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Author Topic: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe  (Read 9202 times)

Meritmut

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Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« on: October 11, 2011, 07:36:37 pm »
So I am new to the Kemetic path (Sorry about all the threads lol) and I was wondering how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the Gods, and the Universe. I wanted to buy the book Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred, but I can't afford it right now. I know the Ancient Egyptians view of the universe has a lot to do with Ma'at and the balance between order and chaos.

I am wondering are the Gods viewed as being omnipresent and are they viewed as "perfect"? Anything else you can think of lol :confused:

I am basically trying to get a foundation of Kemetic thought and kinda get myself out of a Hellenic mindset.

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2011, 03:20:21 pm »
Quote from: Meritmut;24967
So I am new to the Kemetic path (Sorry about all the threads lol) and I was wondering how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the Gods, and the Universe. I wanted to buy the book Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred, but I can't afford it right now. I know the Ancient Egyptians view of the universe has a lot to do with Ma'at and the balance between order and chaos.

I am wondering are the Gods viewed as being omnipresent and are they viewed as "perfect"? Anything else you can think of lol :confused:

I am basically trying to get a foundation of Kemetic thought and kinda get myself out of a Hellenic mindset.


Whoah...I can see the answer to this post being HUGE.  Could you narrow down the topic a bit more?

As far as the view of the gods go, I believe that it can be described as monolatrous.  I wrote a few blog posts on this, and you can start with this one here.  I mention Kemetic Orthodoxy because that is the flavor of Kemetism that I practice, and that is where you will find most mention of the monolatrous p.o.v.  However modern practitioners don't all agree with this interpretation, and you can still find some "hard polytheists" even though the function of syncretism would not make it a "true" hard polytheism.  Even though I consider all the gods to be expressions of a one god-energy, I only experience each deity as a seperate being, as a hard polytheist would.  The one god-energy I take more as an intellectual understanding than an experiential understanding.  I recommend you read the posts that I linked in the first paragraph before you continue with the post itself.  It is a 3 part series on monolatry and you can find the rest under the "monolatry" category.

Cliffs notes version of Ma'at and Isfet: Ma'at can be translated as justice, balance, truth, order, and law.  Isfet would be the opposite of that.  Isfet is personified by a giant snake god named Apep.  Ra (sun god) in his sun barque along with some other helpful deities (and sometimes deified pharaohs) would go across the sky, and then go into the Duat (underworld) to fight Apep every day so that the sun might rise again and the world would continue to exist.  

Ma'at can kind of be nebulous as an ethical concept but you can kind of get a handle on what it means to "live in Ma'at" by reading the wisdom literature.  Most wisdom literature in its entirety can be found online with a google search.

Erm, hope that helps, but again that's a pretty broad topic.  There are plenty of good links stickied in this forum for more reading.  You could also apply to the Kemetic Orthodoxy beginner's course which is sent by e-mail (and is also free) with no pressure to join that group if you decide it's not for you.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 03:23:24 pm by Bastemhet »

Devo

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2011, 04:50:38 pm »
Quote from: Meritmut;24967
So I am new to the Kemetic path (Sorry about all the threads lol) and I was wondering how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the Gods, and the Universe. I wanted to buy the book Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred, but I can't afford it right now. I know the Ancient Egyptians view of the universe has a lot to do with Ma'at and the balance between order and chaos.

I am wondering are the Gods viewed as being omnipresent and are they viewed as "perfect"? Anything else you can think of lol :confused:

I am basically trying to get a foundation of Kemetic thought and kinda get myself out of a Hellenic mindset.


First off, I would definitely recommend that book. If you can pay for postage, I'd loan it to ya, just so you can read it. It would help to answer most of these questions, imo.

I'll try and answer things in the order I see them.

I think the ancients saw the world more in Ma'at and Isfet.. not so much Ma'at and chaos. Set is chaotic- but he is necessary. Chaos is necessary to keep things from stagnating. I think they understood that. Isfet is commonly referred to (mainly by KO ppl) as uncreation. Not just chaos- but being completely unmade. Certainly a difference from chaos.

