An Ethiopian Journal

"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters"

Archive for the ‘Mythology’ Category

Graham Hancock – Quest for the lost civilization

with 3 comments

Quest for the lost civilization, is a stunning documentary by Graham Hancock. This documentary is a breathtaking odyssey, stretching from the pyramids of ancient Egypt to South American ruins. From Easter Island to Angkor Wat, Graham Hancock puts forward compelling evidence to suggest that cultures we term ancient were in fact the heirs to an older lost civilization.

Graham Hancock (born Aug 2, 1950) is a British writer and journalist. His books include Lords of Poverty, The Sign and the Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods, Keeper of Genesis (US name: The Message of the Sphinx), The Mars Mystery, Heaven’s Mirror (with wife Santha Faiia), Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization, and Talisman: Sacred Cities, Secret Faith (with co-author Robert Bauval). He also wrote and presented the Channel 4 documentaries Underworld: Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age and Quest for the Lost Civilisation.

His most recent book, Supernatural: Meetings With the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, was released in the UK in October, 2005 and in the US in 2006. In it, Hancock examines paleolithic cave art in the light of David Lewis-Williams’ neuropsychological model, exploring its relation to the development of the fully-modern human mind.

Hancock’s chief areas of interest are ancient mysteries, stone monuments or megaliths, ancient myths and astronomical/astrological data from the past. One of the main themes running through many of his books is the possible global connection with a ‘mother culture’ from which he believes all ancient historical civilizations sprang. Although his books have sold more than five million copies worldwide and have been translated into twenty-seven languages, his methods and conclusions have found little support among academics. Often criticised for being a pseudoarchaeologist, Hancock, who freely admits he has no formal training in archaeology, sees himself as providing a counterbalance to what he perceives as the ‘unquestioned’ acceptance and support given to orthodox views by the education system, the media, and by society at large.

Basing his argument on the 1958 book The Earth’s Shifting Crust by Prof. Charles Hapgood, Hancock argues that sections of the earth’s crust are capable of suddenly shifting their location relative to the underlying mantle. He points to evidence of temperate plants and animals that were apparently “flash-frozen” in areas that are now frigid but were once much warmer. In approximately 11,600 BC, according to Hancock, a sudden cataclysm shifted Antarctica to the south by about 2000 miles. Hancock feels that prior to this event Antarctica may have supported a human civilization whose habitations, including cities, are now buried in Antarctic ice. Citing similarities in the lore of the world’s ancient civilizations, Hancock argues that mariners representing this ancient civilization then travelled the world to found the world’s ancient civilizations.


Is Christianity an Offshoot of the Egyptian Mystery System?

with 6 comments

This research paper is on point! I agree with the author…i wonder why Modern Historians fail to realize (maybe willingly) the connection…THIS changes the status quo on Religion.

The Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA)
By Ghelawdewos Araia  –  April 7, 2007

Over the last two decades I was engaged in extensive research in African and international studies, which are in effect the domain of my specialization and vocation. My research particularly focused on African cosmology, ontology, and epistemology. In due course of my investigative inquiry, I have encountered fascinating similarities in cultures and belief systems and hence this title for our present discussion.


In 1996 in one of my articles entitled What is Wrong with Afrocentrism? I argued the following, “There is no doubt that the mythology of Osiris and Isis is the foundation for the Judeo-Christian tradition: The concept of metempsychosis  [the transmigration of the soul after death], the myth of the jealous brother who kills his twin (Set kills Osiris), the idea of resurrection (Osiris came back to life), the last judgment (Osiris presides over the Last Judgment), the first Madonna (Isis).”1


The ancient Egyptians virtually gave us all major attributes of civilization: agriculture (irrigation), architecture (pyramids, obelisks, temples etc), mathematics (numerical and standard measures), medicine (Imhotep’s legacy –he is the first physician, not Hippocrates-, herbal pharmacology, anatomy, mummification etc), art of government (Egypt is the first nation), and collection of wealth. These magnificent Egyptian contributions are manifestations of ancient African philosophy, ontology, and cosmology. In brief, Kemetic (Kemet is ancient Egypt) philosophy was not simply an abstraction of primordial wisdom but a specification of conceptualization, a body of formally represented knowledge, and a systematic account of life experience. The latter, in effect, was systematically woven into the Egyptian cosmology of spatio-temporal relations of the universe, and this ultimately led the Egyptians to their mystery system (theology) in general and the creation theories in particular.


With respect to the creation of the universe, there are two important Egyptian documents, namely the On (Ani) or Heliopolis Creation Narrative and the Memphite Declaration of Deities. In both narratives, the Spoken Word was central to the creation of all beings, animate and inanimate. As per the On account, “all things are brought into existence through the spoken word; nothing that exists is without the word being spoken…” Similarly, in the Memphite Declaration, “Ptah taught that aspects of himself are manifested in all nature, in the mouth of all gods, and in every human, and in animals, plants and all other living beings. Thus, whatever Ptah conceived came into being through utterance…and the nine deities of Ptah came forth from the teeth and lips in his mouth which pronounced the name of everything, from which Shu and Tefnut also came forth.”2


The spoken word of Egyptian theology, the On and Memphite, were documented during the Sixth Dynasty (2300-2150 B. C. ) and the Tenth Dynasty (2135-2133 B. C. ) respectively. Later on, it was adopted by the Judeo-Christian tradition in Genesis: At the beginning there was word! And it is in Genesis that we encounter the creation of all universe and all living beings including Adam and Eve. And on the Seventh day, God rested. As we shall see later, ‘seven’ (7) for the Egyptians signified ‘completion’.


Long before Adam and Eve, however, the first humans were Shu, Tefnut, Osiris and Isis and as noted above, Osiris (Ausar) was killed by his brother Set but he was resurrected to life. This story (or mythology if you will) is replicated by the Abel and Cain story in the Bible. In both instances, we have now witnessed the first murder incident among humans.


