Egyptian Magic

Egyptian Magic
Egyptian Magic
By S.S.D.D. (Sapientia Sapienti Dona Data)
(Florence Farr)

The study of Magic, which has now fallen into disrepute was, among the Egyptians, regarded with a veneration hardly accorded to the highest Philosophy in modern times.

To the Ancient Egyptians the most eminent man was he who had by hard training gained supremacy over the Elements, from which his own body and the Manifested World were alike formed; one whose Will had risen Phœnix-like from the ashes of his desires; one whose Intuition, cleansed from the stains of material illusions, was a clear mirror in which he could perceive the Past, the Present and the Future.

The Kings and Priests of Egypt were the elect of those who had studied with success in the “School of Wisdom,” a Philosophical Aristocracy; they were chosen because they were not only wise, but could use their wisdom. They could give strength to the armies of the nation and they had the means of transmitting their power; of the Staff of the “King-Initiate” held so strong a magical potency, that, with it in his hand, the leader of armies became as mighty as Pharaoh himself.

The King-Priests gave forth an exoteric religion to the people, by which to guide their footsteps until they had reached that stage of development (it may have been only after repeated failures, incarnation after incarnation), when they also might join the ranks of the initiated: yet it appears extremely probable that the whole Egyptian population was allowed a certain participation in the Mysteries; for the tests of a candidate before Initiation were of such a nature that none but human beings developed to a considerable degree of perfection could hope to stand them.

There is every reason to suppose that only those who had received some grade of initiation were mummified; for it is certain that, in the eyes of the Egyptians, mummification effectually prevented reincarnation. Reincarnation was necessary to imperfect souls, to those who had failed to pass the tests of initiation; but for those who had the Will and the capacity to enter the Secret Adytum, there was seldom necessity for that liberation of the soul which is said to be effected by the destruction of the body.

The body of the Initiate was therefore preserved after death as a species of Talisman or material basis for the manifestation of the Soul upon earth.

In studying Egyptian Magic one has at once a thoroughly scientific satisfaction. One is troubled with no vague theories, but receives precise practical details; we observe that every square inch of the Upper and Under Worlds is mapped out. The strength that such a system inherently contains was proved by the long duration of the archaic Egyptian civilization.

The first principles of Egyptian Magic were based on an elaborate system of correspondences depending on the formula that, the evolution of what is material follows the type and symbol of the emanation of the spiritual; that spirit and matter are opposite faces of the self-same mystery.1 The Egyptian Adepts regarded the conceptions of the mind, the aspirations of the soul, the words of the mouth and the functions of the body, as possessing analogies from which a complete system of rules of life and death could be constructed. Moreover they looked upon each body, or manifested being, as the material basis of a long vista of immaterial entities functioning as Spirit, Soul and Mind in the Formative, Creative and Archetypal Worlds.

Included in this volume is a list of a standard works upon the subject of “Egyptian Beliefs,” for the use of those who have not studied the modern theories on the subject; so there is no need to enter here into details which can easily be found elsewhere. I shall therefore at once state the ideas which my study of ancient lore has led me to formulate, without waiting to quote the hypotheses set forth by our leading Egyptologists.

In the first place we have hitherto written of man as composed of soul and body; but the Initiated Egyptians regarded themselves as being far from simply soul and body. They gave names to several human faculties, and postulated for each a possibility of separate existence.

The Khat, Kat, or Body, was only a vehicle or material basis for the operations of the Ego upon this plane of human earth-life.

In considering the Egyptian philosophy of the Life Cycle, let us start from the beginning; according to the obelisk of Queen Hatshepsu, a human Hammemit or Primal Entity circled round the sun for a period of One Hundred and Twenty Years before incarnation. During this period certain cosmic and elemental forces would be more powerful than others; these environing the Primal Entity would give it a certain characteristic bias, and guide it in the choice of the means and moment of incarnation. In the meantime the reflections of the higher elemental forces affecting the Primal Entity would be at work in the material world. These reflect would bias the human parents in like manner. When the natal epoch arrived the Great Mother-Force, symbolized by the vulture holding the Seal, imprinted upon the Primal Entity the symbols dominant at the selected moment; and this is the rationale of the Astrological horoscope.

