The God-Idea of the Ancients (or Sex in Religion)
By Eliza Burt Gamble

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Chapter IX. The Phoenician and Hebrew God Set or Seth

The name of one of the oldest deities of which we have any record is Set (Phoenician) or Seth (Hebrew). Traces of this God are found in all oriental countries; and in the most primitive religions, whose traditions are still extant, he (or she) appears as the supreme God. After the subjection of Egypt by the stranger kings and the consequent introduction into the country of Sabianism, the dual creative force residing in the sun is represented by Seth. We are told that Seth signifies “appointed or put in the place of the murdered Abel.”

That there is some deep mystery connected with this subject none who has studied it carefully can help observing.

According to the story of creation as set forth in the Jehovistic account, on Saturday night, after God had finished his work, and immediately after he had commanded Adam to “be fruitful,” he presents him with a staff, which we observe is handed down to Enoch and all the patriarchs. Here the mystery deepens, for it is declared that this staff was presented so Seth, and that it was a branch of the Tree of Life.

That beneath this allegory is veiled a contest, or perhaps a compromise, between the worshippers of two distinct sects, seems altogether probable. That the handing down of this branch of the Tree of Life, first to Adam, or man, by Aleim, and its subsequent transference to Seth, the God of Nature, the Destroyer or Regenerator, seems to indicate a victory for the adherents of a purer religion. The translator of Kallimachus says: “It is well known to the learned reader that the descendants of Cain are distinguished in Scripture by the name of the sons of man or Adam; those of Seth by the name of the sons of God.” Gen. vi., 2.[85] It is stated in Julius Africanus that all the righteous men and patriarchs down to the Saviour himself have sprung from Seth and have been denominated as the sons of God in contradistinction to the sons of man.

[85] Forlong, Rivers of Life, vol. i., p. 527.

Doubtless at the time indicated by the transference of the creative agency from Aleim to Adam, the worship of an abstract principle, or of a Trinity composed of the powers of Nature, was losing its hold on the minds of the people, and the creative power, or the reproductive energy in human beings, was rapidly taking the place of the older Deity. These higher principles forgotten, Adam, or man, had become the Creator.

It is not improbable that the terms Adam, Cain, Abel, and Seth have an esoteric meaning which for ages was known only to the priests. From various facts which in later times are being brought forward regarding the ancient myths of Genesis, it is believed that these names originally stood for races of men, and that subsequently certain religious doctrines came to be attached to them. The offering of fruit by Cain, the elder brother, who was a tiller of the ground, and that of flesh by Abel, who was a keeper of sheep, indicates a quarrel which ended in the death of the latter. After the death of Abel, or after one of these principles or sects was subdued, the older religion was revived, and Seth, as the Aleim, or as the creative power within the sun, was “appointed” or again worshipped.

It would seem that Seth was appointed to represent the third person in the ancient Trinity–the Destroyer or Regenerator which had previously come to embody all the powers of the Creator and Preserver. The fact has been observed that the very ancient philosophers believed matter to be eternal, hence, seeming death, or destruction, was necessary to renewed life or regeneration. In other words, creation was but continuous change in the form of matter.

Of the doctrines of the Sethians extant at the beginning of Christianity, Hippolytus says that their system “is made up of tenets from natural philosophers. These tenets embrace a belief in the Eternal Logos–Darkness, Mist, and Tempest.” These elements subsequently became identified with the Evil Principle, or the Devil. The cold of winter, the darkness of night, and water, were finally set forth as the Trinity. Regarding cold, darkness, and water, or darkness, mist, and tempest, Hippolytus observes:

“These the Sethian says are the three principles of our system; or when he states that three were born in paradise– Adam, Eve, the serpent; or when he speaks of three persons, namely, Cain, Abel, Seth, and again of three others, Shem, Ham, Japheth; or when he mentions three patriarchs–Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; or when he speaks of three days before the sun, etc.”

The same writer says that their entire system is derived from the ancients; that, antecedent to the Eleusinian mysteries, were enacted by them the ceremonies connected with the worship of the Great Mother.[86]

[86] Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies, book v., ch. 15.

We have observed that through some process not thoroughly understood at the present time, the adherents of the older faith had succeeded in reinstating their Deity. The powers of Nature had come to be represented by Typhon Seth. It was the God of Death and of Life, of Destruction and Regeneration. The simoom of the desert and the cold of winter were Seth, as were also the genial powers of Spring. We are informed by various writers that Typhon Seth was feminine. She was the early God of the Jews. In other words, the Jews were formerly worshippers of a female Deity. Jehovah, Iav, was originally female.