The creation of Adam also finds antecedence in many African creation theories, most notably the Yoruba mythology in which Olorun (the Sky God) fashioned Odudwa (the founding father of Oyo) out of dirt, breath unto him and gave him life. However, unlike Odudwa and Adam, who were essentially human and down-to-earth, Osiris was elevated to the stature of the gods. Thus, according to Ani the Scribe, hymn to Osiris goes as follows: “Praise be unto Osiris Un-Nefer, the great god who dwelleth in Abtu, king of eternity, lord of everlastingness, who passes through millions of years in his existence. He is the firstborn son.”3


As we shall see below in some detail, Osiris, the son-of-god (and in a different context god himself) is very much like Jesus Christ. “There is nothing in the texts which justifies the assumption that Osiris knew,” says Wallis Budge, “that he would rise from the dead and that he would become the king and judge of the dead, or that the Egyptians believed that Osiris died on their behalf and rose again in order that they also might rise from the dead. But from first to last the resurrection of Osiris is the great and distinguishing feature of the Egyptian religion, for Osiris was the first fruits of the dead, and every worshipper of Osiris based his own hope of resurrection and immortality upon the fundamental fact of the resurrection of Osiris.” 4          


For Ethiopians of Orthodox Christian faith, Easter or Fasika, more than Christmas, is ‘the great and distinguishing feature of their religion.’ Fasika for Ethiopians is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and a grand holiday after the long lent. However, pre-Christian Ethiopians may have also celebrated Osiris’ triumph, for the ancient Egyptians believed that Osiris traveled to Ethiopia and took his son Horus (Apollo in Greek), Anubis, Macedo, Pan and other talented individuals. During his stay in Ethiopia, he taught the Ethiopians the art of farming and husbandry, art of government, and the construction of canals to control the flow of the Nile.


Osiris was also the first to make and drink wine and he taught the Egyptians how to mange a vineyard as well as process and preserve wine. It is common knowledge to all people of Christian faith that Christ not only enjoyed drinking wine but he also blessed it as his attribute to his own blood.


In the Book of the Dead Osiris declares, “I am the Great One, son of the Great One… I am Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow…I am the Soul, which is god. I am the Souls of everlastingness, and my body is eternity. My form is everlastingness.” This is incredibly similar to what Jesus Christ preached to the Jews and Gentiles or believers and non-believers alike.


Isis like her brother and husband Osiris is invoked in Christian theology as Eve or as Mary. In fact the first Christian hermits in Egypt were compelled to associate St. Mary with Isis and Jesus with Horus (the son of Osiris) and their rationale is justified because Isis claims that she is the divine among women and she ‘burdened women with the newborn babe in the tenth month’, ‘ordained that parents should be beloved by their children’ and she would ‘inflict retribution on those that feel no love for their parents’. Above all, Isis claims that she is ‘the eldest daughter of Keb (Earth-god), and for this apparent reason, now historians (especially Afrocentrists) depict Isis as the first Madonna.


What I personally found an interesting commonality between Isis and the Ethiopian Christian tradition is the fact that Isis is credited for establishing lent and instructing the ancient Egyptians to fast from meat and fish and to observe celibacy during the entire period of lent. Isis may have not traveled to Ethiopia as her husband did, but it looks that she had a profound clout on the Ethiopian Christian doctrine in whatever form the latter is incorporated into the dogma of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.


Beyond Egypt, Osiris and Isis were worshipped in the Aegean, Crete, Greece, Italy, and other neighboring countries such as Nubia, Ethiopia, and Libya. In point of fact, around 80 B. C. the Italians founded an institute by the name College of the Servants of Isis in Rome and by 44 B. C. the Italians had affixed festival dates for Isis and Osiris in their official calendar.


There is no doubt that Isis may have existed conceptually among Ethiopians although there is no credible evidence documented in Ethiopian historiography (at least for now), but some Ethiopian names are similar to Isis’ (Aset or Eset in Egyptian). Moreover, even if we cannot prove the existence of Isis in pre-Christian Ethiopia, the similarities between St. Mary and Isis indeed makes the latter the first Madonna as stated earlier, and this is why: “Egyptian inscriptions do not mention any tomb of Isis. Whether the Egyptians believed that she passed from this world to the Other World unchanged in respect to her body cannot be said, but there is little doubt that, at least in the latest days of her cult in Egypt, it was her immunity from death which most impressed the Egyptians and the nations around and made them to exalt her powers over those of Osiris.”5     The ascension of Mary (and Elijah before her) clearly corroborates the Egyptian mythology of the powers to negate death.  


Going back to Osiris again, we find the most fascinating similarities between himself and Christ in the second coming and the Day of Judgment. In Judgment Day the dead will face the presiding judge Osiris and make confessions as follows:


            I never took away anything by force from any man

            I never did an act of oppression to any man

I was beloved by my father, praised by my mother, well disposed toward my brother, sweet-tempered with my sister

I never spake evil of any kind

I gave bread to the hungry man and clothes to the naked

I never gave a verdict in a case between two brothers


The confession and the judgment takes place in the Hall of the Two Maat (Truth and Justice) whereby Goddesses are seated by the doors and holding the scepter of ‘serenity’ in the right hand and ‘ankh’ (life) in the left. Also in the Hall is present the symbolic scale of Maat and two-and-forty gods (42 gods) or spirits to whom the confessor declares his innocence. Incidentally, the 42 gods could find parallel to 44 spirit saints in the Ethiopian context. Gonder, for instance, is famous for its forty-four Adbarat (abode of the spirits).


The Declaration of Innocence, as documented in the Papyrus of Ani or the Book of the Dead (18th Dynasty, 1550-1305 B. C.) is an elaborate version of the confessions enumerated above and sequentially runs as follows:


  1. I have not done iniquity

  2. I have not robbed with violence

  3. I have not stolen

  4. I have done no murder

  5. I have not defrauded offerings

  6. I have not diminished oblations

  7. I have not plundered the gods

  8. I have spoken no lies

  9. I have not snatched away food

  10. I have not caused pain

  11. I have not committed fornication

  12. I have not caused shedding of tears

  13. I have not dealt deceitfully

  14. I have not transgressed

  15. I have not acted guilefully

  16. I have not laid waste the ploughed land

  17. I have not been an eavesdropper

  18. I have not set my lips in motion against any man

  19. I have not been angry and wrathful except for a just cause

  20. I have not defiled the wife of any man

  21. I have not defiled the wife of any man*

  22. I have not polluted myself

  23. I have not caused terror

  24. I have not transgressed**

  25. I have not burned with rage

  26. I have not stopped my ears against the words of Right and Truth

  27. I have not worked grief

  28. I have not acted with insolence

  29. I have not stirred up strife

  30. I have not judged hastily

  31. I have not been eavesdropper***

  32. I have not multiplied words exceedingly

  33. I have done neither harm nor ill

  34. I have never cursed the king

  35. I have not worked treason

  36. I have never befouled the water

  37. I have not spoken scornfully

  38. I have not cursed God

  39. I have not acted with arrogance

  40. I have not been overweeningly proud

  41. I have never magnified my condition beyond what was fitting

  42. I have never slighted the god in my town.6




Any intelligent person who reads the Bible in general and the Ten Commandments in particular could be perplexed by the input of Egyptian theology in Christian dogma although believers generally tend to deny any plausible logical deduction that may unseat the foundation of their respective religions. The fact, however, remains steadfast. After all Moses was Egyptian and the disciple of Amenhotep (Akhenaten) who popularized (not invented) monotheism in Egypt. Although the Egyptian mystery system was predominantly polytheistic, early on during the course of the Egyptian civilization monotheism was pretty much established with a low profile. Thus, the Jews, Christians and Moslems borrowed the idea of one god from the Egyptians.