I don't think that most Kemetics view the gods as omnipresent (course, there will always be differences of opinion). I have received what I call the "answering machine" from Set more than once. Like he was out doing something else and couldn't be bothered to answer his phone. I've even had him disappear for weeks or months at a time, and come back asking what he had missed (because he didn't want to listen to his answering machine, I suppose). I think the concept of opening statues also shows that gods weren't always around- as open statues brought them more into our realm. Aligned us more with them, I suppose. However, I think it's possible to have a god's energy around you at any given time. You can breath in the air and think of Shu. You can walk across fresh grass and think of Geb or Asar... etc. So in a way they're around us, but I think most Kemetics don't consider them omnipresent.

Our gods are not perfect. Most wouldn't consider the act of murdering your brother perfect. Or tricking an aging god into giving up his secret name as perfect, either. Kemetic gods have their flaws. Their weak spots. They also have their strengths. I think they are a lot like us- as above, so below.

That's what I've got so far. Feel free to pick my post apart and ask me more specific questions :)

-Devo
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Meritmut

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2011, 05:20:06 pm »
Quote from: Bastemhet;25401
Whoah...I can see the answer to this post being HUGE.  Could you narrow down the topic a bit more?

As far as the view of the gods go, I believe that it can be described as monolatrous.  I wrote a few blog posts on this, and you can start with this one here.  I mention Kemetic Orthodoxy because that is the flavor of Kemetism that I practice, and that is where you will find most mention of the monolatrous p.o.v.  However modern practitioners don't all agree with this interpretation, and you can still find some "hard polytheists" even though the function of syncretism would not make it a "true" hard polytheism.  Even though I consider all the gods to be expressions of a one god-energy, I only experience each deity as a seperate being, as a hard polytheist would.  The one god-energy I take more as an intellectual understanding than an experiential understanding.  I recommend you read the posts that I linked in the first paragraph before you continue with the post itself.  It is a 3 part series on monolatry and you can find the rest under the "monolatry" category.

Cliffs notes version of Ma'at and Isfet: Ma'at can be translated as justice, balance, truth, order, and law.  Isfet would be the opposite of that.  Isfet is personified by a giant snake god named Apep.  Ra (sun god) in his sun barque along with some other helpful deities (and sometimes deified pharaohs) would go across the sky, and then go into the Duat (underworld) to fight Apep every day so that the sun might rise again and the world would continue to exist.  

Ma'at can kind of be nebulous as an ethical concept but you can kind of get a handle on what it means to "live in Ma'at" by reading the wisdom literature.  Most wisdom literature in its entirety can be found online with a google search.

Erm, hope that helps, but again that's a pretty broad topic.  There are plenty of good links stickied in this forum for more reading.  You could also apply to the Kemetic Orthodoxy beginner's course which is sent by e-mail (and is also free) with no pressure to join that group if you decide it's not for you.

 
Yes it was a very broad topic but your posting helped immensely. I have taken the beginner's course of the KO but I am one of those Hard polytheists :) I view the practice of syncretism not as a blending of two deities into one but instead recognizing an aspect of one deity in another, thus Amun-Re is Amun but with the aspect of Re as a Sun God and a creator. (I hope I explained that well enough) Thank you for providing the links, I will look at both, especially the wisdom literature ^_^

Could you perhaps explain more the concept of Isfet from the KO point of view?

Meritmut

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2011, 05:44:11 pm »
Quote from: Devo;25414
First off, I would definitely recommend that book. If you can pay for postage, I'd loan it to ya, just so you can read it. It would help to answer most of these questions, imo.

I'll try and answer things in the order I see them.

I think the ancients saw the world more in Ma'at and Isfet.. not so much Ma'at and chaos. Set is chaotic- but he is necessary. Chaos is necessary to keep things from stagnating. I think they understood that. Isfet is commonly referred to (mainly by KO ppl) as uncreation. Not just chaos- but being completely unmade. Certainly a difference from chaos.

I don't think that most Kemetics view the gods as omnipresent (course, there will always be differences of opinion). I have received what I call the "answering machine" from Set more than once. Like he was out doing something else and couldn't be bothered to answer his phone. I've even had him disappear for weeks or months at a time, and come back asking what he had missed (because he didn't want to listen to his answering machine, I suppose). I think the concept of opening statues also shows that gods weren't always around- as open statues brought them more into our realm. Aligned us more with them, I suppose. However, I think it's possible to have a god's energy around you at any given time. You can breath in the air and think of Shu. You can walk across fresh grass and think of Geb or Asar... etc. So in a way they're around us, but I think most Kemetics don't consider them omnipresent.

