Ancient Magic in Modern Science
Theosophist, October, 1886
Paulthier, The French Indianist, may, or may not, be taxed with too much enthusiasm when saying that India appears before him as the grand and primitive focus of human thought, whose steady flame has ended by communicating itself to, and setting on fire the whole ancient world1—yet, he is right in his statement. It is Aryan metaphysics2 that have led the mind to occult knowledge—the oldest and the mother science of all, since it contains within itself all the other sciences. And it is occultism— the synthesis of all the discoveries in nature and, chiefly, of the psychic potency within and beyond every physical atom of matter— that has been the primitive bond that has cemented into one cornerstone the foundations of all the religions of antiquity.
The primitive spark has set on fire every nation, truly,and Magic underlies now every national faith, whether old or young. Egypt and Chaldea are foremost in the ranks of those countries that furnish us with the most evidence upon the subject, helpless as they are to do as India does—to protect their paleographic relics from desecration. The turbid waters of the canal of Suez carry along to those that wash the British shores, the magic of the earliest days of Pharaonic Egypt,to fill up with its crumbled dust the British, French, German and Russian museums. Ancient, historical Magic is thus reflecting itself upon the scientific records of our own all-denying century. It forces the hand and tires the brain of the scientist,laughing at his efforts to interpret its meaning in his own materialistic way, yet helps the occultist better to understand modern Magic, the rickety, weak grandchild of her powerful, archaic grandam. Hardly a hieratic papyrus exhumed along with the swathed mummy of King or Priest-Hierophant, or a weather-beaten, indecipherable inscription from the tormented sites of Babylonia or Ninevah, or an ancient tile-cylinder—that does not furnish new food for thought or some suggestive information to the student of Occultism. Withal, magic is denied and termed the “superstition” of the ignorant ancient philosopher.
Thus, magic in every papyrus; magic in all the religious formulae; magic bottled up in hermetically-closed vials, many thousands of years old; magic in elegantly bound, modern works; magic in the most popular novels; magic in social gatherings; magic—worse than that, SORCERY—in the very air one breathes in Europe, America, Australia: the more civilized and cultured a nation, the more formidable and effective the effluvia of unconscious magic it emits and stores away in the surrounding atmosphere . . .
Tabooed, derided magic would, of course, never be accepted under her legitimate name; yet science has begun dealing with that ostracised science under modern masks,and very considerably. But what is in a name? Because a wolf is scientifically defined as an animal of the genus canis, does it make of him a dog? Men of science may prefer to call the magic inquired into by Porphyry and explained by Iamblichus hysterical hypnosis, but that does not make it the less magic. The result and outcome of primitive Revelation to the earlier races by their “Divine Dynasties” the kings-instructors, became innate knowledge in the Fourth race, that of the Atlanteans; and that knowledge is now called in its rare cases of “abnormal” genuine manifestations, mediumship. The secret history of the world, preserved only in far-away, secure retreats, would alone, if told unreservedly, inform the present generations of the powers that lie latent, and to most unknown, in man and nature. It was the fearful misuse of magic by the Atlanteans, that led their race to utter destruction, and—to oblivion. The tale of their sorcery and wicked enchantments has reached us, through classical writers,in fragmentary bits, as legends and childish fairy-tales, and as fathered on smaller nations. Thence the scorn for necromancy, goetic magic, and theurgy. The “witches” of Thessaly are not less laughed at in our day than the modern medium or the credulous Theosophist. This is again due to sorcery, and one should never lack the moral courage to repeat the term; for it is the fatally abused magic that forced the adepts, “the Sons of Light,” to bury it deep, after its sinful votaries had themselves found a watery grave at the bottom of the ocean; thus placing it beyond the reach of the profane of the race that succeeded to the Atlanteans. It is, then, to sorcery that the world is indebted for its present ignorance about it. But who or what class in Europe or America, will believe the report? With one exception, none; and that exception is found in the Roman Catholics and their clergy; but even they, while bound by their religious dogmas to credit its existence, attribute to it a satanic origin. It is this theory which, no doubt, has to this day prevented magic from being dealt with scientifically.
