Rosicrucian Writings Online

A Visit to a Mystery School

By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest May 1935]
SEVERAL days ago I had occasion to translate a few paragraphs of writing carved in an old stone that stands in the center of a glass case in our Oriental Museum here at Rosicrucian Park. The hieroglyphic inscription on this stone indicates that it was prepared as an everlasting record of some of the activities carried on in one of the mystery schools of Egypt centuries ago.
As I translated some of the phrases my mind naturally turned backward to the time when the mystery schools of Egypt were in the height of their glory and power, and I thought of the many references to be found in our ancient Rosicrucian manuscripts and in other historical documents regarding the purposes and magnificent accomplishments of these ancient institutions.
I wonder how many of our members and our readers and friends have any real conception of these ancient mystery schools as they were called. In many books dealing with the mystical teachings of the ancients there are references to these mystery schools, but usually such references are very vague and it is always evident that the writers of the books, translating paragraphs from ancient manuscripts, had no knowledge of the conditions surrounding the preparation of these ancient writings and teachings.
I know that if any of our members could afford to do so they would like to take a hurried trip to Egypt, and as they travelled eastward would want to have the clock and the calendar turn backward so that when they arrived in the Valley of the Nile they would find themselves standing in that country in the twelfth or thirteenth century B. C. If it were possible to do this, we would find a magnificent nation of people divided intellectually, philosophically, and religiously into two classes, the true mystics and the followers of the false priesthood. They would find temples devoted to the promulgation of the priesthood's false religions and they would find these people in political control of a great land of mystery. They would find also a magnificent power, a grandeur of wealth, of material things, and a land seemingly filled with prosperity and luxuriousness. But unless they were admitted to the mystic brotherhoods by initiation and could qualify themselves through initiations, they would never contact the secret portals of the mystery schools nor ever meet the leaders of the real hierarchy of Egypt, who were preserving for all time the secret wisdom and the secret heritage of the ancient mystery schools.
Long before the so-called pagan religion of Egypt became outwardly and very definitely dethroned in its grip on the lives of the people of Egypt, there were small groups in every large community meeting in secret and carrying on a very careful study and analysis of the secret teachings which had come down to them through the ages. It was not until the immediate forefathers of Amenhotep IV began to publicly and officially attack the power of the pagan priesthood that mighty changes and important modifications took place in the thinking and acting of the majority of the citizens of Egypt.
The pagan religion of the priesthood was based upon mythology, superstition, and the deliberately falsified principles of life. It became not only an artificial religion but a means for political control. In the hands of the priests of the pagan priesthood rested most of the political power of Egypt to such an extent that even the pharaohs in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries B. C. were dominated by unknown and secret chiefs of the pagan priesthood who delivered their orders and carried out their malicious desires through emissaries in the courts and representatives in every branch of the government.
The teachings of this priesthood were carefully designed from century to century to hide and destroy the great wisdom that had come into Egypt centuries before from the refugees of the lost continent of Atlantis. From that continent and its great attainment in wisdom and human accomplishment had come the knowledge of nature's laws or of secret principles that had enabled Egypt to lift itself out of the most primitive state of existence to a masterful place in all of the arts and sciences, and it was during this period of only a hundred years, when the great wisdom was brought to Egypt and gladly accepted by its rulers, that Egypt abandoned its crude huts and underground habitations and created its magnificent architecture, structures, and developed its wonderful art to the point where it became the most magnificent in the world. But the pagan priests soon discovered that this great knowledge and wisdom was weakening its hold upon the people and it therefore invented and officially established its mythological religious tenets which gradually led the Egyptian people into beliefs based upon superstitious ideas and broke down their faith in their own powers and abilities and made stupid, unthinking hirelings and slaves out of them.
It was for the purpose of preventing this secret wisdom and great heritage of knowledge from completely disappearing in the land of Egypt that led some of the wisest of the rulers and the wisest of the Egyptian diplomats to establish the secret mystery schools.
We speak of these schools as though there were many of them or plural in number. The fact of the matter is, however, that there was but one mystery school, although it had a number of branches or places for instruction in different parts of the Egyptian territory. But the teachings and activities of this organization represented one school. It was not given any name and had no definite symbol other than a mark by which a member could identify it or identify himself as an initiate. The records indicate that the See or chief center of the mystery schools of Egypt was located first in the ancient city of Philadelphia, then later in Memphis and with a branch in a place called Mizraim, and then later at Thebes and Luxor. Finally the last headquarters of the mystery schools was located at the city of Akhnaton on the banks of the Nile on the site of the ancient city of Tel-El-Amarna.
