Portrait of Madame Blavatsky resized


No Religion Higher Than Truth

Egyptian Immortality

Theosophy Magazine
Vol. 15, No. 11, September 1927
pages 499-507

HAD nothing remained to us of the Book of the Dead but the Judgment Scene, it alone furnishes abundant evidence of the Egyptian teaching of Karma — the universal Law of Balance; clear indication, too, of the origin of the handwriting on the wall of Balshazzar’s palace: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” In the Papyrus of Ani, the scene is made up of five “acts,” so to say, the first three constituting the portion assigned to the judgment proper, the last two completing the drama of the soul by depicting its resurrection and introduction by Horus into the presence of Osiris. In the upper left register sit twelve great gods. Underneath, Ani (the deceased) leading his wife, enters the Hall of the double Maati — Truth and Right. In the second act, Ani, separated into his component parts, stands before the scales. These parts are represented by a human-headed bird — the soul; a tri-colored cubit bearing a human head, which Budge calls Ani’s embryo (the cubit symbolizes the “principles”); a human figure representing his destiny; the two goddesses of birth; and the heart enclosed in a vase balanced against the feather of Truth and Right in the opposite scale-pan. Here are plainly typified the ideas that death involves a separation of the principles; that out of these is to come another body; and that the future birth or destiny, whether into post-mortem states or into a new human form, will be the result of the life just passed. On the standard of the scales sits the dog-headed ape, sacred to Thot, marking the middle point in the evolutionary round when the Sons of Wisdom incarnated in the human-animal forms in the equilibrizing sign of Libra; for Libra and Thot-Hermes are one. (See Isis Unveiled, II, 463). At the right of the scales, testing the tongue of the balance, kneels the jackal-headed god, Anubis, he who guides the justified soul to the Fields of Aanroo.

The soul seeking admission to the Judgment Hall is at once confronted by its doors and even the various parts of its gates — all forbidding his entrance unless he tells them their mystery names. What can this indicate, but a recognition of the potentiality of the “Word”? After death the good or purified soul in conjunction with its higher or uncreated spirit, is more or less the victim of the dark influence of the dragon Apophis. If it has attained the final knowledge of the heavenly and infernal mysteries — the gnosis, or complete reunion with the spirit, it will triumph over its enemies; if not, the soul cannot escape its second death, “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone” (elements), a purely Egyptian idea. But this awful fate can be avoided by the knowledge of the “Mysterious Name.” The defunct, having complied with this initial requirement, begins a recital of his good deeds, enumerating first those which relate to his conduct towards his family, his servants and his fellowmen; and not until he has given evidence that he has acted with justice and mercy towards his fellows, is he allowed to pass on to prove he has faithfully performed his duties towards the gods. He is then brought before the forty-two assessors who assist Osiris nightly in the examination of souls, and pleads his innocence of the particular sins which they are appointed to judge. After this “negative confession” he recounts numerous services he has rendered, such as: “I have performed the commandments of men as well as the things whereat are gratified the gods. I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man, and apparel to the naked man and a boat to the shipwrecked mariner…. I am clean of mouth and clean of heart: therefore let it be said unto me…’Come in peace’.” (Chap. CXXV). While this protestation of righteousness has been going on, Thot, with reed and palette in hand, records the weighing of the heart; for in spite of the attempt of the deceased to justify himself, it is the heart that determines the balance up or down.

The Egyptians well knew that although one may think the good deeds done or the evils not committed are the measure of character, the feeling in the heart that accompanied the actions is the true estimate of one’s righteousness and its ultimate determinant. The man of unrighteous heart will be found wanting. He whose heart was evil, and works utterly wanting, was devoured by Ammet, the “Eater of the Dead,” a composite creature with crocodile head, lion body and hinder parts of the hippopotamus, sitting by the side of Anubis. Hence the fear voiced by the deceased in Chap. XXX: “My heart, my mother! My heart, my mother! My heart of transformation! (i.e., necessary for my reincarnation)… May there be no parting of thee from me in the presence of him that keepeth the Balance!” The hieroglyph of the heart was a vase, and when we remember Ammonius Saccas taught that Hermes got his wisdom from India, there would seem to be no mere coincidence that in the Gayatri the True Sun is said to be “hidden by a vase of golden light,” — by the kamic principle coursing through the blood of the heart. In the New Testament (Matthew XXV, 34-36) occurs an almost exact reproduction of the setting of the Judgment Scene: the Son of Man sits upon his throne judging the nations and says to the justified: Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you … For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink… Naked, and ye clothed me.”

