Kemet 101 Lesson 1 WK 8 Audio Recording on the Principles of an Effective Spiritual Practice
Udja Seba Maa:
I wanted to preface my presentation by saying that I found this lesson to be quite challenging. I believe that one of the ways in which I have resisted confronting the issues brought up in this lesson is by intellectualizing. Much of the first part of my presentation may thus be considered to be an instance of this intellectualization. My justification for this is that the nature of the lesson forced me to think more broadly in terms of the psychology underlying the practice of Shetaut Neter.
Lesson eight addressed the principles that one must adhere to in order to have a successful spiritual practice. These principles serve as guidelines for facilitating a transformation in consciousness leading to self-realization and transcendence. To fully appreciate the values that these principles have in ensuring the success of spiritual practice we must place it within context of what our practice represents in terms of its purpose and the objectives we aspire to achieve.
We may begin by asserting that the purpose of Yoga as a spiritual practice is to become established in an Asarian consciousness or what is known within the context of yoga as an “enlightened” consciousness. Such a form of consciousness may be contrasted with its less evolved counterpart the essential characteristics of which are an ego-centered personality. What is the nature of such an ego-centered consciousness and in what ways is it different from a consciousness that is grounded on a supreme peace that emanates from an enlightened personality?
An ego-centered consciousness is a degraded consciousness in terms of being grounded in ignorance and delusion. A person having such a consciousness falsely believes in the reality of their own existence as it exists within the boundaries of the existent spacial-temporal reality. One having such a consciousness comes to know themselves and the world through the senses which when filtered by the mind shapes the natures of ones thoughts, feelings and behaviors resulting in a false and illusory perception of reality. An ego centered personality believes that one is an autonomous beings who exist separate and apart from each other, nature and the divine dimensions of reality. Such a consciousness therefore, is essentially by its very nature an alienated consciousness in terms of being disconnected from the source of its own existence as well as from humanity itself. Such a consciousness has no awareness of its true nature and instead perceives the alienation it embodies to be normal and is thus reflective of “optima” mental health. One may argue that such a consciousness by virtue of its deluded and unbalanced state, constitutes the ultimate form of abnormality and in fact lies at the opposite end of the continuum as far as normal consciousness is concerned. Based on such a psychological model, the methods by which we establish normality (moving from a degraded to an enlightened self-consciousness) may be conceptualized as representing various forms of therapy geared towards healing the mind, the body and the soul.
An ego-centered consciousness is characterized by one’s knowledge of self and the world being limited to the physical dimensions of reality while being unaware of the underlying spiritual essence of all things including what we know as the self. A major consequence of having such a personality orientation is that we believe that our purpose in life is to have sensory experiences designed to satisfy our instinctual and ego based needs.
The ways in which such needs are expressed comes to be circumscribed by the values of the culture which in this case is one which places value on individualism, materialism and empiricism, values that not only promote the development of an ego centered consciousness but also serves to maintain and nurture its growth while simultaneously thwarting the evolution and survival pf a spiritual consciousness. The value placed on materialism causes us to view the self and the world in an objectified manner devoid of its divine essence. In such an objectified state we come to see the self and the world as objects to be possessed, controlled, and desired. In having such a material consciousness we become blinded to the integral connectedness that we have with each other, with nature and wit the divine dimensions of existence. Hence, the outer physical dimension of existences is accorded a degree of sacredness once previously reserved for its underlying inner spiritual essence. On a more mundane level one having such a personal orientation expends their life energy in fulfilling their worldly desires but ultimately finding such fulfillment to be illusory and not the foundation of true happiness. The more we see the physical temporal world as the source of all meaning and the foundation of our existence is the more we become imprisoned and enslaved within its physically constrained spacio-temporal boundaries being incapable of perceiving the trans-temporal ,multidimensional, transcendental and spiritually based nature of a reality that is enduring and most real.
