Dear friends! We continue to talk about the Masters of Wisdom: their history, certain incarnations and the essence of the Teachings. All articles about the Masters are published in the section "Ascended Masters". In this issue, we begin with the first part of an article about Master Serapis Bey.
Serapis is an unusual God. On numerous images he takes different forms: he is a serpent with a human head, then he is wrapped in a serpent, between the rings of which are visible symbols of the signs of the Zodiac. And often - it's a man in a Greek tunic with a basket on his head. Sometimes he is depicted with horns. What is the essence of such metamorphosis? Who is Serapis really?
Let us turn to a reliable source - Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's Theosophical Glossary:
SERAPIS (Eg.) A great solar god who replaces Osiris in the popular worship, and in whose honour the seven vowels were sung. He was often made to appear in his representations as a serpent, a “Dragon of Wisdom”. The greatest God of Egypt during the first centuries of Christianity. ”
Immediately there are questions. What is the connection between Osiris and Serapis? Why is Serapis represented as a serpent and what does this symbol represent? Why was Serapis the highest god of Egypt in the first centuries of Christianity, and not earlier or later? We will look for answers.
Who is Osiris? The connection between Osiris and Serapis
Osiris, according to the modern encyclopedia, is the god of regeneration, the king of the afterlife in ancient Egyptian mythology and the judge of the souls of the deceased.
In the "Theosophical Dictionary", there is a pretty large explanation considering various aspects of this God. H.P. Blavatsky notes the identity of Osiris with Ahura-Mazda (Sanat Kumara) as the First Cause, self-created god, Logos. And as far as its differentiation and personification (when immersed in more and more dense layers of creation), Osiris becomes different aspects, i.e. turns into other deities that have their names.
“OSIRIS (Eg.). The greatest God of Egypt, the Son of Seb (Saturn), celestial fire, and of Neith, primordial matter and infinite space. This shows him as self-existent and self-created god, the first manifesting deity (our third Logos), identical with Ahura Mazda and other “First Causes”. For as Ahura Mazda is one with, or the synthesis of, Amshaspends, so Osiris, the collective unit, when differentiated and personified, becomes Typhon, his brother, Isis and Nephtus his sister, Horus his son and his other aspects.”
In “Isis Unveiled”, H.P. Blavatsky describes the sunny nature of Osiris:
Osiris-Apis in two of his guises
“Neither Osiris nor Horus are ever mentioned without being connected with the sun. They are “The sons of the Sun.”
“Isis Unveiled” also gives a quote from the book of Edward Pokok, a British orientalist and priest who lived in the XV century, who was advocating the identity of Egyptian, Greek and Indian mythology. Pocock describes the head of the Rajput solar race called, “The Great Sun” in the ancient Hindu tradition, and says that, “ “this Great Sun was deified at his death, and according to the Indian Doctrine of the metempsychosis, his soul was supported to have transmigrated into the bull ‘Apis’, the Sera-pis of the Greeks, and the SOORAPAS, or ‘Sun-Chief’ of the Egyptians…Osiris, properly Oosras, signifies both ‘a bull’, and ‘a ray of light.’ Soora-pas (Serapis) the sun chief,” for the Sun in Sanskrit is Surya.”
(H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Volume 2, (Theosophy Trust, 2006), 403.
Thus, the connection between Serapis and Osiris becomes clear. Osiris is the highest aspect of Serapis, and therefore the latter has the same solar nature.
Osiris' soul after differentiation (allegorically - death), turns into the Apis bull, which has the nature of light, and thus turns it into Serapis. This is reminiscent of the “fall into generation” of the Sons of Fire, who spiritualized thereby the lowest physical forms of the Third human Race. (To learn more about this process, review the chapter entitled “The Fall of Angels” from the book "Good and Evil” by Tatyana Mickushina; an individual interpretation of The Secret Doctrine by Helena P. Blavatsky".)
In the teachings of the Gnostics, the bull Apis symbolizes the lower physical nature of man.
After death, the soul that has not yet been freed from the body is called Serapis, and the one that gained freedom is called Osiris.
In ancient times, the worship of the sun was widespread. The sun was called "the engenderer of the gods who are the successors of the Sun." His life-giving rays were the symbol of "Him who is the Master of Life and Death."
