Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907) NILE GENESIS - by Charles S. Finch III, 2006.
Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907) was an English self-taught Egyptologist and poet
In contemporary times, Gerald Massey is primarily remembered for his poetry, literary criticism, and socialist politics all in the pursuit of which he applied his boundless energy. But it is in his forays into human ‘typological’ beginnings, framed in the evolutionary perspective of Darwin and Wallace, and probed through the antiquarian medium of Egyptology and comparative mythology that Massey’s true genius is revealed. To this effort – this opus – Massey dedicated the last 36 years of his life, resulting in three Herculean two-volume works which, as they find a slowly expanding readership, are permanently changing our perception of ancient history, human origins, and the primal place of Africa – Massey’s ‘Old Dark Land’ – in the evolution of human consciousness from its beginning.
The land of Kemit, ‘the Black Land’ – later called Aigyptos (‘Egypt’) by the Greeks – was, as Herodotus rightly observed, the gift of the Nile.
In this essay, the terms Egypt and Kemit will be used interchangeably. The term Kamite will be used adjectively for Kemit.
From two separate inner African lakes – Lake Tana in Ethiopia, source of the Blue Nile, and Lake Victoria in Uganda, source of the White Nile – two riverine arteries converged at modern Khartoum to form the mainstream Nile that brought mud and silt with annual regularity to the northeast African country of Kemit bounded by the Mediterranean on the north, the Red Sea on the east, and the Sahara Desert of the west. This flood-born annual deposition of soil from inner Africa over thousands of years created the green, fertile Delta region of Egypt and, as importantly, annually renewed the entire country, making Egypt the richest and most productive farming nation in antiquity. Without the Nile flood, Egypt would not exist; not surprisingly, the Nile itself was deified by the people who created the pharaonic civilization along its northern banks.
But it was not only life-giving soil and water from inner Africa that the Nile brought; it also brought the people, the culture, the symbols, and the values from the inner reaches of the continent providing the foundation, scaffolding, and superstructure of the civilization of the pyramid-builders. Thus the Land of Kemit was born of and renewed yearly by the Nile wellsprings in the womb of Africa so that it might live and tell Africa’s story. The ancient writers understood and wrote of this umbilical connection between inner Africa and Egypt but after the beginning of the Christian era, the realization and appreciation of this fundamental historical linkage faded, almost to be forgotten until the appearance, between 1881 and 1907, of the monumental writings of the incomparable auto-didact, Gerald Massey. In three massive two-volume works, The Book of the Beginnings (1881), The Natural Genesis (1883), and Ancient Egypt (1907), we witness a titanic attempt to extricate and repossess the veritable story of this Nile Valley kingdom from the neglect and obfuscation of the centuries. Massey, with nearly no formal education, became by sheer effort a man of startling erudition and his books provide an inexhaustible mine of information on the Nile genesis of early civilization.
If there is a unifying theme in Massey’s six-volume opus it is simply this: Africa was the primal source of the world’s people, languages, myths, symbols, and religions and Egypt Africa’s mouthpiece. In Massey’s view, Egypt brought African genius to its highest and finest expression then proceeded to instruct the world in Africa’s wisdom. This conviction might have been inspired by the assertions of the important classical writers and mythographers of antiquity such as Herodotus, Hecataeus, Diodorus, and Plutarch who reported the commonly-accepted story that the Egyptian Osiris (also called ‘Dionysus’ by the Greeks) traveled throughout the world bringing the blessings of civilization everywhere he went. However, Massey found independent verification of this view from his exhaustive studies of the myths, symbols, beliefs, and customs of many lands all over the world. In his eyes, metaphorically speaking, Inner Africa was the Mother, the Nile the Father, and Egypt the brilliant Son and Fulfiller.
Gerald Massey was born in extremely humble circumstances, the first son of a destitute canal boatman, in the small town of Tring in the English Midlands in 1828. He received a very scanty early education in the ‘penny schools’ of the time but, by the time he was eight, was working a 48-hour week, first in a silk factory then as a straw plaiter. At 15, he moved away from his Midland province to London where he was able to find employment as a draper’s errand boy and it was then that his truly prodigious efforts to educate himself began. His position, though demanding, gave him city-wide mobility and he spent every spare moment buying what books he could or, more often because of his poverty, reading omnivorously at the book stalls he frequented. In later life, Massey recounted discouraging tales at having to stop reading a book to run errands only to find it gone upon returning to the stall. Not uncommonly, he would buy a book in lieu of a day’s meal.
From the beginning of his life in London from 1843 on, Massey became immersed in two interlocking pursuits: poetry and radical politics. Poetry was clearly an outlet for his artistic impulses and need for inner expression while at the same time the appalling conditions of the working poor in urban England, of which he was a part, fueled his radical fervor for political and economic justice. He managed to get some of his early poems published in small journals and he continued to publish poetry until the end of his life. At the same time, he participated in the emerging radical causes of the day, especially Chartism, with total élan, helping to found and edit several radical periodicals. These ‘seditious’ activities got him fired from a succession of jobs but, no stranger to economic privation, none of these setbacks dimmed his commitment and enthusiasm one wit.
