The Gurdjieff Journal—Fourth Way Perspectives

Book Review
Sacred Sexuality in Ancient Egypt

by Ruth Schumann Antelme and Stéphane Rossini
Inner Traditions, 231 pp.


Out of the cosmic soup, an egg produced by ancetral gods and four primordial couples is called into being by Thoth, the keeper of Science. This egg blasts forth in the first cosmic Big Bang and the Sun is born. Atum-Ra. A divine entity. A demiurge—one who creates material out of chaos. Atum-Ra, surrounded by the feminine element Hathor, becomes excited, masturbates, and either spits or breathes out his two children, Shu and Tefnut, the Two Lions of the solar horizon. Shu and Tefnut, being brother/sister and husband/wife produce two more children, Nut (Heaven) and Geb (Earth). Nut and Geb's union annoys their grandfather Atum-Ra since he can't continue circulating and energizing the world he is creating. He commands their father Shu to separate his "overly amorous" children, creating space between heaven and earth and thus infuriating Geb, who in his fury twists and turns in great gyrations and the mountains and volcanoes are created. Before the separation, Nut (sister/wife) has conceived five more children—Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, Seth, Horus—but Atum-Ra curses them and they are born against his will.

Creation, a Sexual Act

Thus begins the ancient Egyptian creation myth that is minutely detailed in this beautifully illustrated text, Sacred Sexuality in Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Sages, in the eternal wish to regulate man's most powerful urge, the sexual instinct, decided to make Creation a sexual act. The culture, as reflected in the book, is permeated with laws, ritual, literature and art that reflect this divine model. The authors state that their ambition is "a general glimpse behind the shutter of the private life of the ancient dwellers along the Nile."

Now that Thoth had brought Atum-Ra into being, the gods could no longer live outside of space and time and were thus subject to the same cycles as their mortal underlings. The nine emanations of Atum-Ra—Shu, Tefnut, Geb and the five children, Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, Seth and Horus—complete the Ennead, the divine Supreme Court who rule the Universe. Couples are formed—Osiris and Iris, who rule the world peacefully, and Seth and Nephthys. Seth, the Lord of Materiality, however, is less than majestic in his manifestation. A turbulent, frustrated deity, Seth embodies upheaval and sexual chaos. His sister/wife Nephthys is no comfort as she unfortunately is more attracted to Isis and Osiris than to her brother/husband. From her union with Osiris she produces a child, the dark dog Anubis. To complicate matters further, Isis and Osiris, having no child of their own, decide to appoint Horus (he's their little brother, too), as their heir. This infuriates the jealous Seth (uncle/brother), who kills Osiris and cuts him up in little pieces and tosses his body into the Nile.

Isis, a magician as well as a wife, gathers up the pieces (except for the phallus which was swallowed by a fish) and, with the help of Anubis, reconstitutes Osiris; in many illustrations she is depicted as a bird who flutters her wings and brings Osiris back from the dead. Osiris then returns to the center of the earth to once again recharge his energies. He is depicted as a god of nature, literally "germinating" small grains of wheat popping up on his mummified body, and, with a fully erect penis, recharging life force to the earth.

The Divine Brothers Battle

Seth is still full of wrath. When Horus grows up and reclaims his "father's" (father/brother) throne, a divine battle ensues between Horus and his uncle Seth for domination of the Universe. Seth tears out Horus's "lunar eye" and Horus tears off Seth's testicles. (In some accounts it is only one testicle, the right one.) Many sexual escapades occur; though bizarre on the surface, they are also highly symbolic. Isis, of course on the side of Horus, decides to trick Seth by turning into a beautiful young girl to distract him. Seth, always ready for a new sexual adventure, tries to seduce his sister/sister-in-law, but can't catch her in time and "ejaculates on the ground," his sperm sprouting in the desert and becoming a bedded-kaou plant. Seth now gives rein to his homosexual tendencies and tries to seduce Horus, the very one he is battling. Horus sleeps with him, does not consummate the act, returns home to mother Isis and complains that Seth "put his hands between his thighs" and he caught Seth's semen.

Upon hearing this, his horrified mother cuts off Horus's hands and throws them into the water, and replaces them with another pair. After many more strange but symbolic cosmic struggles (at one point Horus cut off his mother's head out of jealousy; it was replaced by a cow's head which she transformed back into a human head—this was the mythological assimilation into Isis-Hathor, goddess of Love), the Divine Ennead got tired of this exhausting battle, often depicted as battling hippopotami. (Horus is usually represented as a falcon-headed human while Seth has a dog-like head of some unidentified animal.) The Divine Ennead declare Horus the successor to the throne of Osiris, and Seth is made personal guard of Ra, utilizing his aggressive nature for the defense of the demiurge.

This is only one of the creation myths elaborated here, albeit the most detailed. The demiurge legends are all equally convoluted and with no restrictions governing relationship. In the divine world, incest reigns supreme with mother marrying son, father marrying daughter, brother marrying sister and on and on until the twists and turns of any sexual union no longer surprise.


For the remainder of this article, please order The Gurdjieff Journal Issue #39

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