“It was the religion of the earliest Vedic Brahmans, who call, in the oldest hyms of the Rig-Veda, Surya (the Sun) and Agni (fire) “the ruler of the universe,” “the lord of men,” and the “wise king.” It was the worship of the Magians, the Zoroastrians, the Egyptians and Greeks, whether they call him Mithra, or Ahura mazda, or Osiris, or Zeus, keeping in honor of his next of kin, Vesta, the pure celestial fire.”
(H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Volume 2, 403.
However, in ancient times, people worshiped not only the Sun. H.P. Blavatsky speaks of two dynasties of kings and gods.
“The earliest legends of the history of India mention two dynasties now lost in the night of time; the first was the dynasty of kings, of “the race of the sun”, who reigned in Ayodhia (now Oude); the second that of the “race of the moon”, who reigned Pruyag (Allahabad). […]
Champollion’s Manifestation to the Light, reminds in every chapter of the two Dynasties of the Kings of the Sun and the Moon. Later, these kings became all deified and transformed after death into solar and lunar deities.”
The worship of lunar deities, according to H.P. Blavatsky was the earliest distortion of the great original faith in the Solar Gods. And, as we will see later, it led to the persecution and destruction of the solar cult in the middle and subsequent centuries.
Let us examine another quotation from the Theosophical Dictionary, explaining the presence of zodiac signs on the image of Serapis, as one of the aspects of Osiris.
“As a solar deity he (Osiris) had twelve minor gods under him – the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Though his name is “Innafable”, his forty-two attributes bore each one of his names, and his seven dual aspects completed the forty-nine, or 7х7; the former symbolizes by the fourteen members of his body, or twice seven. ”
Thus, Osiris has a whole Hierarchy of lower deities, (including the gods of the Zodiac), containing his spiritual quintessence.
Being gradually densified, every aspect of Osiris acquires features characteristic of an increasingly dense plan of existence, up to the physical.
“The four chief aspects of Osiris were – Osiris-Phtah (Light), the spiritual aspect; Osiris-Horus (Mind), the intellectual manasic aspect; Osiris-Lunus, the “Lunar” or psychic, astral aspect; Osiris-Typhon, Diamonic, or physical, material, therefore passional turbulent aspect. In these for aspects he symbolizes the dual Ego – the divine and the human, the cosmico-spiritual and the terrestrial."
As H.P. Blavatsky points out, “this Egyptian conception is the most suggestive and the grandest, as it embraces the whole range of physical and metaphysical thought…Thus the god is blended in man, and the man is deified into a god.”
(H.P. Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (London: The Theosophical Publishing Sosciety, 1892), 243. http://blavatskyarchives.com/theosophypdfs/blavatsky_the_theosophical_glossary_1892.pdf )
This deep meaning of the ancient beliefs, which embodies the goal of the evolution of the universe and man, was gradually lost and turned into the exact opposite: the Solar Gods were identified with Evil, declared pagan idols and demons and replaced by new gods.
Let's see how Serapis was portrayed in the first centuries before the new era, and the first centuries of the new era.
1. Isis-Termutis, Serapis-Agathodaemon and Osiris Canopus. Stele of the Greco-Roman period, Leiden Museum.
1. Isis-Termutis, Serapis-Agathodaemon and Osiris Canopus. Stele of the Greco-Roman period, Leiden Museum.
The symbol of the Serpent is ancient and dates back to the creation of the Earth as a physical plane planet, associating with the "Spirit of God", whose breath "sat out" cosmic matter - by analogy, like the way snakes lay eggs.
“Isis Unveiled” (vol. 2) informs about the interpretation of the initial Serpent cult by Initiates.
“In Vol. 1, we quote from the Serpent Mantra, in the “Aytareya-Brahmana”, a passage which speaks of the earth as the Sarpa Rajni, the Queen of the Serpents, and “the mother of all that moves.” These expressions refer to the fact that before had become egg-shaped or round it was a long trail of cosmic dust or firemist, moving and writhing like a serpent. This, say the explanations, was the Spirit of God mpving on the chaos until its breath had incubated cosmic matter and made it assume the annular shape of a serpent with its tail in its mouth – emblem of eternity in its spiritual and of our world in its physical sense.”
The symbolism of the Serpent was used in various aspects of evolutionary processes, both for the planet and for mankind.
Image of the early Christian era.