As he approached mid-life, Massey had honed his literary and oratory skills to such an extent that he was able to make a moderately remunerative living on the lecture circuit. He achieved a modest reputation as a poet and had become a respected literary critic. He was regarded as an authority on Shakespearean sonnets and the poetry of Tennyson. Even today, he occupies a minor place in the history of English poetry and literary criticism. He remained politically radical all his life and it has been said, though it has been disputed, that he served as the model for the main character in George Eliot’s novel Felix Holt, the Radical. As if his interests weren’t protean enough, Massey by 1870 had become a devoted spiritualist. In this pursuit, he was undoubtedly influenced by his first wife, a mentally unbalanced woman who was, nonetheless, a gifted medium and seer. He added spiritualism to his repertoire of public lectures and kept a busy schedule that took him as far afield as America and Australia. Though Massey was a rigorous empiricist, an indefatigable scholar, and a believer in natural science, none of these attitudes propelled him into the narrow positivism that ruled most scientific thinking of the 19th century. It was the mark of the man that he could embrace Darwinian evolution, spiritualism, socialism, and anti-vivisectionism seemingly without conflict.
III. "A Book of the Beginnings."
Massey’s A Book of the Beginnings
, in two volumes, was first published in 1881 and in its Preface
, he wrote that the book was the product of 10 years of unstinting research, conducted mostly in the British Museum. In the course of his studies, Massey was befriended by Samuel Birch, the leading contemporary British Egyptologist and translator of a version of the Egyptian Book of the Dead
, one which was to figure prominently in Massey’s own work. Birch evidently gave Massey invaluable assistance and guidance, a debt Massey readily acknowledged through the remainder of his life. But in spite of Birch’s patronage, the intellectual and social climate of the time was ill-disposed toward the revelations in this astounding book. Some relatively unbiased and prominent men in scholarly circles such as Massey’s hero Alfred Russel Wallace, the eminent evolutionist, and Richard Burton, the famous explorer, did read the two volumes of The Book of Beginnings
and pronounce favorably upon them but Wallace made the telling remark that, ‘there might not be a score of people in England who were prepared by their previous education to understand the book.’[1
] Apart from a handful of other relatively unbiased reviews in publications such as Nature
, The Guardian
, and The Theosophist
, the general reaction was hostile and disbelieving. In an era when the search for evidence of man’s origins was concentrated solely in Asia, that Africa could have instead been the birthplace of mankind was considered preposterous, despite the explicit suggestion of Darwin that Africa was in fact the most logical place to look.
In Volume I of A Book of the Beginnings
, Massey staked out his position boldly and without equivocation. For him the starting point of the human family
…has now to be sought for in Africa, the birthplace of the black race, the land of the oldest known human types, and of those which preceded and most nearly approached the human…Aethiopia and Egypt produced the earliest civilization in the world and it was indigenous (italics added). So far as the records of language and mythology can offer us guidance, there is nothing beyond Egypt and Aethiopia but Africa…
Massey categorically dismissed the assertions of the Aryanist German Egyptologists Bunsen and Brugsch postulating an Asian origin for Egyptian civilization. Massey asked, in refutation of the Asian theory, why did the Egyptians themselves look southward to Africa as their birthplace and refer to it as Ta-neter
, ‘the land of the gods?’ Moreover, numerous Egyptian customs were unmistakably African in character, from the practice of tracing ancestry through the maternal line to the ceremonial dying of bodies with red ochre. Massey even derived an Egyptian etymology for the Roman word Africa
from the Egyptian af-rui-ka
which literally means ‘to turn toward the opening of the Ka.’ The Ka is the energetic double of every person and ‘opening of the Ka’ refers to a womb or birthplace.[3
] Africa would be, for the Egyptians, ‘the birthplace.’ Parenthetically, it is worth noting that another Egyptian name for the African lands south of Egypt was Ta-Kenset
, which means ‘placenta land.’ In any event, the issue for Massey was plain and the common ethno-cultural identity of Egypt and the rest of Africa provided the framework for his study into human beginnings.
In Massey’s view, no authority in philology, mythology, comparative religion, or Egyptology could really understand his subject unless he was prepared to investigate deeply the phenomenology of types, i.e., ‘typology.’ He considered typology to be the foundation of all human symbolism, myth, language, and religion. Despite Massey’s seminal studies of typology, there was little serious investigation into this area until the advent of Jungian school of psychoanalysis in the 1920s. Massey, through typology, plumbed to depths that revealed to him a record of human development otherwise completely hidden from view. Forty years later, the Jungians were elaborating as psychic models of thought and feeling the ‘archetypes of the collective unconscious’ about which Jung wrote:
…there exists a second [psychic] system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.
Massey’s ‘types’ originated in natural phenomena, the first teachers of man, and became the means by which the human mental and psychic world was pieced together. The Jungian archetypes were thus the inner embodiments of the Masseyan phenomenal types.
The Primordial Type for Massey was that of the Great Mother and all she came to represent. Massey represented the mental world of primeval man as a concrete world whose profoundest mystery was the production of new life. Everywhere in nature for early man it was observed that production of new life was the prerogative of the female of the species. According to Massey, early humans realized no connection between sexual congress and reproduction, hence there was no notion of fatherhood. The cessation of the female menstruation, followed by the swelling and bulging of the female body, culminating in the bursting forth of new life in toto
presented itself as an awesome, transcendent mystery. It made the female, in her exclusive motherhood, the paradigm of the first conceptions and images of deity. In the first advent, God was feminine, though not necessarily in human guise because the surrounding fauna and flora furnished early humans in Africa with examples of superhuman females such as the obese hippopotamus, the long-lived tortoise, the terrifying crocodile, the ferocious lioness, the grand, overspreading sycamore tree – all of these figures embodied powers both non-human and super-human. These concrete nature powers supplied the earliest divine images; only much later was the deity made immanent in human form. Massey could not but know it then, but anatomically modern man has been proven to have appeared in Africa 300,000 years ago; the antecedents of the ‘natural genesis’ he describes would have started to unfold at least from that time forward.
