Last time we came up with two markers for priest/esshood among the ancient Isiacs: service and knowledge.
Yet we have virtually no information about what it meant inwardly and spiritually for individuals to serve as priestesses or priests of Isis. Nonetheless, there is reason to think that indeed there WERE inner experiences. There is a record from the the reign of Thutmose III that provides a hint that priestly initiations meant something spiritually.
A new royal vizier who was made Prophet of Mayet or Maat said of his experience:
“My abilities were not as they had been: my yesterday’s nature had altered itself, since I had come forth in the accouterments of a vizier, having been promoted to be Prophet of Mayet.”
This man felt truly changed by his experience of becoming a Prophet of Mayet. We can assume that the priestesses and priests of Isis and of other Deities had no less an experience than this vizier.
In fact, the Egyptian reputation for religious and philosophical knowledge was immense. It would only make sense that those who were sincerely following their path would have important personal experiences—just as people have always done. Yet we have no specific record of such things. Why? Because that’s just not the way the ancient Egyptians did things. That’s not what they considered important to write down.
In fact, the closest thing we do have to a personal account of spiritual experiences related to Isis is in a novel by a North African named Apuleius. The book is called The Golden Ass and is about an initiation into the Mysteries of Isis.
It is from the third century CE (that’s the 200s) so it’s late—but it IS from the time of the most widespread popularity of Isis. Because it is novelized, it gives us a glimpse of the protagonist Lucius’ interior state. And while Lucius is an initiate of Isis and not a priest, one could make an argument that he would probably qualify as what WE would call a priest of Isis today. He is an initiate, he remains involved with the religion, serving in its special ranks or grades—and he outwardly marks himself as an Isiac by shaving his head.
So I think we should at least look at what his spiritual experience with Isis was like for clues.
In the novel, Lucius has had a spiritual crisis: after being magically turned into an ass, he has gone through trials and tribulations and finally throws himself upon the mercy of the Moon Goddess.
The Moon Goddess reveals Herself as Isis. She says that though She is called by many names, Her true name is Queen Isis.
Isis tells Lucius not to fear:
“But above all things beware thou doubt not nor fear of any of those things as hard or difficult to be brought to pass…”
In other words, She tells him to have faith.
She also says:
“and know this of certainty, that the residue of thy life until the hour of death shall be bound and subject to Me; and think it not an injury to be always serviceable towards Me whilst thou shalt live, since as by My means and benefit thou shalt return again to be a man. Thou shalt live blessed in this world, thou shalt live glorious by My guide and protection, and when after thy alloted space of life thou decendest to the Underworld, there thou shalt see Me in the subterranean firmament shining (as thou seest Me now) in the darkness of Acheron, and reigning in the deep profundity of Styx and thou shalt worship Me as one that hath been favourable to thee. And if I perceive that thou art obedient to My commandment and hold to my religion, meriting by thy constant chastity My divine grace, know that I alone may prolong thy days above the time that the Fates have appointed and ordained.”
As an initiate of Isis, Lucius’ life is to change. He is to be Hers forever; and in return, She will not only save him from his present difficulty, but prolong his lifespan.
The priest who is overseeing his initiation tells Lucius that to take Isis’ holy orders was like a “voluntary death and slow recovery.” Yet, even if someone were on the edge of death, and had but the strength to receive Her mysteries, that person could be made new-born and healthy once more.
He advises Lucius to: “Accept of your own free will the yoke of service.”
By his initiation, Lucius is to be born again and he is to serve the Goddess. The mental and emotional state of Lucius after his initiation is one of pure love and wonder. He is passionately in love with the Goddess-and so he remains throughout the days of his life.
I’ve had an experience like that. One thing that happened to me with Her that I have remembered all the days of my life since then and which has made me passionate in my love of Her and dedication to Her. Have you had such an experience? Would you care to share it?