Turning Points Spiritual History
II. Hermes and the Mysteries of Ancient Egypt
16 February 1911, Berlin
It is of great importance to Spiritual Science to follow the gradual development of man’s spirit, from epoch to epoch, as it slowly evolves, and pressing ever upward, emerges from the dark shadows of the past. Hence it is that the study of ancient Egyptian culture and spiritual life is of especial moment. This is found to be particularly the case when we endeavour to picture and live in the atmosphere and conditions associated with the latter.
The echoes which reach us from the dim grey vistas of by-gone times seem as full of mystery as is the countenance of the Sphinx itself, which stands so grimly forth as a monument to ancient Egyptian civilization. This mystery becomes intensified as modern external scientific research finds that it is constrained to delve ever deeper and deeper into the remote past, in order to throw light upon later Egyptian culture; regarding which most important documents are extant. Such investigations have found traces of certain things, clearly related to the active cultural life of Egypt, which date back to a period at least 7,000 years before the beginning of the Christian era. Here, then, is one reason why this particular civilization is of such paramount interest, but there is another, namely, present-day man, although living in times of broader and more general enlightenment has nevertheless a feeling, whether acceptable or not, that this ancient culture is in some singular and mysterious manner, connected with his very aims and ideals.
It is indeed significant that a man of such outstanding intellect as Kepler, should, at the very dawn of modern scientific development, have been moved to express the feelings which came over him, while engaged in astronomical research, in words somewhat as follows: — ‘During my attempt to discover the manner of the passing of the planets around the sun, I have sought to peer into the deep secrets of the cosmos; the while it has oft-times seemed as if my fancy had led me into the mysterious sanctuaries of the old Egyptians — to touch their most holy vessels, and draw them forth that I might bestow them upon a new world. At such moments the thought has come to me, that only in the future will the true purport and intent of my message be disclosed.’
Here we find one of the greatest scientists of modern times overcome by a sense of such close relation to the ancient Egyptian culture, that he could find no better way of expressing the fundamental concepts underlying his work, than by representing them as a regeneration, naturally differing as to word and form, of the occult doctrines taught to the disciples and followers in the by-gone Egyptian Sanctuaries. It is therefore a matter of the greatest interest to us that we should realize the actual sentiments of these olden Egyptian peoples, in regard to the whole meaning and nature of their civilization.
There is an ancient legend that has been handed down through Greek tradition which is most suggestive, not only of what the Egyptians themselves felt regarding their culture, but also the way in which their civilization was looked upon by the ancients as a whole. We are told that an Egyptian sage once said to Solon: — ‘You Greeks are still children, you have never grown up, and all your knowledge has been acquired through your own human observation and senses; you have neither traditions nor doctrines grey with age.’ We first learn what is implied by the expression, ‘doctrines grey with age‘, when the methods of Spiritual Science are employed in an endeavour to throw light upon the nature and significance of Egyptian thought and feeling. But, as has been before stated, when we approach this matter we must bear in mind that during successive periods of man’s development he gradually acquired different forms of consciousness, and that that order of conscious apprehension which is ours to-day, with its scientific method of thought, and through which we realize the outer world in virtue of our senses working in conjunction with reason and intellect, did not always exist. Deep down, underlying all human cognition, there is what we term ‘Evolution’, and evolution affects not only the outer world of form, but also the disposition of man’s soul. It follows, that we can only really understand the events which took place at the ancient centres of culture, when we accept that knowledge which Spiritual Science can alone obtain, from the sources of information at its disposal. We thus learn that in olden times instead of our present intellectual consciousness, there existed a clairvoyant state that differed from our customary normal conscious condition, of which we are cognizant from the moment we awake until we again fall asleep. On the other hand, the ancient clairvoyant state cannot be likened to the insensibility produced by slumber. Hence, the primeval consciousness of prehistoric man should be regarded as an intermediate condition now only faintly apparent, and retained, as one might say, atavistically in the form of an attenuated heritage in the picture world of our dreams.
Now, dreams are for the most part chaotic in character, and therefore meaningless in their relation to ordinary life. But the old clairvoyant consciousness, which also found expression in imagery although often of a somewhat subdued and visionary nature, was nevertheless a truly clairvoyant gift, and its symbolical manifestations had reference, not to our physical world, but to that realm which lies beyond all material things, in other words — the world of spirit. We can say that in reality all clairvoyant consciousness, including the dream-state of primitive man, as well as that acquired to-day through those methods to which we have previously referred, finds expression pictorially and not in concepts and ideas, as is the case with externalized physical consciousness. It is for the possessor of such faculty to interpret the symbols presented in terms of those spiritual realities, which underlie all physical perceptual phenomena.
We have reached a point where we can look back on the evolution of the ancient races, and of a surety say: — Those wondrous visions of by-gone times of which tradition tells us, were not born of childish fantasy and false conception of the works of Nature (this, as I have pointed out, is the wide-spread opinion in the materialistic circles of to-day), but were in truth veritable pictures of the Spirit-World, flashed before the souls of men in that now long distant past.
He who seriously studies the old mythologies and legends, not from the point of view of modern materialistic thought, but with an understanding of the creation and spiritual activities of mankind, will find in these strange stories a certain coherence which harmonizes wonderfully with those cosmic principles that dominate all physical, chemical and biological laws; while there rings throughout the ancient mythological and religious systems a tone of spiritual reality, from which they acquire a true significance.
We must clearly realize that the peoples of the various nations, each according to disposition, temperament and racial or folk-character, formed different conceptions of that vision world in which they conceived higher powers to be actively operating behind the accustomed forces of Nature. Further, that during the gradual course of evolution, mankind passed through many transitionary stages between that of the consciousness of the ancients, and our present-day objective conscious state. As time went on, the power necessary to the old clairvoyance dimmed and the visions faded; one might say — the doors leading to the higher realms were slowly closed, so that the pictures manifested to those whose souls could still peer into the Spirit-World, held ever less and less of spiritual force, until towards the end, only the lowest stages of supersensible activity could be apprehended. Finally, this primeval clairvoyant power died out, in so far as humanity in general was concerned, and man’s vision became limited to that which is of the material world, and to the apprehension of physical concepts and things; from that time on, the study of the interrelation of these factors led, step by step, to the birth of modern science. Thus it came about, that when the old clairvoyant state was past, our present intellectual consciousness gradually developed in diverse ways among the different nations.
