The amount of Massey's true followers can be theoretically counted on the fingers of one hand. I posit there being only three of real importance, all of whom approach the Masseian material in their own way, and I will discuss each one in turn in chronological order.
It was around the late 1880's or early 1890's when Massey had moved to East Dulwich when he came into contact with Albert Churchward who was at the time a general practitioner. It is debatable whether Churchward attended Massey for medical reasons, but his friendship with his near neighbour—he lived in South Norwood not far from where Massey was staying and even closer a few years later when Massey moved to his neighbourhood—but it is certain that the two men became great friends with Churchward paying him regular visits. Churchward became an avid follower of a man who was very much older than himself, and held him in high esteem for the extraordinary knowledge and wisdom the old man displayed, akin to a disciple-guru relationship.
Churchward, however, like the other two yet to be discussed, departed widely from Massey's interpretation of Egyptian symbolism since he was himself a practising and high ranking Freemason. Although Massey had no ties with Freemasonry, his only affiliation at the time being towards the Ancient Order of Druids, this did not affect their friendship. But Churchward took what he saw as being valid points from the Masseian doctrine and developed it along Masonic lines.
Churchward authored seven books, including three on Freemasonry; The Arcana of Freemasonry (1915), Origin and Antiquity of Freemasonry (1898), Origin and Evolution of Freemasonry (1920). However, the principle ones of interest here are; Evolution of the Human Race (1920), later; The Origin and Evolution of the Human Race (1921), also, Origin and Evolution of Religion (1924) and Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man (1910 and 1913), the latter being heavily indebted to Massey. Yet Churchward has always struck me as being amateurish in the approach to the subjects he covers. Although taking on the ideas of his mentor, he was never of the intellectual or scholastic capacity to be his replacement, as is proved by a brief perusal of any of the works mentioned above. They are largely amateurishly written with too little assistance from outside sources to back up his arguments, instead relying on the opinions borrowed directly from Massey. He seeks to establish the origins of Freemasonry in the ancient land of Khem based purely on gesture signs and the vague similarities between the Egyptian mysteries and those pervading the Masonic rituals. Other Masons have also previously sought to establish a direct connection between the two as if to prove the antecedence of their Order and establish a false continuum to a remote, distant past. The actual evidence of Freemasonry existing as a defined unit of a gathering of like-minded men existing in ancient times has always been tenuous, although such secret societies did exist and have done elsewhere for millennia. Yet it is not conclusive enough for Churchward to state that because the statues of the gods in Egypt are portrayed with the left foot first, or as it is given, according to his reckoning, in the Book of Overthrowing Apep, that the destruction of this evil fiend was due to the left foot being placed on it first,1 has any connection with its prevalence in some of the higher degrees. The proof he provides is insubstantial, as it is with other Masons who seek to draw the same parallels. The likelihood that the aprons worn by Masons and the type worn by the Egyptian gods is evidence of another link is inadmissible.2 If anything, it is more likely due to the idea being borrowed from that source, and not down to a tradition with its oral transmission of gnosis. Masonry, in my mind, has always been a modern institution even if it does date back to the mid 17th century.
Despite my reservations regarding Churchward's books, he has at least demonstrated a thorough acquaintance of the meaning of Massey's works, even if it has been perverted to the wrong, and therefore futile ends.
