The Mystery Religions of the Ancients – part 2

[The framework of this Lecture is from Chapter 2 of MYSTIC MASONRY (1897) by J.D. Buck, revised and expanded with the teachings of Gnosis, the 4th Way and the writings of J.M. Ragon]

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The Egyptain Mysteries and the Legend of Osiris

As we mentioned in the previous class:

“…initiation into the mysteries had its two divisions.

In the first, only the inclinations were purified, the second was the initiation into the mysteries of the operations of nature

In one, the cubic stone or angular stone or corner stone of the temple of philosophy was sought for, capable of intellectually reuniting (through this ingenious symbol) all of humanity in one same faith, one same hope, and one same love.

In the other, that which could bring back the golden age was sought for: the philosophical stone and the elixir which prolongs life.

One served to veil the other, as it still does today…”

-paraphrase from Ch. 1 of Occult Masonry (1853) by J.M. Ragon

An Account of an Egyptian Initiation

“In the shadow of a very ancient pyramid … I searched with anxiety for the entrance …The Guardian, as always, was at the mysterious threshold of the entrance. …That man was a colossus… He was grasping the terrible sword in his right hand with heroism. His whole expression was startling and there is no doubt that he was wearing, the Masonic Apron or Apron of the Mysteries. The cross-examination began as follows:

Question: “Who are you?”
Answer: “I am a blind supplicant who comes in search of light.”

Question: “What do you want?”
Answer: “Light.”

…What is most interesting was the moment in which this Herculean man took me by the hand in order to introduce me inside of the sanctuary. Unforgettable were those moments in which the heavy door spun upon its hinges of steel and produced that mysterious note DO from ancient Egypt.

What happened thereafter —the chilling encounter with the “terrible Brother” which are the ordeals of fire, air, water and earth— can be found by any illuminated person within the memories of Nature.

[FIRE] I had to control myself as best I could while in the ordeal of fire, since I had to pass through a hall in flames. The floor was filled with steel beams burning with red hot fire. The path between those rafters of ardent steel was very narrow; scarcely was there space to place the feet … many aspirants died in this venture.

[AIR] I still remember with horror that steel metal ring nailed to a rock. In the depths below, only the horrifying precipice was shown tenebrously. Nonetheless, I became victorious in the ordeal of air.

[WATER] …If it was not for the magical conjurations, I would have been devoured by those sacred crocodiles of the lake, which always happened to other aspirants.

[EARTH] Many unhappy seekers were crunched and broken by the rocks in the ordeal of earth, but I triumphed. I saw with indifference two boulders which, while closing themselves over me, were menacing my existence, menacing to reduce me into cosmic dust.

…After passing these tests, I was welcomed into the Initiatic College: I was solemnly dressed with the tunic of white linen of the Priests of Isis, and the Egyptian Tau Cross was placed on my chest.”

– Paraphrase from Ch. 12 of My Return to Tibet (1970)
[also published in English as “Cosmic Teachings of a Lama”]
by Samael Aun Weor

The Egyptian Mysteries – Part 1

In the Egyptian Mysteries, there were 3 main classifications of Spiritual Initiation. For them ‘Osiris’ was the God they wanted to personify and those who incarnated Him were called ‘Osirified Ones’.

“In ancient Egypt, within their Occult Masonry, there were three stages of the spiritual path. These were called are:


The candidates remained in the degree of Apprentice for seven years or even longer. It was only when the Hierophants were completely sure of the PURITY AND SANCTITY of the candidate that they were able to then pass to the second stage. Really only after seven years of Apprenticeship does Illumination begin…”

-paraphrase from Ch. 22 of The Initiatic Path in the Arcana of the Tarot and Kabalah (1978)
by Samael Aun Weor

THE FIRST STAGE – The Purification of ‘Matter’

In the first stage the initiate learned ‘the philosophy of nature’ in order to establish the foundations of the work. This philosophy is the understanding of the principles of nature, its movement and laws, which can be used to become ‘super-natural’. This stage is related to study of the “Brute Stone” and the raw materials of the work.

“…the philosopher must know the true germ of nature, before beginning his work…

When the philosophers speak of the GOLD and the SILVER (symbolized by the SUN and the MOON), from which they extract their material, they are not speaking of the vulgar gold and silver, because these are dead, while those of the philosophers are full of life.

The object of the research of the philosophers is the knowledge of the art of perfecting that which nature left imperfect in the metallic world and to arrive at the precious treasure of the philosophical stone.

