Thoughts On Dogma & Reconstructionism

Souls of Abedju

Lately, an issue that has been coming up time and again in my work as a Priest is the question of traditions, religion, dogma, belief and what it really means to follow an ancient polytheistic faith in today’s world. I have, for inspiration and observation/ study, often looked to the Sanatana Dharma or Hindu religion as a means of seeing how a people may harmonize in the modern world with such a plethora of goddesses and gods and the ancient traditions that go with them.

Brahmins are the carriers of the most ancient sacred traditions in Hinduism. They are priests whose training, study, and level of devotion maintain an unbroken line of teachings, rituals and philosophies stretching back through thousands of years. Brahmins are expected to maintain the highest degree of ritual purity in order to carry out their responsibilities in the temple, and these responsibilities include the very elaborate rites and rituals through which the Gods are honored and their presences commune with their devotees.

Hinduism contains ritual forms that have been handed down by Brahmins for literally thousands of years in an unbroken chain. Because Brahmins have handed down these ritual treasures, guarding their purity and not changing them just to be “current”, people who need the Gods are able to commune with them through ritual and receive blessings. Brahmins I have spoken to about these rituals have told me that the same ritual gestures, mantras and icons have been used in Sanatana Dharma since time began, and that they have not been changed. Now that is a long time!

I happen to follow a religious and spiritual tradition that has not remained unbroken. The Kemetic or Ancient Egyptian religion lasted historically for at least 3,000 years, though Egyptologists now acknowledge the probability that there was an oral tradition of worship going back well before the first dynasty…before the written record. Texts like the Pert-em-hru or Book of Going Forth By Day retain fragments that can be found in the so called Pyramid Texts, and these contain phrases that some mainstream Egyptologists say point to an oral tradition going back at least 4,000 years or more.

However, unlike the rites and rituals of Hinduism, the ancient Egyptian religion was eventually all but stamped out in its own birth place, where Islam and Christianity became the predominant faiths. In modern Egyptian folk traditions there are still practices and beliefs originating in the ancient faith of Egypt, but as a national religion, the ancient beliefs are no longer mainstream in Egypt as they once were.

Kemetic Reconstructionism is embraced by many contemporary spiritual practitioners who desire to return to the traditionally Egyptian (Kemetic) way of honoring the Netjeru or Deities. Unlike the unbroken line of Brahmins in the Hindu faith, we do not have specially initiated and trained priests who have received the ancient traditions unaltered by time or social/ political circumstances. Kemetic Reconstructionists attempt to replace what has been “lost” by digging into the archives…the vast body of literature and archaeological discoveries produced by Egyptologists, in order to put back together our ancient rites and sacred texts. This is a very challenging task even at the best of times, leading some of us to learn the meduw-netjer (hieroglyphs) and spend years sifting through some of the driest academic studies on the planet!

Why bother? Why can’t we just do whatever comes to heart or mind in order to serve the Gods in the new era. Of course, we can do that, and most people would rather do that, because it’s much easier to just “go with the flow” than dedicate one’s life to the stressful task of piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle, one in which a heck of a lot of pieces are still missing!

But then, what would have happened to the Hindu religion…where would modern Hindus be if they had lost many or most of their ancient rites and teachings? I’m sure their gods would manage to guide Hindus still and send them inspiration. But shouldn’t we be asking whether or not such practices, mantras, prayers and scriptures are worth preserving, having and handing down? I think they are, and I’m sure that millions of Hindus would agree with me.

My idea of dogma is blind faith and blind belief…strictly following an idea because you are told to follow it. Dogma leaves no room for personal inspiration or individualized expression. Dogmatism demands that we obey, adhere, and do not question. Dogma threatens. I have never felt that Kemetic Reconstructionism is being dogmatic. Quite the contrary, I feel it is a spiritual treasure hunt, where the Netjeru are hiding and welcoming us to find Them. As we dig deep into the ancient texts and reconstruct the Daily Temple Ritual, and the many other rites of the Ancients, we are communing with living gods whose presences brought inspiration, healing, life and abundance to millions of the ancients for nearly 5,000 years. The ancient Egyptian religion is a vibrant gathering of prayers, practices and gestures that enhances the experience of divinity within Nature and human nature. The ancient gods are alive and well, and Their presence can be felt as strongly today in the ancient rites and prayers as it was felt thousands of years ago.

Reconstructing an entire ancient religion based on textual sources sounds dogmatic to some, but I would argue that dogmatism is asserting one way of doing things over another. Dogmatism removes freedom of choice and individual conscience. What I follow is a 5,000 year old tradition of speaking directly to the Gods, and inviting Them to receive the very best the heart of humankind has to offer. For me, Kemetic Reconstructionism is a framework for carrying out a relationship between the living Gods and creation, as realized by the ancient Egyptians. Since their way of accomplishing this far outlasted all other civilizations, and existed much longer than our own, I think the ancients proved that their expressions of honoring the Sacred have staying power, and that we have so much to learn from them.