Although the secret meaning of all the allegories contained in the Old Testament is not fully understood, still the belief that Cain, Abel, and Seth represented the self-triplicated Deity at a time when the idea of man as a creator had been accepted, or when his power to reproduce was becoming the highest idea of a creative force, is consistent with what is known of the Cabala of the Jews, or of the esoteric meaning of the Jewish scriptures formerly known only to the priests. In other words, the ancient doctrines, the true meaning of which was no longer understood by them, were patched together as a basis for the later developments in Jewish religious experience.

We have seen that six hundred years after Adam appears Noah, another self-triplicated Saviour or preserver of man, with his ark or seed vessel, beneath which is veiled the female element. Afterward Abraham becomes the Great Father or Saviour, and later Moses. That, in the time of the latter, the more ancient worship of a creative force in Nature represented by the Aleim, had, by the masses of the people, been wholly lost, is evident from the Old Testament writings. The worship of the Father, the male power, in opposition to that of the Mother, or the female power, constituted the religion of Moses. In the religion of the Jews, Jehovah came to be regarded as wholly male and as spirit, while Edam (translated “downward tending”), the female principle, was matter, or woman, which finally became identified with the Devil.

The philosophical doctrine that spirit is evolved through matter, or that matter must be raised to a certain dynamical power before spirit can manifest itself through it, was no longer understood; only the husks of this doctrine –the myths and symbols of Nature-worship–remained; these were taken literally, and thus man’s religion was made to conform to his lowered estate.

When man had so far gained the ascendancy over woman as to assert that he is the sole Creator of their joint offspring, he was no longer of the earth earthy, but at once became the child of heaven. He was, however, bound to earth through his association with matter, or with woman, from whom he was unable to free himself. The “sons of God” were united “to the daughters of man.” Jahvah, the “God of hosts,” who was revengeful, weak, jealous, and cruel, was worshipped in the place of Aleim the great dual force throughout Nature. The ethereal, spiritual male essence resided somewhere in the heavens and created from afar, while the earth (female) furnished only the body or material substance.

In the history of the god Seth is to be found a clue to the way in which the sublime and philosophical doctrines of the ancients, after their true meaning was forgotten, were finally changed so as to conform to the enforced humiliation and degradation of women.

Seth or Typhon was for ages worshipped throughout Egypt, and as she comprehended the powers of Nature, or the creative energy residing in the sun and earth, little is heard of any other god. Strange it is, however, that Seth is worshipped more in her capacity as Destroyer than as Regenerator. So soon as we understand the origin and character of the Devil, and so soon as we divest ourselves of the false ideas which under a state of ignorance and gross sensuality came to prevail relative to the “powers of darkness,” we shall perceive that his (or her) Satanic majesty was once a very respectable personage and a powerful Divinity–a Divinity which was worshipped by a people whose superior intelligence can scarcely be questioned. Regarding this subject Higgins remarks:

“Persons who have not given much consideration to these subjects will be apt to wonder that any people should be found to offer adoration to the evil principle; but they do not consider that, in all these recondite systems, the evil principle, or the Destroyer, or Lord of Death, was at the same time the Regenerator. He could not destroy but to reproduce, and it was probably not till this principle began to be forgotten, that the evil being, per se, arose; for in some nations this effect seems to have taken place. Thus Baal-Zebub is, in Iberno Celtic, Baal Lord, and Zab Death, Lord of Death; but he is also called Aleim, the same as the God of the Israelites; and this is right, because he was one of the Trimurti or Trinity.

“If I be correct respecting the word Aleim being feminine, we here see the Lord of Death of the feminine gender; but the Goddess Ashtaroth or Astarte, the Eoster of the Germans, was also called Aleim. Here again Aleim is feminine, which shows that I am right in making Aleim the plural feminine. Thus we have distinctly found Aleim the Creator (Gen. i., 1), Aleim the Preserver, and Aleim the Destroyer, and this not by inference, but literally expressed."[87]

[87] Anacalypsis, ch. ii., p. 66.

At one period of their history the Hebrews worshipped Ashtaroth and Baal, they together representing the great Aleim, the indivisible God, but after the Israelites had chosen the worship of the male principle as an independent deity, or as the only important agency in the creative processes, as Baal might not be represented aside from his counterpart Ashtaroth, he was no longer adored but came to stand for something “approaching the Devil.” Forlong has observed the fact that, although in Hebrew Baal is masculine, in the Greek translations he is feminine both in the Old and New Testaments.[88]

[88] Forlong, Rivers of Life, p. 223.

Jehovah was originally female, so, also, was Netpe the Holy Spirit of the Egyptian Tree of Life. We are given to understand that Netpe was the same as Rhea, the partner of Sev or Saturn, and that her hieroglyphic name was “Abyss of Heaven.” Osiris was the son of this goddess who was really a Mai or Mary, the Celestial Mother, he being the only God of the Egyptians who was born upon this earth and lived among men. Of this Forlong remarks: “His birthplace was Mount Sinai; called by the Egyptians Nysa, hence his Greek name Dionysos.”

