The Initiation of Moses
THE GREAT INITIATES
A Study of the Secret History of Religions
BY ÉDOUARD SCHURÉ
The Initiation of Moses in Egypt
-- His Flight to Jethro
Rameses II was one of the great rulers of Egypt. His son was named Menephtah. In accordance with Egyptian custom the latter received his instruction from the priests in the temple of Ammon-Ra at Memphis, for then the royal art was considered a branch of priestly art. Menephtah was a shy young man, curious and of average intelligence. He had a misdirected love for the esoteric sciences, which later made him the prey of inferior magicians and astrologers. As a student companion he had a young man of remarkable genius and of strange, withdrawn character.
Hosarsiph30 was Menephtah's cousin, son of the royal princess, sister of Rameses II. Was he an adopted or a natural son? This has never been known.31 Above all, Hosarsiph was the son of the temple, for he had grown up in the shadow of its columns. Dedicated to Isis and Osiris by his mother, already in adolescence he had been seen acting as a Levite at the crowning of the Pharaoh and in the priestly processions of the great festivals, carrying the ephod, chalice or censers. Inside the temple he stood, grave and attentive, listening to the sacred orchestras, the hymns and the teaching of the priests.
Hosarsiph was of short stature. He had a humble and thoughtful look, a forehead like that of a ram and piercing black eyes with the gaze of an eagle and a disturbing intensity. He had been called "the silent one," so intense and almost always quiet was he. Often he stammered while speaking, as though groping for words or as if he feared to express his thoughts. He appeared shy, but suddenly, like a sharp thunderbolt, a terrible idea would burst forth in a single word, leaving behind it a trail of light. It was then understood that if ever "the silent one" decided to act, he would be frighteningly rash. Already between his eyebrows the fatal crease of men predestined to difficult tasks began to form, and upon his forehead hovered a threatening cloud.
Women feared the gaze of this young Levite, a glance as unfathomable as the tomb, while his face was as impassive as the door of the temple of Isis. One would have said that they had a foreboding of an enemy of the feminine sex in this future representative of the male religious principle in its most absolute and intractable form.
Nevertheless his mother, the royal princess, dreamed of the throne of the Pharaohs for her son. Hosarsiph was more intelligent than Menephtah; he could hope for a usurpation with the support of the priesthood. The Pharaohs, it is true, designated their successors among their sons, but sometimes the priests broke the designation of the prince after the Pharaoh's death. This was done in the interest of the state, for more than once they kept the unworthy or weak from the throne in order to give the scepter to a royal initiate. Already Menephtah was jealous of his cousin; Rameses also kept his eye on him, for he feared the taciturn Levite.
One day Hosarsiph's mother met her son in the Serapeum of Memphis, an immense plaza dotted with obelisks, mausoleums, small and large temples, victory pylons, -- a sort of open air museum of national glories, which was reached by passing through an avenue of six hundred sphinxes. The Levite bowed before his royal mother, touching the earth and, as was the custom, waited for her to speak to him.
"You are about to enter the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris," she told him. "I shall not see you for a long time, O my son! But do not forget that you are of the blood of Pharaohs, and that I am your mother. Look around you.... If you wish, one day ... all this will belong to you!"
And with a broad gesture she pointed to the obelisks, temples, Memphis and the entire horizon.
A smile of disdain passed over Hosarsiph's face, which usually was smooth and unmoving like a mask of bronze.
"Then," said he, "you wish me to rule these people who worship gods with heads of jackals, ibis and hyenas? In a few centuries what will remain of all these idols?"
Hosarsiph stooped, took some fine sand in his hand, letting it trickle to earth between his thin fingers before the eyes of his astonished mother. "As much as that," he said.
"Then you scorn the religion of our fathers and the science of our priests?"
"On the contrary! I am striving for them, but the pyramid is motionless; it must start to walk. I shall not be a Pharaoh, for my country is far from here; it is out there -- in the desert!"
