Chapter XIV – EGYPTIAN WISDOM
Pager 515 -520
H.P.B. interrupts her discourse at the end of the XIII chapter of Isis, and devotes the next two whole chapters, chapter XIV and chapter XV, to dwell in detail and in depth on Egyptian wisdom, in chapter XIV (p. 515 to 573), and on the priority, precedence and great achievements of ancient Indian (Hindu-Aryan) civilization, which spread to other parts of the world, (pages 574 to 628). With these two chapters closes the first volume of Isis, the subject matter of which is A Master Key to ancient and modern Science.
One of the great paradoxes of the modern world is that, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary—historical, archaeological, literary, architectural, religious, philosophical and scientific—academies of modern learning and educated public should be under a powerful spell of a belief that civilization and culture began with the ancient Greeks, that true scientific advancement began with pioneers of European renaissance and attained for the first time, in the history of the world, the present high point of technological and scientific civilization, and that the archaic ages before ours was primitive and crude. The assumption of 19th century West was that it was under the benign influence of the world’s most perfect religion, Christianity, and advancement of modern science, that the civilization has reached its pinnacle of perfection, and that ignorance, superstition and primitiveness were the marks of archaic ages.
The whole of Isis is devoted to demolishing this most erroneous and conceited idea, and demonstrate with overwhelming evidence, authentic knowledge and erudition that contrary is the actual truth.
In first volume she demonstrates that scientific achievements of the archaic civilizations is till today unsurpassed, compared to which ours appear as a pale shadow. Moreover, it is shown that every modern discovery and invention, in every field, was but a partial re-discovery of far superior older science of ancient nations.
The reasons for the limitation and false assumptions of modern science is shown, and the universal basis and unfaltering methods of ancient science is juxtaposed with it, and the superiority of the latter is demonstrated with variety of proofs.
Summary of studies
Wisdom of Egypt
Pages 515 – 520
Great antiquity of Egyptian civilization of wondrous perfection in arts and sciences :
Egypt is a great mystery, a riddle no modern Oedipus has been able to decipher. She did not learn from her Semitic or Greek neighbours. The latter, in fact, got all their knowledge from her. The more we learn of the Egyptians the more marvellous they seem. A marked feature of her civilization is that farther back one goes in history the more glorious her achievements seem such as to make one wonder at what remote period did it make a beginning, which is lost in the misty past, impenetrable by present day researchers and historians. Farthest past to which modern history can stretch is found by historians to be the evening of Egyptian civilization, already on the decline, which make them wonder when then—at what remote epoch—did it reach its zenith, and when it first appeared on the horizon.
As to how Egypt came by her wondrous knowledge we have to consider the historical fact that India and Egypt were akin. The Eastern Ethiopians, the mighty builders, came from India, and colonized Egypt.
The Indian immigrants came to Eastern Ethiopia as a matured people, bringing civilization with them, colonized unoccupied Egyptian territory.
But this is the account of the annals of the sacred tradition of ancient India which H.P.B. sites from, and not unknown to Indologists. This is treated at some length in subsequent pages in the first volume, and in chapter 8 and 9 of the 2nd volume of Isis. It is available on line for those interested.
Egypt had reached perfection in hydrostatics, mechanics and hydrological engineering as seen in the construction lake Moeris during the reign of Menes—the first historical known emperor of Egypt, about 4000 B.C. Eusebe Salverte says that modern water works cannot match it in engineering perfection. During his reign the gigantic work of turning the course of the three tributaries of the Nile to bring it to Memphis was undertaken. Mr Wilkinson writes that Menes took accurate measurement of the power which he had to oppose, and constructed a dyke whose lofty mounds and enormous embankments turned the water eastward, and that since that time the river was contained in its new bed. Herodotus has left us a poetical but still an accurate description of the lake Moeris, so called after the name of the Phraoh who caused this artificial sheet of water to be formed. Historians described the lake as measuring 450 miles in circumference and 300 feet in depth. It was fed through artificial channels by the Nile and made to store a portion of the annual over for the irrigation of the country for many miles round. Its numerous flood gates, dams, locks, and convenient engines were constructed with greatest skill.