Life resides uniquely in the humid radical, and in order to not fail in the work, one must divest the matter of its impurities, so as to have the core or the center, which encloses all the virtue of the mixture.

BRUTE STONE. The artist must work on the body created by nature, in which it will have joined the sulphur and the mercury, which he must separate, and then purify it in order to once again rejoin them. This body is called the brute stone.

The word vulgar designates all subjects which are not proper to the work, such that the vulgar quicksilver, the sulphur, the mercury of commerce, the vulgar gold and silver; sometimes one adds the epithet stupid (stupid vulgar) when the subject does not have life in itself.”

-paraphrase from Ch. 1 of Occult Masonry (1853)

THE SECOND STAGE – Making the ‘Mixture’ or Fashioning the Cubic Stone

The work of this stage consisted of converting the “gold and silver” or “the sun and the moon” or “the sulfur and the mercury” or “the fixed and the volatile” into a single “matter”, “mixture” or “core”. This stage is related to the conversion of the Brute Stone into the “Angular Stone” and how to use the central fire of nature in order to achieve this.

“The truth of the philosophical art is founded, firstly, upon the physical powder which is the same material from which metals are formed, one must know the quicksilver [or mercury], it has the faculty of mixing with itself in fusion: a nature embracing a nature which it resembles.

SECONDLY, the philosophical art is founded upon that which the imperfect metals remain as, (because all quicksilver is raw, the physical powder, which is a quicksilver, mature and cooked, and, properly, a pure fire), they can easily mature and transmute them into their nature, after having attracted from their raw humid radical (that is to say of their quicksilver, which is the only substance that is transmuted); the rest was only impurities and excrement, which are rejected in the projection.

An artist can risk undertaking the work, when he knows, through the medium of a vegetable menstrum, united with a mineral menstrum, dissolved in a third essential menstrum, with which when they are reunited one must wash the earth, and exhale it then into a celestial quintessence, in order to make their sulphur into lightening, which, in an instant, penetrates the bodies and destroys the excrement.

One designs this celestial quintessence, through the central fire of nature by the philosophers…

The philosophical material exists everywhere, but it must be sought for especially in the nature of metals, where it is found more easily than elsewhere. It is the angular stone, which can only be designated by the double triangle [the six pointed star], which also symbolizes the two hemispheres. This figure is the emblem of the motto of Hermes, who says that which is below is like that which is above. It is also the stumbling block against which the best men have tripped and fallen.”

-paraphrase from Ch. 1 of Occult Masonry (1853)

Now, in order to understand the 3rd Stage of the Egyptian Mysteries, we should review the Legend of the Death of Osiris…

The Legend of the Death of Osiris

The Legend of Osiris, Isis and Horus, has been summarized by Manly P. Hall, in his Secret Teachings of All the Ages (1928), but to this we have added some additional details from E.A. Wallis Budge’s Legends of the Gods, the Egyptian Texts (1912) as well as other accounts in order to not miss any of the symbolic details:

Nut, the Sky goddess (the Greek Rhea) who was married to Keb, the Earth god (the Greek Kronos) had 5 children (not all of whom were fathered by Keb):

“On the first of these [days], they say, Osiris was born, and as he came into the world a voice was heard saying, “The Lord of All is born.” (One of the chief titles of Osiris was Neb er tcher, i.e., “lord to the uttermost limit of everything”).

…Upon the second of these days was born was born Ra … whom some call Apollo, and others the Elder Horus.

Upon the third day [Set or] Typhon was born, who came into the world neither at the proper time nor by the right way, but he forced a passage through a wound which he made in his mother’s side.

Upon the fourth day Isis was born, in the marshes of Egypt, and upon the fifth day Nephthys, whom some call Teleute, or Aphrodite, or Nike, was born.

…Isis and Osiris, having a mutual affection, enjoyed each other in their mother’s womb before they were born, and from this commerce sprang Aroueris, whom the Egyptians likewise call Horus the Elder, and the Greeks Apollo.”

-from the section XII of ‘The History of Isis and Osiris’
in the Legends of the Gods (1912) by E. A. Wallis Budge

So Horus the Elder is the Child of Isis & Osiris and Set/Typhon is their Brother.

“Osiris having become king of Egypt, applied himself to civilizing his countrymen by turning them from their former indigent and barbarous course of life. He taught them how to cultivate and improve the fruits of the earth, and he gave them a body of laws whereby to regulate their conduct, and instructed them in the reverence and worship which they were to pay to the gods.