The mission of the Egyptian peoples was of a very special nature. All that we know regarding ancient times, even that knowledge attained through modern Egyptian research, if rightly understood, tends but to verify the statements of Spiritual Science regarding the allotted task and true purpose of the Egyptian race. It was ordained that these olden peoples should still be imbued with a sufficiency of that primal power which would enable them to look back into the misty past; when their leaders in virtue of outstanding individualities and highly developed clairvoyant faculties, could gaze far into the mysteries of the Spirit-World. [Spiritual Science asserts that it was in accordance with ‘The Great Eternal Plan‘ that the Egyptians should gain wisdom and understanding from this source, to be a guide and a benefit in the development of mankind.] And we have learnt that it was to this end that this great nation was still permitted to retain a certain measure of that fast-fading clairvoyant power so closely associated with a specific disposition of soul. Although these qualities were, at that time, weak and ever waning in intensity, nevertheless they continued active until a comparatively late period in Egyptian history.
We can therefore make this statement: — The Egyptians, down to less than 1000 years before the Christian era, had actual experience of a mode of vision differing from that with which we are familiar in every-day life, when we merely open our eyes and make use of our intellect; and they knew that through this gift man was enabled to behold the spiritual realms. The later Egyptians, however, were unable to penetrate beyond the nethermost regions as portrayed in their pictorial visions, but they had power to recall those by-gone times in the Golden Age of Egyptian culture, when their priesthood could gaze both far and deeply into the world of spirit.
All knowledge obtained through visions was most carefully guarded and secretly preserved for thousands of years with the greatest piety, thankfulness and religious feeling, especially by the older Egyptians. At a later period, those among the people who still retained somewhat of clairvoyant power, expressed themselves after this fashion: — ‘We can yet discern a lower spiritual realm — we know therefore that it is possible for mankind to look upon a Spirit-World; to question this truth would be as sensible as to doubt that we can really see external objects with our eyes.’ Although these later Egyptians were only able to apprehend weak echoes, as it were, of the inferior spiritual levels, nevertheless they felt and divined that in olden times man could indeed penetrate far into the mystic depths of that realm which lies beyond all physical sense perceptions. There is a doctrine grey with age, still preserved in wonderful inscriptions in Temples and upon columns. (It was this doctrine to which the sage referred when he spoke to Solon.) These inscriptions tell us of the broad deep penetration of clairvoyant power in the remote past.
That being to whom the Egyptians attributed all the profundity of their primordial clairvoyant enlightenment they called THE GREAT WISE ONE — THE OLD HERMES. When, at a later period, some other outstanding leader came to revive the ancient wisdom, he also called himself Hermes, according to an old custom prevalent among exalted Egyptian sages, and because his followers believed that in him the primeval wisdom of the old Hermes lived once again. They named the first Hermes, — ‘Hermes Trismegistos‘ — the Thrice-Great Hermes; but as a matter of fact it was only the Greeks who used the name of Hermes, for among the Egyptians he was known as ‘Thoth‘. In order to understand this being, it is necessary to realize what the Egyptians, under the influence of traditions concerning Thoth, regarded as true and characteristic cosmic mystics.
Such Egyptian beliefs as have come to us, one might say from outside sources, seem very strange indeed. Various Gods, of whom the most important are Osiris and Isis, are represented as not wholly human; oft-times having a human body and an animal head, or again formed of the most varied combinations of manlike and animal shapes. Remarkable religious legends have come down to us regarding this world of the Gods.
Again, the veneration and worship of cats and other animals by this ancient race was most singular, and went to such lengths that certain animals were considered as holy, and held in the greatest reverence, and in them the Egyptians saw something akin to higher beings. It has been said that this veneration for animals was such that when a cat, for instance, which had lived for a long time in one house, died, there was much weeping and lamentation. If an Egyptian observed a dead animal lying by the wayside, he did not dare to go near it, for fear that someone might accuse him of having slain it, in which case he would be liable to severe punishment. Even during the time that Egypt was actually under Roman rule, so it has been said, any Roman who killed a cat went in danger of his life, because such an act produced an uproar among the Egyptians. This veneration of animals appears to us as a most enigmatic part of Egyptian thought and feeling. Again, how extraordinary do the Pyramids, with their quadrilateral bases and triangular sides, seem to modern man; and how mysterious are the sphinxes and all that modern research drags forth from the depths of this ancient civilization and brings to the surface, to add to our knowledge an ever-increasing clarity. The question now arises: — What place did all these strange ideas occupy in the image world of the souls of those olden peoples? What had they to say regarding those things which the Thrice-Great Hermes had taught them, and how did they come by these curious concepts?
We must henceforth accustom ourselves to seek in all legends a deeper meaning, especially in those which are the more important. It is to be assumed that the purpose of some of these legends, is to convey to us in picture form, information regarding certain laws which govern spiritual life, and are set above external laws. As an example we have the fable of the god and goddess, Osiris and Isis. It was Hermes himself who called the Egyptian legends ‘The Wise Counsellors of Osiris‘. In all these fables, Osiris is a being who in the grey dawn of primeval times lived in the region where man now dwells. In the legend Osiris, who is represented as a benefactor of humanity, and under whose wise influence Hermes, or Thoth, gave to the Egyptians their ancient culture, even to the conduct of material life, was said to have an enemy whom the Greeks called Typhon. This enemy, Typhon, waylaid Osiris and slew him, then cut up his body, hid it in a coffin, and threw it into the sea. The goddess Isis, wife and sister of Osiris, sought long her husband who had been thus torn from her by Typhon, or Seth, and when she had at last found him, she gathered together the pieces into which he had been divided, and buried them here and there in various parts of the land, and in these places temples were erected. Later, Isis gave birth to Horos. Now, Horos was also a higher being, and his birth was brought about through spirit influence which descended upon Isis from Osiris, who had meanwhile passed into another world. The mission of Horos was to vanquish Typhon, and in a certain sense re-establish control of the life-current emanating from Osiris, which would continue to flow and influence mankind.
A legend such as this must not be regarded simply as an allegory, nor as a mere symbolism; in order to understand it rightly, we must enter into the whole world of Egyptian feeling and perception. It is far more important to do this than to form abstract concepts and ideas; for by thus opening the mind, we can alone give life to the sentiments and thoughts associated with the ideal forms of Osiris and Isis. Further, it is useless to attempt to explain these two outstanding figures by saying that Osiris represents the Sun, and Isis the Moon, and so forth — thus giving them an astronomical interpretation, as is the custom of the sciences of to-day outside of Spiritual Science — for such a theory leads to the belief that a legend of this nature is a mere symbolical portrayal of certain events connected with the heavens, and this is not true. We must go far back to the primeval feelings of the Egyptians, and from these as a starting-point try to realize the whole peculiar nature of their uplifted vision of the supersensible, and conception of those invisible forces beyond man’s apprehension which underlie the perceptual world. It is the spiritual interrelation of these factors that finds expression in the ideal forms of Osiris and Isis.
