An occult investigation of the correspondence between the philosopher Porphyry and the Egyptian priest Abammon
This new investigation is a continuation of our exploration of the ancient Egyptian Mystery Teachings discussed in Spiritus Hermeticum as well as several other articles. Our present purpose is to discover the occult truths to be found in the correspondence between the Greek philosopher Porphyry and the Egyptian priest Abammon. Porphyry was a Neoplatonic philosopher who flourished during the third and fourth centuries of our present era. The correspondence between them forms the first part of Iamblichus' celebrated work On the Mysteries, and consists of the 'Letter of Porphyry to Anebo' and 'The answer of the preceptor Abammon to the Epistle of Porphyry to Anebo, and a Solution of the doubts contained in it'. We discussed this correspondence in part two of our three-part investigation of esoteric philosophy and are now extending that survey. If you haven't read it, now is the time to do so.
Iamblichus was a Syrian Greek Neoplatonic philosopher, and a disciple of Porphyry. Only a fraction of his books are known to us, chief among which is On the Mysteries and his celebrated biography of Pythagoras which we drew upon for our article about Initiates and Initiation. Some scholars dispute Iamblichus' authorship, maintaining that the style does not match his other extant writings. Frankly, we have no interest in such pedantic arguments and nor should the sincere seeker after Truth. As we have said in several articles, it is what is written that matters, and not who wrote it. For our customary afterword we have chosen to abridge an article by the Neoplatonist scholar Professor Alexander Wilder about Iamblichus and the correspondence which forms the subject of this investigation. This is followed by a short biography of Professor Wilder who was a leading member of the Theosophical Society and instrumental in editing and preparing H. P. Blavatsky's first major work — Isis Unveiled — for publication. This does not mean we necessarily agree with all his conclusions. Professor Wilder was first and foremost a classical scholar and Theosophist who, like many of his contemporaries, was heavily influenced by the Eastern mysticism which infused much theosophical teaching. So much for background, let us now consider the nature and character of the correspondents and the content and import of the letters.
One of the stumbling blocks in connection with the study of the ancient Egyptian Mystery Teachings are the many half-truths and falsehoods to which they are subject. Learned as Porphyry and Iamblichus were, neither were conversant with the original and unadulterated teachings of Hermes which we endeavoured to reconstruct in our series of articles about the Egyptian Master — Spiritus Hermeticum. As we pointed out in that investigation, the genuine Mystery Schools of Egypt closed their doors long before Porphyry and Iamblichus encountered the remains of the occult knowledge and truths taught within their hallowed halls. In 300 A.D., the great Egyptian Masters were no more; the real secrets (which already had been withdrawn gradually over many centuries) were now entirely hidden; and the Neoplatonists had to struggle on as best they could with the fragmentary and often inconsistent and contradictory remains of a once complete body of Wisdom Teachings. Just how inconsistent and contradictory these teachings had become we shall see when we examine some of the superstitions and misconceptions under which the Greeks laboured. As we said earlier, the correspondence consists of a number of questions posed by Porphyry (ca. 234-305 A.D.), in which he solicits information about the religion of the ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians. Although the answers he receives are very similar to the teachings of Iamblichus himself, there is no evidence that he actually wrote them.
The book tells us that it is the work of an Egyptian priest named Abammon. Some of the statements he makes suggest that he was a sage of high degree, so there is every possibility that he was the real author of the book rather than Iamblichus. This conjecture is supported by the fact that although the teachings imparted by Abammon agree in the main with the philosophical tenets of Iamblichus, they do not do so in all respects. 'Ab' is the Egyptian for heart and 'Ammon', also rendered Amen or Amun, became the chief deity of the Egyptian religion during the eighteenth dynasty some 3,500 years ago, a position he maintained right up to the times of Porphyry, notwithstanding that Egypt was by then under Roman rule. Hence, the name Abammon' means 'the heart of Amen'. If he was invented by Iamblichus which we personally doubt, the fiction is consistently maintained throughout the book. He speaks with the authority of a high-placed ecclesiastic, and addresses the foreign inquirer (Porphyry) in a tone of dignified condescension, remaining courteous all the while in a manner well suited to his position. In this he differs widely from that which we should have expected to be the manner which Iamblichus would have adopted towards his teacher Porphyry. The language used by the correspondents makes it clear that Porphyry is soliciting occult knowledge from one whom he comes to regard as his superior in occult and mystical knowledge.
