The Magic Of Golden Dawn

Egyptian Mysteries






Egyptian Magic


    The "magic" of the Egyptians was of two kinds: (1) that which was employed for legitimate purposes and with the idea of benefiting either the living or the dead, and (2) that which was made use of in the furtherance of nefarious plots and schemes and was intended to bring calamities upon those against whom it was directed. In the religious texts and works we see how magic is made to be the handmaiden of religion, and how it appears in certain passages side by side with the most exalted spiritual conceptions; and there can be no doubt that the chief object of magical books and ceremonies was to benefit those who had by some means attained sufficient knowledge to make use of them. But the Egyptians were unfortunate enough not to be understood by many of the strangers who found their way into their country, and as a result wrong and exaggerated ideas of their religion were circulated among the surrounding nations, and the magical ceremonies which were performed at their funerals were represented by the ignorant either as silly acts of superstition or as tricks of the "black" art. But whereas the magic of every other nation of the ancient East was directed entirely against the powers of darkness, and was invented in order to frustrate their fell designs by invoking a class of benevolent beings to their aid, the Egyptians aimed being able to command their gods to work for them, and to compel them to appear at their desire. These great results were to be obtained by the use of certain words which, to be efficacious, must be uttered in a proper tone of voice by a duly qualified man; such words might be written upon some substance, papyrus, precious stones, and the like, and worn on the person, when their effect could be transmitted to any distance. As almost every man, woman, and child in Egypt who could afford it wore some such charm or talisman, it is not to be wondered at that the Egyptians were at a very early period regarded as a nation of magicians and sorcerers. Hebrew, and Greek, and Roman writers referred to them as experts in the occult sciences, and as the possessors of powers which could, according to circumstances, be employed to do either good or harm to man.

    From the Hebrews we receive, incidentally, it is true, considerable information about the powers of the Egyptian magician. Saint Stephen boasts that the great legislator Moses "was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," and declares that he "was mighty in words and in deeds," and there are numerous features in the life of this remarkable man which shew that he was acquainted with many of the practices of Egyptian magic. The phrase "mighty in words" probably means that, like the goddess Isis, he was "strong of tongue" and uttered the words of power which he knew with correct pronunciation, and halted not in his speech, and was perfect both in giving the command and in saying the word. The turning of a serpent into what is apparently an inanimate, wooden stick, and the turning of the stick back into a writhing snake, are feats which have been performed in the East from the most ancient period; and the power to control and direct the movements of such venomous reptiles was one of the things of which the Egyptian was most proud, and in which he was most skilful, already in the time when the pyramids were being built. But this was by no means the only proof which Moses gives that he was versed in the magic of the Egyptians, for, like the sage Âba-aner and king Nectanebus, and all the other magicians of Egypt from time immemorial, he and Aaron possessed a wonderful rod by means of which they worked their wonders. At the word of Moses Aaron lifted up his rod and smote the waters and they became blood; he stretched it out over the waters, and frogs innumerable appeared; when the dust was smitten by the rod it became lice; and so on. Moses sprinkled ashes "toward heaven," and it became boils and blains upon man and beast; he stretched out his rod, and there was "hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous," and the "flax and the barley was smitten;" he stretched out his rod and the locusts came, and after them the darkness. Now Moses did all these things, and brought about the death of the firstborn among the Egyptians by the command of his God, and by means of the words which He told him to speak. But although we are told by the Hebrew writer that the Egyptian magicians could not imitate all the miracles of Moses, it is quite certain that every Egyptian magician believed that he could perform things equally marvellous by merely uttering the name of one of his gods, or through the words of power which he had learned to recite; and there are many instances on record of Egyptian magicians utterly destroying their enemies by the recital of a few words possessed of magical power, and, by the performance of some, apparently, simple ceremony. But one great distinction must be made between the magic of Moses and that of the Egyptians among whom he lived; the former was wrought by the command of the God of the Hebrews, but the latter by the gods of Egypt at the command of man.

    Egyptian magic was not to display psychic powers or perform fantastic feats, but rather, it had a practical purpose in the civilization. Magic was the way by which one extended and eased life,
relieved physical and emotional pain and, generally, advanced individual well-being and benefitted society.

    Egyptologists have unearthed thousands of scrolls and texts, documenting innumerable, healing prayers and spells against evil. The ancients saw magic as a creative force that bound spirit and matter together. Magicians sought the thread of spirit, that connected to any actual object (or in the case of illness, a condition), then addressed intervening energies to that connection.

    Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex and beautiful balance of monotheism and polytheism, along with a good dose of pure magic. For the Egyptians there was no such thing as a separation between magic and religion. One ancient writer, Clement of Alexandria, said that "Egypt was the mother of magicians." The power that lay behind all magic was known as heka.

    The Egyptians believed in one creator deity who was eternal, omnipotent, self-existent, and incomprehensible to the humans. This unknowable divinity was sometimes referred to by the name neter, the suggested meaning of which includes ideas of "god," "divine," "strength," and "renewal." The polytheism of Egypt manifested in the vast number of local and lesser deities. These deities were considered as the various aspects or attributes of the neter, manifesting in forms that could be visualized and comprehended by the human mind. Thus the goddess Isis was the divine femininity and creative force of the neter, while the god Thoth was the neter’s intellectual force, the god Horus was the neter’s strength, etc.

    The Egyptian pantheon is heavily utilized in the Golden Dawn —more than any other. But in the Golden Dawn, it is the magical aspects of the pantheon, rather than the religious beliefs, that are employed. Another name for a magician is a theurgist or "god-worker." In ancient Egypt, the magician worked magic mainly through a form of self-identification, wherein the theurgist ritually identified himself with a particular deity. In later times this technique would come to be called the assumption of a godform. In the higher grades of the Golden Dawn, the theurgist learns to build up the image of a deity within the mind, and then "step" into it and assume its astral form. To perform this method properly, the magician needs to be balanced and experienced in visualization, vibration, and other psychic skills.

    During all Golden Dawn induction ceremonies, the initiating Adepts assume Egyptian godforms in this manner. There is a godform for every officer who participates. There are also invisible stations where certain godforms are merely visualized. The reenactment of this myth represents the initiate’s spiritual rebirth into a greater life. The Neophyte Hall is based on the mythos of the "Hall of Judgment" from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The new initiate symbolically takes on the role of the deceased in the story, passing into the underworld of the god, Osiris, where his heart is weighed against the feather of Truth to determine if he has lived a good life and is worthy of joining with Osiris in the afterlife. The reenactment of this myth represents the initiate’s spiritual rebirth into a life of greater awareness.

    Magical talismans had a prominent place in the heka of ancient Egypt. They continue to have a prominent place in the magic of today. In the First Order of the Golden Dawn student learns what symbolism is needed for the creation of talismans. In the Second Order, the student learns how to consecrate and use them.

    Another aspect of Egyptian theurgy which would remain essential to magic throughout the long history of the Hermetic Tradition, was the importance given to divine names and words of power. The ancients believed that knowing the secret name of a deity conferred great power to the magician. In Golden Dawn, divine names are vibrated or powerfully intoned in such a way as to be felt throughout the entire body—a form of voice projection similar to that used by singers. It is not the name or word by itself is powerful—it is the amount of focus, feeling, and force that magician puts into it. "For by names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened."


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