“What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is below,
to accomplish the miracle of the one thing.”
These words were inscribed on the Emerald Tablet, a legendary cryptic stone containing the alchemical secrets of the universe. The author was Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes the Thrice-Great), who embodied both the Greek god Hermes and the ancient Egyptian god Thoth.
Thoth, god of writing, magic, wisdom and the moon, has the head of an ibis bird. He was the oldest son of Ra and was said to have hatched the world egg, a work of creation made possible by the pure sound of his sacred voice. The voice was understood by the ancient gods to be the source of creation and resurrection. In this article we will see how the message on the Emerald Tablet — “as above, so below” — is demonstrated through the lens of ancient Egyptian legend.
Egyptian temple music was guided by Thoth and Ma’at, Goddess of Truth. They taught that by continuous singing of harmonious chants, humans grew into the likeness of gods. They taught humans to purify the voice through breath work, chanting and meditation, so that the voice would become a healing balm for others. Singing in nature causes the trees to expand their forcefields. The human singing of hymns on earth is the reflection of heavenly creation in harmony. As above, so below. Other theological perspectives understood the same principle about the creative power of the voice: the hymns of Hermes state that sacred sounds pour forth blessings and open a path throughout nature straight to the Divine. The Vedas say that sacred practices using the voice and sound are the fastest way to awakening and enlightenment. The Bible opens with the statement: “In the Beginning was the Word”.
In the story of Isis and Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra became so old and decrepit that the earth became distressed. As the solar power was unable to maintain order, the fields were scorched, the Nile beds were dry, the people and animals were dehydrated and dying. Only Ra could speak the word which would bring change in the weather, but he would not — he needed the heat and light so to stay warm and to see in his old age. His daughter Isis, goddess of fertility, magic and medicine, was driven desperate by this state of affairs. She gathered earth moistened by the drool of Ra, fashioned a small toxic snake, brought it to life and instructed it to bite Ra. When it did, a fever overtook the old god, and he shuddered alone in bed until Isis came to his side. She demanded to know his true name, because therein lay the sound codes of creation, the energy behind the brilliance in the sun. At first he refused, but then surrendered to her request because he realized his life was at stake. Upon hearing the true mystical syllables, Isis spoke them back to her father and he was healed instantly. Isis then went to the lands and spoke the word, blessing the earth with the sound codes of creation.
“She uttered the spell with the magical power of her mouth.
Her tongue was perfect, and it never halted at a word.
Beneficent in command and word was Isis, the woman of magical spells.”
– Egyptian Book of the Dead.
It was with this key that Isis enchanted Osiris with life to give birth to their child Horus. Isis also used this song of code to restore life after death to the scribe Ani, and to chant the dismembered parts of Osiris back together when he was cut into 14 pieces by his brother Set. Isis, who is classically depicted with wings of a bird, is the anointing swallow. The swallow hieroglyph wr, in the Egyptian language means “great”. Egyptian wr-h means “to anoint.” Upon learning Osiris’ fate she transformed into a swallow, and circling the body of her beloved she cried the swallow’s song, bringing the parts of his body back together and infusing life in him once again. Just as bird-headed Thoth demonstrated the life-giving creative power of the voice, so did winged Isis through her anointing bird song. The Egyptian Book of the Dead describes Isis turning into a swallow:
“In the dark marrow of my bones I have made myself light.
I am the swallow spinning at dawn through whom light enters the sky.
Who flies formless above a world of forms, ringing across the horizon.
Enter me, I shall make you a God!”
It is in the story of Isis as a swallow where above meets below once more, in a truly profound way: In September 18th’s article Music and Living: Same Thing, I described how the basic geometry of the universe translates to perfect intervals in an F# major scale. I will review it briefly:
The interior angle sum of a triangle is 180 degrees, and 180 Hz is an F#
The interior angle sum of a circle and square is 360 degrees, and 360 Hz is a higher octave F#
The interior angle sum of a pentagon is 540 degrees, and 540 Hz is the perfect harmonic fifth of F#: C#
Plot twist: the dominant tones of the swallow’s song are
F# and C#
Incredible. The universe expresses itself through geometry and music. Ancient Egyptian mythology and theology were deeply aware of this fact, and their stories about the power of the voice were scientific. Isis, the anointing swallow goddess who sang spells of life-creation using the tones of F# and C#, was an earthly example of heavenly principles. As above so below.
“Thou wilt enchant the sky, the earth, the abyss, the mountains and the sea;
thou wilt understand the language of the birds.”
– The Book of Thoth
Cover photo by Olaf Tausch (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]
Photo insert by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]