"Hosarsiph!" said the princess reproachfully, "Why do you utter blasphemies? A wind of fire brought you into my womb and I will see that a storm will carry you away! I brought you into the world, but I do not know you! In the name of Osiris, who are you then? What are you going to do?"
"Do I myself know? Osiris alone knows; he will tell me perhaps. But give me your blessing, O my mother, so that Isis may protect me and the land of Egypt be kind to me!"
Hosarsiph knelt before his mother, respectfully crossed his hands upon his chest and bowed his head. Taking from her head the lotus flower which she wore according to the custom of the women of the temple, she gave it to him to smell. Realizing that the thoughts of her son would remain an eternal mystery for her, she walked away, whispering a prayer.
Hosarsiph passed the initiation of Isis victoriously. With soul of steel and will of iron, he enjoyed the tests. Of mathematical and universal mind, he displayed a giant's strength in his intelligence and handling of the sacred numbers, whose fecund symbolism and applications were almost infinite. His mind, disdainful of things which are but illusion, and of individuals who pass away, breathed with ease only in the unchangeable elements. From that height he penetrated and mastered everything quietly and surely, without showing desire, rebellion or curiosity.
For his teachers as well as for his mother, Hosarsiph remained an enigma. What frightened them most was that he was solid and inflexible, like a principle. One felt that he could neither be bent nor sidetracked. He followed his secret path like a celestial body in its invisible orbit. The pontiff, Membra wondered to what height this concentrated ambition would climb. And he wished to know.
One day Hosarsiph with three other priests of Osiris had borne the golden ark which preceded the priest in great ceremonies. This ark contained the ten most secret books of the temple, dealing with magic and theurgy.
Returning to the sanctuary with Hosarsiph, Membra said to him, "You are of royal blood. Your strength and knowledge are beyond your age. What do you wish?"
"Nothing but this." And Hosarsiph placed his hand on the holy ark that golden sparrow hawks covered with their shining wings.
"Then you want to become a pontiff of Ammon Ra and prophet of Egypt?"
"No! Only to know what is in these books!"
"How can you know, since no one but a priest can know them?"
"Osiris speaks as he wishes, when he wishes, to whom he wishes. What is enclosed in this ark is but the dead letter. If the living Spirit wishes to speak to me, he will speak to me!"
"To hear the Spirit, what do you intend to do?"
"Wait and obey."
When these answers were brought to Rameses II, they intensified his fear. He was afraid that Hosarsiph aspired to be Pharaoh at the expense of Rameses' son, Menephtah. Consequently the Pharaoh ordered that his sister's son be made a sacred scribe in the temple of Osiris. This important function included a knowledge of symbolism in all its forms, cosmography and astronomy, but it kept him away from the throne. The princess' son applied himself with zeal and perfect submission to his duties as priestly scribe, which included the task of inspector of various nomas, or provinces of Egypt.
Did Hosarsiph really possess the pride attributed to him? Yes, if it is because of pride that the imprisoned lion raises its head and looks at the horizon beyond the bars of his cage, without even seeing the passersby staring at him. Yes, if it is because of pride that the eagle, held captive by a chain, sometimes trembles through his entire body, and with neck bent and wings spread, gazes at the sun. Like all strong ones who are destined for a great work, Hosarsiph did not believe he was subjected to blind Fate; he felt a mysterious Providence watching over him, leading him to his goals.
While he was a priestly scribe, Hosarsiph was sent on an inspection tour of the Delta. The Hebrews, tributaries of Egypt, who then lived in the valley of Goshen, were subjected to disagreeable tasks. Rameses II was connecting Pelusium and Heliopolis by a chain of forts. All the nomas of Egypt were to supply their contingent of laborers for this gigantic work. The Beni-Israel were burdened with the heaviest tasks. Above all, they were hewers of stone and makers of brick. Independent and proud, they did not bow as easily as did the natives under the cudgels of the Egyptian overseers, but stood up again muttering and sometimes returning the blows. The priest of Osiris could not curb a secret sympathy for these uncompromising unmanageables, these stiff-necks, whose elders, faithful to the Abrahamic tradition, worshipped the one God; who revered their leaders, their hags and their zakens, but who kicked back beneath the yoke and protested against injustice.