The old Egyptians associated these two figures with ideas similar to the following: There is a latent higher spiritual essence in all mankind which did not emanate from that material environment in which it now functions; at the beginning of earth-life it entered into physical bodily existence in condensed form, there slowly to unfold and grow throughout the ages. Man’s human state was preceded by another and more spiritual condition, and it is from this primordial condition from which the human being gradually developed. The Egyptian said: — ‘When I look into my soul, I realize that there is within me a longing for spiritual things; a longing for that true spirituality from which I have descended, and I know that certain of the supersensible forces which operate in the region from which I come still live within me, and that the best of these are intimately related to the ultimate source of all superperceptual activity. Thus do I feel within me an Osiris power, which placed me here — a spirit embodied in external human form. In times past, before I came to this state, I lived wholly in a spiritual realm, where my life was confused, dim and instinctive in character. It was ordained that I be clothed with a material body, so that I should experience and behold a physical world, in order that I might develop therein. I know of a verity that in the beginning I have lived a life which compared to this physical perceptual existence, was indeed of the spirit.’
According to ancient Egyptian concepts the primordial forces underlying human evolution were regarded as dual, the one element being termed Osiris, while the other was known as Isis; hence we have an Osiris-Isis duality. When we give ourselves over to inner contemplation and are moved by the feelings and perceptions of the old Egyptians concerning this dualism, we at once find that we are involved in a process of active and suggestive thought, leading to certain conclusions. In order to follow this mental process we have only to consider the manner in which the mind operates when we think of some object, such for instance as a triangle. In this case, active thought must precede the actual conception of the figure. After the soul has been thus engaged in primary contemplation, we then turn our minds passively to the result of our thought concepts, and finally see the fruit of our mental activity pictured in the soul. The act of thinking has the same relation to final thought, as the act of conceiving to the final concept, or activity to the result of activity or its ultimate product. If we contemplate our mental process when we picture the Egyptian past, and are mindful of the mood of these ancient peoples, we realize that they looked upon the relation between Osiris and Isis in a somewhat similar manner to our conception of the order and outcome of thought activity. For instance, we might consider that activity should be regarded as a Male, or Father-Principle, and that therefore the Osiris-Principle must be looked upon as an active Male-Principle, a combative principle, which imbues the soul with thoughts and feelings of potency and vigour.
[We can form an idea of the old Egyptian concept concerning Osiris and Isis from the following considerations]: — In the physical body of man are certain components such as those that are active in the blood and those which are the basis of bone formation. The whole human system owes its being to the interaction of forces and matter, which combine to create and to enter the material form; these elements can be physically recognized, they were, however, at one time dispersed, and spread throughout the universe. A similar idea prevailed among the ancient Egyptians concerning their conception of Osiris-Force, which was conceived as actively pervading the entire cosmos, as Osiris. Even as the elements which form the physical body enter into it, there to combine and become operative, so did those olden peoples picture the Osiris-Force, as descending upon man to flow into his being and inspire within him the power of constructive thought and cognition — the veritable Osiris-Force. On the other hand, the expression Isis-Force was applied to that universal living cosmic influence which flows directly into the thoughts, concepts and ideas of mankind — it was this influence that was termed the Isis-Force. It is in the above manner that we must picture the uplifted vision in the souls of the old Egyptians, and it was thus that they regarded Osiris and Isis.
In that creation which surrounds us during our material existence, the ancient consciousness could find no words wherewith to express concepts such as these; for everything which is about us appeals alone to the senses, and has only meaning and value in a perceptual world, proffering no outer sign suggestive of a superphysical region. In order, therefore, to obtain something in the nature of a written language, which could express all such thoughts as moved the soul strongly, as for instance, when man exclaimed: — ‘The Osiris-Isis-Force works within me,’ the ancients reached out to that script which is written in the firmament by the heavenly bodies, and said: — That supersensible power which man feels as Osiris, can be apprehended and expressed in perceptual terms if regarded as that active force emanating from the sun and spread abroad in the great cosmos. The Isis-Force may be pictured as the sun’s rays reflected from the moon which waits upon the sun, so that she may pass on the power of his radiance in the form of Isis-Influence. But until she receives his light the moon is dark — dark as a soul untouched by active uplifting thought. When the old Egyptian said: — ‘The sun and the moon that are without reveal to me how I can best express, figuratively, my ideas concerning all that I feel within my soul,’ he knew that there was some hidden bond, in no way fortuitous, between these two heavenly bodies which appear so full of mystery in the vast universe — the light-giving sun and the dark moon every ready to reflect his splendour. And he realized that the light dispersed in space, and that reflected, must bear some unknown but definite relation to those supersensible powers of which he was conscious.
When we look at a clock we cannot see what it is that moves the hands so mysteriously, apparently with the aid of little demons, for all that can be seen is a piece of mechanism; but we know that underlying the whole mechanical structure, is the thought of the original designer, which thought had its origin in the soul of a man; so that in reality the mechanism owes its construction to something spiritual. Now, just as the movements of the hands of a clock are mutually related, and fundamentally dependent upon certain mechanical laws which exist in the universe, and finally upon those that are operative in the soul of a man (as when he speaks of experiencing the influence of the Osiris-Isis-Force), so are the movements of the Sun and Moon interrelated, and these bodies appear to us as indicators on the face of a mighty cosmic clock. The Egyptian did not merely say: — ‘The Sun and Moon are to me a perceptual symbol of the relation between Osiris and Isis,’ but he felt and expressed himself thus: —‘That force which gives me life and is within, underlies the mysterious bond existing between the Sun and Moon, and it likewise endowed them with power to send forth light.’
In the same way as Osiris and Isis were regarded with reference to the Sun and Moon, so were other heavenly bodies looked upon as related to different gods. The ancient Egyptians considered that the positions of the various orbs in space were not merely symbolical of their own supersensible experiences, but likewise of those which tradition told them had been the experiences of seers belonging to the remote past. Further, they saw in the cosmic clock an expression of the activity of those forces, the workings of which they felt in the ultimate depths of the human soul. Thus it came about that this mighty clock, this grand creation of moving orbs, so wondrously interrelated with others that are fixed, was to the Egyptians a revelation of those mysterious spiritual powers which bring about the ever-changing positions of the heavenly bodies, and thus create an universal script, which man must learn to know and to recognize as a means whereby superperceptual power is given perceptual expression.
