The Age of Reason took the monotheistic premise that God’s All-Seeing-Eye was able to see every moment in time and space with equal clarity and from every possible angle, and used that idea as a means for scientists to see the finely grained details of spacetime’s structure without the blurring lens of religious control. This was essential in order to emerge from the centuries of fog after Egypt’s fall, and the success of our 21st-century civilization suggest that it worked. That all-seeing scientific eye, however, took a serious blow when Einstein used its own rules to prove that it did not exist. Even though the universe is universally the same, the measure of spacetime depends on where you stand, and each Point-of-View is unique.
Science still does not know the source of consciousness, or what it is. We can only track its energy trails in the brain, like the neutrino and Higgs particles. Discovering those elusive illusions of reality started with thought experiments; once we had finally convinced ourselves of their spacetime reality, they changed the world of science, as well as the future of our everyday lives and comforts, (especially our entertainment.) A similar Paleolithic thought experiment became a working theory of consciousness,
a theory that became the foundation of human cultural development. The human point-of-view, unique to each human being, was realized and identified. We became aware of awareness, and we started talking about it.
The Neolithic vocabulary which evolved for communicating this thought experiment and its conclusions had several thousand years to refine its expression, and the most refined was created along the Nile. Fundamental was the concept they named maat, which is reality as opposed to illusion, isfit, and Duat, which is your internal reality, the Cosmos inside your head.
Duat was one side of the Paired Realities, the other was the spacetime reality shared by everybody. In Egypt, spacetime was maat and Duat was also maat. These two together are Maaty, the Paired Realities; the “-y” indicates a duality, like a pair of eyes or ears, or you and me holding hands: they function separately but belong to each other. Maaty is a greater reality, comprised of both the Cosmos inside your skin and the universe outside your skin.
As the egg contains the bird, the horizon of your visual field contains you, and the circle of your horizon is an inescapable boundary-shell. No matter how quickly you travel, your horizon moves with you, away from you, forever unreachable, always present, containing you yet utterly separate. The landscape can expand your horizon to the edge of the visible world or shrink it to the reach of your fingertips, but your circle of perception can only disappear when you disappear. The horizon was a constant companion of the hunter and the shepherd, informing their shamanic philosophy of the worlds inside your head. In North Africa, ornamented ostrich-eggs symbolized the mystery of maaty, and the ostrich plume was symbol of maat. Life was Osiris/Re is in his egg and death was emerging from the egg. This symbolism never left them and still today the ostrich plume is a standard image in anything meant to “look Egyptian.”
An animal lives wholly in Duat and cannot distinguish the duality of Duat/spacetime because it is a function of its environment. An animal needs context; change that and it cannot survive unless it is an extraordinary individual, which counts only if it passes on those survival genes. We are our own context because we can perceive the difference between Duat and spacetime, we can survive in any context and we can change our context at will. If we don’t like the landscape, we change it. If an animal doesn’t like the landscape, it dies.
Science has discovered that fear of the hunters who were top predators in our primate world is hardwired into us the way a newborn chick will crouch and freeze at the shadow of a wooden hawk. Feline fangs and hot breath inform the dragon image
of our dreams and myths, together with the eagle who snatches away babies, the great bull who tramples the mightiest under his hoof and the serpent who bites with poison in his mouth. They will always be there in our dreams and in our art, and how you express and act on that internal hardwiring which has embedded them is entirely up to you.
The spotted cat who was Lord Death could reduce your Beloved to raw meat draped over the branch of a tree, but a time came when Lord Death feared us. We ate his heart; we wore his skin as a cloak and his deadly fangs and claws as decorations, then we trained the mighty eagle to hunt for us and to come at our call. We tamed the bull and we ate him. The secretive serpent was more of an issue, but once we were storing food in quantity, we learned to respect snakes as eaters of vermin who steal, and
they became symbols of guardians from the natural world, dangerous but necessary, like nerves.
We had become the Animal Master.
Before the metaphor of the reed boat which carries consciousness, there was the Dream Beast, the Chimera of Duat. Paleolithic humans had their own metaphor for human reality: you were the Sun riding an animal and you carried magic within you. You rode the Spotted Cat in your dreams, where it became Panthera, All Wild Animals, transforming to travel underwater and in the air, anywhere you wished in Duat, a place limited only by your imagination. The stars were Panthera’s spots, because Duat was as big as the sky.
The concept of sacred/blessed is rooted in the the blood sacrifice from the earliest days of the Great Hunt, ritually returning the life-force of the slain animal to Duat so that it could live again in a new form, a human-created link between Duat and spacetime. In other words, consciousness is the link between Duat and spacetime, just as the Sun sinks below the horizon into Duat and rises from it again.