Classification of spirits
It is impossible to analyse the entire correspondence which amounts to over 60,000 words. Consequently, we have confined our investigation to those questions which deal specifically with the Egyptian Mystery Teachings, insofar as Abammon knew them or was willing or able to communicate them. Porphyry begins by asking about the Gods, 'good' daemons, angels and archangels. Daemons (not to be confused with 'demons') consist of an order of intermediate beings between Gods and men. The Higher Self or Mind is such a daemon, as are the angels of Catholic theology and the various classes of nature spirits or Devas. For a fuller explanation of the Greek concept of daemons, we refer you to Paul G. Vaughan's excellent article Is Love a Philosopher? What Porphyry really wants to know is the whole arrangement, nature, qualities and disposition of all these multivarious beings; the complete classification of spirits if you like. The answers to such a wide-ranging enquiry took the students of the Egyptian Mysteries many years to learn, but Porphyry wants to know it all at once; a tall order indeed!
Abammon answers him by saying that "an innate knowledge of the Gods is coexistent with our very essence; and this knowledge is superior to all judgement and deliberate choice, and subsists prior to reason and demonstration." We would call this an inner conviction of the presence of Divinity throughout all manifested life and being. The fact that so many people do not have this inner conviction shows how far we have fallen from the wisdom of our forebears. Abammon draws a firm distinction between this Divine knowledge and the commonplace or intellectual knowledge which informs the thinking of both layman and scientist alike. In other words, he separates Intuition from Intellect, the former belonging to the Higher Self and the latter to the lower self as we discuss in our Occult Studies Course article on Intelligence. He argues that the existence and nature of God and 'the gods' cannot be proven or apprehended intellectually. This is true, as anyone who has ever been foolish enough to argue the point with an avowed atheist will know!
Abammon explains that the Gods and daemons are the same in essence but differ in their 'peculiarities,' that is to say, in their qualities and functions. This also is true for Man is made in the image of God as the Bible tells us, though far removed from Him in wisdom, power and goodness. The first of the ten Sections of Abammon's response contains an interesting paragraph which suggests he was well aware of the two minds and the Divine Soul. He writes: "Of the extremes, therefore, one is supreme, transcendent, and perfect; but the other is last in dignity, deficient, and more imperfect." Is this a concealed reference to the Soul and Higher Mind? We think so. He continues: "The former [Soul], likewise comprehends the ends of all energies and essences; but the latter [Higher Mind] passes from some things to others, and proceeds from the imperfect to the perfect. Farther still, to the former that which is highest and that which is incomprehensible pertain, and also that which is better than all measure, and is in such a manner formless, as not to be circumscribed by any form; but the latter is vanquished by inclination, habitude, and propensity; and is detained by appetites directed to that which is less excellent, and by familiarity with secondary natures [lower mind]." Without our interpolations in parenthesis we doubt whether anyone who is not an occultist would realize what profound truths Abammon is attempting to communicate to Porphyry.
On the subject of suffering, Abammon corrects Porphyry by saying "But neither does the rational soul, when it accedes to body, either itself suffer, or the reasons which it imparts to the body." By 'reasons' we assume he is referring to the qualities or virtues which the rational soul (Higher Mind in our terminology) imparts to the body. He is right, for Occult Science affirms it is only the body and lower mind which 'suffer'. Later on, we come across an excellent piece of advice: "The powers of the human passions that are in us, when they are entirely restrained, become more vehement; but when they are called forth into energy, gradually and commensurately, they rejoice in being moderately gratified, are satisfied; and from hence, becoming purified, they are rendered tractable, and are vanquished without violence." To put it crudely, a little bit of what you fancy does you good, excesses of any kind merely fan the flames of passion. In other words, balance is the key to controlling the appetites and desires of the lower mind and body as we pointed out long ago in our article on Inner Peace. Abammon also has good things to say about the so-called 'anger of the Gods' which Porphyry asks about. "Moreover, 'the pacifications of anger' will become manifest, if we understand what the anger of the Gods is. This, therefore, is not, as it appears to be to some, a certain ancient and inveterate rage, but an abandonment of the beneficent care of the Gods, from which we turn ourselves away, withdrawing, as it were, from meridian light, hiding ourselves in darkness, and depriving ourselves of the beneficent gift of the Gods." In other words, it is not God who is ever angry with us, but we ourselves who, departing from Him, suffer the consequences of our wilful estrangement.
