Creation stories remind us that in the beginning the Divine Creator had a plan. The Judeo-Christian version of that plan called it the Garden of Eden. The rest of the story tells us how close to or how far from we may find ourselves to that place of perfection. For the ancient Egyptians, humans originated when the divine plan for heaven and Earth was set in motion by Atum, whom I envision as the first atom of vibration from which all else emanates.
The gods and goddesses, neteru to the ancient Egyptians, become evident and vibrant, then, in all of the natural world. The Copts came to call the neteru, "netcher." The Greeks deemed it nature. All of life reverberates according to the energies of the laws of nature. The foundation of every temple and the purpose of every life was to live in accordance with and as an embodiment of that cosmic pattern. Every pharaoh agreed to uphold the laws of order known as ma'at.
On the walls of his temple in Abydos, the pharaoh Seti I cups a small image of the goddess Ma'at in the palm of his hand. Tenderly, he holds her for that is the only way to hold "truth"—with a light touch. We learn more when our hearts are at ease with the divine plan than by gripping tightly what we think is truth. We cannot bring balance to our world if we cling to ideas of who is right or wrong. Seti I smiles with a slight, knowing upturn to his lips as he offers ma'at to the larger, seated goddess Ma'at. The "feather of truth," which she wears on her head seems to emerge, as Rosemary Clark suggests, from "the fissure of two lateral lobes of the brain. She is thus associated with the combined use of intellect and intuition…"1
To offer ma'at to Ma'at meant to take a responsibility for overseeing and maintaining justice, truth, and balance during one's life. At death, the preserved universe was handed back to the Creator. Typically, the pharaoh affirms something along these lines: "This is what you gave to me, and I give it back to you. Having cared for it, I have not changed it one whit." Sages, like the anonymous scribe who penned "The Eloquent Peasant" during the Middle Kingdom, encouraged all people to "Speak ma'at. Do ma'at, for She is mighty."2
In secular human terms, this means developing a conscience, or, more precisely, developing a consciousness. When Jesus said, "The Father and I are one" (John 10:30), he saw himself as the divine son of God, made of God's own essence, so that every part of him was a part of the Divine. For a pharaoh, the living son of a god and goddess, this same idea meant embodying the highest wisdom possible. It especially meant creating the world in which we live and aligning the human will with the will of the divine. Following the laws of ma'at kept Egypt vital, filled with the same magical abundance as it held at the beginning of time. To keep the world as fresh as Zep Tepi, life on Earth had to adhere carefully to divine laws. The goal of the living was to find harmony and balance in thought, word, and deed.
At death, one would find out how well that balance had been maintained. In the afterlife, truth prevailed. In the Halls of Osiris in the duat, the heart of the deceased was placed on the scales of ma'at and weighed against the balance of her white feather. For Egyptians, the heart held all memory and thought. The seat of consciousness dwelled there. If the balance of ma'at was attained in life, then the soul passed through the gateway into the realm of the gods.
Everything in Egypt is built in layers. Its fertile soil was laid down over the aeons by the silt deposits of the Nile flood. Over time, the pebbles and sand hardened into stone whose quartzite crystals respond to sound vibrations. Earth itself holds a charge that responds to subtle vibrations. Consciousness is layered. In Duat, the Halls of Ma'at hold a charge created by the countless thoughts we have about the realm of the dead and what happens to us at death. Our energies respond to the divine world, and it responds to us. The temples of stone, which house the divine energy of the gods on Earth, were built along these same cosmic principles.
Humans, too, are made in layers—bones, nerves, veins and arteries, and skin. Beyond material form, we are created with subtler layers of emotions, sensory impressions, and thoughts. Even our words have levels of meaning. All these less tactile ways of being in the world not only have an effect on the physical form but also urge the heart toward enlightenment. Even our spiritual bodies exist in layers of consciousness.
What do we mean when we speak of the soul, the spirit, or the higher self? Are these three the same or do they differ slightly? The ancient Egyptians defined them as ba, ka, and khu (or akh) respectively. Once again, we are exploring the layers of our spiritual dimensions that are built upon the bedrock of our experiences. The core of all of consciousness is the god spark resident within each of us. Becoming aware of it automatically increases your affinity for the divine experience.
The whole idea of enlightenment is to raise our vibrations—a New Agey term, I know, but if we examine it for a moment, perhaps it will make sense. A physical vibration is dense and coalesced into matter that is easy to identify. Atoms vibrate at differing rates of speed. The lower the vibration, the denser the matter. A higher vibration of light or sound may be less perceptible to the human eye or ear, but it exists all the same. Some people are more able to hear it or sense it than others. The task of "raising our consciousness" means to train ourselves (all aspects of the self) to perceive that which exists on a higher level than the ordinary view of our lives. Through raising consciousness, we become more aware of how our thoughts and feelings are affecting our environment. Eventually, we may become aware that when we have more spiritual motives or reach toward a higher spiritual understanding, the burdens of the world become lighter and are more easily carried. We ourselves are raising our vibration, becoming lighter, and in that way, the spiritual realm is able to work through us. Atum does not have to hit us with a bolt of lightning to make us understand. We can hear the voice of his emanation whispering—alive in the air all around us.
To increase our awareness and experience of these progressively lighter and subtler vibrations, one does not need to give up the world. Rather, one must strive to see that divinity exists everywhere in the world. To perceive finer and more subtle layers of divinity, we must recognize that spirit always appears cloaked in matter.
To those who understand this, there is no longer a separation of heaven from earth because heaven and earth, the seen and the unseen are the one body of the god. There is no longer a heaven to be attained, but only a universal consciousness in which we live and breathe inside a field of immanent light that is the mind of God.
(excerpt from Imagining the World into Existence by Normandi Ellis, ©2012 Bear & Company)
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