Man was Lord of Death, Woman was the Holy Mother of Life, and between them they carried the Sun in their Heads to turn
the Wheels of Time. The Man grasps the wildcats in his fists, clasping them closely to himself, despite their snarls and their teeth, controlling them as he must control himself. Holy Mother of Life sits between tamed Panthera, giving birth.
The Animal Master and the Holy Mother of Life stand or sit between Panthera because consciousness must be grounded in both locations, Duat and spacetime; it is energy, like the motion of the River, otherwise it is merely potential, another strip of meat
in Death’s teeth, or standing water. You are hardwired into spacetime by biology so that Duat energy can flow through you as your life-force, experienced as life and awareness. In Egypt, the gentle light of consciousness warmed your mind enough that you could take off your animal-skin cloak, no longer needed as protection against the harsh winds of spacetime. You were an animal, but you were a human animal, and you could be civilized.
Panthera’s most enduring icon is known as “confronted animals,” symmetrically matched chimera on either side of the
Tree of Life. This is the dynamic motion of Maaty, the Paired Realities of Inside Your Skin and Outside Your Skin and You
as the Bond Between. Maaty, waked from Duat as Geb wakes Re, has emerged from the egg of your beginning and become an active force in spacetime, like Panthera nibbling away at the leaves of the Holy Tree. In Egypt, the Panthera are matched lions supporting the horizon of the Sun’s setting and rising, cosmic metaphor for the portal between Duat and spacetime.
Originally, the confronted animals were Man and Woman creating the interface between them, manifest as their child. Before art, technology or religion, we discovered the profound nature of the miracle of Birth and its inevitable counterpart, Death.
How or why these miracles occurred was not yet relevant to the experience of it, only its implacable reality. The trinity of Mother/Child /Father evolved into the mythology of Re-energy flowing through the interface of Duat and spacetime from birth to death, the source of all life and consciousness and the Light sustaining Maaty. Belief in and “worship” of Duat is older than the gods. The immortality of the soul emerges from self-continuity and awareness of the entirety of life in contrast to the fleeting nature of the moment, all played out in the endlessly fascinating realms of Duat.
Woman is the first inspiration of Man’s higher nature, more frightening than the thunder, more exciting that the lightning, more vital than the air he breathes or the ground he walks, as close to him as his skin. She is the lure drawing him out his childhood dreams and the creature of his fantasies who links him to the future. The many forms of the goddess were the expression of his gratitude for everything Woman did for their life and his pleasure. The family structure he built around her was the foundation of Man’s maat. Maaty is Woman’s foundation in spacetime, and Man builds his foundation around her as protector and guardian; she is the hearth of his heart.
Man is the same powerful force in Woman’s Duat as she is in his. Man, however, is the activator of life, not the portal. He wakes in her the awareness of the sacred power she carries in her flesh. Without him, that power is latent, an energy that
bubbles through her every moment and takes control of her starship innards in a cycle that waxes and wanes with the light
of the Moon. She is bound to life in a way that he can only touch, never experience. Her child was waked by his semen,
but will always be of her flesh.
Alexander Marshack, in his groundbreaking book, The Roots of Civilization, showed that the first calendar was created to follow human gestation and birth. We made careful marks on portable objects, counting the Moon cycles of Woman in order to prepare for a new god’s expected arrival, because lives depended on being prepared for this most important of human dramas. Once the story had begun, the conclusion was inevitable, for good or for ill, and there was no escaping this rending transition of Duat emerging into spacetime. The first calendar-priests were the shamans who developed higher mathematics in order to line up the waxing and waning of the Moon with sunrise, sunset and the stars, in order to prepare the stage properly for the enacting of this grandest of dramas.
The early Egyptians developed a jargon, shorthand for thinking and talking about psychological issues that became the vocabulary of everyday life as well as the jewels of their poetry and art. This jargon and the philosophy that underlies it developed into the names of their gods, acknowledgment that Duat functions in spacetime through each of us. Each god
will be explored in detail, but for the sake of this initial discussion, here is the short version of the value of each, in order of
importance in the pantheon:
The list goes on, but that is enough to begin the discussion. The details of who they are and how they got that way will be elaborated further on, but in order to follow the course of the Neolithic Revolution that led to Egypt’s beginnings, these terms are more convenient than the roundabout vocabulary of mysticism or the multisyllabic, Latinate terms of modern psychology.
The worldview represented by this philosophy taught the founders of ancient Egypt the most important value of humans in a handmade world, self-control. They understood the mysterious impulses and voices which emerge from the invisible places inside you. Did Thoth just tell you that? Thoth is pretty reliable, and easy to talk to; he explains things. Or was that Suty whispering in the dark behind you? Is he warning you of something real in spacetime or just voicing his complaints?
Duat is also filled with genuine demons, with hauntings, spiritual assaults and vast areas of ignorance controlled by your AI. Duat is the source of inspiration, of joy, of genius, but madness arises from those depths, as well as boredom, doubt, depression and neuroses. Re must not only survive the public rigors and dangers of your physical environment, Re must also survive the equally dangerous private rigors of its specialized container, the body and brain.
You are Horus, the captain of the starship of Re, and you know which promptings and thoughts are Duat’s host of interior voices and which are the voices of real people in spacetime. Each person out there is a living manifestation of Osiris/Re, and therefore just as important as you are, deserving of a response based on maat. You know that you alone are responsible for the voices and visions of Duat, and you know when your focus faces inward to Duat, seeing a reflection of the world, and when
you face outward to spacetime. You make the rules in Duat, but in spacetime you must abide by its rules, restrictions, dangers and joys, because there are experiences out there far worse than death.
Egypt was The Paired Lands, not just because of the east side/west side duality of the Nile, but because the nation was in control of both sides of their reality. Far from being “mired in superstition,” they had a sophisticated understanding of human nature, and were free to enjoy the bounty of both worlds, both realities. Time had taught them that if Duat is afflicted, stressed or misled, the maat of the nation suffers. People comfortable in their own Duat are good citizens: they comprehend, emotionally as well as intellectually, the value of their roles as friend, family-member, worker and citizen, and they feel the pride of belonging to a nation of caring adults. Life is good when you know how to behave, how to work together and play well with others. Trust is possible.
The word “rock” is an inanimate object, indeed, rock is the ultimate symbol of the non-living and the amorphous; on the other hand, “Rock” is an actual, living person, a celebrity known around the world. In our own system of communication, the difference between non-life/non-entity, and life/identity is simply the shape of the initial letter. In this sense, capitalization of names is a determinative, a non-verbal clue to context. Within these essays, I capitalize Duat to reference its individual reality; it is a place, but it is a place inside a living person with a name. I do not capitalize spacetime (except for grammar) because spacetime is not a person, rather it is a place which contains all living persons with names.
This is a value of ancestor worship which is ignored today; it is not primitive as defined, the simple belief that the souls of your ancestors linger on in the environment, inserting themselves into your life. If it were so simple, it could hardly have sustained Egypt’s greatness for so incredibly long a time. Traditional definitions of monotheism require an individual, personified deity outside of spacetime, however, Neolithic monotheism is that of an invisible dimension of energy which enfolds and sustains the perceivable universe, the place of before birth and after death. This dimension is personified in each and every individual because life is the flow of this energy between the Paired Realities. Your ancestors are not separated from you, but are now wholly functions of Duat; they are the voices, skills and powers you can access within yourself because of your emotional connection with and memories of them. The way in which these memories are honored is culturally shaped, yet they are expressions of your experience of them in Duat.
Shaman has become a troublesome word because it keeps escaping from its assigned boundaries, siring a host of alternative-
culture options which lead inevitably to paganesque parties with altered-consciousness experiences or, at least, a lot of beer. The shaman meme was introduced into Western culture at the end of the 19th century, when Colonialism had finally pricked the conscience of the British Empire. The newly discovered shaman was portrayed as a witch doctor and charlatan, poster boy for everything superstitious, primitive and mystical about the victims of Colonialism, justifying their fate at our “civilized” hands. At best, shamans were schizophrenics with a social function.
Today, the shaman’s intense inward journey is assigned to the category of a misconception about inner experiences of the electrical and chemical activity of the brain and the senses, and the shamans’ contributions to their human group dismissed as coincidental, particularly once the widespread use of consciousness-altering chemicals proved to be an essential plot point in the shaman’s story.
Even the source of the word itself is disputed; the Mongolian version might be from the Chinese, sha mên, a Buddhist brotherhood, except that the role of the shaman predates Buddhism by tens of thousands of years, even if the recognition of consciousness is fundamental to both. The Oxford English Dictionary uses “priest doctor” rather than “witch doctor,” and acknowledges the shaman’s function as conduits between their people and the “spirit world,” in order to heal or just solve problems. Interest in shamanism continues to grow, with scholarly journals dedicated to researching its past and its future.
