FROM THE BOOK MYSTERIES OF ISIS:
THE PATH OF INITIATION INTO THE TEMPLE OF ASET
After having heard the story of the goddess is this all you need to be satisfied? Can you go on simply uttering the story and call yourself a devotee, a follower of the goddess? The answer is no because simply knowing the exoteric or outer form of a teaching may be enough to swell the head of an egoistic person but it is not enough to lead one to enlightenment and self-discovery. One needs to discover the inner or esoteric meaning of the myth in order to understand how it applies in one’s own life and when one learns to live the myth in day to day life this is the true practice of the second stage of religion (Ritual) as well as the second stage of Yoga (Reflection). For this it is necessary to study and practice the teachings to the best of one’s understanding and capacity, placing this practice above all other pursuits. One who lives in this manner is called a “True Devotee”.
A Devotee of ASET is: “One who ponders over sacred matters and seeks therein for hidden truth.”
Being a devotee is not just to hear the ancient myths or to understand them at an intellectual level. The aspirant must go deep within him/herself to discover the subtle ideas being conveyed. The ancient Greek writer, Plutarch, describes the character of an initiate of Aset as:
He alone is a true servant or follower of this Goddess who, after has heard, and has been made acquainted in a proper manner (initiated into the philosophy) with the history of the actions of these gods, searches into the hidden truths which lie concealed under them, and examines the whole by the dictates of reason and philosophy. Nor indeed, ought such an examination to be looked on as unnecessary whilst there are so many ignorant of the true reason even of the most ordinary rites observed by the Egyptian priests, such as their shavings* and wearing linen garments. Some, indeed, there are, who never trouble themselves to think at all about these matters, whilst others rest satisfied with the most superficial accounts of them: They pay a peculiar veneration to the sheep,** therefore they think it their duty not only to abstain from eating flesh, but likewise from wearing its wool. They are continually mourning for their gods, therefore they shave themselves.
*In the Papyrus of Nes-Menu, there is an order to the priestesses of Aset and Nebthet. to have “the hair of their bodies shaved off”. They are also ordered to wear fillets of rams wool on their heads Òt‰ as a form of ritual identification with the hidden (Amun) mystery. Wool was also used by the Sufis, followers of esoteric Islam. The name “Sufi” comes from “Suf” which means “wool.” The name Sufi was adopted since the ascetic‡ followers of this doctrine wore coarse woolen garments (sufu).
**sacred to Amun. ‡an ascetic is one who practices severe and austere methods of spiritual practice.
One particular statement in reference to the teachings, …the hidden truths which lie concealed under them…., begs the question: What are these “hidden truths” which are “concealed” within the
“history of the actions of the gods?”
Aset represents the Supreme teacher (preceptor) of the mysteries. Having attained spiritual knowledge by listening to the teachings of Aset, the task of the initiate is continuously reflected upon them until the veil of ignorance (egoism) is lifted. Through the process of continued intellectual refinement (reflection on the teachings), the veil is torn away. Thus, the mortal consciousness (symbolized by the veil) is transcended and Aset is realized in her unveiled form. In order to behold her unveiled form, ordinary human perception cannot be used. This is why no mortal man has unveiled her. Only those who have become like Aset (divine in consciousness) can see her. Through gradual intellectual refinement attained through the process of reflection and meditation, the mind of the initiate becomes transformed. Thus, the initiate sees with Divine eyes and not with mortal ones. He or she is now beyond birth and death (mortality).
Human consciousness expresses itself in three modes. These are: Waking, Dream-Sleep and Dreamless-Deep-Sleep. This teaching is given in the idea of the Ancient Egyptian Trinity of Neberdjer: Amun-Ra-Ptah. Neberdjer symbolizes The Absolute, Transcendental, Formless, Infinite Self. Neberdjer is the “First and Chief Being” that the Shetaut Aset leads an aspirant to understand. Amun represents the witnessing consciousness. Ra represents the mind and Ptah represents physical reality. Despite all of the different modes of consciousness that a human being experiences there is one mode which underlies all of the others. It is Neberdjer, the Absolute. Therefore, the objective of spiritual practice is to go beyond the relative states of consciousness (waking, dream and dreamless sleep) and to discover the underlying innermost Self within.