Such were the feelings and perceptions which had been handed down to the old Egyptians from their ancient seers, regarding a higher spiritual world of the existence of which they were wholly convinced, for they still retained a last remnant of primeval clairvoyant power. These olden peoples said: — ‘We human beings had our true origin in an exalted spiritual realm, but we are now descended into a perceptual world, in which manifest material things and physical happenings, nevertheless, we are indeed come from the world of Osiris and of Isis. All that is best and which strives within us, and is fitted to attain to yet higher states of perfection, has of a verity flowed in upon us from Osiris and from Isis, and lives unseen within as active force. Physical man was born of those conditions which are of the external perceptual world, and his material form is but as a garment clothing the Osiris-Isis spirit within.’
Predominant in the souls of the old Egyptians was a profound sentiment concerning primeval wisdom, which filled their whole soul-life. The soul may indeed incline towards abstract notions, particularly the mathematical concepts of natural science, without in any way touching the moral and ethical factors of its life, nor affecting its fate or state of bliss. For instance, there may be discussion and debate relative to electrical and other forces, without the soul being moved to enter upon grave questions concerning man’s ultimate destiny.
On the other hand, we cannot ponder upon feelings and sentiments such as we have described regarding the Spirit-World and the inner relation of the soul’s character to Osiris and Isis, without arousing thoughts involving man’s happiness, his future, and his moral impulses. When the mind is thus occupied, man’s meditations are prone to take this form: — ‘There dwells in me a better self, but because of what I am within my physical body, this “better self” is repressed and draws back, it is therefore not at first apparent. An Osiris and an Isis nature are fundamental to me; these, however, belong to a primordial world — to a by-gone golden age — to the holy past; now they are overcome by those forces that have fashioned the human form. But the Osiris-Isis power has entered and persists within that mortal covering which is ever subject to destruction through the external forces of Nature.’
The ‘Legend of Osiris and Isis‘ may be expressed in terms of feeling and sentiment in the following manner: — Osiris, the higher power in man, which is spread throughout cosmic space, is overcome by those forces which bring about utter degeneration in all human nature. Typhon confined the Osiris-Force within the body, as in a coffin formed to receive man’s spiritual counterpart; there the Osiris-Element lies concealed — invisible and unheeded by the outer world. (The name Typhon has linguistic connection with the words — ‘Auflösen‘, to dissolve; and ‘Verwesen‘, to decompose.) The Isis-Nature, hidden within the confines of the soul, was always mysterious to the Egyptians. They considered that at some future period its influence would bring mankind back to that state which he enjoyed in the beginning; and that this return would ultimately be brought about through the penetrative force of intellectual power; for they fully recognized that in humanity there is a latent disposition which ever strives to re-endow Osiris with life.
The Isis-Force lies deep within the soul, and its profound purpose is to lead mankind, step by step, away from his present material state, and bring him back once more to Osiris.
It is this Isis-Force which — so long as man does not cling to his physical quality — makes it possible for him (even though he remain outwardly a physical man in a material world) to detach himself from his perceptual nature, and henceforth and for ever more to look upward from within his being to that more exalted Ego, which in the opinion of the most advanced thinkers, lies so mysteriously veiled at the very root of man’s powers of thought and action. This being, not the outer physical one, but the true inner man who has ever the stimulus to strive towards higher spiritual enlightenment, is as it were, the earth-born son of that Osiris who did not go forth into the material world, but remained as if concealed in the realms of the spirit. In their souls, the Egyptians regarded this invisible personality that struggles toward the attainment of a higher self, as Horos — the posthumous son of Osiris. It was thus that these old Egyptians visualized, with a certain feeling of sadness, the Osiris-origin of man; but at the same time they looked inward and said: — ‘The soul has still retained something of the Isis-Force which gave birth to Horos, the possessor of that never-ceasing impulse to strive upward towards spiritual heights, and it is there, in that sublimity, that man shall once again find Osiris.’
It is possible for present-day humanity to bring about this mystic meeting in two ways. The Egyptian said: — ‘I have come from Osiris, and to Osiris I shall return, and because of my spiritual origin, Horos lies deep within my being and Horos leads me on, back to Osiris — to his Father — who may alone be found in the world of spirit; for he can in no way enter into man’s physical nature; there he is overcome by the powers of Typhon, those external forces which underlie all destruction and decay.’
There are but two paths by which Osiris may be attained, the one is by way of the Portal of Death; the other passes not through the Gateway of Physical Dissolution, for Osiris may be reached through Initiation and the consecration of life to Sacred Service.
Under the title of Christianity as a Mystical Fact, I have gone more fully into this belief. The Egyptian conception was as follows: — When man has passed through the Portal of Death, and after certain necessary preparatory stages have been completed, he comes to Osiris, and being freed from his earthly envelope, there awakes in him a consciousness of actual relationship with that supreme deity; and he realizes that henceforth he will be greeted as Osiris, for this form of salutation is always bestowed upon those who have experienced death and entered into the World of Spirit.
The other pathway which likewise leads back to Osiris, that is to say, into the Spiritual Realms is, as we have already stated, by way of Initiation and Holy Devotion. Such was regarded by the Egyptians as a method through which knowledge might be gained of all that is supersensible and lies concealed in man’s nature, in other words of Isis, or the Isis-Power. We cannot penetrate into the depths of the soul, and thus reach the Isis-Force within, in virtue of mere earthly wisdom born of the experiences of daily life, but nevertheless, we have a means at hand whereby we may break through to this inner power and descend to the true Ego; there to find that this same Ego is ever enshrouded by all that is material in man’s physical disposition. If, indeed, we can but pierce this dark veil, then do we find ourselves at last in the Ego’s veritable spiritual home.
Hence it was that the old Egyptians said: — ‘Thou shalt descend into thine own inner being — but first cometh thy physical quality, with all that it may express of that self that is thine, and through this human disposition must thou force a way. When thou regardest the stones, and the justness of their fashion — when thou considerest the plants, the inner life thereof and wonder of their form and when thou lookest upon the animals about thee — there of a verity, in these three Kingdoms of Nature, beholdest thou the outer world as begotten of spiritual and supersensible powers. But when thou standest before man, look not alone upon the outer form, but seek that which is within, where abideth the soul’s strength — even as the Isis-Forces.’ Therefore, in connection with the rites of initiation, there was included certain instruction as to what things should be observed during such time as the soul might remain incarnated.
The experiences of all who have in truth descended into their innermost being, have been fundamentally the same as those which come about at the time of passing, differing only in the manner of their occurrence. [One might say that if this method of approaching the spirit realms be followed, then] — Man must pass through the Portal of Death while he yet lives. He must learn to know that change from the physical to the superphysical outlook, from the material to the spiritual world — in other words, he must acquire knowledge of that metamorphosis which takes place at the time of actual death. And in order that he may obtain such enlightenment, he that would become initiated must take that way which leads him into the very depths of his being, for thus alone may true understanding and experience be attained. When this method is employed, the first real inner experience is connected with the blood, as formed by Nature, and the blood is the physical agent of the Ego, just as the nervous system forms the material medium in connection with [the three ultimate modes of consciousness], Feeling, Willing and Thinking. We have already referred to this matter in a previous lecture.
