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The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism

“In the centuries preceding the dynasties of the pharaohs, when historical events were not yet handed down to posterity, there were intelligent men like us. Those men felt the need to know the cosmos and understand the meaning of existence. But ignoring science and not possessing the necessary technology, they resorted to their intelligence and genius, that is, they used a form of thought that we have long forgotten, I am referring to internal and intuitive spiritual research” (Robert Bauval)

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Published in 
 · 23 May 2024
The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism
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At the dawn of history, thousands of years before Christ, a civilization gathered its forces to build the largest monuments on earth: the pyramids of Giza.

13 million tons of stone blocks, enough to build the city of London, were transported across the desert. Why? What worldview justified such an undertaking? Classical archaeologists claim that these were tombs for three pharaohs.

Robert Bauval, English writer and researcher, born in Alexandria, Egypt, spent much of his life in the shadow of the great pyramids.

He believes that a much higher purpose is behind their construction and for the last twenty years he has sought to discover the meaning echoed in ancient stories that speak of stars, of divinities descending to earth and of creation as the Egyptians conceived it.

The myth of creation

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In the beginning everything was shrouded in darkness and chaos reigned. Then a mountain emerged from the chaos and on it Ra, the sun, rose. Finally, a fairy-tale bird: the phoenix took flight and the first cry it made made the world move. In that place, later, the city of Heliopolis arose, around a column surmounted by the sacred Benben stone, symbol of the mountain at the origin of creation.

Heliopolis was considered one of the holiest cities of the ancient world. The name Heliopolis was represented by a hieroglyph: a pillar surmounted by a cross. The ancient Egyptians called it “Innu Mehret”, “the northern column”, symbol of one of the pillars of the Earth.

We know, from ancient inscriptions, that an obelisk stood there long before the pyramids were built at Giza. We also know that a sacred relic was placed on top of the stele: the Benben stone.

This stone was in the shape of a cone or pyramid, and for the ancient Egyptians it was like the cross for Christianity, the most sacred of symbols. This symbol is kept in the Cairo museum and is the crowning stone of a pyramid.

The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism
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The high priests of Heliopolis were second only to the Pharaoh and were known as builders, magicians, healers and astronomers. The name of one of them is known: Imhotep. Later he will be venerated by the Greeks as "Asclepius", by the Romans "Aesculapius", inventor of medicine. But Asclepius is also known for his knowledge of the stars and as the creator of the great pyramids.

The destiny of Man after death

Thousands of years before the Christian era, judgment after death was spoken of in ancient Egypt. A man's sins were weighed against what that person had actually been during his life, against what was left after discarding everything else. In short, the Egyptian civilization was in search of an inner truth.

The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism
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“Today, the vision of the world that is transmitted to us by scientists tells us that the truth is outside of us and we must look for it outside. For the Egyptians, however, the truth must be sought within, in our inner world, within us,” explains Robert Bauval on the History Channel.

“They believed that in every individual there was a spark of the divine. In order to learn to expand this spark, bring it to its maximum splendor, it was necessary to speak with it, internally, in a language they called "language of the gods".

How did they perceive this language? If you are part of the cosmos, you have to communicate with it, and they communicated by perceiving with the senses, collecting messages brought by the wind, the stars, the moon, the fertility of the soil, the seasons, the birth of children.

This is the language of nature, the language of the cosmos and they began to understand that this language could be codified, in a sacred and symbolic language, linked to cosmic principles. This is why “sacred writing” was invented. Egyptian myths tell us that the inventors of this sacred writing were the gods.

Influences on Gnostic Christianity

In the centuries that followed the construction of the great pyramids, religions that venerated other gods arose and spread throughout the then-known world. But the myth of Osiris defied time, even if the name of Osiris itself disappeared, replaced by that of Serapis. Numerous temples to Osiris and Serapis were built in regions very distant from each other, such as England, Germany and France.

In the 1st century BC, the cult spread throughout the Roman Empire, competing with the supremacy of the nascent Christian religion and even ending up influencing it. Within the Christian movement, a faction developed which adopted the idea that, in order to reach the divine condition, man had to acquire knowledge through interior research. This idea came directly from the Egyptian initiatory religion.

Alexandria in Egypt was, for a long time, a place of initiation for converts to this new religious faith: here, the first Christians came here to receive "gnosis", or knowledge through initiation, to seek God within themselves and inner truth.

Jesus, for this Christian current, was the one who guided them to discover the divine spark within themselves and for this reason, they had no need for churches or hierarchies. The religion practiced by the first Christians in Alexandria represents the connection between the mystery cult of ancient Egypt and the Gnostic religion.

Influence on Catholic Christianity

Did Egyptian culture and mythology also influence the development of the Catholic religion? Some clues can be found within the Gospel of Matthew, which talks about the nativity of Jesus Christ, a divine child born from the Virgin Mary, connecting this event with Egypt.

The Gospel of Matthew is unique for three important things connected to the story of the nativity: the first concerns the holy family who escapes to Egypt to escape the massacre of the innocents wanted by Herod and who finds refuge in Heliopolis.

In a Christian church near Heliopolis, the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt is depicted. The second refers to the star that indicated the place of Jesus' birth; the third concerns the Three Kings, mysterious figures who came from the East. What did the evangelist Matthew mean with these details?

The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism
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The virgin and the child

Since we know that the Gospel of Matthew was most likely written in Alexandria, Egypt, Robert Bauval hypothesizes that Matthew created the image of Mary and Baby Jesus to speak to the Egyptians, to whom such an image was very familiar, as it recalls the most powerful image of Egyptian religion: that of the goddess Isis carrying a divine child in her arms.

It is therefore clear that an attempt was made to make people accept a new religion, a new cult, who for three millennia had seen in the divine infant the son of the goddess Isis. In a certain sense, Matthew stole the stellar myth of Isis, Horus and the star Sirius from the Egyptians and transplanted it into Christian mythology. It is plausible to think that the first Christians of Egypt considered Isis as the mother of Jesus. Only later did the virgin assume the identity of Mary.

The star in the sky

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However, there is an even more powerful symbol through which the first Christians tried to convey the myth of Isis in the new religion. The reference is to the star of Bethlehem.

Is it the star of Isis, the ancient star of divine origin? After 3 thousand years, due to the phenomenon of precession, the time in which Sirius rises and sets has changed.

During ancient Egyptian times, the star Sirius rose during the time of the summer solstice. At the time of Jesus' birth, however, this star appeared in the sky, more or less, during the winter solstice, around December 25th, precisely after the sunset.

Now, since we know that for the Jews and the first Christians the day began at dusk, on December 25th they saw the constellation of Orion rise and immediately after the star Sirius rise on the horizon.

This was the same image that the Egyptians observed for thousands of years, when they celebrated the birth of Horus, the divine infant during the summer solstice. It is therefore legitimate to hypothesize that the star of the divinity was taken from an ancient Egyptian myth and adopted by the Christian religion.

The Three Wise Men

Even the magi who set out to follow the star could be an attempt to conform to another ancient Egyptian myth. The constellation of Orion, with its three shining stars that form the belt, as they rise, seem to announce the birth of Sirius. Well, it's only Matthew who talks about the Three Wise Men. Can we hypothesize that the three stars of Orion's belt became the "three" magi of Matthew's gospel?

The rebirth from Gnosticism

Towards the end of the classical era, the last surviving Gnostics entrusted their gospels and ancient philosophy to writing, to save them from their persecutors. The religious texts of the Gnostics have only recently reappeared, but the philosophical ones had come to light a few centuries ago in Florence, cradle of the Renaissance.