Still, nolens volens, science has to take it in hand. Archaeology in its most interesting department—Egyptology and Assyriology— is fatally wedded to it, do what it may. For magic is so mixed up with the world’s history that, if the latter is ever to be written at all in its completeness,giving the truth and nothing but the truth, there seems to be no help for it. If Archaeology counts still upon discoveries and reports upon hieratic writings that will be free from the hateful subject, then HISTORY will never be written, we fear.
One sympathises profoundly with, and can well imagine, the embarrassing position of the various savants and “F.R.S.’s” of Academicians and Orientalists. Forced to decipher, translate and interpret old mouldy papyri, inscriptions on steles and Babylonian rhombs, they find themselves at every moment face to face with MAGIC! Votive offerings, carvings, hieroglyphics, incantations—the whole paraphernalia of that hateful “superstition”—stare them in the eyes, demand their attention, fill them with the most disagreeable perplexity. Only think what must be their feelings in the following case in hand. An evidently precious papyrus is exhumed. It is the post-mortem passport furnished to the osirified soul3 of a just-translated Prince or even Pharaoh, written in red and black characters by a learned and famous scribe, say of the IVth Dynasty, under the supervision of an Egyptian Hierophant—a class considered in all the ages and held by posterity as the most learned of the learned, among the ancient sages and philosophers. The statements therein were written at the solemn hours of the death and burial of a King-Hierophant, of a Pharaoh and ruler. The purpose of the paper is the introduction of the”soul” to the awful region of Amenti, before its judges, there where a lie is said to outweigh every other crime. The Orientalist carries away the papyrus and devotes to its interpretation days, perhaps weeks, of labour, only to find in it the following statement: “In theXIIIth year and the second month of Schomoo, in the 28th day of the same, we, the first High-priest of Ammon, the king of the gods, Penotman, the son of the delegate (or substitute)4 for the High-priest Pion-kimoan,and the scribe of the temple of Sosser-soo-khons and of the Necropolis Bootegamonmoo, began to dress the late Prince Oozirmari Pionokha, etc., etc., preparing him for eternity. When ready, the mummy was pleased to arise and thank his servants, as also to accept a cover worked for him by the hand of the “lady singer,” Nefrelit Nimutha, gone into eternity the year so and so—“some hundred years before!” The whole in hieroglyphics.
This may be a mistaken reading. There are dozens of papyri, though, well authenticated and recording more curious readings and narratives than that corroborated in this, by Sanchoniathon and Manetho, by Herodotus and Plato, Syncellus and dozens of other writers and philosophers, who mention the subject. Those papyri note down very often, as seriously as any historical fact needing no special corroboration,whole dynasties of Kings-manes, viz., of phantoms and ghosts. The same is found in the histories of other nations.
All claim for their first and earliest dynasties5 of rulers and kings, what the Greeks called Manes and the Egyptians Ourvagan, “gods,” etc. Rossellius has tried to interpret the puzzling statement, but in vain. “The word manes meaning urvagan,” he says, “and that term in its literal sense signifying exterior image, we may suppose, if it were possible to bring down that dynasty within some historical period—that the word referred to some form of theocratic government, represented by the images of the gods and priests.”!!6
A dynasty of, to all appearance, living, at all events acting and ruling, kings turning out to have been simply manikins and images, would require, to be accepted, a far wider stretch of modern credulity than even “kings’ phantoms.”
Were these Hierophants and Scribes, Pharaohs and King-Initiates all fools or frauds, confederates and liars, to have either believed themselves or tried to make other people believe in such cock-and-bull stories, if there were no truth at the foundation? And that for a long series of millenniums, from the first to the last Dynasty?
Of the divine Dynasty of Manes, the text of the “Secret Doctrine” will treat more fully; but a few such feats may be recorded from genuine papyri and the discoveries of archaeology. The Orientalists have found a plank of salvation: though forced to publish the contents of some famous papyri, they now call them Romances of the days of Pharaoh so-and-so. The device is ingenious, if not absolutely honest. The literary Sadducees may fairly rejoice.
