Egyptians: The Master Teachers

To understand Ancient Egypt, one must understand their mode of expression. Understanding them through Western paradigms is a lost cause.

The totality of the Egyptian civilization was built upon a complete and precise understanding of universal laws. This profound understanding manifested itself in a consistent, coherent and interrelated system, where art, science, philosophy and religion were intertwined, and were employed simultaneously in a single organic Unity.

The cosmological knowledge of Ancient Egypt was expressed in a story form, which is a superior means for expressing both physical and metaphysical concepts. Any good writer or lecturer knows that stories are better than exposition for explaining the behavior of things, because the relationships of parts to each other, and to the whole, are better maintained by the mind.

The Egyptian sagas transformed common factual nouns and adjectives (indicators of qualities) into proper but conceptual nouns. These were, in addition, personified so that they could be woven into narratives, like a sacred drama or mystery play, which can be easily digested.

Personification is based on their knowledge that man was made in the image of God, and as such, man represented the created image of all creation.

Here are different subjects that are explained in story forms, using four personified concepts: Ausar (Osiris), Auset (Isis), Heru (Horus), and Set (Seth), which were noted by early Greek and Roman historians:

  1. On the symbolism and significance of the neteru (gods/goddesses) and the human being, Diodorus of Sicily states in his Book I, 11. 5-6,

    These two neteru (gods)-Auset (Isis) and Ausar (Osiris)-they hold, regulate the entire universe, giving both nourishment and increase to all things . . . .
    Moreover, practically all the physical matter which is essential to the generation of all things is furnished by these two neteru (gods), Auset (Isis) and Ausar (Osiris), symbolized as the sun and the moon. The sun contributing the fiery element and the spirit, the moon the wet and the dry, and both together the air; and it is through these elements that all things are engendered and nourished. And so it is out of the sun and moon that the whole physical body of the universe is made complete; and as for the five parts just named of these bodies-the spirit, the fire, the dry, as well as the wet, and, lastly, the air-like-just as in the case of a man we enumerate head and hands and feet and the other parts, so in the same way the body of the universe is composed in its entirety of these parts.

Diodorus’ statements highlight

  • The Egyptian concept that the neteru (gods/goddesses) are the forces of nature and not actual characters.
  • The importance of the four elements of creation.
  • The human body is a miniature universe.
  • The four elements of the world (water, fire, earth, and air) were described by Plutarch in his Moralia, Vol. V:

    ausar-auset-heru-setThe Egyptians simply give the name of Ausar [Osiris] to the whole source and faculty creative of moisture, believing this to be the cause of generation and the substance of life-producing seed; and the name of Set [Typhon in Greek] they give to all that is dry, fiery, and arid, in general, and antagonistic to moisture.

    As the Egyptians regard the Nile as the effusion of Ausar, so they hold and believe the earth to be the body of Auset [Isis], not all of it, but so much of it as the Nile covers, fertilizing it and uniting with it. From this union they make Heru [Horus] to be born. The all-conserving and fostering Hora, that is the seasonable tempering of the surrounding air, is Heru [Horus].

    The insidious scheming and usurpation of Set [Typhon], then, is the power of drought, which gains control and dissipates the moisture which is the source of the Nile and of its rising.

  • The model societal framework is expressed in the interactions between Ausar and Auset, their son Heru, and his uncle, Set [see details in Egyptian Cosmology: The Animated Universe, by Moustafa Gadalla].
  • The trinity/triad/triangle cosmic role is expressed in the relationship between the father (Ausar), mother (Auset), and son (Heru), to be analogous to the right-angle triangle 3:4:5. Plutarch wrote about the 3:4:5 right-angle triangle of Ancient Egypt in Moralia, Vol. V:

    The Egyptians hold in high honor the most beautiful of the triangles, since they liken the nature of the Universe most closely to it, as Plato in the Republic seems to have made use of it in formulating his figure of marriage. This triangle has its upright of three units, its base of four, and its hypotenuse of five, whose power is equal to that of the other two sides. The upright, therefore, may be likened to the male, the base to the female, and the hypotenuse to the child of both, and so Osiris may be regarded as the origin, Isis as the recipient, and Horus as perfected result. Three is the first perfect odd number: four is a square whose side is the even number two; but five is in some ways like to its father, and in some ways like to its mother, being made up of three and two. And panta (all) is a derivative of pente (five), and they speak of counting as “numbering by fives”. Five makes a square of itself.

    The 3-4-5 right-angle triangle has major significances, some of them being:

    • It represents the perfect union (matrimony) of male and female principles.
    • It represents the cyclical nature of the universe, of life/ death/ resurrection /renewal. Ausar (Osiris) died and was resurrected, to become Heru (Horus), The New One.
    • Auset (Isis), as the number two, symbolizes the power of multiplicity, the female, mutable receptacle, while Ausar (Osiris), as the number three, symbolizes the male. This was the ‘music of the spheres’, the universal harmonies played out between these two primal male and female universal symbols.Musically, the 2:3 interval on the vibrating string and on the keyboard determines the vibration of the perfect fifth, reaching through five intervals. It is the first harmonic interval, to which all other harmonic intervals relate.The multiplication of 2 (Auset) and of 3 (Ausar) gives us all the numbers for the tuning system by successive multiplication by fifths (2:3), Heru.
    • From the roots of Two, Three, and Five, all harmonic proportions and relationships can be derived. The interplay of these proportions and relations commands the forms of all matter, organic and inorganic, and all processes and sequences of growth.

Moustafa Gadalla

 For more information about cosmology, geometry, and music, read:
  • Egyptian Cosmology, The Animated Universe, 3rd edition
  • The Ancient Egyptian Metaphysical Architecture
  • Sacred Geometry and Numerology
  • The Enduring Ancient Egyptian Musical System—Theory and Practice