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Lesson 8 – Level 1: Book reading assignment.
A) Akhus are enlightened beings
The Neterus are manifestations of the Supreme Being and play a central role in the metaphysics of the ancient Egyptian teaching representing cosmic principles that sustain creation as well as door ways for human being to know about the divine. The path towards the divine goes through the Neterus, gods and goddesses with the ultimate goal to become like them. Since the Neterus are expressions of the divine, worshiping them is also worshiping the divine with the purpose of becoming one with them. Since the object of worship is God in its pure essence, becoming the object is also realizing oneness with the divine hence the deeper meaning of the Egyptian path of knowing thyself. Human beings who have realized consciousness of the divine are called Akhus or enlightened beings, meaning those who successfully followed the worship of the Neterus and become one with the Neters.
History exposes to our attention and inspiration people who have achieved great deeds in time and space. They may have been great warriors, scientists, writers. However, when it comes to great sages or Akhus, the ones who have liberated themselves from the illusion of the permanency of objects in time and space, they are often presented as being far apart or considered with special natural gifts and therefore, common people would not be able to look upon them and yet to realize their accomplishment. In that sense, the emphasis is not made enough on the effort the Akhus have made toward Self-realization. That leads to misunderstanding in regards to the practice of discovering the goal of life and its perception as something unnatural, a goal not achievable for ordinary mankind. If the lives of great Sages and Akhus were presented in a way to emphasize the level of effort made and considered indeed as true human heroes, a new consciousness would possibly emerge about the perception of mystical life not as something unattainable but, rather as practices we should live by in order to attain enlightenment with the inspiration of those who have preceded us in accomplishment of that goal.
B) Goal of the Neterian discipline is to discover meaning of who am I
With the projection in time and space, the individual soul becomes baffled by the perception of duality which is in fact a property of the mind to perceive creation and not a measure of the nature of the soul. That misunderstanding leads to an identity crisis for the soul and the need to embark in a journey to know about its true identity. The wrong perception about the true nature of the soul and the journey towards realization of that identity are interdependent: the journey completes with the attainment of the goal of self-realization where duality is dissolved with no more need for searching for true identity. Until that realization occurs, the soul will remain constantly in a path toward that self-discovery which may take many forms and cycles of birth and rebirth.
It is understandable from that standpoint, the question of who am I is inherent to the journey of the soul and the fact that it has been somehow addressed by every human culture is the proof this is indeed the ultimate goal of human life. The discourse related to the intimate nature of human and the path toward the realization of that transcendental nature can be found in every civilization although sometimes, denatured over time with the loss of deeper meaning of culture.
The Neterian discipline is the expression of that quest for self-realization espoused by the Ancient Egyptian culture and it has been proven to be the oldest practice in that sense, dated back to more than 10,000 years. It has been the basis of the ancient Egyptian practical life and that is why, that culture survived for thousands of years. The discipline not only develops scriptures that lead one to understand the real meaning of life but, it also includes practices that can lead the aspirant toward the realization of the supreme goal of human being. In that respect, the Neterianism helps the discovery of the true nature of the soul with an integral discipline aiming to transform the intellect but also to allow the aspirant to become an expression of the teaching. This is a discipline that has transcended history and conserves its actuality despite ages following its discovery. It is a scientific approach toward self-realization that can be proven with the lives of many great sages of Ancient Egypt but as well by its ethical principles more than ever needed in present time that inspired many other cultures. With ethics as a central point derived from Maat philosophy, Neterianism provides to the willing aspirant a sure path that will guide him or her to the discovery of the deeper mystery of life.
C) How a spiritual aspirant should think about the diet of the initiates as espoused by the temple of ASET and is it a realistic goal?