One of such is the so-called “Lepsius Papyrus” of the Berlin Museum, now purchased by the latter from the heirs of Richard Lepsius. It is written in hieratic characters in the archaic Egyptian (old Coptic) tongue, and is considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries of our age, inasmuch as it furnishes dates for comparison, and rectifies several mistakes in the order of dynastical successions. Unfortunately its most important fragments are missing. The learned Egyptologists who had the greatest difficulty in deciphering it have concluded that it was “an historical romance of the XVlth century B.C.,7 dating back to events that took place during the reign of Pharaoh Cheops, the supposed builder of the pyramid of that name, who flourished in the XXVIth (?) century before our era.” It shows Egyptian life and the state of society at the Court of that great Pharaoh, nearly 900 years before the little unpleasantness between Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar.
The first scene opens with King Cheops on his throne,surrounded by his sons, whom he commands to entertain him with narratives about hoar antiquity and the miraculous powers exercised by the celebrated sages and magicians at the Court of his predecessor. Prince Chefren then tells his audience how a magus during the epoch of Pharaoh Nebkha fabricated a crocodile out of wax and endowed him with life and obedience. Having been placed by a husband in the room of his faithless spouse, the crocodile snapped at both the wife and her lover, and seizing them carried them both into the sea. Another prince told a story of his grandfather,the parent of Cheops, Pharaoh SENEFRU. Feeling seedy, he commanded a magician into his presence, who advised him as a remedy the spectacle of twenty beautiful maidens of the Court sporting in a boat on the lake near by. The maidens obeyed and the heart of the old despot was “refreshed.” But suddenly one of the ladies screamed and began to weep aloud. She had dropped into the water, 120 feet deep in that spot, a rich necklace. Then a magician pronounced a formula, called the genii of the air and water to his help,and plunging his hand into the waves brought back with it the necklace. The Pharaoh was greatly struck with the feat. He looked no more at the twenty beauties, “divested of their clothes, covered with nets, and with twenty oars made of ebony and gold”; but commanded that sacrifices should be made to the manes of those two magicians when they died. To this Prince Gardadathu remarked that the highest among such magicians never die, and that one of them lived to that day, more than a centenarian,at the town of Deyd-Snefroo; that his name was Deddy; and that he had the miraculous power of reuniting cut-off heads to their bodies and recalling the whole to life, as also full authority and sway over the lions of the desert. He, Deddy, knew likewise where to procure the needed expensive materials for the temple of the god Thoth (the wisdom deity), which edifice Pharaoh Cheops was anxious to raise near his great pyramid. Upon hearing this, the mighty king Cheops expressed desire to see the old sage at his Court! Thereupon the Prince Gardadathu started on his journey, and brought back with him the great magician.
After long greetings and mutual compliments and obeisance, according to the papyrus, a long conversation ensued between the Pharaoh and the sage, which goes on briefly thus:—
“I am told, oh sage, that thou art able to reunite heads severed from their bodies to the latter.”
“I can do so, great King,”—answered Deddy.
“Let a criminal be brought here, without delay,” quoth the Pharaoh.
“Great King, my power does not extend to men. I can resurrect only animals,”—remarked the sage.
A goose was then brought, its head cut off and placed in the east corner of the hall, and its body at the western side. Deddy extended his arm in the two directions in turn and muttered a magic formula. Forthwith the body of the bird arose and walked to the centre of the hall, and the head rolled up to meet it. Then the head jumped on the bleeding neck; the two were reunited; and the goose began to walk about, none the worse for the operation of beheading.
The same wonderful feat was repeated by Deddy upon canaries and a bull. After which the Pharaoh desired to be informed with regard to the projected temple of Thoth.