With the natural genesis of the aboriginal goddess-figure, the human mother would have served as her ‘avatar,’ and it was around her that early society first coalesced. JJ Bachofen, one of the first to postulate the primacy of the matriarchy, held that agriculture, the first social laws, the earliest arts and crafts, indeed all those things which first discreted humankind from its animal beginnings, evolved under the system of the matriarch, with the mother supreme as procreator, nourisher, and preserver.[5
] This Primeval Mother was the prototype of the ‘virgin mother,’ the mother whose children, in Massey’s words, ‘were born but not begotten,’ since there was as yet, no realization of the father’s role in procreation. It is but one example among many of how the typology of African primordial man gave rise to the symbolic and eschatological figures of later ‘revealed’ religion. The strangest and most peculiar beliefs and customs are never merely products of the imagination; they reflect a typological reality that governed the world that the early humans made.
The Great Mother was the primal type and from her, as her Children, emanated other related types or Powers. These natural types were not worshiped out of fear and ignorance as is commonly asserted but as a means of linking with and benefiting from the Powers inherent in nature. In this conception, nature encompassed both the seen and unseen planes; the physical and immaterial worlds. The golden hawk, for example, became an emblem of Horus the sun because of its color and ability to soar to such heights as to seem like the sun. The hippopotamus – or ‘water cow’ – in her immensity embodied the natural image of the pregnant female and therefore the Great Mother. The creeping, death-dealing serpent could in one aspect represent death and darkness but when figured with its tail in its mouth – the uroboros – would be the symbol of eternity. Moreover, with its ability to exchange old skin for new, the serpent embodied the power of renewal and resurrection. The leopard and other cats, with their nocturnal habits and preternatural sight, would symbolize the nighttime sun passing beneath the earth in the netherworld from west to east in the hours of the night. The tree with its branches and fruit was both protector and nourisher. Thus, the powers of nature, whether of the animal, plant, or elemental planes, were not ‘worshiped’ in and of themselves but served as images from which to fashion psycho-mental concepts that made the world comprehensible. Though the dynastic Egyptians (4,300 – 30 BC) had advanced far beyond the primeval and concrete mental stage of the first imagers in Africa, they never dispensed with the types. This truth is shown clearly by the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing (medu neteru) whose numerous ideograms are drawn largely from natural typology. Moreover, the richness and plasticity of these natural types were such that they could embody increasingly complex and abstract ideas and symbols. The golden hawk, for example, though one of the early images of the sun, would in time also come to represent the human soul.
The first volume of A Book of the Beginnings
was devoted primarily to tracing the origins of the culture, language, and religion of the British Celts to Kam(t), i.e., Egypt, and Africa. Today, Massey would be labeled, somewhat derisively, as a ‘hyper-diffusionist,’ because of his assertion that the world’s cultures were Kamite in origin. With respect to the aboriginal Britons, the Celts, he carefully dissected their language, religion, and customs to detail their Kamite origins. Along these lines, Massey was echoing the work of the British investigators Godfrey Higgins, author of Anacalypsis
, and Duncan McRitchie, author of Ancient and Moderns Britons
, who also wrote extensively about the pre-historic Black presence in the British Isles. Massey reproduced an extensive comparative glossary showing the common identity of hundreds of Egyptian and Celtic-British words. His derivation of the English word ‘mother’ is instructive:
Our word Mother is not derived from the Sanskrit Ma, to fashion, but from the Egyptian name of the mother as Mut. Mut means mother, the Emaner, the mouth…Mut the chamber, place, womb…AR (e.g.) is the child, or the likeness, the type of a fulfilled period, the thing made. Thus MUT-AR is the place, the gestator, the founder and emaner of the child.
Massey applied the same method to thousands of words in languages from Hebrew to Maori.
In the second volume, Massey conducted a searching examination of the Hebrew legends of the Old Testament and in revealing their Afro-Egyptian or Kamite origins, inaugurated a seismic shift in Hebraic and Old Testament studies. Of especial importance is the remarkable chapter The Egyptian Origin of the Jews Traced from the Monuments
. His research convinced him that the Five Books of Moses represented Egyptian astronomical allegories that had been literalized, historicized, and humanized. [7
] The Book of Exodus
especially seemed to abound with Kamite astronomical types that were reconfigured to form Hebrew ‘history.’ As Massey writes:
The Hebrew Books of the Genesis, Exodus, Numbers Joshua, and Judges are invaluable as a virgin mine of mythology; they are of utmost importance as an aid in recovering the primeval types of Egyptian thought…For the Hebrews, who collected and preserved so much, have explained nothing. There is evidence enough to prove the types are Egyptian and the people brought them out of Egypt must have been more or less Egyptian in race, and of a religion that was Egyptian of the earliest and oldest kind.
Undoubtedly there is some very slight historic nucleus in the Hebrew narrative, but it has been so mixed with myth that it is far easier to recover the celestial allegory with the aids of its correlatives than it is to restore the human history.
