CHAPTER VIII Behold me then returned to Thebai! So scarred and altered was I, though not y
Behold me then returned to Thebai! So scarred and altered was I,
though not yet thirty years of age, that they knew me not. so I
offered myself as a serving-man in the temple of Osiris, and I pleased
the priests mightily, for by my magic power -- though they thought it
to be natural -- I sang songs unto the god, and made hymns. Therefore
in less than a year they began to speak of initiating me into the
Now the High Priest at this time was a young and vigorous man, black-
bearded in the fashion of Osiris, with a single square tuft beneath
the chin. Him had they chosen after my departure in the whirlwind.
And the High Priestess was a woman of forty and two years old, both
dark and beautiful, with flashing eyes and stern lips. Yet her body
was slim and lithe like that of a young girl. Now, as it chanced, it
was my turn to serve her with the funeral offerings; flesh of oxen and
of geese, bread, and wine. And as she ate she spake with me; for she
could see by her art that I was not a common serving-man.
Then I took out the consecrated Wand of Khem that I had from my
father; and I placed it in her hand. At that she wondered, for that
Wand is the sign of a great and holy initiation: so rare that (as
they say) no woman but one has ever attained unto it. Then she
blessed herself that she had been permitted to look upon it, and
prayed me to keep silence for a little while, for she had somewhat in
her mind to do. And I lifted up the wand upon her in the nine-and-
forty-fold benediction, and she received illumination thereof, and
rejoiced. Then I fell at her feet -- for she was the High Priestess
-- and kissed them reverently, and withdrew.
Then three days afterwards, as I learnt, she sent for a priestess who
was skilled in certain deadly crafts and asked of her a poison. And
she gave it, saying: "Let the High Priest of the God of the dead go
down to the dead!"
Then that wicked High Priestess conveyed unto him subtly the poison
in the sacraments themselves, and he died thereof. Then by her
subtlety she caused a certain youth to be made high priest who was
slovenly and stupid, thinking in herself "Surely the god will reject
him." But at his word the Image of the god glowed as was its wont.
And at that she knew -- and we all knew -- that the glory was
departed; for that the priests had supplanted the right ceremony
by some trick of deceit and craft.
Thereat was she mightily cast down, for though wicked and ambitious,
she had yet much power and knowledge.
But instead of using that power and that knowledge she sought to
oppose craft with craft. And suspecting (aright) whose cunning had
done this thing she bribed him to reverse the machinery, so that the
High Priest might be shamed. But shamed he was not; for he lied,
saying that the God glowed brighter than the Sun; and he lied
securely, for Maat the Lady of Truth had no place in that temple. To
such foulness was all fallen by my first failure to assume the god-
form, and their priestly falsehood that my sanctity had rapt me into
heaven. Nor had the wealth they lied to obtain availed them aught;
for Pharaoh had descended upon Thebai, and laid heavy hand upon the
coffers of the temple, so that they were poor. Even, they sold good
auguries for gold; and these were a very destruction to them that
bought. Then they sold curses, and sowed discord in the city.
Wherefore the people grew poorer still, and their gifts to the temple
waxed even less.
For there is no foolishness like the hunger after gain.
Of old the gods had given blessing, and the people offered freely of
Now the priests sowed chaff, and reaped but barrenness.
So I waited patiently in silence to see what might befall. And this
foolish priestess could think of no better expedient than formerly.
But this young stupid man had guessed how his predecessor was dead,
and he touched not the sacraments; but feigned.
Then she called for me -- and I was now ordained priest -- to take
counsel of me; for she was minded to put me in his place.
Thus she made a great banquet for me; and when we were well drunken
she laid her head upon my breast and said marvellous things to me of
love, to me, who had loved the Veiled One! But I feigned all the
madness of passion and made her drunk thereon, so that she talked
great words, frothing forth like dead fishes swollen in the sun, of
how we should rule Thebai and (it might be) displace Pharaoh and take
his throne and sceptre. Yet, foolish woman! she could not think now
she might remove this stupid high priest, her own nominee!
So I answered her "Assume the Form of Osiris, and all will be well in
the Temple of Osiris." Mocking her, for I knew that she could not. Yet
so drunken was she upon love and wine that there and then she
performed the ritual of Adoration and Assumption.
