Gerald Massey was a poet and writer of English descent. Best known for his views on Christianity, spiritualism, and Ancient Egypt. He truly believed that the Christian story about Jesus Christ was nothing but an extension of the Egyptian myth of the demigod, Horus.
His works on Egyptology and his perceived belief of a link between Egyptian gods and Christian spiritualism have been widely studied.
Massey was born to an underprivileged family on 29 May 1828, in the market town of Tring, Hertfordshire, in England. An edifice in himself since a young age, Massey educated himself in many religions and languages.
Stuck with scarceness, Massey was forced to work in a silk factory before parting ways with it to work in an equally strenuous industry, straw plaiting, to support his family. Massey educated himself during his spare time. Known widely as “Tring’s Poet”, Massey was fluent in many languages like French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Egyptian, most of which he discovered in London.
Massey, while studying different religions, got inspired by the Christian Socialism movement and quickly got acquainted with leaders like Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley. Massey was fifteen years old when he worked the job of an errand boy in London, before working as a haberdasher’s assistant.
Massey tried to develop himself with each chance he got. Although he did not have proper education, he did go to a school in his neighbourhood for which he paid one penny every week.
Chartist and radical
Massey was an avid Chartist struggling to highlight social problems like child labouring, the gut-wrenching conditions of the factories and the labourers, gender equality, the right to protest without persecution, and the poor wages for the labourers. Some of his friends from his Chartist days include W. J. Linton, Thomas Cooper, G. J. Holyoake, J. J. Bezer, John Arnott, and Charles Kingsley.
Massey’s poems were examples of the religious life that he had. Infused with elements of spiritualism and pious expressions, Massey was prominent in that his work extensively covered the array of personal beliefs that he had.
He was also known for questioning the political and social scenario, making him popular, notably in North America.
My Lyrical Life
Poems Old and New, his collection of poems, published in 1869, were highly praised for their general candor. He was also a staunch critic of the Shakespearean sonnets. Some of his works include The Singer, Love Me, and The Ballad of Babe Christabel.
The Spirit of Freedom, a journal founded in 1849, had its most valuable writer in Massey. Run completely by working men, the journal saw many contributions from Massey’s end including articles and poems on spiritualism.
He later became the editor of the publication. Massey released his first collection of poems, Voices of Freedom and Lyrics of Love, in 1850, when he was just twenty-two years old. He also wrote for publications like The Red Republican and The Friend of the People.
From 1870, Massey’s interest befell on happenings of the Egyptian religion and Gospel stories. Much influenced by Dr. Samuel Birch, his time in London changed him so much so he started to question the gospels.
The corruption and poverty, according to him, was not in line with the teachings of the church. After years of research on Egyptology and Christianity, he concluded that the story of Jesus was all but original.
Critics felt that his acumen and stronghold over the subject matter was not strong and clear and that his research supported by his studies was confusing to the masses.
Massey’s writings were mainly on the influence that the Egyptian myths and principles had on the western world. These years of research culminated to his 6-volume series on Egyptology, the origins of man and civilization, symbols, myths, and languages – The Book of the Beginnings (1881), The Natural Genesis (1883), and his most celebrated work Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World (1907).
Massey was also vocal about contemporary politics. A champion for the labourers, his revolutionary views were prevalent in his poems, many of which got published in the radical newspapers of the time.
A stout believer on the importance of Egypt and its teachings, Massey researched extensively on subjects like racial mythology, the origin of modern cultures, the nature, and scientific relevance of Egypt over the world of spiritualism. His work draws a significant line between the Judeo-Christian religion and the Egyptian religion and compares them expansively.
Massey married twice in his lifetime. His first wife was Jane Knowles, a noted psychic. She was nineteen when they tied the knot in 1850. She had a notable influence on Massey regarding commitment to spiritualism. After she died in 1866 due to severe depression, Massey married Eva Byrn in 1868.
Shortly after his book Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, considered his magnum opus and a seminal work of literature, got published in 1907, Massey breathed his last on the 29th of October of the same year in the quiet suburb of South Norwood, London. He has been laid to rest in London’s Southgate Cemetery.