Who came first? Massey or Hislop?


As I have already stated elsewhere, I am a great admirer of Kenneth Grant and his excellent books on early twentieth century occultism. After all, it was through them that I came across the work of Massey. But I noticed that Grant made several errors. As some may gather from my remarks in the introduction to the Bibliography, I am something of a perfectionist and deplore careless and inexcusable errors, yet these seemed to be so serious on Grant's part that I took it up with his personal secretary at the time when I attended a convention many years ago. He casually dismissed my point, nonchalantly saying that it was nothing, we all make mistakes, or words to that effect. Then he mentioned somebody else had discovered at least thirty five Qabalistic errors in one book alone, namely Nightside of Eden.1 I was somewhat perturbed at this remark as it could mislead many of his readers and pose serious threats to those wishing to explore the Tunnels of Set.2 No one is infallible, yet if there were errors in this book then they ought to be corrected. I spent the following few days spotting these mistakes and found several, including many minor textual errors. For instance, on page 85 of this work Grant has, 'The Hottentots and the blacks of Australia have preserved some of the most ancient versions of these myths. The latter claimed descent from a man named Noh ...' when it was in fact the former, i.e. the Hottentots, who claimed their descent from this personage.3 But it wasn't until I got to page 143 that I became even more perturbed as Grant makes a very obvious error. I give here the page in its entirety.

The Janus-headed Beast, Choronzon-Shugal (333 + 333), facing inwards and outwards at the Pylon of Daäth, is identical with the Beast 666 of biblical lore and the devil-god worshipped ages earlier by the Yezidi under the name of Teitan.

In his note on 'Satan, Seth & the Yezidis',1 Richard Cavendish expresses his opinion that this 'Devil-god of the Chaldean Mysteries is a figment' of Alexander Hislop's² imagination. But Hislop was preceded by Gerald Massey whose monumental work, The Natural Genesis, was published in 1883. On page 367 of that work appears the original of the material later used by Hislop in his book. Massey observes that:

Irenaeus3 was in a measure right when he gave it as his conclusion that Teitan was by far the most probable name (of the Beast) although he was ignorant of the true reason why.

Massey goes on to say that 'Teitan is the Chaldean form of Sheitan, who is still adored by what are termed the Devil-Worshippers of Kurdistan, Shetain being our Satan'.

Richard Cavendish also maintains that 'Aleister Crowley naturally shared this misconception and approvingly brought the Yezidis into his own system. He wanted to spell the Devil as Shaitan, for one thing because it enabled him to begin the Enemy's name with the Hebrew letter shin, which in cabalistic tradition is the letter of the Holy Spirit, and for another because something else beginning with "sh" attracted him'.4

This statement shows a misunderstanding of Crowley's reason for espousing Massey's (and through Massey, Hislop's) sentiments concerning Shaitan; it also reflects the opinion of the most deluded of Crowley's detractors, for it confuses the nature of the excrementitious matter to which the formula of Shaitan or Set refers. The matter has already been adequately explained.5 What has not yet been considered is...

1 The Powers of Evil (RKP, 1975), pp. 263, 264.
See The Two Babylons (Partridge, 1916).
A gnostic writer of the second century. (Present author's note).
4 The Powers of Evil, p. 264.
See Part I, chapter 7.

Although many readers of this page may not notice them, there are in fact several mistakes, with one in particular that ought to be noticeable to any casual reader of Massey as he cites Irenaeus on many occasions. In footnote three Grant has added his own comment: Irenaeus was a Gnostic writer of the second century! He must have been dozing off when he wrote this, for everyone knows through Massey that Irenaeus was a Church Father and totally opposed to the Gnostic sects, denigrating them in his great work: Against All Heresies. So how Grant could have made such a gross error is beyond belief.4