The progress of the soul after death consists in a series of transformations by means of which the defunct divests himself, one by one, of his principles, materialized for the sake of clearness into ethereal entities or bodies. The shadow, the astral form, is annihilated, “devoured by the Uræus,”(1) [Footnote: 1. Uraeus, the serpent, the son of earth – in another sense the primordial vital prinicple in the sun.]  the Manes (kama-rupa) will be annihilated; but the Soul-bird, “the divine Swallow — and the Uræus of the Flame” (Manas and Atma-Buddhi) will live in the eternity, for they are their mother’s husbands. (S.D. I, 227). Those who think the Egyptians did not teach reincarnation should remember that the Soul (the Ego) of the defunct is said to be living in Eternity: it is immortal, “coeval with and disappearing with the Solar boat” — symbol of the cycle of Necessity. The Soul emerges from the Tiaou, or Tuat, (the realm of the cause of life) and joins the living on Earth by day, to return to the Tuat every night.

What is the Tuat? The frequent allusions to it in the Book of the Dead contain a mystery. The Tuat is the path of the Night Sun, the inferior hemisphere or the infernal regions of the Egyptians, placed by them on the concealed side of the moon. In their esotericism, the human being came out of the moon (a triple mystery — astronomical, physiological and psychological at once); he crossed the whole cycle of existence and then returned to his birth-place (the moon) before issuing from it again into a new birth. Thus the defunct is shown arriving at the West where he receives his judgment, passes through Amenti, resurrects as Horus, and then circles around the sidereal heavens, which is an allegorical assimilation to Ra, when he becomes once more the free and self-conscious God. In Chap. CXXX we read: “The Osiris Nu (the defunct) embarketh in thy boat, O Ra, he is furnished with thy throne and he receiveth thy spiritual form.” Then begins the descent into matter. He crosses the celestial abyss (Nu), and returns once more to the Tuat, where he is assimilated to Osiris-Lunus, who in his aspect of god of reproduction, inhabits the moon. Plutarch says the Egyptians celebrated a festival called “The Ingress of Osiris into the Moon.”

Chapter LXIV of the Book of the Dead, entitled the “Chapter of the Coming Forth By Day in a Single Chapter,” was looked upon as an abridgement of the entire Book. Birth in the Tuat, Amenti, or heaven, hence means death on another plane, and vice versa. Birth and death, endless transformation, universal reincarnation, proclaim themselves on every page of the Book of the Dead. “I am Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow; and I have the power to be born a second time. I am the hidden Soul who createth the gods and who giveth celestial meals unto the denizens of the Tuat, Amentet, and heaven. I am the Lord of those who are raised up from the dead… Make thou thy roads glad for me, and make broad for me my paths, when I set forth from earth for life in the celestial region… Send forth thy light upon me, O Soul unknown, for I am one of those who are about to enter, and the divine speech is in my ears in the Tuat, and let no defects of my mother be imputed unto me… The god (Anubis) transporteth me to the chamber and my nurse is the double Lion-god himself… Let me journey on in peace; let me pass over the sky;… Let me soar like a bird to see the hosts of the spirits in the presence of Ra day by day…. I shall come into being in the form of the Lion-god and like the blossoms of Shu. I am he who is never overwhelmed in the waters… I have come to see him that dwelleth in his divine Uræus, face to face and eye to eye. Thou art in me and I am in thee; and thy attributes are my attributes… My forms are the forms of the god Khepera… I have entered in as a man of no understanding, and I shall come forth in the form of a strong spirit, and I shall look upon my form which shall be that of men and women for ever and for ever.”

Amenti, literally the dwelling of Amen, the hidden God, was the kingdom of Osiris, in which were fourteen halls or “mansions,” (Chap. CXLIX, Book of the Dead), each one set aside for some special purpose connected with the after-death state of the soul. Besides the Hall of Judgment there were the Elysian Fields, or Fields of Aanroo, and many other mystical halls — one of torment in which the waters were of fire, and though the spirits wished to enter and quench their thirst, they dare not. The worst of all was the Hall of eternal Sleep and Darkness. As Lepsius portrays it, the defunct “sleep therein in incorruptible forms, they wake not to see their brethren, they recognize no longer father and mother, their hearts feel naught toward their wife and children. This is the dwelling of the All-Dead…. Each trembles to pray to him, for he hears not.” This god is Karmic Decree; the abode of those who die absolute disbelievers, those killed by accident before their allotted time, and finally the dead on the threshold of Avitchi, which save in one case, is not in Amenti but on this earth of forced re-birth. These tarried not long in their state of oblivion, but were carried speedily toward the gate of exit (Amh). The two chief gates of the abode of Osiris were the gate of entrance, Re-stau, and the gate of exit, or reincarnation.

