the length of your apron [sorry - I jest].

This interesting sarcophagus also
incorporates the symbolic
levels and layers as well as the kundalini
serpent headdress

Flail -  The flail was both symbolic and practical – literal.  The flail was actually used in obtaining spiritual experience and was a sort of badge of office for a hierophant – in essence the person had attained the status of someone who could induce spiritual experiences in other people.  But it had the added symbolism in that it could be viewed as the spine with the opened crown chakra.

Crook - is representative of the spine and the sacrum, and thus an indicator that the person was qualified to induce a kundalini experience [or had undergone one themselves and were thus qualified to help others].

Collar or ruff - a symbol of beheading. The symbolism means that the person has managed to master their bodily sensations and by doing so they had achieved key spiritual experience - principally wisdom - and were thus in touch with their Higher spirit.  It thus becomes by extension a symbol of ‘enlightenment’.

Hand and finger pointing - represent the person's relationship with the spiritual world - in a sense where they are [or were if they are dead] on the spiritual path.  If the fingers, or the finger and thumb in any way form a V, then this has quite different and very significant meaning - see the V sign.  In the Egyptian tongue, the term designating the hand was related to that for the pillar and for the palm.

 

Hats - Hats are symbolically the same as crowns, a symbol that denotes the person has had their crown chakra opened and is in contact with the spiritual world via their Higher spirit. There is a connection here with the sceptre and some pharaohs are shown carrying a sceptre.  The shape of the hat is relevant and occasionally looks like an hourglass, yet other times a cone, at other times a cobra,  sometimes feathers and plumes, or a phyrigian cap.  One key piece of symbolism incorporated into a number of hats is the twin horns.  It is commonly believed that the disk, which is often found between the horns in headdresses like those of Hathor, is the Sun.  It may, however, not be, as symbolically it would be more correct if it were a star. One physical star often used symbolically was Sirius.

A bracelet or armlet -  is also a small brace or bracer and this is an arm-guard used by archers.  And is equivalent symbolically to ‘wings’, the chance to fly, as the symbolism derives from that of the arrow and the bow.  It is also ring shaped and thus takes on the symbolism of all rings in that it represents a level or layer.  An out of body traveller.

Harpistes-Ramses-III--Prisse-d-Avennes

Harps and musical instruments - The harp combines the symbolism of the Loom and Musical instruments.  There is also a link to celestial music and the music of the spheres in that many in spiritual experience can hear music.

Shoes - pharaohs and other gods did not wear shoes for a reason.  Follow the link.

General symbols

It is worth mentioning that the majority of the symbolism seen in the Tarot cards derives from Egyptian symbolism.

Wings, twin horns, star, green, crown, ankh, water, throne....

Sun and Moon - an absolutely key symbol within the Egyptian Mysteries, as it was in all the Mystery religions.   The Creator [as a role] is represented by the Sun and the Created ‘software’ [as a role] as the Moon. The Sun is a creative force, it enables life. The Moon is the Created master copy – a reflection of the Sun.

Wings - Wings are symbolic of Ascension and ascent spiritually.  Although ladders, ropes and wings all appear to be similar as means of ascent, there is a very distinct difference symbolically.  The Egyptians used all three symbols.

The Djed  - is a pillar-like ancient Egyptian symbol. It is a column designed to look like a tree – a large lone tree.  It thus takes on the symbolism of both – a column or portal to the spiritual world.

The ankh  - was also known as the key of life, the key of the Nile or the crux ansata (Latin meaning "cross with a handle"). Egyptian gods are often portrayed carrying it by its loop, or bearing one in each hand, arms crossed over their chest.  For its meaning see Key.

An ark  - takes on the symbolism of a boat, but whereas many boats tend to be personal things – one’s own means of transport along the spiritual path, an ark is a boat intended for numerous souls. Noah’s ark, for example, was a boat that was intended to be an island of souls in a sea of dissolution.

 

David Roberts

Grain  - the principle symbolism for a grain is the Soul.  The symbolism combines the idea of a granary which contains numerous little souls which pour down onto the Earth, where they sprout and grow only to be cut down when they are full grown by the Grim Reaper.

Temple columns - where there are multiple columns, all upright, possibly grouped, all with bases with a root like splay and a capital with foliage is representing a grove of trees.  

Mummification - symbolically the same as swaddling clothes, a symbol for the body  - the soft soul wrapped in a layer.

Flagpoles - Often found on pylons, the banner or pennant – a streaming piece of material is symbolic of spirit output.  In effect thoughts, or more specifically prayers.

The crocodile  - found naturally in the Nile, but also a symbol of the ‘reptilian brain’ – the deep subconscious.  In the Mysteries it was something one had to know and understand.

