Wednesday, 12 December 2012

NETER ; Egyptian Deities: Becoming Something Other Than Nothing

 There is a source of all creation, a something (or nothing) out of which everything else arises. It is impossible to name it, because as soon as you even try to name it, that isn't it any more. So some ancient Egyptians decided to call it Atum, a good a name as any, especially as it means 'the source'. They then described themselves as the children of Atum. Their story is, quite naturally, also our story, for like the ancient Egyptians we are also the children of the source of all creation. The story of our lives and interactions is the story of Atum getting to know itself through the lives of its creation. We may not be ancient Egyptians yet in another sense, we have never been anything else. The Creator and the Created is One in its endless becoming.

To know itself, Atum has to become something other than nothing. After all, if you are nothing (or next to nothing), it is pretty hard to relate to yourself, let alone to anyone or anything else. The first thing Atum is aware of (on a level that we can understand) is that it is moving along. Then, having moved along, Atum realizes that some thing has passed. This is the first born child of Atum, the first born 'neter'. A neter is a bit like a god or goddess only more than that. A neter represents the spiritual essence and principles within all things.
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This first child of Atum is called Shu, the 'neter of the past'. Shu is also called 'yesterday' and corresponds to our human past, on an individual and collective level. He has a female twin called Tefnut, the second-born child of Atum. Tefnut is the neter of the future and is called tomorrow. She corresponds to all our potential - everything that we may become (whether we become it or not, that's the nature of potential.)

Atum&'s next realisation gives birth to two more neters. As well as a past and a future, Atum realizes there is something above and something below. The neter Nut is positioned above; she is a beautiful woman, arched over the world like the night sky, her belly full of the stars. Below and beneath is Geb, a handsome man, bright red in colour, his body lying on the earth, with penis erect. Together the neters Nut and Geb correspond to the mother and father archetypes, the primary relationships affecting each individual human being. A magic circle is now completed.
 A cross within a circle is the origin of the famous Egyptian ankh cross. In an ankh, the cross is drawn below the circle to represent the division of earth and sky, the division that allows the space for life to exist in both its beautiful and it's terrible aspects. In esoteric tradition, the circle represents complete awareness, and the cross the union of male and female energies. The ankh represents separation from such complete awareness and implies that this does not always have to be so.

Through the interaction of time (Shu and Tefnut) and space (Nut and Geb), both light (Ra) and darkness (Thoth) come into existence. Ra and Thoth are the first two children of Nut and Geb, and they correspond to different aspects of human awareness and intention.

Ra is the neter of the light, represented by the sun, whilst Thoth is the neter of the dark, represented by the moon. Their stories resonate with many aspects of human development. At every stage of the human story, they are present as the seeds of potential inward or outward growth. They are reminiscent of the seeds of change within the famous Chinese yin-yang symbol, a symbol with which the ancient Egyptians would have had no problem relating.

When we reflect on the journey of life, we can recognize how the past and the future mold our life stories; how the interaction between ourselves and our mother and father (or their representatives) sets the tone for life-long interactions and interpersonal relations; how the dualistic world view has moved away from an understanding of the fluid interaction of light and dark, and set all division in stone, so we are even divided from ourselves. And how through coming to understand these principles within, each human has the potential to become more him- or her-self, responding to both the light and dark aspects of the psyche from an inclusive perspective.

The story of the next five children of Nut and Geb is a description of what goes awry in human development, and the work that can be done to redress the balance, not so much to heal the wounds but reframe and include them. These five children are Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus the Elder. Osiris and Isis are best known as the animus and anima, the masculine and feminine aspects of the human psyche. Set is the shadow, set about with all the difficulties that blind emotion and unconscious action bring, but also brimming with the possibility of redemption. Nephthys is the dark feminine, sometimes a dreamer, out of touch with aspects of reality, sometimes the woman of insight and vision. Horus the Elder is her male equivalent, at worst a centre of denial and avoidance, but sometimes the carrier of the seed of potential on both physical and psychic levels.

There are five of these children just as naturally as there are five fingers on a hand. The sixth finger that can count the original five is the foundation of all human understanding, the offspring of Osiris and Isis, known as Child Horus. The story of Child Horus is the story of our coming to know ourselves through accepting the responsibilities of both limitation and power, restriction and love. The story of his coming into full adulthood offers hints for the next step in the collective human story. Indeed, some versions of the'Age of Aquarius' describe it as the new 'Age of Horus.'

All these neters are voices calling us to remember their existence within ourselves, offering a reminder that through understanding their significance we can understand our own significance. Through an understanding of the story of the neters, and an attempt at the practical application of its implications, the ancient Egyptians founded the greatest civilization of the ancient world, a civilisation that lasted for many millennia. The implications of what such an understanding offers us at this time of worldwide change are immense. The first step is for us to realise every move we make is endowed with meaning, and clearly so, both individually and collectively. We then become able to hear the call of the neters and follow their guidance, to hear their resounding call to us to become something other than nothing.
Reproduced from his Website with kind permission by Will Parfitt
Will Parfitt
BM Synthesis
London WC1N 3XX U.K.