On top of the many similarities and shared dogmas between Egyptian theology and Christianity, the two belief systems are allegorically connected. For instance, Egyptian magical numbers such as 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 12 do not only represent simple computation but they also symbolically reflect philosophy, ontology and cosmology as related to human nature and truth. For example 3 represents the manifestation of Osiris-Harmachis-Temu, a triad (3) representing the morning sun, the evening sun, and the night sun. The triad manifestations in Christianity, of course, are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that constitute the Trinity. Christians believe that Christ rose from the dead three days after he was dead and buried. In many traditional African societies, the accused or the sickly invokes the name of God three times in order to absolve him or herself from his/her crime or be cured from ill health. Among the Yoruba a nursing mother and child pass three times through [sacred] dripping water poured on top of the thatched roof of their house. In Ethiopia, especially in the areas of Tigrigna and Amharic speakers, if a female baby is born the women gathered to celebrate and welcome the newly born ululate three times.


Four (4) represents the four sons of Horus or the grandsons of Osiris, and in turn, the four cardinal points of East, West, North, and South. Depicted like the pharaohs, Osiris holds in his hands four symbols of stability, life, serenity, and power (dominion). “Moreover, in Egyptian astrology, we encounter the four gods of Amset (man), Hapi (ape), Tuamutef (jackal) and Gebhsennuf (hawk) which became the Four Beasts of lion, calf, man, and eagle in Christianity (Book of Revelation).” 7 Egyptian mythologies further symbolize plethora of ideas such as the Four Rejoicing Ones, Four Nemset Vases, Four Faces, Four gods etc. In many traditional African societies the Four Elements that characterize human nature are the body, the soul, the double, and the shadow.


The number 5 was associated with sacrifice. According to Plutarch and other classical historians Osiris was born on the first of the five epagomenal days of the Egyptian year and as per Biblical prophesy Christ was to be born five and half days (interpreted as 5,500 years) after Adam and was to be sacrificed in order to cleanse humanity from its sins, very much like the role of Osiris. The five times of incense in Christian orthodoxy refer to 1) Abel, Genesis 4:24; 2) Noah, Genesis 8:20; 3) Melkhizedek, Genesis 14:18; 4) Aaron in Leviticus, 9, and 5) Zacharia in Luke 1:8, and these Biblical personas are men who offered accepted sacrifices by the Lord. In praise of these altruistic men, the priest and the deacon burn incense and go around the altar three (3) times. The five pillars and five prayers per day of Islam most likely correspond to the incense ritual of Christianity.


As has already been stated seven (7) represents completion for the Egyptians. After a child was born, it was in the Egyptian tradition to wash the baby with water or oil and the latter signifies the Seven Holy Oils used in the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. Likewise after a male child is born in Ethiopia (especially in the central and northern regions) the women ululate seven times. The nursing Yoruba woman that we encountered earlier would perform the three times walk seven days after her child is born. In the Book of Gates of the Egyptians, there are the symbolic seven stands for seven gods. Moreover, in Egyptian theology we come across the Seven Hathors, the Seven Arits, the Seven Cows, the Seven Uraei, the Seven Spirits, and the Seven-headed Serpent. In almost similar fashion, seven is prefixed with either animals or spirits in the Book of Revelation. Nowadays, humanity in general is stuck in the number 7 even if the subject does not logically represent seven: the seven wonders of the world, the seven seas, the Group of Seven etc or in more practical terms the seven days of the week or the seven sounds (vowels) of each Ethiopian character of the alphabet. The pious Muslims during pilgrimage walk seven times around the Kaaba and the Luminaries, by the same token, believe in the Seven Chakras (Sanskrit) or energy points of the human body and they assemble in Egypt and walk around the pyramid seven times.  


Nine (9) also represents completeness and finality in Egyptian philosophy. The company of the Gods contained nine members and during judgment day, thus, Osiris was accompanied by nine gods who stand on the nine steps that lead to the pedestal where Osiris is seated on a chair.  Moreover, we have Nine Mourners, Nine Watchers, Nine Task-masters, and Nine Holders of the Rope for measuring land. In most African societies nine symbolizes sacredness and to be sure there are the most revered Nine Saints in Ethiopia.


Twelve was essentially the 12 points of the Zodiac in Egyptian astronomy but later the Egyptians calculated the revolution of our planet earth after studying the lunar movements. Hence 12×30= 360 plus 5 days for harvest would be 365 days, the calendar that all of us use to this day. In fact, like the Egyptian or Coptic calendar, the Ethiopian Calendar has 12×30 days plus five or epagomenal days. By the same token, the Jewish calendar known as sod ha-ibbur is a derivation of the Egyptian system of intercalating the solar and lunar cycles.  In the Book Am-Tuat the Egyptians have illustrations of 12 serpents. Christians then took the Egyptian 12 to mean the twelve Apostles as astronomers did for 12 months. In most African societies the kings council or judges were 12 in number.


There is no doubt that Judaism evolved out of Egyptian polytheism, and Christianity and Islam followed suit. Where else could their origin be?




  1. Ghelawdewos Araia, “What is Wrong With Afrocentrism?” African Link, Vol. 5, No. 5, 1996

  2. Molefi Kete Asante and Abu S. Abarry (editors), African Intellectual Heritage, Temple University Press, 1996, pp. 12-16

  3. E. A. Wallis Budge, OSIRIS & The Egyptian Resurrection, Vol. II, Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1973, p. 66

  4. Wallis Budge, Vol. I, pp. 312-313

  5. Wallis Budge, Vol. II, p. 280

  6. Asante and Abarry, pp. ibid, 73-74

  7. Ghelawdewos Araia, ibid


    • #21 is repeated because it is addressed specifically to the two-headed serpent

    • #24 is repeated because it is addressed to the ‘Destroyer’

    • #31 is repeated because it is addressed to Sekherui   


Copyright © IDEA, Inc.  April 7, 2007.  Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia can be contacted for educational and constructive feedback at

10th century BC palace of the Queen of Sheba in Axum

with one comment

German archaeologists have claimed to have found one of the fabled resting places of the Ark of the Covenant, the chest holding the Ten Commandments which gave the ancient Israelites their power.

