Now this was the manner of my working, that I inspired the High Priestess to an Oracle, so that she prophesied, saying that Osiris should never be content with his servants unless they had passed the four ordeals of the elements. Now of old these rituals had been reserved for a special grade of initiation. The chapter was therefore not a little alarmed, until they remembered how shamefully all the true magic was imitated, so that the rumour went that this was but a device of the High Priestess to increase the reputation of the temple for sanctity. And, their folly confirming them in this, they agreed cheerfully and boasted themselves. Now then did I swathe them one by one in the grave-clothes of Osiris, binding upon the breast and image, truly consecrated, of the god, with a talisman against the four elements.
Then I set them one by one upon a narrow and lofty tower, balanced, so that the least breath of wind would blow them off into destruction.
Those whom the air spared I next threw into Nile where most it foams and races. Only a few the water gave back again. These, however, did I bury for three days in the earth without sepulchre or coffin, so that the element of earth might combat them. And the rare ones whom earth spared I cast upon a fire of charcoal.
Now who is prepared for these ordeals (being firstly attuned to the elements) findeth them easy. He remains still, though the tempest rage upon the tower; in the water he floats easily and lightly; buried, he but throws himself into trance; and, lastly, his wrappings protect him against the fire, though all Thebai went to feed the blaze.
But it was not so with this bastard priesthood of Osiris. For of the three hundred only nine were found worthy. The High Priestess, however, I brought through by my magic, for she had amused me mightily, and I took great pleasure in her love, that was wilder than the rage of all the elements in one.
So I called together the nine who had survived, all being men, and gave them instruction and counsel, that they should form a secret brotherhood to learn and to teach the formula of the Osiris in its supreme function of initiating the human soul. That they should keep discipline in the temple only for the sake of the people, permitting every corruption yet withdrawing themselves from it. Is not the body perishable, and the skin most pure? So also the ancient practice of embalming should fall into desuetude, and that soon; for the world was past under the rule of Osiris, who loveth the charnel and the tomb.
All being sworn duly into this secret brotherhood I appointed them, one to preside over each grade, and him of the lowest grade to select the candidates and to govern the temple.
Then did I perform the invoking Ceremony of Osiris, having destroyed the blasphemous machinery; and now at last did the God answer me, glittering with infinite brilliance. Then I disclosed myself to the Priests, and they rejoiced exceedingly that after all those years the old lie was abolished, and the master come back to his own.
But the god uttered an Oracle, saying: "This last time shall I glitter with brilliance in My temple; for I am the god of Life in Death, concealed. Therefore shall your magic henceforth be a magic most secret in the heart; and whoso shall perform openly any miracle, him shall ye know for a liar and a pretender to the sacred Wisdom.
"For this cause am I wrapped ever in a shroud of white starred with the three active colours; these things conceal Me, so that he who knoweth Me hath passed beyond them."
Then did the god call us each separately to him, and in each ear did he whisper a secret formula and a word of power, pertaining to the grade to which I had appointed him.
But to me he gave the supreme formula and the supreme word, the word that hath eight-and-seventy letters, the formula that hath five-and-sixty limbs.
So then I devoted myself there and then to a completer understanding of Osiris my God, so that I might discover his function in the whole course of the Cosmos.
For he that is born in the years of the power of a God thinketh that God to be eternal, one, alone. But he that is born in the hour of the weakness of the God, at the death of one and the birth of the other, seeth something (though it be little) of the course of things. And for him it is necessary to understand fully that change of office (for the gods neither die nor are re-born, but now one initiates and the other guards, and now one heralds and the other sanctifies) its purpose and meaning in the whole scheme of things.
So I, in this year V of the Equinox of the Gods (1908) wherein Horus took the place of Osiris, will by the light of this my magical memory seek to understand fully the formula of Horus — Ra Hoor Khuit — my god, that ruleth the world under Nuit and Hadit. Then as Ankh-f-na-khonsu left unto me the stelé 666 with the keys to that knowledge, so also may I write down in hieroglyph the formula of the Lady of the Forked Wand and of the Feather, that shall assume his throne and place when the strength of Horus is exhausted.
So now the service of the Gods was to be secret and their magic concealed from men. They were to fall before the eyes of men from their place, and little sewer-rats were to come and mock at them, no man avenging them, and they utterly careless, not striking for themselves. Yet was there knowledge of them which an initiate might gain, though so much more difficult, immeasurably higher and more intimate.
My life from this moment became highly concentrated upon itself. I had no time either for ascetic practices or for any pleasures; nor would I take any active part in the service of the temple which, purified and regenerated, had become both subtly perfect and perfectly subtle.
It was not all of the people who did at all comprehend the change that had occurred; but the others obeyed and made believe to understand, lest their fellows should despise them. So it happened that the more ignorant and stupid any person was the more he feigned understanding; so that the least devout appeared the most devout — as it is unto this day.
But for me all these things were as nothing; for I studied ever the nature of Osiris, concentrating myself into mysterious pure symbols. I understood why it was said that Isis had failed to discover the Phallus of Osiris, and thus perceived the necessity of Horus to follow him in the great succession of the Equinoxes. Moreover I fashioned talismans of pure light concerning Osiris, and I performed in light all the ceremonies of initiation into his mysteries.
These were interpreted by wise men and translated into the language of the twilight and graven on stone and in the memories of men.
Yet was I even more intrigued in that great struggle to apprehend the course of things, as it is seen from the standpoint of Destiny. So that I might leave true and intelligible images to enlighten the mind of him (whether myself or another) that should come after me to celebrate the Equinox of the Gods at the end of the period of Osiris.
As now hath come to pass.
Thus then three-and-thirty years I lived in the temple of Osiris a High Priest; and I subdued all men under me. Also I abolished the office of priestess, for had not Isis failed to find that venerable Phallus without which Osiris must be so melancholy a god? Therefore was Khemi to fall, and the world to be dark and sorrowful for many years.
Therefore I made mine High Priestess into a serving-maid, and with veiled face she served me all those many years, never speaking.
Yet they being accomplished, I thought fit to reward her. So magically I renewed about her the body of a young girl, and for a year she served me, unveiled and speaking at her pleasure.
And her time being come, she died.
Then I looked again into my destiny, and perceived that all my work was duly accomplished. Nor could any use or worth be found in my body.
So therefore I determined to accept my great reward, that was granted unto me as the faithful minister of the god F.I.A.T. that is behind all manifestation of Will and of Intelligence, of whom Isis and Osiris and Horus are but the ministers.
Of this, and of my death, I will speak on another occasion.
But first I will discourse of the inhabitants of the kingdom that encircleth the world, so that they who fear may be comforted.