In the Asarian resurrection myth, Set representing pride and ignorance, killed Asar by tearing him into multiple pieces. The meaning of that is when we perceive life with ignorance about our true nature, we become aware of ourselves as a separate entity from the rest of Creation hence the fragmentation of the soul. That type of perception leads us to suffering and susceptible to anger, lust and other related qualities that reinforce our adherence to the concept of ego-self as an abiding reality. Aset, representing intuitional Knowledge was able to restore the pieces of Asar and resurrected him. It means that through study of the Wisdom teaching, we will be able to develop new understanding about our true nature and gradually, acquire the knowledge by which we transform our fragmented perception of the Soul to a consciousness of unity with the rest of the creation. The worship of Aset as espoused by the Temple is to lead us to the realization of our true essence which is the one and only abiding reality. This can be achieved with a life devoted to the inquiry about the ultimate reality that binds everything together, with the support of a proper diet. The diet promoted is based on abstinence form particular foods as well as from indulgence to carnal appetite. It is a diet that does not intensify our ignorance of our true Self but rather will help us to transcend egoism with the ability to concentrate our attention to the divine nature of creation.
The aspirant should then think of the diet of the initiates as an essential part of the spiritual practice. Nutrition in some many aspects can be considered as one of the egoistic rituals we perform and philosophically relates to the control of the first energy center. Food consumed with an egoistic goal reinforces our illusion about what is real and not real. The aspirant is considered to have made a big step in the spiritual path once he develops the intimate conviction that the reality as presented by the senses is illusory and non-abiding as well as the conviction that objects of creation are simply mental modifications and expressions of the pure essence that binds them. In that context, food becomes not something that is necessary for our egoistic needs but, a way towards communion with that divine essence. In that sense, eating expresses the ultimate Eucharistic practice whereby it becomes a way for communion with the transcendental essence of life.
From a relative standpoint, the aspirant should consider food not only from the physical aspect but as well as mental and spiritual. The teaching of the Temple of Aset promotes abstinence from certain types of food for the body and, at a more subtle level, it invites us to be cautious of the type of food we are providing to our mind in the form of emotions and desires. The same way regular foods may impact our spiritual evolution and keep us grounded in the physical awareness; our emotions and desires can constitute elements that can reinforce our egoism. In fact, there is interdependence between both aspects of nutrition: our cravings for food impacts our perception of physical reality as being abiding and makes us more susceptible to the effects of the fetters of Set. Everything that takes place in the physical world is only the external manifestation of spiritual processes and from that standpoint; our relation with food is a determinant of our spiritual life. If we are able to master our craving for certain type of foods and consider eating in a more sacred way, we will make considerable progress in our spiritual path.
About the diet as espoused by the Temple of Aset to be a realistic goal, it will be dependent upon the spiritual level of the aspirant as well as the determination on the path. It may be easier for some and more difficult for others. In all and all, the capability to maintain the diet is simply a determinant of where we are in the path. It needs to be considered that the diet is not the ultimate goal but a mean to realize the highest purpose of life. Consequently, it becomes a necessary goal for all aspirants to strive for, in order to progress.
D) It is true that the general population was considered to be one of the healthiest groups of ancient world.
The ancient Egyptian society’s ethical foundation was Maat philosophy and in that sense, particular consideration was made to quality of food provided, which is an important characteristic for health. In society where greed, lust were not cultivated, food is not commercialized to the point where its natural production is degraded by the need to raise profits without consideration to the health of the population. Also, from a more subtle level, when Maat is the basis of society, there is a general environment that promotes ideal qualities of human life based on solidarity as opposed to cultural degradation based on individualism, stress, selfishness and greed. When society promotes style of life that minimizes stressful situations, overall health of the population is impacted in a positive way.
E) It is false that the initiates ate the same diet as the common folk.
The initiates in Ancient Egypt did not have the same diet as the common folk understandably because they were embarking in a journey for conscious discovery of the higher self. This process required abstinence from certain type of food otherwise consumed by the general population. The restriction has to be understood within the context of promoting self-realization, combined with other ethical principles and Wisdom learning. The point to understand is that, it was not done out of superiority complex or a desire to keep the masses under a situation of control but simply because one needs to be capable of that abstinence. It was not that the general population was not necessarily fully aware of it but, there needs to be a sense of wanting more from life that could push one to such practices. Overall, the initiates were not forced but rather driven by internal forces which made them ready at certain point for that type of abstinence. The capability to restrain oneself from cravings for foods consumed is a reflection of the spiritual evolution given the difficulty to master that aspect of life. One can see these days even if abstinence from certain foods is marketed publicly, not everyone buys into it or there are certain people who do it just for the sake of the moment. It is only a few who are willing or are doing it for the deeper reason of promoting spiritual life. It is not different from the ancient times when we consider the small part of the population willing to initiate in the path; however, the difference is that promoting such practices to the public without preparing them may lead to misunderstanding and possibilities for delusion in the sense that people would think by eating a certain way, they would progress in the path without thinking about the necessity of applying ethical principles based on Maat or similar type of philosophy.