The second Aat of Amenti was Aarru (Chap. CIX), “the walls of which are of iron. The height of the wheat thereof is five cubits…; the barley thereof is seven cubits in height…. And the Khus (Spirits) therein, who are nine cubits in height reap the wheat and the barley side by side with the divine Souls of the East.” In this instance the ninefold division is used and refers to those spirits who have just been translated — before the separation of the principles. The reaping of the grain is a very graphic representation of the Law of Retribution or Karma. Those who reaped the two highest numbers entered into the state of Devachan; the disembodied souls whose harvest was less went into the lower regions (Kamaloka). However, in Chap. CX is a region called the place of the Khus who are seven cubits high, the wheat is three cubits high and it is the Spirits who have become perfect who reap it. These perfected souls are the Atma-Buddhi-Manasic entities, symbolized by the wheat of three cubits, already separated from their lower principles and ready for the Devachanic state. (S.D. II, 374).


Thot is the great Dragon of Wisdom in Egypt. He is the lunar god of the first dynasties, the master of cynocephalus (the dog-headed ape who stood as the living symbol and remembrance of the Third Root Race), therefore a divine being who took on the human-animal form. For here, too, is to be found the Theosophical teaching of evolution. The moon-god Taht-Esmun represented the first human “ancestor,” expressing the seven powers of nature prior to himself as his seven souls, he being the manifestor of them as the eighth. Thus Thot is the god who looks both ways — Janus, Hermes and Mercury combined. With reed and palette, as we have seen him, he is the scribe of the gods and the recorder of Karma. He is “the Lord of Hermopolis,” wearing the atef crown and lunar disk, and bearing “the Eye of Horus” (the third eye) in his hand. Protector of Egypt under the form of the ibis, the foe of the bad serpent, he was the good serpent whose mysteries are concealed in the caduceus or wand of Mercury. Thot is connected with our word thought, and since to think is to create, Thot was said to have created the world by his Word, the articulate word being considered the most potent of creative forces. The deceased in the Book of the Dead time and again implores Thot to give him the “correct voice,” name or pronunciation of those beings who bar his passage that they may open the way to him. To Thot are ascribed all the arts and sciences and the invention of the Egyptian alphabet. It is as difficult to place his era as to assign to their pyramids their exact date, but his name is found on the oldest monuments. The 4th of January is held sacred to him as Christians hold December 25th sacred to Jesus of Nazareth.

Thot-Hermes is both god and human Teacher, and as Teacher there are at least five personages in the line. Hermes Trismegistus, the “thrice-great” is Hermes great in Secret Wisdom, great as king or divine ruler, and great as law-giver and instructor in the arts of civilization. Hermes was called “the trainer of Christs,” since he taught men the eternal verities and showed how to live them that they, too, might be Christs in their turn and know their own nature as he did his. Hermes is not the proper name of any individual, but a generic title applied to Adepts in the Secret Wisdom, the great name having crept into our every-day language in the word “hermetic” — sealed. The teachings of the Hermes are recorded in the Book of the Dead, on monuments and tombs and tablets, and in the Books of Thot. The Greek writer Iamblichus says there were 1200 books of Hermes, and another writer, Seleucus, says there were 20,000 before the time of Menes. Eusebius, an early Church Father, speaks of seeing forty-two. Some of these books were works on anatomy, medicine and other arts. The name Hermes came to be used by mystics of every shade for generations, consequently great discrimination has to be used in accepting so-called Hermetic writings. Almost all the Fragments bearing the name have been greatly distorted and exhibit a tendency to the personal God idea, while the original teachings were purely pantheistic. The Deity referred to in them is the one defined by Paul as that in which “we live, and move and have our being,” the “in Him” of the translators notwithstanding.