Sacred geography

A sacred landscape maps spiritual features and symbols onto the physical landscape using a mix of naturally occurring features and sites which have spiritual 'power'.  The objective of all sacred landscapes is to recreate heaven on earth - to recreate the symbols and features seen in spiritual experience using the physical landscape, thus reminding people of both spiritual truths but also guiding them to places where such experience could be obtained.  It has the added benefit that if a person is unable to gain spiritual experience, then at least he has some approximate idea of what others have seen and experienced from the physical recreation of it. 

The Egyptian Mysteries incorporated an extensive, rich and awe inspiring sacred geography, the culmination of which is of course the pyramids, but most symbols have a physical equivalent.

Emile Prisse d’Avennes

The Great Pyramid at Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza was a fundamental part of the Mysteries. Heliopolis was the famous temple school in the city of On, used to prepare Initiates for the ceremonies.  A sacred way stretched from the foot of the plateau upon which rested the pyramids to link them with Heliopolis.  Both Heliopolis and Memphis 'looked to the Great Pyramid as their highest shrine of the Mysteries'

Les-ruines-de-Louxor-Emile Prisse d’Avennes

The site was both symbolically laid out and also practically laid out in order that Initiates were symbolically enacting a 'heavenly journey'.  

The site at one time contained just about every physical thing that one could place in a landscape intended to be a Sacred geography.  The pyramid is of course a key part of this geography, serving a practical purpose as a place in which the initiation ceremonies of the first stage of the Mysteries were held, but also employing a symbolic shape.   Another key symbol incorporated into the architecture were the twin pillars - known as pylons, which marked the entrance to the 'holy of holies in the temple complex. 

The obelisk too has a symbolic meaning.  For more details follow the link.

 

 Emile Prisse d’Avennes

The Sphinx

 

A very complex symbol which is explained in the symbol section - follow this LINK.  In the animal part we see in part the deep  Subconscious - the autonomic system.  But the sphinx is also in most representations a Lion and the Lion is the symbol of the Intellect. But the sphinx has an animal lower half with a woman’s face  -  the feminine.  The feminine dominates the masculine in the sphinx.  In effect, order to achieve the mystic marriage, the masculine has to be subsumed but embraced by the feminine and the marriage is the sphinx. 

 

References

 

Beard, bulging eyes, wig,  levels and layers...

The Egyptian Book of the Dead  - is the modern name given to the ancient funerary texts placed in the coffins or burial chambers of the deceased in ancient Egypt.  They were used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BC) to around 50 BC.  The Book is actually a book of Initiation into the Mysteries and as such is exceptionally relevant to this section.  A separate section on the Book is on the site, and can be found by following the link.  A large number of the 'Spells' are also provided.

The Ancient Egyptians - Jill Kamil; a short, easy to read book on the history of this era.

Hermes Trismegistus - was a key Adept and a major figure in the Mystery religion.  He has a separate entry on the site.

Paul Brunton - whose rebirth experience whilst staying overnight in the Great Pyramid at Giza is described on this site - follow the link.

The Great Initiates - A Study of the Secret History of religions - Edouard Schure.  This book was first published in 1889 and it has gone through at least 220 new editions.  It is estimated to have been purchased by 750,000 people, has been translated into numerous languages including Russian, with estimates of the number of those who have read it in the millions.  The French edition continues to sell about 3000 copies annually.  What marks the book out is that Edouard attempts to recreate what it was like for an Initiate undergoing the Mysteries.  Edouard himself had his share of spiritual experiences and is on the site, so you can follow the link to find out more about him.

Akhenaton with crook, flail, egg headdress, cobra
beard, wig

The Mithras Liturgy  - is part of the great magical codex of Paris (Papyrus 574 of the Bibliotheque Nationale).

It is believed to date from about the early fourth century C.E./AD and  contains a variety of tractates, hymns, recipes, and prescriptions, which were apparently collected for use in the working library of an Egyptian magician. Lines 475- 834 of the codex constitute the Mithras Liturgy.  Follow the link, as the liturgy is on the site.

Moses - who was himself half Egyptian was an Adept from the Mysteries; the New Testament specifically states that 'Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians'.  According to the same source he also took a pledge of silence upon his initiation.  The wisdom that Moses acquired was learnt in the famous temple school in the city of On, named Heliopolis by the Greeks when they conquered Egypt.  A sacred way stretched from the foot of the plateau upon which rested the pyramids to link them with Heliopolis.  Both Heliopolis and Memphis 'looked to the Great Pyramid as their highest shrine of the Mysteries'.

 

 

Observations

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