May 3, 2020 |
Jana Loose and Kees Zoeteman
(published on 1 May 2020 in Dutch magazine Motief of the Anthroposophical Society in the Netherlands, issue 242, p 10-13)
The last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, is seen as the most mysterious and incomprehensible. We can hardly connect the visions painted in this book with our everyday reality. However, when we realize that the book is a reflection of the Jews’ ancient knowledge of initiation, which they took with them, among other things, from their exile in Egypt, we find in Egypt a key to getting closer to the content of the Apocalypse and to getting a sharper picture of the role of Jesus Christ. In this way, the Apocalypse can also better reveal its significance for the present time.
Still, gaining access to the images of the Apocalypse is a demanding task. The book is the reflection of the wisdom from the mystery schools existing around the beginning of the era. Many concepts were well-known to people at that time and are therefore not explained in the text. The world of the gods was a normal part of the lives of the developed people in those days. Moreover, the Jewish people were sandwiched between ancient Egypt, which was culturally leading in this region for millennia, and the more recent domination by the Greek and Roman empires in which the individual was given a more prominent place in society. Within this context, the content of the Apocalypse needs to be clarified in order to find the line that runs from Ancient Egypt through the Jewish tradition and the Roman Empire to our days.
The heavenly woman clothed with the Sun and the goddess Nut
In the Apocalypse we get to know the Son of Man as the central figure, as the aspect of God that encompasses mankind from origin to completion. Halfway through the book, the Son of Man appears to be spiritually born from the celestial woman clothed with the Sun, a crown of twelve stars on her head, and the Moon under her feet. Is this a new image or does John make use of images that have been around for much longer and that we can trace back to the Egyptian mysteries?
Figure 1. Detail from the Greenfield Papyrus (The Book of the Dead by Nesitanebtashru, around 950 BC). It shows the air god Shu, aided by ram-headed gods, supporting the sky goddess Nut, while the earth god Geb stretches out on the earth (British Museum).
The heavenly woman, appears in Ancient Egypt as the goddess Nut and is depicted in the Book of the Dead as heaven which, in the guise of a woman, curves above Geb, the god of the earth (figure 1). As a night sky she is depicted on the ceiling of temples and tomb rooms and on lids of sarcophagi. Nut and Geb both originated from the gods Shu (air/light) and Tefnut (moisture). In these latter gods we can see reflections of the earlier incarnations of our Earth planet, called the Old Sun and the Old Moon. Shu and Tefnut originated again from the primeval god Atum, who is probably the representative of the Old Saturn incarnation of Earth that preceded the Old Sun. After Shu had placed himself between Nut and Geb by order of Atum, Nut successively gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. Together with the aforementioned gods they formed the Ennead (nine-fold) of gods of Heliopolis. In Egypt there is already the awareness that the heavenly woman Nut, gave birth to, among others, Osiris. Osiris connected himself with the Earth as an inspirer of Egyptian culture. In many ways Osiris can be seen as the predecessor of Christ, as will be discussed later.
We must acknowledge that as the evolution develops, and matter becomes step-by-step more compact, -from heat to light/air, to water and finally to the solid state-, the Egyptian gods become more diversified. The gods Tefnut and Shu, which we placed in the time of the Old Moon and the Old Sun, manifest themselves at the present Earth incarnation in the sun god Re. Shu is bringing Life (Anch) and Tefnut takes care of maintaining Order (Ma’at).
Death and resurrection of Osiris
Osiris carries, as the eldest son of Nut, the kingship on Earth. He is given the task of developing the people and the culture. His younger brother Seth is jealous and wants to take over the kingship position of Osiris. In Egyptian mythology, there are many exciting stories about the battle between the two brothers. Eventually, Seth succeeds in killing Osiris. He chops his corpse into fourteen pieces and spreads them throughout the land of Egypt. Isis, together with her sister Nephthys, searches for those body parts and brings them all back together until the body of her brother Osiris is complete again. They wrap him up into a mummy shape. Through Isis’ magical acts and a ray of light from the Sun, the slain Osiris begets with Isis a child, their son Horus. Osiris himself travels from the Earth to the realm of the dead, where he becomes lord and master in this spiritual world. The Apocalypse depicts this as the male child of the celestial woman being snatched away to God’s throne. This child only reappears at the end of the Apocalypse as the rider on the white horse, as the king of kings, the risen from death.