We particularly like what Abammon has to say about prayer, gently admonishing Porphyry in the process. " 'Supplications, however,' you say, 'are too foreign to the purity of intellect to be offered to the Gods.' But this is by no means the case. For on this very account, because we fall short of the Gods in power, purity, and every thing else, we shall act in the most opportune manner, by invoking them with the most vehement supplications. For the consciousness of our own nothingness, when we compare ourselves with the Gods, causes us to betake ourselves spontaneously to suppliant prayer. But from supplication, we are in a short time led to the object of supplication, acquire its similitude from intimate converse, and gradually obtain divine perfection, instead of our own imbecility and imperfection." We may paraphrase all this by saying, as John Temple does in his article on Prayer, "The power of pure prayer is so profound that almost anything can be obtained by it."
Porphyry next asks: "How some of the Gods are beneficent, but others malefic?" The context makes it clear he is referring to astrological influences which are said to be either good (Jupiter) or bad (Saturn). Actually, most astrological influences are of a mixed nature but that is by the way. Abammon replies: "For all the Gods are good, and invariably the causes of good; and all of them are uniformly convolved to one good, according to the beautiful and good alone." We refer the interested reader to our article about Astrology for a fuller answer to Porphyry's question. Abammon concludes his dissertation upon the Gods by saying: "For men being in reality unable to apprehend the reasons of sacred institutions, but conceiving that they are able, are wholly hurried away by their own human passions, and form a conjecture of divine concerns from things pertaining to themselves." An example of this erroneous philosophising is the making of gods in man's image with all our human passions and vices. Abammon next addresses Porphyry's question about how to recognize the different classes of spirits. His answer is simple and correct. "In one word, therefore, I conclude that their appearances accord with their essences, powers, and energies." We discussed the evocation of spirits and their appearances in the afterword to the eleventh of Bombast and Flitterflop's Astral Conversation, so will not repeat ourselves except to say that goodness, in whatever way it may manifest itself, can only come from Good and the opposite applies to manifestations of evil.
Divination, futurity and dreams
We may safely skip most of Section III of Abammon's reply that deals with divination and the foreknowledge of future events, as we thoroughly explored these subjects in our afterword to part ten of Astral Conversations. What Abammon has to say about prophetic dreams has also been covered in another Astral Conversation as well as in the penultimate article in our Occult Studies course, so we may pass this by too. However, some of the statements he makes in connection with what he calls 'divine dreams' are worth quoting for the light they shed on the interaction between the two minds. He says: "The soul having a twofold life, one being in conjunction with body, but the other being separate from all body; when we are awake we employ, for the most part, the life which is common with the body, except when we separate ourselves entirely from it by pure intellectual and dianoetic energies." By 'dianoetic energies' he refers to meditation and other spiritual exercises intended to develop the hidden powers of the Higher Mind lying dormant in most people. He continues: "But when we are asleep, we are perfectly liberated, as it were, from certain surrounding bonds, and use a life separated from generation." When the Higher Self is freed from the body during sleep or deep meditation it lives its own life of which, in most cases, the waking personality knows nothing. H. P. Blavatsky pointed this out in her statement about dreams which we quote in our article about Occult studies and meditation. Hence arrive those strange intuitions which inspire poets, artists and musicians.
