* Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
~ Handmade Films 1983
Whether hieroglyphics or cuneiform is the original form of our earliest writing is a matter of serious debate and new data is found regularly that tilts the answer to one side, then to the other; there is no debate, however, that the earliest known illustrated writing is from ancient Egypt. The Pyramid Texts, in fact, are the oldest known sacred writings. Their mysticism is grounded in a system for defining categories of being and inner experience and, even though their terms translate into modern languages only with lengthy explanations, the many faces of their gods and goddesses resolve into your human face: Face and Head of My Heart.
Egyptians used the idiom “ki jed” to acknowledge metaphorical language, a phrase which translates directly as another word. This idiom, as well as the phrases Who then is this? What then is this? were poetic devices, organizing and enlivening their writing. Ki jed is translated here as in other words. Their sophisticated and evolving system of mythological metaphors were vital to the maintenance of their unique cultural identity, a system which succeeded for millennia despite changes of politics, madness and war. From their earliest days, they used literary and visual imagery woven together to illuminate and to define deeply abstract concepts; as a result, much of their art was diagrammatic, not just artistic. I have spent my life learning to decode these ancient Egyptian metaphors and, once I had addressed the question from the point-of-view of their history and the Nile’s biosphere, their system emerged as actually quite modern.
In other words:
Pilot For the Millions of Years is the name of the one.
Green Pool is the name of the other.
In other words:
Lover For the Millions of Years is the name of the one.
Green Pool is the name of the other.
Therefore, the mighty god who is in it is Re himself.
I have carried the Face along the way.
I have known the heads of the Pool of Reality.
A singularly important visual metaphor is one met with often and dismissed as merely artistic style: “This is the box; this is what is inside the box.” This visual metaphor guided them from first to last; shrines, tables, boxes, altars and especially gods and humans are shown in side view with the contents displayed above. This simple convention illuminates the heart of their faith: the solar orb atop the head is not the Sun up in the day sky, but the Sun inside your head; in other words, Re shines in your Duat. He is the light of consciousness inside you. They did, indeed, love and revere the day Sun, Aten, for waking the Re within and providing the light of day, but the Aten was only the golden flesh of Re shining the light of Re over the world. Once this metaphor is understood, the entire pantheon aligns to the same template: Re-consciousness rules the universe and the gods are functions, facets and aspects of conscious energy.
Who then is this?
It is Re, the designer of the name of his flesh.
Existence is evolved by the gods in the Company of Re.
I am without denial among the gods.
Egyptians met the gods in their dreams and used dreamlike metaphor in every aspect of their writing and art. This metaphorical quality is both the heart of their allure and the mystery that informs their intention. We in the western world have grown up within a mythological field which denies the validity of our Duat and devalues the reality of our experience of that landscape and its energies—yet we continue to hunger for a taste of that magical place, the touch of an immortal hand.
The issue of how much actual neurobiology the ancient Egyptians knew is not applicable to this system of metaphor. They studied the experience of being human and the universals of that individual experience. Their view was largely subjective, which our modern world considers invalid. Our objective, scientific view of the human brain and human behavior is quite valid, with one important exception—consciousness. Our most powerful imaging machines have neither located consciousness nor defined its absolute source. We can alter consciousness and even shut it down, but we can neither create it nor transfer it. We can only experience it. Modern studies in brain biology will never change the need for metaphorical imagery to explain and define the nature of consciousness; this is the territory of the ancient Egyptians with their astonishing creativity with metaphor, in images and words, for the experience of being alive. Then, as now, consciousness, and the identity which consciousness defines, were the ultimate mysteries of life. They thought and wrote about these mysteries as much as we do; they just used different imagery.
Re is another god, such as Osiris, Hathor and Horus, who appeared first in predynastic times and remained as the foundation of their philosophy. The solar orb was added to the crowns of other gods and goddesses as the concept of consciousness grew in the national society and aspects of each god entered into the realm of conscious control and awareness. Lady Maat, Sobek and Suty, however, are among the few who do not wear the solar crown, indicating that these were aspects of reality which remained independent functions beyond conscious control.
Re is self-defined. Re is the designer of his name. The hieroglyphs for his name are a mouth, (R,) plus a hand with forearm, (ae), in other words, speech and the human hand, primary symbols of consciousness. The determinative is a circle with a dot at the center and a line beneath. The circle and dot are symbols of the range of perception, like a globe of lamplight in the darkness or you standing at the center of your horizon; the line indicates that the sign represents a thing, in this case, a thing of light. This circle-and-dot determinative is also used as for words related to time, such as “day” and “hour;” in other words, Re-consciousness is also the perceiver of time. I am he who made the hours, thus the days were born.