All text copyright © 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Advertisements

Repeating the First Occasion: A Guided Meditation Through the Founding of the Divine Mansion

Ptah Votive Shrine Statue

Wehem Zep Tepy
Repeating the First Occasion

All things begin at night. All things begin in darkness; where a kernel bursts with life in its bed of black soil; where the body of Ra the Sun passes through the beautiful terror of His Mother Nuwit‘s star-clad body; where a child is conceived, nurtured, and fed; where the Soul is swallowed in the hidden west, to struggle until the moment of its triumph into light. We are born from darkness and return to darkness. A mysterious beginning, swallowed up by darkness and submerged in water. This is the Nuwn, the Abyss of Beginnings, where all life waits to enter into creation, to behold the world of the above, to rise briefly before sinking again. We travel back, under, beneath…traveling…traveling…a Soul returning into the mouth of its mother, the Mother Nuwit, She of the Sky-Waters.

What is below my feet? Not earth, not heaven…I float in a cascade of water without surface, without bottom. My heartbeat speaks to my ears: debdeb debdeb debdeb, and in a single moment my body is awakened to its own beingness. I float suddenly aware of my form, naked and without constraints, as I was in my own mother’s womb. What is this form of power in the vessel of my flesh? My Ka-Soul tells me: this is the First Occasion of your life. Without taint, tarnish, corruption or mortality. Without beginning or end…you and I are of the same matter from which Creation began. We are here, wet and renewed in the body of Atum. Atum is the Everything, the All…the Completion of created things, and we are now immersed in the Everything, like a babe floating, suspended in its mother’s liquid womb.

What is above my body? At first I see nothing, feel nothing, if not the experience of water without texture, form, temperature, surface or measurable depth. I do not sink, yet I cannot stand or find a place upon which to alight. Can it be that I am here in the waters before everything else emerges? Is this how it felt at the beginning of all things, when night was king of the un-created world? Yet in my mind’s eye I can behold a canopy of rich purple and azure blue…a body of lights shining, glinting and casting off their radiance as far as the unknown stretches. White light bathes me at long last, and I sense that night and darkness have had their full reign. I sense a flowering in my flesh. It is time to go forth into the day.

The God Atum says: I am alone in the night. I am alone in the darkness. Clad in the waters of the First Occasion, I am the Most Ancient One, conceiving myself in seclusion, bringing myself up and out of the abyss. My form is the blue-black body of the primeval waters, saturating, swimming with serpents, the un-created One, yet containing the All. We come from this dark beginning, yet find light again. We depart from this light to come back into the darkness again. Come Ra! Come Sun! Come Tatenen the Ancient Mound! Let the waters part! Let your forms emerge from the wet, un-created creation. Let the abyss divide!

The God Ra says: I was alone in the abyss when I became the King of the Dawn! I battled the serpents with my bare hands! Their bodies fell to each side of my form, and at long last the illumination of my majesty found a place upon which to stand. I became the First Lord of the Dawn! I set my feet upon the first mound of earth that became Tatenen!

The God Tatenen says: I am the Mount of Beginnings, come forth from the abyss before humankind, animals or creeping creatures. I am the beginning of the Mysteries, blue-green skinned, bearded…the Father of the Primordial Earth. I embrace the darkness of the watered earth in its infancy. I contain the kernels of souls in my hands. I touch the waters with life, I grasp the serpents and make a path for the birth of the golden Sun.

The God Khepra says: I am the blue-black beetle of iridescent wings, Whose power encircled the waters in the beginning, Whose feet pushed forth the orb of the Sun and caused Him to live beyond the stranglehold of the serpents. I created my own creation, gave birth to my own beginning, and established Tatenen as the Ancient Mound of the first Divine Mansion. Let come forth the luminescence of Stars, Moon and Sun into the darkness! Let the Divine Mansion be established upon this first mound of earth. Rise earth! Rise the Soul-Mansion of the Gods!

Now my eyes have seen this Mount of Ancient Earth appear from the fathomless darkness of the abyss. I have heard the voices of these Gods, breaking the stillness of my meditation. The pyramidal mound takes shape, growing ever larger, pushing back the primordial waters until space is pushed out and land creates division called “above” and “below”. I see now a canopy of stars emerging to take the place of utter darkness. I behold the Meshtiuw-Stars of the “Bull’s Thigh” constellation, come to guide the foundation of the Divine Mansion, and, taking His throne in the purple-blue vault of heaven’s ocean, Sah-Orion, beckoning the presence of correct measurement and establishment.

The Mound awaits the God’s House and the God’s presence. I watch and wait and listen. She must be called forth from the Stars if the measurements are to be exact, and exactness is called for in the precision of creation. She is Seshat, the “Lady of Builders”, the leopard-clad Queen of the Seven-Pointed Star Sefkhat. A god’s presence is contained within the essence of their names and formulas, each magically constructed by the mouth of Ptah, the Great Architect of Creation. Let the Goddess Seshat be summoned by Her names!

Summoning the Goddess Seshat

The God Djehuty: I summon Seshat! I summon the SevenPointed One! I summon Seshat-Foremost of Bookkeepers! I summon Seshat-the Mistress of the Book House! I summon
Seshat-Mistress of the House of Life! I summon Seshat-Mistress of Wisdom! I summon Seshat-Mistress of the Teaching of Heaven! I summon Seshat-Directress of the Sky! I summon Seshat-Directress of Time! I summon Seshat-Who is Chieftainess of the Year! I summon Seshat-Who is Foremost of Knowledge in the House of Life! I summon Seshat-Mistress of True Measures!


Pedj-shes

Stretching the Cord

The Goddess Seshat: Behold! I am come to stretch out the heavens across the earth, to
establish the earth in accordance with the sky.  Behold now the Seven-Pointed One, come to illuminate the way. Behold the uwsekht Shuw, the heavenly regions in which the Indestructible Polestars shine! Let the majesty of Ptah, Tatenen, King of this earth measure out with His hands the appointed ground. Let Him come forth to set in order this Divine House of His, and let what He establishes on the earth receive the acclaim of heaven!

The God Ptah-Tatenen: On this day of the new moon my majesty makes firm the boundaries of this Divine House, declaring for it a foundation in the star-fields of heaven. The luminescence of Sah-Orion is unfailing. The Seven-Pointed One Sefkhat-abwy affirms the perfect strides of each wall, and Djehuty the Keeper of Books records all that my majesty ordains!

  • The God Ptah-Tatenen presents the sacred cord to the company of Gods, then stretches it across the Sanctuary.

The Goddess Seshat (takes hold of the post): Twelve knots in a rope command the magic and incantations of heaven! Twelve hours by day, twelve hours by night, the Ark of Ra traverses the vault and establishes the perfect hours. Just so, the walls of this Sanctuary shall stand encircled by heaven’s perfection. Every cubit is a measure of perfect peace. The harmony of this Divine House is established for millions of millions of years!

Ba-Ta
Hacking Up the Earth

The Goddess Seshat: I come bearing heaven, the Flood of the First Occasion, to encircle these walls with the renewal of the beginning. The flood is Nuwn, and I mark its beginning! The flood is the Nile, and I mark its eternal return within the walls of this Sanctuary!

The God Ptah-Tatenen: I come bearing earth, the Ancient Mound of the First Occasion, to return this Divine House to the moment of the rising. Rise!  Rise! Rise O floodwaters of the beginning! With a hoe I hack a trench in my earth-body, to receive the celestial waters that emerge from below.

  • The God Ptah-Tatenen uses a hoe to cut a trench in the earth.
  • The Goddess Seshat pours a vessel of holy water into the trench.

Sekht-Debet
Molding the Brick

The Goddess Seshat (places a brick of clay in the hand of Ptah-Tatenen): I give you the mud of the earth! I sanctify the stone hewn from mountains. I order a course of bricks to be laid in accordance with the foundation of heaven!  I have measured out the walls, I have urged the Primordial Flood, I have melded earth with the flood and given you your Divine House!

The God Ptah: I establish the foundation of heaven, I cleave the earth and bring forth the Primordial Flood! I sanctify stone to receive the life of its maker. I sanctify flesh to receive the life of its maker. I sanctify earth to receive the life of its maker. I sanctify creation to receive the life of its maker. Behold! The Ka of Ptah is in His House.

  • The God Ptah-Tatenen molds the magic brick and presents it to the company of Gods.


Wepes-Bezen/ Wepes-Hezmen

Scattering Gypsum/ Scattering Natron-Salt

The Goddess Seshat: I purify this earth with the enchantments of heaven! I purify this Sanctuary with the magic of the Imperishable Stars! I encircle these walls, I establish perfection, I uplift the Soul-House of the God Ptah!

  • The Goddess Seshat sprinkles sacred natron-salt in each of the four directions of the Sanctuary.

The God Ptah: I invoke the purifying enchantments of the Wedjat Eye, creating this Sanctuary as a mansion of whole perfection! As the Wedjat Eye is whole, so this Sanctuary is whole! As the Polestars are indestructible, so too is this Sanctuary indestructible!

  • The God Ptah sprinkles sacred natron-salt in each of the four directions of the Sanctuary.

All text copyright © 2009, 2015 Rev. Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa