Virgin Births

virgin birth

…..Coming back to the countries adjacent to the Eastern end of the Mediterranean we find many examples of the Immaculate Mother and the Holy Child.  Isis and Horus are two Egyptian figures which typify this idea.  Horus was born of his virgin mother Isis at the time of the Winter Solstice (December 21st) and shortly after birth was hidden away from persecution at the hands of his elder brother Typhon in a papyrus swamp.  One of the titles applied to him was “He of the East to whom the Desert brings Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.”  Isis the mother occupied a rather different position from that of Mary as depicted in the early Gospel stories.  Isis is a goddess to whom temples were erected and adoration offered.  As the Christian Church grew and organized Mary was given such titles as “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of God” etc., but these were not new as exactly the same titles were applied to Isis hundreds of years before.   …..Coming back to the countries adjacent to the Eastern end of the Mediterranean we find many examples of the Immaculate Mother and the Holy Child.  Isis and Horus are two Egyptian figures which typify this idea.  Horus was born of his virgin mother Isis at the time of the Winter Solstice (December 21st) and shortly after birth was hidden away from persecution at the hands of his elder brother Typhon in a papyrus swamp.  One of the titles applied to him was “He of the East to whom the Desert brings Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.”  Isis the mother occupied a rather different position from that of Mary as depicted in the early Gospel stories.  Isis is a goddess to whom temples were erected and adoration offered.  As the Christian Church grew and organized Mary was given such titles as “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of God” etc., but these were not new as exactly the same titles were applied to Isis hundreds of years before.

Isis is sometimes depicted as standing on a crescent moon with a crown of twelve stars above her head.  This reminds one of the verse in Revelation which speaks of “The woman clothed with the Sun, the Moon under her feet and having about her head twelve stars.”  The similarity between the medieval art representations of the figures in the Christian religion and the art forms of the ancient Egyptians is so striking that a follower of Isis, if he could be awakened from his long sleep would have no difficulty in recognizing his divinity in the Italian paintings of the Renaissance.  As a matter of fact the pictures of Isis and Horus carved in the Egyptian bas reliefs are so similar to the Christian conventional forms that some early Christians obliterated the carvings by covering them with plaster.  This, however, merely served to preserve the sculptures from weathering and now they have been uncovered and give their silent witness to the universality of the eternal story of the ever-Virgin Mother and her Saviour Son.

Osiris, the Redeemer of Light, of whom Horus is the son, or reincarnation, was also Virgin born from his mother Neith.  His father was Seb.  Osiris and Horus are really one – one representing the candidate, the other the risen Horus, the initiate and the judge and initiator of those who follow.  The opposing figure in the Egyptian story is given various names, Typhon, Set, Apap and Herat the ‘Slayer of the Youngling in the egg.’

In Persia, Chaldea and Assyria the ancient tradition again appears.  Mithra, also known as Tseur, or Saviour, was born in a cave on December 25th.  As all record of Mithraic literature has been lost, the present knowledge of this great movement has been derived from contemporary writers and from the interpretations of rock carvings.  Mithra is sometimes called the ‘Rock Born’ because of the tradition which says he was born from the side of a huge rock, but that the idea of a Virgin Birth was present among his followers is shown by Sir J. G. Frazer in the “Golden Bough” where he says “If we may trust the evidence of an obscure scholiast, the Greeks (in the worship of Mithra at Rome) used to celebrate the birth of the Luminary by a midnight service, coming out of the inner shrines and crying ‘The Virgin has brought forth, the light is waning.”‘  On Mithraic monuments the figure of the Mother and the Child is not uncommon.

Zoroaster – Zarathustra – was considered by his followers as being born of an immaculate conception by a ray of Divine Reason, and from his body shortly after birth there shone a light which illuminated the whole room.  “Tradition reports that his mother had alarming dreams of evil spirits seeking to destroy the child to whom she was about to give birth but a good spirit came to rescue him and consoled her saying  ‘Fear not, god Ormuzd will protect the infant, whom he has sent as a prophet to the people and the world which is awaiting for him.”  Zoroaster was visited at his birth by a group of Magi.

The Greeks perhaps more than any other race seized upon this symbol of the Virgin Birth of the Redeeming One and made it peculiarly their own.  It was not ‘unique’ to their understanding.  It was the unfailing lot of an Initiate to be ‘born of a virgin’ and so many of such figures appear in the Pantheon.  Of course the educated Greek did not believe that the gods were persons but that they were the personification of principles whose influence on man and in man was rendered more understandable when told in dramatic form.

Dionysus (the Babylonian Diwuisi), Bacchus, born of the virgin Semele through the fatherhood of Zeus, the father of the (mundane) gods, is the great initiatory figure of Grecian mythology.  Hermes, Mercury, the Messenger of the gods, took the infant Dionysus to a far country where he would be safe from the wrath of Hera, the immortal consort of Zeus who was jealous of Semele.

Perseus, who was also a son of Zeus by Danae the virgin, who was impregnated in a shower of gold, slew the Gorgons, the powers of darkness and saved Andromeda (the human soul).

In the story of Prometheus, the fore-knower, who sends the divine fire from Heaven to give to man, and is crucified by Zeus to the side of Mount Caucasus for his sacrilege, we meet the elements of the Saviour story.  The myths of Pro-metheus, Heracles and Dionysus should be read together for the three personages are really one – the Ego.  The Divine Rebel is freed from his bonds by Heracles, another son of Zeus born from the virgin Alcmene.  Heracles was doomed from birth to be the servant of Eurystheus and he too suffered persecution from Hera who tried to kill him in his infancy by sending two serpents to strangle him.

– Dudley W. Barr.

– from “The Canadian Theosophist,” March 15, 1926
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