III. The goddess Isis is said by some authors to be
the daughter 1 of Hermes, 2 and by others of Prometheus, both of them famous for their philosophic turn of mind. The latter is supposed to have first taught mankind wisdom and foresight, as the former is reputed to have invented letters and music.
They likewise call the former of the two Muses at Hermopolis 3 Isis as well as Dikaiosune, 4 she being none other, it is said, than Wisdom pointing out the knowledge of divine truths to her votaries, the true Hierophori and Hierostoli. Now, by the former of these are meant such who carry about them looked up in their souls, as in a chest, the sacred doctrine concerning the gods, purified from all such superfluities as superstition may have added thereto. And the holy apparel with which the Hierostoli adorn the statues of these deities, which is partly of a dark and gloomy and partly of a more bright and shining colour, seems aptly
enough to represent the notions which this doctrine teaches us to entertain of the divine nature itself, partly clear and partly obscure. And inasmuch as the devotees of Isis after their decease are wrapped up in these sacred vestments, is not this intended to signify that this holy doctrine still abides with them, and that this alone accompanies them in another life? For as 'tis not the length of the beard or the coarseness of the habit which makes a philosopher, so neither will these frequent shavings, or the mere wearing of a linen vestment, constitute a votary of Isis. He alone is a true servant or follower of this goddess who, after he has heard, and has been made acquainted in a proper manner with the history of the actions of these gods, searches into the hidden truths which lie concealed under them, and examines the whole by the dictates of reason and philosophy.
200:1 In Egyptian, TEBH.
201:1 According to the Egyptian Heliopolitan doctrine, Isis was the daughter of Keb, the Earth-god, and Nut, the Sky-goddess; she was the wife of Osiris, mother of Horus, and sister of Set and Nephthys.
201:2 The Egyptian. TEHUTI, or Thoth, who invented letters, mathematics, &c. He was the "heart of Ra," the scribe of the gods, and he uttered the words which created the world; he composed the "words of power," or magical formulae which were beneficial for the dead, and the religious works which were used by souls in their journey from this world to the next.
201:3 The Hermopolis here referred to is the city of Khemenu in Upper Egypt, wherein was the great sanctuary of Thoth.
201:4 i.e., Righteousness, or Justice. The goddess referred to is probably Maat.