According to the ancient Egyptians, he who desires to descend into his being in order to realize profound association with the primary material media, must first pass down into his physical-etheric sheath and enter the etheric confines of his soul; he must learn to become independent of that force in his blood upon which he normally relies; he can then give himself up to the workings and the wonder of the blood’s action.
It is essential that man must first thoroughly understand his higher nature in regard to its physical aspect. To do this he must learn to view his material being as a detached and wholly separate object. Now, man can only recognize and be fully conscious of an object, as a specific thing, when external to it; hence he must learn to bring about this relation in respect to himself, if he would indeed comprehend the actuality of his being. It was for this reason that Initiation was directed towards the development of such powers as enabled the Soul-Forces to undergo certain experiences independently of the physical media, or agents. So that finally the aspirant could look down upon such media objectively, in the same way as man’s spiritual element looks down upon the material body after death.
The primary duty of one who would know the Isis-Mysteries was to acquire knowledge concerning his own blood; after which he underwent an experience that can be best described as — ‘Drawing nigh unto the Threshold of Death.’ This was the first step in the Isis-Initiation; and he who would take it must have power to regard his blood and his being externally, and pass into that sheath which is the medium of the Isis-Nature. Further, the neophyte was led before two doors — within some Holy Sanctuary — the one was closed, the other open; and as he stood in that place there came before him visions depicting the most intimate experiences of his very life, and he heard a voice saying: — ‘It is thus that thou art, so dost thou appear when thou beholdest thy true self pictured in the soul.’ How remarkable are these teachings the echoes of which are still heard after thousands of years have passed, and how wonderfully they harmonize with man’s present-day beliefs, even though they have since received materialistic interpretation.
According to the ancient Egyptian seer — when man takes the initial step and comes upon the world of his inner form he is there confronted by two doors — ‘Through two doors shalt thou enter thy blood and thy innermost being.’ The anatomist would say: — ‘Through two inlets situated in the valves on either side of the heart.’ [There are two pairs of valves in the heart, one pair on one side and one on the other; in each case when one of these valves is open, in order to let the blood-stream flow into a part of the system, that which is adjacent is closed (Ed.)]. Hence, he who desires to penetrate beneath his outer form must pass through the open door; for the gateway which is closed merely confines the blood to its proper course. We thus find that the results of anatomical investigation are certainly analogous to those born of clairvoyant vision in olden times; and although not so clear and accurate as are the conclusions of the modern anatomist, nevertheless they portray what the clairvoyant consciousness actually apprehended, when it regarded man’s inner form from an external stand-point.
The next step in the Isis-Initiation was what one might term the proving or profound study of Fire, Air and Water. During this period the Initiate gained complete knowledge of the Sheath-Quality of his Isis-Being, of the properties of Fire and how, in a certain form, it flows in the blood, using it as medium, and becomes fluid. He further received instruction concerning the manner in which Oxygen is infiltrated into the system from the air. All this wisdom descended upon him — the understanding of Fire, Air, Water, the warmth of his breath, and the true nature of the fluidity of his blood.
Thus it came about that the aspirant, in virtue of the knowledge he acquired of his Sheath-Quality through his newly-born comprehension of the elements of Fire, Air and Water, became so purified that when his vision at last penetrated beneath the enfolding envelope, he entered into his veritable Isis-Nature. We might say that at this point, the Initiate felt for the first time that he was in contact with his actual being, and that he was able to realize that he was indeed a spiritual entity, no longer limited by his external relation to humanity, and that he truly beheld the wonder of the spiritual realms.
It is a definite law that we can only look upon the sun in the daytime, for at night it lies concealed by matter; but the powers in the spiritual world are never thus veiled to those who have acquired the true gift of sight, for they are best discerned when the physical eyes are closed to all material things. Symbolically, in the sense of the Isis-Initiation, we would say: — ‘He who is purified and initiated into the Isis-Mysteries, may discern that spiritual life and power to which the sun owes its origin, even though there be darkness as at midnight, for, metaphorically speaking, he may at all times behold the great orb of day and come face to face with the spirit beings of the superperceptual world.’
Such was the description of the method, or as one might say, the path leading to the Isis-Forces within, and we are told that it could be traversed by all who, during earthly life, would but earnestly seek the deepest forces of the soul. There were, however, yet higher mysteries, The Mysteries of Osiris, in which it was made clear that through the medium of the Isis-Forces, and in virtue of those supersensible primordial spiritual powers to which man owes his origin, he could exalt himself and thus attain to Osiris. In other words, he was initiated into those methods by which the human soul might be so uplifted, that it could at last enter upon the presence of that supreme deity.
When the Egyptians wished to portray the nature and character of the relation between Isis and Osiris, they had recourse to that special script which is written in the firmament by the passage of the Sun and Moon; while in the case of other spiritual powers, reference was made to the movements and interrelations existing between the various stars. Most prominent among the astronomical groups in such portrayals was the Zodiac, with its condition of comparative immobility, and the planets which move across its constellations. It was in the revelations of the Heavens, as manifested in spiritual symbols, that the old Egyptian found the true method of expressing those deep feelings which touched his soul. He knew that no earthly means were competent to indicate clearly the vital purpose of that urgent call to seek the Isis-Forces, that mankind might, through their aid, draw nearer to Osiris. He felt that in order to describe this purpose fittingly, he must reach out and make use of those bright groups of stars that ever shine in the firmament.
Hence we must regard Hermes, The Great Wise One, who according to Egyptian tradition, lived upon the Earth in the dawn of antiquity — and was endowed with the most profound clairvoyant insight concerning man’s relation to the Universe — as having possessed in high degree the power of apprehending and explaining the true nature of the connection between the constellations and the forces of the Spirit-World; and of interpreting the signs portraying events and happenings, as expressed in the language of the stars, in terms of their mysterious interrelations. Now, if in those olden days it was desired to enlighten the people with regard to the nature of the bond existing between Osiris and Isis, this matter was put forward in the form of an exoteric legend; but in the case of the Initiates the subject was treated more explicitly by means of symbolical reference to the light which emanates from the Sun and is reflected by the Moon, and the remarkable conditions governing its changes during the varying phases of the latter. In these phenomena the Egyptians found a practical and genuine analogy, expressive of the sacred link between the Isis-Force within the human soul and that supreme spiritual figure — Osiris.
