Arguably the most famous Mystery School came from Greece; the Eleusinian mysteries. But the Egyptian mysteries were far older. According to Plato, Solon, a Greek statesman, met with Egyptian priests in the sixth century BCE. One of the priests said to Solon, “O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are never anything but children, and there is not an old man among you.” When Solon asked what he meant, the priest answered, “I mean you are all young in mind.”[i] In other words, the Egyptian mystery schools were considered ancient, while the mystery schools of Greece were still in their initial stages.
Don’t forget the people of the Bible, according to the Bible itself, came out of Egypt.
One can only imagine what it must have felt like to live at that time period and in that desert with the dry beige sand stretching as far as the eye can see in almost all directions. Only in one direction, facing the waters of the Nile was there any greenery, any lushness of life at all.
When the Nile flooded her banks, the life-giving waters with its treasure of moist, fertile silt would spread out on earth transporting life to land and people alike. Then as the growing season ended, the desert would reclaim its land returning it to dryness and aridity. Season after season, year after year, century after century, the cycles of life and death would be present at one’s doorstep. It can be seen how important the Nile’s waters would have been to both the physical well-being, and the spiritual well-being, of the people. How joyously they must have welcomed the Nile’s season of flooding. How obviously it would have been part of the collective imagination of their society.
In fact, over the course of hundreds of miles, the long banks of the Nile contained a system of temples and initiation centers, all connected with the mysteries of Isis and Osiris.[ii] These are the same mysteries that taught the lore and invoked the cycles of life/death/rebirth. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris is cut up and strewn throughout the world by his brother Horus. Isis finds him, in some versions by gathering his pieces together and in others by finding him within a wooden pillar. In one particularly beautiful telling of the myth, she uses her wings to pump air (breath) into his body, thereby reviving him.
Because Moses was raised as Egyptian royalty for the first 40 years of his life, it is reasonable to assume that he participated in the religious rites of the country and possibly even experienced the mysteries of the most ancient teachings.And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. Acts 7:22
In upcoming posts, I will discuss how Moses and some of the Hebrew patriarchs (and one matriarch) could have easily been influenced by the Ancient Mystery School. I will argue that this can be seen both in their life stories and in the teachings they bring to the world.
[i] quoted in Naydler, Jeremy, Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts, Inner Traditions, 2005; 40. The quote comes from Plato’s Timateus.
[ii] Temples such as Dendera, Kom Ombo and Karnak.