A materially based consciousness tends to have as its primary focus the external physical reality. Being outer-directed in its orientation, such a consciousness keeps our focus outside of ourselves while preventing us from looking within and thus never being able to perceive the self as it truly is; as a consequence, we remain ignorant and perceptually blind to our ethereal nature.
The value we place on empiricism makes us know, perceive and experience the world through our senses only resulting in us not being able to perceive the ethereal nature as it exists both inside and outside of ourselves.
Such an ego-centered consciousness is also characterized by its dualistic nature which is responsible for the individual perceiving the world in polar opposites such as black or white, good or bad, male, or female etc, living in a perpetual state of division and disunity both within and outside of oneself. And so we love the opposite of that which we hate; we desire the opposite of what we are repulsed by; Our inability to reconcile these opposites within ourselves is the source of our disunity, conflict and dis-ease both within ourselves and between ourselves and the world. We thus become blinded to the essential unity and connection we have to ourselves and to the world.
Another characteristic of an ego-centered consciousness is that it is governed by the animalistic dimensions of self or our LOWER self. This acknowledges that the self is a tripartite entity consisting of mind, body and soul; animal human and divine. Prominent here is that one’s thoughts, emotions and actions are shaped and motivated by the need to fulfill our instinctual needs and desires particularly those that center around sexuality and aggression. These are biologically grounded forces within the physical dimensions of self that influences what we think, feel , desire and how we behave, When unregulated and uncontrolled they express themselves in ways that dehumanizes, degrades, and in many instances annihilate self and others. And so in this view, the war, conflict violence, hatred, and the eventual extinction of life is a result the the animalistic dimensions of self-taking prominence and governorship over the influence of the higher self. In Kemetian Asarian mythology, Set reigns over Heru, or in psychological terms the false ego-centered self-rules over the divine higher self, this constituting an abnormal or degraded way of being in the world and which ultimately serves as a barrier towards enlightenment. These forces are entropic in nature which metaphorically can be illustrated by Apep stopping the movement of the boat of Ra, creation. When this occurs we exist on a deluded state being enveloped in darkness being ignorant of our ethereal essence. In many instances when out of control, these lower based animalistic forces become demoniac in terms of possessing and consuming us so that these instinctual desires take on an obsessive form acting autonomously in causing us to behave in ways that negates, undermines, and dehumanizes both self and others. When this occurs we may feel that we are strangers to our own selves never having been in touch with and aware of those instinctual forces within us and the manner in which they influence how we relate to and experience the world. In the biological sense the foundation for the forces that lies within the lower self, emanates from the reptilian parts of the brain and more specifically, the amygdala—the seat of our emotions (anger, envy, jealousy, greed). When this part of the brain is stimulated, our animalistic natures surfaces sometimes in a volcanic eruption resulting in thoughts and emotions that causes us to act out violently, irrationally, and in most instances inhumanely. The emergence and expression of this degraded aspects of our personality is facilitated by the fact that with the emergence of our animal nature we see the subordination and repression of our divine nature so that we are no longer governed by its influence.
When we look at the world today and see the multiple ways in which people oppress, dehumanize, destroy, discriminate and negate themselves and each other we must then know that these social and individual states of degradation are nothing more than expressions of the degraded consciousness that prevails in the present times and which threatens to ultimately lead to the end of life as we know it.
A major factor contributing the prevalence of such a degraded consciousness is the fact that the culture and the individuals who inhabit it are devoid of any moral and ethical foundation that serves as a guide for their behavior. They have separated themselves from the Maatian dimensions of themselves and consequently being divorced from the laws that governs the universe resulting in a self and a world that is disordered, unbalanced, untruthful, unjust, disharmonious, conflicted, and unrighteous.
The lower ego-based self may also be described in relation the the lower three chakras, the first being the root chakra (Muladhara) (earth element) which serves as the foundation for our stability and rootedness. This chakra is responsible for our need to survive which when threatened results in an overwhelming state of fear, decentered ness and imbalance whereby we operates under the influence of a fight or flight response. When we are bound by our root chakra we come to think that the physical body and world is all that exists having no awareness of its underlying spiritual essence which sustains and nurtures it ensuring its survival. When the first chakra is balanced we feel grounded in creation and in this way we become energized, strengthened and vitalized by the earthbound forces which nourishes and sustains us.