In 1460, a monk gave Cosimo De' Medici some manuscripts. It was the "Hermetica", a collection of the last words of Hermes Trismegistus, or the Egyptian god Thoth. Cosimo De' Medici asked Marsilio Ficino to put aside the translation of Plato's works and dedicate himself to that of the Hermetic writings.

Suddenly, European intellectuals came into contact with the wisdom of the Egyptians and this became a fact of great cultural importance, so much so that in the three hundred years that followed, it served as a stimulus to avant-garde European artists, intellectuals and philosophers.

The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism
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At the basis of the Corpus Haermeticum there is the idea of ​​the strength of symbols, the idea that symbols are not just something thanks to which someone or something is recognised, but that they have a deeper meaning and that the symbol itself can lead to initiation.

Hermeticism became so popular that even Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) had his apartments in the Vatican decorated with scenes depicting Isis, Osiris and Thoth Hermes, as Renaissance painters imagined them. A religion was spreading that was much older, and by some considered wiser, than that of Moses and the Bible.

In the cathedral of Siena (Italy) you can admire an image of Hermes Trismegistus, or the god Thoth, who transmits the wisdom of Egypt and the Phoenix, symbol of the city of Heliopolis.

The popes disseminated Rome with symbols of antiquity and obelisks from Egypt. Strangely, the popes chose the ancient symbol of Heliopolis, that is, a pillar surmounted by a cross and placed it right in the heart of Christianity. It is curious that all those who go to St. Peter's Square also come to admire this ancient symbol of pagan Egypt.

The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism
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Scholars, such as the Jesuit Athanasius Irkere, studied the Egyptian riddles, but the Church began to sense the danger. Hermeticism stimulated taking personal positions, far from her interests. The new ideas were, therefore, banned and the books burned.

In 1600, Hermeticism was forcibly silenced and Giordano Bruno, its main supporter, was hauled before an ecclesiastical tribunal. Despite the horrendous tortures inflicted on him, the philosopher refused to abandon his ideas.

The Church had only one way to put an end to all this and the unthinkable happened: on February 17, 1600, Giordano Bruno was taken to Piazza Campo de' Fiori, stripped naked, tied to a stake and burned alive. Until the last moment of his life, the philosopher tried not to look at the cross that was placed in from of his eyes by a member of the inquisition. His ashes will be thrown into the Tiber. After these tragic events, hermeticism became a clandestine cultural fact.

Influence on Freemasonry

Hermeticism found refuge in esoteric societies, such as the Rosicrucian movement and Freemasonry.

The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism
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The great lodge of London, the heart and headquarters of Freemasonry, is full of ancient symbols. Affiliates are initiated into the secrets, rites and symbols.

According to Michael Baigent, there is no doubt that Hermeticism, which started in Egypt, branched out to also influence the ritualism and symbolism of secret societies: the pyramid, the all-seeing eye and the star. The most sacred Egyptian symbols have become part of the Masonic mysteries. American institutions themselves are "contaminated" by ancient Egyptian symbolism.

The founders of the United States, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others, were mostly Freemasons and built and decorated the White House with an abundance of images reminiscent of Freemasonry. The United States Constitution itself is an extension of the principles of Freemasonry, with its strong emphasis on democracy, knowledge and the incentives to be given to science.

In the Masonic Temple dedicated to George Washington, there is another familiar symbol: Washington and other Founding Fathers are depicted wearing the “mason's apron.”

Even the dollar, symbol of American power, shows the high unknown of the American coat of arms: the pyramid with the all-seeing eye with the promise of a New World Order.

The Egyptian influence on global culture, christianity and masonic symbolism
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And today, more than two hundred years later, we can admire the presence of obelisks, very ancient symbols of another civilization, in some of the most important cities in Europe. For years and years, millions of people have been wandering around them, observing them absentmindedly, but suddenly they catch the attention of someone, who asks themselves: "What are they doing here?", trying to evoke the magic of the past and understand the meaning of these symbols, which, like hieroglyphics, need to be decoded.

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