“According to the notions of the oldest philosophers…the earth, serpent-like, casts off its skin and appears after every minor pralaya (periods of quiescency) in a rejuvenated state, and after the great pralaya resurrects or evolves again from its subjective into objective existence. Like the serpent, it not only “puts off its old age,” says Sanchoniathon, “but increases in size and strength.” This is why not only Serapis, and later Jesus, were represented by a great serpent. ”
(H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Volume 2, 449. http://realitychange.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Isis_Unveiled_Vol_2_V2.0.pdf )
In the process of the evolution of humanity, Nagis, the ancient Serpents, whom the Secret Doctrine calls the “Sons of Will and Yoga”, took part. Nagis were generated at the beginning of the Third Race. In ancient Indian legends about several Rishis and their progeny, it is said that “Pulastya (deity created by Brahma himself) is represented as a father of all Serpents and Nagas, who were of oviparous generation.”
"In the Secret Doctrine, the first Nagas – Beings wiser than the Snakes - are the Sons of “Will and Yoga”, born to complete separation of the sexes, "developed in eggs, embodying human germs created by the power (Kriyashakti - Thought) of the Holy Wise Men, "belonged to the early Third Race."
Thus, the Serpent personified the divine Wisdom. That is why many deities were depicted as Serpents, as well as with serpents and dragons, as attributes of this Wisdom.
Subsequently, the Serpent became not only a symbol of the gods, but also a symbol of the Adept.
“The Serpent and the Dragon were the names given to Sages, Initiated Adepts of ancient times”
(H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, (London: The Theosophical publishing Company,1888), V. 1)
Only in later centuries did the image of the Serpent became associated with Evil.
The cult of Serapis
The name of Serapis in Egyptian hieroglyphs. The last hieroglyph means "god, king
There are different versions of the origin of the cult of the god Serapis. The most common point to the 4th century BC. as at the earliest date mentioned in found historical sources.
Bust of Serapis. Marble. third century AD. Found in Carthage, Tunisia Found in Carthage
Thus, the writings of the ancient Greek historian Arrian’s "Anabasis Alexander" and the ancient Greek writer and philosopher Plutarch’s "The Life of Alexander" state, that Serapis not only had a temple in Babylon, but he was the only god mentioned in connection with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. in Babylon. This gives grounds for some historians to believe that the cult of Serapis originated in Babylonia.
E.P. Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled (vol. 2) states the following:
“At that time Grecian, Asiatic and Egyptian ideas had undergone a remarkable transformations. The Mysteries of Dionysus-Sabazius had been replaced by the rites of Mithras, whose “caves” superseded the crypts of the former god, from Babylon to Britain. Serapis, or Sri-Apa, from Pontus, had usurped the place of Osiris. The king of Eastern Hindustan, Asoka, had embraced the religion of Siddhartha, and sent missionaries clear to Greece, Asia, Syria, and Egypt, to promulgate the evangel of wisdom…The legends of Gautama superseded the myths of Horus, Anubis, Adonis, Atis, and Bacchus.”
From this fragment, we learn that we are talking about third-fourth centuries BC, since King Ashoka lived in 304 - 232 years, BC. The cult of Serapis existed at that time in Ponte, which was the ancient name of the terrain of northeastern part of the Asia Minor, which in the north adjoined the Eleusinian Pontus (Black Sea). Significant changes took place in the religious life of nations.
Perhaps these transformations were also associated, with the crusades of Alexander the Great, as a result of which large masses of people moved or relocated. Thus, in Egypt at the end of the 4th century BC, many Greeks and Macedonians appeared, and the introduction of the cult of Serapis could become a way of uniting them both among themselves and with the local population, i.e. a way of combining the Egyptian and Greek religious traditions. At the same time, as the Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt states, "in its "origin" this deity should have been associated with the gods of the Egyptian pantheon, since in antiquity only the god who had local origin could have holy authority over a certain territory. That is why the roots of the Serapis cult go to the cult of the Memphis Osiris-Apis.”
The formation of the name Serapis is interpreted as: Osiris + Apis = Osiris-Apis / Oserapis / Serapis or Sarapis (different pronunciation depending on the dialects).
Ptolemy I Soter
The most common version of the origin of the cult of Serapis is that under Ptolemy I Soter there was an attempt to create an image of a syncretic (connecting different creeds) deity – Serapis.
From his youth, Ptolemy was a friend of Alexander the Great, then a military commander in his army, and after Alexander's death he became the king of Egypt (he reigned in 323-283 / 282 BC). He is the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
According to the description of Plutarch, King Ptolemy had a dream in which an unknown god (Serapis) instructed the king to steal a sacred statue from the city of Sinop and transport it to Alexandria, which was done with the blessing of the Delphic Oracle. The priests recognized god Serapis in the statue.