The human mother had in the meantime become the centre of elemental forces that formulated an illusive attraction around her. This is the formulation of the Sahu, or the Astral body of the future human being, under the magic of the natural elemental forces. For the plainest woman, for a time, becomes beautiful in the eyes of her lover. No sooner, however, is the co-operation of the parent forces accomplished than the Sahu hastily attaches itself to the vitalized germ and remains with it as an invisible pattern towards which solid matter gravitating forms the material body. This operation of the Sahu accounts for the vision which some clairvoyants have perceived in regard to the Vegetable Kingdom, of an astral plant-form attached to seeds or grains before they are sown in the ground.

The elemental body then having concentrated round the vitalized ovum, leaves the human mother in her natural state, stripped of the illusive beauty it had imparted to her: and she does not, or should not, regain her specially attractive power until she has done her part by the human being she is about to foster.

We see then that the unborn child is prepared for its emergence into life by the parents who contribute the principle called by the Egyptian the Hati or “whole heart.” That is, the Seat of the Inherited instincts racial and individual; including such functions as digestion, hearing, seeing, smelling, and so on. In one word the Hati is the heredity. It is clothed by a body or astral body, both before and after conception, possessed that power of radiation which formed the sphere of attraction round the human mother, which was sealed by the great Vulture-Mother-Force at the time of conception, and was withdrawn instantly to form the sphere or aura of the future human being—this is called the Khaibt, or radiating aura.

At the moment of birth the “Ego” joins the body, and there are extant many pictures (dating from the period of the highest Egyptian civilization) which show the birth of great princes; in these the double forms of the Celestially and Terrestrially generated bodies are recognizable. This is to say the circling Hammemit now throws off an emanation which is called the Ka or double of the new-born child, and this forms its link with the earthly body by means of another principle, the Ab. The Hati is always spoken of in Egyptian texts as associated with the Ab or Heart. Just as we, in our conversation, often confuse and combine our instinct and will. Will is a quality latent in every animal; it can in man be developed and cultivated until it becomes Free Will. In the same way the Ab (will) or Red Vessel of the Heart is represented in the Book of the Dead as containing an egg, and a concave germ: when this concave germ is developed by cultivation the real life and full development of the Ego could begin: this is to say the Ka could progress in its celestial evolution, just as the body could progress in its terrestrial evolution.

Of course in thousands of cases the celestial body was restricted; the fatal moment of conception loaded the terrestrial being (composed of the Sahu, Hati, and Ab within the Kab or material body) with chains of destiny too strong for him to break through. And the Ka or Ego had to return to the Hammemit in the Place of Spirits and await the time when it might again have a chance of regenerating matter Astral and Material, and become of the number of these “Shining Ones,” who are set like Jewels in the Diadem of the Lord of Spirit and Life, made One.

In this conception we have at once the explanation of the dogma regarding the sacrifice of self to self. For the Ka or Ego can only grow and become potent through ardent and patient perseverance and struggle.

“Three days I hung upon the Cross, my Self a Sacrifice unto myself,” says the God of the Eddas.

“Ich bin nichts in mir. Ichts in dir, und leben in deinem Ichts aus Nichts, lebe du doch in mir, und bringe mich aus dem Ichts in dir,” said the German Mystic.

The Man who cannot “be Himself” must be melted down in the casting-ladle of Phtha. The artist-craftsman of the Gods will disperse the elemental material which in its present combination cannot, and will not, be regenerated; he bides his time for a happier moment of operation.

We have Christ enunciating this doctrine in the parable of the Talents, St. Luke, xix. 26, “Unto every one which hath shall be given, and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.”

This old Egyptian Doctrine is to be discovered again in Matthew Arnold’s sonnet on “Immortality:”

“No, no, the energy of life may be

Kept on beyond the grave, but not begun,

And he who flagged not in the earthly strife

From strength to strength advancing, only he

His soul well knit and all his battles won,

Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life.”