The second, Svadhisthana chakra (water element) near our solar plexus rules over the emotional dimensions of self and the bases strives towards the gratification of our desires particularly those pertaining to sexuality and pleasure seeking in general. Often the demon associated with our second chakra is guilt which diminishes our connection to others and our own bodies. The third chakra (fire element) is associated with our sense of empowerment and our will to act and embodies our ego identity our sense of self independent and apart from others and the rest of creation. This chakras the seat of our empowerment giving us the will to act on the world. It is therefore the source of our self-efficacy and sense of personal power. It shoud be pointed out however, that the energy underlying this willfulness if not purified, tends to be ego based and thus not aligned with Maatian principles. When subsumed by the forces of our third chakra we come to falsely believing that the self that we are aware of is real and enduring and is all there is losing sight of our underlying ethereal essence. When unbalanced this chakra is associated with our feelings of shamefulness resulting from the manner in which our instinctual nature manifests in our thoughts, feelings and action in ways that conflict with our conscience and manifesting in states of depression, meaninglessness, powerlessness and the adoption of a self-destructive orientation.
To live one’s life being restricted to the influence of the lower three chakras is a live a life that is an incomplete and limited expression of who we are; it is to deprive ourselves of fulfilling our true purpose and realizing the fullness pf what it means to be human and more importantly divine. The consciousness associated with this lower dimension of self is one that is self-centered, irrational, driven by instinctual desires and falsely believing that happiness comes from the fulfilment of these desires.
Having described the characteristics of an ego-centered consciousness that governs the lower dimensions of self, let us now describe the consciousness towards which we strive, which in the Kemetic philosophy, is the consciousness of Asar (soul) that resides in Abdue (inner most essence). As will be later discussed, the purpose of our spiritual consciousness is the attainment of this Asarian or transcendental consciousness that the product of us having achieved enlightenment.
An enlightened consciousness is one that is grounded in the divine essence and which manifest the peace and love that is affiliated with such a consciousness. Such a consciousness rather than being motivated by worldly desires or by instinctual needs, is instead motivated by higher ideals the ultimate of which is to become establish in one’s divinity. An enlightened consciousness is one that is grounded in ethical principles which serves as an anchor for ensuring that one’s thoughts, feelings and actions are pure and righteous. An enlightened consciousness is able to discriminate between what is real and what is illusory, what is truthful and what is false; what is the ego self-versus the divine self; what is righteous versus what is unrighteous.
Enlightened consciousness gains knowledge of self and the world through intuitive understanding which is knowledge based upon experience. And so for us to know ourselves and the divine we need to experience ourselves as the divine. Such intuitive wisdom makes us aware in a firsthand way of the existence of a divine reality inhabited by Gods and Goddesses. Accompanying this intuitive wisdom is an intellect that is cosmic and expansive in nature encompassing knowledge of all that has been and will ever be; through such an intellect we experience the mind of the divine, one that is all knowing being able to look below the surface of consciousness into the astral and causal planes of existence. Metaphorically, when one becomes established in such a consciousness ones thoughts become lucid and devoid of delusions or illusions. The clouds which once blinded us have now disappeared leaving a sky that is clear and translucent as the ethereal light of Ra shines through. Here we are able to become a witness (Amun) and observe our thoughts and emotions as they were passing clouds having no attachment to them. In an enlightened consciousness the go is purified so that our thoughts and actions are motivated by desires that stem from the higher self. We become vehicles for the divine so that our actions are selfless and directed for the higher good. On an experiential level a person who is enlightened embodies a supreme peace and sense of contentment and manifests the fullness of what it means to be human and divine.
