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Lesson 3 Reading Temple of Asar pp. 92-110
What impressed me most in this section was the parallel that exist between the temple structure and process as it relates to purification of the body, mind, and spirit and the similar process that occurs within the human personality, specifically the Sefec Ba Ra (Arat Sekhem). At initiatic stop # 1 the aspirant reflects on their life realizing the illusory and fleeting nature of what it means to “be in the world”. One comes to perceive an alternative way of being, one that is more real and grounded on truth. During this initial stage of the journey, the more one becomes aware of what the temple has to offer the more disillusioned one becomes with the temporal, phenomenal existence. One comes to the realization that to commit to the mystic path is to transform oneself into a Royal Personality knowing that one will sit on the throne of the universal soul. This realization is also accompanied by an awareness that to experience such a mystic rebirth one has to “die” to the world. One of the questions that comes to mind at this stage is “how do I pursue this spiritual journey while at the same time taking care of one’s material needs?” This is an issue that relates to the root chakra or 1st Sefec Ba Ra. The challenge at this stage is being able to overcome the fear associated with ensuring one’s survival and having faith that one’s needs will be taken care of by the SELF. For many aspirants, including myself, this is an issue that can become an area of major concern since how it is addressed has implications for how one progresses along the spiritual path, the speed at which this occurs, and the probability of one’s ultimate success. Seba Maa recently discussed some of the factors that may serve as impediments for initiates and one of these is that of having a career. This for me has been a perpetual source of conflict and which has, I think, both facilitated as well as hindered my level of attainment as an initiate. In trying to reconcile this issue I believe that I have developed a certain level of dispassionate attachment in relation to my career but is still challenging since teaching requires a high level of engagement and interaction with students or what one may term “ego involvement.” I find that the more engaged I am with the teachings of Shetaut Neter is the more conflictual this issue becomes. More recently I find that as far as my career activities are concerned, even though fully engaged, it is as though I was operating on “automatic” as though in a dream state, the Amun part of me realizing that what I am doing is fleeting and illusory. Part of me feels that I am living a lie and not being true to myself. Based on what I have learned in the teaching the answer to this dilemma is to engage in integral Shedy with as much intensity and consistency as possible. I am trying. But at what point does one sacrifice that which may be hindering one’s spiritual progress? Is this an issue of courage? Of wisdom? What role does Ariu play in all of this? It appears that what is required based on what I have learned is being grounded in Maat and living an ethical lifestyle so as to neutralize and purify whatever Ariu is contributing to this particular dimension of my life process.
In moving to Initiatic stop #2, the second open court, one becomes concerned with the element of water and it’s use in purifying the physical and gross aspects of the personality (thoughts and feelings such as anger, envy etc.) This particular point of the temple corresponds to Sefec Ba Ra #2 or the 2nd chakra associated with the element of water. The psycho-spiritual principle that is relevant here is sexuality, creativity and a major issue is guilt. Water becomes the element used in purifying these sexual energies so that one will have the mental poise and equanimity to pursue higher levels of spiritual consciousness. In elaborating on this theme of sexuality, Seba maa points out that “sexuality is a concentration of a delusion of polar opposites (duality consciousness) in which human beings come to identify their essential nature as being polarized into gender (male and female) when in reality their soul has no gender”. For me this point is of profound importance in understanding the spiritual significance of what is a fundamental dimension of our human nature. In the tantric sense such purification is made possible through the unification of the male and female embodied in the God Hapi who presides over the river Nile and who is androgynous. And so from duality we get unity and oneness. Through this process of mystical celibacy, the sexual energies are sublimated and new life comes into being, life of a spiritual nature taking the form of Heru or spiritual aspiration. In explaining the nature of this process, Seba Maa enlightens us by saying that “this court is associated with mystic celibacy which is a turning away from duality consciousness, including relationships and sexuality and instead strives for mystic union with the divine, which bestows a sense of completeness, wholeness, oneness, and fulfillment.
This process is assisted by the two serpentine Goddesses called Merty of the north and of the south. These are equivalent to Goddess Wadjit (Uraeus—eye of intuitive realization) and Nekhebet (mortality). In describing this purification process Seba Maa writes: “This communion makes the personality renewed, makes them young again. This process of purification and shifting identity from dual to non-dual unitary consciousness also removes energetic blocks in the physical and subtle astral body. The energy that was previously bound up in fears, anxieties, desires, lust, envy and other gross impurities are removed…”
At initiatic stop #3 which is the first open court is related to the divinity Ra, the creator spirit whose symbol is the sun disk. Here the unconscious dimension of the mind, that which relates to subtle thoughts and feelings, are purified through the element of fire. In relation to the Sefec Ba Ra this corresponds to the third chakra—solar plexus –associated with the psycho-spiritual principle of will and is blocked by shame. What we are speaking of here is egoistic will whereby one attempts to impose one’s desires and aspirations against the world which as Seba Maa tells us, inevitably leads to futile and frustrating outcomes in the end. The question is, how one knows when one is acting egotistically particularly when one thinks one is making decisions that will facilitate one’s spiritual evolution. It may be that such knowing comes from the intellect (Djehuty) but for this to occur the intellect must be pure. In further elaborating on this stage of spiritual growth Seba Maa makes the important point that “ ego effacement and the prospects of higher spiritual attainment need to be firmly seated in the personality before moving forward”. “The mind must become illumed with right thinking and a higher perspective of life including the notion of oneself as being the creator spirit as well as the purveyor of immortality as opposed to maintaining the notions of individuality and immortality.”
The final point I would like to discuss that impressed me in the readings was the notion of “chiseling”. “The text imparts the idea that the purpose and work of the temple are about a process of working, of fashioning, or chiseling the personality, just as a sculptor chisels beautiful statues out of rough stone.” One of the memories that has stayed with me on my recent pilgrimage to Kemet is, on my flight back, watching a movie on the life of Van Gogh. It impressed me in how Van Gogh was such a genius at capturing the essence of the forms that he painted. Through his paintings, he was able to bring any object to life, making it glow as though uncovering its divine essence. What struck me was that as he was chiseling away at these various art forms he was simultaneously chiseling away at his own personality revealing and making visible that which was most real and pure. But as depicted in the film, this was a most turbulent process as it required functioning in the world while moving beyond the realm of ordinary mundane human experience. For Van Gogh, this chiseling process cut away at the ego but apparently because of not being sufficiently purified, rendered him supposedly insane making him quite familiar with insane asylums. I remember one point in the film when he challenged the reasoning of the psychiatrist and his justification for placing him in an asylum. In doing so he used the analogy of Jesus saying that like Jesus whose divinity was not recognized until after his death, similarly for Van Gogh his talents and greatness, even though not immediately evident would be recognized at a future time. I believe this movie inspired me because it made me realize that this spiritual journey is not always a smooth one and that one must have the conviction to follow one’s spirit, particularly the heart-(intuitive realization/love) since the mind, when not sufficiently purified, often takes us astray.