Abammon has this to say about inspiration: "For neither is the work of divine inspiration human, nor does the whole of it depend on human powers and energies; but these, indeed, have the relation of a subject, and divinity uses them as instruments. He accomplishes, however, the whole work of divination through himself, and being separated in an unmingled manner from other things, neither the soul nor the body being at all moved, he energizes by himself." In other words it is the perfection or otherwise of the human instrument (body, brain and lower mind) which determines how clearly any inspired message is received and how well the recipient is able to act upon it. For, as our Egyptian sage explains: "when divinations are rightly effected in the way which I have mentioned, then they subsist without falsehood. But when the soul has been previously disturbed, or is moved in the interim, or the body intervenes, and confounds the divine harmony, then divinations become turbulent and false, and the enthusiasm is no longer true nor genuine." We say the same in our discussions of divination and dreams. This also explains the dangers inherent in channeling which Bombast and Flitterflop exposed in the seventh of their Astral Conversations. We particularly applaud Abammon's succinct summary of human stupidity when compared with the heavenly Wisdom of the Gods contained in one scathing sentence. "For the human race is imbecile, and of small estimation, sees but a little, and possesses a connascent nothingness; and the only remedy of its inherent error, perturbation, and unstable mutation, is its participation, as much as possible, of a certain portion of divine light." But how many, or rather how few among humanity are even aware of the Divine Light, never mind actively seeking to participate in its operations? Is it not true that human beings are only too eager to embrace the darkness and participate in its operations? How little the world has changed since Porphyry posed his questions!
Invocation and sacrifices
"It very much perplexes me," confesses Porphyry, "to understand how superior beings, when invoked, are commanded by those that invoke them, as if they were their inferiors." Again, we need not trouble ourselves with Abammon's long and detailed reply for we gave you the answer in part eleven of Astral Conversations. Therein Bombast and Flitterflop investigated the deceitful and dangerous fascination with magical evocation; a subject we might add for which Porphyry evinced a rather unhealthy fascination. It was this tendency that caused Saint Augustine to say that the inquisitive theurgist "wavered between philosophy and a sacrilegious curiosity." Here the fourth century Church theologian hints at Porphyry's well-known interest in sorcery and black magic. As we shall shortly see, many of Porphyry's questions lend support to Augustine's accusation. But the Greek Neoplatonist was not alone in his fascination with the dark arts. For as we said in the first of our series of articles about Hermes, this was and remains an ever-present danger to those who seek without true guidance or whose intentions may be less than pure...
Porphyry next asks about sacrifices, to which Abammon gives a long, convoluted and we are sorry to say, mostly wrong series of answers. This is not surprising, given that we are dealing with the rank superstitions of the Greeks regarding omens, prognostication and Divine intervention in the affairs of man. Lacking as he did, the occult knowledge and wisdom of his predecessors, Abammon was unable to expose and explode these errors. As we have said before, but is worth repeating, by his times, what remained of the Egyptian Mystery Teachings were in a very parlous state. We alluded to this in the afterword to our article about the Magic of Egypt in which we said: "In later times, when the great Initiates were no more and the Divine Truths had been largely forgotten, the Sacred Science degenerated into the pseudo-magical beliefs and practises which are rife today and it is these, and not the Magic of the Hierophants of old, which has come down to us in the demotic and Greek papyri of the 2nd and 3rd centuries of our era." This is the very era in which Porphyry flourished; a time when the Laws and Principles taught by Hermes had been largely forgotten and superstition and presumption had taken their place.
Porphyry's remark "that the Gods are especially allured by the vapours produced in the sacrifices of animals," reinforces Augustine's accusation of 'sacrilegious curiosity'. Trained occultists are well aware that blood sacrifices furnish certain classes of demons with nourishment, enabling them to manifest themselves to visible appearance, a fact attested in The Quest of Ruru where a black magician attempts to sacrifice two babies for the purpose of invoking the goddess Durga. If, as his answers suggest, Abammon was ignorant of this fact, he was a blind guide leading the even blinder. But let us be charitable and say that his courteous answers to Porphyry's questions were intended to conciliate him whilst at the same time hide the truth which, if known, might add fuel to the presumptuous Greek's unhealthy fascination with the 'dark side'. That at least would explain why so many of Abammon's answers are equivocal at best and evasive at worst. A better answer to Porphyry's several questions about sacrifice might have been to ask the inquisitive Greek what we can possibly sacrifice to the Gods that has not been previously stolen from them in some way? Bear in mind that everything on and in the earth was placed there by God and not man. The only sacrifice a wise man or woman can or should make was spelled out thousands of years ago in the Book of Fo.
"Neither by offerings, nor sacrifice, nor incense, nor gifts.
Nor libations poured upon the altar.