Having dwelt for some period on that dark side of the Egyptian Faith which dooms the impotent soul to extinction; I will proceed to discuss the career opened before those who, taking the reins of the chariot of life in their own hands, guide the elemental forces which are linked to that vehicle, safe to the desirable goal.

The seeds placed within the heart or Ab may now be considered as symbolising the powers of Thought and Will: these once set in action by Theurgic practices or self-devotion to the highest aspiration of the conscious being produce a curious result. Remembering that in the representations of the Ab the principles are reversed as though reflected in a vessel of blood—the concave germ being uppermost. We can then see that the two ends of the concave mass stretch round and form a receptacle for the egg: this symbolises a more quintessential influx from the primal entity or Hammemit descending upon the upstretched arms of the Ka in the form of the Hawk or Baie. The Cultivation of Thought and Will is again shown by the uplifted hands in the hieroglyph which represents the Ka: and the attitude of aspiration enables it to formulate a resting-place for the piercing, penetrating spirit, the Baie. This latter principle is represented in four ways; by a hawk Crowned, or the Horus Baie; by a human-headed hawk; by a Bennu bird or by a ram. The Baie (spirit) can operate through the egg-like principle contained in the Ab and the Ka (human Ego) through the concave principle.

These four hieroglyphs used for the word Baie showed distinct orders or genera of souls; for instance, the hawk-soul is only represented as resting upon the Ka of the King or Queen. It is called the Royal Soul. The Human-headed hawk hovers over the mummies of great initiates and doubtless represents the soul after the incarnation had ceased; its human head is the symbol of true quintessence of the human individuality which the bird bears to the Abode of Blessed Souls.

The Baie represented by the ram would be the progressive, penetrating power which breaks down barriers and enables the energised human soul to pass into Regions, the guardians of which could hold their own against meeker enquiry.

The Bennu bird also is remarkable for transfixing and piercing its prey. There is considerable difficulty about this hieroglyph; if it represents the phœnix as it has been commonly supposed to do, it would be easy to understand that it was the symbol of a soul belonging to a more complex range of being, only to be evolved through a long series of labours on the part of its human counterpart; but if it is simply a form of a common hernshaw I should take it as implying a milder and less fiery nature in the soul.

The ram head is often placed on the stone scarabæus (symbol of self-creation) which replaces the heart in the body of a mummy; representing what the medieval mystics meant when they talked of the “Stone of the Wise.” That is, the Will which had become self-creative and was united eternally to its celestial, progressive, penetrative faculty. The consecrated Will and purified Thought of the true Magus.

In the first Egyptian Room at the British Museum a painting, said to be of Queen Hatshepset, who lived about B.C. 1600, is hung on the walls (the Queen’s name has been painted out and that of Thothmes III. substituted), she is making perfume offerings; this picture is reproduced from an obelisk now fallen, which was set up by this Queen at Karnak. A print of this painting is reproduced in the English translation of Wiedemann’s Immortality of the Soul.

Here we have a representation of a fully initiated ruler. Her Divine Powers are represented on her head-dress by the feathers of the Celestial and Terrestrial Truth; the orb of the Sun; the two Goddesses ruling the commencement and the fruition, represented by the horned and orbed uræii, symbols of beauty, life, and fierce protective motherhood; the ram’s horns of all-penetrating potency; the nemeses with the fiery serpent of prophecy and protection upright before her face.

Above the figure of the Queen is the Mother-Vulture; at once the avenging, protective, and intuitive emissary of Maut the Mother of all things; holding the Seal composed of a ring and a plate engraved with the symbols of the birth-presiding forces which gave a name of power to the Queen.

Behind her is her Ka or real Ego; the hands, lifted in aspiration above the head, enclose the rectangular parallelogram representing the Portal of Wisdom in which is written the Horus or heroic Name which according to Egyptian dogma was to be won by the Theurgic rites of Initiation. On it is seated the Royal Horus Baie. In the hands of the Ka is the Staff or Magical Wand which, rightly understood, was a means of transmitting the Royal Power to such of her subjects as she selected to carry out her Will.

