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Udja Sebai MAA and Seba DJA,
Below my post related to Book reading assignment – Level 1-Lesson 2…
Lesson 2 – Level 1
How would you describe your knowledge on Religion and Philosophy?
I would qualify my knowledge on religion as evolving. Initially, I used to know Religion as only related to the idea of belonging to certain practices for example, as being catholic or protestant. In that sense, my perception was limited to learning the rituals, chants, the outer practices in general. I considered mainly as important the execution and practice of the rituals with no conscious awareness about righteous living and spiritual study, which I thought was reserved to priest or so called pious people. I had a view of Religion to be separate from other aspects of daily life and primarily, it was important to go to church every Sunday and God will take care of the rest.
While reading about Kemetic philosophy, I discovered new way of describing religion around three main aspects to help us reconnecting to our Higher SELF: the myth, rituals and mysticism. The main purpose of Religion is to help us achieving Self-realization, meaning the expansion of our individual consciousness to universal consciousness, and this is called enlightenment. This transcendental state can’t be achieved by using the intellect only because of its limited perception in time and space, and requires the development of intuitional qualities that lead to internal transformation for the realization of this higher state which can only be realized and not understood.
So, Religion as I understand it now is a system of philosophical teaching and practices for the human being to attain a state of conscious realization of the transcendental reality that binds everything and this is called enlightenment. It does not require blind faith in an unknown reality but rather provides scientific and proven methods that if followed properly, will lead toward achievement of the highest purpose in life. It involves basically a step of the recognition about the existence of a transcendental reality, the realization of it and finally the expression of it. It is the science of the unity of human being and not like ordinary science working on the transient phenomenal reality; it actually helps us penetrating into the deepest and mystical reality of life. Religion should then be a way of life, the basis of all what we’re doing and the driving principle to lead us toward the achievement of our ultimate goal to know and realize our Self.
About philosophy, I remember growing up; I always had an attitude of questioning about hidden mysteries of life. When I was in high School, and back then, my teacher in introduction to philosophy always reminded us not to take side during our dissertation but, to analyze several aspects of the question and then to expand on other related dimension without really adopting a definite position. In that sense, I saw philosophy among Socrates’ line of thinking as an endless intellectual inquiry about the ultimate nature of things, a nature that we would never find as every argument is raising objectively more doubts about our past knowledge. Philosophy was then for me a way of reflecting upon the reality without any firm belief. To say it in another word, the only certain belief was that we could find a way to doubt about anything. The following Egyptian proverb illustrates rightly this meaning of philosophy: “The Greek tongue is a noise of words, a language of argument and confusion”. In studying philosophy for a BA, while I appreciate the reasoning method, I really felt more confusion at times without any real answer to my inquiry but, rather a state of restless agitation of the mind.
But, then, when I started to know about Shetaut Neter, I come to discover a different meaning of philosophy. I see it no more as an endless inquiry about the deepest nature of reality but rather, as essentially a reflection on the sacred teaching and principles so that the mind can elevate itself to know about the real essence of all things. In that sense, philosophy becomes an important aspect of Religion allowing the aspirant to purify his intellect for knowledge and wisdom. It is understood according to the first principle of Kybalion; since the universe is mental, constant reflection on scriptures with the idea of arriving at the ultimate truth will lead to gradual transformation necessary to use the mind as an instrument to attain Nehast.
I no longer see philosophy as a pure activity of the mind without a final goal but rather as way of purifying the mind for the attainment of wisdom. As stated in the Egyptian proverb: “Wisdom is the daughter of training and truth is the daughter of Wisdom and love.” The main object of philosophy is not the reflection on phenomenal reality which is transient but, the sacred teaching and through a threefold process involving listening, reflecting and meditating, the mind can arrive at a state of purification as a pathway for realization of the ultimate truth.
What do you see as the greatest obstacle to your happiness and fulfillment in life?
I see the greatest obstacle to be related to the non-ability to effectively control of the mind. While I appear to be introvert but, deep inside, my minds is not silent at all, as I am thinking all the time and, it is very difficult to stop the flow of reflections. While at the surface I can control many gross vices but, there are subtle impurities of the mind that are still controlling me at times and that require hard work to overcome.
As a relation to above, I am providing a few examples for more details on how this great obstacle is impacting me:
1. Self-doubt. I have to deal with self-doubt most of the time. On every new undertaking, my mind is questioning my ability to succeed in a way to let me feel I can’t do it. I have to force myself into the water so to say, and once I am in it, I find it easier to achieve my goals, however. But, in general, it is very difficult to break the first barrier.
