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UPG on the Validity of Kemeticism in the Modern Day

June 17, 2010

I had an insight recently into my Kemetic experiences.

On his lj, alfrecht wrote this post speculating on what the results would be if the tools presented in Stephen Prothero’s God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World – And Why Their Differences Matter were used to analyze a few different branches of Paganism, since such were not included in the book.

I responded that I thought Kemeticism (which alfrecht didn’t address) would be “The Way of Ma’at“, where ma’at translates as something like “harmonious stability”.

Pondering what that would mean, a lot of things clicked into place in my mind.

I followed Kemeticism for a number of years, at one point entering priest candidacy. There was a lot that I found beautiful and moving, I liked the stated aims of my temple, and I felt great affection expressed towards me by the Netjeru – but there was always the sense of something not quite right.

The Netjeru inspired a great level of devotion in me, but They never asked me to serve Them. They graciously accepted my voluntary service to a point, but after a time, the Netjeru quite firmly led me out of Kemetic practice at any level beyond the personal and occasional.

At the time this was devastating. I couldn’t understand why They encouraged me at all if They were going to then reject me.

Amon was present, but Ma’at was the one doing most of the communicating. The reasons I was given were vague and abstract to me at the time, presented in a loving manner. They’d hoped things would have worked out differently, but in hindsight things going downhill seemed in some sense inevitable. The Kemetic movement was in a very rough and contentious phase, which would continue indefinitely. This suited the devotees of some of the Netjeru perfectly, but not Amon and Ma’at. There was not and would not be a place for me to serve Them in an appropriate way anytime soon, and if I waded into the struggle and attempted to change things to develop that possibility, I would have to become something other than what I was, and wouldn’t be able to serve Them at that point either. More importantly, it would do harm to that which They valued most in me, and would keep me from developing into the person I had the potential to be.

I kept coming back to a point that made no sense to me: if They knew the odds were bad, why had I been encouraged? If They didn’t know the odds were bad, were They clueless? Or did They know and were they just capricious, feeding me a line to pat my head and send me off after I’d tried and failed? None of those made any sense at all, given the particular natures and personalities of the beings in question.

In hindsight, thinking about Kemeticism as “The Way of Harmonious Stability”, a reason occurred to me.

Starting from a theoretically impartial point of view, attempting to reconstruct a state religion devoted to maintaining an idealized status quo in democratic America in the 21st century seems an exercise in futility. I’d considered the political impossibilities in the past – What is a state religion when you take away the state? Is it possible for a minority proxy group to carry the burden? – as have many others. It seemed enough to stack the odds against Kemeticism, but I missed something even more fundamental.

When the secular culture is fanatically dedicated to the idea of the virtues of constant progress, you’ve failed before you’ve begun. It is impossible to fully root out the indoctrination one gets being raised in a progress-oriented culture. Trying to flip between an everyday life set to fast forward aiming for perpetual motion, and a spiritual life set in fast reverse and aiming for stasis, is essentially an exercise in insuperable cognitive dissonance.

I needed to go through the temple’s introductory class to get any kind of objectivity from progress-orientation and begin to wrap my mind around imagining what stasis-orientation might have been like. I wouldn’t have been content with being told the answer, and I wouldn’t have had the resources to really comprehend the answer, without this step. The only way out is through.

While I’d thereby gotten the knowledge to be able to understand the problems, I didn’t intuit the existence of the problems. I was approaching understanding a static culture through the unconscious lens of my native progress culture; ok, so that class is over, what’s next?

Yes, in hindsight, *facepalm*.

So, step followed step, I was invited to enter Priest Candidacy, and I accepted. It is entirely possible that the Netjeru did not foresee this, because They do not think in the progress model naturally. There was no substantial economic/status reward from going any further as there would have been in ancient Egypt, so it might have been a surprise. Sure, it probably seems silly to think that gods would make such a basic miscalculation. . . unless you take into account that however much They’ve learned about us, They inherently approach the issue from a diametrically opposed angle of thought.

Given reaction time and opportunity, They pretty much grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and pulled me back pretty quick, all things considered. (It was a matter of a few months.)

The initial “Nope, hold on, not for you” experience was followed by (I think) about a year and a half of angst as I tried to figure out what had happened, why, what it meant, and what I should do next. This was relieved by one interjection – the notice I didn’t have to worry any more about the fact the temple couldn’t get its act together to formally release me from my vows, the gods had overridden that need through Their involvement and I was released without fault.

Then the difficult conversation about how I was to stop considering involvement in Kemetic organizations.

Again and again from the beginning, I’d asked how I could serve and was told “Oh, you’re fine, you don’t have to do anything, We just wanted to say hello and let you know We’re here and we like you.” My response was always “Then what next?”.

So, to give up my progress-oriented search for clues for how Their contact relates to my destiny and calling in life, and instead consider why the Netjeru may have chose to contact me from something like Their stasis-oriented perspective:

There was a past connection that I’d forgotten. I’d been aware of and participated in a reciprocal affectionate relationship with Them (I’m not even going to speculate on the logistics of reincarnation, I’m just going to run with the idea), and that knowing and sense of connection on my part was the stasis point the Netjeru were attempting to return to in contacting me years ago. I may be in another culture and very far away, but that is no reason whatsoever for Their affections be cancelled, because Their affection for me was established status quo.

My flailing and stressing out about what it all meant and what I was supposed to do next must have seemed very strange. There was no “doing” left from Their POV; the connection was remade, that was all that was necessary.

Even the name I was given in vision was clearly expressed as something that I was called in the past, not a now-name, but one that would serve again if needed.

So, that’s it, I suppose. Both simpler and more complex than I’d thought.

YMMV on how you take this, if you have Kemeticism as part of your path. The pointlessness for me in attempting to recreate the religion is not a universal truth. It is very worth noting that my connection has always been strongest to the deities ascendant in the Old Kingdom, several thousands of years ago. My Amon is not Amon-Re; I respect the experiences of those who do connect to that entity, but I’ve always experienced the Netjeru as individual rather than syncretic.

Aset/Isis seems to be a goddess who learned to get along with progress, as Her cult spread to Greece, Rome and as far as ancient England. I’ve encountered Her; She’s a lovely being, but in my experience very different than the Netjeru most popular long before Her time. Her cult was prominent much later in Egyptian history, when change may not have been as strange a concept. I know there are a lot of devotees of Aset in the modern Kemetic movement, and maybe it works beautifully for them. Maybe others work with younger aspects of various deities I see in Their older forms.

Making Netjeru sound like They resemble Ents may sound insulting to some; it really seems the most apt model to explain my particular experiences. I have vast respect and love for Them, and seek only to understand better and live in, as described above, harmonious stability with Them.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2010 2:00 AM

    Very interesting! Thank you for this, and I look forward to your Heathen blog!
    I’m reminded of something that was in my dissertation/book: there was a word for non-Christian in Norse/Icelandic that was basically hundeshedhinn, “hound-heathen.” So, does this mean you’re a bloggehedhinn? ;)

  2. July 1, 2010 9:41 AM

    I have been dwelling on this post for days; thanks for writing it. It’s difficult and important stuff. I agree that a lot of the time, the agenda of $divinity doesn’t necessarily tally up with human intentions or framings, and this totally does affect the sometimes seemingly inexplicable interactions we can have with Them.
    I look forward to reading your heathen blog when you’re ready to reveal it.

  3. February 11, 2011 3:51 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this! It is a wonderful text on the ways of a group gods that only now am I starting to get acquainted with and it is precious as an eye-opener, regardless of how, in the end, the Netjeru relate to each individual worshiper.

    • February 11, 2011 4:27 PM

      I’m very glad it’s been of use to you!

      I don’t know Khnum well enough to speak with confidence on what His views may be on the matter, but to speculate. . . . He feels like kind of an “outlier” in the pantheon, due to his cult center being so far south, at a remove from routine interaction with Pharaoh. Maybe he’s more a god of the everyday people, especially due to His craftsmanship? I could see Him feeling more in His element interacting one-on-one in a studio than as the focus of pomp and ceremony for a crowd in a formal temple setting. :)

      • February 11, 2011 7:30 PM

        That’s a good point. My link with Him is recent and so far limited to a feeling of closeness after I finished a clay statue last year, but I do get the impression that He may be a more “informal” deity: after all, getting your hands dirty from working with clay is hardly a regal activity and not very prone to high formalities. Down-to-earth is probably a good expression here, but in a contemplative sense: clay requires patience and I’ve read people on Kemetic foruns compare Him to an ancient and calm lake in existence since the dawn of times, deep and full of life.

        Anyway, bit of rambling here. Anubis is also entering my personal pantheon: it’s hard for a dog person to resist a canine god, and I’ve read about Him since my childhood. Have no idea how it might turn out, though.

        Once again, thank you for your insight ;)

        • February 12, 2011 8:05 PM

          Ramble away! :) I generally enjoy hearing other’s takes on the gods, even ones I don’t know well myself!

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