Massey's greatest—and perhaps only—American disciple was Alvin Boyd Kuhn. Compared with Churchward, Kuhn's books are very professionally and scholarly written. Kuhn was a Theosophist, as can be testified by his first book Theosophy, a Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom (1930) with its highly appreciative biography of Blavatsky. His most important book, in my opinion, is The Lost Light (1940) in which he attempts to reconcile the Masseian material with his own point of view stemming from Theosophical and Platonist backgrounds. He is one of the few who has nothing but admiration for Massey. He says, 'no one more courageously and vehemently than Gerald Massey, a scholar of surpassing ability whose sterling work has not yet won him the place of eminence he deserves.'3 And more expressly:
'His interpretation of Egyptian writings has been all too largely ignored by savants, yet he has the merit of having approached the task with a mind free from scholastic, theological and conventional biases, which have so utterly blinded the discernment and vitiated the conclusions of orthodox authorities. It is permissible for us to state that it was his works that opened our eyes to the hidden meaning under the material, when the works of more accredited specialists in the field had left us without a single enlightening hint. Massey is the only scholar in whose hands the recondite Egyptian material begins to take on rational significance. All the others leave it resembling unintelligible nonsense.'4
He then goes on to remark, 'Several important misconceptions in his interpretation are dealt with in the course of our work.'5 And it is these that I will address. But at the outset, I must repeat, Kuhn approaches the Masseian material from the Theosophico-platonist angle which affects his own interpretation and suggests he himself is not 'free from scholastic, theological and conventional biases,' the very merit he has attributed to Massey in the above paragraph.
The first departure Kuhn makes from Massey is on the grounds that primitive man took from his natural surroundings the things which he later used to symbolise the forces in outer phenomena. This was the origin of types, based on his experience and his limited comprehension. It formed his worldview of how things are, the resultant effect being the development of the mythos. Kuhn, however, says, that 'the myths were not the product of "primitive" simplicity, but on the contrary were devised by the highest mythopoetic genius.'6 Yet Kuhn fails to give any origin for this mythopoetic genius which could only have arisen in the mind of man of whatever level of intellectual attainment he had achieved at that time. In other words, he provides no other explanation as to how this ancient wisdom was initially formulated. Nowadays, speculative writers tend towards outside assistance for the intellectual attainments of early man, that is, they see intelligence being seeded from an extraterrestrial source. Some writers choose to posit an alien race, long since vanished from Earth, who have left behind evidence of their existence in the form of pyramids and other colossal achievements which could only have been constructed by some superior intellect. My view is, since I distrust but do not deny the existence of alien life-forms, is that early man was far more intelligent than initially credited. He was a magpie in that he made use of what was around him to build his own understanding of cause and effect, and there is nothing else in the writings of Massey to suggest otherwise. Kuhn fails to develop his own theory far enough to better Massey's explanation.
I will withhold my own views here for I have unfolded them in another work which parallels Kuhn's point of view, so I will just indicate a few of the other divergences Kuhn makes. Being a Platonist, he views this life as a form of death; incarnation is the result of the soul descending into matter and once trapped in the flesh its only escape is seen as a re-uniting with the original fire from which it descended. This is the central tenet of Platonism as well as Gnosticism. In other words, we are dead to ourselves if we are ignorant of the spiritual spark within us; a realisation of this spark leads to our awakening and our final emancipation from the flesh. This is sound theology. Kuhn sees the realm of the dead as portrayed in the Egyptian eschatology, and designated Amenta, as this world. Not a world underneath, or a world in the hereafter, but this world.7 Hence he can say, 'Reputed savants in the field give no evidence of having the remotest apprehension of textual meanings pertaining to this phase [i.e. eschatology] of theology. Even Massey and Taylor [the Platonist] have fallen just short of that final step [equating this life with 'death'] in comprehension which would have taken them into the temple of truth, the threshold of which they never crossed,'8 and we are left to presume that Kuhn himself is the only one who has crossed that threshold having taking all the logical steps to arrive at his conclusion. Further, on the same page, he says, 'The obsessions of current thought were too strong for them, and overrode the logic of their own premises,' whereas Mr Kuhn was free from all encumbrances and obviously perfect. I find Kuhn's attitude somewhat belittling of his predecessors, with an arrogance unimpeded.