Our gods are not perfect. Most wouldn't consider the act of murdering your brother perfect. Or tricking an aging god into giving up his secret name as perfect, either. Kemetic gods have their flaws. Their weak spots. They also have their strengths. I think they are a lot like us- as above, so below.

That's what I've got so far. Feel free to pick my post apart and ask me more specific questions :)

-Devo

 
So Isfet is not so much just disorder but a state before creation, a state of what silence? I could use some more explanation on this lol. So the Kemetic belief keeps with tradition of many other ancient religions, such as Greek or Sumerian in this respect. So a God/Goddess is not everywhere at once but a part of their essence or perhaps love can be?

I read that the Ancients believed that Amun could directly hear their prayers like Ptah, I got the impression this was something unique to them, is that accurate?

I agree that the Gods are not prefect, O this brought up another question, do you view the myths as parables sort of? Religious stories that teach us lessons on how to conduct ourselves.

I am thinking I will have to buy that book lol

Etheric1

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2011, 06:14:06 pm »
Quote from: Meritmut;25431
So Isfet is not so much just disorder but a state before creation, a state of what silence? I could use some more explanation on this lol. So the Kemetic belief keeps with tradition of many other ancient religions, such as Greek or Sumerian in this respect. So a God/Goddess is not everywhere at once but a part of their essence or perhaps love can be?

I read that the Ancients believed that Amun could directly hear their prayers like Ptah, I got the impression this was something unique to them, is that accurate?

I agree that the Gods are not prefect, O this brought up another question, do you view the myths as parables sort of? Religious stories that teach us lessons on how to conduct ourselves.

I am thinking I will have to buy that book lol

I see the gods as not omnipresent at all.  My experience with some of them mirrors what Devo said so much it's kind of scary.  The gods I believe are highly evolved beings but saying they are perfect IMO is going a tad too far.  To think of it another way, when we are babies and young children our parents are gods to us.  Does this mean they are perfect?  Hell no.  But they do know more than we do and understand things more than we do those early years.

As far as their stories go, I think they are best described as lessons/metaphors.  I have a really hard time taking them in in a literal sense.  

Isfet I try to understand as opposite creation, or anti-life for lack of a better term.  It cannot "die" because it never actually lived in the first place.  I don't think of it as something all that easy to understand (probably because of its very nature).  I'm not sure I'd say it's a state before creation happens though, that just doesn't jive with me.

One of the things I get from Set is a little chaos can be a good thing.  I personally hate too much law and organization, I feel it chokes me and kills creativity.  But too much chaos is of course a problem too.   Balance is key.

Lastly, go get that book by Naydler, it's excellent, but it will cook your brain a bit, it sure did for me.  Also get Reidy's Eternal Egypt while you're at it.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 06:14:56 pm by Etheric1 »
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Bastemhet

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2011, 07:51:18 pm »
Quote from: Meritmut;25424
Yes it was a very broad topic but your posting helped immensely. I have taken the beginner's course of the KO but I am one of those Hard polytheists :) I view the practice of syncretism not as a blending of two deities into one but instead recognizing an aspect of one deity in another, thus Amun-Re is Amun but with the aspect of Re as a Sun God and a creator. (I hope I explained that well enough) Thank you for providing the links, I will look at both, especially the wisdom literature ^_^

Both syncretism and aspecting were present in antiquity and are also tenets of the KO faith.  Syncretism is a merging of two or more deities to create a new one.  As the Rev. Siuda explained it to me, Amun-Ra is not Amun or Ra, but he partakes of their natures to create a third, distinct deity.  Aspecting is when 2 (or more) deities are facets of the same thing, e.g. Yinepu-Wepwawet being avatars  or facets of the same deity, being "aspects" of the uber-jackal.

I think what you're describing is syncretism in the way that Hornung describes it in his book Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, in that the netjeru take on aspects of other netjeru as a syncretized being as a function.  "(Netjer) in this your name of (other netjer)" would mean, then: netjer, acting in the function of this other netjer.  That's also another way to look at it.
 
Quote
Could you perhaps explain more the concept of Isfet from the KO point of view?

