Egyptian mythology

From Anthroposophy


Lecture coverage and references

Osiris - Isis - Horus



1908-09-07, 08, 09, 11


.. the Osiris-Isis-Myth belonging to the Egyptian culture. I have already called your attention to the fact that the Osiris-Isis-Myth is also conceived by Dupuis as a mere priest lie, that the priests as far as they themselves were concerned, had meant nothing but astronomical, astronomical-astrological events, and had fabricated such a myth for the common people.

The Greeks, Israelites and Egyptians had different conceptions of their connection with the universe. Nevertheless there prevailed in all, as we shall shortly see, a deep relationship as regards other standpoints, as well as in reference to the one I shall take as a basis today.

Of the Egyptians one must say that in the age when the Osiris-Isis-Myth arose as the representative for profounder truths, they developed a knowledge which had a longing to know the deeper foundations of the human soul. The Egyptians desired in this way to turn their gaze to that element in the human soul which lives not only between birth and death, but which passes through birth and death and also leads a life between death and a new birth. Even from external perception one can see how the Egyptians — in their preservation of mummies, in their peculiar death-ceremonies — turned the eye of the soul to that element in the soul which passes through the gate of death and in new form experiences new destinies when Man treads ways that lie on the other side.

What is it in Man that passes through the gate of death and that enters through birth into earthly existence? This question, more or less unconscious and unexpressed, underlay the thought and aspirations of the Egyptians. For it is this eternal-imperishable element — I have often already expressed it in another form — that is united in the Egyptian consciousness with the name of Osiris. Now, in order to have a foundation, let us consider the Osiris-Myth in its most important aspects, let us just consider it, as it has been preserved.

  • It is related of Osiris that at one time he ruled in Egypt. It is related that above all the Egyptians owed to him the suppression of cannibalism, that they owed to him the plough, agriculture, the preparation of food from the plant kingdom, the building of cities, certain legal ideas, astronomy, rhetoric, even a script and so on.
  • It is then related that Osiris inaugurated not only among the Egyptians such beneficent arts and institutions but that he undertook journeys into other lands and there too spread similar useful arts. And in fact it was expressly stated that Osiris did not spread them by the sword but by persuasion.
  • Then it is further related that Typhon, the brother of Osiris, wanted to institute new things in opposition to what had proved beneficial for the Egyptians throughout centuries through the influence of Osiris. Typhon wanted to inaugurate all sorts of novelties. We should say today: after the institution of Osiris had existed for hundreds of years, Typhon made a revolution while Osiris was absent extending his institutions among other peoples. This differs a little from the latest example of revolution ... there something happened which newcomers brought about, not while the other was extending beneficent institutions among other nations ... But between Osiris and Typhon there took place what has been stated.
  • Then, however, the myth proceeds: Isis waited at home in Egypt. Isis, the consort of Osiris, did not permit the innovations to be really sweeping.
  • That, however, had the effect of enraging Typhon, and as Osiris came back from his wanderings Typhon slew him and made away with the dead body.
  • Isis had to search a long time for the corpse. She found the body at last in Phoenicia, and brought it back home to Egypt.
  • Typhon now became angrier and tore the corpse in pieces.
  • Isis collected the pieces and out of each piece, by means of spices and all sorts of other arts she made a being again which had the complete form of Osiris.
  • She then gave to the priests of the land a third of the whole territory of Egypt, so that the tomb of Osiris should be kept a secret, but his service and worship all the more fostered.

The remarkable statement was then added to this myth, that

  • Osiris now came up out of the underworld — when his worship had already been inaugurated in Egypt — and that he then occupied himself with the instruction of Horus, the son whom Isis had borne after the death of Osiris.
  • Then it is related that Isis had the imprudence to release Typhon whom she had succeeded in imprisoning.
  • Thereupon Horus, her son, became angry, tore the crown from her head and set cow-horns there instead and Typhon was defeated in two battles with the assistance of Hermes — that is the Roman Mercury, the Greek Hermes.
  • A kind of Horus-cult, the cult of the son of Osiris and Isis was instituted.


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