Definitions

Chemi (Eg.). The ancient name of Egypt.

Mizraim (Eg.). The name of Egypt in very ancient times, This name is now connected with Freemasonry. See the rite of Mizraim and the rite of Memphis in Masonic Cyclopædias.

Khamism. A name given by the Egyptologists to the ancient language of Egypt. Khami, also.

Hierogrammatists. The title given to those Egyptian priests who were entrusted with the writing and reading of the sacred and secret records. The “scribes of the secret records” literally. They were the instructors of the neophytes preparing for initiation.

Atlantidæ (Gr.) The ancestors of the Pharaohs and the forefathers of the Egyptians, according to some, and as the Esoteric Science teaches. (See Sec. Doct., Vol. II., and Esoteric Buddhism.) Plato heard of this highly civilized people, the last remnant of which was submerged 9,000 years before his day, from Solon, who had it from the High Priests of Egypt. Voltaire, the eternal scoffer, was right in stating that “the Atlantidæ (our fourth Root Race) made their appearance in Egypt. It was in Syria and in Phrygia, as well as Egypt, that they established the worship of the Sun.” Occult philosophy teaches that the Egyptians were a remnant of the last Aryan Atlantidæ.


Hermes Trismegistus (Gr.). The “thrice great Hermes,” the Egyptian. The mythical personage after whom the Hermetic philosophy was named. In Egypt the God Thoth or Thot. A generic name of many ancient Greek writers on philosophy and Alchemy. Hermes Trismegistus is the name of Hermes or Thoth in his human aspect, as a god he is far more than this. . . . The Church Fathers speak at length of Thoth-Hermes.

Thoth (Eg.). The most mysterious and the least understood of gods, whose personal character is entirely distinct from all other ancient deities. While the permutations of Osiris, Isis, Horus, and the rest, are so numberless that their individuality is all but lost, Thoth remains changeless from the first to the last Dynasty. He is the god of wisdom and of authority over all other gods. He is the recorder and the judge. . . . He is the Greek Hermes, the god of learning, and Hermes Trismegistus, the “Thrice-great Hermes,” the patron of physical sciences and the patron and very soul of the occult esoteric knowledge. . . .

Hermetic. Any doctrine or writing connected with the esoteric teachings of Hermes, who, whether as the Egyptian Thoth or the Greek Hermes, was the God of Wisdom with the Ancients, and, according to Plato, “discovered numbers, geometry, astronomy and letters.” . . .

Book of the Dead. An ancient Egyptian ritualistic and occult work attributed to Thot-Hermes. Found in the coffins of ancient mummies.

Pymander (Gr.). The “Thought divine.” The Egyptian Prometheus and the personified Nous or divine light, which appears to and instructs Hermes Trismegistus, in a hermetic work called “Pymander.”

— H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary


On the Egyptian Pyramids

“The date of the hundreds of pyramids in the Valley of the Nile is impossible to fix by any of the rules of modern science; but Herodotus informs us that each successive king erected one to commemorate his reign, and serve as his sepulchre. But, Herodotus did not tell all, although he knew that the real purpose of the pyramid was very different from that which he assigns to it. Were it not for his religious scruples, he might have added that, externally, it symbolized the creative principle of nature, and illustrated also the principles of geometry, mathematics, astrology, and astronomy. Internally, it was a majestic fane, in whose sombre recesses were performed the Mysteries, and whose walls had often witnessed the initiation-scenes of members of the royal family. The porphyry sarcophagus, which Professor Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal of Scotland, degrades into a corn-bin, was the baptismal font, upon emerging from which, the neophyte was ‘born again,’ and became an adept. . . .

“One of the books of Hermes describes certain of the pyramids as standing upon the sea-shore, ‘the waves of which dashed in powerless fury against its base.’ This implies that the geographical features of the country have been changed, and may indicate that we must accord to these ancient ‘granaries,’ ‘magico-astrological observatories,’ and ‘royal sepulchres,’ an origin antedating the upheaval of the Sahara and other deserts. This would imply rather more of an antiquity than the poor few thousands of years, so generously accorded to them by Egyptologists.” (Isis Unveiled 1:518-20)


Is There Only One Egyptian Religion?