A consciousness that is enlightened si represented by Asar Djed Pilar which is symbolized by the upper four chakras. The fourth (Anahata) or heart chakra (Air) which is associated with love of self and others. Here we can move beyond our egotistical self and serve others by virtue of having an unconditional, selfless and enduring love for them realizing that they are extensions of our souls and that by loving them we are also loving the divine. Here we come to accept ourselves most particularly the feminine dimensions which is the energy which allows us to manifest and realize our divinity. Love when taking the form of compassion, allows us to accept ourselves and others fully including those parts which we find unacceptable and unwholesome. Such a compassionate love is the foundation of forgiveness which is necessary for cleansing and purifying the soul. Through love we are able to devote ourselves to the divine and surrender to the awesomeness of the power that lies within. When we are disconnected from this divine love, our lives become meaningless, unfulfilling, empty. Without such love the self becomes vulnerable to the experience of negative emotions such as sorrow, grief, and anger. Without such love we become incapable of being elevated to the divine dimensions of self.
The fifth chakra (Vissudha–purification) (element is sound) is associated with the ability to create reality through the WORD (Hekaus) expressing the truthfulness that originates from the soul. Through the power of the word we are able to purify ourselves. It is through the fifth chakra that the divine expresses itself in our thoughts which then manifests in our words as expressions of truth. These are the attributes of an enlightened consciousness.
The sixth chakra (Anja—to perceive and command) is the basis of our intuitive wisdom and our transcendental perceptual ability taking the form of dreams and visions. It is through this chakra that we have access to the cosmic mind and constituting an expansion of consciousness the knowledge baes of which is unlimited in scope encompassing all that has been and will evet be. It is a self-reflective consciousness whereby the intellect allows us to distinguish reality from illusion, truth from falsehood.
The seventh (Sahasrara-crown) is responsible for us experiencing union with our divine self thus becoming one with Asar. Those who achieve such heights, when established, experience a universal connection to all of creation and able to see the essential nature that underlay’s all things. One transcends all temporal and special boundaries and the limited nature of the physical dimension of existence. In such a state of consciousness one comes to recognize one’s immortality and that which constitutes our true self is transformed but never dies.
Spiritual evolution involves moving from dualism to oneness and unity with the divine; it is a movement which takes us from ego directed states grounded in our lower self to states of transcendence governed by the dictates of the higher self. It is a process that involves remembering our true identity and purpose through intuitive understanding, and self-purification.
This process of spiritual evolution is best facilitated by adhering to a set of principles such as those presented in the recording for this lesson. Some of these principles include the following:
1)The practice of yoga facilitates our transcendence from ego-degraded states, preventing such degraded states from developing while purifying the self from past karmic entanglements. Such transcendence is accomplished by being able to intuitively understand that the self that embodies our thoughts, feelings and emotions is illusory and that there exist a deeper essence that comes to be revealed by having a successful spiritual practice. I think it is important to have a clear understanding of the purpose for engaging in spiritual practice being cognizant of the science underlying the practice and the principles upon which it is based.
2)“Truth” should be used to bring about a greater good and not to satisfy or fulfill ego based needs. Since truth is relative being bounded by time and space we should be constantly revising those truths that we embrace realizing that the more we evolve spiritually the more we become aware of higher versions of truth. Truth, that is, truth bounded by time and space is by nature illusory and therefore one should not get ego invested in ones “truths” since todays truths are tomorrow’s delusions. Truth derived from the heavenly sphere or divine dimensions of self are eternal, enduring, timeless and universal. These are the truths to which we must abide while being able to distinguish truth that is relative vs. truth that is absolute.
3)True yogic action is centered on serving God selflessly so that we become vessels through which the divine operates. As such our actions thus come to be motivated by the will of the higher self (Manifesting Heru within ourselves). Through our spiritual practice we gradually learn to discriminate when our actions are motivated by the will of the ego or lower dimensions of self vs. the will of Asar or higher dimensions of self. One of the greatest challenges is to overcome the delusion of the self as a separate entity whose essence is grounded in the material world. To overcome this delusion requires that we reconcile the dualities within ourselves and experience the oneness of the divine. This furthermore requires that we purify ourselves enabling us to intuitively perceive the delusionary nature of our perceptions and n so doing gaining a greater understanding of truth.