Unveiling Aset is unveiling your true Self. One must go beyond the “mortal” waking, dream-sleep and dreamless-deep-sleep states of consciousness to discover (unveil) one’s true nature. Over five thousand years before the rise in prominence of the cult of Aset and Asar in Greece and Rome, the Egyptian Pyramid Texts described the process of spiritual transformation through the mythology surrounding the Eye of Heru and its return to the initiate following its theft by Set (see Egyptian Yoga: The Philosophy of Enlightenment). In later times, the struggle against Set was carried on in the mysteries of Aset which lasted until the year 394 A.D. when the Temple of Aset at Philae was closed by Christian Zealots who had taken over Egypt and Ethiopia.
Plutarch, a student of the mysteries of Aset, reported that the initiates followed a strict diet made up of vegetables and fruits and abstained from particular kinds of foods (swine, sheep, fish, etc.) as well as indulgence of the carnal appetite. In the following excerpts Plutarch describes the purpose and procedure of the diet observed by the Initiates of Aset and the goal to be attained through the rigorous spiritual program. This next excerpt should be studied carefully.
To desire, therefore, and covet after truth, those truths more especially which concern the divine nature, is to aspire to be partakers of that nature itself (1), and to profess that all our studies (2) and inquiries (2) are devoted to the acquisition of holiness. This occupation is surely more truly religious than any external (3) purifications or mere service of the temple can be.(4) But more especially must such a disposition of mind be highly acceptable to that goddess to whose service you are dedicated, for her special characteristics are wisdom and foresight, and her very name seems to express the peculiar relation which she bears to knowledge. For “Isis” is a Greek word, and means “knowledge or wisdom,”(5) and “Typhon,” [Set] the name of her professed adversary, is also a Greek word, and means ” pride and insolence.”(6) This latter name is well adapted to one who, full of ignorance and error, tears in pieces (7) and conceals that holy doctrine (about Asar) which the goddess collects, compiles, and delivers to those who aspire after the most perfect participation in the divine nature. This doctrine
inculcates a steady perseverance in one uniform and temperate course of life (8), and an abstinence from particular kinds of foods (9), as well as from all indulgence of the carnal appetite (10), and it restrains the intemperate and voluptuous part within due bounds, and at the same time habituates her votaries to undergo those austere and strict ceremonies which their religion obliges them to observe. The end and aim of all these toils and labors is the attainment of the knowledge of the First and Chief Being (11), who alone is the object of the understanding of the mind; and this knowledge the goddess invites us to seek after, as being near and dwelling continually (12) with her. And this also is what the very name of her temple promiseth to us, that is to say, the knowledge and understanding of the eternal and self-existent Being – now it is called “Iseion,” which suggests that if we approach the temple of the goddess rightly, we shall obtain the knowledge of that eternal and self existent Being.
Mystical Implications of the Discourse of Plutarch:*
*Note: The numbers at the beginning of each paragraph below correspond to the reference numbers in the text above.
1- It is to be understood that spiritual aspiration implies seeking the union with or becoming one with the thing being sought because this is the only way to truly “know” something. You can have opinions about what it is like to be a whale but you would never exactly know until you become one with it. God enfolding all that exists is the one being worthy of veneration and identification. This “knowing” of Neter (God) is the goal of all spiritual practices. This is the supreme goal which must be kept in mind by a spiritual aspirant.
2- In order to discover the hidden nature of God, emphasis is placed on study and inquiry into the nature of things. Who am I? What is the universe composed of? Who is God? How am I related to God? These are the questions which when pursued, lead to the discovery of the Self (God). Those who do not engage in this form of inquiry will generate a reality for themselves according to their beliefs. Some people believe they have the answers, that the universe is atoms and electrons or energy. Others believe that the body is the soul and that there is nothing else. Still others believe that the mind is the Soul or that there is no soul and no God. The first qualification for serious aspiration is that you have a serious conviction that you are greater than just a finite individual mortal body, that you are an immortal being who is somehow mixed up with a temporal form (body). If this conviction is present, then you are stepping on the road to enlightenment. The teachings will be useful to you. Those who hold other beliefs are being led by ignorance and lack of spiritual sensitivity as a result of their beliefs. Thus, their beliefs will create a reality for them based on those beliefs. They will need to travel the road of nature which will guide them in time toward the path of spiritual aspiration.