The sage-magician knew all about the old remains of the temple, hidden in a certain house at Heliopolis: but he had no right to reveal it to the king. The revelation had to come from the eldest of the three triplets of Rad-Dedtoo.”The latter is the wife of the priest of the Sun, at the city of Saheboo. She will conceive the triplet-sons from the sun-god, and these children will play an important part in the history of the land of Khemi (Egypt), inasmuch as they will be called to rule it. The eldest, before he becomes a Pharaoh, will be High-priest of the Sun at the city of Heliopolis.
“Upon hearing this, Pharaoh Cheops rent his clothes in grief: his dynasty would thus be overthrown by the son of the deity to whom he was actually raising a temple!”
Here the papyrus is torn; and a large portion of it being missing, posterity is denied the possibility of learning what Pharaoh Cheops undertook in this emergency.
The fragment that follows apprizes us of that which is evidently the chief subject of the archaic record—the birth of the three sons of the sun-god. As soon as Rad-Dedtoo felt the pangs of childbirth the great sun-god called the goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Mesehentoo, and Hekhtoo, and sent them to help the priestess, saying: “She is in labour with my three sons who will, one day, be the rulers of this land. Help her, and they will raise temples for you, will make innumerable libations of wine and sacrifices.” The goddesses did as they were asked, and three boys, each one yard long and with very long arms,8 were born. Isis gave them their names and Nephthys blessed them, while the two other goddesses confirmed on them their glorious future. The three young men became eventually kings of the Vth Dynasty, their names being Ouserkath, Sagoorey and Kakäy. After the goddesses had returned to their celestial mansions some great miracles occurred. The corn given the mother-goddesses returned of itself into the cornbin in an out-house of the High-priest,and the servants reported that voices of invisibles were singing in it the hymns sung at the birth of hereditary princes, and the sounds of music, and dances belonging to that rite were distinctly heard. This phenomenon endangered, later on, the lives of the future kings—the triplets.
A female slave having been punished once by the High priestess, the former ran away from the house, and spoke thus to the assembled crowds: “How dare she punish me, that woman who gave birth to three kings? I will go and notify it to Pharaoh Cheops, our lord.”
At this interesting place,the papyrus is again torn; and the reader left once more in ignorance of what resulted from the denunciation, and how the three boy-pretenders avoided the persecution of the paramount ruler.9
Another magical feat is given by Mariette Bey (Mon. Dir. pl. 9, Persian epoch) from a tablet in the Bulak Museum, concerning the Ethiopian kingdom founded by the descendants of the High-priests of Ammon, wherein flourished absolute theocracy. It was the god himself, it appears, who selected the kings at his fancy, and “the stele 114 which is an official statement about the election of Aspa-lout, shows how such events took place.” (Gebel-Barkal.) The army gathered near the Holy Mountain at Napata, choosing six officers who had to join other delegates of state, proposed to proceed to the election of a king.
“Come,” reads the inscribed legend, “come, let us choose a master who would be like an irresistible young bull.” And the army began lamenting, saying—“Our master is with us, and we know him not!” And others remarked, “Aye, but we can know him, though till now no one save Ra (the god) does so: may the great God protect him from harm wherever he be” . . . Forthwith the whole army cried out—“But there is that god Ammon-Ra, in the Holy Mountain, and he is the god of Ethiopia! Let us to him; do not speak in ignorance of him, for the word spoken in ignorance of him is not good. Let him choose, that god, who is the god of the kingdom of Ethiopia, since the days of Ra . . . He will guide us, as the Ethiopian kings are all his handiwork, and he gives the kingdom to the son whom he loves.” “This is what the entire army saith: It is an excellent speech, in truth . . . a million of times’.”
Then the narrative shows the delegates duly purified, proceeding to the temple and prostrating themselves before the huge statue of Ammon-Ra, while framing their request. “The Ethiopic priests are mighty ones. They know how to fabricate miraculous images and statues, capable of motion and speech, to serve as vehicles for the gods; it is an art they hold from their Egyptian ancestors.”
All the members of the Royal family pass in procession before the statue of Ammon-Ra—still it moveth not. But as soon as Aspalout approaches it, the huge statue seizes him with both arms, and loudly exclaims—“This is your king! This is your Master who will make you live!”: and the army chiefs greet the new Pharaoh. He enters into the sanctuary and is crowned by the god, personally, and with his own hands; then joins his army. The festival ends with the distribution of bread and beer.” (Gebel-Barkal.)
