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Embodying Osiris, God of Renewal Osiris was brutally murdered and torn to bits by his brother Seth.

His body parts were scattered across Egypt and later retrieved by Isis, Osiris wife. She reassembled him, and using her magic, reanimated his body long enough to copulate with him and bear a son, Horus. In manhood, Horus fought his uncle in a protracted battle and in the end, was victorious. Horus claimed the throne and redeemed his father, who became God of the Underworld. This is a brief synopsis of the Osiris myth as best we can gleam from the fragments of invocations and magical spells which are all that remain from the Pyramid Texts. It is a story that gives us insight into the history, politics, religion and psychology of the ancient Egyptians. What might this 5000 year-old myth have to do with us today? In my new book, Embodying Osiris, the Secrets of Alchemical Transformation, Ive uncovered mysteries that change the way we view ancient Egypt and this

complex god. Osiris evolved from a vegetative nature spirit to Lord of the Dead and ultimately to an archetypal god of regeneration in the course of Egypts long history. Like many creation myths, we can trace the development of consciousness from the formless waters of Nu to Osiris as ruler of the underworld, the duat, or in psychological language, the unconscious. The myth describes the earliest structuring of the human psyche and how humans broke free from a collective society ruled by the pharaoh. It mirrors the process that each of us undergoes in order to become a whole, mature person: a rite of passage that involves a torturous experience of being psychically torn apart and reconstituted into a more highly integrated form. In carefully examining the myth we discover the alchemical recipe, Solve et Coagula, which describes an essential attribute of the individuation process. This is a formula that explains how life works and why every Egyptian strove to join with Osiris in the afterlife. Once we are absorbed into the rhythms that govern life, we become spiritualized earth and

enter the eternal Field of Reeds. I further show that some Egyptians, principally pharaohs, had the means to experience immortality long before physical death. Today we have the distinct advantage of experiencing Osiris as an archetype rather than venerating him as an ancient deity. In this way, he is more personal and useful to deepening consciousness. We can embody Osiris by subjectively engaging him through practices used by the Egyptians as well as others described by C.G. Jung. If we look carefully into the myth we find ample evidence of the transition that took place during Egypts early history when magic (heka) evolved into the proto-science of alchemy. How the ancient Egyptians acquired the knowledge to achieve astounding feats of architecture remains a mystery. Given that religion and science had not yet diverged into separate disciplines, we can be fairly confident that such projects were achieved with inner wisdom and engineering know-how. Just as the recipe from

the Emerald Tablet reads, As above, so below, for the making of the One Thing, we can deduce that a combination of inspiration from above and perspiration from below went into the making of enlightened souls as well as timeless mortuary temples. The measure of a pyramids longevity is, I would say, a reflection of its builders spiritual stature. Symbols are the language of the unconscious; translating the hieroglyphic symbols of this myth gives us access to its deeper meaning. For example, to understand the words, As above, so below, we only need look at Osiris parents, Nut and Geb, the goddess of the heavens and the god of earth, respectively, to identify the origin of this formula. In Egyptian cosmology, these deities were locked in sexual embrace until their father Shu, god of the atmosphere (the sky), separates them. As a result, a habitat suitable for human life is created. But in their separatio, Nut leaves her impression (her essence) on her husband Geb, and in turn, Geb does likewise with his beloved Nut. Humans are the benefactors of

these mixed impressions, ones that can create the One Thing, which is the Philosophers Stone. While we are composites of heaven and earth, these elements either conflict or complement one another. Since Osiris is the god who governs this dynamic flow, embodying his spirit helps bring harmony. The ideal image of this alchemical being half-human, half-divine- is Jesus Christ. This awareness wasnt lost on the early Christians who recognized Osiris as the prefiguration of the Christ figure. As we will see, the Osiris myth sets the stage for an historical event that paved the way for monotheism. As a psychotherapist my aim in Embodying Osiris is less focused on these mythological and historical events than in describing how people come to terms with the endless ways that we are psychologically dismembered. To this end, I provide many examples of my patients dreams and synchronicities that show how the rhythms of life and death come into conflict and how we can draw upon Osiris to bring about resolution of the warring opposites.