The fourteen body parts, after being cut into pieces and brought to wholeness again, were seen by the Egyptians as the stages of the waning and waxing Moon. That reminded them of this Osiris myth.
The Red Dragon and Seth
Isis is also being persecuted by her jealous brother Seth. When her time has come to give birth to her son, she hides in the swamp. In her contractions she calls on the Re, the sun god in his sun bark, to help her bring her child into the world. When the child Horus is born, she hides it in the swamp to protect it from Seth’s threats. The vengeful Seth then changes his form to that of a scorpion and inflicts a deadly stab on Horus. The pain burns like hell. It is only through an intervention by Re himself that Horus survives and his reign on Earth happens. This image is very similar to the image from the Apocalypse of the red dragon who wants to devour the child of the celestial woman. Here, it is also God who intervenes to prevent that the child is devoured by the red dragon. He tears the little boy away and brings him to his throne. Then the red dragon – Satan – persecutes the woman who has landed on earth and she has to flee from the dragon, thrown on earth, in the desert. This female aspect living on earth is found in Egypt in Isis, the sister of Osiris.
Osiris and Horus as forerunners of the incarnation of Christ
Osiris resides in the night world, the spirit world, through which every night the night presence of Re, the soul of the great solar being, passes. Each night a transformation takes place: the rejuvenation of the solar being. This transformation can only take place as a result of what occurs at midnight, when Osiris and Re come together. From this unification the seed for the start of new life emerges, and because of this the solar being can appear every morning as a young child, or in the shape of a dung-beetle (Chepri, ‘He who has become’) or as ‘Horus-of-the-Horizon’. This power of Osiris allows him to be seen as the pre-announcer or forerunner of the incarnation of Christ.
Horus grows up and is commissioned to continue the mission of his father Osiris on earth. He becomes the king, the pharaoh, of Egypt and he must avenge his father by defeating Seth, the chaotic and disordered state, and bring order and harmony (Ma’at). Horus appears in the guise of a falcon, who inspires the pharaoh and represents his I-power with which the pharaoh leads the Egyptian people (figure 2). The first title of pharaoh is ‘Horus’ or ‘Golden Horus’ where the gold represents the impact of the sun. ‘Horus’ means ‘The Far’, which is referring to the higher realm. Horus acts on behalf of his father Osiris, whom he assists as a son in life and death to bring him to resurrection. Eventually Horus himself will become Osiris.
Figure 2 Horus falcon, seated behind the head of pharaoh Chefren, Museum in Cairo.
Birth, death and resurrection
In Egypt, death and resurrection of the solar being were celebrated in several cycles. First of all, of course, in the Sun’s day and night cycle, in which the solar being sets like an old grey man in the West in the evening and passes at night through the heavenly body of the goddess Nut where it connects with the fertility power of Osiris, to be born again in the East in the morning as a young child (figure 3). Another royal ritual of death and rebirth took place after thirty years of reign of the pharaoh. Here, too, the pharaoh disappeared from the visible world for a certain period of time and underwent a transformation in his seclusion, after which he was rejuvenated and vitalized, and returned to his throne with a renewed mandate from the gods.
All fertility of the land is seen as resulting from the connection between heaven and earth, the daily resurrection of Osiris in the solar form of Horus, the spirit that overshadows pharaoh. The sun god Re (also in the form of Horus-of-the-Horizon) is seen as the god of ‘eternal return’, while Osiris as the god of ‘eternity’.
Figure 3 The sky goddess Nut gives birth to the sun in the morning and eats it again at the end of the day. Tomb Ramses VI.
The process of being born, dying and rising again is depicted from early Christian times in the Madonna Platytera, the sky goddess who gives birth to the Sun. She is the same as the woman who gives birth to Christ. This also shows the connection with the Christian concepts of the birth of Jesus from the virgin Mary, and the resurrection of Christ. In the Ancient Egyptian image of the sky goddess Nut and in the early Christian Madonna Platytera all these mystical secrets are summarized.
