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A Mystery Is…

by Dr. John Palo

Words can be elusive. They may mean one thing in one context and another thing in another context. Also, they may stray from their original roots. This is the case with the word mystery. Today most of us associate the word with a spine-tingling "Who done it?" murder mystery story. Yet, the derivation of this word is quite foreign to that present prevalent use.

For years the word mystery referred to the ancient mystery schools of ancient Egypt and Greece. One may wonder how the word strayed from its original meaning.

The word mystery derives from the Greek Eleusinian Mystery school. They held initiatic rituals in which a myste was initiated. In fact, a myste was an initiate. The ritual strove to provide an illuminating insightful experience. They also presented certain mystical teachings. This is where we derive the words mystic, mysticism and a mystical experience. It was not a process of intrigue. It was a process of enlightenment.

It is in this light we hear of the mystery schools of ancient Egypt where similar rituals were presented. These mystery schools, like the ancient Egyptian Memphite schools of some 5,000 or 6,000 years, ago also presented us with some of our earliest Rosicrucian root teachings. We find them presented at each present day Rosicrucian ritual. Among these ancient Memphite Mystety school teachings was the idea of how creation takes place. In Egypt's New Kingdom period the Pharaoh Shabaka came across some rotting papyrus rolls of the Old Kingdom outlining some of the ancient Memphite Mystery school teachings. Fortunately, he realized their importance. To preserve this for posterity he had the principle carved on stone. This stone, called the Memphite or Shabaka stone, is presently in the British Museum. It relates the creative process presently taught by the Rosicrucians. It involves the sequential use of love to light to life. Light springs from our heart. The mystic path is to live the light received from the heart. This is sometimes depicted pictorially as heart, tongue and hands. The ancient Egyptian Judgement scene depicts the heart as love and a feather as the tongue or light. The last judgement is a weighing of our hearts against our tongue. Did we live the truth or light from our heart? If we follow the mystic path we are called a "makaru", i.e., "True of voice."

About 3,000 years ago Pharaoh Ikhnaton tried to revive the Memphite Mystery school teaching on the creative process. It seems the priesthood was becoming devious. We see portraits of the Pharaoh with arms upraised (this is the Egyptian posture signifying the Ka or heart). The heart appeals for light. Above is the sun symbolizing that light (Aten or Ra). Rays of light descend from the orb into hands. The hands represent our life or work. This is a portrayal of the old Memphite Mystery school teachings of the sequential creative process, i.e., Love, Light and Life.

As stated, this process is present at every present day Rosicrucian ritual. Every initiate or myste seeks to be so illuminated. And, so it is that the true origin of the word mystery has its roots in the ancient initiatory mystery schools.


Copyright © 1998 Dr. John Palo