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Epistle of Isis, Queen of Egypt and wife of Osiris, to her son Horus
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Samten de Wet
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 Posted: Mon Dec 24th, 2012 10:51 pm
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The two texts mentioned below are almost a century apart. I was wondering if anyone could amplify the Epistle of Isis . . Yours sincerely, Samten de Wet, Cape Town

Michèle Mertens , Une scène d'initiation alchimique : la “Lettre d'Isis à Horus”, Revue de l'histoire des religions, 1988, Volume 205, Issue 205-1, pp. 3-23

H. Carrington Bolton, says that but the clearest explanation of the macrocosm/microcosm philosophy:

“ . . . is found in the "Epistle of Isis, Queen of Egypt and wife of Osiris, to her son Horus;" this is one of the Greco-Egyptian writings on the " Sacred Art," of unknown authorship and obscure origin. The passage is as follows: "Hermes calls man the microcosm, because the man, or the small world, contains all that which is included in the macrocosm, or great world. Thus the macrocosm has small and large animals, both terrestrial and aquatic; man, on the other hand, has fleas and lice; these are the terrestrial animals; also intestinal worms; these are aquatic animals. The macrocosm has rivers, springs, and seas; man has internal organs, intestines, veins, and channels. The macrocosm has aerial animals; man has gnats and other winged insects. The macrocosm has volatile spirits, such as winds, thunders, and lightnings; man has internal gases and pordas of diseases. The macrocosm has two luminaries, the sun and moon; man has also two luminaries, the right eye, representing the sun, and the left eye, the moon. The macrocosm has mountains and hills; man has a head and ears. The macrocosm has twelve signs of the zodiac; man has them also, from the lobe of the ear to the feet, which are called the fishes." The date of this writing is not certainly known, but it is approximately of the fourth or fifth century.”

Bolton, H. Carrington, A Relic of Astrology, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 11, No. 41 (Apr. - Jun., 1898), p. 116

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Tue Dec 25th, 2012 12:59 am
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Hi Samten,

It's usually known in English as the Sermon (or Letter) of Isis.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/gno/th3/th329.htm

Googling 'Sermon of Isis' and 'Letter of Isis to her son' gives a few hits. GRS Mead studied it.

The Mertens article is available here:
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rhr_0035-1423_1988_num_205_1_1935

Kersgroete,

P

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Fri Dec 28th, 2012 10:44 am
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There is a chapter on the text in "The Origins of Alchemy in Graeco-Roman Egypt" by Jack LIndsay, which was published in 1970.  It has more discussion on the text and its meaning, in a somewhat scholarly way.   (Not that I am an expert, but it seems closer in interpretation to actual scholars than modern esotericcal interpretations)

Samten de Wet
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 Posted: Wed Jan 2nd, 2013 08:01 pm
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Thank you.

Daniel_Burnham
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 Posted: Wed May 14th, 2014 05:39 pm
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Paul Ferguson wrote:
Hi Samten,

It's usually known in English as the Sermon (or Letter) of Isis.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/gno/th3/th329.htm

The Mertens article is available here:
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rhr_0035-1423_1988_num_205_1_1935


To jump in here a little late...

The first text quoted above (preserved from Stobaeus) while not part of the Corpus Hermeticum, could certainly be classified as 'Hermetica'. Flinders Petrie remarked that this text was closely related to the Kore Kosmou. These are cosmogonic texts, not really alchemical in my opinion.

However, this is quite different from the text discussed by Mertens. I believe the one she refers to is "Isis the Prophetess to her Son Horus" from the Codex Marcianus. This was originally published by Berthelot in 'Collection des Ancient Alchemistes Grecs' (I.XIII):
http://remacle.org/bloodwolf/alchimie/alchimieI.htm

This latter text is clearly alchemical in nature, and is followed by a series of 'recipes' (which I suspect are heavily encoded).

I am chiming in, due primarily to my studies of the ~10th century Arabic alchemical manuscript "Mushaf as-suwar" (translated by Abt and Fuad, 2011). Within this manuscript there is a discussion between Zosimos and Theosebeia regarding this particular alchemical text:

(p. 357-358)
---
She (Theosebeia) said: "Will you not tell me about Isis and what she said about the inundation of the moisture, and the great vision which was revealed to her when the planet rotated - it was Saturn - and his (Saturn's) descending to her from the seventh sky, and his attempt to seduce her? But she refused his request unless he taught her the making of gold and silver, because he was the master of that, and with him is the basis of the matter of nature, after the exalted God. He refused her this but then he returned to her, and she asked him about his name. He declared that he was the greatest fighter."

He (Zosimos) said: "If you are only asking me in order to confirm what you know, you are not the first who doubted. But if you are asking me out of ignorance of what Isis alluded to, maybe I should increase it (your ignorance) for you."

She said: "Know, O Zosimos, by the great Judge of souls, all these questions that I am putting to you are not out of blindness or doubting about whoever came before you, rather I find pleasure and comfort in what you illuminate for me, by which God increases my happiness."

He said: "Concerning these things which Isis said, they are: She is the white woman and the blond one is Amtiail (Amael). So she compared herself to that woman, and she took Amtiail as her companion. And I told you that they only write by giving enigmatic allusions and examples."
---

The clarification provided by Zosimos within the Mushaf as-suwar suggests an esoteric interpretation of the story. Isis is the female nature of the alchemical work, while the angel is the masculine nature (the 'strong' fighter).

Last edited on Wed May 14th, 2014 05:39 pm by Daniel_Burnham

Samten de Wet
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 Posted: Wed May 14th, 2014 09:20 pm
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KYLE A. FRASER, ZOSIMOS OF PANOPOLIS and the Book of ENOCH: ALCHEMY AS FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE, Aries Vol. 4, no. 2.
Worth exploring.


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