One day he saw an Egyptian guard strike down a defenseless Hebrew with heavy blows. His heart pounded; he flung himself upon the Egyptian, tore his weapons from him and killed him. This act, carried out in a moment of unselfish indignation, determined his life. Priests of Osiris who committed murder were severely judged by the priestly college. Already the Pharaoh suspected a usurper in his sister's son. The life of the scribe hung by only a thread. He preferred voluntary exile, and to impose his expiation upon himself. Everything urged him to the solitude of the desert, into the vast unknown, -- his desire, the presentiment of his mission, and over and above all, that inner, mysterious, yet irresistible voice, which at certain times said, "Go! This is your destiny!"
Beyond the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula, in the land of Madian, was a temple which was not under the control of the Egyptian priesthood. This region extended like a green band between the Elamitic Gulf and the desert of Arabia. In the distance, beyond the arm of the sea, one could see the somber mass of Sinai, with its bare peaks. This isolated country, hemmed in between the desert and the Red Sea, protected by a volcanic mass, was sheltered from invasions. The temple there was dedicated to Osiris, but the Almighty God named Elohim, was also worshipped. For this sanctuary of Ethiopian origin served as a religious center for Arabs, Semites and men of the black race who were seeking initiation. Thus, for centuries Sinai and Horeb had been the mystical center of a monotheistic cult. The bare, wild grandeur of the mountain rising up in isolation between Egypt and Arabia, awakened the idea of a single God. Many Semites went there on pilgrimages to worship Elohim. There they would remain for several days, fasting and praying in the caves and passages carved in the sides of Sinai. Before this, they would go to purify themselves and to receive instruction in the temple of Madian.
Here Hosarsiph took refuge.
The high priest of Madian or the Raguel (the watchman of God) at that time was named Jethro. He was a man of black skin.32 He belonged to the purest type of the ancient Ethiopian race which had ruled Egypt four or five thousand years before Rameses, and had not lost its traditions which date back to the oldest races of the globe. Jethro was neither an inspired man nor a man of action, but was a great sage. The treasures of science were accumulated in his memory and in the stone libraries of his temple, and he was also the protector of men of the desert. Libyans, Arabs, nomadic Semites, eternal wanderers, forever the same with their dim seeking after the one God, represented something changeless in the midst of ephemeral cults and crumbling civilizations. In them one felt as if in the presence of the Everlasting; one found in them the memorial of bygone ages, the great silence of Elohim. Jethro was the spiritual father of these unconquered people, these wanderers, these free men. He knew their soul, he had a foreboding of their destiny. When Hosarsiph came and asked him for shelter in the name of Osiris-Elohim, he received him with open arms. Perhaps he sensed at once that in this fugitive before him was the man predestined to become the prophet of banished men, the leader of the people of God.
Hosarsiph wanted first of all to submit himself to the expiations the law of the initiates imposed upon murderers. When a priest of Osiris had committed even an unpremeditated murder, he was supposed to lose the benefit of his anticipated resurrection "in the light of Osiris," a privilege he had obtained through the tests of initiation, and which placed him far above the masses. In order to expiate his crime and to find his inner light once again, he had to submit himself to further cruel tests and once more to expose himself to death. After a long fast and with the aid of certain potions the atoning one was plunged into a deep sleep; then he was placed in a cave beneath the temple. He remained there for days, sometimes for weeks.33 During this time he was to undertake a journey into the other world, into Erebus or the region of Amentis, where float the souls of the dead who are not yet detached from the terrestrial atmosphere. There he had to search for his victim, to undergo the latter's anguish, obtain his pardon and help him to find his way to the light. Only then was he considered to have expiated the murder; only then was his astral body washed of the black stains which the poisoned breath and the curses of his victim had soiled. But from this real or imaginary journey, the guilty one very well might not return, and often when the priests went to awaken the expiator from his sleep, they found nothing but a corpse.