F) This state of mind will render the individual incapable of concentration on significant worldly or high spiritual achievements.
This state of mind refers to the constant cravings for food based on needs to satisfy egoistic desires. When the mind is solely concentrating on food desires, it will not be able to concentrate on higher realities and therefore, the individual becomes incapable to advance normally on the path. That state of mind results also from a culture based on ego-centrism whereby pursuit of personal happiness in time and space becomes the final goal of life.
One other aspect we can mention is how the survival for food is used to keep the general population under control; the modern political system has developed techniques to impoverish the people making them to think about what they next meal would be. In that sense, there is a reliance to the richest group of the population in regards to receiving ways of living: the wealthiest is promoting the concept of being a benefactor, philanthropist or that their wealth comes from God. Through this manipulation, the rest of the population resolves in negative self-blaming in regards to their state of misery without being able to analyze the objective factors contributing to that state of affairs and determine to do something about it. It is not only the masses of poor that are being manipulated; people in the so called wealth countries are also manipulated in a sense when they believe they are contributing to better the world condition with pseudo acts of philanthropy instead of reflecting and acting on the oppression system they are in fact the primary beneficiaries. Globally, the state of mind whereby food and in a more general sense, economical wealth is promoted as the ultimate goal in life, it leads not only to inability to objectively analyze the political system in its capacity to control but, also leads to inability to achieve higher spiritual goals.
G) As part of your spiritual program, begin controlling your intake of food gradually.
The control of our intake of food not only can help fighting obesity in case of some people but also to have gradual control over the energy center associated with the desire of food. The craving for foods represents a primordial element to keep ourselves grounded in time and space and is an expression of our natural instinct. It is also a reflection of our identification with the body as an abiding reality and a denial of the inherent process of degradation due to its temporary nature. Food becomes a way to preserve the body and health and while this is desirable, it should not mean an end in itself but rather a mean towards an end, which is to become enlightened: a state of awareness where body and mind identification are transcended.
H) Lettuce was favorite food for both Set and Heru.
Lettuce was favorite food for both Heru and Set and that informs about the vegetarian nature of the nutrition for spiritual aspirants. It has to be said one needs to be cautious in that context as people may take vegetarianism as an end for itself. It is rather a way to support spiritual life and not to be taken solely while neglecting ethical actions based on Maat and study of the wisdom teaching. We will not become Akhus by simply being vegan although this represents a key element in the path.
I) Physical weight is like a physical object which is possessed.
When we eat too much, we can feel the heaviness of the body and our inability to control our movements and thinking. It is like carrying a heavy weight that occupies all our attention. When we are in that state, we become unable to focus on subtle subjects as the mind is busy dealing with the weight of the body. This becomes like possessions we need to take care of. From a more subtle level, we also have heavy possessions that derive from our mental state particularly when we cultivate resentment, anger, lust, resulting from impressions we maintain from past events. These also represent possessions of the heart that the mind is carrying and therefore making it unable to think about more subtle realities. One of the measurement level of the aspirant is the weight of the heart which is a container of the possessions derived from Arius. To achieve the goal of enlightenment, the possessions of our heart that represent the combining results of impressions from Arius need to be lighter than the feather of Maat otherwise, our soul will go on with the cycle of reincarnation. Having a light heart not only requires control of first energy center through mastering of food appetite and sexual energy but also, mastering of our desires and emotions.
J) The key to advancement in any area is steady, balanced practice.