From the movements of the heavenly bodies and the nature of their interrelations, there originated what we must regard as the very earliest form of written characters. Little as this fact is as yet recognized, we would nevertheless draw attention to the following statement: — If we consider the consonants of the alphabet, we note that they imitate the signs of the Zodiac, in their comparative repose; while the vowels and consonants are connected in a way which may be likened to that relation which the planets and the forces which move them bear to the constellations of the Zodiac as a whole. Hence it would appear that in the beginning, written characters were brought down to earth from the vault of heaven.
The sentiments which moved the ancient Egyptians when their thoughts turned to Hermes were such as we have described, and they realized that his great illumination came from those spiritual powers which called to him out of the heavens, prompting him with counsel concerning that activity which persisted in the souls of mankind. Ay! and more than that — he was instructed even in the deeds of everyday life, and in those directions in which such sciences were needed as Geometry and Surveying, both of which Pythagoras learnt from the Egyptians, who ascribed all this knowledge to the primordial wisdom of Hermes. One might say that ‘The Old Wise One’ saw in the interrelation of all things spread abroad upon the earth a counterpart of that which exists in the firmament, and finds expression in the mystic writings of the stars. It was Hermes — ’The Thrice-Blessed‘ — who first gave this Stellar Script to the world, and through its aid, and in the dawn of Egyptian life, he instilled into the minds of the people the elements of the science of mathematics, while he adjured them to look up to the heavens, there to seek guidance even regarding mundane matters.
The very life of the Egyptian nation in that olden time was dependent upon the overflowing of the Nile, and the deposits which it swept down from the mountainous country to the South. We can therefore readily understand how absolutely essential it was that there should be a certain pre-knowledge of the date of the coming of flood periods, so that they might anticipate the accompanying changes in natural conditions thus brought about in the course of any particular year. In those early days the Egyptians still reckoned time according to that Stellar Script which was written in the canopy of heaven. When Sirius, the Dog Star, was visible in the Sign of Cancer, they knew that the Sun would shortly enter that part of the Zodiac from whence its rays would shine down upon the earth and conjure forth, as if by magic, that life brought thereto by the deposits of the overflowing Nile. Hence, they looked upon Sirius as ‘The Watcher‘, who gave them warning of what they might expect; and the movements of Sirius formed part of their celestial clock. They gazed upward with thankful hearts, for the timely warnings of their ‘Watcher‘ enabled them to cultivate and to tend their land in such manner that it might best bring forth all things necessary to external life.
When questions of import arose such as the above, these old Egyptian peoples sought enlightenment and guidance from those writings which they saw spread across the firmament; the while they looked back into that dim grey past, when first they learnt that the passage of the stars was in truth an expression as of movements among the parts of some mighty cosmic clock. In Thoth, or Hermes, they recognized that Great Spirit who, according to their ancient traditions, set down the very earliest chronicles concerning cosmic wisdom. From that inspiration which came to him through the wondrous Stellar Script, Hermes conceived the forms underlying the physical alphabet, and through their aid taught mankind the principles of Agriculture, Geometry and Surveying; indeed, he instructed them in all things needful for the conduct of physical life. Now, physical life is nought but the embodiment of that spiritual life so deeply interwoven throughout the cosmos — and it was from the cosmos that the spirit of wisdom descended upon Hermes. It was evident to the Egyptians of that period to which we refer, that the influence of The Great Wise One was still active throughout their civilization, and they felt that this mystic bond was both profound and intimate in character.
The method adopted by the old Egyptians for the purpose of time calculations, and which continued in use for many centuries, was most convenient in operation and lent itself readily to all simple computations of this nature. They regarded the year as made up of exactly 365 days, which they divided into 12 months each of 30 days, thus leaving 5 days over, which were separately included. But modern Astronomy tells us that if this method be employed, then one quarter day every year is not taken into account [the actual difference is 6 hours, 9 min., 9 sec.]. Therefore, the Egyptian year came to an end one quarter day too soon. This difference gradually spread backward through the months until a coincidence was reached at the beginning of a certain year; and such coincidence took place every four times 365 years. Hence, after the lapse of each 1,460 years, the terrestrial time estimate would be for a moment in agreement with astronomical conditions, because at that particular moment the sum of the annual differences would be equivalent to one whole year.
Let us now suppose that at a certain time in 1322 B.C. an Egyptian looked up into the heavens, there, at that moment any visible constellation would occupy a definite position in the firmament [which position could be used as a basis of computation]. If we calculate backwards over a period of three times 1,460 years from 1322 B.C., we come to the year 5702 B.C., and it was some time prior to this date to which the Egyptians ascribed the dawn of that primordial Holy Wisdom which came to them in the beginning. They said: — ‘In bygone times man’s power of clairvoyance was truly at its highest, but with the passing of each great Sun-Period‘ [of 1,46o years, which brought about the balance of terrestrial reckoning] ‘the divine gift of “clear seeing” gradually faded, until in this fourth stage in which we now live it is weak and ever-failing. Our civilization reaches far into the remoteness of antiquity, where the voice of tradition is all but stilled. In thought we hark back beyond three long Cosmic Periods, to that glorious and distant past when our greatest teacher, his disciples, and his successors, imparted to us the elements of the ancient wisdom which now finds expression — albeit in strangely altered form — in the character of our script, our Mathematics, Geometry, Surveying, our general conduct of life, and also in our study of the heavens. We regard the cosmic adjustment of our human computation, with its convenient factors of twelve times 30 days with five supplementary thereto, as a sign that we are ever subject to correction by the divine powers of the Spirit-World, because through error of thought and reason we have turned away from Osiris and from Isis. We cannot with exactitude measure the year’s length, but when our eyes are raised on high we can gaze into that hidden world from whence those spirit powers that ever guide the courses of the stars, remedy our faults and bring harmony where man has failed to find the truth.’
From the above it is clear that the old Egyptians realized the feebleness of man’s powers of intellect and understanding, so that, even in the case of their Chronology, they sought the aid of those higher spiritual forces and beings beyond the veil. Beings who correct, watch over, and protect mankind during the activities and experiences of earth life, bringing to bear upon these problems the mystic laws of the Great Cosmos. Hermes, or Thoth, was held in greatest veneration as One inspired by the ever vigilant heavenly powers, and in the souls of these ancient peoples this outstanding personality was looked upon, not merely as a great teacher, but as a being who was indeed exalted, and whom they regarded with the most profound feelings of reverence and thankfulness, so that they cried out: — ‘All that I have cometh from Thee. Thou went on High in the dim grey dawn of antiquity and Thou hast sent down, by those who were the carriers of Thy traditions, all that flows throughout external civilization, and which is of greatest human service.’ Hence, with reference to the actual Creator of all supersensible forces, and those who watch over them, as well as Osiris and Hermes, or Thoth, the Egyptians felt in their souls not merely that they were imbued with knowledge begotten of wisdom, but they experienced a sentiment in deepest moral sense, of greatest veneration and gratitude.