Far from happy with this, I consulted my copy of NG and found the reference Grant was referring to and that it was quoted correctly. But was Grant right in that Hislop's book was published after Massey? Luckily I had a copy of Hislop's book to hand and checked the publishing details. According to my copy, the book appeared to have been first published in 1916, so I had to assume Grant was right. Like Massey, Grant fails to give proper references, so I had to find the page Grant was quoting. On page 275 of The Two Babylons will be found the quote by Irenaeus (and through Massey) that Grant is referring to. I then consulted my copy of Irenaeus' work and found the quote confirming the wording was correct. But it struck me that Hislop's and Massey's words were identical. Were they using the same editions? Who was quoting who, I thought. As the publishers of Hislop state his book was first published in 1916, I had to settle for the Hislop-from-Massey equation, until I noticed the antiquated footnote style of Hislop's book, the fact that none of the books in Hislop's bibliography date any later than 1862, etc. This suggested to me that the equation was the other way round. All I needed now was proof. It wasn't long before it arrived.

I stumbled across a wonderful book in a local second-hand bookshop a few weeks later that told me I was right and that Grant was wrong. Hislop preceded Massey, and not the other way round.

The book in question was Inman's Ancient Faith's Embodied in Ancient Names, and self-financed by the author who seemed to be fascinated by Phallicism. Inman's point was that the Trinity is based on the male genitals. As there are three in the Trinity so there are three in the genitals, i.e. the penis and the two testicles. Absurd as this might sound, Inman goes to great lengths to prove his point and consults a variety of works by breaking down the original meaning of words chosen by Jewish priests and found in the Bible. But it is far more than the dismissive remark of Godwin5 who states Inman's book is 'merely an etymological dictionary.' It inspired a whole generation of 'philophallicists' like Hargrave Jennings and the Nature Worship and Mystical Series issued anonymously in the 1890's.

Although the copy in the shop was sadly incomplete, it lacking the first volume, I happily snapped up the second volume for a princely sum and waded through the whole 943 pages. And it was then that I had to sit up and take note. Throughout this volume Inman quotes from Hislop. Yet Inman's book was published in 1869, Hislop, as already stated, in 1916that is, forty seven years later. How could this be? And not only does Inman quote from Hislop's little book, he has absolute praise for it and highly recommends it to his readers.

Now, we know full well Massey was familiar with Inman's work; he consults it nine times, mainly for the plates and the illustrations and remonstrates against Inman's (and Knight's) theory of the Tau cross being based on the male genitals. (See NG 1:424.) If Massey was familiar with Inman's bookand he could not get the illustrations from elsewherethen logically he also would have come across Inman's recommendation of Hislop. But then how do we explain the discrepancy of publishing dates?

Before there was such a thing as the internet, I was forced to write to A & C Black, Hislop's publishers, explaining my perplexity at the matter and asked for full publishing details and some background on Hislop. Mr Langridge kindly wrote back:

It is, indeed, something of a mystery as the copy of the book we have here states the date of first publication as 1916. However I know that the author died in 1873 so it must have been published in, I guess, the mid 1860s. It is possibleand again I am guessingthat it was originally published privately and that the 1916 edition was the first commercial one. None of our records here can help so I suggest that you approach the British Library who should be able to help you.6

With a bit of investigative work through the British Library, I was able to discover the following surprising information;

1st edition: The Two Babylons: Their Identity, and the present Antichrist, also the Last.W. White and Co.; Edinburgh, 1853.
2nd edition: The Two Babylons, or Papal Worship proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and his Wife.W. White and Co.; Edinburgh, 1858.
3rd edition: the same.Edinburgh, 1862.
4th edition: the same.London, Glasgow [printed], 1871.
5th edition: the same. Popular edition.S.W. Partridge and Co.; London, 1907.