3-4 The plan prescribed by the teachings of yoga is the only true means to effective spiritual development because it reveals the inner meanings of the teachings and it is experiential, i.e. it is based on your own personal experience and not conjecture. Otherwise, worship and religious practices remain at the level of ritualism only and do not lead to enlightenment.
5-7 The name “ISIS” represents “wisdom” itself which bestows the knowledge of the true
Self of the initiate. In the Osirian Mysteries, when Set killed Asar by tearing him into pieces,
he was symbolically tearing up the soul. However, Aset restores the pieces of the soul (Asar). Therefore, Pride and Insolence (Set-egoism) destroy the soul and Knowledge of the Self (Aset) restores it to its true nature. The Greek name for Aset is supported by the ancient Egyptian scriptures. One of the names of Aset is: Rekhit ‰¯Ë˜[meaning “knowledge personified” and “Aset-Sothis”. Rekhit is also a name of the God in the “duat” or Netherworld who possesses knowledge which can lead the soul to the abode of the Divine, thus avoiding the fiends and demoniac personalities of the duat which lead the soul to experience hellish conditions after death. The variation, Rekh-t ‰¯Ë·˜#, means Sage or learned person.
8- True spirituality cannot be pursued rashly or in a fanatical way by going to extremes. Yoga spirituality is a science of balance. It has been developed over a period of thousands of years with well established principles, which when followed, produce the desired effect of leading the initiate from darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge, an un-enlightened state to enlightenment.
9-10 The foods referred to are flesh foods (swine, sheep, fish, etc.), pulse, and salt. Indulgence in sexual activity has two relevant aspects. First, it intensifies the physical experience of embodiment and distracts the mind by creating impressions in the subconscious which will produce future cravings and desires. This state of mind renders the individual incapable of concentration on significant worldly or high spiritual achievements. Secondly, control of the sexual urge leads to control of the sexual Life Force energy, which can then be directed toward higher mental and spiritual achievement.
11- See #1.
12- There are two very important points in this line. Once again we are being reminded that good association or keeping the company of sages or other enlightened personalities is a powerful means to gain knowledge of the state of enlightenment. To this end, strive to keep good company in your family relations as well as non-family relations. Read uplifting books by the sages and the teachings of the masters. When you discover a more evolved personality, seek to maintain contact by reading their teachings and through correspondence. Do not debate with those who lack spiritual sensitivity. This form of interaction will weaken your mind. As Jesus said: Cast not your pearls before swine, for they will trample them as they turn against you. Trust in the Omniscient Divine Self, who knows past, present and future, who manifests as Nature to lead others on the path. Spread the teachings of yoga to those who are interested only or those whom you practice with. This kind of interaction will help you both to increase your understanding and generate a positive frame of mind.
The second important point here refers to continuous reflection and meditation on the divine which is also expressed in the opening prayer in page one of this book: “Give thyself to GOD, keep thou thyself daily for God; and let tomorrow be as today.” It implies that one’s mind should be constantly remembering the divine and glorifying the divine in all things. It means not allowing the mind to develop attachments to the fleeting events of human life be they positive experiences or negative ones. It means not allowing the negative thoughts and feelings to lead you into a pursuit of illusory pleasures of the senses which will draw you away from divine awareness and realization. It means centering the mind on self discovery and introspection at all times regardless of what your activities may be and those activities should be based solely on the principled of virtue, justice and order. This form of spiritual practice is known as “mindfulness” in Buddhism and Vedanta Philosophies.
Plutarch further reports that the Egyptian initiates:
…strive to prevent fatness in Apis† as well as themselves(1), for they are anxious that their bodies should sit as light and easy about their souls as possible, and that their mortal part (body) should not oppress and weigh down their divine and immortal part…during their more solemn purifications they abstain from wine(2) wholly, and they give themselves up entirely to study(4) and meditation(5) and to the hearing (3) and teaching of these divine truths which treat of the divine nature. † Bull which was kept as a symbol of Asar and Ptah.
The following dietary guidelines for spiritual and physical health are derived from the above statement.