Source: Telegraph Media Group  – 13 May 2008,-archaeologists-claim.html

The University of Hamburg say its researchers have found the remains of the 10th century BC palace of the Queen of Sheba in Axum, Ethiopia, and an altar which at one time reputedly held the precious treasure.

Archaeologist Helmut Ziegert, who is leading the dig said: “From the dating, its position and the details that we have found, I am sure that this is the palace.”

Ethiopian legends holds that the Ark was taken to the palace of the Queen of Sheba by King Solomon, the king of the Jews, after they fell in love.

After the Queen’s death her son, Menelek, rebuilt the palace and dedicated it to the cult of Sirius, but kept the Ark in its resting place there.

The team said evidence at the site included Sirius symbols, the debris of sacrifices and the alignment of sacred buildings to the rising-point of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

“The results we have suggest that a Cult of Sothis developed in Ethiopia with the arrival of Judaism and the Ark of the Covenant and continued until 600 AD,” the university said. Sothis is the ancient Greek name for Sirius.

The German research, which began in 1999, is aimed at documenting the origins of the Ethiopian state and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The hunt for the Ark, which featured in the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark, has become almost as legendary as the artefact itself.

The 1981 film has the artefact recovered by the Nazis from a resting place in the “Well of Souls” in Tanis, Egypt – not to be confused with the Well of Souls on Temple Mount, Jerusalem.

The Nazi treasure hunters are later killed when the Ark is opened.

The Old Testament recounts that Moses, on leading the Israelites from Egypt, received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai.

These Commandments, written on stone tablets, were later placed in a chest made from acacia wood, plated with gold and topped with two golden angels. This was the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark was then kept in the Temple of Solomon Jerusalem for centuries, according to the Old Testament.

After Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC, the Bible and it entered the realm of legend.

Ethiopian tradition claims that the Ark was moved to Axum from Jerusalem in 10th century BC.

A sect in Ethiopia maintains that the Ark is kept at the church of St Mary of Zion, but the site is defended by monks and only one guardian is allowed to see it, making the claim impossible to verify.

Written by Tseday

September 19, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Phaeton and the Chariot of the Sun

with one comment

Scholars claim that the name ‘Ethiopia’ is taken from a Greek expression ‘Aithiops’ meaning “burnt faces”. In Greek mythology, the story of Phaethon could be behind the origin of this name. So supposedly, Phaethon, the son of Helios, borrowed the sun-chariot of his father for just one day. But he was not able to keep course along the sun’s accustomed path. Phaeton was unable to control the fierce horses that drew the chariot. First it veered too high, so that the earth grew chill. Then it dipped too close, and the vegetation dried and burned. He accidentally turned most of Africa into desert; burning the skin of the Ethiopians black. To prevent an even bigger catastrophe, Zeus striked Phaethon by his thunderbolt and the youth fell to earth into the river Eridanos.



Phaeton and the Chariot of the Sun

In the ancient Ethiopia there lived a lad by name of Phaeton. His mother was an Ethiopian princess but Phaeton’s father was the sun-god himself. One day Phaeton was playing with a friend he boasted that his father was Apollo, the sun-god. Phaeton’s friend teased him by saying “Your father really isn’t the Sun. Your mother just mad that up and you are foolish to believe such a story.”

Phaeton went home confused and ashamed. He told his mother of the taunt and begged her to give him some proof that he really was the child of the Sun. His mother spoke softly but proudly, ” My son, your father truly is the radiant Sun. but if you have doubts, then why not go to his palace and speak to him yourself? Go to the land of the far East and there in the high mountains you will find the glittering palace of your father , the Sun.”

Phaeton was overjoyed at his mother’s answer and mad himself ready for the long journey, He traveled in the lad of Persia and crossed the strange land of India. finally he came to the gigantic mountains at the eastern end of the world. The boy climbed into the mountains and found a palace that he immediately knew must belong to Apollo. Although it was early in the morning and still dark, this tall palace of gold and bronze glowed like fiery coals. The entrance of the palace was through two huge gleaning silver doors. On these doors were carved intricate details of the gods and creatures of the world.

The boy walked through the doorway and came upon a dazzling sight. There stood a golden-haired young woman dressed in a bright green robe. She was covered with flowers that had been braided into her long yellow hair. Nearby was a dark haired woman dressed in emerald green, holding an armful of golden grain. Beside her was a man with auburn hair and dressed in a robe of orange, yellow, and red leaves. His hands were stained purple and he held a cluster of freshly harvested grapes. Last of all was an old man whose bluish white hair and beard looked like icicles. These were the four seasons and they stood in a half circle around the brilliant throne. It hurt Phaeton’s eyes to gaze at this throne, for it was made of shimmering jewels and upon his throne, sat Apollo. The god’s eyes blazed like fire and the crown on his head seemed to be made of pure radiant light.

Apollo Spoke, ” Why have you come here to the far ends of the earth, Phaeton?”

The boy replied, “Sir, I have come to find proof that you, great Apollo, are truly my father.”

The Sun-god smiled and answered, ” Your mother has spoken the truth. I am your father. As proof of this I will grant your one wish of your heart’s desire.”

No sooner had Apollo spoken when Phaeton blurted out, “I wish to drive your chariot, father.”

The god of light quickly regretted giving his child a wish and pleaded, No, my child, choose something else. You ask for too dangerous of a gift. Even Zeus, the mighty god of thunder, will not drive the chariot of the Sun. The horses breathe out flames and the chariot itself is fiery hot. So powerful are the steeds that I, a full-grown god, can barely restrain them. What chance would a mortal boy have? The journey is steep and at times I have grown dizzy looking down from the great heights at the Earth below. The path through the stars leads near great, dangerous creatures. You would have top pass Taurus, the giant bull and by the fierce lion. If you succeed in getting past them you would face the Scorpion with its huge deadly stinger and the pinching claws of the great Crab. I beg you to pick some other gift. Think of all the riches in the world or pearls from the boundless sea. Ask for any of these and I shall gladly give it to you.

But Phaeton refused to change his mind and insisted on driving the chariot of the Sun. Apollo sighed and led the boy to the magnificent chariot. It was made of blazing gold , with golden wheels that had spokes of silver. The chariot was embedded with rubies and other precious gems. But unlike Earthly jewels, these gave off a dazzling glow. The horses were called and then brought forth by the Hours, goddesses who waited upon the sun.

At the time Aurora, goddess of the Dawn, opened the curtains of her splendid palace and the skies were filled with a rosy glow.