Every time I hear people talking of the religion of Egypt, I am tempted to ask which of the Egyptian religions they are talking about? Is it of the Egyptian religion of the 4th Dynasty, or of the Egyptian religion of the Ptolemaic period? Is it of the religion of the rabble, or of that of the learned men? Of that which was taught in the schools of Heliopolis, or of that other which was in the minds and conceptions of the Theban sacerdotal class? For, between the first tomb of Memphis, which bears the cartouche of a king of the third dynasty, and the last stones at Esneh under Caesar-Philippus, the Arabian, there is an interval of at least five thousand years. Leaving aside the invasion of the Shepherds, the Ethiopian and Assyrian dominions, the Persian conquest, Greek colonization, and the thousand revolutions of its political life, Egypt has passed during those five thousand years through many vicissitudes of life, moral and intellectual. Chapter XVII. of the Book of the Dead which seems to contain the exposition of the system of the world as it was understood at Heliopolis during the time of the first dynasties, is known to us only by a few copies of the eleventh and twelfth dynasties. Each of the verses composing it was already at the time interpreted in three or four different ways; so different, indeed, that according to this or another school, the Demiurge became the solar fire—Ra-shoo, or the primordial water. Fifteen centuries later, the number of readings had increased considerably. Time had, in its course, modified the ideas about the universe and the forces that ruled it. During the hardly 18 centuries that Christianity exists, it has worked, developed and transformed most of its dogmas; how many times, then, might not the Egyptian clergy have altered its dogmas during those fifty centuries that separate Theodosius from the King Builders of the Pyramids?

— M. Gaston Maspero; see H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine 1:311-12


Was the Egyptian Religion Monotheistic?

In the Egyptian Papyri the whole Cosmogony of the Secret Doctrine is found scattered about in isolated sentences, even in the “Book of Dead.” Number seven is quite as much insisted upon and emphasized therein as in the Book of Dzyan. “The Great Water (the Deep or Chaos) is said to be seven cubits deep”—“cubits” standing here of course for divisions, zones, and principles. Therein, “in the great mother, all the Gods, and the seven great ones are born.” (See chapter cviii., 4, Book of the Dead and Egyptian Pantheon). Both Fohat and Toum are addressed as the “Great ones of the Seven Magic Forces,” who, “conquer the Serpent Apap” or Matter.

No student of occultism, however, ought to be betrayed, by the usual phraseology used in the translations of Hermetic Works, into believing that the ancient Egyptians or Greeks spoke of, and referred, monk-like, at every moment in conversation, to a Supreme Being, God, the “One Father and Creator of all,” etc., as found on every page of such translations. No such thing indeed; and those texts are not the original Egyptian texts. They are Greek compilations, the earliest of which does not go beyond the early period of Neo-Platonism. No Hermetic work written by Egyptians (vide “Book of the Dead”) would speak of the one universal God of the Monotheistic systems; the one Absolute cause of all, was as unnameable and unpronounceable in the mind of the ancient philosopher of Egypt, as it is for ever Unknowable in the conception of Mr. Herbert Spencer. As for the Egyptian in general, as M. Maspero well remarks, whenever he “arrived at the notion of divine Unity, the God One was never ‘God,’ simply.” And Lepage Renouf very justly observed that the word Nouter, nouti, “god” had never ceased being a generic name with the Egyptians, nor has it ever become a personal pronoun. Every God was the “one living and unique God” with them. Their “monotheism was purely geographical. If the Egyptian of Memphis proclaimed the unity of Phtah to the exclusion of Ammon, the Thebeian Egyptian proclaimed the unity of Ammon to the exclusion of Phtah,” as we now see done in India in the case of the Saivas and the Vaishnavas. “Ra, the ‘One God’ at Heliopolis is not the same as Osiris, the ‘One God’ at Abydos, and can be worshipped side by side with him, without being absorbed by his neighbour. The one god is but the god of the nome or the city, noutir, noutti, and does not exclude the existence of the one god of that town or of the neighbouring nome. In short, whenever speaking of Egyptian Monotheism, one ought to speak of the Gods ‘One’ of Egypt, and not of the one god” (Maspero, in the Guide au Musee de Boulak.) It is by this feature, pre-eminently Egyptian, that the authenticity of the various so-called Hermetic Books, ought to be tested; and it is totally absent from the Greek fragments known as such. This proves that a Greek Neo-Platonic, or even a Christian hand, had no small share in the editing of such works. Of course the fundamental philosophy is there, and in many a place—intact. But the style has been altered and smoothed in a monotheistic direction, as much, if not more than that of the Hebrew Genesis in its Greek and Latin translations. They may be Hermetic works, but not works written by either of the two Hermes—or rather, by Thot (Hermes) the directing intelligence of the Universe (See ch. xciv., Book of the Dead), or by Thot, his terrestrial incarnation called Trismegistus, of the Rosetta stone.