Proclus in Timæus book v., page 330 says, speaking of the Baie, Spirit:

“Her seeds are hurled into the realms of generation; and she must purify herself from circumjacent fluctuations of matter. For she contains two-fold powers, one leading to generation the other from generation to true being. The one leads her round the Genesiurgic, the other round the intellectual circle.”

In this way we come to the consideration of the magical Power of the Soul: called by the Egyptians the Yekh, Khou or Shining One. We find in nearly all the Magical Tales that it was through the initiative of the Khou that really magical acts were performed. M. Chabas in his supplement to the Harris Magical Papyrus gives many instances of the good and evil uses made of the Khou.

One entered the body of a princess who was obsessed for a long period, until it was cast out by means of the health-giving Divinity.

It was the Khou which had been degraded that became a demon and the torturer of mankind. The fate of such was to sacrifice the negatively evil, those who had neglected their opportunities; but the evil Khous could not themselves be annihilated. An evil immortality awaited the great evil-doer or destroyer among mankind; just as a beautiful immortality awaited the Shining Ones who had added to the beauty of life in their mortal days. Between these extremes of beauty and destruction lay the impotent and the ignorant, whose blindness doomed them to annihilation.

The beatitude of the Justified Khou was by no means purely contemplative. The inscription on the obelisk of Queen Hatshepsu (sometimes spelled Hatshepset) speaks of them as holding converse with the ungenerated souls during the one hundred and twenty years that the latter circle round the Sun. They had the power to take all imaginable forms, or to move hither and thither as they pleased.

We find in the Ritual of the Dead elaborate formulas for the assistance of the Khou of the deceased. The Justified Khou was obliged to pass many tests; it had to cultivate the gardens of heaven, destroy monsters, take on certain obligatory forms, escort the Gods in their Heaven-traversing ships, take part in the ceaseless struggle between the two contending forces, cross burning and desolate zones, suffer in the regions of hunger, thirst, and terror, submit to proofs, reply to questions, and pass the armed and hideous Deity who guarded the Portals of Wisdom.

Now, if an Egyptian failed in standing such tests as these, in the ceremony of his initiation, he was regarded as a man liable to become an evil Khou if his power was developed: and in their Wisdom the Priests rejected him and left him in that ignorance which led to oblivion and the annihilation of the incarnating Ego. Not only this, but if he, by underhand means, found out magical formulas and was able to use them effectively, the punishment was death.

Details of this kind are given in the supplement to M. Chabas' translation of the Harris Magical Papyrus. The period was that of Rameses III. Compare this quotation:

“Hai, the evil man, was a shepherd. He had said:—

“‘Oh! that I might have a book of spells that would give me resistless power.’

“He obtained a book of the Formulas of Rameses-Meri-Amen, the Great God, his royal Master. By the Divine Powers of these, he enchanted men. He obtained a deep vault furnished with implements. He made waxen images of men, and love-charms. And then he perpetrated all the horrors that his heart conceived.”

Now on the face of the matter it is very easy to see that a great part of Egyptian Magic lay in a species of Hypnotism, called by later magicians, Enchantment, Fascination, and so forth. Anybody with intelligence and charm can hypnotise an innocent person that interests him, but such a practice is derogatory both to fascinator and fascinated, even when it takes place in matters of ordinary passional life. How much more so when it leads to debauchery of the soul. In this way we, perceive the possibility of an Uninitiate successfully performing the spells he had discovered.

Rituals or Ceremonies now simply regarded as a waste of time by those who have to assist at their celebration, had a potent effect when the symbolism of each action was fully recognised, and when the imagination was extended and ultra-sensitive, and the Will concentrated firmly and repeatedly, on the object to be accomplished. The Ka of the Ritualist was thus at high tension acting upon its counterpart the concave germ in the Ab (heart) or vessel of conscious desire; this reacts upon the Hati (Instinctive habit) or unconscious executant. The whole human Ego then being in a state of theurgic excitation the Baie (spirit) descended and the whole being became a luminous Khou or Shining Body of super-human potency, the Augoeides of the Greek Mystics.

This glittering being established in the midst of the Sahu (Elemental Body) then by its radiation can awake corresponding potencies in nature. For this purpose the Khaibt was used as a link between the Ego and the non-Ego, and the spiritual body or Zet was established.