In the Book of Hermes, Pymander appears to Hermes in the shape of a Fiery Dragon of “Light, Fire, and Flame.” Pymander, the “Thought Divine” personified, says:

“The Light is me, I am the Nous (the mind or Manu), I am thy God, and I am far older than the human principle which escapes from the shadow (“Darkness,” or the concealed Deity). I am the germ of thought, the resplendent Word, the Son of God. All that thus sees and hears in thee is the Verbum of the Master, it is the Thought (Mahat) which is God, the Father.” (The seventh principle in Man and Kosmos are here meant.) (S.D., I, 74).

“That Universal Being, that contains all, and which is all, put into motion the Soul and the World, all that nature comprises, says Hermes. In the manifold unity of universal life, the innumerable individualities distinguished by their variations, are, nevertheless, united in such a manner that the whole is one, and that everything proceeds from Unity.”

“My judgment is that void space does not exist, that it never has existed, and that it never will exist, for all the various parts of the universe are filled, as the earth also is complete and full of bodies, differing in quality and in form.”

“God is not a mind, but the cause that the mind is; not a spirit, but the cause that the Spirit is; not light, but the cause that the Light is.”

“To speak of God is impossible. For corporeal cannot express the incorporeal…. That which has not any body nor appearance, nor form, nor matter, cannot be comprehended by sense … that which it is impossible to define — that is God.”

Trismegistos: Reality is not upon earth, my son, and it cannot be thereon…. Nothing on earth is real, there are only appearances…. He (man) is not real, my son, as man. The real consists solely in itself and remains what it is… Man is transient, therefore he is not real, he is but appearance, and appearance is the supreme illusion.

Tatios: Then the celestial bodies themselves are not real, my father, since they also vary?

Trismegistos: That which is subject to birth and to change is not real … There is in them a certain falsity, seeing that they too are variable.

Tatios: And what then is the primordial Reality?

Trismegistos: That which is one and alone, O Tatios; That which is not made of matter, nor in any body. Which has neither colour nor form, which changes not nor is transmitted but which always is. (S.D., I, 285-287).

“…matter becomes; formerly it was; for matter is the vehicle of becoming. Becoming is the mode of activity of the uncreate deity. Having been endowed with the germs of becoming, matter (objective) is brought into birth, for the creative force fashions it according to the ideal forms. Matter not yet engendered had no form; it becomes when it is put into operation.”

“Everything is the product of one universal creative effort…. There is nothing dead in Nature. Everything is organic and living, and therefore the whole world appears to be a living organism.” (S.D., I, 281).

“From one Soul, that of All, spring all the Souls, which spread themselves as if purposely distributed through the world. These souls undergo many transformations; those which are already creeping creatures turn into aquatic animals; from these aquatic animals are derived land animals; and from the latter the birds. From the beings who live aloft in the air (heaven) men are born. On reaching that status of men, the Souls receive the principle of (conscious) immortality, become Spirits, then pass into the choir of the gods.”

“The creation of Life by the Sun is as continuous as his light; nothing arrests or limits it. Around him, like an army of Satellites, are innumerable choirs of genii … All these Genii preside over mundane affairs….they imprint their likeness on our Souls … But the reasonable part of the Soul is not subject to the genii; it is designed for the reception of (the) God, who enlightens it with a sunny ray. Those who are thus illumined are few in number…” (high Initiates and Adepts are here meant). Students should read the entire passage: (S.D., I, 294-295).

“Thou art from old, O Soul of Man; yea, thou art from everlasting.

“The Soul passeth from form to form; and the mansions of her pilgrimage are manifold. Thou puttest off thy bodies as raiment; and as vesture dost thou fold them up.”

The Egyptians are accused of teaching the doctrine of transmigration — that men reincarnate in the bodies of animals. The following extract might be thought to corroborate this opinion:

“But the Soul entering into the Body of a Man, if it continue evil, shall neither taste of Immortality nor be partaker of the Good; but being drawn back the same Way, it returneth into Creeping Things. And this is the condemnation of an evil Soul.”

We need only to refer to the symbol of the Sphinx to see that Soul never came from the lower kingdom — it enters into the body. Only the lower soul returns to the lower kingdoms; the Spirit-Soul likewise returns the Way it came to higher regions of Spirit. The teaching is: “Once a man, always a man.” But, to be immortal one must have body and spirit conjoined in harmony on earth. Consequently, by living selfishly and evilly, a man condemns every atom of his lower sheaths to be drawn into the bodies of lower animals, and he will meet those effects when again he comes into incarnation.