The sun-god spoke, “It is almost time for the chariot to begin its daily course. But there is still time for me to take your place. Heed my plea and let me go forth, my son.”

But the lad still wanted to have his heart’s desire. So his father anointed Phaeton’s head with a magic oil and then placed the crown of light on the boy’s head. Then he gave instruction, ” Do not use the whip on the horses, my child, for the stallions have enough energy to speed forward on their own, Use the reins to restrain them since your must take the middle path through the heavens, That will be the safest for you and give the Earth the proper light and heat.

The glow from Aurora’s palace had now turned golden and the morning star had set. Thus the day beckoned the horses of the Sun who were pawing the ground and letting out blasts of the fiery flames with each snort. wit a bolt, they charged forth. But their load was much lighter than what they were used to, so these steeds ran faster and wilder than usual.

Poor Phaeton was terror-stricken and could barely hold the reins much less restrain the powerful horses. Higher and higher the stallions went and thus the rays of the Sun chariot grew distant from the Earth. The sky turned black as night, with the Sun only as a speck of light far above. The horses of the sun ran towards the pole star and in doing so came near the giant serpent. This serpent for ages had been sluggish and harmless since it was in the icy-cold regions of the pole star. But now the great heat from the sun chariot awoke the horrible snake and it hissed, exhaling poisonous breath.

As Pheaton looked down from this great height, his head grew dizzy and he felt sick in his stomach. With the furious horses of fire running madly before him, Phaeton wished he had never set foot in his father’s chariot. Now the chariot was speeding head-long toward the gigantic Scorpion. The huge monster raised its tail in an attempt to slash out with is stinger. Then the fear-struck boy completely dropped the reins and the unchecked horses galloped downwards.

Closer and closer the fiery chariot came to the Earth. Rivers began to dry up, cities and forest caught fire because of the great heat. Neptune raised his head from the sea and shook his trident angrily at the chariot of the sun. But the air was so hot that Neptune soon dove back into the seep blue sea. As the chariot crossed the continent of Africa it was so close that it set on fire the great Sahara forest. That wooded region of northern Africa was reduced to ashes and burning sands.

All creatures began to cry to Zeus for help because of the unbearable heat. The gods. the humans, the animals, and the Earth herself were afraid that everything would soon be burned up. Zeus listened to their plea and then he climbed on high. He was armed with a thunderbolt and he threw the deadly shaft at the chariot of the sun. The magic oil Apollo had put on Phaeton protected the boy from the heat and the flames of the chariot, but it could not save him from a thunderbolt of Zeus. There was a deafening crash as the lightening shattered the chariot and Phaeton fell wrapped in sizzling flames. The horses ran home while pieces of the wrecked chariot fell hissing into the sea.

Quickly the master craftsman of the gods, Vulcan, made a new golden chariot for the sun. But Apollo was so sad over his son’s death that he refused to drive it. So the next day passed without sunlight.Zeus and the other gods then came and pleaded with Apollo, begging him not to leave the world in darkness. the sun god spoke bitterly of his son’s death at the hand of Zeus.

But the chief of gods replied, “You have lost a son, true. But how many men on Earth were burned up? I had no choice but to blast the fiery chariot, otherwise every creature on Earth would have been destroyed.”

With these words and those of the other gods, Apollo was finally persuaded to return to his rightful duty. He bridled his fiery horses to the Sun chariot the next day and the Sun once again traveled its correct course. It still gives proper light and heat to this very day.

Written by Tseday

September 17, 2008 at 9:51 pm


leave a comment »

The Ruins of Empires and the Law of Nature
By C.F. Volney (1890)

I. Origin of the idea of God: Worship of the elements and of the physical powers of nature.
…”It was not till after having overcome these obstacles, and gone through a long career in the night of history, that man, reflecting on his condition, began to perceive that he was subjected to forces superior to his own, and independent of his will. The sun enlightened and warmed him, the fire burned him, the thunder terrified him, the wind beat upon him, the water overwhelmed him. All beings acted upon him powerfully and irresistibly. He sustained this action for a long time, like a machine, without enquiring the cause; but the moment he began his enquiries, he fell into astonishment; and, passing from the surprise of his first reflections to the reverie of curiosity, he began a chain of reasoning.”First, considering the action of the elements on him, he conceived an idea of weakness and subjection on his part, and of power and domination on theirs; and this idea of power was the primitive and fundamental type of every idea of God.”Secondly, the action of these natural existences excited in him sensations of pleasure or pain, of good or evil; and by a natural effect of his organization, he conceived for them love or aversion; he desired or dreaded their presence; and fear or hope gave rise to the first idea of religion.”Then, judging everything by comparison, and remarking in these beings a spontaneous movement like his own, he supposed this movement directed by a will,–an intelligence of the nature of his own; and hence, by induction, he formed a new reasoning. Having experienced that certain practices towards his fellow creatures had the effect to modify their affections and direct their conduct to his advantage, he resorted to the same practices towards these powerful beings of the universe. He reasoned thus with himself: When my fellow creature, stronger than I, is disposed to do me injury, I abase myself before him, and my prayer has the art to calm him. I will pray to these powerful beings who strike me. I will supplicate the intelligences of the winds, of the stars, of the waters, and they will hear me. I will conjure them to avert the evil and give me the good that is at their disposal; I will move them by my tears, I will soften them by offerings, and I shall be happy.

“Thus simple man, in the infancy of his reason, spoke to the sun and to the moon; he animated with his own understanding and passions the great agents of nature; he thought by vain sounds, and vain actions, to change their inflexible laws. Fatal error! He prayed the stone to ascend, the water to mount above its level, the mountains to remove, and substituting a fantastical world for the real one, he peopled it with imaginary beings, to the terror of his mind and the torment of his race.

In this manner the ideas of God and religion have sprung, like all others, from physical objects; they were produced in the mind of man from his sensations, from his wants, from the circumstances of his life, and the progressive state of his knowledge.

“Now, as the ideas of God had their first models in physical agents, it followed that God was at first varied and manifold, like the form under which he appeared to act. Every being was a Power, a Genius; and the first men conceived the universe filled with innumerable gods.

“Again the ideas of God have been created by the affections of the human heart; they became necessarily divided into two classes, according to the sensations of pleasure or pain, love or hatred, which they inspired.

“The forces of nature, the gods and genii, were divided into beneficent and malignant, good and evil powers; and hence the universality of these two characters in all the systems of religion.