1- Preventing “fatness”- obesity. This issue is very important even for those without spiritual aspirations. Some people who are overweight claim that they are happy and content as they are. Some scientists claim to have discovered a gene in the human system which causes a propensity to become overweight. Once again, all of your body’s characteristics are due to your past karmic history of experiences and desires, not only in this lifetime but in previous ones as well. Physical weight is like a physical object which is possessed. The more you have, the more you try to hold onto, and the more stress you have trying to enjoy and hold onto “things”. Desires of the body such as eating have a grounding effect on the soul because they engender the desire to experience the physical pleasure of consuming food. Desires of the body as well as strong emotions such as hate, greed, etc., have the effect of rendering the mind insensitive to spirituality. Excess weight on the body causes innumerable health problems to arise.
You can change the future condition of your body by first mentally resolving to change it and then employing the self-effort in that direction while at the same time invoking the help of the Neters (cosmic forces – divine energies of God) to assist your quest for self- improvement. This will not be easy since the temptation of food is very great. It is related to the first energy center of the subtle spiritual body (Uraeus-Kundalini Serpent Power)* and it is a force which needs to be controlled in order to proceed on the spiritual path. As part of your spiritual program, begin controlling your intake of food gradually, on a daily basis. Even if you cut back a tablespoonful per day until you reach a level of intake which will support the normal weight for your body structure. Be especially watchful of yourself in respect to your habits. Do you eat out of habit, for pleasure or out of necessity? If it is out of habit or for pleasure, you must break the cycle by engaging in other activities when the desire arises. Do exercise, deep breathing, study, chant, call a fellow practitioner for support. The Serpent power will be discussed in detail in two future sections. *see audio tape lecture KUNDALINI – URAEUS YOGA: Workshop and Cleansing Meditation-I.
2- Natural wines and other naturally brewed drinks are acceptable in small quantities, however, you will notice that as you purify yourself, you will not be able to tolerate even a small amount of intoxicants. Distilled liquor is not a natural substance. It is processed into a potent form which is injurious to the body and is therefore, not suitable at all for use by those advancing on the spiritual path. The same applies to narcotics and all other “recreational” drugs. All of these distort the spiritual perception while damaging the physical body. No drug can produce a high which can be compared to spiritual bliss. Therefore, resolve to leave all drugs behind and become intoxicated with spiritual feelings and aspiration.
3,4,5- Once again, the main format for spiritual education is:
3- Listening to the teachings.‡
4- Constant study and reflection on the teachings.‡
5- Meditation on the meaning of the teachings.‡
‡Note: It is important to note here that the same teaching which was practiced in ancient Egypt of Listening to, Reflecting upon, and Meditating upon the teachings is the same process used in Vedanta-Jnana Yoga of India in modern times.
The teachings of physical purity, celibacy and vegetarianism have a longstanding history in Shetaut Aset (Teachings of the temple of Aset) and the Pert Em Heru (Ancient Egyptian Book of Coming Forth By Day). Some verses from the Pert Em Heru are included below.
Chapter 30B of the Book of Coming Forth By Day states:
This utterance (hekau) shall be recited by a person purified and washed; one who has not eaten animal flesh or fish.
Chapter 137A of the Book of Coming Forth By Day states:
And behold, these things shall be performed by one who is clean, and is ceremonially pure, a man who hath eaten neither meat nor fish, and who hath not had intercourse with women (applies to female initiates not having intercourse with men as well).
In the Mysteries of Asar and Aset, Set represents the lower human nature and Heru the Higher. Set kills Asar and usurps the throne which rightfully should belong to Heru, Asar’ son. In various renderings of the characteristics of Set, it is stated that Set is promiscuous. Most interestingly, both Heru and Set are vegetarians. Their favorite food is lettuce. Therefore, we are to understand that vegetarianism increases the potential for spiritual advancement and for the vital sexual force. With this understanding, it is clear that control of the sexual urge to conserve potential spiritual energy and purification of the diet are necessary practices on the spiritual path which enable the aspirant to achieve increased spiritual sensitivity. When practiced correctly, the conserved energy can be transformed into spiritual energy by directing it through the various energy centers in the body until it finally reaches the center of intuitional vision (Eye of Heru-Udjat).