The Egyptian Neters, Part 2

by Billie Walker-John

To begin our review of the Neters of Egypt and the cities associated with them, it will prove helpful to realise that the Pharaonic Egyptians differentiated their concept of creation into four successive parts. This differentiation, while usually seen as separate events, was actually a ‘successive becoming’, or theogony, of one continuously evolving concept. The four stages were:

Atum (or Ra) at Heliopolis,

Ptah at Memphis,

Thoth at Hermopolis,

Amun at Thebes.



“All the gods are three: Amun, Ra and Ptah, who have no equals. He whose nature [literally – whose name] is mysterious, being Amun; Ra is the head, Ptah the body. Their cities on earth, established forever are: Thebes, Heliopolis and Memphis [stable] for eternity. When a message comes from heaven, it is heard at Heliopolis, it is repeated at Memphis to Ptah and it is made into a letter written in the letters of Thoth [at Hermopolis] for the city of Amun [Thebes] .” The Leyden Papyrus [1].

From the ancient Egyptians the mystery of mysteries was the ‘becoming’ of the Creator from the Unseen into the Seen, the One manifesting as Many. This becoming was revealed through the above mentioned four cities and their temples. In the Leyden Papyrus, the beginning of this becoming is termed: when a message comes from Heaven . It is through this idea of a ‘message’ that we shall follow the progress of the becoming from Heaven to Earth.

The message is said to be heard at Heliopolis because this city was considered to be “the ear of the heart” [2]; Heliopolis, being the city of the Sun, and in the esoteric texts the sun was deemed to be the ‘heart’ of our solar system – thus the solar Heliopolis was the heart of Egypt. It is also to be understood in this context that the name Heliopolis, as used in the esoteric and funerary texts means “the absolute origin of things” [3] and it is not to be thought of only as being strictly confined to the physical city of that name. When it is said in the texts: “I have come from Heliopolis” or “I am going to Heliopolis” the initiatic meaning is that “I have existed from the beginning” or “I am returning to the Source” .

The One who began the ‘becoming’, according to the teachings given at Heliopolis, is Atum. This name has the meaning of ‘All’ and ‘Nothing’, signifying the great potential of creation as yet unmanifest. Atum is one with Nun, the indefinable cosmic ocean, and his first act must be to distinguish himself from Nun. This emergence is shown as happening in any one of three versions:

Atum, as All, emerges from Nun as the primordial hill, and thus begins to realise himself. The primordial hill provides him with a support, or foundation from which to work ie., begin further realisations. Thus established he creates further supports – Shu and Tefnut – which according to the Pyramid Texts he ‘spits out’ and ‘expectorates’ respectively. Shu can be thought of as the principle of space and Air, while Tefnut is the element of Fire.

The second version presents a more earthy creation. “Atum gave birth to himself through masturbation at Heliopolis” as the Pyramid Texts state it, then Shu and Tefnut are created.

In the third version Atum creates himself through the agency of “projecting his heart” [4] and thereafter he brings forth eight primary principles which, including himself, constitute the Nine, the Great Ennead of Heliopolis:

Atum: Shu: Tefnut:

Geb (the earth): Nut (the sky):

Osiris: Isis: Seth: Nepthys.

These last four represent the cyclic nature of life, death and rebirth. The Pyramid Texts state that “none of these entities is separate from him, Atum”.

If these versions of creation seem fantastic, i.e. unbelievable, to the rational mind, then it is because they are taking place outside of the limits of terrestrial time and beyond the realm of temporal happenings for this creation is taking place in the Heaven World – not upon the earth. As R A Schwaller de Lubicz states in Sacred Science:

Such mysteries are not to be grasped by the reasoning process of the mind’s intelligence. [5]

Esoteric Mysteries rarely make sense to the mind’s intelligence and simply because they require a different medium of perception/reception before they become comprehensible and this different perception is defined in Symbolist terms as ‘the intelligence of the heart’. In speaking of the Neters, we are speaking of the expressions of this intelligence of the heart and of the Mysteries as they were conveyed in Pharaonic Egypt. In Helipolis, ‘the absolute beginning of all things’, we are dealing with the primal mystery, Atum, who becomes One and then Two and on up to Eight, as stated in a Coffin Text:

I am One that transforms into Two
I am Two that transforms into Four
I am Four that transforms into Eight
After this I am One

(Coffin of Petamon, Cairo Museum no: 1160) [6]

This division or differentiation makes possible polarisation and as is the nature of polarisation we have the positive and the negative. Pharaonic Egypt expressed these contending forces most notably as Horus and Set.

We have seen how the ‘message from Heaven’ was ‘heard’ in Heliopolis as Atum began the ‘becoming’. Now we must turn to Memphis and Ptah for the next part of the divine journey.


[1] R A Schwaller de Lubicz – Sacred Science
Inner Traditions International Ltd, Rochester, VT, 1982 pages 187-8

[2] Isha Schwaller de Lubicz – Her-Bak, Volume 2
Inner Traditions International Ltd, New York, 1978, page 156

[3] Sacred Science – page 192

[4] Lucie Lamy – Egyptian Mysteries: New Light on Ancient Knowledge
Thames & Hudson, 1981, page 9

[5] Sacred Science, page 188

[6] Egyptian Mysteries, page 9