“These ideas, analogous to the condition of their inventors, were for a long time confused and ill-digested. Savage men, wandering in the woods, beset with wants and destitute of resources, had not the leisure to combine principles and draw conclusions; affected with more evils than they found pleasures, their most habitual sentiment was that of fear, their theology terror; their worship was confined to a few salutations and offerings to beings whom they conceived as greedy and ferocious as themselves. In their state of equality and independence, no man offered himself as mediator between men and gods as insubordinate and poor as himself. No one having superfluities to give, there existed no parasite by the name of priest, no tribute by the name of victim, no empire by the name of altar. Their dogmas and their morals were the same thing, it was only self-preservation; and religion, that arbitrary idea, without influence on the mutual relations of men, was a vain homage rendered to the visible powers of nature.

“Such was the necessary and original idea of God.”

It clearly results, says Plutarch, from the verses of Orpheus and the sacred books of the Egyptians and Phrygians, that the ancient theology, not only of the Greeks, but of all nations, was nothing more than a system of physics, a picture of the operations of nature, wrapped up in mysterious allegories and enigmatical symbols, in a manner that the ignorant multitude attended rather to their apparent than to their hidden meaning, and even in what they understood of the latter, supposed there to be something more deep than what they perceived. Fragment of a work of Plutarch now lost, quoted by Eusebius, Proepar. Evang. lib. 3, ch. 1, p. 83.

The majority of philosophers, says Porphyry, and among others Haeremon (who lived in Egypt in the first age of Christianity), imagine there never to have been any other world than the one we see, and acknowledged no other Gods of all those recognized by the Egyptians, than such as are commonly called planets, signs of the Zodiac, and constellations; whose aspects, that is, rising and setting, are supposed to influence the fortunes of men; to which they add their divisions of the signs into decans and dispensers of time, whom they style lords of the ascendant, whose names, virtues in relieving distempers, rising, setting, and presages of future events, are the subjects of almanacs (for be it observed, that the Egyptian priests had almanacs the exact counterpart of Matthew Lansberg’s); for when the priests affirmed that the sun was the architect of the universe, Chaeremon presently concludes that all their narratives respecting Isis and Osiris, together with their other sacred fables, referred in part to the planets, the phases of the moon, and the revolution of the sun, and in part to the stars of the daily and nightly hemispheres and the river Nile; in a word, in all cases to physical and natural existences and never to such as might be immaterial and incorporeal. . . .

All these philosophers believe that the acts of our will and the motion of our bodies depend on those of the stars to which they are subjected, and they refer every thing to the laws of physical necessity, which they call destiny or Fatum, supposing a chain of causes and effects which binds, by I know not what connection, all beings together, from the meanest atom to the supremest power and primary influence of the Gods; so that, whether in their temples or in their idols, the only subject of worship is the power of destiny. Porphyr. Epist. ad Janebonem.

II. Second system: Worship of the Stars, or Sabeism.

“But those same monuments present us likewise a system more methodical and more complicated–that of the worship of all the stars; adored sometimes in their proper forms, sometimes under figurative emblems and symbols; and this worship was the effect of the knowledge men had acquired in physics, and was derived immediately from the first causes of the social state; that is, from the necessities and arts of the first degree, which are among the elements of society.

“Indeed, as soon as men began to unite in society, it became necessary for them to multiply the means of subsistence, and consequently to attend to agriculture: agriculture, to be carried on with success, requires the observation and knowledge of the heavens. It was necessary to know the periodical return of the same operations of nature, and the same phenomena in the skies; indeed to go so far as to ascertain the duration and succession of the seasons and the months of the year. It was indispensable to know, in the first place, the course of the sun, who, in his zodiacal revolution, shows himself the supreme agent of the whole creation; then, of the moon, who, by her phases and periods, regulates and distributes time; then, of the stars, and even of the planets, which by their appearance and disappearance on the horizon and nocturnal hemisphere, marked the minutest divisions. Finally, it was necessary to form a whole system of astronomy,* or a calendar; and from these works there naturally followed a new manner of considering these predominant and governing powers. Having observed that the productions of the earth had a regular and constant relation with the heavenly bodies; that the rise, growth, and decline of each plant kept pace with the appearance, elevation, and declination of the same star or the same group of stars; in short, that the languor or activity of vegetation seemed to depend on celestial influences, men drew from thence an idea of action, of power, in those beings, superior to earthly bodies; and the stars, dispensing plenty or scarcity, became powers, genii,** gods, authors of good and evil.

* It continues to be repeated every day, on the indirect authority of the book of Genesis, that astronomy was the invention of the children of Noah. It has been gravely said, that while wandering shepherds in the plains of Shinar, they employed their leisure in composing a planetary system: as if shepherds had occasion to know more than the polar star; and if necessity was not the sole motive of every invention! If the ancient shepherds were so studious and sagacious, how does it happen that the modern ones are so stupid, ignorant, and inattentive? And it is a fact that the Arabs of the desert know not so many as six constellations, and understand not a word of astronomy.

** It appears that by the word genius, the ancients denoted a quality, a generative power; for the following words, which are all of one family, convey this meaning: generare, genos, genesis, genus, gens.

“As the state of society had already introduced a regular hierarchy of ranks, employments and conditions, men, continuing to reason by comparison, carried their new notions into their theology, and formed a complicated system of divinities by gradation of rank, in which the sun, as first god,* was a military chief or a political king: the moon was his wife and queen; the planets were servants, bearers of commands, messengers; and the multitude of stars were a nation, an army of heroes, genii, whose office was to govern the world under the orders of their chiefs. All the individuals had names, functions, attributes, drawn from their relations and influences; and even sexes, from the gender of their appellations.**

* The Sabeans, ancient and modern, says Maimonides, acknowledge a principal God, the maker and inhabitant of heaven; but on account of his great distance they conceive him to be inaccessible; and in imitation of the conduct of people towards their kings, they employ as mediators with him, the planets and their angels, whom they call princes and potentates, and whom they suppose to reside in those luminous bodies as in palaces or tabernacles, etc. More-Nebuchim.

** According as the gender of the object was in the language of the nation masculine or feminine, the Divinity who bore its name was male or female. Thus the Cappadocians called the moon God, and the sun Goddess: a circumstance which gives to the same beings a perpetual variety in ancient mythology.

“And as the social state had introduced certain usages and ceremonies, religion, keeping pace with the social state, adopted similar ones; these ceremonies, at first simple and private, became public and solemn; the offerings became rich and more numerous, and the rites more methodical; they assigned certain places for the assemblies, and began to have chapels and temples; they instituted officers to administer them, and these became priests and pontiffs: they established liturgies, and sanctified certain days, and religion became a civil act, a political tie.