Massey proceeded to show the connection between the Egyptian astro-mythical types and all the important Old Testament patriarchs. However, there really was an exodus from Egypt; in fact, there were at least two (possibly three) alluded to in historical testimony, but, according to Massey, none of them had anything to do with a foreign
race of shepherds enslaved for more than 400 years in Egypt then led out of it by a messianic prophet. The latter years of Egypt’s 18th dynasty (14th century BC) witnessed unprecedented religious ferment as indicated by the so-called ‘Amarna Heresy,’ launched by Amenhotep IV, better known as Akhenaton. This period of religious upheaval saw the patriarchal status quo represented by Amon-Ra shaken to its foundation by the upsurge of the Sethian solar deity Aton – the sole and exclusive god – championed first by Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III, then more vigorously by her son Akhenaton. Though solar, by virtue of his Sethian character, Aton represented the ancient Mother-and-Son religious system dating back to pre-dynastic times. In the end, the Atonian religion was overthrown and Amon-Ra restored, leading in the ensuing 120 years to one, possibly two, exodes out of Egypt by religious dissenters who had retained their allegiance to Mother-worship.
Egyptians, though conscientious recorders of their own history, never mentioned a group or nation that could be remotely identified with the Hebrews of the Exodus. [9
] Even the lone historical reference to Israel in Egyptian annals does not presuppose the veracity of the events narrated in the Book of Exodus
. Massey connects Moses to the Egyptian lion-god Ma-Shu
, though another possible etymology is derivable from Mu
(‘reeds’) for Mu-Sha
, ‘pool of reeds,’ the place where the infant Moses was found. The name Moses is not Hebrew in origin and pharaoh’s daughter is made to say that she gives the foundling infant this name because ‘I drew him from the water.’[10
] The Egyptian word sah
means ‘to draw from,’ so that Mu-Sah
, an additional etymology, would mean ‘to draw from the (pool of) water’. The only identifiable historical figure in Massey’s view that can be linked to the Biblical Moses is Osarsiph
, an Egyptian priest of Ra mentioned by the Jewish apologist Josephus in his polemic against the Egyptian historian Apion entitled Against Apion
. Osarsiph, according to this report (which Josephus recounts but vehemently repudiates), became a dissenter from the established priestly religion and organized a large group of disaffected people in Egypt, inciting them to rebellion then subsequently leading them out of Egypt into Canaan. Apion claimed (after Josephus) that Osarsiph the Egyptian subsequently changed his name to Moses. Sigmund Freud in Moses and Monotheism
, though himself Jewish and having read Josephus’ Against Apion
, clearly takes the side of Apion by asserting that Moses must have been an Egyptian priest who took the part of the downtrodden in Egypt, led them into Sinai, taught them the worship of one god, and gave them their laws. The date of the Exodus remains a contentious issue though the weight of opinion favors the reign of Mereneptah (1230 – 1215 BC) as the time period for this seminal event. If so, Osarsiph would have lived 100 years after Akhenaton, the king who instituted the brief period of pharaonic monotheism in Egypt under the aegis of Aton. That being said, Massey forcefully set forth the argument that the Hebrews, originally the worshippers of the divine Mother and Son who later renounced them for the all-exclusive Father, brought their religion and language out of Africa, their original home.
IV. "The Natural Genesis."
In The Natural Genesis
, Massey showed how the early evolution of human consciousness derived from the development of types. Along the lines of descent from an early ape-like ancestor, man’s first semi-articulate utterings were patterned closely after that of the baboon, the ‘clicking cynocephalic ape’ met with in the Egyptian ideographs as the ‘announcer and adorer’ of the sun, associated with Djehuti or Thoth. The sole remnants of this primordial speech can be found in the click languages of the present day Khoisan peoples of Southern Africa and their Bantu neighbors who have incorporated these clicks into their own speech. Such primordial speech would have been onomatopoeic, that is similar in sound to the thing represented, and later speech would to a large extent be abraded and worn down from the original onomatopoeia. For example, the Egyptian goddess Tefnut, who is said to have arisen from the spittle of her father Atum, contains the word tef in her name which is the Egyptian word for ‘spit’ and imitates the sound of spitting. Her consort-twin is Shu, who arose from the sneeze of his father Atum and whose name imitates the sound of a sneeze. The word for ‘cat’ in Egyptian was miau, which is the ‘meow’ sound that the cat makes.
Massey painstakingly explored the important primeval types that passed in various forms into every religion. The tree and serpent were two such types that formed a dyad that constantly reappeared in the mythic symbolism of different lands and which were incomparably older than the form in which they are encountered in Genesis
. The conjunction of these two types must have arisen from the association of the tree and arboreal python found throughout Africa. At the astronomical stage of mytho-genesis, the tree was figured as a type of the pole and the serpent a type of the string of seven circumpolar stars that encircle or ‘coil’ around the pole.[11
] The caduceus of Hermes and the Hindu Kundalini serpent coiled around the spinal column are two later applications of this typological dyad. In the Masseyan schema in addition to tree and python, there were many other feminine and maternal types: the mount or rock, the cave, the dove, the well, the ark, and the cow are but a few examples. Compare this Masseyan typology to Jung’s Mother Archetype:
The archetype is often associated with things and places standing for fertility and fruitfulness: the cornucopia, a ploughed field, a garden. It can be attached to a rock, a cave, a tree…, a deep well…or to vessel-shaped flowers like the rose or the lotus.
Jung goes on to say that in its negative or dark aspect, the archetype was represented by any devouring animal such as a dragon, large fish, or serpent. Had Jung copied these examples directly from The Natural Genesis, he could hardly have echoed Massey more closely.