By love alone, and a life made beautiful by truth;
Is God in Heaven worshipped."
And that is all there is to say about sacrifices.
The two minds
As we suggested earlier Abammon clearly knew about the two minds. In Section V he says: "Let us then, in the next place, direct our attention to that which accords with what has been before said, and with our twofold condition of being. For there is a time when we become wholly soul, are out of the body, and sublimely revolve on high, in conjunction with all the immaterial Gods. And there is also a time when we are bound in the testaceous body, are detained by matter, and are of a corporeal-formed nature." The word 'testaceous' means having a 'hard shell-like' outer covering. This is such a bad description of the lower self which resists all attempts to introduce the slightest higher thought into its bony carapace! Hence, Abammon is referring to the spiritual and material life; the times when we 'revolve on high' in a spiritual body and the times we are bound in a testaceous body on earth. The word 'revolve' further suggests the cycles of reincarnation we are all subject to. Abammon explains that there are two kinds of sacrifices, one made by pure men and the other by impure men. This confirms what we said in the previous part of our investigation. Purity in this context means freedom from error, superstition and wrong thinking, not immorality. One may be a decent, kind and thoroughly moral person yet cling to the most primitive superstitions and wrong ideas. What Abammon means is that only the impure believe that the sacrifice of material things is pleasing to the 'Gods' and will bring good fortune to them. The wise, being purified from such erroneous notions know, as we said earlier, that 'love alone, and a life made beautiful by truth', is the only worthwhile sacrifice we can make to God.
Abammon continues his dissertation about the two minds, drawing Porphyry's attention to the many variations that exist between those wholly dominated by their lower nature, those entirely liberated by their higher nature, and those who fall between these two poles. "...the great mass of men arranged under nature, is governed by physical powers, looks downward to the works of nature, gives completion to the administration of Fate, and to things pertaining to Fate, because it belongs to the order of it, and always employs practical reasoning about such particulars alone as subsist according to nature. But there are a certain few who, by employing a certain supernatural power of intellect, are removed indeed from nature, but are conducted to a separate and unmingled intellect; and these, at the same time, become superior to physical powers. Others again, who are the media between these, tend to things which subsist between nature and a pure intellect. And of these, some indeed equally follow both nature and an immaculate intellect; others embrace a life which is mingled from both; and others are liberated from things subordinate, and betake themselves to such as are more excellent." Making due allowance for the archaic construction of Abammon's prose and his adoption of the circumlocutious style favoured by Iamblichus and his contemporaries, the foregoing is an accurate summary of the infinite combinations of lower and higher minds we find among men and women; no two being exactly the same in any respect. The next Section deals with a subject which we have discussed at considerable length in many of our articles — occult symbolism.
"For they," meaning the Egyptians, Abammon begins, "imitating the nature of the universe...exhibit certain images through symbols of mystic, occult, and invisible intellections; just as nature, after a certain manner, expresses invisible reasons through visible forms. Hence the Egyptians, perceiving that all superior natures rejoice in the similitude to them of inferior beings, and thus wishing to fill the latter with good, through the greatest possible imitation of the former, very properly exhibit a mode of theologising adapted to the mystic doctrine concealed in the symbols." Which is another (and much longer!) way of paraphrasing the Hermetic Law of Correspondence enshrined in the axiom: "as Above; so below." Hence we may safely say that Abammon is here repeating a true teaching of Hermes, still preserved after many millennia. He then proceeds to interpret a number of symbols for Porphyry beginning with the Egyptian lotus (Nymphaea caerulea). This is now nearly extinct in Egypt but still flourished in his times. It is a truly beautiful flower associated with the very ancient God Nefer-Tem, also transliterated Nefertum or Nefertemu, who is said to have arisen from the primeval waters in the form of a lotus flower. Abammon goes on to explain to Porphyry that "by the God 'sitting above the lotus' a transcendency and strength which by no means come into contact with the mire, are obscurely signified, and also indicate his intellectual and empyrean empire." We explored something of the symbolism of the lotus in the commentary to our article on Symbolism. Therein we said that "Like man, the Lotus has its roots in the mud, grows up through the water and blossoms in the light of the Sun. 'Mud' in this context signifying the material origins of the physical body and lower self, whilst 'water' should be considered as the ocean of earthly experience through which the Higher Self passes during its many incarnations, to emerge at last as a perfected material-spiritual being, laden with the riches of wisdom it has gathered on earth and elsewhere in God's universe."