In order that the carefully selected, carefully tested, tried, and prepared members and students of these mystery schools might have their lives protected and might meet safely for lectures and studies a very complicated system of secret activity was invented or gradually evolved. It appears that at first only those who were true-blooded Egyptians of a known ancestry and of tested and tried honesty and integrity were admitted to the secret school. And even so, these selected persons had to show by their lives and by their general activities that they were not in support of the pagan priesthood or its teachings, but had vision and understanding and were sincere and loyal in their separateness from the priesthood. It must have been a serious condition indeed. It was hardly possible for an Egyptian to buy or secure in any manner a piece of land upon which to build a home of any kind, or to establish himself permanently or to enter any occupation or trade without first securing the approval and indorsement of the priesthood. It was impossible, in fact, for an Egyptian as an individual to accumulate any material assets or to have anything upon which he could place an individual claim unless he was a member of the pagan priesthood's religion.
This religion was organized in outer and inner circles and the representatives of the priesthood, acting as spies in every community, reported to the priesthood the name and identity of any individual who did not attend the priesthood's religious services and who did not bow down to the pagan god and pay allegiance at the same time to the rulers of the priesthood. To ever give the least manifestation outwardly of any doubt regarding the powers of the mythological gods, or to even question the authority of any of the priests of the priesthood or any of their teachings meant not only a loss of all worldly possessions and a loss of all political standing in Egypt, but it meant most certainly the eventual imprisonment or loss of life.
The great majority of citizens in Egypt gradually became slaves in their employment, poverty stricken in every material sense, and woefully ignorant of even nature's most fundamental laws. Not only were those who had any assets heavily taxed to support the priesthood in its elaborate expenditures for personal things and for pagan temples and monuments, but sometimes in the middle classes every material asset was taken as a contribution to the priesthood. Yet there were those who were able to meet at firesides occasionally and very secretly and confidentially express their disregard for the priesthood's ruling and their doubt regarding the priesthood's teachings.
The secret schools, too, had their representatives, their spies, and their delegated investigators. When they found a sincere and worthy person who in every condition reluctantly submitted to the dictates of the priesthood, he became a marked man or a marked woman and was eventually brought in contact with an individual who would consider him carefully, observe him for days and nights, and finally introduce him to another investigator or representative of the mystery school. In this way the sincere and worthy seeker for truth and the one worthy of aiding in the maintenance of the ancient wisdom and the preservation of the secret knowledge was brought before a group of persons called a tribunal, but which we might call today a membership court. After various examinations revealing that he was worthy, he was permitted to begin a series of initiations to test his sincerity, his integrity, and perseverance. For this purpose the mystery schools had invented the test by fire, the test by water and the test by air, as contained in the initiation rituals explained in the higher degrees of our present day Rosicrucian teachings.
Such prospective candidates were taken to an abandoned pagan temple far off in a ruined city in the darkness of the night and there in the company of only a few guides he was left to go through the ordeals of initiation revealed by the chiefs of the mystery schools. These initiations required the nighttime attendance of candidates for several weeks. If such initiations were required today of the average candidate seeking the teachings of the ancients, it is doubtful whether one in a hundred persons would survive the ordeal or attempt to go through more than one of them. We have other ways today of testing the sincerity of a seeker for truth, and we do not have to test seekers for their loyalty or for their possible association with any such organization, political or otherwise, as was represented in ancient times by the pagan priesthood. The mystery schools today do have their enemies, but because of the laws of the land and because of our modern living conditions, these enemies of Light are forced to work more or less in the open and it is an easier matter to discover who is associated with these enemies than was possible in ancient times.
After the candidate had been initiated by the tests and ordeals, the worthy ones were then allowed to contact one of the mystery temples for the spiritual and philosophical initiations such as we use today, and which we call the mystical or psychic initiations. Most of these initiations were held in underground grottos or in the lower parts of abandoned temples. When the priesthood of ancient times had abandoned one of its old temples because of the building of newer ones, more magnificent than any previously built, they partially destroyed the structures and believed that no one would think of entering the ruined place. The secret chambers beneath such temples were sealed up with huge stones placed in the doorways and with sand covered over all evidences of the passageways that led to them. For many centuries the priesthood never suspected that some of these underground chambers had been opened and that new passages leading to them from a mile or more distant had been constructed, and that in these chambers large groups of tested and tried mystics were being initiated, instructed, and prepared for the carrying out of the great wisdom that was to keep Egypt alive in its mighty mystical power. Later on, mystical ceremonies were held in the dark of the night before the Sphinx, and through a secret passageway from the Sphinx the candidates entered an underground chamber beneath the center of the Great Pyramid and from this they were led through various passageways to initiation into the upper chambers.
At Heliopolis another great ruined temple had been converted into a temple for the mystery schools and similar smaller temples and secret chambers were located in various parts of Egypt by the time that Amenhotep IV became the young Pharaoh of his country. His forebears for several generations had been secret chiefs and rulers of the mystery school and the membership in these schools had increased to a number sufficient to report a real political strength in the country.