There is a number of papyri and old inscriptions proving beyond the slightest doubt that for thousands of years High-priests, magicians and Pharaohs believed—as well as the masses—in magic, besides practising it; the latter being liable to be referred to clever jugglery. The statues had to be fabricated; for, unless they were made of certain elements and stones, and were prepared under certain constellations, in accordance with the conditions prescribed by magic art, the divine (or infernal, if some will so have it) powers, or FORCES, that were expected to animate such statues and images, could not be made to act therein. A galvanic-battery has to be prepared of specific metals and materials, not made at random, if one would have it produce its magical effects. A photograph has to be obtained under specific conditions of darkness and certain chemicals, before it can result in a given purpose.
Some twenty years ago, archaeology was enriched with a very curious Egyptian document giving the views of that ancient religion upon the subject of ghosts (manes) and magic in general. It is called the “Harris papyrus on Magic” (Papyrus Magique). It is extremely curious in its bearing upon the esoteric teachings of Occult Theosophy, and is very suggestive It is left for our next article—on MAGIC.
Ostende, July, 1886.
1. ESSAY. PREFACE by Colebrooke.
2. It is only through Mr. Barthelemy St. Hilaire that the world has learned that “with regard to metaphysics, the Hindu genius has ever remained in a kind of infantile underdevelopment”!!
3. The reader need not be told that every soul newly born into its cycle of 8000 years after the death of the body it animated, became, in Egypt, an “Osiris,” was osirified, viz., the personality became reduced to its higher principles, a spirit.
4. “Substitute” was the name given to the father of the “Son” adopted by the High-priest Hierophant; a class of these remaining unmarried, and adopting “Sons” for purposes of transmission of power and succession.
5. The Secret Doctrine teaches that those dynasties were composed of divine beings, “the ethereal images of human creatures,” in reality, “gods.” in their luminous astral bodies; the Sishta of preceding manvantaras.
6. Rossellius (vol. i, “Storia degli Monumenti dell Egitto,” (p. 8). He adds that Manetho and the old Chronicles agree in translating the word manes by νέχυες. In the Chronicles of Eusebius Pamphilius, discovered at Milan and annotated by Cardinal Mai, the word νέχυες is also translated urvagan, “the exterior shadow” or “ethereal image of men”; in short, the astral body.
7. Suppositiously—during the XVIIIth Dynasty of kings, agreeably to Manetho’s Synchronistic Tables, disfigured out of recognition by the able Eusebius, the too clever Bishop of Caesarea.
8. Long arms in Egypt meant as now in India, a sign of mahatmaship, or adeptship.
9. This is the more to be regretted—says the translator of the papyrus—that “legendary details, notwithstanding the contents of the Lepsius papyrus are evidently based upon the most ancient traditions; and as a matter of fact emanate from eye-witnesses and first-hand evidence.” The data in the papyrus are absolutely coincident with facts known, and agree with the discoveries made by Egyptology and the undeniable information obtained concerning the history and far away events of that “land of mystery and riddle,” as Hegel called it. Therefore we have no cause whatever to doubt the authenticity of the general narrative contained in our papyrus. It reveals to us, likewise, entirely new historical facts. Thus, we learn, first of all, that (Kefren) or Chephren was the son of Cheops; that the Vth Dynasty originated in the town of Saheboo; that its first three Pharaohs were three brothers—and that the elder of the triplets had been a solar High-priest at Heliopolis before ascending to the throne. Meagre as the details appear, they become quite important in the history of events removed from us by more than forty centuries. Finally, the Lepsius papyrus is an extremely ancient document written in the old Egyptian tongue, while the events narrated therein may, for their originality (magic?), be placed on a par with the best Egyptian narratives translated and published by the famous Egyptologist and Archaeologist, Mr. Maspero, in his work called “Contes de I’ancienne Egypte.”