The graphic descriptions of the past tell us that the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians was permeated throughout with a certain religious quality and mood, particularly noticeable in olden times, but by degrees these characteristics became less and less marked. In those days the people felt all knowledge to be closely associated with holiness, all wisdom with piety and all science with religion. As this attitude waned it gradually decreased in purity of form and expression. A similar change has taken place throughout the evolution of mankind among all those various civilizations whose mission has been to alter the trend of spiritual thought, and lead it in some wholly new direction. When each nation had reached the pinnacle of achievement, and its task was ended, there followed a period of decadence.
The greater part of our knowledge concerning ancient Egyptian culture is connected with an epoch of this nature, and the significance of all that lies beyond is merely a matter of conjecture and supposition. For instance, what is the true meaning of that extraordinary, and to us grotesque, worship of animals in that by-gone age, and of the curious feeling of awe we experience when our thoughts dwell upon the pyramids? The Egyptians themselves tell us that there was an era during which not only mankind, but also beings from the higher spiritual realms descended upon the earth. This was in the beginning before the knowledge and wisdom that was then vouchsafed had truly developed and become active.
If we would indeed know man’s innermost nature, we must not alone regard the outer form, but penetrate to the true self within. All external qualities with which we come in contact are but stages of manifestation which have remained ‘in situ‘, as one might say, and are seen as if representing in powerful, albeit diminutive imagery, ancient principles which are dominant in the three kingdoms of nature. Consider the world of minerals and of rocks — here we find those same relations of form which man has used in the architecture of the pyramids; while the inner forces of plant-life are expressed in the beauty of the Lotus-Flower; and lastly, distributed along that path which culminates in man himself, we find in the brute creation existences which have not attained to the higher level of humanity; they are, as it were, a crystallization of divine forces that have been embodied and scattered abroad in separate and distinct animal shapes.
We can well imagine that the feelings of the old Egyptians gave rise to thoughts of the above nature, when they recognized in animal life a manifestation of the unaltered primordial forces of the gods. For they looked back into the grey past when all earthly things were begotten of divine supersensible powers, and developed under their guidance. From this concept they conjectured that among the creations in Nature’s three kingdoms certain of these higher primal forces, which had lived on unchanged over a long period, had ultimately undergone some intimate modification which had raised them to that higher standard exhibited in the human form. When considering these ancient peoples we must ever have regard for their feelings, perceptions and the necessities of their life. It is from these factors that we can best realize how close was the moral bond between their wisdom and the soul, so that the latter might not swerve from the path of rectitude and morality.
The Egyptians believed, that because of the manner in which the Spirit-World was created and fashioned by the divine supersensible powers, there must be some definite moral relation which extends to the creatures of the animal kingdom. The grotesque and singular modes in which this concept ultimately found expression came about, only, after the final decline of the nation had commenced.
From the study of the later periods of Egyptian culture, it is clear that human frailty and imperfection were unknown in primordial times, for we learn from this source that in the early dawn of Egyptian life civilization was of a high standard, and it was then that man knew and experienced the most intimate divine spiritual revelations. We must not fall into that error, so common in our days, of assuming that all forms of human culture had their inception under the most simple and primitive conditions. In reality it was only after the impulse imparted by those first glorious blessings had waned, and a period of decline set in, that man’s life became crude and uncultured.
Hence, we should not look upon the barbaric tribes merely as peoples in whom intellection is expressed in its most elementary form, but, on the contrary, we must consider the aboriginal races as representative of civilizations which have fallen away from some exalted primordial state. This assertion is not at all to the liking of that branch of science which would have us believe that all culture had its inception under the most elementary conditions, such as those which are still found among the savages of our time. Nevertheless, Spiritual Science affirms, in virtue of knowledge obtained through the medium of its special methods, that the primitive states of mankind are in truth manifestations of long perished civilizations, and that all human life had its inception under cultural conditions directly inspired by divine beings — mentors from the Spirit-World — who descended upon the earth in the dim dawn of antiquity, and over whose deeds is cast a veil impenetrable to external history.
Man has long believed that if we trace life’s course backward through the ages we should in the end arrive at childish conditions, similar to those found among barbaric peoples. It was certainly not expected that in so doing we would find ourselves confronted with noble and exalted concepts and theories. Now, Spiritual Science definitely asserts that if we peer into the past, then, at the beginning of human life we shall not find rudimentary cultural states, but lofty and glorious civilizations, which at some later period fell away from their first high spiritual standard. At this point we might well ask: — ‘Does this asservation, as advanced by Spiritual Science, bring it into conflict with the results of modern scientific research — the logical methods of which delve deeply and without prejudice, into all matters that come within the scope of its investigations?‘ Let us see how external science itself replies to this question.
With this object I will give a literal quotation from a recent work by Alfred Jeremias [Licentiate Doctor and Lecturer at the University of Leipzig], entitled The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East.1 From the text we learn that external science while engaged in the gradual unfoldment of ancient history, has reached back into the remote past, and there found traces of a highly spiritual primeval civilization, whose culture was imbued with the most momentous and intellectual conceptions. It is further emphasized that those cultural states, which we are so accustomed to term barbaric, should in reality be regarded as typical of primordial civilizations that have fallen away from some higher level. The actual quotation to which I have referred is as follows: — 2
‘The earliest records, as well as the whole ancient civilized life about the Euphrates valley, indicate the existence of a scientific and at the same time religious theoretical conception, which was not merely confined to the occult doctrines of the temple; but in accordance with its precepts, state organizations were regulated and conducted, justice declared and property administered and protected. The more ancient the period to which we can look back, the more absolute does the control exercised by this concept appear. It was only after the downfall of the primal Euphratean civilization that the influence of other powers began to make itself felt.’
From the above excerpt it is clear, that external science has truly made a beginning toward the opening up of new paths that tend to bring harmony and agreement into those matters [so often regarded as controversial] which it is the province of Spiritual Science to bring forward and impress upon our present civilization. In a previous lecture we have drawn attention to a similar progress in connection with the science of Geology. If in the future we continue to advance in like fashion, we shall gradually be compelled to recede ever further and further from that dull and lifeless conception which would have us regard all primordial civilization as primitive and childish in its nature. Then, indeed, shall we be led back to those great personalities of the remote past, who seem to us the more transcendent, because it was their divinely inspired mission to endow a yet clairvoyant people with those priceless blessings which are evident throughout all cultural activity in which we now play our part. Such noble spirits in human form as Zarathustra and Hermes at once claim and rivet our attention. They appear to us so exalted and so glorious, because it was THEY who in the dim dawn of human life gave to mankind those first most potent and uplifting impulses. The old Egyptian sage had this sublime concept in mind when he spoke to Solon concerning ‘doctrines grey with age‘. (Vide p. 86.)
