Isis, Virgin of the World
Manly P. Hall
Excerpts from the section titled "Isis, Virgin of the World" from his book, "The Secret Teachings of All Ages"
It is especially fitting that a study of Hermetic symbolism should begin with a discussion of the symbols and attributes of the Saitic Isis. This is the Isis of Sais, famous for the inscription concerning her which appeared on the front of her temple in that city: "I, Isis, am all that has been, that is or shall be; no mortal Man hath ever me unveiled."
This Egyptian deity under many names appears as the principle of natural fecundity among nearly all the religions of the ancient world. She was known as the goddess with ten thousand appellations and was metamorphosed by Christianity into the Virgin Mary, for Isis, although she gave birth to all living things--chief among them the Sun--still remained a virgin, according to the legendary accounts.
Among the Egyptians, Isis is often represented with a headdress consisting of the empty throne chair of her murdered husband, and this peculiar structure was accepted during certain dynasties as her hieroglyphic. The headdresses of the Egyptians have great symbolic and emblematic importance, for they represent the auric bodies of the superhuman intelligences, and are used in the same way that the nimbus, halo, and aureole are used in Christian religious art. Frank C. Higgins, a well-known Masonic symbolist, has astutely noted that the ornate headgears of certain gods and Pharaohs are inclined backward at the same angle as the earth's axis. The robes, insignia, jewels, and ornamentations of the ancient hierophants symbolized the spiritual energies radiating from the human body. Modern science is rediscovering many of the lost secrets of Hermetic philosophy. One of these is the ability to gauge the mental development, the soul qualities, and the physical health of an individual from the streamers of semi-visible electric force which pour through the surface of the skin of every human being at all times during his life. (For details concerning a scientific process for making the auric emanations visible, see 'The Human Atmosphere' by Dr. Walter J. Kilner.)
Thoth Hermes Trismegistus, the founder of Egyptian learning, the Wise Man of the ancient world, gave to the priests and philosophers of antiquity the secrets which have been preserved to this day in myth and legend. These allegories and emblematic figures conceal the secret formulæ for spiritual, mental, moral, and physical regeneration commonly known as the Mystic Chemistry of the Soul (alchemy). These sublime truths were communicated to the initiates of the Mystery Schools, but were concealed from the profane. The latter, unable to understand the abstract philosophical tenets, worshiped the concrete sculptured idols which were emblematic of these secret truths. The wisdom and secrecy of Egypt are epitomized in the Sphinx, which has preserved its secret from the seekers of a hundred generations. The mysteries of Hermeticism, the great spiritual truths hidden from the world by the ignorance of the world, and the keys of the secret doctrines of the ancient philosophers, are all symbolized by the Virgin Isis. Veiled from head to foot, she reveals her wisdom only to the tried and initiated few who have earned the right to enter her sacred presence, tear from the veiled figure of Nature its shroud of obscurity, and stand face to face with the Divine Reality.
The ancients gave the name Isis to one of their occult medicines; therefore the description here given relates somewhat to chemistry. Her black drape also signifies that the moon, or the lunar humidity--the sophic universal mercury and the operating substance of Nature in alchemical terminology--has no light of its own, but receives its light, its fire, and its vitalizing force from the sun. Isis was the image or representative of the Great Works of the wise men: the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of Life, and the Universal Medicine.
During the Middle Ages the troubadours of Central Europe preserved in song the legends of this Egyptian goddess. They composed sonnets to the most beautiful woman in all the world. Though few ever discovered her identity, she was Sophia, the Virgin of Wisdom, whom all the philosophers of the world have wooed. Isis represents the mystery of motherhood, which the ancients recognized as the most apparent proof of Nature's omniscient wisdom and God's overshadowing power. To the modern seeker she is the epitome of the Great Unknown, and only those who unveil her will be able to solve the mysteries of life, death, generation, and regeneration.
Hall, Manly P., “The Secret Teachings of All Ages, An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy,” H.S. Crocker Company, Inc., San Francisco, 1928, pp. 45 - 48
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