4)We should have” good associations” which serves to reinforce our spiritual evolution and prevent us from being influenced by degraded forces around us. When we are in such degraded environments we should become mindful of the teachings using them to guide and direct our actions. When one embraces a spiritual path I think that there is usually a change in the people with whom one associates. The distinction between worldly acquaintances and spiritual associates becomes more finely demarcated as we pursue our spiritual journey. As a relatively newcomer (aspirant) to the Neterian tradition, I feel privileged in being a part of this community and being able to participate in online courses, webinars, and attend workshops and conferences. Even though I have not undergone an initiation I do plan on doing so at some point. I feel that in doing so will make me feel more integrated into the Neterian community. I also greatly appreciate having a preceptor to serve as a guide in my journey. I have found much value in the teachings developed by Sebai Maa and Sebai Dja as well as benefit greatly from their guidance.
5)Our spiritual practice should be regular and consistent as opposed to being erratic, unbalanced, and irregular. Such consistency is important for ensuring that we advance and progress in our spiritual practice. This is the area where I have many challenges and which I often ponder as to the reasons why. To be able to answer this question will, I think, give me greater insight into the forms of resistance that under may potential undermine and impede he success of one’s practice. In answering this question I would say that much of the resistance is due to our fear of becoming aware of our unconscious dimensions of self-given the impurities contained within. Such impurities are embodied in our thoughts and emotions, lying dormant yet very much alive and do influence how we experience the world. And so when we look within and get a glimpse of these memories and feelings, our ego responds by erecting defenses designed to keep them hidden the consequence of which is further alienating us from our divine selves. Such defenses include repression where we simply keep them buried outside the boundaries of conscious awareness. Another defense is rationalization where we make up excuses for ourselves to accept as reasons why we are not effectively engaged with the practices. These rationalizations usually involve externalizing blame to external constraints rather than taking responsibility for our own shortcomings even if this requires that we show ourselves compassion while doing so. Even though there may exist external constraints that may impede our practice and that these constraints are valid, we still however need to take responsibility for our actions realizing that it is a projection of our own consciousness. I believe that I found this assignment to be particularly challenging primarily because doing it required me to look within and try to confront and understand my own resistances and how they impede my practice. For this reason, it took me some time before starting it and completing it.
6)Our spiritual practice should be both formal and informal. The principles embodied in our formal practice should be manifested and expressed in our everyday lives. In this sense yoga should not only occur on the mat but should more importantly become the foundation of how we live our lives. Engaging in the formal dimensions of our practice with regularity, purposefulness and, intent results in the principles upon which our practice is based becoming internalized and thus serving as a definitive influence in how we live our lives. While being challenged in this area I believe that my irregularity in practice is based on my need to better integrate it into my everyday life and the other commitments I have to fulfill.
7)Our spiritual evolution is facilitated by having “good association” which serves to reinforce the teachings and affirm ones identity as an aspirant. Good association grounds us in the teachings while protecting us from worldly influences. Another protective mechanism is us having a dispassionate attachment to the physical plane of existence which prevents us from becoming entangled and further removed from the higher dimensions of self (Asarian consciousness).
8)During those times when we find ourselves “caught up” or entangled with the world resulting in our practice being disrupted, we need to not fall into the pit of despair but rather regain our footing and resume our journey. This requires that we have a certain level of compassion and forgiveness with regard to our perceived failures. What is important is that we move forward and persevere. I find this insight to be most comforting as it so often applies to me.
9)Maintain one’s spiritual integrity while in the world. Do not ley yourself be transformed and corrupted by worldly influences. Have faith that one can maintain one’s purity while being in the world. To do so, I find requires a certain degree of mindfulness and awareness of ones true identity; it requires that we have a Amun (Witnessing consciousness) consciousness and that allows to view ourselves objectively; it requires that we have an ongoing awareness of the teaching which, I find increases the more I engage in the practice.