—H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine 1:674-75


Key Texts

The Egyptian “Book of the Dead” (Book of Going-Forth by Day)

The Egyptian Book of the Dead, tr. P. Le Page Renouf & E Naville (1904)
Le Livre des Morts, tr. Paul Pierret (1882)
The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, tr Raymond O. Faulkner (1990)
The Egyptian Book of the Dead: Book of Going-Forth by Day, ed. by Eva Von Dassow (2010)


The Pyramid Texts

The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, tr. R. O. Faulkner (1969)
The Pyramid Texts, tr. Samuel A. B. Mercer (1952)


The Sacred Volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes

“Hermes, the god of Wisdom, known in Egypt, Syria, and Phoenicia as Thoth, Tat, Adad, Seth, and Sat-an (the latter not to be taken in the sense applied to it by Moslems and Christians), and in Greece as Kadmus. The kabalists identify him with Adam Kadmon, the first manifestation of the Divine Power, and with Enoch. There were two Hermes: the elder was the Trismegistus, and the second an emanation, or ‘permutation’ of himself; the friend and instructor of Isis and Osiris. Hermes is the god of the priestly wisdom, like Mazeus.” (Isis Unveiled 1:xxxiii)

“Isis and Osiris are said, in the Egyptian sacred books, to have appeared (i.e., been worshipped), on earth, later than Thot, the first Hermes, called Trismegistus, who wrote all their sacred books according to the command of God or by ‘divine revelation.’ The companion and instructor of Isis and Osiris was Thot, or Hermes II., who was an incarnation of the celestial Hermes.” (Isis Unveiled 2:49)

“Seth, Adam’s third son, and the forefather of all Israel, the ancestor of Noah, and the progenitor of the ‘chosen people,’ is but Hermes, the god of wisdom, called also Thoth, Tat, Seth, Set, and Sat-an; and that he was, furthermore, when viewed under his bad aspect, Typhon, the Egyptian Satan, who was also Set.” (Isis Unveiled 1:554)

“Hermes, or rather Thot, was a generic name. Abul Teda shows in Historia Anti-Islamitica five Hermes, and the names of Hermes, Nebo, Thot were given respectively in various countries to great Initiates. . . . It is not the proper name of any one living man, but a generic title of many adepts.” (Secret Doctrine 2:210fn & 211)

“And here we may as well mention the works of Hermes Trismegistus. Who, or how many have had the opportunity to read them as they were in the Egyptian sanctuaries? In his Egyptian Mysteries, Iamblichus attributes to Hermes 1,100 books, and Seleucus reckons no less than 20,000 of his works before the period of Menes. Eusebius saw but forty-two of these “in his time,” he says, and the last of the six books on medicine treated on that art as practiced in the darkest ages; and Diodorus says that it was the oldest of the legislators Mnevis, the third successor of Menes, who received them from Hermes.

