Read an Excerpt
from Chapter 7
The Ancient Source of Knowledge
These specific principles were referred to in the ancient Egyptian language as Neters and can be categorized as metaphysical, cosmic, and natural. One can think of the metaphysical Neters as the triune principle of creation embodied in the characters of Atum, Ra, and Ptah. These three vital principles represent the universal harmonic directive, or the laws of the universe. For the Egyptians, they were of direct creation, as opposed to procreation, and were not engendered by Nature. As such, they were represented in art as having no navel and devoid of their own or arbitrary judgment, represented in art without a cranial skullcap. Depicted by a crown, symbol, or animal head they were powers acting in a set way and could not modify the orientation of their activity.
Ra, for example, was not the sun itself. Rather, it represented the solar energy that, during the course of its daily cycle, animates all the organic functions of the human body, one after another, at each hour of the day and night, and as such, all are subject to it.
The cosmic, seasonal Neters, in general, obey the laws of creation (such as ram-headed Amon--Aries--and those attributed to the five extra days of the calendar: Osiris, Seth, Isis, Nephthys, and Horus). The Egyptian year was 360 days with five more days between the end and beginning of the new year. In essence, the seasonal Neters are the response to the harmonic summons and depend on astronomical, as well as astrological, synchronization.
Natural Neters were the functional life of natural objects, such as Renenuret for harvests, Hapi for the Nile, Selkit for childbearing, Apet for gestation, and the vulture Nekhebit for incubation. From mineral to man, they preside over all reproduction and regeneration. The aggregate of natural Neters can be thought of as the essence of “Mother Nature.”
According to R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, every living organism is in contact with all the rhythms and harmonies of all the energies of its universe. In other words, it is not possible to separate one’s energy from the surrounding energy, except, perhaps, through cerebral presence. We often speak of “instinctive” actions but fail to consider their origin, which is the true source of natural “magic.” For one who can consciously regain the instinctive state there is real power. Although this is rare because of the concentration and dedication in acquiring it, achieving such a state--through prayer, for example--incites us to strike a harmony with the energy of Nature. In ancient Egypt, the functional name of such an act was to “summon the Neter.” Foolishly, Schwaller contends, “we treat this as superstition.”
In the case of plant life, there exists a visible and tangible product that exemplifies such “magic.” Sunshine is a visible and perceptible cause. The water lily, with its roots in submerged soil, stretches through the water to blossom in the sunlight, where it opens with the rising sun and closes with the setting sun. Although observed, the primal cause of the water lily is not understood. We rationalize such “magic” and call it Nature, leaving it at that. Nonetheless, there is a relationship between the lily and the sun vital to its propagation. This relationship, or “harmony,” between organic objects in nature and the cosmic forces (the sun or, in the case of tide, the moon) is the essence of the word “Neter” and indicative of “magic.”
For the ancient Egyptians:
Every essential moment can actually be designated by a name: the name of a Neter. In the history of all of sacred science, the name has always played a preponderant role, and knowledge of this name (says the Egyptian Book of the Dead) is indispensable for crossing the gates of the Dwat, the world of the transposed sky, the netherworld. To know the name of the Neter means to know its particular activity, because the Neter is a functional principle and not a “god,” as popular custom would have it, be it Jewish, Greek, or Christian.
This same idea can be understood in the biblical Genesis, where Adam walks with God naming each creature. Implied in this act, Adam (Man), who is created in the image of God, knows all functions and harmonies of the universe.
Mankind, with our tendency to humanize everything through myth has done so to these principles. The deeper significance is that the images of the Neters symbolize certain natural functions and influences. In other words, the various Neters must be given a human form. In this way, the commoner is able to grasp, as well as transmit, essential truths that are metaphysical in character. Also in this way a person’s instinct “grasps it and this leads them to imagine the Neter of a mountain, a valley, a river, or of any other object--or phenomenon--which strikes their emotional nature.” Yet, the true name of the Neter remains the function that it incarnates.