“But in this arrangement, religion did not change its first principles; the idea of God was always that of physical beings, operating good or evil, that is, impressing sensations of pleasure or pain: the dogma was the knowledge of their laws, or their manner of acting; virtue and sin, the observance or infraction of these laws; and morality, in its native simplicity, was the judicious practice of whatever contributes to the preservation of existence, the well-being of one’s self and his fellow creatures.*

* We may add, says Plutarch, that these Egyptian priests always regarded the preservation of health as a point of the first importance, and as indispensably necessary to the practice of piety and the service of the gods. See his account of Isis and Osiris, towards the end.

“Should it be asked at what epoch this system took its birth, we shall answer on the testimony of the monuments of astronomy itself; that its principles appear with certainty to have been established about seventeen thousand years ago,* and if it be asked to what people it is to be attributed, we shall answer that the same monuments, supported by unanimous traditions, attribute it to the first tribes of Egypt; and when reason finds in that country all the circumstances which could lead to such a system; when it finds there a zone of sky, bordering on the tropic, equally free from the rains of the equator and the fogs of the North;** when it finds there a central point of the sphere of the ancients, a salubrious climate, a great, but manageable river, a soil fertile without art or labor, inundated without morbid exhalations, and placed between two seas which communicate with the richest countries, it conceives that the inhabitant of the Nile, addicted to agriculture from the nature of his soil, to geometry from the annual necessity of measuring his lands, to commerce from the facility of communications, to astronomy from the state of his sky, always open to observation, must have been the first to pass from the savage to the social state; and consequently to attain the physical and moral sciences necessary to civilized life.

* The historical orator follows here the opinion of M. Dupuis, who, in his learned memoirs concerning the Origin of the Constellations and Origin of all Worship, has assigned many plausible reasons to prove that Libra was formerly the sign of the vernal, and Aries of the autumnal equinox; that is, that since the origin of the actual astronomical system, the precession of the equinoxes has carried forward by seven signs the primitive order of the zodiac. Now estimating the precession at about seventy years and a half to a degree, that is, 2,115 years to each sign; and observing that Aries was in its fifteenth degree, 1,447 years before Christ, it follows that the first degree of Libra could not have coincided with the vernal equinox more lately than 15,194 years before Christ; now, if you add 1790 years since Christ, it appears that 16,984 years have elapsed since the origin of the Zodiac. The vernal equinox coincided with the first degree of Aries, 2,504 years before Christ, and with the first degree of Taurus 4,619 years before Christ. Now it is to be observed, that the worship of the Bull is the principal article in the theological creed of the Egyptians, Persians, Japanese, etc.; from whence it clearly follows, that some general revolution took place among these nations at that time. The chronology of five or six thousand years in Genesis is little agreeable to this hypothesis; but as the book of Genesis cannot claim to be considered as a history farther back than Abraham, we are at liberty to make what arrangements we please in the eternity that preceded. See on this subject the analysis of Genesis, in the first volume of New Researches on Ancient History; see also Origin of Constellatians, by Dupuis, 1781; the Origin of Worship, in 3 vols. 1794, and the Chronological Zodiac, 1806.

** M. Balli, in placing the first astronomers at Selingenakoy, near the Bailkal paid no attention to this twofold circumstance: it equally argues against their being placed at Axoum on account of the rains, and the Zimb fly of which Mr. Bruce speaks.

“It was, then, on the borders of the upper Nile, among a black race of men, that was organized the complicated system of the worship of the stars, considered in relation to the productions of the earth and the labors of agriculture; and this first worship, characterized by their adoration under their own forms and natural attributes, was a simple proceeding of the human mind. But in a short time, the multiplicity of the objects of their relations, and their reciprocal influence, having complicated the ideas, and the signs that represented them, there followed a confusion as singular in its cause as pernicious in its effects.

III. Third system. Worship of Symbols, or Idolatry.
“As soon as this agricultural people began to observe the stars with attention, they found it necessary to individualize or group them; and to assign to each a proper name, in order to understand each other in their designation. A great difficulty must have presented itself in this business: First, the heavenly bodies, similar in form, offered no distinguishing characteristics by which to denominate them; and, secondly, the language in its infancy and poverty, had no expressions for so many new and metaphysical ideas. Necessity, the usual stimulus of genius, surmounted everything. Having remarked that in the annual revolution, the renewal and periodical appearance of terrestrial productions were constantly associated with the rising and setting of certain stars, and to their position as relative to the sun, the fundamental term of all comparison, the mind by a natural operation connected in thought these terrestrial and celestial objects, which were connected in fact; and applying to them a common sign, it gave to the stars, and their groups, the names of the terrestrial objects to which they answered.*
* “The ancients,” says Maimonides, “directing all their attention to agriculture, gave names to the stars derived from their occupation during the year.” More Neb. pars 3.

“Thus the Ethopian of Thebes named stars of inundation, or Aquarius, those stars under which the Nile began to overflow;* stars of the ox or the bull, those under which they began to plow; stars of the lion, those under which that animal, driven from the desert by thirst, appeared on the banks of the Nile; stars of the sheaf, or of the harvest virgin, those of the reaping season; stars of the lamb, stars of the two kids, those under which these precious animals were brought forth: and thus was resolved the first part of the difficulty.
* This must have been June.

“Moreover, man having remarked in the beings which surrounded him certain qualities distinctive and proper to each species, and having thence derived a name by which to designate them, he found in the same source an ingenious mode of generalizing his ideas; and transferring the name already invented to every thing which bore any resemblance or analogy, he enriched his language with a perpetual round of metaphors.