Kuhn identifies the mummy of the eschatology with the body, the mummy as a type of resurrection being a liberation in spirit from the thraldom of the flesh. Hence, 'This is the truth; but having seen the mummy in its true light for a moment, Massey still adheres to his precarious endeavour to read "the mummy in Amenta" into the life after (bodily) death, instead of allocating it to its relationship to earth, where only the living personality was in function.'9 I have no qualms against Kuhn's point of view as it mirrors my own, to a certain extent. But what I object to is his need to feel that Massey in some way needs correcting on the theoretical level. He believes Massey erred in places by not taking his theories far enough. Therefore Kuhn, who has obviously taken on the responsibility of being Massey's follower, and consequently his expounder, seeks to cover the distance for him. Only by being a Platonist can he do this and complete Massey's argument. Again, 'There will be profit in considering another Massey statement, since it reveals how he stumbled and fell at the very door of the truth,'10 whereas he himself has obviously passed safely over it—with his Platonist wings intact.
I will here give a few further quotes for the reader with my own comments:
'The presentation of the evidence supporting the mundane location of Amenta takes on from this point largely the semblance of a debate with Massey. If our study seems overburdened with his material, apology may be found in the explanation that, in the first place, he has fairly earned this amount of recognition [i.e. from Kuhn], and secondly that his presentations focus the issues at stake with more definiteness than those of any other scholar. Though he missed the golden truth of this matter in the end, he still comes so close to it that he at times almost states it in spite of himself. The truth can hardly be better expounded than as the correction of his error, which proved so fatal at last to his work. No one has ever put more succinctly and clearly the nature of the experience of the soul or divine child in Amenta than he has done in the following excerpt:
"In the eschatology Horus, the child, is typical of the human soul which was incarnated in the blood of Isis, the immaculate virgin, to be made flesh, and to be born in mortal guise on earth as the son of Seb (god of earth) and to suffer all the afflictions of mortality. He descended to Amenta as the soul sinking in the dark of death. . . ."
Everything in this passage points to the identity of Amenta with earth. Clearly as Massey saw through the thousand disguises of ancient method, he was tricked at last by the arcane ruse of presenting earth experience under the mask of a ritual for the dead. He could hardly bring himself to believe, sharp as was his break with orthodoxy, that the miscarriage of esoteric sense had gone so utterly awry as to misplace all religious values finally in a wrong world. The enormity of cleric aberrancy was already so shocking to him that he can be pardoned for failing to perceive that it was indeed still seven leagues worse.
He fought his way through by what seemed the only device which would enable him to keep the judgment, hell, purgatory and the underworld in the after-death realm. He was forced to split the term "earth," so frequently used with Amenta, into two parts, distinguishing an "earth of time" from an "earth of eternity." He took Amenta to be this fancied "earth of eternity" beyond the grave or death. He located it vaguely in the post mortem state, and segregated it from the earth of time, or the earth we know. But a little reflection on his part would have told him that the term "earth" has no possible appropriateness to a non-physical existence in spiritual areas. The designations "land," "country," so often applied to the heavenly state of being, are used only by grace of euphemism or figure. Massey must have felt this, but it permitted him to use the word "earth" in reference to a purely celestial locale. This could not have been other than a bit disingenuous; and it cost him his place in renown and kept us an additional forty or fifty years in bondage to religious superstition [the forty or fifty years being the time Massey died till when Kuhn started writing, i.e., 1940, another indicator that he himself has come to save us with his enlightenment].
He rightly insists that "not until we have mastered the wisdom of Egypt as recorded in Amenta shall we be enabled to read it on the surface of the earth." This is precisely what should be said, but where do we have access to "wisdom recorded in Amenta" (considered as his spirit world) if not on this earth, either in books or in experience?'11
And further on he maintains that it was Massey's inability to see the term death as signified by the ancients really meant life. I am not against this theory at all, as it is, as I have said, sound theology for those who have not awakened from egoic consciousness to spiritual consciousness, and agree entirely with his views regarding the Book of the Dead; I have always seen this is a spiritual manual, not just for the dead, but also for the living, with the mapping out of Amenta as being the guide of the ways for the soul. But I here differ, in that Amenta is the subconscious realms that lead towards the light. Hence per-em-hru literally means 'coming into the light', the light of spiritual consciousness as best exemplified by the book of the same title.12
And elsewhere Kuhn writes, 'But the sad part of Massey's story and the reason it is important for us to scrutinize his mistake is that it is the story of a whole race's deception for sixteen centuries,'13 again confirming that Kuhn is the real herald of the truth, and the superstition that has held us in check for so long is suddenly to be banished with his swift pen. And later, 'Massey's mistake, in common with that of much general religious opinion on these matters,' having previously isolated Massey from the herd with flying superlatives, he now convicts him of the same crime as the herd, 'lies in his affirming that after the termination of life in the body the soul first descends into Amenta, then later rises into Paradise.'14 As he believes the soul has already descended (into the body) it cannot possibly descend even further. But this is Kuhn's view, and in this quote it makes it quite clear that Kuhn is doing nothing more than imposing his own views on that of Massey's, and by doing so he is somehow 'correcting' him.