As the Palm was the first offering of Mother Earth to her children, so Osiris was the first offspring of the Egyptian Celestial Virgin to mankind. He was the new sun which through the winter months had been “buried,” but which in process of time arose to gladden all the earth. He was also the new Sun of Righteousness which was to renew the world, or redeem mankind from sin.

The female principle for the time being cast out of the Deity, Osiris, the male element, now outwardly assumes the position of supreme God. It was, however, reserved for a later and more sensuous age to permanently adopt an absurdity so opposed to all established ideas relative to a creative force in Nature and in man. Seth, the Destroyer, had been deposed, but, so deeply rooted in the human mind had become the idea of a female Creator, that Isis, the Queen of Heaven, a somewhat lower conception of Muth, or of universal womanhood, soon assumed the place of Seth beside Osiris. Later in the history of Egypt, when the gods have become greatly multiplied, and the original significance of the deity obscured, Horus, the child and the third member in the later Egyptian triad, not unfrequently appears in her place as one of the eight great gods.

The fact is observed that the history of Osiris is not alone the “history of the circle of the year, or of the sun dying away and resuscitating itself again, but that it is also the history of the cycle of 600.” It has been said that of the component elements of his hieroglyphical name, Isis is the first, and that the name Osiris really signifies the “Eye of Isis.”

According to Plutarch, Isis and Muth are identical, but from the evidence at hand it is plain that Muth comprehends divine womanhood, or the female principle as it was regarded at an earlier stage of human growth. Muth is not only the parent of the sun, or the force which produces the sun, but she is also Wisdom, the first emanation from the Deity, at the same time that she comprehends all the possibilities of Nature. Isis seems to represent the Deity at a time when the higher truths known to a more ancient people were beginning to lose their hold upon the race.

Renouf informs us that the word Maat, or Muth, means Law, “not in that forensic sense of command issued either by a human sovereign authority, or by a divine legislator, like the laws of the Hebrews, but in the sense of that unerring order which governs the universe, whether in its physical or its moral aspect."[89] The same writer observes further that Maat “is called mistress of Heaven, ruler of earth, and president of the nether world,” and in a further description of the conception embodied in this Deity, refers to the fact that while she is the mother of the sun she is also the first emanation from God.

[89] The Religion of Ancient Egypt, p. 126.

Although Typhon Seth was long worshipped as the sole Deity in Egypt, in later ages the god-idea came to be represented by Seth and Osiris. Toward the close of Typhon Seth’s reign, Horus, the child, the young sun, was represented “as rising from his hiding-place, attracting beneficent vapors to return them back as dews, which the Egyptians called the tears of Isis.”

Seth and Osiris represent a division of the Deity. Osiris, as the sun, represents heat; as man, or as god, he stands for desire. Seth or Typhon stands for the cold of winter, the simoom of the desert, or the “wind that blasts.” Seth, Osiris, and Horus constitute a Trinity of which Muth is the Great Mother. Finally, with the gradual ascendancy of male influence and power, it is observed that Seth appears as the brother of Osiris.

It is the opinion of Bunsen that the fundamental idea of Osiris and Set was “not merely the glorification of the sun, but was also the worship of the primitive creative power."[90] But, as in Egypt the creative agency was regarded as both female and male, the former being in the ascendancy, this fact of itself would seem to determine the sex and position of Seth.

[90] History of Egypt, vol. iv., p. 319.

In the ideas concerning Seth and Osiris may be observed something of the manner in which the fructifying agencies of the sun and the reproductive power in human beings were blended and together worshipped as the Deity; while through the history of these gods are to be traced some of the processes by which the idea of the Creator was changed from female to male.

In all countries, at a certain stage in the history of religion, the transference of female deified power to mortal man may be observed. In the attempt to change Seth or Typhon into a male God may be noted perhaps the first effort in Egypt to dethrone, or lessen the female power in the god-idea.

The fact seems plain that the Great Typhon Seth, or Set, who conferred on the sovereigns of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties of Egypt “the symbols of life and power,” was none other than the primitive Regenerator or Destroyer, who was for ages worshipped as the God of Nature the Aleim, or the life-giving energy throughout the universe.

We have observed that when the profound principles underlying the most ancient doctrines had been lost or forgotten, and when through the decay of philosophy, and through the stimulation of the sensual in human nature, mankind had lost the power to reason abstractly, Destruction, which was symbolized by darkness or the absence of the sun’s rays, finally became the evil principle, or the Devil. Darkness and cold, which had formerly been worshipped as the powers which brought forth the sun, or as mother of the sun, in process of time became the agency which is ever warring with good and which is constantly destroying that which the latter brings forth.