When this condition was brought about, a man became in the eyes of the Egyptians, Osirified. That is to say, a Microprosopus, or Perfect copy of the Macroprosopus. But he who, ignorant and unpurified, performed these rites, became the habitation of an illusive and fatal force, ever dragging him down to the deep abysses of blind potency.

We may now perceive dimly how the Egyptians conceived the seed of the Tree of Life-Eternal to be implanted in the heart of each man or woman born on earth; how it can wither and fade; how it can be cultivated until the man becomes either an Evil Demon or a God.

To the high initiate there was no question of choice in this matter. He knew that the heart turned inward on itself was a very poor alternative for that expansion of being that belongs to the development of the whole latent Divine Powers of the Microprosopus. In other words, the perfect formulation of the Osiris soul, the Holy Spirit of the Divine, made manifest and eternal.

Now the Egyptians had elaborated a marvelous system of symbolism. The forms of the universal powers or Gods, stood, each complete, behind a human or animal mask; his Divinity symbolized by his headdress, his powers by his Staff and the Symbol of Life which he bore in his hands. MM. Chabas and Textor de Ravisi have told us that the most potent magical formula was the identification of the Ritualist with the God whose power he was invoking. So increasing himself to an immeasurable greatness he leapt beyond all bodies, and transcending time became eternity. He became higher than all height, lower than all depth. He knew himself part of the great chain of Creation at once unbegotten, young, old, dead. He felt within him self latent, unfolding faculties, and retained the memory of experiences gained in time long past and dead. His feet to-day stood in the place that yesterday his eye could scarcely see, and beyond him in the Invisible was his next day’s resting place.

In the sixty-fourth chapter of the Book of the Dead, dating back to the IVth dynasty about 3733 B.C., the rubric tells us that:

“If this chapter is known the person is made triumphant upon earth, and in the nether world, and he performeth all things that are done by the living. This composition is a secret—not to be seen or looked at. Recite the chapter when sanctified and pure, not approaching women, not eating goats’ flesh or fish.”

The text contains the following passages:

“I am Yesterday, To-day and To-morrow, for I am born again and again. I am That Whose Force is unmanifest and nourisheth the Dwellers in the West. I am the Guider in the East. The Lord of the Two Faces Who seeth by His own Light. The Lord of Resurrections Who cometh forth from the Dusk and Whose Birth is from the House of Death.

“Ye Two Divine Hawks upon your stations; Watchers of the Material World; ye who go with the bier to its eternal home, and ye who conduct the Ship of the Sun; advancing onwards from the highest Heaven to the place of the Sarcophagus.

“This is the Lord of the Shrine which standeth in the centre of the Earth, He is in me; and I am in Him.

“Mine is the radiance in which Phtha floateth over His Firmament.

“Oh! Sun Who smileth gladly, and whose heart is delighted with the perfect Order of this day as thou enterest into Heaven and comest forth in the East: the Ancients and those Who are gone before, acclaim thee!

“Let thy paths be made pleasant for me.

“Let thy ways be made wide for me to traverse the earth and the expanse of Heaven. Shine Thou upon me, O penetrating power, as I draw near to the Divine words my ears shall hear in the Abodes of the West. Let no pollution of that which brought me forth be upon me. Deliver me, protect me from him who closeth His Eyes at twilight and bringeth to an end in darkness. (The annihilator.)

“I am He Who bursteth the Bonds. Uttermost Extension is my Name. I bring to its fulness the Force which is hidden within me.

“I am He Who cometh forth as One Who breaketh open the Gates: and Everlasting is the Daylight which His will hath created. I know (have power over) the Deep Waters, is my Name.

“I shine forth as the Lord of Life and the glorious Law of Light.

“I come as the Ambassador of the Lord of Lords to avenge the cause of Osiris in this Place. Let the Eye consume its tears. I am the Guide to the House of Him Who dwelleth in His Treasures. I travel on high, I tread upon the Firmament, I raise a flame with the lightning which mine eye hath made, and I fly forward towards the Splendours of the Glorified in the presence of the Sun, who daily giveth Life to every man who walketh about the habitations of the earth.

