In a passage I have cited many times before, from a 1936 lecture entitled The Stable and the Manger, Alvin Boyd Kuhn declares that the ancient myths and scriptures "mean nothing as outward events" (that is, as supposed narratives of literal events in terrestrial history) but rather that
they mean everything as picturizations of that which is our living experience at all times. The actors are not old kings, priests and warriors; the one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul.
All of the myths and sacred stories, according to Kuhn's analysis, deal with one theme: "The epic of the human soul in earthly embodiment" (Lost Light, 67). In all of the varied episodes, he maintains, whether wrestling with serpents or being tempted by Sirens or struggling to return home, "the history of the divine Ego in its progress from Earth back to the skies was allegorically portrayed" (67).
The profound ramifications of this perspective upon the ancient myths may be easy to overlook, unless we take the time to let the weighty import of these assertions sink in. If Kuhn is correct (and I believe that he is), then it means that you and I and every other man or woman or child that we ever meet are much more than we have been conditioned to believe.
In his view, the world's ancient wisdom is declaring again and again that each and every human soul is in fact divinity "buried in clay," or "chopped up" like Osiris and scattered across the country, or entwined in "the coils of a serpent," or "shorn of power" like Samson -- but that our experience here in this "lower passage" involves the recovery of that "buried" aspect of our nature, and the "re-integration" or "reclamation" of that divine aspect which has been temporarily lost or forgotten.
In support of his assertion, Kuhn points to a powerful passage from the ancient Egyptian Ritual of the Coming Forth by Day (also commonly referred to in modern times as the Egyptian Book of the Dead). There, in the 42nd chapter (illustrated in what is known as "Plate 32" or "Sheet 32" of the version inscribed upon the famous version known as the Papyrus of Ani, which is seventy-eight feet in length and beautifully illustrated), we read the following lines (as translated by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1901, with occasional clarification from the 1972 translation by Raymond O. Faulkner added in brackets):
The hair of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the hair of Nu [or Nun]
The face of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the face of Ra
The eyes of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the eyes of Hathor
The ears of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the ears of Ap-uat [or Wepwawet]
The lips of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the lips of Anpu [or Anubis]
The teeth [or molars] of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the teeth of Serqet [or Selket]
The neck of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the neck of Isis
The hands of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the hands of Ba-neb-Tattu
The shoulder of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the shoulder of Uatchet
The throat of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the throat of Mert
The forearms of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the forearms of the Lady of Sais
The backbone of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the backbone of Set
The chest of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the chest of the lords of Kheraha
The flesh [or chest] of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the flesh of the Mighty One of Terror [or He who is Greatly Majestic]
The reins and back [or belly and spine] of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the reins and back of Skehet [or Sekhmet]
The buttocks of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the buttocks of the Eye of Horus
The phallus of Osiris Ani, triumphant, is the phallus of Osiris
The legs [or thighs and calves] of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the legs of Nut
The feet of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the feet of Ptah
The fingers of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the fingers of Orion
The leg-bones [or toes] of Osiris Ani, triumphant, are the leg-bones of the living uraei [the rearing cobras of the goddess Wadjet]
There is no member of my body which is not the member of some god ["There is no member of mine devoid of a god"]
The god Thoth shieldeth my body altogether ["And Thoth is the protection of all my flesh"]
In the image above, from the Papyrus of Ani, you can see the illustration that accompanies this profound passage in the Ritual of Coming Forth by Day. There, each of the divine personages mentioned in the cited text is illustrated, from the figure of Nu (or Nun) on the far left as we face the page to the three living uraei (rearing cobras) on the far right of the image.
What this profound passage appears to be teaching us is that we are in some way intended to incorporate the powers of the gods into our lives -- and that the gods who dwell in the Invisible Realm somehow have their home and exercise their power through the persons of men and women in this realm.
In Lost Light, on page 549, Alvin Boyd Kuhn interprets this very passage, saying:
The god himself, fallen into carnal mire, buried and inert, had to be raised and restored to sound condition. As he awakened his faculties and sloughed off the imprisoning vesture of decay, it was as if every member of his body was resuscitated and made over. [ . . . ] This work is gradual and is accomplished piecemeal. The god finds glorification coming day by day, feature by feature; he is reconstituted limb by limb, member by member, until he says there is no part of him that remains mortal. He is given the hair of Nu or heaven (solar rays); the eyes of Hathor; the ears of Apuat; the nose of Khenti-Kas; the lips of Anup; the teeth of Serkh; the neck of Isis; the hands of the mighty lord of Tattu; the shoulders of Neith; the back of Sut; the phallus of Osiris; the legs and thighs of Nut; the feet of Ptah; and the nails and bones of the living Uraei "until there is no limb of him that is without a god." "My leg-bones are the leg-bones of the living gods. There is no member of my body that is not the member of some god. I am Yesterday, and Seer of Millions of Years is my name." Here is notice to man that he must traverse every kingdom in order that he may absorb and embody in himself every aspect of nature's power, the efficacy of every god. Mighty truth is this. 549 - 550.
In this explication of the passage, Kuhn echoes Gerald Massey, who wrote in Ancient Egypt: the Light of the World (Volume One, published in 1907) that:
Before the mortal Manes could attain the ultimate state of spirit in the image of Horus the immortal, he must be put together part by part as was Osiris, the dismembered god. He is divinized in the likeness of various divinities, all of whom had been included as powers in the person of the one true god, Neb-er-ter, the lord entire. Every member and part of the Manes in Amenta has to be fashioned afresh in a new creation. The new heart is said to be shaped by certain gods in the nether world, according to the deeds done in the body whilst the person was living on earth. He assumes the glorified body that is formed feature by feature and limb after limb in the likeness of the gods until there is no part of the Manes that remains undivided. He is given the hair of Nu, or heaven, the eyes of Hathor, ears of Apuat, nose of Khenti-Kas, lips of Anup, teeth of Serk, neck of Isisi, hand of the mighty lord of Tattu, shoulders of Neith, back of Sut, phallus of Osiris, legs and thighs of Nut, feet of Ptah, with nails and bones of the living Uraei, until there is not a limb of him that is without a god. 198 - 199.
While Kuhn admired the work of Massey and praised him as one of the most discerning and insightful to have studied ancient Egypt, he disagreed that the passages have to do with the soul in the afterlife -- rather, Kuhn argues, the soul in this incarnate life (which is indeed "the Underworld," compared to the intangible Realm of Spirit) is indicated. Thus, we are not to understand that we must incorporate the attributes and powers of the various gods and goddesses in the next life, but rather in this one.
As Kuhn says, "Mighty truth is this" -- and a profound mystery.
But it is clearly and forcefully proclaimed in the ancient Egyptian texts -- and it opens an entirely new paradigm on our mission and purpose here in this incarnate life.
And it opens an entirely new paradigm upon the way we treat others and structure our society -- because it means that the gods in a very real sense can be understood to be present in those around us (just as they are also present in ourselves).
In what ways is our society -- which itself is a product of a civilization that has been violently cut off from the world's ancient wisdom for at least seventeen centuries -- dishonoring the gods or even stealing from them in the way that it treats individual men and women in whose members the gods manifest (according to the ancient texts)?
In what ways do we steal from the gods when we do not teach these truths to others, or allow them to be known -- and when we do not pursue the kind of integration in ourselves that is described in the ancient Book of the Coming Forth by Day?
I am quite convinced that the world's ancient wisdom was given to humanity for our benefit and blessing -- and that their ancient teaching belongs to each and every one of us.
Because, as the Papyrus of Ani illustrates and declares, the gods and goddesses are properly present in us: in you, and in me, and in everyone you ever meet.