These were then presumably followed by the edition Grant and I myself have which was reprinted in 1916 as the pagination is the same as the edition of 1907. Since this was obviously the case, it would be beneficial, I decided, to double-check that Massey did not quote Hislop, in turn suggesting the reason for Grant's mistake. A quick perusal through all six volumes made it certain that Massey makes no reference to Hislop and his excellent little book. But why? Why does he ignore a book that so blatantly touches on the same subjects he himself was investigating? I will come back to this point in a moment. For now I was more concerned as to how much material Massey had drawn from Hislop, as it was quite obvious he had not only borrowed the quote of Irenaeus from Hislop but many others beside. I also wondered if it would be possible to prove conclusively that Massey had access to Hislop's book, and that other references in Massey's works came from Hislop but were unacknowledged.

I have written elsewhere on my disdain for Massey's method of borrowing from other sources (see Essay 1). Knowing that was the case, it was merely a logical conclusion to suggest that Massey had also liberally borrowed from this book by Hislop, and that if there were at least twenty identical references, then surely this would prove beyond doubt he did indeed use Hislop as a source for his works. The borrowing would have to be identical; that is, the quotes in Massey had to be taken verbatim from the ones in Hislop. To dismiss outside chance, I thought twenty identical quotes by Massey would rule out coincidence.

I found not twenty but twenty five identical quotes (ignoring classical texts) which in some cases are slightly reworded by Massey, but on the whole ruling out chance and proving statistically my assumption was correct.

The first I came across was the quote by Damascius. This appears in NG 2:432. I give it here in full:

Damascius says, 'In a manifestation which one must not reveal ... there is seen on a wall of the temple a mass of light which at first appears afar off. It is transformed whilst unfolding itself into a visage evidently divine and supernatural, of an aspect severe but with a touch of sweetness. Following the teachings of a mysterious religion, the Alexandrians honour it as Osiris or Adonis.'

And for comparative purposes I give here the quote as it appears in Hislop, p. 68:

'In a manifestation which one must not reveal .... there is seen on a wall of the temple a mass of light, which appears at first at a very great distance. It is transformed, while unfolding itself, into a visage evidently divine and supernatural, of an aspect severe, but with a touch of sweetness. Following the teachings of a mysterious religion, the Alexandrians honour it as Osiris or Adonis.'

It will be apparent that the wording differs slightly between the two. Whereas Massey has 'at first appears afar off', Hislop has 'appears at first at a very great distance.' Grammatically it is different, semantically it is identical. There is another slight variation, with the punctuation being different also. But as the ellipsis is in the same place in Massey as it is in Hislop we have to assume the quote is identical. And it seems strange that both quote the exact same paragraph.

I will here give another example. Again, it presents the same perplexing problem; the slight word variation and deviation from the original spelling. It is from Hurd and is to be found in NG 1:159, footnote 7:

The Crook is an Inner African symbol. Hurd says of certain tribes, 'they place fetishes before their doors, and these titular deities are made in the form of grapples or hooks which we use to shake our fruit-trees.'Hurd, p. 374.

And in Hislop, p. 218, appears the following: is evident from the following words of Hurd: 'They place Fetiches before their doors, and these titular deities are made in the form of grapples or hooks, which we generally make use of to shake our fruit trees.' (Footnote §, HURD, p. 374, col.2.)

As both quotes are taken from the same page, they both must come from the same edition. Then which quote is correct, the one by Massey spelling fetich as fetish, or Hislop as it was spelt in the days of Hurd? Of course, we could assume that Massey has simply modernised the term, the word not being spelt fetish until the nineteenth century, but that does not explain how Massey is unable to give the title of Hurd's work in his reference. He can't because Hislop does not give it either.7

I will give another example to satisfy those uncertain of my point. In NG 1:435, footnote 1, Massey has:

The Labarum was the royal Roman standard, which Lactantius calls 'the ensign that was consecrated by the name of Christ;'

Turning to Hislop, p. 203, we find Massey has made a serious error by mistaking the quote being from Lactantius when it is in fact from Ambrose. I give the passage here in full:

When the Labarum, or far-famed standard of Constantine itself, properly so called, was made, we have the evidence of Ambrose, the well-known Bishop of Milan, that that standard was formed on the very principle contained in the statement of Lactantiusviz., simply to display the Redeemer's name. He calls it 'Labarum, hoc est Christi sacratum nomine signum.'*'The Labarum, that is, the ensign consecrated by the NAME of Christ.'=

The * quotation is from Ambrosi Opera, the = quotation from Ambrose's Epistle. In other words, Massey has misread Hislop's statement and has attributed the quote to Lactantius when it derives from Ambrose and can be found in any standard collection of Ambrose's Epistles.