With the same good disposition he afterwards traveled over the rest of the world, inducing the people everywhere to submit to his discipline, not compelling them by force of arms, but persuading them to yield to the strength of his reasons, which were conveyed to them in the most agreeable manner, in hymns and songs, accompanied with instruments of music.”

-from the section XIII of ‘The History of Isis and Osiris’
in the Legends of the Gods (1912)

“[While] Osiris, here symbolized as the sun … was away from his country, his brother, [Set or] Typhon, the Evil One, like the Loki of Scandinavia, plotted against the Sun God to destroy him. Gathering seventy-two persons as fellow conspirators, he attained his nefarious end in a most subtle manner. He had a wonderful ornamented box made just the size of the body of Osiris. This he brought into a banquet hall where the gods and goddesses were feasting together.

All admired the beautiful chest, and Typhon promised to give it to the one whose body fitted it most perfectly. One after another lay down in the box, but in disappointment rose again, until at last Osiris also tried. The moment he was in the chest: Typhon and his accomplices nailed the cover down and sealed the cracks with molten lead. They then cast the box into the Nile, down which it floated to the sea.”

-From the Chapter called “Isis, the Virgin of the World”,
in The Secret Teachings of All the Ages (1928) by Manly P. Hall

“These things, some say, took place on the seventeenth day of the month of Hathor, when the sun was in Scorpio, in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Osiris, though others tell us that this was the year of his life and not of his reign.”

-from the section XIII of ‘The History of Isis and Osiris’
in the Legends of the Gods (1912)

“… the Pans and Satyrs (the Nature spirits and elementals) [were the] first to discover that Osiris had been murdered. They immediately raised an alarm, and … Isis, upon receiving the news of her husband’s murder … at once robed herself in mourning and started forth in quest of him.”

-From the Chapter called “Isis, the Virgin of the World”,
in The Secret Teachings of All the Ages (1928)

“After this she wandered round about through the country, being full of disquietude and perplexity, searching for the chest, and she inquired of every person she met, including some children whom she saw, whether they knew what was become of it. Now, it so happened that these children had seen what Typhon’s accomplices had done with the body, and they accordingly told her by what mouth of the Nile it had been conveyed to the sea.”

-from the section XIV of ‘The History of Isis and Osiris’
in the Legends of the Gods (1912)

“At length Isis discovered that the chest had floated to the coast of Byblos. There it had lodged in the branches of a tree, which in a short time miraculously grew up around the box. This so amazed the king of that country that he ordered the tree to be cut down and a pillar made from its trunk to support the roof of his palace.”

-From the Chapter called “Isis, the Virgin of the World”,
in The Secret Teachings of All the Ages (1928)

“These things being made known to Isis by a supernatural voice, she went to Byblos, and sitting down silently to weep by the side of a fountain, was at length accosted by the damsels of the queen, who happened to arrive at the same place. On this occasion, it is related that the goddess suddenly diffused from her person a miraculous odor, of wonderful fragrance, all around her.

The queen, having heard of this supernatural phenomenon, sent for her, and appointed her to be a nurse to one of the king’s children. Isis fed the infant by giving it her finger to suck, instead of her breast; she likewise put him every night into the fire, to consume his mortal part, while, transforming herself into a swallow, she hovered round the pillar, and bemoaned her sad fate.

It happened at length that some circumstance excited a suspicion in the queen respecting the conduct of the nurse. She secretly observed Isis, and, seeing the infant surrounded by flame, was seized with terror, cried out, and thus deprived the child of immortality.

The goddess then, discovering herself, requested that the pillar which supported the roof might be given to her. She took it down, and, cutting it open with care, took out the enclosed sarcophagus of Osiris…

She returned to Egypt, and brought the body of her husband with her. At some time after her arrival, going to visit her son Horus [the Elder], who was bred up at Boutos, she deposited the chest in a remote place; but Typhon, hunting by moonlight, happened to meet with it, and recognizing the corpse, divided it into fourteen pieces, which he scattered about the earth.”

-From Ch. 2 of An Analysis of the Egyptian Mythology (1819) by James Cowles Prichard

“Isis, in despair, began gathering up the severed remains of her husband, but found only thirteen pieces. The fourteenth part (the phallus) she reproduced in gold, for the original had fallen into the river Nile and had been swallowed by a fish.”