Balance in that sense means integral: there are several aspects of human soul that have been impacted over times, by our awareness of duality. In our spiritual quest, we need to be cautious not to let any aspect behind as they are part of our possessions accumulated over several cycles of reincarnation. Neglecting some aspects of ourselves in the path will impact our progression and that is why, we need to develop spiritually in an integral fashion so as to dissolve every type of possession of the heart.
K) If your family members are not interested or do not understand what you are trying to do, what should you do?
With the wrong understanding, family members often may associate our spiritual practices to rejection of them: they may think that it is our way to manifest indifference toward them. That can be a difficult situation for the aspirant to grow. In some other cases, family members may know about the practices but, decide not to support us and to declare our foolishness in believing in our quest: they may also associate our practices to belonging to a religious sect. Ideally, the aspirant would wish to have family support however, in most cases, the support is not there because of wrong understanding or results of people’s Arius. The aspirant needs to resist tendency of resentment but, to resolve instead not to let the situation to block spiritual advancement. In some extreme cases, it can become difficult for aspirant to have the blessing of closed ones, to participate in gatherings and spiritual conferences but, the aspirant needs to show patience, courage and faith knowing that at the end, the reality of family in a higher sense is illusory and our goal is to strive to attain liberation from duality.
One aspect to consider as well is the fact that the aspirant facing difficulties in regards to family’s perception of his spiritual work, relates to his or her past Arius. From that standpoint, he or she will need to strive to understand the lessons that need to be learned from that environment. In all and all, the difficulties should not be perceived as obstacles but rather opportunities to practice Maat and understanding of the teaching. Regardless of the difficulties, an aspirant in the path has developed necessary Arius that lead to the path of where he or she is; the difficulties then represent the fields of experience that needed to be transcended in order to realize the goal of the practices.
L) Once you have established a schedule of minimal time to devote to practices, what you should you do?
The simple answer is to stick to it as much as possible and resolve to do more by creating environment and context for that purpose. It is necessary to develop new impressions on our unconscious mind so that it can sustain our spiritual path. Vibrations related to non-spiritual aspects have impressed the unconscious mind from a long time previously therefore, it will then take steady and determined effort to replace effects on that mental conditioning. The path of spirituality is in fact a process of mind transformation in order to develop awareness of transcendental unity instead of relative duality; in that sense, it is important to understand how the mind comes to impact us the way it does. One key aspect is the importance of repetition and determination to help developing new habits and mental conditioning: with enough impressions, our unconscious mind will eventually cause our desires to manifest in the physical world depending on the status of our Arius. It is the very same process that the aspirant needs to use in order for the spiritual practices to become effortlessly and not a burden for the mind. In the beginning, as we are providing new ways of thinking to the mind, it will be considered a burden but, as we stick to our practices steadfastly with determination, the mind will be convinced gradually and gently obey. In other words, sticking to our practices is a determining path toward controlling our mind.
M) One should start your spiritual practice with breathing followed by prayer, exercise, and meditation.
Starting our spiritual practice with breathing will allow us to connect with our higher Self. Shu represents the principle that separates and holds heaven and earth which represent philosophically our higher and lower self. Therefore, by controlling our breathing, we are in fact mastering both aspects of ourselves. As we start our practice with the conscious control of breathing, we are in that sense taking control of our thought processes in order to direct them toward the divine in that special moment.
N) What is the minimum time for meditation?
Minimum time for meditation is between 5 and 10 minutes. What is important here is to think about the regularity of the practice. Basically, when we start, our past Arius and related mental conditioning will constitute obstacles to the success of the new practices we are trying to adopt. We will feel all sorts of discomfort and good reasons not to practice and quite often, there will be situations in time and space that would put us in context where we are incapable of going forward with the practices. If when that happens, we find a way to stick at least to the minimum time, it is a way to instruct the mind about the importance of this new aspect we are trying to develop. Those little steps are important in developing new ways of living. In the same way, one needs to be cautious for example, after having gained regularity in the practice of meditation, not to relax because it will be more difficult to regain the same level of steadiness. So, it is really important to keep the minimum rather we are advanced or not until enlightenment: we need to always watch our self and not be discouraged in case of falling: patience and perseverance are two important aspects of spiritual development.