isis unveiled: chapter xiv (ancient mysteries)

“The most ancient Egyptians cultivated the musical arts and understood well the effect of musical harmony and its influence on the human spirit. We can find on the oldest sculptures and carvings scenes in which musicians play on various instruments. Music was used in the Healing Department of the temples for the cure of nervous disorders. We discover on many monuments, men playing in bands in concert; the leader beating time by clapping his hands.

Thus far we can prove that they understood the laws of harmony. They had their sacred music, domestic and military. The lyre, harp, and flute were used for the sacred concerts; for festive occasions they had the guitar, the single and double pipes, and castanets; for troops, and during military service, they had trumpets, tambourines, drums, and cymbals. Various kinds of harps were invented by them, such as the lyre, sambuc, ashur; some of these had upward of twenty strings. The superiority of the Egyptian lyre over the Grecian is an admitted fact.

The material out of which were made such instruments was often of very costly and rare wood, and they were beautifully carved; they imported it sometimes from very distant countries; some were painted, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and ornamented with colored leather. They used catgut for strings as we do.

Pythagoras learned music in Egypt and made a regular science of it in Italy. But the Egyptians were generally considered in antiquity as the best music-teachers in Greece. They understood thoroughly well how to extract harmonious sounds out of an instrument by adding strings to it, as well as the multiplication of notes by shortening the strings upon its neck, which knowledge shows a great progress in the musical art.

Speaking of harps, in a tomb at Thebes, Bruce remarks that, “they overturn all the accounts hitherto given of the earliest state of music and musical instruments in the East, and are altogether, in their form, ornaments and compass, an incontestable proof, stronger than a thousand Greek quotations, that geometry, drawing, mechanics, and music were at the greatest perfection when these instruments were made; and that the period from which we date the invention of these arts was only the beginning of the era of their restoration.””

H. P. Blavatsky

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