Embodying Osiris weaves past mythology with our present psychological experience of becoming whole, what Jung called the individuation process. Adopting an ancient Egyptian frame of mind is crucial to an alchemical understanding of Osiris and the role he plays in this development. In the ancient mind, mythology and history were inseparable, organic elements of cultural consciousness. The very formation of Egypt is founded on Osiris, his death and resurrection. The earliest settlements sprang from each of the fourteen places where one of Osiris body parts came to rest. These sacred places eventually coalesced into a unified nation. Just as in the case of Nut and Geb (and their effect on the human soul), a combination of magic and alchemy produced the perfect elixir from which human beings as well as Egypt were eventually born. Osiris symbolizes these critical separations but also realignments that come with re-union. Nowhere is this shift in consciousness more evident than in the reign of Akhenaton. Until Akhenaton, the pharaoh was the sole

intermediary between the gods and the common people. Immediately upon ascending the throne, Akhenaton turned Egyptian religion upside down. He essentially demoted the thousands of gods who had for millennia made up the Egyptian pantheon and in its place, acknowledged only one true god, Aten. At the same time, he declared that each person could directly worship this sun god without having to rely on the pharaoh, for Aten was as plain to see as the sun in the desert sky. Change had always been the enemy of these people and so it was no surprise that this radical shift was unwelcomed by nearly everyone. And yet, Akhenaton laid the seeds for the eventual development of Gnosticism and of course, Christian monotheism that would take hold soon after the collapse of the Egyptian empire. Akhenaten died after only seventeen years on the throne and his kingdom Amarna (1334 -1351 BC), was quickly dismantled after his death. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Osiris again rose to prominence. But, as the might of the Egyptian empire was weakened by threats to the pharaoh

both from within (strength of the priesthood) and from without (foreign occupiers), Osiris was joined with another important deity and by 323 BC he reappears as Serapis, god of dreams. Serapis was a contrivance of Ptolemy Soter who needed a deity acceptable by two factions: the indigenous Egyptian people and their Hellenistic rulers. Actually, the composite god was an easy choice since it combined Osiris with Apis, the sacred bull that had represented Osiris ka (soul). We see here the mercurial ability of this archetypal god to change its form in order to accommodate new societal needs. Indeed, we can still find vestiges of Osiris in the Green man and even his wife, Isis, who was venerated throughout Europe for centuries, appears as the Virgin Mary and later in the image of the Black Madonna. Gods and myths must be renewed from time to time because people and circumstance change. We must therefore take into account the inevitable distortions that arise if an effort isnt made to adjust our modern

way of reading ancient texts. We cannot expect to understand Osiris without attuning ourselves to the minds that created this timeless myth. In Embodying Osiris I offer five changes necessary to put our mind in harmony with the work. After describing key elements of ancient Egypts history and briefly defining the alchemical paradigm, we can engage the archetype and transform its history and mythology into a living experience. Osiris is not only the God of the Dead, but an active force that plays an important role throughout life. Death, in this view, is not the inevitable doom that awaits us, but rather a great resource that resides in the unconscious. Osiris is the rich humus from which new life springs, the impulse that connects us to the eternal rhythms of life and beyond. He is the God of Becoming who is especially needed when we want to hasten Natures pace and facilitate change in our lives. At a time in history when a green revolution is burgeoning and genetic research is materializing many of the alchemists dreams, a god is needed to keep experiments from going awry. We need Osiris

more than ever to insure that our personal individuation is in alignment with God and that technology does not become a godless machine, out of control, careening into a world devoid of soul, conscience or responsibility. Copyright reserved by Thom F. Cavalli 1/2011. For permission to duplicate or use any part of this article please contact Dr. Cavalli at illavac@hotmail.com or 714.972-0056. Thom F. Cavalli, Ph.D. is a practicing Jungian psychologist and author of Alchemical Psychology, Old Recipes for Living in a New World (Putnam, 2002) and Embodying Osiris, the Secrets of Alchemical Transformation (Quest Books, 2010). He is a favorite keynote speaker at major institutes, schools and spiritual centers. For more information about Dr. Cavallis work, visit his websites CavalliBooks.com and AlchemicalPsychology.com or email illavac@hotmail.com. Note: This article appears in the current issue of the

Watkins Review along with other outstanding stories and interviews. http://www.watkinsbooks.com/

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