2. Distraction of the mind. When I am in certain situations for example in regular conversations or in professional meetings or in situation of arguing in general, it usually happens that I can’t concentrate the mind on the subject and rather think about my ability to properly reflect on the matter of discussion. At times, I can become defensive instead of being objective. I usually lose track of what has been said or, most of the time, when I propose an answer, it is not usually the best I could give if I was left alone to reflect on the topic. So, the atmosphere plays a big role in what I say and do and, I do not have the full ability to detach and listen so I can propose useful insight. That usually leaves me with the bad sensation that I did not provide my best shot or I could do better. When I am able to have the peace of mind and connection with myself, I am usually capable of providing great insight. That is why, in general, I am more comfortable in expressing my thoughts in writing but, I would like to be able to be as insightful when I am talking as well and not being distracted by the wonders of the mind. I would love to be able to live more in the moment instead of reflecting on it.
3. Self-righteousness. Although I do not like it but, it happens quite a few times that I feel I am right in my own way without the need to listen to other people’s opinion. At times, I feel I am not open to listen to other opinions although I appear to do so: it is like I am blocking myself to listen because I think this person does not have the ability to bring anything useful. But, it is an assumption that may lead to a non-compassionate attitude. I’d rather be able to listen to anything without any pre-judgment and perhaps provide the person with my personal insight for him or her to work on or open up some new perspectives and maybe, this could help them in their life.
4. Worry. When in stressful situations and particularly at work, I tend to think about the worst which leads me in a state of apprehension or fear. This state of mind does not give me the ability to properly reflect on the situation objectively to find a solution. In regular situations of life, this usually happens too but, I would like to rather be detached and be able to find the best course of actions instead of acting out of fear or apprehension that the worst could happen, which usually in retrospect happens rarely.
5. Self-control. At times, I find it is difficult to hold to my beliefs. For example, by listening to counter arguments concerning my belief, I find that the other person can make me change ideas in the moment, and it is only in retrospect after the fact that I am able to convince myself otherwise. In general, I find that the external environment can momentarily affect my opinion and I can appear to be in favor of something I do not believe in and the other person may perceive me as not being righteous because afterwards, I change opinion. I would like to be able to hold on to my beliefs if I believe internally this is the right thing to do instead of swinging back and forth based on the atmosphere or what people say. A corollary to that is I would like to be able to express myself not in a way that is accepting but, in a way that is truly reflective of my internal beliefs with calm and not offending anyone.
Along the same line, I find myself saying yes to a situation whereas internally, I feel otherwise just because I did not want to make the person feel bad. So, I’d rather be able to say no and feel comfortable with it whether the other person accepts it or not. It happens also that I avoid conflicting situations just because I do not want to offend. So, in general I would love to be able to be true to myself and not swing from one belief to another just because of the moment or other people’s opinions and be able to express it simply and clearly without apparent offense.
I generally have high ideals about myself and too often, i feel that I have underperformed and this sensation does not make me feel good about myself. I am afraid I can be deceived by the subtle vices of the mind. It happens to me in the past to be trapped into things I thought I would never do which makes me reflect about the amount of work I have to do in order to align my actions and words with what I know is true and develop that self-control and essentially living according to maat principles.
What do you see as the most important need that you have?
It is related to the previous question hence, my most important need is to be able to concentrate my mind, to control it in every occasion and essentially to have self-control not only of the emotions but the wonders of the mind. I loose contact with myself and my mind is wondering out of control too easily particularly during study, conversations or debates or when I face awkward situations. During meditation, there is a race of thoughts in my mind and I have to make great effort to be silent. Although I have made great effort but, it is still notable that I may be suddenly get off guard with a line of thinking without realizing it. Even when I am writing or study, it is difficult to concentrate as I may wonder from one subject to another. This is a situation that does not help me in my opinion, reach my full potential. I believe for my spiritual evolution, this can be a barrier and, I need to overcome the above subtle vices of the mind. This makes me think that although on the surface I appear to control most gross vices, but, I still have some underlying attachments and desires driving me more than I tend to accept in reality. In a simple way as per the teaching, I need to be able to untie the rope of the boat before I use it to cross the river in other words, I need to let go of the attachment, the desire, the concerns and the subtle fear of the mind.
What is your previous religion affiliation or faith and how do you think it relates to what you are following now?
I have had several paths in Religion but, in retrospect, it seems as if something was preparing for the experience that I currently have.