“Of such manuscripts as have descended to us, most are but Latin retranslations of Greek translations, made principally by the Neo-platonists from the original books preserved by some adepts. Marcilius Ficinus, who was the first to publish them in Venice, in 1488, has given us mere extracts, and the most important portions seemed to have been either overlooked, or purposely omitted as too dangerous to publish in those days of Auto da fe.” (Isis Unveiled 1:406-07)

“There are then forty-two books of Hermes indispensably necessary; of which the six-and-thirty containing the whole philosophy of the Egyptians are learned by the forementioned personages; and the other six, which are medical, by the Pastophoroi (image- bearers),—treating of the structure of the body, and of diseases, and instruments, and medicines, and about the eyes, and the last about women.” (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book VI, Chapter IV)

“The forty-two Sacred Books of the Egyptians mentioned by Clement of Alexandria as having existed in his time, were but a portion of the Books of Hermes. Iamblichus, on the authority of the Egyptian priest Abammon, attributes 1200 of such books to Hermes, and Manetho 36,000.” (Isis Unveiled 1:33)

“It was Ammonius who first taught that every religion was based on one and the same truth; which is the wisdom found in the Books of Thoth (Hermes Trismegistus), from which books Pythagoras and Plato had learned all their philosophy. And the doctrines of the former he affirmed to have been identical with the earliest teachings of the Brahmans—now embodied in the oldest Vedas.” (Isis Unveiled 1:444)


The Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, by Anna Kingsford (1885) | Review by T. Subba Row

“. . . it may be shown that all the fundamental truths of nature were universal in antiquity, and that the basic ideas upon spirit, matter, and the universe, or upon God, Substance, and man, were identical. Taking the two most ancient religious philosophies on the globe, Hinduism and Hermetism, from the scriptures of India and Egypt, the identity of the two is easily recognisable. This becomes apparent to one who reads the latest translation and rendering of the ‘Hermetic Fragments’ just mentioned, by our late lamented friend, Dr. Anna Kingsford. Disfigured and tortured as these have been in their passage through Sectarian Greek and Christian hands, the translator has most ably and intuitionally seized the weak points and tried to remedy them by means of explanations and foot-notes.” (Secret Doctrine 1:285)

“. . . whenever speaking of Egyptian Monotheism, one ought to speak of the Gods ‘One’ of Egypt, and not of the one god” (Maspero, in the Guide au Musee de Boulak.) It is by this feature, pre-eminently Egyptian, that the authenticity of the various so-called Hermetic Books, ought to be tested; and it is totally absent from the Greek fragments known as such. This proves that a Greek Neo-Platonic, or even a Christian hand, had no small share in the editing of such works. Of course the fundamental philosophy is there, and in many a place—intact. But the style has been altered and smoothed in a monotheistic direction, as much, if not more than that of the Hebrew Genesis in its Greek and Latin translations. They may be Hermetic works, but not works written by either of the two Hermes—or rather, by Thot (Hermes) the directing intelligence of the Universe (See ch. xciv., Book of the Dead), or by Thot, his terrestrial incarnation called Trismegistus, of the Rosetta stone.” (Secret Doctrine 1:675)


The Corpus Hermeticum, translated by G. R. S. Mead
Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius, translated by Brian P. Copenhaver
The Divine Pymander, translated by Dr. John Everard
Commentary on the Pymander, by G.R.S. Mead

“How truly esoteric and consonant with the Secret Doctrine is ‘Pymander the Thought Divine’ of Hermes, may be inferred from its original and primitive translations in Latin and Greek only. On the other hand how disfigured it has been later on by Christians in Europe, is seen from the remarks and unconscious confessions made by de St. Marc, in his Preface and letter to the Bishop of Ayre, in 1578. Therein, the whole cycle of transformations from a Pantheistic and Egyptian into a mystic Roman Catholic treatise is given, and we see how Pymander has become what it is now. Still, even in St. Marc’s translation, traces are found of the real Pymander—the ‘Universal Thought’ or ‘Mind.’” (Secret Doctrine 2:491)