-From the Chapter called “Isis, the Virgin of the World”,
in The Secret Teachings of All the Ages (1928)

“Isis … took the form of a bird … [and] fanned the body [of Osiris] with her feathers, and produced air, and that at length she caused the inert members of Osiris to move, and drew from him his essence, wherefrom she produced her child…”

-from the section ‘Summary: V. Legend of the Birth of Horus, Son of Isis and Osiris’
in the Legends of the Gods (1912)

“… Isis brought forth, from her union with Osiris after his death, Harpocrates [this name is Heru-pa-khart, in Egyptian and means ‘Horus the Younger’]…”

-From the section called ‘The Mystery-Myth’
in Volume 1 of Thrice-Greatest Hermes (1906) by G.R.S. Mead

“After these things Osiris returned from the other world, and appeared to his son Horus, and encouraged him to fight, and at the same time instructed him in the exercise of arms.

He then asked him what he thought was the most glorious action a man could perform, to which Horus replied, “To revenge the injuries offered to his father and mother”.”

-from the section XIX of ‘The History of Isis and Osiris’
in the Legends of the Gods (1912)

Now lets look at the Egyptian Mysteries and how the Legend of Osiris was used.


The 3rd stage of spiritual initiation was when the candidate learned that they needed to become Osiris… This stage is related to “Death and Rebirth”.

“In Egypt, the third stage of the initiatory process was called the Door of death. The coffin of Osiris which (because of his assassination, that was supposedly recent) still carried traces of blood, elevated itself in the middle of the hall of the dead, where a part of the reception was done.

The aspirant was asked if he took part in the death of Osiris;

        • after other ordeals and despite his denials, he was struck or pretended to be struck in the head with the blow of an axe or hatchet
        • then he was knocked over, and covered in bandages like the mummies;
        • there was moaning heard all around him;
        • then the dead person seemed to be encircled by fire,

and finally returned to life.”

-paraphrase from Ch.9 of Masonic Orthodoxy (1853) by J.M. Ragon

Summary of the Purpose of Mystery Schools

“The three corresponding stages, called the philosophic mysteries, served to develop the secret doctrines of the ancients. They were the deposit of knowledge and of the most useful virtues which were thereafter opened to the adept.

Now he rediscovered the truth of the alliance of the two systems (the symbolic and the philosophical): in the allegories of the monuments of all the ages, in the symbolic writings of the priests of all nations, in the rituals of mysterious societies. He sees a constant series, a consistent uniformity of principles which belong to a vast, imposing and true, whole and could only really be coordinated from this universal point of view.

The ardent desire to know will push the adept to penetrate into the sanctuary, by crossing the thorny paths leading to it, and, supported by: a strong will, a constant perseverance and unprejudiced study, he will successfully lift the veil; and the secret of these allegories, of these emblems, of these symbols, of these sacred enigmas, will cease to be a mystery for him; since the whole of nature will be unveiled for him.

Thus in these initiatic schools, the adept gave himself up to the most profound studies: mathematics, interpretation of numbers, navigation, architecture in its three divisions: sacred, civil, and nautical, etc. Privileged adepts or those recognized as worthy were initiated into the most secret doctrines and into the occult sciences.

…The occult sciences reveal to man the mysteries of his nature, the secrets of his organization, the means of attaining his perfection and well-being, [and] finally the end of his fate. Their study was those of egyptian high initiations…”

-paraphrase from Ch. 1 of Occult Masonry (1853)

The Teaching of Hermes and the ‘Chain of Gold’

“According to Hermes and his disciples, from the center of the archetype (the highest heaven) originated (without interruption) the universal spirit, being an inexhaustible source of light and fire which, passes through all the celestial spheres, and is gradually found condensed, flowing continuously towards the earth. So by the same action of this central fire, but now emanating from the terrestrial sun, it escapes from the earth in continuous emanations that, soon sublimated, rise towards the arch of heaven in order to free themselves from their impurities.

In a word, condensed fire becomes air, air becomes water, water contains earth, and in the same way the purified earth converts itself into water, the sublimated water escaping as air, and the exalted air disseminates itself into fire. This eternal rotation of ethereal emanations, of vital molecules, is depicted in Genesis, under the emblem of the mysterious ladder of Jacob, where angels ascend and descend.

This is the bright chain of gold which, according to the ancient allegory, binds all the bodies to the earth.

These are ordinarily represented by the sign of an X: the Λ expresses the effluvium of the igneous atoms from heaven to earth, and the V depicted their return towards the ethereal locations.