From a more personal perspective, there are two things that I find are valuable in serving as the foundation for my spiritual practice in terms of both serving as a reminder for the purpose for me engaging in this practice as well as the method used in doing so. The first is the Four Noble Truths of Shetaut Neter which I find serves as a center point or abbreviated summary of all that is embodied in te Neterian tradition. It provides me with a quick reminder of who I am, my purpose and how to go about fulfilling it.
The second thing that I find serves as a foundation for my practice is the concept of “Shetaut Neter” and the practice of the Shedy disciplines knowing that through such practice I will come to know and experience the hidden divinity. As I discuss the various components of the Shedy practice I would like to at the same time share my experiences in terms of how experience these various components and the challenges I sometimes have in my practice.
The first component is Rech-Ab—the study of the wisdom teachings. I believe this is the component that I engage in and enjoy doing the most. I find the philosophy and psychology embodied in the Neterian tradition to be most fascinating and truly serves as a useful conceptual framework for understanding who we are, our purpose and the methods by which we are able to fufil this purpose. Most recently, I have been engaged in the study of Djehuty finding much meaning in his teachings. It is primarily the wisdom teachings that drew me towards the Neterian tradition and that which continues to fascinate me and keeps me committed to the path. Apart from the readings, I have also found most valuable the various webinars/recordings as well as attending the various conferences. I am particularly looking forward to the next conference that addresses the psychological dimensions of practice of Shetaut Neter.
The second component is Uashu or devotion which, in a general way, I believe I am committed to and do practice particularly if the refers to being mindful about the practice and my attempt to integrate it into my everyday life. More recently, I have found more meaning in my formal devotion practice and have gotten a greater understanding of how such devotion functions in facilitating our spiritual evolution.
I should share that devotion for me feels most comfortable when done in solitude and I must admit that I have had little experience engaging in devotion in a communal setting. I somehow find that I have not been very engaged in the virtual devotional sessions but this is one of the things I believe will change as I progress in my practice and experience the value that devotion has in enhancing one’s practive as I have been doing recently.
The third component, UUA or meditation, I do have challenges with most of which I attribute to my world engagements as a teacher and the mental strain it places on me. I find that I engage more in a process of reflection even though I realize the value of meditation. I find it difficult sticking to a set routine in terms of time, being tired at night and rushed in the mornings. I am however committed to improving in this area realizing the importance it has to my practice.
The fourth component Maat, I feel I am making some headway as I feel, on a qualitative level, a greater sense of purity as reflected in being somewhat more lucid and intuitive mentally. I belief I am more established and grounded in Maatian principles and able to see more clearly how I express or don’t express them in everyday life. I am however aware that I have a long way to given my increased understanding of Ariu and how deeply buried it is in our unconscious while realizing the importance of having an awareness of past unrighteousness in order to eliminate their influence.
I would like to conclude that in giving an overall assessment of my practice I would say that I am making headway yet still have several challenges in terms of regularity and consistency as far as the practice of Shedy is concerned. I found this lesson to be particularly challenging because it forced me to examine my practice with great scrutiny and in doing so, confronting my failures while trying to understand their sources. In this regard, I would say that the main cause of the problem is not yet having learned how to effectively integrate them into my every day life. I find it particularly challenging doing my spiritually practice effectively where I am able to sustain a particular level of growth while fulfilling my worldly obligations. On the ne hand I realize the urgency of engaging in the practice given the times we are living in, yet also realize the need to to fulfill my worldly obligations with regard to work. Addressing this issue has however been beneficial in terms of forcing me to nave greater insights into myself with regard to my adherence to the principles of truth, wisdom, compassion,and righteousness.
I realize that what I wrote was quite extensive and I do hope that you do not mind reading it. Give thanks for your guidance and wisdom,