Abammon next tells his correspondent that "When the God, also, is represented as 'sailing in a ship', it exhibits to us the power which governs the world. As, therefore, the pilot being separate from the ship presides over the rudder of it, thus the sun having a separate subsistence, governs the helm of the whole world. And as the pilot directs all things from the stern, giving from himself a small principle of motion to the vessel; thus, also, by a much greater priority, the God indivisibly imparts supernally from the first principles of nature, the primordial causes of motions. These particulars, therefore, and still more than these, are indicated by the God sailing in a ship." Again, our Egyptian sage imparts much less that he might have done, for not one, but seven and sometimes eight 'Gods' are depicted in the papyri and on the monuments as 'sailing in a ship'. Moreover, there are generally two ships, not one depicted in the Egyptian Mythos. One ship journeys during the Day and the other during the Night, corresponding to this world and the afterlife. Interested readers will find more information about the symbol of the ship in Paul G. Vaughan's interpretation of the meaning in an ancient Egyptian painting which forms the afterword to our article on Symbolism in ancient Egyptian Art.
Abammon continues with an exposition of the symbolical nature of the Zodiac as a reflection of the Divine Order but reveals nothing that any competent astrologer wouldn't know. Section VII ends with the important statement that "names do not entirely preserve the same meaning when translated into another language; but there are certain idioms in each nation which cannot be signified by language to another nation. And, in the next place, though it should be possible to translate them, yet they no longer preserve the same power when translated." This is true, and we have said the same in several articles. It is one reason why the Catholic Mass does not have the same efficacy (when conducted by a priest of real power and wisdom) in English as it does in Latin. It is also the rationale behind the use of so-called 'words of power' and mantras among magicians and occultists, though it is only fair to say, as we pointed out long ago in the third of our Astral Conversations, that many such words are at best ineffective and at worst complete gibberish.
The First Cause
Section VIII deals with a subject that has exercised the finest minds since time immemorial, namely, what or who is the First Cause? Science successfully answered Porphyry's question long ago by adopting the implausible theory of the 'Big Bang', since modified into the 'Steady Bang' in an attempt to reconcile it with the contradictions introduced by the rival 'Steady State theory'. Not that either theory is correct, for both rely on the notion of something emerging out of nothing, a truly lunatic idea which the Greek philosopher Parmenides debunked more than 2,500 years ago. His criticism is preserved in the Latin expression ex nihilo nihil fit, meaning 'out of nothing, nothing comes'. Unless you are a cosmologist, in which case, anything goes, or comes, so long as it avoids having to answer the following questions Porphyry asked of Abammon. "What do the Egyptians conceive the first cause to be; whether intellect, or above intellect; whether alone, or subsisting with some other or others; whether incorporeal, or corporeal; and whether it is the same with the Demiurgus, or is prior to the Demiurgus? Likewise, whether all things are from one principle, or from many principles; whether they have a knowledge of matter, or of primary corporeal qualities; and whether they admit matter to be unbegotten, or to be generated?" This reminds us of the riddle of the Chicken and the Egg. Abammon's answers are too long to analyse in this investigation. Nor is there any need to do so as the answers can be found in our articles on spirit, matter, electricity, gravity and related subjects, as well as in our twelve-part investigation of the teachings of Hermes. Indeed, if you have not realized it already, now is the time to make it clear that the work we are discussing is a treatise on the real Teachings of Hermes, written by one who lived some 1500 years or so after the true Mysteries were closed down, and whose words have been 'emended' and 'explained' by others who had not even the restricted knowledge of the original writer, nor any sort of knowledge which might entitle them to emend or explain Abammon's answers. It is in this way that Truth is distorted and the seeker is led into the same old labyrinth of misunderstanding and misinterpretation we have mentioned time and time again in so many articles.