We are informed by Forlong that “some derive our term Devil from Niphl or Nevil, the wind that blasts or obstructs the growth of corn; and it used sometimes to be written th’ evil, which is D’evil or Devil.”

It was “this Dualistic heresy which separated the Zend or Persian branch of the Aryans from their Vedic brethren, and compelled them to emigrate to the westward."[91]

[91] See Rawlinson, Notes on the Early History of Babylon.

The ancient philosophical truth that matter is eternal, and that the destruction of vegetable life through the agency of cold was one of the necessary processes of re-generation, or the renewal of life, had evidently been lost sight of at the time when Seth was dethroned in Egypt. Wilkinson informs us that “both Seth and Osiris were adored until a change took place respecting Seth, brought about apparently by foreign influence.” Sethi or Sethos, a ruler whose reign represents the Augustan age of Egyptian splendor, received his name from this Deity. It is said that during the twentieth dynasty Seth is suddenly portrayed as the principle of evil “with which is associated sin.” Consequently all the effigies of this great Goddess were destroyed and all her names and inscriptions “which could be reached” were effaced.

Bunsen tells us that Schelling, who has made a study of Egyptian mythology, although totally ignorant of the later historical facts which by means of hieroglyphical monuments have been obtained, had arrived at the conclusion that Seth had occupied an important position in the Deity down to the fourteenth century B.C. “Schelling had on mere speculative grounds been brought to lay down as a postulate that Typhon, at some early period, had been considered by the Egyptians as a beneficent and powerful God.”

Wilkinson says that the character given to Seth, who was called Baal-Seth and the God of the Gentiles, “is explained by his being the cause of evil.” We are assured that formerly “Sin the great serpent, or Apophis the giant, was distinct from Seth who was a deity and a part of the divine system. But after the recondite principles underlying sun-worship were lost or forgotten; when cold and darkness, or the sinking away of the sun’s rays, which are necessary to the reappearance of light and warmth, came to be regarded as the destructive element, or the evil principle, woman became identified with this principle. She was the producer of evil, and came to be represented in connection with a serpent as the cause of all earthly or material things. She is Destruction, but not Regeneration. She is in fact matter. The cold of winter and the darkness of night, which are necessary to the return of the sun’s warmth and which were formerly set forth as a beneficent mother who brings forth the sun, became only the evil principle–that which obscures the light. In fact Darkness or absence of the sun’s heat has become the Devil. It is the “cause of evil in the world.”

With woman blinded by superstition, with every instinct of the female nature outraged, and with her position as the central figure in the Deity and in the family usurped, her temples were soon profaned, her images defiled, and the titles representing her former greatness transferred to males.

There is no doubt but this doctrine was the legitimate outcome of the decay of female influence. Through the further stimulation of the lower nature of man its absurdity gradually increased, until under the system calling itself Christian it finally reached its height. This subject will be referred to later in these pages.

When we remember that the original representation of the Deity among the nations of the earth consisted of a female figure embracing a child, and when we observe that subsequently in the development of the god-idea woman appears associated with a serpent as the cause of evil in the world, the history of the God Seth, who, as we have seen, represented the processes of Nature, namely Destruction and Regeneration, seems quite significant as indicating some of the actual processes involved in this change.

There can be little doubt that the facts relating to this Deity indicate the source whence has sprung the great theological dogma underlying Christianity, that woman is the cause of evil in the world.


Preface  •  Introduction  •  Chapter I. Sex the Foundation of the God-Idea  •  Chapter II. Tree, Plant, and Fruit Worship  •  Chapter III. Sun-Worship--Female and Male Energies in the Sun  •  Chapter IV. The Dual God of the Ancients a Trinity Also  •  Chapter V. Separation of the Female and Male Elements in the Deity  •  Chapter VI. Civilization of an Ancient Race  •  Chapter VII. Concealment of the Early Doctrines  •  Chapter VIII. The Original God-Idea of the Israelites  •  Chapter IX. The Phoenician and Hebrew God Set or Seth  •  Chapter X. Ancient Speculations Concerning Creation  •  Chapter XI. Fire and Phallic Worship  •  Chapter XII. An Attempt to Purify the Sensualized Faiths  •  Chapter XIII. Christianity a Continuation of Paganism  •  Chapter XIV. Christianity a Continuation of Paganism–(Continued)  •  Chapter XV. Christianity in Ireland  •  Chapter XVI. Stones or Columns as the Deity  •  Chapter XVII. Sacrifices  •  Chapter XVIII. The Cross and a Dying Savior

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