The teaching of Hermes, AS ABOVE SO BELOW — “the whole of magic” — is found in the Smaragdine Tablet which is alleged to have been found by Sarai, Abraham’s wife, on the dead body of Hermes. This is pure allegory. May it not be, suggests Madame Blavatsky, that Saraiswati, the goddess of secret wisdom and learning, finding still much of the ancient wisdom latent in the dead body of Humanity, revivified that wisdom? This led to the rebirth of the Occult Sciences, so long forgotten and neglected, the world over.

“What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is similar to that which is below, to accomplish the wonders of one only thing,” — which is MAN.

“The Father of THAT ONE ONLY THING is the Sun; its Mother the Moon; the Wind carries it in his bosom; and its nurse is the Spirituous Earth.” In the occult rendering of the same it is added: “and Spiritual Fire is its instructor (Guru).”

Rudimentary man, having been nursed by the “air” or the “wind,” becomes the perfect man later on; when, with the development of “Spiritual Fire” … he acquires from his inner Self, or Instructor, the Wisdom of Self-Consciousness, which he does not possess in the beginning. This fire is the higher Self, which, on this plane, is in bondage to the lower. Unless the Ego takes refuge in the Atman, the ALL-SPIRIT, and merges entirely into the essence thereof, the personal Ego may goad it to the bitter end. (S.D., II, 109, 113).

“Separate the earth from the fire, the subtile from the gross.”

“Ascend from the earth to heaven and then descend again to earth, and unite together the power of things inferior and superior; thus you will possess the light of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly from you.”

In these words is contained the riddle of the cross, and its double mystery is solved — to the Occultist. “The philosophical cross … symbolizes our human existence, for the circle of life circumscribes the four points of the cross, which represents in succession birth, life, death, and Immortality.”

From a study of the foregoing fragments some comprehension may be gained of how one man may impress himself upon his own epoch so forcibly that the influence may be carried — through the ever-interchanging currents of energy between the two worlds, the visible and the invisible — from one succeeding age to another, until it affects the whole of mankind. Hermes has been an universal source of knowledge.

The glories of now-subject Egypt are of the past — of a past so remote that we can find no later writings recorded to show that there were witnesses left upon the scene. The knowledge once in Egypt went on to Greece and shone there under Pythagoras and Plato, who studied in Egypt, and other Hermetic philosophers who taught the TRUTH and RIGHT of Thot-Hermes and Hermes Trismegistus. We have seen, too, how much of Egyptian doctrine and practice found its way, although greatly distorted, into the Old Testament and the Apocalypse. Moses was an Egyptian priest before he became leader of the Israelites, Jesus spent part of his youth in Egypt, and all the most learned Jews drank at her fount of wisdom.

Madame Blavatsky told, we suspect, what was personally known to her, in saying that there are still some solitary students of the ancient lore — sole remnants of the true Egyptian race, Copts, who are aware of the existence of many a secret treasure of the sanctuary, and keep silent. These Copts wear monkish attire of Arab-Christians, and live in poor desolate convents on the borders of the Libyan desert. Some believe the attire is but a disguise. These Copts are held in great esteem by the Greek monks of Palestine, and “there is a rumor current among the Christian pilgrims of Jerusalem, who throng the Holy Sepulcher at every Easter, that the holy fire from heaven will never descend so miraculously as when these monks of the desert are present to draw it down with their prayers. Thousands of pilgrims are there waiting with their tapers to light them at this sacred fire, which at the precise hour and when needed descends from the chapel-vault and hovers about the sepulcher in tongues of fire until every one of the thousand pilgrims has lighted his wax taper at it.” Thus we see the holders of the flame, now in one country and now in another, form an unbroken sacrificial chain down the ages.

If it were possible to summarize in a sentence Egypt’s contribution to the human race, it might be expressed in the Hermetic teaching “Death does not exist, and man never steps outside of universal life; nevertheless, conscious immortality must be gained by each individual for himself.” “Oh, men, live soberly. Win your immortality. Instructor and guide of humanity, I will lead you on to salvation” — the clarion cry of Hermes Trismegistus rings vital still, because vitalized by the message of H.P.B. The term “scribe of the gods” — Thot-Hermes — can be no more fitly applied than to this recorder of the most complete teaching yet written down. She, as in the allegory of Saraiswati, found the body of Humanity dying, and tried to arouse its Soul by restating the ancient eternal Truth, the Right application of which alone will save the world.

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