Having said this, the following statement made by Abammon is especially worthy of analysis. "Prior to truly existing beings and total principles or principles that rank as wholes, there is one God, prior to that deity who is generally believed to be the first God and king, immoveable, and abiding in the solitude of his own unity. For neither is the intelligible connected with him, nor any thing else; but he is established as the paradigm of the God who is the father of himself, is self begotten, is father alone, and is truly good. For he is something even greater and prior to this, is the fountain of all things, and the root of the first intelligible forms. For from him entity and essence are derived; and hence, also, he is denominated the principle of intelligibles. These, therefore, are the most ancient principles of all things, which Hermes arranges prior to the ethereal, empyrean, and celestial Gods." Abammon tells us this God was called 'Emepht'. In Chapter V of Isis Unveiled we may read that "Emepht, the supreme, first principle, produced an egg; by brooding over which, and permeating the substance of it with its own vivifying essence, the germ contained within was developed; and Ptah, the active creative principle proceeded from it, and began his work. From the boundless expanse of cosmic matter, which had formed itself under his breath, or will, this cosmic matter — astral light, aether, fire-mist, principle of life — it matters not how we may call it, this creative principle, or, as our modern philosophy terms it, law of evolution, by setting in motion the potencies latent in it, formed suns and stars, and satellites; controlled their emplacement by the immutable law of harmony, and peopled them with every form and quality of life." So here we have an example of a pure Egyptian Mystery Teaching unchanged since the times of Hermes; a truly remarkable find in a book written long after those same Mysteries had been largely lost.
As we have seen, Porphyry labours under a good many misconceptions which Abammon tries patiently and courteously to dispel. He explains that the Greeks routinely mix-up the Egyptian Gods with their own deities. He writes: "The Greeks, however, assume Ptah for Vulcan, solely directing their attention to the artificial peculiarity of the God. So far, also, as he is effective of good he is called Osiris; and he has other appellations through other powers and energies." He also tries to wean his Greek interlocutor from the empiricism popularized by Aristotle who held that knowledge comes primarily from sensory experience, in other words the physical world our physical senses interpret to us. "The Egyptians," Abammon explains, "do not say that all things are physical. For they separate the life of the soul and the intellectual life from nature, not only in the universe, but also in us; so that you do not appear to me to act rightly in referring all things with the Egyptians to physical causes. For there are, according to them, many principles and many essences; and also supermundane powers." This explains why the Greeks fell into so many errors in matters of philosophy, cosmology and theology. The next question Porphyry asks of his Egyptian teacher illustrates this deficiency only too clearly.
Greek Fatalism confuted
"According to many of the Egyptians, that which is in our power depends on the motion of the stars." So says Porphyry. But is he right? Do the 'stars' control our fate and are we merely puppets dancing to a cosmic tune? We gave you the answer in our investigation of Fate versus Free-Will, as well as in our article about Astrology. Abammon's reply is a model of patience! He answers: "What the truth, however, is respecting this, it is necessary to unfold to you from the Hermaic conceptions. For man, as these writings say, has two souls. And one, indeed, is derived from the first intelligible but the other is imparted from the circulation of the celestial bodies." By 'Hermaic conceptions' Abammon means the True Teachings of Hermes. And although he does not name them, the 'two souls' referred to are our old friends the lower and Higher minds. It is the former only whose 'power depends on the motion of the stars', for, as Hermes taught, the essence of the lower mind is of a starry or Astral nature. The Higher Mind being derived from the 'first intelligible' as Abammon calls the First Cause discussed earlier, is of necessity, above and apart from the 'stars' and therefore not subject to their influence. This occult truth is concealed in the astrological maxim "the wise man rules his stars; the fool obeys them." The wise representing the Higher Mind and the fool the lower.
This is why Abammon tells Porphyry: "Hence that of which you are dubious is not true." What our Egyptian sage says next is one of the finest things ever written about the principles of man and the true nature of Fate. Please pay careful attention. "There is another principle of the soul, which is superior to all nature and generation, and through which we are capable of being united to the Gods, of transcending the mundane order, and of participating in eternal life, and the energy of the supercelestial Gods. Through this principle, therefore, we are able to liberate ourselves from fate. For when the more excellent parts of us energize, and the soul is elevated to natures better than itself, then it is entirely separated from things which detain it in generation, departs from subordinate natures, exchanges the present for another life, and gives itself to another order of things, entirely abandoning the former order with which it was connected." Here we find the affinities of the lower mind, Higher Mind and Divine Soul described with complete accuracy. How wonderful it is to discover such a jewel of Occult Truth in this book! This is one of the reasons why we have taken such pains to analyse this correspondence from an occult perspective.