Hosarsiph did not hesitate to undergo this test, and others as well.34 Under the impress of the murder he had committed, he had understood the unchangeable nature of certain laws of the moral order and the deep disturbance that violating them leaves in the depth of the conscience. With complete abnegation he offered his being in a holocaust to Osiris, asking for the strength (if he returned to the earthly light) to reveal the law of justice. When Hosarsiph emerged from the dreadful sleep in the crypt of the temple of Madian, he felt himself a transformed man. His past was as though detached from him; Egypt had ceased to be his homeland, and the immensity of the desert with its wandering nomads stretched before him as a new field of action. He looked at the mountain of Elohim on the horizon, and for the first time, like a vision of a storm in the clouds of Sinai, the idea of his mission passed before his eyes: From these moving tribes he was to mold a fighting people who would represent the law of the supreme God amidst the idolatry of cults and the anarchy of nations -- a people who would bring to future centuries truth, sealed in the golden ark of initiation.
On that day in order to mark the new era which had begun in his life, Hosarsiph took the name Moses, which means, The Saved One.
Notes for this chapter:
30. Moses' Egyptian first name (Manethon, quoted by Philo).
31. The Biblical account (Exodus 2:110) makes Moses a Jew of the tribe of Levi, found by Pharaoh's daughter among the bulrushes of the Nile, where his nurse had placed him in order to touch the princess' heart and save the child from a persecution similar to that of Herod. By contrast, Manethon, an Egyptian priest to whom we owe the most precise information on the dynasties of the Pharaohs, -- information confirmed today by the inscriptions on monuments, -- states that Moses was a priest of Osiris. Strabo, who obtained his information from the same source, that is, from the Egyptian priests, also confirms this. The Egyptian source has more validity here than the Jewish source, for the priests of Egypt had no interest in making Greeks or Romans believe that Moses was one of them, while the national vanity of the Jews caused them to make the founder of their nation a man of their own blood. The Biblical account recognizes, moreover, that Moses was raised in Egypt and was sent by his government as inspector of the Jews of Goshen. This is the important, major fact which establishes the secret relation between the Mosaic religion and Egyptian initiation. Clement of Alexandria believed that Moses was deeply initiated into the science of Egypt, and, in effect, the work of the creator of Israel would be incomprehensible without this.
32. Later (Numbers 3:1) after the Exodus, Aaron and Miriam, Moses' brother and sister, according to the Bible, reproached him for having married an Ethiopian. Jethro, Sephora's father, therefore was of this race.
33. Travelers of recent times report that Hindu fakirs have themselves buried after being plunged into a cataleptic sleep, indicating the exact day when they must be disinterred. One of them, after three weeks of burial, was found alive, safe and sound.
34. The seven daughters of Jethro, of whom the Bible speaks (Exodus 2:16-20), evidently have a symbolic meaning, like this entire account which has come to us in a legendary and completely popularized form: It is very unlikely that the priestly ruler of a great temple would make his daughters feed his herds or reduce an Egyptian priest to the role of shepherd. The seven daughters of Jethro symbolize seven virtues that the initiate was forced to acquire in order to open the Well of Truth. In the story of Agar and Ishmael, this well is called "The Well of the Living One Who sees me."
- Happy, merry, jolly Christmas day to you, Frank -- and to everybody else here. Yes, the Pythagoras chapter is the best in this book by Schuré, I think too.
Incidentally, the original files (ms word docs and tif images) are up until James has downloaded them for the RS Archive after the holidays:
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Frank Thomas Smith" <fts.trasla@...> wrote:
> Ok, thanks Tarjei. I may include the Pythagoras chapter in the next - or future - Southern Cross Review.
> --- In email@example.com, "elfuncle" <elfuncle@> wrote:
> > This volume is now on the web and therefore available, but the upload is a rush-job with poor navigation (use the Contents page if you need to) and no anchor-links yet for the footnotes. (Anchors are laborious and time-consuming; they'll have to be done later.) The index has also been skipped for the time being because it requires anchors as well.
> > http://uncletaz.com/great_initiates/
> > Tarjei