Thus do we honour and revere Hermes, even as we venerate the great Zarathustra. To us he shines forth as one of those grand outstanding individualities — veritable leaders of mankind — the very thought of whom engenders a feeling of enhanced power within, and begets the indubitable conviction through which we know that the Spirit is not merely abroad in the world, but weaves beneath all earthly deeds, and is ever active throughout the evolution of humanity. Then are our lives strengthened, a fuller confidence is in our every action, hopes are assured and destiny stands out the more clearly before us. It is at such times that we exclaim: — ‘Those yet to be born will of a surety lift up their hearts to the glorious spirit mentors who were in the beginning, and will seek the verity of their being in the gifts which are of the inner forces of the soul. They shall acknowledge and discern in the ever recurrent impulses which come as an upward urge to mankind the workings of a divine power, and the eternal manifestations of those Great Ones from the Spirit-World.’
The above lecture was delivered in Berlin on the 16th of February, 1911. In the interim, external science has probed further into the secrets of that highly advanced primal civilized life about the valley of the Euphrates, to which reference has been made on page 123. The following brief outline will indicate some of the results of Archæological research carried out in Mesopotamia at the site of the olden city known as ‘Ur of the Chaldees‘. At this place, most important discoveries have been made in connection with ancient Euphratean civilization, as the outcome of a Joint Expedition arranged by the British Museum and the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania in 1922, under the direction of C. Leonard Woolley, M.A., Litt. D. In a lecture given before ‘The Royal Society of Arts’ on the 8th of November, 1933, and which duly appeared in their Journal, Dr. Woolley said: ‘Certainly the discoveries that we made at Ur in the last ten years have tended to set scientists by the ears rather than satisfying them with the new information obtained ... few surprises in recent years have been so great as that occasioned by the excavation of the great cemetery lying beneath the ruins of Ur.’
In the tombs of Kings, in vaulted chambers of rubble masonry, dating as far back as 3500 B.C. were found treasures of gold, silver, mosaic, etc., wrought by the Sumerian workers and of a degree of technical excellence unsurpassed by the craftsmen of to-day. In one case, when referring to an especially fine specimen of polychrome art which had been discovered, and is now known as ‘The Ram Caught in a Thicket‘, Dr. Woolley drew attention to the fact, that this particular polychrome sculpture, while characteristic of the work of the ancients in 3400 B.. in the Near East, was actually suggestive of that of some rather late Italian Renaissance artist. As the investigations proceeded it became abundantly clear, that the ancient people who had so skilfully fashioned the strange and wonderful treasures brought to light, ‘were not tyros, they must have had behind them long traditions, long apprenticeship‘.
With the view of obtaining an insight into the history of this by-gone and highly developed civilization, excavations were commenced at a point which was actually the ground level of 3200 B.C., where through a depth of over sixty feet relics of the dim past were unearthed in clearly marked strata. Traces of eight superimposed cities were revealed, and deep down beneath the remains of an ancient pottery factory, so Dr. Woolley tells us, the excavators suddenly came upon a mass, eleven feet thick, of water-laid sand and clay, perfectly uniform and clean, which was undoubtedly the silt thrown up by “The Flood”. — ‘We can,’ said Dr. Woolley, ‘actually connect it with the flood which we call Noah’s Flood‘. The verge of this deluge was found to be up ‘against the flank of the mound on which stood the earliest and most primitive city of Ur ‘. Below this deposit were ‘the remains of antediluvian houses ... the lowest human buildings rested upon black organic soil ... and that in turn went down below sea-level‘.
The excavations proved that the ancient Sumerian architects were familiar with concrete at the beginning of the fourth millennium B.C., and possibly earlier. They were acquainted with every basic form of modern architecture, and Dr. Woolley further states that there is no doubt that, ‘the arch, the vault, the apse, and the dome, used in Europe for the first time in the Roman period’, specimens of which were found among the ruins, ‘are a direct inheritance from the Sumerian peoples of the fourth millennium B.C. at least, and they may well go hack to a date still more remote’. (The italics are ours.) Further, it has been shown that continuity in Sumerian civilization undoubtedly extended from the fifth millennium B.C., up to the sixth century B.C. This fact has come to light as a result of discoveries made by digging beneath the foundations of the massive staged tower, known as the Ziggurat of Ur, the main religious building of the city; and by tracing the dates and character of cylinder seals of different periods, carried by these by-gone peoples for the purpose of signing written documents.
Toward the close of his most interesting lecture, Dr. Woolley stated that imports into Egypt before the First Dynasty, seemed to indicate that the Sumerians imparted to the then barbarous people of that country an impulse, which enabled them to develop their remarkable civilization. He further said: ‘Civilized as the Babylonians were, they made no new discoveries at all; they hardly advanced beyond what their predecessors had known and they preserved civilization rather than invented it. We know, too, that the Sumerians sent out the ancestors of the Hebrews with all the traditions of law, civilization, religion and art, which they had themselves enjoyed in their home country and which the Hebrews never entirely forgot, but by which they were profoundly influenced.’
Thus has this Joint Archæological Expedition, under the able leadership of Dr. Woolley, thrown the light of modern external science upon one of those glorious spiritual civilizations of the dim grey past, so often referred to by Rudolf Steiner, which endured just so long as its people opened their hearts to the guidance of the Spirit, but fell away and perished when they left the true path, and gave themselves up to material things. [Ed.]
Notes for this lecture:
1. Manual of Biblical Archaeology, 2 Vols. Translated from the second German Edition, by C. L. Beaumont. Edited by the Rev. Canon C. H. W. Johns, Litt.D. Published by Williams and Morgate, 1911.
2. Der Einfluss Babyloniens auf das Verständnis des Alten Testamentes, von Alfred Jeremias. ‘Die ältesten Urkunden sowie das gesamte euphratensische Kulturleben setzen eine wissenschaftliche und zugleich religiöse Theorie voraus, die nicht etwa nur in den Geheimlehren der Tempel ihr Dasein fristet, sondern nach der die staatlichen Organisationen geregelt sind, nach der Recht gesprochen, das Eigentum verwaltet und geschützt wird. Je höher das Altertum ist, in das wir blacken können, um so Ausschliesslicher herrscht die Theorie; erst mit dem Verfall der alten euphratensischen Kultur kommen andere Mächte zur Geltung.’