Romans at a later period got their notions on hydraulic constructions from the Egyptians. Criticism of scientists is that Egyptians could have employed watertight joints and iron pipes, of which they seemed to be ignorant, thus cutting the cost. But they evidently employed a far superior method in their channels and artificial water works.
Lesseps who employed engineers for the construction of the Suez canal learned from ancient Romans all their art could teach them, and the Romans derived their knowledge from Egypt.
Professor Carpenter says that for a distance of 500 miles above Cairo there stretches a strip of land reclaimed from the desert and made the most fertile land on the face of the earth. Says he, further, that for thousands of years these branch canals conveyed fresh water from the Nile to fertilize the land of this long narrow strip as well as the delta. He describes the network of canals over the Delta which dates from an early period of Egyptian monarchs.
Amazing architecture of Egyptian temples
H.P.B. quotes from the writing of one Carpenter who gives an account of the marvels of Egyptian architecture. [Perhaps the author whom HPB cites is Edward Carpenter. Some research needs to be done.] To quote a passage :
“These stupendous and beautiful erections...these gigantic pyramids and temples” have a “vastness and beauty” which are “still impressive after the lapse of thousands of years.” He is amazed at “the admirable character of the workmanship; the stone in most cases being fitted together with astonishing nicety, so that a knife could hardly be thrust between the joints.” He speaks of the Egyptian Book of the Dead sculptured on the old monuments and the ancient belief in the immortality of the soul. The language in which it was expressed anticipated that of the Christian Revelation. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead are to be found the very phrases we find in the New Testament in connection with the day of judgment, and these hierograms were engraved 2000 B.C.
Bunsen, the great Egyptologist, made exact calculations of the Pyramid of Cheops. The mass of masonry of the pyramid measured 82,111,000feet, and would weigh 6,316, 000 tons. The immense number of squared stones show us unparalleled skill of Egyptian quarrymen. Joints are scarcely perceptible, not wider than the thickness of a silver paper, and cement so tenacious, that the fragments of the casing stones still remain in their original position despite lapse of centuries. Who of our modern architects and chemists will discover the indestructible cement of old Egyptian buildings, asks H.P.B.
Transportation of huge stones over great distances
Researchers demonstrated the monoliths were brought from prodigious distances but are at a loss to account for the means employed by Egyptians. Old MSS show, however, that they were transported by means of portable rails resting upon inflated bags of hide rendered indestructible by the same process as that used for preserving the mummies.
Great antiquity of pyramids and what they signified
Modern dating of the age of pyramids is conjectural. Herodotus informs us successive kings erected one to commemorate his reign, and serve as his sepulchre. But Herodotus did not tell all though he knew the real purpose, as he was an Initiate and was bound by the oath of secrecy. H.P.B. says that they symbolized the creative principle of nature, and illustrated the principle of geometry, mathematics, astrology and astronomy, and that, internally, they were majestic fanes, in whose sombre recesses were performed Mysteries, and whose walls had often witnessed the initiation-scenes of the royal family. The Porphyry sarcophagus was the baptismal font (which the English Astronomer, Piazzi Smith mistook to be a corn bin) upon emerging from which the neophyte was “born again” and became an Adept.
Modern estimation of the age of pyramids and the purpose they served are all conjectures. Professor Piazzi Smith gives mathematical and astronomical bearing the pyramids. One of the Books of Hermes gives description of certain pyramids standing on the sea-shore, the waves of which dashed in powerless fury against its base. This account gives us an idea of antiquity of Egyptian pyramids to be far more than the modern scholars are prepared to admit. It implies that the geographical features of the country have changed, and indicate what researchers thought were granaries were really “Magico-Astrological Observatories” and royal sepulchres an origin ante-dating the upheaval of the Sahara. French archaeologist, Dr. Rebold was of the view that there were thirty or forty colleges of priests who studied occult sciences and practical magic.
Egypt far older, and shone brighter, than Rome and was the main-spring of civilization, learning and intelligence of the race.
H.P.B. quotes from the National Quarterly Review (vol. Xxxii, No. Lxii, December 1875) that excavations at Carthage showed traces of a civilization, a refinement of art and luxury, which must even have outshone that of ancient Rome; that while one empire swayed the world by force of arms alone, the other was the last and the most perfect representative of a race who had, for centuries before Rome was dreamed of, directed the civilization, the learning and intelligence of mankind.