It was Amenhotep IV who, realizing the strength of the mystery school members and realizing his own Divine gifts of certain powers and abilities, decided to make the strength of the mystery school known and he openly proclaimed a new religion, a new philosophy with new sciences and arts for the two sections of Egypt under his direction, and thereby began his open war against the priesthood and against the superstitious political powers of the pagan priests. This warfare is recorded in all the histories of Egypt and culminated in Amenhotep moving his palace and the homes of his great mystical leaders from Luxor and Thebes to the new site on the banks of the Nile where his mystical City of the Sun was built in a few years. For less than twenty years the religion of the ever-living God became the official religion of Egypt under his proclamations and direction. All of the mystics of Egypt, except the secret diplomats, made themselves known and congregated openly. Thousands of them moved to the new mystic city on the Nile and there built homes and structures and introduced scientific principles, the like of which Egypt had never known.
Our organization of A M O R C in North America has helped to support in various years the excavations made at this mystical city and we have in our museum here in San Jose relics that have come to us from those excavations. The Egypt Exploration Society of England has published and sent to us photographs and drawings of the plans of that city and the interpretations of the excavated buildings. From these plans, drawings, and photographs, we see that in this most modern city of the twelfth century before Christ the homes had bath rooms and were equipped with underground plumbing. There were flower gardens and sleeping porches, swimming pools, and gymnasiums. Every worker had his home and his garden which were protected against excessive taxation and intrusion. Every artist and artisan was put upon government pay in order that he might devote his time without worry to the creation of beautiful things. Out of this period came into Egypt a complete revolution in its art and architecture and some of the most magnificent pieces of sculpture, painting, carving, even in jewelry, and household articles were created in this period and are on exhibition in museums of the world today. Some of them have never been equalled since then for daintiness and refinement and interpretation of natural laws.
But there was also preserved for posterity the great secret wisdom. In manuscripts cut into stone or into leaves of the papyrus, or carved on the walls of this Great Pyramid, the secret teachings, the long preserved knowledge of the Atlanteans, the discoveries of the mystics in their centuries of work in Egypt, the divine inspirations that had come to them from the Cosmic in the long hours of meditation, were carefully preserved for future generations, and this great wisdom passed on from their teachers and workers to emissaries and carefully prepared legates whom they sent to Greece, Rome, India, and other countries, and from this has come the present day teachings of the Rosicrucians and similar mystic schools of the past.
Think of the secret students in the ancient days journeying by camel or on foot many miles at a time in the hot sun and in the cold of the night over desert sands and along the banks of the Nile and through abandoned cities to reach the hidden, secret, underground grottos where a few of the great truths might be revealed at the hands of a master teacher! Think of the sacrifices that had to be made by those students and the risk to their lives and property! Think of the difficulties they experienced in meeting in dark chambers poorly illuminated by burning torches and without the aid of text books, printed matter, pamphlets, or paper. Think of having to memorize every phrase and every word so that it might be preserved in their consciousness and repeated to other students later on. Very often these secret classes were held in underground chambers that had been burial tombs and were filled with impure air because of the decaying mummies that were lying on the ground at their feet or on stone shelves around the walls of the room. Think of having to disperse themselves at the break of dawn and go quietly and secretly on their way again to their distant homes. Think of the manner in which each of them tried to apply the principles they had learned and yet do so without attracting the attention of the spies of the priesthood who were everywhere on guard. Certainly, we all owe a great debt of gratitude to those loyal and sincere torchbearers of ancient times for holding steadfastly to that which they believed to be the truth and at the same time devoting their lives to the perpetuation of these truths.
Many of our students today feel that they are greatly inconveniencing themselves by setting aside one night of a week to sit comfortably in their own homes safe and protected, unchallenged by any spies or enemies, and able to read and study peacefully the lessons that have been so carefully preserved for them. And think of the liberalities that the modern student has in being able not only to practice his principles outwardly and apply them in every affair of life, but to discuss them with others, to preach them, and to advocate them. Think of being able to go to lodge rooms and chapter meetings openly and without fear of life or property, and of coming to national conventions and openly associating with thousands of others. Certainly the students of today have much to be thankful for, even in lands where political conditions seem to be adverse.
And those of our members who will travel with us to Egypt on our next Egyptian tour will have the rare privilege of seeing some of these old temples and these grottos, such as the secret temple adjoining the Sphinx where the initiations were often held and preliminary lessons and instructions given before entering the passageway that led to the Pyramid. We shall be thrilled with the realization of what these ancients did and suffered, practiced, and taught, in order that we might have today some of the great enlightenment that has constituted the secret heritage to man from the earliest days of civilization. Our mystery schools today are schools of the mysteries and not mysteriously hidden because of our inability to enjoy many of the divine privileges that civilization assures us.

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