In his elaboration of the typological system, Massey’s chapter in the second volume, Typology of Time, is particularly important because the determination and recording of cycles and their periodicity became ever more significant to Kamite mentality as settled communities were formed that depended on seasonal agriculture for sustenance. The earliest modes of time-reckoning were to be found in nature, and the female because of her more or less regular monthly periodicity, became an early type of time-keeper.
…coming of age applies to both sexes, but, as may be seen by the Kaffir festival of female puberty, it was the woman-nature that made the primaeval revelation, and was the first teller of time; the demonstrator of periodicity in its most attractive and most mystical aspect.
At a later stage, the heavenly bodies with their regular and cyclic movements became the chief tellers of time but nature was man’s first teacher before the heavens were mapped. One of Jung’s foremost disciples, Erich Neumann, in his extraordinary study of the Great Mother archetype, seemed to confirm further the validity of Massey’s typological approach:
Since she governs growth, the Great Mother is the goddess of time. From menstruation, with its supposed relation to the moon, pregnancy, and beyond, the woman is regulated by and dependent on time; so it is she who determines time… V. "Ancient Egypt: the Light of the World."
The culmination of Massey’s long labor of 36 years was Ancient Egypt
, published in the year of his death, 1907. [15
] Summing up his feelings about this monumental coda to his opus, Massey wrote:
Comparatively speaking, "A Book of Beginnings" was written in the dark, "The Natural Genesis" was written in the twilight, whereas "Ancient Egypt" has been written in the light of day.
In Ancient Egypt, Massey appears to have obtained a full grasp of the multi-dimensional subject upon which he had devoted the last three-and-a-half decades of his life. In these two volumes, the reader sees unfolding a tripartite evolutionary scheme of Kamite religion: typology, mythology, and eschatology. Massey had reached the summit of the mountain he had climbed relentlessly all his adult life.
In Ancient Egypt, Massey delved into an area untouched in his previous writings: totemism. He outlines the manner in which evolutionary natural genesis led man from primordial sign-language to totemism and thence to spiritism. The totemic phase, overshadowed by the Great Mother, was a harbinger of the elements that came to form what is now understood as religion. It was the time when humans were discreted out of the ‘primal, promiscuous horde’ into matriarchal lineages demarcated by the natural totemic types, whether plant or animal.
The totem imparted:
Lineage identification by relation to a common maternal ancestor.
A mode of inter-lineage food distribution.
A means to promote exogamy (out-marriage), thereby imposing the first taboos against indiscriminate sexual congress.
It was the time, according to Massey, when the post-menopausal mother, her life’s purpose fulfilled, voluntarily gave herself up to her children to be eaten as a sacramental meal to:
Preserve her from the ravages of old age.
Keep her blood within the totem group.
It was the blood of the mother that determined descent and the blood was (and is) the most potent representation of life. Here then is the original eucharist, i.e., the consumption of the body and blood of the savior to infuse the communicant with new life and potency. As Massey attested, the first savior was the Mother – the earth that germinated life, the tree whose fruit sustained life, the water that renewed life, then finally the sacrificial blood necessary to ontologically uphold the community. In these aspects and more, she was man’s savior.
In the chapter entitled Elemental and Ancestral Spirits, Massey embarked on a discussion of the Afro-Kamite interconnection with the spirit world. Massey, the spiritualist, perceived no incongruity in this spirit connection:
The colossal conceit of obtuse modern ignorance notwithstanding, the ghost and the faculty for seeing the ghost are realities in the domain of natural fact. The seers may be comparatively rare, although the clairvoyant and seer of spirits is by no means so scarce as either the great painter or great poet. The abnormal faculties are human, and they can be increased by cultivation.
Massey, though something of a clairvoyant himself, never claimed to be a mystic, per se
. He was a dedicated empiricist, believed in rational science, and refused to countenance ‘miraculous’ happenings that contravened the laws of nature. Still, he considered that the ‘mesmeric’ forces of spiritualism were well within the domain of nature and strongly affirmed the ability of the ancient sages of Egypt and Africa to command such forces. Indeed, the late Senegalese polymath Cheikh Anta Diop showed that with the empirical confirmation of the famous Einsteinian ‘EPR Phenomenon,’ now referred to as ‘quantum entanglement’ or ‘non-locality,’ Psi phenomena might rightly be considered a branch of physics! [18
In the Prefatory to Ancient Egypt
, Massey wrote that his earlier books ‘were met in England with the truly orthodox conspiracy of silence.’ Considering that his writings completely overturned the ‘received’ theories on the birth of civilization as well as the very foundations of orthodox Christianity, it isn’t any wonder. In Ancient Egypt
, Massey showed that the highest and last phase of the Egyptian science of the soul – a science slowly fashioned over many millennia from its inner African beginnings – was the eschatological one. The drama of Osiris with its interwoven themes of life, death, and resurrection was the most perfect expression of this final psycho-mental phase in Egypt, eventually giving rise to the late Mediterranean cults like those of Tammuz, Adonis, and Dionysus. Even though the Osirian drama represented Egyptian soul science in its most spiritualized form, it preserved intact the earlier typology and astro-mythology. According to Massey, the Egyptian priests (with their Ethiopian predecessors) had maintained an unbroken continuity of star-gazing for more than 10,000 years. Moreover, as indicated earlier, the types (and archetypes) had been reconstituted in the heavens. To the ancient Kamites, the celestial and terrestrial worlds mirrored one another. The important stars and star-groupings were given names, histories, and symbols reflecting directly the natural types. Thus the planisphere (and the Zodiac) gives us the constellations of the scarab beetle (our crab), lion, ram, bull, and fishes, etc. Massey informs us that astronomical mythology passed through three stages – stellar, lunar, then solar. The developed Osirian drama was solar in character but incorporated all of the mythos of the earlier stellar and lunar phases. Osiris was thus the night-time sun passing through the nether-world of Amenta as a result of his murder by Set, the principle of darkness, who was later figured as the Hebrew Satan. At dawn, Osiris is resurrected as his son Horus who fights and defeats the devouring dragon of darkness for light to triumph another day. In the eschatological stage of typological evolution, Osiris comes to personify the soul of the deceased who, after conquering the forces of evil and corruption that lie in wait in Amenta, is resurrected as the glorified, i.e., spiritual, sun of which Horus is the symbol. As Massey saw it, everything in the Afro-Kamite world was of a piece, expressing the complete interpenetration of typology, mythology, and eschatology.
