Therefore, it is important to remember that the highest teachings of the Great School are concerned only with understanding and furthering man’s inner evolution. They are not concerned with scientific exploration and dissection of the operating details of the physical world. The information presented within legitimate mesoteric studies has been gathered using meditative techniques, intuition and conscious thought, as these are the only methods available for studying creation from the grand scale of god and man. Subsequently, esoteric knowledge differs from objective, worldly knowledge and must be approached differently.
During the remainder of this discussion, we are going to discuss the basic tenets of the first mesoteric mystery schools in ancient Egypt. We are not going to discuss whether or not such schools appeared prior to the invention of writing, though there is evidence suggesting such, nor are we going to discuss exactly how long the Great School has been in existence. Rather we are going to discuss what has transpired on the esoteric or spiritual plane due to the efforts of the early Egyptians. Therefore, our story begins sometime after the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Narmer or Menes in the period of about 3100 – 3000 BCE
As an aside, for those of you interested in the studying the history of an existing, genuine mesoteric school descending from one of the original mystery schools of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt (1551 – 1306 BCE) and operating under the Auspices of the Great School, the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, I recommend the book, Rosicrucian Questions and Answers with Complete History of the Rosicrucian Order, by H. Spencer Lewis.
The first mystery schools arose some time before or after the first unification of Egypt by Narmer or Menes from the contemplations of the early priests and scribes in the Egyptian provinces of Heliopolis (the god Atum, or Ra), Memphis (the god Ptah), Hermopolis (the god Thoth), Abydos (the god Osiris), Thebes (the god Amun) and Elephantine (the god Khnum). Evidence of these early contemplations is recorded beginning with the Wisdom or Instructions Texts and Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (2628 – 2134 BCE). Contemplations and advancements are found in the Coffin Texts of the 9th to 11th Dynasties (2134 – 2040 BCE) and the Books of the New Kingdom (1551 – 1070 BCE).
Before beginning our discussion of the basic tenets of the several mystery schools, it is important to remember that dynastic Egypt arose from an earlier paleolithic and neolithic culture dating back at least 10,000 years or more ago. Archeological studies have uncovered no definite evidence of the Egyptians having produced any representations that can be interpreted with certainty as depictions or images of gods nor divine powers before 4000 BCE. The art of this time period consists of pottery and the first cosmetic palettes; there are no depictions of human beings, animals or objects. Based upon other neolithic cultures of the world, it is likely that the early Egyptians were animists.
During the predynastic period of 4000 – 3000 BCE, we find the first clear evidence for a cultural belief in gods and divine powers or forces. Archeological evidence has been uncovered near both Heliopolis and Badari. Animal burials have been found in all chalcolithic sites, most commonly gazelles and jackals, less common, rams and cattle. The care with which these creatures were buried and provided with grave goods is suggestive of the existence of cults dedicated to the worship of divine powers in animal form. Cosmetic palettes now assume animal forms and there are animal figures on decorative vases and in the form of statuettes.
It is likely that predynastic Egyptian views of the relationships between animals and humans were such that they believed animals were powerful and efficacious beings, far superior to humans in many ways. It is probable that the people of late predynastic Egypt believed that by portraying themselves on ‘battle palettes’ as fierce animals fighting their human enemies, they would assume the fierceness and power of these animals and be victorious. Additional evidence for such beliefs is suggested by the fact that many early pharaohs carried animals names such as Scorpion, Catfish, Kite, Cobra and so on. Such beliefs are consistent with animism and the wearing of certain animal furs by hunters and shamans.