In the concluding part of the correspondence (Section X), Porphyry asks Abammon 'to point out the way to felicity, and show him in what the essence of it is placed'. Abammon replies: "For to know scientifically The Good is the idea of felicity; just as the oblivion of good, and deception about evil, happen to be the idea of evil. The former, therefore, is present with divinity; but the latter, which is an inferior destiny, is inseparable from the mortal nature." In this one sentence, Abammon sums up the essence of the path to the Light which is to discover what is truly Good and strive after it. In other words, attunement with Goodness liberates us from wrong thinking and action, and the reverse is true when we attune with the 'inferior destiny' or lower mind and all its errors and illusions. Here we return to the theme of the two minds we discussed earlier. Abammon calls the lower mind 'a certain fraudulent daemon' the better to conceal its identity, for we must not lose sight of the fact that until H. P. Blavatsky mentioned two separate minds in man, which she mostly called the 'lower' and 'higher' manas in her books, the existence of these two selves was known in full to very few among the initiates of old. We emphasise the word 'full' as hints about the two minds can be found in many ancient books and sacred texts, as well as in the writings of inspired authors and poets such as Shakespeare and Goethe. The latter wrote "Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust," meaning 'two souls, alas, dwell in my breast'.
Shakespeare comes even closer to identifying the two selves or minds and spelling out their interdependence and antagonism in sonnet 144.
"Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And, whether that my angel be turn'd fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell,
But being both from me both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell.
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out."
It is interesting that the Immortal Bard makes his 'bad angel' a woman, not we hasten to add because he was a misogynist, which he was not, but because, as we told you in our article about The Magic of Poetry, Francis Bacon — the real author of the plays and sonnets — was an occultist. He knew that Masculine and Feminine are principles that apply to all things and beings throughout the universe, and that the Masculine is the active and positive force that governs all material and spiritual activity, whilst the Feminine is the passive and negative condition. Hence his 'good angel' which is of course the Higher Mind, is described as 'a man right fair', whilst 'a woman coloured ill', meaning dark, represents the lower mind. We would add that Bacon is dealing with symbolic archetypes representing universal principles and not actual men and women. A woman can be just as 'positive' as any man and a man may be thoroughly negative. It all depends on the degree or extent of the Masculine and Feminine principle present in any particular individual, and this varies enormously among mankind.
Abammon continues: "With respect to The Good, likewise, they [the Egyptians] conceive that one kind is divine [the Divine Soul], and this is the God who is prior to the intelligible; but that the other is human [the Higher Mind or Self], and is a union with the former [when the two are reunited]. And these two kinds of good Bitys has unfolded from the Hermaic books. This part, therefore, is not, as you suspect, omitted by the Egyptians, but is divinely delivered by them. Nor do 'theurgists disturb the divine intellect about trifling concerns;' but they consult it about things which pertain to the purification, liberation, and salvation of the soul. Neither do they studiously employ themselves in things which are indeed difficult, yet useless to mankind; but, on the contrary, they direct their attention to things which are of all others most beneficial to the soul." The interpolated explanations in square parenthesis are ours. The 'Bitys' mentioned by Abammon is said to be an Egyptian seer who interpreted the Books of Hermes, or so Iamblichus claimed. Whether such a seer ever existed (Bitys is a Greek name, not Egyptian) is open to question.
With the good advice not to dwell upon trifling concerns (such as some of the sillier questions asked by Porphyry!) but rather to pay attention to that which will purify, liberate and save our Higher Mind from the illusions which surround it on all sides, Abammon's letter ends, and with it, our investigation of this most remarkable correspondence. We hope it has proved as enjoyable and profitable for you to read as it was for us to research and write it. This exploration of the ancient Egyptian Mystery Teachings is continued in An Egyptian Enigma, in which we examine a fascinating eschatological text preserved in the Berlin Papyrus 3024 that has puzzled scholars for over 120 years.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article published 12 February 2023.