"Evil," "lying" and "oppression," (isfet, gereg, binet) are common Kemetic terms used to refer to the doings of the Uncreated (isfet, or the opposite of Ma'at), and how they are expressed in the world, through isfet-related speech (gereg) and isfet-related actions (binet).

I don't think this is any different than what is understood as isfet in antiquity.  At least, not to the best of our knowledge of translations.

I think of the uncreated as non-existence.  But it is a non-existence so deep and thorough that not even the potential existence of the Nun can touch it.  It is blackness and nothingness.  Ancient Kemetics had an abiding fear of this and spent much of their heka and preparations for the afterlife in trying to evade this.  Even living in the Duat is still a type of existence, whereas if you are swallow by Ammut it would be the equivalent of being uncreated, or erased from existence.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 07:58:36 pm by Bastemhet »

Bastemhet

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2011, 07:57:54 pm »
Quote from: Meritmut;25431
So a God/Goddess is not everywhere at once but a part of their essence or perhaps love can be?


Through the opening of the mouth ritual a netjer can put some of their essence within a statue which then makes that statue come alive as their flesh.  There can be more than one statue of a deity open at a time.

Quote
I read that the Ancients believed that Amun could directly hear their prayers like Ptah, I got the impression this was something unique to them, is that accurate?


Keep in mind that Kemet has a very long history of thousands of years.  Amun worship took on a bit of a different flavor, being almost pantheist, as religion began to reflect ideas that were popular at the time.  I talk more about Amun and have some of his hymns in the posts on monolatry that I linked to you (Amun will be tagged).

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2011, 12:04:44 am »
Quote from: Meritmut;25431
So Isfet is not so much just disorder but a state before creation, a state of what silence? I could use some more explanation on this lol.


I would say that the state before creation would be Nun. Nun has the potential for creation. Isfet doesn't. Isfet is beyond creation, outside of it. In some ways, I would say that Isfet is really beyond our comprehension. It's really hard to figure how something can be not created... because we are all created, and everything we know is created... it's completley opposite of what we know and understand.

Quote
So the Kemetic belief keeps with tradition of many other ancient religions, such as Greek or Sumerian in this respect. So a God/Goddess is not everywhere at once but a part of their essence or perhaps love can be?


I believe that this is one way to put it. Set can be with me, without being *with* me... as it were. It's something that is hard to explain.

Quote
I read that the Ancients believed that Amun could directly hear their prayers like Ptah, I got the impression this was something unique to them, is that accurate?


It was not uncommon for temples and statues (and other things) to have ears on them. You could go to these ears, and tell them your prayers, your worries, etc. And the god could 'hear' you through this ear... as thought it were his/her own ear. Perhaps this is what you're referring to? I think all gods can choose to hear us at any given time if they want. Like Set's answering machine- he could choose to listen to the messages, or he could erase the tape and just pester me for what I told him. I don't think that this method is necessarily specific to any particular deity. YMMV, of course.

Quote
I agree that the Gods are not prefect, O this brought up another question, do you view the myths as parables sort of? Religious stories that teach us lessons on how to conduct ourselves.

 
I think the mythology has nuggets of truth. Information that can expand our knowledge of a particular set of deities. But I don't take them as Literal Truth. I don't even necessarily think they happened (as would be assumed if they were Literal Truth). However, I do believe that they are important- for various reasons.

-Devo
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Devo

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2011, 12:05:21 am »
Quote from: Etheric1;25439
 My experience with some of them mirrors what Devo said so much it's kind of scary.


I'm awesome like that XD

-Devo
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Meritmut

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2011, 01:56:04 am »
Quote from: Etheric1;25439
I see the gods as not omnipresent at all.  My experience with some of them mirrors what Devo said so much it's kind of scary.  The gods I believe are highly evolved beings but saying they are perfect IMO is going a tad too far.  To think of it another way, when we are babies and young children our parents are gods to us.  Does this mean they are perfect?  Hell no.  But they do know more than we do and understand things more than we do those early years.

As far as their stories go, I think they are best described as lessons/metaphors.  I have a really hard time taking them in in a literal sense.  

Isfet I try to understand as opposite creation, or anti-life for lack of a better term.  It cannot "die" because it never actually lived in the first place.  I don't think of it as something all that easy to understand (probably because of its very nature).  I'm not sure I'd say it's a state before creation happens though, that just doesn't jive with me.

One of the things I get from Set is a little chaos can be a good thing.  I personally hate too much law and organization, I feel it chokes me and kills creativity.  But too much chaos is of course a problem too.   Balance is key.

Lastly, go get that book by Naydler, it's excellent, but it will cook your brain a bit, it sure did for me.  Also get Reidy's Eternal Egypt while you're at it.

 
Thank you so much for the information ^^ I actually just ordered Eternal Egypt and it arrived today so I am going to start reading it ASAP.

Meritmut

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2011, 02:04:36 am »
Quote from: Bastemhet;25455
I think what you're describing is syncretism in the way that Hornung describes it in his book Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, in that the netjeru take on aspects of other netjeru as a syncretized being as a function.  "(Netjer) in this your name of (other netjer)" would mean, then: netjer, acting in the function of this other netjer.  That's also another way to look at it.

 
This is exactly how I view syncretism. I do have a question about the KO, how do you view the Rev. Siuda?

Thank you for all the information on Isfet :)

Meritmut

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2011, 02:08:15 am »
Quote from: Devo;25484
I would say that the state before creation would be Nun. Nun has the potential for creation. Isfet doesn't. Isfet is beyond creation, outside of it. In some ways, I would say that Isfet is really beyond our comprehension. It's really hard to figure how something can be not created... because we are all created, and everything we know is created... it's completley opposite of what we know and understand.



I believe that this is one way to put it. Set can be with me, without being *with* me... as it were. It's something that is hard to explain.



It was not uncommon for temples and statues (and other things) to have ears on them. You could go to these ears, and tell them your prayers, your worries, etc. And the god could 'hear' you through this ear... as thought it were his/her own ear. Perhaps this is what you're referring to? I think all gods can choose to hear us at any given time if they want. Like Set's answering machine- he could choose to listen to the messages, or he could erase the tape and just pester me for what I told him. I don't think that this method is necessarily specific to any particular deity. YMMV, of course.


 
I think the mythology has nuggets of truth. Information that can expand our knowledge of a particular set of deities. But I don't take them as Literal Truth. I don't even necessarily think they happened (as would be assumed if they were Literal Truth). However, I do believe that they are important- for various reasons.

-Devo

 
Devo thanks for all of your information ^^ Its really helpful. I agree with your view of the myths. Everyone has been super helpful and I'm very appreciative of that ^^

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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2011, 10:14:15 am »
Quote from: Bastemhet;25455
Aspecting is when 2 (or more) deities are facets of the same thing, e.g. Yinepu-Wepwawet being avatars  or facets of the same deity, being "aspects" of the uber-jackal.

 
Just FYI, there is no historical evidence which suggests Anubis and Wepwawet were ever actually considered facets of the same deity or that there is any "uber-jackal." At most there is a set of traits which it seems most/many jackal deities have in common which can be put together as a kind of jackal archetype, but that is not the same thing.

Even by KO definitions, I believe aspecting has more to do with when two deities are closely associated and perhaps have some overlap in their roles or which exist in a particularly close proximity with one another. Not the same thing as being facets of the same entity.
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Re: Kemetic View of the Gods/Universe
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2011, 10:26:47 am »
Quote from: Bastemhet;25401
As far as the view of the gods go, I believe that it can be described as monolatrous.

Interestingly, in a recent discussion of hard/soft polytheism, Rev. Siuda added "Of course, we approach them all as individuals." I had also questioned  her on what seemed to be an anit-hard-polytheist statement in the recent reorganization letter, and she replied that it wasn't a problem for her if it wasn't a problem for them. :whis: That gives me the impression that this isn't as huge a doctrinal problem as it's often made out to be. If we're going to be bashing each other over the head about it, maybe we should be using foam pool noodles.

I've felt that the Heru/Set polarity is one of Static/Dynamic rather than Order/Chaos, and did a blog about it a while ago. After that I read something in Jan Assmann's Mind of Egypt in which he complained that the use of the term "chaos" sends people down entirely the wrong track. He talks about the Nun, which is undifferentiated everything and isfet, which is more like something being erased from the universe without a trace.

Very good discussion topic, btw.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2011, 10:28:29 am by Helmsman_of_Inepu »
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by missgraceless

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