The myth of the birth of the young Osiris from Nut refers to the moment in the middle of the Atlantean epoch, when part of the Christ starts to separate from the Sun, and starts its descent to Earth. We can situate the birth of Horus from Isis at the following Post-Atlantic epoch, and probably more specifically in the Egyptian-Babylonian cultural period. Here Horus overshadows only the pharaoh and it takes till the next Greco-Roman cultural period till Osiris, or the Christ, enters the consciousness of all human beings.
Figure 4 Madonna Platytera, Redeemer church of Yaroslav, 12th century, Tretyakov Gallery
The individualization of the group-Self of man
Pharaoh is the bearer of Horus, the bearer of the group-Self of the Egyptian people. The Egyptian is not yet a thinker, pharaoh is. The difference with the Apocalypse is that this group Self, this Osiris or Christ Self, no longer remains a group self, but becomes individualized. In this sense, in Christianity every human being can become king and priest, provided that he or she is able to control the lower desires. The parallel with Egypt is that the child Horus is able to control crocodiles, scorpions and snakes. The Christ child controls the lower instincts with his iron staff, with which he smashes lower desires like pottery.
Birth of the higher Self from the individualized self
In a different form, the birth of the boy from the celestial woman returns in the image of Isis with Horus sitting on her lap as pharaoh. The hieroglyph of the name Isis has the form of a throne of a god. The enthronement of the pharaoh can be ‘read’ as the birth of the pharaoh as ‘Horus’ from the womb of Isis. When we see Isis, just like the celestial Madonna and Sophia, as the representative of the human soul, Isis represents the birth of the higher consciousness in the purified soul (figure 5).
Figure 5 Isis with Horus figurine, ca. 600 B.C. Eton College Myers Collection, Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum.
Egyptian culture is aimed at becoming an earthly man. That is why Osiris is cut into pieces and the parts are brought back together into a material body of divine origin. Now, in our time of materialism, the Germanic-Anglo-Saxon cultural period, the mirror image of this is topical. Now, there is the danger that we will no longer be able to find our way back to the spiritual world, that our Self will be cut to pieces. Then we will only be able to mummify life without finding the way that leads to resurrection in the spirit world, where our divine origin and future lie.
The white robe
The deceased in Ancient Egypt, after being cleansed of evil, was allowed to enter the Hall of Osiris. If the soul was accepted by Osiris, he became an ‘Achoe‘, an ‘enlightened one’, and was given a white robe. This white robe also appears in the Apocalypse as the white robe that the saints, who realized the purified soul, was given at the opening of the fifth seal. They have realized the Christ-Self, the higher Self. This is the great step that becomes possible for us from the present cultural period onwards and which was also indicated in the Egyptian mysteries.
The exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt
The mystery of Egyptian culture has also been handed down to the Israelites during the ten generations in which the Jewish people stayed in Egypt, in the period between Joseph and Moses. Moses was initiated in the Isis and Osiris mysteries. Sigismund von Gleich describes how Moses took some of the Egyptian initiation secrets with him when he led the people away from Egypt during the Exodus. The secret of the Osiris initiation of Heliopolis and the holy word ‘I am the I am, Ejeh asher ejeh!’ thus passed, according to Von Gleich, to Israel. This may have happened around 1322 BC during the reign of pharaoh Ramses II. The consequences traveled with the Jewish people and much later found their resonance in the Apocalypse as the examples mentioned here show.
Becoming aware of the great developments taking place in the evolution of mankind, may help us to learn to set the right priorities in what we do with our lives.
– Adolf Weis, Madonna Platytera, 1985, Die Blauwe Bücher, Königstein: Karl Robert Langewiesche Verlag.
– Rudolf Steiner, Egyptische mythen en mysteriën; Zeist: Vrij Geestesleven, GA 106, (review: Jana Loose, 2007).
– Sigismund von Gleich, 1983, Milestones of Cultural History, Stuttgart: