Per Bastemhet

Monolatry: The Concept of the One

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This should be the last in the series on monolatry that I’ve been writing.  I’ve learned, though, that given time, everyone’s beliefs evolve.  However an understanding of monolatry as part of KO dogma is the goal I’ve put to myself, and I believe I’ve accomplished it.

In my last conversation with Rev. Siuda, I focused on the One concept and asked whether the universe was created by Netjer or a manifestation of Netjer.  I asked because this particular quote from Praise of Amun in the Decree for Nesikhonsu, 6, XXIst Dynasty (the "Credo of Amenism") made me wonder how much Netjer pervades in creation:

Every being came into being when His being began being. There is nothing outside Him.

Rev. Siuda replied saying that the Amun material comes from the Late Period, is almost pantheist, and is unique to that time period.  (I’ve seen other sources place this in the Third Intermediate Period but seeing as there is still some dissent as to what periods begin when, it’s not a big deal)  We should understand that at this point Kemet has undergone many invasions, and we must also contend with the increasing Hellenisation of that part of the world.  Kemetic religion itself was an evolving thing with different phases, and the danger of using information from so late is the influence from other cultures, philosophies and religions.  It is certainly a part of Kemetic history, but the degree of “how Kemetic” one’s practice is a personal decision.  I wouldn’t personally put this thread of thought into the Core Kemetic Beliefs, however.  What we do know is that there were no temples to Netjer-in-the-abstract, although in the Late Period there are occasional attempts to depict a “God of all Gods”, such as this image of the Metternich stela with a composite “Netjer” at the top:

We do know that Kemetic religion is not pantheist because the netjeru are not transcendent (except for an inclination towards this in the Amun text mentioned above).

Now, I’ve seen Rev. Siuda refer to the abstract concept of Netjer as an All-God in the HoN forums, but I wasn’t quite sure what this meant.  She defined it for me as such:

What I mean when I say "all god" is not an "Allfather" like Odhin, i.e., a deity that is singular but has all the powers of all the other gods and/or is the boss of those gods, but an abstract conception of a singular "Godness" that comprises every single individual manifestation of divinity.

She then compared the concept with the closest concept she’s found religiously, which is the teachings from the Bhagavad-Gita, in which Krishna reveals himself to Arjuna in his true form:

A summary of that part of the Bhagavad-Gita can be found here.  Curiously, in Kemetic religion abstract(and sometime conflicting) concepts, instead of having written explanations, more often use symbols and pictures to explain.  And like Arjuna, we have one example of a story in which a man sees the true form of a netjer and is overwhelmed by a bright light, and begs that the netjer takes their typical form again.  We may see the netjeru in their true form after death, when we are more equipped to conceive of them in this form. (I believe I saw this in Hornung’s “Conceptions” book, and I’ll edit this later to cite a page once I have access to the book)

We can conceive of the netjeru as emanations, and this makes me think of how I conceive of netjer itself. I’ve seen netjer translated as "power," which would make sense if we look at what happens with statues. Some of the power of the netjer is invested into that statue, to make it partially "divine," which makes divinity not simply a status but also measurable. The netjeru would be more divine than netjeri, that we would translate to spirits (similar to devas or kami). The source of this power before it divided itself in Zep Tepi is Netjer (or the One).

I have seen Brahman described metaphorically as the ocean while each created thing are the drops that all together form that ocean, but separately are individual, even if made of this same essence.  Each manifestation of this essence is unique in its own right- to the water is added different herbs to make tea, or it freezes, or evaporates, etc.  The difference between Hinduism and Kemetism is that while Hinduism has settled on a singular Godhead (henotheism), Kemetism provides the shifting "Great God" of whoever is being worshipped at the moment- the refined, individual point of access to the All. (monolatry)

While it may be useful to consider Netjer in the abstract, it is not necessarily a definitive characteristic that allows us to get to know each manifestation in their uniqueness, nor is it often worshipped itself in KO dogma (it is much more common, and also historically accurate, to approach each netjer individually at the time of worship as mentioned in other posts).  We as humans share DNA, and this is part of what makes up humanity.  However we still have to build up a relationship with each individual person.  But taking into account all humans as a whole, we can abstractly talk about what we think we are capable of, and understand our history and motivations.  So too, when thinking of the netjeru, we can understand their relationships to each other and their shared history with one another by conceiving of how they’re connected to each other.

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Written by Bastemhet

August 8, 2011 at 11:51 am

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