Massey capped his signature work with an elaborate and detailed investigation into the Kamite origins of Christianity. He was able to trace all the important Christic themes to Kamite typology and astro-mythology. He asserted that the Gospels, like the Old Testament, are revealed as just the humanized and historicized astronomical mythology Egypt, instituted by the early Christian patriarchs and redactors, and formalized at the Council of Nicea. [19
] As an example, the word Christ
itself, meaning ‘anointed’, is a late Greek word that only appears about 290 BC in Alexandria (Egypt), [20
] clearly derived from the Egyptian keres(t)
, a name for the anointed and resurrected Osirified mummy. Astronomical antecedents of Christianity´s are shown in the canonical birthday of Christ, originally celebrated on January 6 – as it still is in the Greek Orthodox Church – but pushed back to December 25 in the Roman Church to coincide with and co-opt the understand Massey´s writings
of the sun-god Horus (and all the solar deities of antiquity). Two thousand years ago, as the sun dawned on December 25th, the constellation Virgo could be seen on the eastern horizon. The Sun – and the Son – were born ‘of a Virgin.’
It is also of note that the Christian crucified figure was always depicted as a lamb until the 7th century. Here, the Savior, the Lamb, harkens back to the Age of Aries, the Ram, the Zodiacal ruler from 2,277 BC to 119 BC, when the sun rose at the spring equinox with the constellation Aries sitting on the eastern horizon. Though Jesus Christ incarnated as the avatar of the Age of Pisces, the Two Fishes, that began 119 BC, the imagery of the previous Aries Ram Age maintained itself in the reference to the Christ as ‘the Lamb of God.’ Christ as a crucified man
was a relatively late figure in Christian iconography. In the Appendix to Ancient Egypt
, Massey listed more than 200 direct parallels between the Jesus legend and the cycle of Osiris/Horus. The earthly Jesus is congruent to Horus; Jesus the Christ corresponds to Osiris, the resurrected god.
There were a number of Christian and quasi-Christian cults struggling for survival in the early centuries AD. In Massey’s view, the Gnostics especially represented a type of Christianity in which the Egyptian originals were consciously preserved and did not center around the false human history of a mythical savior. The Gnostic Christ was a type of the Deified Man that lies dormant in every human soul and the attainment to which was the aim of Egyptian soul science whose guide map was the Book of the Dead
, more properly called the Book of the Coming Forth by Day
. Outside the Gospels, there is no authentic reference to the man Jesus and his supposed history as portrayed by the Gospels by any contemporary commentator until the 2nd century. The Theosophical scholar GRS Mead, a learned authority in the field of Christian origins, wrote:
It has always been an unfailing source of astonishment to the historical investigator of Christian beginnings, that there is not one single word from the pen of any Pagan writer of the first century of our era, which can in any fashion be referred to the marvelous story recounted by the Gospel writers. The very existence of Jesus seems to be unknown  (Italics added).
According to Mead, and in this Massey concurs, a man named Yahushua (Joshua) Ben Pandera (Jesus
is Greek for Yahushua
) did live more than century before the Gospel Jesus was supposed to have been born. [22
] Yahushua was an Essene sage who was raised among the Therapeuts
(‘healers’) of Egypt where he became a master of healing and ‘wonderworking.’ Sometime around 73 BC, he traveled through Palestine, healing, teaching, and performing myriad ‘wonders.’ Because of his ‘magical’ practices, he was arrested, tried, and hanged by Jewish magistrates in the city of Lydda on the eve of Passover in 70 BC. If there was a historical Jesus, Yahushua Ben Pandera was him. Beginning late in the 2nd century BC, there arose a heightened and widespread anticipation of the appearance of a ‘world savior,’ and it seems that the life and work of Yahushua the Essene provided the germ around which the vast soteriology (‘savior mythology’) of the ancient world, specifically that of Egypt, coalesced. The system of the Essenes – called Therapeuts in Egypt – prefigured Christianity that evolved directly from it.
The worship of Isis and Serapis – a form of Osiris – was lifted bodily out of Egypt and transplanted to Rome where, for nearly four centuries the cult, particularly that of Isis, rivaled those of Jupiter and Mithra. Isis was especially popular in her aspect of Mother with Child, i.e., Isis with the Infant Horus, and both she and Horus were consistently depicted with black coloring and Ethiopic features. Surviving Roman frescoes in Pompeii represent her priests as Ethiopian and Roman legions carried her image and worship to the farthest reaches of barbarian Europe. When late in the 5th century Christianity began to penetrate these regions, wherever the missionaries found the image complex of Isis holding the Child Horus, they turned it into the Black Madonna and Child. More than 1500 years after Christianization, these sacred sites of the Black Madonna and Child remain the holiest shrines of Catholic Europe.