Tabula Smaragdina (The Emerald Tablet) by H. P. Blavatsky
Tabula Smaragdina (The Emerald Tablet) by Thomas Taylor

“Tradition declares that on the dead body of Hermes, at Hebron, was found by an Isarim, an initiate, the tablet known as the Smaragdine. It contains, in a few sentences, the essence of the Hermetic wisdom. To those who read but with their bodily eyes, the precepts will suggest nothing new or extraordinary, for it merely begins by saying that it speaks not fictitious things, but that which is true and most certain.” (Isis Unveiled I:507)


The Hermetic Book of Numbers or Book of the Keys (not extant) (see also Chaldean Book of Numbers)

“We are not aware that a copy of this ancient work is embraced in the catalogue of any European library; but it is one of the ‘Books of Hermes,’ and it is referred to and quotations are made from it in the works of a number of ancient and mediaeval philosophical authors. Among these authorities are Arnoldo di Villanova’s ‘Rosarium philosoph.’; Francesco Arnolphim’s ‘Lucensis opus de Iapide.’ Hermes Trismegistus’ “Tractatus de transmutatione metallorum,” “Tabula smaragdina,” and above all in the treatise of Raymond Lulli, ‘Ab angelis opus divinum de quinta essentia.’” (Isis Unveiled 1:254)

“. . . the Chaldean Book of Numbers, the original of which, if now extant, is certainly not to be found in libraries, as it formed one of the most ancient Books of Hermes, the number of which is at present undetermined.” (Isis Unveiled I:32-33)

See: Isis Unveiled II:281, 298, etc.


Papyrus Ebers, The Hermetic Book of Medicine of the Ancient Egyptians, in Hieratic writing (facsimile, 1875)

The Ebers Papyrus: A New English Translation, Commentaries and Glossaries, by Paul Ghalioungui

“As to their knowledge in medicine, now that one of the lost Books of Hermes has been found and translated by Ebers, the Egyptians can speak for themselves. That they understood about the circulation of the blood, appears certain from the healing manipulations of the priests, who knew how to draw blood downward, stop its circulation for awhile, etc. A more careful study of their bas-reliefs representing scenes taking place in the healing hall of various temples will easily demonstrate it. They had their dentists and oculists, and no doctor was allowed to practice more than one specialty; which certainly warrants the belief that they lost fewer patients in those days than our physicians do now.” (Isis Unveiled I:544-45)


See also:

Religious Literature in Ancient EgyptAncient Egyptian Literature and Ancient Egyptian Sapiental Literature, by Wim van den Dungen

On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians, by Iamblichus (tr. Thomas Taylor, 1821)

On Isis and Osiris, from Plutarch’s Moralia

Plutarch: Concerning the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris, translated by G.R.S. Mead (1906)
Of Isis and Osiris, Or of the Ancient Religion and Philosophy of Egypt, translated from the Greek by several hands, corrected by William W. Goodwin (1878)
On Isis and Osiris, translated by Charles William King (1908)
Isis and Osiris, translated by Frank Cole Babbitt (1936)

Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, by James Bonwick (1878)

Thrice-Greatest Hermes, by G. R. S. Mead (1906)

Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth: From Ancient Egypt to Neoplatonism, by Algis Uzdavinys (2008)


Modern Studies on Ancient Egypt

Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, by John Anthony West

Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth’s Lost Civilization, by Graham Hancock (1995)

Graham Hancock’s Recommended Books on Egypt

MAAT.sofiatopia.org: a study of the conceptual world, wisdom-culture and spirituality of Ancient Egypt



Translations


Selected Articles, Commentaries, etc.

See also:

Egyptian Wisdom” from Isis Unveiled by H.P. Blavatsky