In fact, the luminous triangle depicted, among the philosophers, the descending movement of the igneous atoms towards the earth, because at the point of departure, they are in all their glory, in all their purity, while the black pyramid or dark triangle expresses, to the contrary, their ascension to return towards heaven; since, by leaving the globe, they are charged with all the terrestrial impurities.”

-paraphrase from Ch. 1 of Occult Masonry (1853) quoting p. 215 of Vol. 1 of
Histoire generale et particuliere des religions…
by Francois-Henri-Stanislas de L’Aulnaye,

“Hermes represented the science as the sacred fire that his disciples consumed and that they could not put out under penalty of death.”

-paraphrase from Ch. 1 of Occult Masonry (1853)

Remember that when Isis was looking for her husband’s body, she became a nurse for a queen and was ‘putting the royal child into the fire every night in order to make it immortal’.

The Descent of the Spirit (or Central Fire) into Matter

The Philosophy of the ancients is one of the gradually solidification of Matter from a very dynamic state into a more fixed state:

“The first thing there is in Creation is the Infinite Space, which is a Great Soul. Then Fire arises which converts itself into Air, Air converts itself into Water and Water converts itself into Earth, and then the Worlds appear…”

-from Ch. 29 of The Initiatic Path in the Arcana of the Tarot and Kabalah (1978)

The key to understanding this philosophy is that ‘fire’ corresponds to something dynamic while ‘earth’ corresponds to the most fixed or solid.

“…Everything comes from ether, everything returns into ether. Ether is the condensation of a substance a called Akasha. This substance is the first radiation of the Mulaprakriti root, or the undifferentiated … primordial matter…

Akasha is the igneous radiation of the primordial matter. …The Alchemists say that water is the dwelling of fire. …The primordial matter is represented by the waters of genesis in all religious writings. …The oriental sages say that Akasha is a sea of fire.

This super-astral fire is contained within what the Alchemists call the Ens Seminis (the Mulaprakriti of the Indian sages). The Ens Seminis is the seed atoms of all known matter. Akasha is Primordial sound. Akash is super-astal fire. Sound condenses through the meditation of Akasha.

…Without Akasha it is impossible to solidify and materialize the sound. The different Pranas are resounding waves of Akash. These resounding waves condense themselves into the Tattvas of the ether. The Tattvas crystallize themselves into the four elements of nature: fire, air, water, and earth.

In conclusion, the chemical-physical world is the outcome of the materialization of sound. The chemical-physical World is condensed sound. We do not accept an anthropomorphic and dogmatic god, but scientifically, we accept sound as the Original Cause of the Universe…”

-paraphrase from Ch. 12 ‘TATWAS AND HORMONES’
of Fundamental Notions of Endocrinology and Criminology (1959) by Samael Aun Weor

Therefore if the Worlds and the Universe were created through the crystallization of the Primordial Substance (that the Hindu’s call Mulaprakriti) then the seed or root of that Substance remains within some of the densest forms of that Substance (being the Philosophical Earth). Now we can start to understand the Esoteric sayings of the Philosophers:

“… In the Garden of Delights of Alchemy we find the word VITRIOL, which is to be found in the Alchemical treatises and ancient tractates of Kabalah. The above word is acrostic, being derived from the phrase: “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Ocultum Lapidem” (Visit the interior of our Earth, and rectifying it you will find the Hidden Stone). We must search within the interior of our Philosophical Earth (the human organism) so that, by rectifying it, … we will locate the Philosophical Stone.”

-from Ch. 29 of The Initiatic Path in the Arcana of the Tarot and Kabalah (1978)


The Philosophy of the Ancients was symbolic of internal processes that must be understood in context. The Egyptian Mysteries had 3 stages and each stage build upon the knowledge and symbols of the previous stage having the goal of ‘divesting matter of its impurities’. In the final stage the Initiate was symbolically killed but is then brought back to life.

We can find the key to understanding the Egyptian Mysteries if we study their Mythology. To take the Legend of the Death of Osiris (or any Mythology) literally is to misunderstand its meaning and purpose, but through an analysis of its symbols, we can start to see pieces of an Esoteric Philosophy that will reemerge again and again throughout the Mysteries.

The Egyptian Initiate Hermes taught the descent of Spirit into Matter through the Esoteric Symbolism of the ‘Chain of Gold’, and that Matter can re-ascend towards the Superior Worlds. All of this was symbolized by the X for the disciples of Hermes (and then later as the ‘Star of David’ by the Hebrews). The keys to the Esoteric Philosophy of the Ancient are found within, by applying the Esoteric Teachings to ourselves.

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