Isis —The Model Philosopher
Isis —The Model Philosopher
The most effective way to convey knowledge and wisdom (and for such information to reach the hearts and the minds of all people) is to organize the information into a well formed story. The Egyptian story of Isis and Osiris explains practically all facets of life. Plutarch, in his Moralia Vol .V, provided a good overview of the Egyptian concept of Isis and Osiris, with its many facets.
At this time, we will focus on the aspects of the story that relate to the model philosopher (in its original meaning of truth lover)—namely Isis. Osiris is Isis' divine love, who is described in the Ancient Egyptian texts as the Manifester of Truth.
In the Egyptian model story, Osiris, the Manifester of Truth, was tricked by Seth and his accomplices into lying down inside a makeshift coffin. The evil group quickly closed and sealed the chest, and threw it into the Nile. Osiris died and his coffin flowed into the Mediterranean Sea.
Meanwhile, Isis, upon receiving the news of Osiris’ death and disappearance, was in grief and vowed never to rest until she found the Manifester of Truth—Osiris.
=> This reflects total devotion and commitment to finding and pursuing the spiritual path that will reunite her with the Manifester of Truth.
Isis searched everywhere, accosting everyone she met, including children, for it was said that children had/have the power of divination.
=> 1. To search for the truth one must go near and far, accosting—never leaving a stone unturned.
2. Children represent the power of divination, which is a mode of gaining knowledge that is beyond our limited human senses.
The story goes that one day during her search, Isis requested shelter at the house of a poor woman.
=> This point signifies the paramount feature of the Egyptian model where the mystical seekers are taught not to consider themselves superior to others, but to rank themselves as the poorest, lowest, and most humble of mankind.
The story continues that the coffin of Osiris was taken by the waves to the shoreline of a foreign land. A tree sprang up and grew around it, enclosing the body of Osiris in its trunk. The tree grew large, beautiful, and fragrant. News of this magnificent tree came to the king of this alien land, who ordered that the tree be cut down, and its trunk brought to him. He utilized the trunk as a pillar in his house without knowing the great secret it contained within.
=> This is reference to the Tree of Life, and with all that that implies. It is also a reference to the Tet (Djed) pillar of Osiris.
Isis had a revelation in her dreams that Osiris’ body was in this alien land, so she immediately traveled there. When she arrived she dressed as a commoner and befriended the queen’s handmaidens and was able to get a job in the palace as a nurse of the baby prince.
=> 1. Isis represents the purified Egyptian mystics, whose knowledge is revealed to them in dreams or in trance states.
2. Isis, the Queen of Egypt, personifies the Egyptian model of mysticism that emphasizes the practice of humility in the world. As stated earlier in chapter 4, the Egyptian mystical aspirants practice humility by serving others without exception.
Later on, Isis confessed her identity to the queen, and the purpose of her mission. Isis then asked the king that the pillar be given to her. The king granted her request, and she cut deep into the trunk and took out the chest.
Later, Isis returned back to Egypt with the chest containing Osiris’ dead body. She hid the body in the marshes of the Nile Delta. Isis used her magical powers to transform herself into a bird. Drawing Ausar’s essence from him, she conceived a child—Horus. In other words, Isis was impregnated by the holy ghost of Osiris.
=> 1. This immaculate conception is indicative of the inner marriage that permeated Ancient Egyptian (and Sufi) traditions. In the concept of inner marriage of the self (Ka) and the soul (Ba), Isis represents the bird (Ba), and Osiris represents the self (Ka).
2. It should also be noted that Isis’ conception of Horus by no living man is the oldest version of immaculate conception.
The story continues that one night when the moon was full, the evil Seth and his accomplices found the chest containing the dead body of Osiris and cut him into 14 pieces (the 14 symbolizes the number of days required to shape a full moon). Osiris represents the lunar principle in the universe and is known as Osiris the Moon.
When Isis heard about how Seth and his accomplices cut Osiris into different pieces, and scattered them throughout the land, her job was to search near and far, so as to collect and put the broken pieces back together.
=> 1. To bind or tie together is the meaning of the word religio, which is the root of the word religion. The action of Isis symbolizes the Unity of Multiplicity—the goal of the mystic.
2. By remembering and recollecting the story of Isis and Osiris, we keep in our hearts a tale that expresses, in Joseph Campbell’s words, “the immanence of divinity in the phenomenal forms of the universe.”
3. One re-members and re-collects in order to heal and in order never to forget. The most prominent Egyptian mystical practice is called zikr—meaning remembrance.
During her search for the broken pieces, Isis sought the assistance of Anubis, the divine guide, to serve as her guide and guard. She also sought the help of Thoth, who provided knowledge and wisdom in her spiritual path.
=> 1. This signifies the need for spiritual guidance in your journey. Anubis represents (like a dog) the (spiritual) pathfinder.
2. Knowledge and wisdom, as represented by Thoth, are needed in traveling the spiritual path.
Isis, with the help of others, collected all the pieces...all except the phallus, which had been swallowed by a fish in the Nile. She then reunited the dismembered body of Osiris and, with the help of others, wrapped it in linen bandages, and mummified it.
Thoth,Isis, and Horus performed the Ceremony of Opening The Mouth upon the mummy, and Osiris was brought back to life as the Judge and King of the Dead (the past), while Horus was to take his place as king of the living (the present).
=> This represents the everlasting perpetual cycle of the spiritual power on earth: The King is dead (Osiris); Long live the King (Horus).
[Excerpts from Egyptian Mystics ; Seekers of the Way, by Moustafa Gadalla]