According to the encyclopedia of ancient Egypt, the first Ptolemies not only introduced Serapis to the host of Egyptian deities, but made him the supreme god, a patron of the new royal dynasty and new capital of the country - Alexandria. The city was founded by Alexander the Great in the Nile river delta and up to the fourth-fifth centuries AD, Alexandria was one of the most important centers of the Hellenistic world.
A temple Serapeum was dedicated to Serapis. This magnificent temple was in Alexandria, more precisely, in Canopa, a city located not far from the capital. This temple, built by Ptolemy III (who reigned from 246 to 222 BC), was the main religious center of for the deity and was famous for its amazing healing power. The second center of worship was Memphis.
According to the descriptions, the Alexandrian Serapeum was the largest of the temples dedicated to Serapis. In addition to the images of God, it housed a branch of the Alexandrian Library.
This is how the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus described the temple:
“In the city [of Alexandria] there are very high temples. Serapey stands out among them. My speech is powerless to describe it. Extensive courtyards surrounded by colonnades, breathing life statues, and many other works of art decorate it so much that after the Capitol, which glorious Rome immortalizes itself, the Universe does not know anything more magnificent. In this temple the treasures of the book of invaluable dignity were placed. "
The statue of Serapis, created by the sculptor Briaxis for Alexandria's Serapeum, was a male figure with a beard, like Zeus, in a chiton, sitting on a throne in a headdress – modius (a bread measure) or, according to another version, in kalaf - a symbol of fertility and abundance. Calaf was decorated with the image of grain ears and branches of olives. There was the scepter in the left hand of the statue of Serapis, the right hand of god was rested on the head of the terrifying dog Kerber (Cerberus), which indicates the underground symbolism of the deity.
Serapis was often depicted as a Greek god, but with an Egyptian paraphernalia, combining the iconography of many cults, symbolizing abundance and resurrection.
Serapis united in himself many gods. Like Osiris, he was considered the patron saint of fertility and the land of the dead. The Greeks identified Serapis with Poseidon, the master of the water element, so his images were placed in the bow of the ships. As the god of the Sun, Serapis was identified as Apollo, Helios, as the Lord of the gods – Zeus himself, as Asclepius - the healer, as Dionysus - the god of fertility, and other gods.
It is noted In the Secret Doctrine (vol. 2):
“Esculapius, Serapis, Pluto, Esmun and Kneph, are all deities with the attributes of the serpent… They are all healers, givers of health, spiritual and physical, and of enlightenment.”
In the Roman period, Serapis began to be revered as a healer, who was able to solve questions of life and death. People came to him for predictions, as if he was an oracle, asking him for deliverance from unhappiness and for advance in rank. This led to the fact that Serapis began to be perceived not only as the supreme, but as the highest transcendent deity, to which it was possible to appeal with any request.
In the first to third centuries BC, during the reign of the Ptolemies, this cult of Serapis was widely spread in Asia Minor, Greece and the Northern Black Sea region. More than a thousand statues, temples and monuments were erected in honor of Serapis. The temples of Serapis appeared in many places outside of Egypt, where the Greek-speaking population lived. In Greece, the sanctuaries of Serapis were opened in the holy city of Apollo, in Delphi, in Corinth and in one of the cities of Boeotia (a region in Central Greece), Also, the worship of Serapis was introduced in Athens.
Small and large mysteries were held in the shrines. The Little Mysteries were dedicated to Isis and intended for the laity; the great mysteries were dedicated to Serapis and Osiris, and only priests who had passed the ordeals during the dedication in the temple of Serapis could participate in them.
In the Roman period, Serapis’ popularity continued to grow, and he often served as the husband of Isis in temples outside of Egypt. Thus in Rome, deities were worshiped in the Temple of Isis and Serapis, which was built on the Campus Martius.
Numerous finds testify to the prevalence of the cult. Images of Serapis are found in abundance on the coins of the Hellenistic time and his figurines were an indispensable accessory for residential buildings. They were fastened in doors, windows and on walls as charms. Three-dimensional images of Serapis were found on medallions, lamps, altars.
For seven hundred years, that is, for 28 generations (!), Serapis was the supreme deity of Egypt and Greece. However, at the end of the fourth century AD, a real crusade against the “pagans” began, resulting in the followers of all mystical religions being placed in this category
All the Messages of Beloved Serapis Bey given through the Messenger