By Pet-sekhmet Ankh-Djehuti
Aleister Crowley called The Gods of Egypt, “The most complete in their nature, so perfectly spiritual and yet so perfectly material…”[i], but already in his time, Budge had begun writing his books and The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn had utilized them not only as Symbols of the Temple Officers, but in their Rituals and within their Enochian System. But the modern love of Egypt goes back even further, at least to Napoleon if not to the Cleopatra of the Bard. And since then it has spawned hours of Egyptology Television, Mummy movies, even Young Sherlock Holmes and The Stargate stories and conspiracy.
An odd and rather confusing collection of impressions from Egypt: from Re’s flying pyramid starship, and the reincarnated princesses of Sherlock Holmes and the present Mummy movies, to Moses, and The Alexandria of Queen Cleopatra. But much like the ruins of the Temples along the Nile, they show us much of this great and misunderstood ancient culture. Today- despite literature, art and governmental perfection, we still focus on the mystery and grandeur of Egypt.
This could be our cultural inheritance from Greece and Rome, as well as the Celtic Nations. They all respected the religion and culture of the Two Lands. They all traveled to the Scholar’s Paradise of Hellenistic Alexandria, and much of what we do know of Egypt up until very recently came from classical sources. Even after The Rosetta Stone and our discovery of Hieroglyphic, much of the same tone is still expressed.
The most common attempt to rationalize away our wonder of Egypt is to say that The Pyramids, Temples and Monuments they constructed are so impossible for us to believe that we are left dumb-founded. Even in the USA they have been copied into such things as The Washington Monument, The Luxor Casino, and MOMA’s Isis Temple. Somehow they do remain pale imitations, perhaps because we can be certain how they were constructed or because it comforts modern man to believe he could recreate those structures either permanently or for Hollywood.
The other common modern belief, often heard even in Archeological circles, is that the Egyptian love of The Afterlife in its elaborateness is what fascinates our jaded minds. Admittedly in Monotheistic and Western Visions of the Great By & By even Dante and Touched by An Angel are not quite as involved as The Egyptian Afterlife. Small boys still play with Mummy toys, pop-up books, cartoons, and even led to Reading Rainbow detailing the Egyptian Burial- perhaps it is the grotesque-ness of the brain-hook rending the gray matter out through the nose, or tales of The Carter Curse. More likely it is The Treasures, and Majick that Egyptians accept with Death: from Heart-scarabs, to the multiple coffins and canopic jars, preserved pets and wine, to armies of Ushabi figures awaiting the Dead’s command for any duty. Separately they are curiosities, but together they are wonderful and remind us of a people that so loved each other that they left food drops and looking holes in The Pyramid of Dzoser.
These reasons all seem good enough for historians and screenwriters, but why are you reading this? It may have begun with Mummies and Liz Taylor but grew into something greater, at first ominous, spooky and nearly obsessive, then curious and wonderful. Call it past-life attraction, as the movies and books of fiction nearly always do, but some how everything I’ve mentioned wasn’t terrible for you, just friendly and familiar.
Animal-headed Gods, a Judgement based not on Sin and The Cross or Attachment but on The Heart, and a simple yet profound comprehension of the Cosmos in the Philosophy of Ma’at. These you are discovering, once more, and every day, because when self-righteous Religious-types confront you about your Ankh, or collection of deities, these are what you cannot explain. Nor should you, anymore than you would wish to hear about Stigmata, or The Ever-fecund Great Goddess, thus the Power of Mystery and Faith.
This Ancient Faith does seem unusual to Modern Westerners both like Hinduism and Judaism, but as personal and ever changing as Native American or Buddhist Traditions. All relevant religions should be endlessly growing traditions of Faith, Ritual and Symbol only the recent religious monopoly in the West made that seem alien. Today in such a broad market place of faith the organic and flexible nature of the Egyptian Religion may serve the need in the West for a system of belief both diverse and traditional, both pagan and monotheist, given open enough minds and modern understandings of those ancient ways. Remembering much of our faith was left incomprehensible to even the Philosophers of Athens.
The lack of Dogma, and even uniformity that even in most Neo-pagan Circles is seen as unusual, not quite being an Organized Religion but eclectic in an authentic way, unlike so many new pagan ideas. This again comes from the sheer volume of historical Egyptian History and Tradition, as well as the variety of forms and symbols of worship. Today many draw very broadly in the rediscovery of The Egyptian Faith, some from Hindu Tantra, others from Tibet, some from Lakota occasionally even from Hermeticism or Judaism because they see preserved Egyptian ideas in these other cultures, not wish-washy eclecticism. It is better than the reconstruction of ancient rituals dependent upon the tides of current scholarship. History cannot be ignored merely for convenience of some guru, but it is as against Ma’at as pretending we are ancient Egyptians in ritual and behavior, and then blithely returning to our computers, televisions and coffee.
Egyptian Priests and Religion were both Intuitive and Intellectual while permitting the diversity necessary for a Theocratic Civil Service but it was a system of religion akin to Buddhism, not mere archaic philosophy. This intellectual challenge is seen in the purest Egyptian Priests today: that every myth has multiple interpretations, the major Nedjer were worshipped and seen differently in the course of history, and the mysteries of each were personal and ever growing. This is the beauty and the wonder of The Egyptian Faith expressed so profoundly in depictions of the balance of the heart, the gods and Ma’at. Really, that is the Egyptian path and Faith- the rest is personal and historical context, at least in a living religion.
That is our Faith’s central Mystery, and to those drawn to it becomes the guideline for every action and desire. It is the challenge of bearing an ankh and serving The Nedjer, as shaman seek equality with the Natural World, Buddhists seek Enlightenment and an end to Suffering, and Xian’s embrace suffering to become Sanctified. Living through the heart at all times while seeking beauty and balance in everything in the service of The Egyptian Gods is leaving the night behind. But beyond this common understanding of the path is your personal devotion and commitment to these principles and love of the Nedjer: the journey within each Ankh.
[i] Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter 2, presently 4ABA pg.150.