Whatever the roots of the word we use today, shamans were the wizards of their time, the magical minds who constantly pushed the horizons of human possibility. Shamans were artists and scientists before there was art or science, and mathematicians and engineers before math, machines or a calendar.
The shaman’s in-depth exploration of conscious experience placed each human being at the center of the sensory network, ruler of the inner Cosmos just as the Sun ruled the day and the Moon ruled the night. Hunter-gatherers tend to egalitarianism because survival requires every pair of hands, and this revelation of the shamans illuminated and defined reality for their people, informing their faith in Maaty.
The Nile Valley’s geographical position in Africa made it a unique crossroad on humankind’s global trek from Animal to Man, and the penetrating gaze of DNA technology has found traces of our journey a half-a-million years cold. We walked through the Valley on our way to the rest of the planet and returned with tales to tell, different bodies and whole new mythologies to go with them.
We met some very interesting relatives on the way, giants, elves and dwarfs, and we made them part of the greater human family. At the top of the world, stars wheeled round a central point without setting and time did not behave. We knew it was the top of the world because enormous glowing gods danced in the night sky and we never forgot the sight.
The family grew, and grew, and grew and the youngsters kept walking off into the sunrise and the sunset in search of the Questing Beast so that, eventually, we returned through the Fertile Crescent and back to the land of the Nile. The Neolithic environment there was a world of grass, marsh and rivers, rich with animal and plant life and populated by hunter/herders traveling seasonally, on foot or in papyrus-reed boats, between established campsites.
Metaphors used the animal-dominated world of the immediate environment; in other words, you were a natural function of an animal family; we were all animals together. Life was sustained by the spilling of blood, and the shaman spoke with the voice of the Animal Master. The entire landscape itself was sacred, as both Home and Creator. You and the sky, land, water and life were your categories of reality, and only the Moon knew the time.
Romance is possible in the lush, human-shaped world of the marshlands, but the world dried up. Climate change made territories shrink, and hunters became herders. Humans became herds of Cattle of Re, in need of a Watchman to maintain the boundaries of grazing lands and to choose the blood sacrifice. Sky, land, water and life were still your categories of reality; however, Moon and Sun were less important than storm winds and the breeding of the herds, and time was kept by lists of who begat whom.
Later waves of family members who walked out of Inner Eurasia carried farming technology, reaching the Fertile Crescent of the Tigris-Euphrates and the Nile with new breeds of livestock, goats and sheep in particular. They also had ideas about working in solid stone and a technology for shaping it, with generations of practice. Genetically, they were still among the descendants of the Restless Ones who had walked out of Africa hundreds of generations earlier, walked around the world and returned to settle beside the Holy Rivers, but their stories told of a strange and difficult trek.
Metaphors from these farming mythologies focused on the plant world and the buried sacrifice of the Corn God; in other words, humans were seeds with the potential for miracles that worked in the dark, miracles that supported an entire community. “Give us this day our daily bread.” You shared the miracle with others because everybody participated in making it happen. The cooperation needed to farm successfully was totally different from the Great Hunt or the Good Shepherd. A calendar-priest must inspire and organize shared values and a common reality by synchronizing your inner worldview with the cycles of Nature and the needs of the group. The miracle of life revealed by the planted seed provided the even greater miracle of bread; to accomplish this, Sun and Moon determined the cycles of human activity, and only natural-born mathematicians knew what time it was.
This synthesis of cultures and worldviews evolved into the intricate mythology of Isis and Osiris, the heavenly parents who gave their blessings to the herds as well as the fields, and their beloved child Horus, who is you. Their holy calendar of lunar, stellar and solar patterns was woven on a loom of the river’s cycles, creating a rich fabric of poetry, tradition and rituals that covered the entire nation. This calendar was used to schedule the annual round of planting and temple-sponsored events, so that you knew when it was time to work the fields and when the next party started. Everybody was invited and it would be a shame if you missed it.
The evolution of the nation was initiated roughly 6,000 years ago when this Saharan biosphere began to collapse, turning their world into sand. The vast desert, the one river and the annual inundation were all they had left; water, mud and rock were the only resources and their world was dominated entirely by human beings.
The fundamentals of Egyptian philosophy evolved during this upheaval as the self-guided shamanism of hunter/herders interfaced with the calendar-guided world of farmers. Inwardly oriented shamans, who knew the language of Duat, became artists, alchemists and healers; mathematically inclined calendar-priests, who understood time, measured maat and, with their coordination of Maaty, engineers built for eternity. Safe beside the Nile and within the desert’s protecting embrace, their handmade society built the most enduring civilization in history, transforming the landscape of their apocalypse into a mighty and long-lived nation.