The figure of Re sits unmoving within the golden solar globe at the center of his sacred ship, because you experience time only in the moment Now. Your past is accessible only through memory or record-keeping and your future is experienced only by anticipation, arriving via the Now. These experiences, memory and anticipation, are unique functions of individual experience. Consciousness is a bubble of timelessness sailing through time. “Now” is the eternal, timeless moment in which consciousness exists.
Who then is this?
It is Atum inside his globe.
Khopry in the morning, Re at noon, Atum in the evening.
Khopry is the scarab beetle god, and his name comes from kheper, “to create, form, progress, evolve.” The green-winged beetle pushes around a ball of the black mud of Osiris’s essence, and a green-winged beetle emerges from it, like consciousness waking from the darkness of the soul. Khopry was the Sun of dawn on the horizon and Re in the moment of waking; in other words, Khopry is the miracle of consciousness waking from the darkness of flesh, of sleep and of death, the lightning flash of inner illumination, that light bulb that switches on over the head in cartoon art. Khopry is a class of experiences woven together by light.
Atum is Egypt’s “Father Time,” the objective motion of time in spacetime. He was known as Finisher, because time ends everything. “This, too, shall pass.” In other words, that good times must end is the guarantee that bad times must also end. Atum is the Night Sun, the security that time passes in spacetime even when you are immersed in the timelessness of Duat while asleep; even nightmares must end. Atum is uncreated, created himself, present before creation and one of its activators. In his form as Re Atum, he is Lord to the Limits, in other words, time passes everywhere, and consciousness used time to create the universe and the life it holds.
You perceive spacetime and Duat as Re.
Khopry wakes Re from the timelessness of Duat into spacetime.
Re Atum is the Re the Creator. Consciousness rules.
Re, Lord To The Limits spoke these words after his waking
I am what woke in waking.
I woke the waking of becoming awake, woke the waking of everything.
Following my waking, multitudes woke as they emerged from my mouth.
No heaven awake, no Earth awake, no sons of the earth created nor creeping things in that place.
I raised them up in Nu, in their inertness.
I did not find a place where I could stand.
I had my soul centered in my heart.
I laid a foundation in reality.
I made all the visible forms.
Face the sun and close your eyes. The direct light shining through your eyelids is a warm, golden-red color. That was what the Egyptians meant when they said the gods had skin of gold; the gods are within you. You are the captain, carried through spacetime by your Solar ship, golden on the inside where you live. They understood that humans have universal aspects and live inside a vessel of human-animal flesh; they also knew that the human body is civilization's most basic tool, with all its miraculous complexity and infinite potential. We have since their day learned that we are, indeed, built of stardust; billions of years were needed to create each of us, yet the crew of that solar vessel works for you and you alone. Daily familiarity with sailing gave Egyptian artists detailed metaphors for the ship of Re, with mystical names and stories for every part and crew member.
There are two ships in the story of Re, a refinement of the metaphor which defined daily rituals for and prayers to Re. The crews changed between them daily, and the characters, tools and equipment each had their own functions, names and stories elaborating the central metaphor, which is your time-factored experience of living inside the Solship. You wake in the mandet, the Dayship, ready to sail it through your day; once you are tired, you change over to the mesektet, the Nightship, and you sail in it at night as you lay dreaming. The two are identical in appearance because they are, in fact, the same; what changes is your experience through the cycle of your day, just as your body is the same despite the wide differences in how you feel. This difference in self-perception is marked enough to earn the metaphor of the two forms of the ship. It is a fair warning: things will look better from the Dayship.
Editorial note: The sacred boat of Re has been translated differently into English by different authors: solar or sun, and barge, barque, bark, boat, ship, etc.; I use “-ship” here to clarify the full intention of the metaphor; Egyptians had the familiar idiom of “the ship of state,” and I extend that idiom here, with its nuance of unity within a vessel or company, a useful tri-lingual pun. From this point on, Re’s vessel will be written as Solship; “Sol” rather than “Sun” because, in the jargon of astronomy, Sol is specifically our physical Sun, which is just one of the countless suns that fill the universe, just as each of us, in our billions, carry the sun of Re within us. To complete the metaphor, so far as we know, Sol is the only sun among those countless suns to bring forth life on its planets; universal, yet unique. The philosophy which began on the banks of the Nile had no difficulty evolving along with spacetime and adapting to the future. In the English language’s early days of formation, “Sol” was interchangeable with the words “soul,” and “sole,” both concepts which are embedded in the Solship metaphor. All three words joined the evolution of English when the Latin of the Bible entered the European cultural field, and the mythology of Odin met up with the ghost of Osiris.