“Oh! thou who leapest forth! Conductor of the Shades and the glorified Ones from the earth! Let the fair path to the Western Abodes, which is made in behalf of those who faint, and for the restoration of those who are in pain, be granted unto me.

“Blessed are they who see the bourne. Beautiful is the God of the motionless heart, who restoreth Peace to the Torrent.

“Behold! there cometh forth the Lord of Life, Osiris, Thy support who abideth day and night.

“I fly up to heaven and I alight upon earth and mine eye turneth back towards the traces of my footsteps. I am the offspring of yesterday. The caverns of the earth have given me birth, and I am revealed at my appointed time.”

This is the Triumphant Death-Song of the Initiated Egyptian. To Him the Life beyond the grave-the abodes of the West—opened a wider range of activity. To him Initiation meant the hastening of the Time of Ripened Power when he might become One with the Great God of Humanity, Osiris; slain that he might rise again, perfected through suffering, glorified through humiliation.

This was the highest work of magic, the Spiritual Alchemy or the Transmutation from human Force to Divine Potency. As is said by the great Iamblichus, in section iv., chapter ii., of The Mysteries:

“The Priest who invokes is a man; but when he commands powers it is because through arcane symbols, he, in a certain respect, is invested with the sacred Form of the Gods.”

Iamblichus also tells us that the daimon or elemental ruler is received at the hour of birth. It is a personification of the Symbol imprinted on the Sahu or Elemental body; and its action may be defined as that of Fate or Destiny. Its forces are drawn from the whole world, and it is established in the Sahu before the soul descends into generation. He says further:

“And when the soul has received Him as her leader the Daimon immediately presides over the soul, gives completion to its lives, and binds it to body when it descends. He likewise governs the common animal of the soul (the Sahu) and directs its peculiar life, and imparts to us the principles of all out thought and reasonings. We also perform such things as he suggests to our intellect, and he continues to govern us till, through sacerdotal theurgy, we obtain a God for the inspective guardian and leader of the soul. For then the Daimon either yields or delivers his government to a more excellent nature, or is subjected to him as contributing to his guardianship, or in some other way is ministrant to him as to his Lord.”

When this takes place, and the body, sealed by destiny, is made subject, by initiation, to the Divine Powers, it may well be symbolised by the Ka supporting the Baie on the portal of initiation. The Lower Self being sacrificed to the Higher Self. The Osiris Man is established, as in the symbols in which the Osiris is represented by the Tat or Symbol of Stability. Then, and then only, is the question of Sacrifice for others to be considered. And the Osiris may plunge once again into matter; once again making use of his mummied form to seek and to save that which was lost.

Mild saintliness was by no means the ideal of the Egyptian Priesthood. Intense practical interest in the life of their country, and the ennobling of natural functions, drew a sharp contrast between them and the ascetics of India and Christendom. “Whatever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might,” is a text that may well have come down to us from Ancient Egypt. The generative processes of Nature were honoured by them at special festivals—but at the same time the degradation of natural functions by excess was sternly reprimanded.

The Laws of Moses were to a great extent derived from the Laws of Ancient Egypt, and whatever else may be said of them they certainly tend to sanitary conditions, and length of life, individual and racial.

Now we know that with the Jews Magic was practised in the Sanctuary, but denounced by the Priesthood; it was only when Saul found the Sacred Oracles of the Urim and Thummim deaf to his questions that he consulted a mistress of the Aub or Astral Light.—I Samuel xxviii. v. 7.

So in Egypt we find side by side with the high Theurgic mysteries (of which a good idea may be formed from the writings of Iamblichus), a more material development of Magical Art. At the Leyden Museum there is a large collection of magical formulæ of late date; but the best specimen now at hand is the hieratic Papyrus of Harris probably dating back to the XVIIIth Dynasty. It contains twenty-two formulas which may be divided into three parts; the first including Songs addressed to Shu, to the Five Great Gods of Hermopolis, and to Ammon-Ra, of which I here give a translation, as follows:


1. See Westcott on Kabalah, in Lucifer, May 1893, p. 204, and Tyndall, Belfast Address.

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