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Father the creator of all things, desired also to create, and he rushed from the contemplation of his Father into the sphere of generation. He desired to penetrate into the circles and to rupture their circumference; and having had power over mortal and unreasoning animals, he raised himself and stepped out of the bosom of harmony, penetrating and destroying the power of the circles. Man became enamoured of nature, and thus was born a form of being deprived of reason; . . . but of all earthly animals man alone is gifted with a double existence, mortal by his body, immortal by his real essence. As an immortal, everything was subject to him, while other living beings obeyed the law of destiny. Thus man was a superior harmony; but having willed to penetrate into it, he fell into slavery.” I am assured by a friend who was for many years connected with the Egyptian department in the Louvre, that there is there, on the lid of a mummy-coffin—which dates many years before the time of Moses—a representation of a woman under the form of a serpent handing an apple to a man; but I am not aware of any Egyptian theological legend explaining the incident. It is, indeed, difficult to estimate the extent of the influence which the religion and philosophy of the most ancient people have exercised upon the moral instincts and metaphysical thoughts of the most highly cultured of the early races of the world. The holy singers of antiquity, Orpheus, Musaeus, Melampus, and Eumolpus, acquired in Egypt their theological wisdom. Lycurgus and Solon introduced into their fatherland all the wise regulations they there became acquainted with. It was in Egypt that Archimedes invented his celebrated water-screw, and applied it to the irrigation of the land. Pythagoras was a long time in Egypt, and it is fair to assume that his doctrine of the immortality of the soul was derived from a theology in which the existence of the spirit of man in a future state played so prominent a part. The houses in Heliopolis in which Plato and the mathematician Eudoxus lived for thirteen years, were shown to Strabo ; and in the philosophy of the former, we have abundant evidence of the inspiration of Egyptian theology—for in it we find the dogma enunciated that, as the masR
culine and feminine principles pervaded the world, they must ascend to the Creator, who must have been male and female in one; hence we have Isis under the form of Neith forming one with Amon, and out of their dual nature generating the dual principle of the universe — a principle which Plato adopts when he makes Aristophanes say, in his ‘Symposium,'— “In the first place, the sexes were originally three in number—not two, as they are now. There was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature which had once a real existence, but is now lost. . . . There was a time, I say, when the two were one; but now, because of the wickedness of mankind, God has dispersed us as the Arcadians were dispersed into villages by the Lacedaemonians.” Moses too, when he says in his account of the creation of the world that God said, “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness,” and “male and female created He them,” suggests the same train of thought; for the creation of the woman as a separate individual took place some time afterwards.
Carrying this principle into inanimate nature, the Egyptians considered the air male because it produced the wind, and female because it was cloudy and inert. They called the sea male water, and every other kind of water female water; fire which burns with flame male fire, and light without heat female fire; uncultivable land they called male earth, and cultivable land female earth.
Again, the immaculate virgin Neith — of whom it was written over the temple dedicated to her at Sais, “The fruit which I have conceived is the sun"—may have originated an idea which extended through Asia, and have been developed under another form in Maya, the virgin mother of Buddha.
So, standing on the ruins of the temple where in former ages the worship of the divine creatrix Isis was celebrated, one was led to connect the early ideas which sprang from her worship, which pervaded all religions and philosophies, and were perpetuated in temples dedicated to her in more modern countries, and the traditions and names of which exist even to the present day. Thus she had her temples at Benevento and at
Pompeii; and the village of Issy, near Paris, is called after a temple which once existed there in her honour. Regarded from this point of view, Egyptology is a science which possesses a far deeper signification than any mere archaeological, historical, or antiquarian interest which may attach to it; and the old land of Khemi may contain monuments and graven records, still to be discovered, destined to throw light upon those mysterious problems which have in all ages agitated the bosom of humanity.