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