Book: African Religion voulume 1: ANunian Theolog, p47-51
Written by DR. Muata Ashby
There were several "High God" systems in Ancient Egyptian Mythology. High God means that the highest God or Goddess within that particular system of theology is considered to be the original deity from which all others emanated as cosmic forces. Thus, Osiris is known as Pa Neter or The God (High God) and Creation is composed of the cosmic forces which originated from Osiris. The cosmic forces are known as neters or gods and goddesses.
It is important to understand that the High Gods and Goddesses as well as the Egyptian Trinities originated from the same transcendental Supreme Being which was without name or form, but was referred to as Neter Neteru (Neter of Neters - Supreme Being above all gods and goddesses) and Neb-er-tcher.
There were several forms of the Trinity in Ancient Egyptian religion depending on the geographic locality where the teaching was espoused. These included: Amun-Mut-Khons, Ptah-Sekhmet-Nefertem, Horus-Hathor-Harsomtus (Horus the Younger), Khnum-Anukis-Satis, Ptah-Seker-Ausar (Osiris). However, the most popular Trinity throughout all of Ancient Egypt was that of Osiris-Isis-Horus.
The Mysteries of Anu are considered to be the oldest exposition of the teachings of Creation and they formed a foundation for the unfoldment of the teachings of mystical spirituality which followed in the mysteries of the city of Hetkaplah through the Divinity in the name Ptah, and the Mysteries of Newt (Waset or Thebes), through the Divinity in the name Amun. With each succeeding exposition, the teaching becomes more and more refined until it reaches its quintessence in the Hymns of Amun. Thus, while each of the divinities in the Ancient Egyptian Trinity (Amun-Ra-Ptah) are related, in their own tutelary way they assume the form of the High Divinity or Supreme Being with name and form. However, as we have seen, they are only representations or symbols (representation with name and form) of the transcendental androgynous Divinity which is without name or form who is referred to as Nebertcher. This understanding holds vast implications for the comprehension of Ancient Egyptian Religion and its message in reference to the human soul because the human soul is related to Nebertcher just as the Trinity is related to Nebertcher.
The process of creation is explained in the form of a cosmological system for better understanding. Cosmology is a branch of philosophy dealing with the origin, processes, and structure of the universe. Cosmogony is the astrophysical study of the creation and evolution of the universe. Both of these disciplines are inherent facets of Egyptian philosophy through the main religious systems or Companies of the gods and goddesses. A company of gods and goddesses is a group of deities which symbolize a particular cosmic force or principle which emanates from the all-encompassing Supreme Being, from which they have emerged. The Self or Supreme Being manifests creation through the properties and principles represented by the Pauli (Company of gods and goddesses-cosmic laws of nature). The system or company of gods and goddesses of Anu is regarded as the oldest, and forms the basis of the Osirian Trinity.
The diagram above shows that Pauti, or the creative principles which are embodied in the primordial gods and goddesses of creation, emanated from the Supreme Being. Ra or Ra-Tem arose out of the "Nu ", the Primeval waters, the hidden essence, and began sailing the "Boat of Millions of Years" which included the company of gods and goddesses.
On his boat emerged the "Neteru" or cosmic principles of creation. The neteru of the Pauti are Ra-Atum (Tem, Tum, Atum), Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Asar, Aset, Set, and Nebthet. Hethor, Djehuti and Maat represent attributes of the Supreme Being as the very Stuff or substratum which makes up creation. Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Asar (Osiris), Aset (Isis), Set, and Nebthet (Nephthys) represent the principles upon which creation manifests.
Apuat or Anubis is not part of the Ennead. He represents the feature of intellectual discrimination in the Osirian myth. "Sailing" signifies the beginning of motion in creation. Motion implies that events occur in the realm of time and space, thus, the phenomenal universe comes into existence as a mass of moving essence we call the elements. Prior to this motion, there was the primeval state of being without any form and without existence in time or space.
In this manner, the initiate is to understand that all of the gods and goddesses are in reality symbols, with names and forms, which represent the Divine in the varied manifest forms of nature. This produces a two aspected format of religion in which there is a personal aspect and a Transpersonal aspect of God.
The personal aspect is fixed in time and space with a name and form. This form is readily understood by the masses of human beings with ordinary spiritual awareness and is used in myths and stories. The second aspect, the Transpersonal side, points our interest towards that which lies beyond the symbolic form. This is the unmanifest form of the Divine as it is expressed in the mystical teachings of religious mythology. Thus, the High God is a personal symbol or representation, with a name and form, of the nameless, formless, unmanifest and transcendental Supreme Being.
Single Supreme, Transcendental Being
Pa Neter - Neter Neteru - Nebertcher
unmanifest realm beyond time and space - names and forms
High Gods and Goddesses manifesting as a Trinity:
The Transcendental, Absolute Spirit gives rise to the High Gods and Goddesses. All of the gods and goddesses in the Ennead have emanated from this most hidden and transcendental realm. This realm is the source of all that has been and will ever be and it is the sustaining force which supports and maintains creation at every moment.
When the Supreme Divinity decides to end the present cycle of creation, the entire cosmos recedes back into this most hidden realm. This "end" to a cycle of creation is often termed a "flood" or "period of dissolution." Thus, all beings, as emanations from the Supreme Deity, are destined to return to the source of all creation in much the same way as a dream recedes back into consciousness when a person wakes up. In this sense, the Primeval Ocean of consciousness is like the mental substance of an individual human being.
Just as the world created in a dream is absorbed back into consciousness and no longer reflects in the mind, upon waking up, so too the cosmos is "absorbed" into the Supreme Being. Thus, there is a supreme, all powerful being from which not even a single atom escapes. However, this realm can only be discovered through purity of heart. Upon making this discovery it is said that the "world has come to an end." This is because those who have discovered the truth, the absolute reality which transcends the planes of existence, now understand creation as a dream or mental projection of God. Having acquired this wisdom means that that person has attuned their consciousness to God's consciousness, and has discovered that they are and always were one with that Divinity. Now there is no more egoism. There is only consciousness of the universe as being an emanation of the one Supreme Divinity who is in the heart of all.
The Substratum of Creation
Maat, Hathor and Djehuti were not part of the Ennead, yet they played important roles in the Osirian myth. As stated earlier, the Neters of the Ennead are Ra-Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Set (Seth) and Nephthys. As stated earlier, Hathor, Djehuti and Maat represent attributes of the Supreme Being as the very stuff or substratum which makes up creation. This means that they are the elements which the creative principle uses in the act of creation. This idea may be better understood through the following simile. Consider a lump of clay. The clay can be given several forms but the substratum of any form which the clay is given, be it a pot, plate, bowl, cup, etc., will always remain the same, clay. The composition of the clay does not change. In the same manner Hathor, Maat and Djehuti represent attributes of the Supreme Being which do not change regardless of the forms which objects in creation take. Therefore, they are the constant, absolute principles among all that is changing, chaotic, transient, and therefore illusory, in human experience as well as in creation. Hathor represents the force of spiritual energy which drives the entire universe. The relentless order and synchronicity of the planets and stars, as well as the order of events which occur in the life of every human being, is symbolized by Maat, and the light of consciousness which is the underlying characteristic of all sentient life is symbolized by Djehuti.
Uatchit and Nekhebet represent the dual aspect of creation, the "Two Lands" (Upper Egypt, symbolized by the Lotus plant and Lower Egypt, symbolized by the Papyrus plant). In a mystical sense they symbolize heaven and earth, spirit and matter. However, they also represent the subtle spiritual energy known as the Arat (Serpent Power), more commonly known by the name Kundalini. The Serpent Power is the Life Force energy which sustains life and promotes the desire for action in the human being. It operates through the subtle spiritual energy centers and is symbolized by the shaft which is intertwined by serpents in the staffs of Uatchit and Nekhebet, as well as the staff of Djehuti. The unity of these two principles, which are opposite poles of the same energy, is synonymous with Enlightenment and the absolute truth.
Hetheru (Hathor) represents the Life Force energy of Ra. She is the power of Creation itself, as Creation, the manifestation of the Divine Spirit, is seen as female, and the Soul of Creation, as male. Djehuti represents the mind of God. He represents the higher intellectual capacity of the mind when it is attuned to the Divine. Djehuti the messenger of God. Maat (Ma, Maa, Mayt) represents the very order which constitutes creation. Therefore, it is said that Ra created the universe by putting Maat in the place of chaos. Maat is also represents the harmony of Creation as it expresses in the form of opposites. So she is referred to as Maati, the double goddess. An additional manifestation of Maati is found in the forms of Aset and Nebthet. Therefore, Creation itself is Maat. She is the mother of the universe. As such, the word ma has appeared in many languages from around the world in relation to the world mother. In Ancient Egypt Ma or Mill signifies mother. In India, mata; in English speaking countries it is mother or mama; in Spanish it is mama, or madre. Thus the principle of the universal mother has found its way into human language.
Creation without order is chaos. Consider what would happen if the elements (water, air, fire, earth) did not exist according to their set parameters. What would happen if water became flammable or if earth became gaseous? What would happen if the laws of gravity acted in reverse? There would be no consistency or order in the phenomenal universe and no way for life to exist. So Maat is the basis upon which Creation exists, and Creation is the mode in which the divine Supreme Being expresses Him/Her Self. Therefore, anything which impedes order, regularity and harmony is against Maat, Creation and God. Spiritual movement and spiritual practice are difficult in an atmosphere of unrest, agitation, disorder and turmoil. Likewise, anything which promotes order, peace, harmony, truth, justice, righteousness, etc., automatically promotes spirituality, divine awareness, spiritual wisdom and self-discovery.
In a relief above which was made for Ptolemy IV at Edfu, there is a depiction of the Barque of Creation which shows the King standing before the barque, with upraised arms, offering Maat to The God. At the Front of the boat is Heru-p-khart, Horus the Child, with a flail. Within the boat are Heru-merti (Horus of the two eyes implying the all encompassing divinity), Maat, Apuat, Shu, Hathor, Djehuti, and Net. Behind the King, outside of the boat, stand the gods of the senses of Hu (Taste) and Saa (Touch, feeling and understanding). At the other end, also outside of the boat, stand the gods of the senses of Maa (Sight) and Setem (Hearing). Hu and Saa were known to serve as bearers of the Eye of Horus. They were also considered to be the tongue and heart of Osiris-Ptah. Thus, they represent the vehicles through which human beings can understand and espouse the teachings of moral and spiritual wisdom.
The positioning of the gods and goddesses is of paramount importance, because it points to the understanding that the Neters within the boat itself are emanations of the Divine, while those outside of the boat are effects or reflections of the creative principles. Therefore, the occupants of the boat may be understood as absolute attributes of the Divine, while the characters outside of the boat may be understood as relative manifestations of the Divine in time and space. Just as sound, light and fragrances are emanations of the objects which project them, the senses are also emanations from the consciousness of the life forms which use them. The senses therefore, are relative, dependent on the particular animal and the level of sensitivity. They have no independent existence outside of the living being(s) who/which possess them. The information brought by them is processed with the use of the mind and intellect. Therefore, they are depicted as being outside of the boat. Furthermore, even the mind and intellect are relative. Spiritual sensitivity and wisdom varies from person to person. Thus, only the Spirit is absolute. The Spirit remains the same while the physical body, personality, intellectual capacity and level of sensitivity (of the senses) are relative, transient and variable. The mind, intellect, senses and ego-personality of a human being are all transient projections of the Spirit.
So from a mystical standpoint the picture symbolizes the human ego, in the form of the King and his senses, in the act of devotional meditation on the Divine, offering Maat, to The God, (Neter), in the form of Horus, The Child. Thus, living according to the principles of Maat and turning the senses and one's personal interest toward serving the Divine allow for one's spiritual movement to unfold. Saa is closely related to Djehuti, representing intelligence or higher intellect in the human being which gets close to the cosmic mind (Djehuti) through devotion to God. Maa (sight) is closely related to Maat as the clarity of vision which allows one to live by order, justice and righteousness, and not to fall under the pressure of egoistic desires and negative thoughts.
In addition to the senses, there are two more important abstract qualities through which the Divine expresses. These are Sekhem and Heh. Sekhem is energy or power though which the universe manifests. Heh, along with his counterpart Hehet, represent eternity. They are aspects of the primeval ocean, Nu. Thus, from the eternal emanates the temporal. The universe is itself composed of a divine, eternal essence which exists according to the law and order (Maat) of the Divine (Supreme Being). The qualities of humanity (egoism, mind and senses) arise from the Divine basis or substratum. They are expressions of the Divine, which when internalized, allow for self-discovery and the awareness of eternity when externalized, they promote time and space (temporal - egoistic) awareness.
Authors: Lorna Oakes and Lucia Gahlin