Then I in merry mood put out my power, and caused her in truth to
become Osiris, so that she went icy stark,and her eyes fixed....
Then she tried to shriek with fear, and could no; for I had put upon
her the silence of the tomb.
But all the while I feigned wonder and applause, so that she was
utterly deceived. And being tired of mocking her, I bade her return.
This she did, and knew not what to say. At first she pretended to
have received a great secret; then, knowing how much higher was my
grade initiation, dared not. Then, at last, being frightened, she
flung herself at my feet and confessed all, pleading that at least
her love for me was true. This may well have been; in any case I
would have had compassion upon her, for in sooth her body was like a
flower, white and pure, though her mouth was heavy and strong, her
eyes wrinkled with lust, and her cheeks flaccid with deceit.
So I comforted her, pressing her soft body in mine arms, drinking the
wine of her eyes, feeding upon the honey of her mouth.
Then at last I counselled her that she should bid him to a secret
banquet, and that I should serve them, disguised in my old dress as a
On the next night after this he came, and I served them, and she made
open Love (though feigned) to him. Yet subtly, so that he thought her
the deer and himself the lion. Then at last he went clean mad, and
said: "I will give thee what thou wilt for one kiss of that thy
marvellous mouth." Then she made him swear the oath by Pharaoh -- the
which if he broke Pharaoh would have his head -- and she kissed him
once, as if her passion were like the passion of Nile in flood for the
sandy bars that it devoureth, and then leaping up, answered him, "give
me thine office of High Priest for this my lover!" With that she took
and fondled me. He gaped, aghast; then he took off the ring of office
and flung it at her feet; he spat one word in her face; he slunk away.
But I, picking up the ring of office, cried after him: "What shall be
done to who insulteth the High Priestess?"
And he turned and answered sullenly: "I was the High Priest." "Thou
hadst no longer the ring!" she raged at him, her face white with fury,
her mouth dripping the foam of her anger -- for the word was a vile
Then she smote upon the bell, and the guard appeared. At her order
they brought the instruments of death, and summoned the executioner,
and left us there. Then the executioner bound him to the wheel of
iron by his ankles and his waist and his throat; and he cut off his
eyelids, that he might look upon his death. Then with his shears he
cut off the lips from him, saying, "With these lips didst thou
blaspheme the Holy One, the Bride of Osiris." Then one by one he
wrenched out the teeth of him, saying every time: "With this tooth
didst thou frame a blasphemy against the Holy One, the Bride of
Osiris." Then he pulled out the tongue with his pincers, saying:
"With this tongue didst thou speak blasphemy against the holy One,
the Bride of Osiris." Then took he a strong corrosive acid and
blistered his throat therewith, saying: "From this throat didst thou
blaspheme the Holy One, the Bride of Osiris." Then he took a rod of
steel, white-hot, and burnt away his secret parts, saying: "Be thou
put to shame, who hast blasphemed the Holy One, the Bride of Osiris."
After that, he took a young jackal and gave it to eat at his liver,
saying: "Let the beasts that devour carrion devour the liver that
lifted itself up to blaspheme the Holy One, the Bride of Osiris!" With
that the wretch died, and they exposed his body in the ditch of the
city, and the dogs devoured it.
Now all this while had my lady dallied amorously with me, making such
sweet moan of love as never was, yet her face fixed upon his eyes who
loved her, and there glared in hell's torment, the body ever striving
against the soul which should exceed.
And, as I judge, but the favour of Set the soul gat mastery therein.
Also, though I write it now, coldly, these many thousand years
afterward, never had I such joy of love of any woman as with her, and
at that hour, so that as I write it I remember well across the mist of
time every honey word she spoke, every witching kiss (our mouths
strained sideways) that she sucked from my fainting lips, every
shudder of her soft strong body. I remember the jewelled coils of
hair, how they stung like adders as they touched me; the sharp rapture
of her pointed nails pressing me, now velvet-soft, now capricious-
cruel, now (love-maddened) thrust deep to draw blood, as they played
up and down my spine. But I saw nothing; by Osiris I swear it! I saw
nothing, save only the glare in the eyes of that lost soul that
writhed upon the wheel.
Indeed, as the hangman took out the corpse, we fell back and lay there
among the waste of the banquet, the flagons overturned, the napery
awry, the lamps extinct or spilt, the golden cups, chased with obscene
images, thrown here and there, the meats hanging over the edge of
their bejewelled dishes, their juice staining the white luxury of the
linen; and in the midst ourselves, our limbs as careless as the wind,
One would have said: the end of the world is come. But through all
that fiery abyss of sleep wherein I was plunged so deep, still stirred
the cool delight of the knowledge that I had won the hand for which I
played, that I was High Priest of Osiris in Thebai.
But in the morning we rose and loathed each other, our mouths awry,
our tongues hanging loose from their corners like thirsty dogs, our
eyes blinking in agony from the torture of daylight, our limbs
sticky with stale sweat.
Therefore we rose and saluted each other in the dignity of our high
offices; and we departed one from the other, and purified ourselves.
Then I went unto the Ceremony of Osiris, and for the last time the
shameful farce was played.
But in my heart I vowed secretly to cleanse the temple of its
chicanery and folly. Therefore at the end of the ceremony did I
perform a mighty banishing, a banishing of all things mortal and
immortal, even from Nuit that circleth infinite Space unto Hadit the
Core of Things; from Amoun that ruleth before all the Gods unto Python
the terrible Serpent that abideth at the end of things, from Ptah the
god of the pure soul of aethyr unto Besz the brute force of that which
is grosser than earth, which hath no name, which is denser than lead
and more rigid than steel; which is blacker than the thick darkness
of the abyss, yet is within all and about all.
Then during the day I took counsel with myself, and devised a cunning
to match the cunning of them that had blasphemed Osiris, who had at
last become my God.
Yea! bitterly would I avenge him on the morrow.
Now this was the manner of my working, that I inspired the High
Priestess to an Oracle, so that she prophesied, saying that Osiris
should never be content with his servants unless they had passed the
four ordeals of the elements. Now of old these rituals had been
reserved for a special grade of initiation. The chapter was therefore
not a little alarmed, until they remembered how shamefully all the
true magic was imitated, so that the rumour went that this was but a
device of the High Priestess to increase the reputation of the temple
fore sanctity. And, their folly confirming them in this, they agreed
cheerfully and boasted themselves. Now then did I swathe them one by
one in the grave-clothes of Osiris, binding upon the breast and image,
truly consecrated, of the god, with a talisman against the four
Then I set them one by one upon a narrow and lofty tower, balanced, so
that the least breath of wind would blow them off into destruction.
Those whom the air spared I next threw into Nile where most it foams
and races. Only a few the water gave back again. These, however, did I
bury for three days in the earth without sepulchre or coffin, so that
the element of earth might combat them. And the rare ones whom earth
spared I cast upon a fire of charcoal.
Now who is prepared for these ordeals (being firstly attuned to the
elements) findeth them easy. He remains still, though the tempest
rage upon the tower; in the water he floats easily and lightly;
buried, he but throws himself into trance; and, lastly, his wrappings
protect him against the fire, though all Thebai went to feed the
But it was not so with this bastard priesthood of Osiris. For of the
three hundred only nine were found worthy. The High Priestess,
however, I brought through by my magic, for she had amused me
mightily, and I took great pleasure in her love, that was wilder than
the rage of all the elements in one.
So I called together the nine who had survived, all being men, and
gave them instruction and counsel, that they should form a secret
brotherhood to learn and to teach the formula of the Osiris in its
supreme function of initiating the human soul. That they should keep
discipline in the temple only for the sake of the people, permitting
every corruption yet withdrawing themselves from it. Is not the body
perishable, and the skin most pure? So also he ancient practice of
embalming should fall into desuetude, and that soon; for the world was
past under the rule of Osiris, who loveth the charnel and the tomb.
All being sworn duly into this secret brotherhood I appointed them,
one to preside over each grade, and him of the lowest grade to
select the candidates and to govern the temple.
Then did I perform the invoking Ceremony of Osiris, having destroyed
the blasphemous machinery; and now at last did the God answer me,
glittering with infinite brilliance. Then I disclosed myself to the
Priests, and they rejoiced exceedingly that after all those years the
old lie was abolished, and the master come back to his own.
But the god uttered an Oracle, saying: "This last time shall I glitter
with brilliance in My temple; for I am the god of Life in Death,
concealed. Therefore shall your magic henceforth be a magic most
secret in the heart; and whoso shall perform openly any miracle, him
shall ye know for a liar and a pretender to the sacred wisdom.
"For this cause am I wrapped ever in a shroud of white starred with
the three active colours; these things conceal Me, so that he who
knoweth Me hath passed beyond them."
Then did the god call us each separately to him, and in each ear did
he whisper a secret formula and a word of power, pertaining to the
grade to which I had appointed him.
But to me he gave the supreme formula and the supreme word, the word
that hath eight-and-seventy letters, the formula that hath five-and-
So then I devoted myself there and then to a completer understanding
of Osiris my God, so that I might discover his function in the whole
course of the Cosmos.
For he that is born in the years of the power of a God thinketh that
God to be eternal, one, alone. But he that is born in the hour of the
weakness of the God, at the death of one and the birth of the other,
seeith something (though it be little) of the course of things. And
for him it is necessary to understand fully that change of office (for
the gods neither die nor are reborn, but now one initiates and the
other guards, and now one heralds and the other sanctifies) its purpose
and meaning in the whole scheme of things.
So I, in this year V of the Equinox of the Gods (1908) wherein Horus
took the place of Osiris, will by the light of this my magical memory
seek to understand fully the formula of Horus -- Ra Hoor Khuit -- my
god, that ruleth the world under Nuit and Hadit. Then as Ankh-f-na-
khonsu left unto me the stele 666 with the keys to that knowledge, so
also may I write down in hieroglyph the formula of the Lady of the
Forked Wand and of the Feather, that shall assume his throne and
place when the strength of Horus is exhausted.
So now the service of the Gods was to be secret and their magic
concealed from men. They were to fall before the eyes of men from
their place, and little sewer-rats were to come and mock at them, no
man avenging them, and they utterly careless, not striking for
themselves. Yet was there knowledge of them which an initiate might
gain, though so much more difficult, immeasurably higher and more
My life from this moment became highly concentrated upon itself. I had
no time either for ascetic practices or for any pleasures; nor would I
take any active part in the service of the temple which, purified and
regenerated, had become both subtly perfect and perfectly subtle.
It was not all of the people who did at all comprehend the change that
had occurred; but the others obeyed and made believe to understand,
lest their fellows should despise them. So it happened that the more
ignorant and stupid any person was the more he feigned understanding;
so that the least devout appeared the most devout -- as it is unto
But for me all these things were as nothing; for I studied ever the
nature of Osiris, concentrating myself into mysterious pure symbols.
I understood why it was said that Isis had failed to discover the
Phallus of Osiris, and thus perceived the necessity of Horus to follow
him in the great succession of the Equinoxes. Moreover I fashioned
talismans of pure light concerning Osiris, and I performed in light
all the ceremonies of initiation into his mysteries.
These were interpreted by wise men and translated into the language
of the twilight and graven on stone and in the memories of men.
Yet was I even more intrigued in that great struggle to apprehend the
course of things, as it is seen from the standpoint of Destiny. So
that I might leave true and intelligible images to enlighten the mind
of him (whether myself or another) that should come after me to
celebrate the Equinox of the Gods at the end of the period of Osiris.
As now hath come to pass.
Thus then three-and-thirty years I lived in the temple of Osiris a
High Priest; and I subdued all men under me. Also I abolished the
office of priestess, for had not Isis failed to find that venerable
Phallus without which Osiris must be so melancholy a god? Therefore
was Khemi to fall, and the world to be dark and sorrowful for many
Therefore I made mine High Priestess into a serving-maid, and with
veiled face she served me all those many years, never speaking.
Yet they being accomplished, I thought fit to reward her. So magically
I renewed about her the body of a young girl, and for a year she
served me, unveiled and speaking at her pleasure.
And her time being come, she died.
Then I looked again into my destiny, and perceived that all my work
was duly accomplished. Nor could any use or worth be found in my body.
So therefore I determined to accept my great reward, that was granted
unto me as the faithful minister of the god F.I.A.T. that is behind
all manifestation of Will and of Intelligence, of whom Isis and Osiris
and Horus are but the ministers.
Of this, and of my death, I will speak on another occasion.
But first I will discourse of the inhabitants of the kingdom that
encircleth the world, so that they who fear may be comforted.
But of these matters I am warned that I shall not now become aware,
for that there be great mysteries therein contained, pertaining to a
degree of initiation of which I am as yet unworthy.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank