The Egyptian Neters, Part 4

by Billie Walker-John

“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 [l])

djehutyThis passage from the Leyden Papyrus gives us the initiatory version of creation, as exemplified by the four ‘centres of instruction’ [2] of ancient Egypt. We have seen in the previous articles how Atum differentiated himself from the undifferentiated Nun – the teaching given at Heliopolis; and then how, with Ptah at Memphis, this ‘message’, the ‘fire from heaven’, was ‘earthed’. Now, this ‘earthed message/celestial fire’ will begin to act in and on the terrestrial realm via Thoth at Hermopolis before the ‘message’ goes onto Thebes where the revelation of the preceding events will take place. As R A Schwaller de Lubicz so rightly points out:

“Such mysteries are not to be grasped by the reasoning process of the mind’s intelligence” [3]

Which will serve as both a warning not to attempt to see these events as happening in a mundane context, for they are beyond the time of the terrestrial; and as a guideline for another stratum of perception, which is vital when dealing with the Mysteries of Egypt – and their representatives, the Neters. This warning is necessary because, if what has previously been revealed is confusing or unclear, then it will become all the more so at Hermopolis, in terms of how the Egyptians expressed these mysteries, at least. For here we find that the ‘message’ – functioning on the terrestrial plane – has become newly born creatures from the swampy mire, i.e. frogs and snakes. The names of these creatures, as given in the Hermopolitan teaching, indicate that they are not creatures as understood in the earthly term, but principles, for these names are ‘Night’, ‘Obscurity’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Eternity’ [4]. There are two of each, one male, one female, counterparts, dualities. They are referred to as “The Eight” and this is reflected in the sacred name of Hermopolis, which was Khemenu – “the City of the Eight”. The Eight are called “fathers and mothers of Ra” [5], for it is said that from the egg generated from the Eight, a goose was born – and that this goose flew up into the sky and became the sun, the visible presence of Ra (Ra is not the sun itself, but that which penetrates the solar globe and causes it to shine; hence Ra is the principle of light). Yet before the Eight came into existence, the teaching tells of a primordial snake, Kem-atef, “he who has fulfilled his time” – which means that his time in that form was over. Now Kem-atef has a ‘son’ named Ir-ta – “Creator of the Earth”. From Ir-ta the Eight were born. Esoterically, this can be understood as the successive ‘becomings’ or descent of spirit into matter. Students of the Qabalah should readily grasp this concept, even though it is rendered in more complex, less lucid Egyptian terms. We can also see in Kem-atef and Ir-ta glimmerings of the importance the Pharoanic sages placed upon the Heavenly constellations, ie., what we know today as the zodiac, and the ramifications and influence of the constellations on earth. We speak today of the Age of Aquarius and the changes it will bring or is bringing to the world; in the same context, the Egyptian sages spoke of Kem-atef ‘who had fulfilled his time’, and the time of Ir-ta coming into effect thereafter. But again, understand these Ages are successive becomings, abstractions, and are not actually happening on earth, as we understand mundane events to happen. Kem-atef and Ir-ta are processes in the act of creation – before and beyond terrestrial time. Grasping this, it may become somewhat easier to understand the following: Kem-atef, which ‘is’ Hermopolis in an abstract sense, once his time there is up, does not simply disappear or truly cease to exist. Instead, he becomes Amun of Thebes – the Hidden One. And thus is the message carried on to Thebes. But what of Thoth in all this? He, rest assured, is not forgotten. His work at Hermopolis – the City of the Eight – has enabled the Eight to come into existence. An inscription at the temple of Dendera credits Thoth as:

“Thoth, twice great, the most ancient of all, master of the city of Hermopolis the great, the great Neter of Tentyris, the sovereign God creator of Good, heart of Ra, tongue of Atum, throat of the god whose name is hidden [Amun], Lord of Time, king of the years, scribe annals of the Ennead. Revelation of the god of light, Ra, he who existed since the beginning, Thoth, he who rests on truth. What issues from his heart immediately comes into existence; his utterances subsist for eternity.” [6]



[1] R A Schwaller de Lubicz, Sacred Science, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, VT, 1982 (pages 187-188)
[2] Lucie Lamy, Egyptian Mysteries: New Light on Ancient Knowledge, Thames & Hudson, 1981 (page 8)
[3] Sacred Science, (page 188)
[4] Ibid., (page 195)
[5] Egyptian Mysteries, (page 11)
[6] Sacred Science, (page 195)