One implication of Massey’s work is that man’s path to self-reconciliation lies in making peace with the Cosmic Mother, the object of his abuse and repression over a period of 2,000 years, thereby effecting a harmonious re-alignment between the Mother and Father consciousness. In the Osirian legend, when Horus, personifying the light and sun, was about to achieve complete victory over Set, the darkness and night, Thoth, the Universal Mind and Balancer, stepped in, put a halt to the battle, and restored Set to his proper place. The cosmos was created in a balanced equilibrium; the subtle and complex interplay between the light and dark gives meaning and form to the universe. In the Deified Man – who is Osirian in one mode, Christic in another – the opposites unite and are transcended. Massey’s opus points us in the direction of that essential realization.
A word should be said about Massey’s legacy. When reading David Shaw’s Gerald Massey
, the sole book-length biography of Massey in existence, it becomes evident that there is a multi-vectored latter day appreciation of Massey’s legacy. Massey seemed to be a man of many lives; certainly his interests were wide and multifarious. He was self-taught and self-made; a radical activist, editor, lecturer, poet, literary critic, evolutionist, spiritualist, Egyptologist, antiquarian, and mythographer. Any one of these pursuits would have served as a sufficient vocation for an ordinary man. But four centuries earlier, Massey’s eclectic interests might have won for him the sobriquet “Renaissance Man.” The wide scope of Massey’s interests and writings has meant that there are different “constituencies” to which he appeals. In academic circles in Britain and America, there is burgeoning interest in his literary output and, to a lesser extent, the radical, socially-conscious career of Massey’s early adulthood. In Britain, his reputation as an established member in the rank of the minor 19th century English poets wins sustained interest. This literary reputation – considered along with his radical political views, advocacy of women’s emancipation, and opposition to dissection of live animals – reveals Massey as one of 19th century England’s most interesting public characters, even if he labored in relative obscurity all of his life.
In America, there can be detected a definable interest in Massey’s literary output in academic circles. However, Massey has gained a discernible public readership in the U.S. based entirely on his Egyptian trilogy, the subject of this essay. There are significant numbers of black Americans who are attracted to Massey’s writings on Egypt, impressed by his erudition and the manner in which his books open up a whole new vista of historical investigation. This “sub-set” of readers knows little about the rest of his literary output. Still, it must be pointed out that others outside this African-American “sub-set”, e.g., the antiquarian writers Albert Churchward and Alfred Boyd Kuhn, have also been decisively impacted by Massey’s Egyptian trilogy. These two men, in fact, seem to have been Masseyan disciples. Churchward, along lines of inquiry first introduced by Massey, was completely absorbed in unraveling the riddle of human beginnings from early Africa through a study of the primordial Pygmy (Ba Twa
) peoples who first colonized the earth. Kuhn adopted the Masseyan approach in his attempt to unravel and understand the enigma of Christian beginnings.
Among American Blacks, Massey’s Egyptian books were first brought to light by the historical writers J. A. Rogers and John G. Jackson in the 1930s and ‘40s. The present writer, after seeing the citations of Massey in the books of Rogers (World’s Great Men of Color
) and Jackson (Introduction to African Civilization
), found Massey’s books in Weiser’s Bookstore, a well-known spiritualist bookstore in New York’s East Village, in 1971 and spent the next 10 years laboring through all six volumes. Massey’s books are almost impossibly dense and it was not possible to read them straight through. There was too much information packed in every written line and, taken together, the six volumes ran for more than 3,000 pages.
From 1970 to 1990, an African-centered or ‘Afrocentric’ historiography emerged in the U.S. that challenged the received and accepted notions of ancient African history, especially with regard to the place of ancient Kemit (Egypt) in that history. This ‘new wave’ of black historical writers accepted as fundamental tenets the following premises:
Any history that concerns Africa or people of African descent must place Africa at the center of that history;
Egypt was the founding civilization of Africa and the re-discovery of the values of ancient Egyptian civilization will play the same role for the African world as the re-discovery of the values of Greco-Roman civilization did for the Renaissance in Europe.
The first premise was first articulated by the African-American professor Molefi Asante and the second by the Senegalese polymath Cheikh Anta Diop. In effect, African-centered writers had begun to reclaim ancient Egypt for Africa, from where there had been a prolonged and systematic scholarly attempt to detach it. Gerald Massey became (and still is) one of the most important and essential resources in the African-centered scholarly re-examination that ensued. The present writer freely acknowledges that Gerald Massey and Cheikh Anta Diop are, to this day, his most seminal and formative scholarly and intellectual influences. The author’s book Echoes of the Old Dark Land: Themes from the African Eden (1991) was dedicated to these two men.
The present author began reading Massey’s works in 1971 and, after 1981, wrote several review articles on the Masseyan opus. However, it has only been relatively recently, that he has felt confident enough to actually critique Massey. It could be said that it took 30 years to understand and grasp – if only in a gestalt fashion – the details and multi-leveled vectors of Massey’s thought. For one thing, after poring over Massey’s writings repeatedly, it became clear that what was needed most was a competent editor. Massey seemed to have just poured everything that was in his head onto the endless pages of text so that a fair amount of redundancy crept into the books. But who could have edited these books? Recalling the words of Alfred Russel Wallace, there were probably not a score of persons in all England who were prepared by their background and upbringing to understand Massey writings. Secondly, Massey’s facts were not always accurate. For example, in his exhaustive discussion of the (precessional) Great Year, Massey writes that the Age of Pisces began 255 BC. That date is 136 years too early. Until the recent book by the astrophysicist Thomas Brophy, The Origin Map, there was reason to believe that the Piscean Age would have begun around 68 BC. However, Brophy demonstrates by using data concerning the timing of the most recent northern culmination of the Galactic Center that the launch date for this cycle of the precessional Great Year would have taken place in 10,909 BC in the sign of Leo, meaning that the Piscean Age would have begun five Ages later in 119 BC. Here and there throughout these tomes, there are facts and interpretations of evidence that are dubious or debatable. But then there has never been a writer whose works are free of flaws or errors. Errors of detail and the need for at least some editorial house cleaning in no way vitiate or diminish the Masseyan opus.
Massey was not merely a man of protean talents; in the opinion of the writer, he achieved a certain greatness with the three books to which he devoted the last decades of his life. He had the ability, rare in the 19th century, to look at a thing without the blinders of a priori prejudice to unflinchingly arrive at and proclaim a truth unpalatable to the common run of people who surrounded him. He possessed a wide-ranging and penetrating mind, never limited by artificial distinctions or boundaries. Though he could be prickly in the defense of his ideas and ideals, he projected a sensitive humanity in all he undertook. He was overshadowed in public prominence, recognition, and fame by other ancient historians and antiquarians, but there was no one else like him in the England of his time. In the coming generations, it is likely that his legacy will be rescued from the obscurity that has shadowed it since his death. He was not the first – nor will he be the last – man to be more fully appreciated by posterity than by his contemporaries.
THE “MASSEYAN” VIEW.
There is a continuing controversy among students of the past that is usually posed as a dichotomy between a ‘diffusionist’ and an ‘anti-diffusionist’ view of history:
• The diffusionists posit that whenever a complex of similar or identical cultural traits are shared between two widely-spaced groups of people, it means that one group is the giver and the other the receiver of such traits.
• The anti-diffusionists insist that different groups of human beings can discover or arrive at identical customs, beliefs, and techniques independently, without any intervening influence of one group upon the other.
Clearly, there is abundant evidence in favour of the anti-diffusionist opinion, but its validity and cogency recede to the nothingness when the number of shared cultural traits accumulates past a certain point. Then, only a diffusionist viewpoint can explain the phenomenon. In fact, it has been postulated that if two cultural groups share at least 12 traits in common, it is presumptive evidence of diffusional influence of one upon the other. The more discernible shared traits there are beyond that threshold, the more certain it is that diffusion is the explanation for that commonality.
Gerald Massey was a diffusionist, plain and simple. For him the issue was unarguable: the religious ideas and symbols whose genesis is in the Nile Valley, flowed outward from Africa eventually giving birth to both Judaism and Christianity. The number of parallels between those two religions on the one hand and those of Nile Valley religion on the other, are simply too abundant to admit of any other conclusion. The above-mentioned threshold of correspondences that distinguishes a diffusionist explanation from that of independent development is so far surpassed in the comparison of Judaeo-Christian and Nile Valley religions that the unbiased observer, in Massey’s view, is compelled to admit that Judaeo-Christian religion is the end-product of the Nile Valley world-system. The story of Horus presages that of Moses; the epic of Osiris, the mummified and anointed Kerest, prefigures that of Yahushua, the resurrected Christ. For Massey it was a Nile Genesis and only through understanding the Nile Genesis is the Judaeo-Christian epoch intelligible.
Charles S. Finch III is currently Director of International Health at the Morehouse School of Medicine. He is a 1971 graduate of Yale University and a 1976 graduate of Jefferson Medical College. He completed a family medicine residency at the University of California Irvine Medical Centre in 1979.
Dr. Finch joined the Department of Family Medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine in 1982 and then the Office of International Health in 1989, eventually becoming the principal investigator of a traditional healer survey among the Serer people of Senegal, 1991-1992. Dr. Finch led three additional traditional healer projects in Senegal, ending October,1995. Between 1992 - 1995, he led groups to traditional healing ceremonies in Senegal.
Dr. Finch has conducted independent studies in African antiquities, comparative religion, anthropology, and ancient science since 1971. Since 1982, he has published more than a dozen articles, including The African Background of Medical Science and Science and Symbol in Egyptian Medicine. A collection of Dr. Finch´s essays, The African Background to Medical Science, was published by Karnak House (London) in November, 1990. His Echoes of the Old Dark Land (August, 1991) was published by Khenti Inc. (Decatur) and his most recent book, The Star of Deep Beginnings: Genesis of African Science & Technology was published in February, 1998.
Dr. Finch has lectured more than 800 times in the U.S., Senegal, England, Switzerland, Guatemala, Jamaica, Trinidad, the Bahamas, and Egypt on diverse topics. He has led six study tours to Egypt since 1989 and travelled to Africa more than 50 times. He was a co-organizer of Coumba Lamba USA, an 8-day African healing ceremony on St. Helena Island, South Carolina in 1996. He was Morehouse School of Medicine´s principal investigator of a cooperative agreement with the U.S.-sponsored Global AIDS Program Initiative to conduct programs against non-AIDS sexually transmitted infections in two southern African countries.
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