It would be pointless to continue this list of borrowed references. Any perusal of the Bibliography will demonstrate my point, as all works quoted by Massey and are derived from Hislop have been clearly marked as such. It satisfies my argument that Massey has borrowed liberally from Hislop and that Grant was wrong, although he was unaware Hislop preceded Massey by two or three decades. This brings us back to my original question: Why has Massey made no mention of Hislop's work when he has incontrovertibly used it to furnish himself with more source material?

This requires an answer, one that I believe I am right in assuming, and can be expressed as follows; either Hislop's work was too close to his own and he preferred to refrain from mentioning it because it would draw comparison from his critics, or it is from where he gathered most of his ideas, for example, the one concerning the Mother and Child as they are portrayed in the Mysteries. Hislop is at pains to explain that the Virgin Mother and Child can be found throughout all the Mystery religions of the world but has its apotheosis in the papal cult of Rome. In other words, the Virgin Mother-Child symbolry is not to be found only in the New Testament and endorsed in the cult of Rome but was preceded by the cult of Isis-Horus in ancient Egypt. All Massey then had to do was track back and find other sources to confirm Hislop's claim. This would then put him on the path of the Jesus=Horus equation. Or at least, that is my hypothesis. The truth will never be known because Massey is no longer unfortunately here to answer my charge, nor can I posit that this idea originated solely from Hislop. It can, for example, be found suggested in the numerous writers of speculative history. Either way, it does not dismiss my case. Perhaps we will never know, but one thing is for certain; there are other works Massey has consulted and made use of for source material and fails to mention.

A case in point is Lang's Myth, Ritual and Religion.8 We know full well he had read this work as he wrote an article in response to it. It was recently reprinted by Karpätenland Press in 1995 with a forward by Rey Bowen as Myth and Totemism as Primitive Modes of Representation and originally appeared in the National Review, 12th October 1888, pp. 238-59.9 From Lang's book I have so far only discovered three borrowed references, namely Reiderbecke, Hearne, and Moffat. There are possibly others which does not concern me at this juncture. I have written on Massey's level of borrowing elsewhere, and need not reiterate the same comments here, yet I think it is worth consulting these works and others to prove my case. For those interested, I think it is a project worth pursuing; the many parallels between Hislop and Massey, one I think that would open up a whole investigation lying beyond the scope of this small essay.


END NOTE: To pursue this matter further, the interested reader can now consult Hislop's book online. I have cached a copy here with my additional comments in the notes to each chapter. I still consider this book to be invaluable in the study of Massey's thinking, and the origins for several of his themes can be traced back to Hislop. (J. Lange, Editor, May 2008.)



1. For an excellent assessment of this work, consult David Hall's review in Sothis magazine, St. Albans, vol. 1:4 (1975) 109-15.
2. A title borrowed from Masseysee AE 1:241, 268 and AE 2:825.
3. It is worth remarking here that all the quotes by Grant of Kolb have been borrowed from the works of Massey, as have many of his other references.
4. I am aware Grant's books have been republished by Skoob with his corrections and amendments. So far I have not had a chance to consult the republished edition of this work, nor does it affect my argument.
5. The Theosophical Enlightenment, p. 23.
6. Personal communication, August 8, 1995.
7. Consult the Bibliography for full title.
8. Longmans, Green & Co.; London, 1887, in 2 vols.
9. I have cached a copy of this important article here.





This page last updated: 24/10/2010