“Thus the same Ethiopian having observed that the return of the inundation always corresponded with the rising of a beautiful star which appeared towards the source of the Nile, and seemed to warn the husbandman against the coming waters, he compared this action to that of the animal who, by his barking, gives notice of danger, and he called this star the dog, the barker (Sirius). In the same manner he named the stars of the crab, those where the sun, having arrived at the tropic, retreated by a slow retrograde motion like the crab or cancer. He named stars of the wild goat, or Capricorn, those where the sun, having reached the highest point in his annuary tract, rests at the summit of the horary gnomon, and imitates the goat, who delights to climb the summit of the rocks. He named stars of the balance, or libra, those where the days and nights, being equal, seemed in equilibrium, like that instrument; and stars of the scorpion, those where certain periodical winds bring vapors, burning like the venom of the scorpion. In the same manner he called by the name of rings and serpents the figured traces of the orbits of the stars and the planets, and such was the general mode of naming all the stars and even the planets, taken by groups or as individuals, according to their relations with husbandry and terrestrial objects, and according to the analogies which each nation found between them and the objects of its particular soil and climate.*
* The ancients had verbs from the substantives crab, goat, tortoise, as the French have at present the verbs serpenter, coquetter. The history of all languages is nearly the same.
“From this it appeared that abject and terrestrial beings became associated with the superior and powerful inhabitants of heaven; and this association became stronger every day by the mechanism of language and the constitution of the human mind. Men would say by a natural metaphor: The bull spreads over the earth the germs of fecundity (in spring) he restores vegetation and plenty: the lamb (or ram) delivers the skies from the maleficent powers of winter; he saves the world from the serpent (emblem of the humid season) and restores the empire of goodness (summer, joyful season): the scorpion pours out his poison on the earth, and scatters diseases and death. The same of all similar effects.
“This language, understood by every one, was attended at first with no inconvenience; but in the course of time, when the calendar had been regulated, the people, who had no longer any need of observing the heavens, lost sight of the original meaning of these expressions; and the allegories remaining in common use became a fatal stumbling block to the understanding and to reason. Habituated to associate to the symbols the ideas of their archetypes, the mind at last confounded them: then the same animals, whom fancy had transported to the skies, returned again to the earth; but being thus returned, clothed in the livery of the stars, they claimed the stellary attributes, and imposed on their own authors. Then it was that the people, believing that they saw their gods among them, could pray to them with more convenience: they demanded from the ram of their flock the influences which might be expected from the heavenly ram; they prayed the scorpion not to pour out his venom upon nature; they revered the crab of the sea, the scarabeus of the mud, the fish of the river; and by a series of corrupt but inseparable analogies, they lost themselves in a labyrinth of well connected absurdities.
“Such was the origin of that ancient whimsical worship of the animals; such is the train of ideas by which the character of the divinity became common to the vilest of brutes, and by which was formed that theological system, extremely comprehensive, complicated, and learned, which, rising on the borders of the Nile, propagated from country to country by commerce, war, and conquest, overspread the whole of the ancient world; and which, modified by time, circumstances and prejudices, is still seen entire among a hundred nations, and remains as the essential and secret basis of the theology of those even who despise and reject it.”
Some murmurs at these words being heard from various groups: “Yes!” continued the orator, “hence arose, for instance, among you, nations of Africa, the adoration of your fetiches, plants, animals, pebbles, pieces of wood, before which your ancestors would not have had the folly to bow, if they had not seen in them talismans endowed with the virtue of the stars.*

* The ancient astrologers, says the most learned of the Jews (Maimonides), having sacredly assigned to each planet a color, an animal, a tree, a metal, a fruit, a plant, formed from them all a figure or representation of the star, taking care to select for the purpose a proper moment, a fortunate day, such as the conjunction of the star, or some other favorable aspect. They conceived that by their magic ceremonies they could introduce into those figures or idols the influences of the superior beings after which they were modeled. These were the idols that the Chaldean-Sabeans adored; and in the performance of their worship they were obliged to be dressed in the proper color. The astrologers, by their practices, thus introduced idolatry, desirous of being regarded as the dispensers of the favors of heaven; and as agriculture was the sole employment of the ancients, they succeeded in persuading them that the rain and other blessings of the seasons were at their disposal. Thus the whole art of agriculture was exercised by rules of astrology, and the priests made talismans or charms which were to drive away locusts, flies, etc. See Maimonides, More Nebuchim, pars 3, c. 29.

“Finally, a third cause of confusion was the civil organization of ancient states. When the people began to apply themselves to agriculture, the formation of a rural calendar, requiring a continued series of astronomical observations, it became necessary to appoint certain individuals charged with the functions of watching the appearance and disappearance of certain stars, to foretell the return of the inundation, of certain winds, of the rainy season, the proper time to sow every kind of grain. These men, on account of their service, were exempt from common labor, and the society provided for their maintenance. With this provision, and wholly employed in their observations, they soon became acquainted with the great phenomena of nature, and even learned to penetrate the secret of many of her operations. They discovered the movement of the stars and planets, the coincidence of their phases and returns with the productions of the earth and the action of vegetation; the medicinal and nutritive properties of plants and fruits; the action of the elements, and their reciprocal affinities. Now, as there was no other method of communicating the knowledge of these discoveries but the laborious one of oral instruction, they transmitted it only to their relations and friends, it followed therefore that all science and instruction were confined to a few families, who, arrogating it to themselves as an exclusive privilege, assumed a professional distinction, a corporation spirit, fatal to the public welfare. This continued succession of the same researches and the same labors, hastened, it is true, the progress of knowledge; but by the mystery which accompanied it, the people were daily plunged in deeper shades, and became more superstitious and more enslaved. Seeing their fellow mortals produce certain phenomena, announce, as at pleasure, eclipses and comets, heal diseases, and handle venomous serpents, they thought them in alliance with celestial powers; and, to obtain the blessings and avert the evils which they expected from above, they took them for mediators and interpreters; and thus became established in the bosom of every state sacrilegious corporations of hypocritical and deceitful men, who centered all powers in themselves; and the priests, being at once astronomers, theologians, naturalists, physicians, magicians, interpreters of the gods, oracles of men, and rivals of kings, or their accomplices, established, under the name of religion, an empire of mystery and a monopoly of instruction, which to this day have ruined every nation. . . .”

“On the other hand, the astrological and geological priests told such stories and made such descriptions of their heavens, as accorded perfectly well with these fictions. Having, in their metaphorical language, called the equinoxes and solstices the gates of heaven, the entrance of the seasons, they explained these terrestrial phenomena by saying, that through the gate of horn (first the bull, afterwards the ram) and through the gate of Cancer, descended the vivifying fires which give life to vegetation in the spring, and the aqueous spirits which bring, at the solstice, the inundation of the Nile; that through the gate of ivory (Libra, formerly Sagittarius, or the bowman) and that of Capricorn, or the urn, the emanations or influences of the heavens returned to their source, and reascended to their origin; and the Milky Way, which passed through the gates of the solstices, seemed to be placed there to serve them as a road or vehicle.* Besides, in their atlas, the celestial scene presented a river (the Nile, designated by the windings of the hydra), a boat, (the ship Argo) and the dog Sirius, both relative to this river, whose inundation they foretold. These circumstances, added to the preceding, and still further explaining them, increased their probability, and to arrive at Tartarus or Elysium, souls were obliged to cross the rivers Styx and Acheron in the boat of the ferryman Charon, and to pass through the gates of horn or ivory, guarded by the dog Cerberus. Finally, these inventions were applied to a civil use, and thence received a further consistency.

Written by Tseday

September 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm