So, I’m backtracking a bit here since I joined the PBP a bit later than expected; I honestly thought I’d be too busy with my new job to add another project to my list this year but with the coming of the events described in my first post, I really couldn’t shake the desire to and the feeling that I should become a part of this community venture. SO, my plan is to post “A” today, “B” this weekend, and finally catch up with a single “C” post next Friday. That way I’ll at least have one “A”, “B”, and “C” before joining up with everyone else (also, I realize it’s not Friday yet – at least in this part of the world; give me a break, I have a busy day tomorrow!)
One of my favorite things about Kemeticism is how much this religion seems to focus on the concept of action. Religion, for the Ancient Egyptians, wasn’t simply something “you said you were” or “you believed in but only participated in occasionally” – it was a constant lifestyle. The rising of the Sun each morning was in and of itself a religious act, one that began the day and the actions of the day, only to end with the setting of the Sun which – guess what – did not indicate an end of action, but instead, began a completely new set of actions: those of the “unseen world”, as Ra battled through darkness and the humans/animals of the world slept (and, we might say, “battled” with dreams). Very simply, as long as the Sun kept rising and setting, the world made sense to the Ancient Egyptians. It was through that action that all other actions could be understood and appreciated.
Belief is important to any religion, yes, but Kemeticism values active participation in a way that resonates deeply with me. In fact, Kemeticism literally began with action – or rather, active potential: that of Nun.
The entity of Nun is another of my favorite aspects or concepts within Kemeticism. The first question many might be tempted to ask is, “But why are you saying ‘concept’, Nun’s just another Kemetic God, right?” Well, I would argue that “Nun being a God” is the wrong way to look at it; I would insist that calling Nun a God is in fact, a far too simple way of defining Nun. Why?
First let’s look at an illustration of Nun from Temple of the Cosmos (by Jeremy Naydler) to help us better understand Nun in terms of descriptive language:
“…the outpouring of the eternal world of pure spirit into materiality begins with Nun. In the beginning, there exists only Nun, the dark and abyssal waters that stretch everywhere to infinity. There is no distinction of any one form from another within this primordial ocean; there is only a pervasive formlessness that amounts to nothingness, as all things merge together in this great sea of Nun. One has to imagine a quality of existence that is prior to space and time, up and down, before and after. Nothing lies outside anything else, for everything is intrinsic to every other thing; hence, there are no separate things. Here there is a primordial unity, of which it is impossible to speak save in terms of negatives. And yes the image of water conveys a positive notion of Nun as the source of life. Nun, though nothing in itself, nevertheless contains everything that is to be. Nun is the whole diverse and varied universe existing in a state of potentiality (Naydler, Loc. 704, Kindle Edition).”
Wow, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the lyrical and literary beauty of that description.
Ok. What does it mean?
It means that Nun is not a God, not really. Nun is what existed before Gods; Nun is the primordial essence, the unrealized potentiality of creation. Saying that Nun is a God would not necessarily be fully wrong, considering from Nun the Gods were created, but Nun in and of itself is something far greater and complex than a God could ever hope to be. I know – that’s kind of a crazy thing to say, right? Since Gods are “all-powerful”? Whether or not Gods are truly “all-powerful” is a discussion for another time, but think of it this way: If something had the energy necessary to create Gods, it had to have been something more powerful than them, right? I’m no physics professor, but that rather makes sense to me, logically.
So where does this bring us? Well, Kemetic creation myths (yes, there are more than one, and all equally valid and true), while varying in detail, all begin with Nun. What happened after Nun? Well, at some point, a point which is too infinitely hard to define or pinpoint in our supremely simplistic understanding of “time”, Nun decided to transform from mere potentiality to literal action. This phenomenon was referred to by the Ancient Egyptians as Atum: “to be complete.” Atum is the creation God, the first of Nun’s “children” – the principle that initiates “internal stillness” to “external movement.” Why and how this happened, we likely may never be able to comprehend or understand, in much the same way scientists are still trying to make sense of the Big Bang and what that could truly have entailed (of course, I would argue that it’s sometimes hard to compare religion and science, though not necessarily in an antagonistic way, simply on a philosophical level).
Interestingly enough, nearly the exact same concept appears in Kabbalah (the magic system I currently follow, derived from my interest in ancestor veneration through the study of Jewish magic). The Nun of Kabbalah is called Ein Sof (which in Hebrew, can be roughly translated to “Infinity”). Eerily, the description of Ein Sof and the creation of the Divine in the Zohar, Kabbalistic first source, reminds me a lot of the “Atum-from-Nun” relationship:
“Tune had begun. Its great pendulum, whose beats are the ages, commenced to vibrate. The era of creation or manifestation had at last arrived. The nekuda reshima, primal point or nucleus, appeared. From it emanated and expanded the primary substance, the illimitable phosphorescent ether, of the nature of light, formless, colorless, being neither black nor green nor red. In it, latent yet potentially as in a mighty womb, lay the myriad prototypes and numberless forms of all created things as yet indiscernible, indistinguishable. By the secret and silent action of the divine will, from this primal luminous point radiated forth the vital life-giving spark which, pervading and operating in the great, enteric ocean of forms, became the soul of the universe, the fount and origin of all mundane life and motion and terrestrial existence, and in its nature and essence and secret operation remains ineffable, incomprehensible and indefinable. It has been conceived of as the divine Logos, the Word, and called Brashith, for the same was in the beginning with God.” (Zohar, section I Genesis).
Pretty fascinating, isn’t it? The ancient Jewish priesthood did have contact with the Ancient Egyptians (even if the Exodus story itself is mere mythology and not historical fact), so it always has made me wonder if the concept of Ein Sof didn’t originate way back then with the concept of Nun. Food for thought!
In any case, understanding the concepts of Nun and Atum are key to understanding something very important about Kemeticism: this is a religion that begins and ends with action. The concept of Ma’at is active: giving Ma’at as an offering to the Gods requires us to DO something, not just say or think something (that’s how I’ve always felt, anyway). And if we truly are as Divine as the Gods (the Tears of Ra, and all such), then it is our duty, every day, to actively live our religion – as the Gods are and were active, and as Atum was first active, and from which Nun first birthed action.
Bringing it down to a modern, mortal level, this means we should be fully aware of what we do, and should strive to do just that: Do. Practice what you preach, you know? Worship the Gods we say we love with words and actions: give offerings on a daily or weekly schedule. Celebrate holidays and festivals, non-Kemetic ones too if we want! Perform Heka, or magic, as we see fit. Use it, and prayer, to help those in need, or to help ourselves when we are in need. Do good deeds in the world in the best ways that we can: and through that, live a life of Ma’at (speak true and act true). And on an even more basic, non-spiritual level: take care of ourselves. I know that sometimes it can be hard to even do the simplest things – eat, sleep, work (but maybe don’t overwork!), enjoy your hobbies, enjoy being with loved ones, etc. – but sometimes making the effort counts for more than we give it credit.
Perhaps even in little steps at a time, giving motion and creation – Atum – to our lives will result in us too, someday, finally feeling complete.