It would have been better if Kuhn, the brilliant and perceptive writer that he is, to have stated something like, 'I do not necessarily agree with all that Massey has said, but I am using what he has said to develop my own theories,' rather than think he has the right to correct him and point out the error of his ways. The only errors in Massey's works are textual and, according to Kuhn, not being a Platonist. I will leave the matter at that, but for those who think it is worth seeking out other books by Kuhn can do no better than acquiring the following; Shadow of the Third Century (NJ, 1949) and Who is this King of Glory? (NJ, 1944).
We now come to discuss a man for whom I have nothing but a profound respect and who can rightly be described as a true follower of Massey. Indeed, if a modern follower of Plato like Thomas Taylor can be called a Neo-Platonist, then Kenneth Grant can surely be labelled a Neo-Masseist in that no one else has so thoroughly introjected and absorbed the Masseian corpus and re-expounded it with greater emphasis. When reading Grant's books and then Massey's one realises how much he not only understood what Massey was saying but also how heavily indebted he is to Massey, as I am to Grant for making me aware of him in the first place. And like his predecessors, Grant too approaches Massey from a different perspective, being the head of the magical order the O.T.O. in England but, unlike them, this has not distorted his view of the original subject matter, nor does Grant feel that he has to correct Massey in any way, although in one or two places he simply adds to the corpus what was not available in Massey's time.
I will point these out shortly, for there is really little else I can say as there are few faults to pick with Grant. Apart from a few textual errors and faulty Qabalistic equations, his exposition is flawless, although I do have a serious issue to raise regarding Grant elsewhere.15 He has simply mastered his subject and taken it further, which is why I do not hold Kuhn in such high esteem. Grant has used Massey to trace the origins of the earliest magical traditions back to their source by adopting Massey's typological method of interpretation. He has expounded at great lengths in a series of books the mysteries of occultism in the 20th century and their parallels, confluences and interactions with other magical and mystical traditions, specifically from their earliest origins in Africa, their culmination in Egypt, their migration to Asia and Central America, including the voodoo cults of the West Indies, and lastly their manifestation in the late nineteenth century occult revival in Europe headed by Eliphas Levi, the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley's A.A. And no one better understands the system of Thelema founded by Crowley than Grant himself.
Out of all the books Grant has written which have a direct bearing on the Masseian material, the first three (constituting what he calls his Typhonian Trilogy)—The Magical Revival (1972), Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God (1973) and Cults of the Shadow (1975)—and the first of the new series of the Typhonian Trilogy; Nightside of Eden (1977) exemplify at best the Masseian method of interpretation. The others that followed do, I feel, lose the way slightly as Grant too can be accused of relying on outside influence to explain the massive intellectual advances made by early man. A case in point here is the intriguing book Grant mentions in his works, Robert Temple's The Sirius Mystery (1976), which posits the inexplicable question of how a tribe of Africans, namely the Dogon, could have such profound knowledge of the Sirian star system unless it by means of some outside trafficking with a race who once inhabited that part of the universe. This is an area of speculative science that is best left aside as it does not concern us here.
Grant is an occultist, a recognised authority in his field. He therefore gives to Massey an occult interpretation of his works. However, Massey was never an occultist, although he has been mislabelled one in the past.16 If anything, Massey was a Druid, the head of the Ancient Order of Druids up till his resignation in 1906 from poor health.17 But there is little evidence that he was a practising one, and the impression is that it was more of a secretarial role. Instead, he tended to shun anything that smacked of elitism that such a label implies, even his disliking for the Freemasons is well known18 and secret societies in general. If we were to take the stance that it is purely on the intellectual level where this label has meaning, then it could be perfectly applicable, for the term 'occult' simply means hidden, and Massey sought all he could do by ferreting out the hidden meanings encoded in the myths, rituals and symbolism of the Egyptians and other ancient nations. A quick survey of the works listed in the Bibliography indicates some titles that can rightly be called occult books, particularly those dealing with the Kabbalah, astrology, etc., and not forgetting Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled and Levi's History of Magic. Yet when weighed against the remainder, these form only a small portion constituting the majority of his references. He sought to use whatever texts were available and knew the 'hidden' could be found equally in these works, as well as in the ones written by the Church Fathers, for example. But that does not mean to say he was an occultist. Perhaps the term 'armchair-occultist' would be more fitting as it designates those who do not practise any form of ceremonial magic but rely purely on gaining their knowledge through books. It is ironic, and invariably the case, that Massey's books end up on occultist's shelves simply because Grant and others quote from him.
Leaving the esoteric aside, although still dealing with source material, Grant says, 'But Massey was unaware of certain aspects of occult phenomena because, at the time of his researches, fragments of the true gnosis survived only in the Tantric texts of the Far East, very few of which had been translated into any European tongue.'19 This is a perfectly valid comment. There were hardly any Tantric texts available in the European language that would have afforded Massey any benefit. In fact, there was only one Tantric text in English at his disposal, Ananda Tantram (or The Tantra of Bliss) quoted at length in Sellon's Annotations on the Sacred Writings of the Hindus (cached here) which was at the time, and still is, exceedingly scarce. It was a small book issued privately by Sellon who took advantage of his stay in India by seeking out unusual texts, preferably of a sexual nature, and at the same time indulging in a bit of fornication with the local natives, his penchant being young girls usually under the age of ten. Sellon was a notorious rake who also published a couple of minor books of pornography, one being his autobiography The Ups and Downs of Life (1867)—of which only one original copy is known to exist and hence is even scarcer than his Annotations—and The New Epicurean (1865). Other writings by Sellon of a Tantric nature Massey may have come across were papers presented to the Anthropological Society and published in their Memoirs; 'On Linga Puja, or Phallic Worship of India,' (vol. 1, 1865), and 'Some Remarks on the Sacti Puja or the Worship of the Female Powers,' (vol. 2, 1866), as well as perhaps those passed on to him directly from his acquaintance, Captain Burton who had a close affinity with Sellon and his interests. It is unfortunate that the latter went on to blow his brains out at the age of forty-eight for he had a thorough understanding of Tantrism as a whole. Had he lived longer and become more diligent in his research he would have made an admirable Oriental sexologist. It was Sellon who noted the connection between the Yoni and the Ark of the Covenant through the term argha, and hence the ship or Argo of Greek mythology. Also the similitude between the Eleusinian mysteries and Shakti puja of the Tantrists,20 and was aware of the existence of the Vamachara sect of Tantrists so important to Grant's work.21 Sellon's Annotations is still considered by some Tantric scholars to be a classic on the subject, so I have made it available here for all to read.22
Other snippets of information regarding the real secrets of Tantra may have been scattered in the voluminous works of Wilson and Muir, and possibly in the volumes of the Asiatic Researches, but Massey certainly would not have been aware of their real significance nor arrived at Grant's conclusions. Neither would they have been of interest to him. Grant discusses the same point later on when he says,