As a child, I followed my parent’s religions: on one side, my mother was protestant and my father a catholic. Back then, I was more active in Protestantism but, by the age of 12th, I had a sense that these religions would lead people to alienation and that is how I left the formal practice. From then on, I practiced some Catholicism consisting mainly to go to Church as often as I could.
By the age of 33, I started to feel an impulsion toward something very subtle and I started to have dreams. For example, I dreamed one day, I was being initiated in Egyptian Religion and I did not know about Shetaut Neter at that time. I decided then to be initiated in Vodun as I came to understand it, if I was to practice a religion fully, it had to be one from my ancestors. Following my initiation and maybe, one or two years after, my spiritual guide indicated that our tradition came from Kusch and there is a direct link between ancient Egyptian mystery and Vodun, a link that would clarify the rituals and the deepest aspect of Vodun itself. Since then, I started my research on Egyptian and African religions not knowing really where I would end up. It has been a long journey really before I discover the teachings of Shetaut Neter. I mean I felt a sense of dissatisfaction with Vodun and mainly, my deep desire to learn about the mysteries of the teaching was left without any answer. During that searching process, I bounced back and forth between Eastern philosophy and African religions and to say it honestly, I was more inclined into practical Eastern religion maybe, because it feeds better my natural reflecting mind : I read about theosophy, anthroposophy and also about eastern mystics saints and their lives. But, something held me because I had a sense I do not belong to those traditions as appealing as they could be in my sense and wanted to find something along the line of my own culture. One thing that always made me wonder is the non-reference to African people and traditions and the overly reference to the Aryan race. I did not find the universalism, the inclusion of all people without prejudice of race, that I was looking for. About one year ago, I had a curious dream where I saw I was driving along a road and suddenly headed to an impasse and the car was about to fall into a ravine and there was a small cord holding it. I was trying to get out from the car but, I was being held by a cord linked to a statute of Buddha. It was as if the statute of Buddha did not want me to progress and save myself: I was held prisoner or some sort by the statute. My interpretation of that dream was that I needed to practice spirituality more aligned with my culture and that is when I decided I will definitely do my best to reconnect with Egyptian religion and I started to read again the books of Muata Ashby. I have to admit that long immersion in Eastern philosophy and particularly in theosophy has prepared me to better understand the message of the books. After reading the guide to Aspirants, I decided that I will become a Shemsu of Shetaut Neter.
In addressing the link with my previous affiliation, I would say Shetaut Neter is helping me understand what I felt was missing in my previous practices, which is an understanding of the dimension and purpose of Religion. Also, a key element I could not consciously find was the necessity to pursue a life of virtue and philosophical learning to feed a constantly wondering mind; Shetaut Neter provided that aspect. On another line, although I am striving about restoring the link with my ancestors so to be able to evolve in time and space, I did not feel really at ease in being a fanatic but rather thought that, this path should also lead us to universalism as the purpose of life is also in a way to transcend our culture. I was able to find that dimension with Egyptian Yoga. Basically, Shetaut Neter helps me understand my deepest inquiry and the source of my dissatisfaction with my past religious affiliation. I am not saying the previous path was not good but, rather they did not fulfill my aspirations to understand the deepest mystery of life and be able to link that to humanity in general. A simple way to say that is my past affiliation was a door way towards finding the Egyptian Yoga and that is why; I feel so at peace working hard to progress with the teaching.
What do you feel religion or spirituality play in your life?
I would say deep inside I feel I have always been a religious person: I always had devotion toward everything having a mystical dimension although I did not understand that drive fully. At the unconscious level, something has been always pushing me toward a certain mystery of life and deep philosophical issues. I remember when I was adolescent, I inquired a lot about the meaning of God and I read a lot on the subject. I remember explaining to friends at that time about a definition of God to be the totality of that exists or the unity of all things although I did not fully grasp the concept. By the time I went to University, I surprisingly stopped inquiring about the deepest mystery questions and was immersing in the world, living a regular life. By the age of 33, I started to read again about mystery books because I felt a sense of dissatisfaction and was looking for answers to phenomena around me be it in politics or other fields. I would retreat into silence within myself to find answers to problems. So, I would say, unconsciously, there has been tendency toward spirituality and, over the last 5 years or so, I have decided to pursue that drive consciously. So, it just becomes the priority of my life and, I try to integrate it in every aspect and I would feel miserable doing otherwise. It is important for me to balance my activities and to be always conscious of the need to live as per maat principles.
Have you had any previous Yoga instructions? If so where and what was your experience
I never had formal instructions on Yoga. My initial knowledge about Yoga came essentially from reading about Eastern Religion and, later on through reading about Shetaut Neter. I started to practice basic positions on my own without any regularity. It is my desire from now on, to really practice Yoga as a technique for spiritual enlightenment.
Have you received any advanced religious instructions?
I have not received advanced religious instructions directly although I have read extensively on many religions. I had extensive reading on occultism and esoteric philosophy in general. However, I lacked a teacher, a preceptor who can place things in perspective. I am glad for the current opportunity to study under the guidance of Sebai MAA and Seba Dja.
How do you see your life?
My life has always been a struggle to balance between worldly pursuits and spirituality rather consciously or unconsciously. Naturally, I have a certain detachment toward the world and most of the time; people tend to see this as being indifferent. But, instead, there is so much going on in my mind with so many reflection and ideas that one may say I am living essentially in my mind and tend to be lost when it comes to day to day reality.
It is true that we need to be involved enough in the world to get what we need but, for me, the highest goal I am striving for is to follow a spiritual path. In another aspect, I have difficulty to balance a natural revolutionary or rebellious aspect of myself against imperialism and colonialism and at times, I feel real anger when I see people being so resigned or ignorant about the current state of affairs and how they are subject to subtle manipulations that push them to become unconscious and accept to live a reality that is unacceptable in many aspects. I had to work on myself very hard not to become bitter as I realize now this won’t solve the problem. The desire to fight political system and to lead the people toward self-determination is a big part of my personality. Now, with Shetaut Neter, I start to realize that the people will not really be able to change the current scheme of things without mental transformation and involvement in authentic spirituality with at the basis, the respect of ethical or maat principles. In other words, it is more valuable to help people transcend their ignorance than fight an unjust political system up front because doing so in such state of mind would be to use the same beliefs of the system and therefore this won’t lead to true transformation. I see that we need to go to the root cause of the inequality as rightly said by the following Egyptian proverb:
“Ignorance is slavery, be it to others or to one’s own vices. To be free from both so as to live in eternal happiness and to work to establish the father-mother God on earth is the sacred task.”
This is the task I am willing to take with my life. It does not mean anything to talk against the injustice of the political system if we are not conscious and willing to work on ourselves for internal transformation through a life of virtue and the cultivation of the spirit through scientific knowledge and practice. As we keep our attention in the world and we do not try to elevate ourselves above the phenomenal realities, we will continue to see ourselves egoistically and initiating any struggle within that state of consciousness is bound to failure and is in reality a pursuit of an illusion as I can see it now. The true purpose of life is for salvation of the Soul as well as helping others along the same path. Let us face it, if the world could live by maat principles and the philosophical teachings of SN or other similar ethical systems, we would not have the current injustice and inequality and racism that we are currently experiencing everywhere. It is painful to realize that at the end, within the spectrum of current political and economic system, there seems to be a curious bound between the actors be it the ruling and the rulers as they share paradoxically the same belief system which is capitalism, greed and so on and so forth. People are creating new Ari that unfortunately feed the cycle of misery and difficulty and dissatisfaction. A lot of what we see in the world today is based on people’s Ari and, to be able to end this cycle, is to strive for salvation and help other aspirants to do the same. I come to realize this new way of thinking and it really helps me get out of the mental blockage I was in, and internalize a new perspective in life. So, my life is all about doing the best I can and maybe more, to work along the path of Shetaut Neter and hopefully attain a level so that I can help others willing to do the same. In that way, I think I can provide a better contribution to the overall struggle of humanity for its evolution toward SELF realization.
What do you think of your own potential to succeed in life?
First of all, success here would mean achieving a situation of balance between material needs and spirituality. In general, the true success for me is to attain the state of Nehast and live as an expression of it, by helping others who sincerely want it, to achieve the same. I think overall, if I can overcome my self-doubt and above subtle vices of the mind, I have a good chance of success along the path of spirituality because I have a great sense of devotion and perseverance in general on doing what I truly believe in. Once I am able to concentrate and objectively convince myself, I usually have the drive to do all I can to succeed. I have that internal drive and that is my best potential, which is a natural devotion and internal capacity for self-motivation along a path that I chose consciously.
If you could, what would you like to do with your life?
If I could, I would like to become a sage along the line of Imhotep or Djehuty or become as active as my Sebai in providing this beautiful teaching to humanity… It seems like a high ideal but, that is the type of impact I wish I could have on humanity. I think I have the internal drive and the sensibility for human kind enough to dedicate myself to contribute in a deep way to the transformation of things where it is possible. I am dreaming about becoming a priest of Shetaut Neter and if possible to become a Sebai so I can carry the teachings as far as possible and along the same line, to help other aspirants to transform themselves.