'Yet, despite the limitation imposed upon Massey in respect of the lack of initiated texts available in his time, his work remains of the utmost value in that it traces more accurately than does that of any other writer, before or since, the line of emergence, the evolution and history of the symbolic vehicles of the Typhonian Current which the present writer has sought to explain in all his works. With the exception of Sir John Woodroffe [who translated many Tantric texts in the early years of the 20th century] and Aleister Crowley, no western writer, other than Massey, has touched upon the vital content of the genuine gnosis, the true magical tradition ... It is therefore my particular aim to provide the 'missing link' in Massey's work by supplying Tantric references...'23
As Grant is an occultist, he feels it is vitally important to supply this missing link, although Massey would have considered there was no missing link since all the gaps had been filled in through his own extensive research, especially by the time he finished his last work and could sit back smugly knowing it had been completed in the 'light of day.' Grant would have been better stating it was his intention to develop Massey's work along other lines of enquiry, but that is a minor point. These two great writers are at variance in only that they are both operating on different planes; Massey on the physical, Grant on the psychical. We meet later again with this same antagonism, or, to put it more mildly, differences of opinion, when Grant says, 'Gerald Massey has demonstrated the meaning of the symbolism [of dorsal copulation], but he seems to have been unaware of its practical occult import.'24 He would have been unaware of the practical occult import of this mode of intercourse because he was not an occultist. So this remark by Grant is highly unfair. Massey, of all people, was the most practical for his time. A brief perusal of his works suggests this for he does not refrain—nor shirk out of Victorian prudishness—from discussing such subjects that in his time would have only been found in medical texts and never spoken about in public, i.e. menstruation, defloration, mutilations of the genitals, masturbation, so on and so forth.
It is only on these small issues that I disagree with Grant. And I am aware of the implications involved in the term 'occultism' for it is open to many interpretations, can be all-embracing, and cover vast areas, including spiritualism to which Massey was at one time an ardent devotee. But having said that I hope I have made myself clear, and my respect for Grant is still untarnished.
1. Signs and Symbols, p. 244-5.
2. See ibid, p. 484.
3. Op. cit, p. 69.
4. Op. cit., Academy Press; NJ, 1940, p. 596, my emphasis.
5. Ibid., p. 596.
6. Ibid., p. 71.
7. 'The earth must be Amenta,' ibid., p. 195.
8. Ibid., p. 160.
9. Ibid., p. 180.
10. Ibid., p. 181.
11. Ibid., pp. 192-3.
12. See Gerald and Betty Schueler, Coming into the Light, Llewellyn Publications; Minnesota, 1989. Also Stanislav Grof, Books of the Dead, Thames and Hudson; London, 1985.
13. Ibid., p. 195.
14. Ibid., p. 201.
15. See the essay 'Who came first? Massey or Hislop?'
16. Sibyl Ferguson, for example, in her introduction to the Weiser reprint of NG (1974) calls him 'one of the greatest occultists' for which there is no proof.
17. See Shaw's biog., p. 164.
18. Ibid., p. 188.
19. Nightside of Eden, p. 74.
20. Annotations, p. 26.
21. See Sellon, in Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 274, for an account of their Panchatattva rite—quoted in George Ridley Scott, Phallic Worship, Luxor Press; London, 1966, p. 166, and my following note.
22. For more on Sellon, see Andre van Lysebeth, Tantra, the Cult of the Feminine, Weiser, ME, 1995, p. 268, who discusses Sellon briefly and for some reason assigns the quotation in the previous note to a page in Sellon's biography where it does not appear. See also p. 271 where he says Sellon was 'one of the first Westerners to describe the secret rite of the Chakra Puja and the Five M's.' Also p. 105 of Benjamin Walker's Tantrism, Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, 1982, who says Sellon 'wrote one of the earliest expositions on Tantrism.' And Francis King, Tantra for Westerners, Aquarian Press; Wellingborough, 1986, p. 87. Lastly, Godwin, Theosophical Enlightenment, SUNY; Albany, 1994, p. 23. Sellon's book, Annotations on the Sacred Writings of the Hindus, has been cached here.
23. Nightside of Eden, p. 110.
24. Ibid., p. 136.
This page last updated: 24/10/2010