Sunday, May 9, 2010

In the Beginning

The ancient Egyptians had more than one religious precept when it came to the origin of the world. Each cult centre proposed its own creation myth. The particular version people believed depended on the period and the region in which they lived. The various stories of creation had one common element. They were all based on the belief that originally there was a dark nothingness which developed, through divine intervention into the world they knew and into a netherworld that they would come to know in their afterlife. The myths are known by the cult centres and regions in which they predominated. The cult of Ra, the sun god came from Iunu (or Heliopolis), the cult of Ptah from Men-nefer (or Memphis), the Theban myth from Waset (or Thebes now Luxor) and so forth. While using the basic legend, the following is an imaginative variation of one of the ancient Egyptian creation stories. It is taken from the book “Pharaoh Ay Remembers” by Anthony Holmes published in 2008.

Part One of Five

In the beginning, 'The Complete One' reached out from the vastness of his realm, across an immeasurable distance, through the barrier of time to a place that had not yet come to be.

There, as his pleasure dictated he placed an infinitesimal drop of his glorious essence in the

empty nothingness. That drop of divinity, pregnant with his power, exploded with incandescent radiance and in an instant it converted the nothingness into a star-studied sky.

Time, which is the measure of the parade of all the events that were to follow, began at the

precise instant of that creation.

'The Complete One' looked at the result of his pleasure and beheld its beauty.

'The Complete One' summoned his daughter Ma’at, the one he called his ‘Eye’ to behold the vision of his creation. It was she who was imbued with the spirit of truth, justice and order. Ma’at gazed in rapture at the inestimable constellations that sparkled and spun in the blackness. Within each constellation she saw the countless suns that shone with the raw energy of her father.

‘Father, you have created a truly wonderful thing,’ she exclaimed, ‘but what do you intend to do with it other than to appreciate its glory?’

'The Complete One' asked her,

‘Is it not sufficient that it exists, to be gazed upon when I wish to be diverted?’

Ma’at considered her father’s proposition.

‘You know that I may speak only the truth, so I have the temerity to say to you that what you propose is not enough. You have made a great wonder, but apart from you, who is there to admire your handiwork and to venerate you for the divine magic of your creation?’

Her father smiled and in his deep, echoing voice replied.

‘But I am complete unto myself. I do not need the admiration or adoration of another. Were I to create some entity to pay me homage, it would be an act of self-worship and thus would be a mockery’

Once again Ma’at weighed her father’s argument in the balance of her mind, for it was in her nature to examine both sides of every proposition.

‘What if you were to create an entity and grant it the power of choice?’ she asked her father. ‘Such a being could decide whether to adore you or not.’

'The Complete One' smiled at his daughter’s suggestion.

‘If I were to create such a being, would its decision be founded upon sound reasoning and understanding, or perhaps on its inability to distinguish between what is a true wonder and what is not?’

‘That would depend on whether it was instilled with an appreciation of beauty, an understanding of right and a passion for truth,’ responded Ma’at immediately.

'The Complete One' pondered his daughter’s words, for he knew they were the words of truth. Eons passed while he considered the quandary she had posed.’

Finally 'The Complete One' spoke to Ma’at.

‘I have come to a decision. I will allow you to choose just one of the incalculable numbers of worlds I have created. On that world I will cause to be placed certain beings having the ability to choose whether or not to admire my creation and adore my divinity. Your challenge will be to ensure that these beings are filled with your own attributes of truth, justice and order, so that their response to my work may be fair, honest and just.’

Ma’at looked into the infinity that her father had created. She examined the great groups of suns that spun and jostled and followed their paths through the blackness. She studied the myriad of worlds that floated in the sea of darkness. She sought a gathering of suns and worlds that would reflect the innate balance of her own nature.

Finally, after ages had passed she found a mass of twinkling lights in the shape of a double spiral. One arm of the spiral seemed to balance the other in the black void, as the pans of a beam scale balance each other. In one of the spiral’s arms she found a small orange sun that spurted and spluttered with her father’s energy. When she studied the worlds that paid obeisance to this sun she gasped at the beauty of what she had found. A beautiful blue-white sphere nestled in the blackness like a precious gem as it revolved around its orange sun.’

‘Ma’at looked closely at the beautiful sphere. It was shrouded in mist and clouds. It was a secret place where she could grapple with the challenge her father had given her.

‘Father, I have chosen.’ she whispered.

‘It is a strange choice, my daughter, for the world you have chosen is not large, nor does it occupy an important position among the stars. But the choice is yours and I will not dispute it.

I will now assign certain of my powers to you to enable you to fulfil the challenge that awaits you.’

The Complete One brought forward a divinity, a god tightly swaddled in a linen shroud with only his head and hands free. On his head he wore a blue skull-cap and in his hands he carried three staffs of divine power.

‘This is Ptah, the power of my word. Ptah will speak the words that will name everything. Once an object is named by him, it will exist. But Ptah is tightly bound so that he does not have the freedom to undertake anything other than that which is my wish.’

'The Complete One' then brought forward a second divinity.

‘This is Atum, the active power of my creation who will hear the words of Ptah and transform the words into reality. He is a mighty god, but he is constrained to keep his feet on the ground, for he may not roam anywhere he wishes without my permission.’

Atum stepped forward. He was a powerful deity with a well developed physique and strong arms. He wore a strange crown and carried the staff of transformation in his hand.

‘Finally I will place under your control the god called Harakhte. He has been given the one ability that both Ptah and Atum lack. He can fly anywhere and carry the word of Ptah and the active power of Atum wherever you require it to be applied.’

Harakhte was a god with the head of a bird and like the other two gods he carried a staff of power.

‘Go my daughter. Take my powers with you in the form of these three gods. Take them to the world you have chosen and do that which my challenge requires of you. Should you require my help or guidance merely call me and I will respond.’

And with those words, Ma’at and her three divine accomplices left the realm of 'The Complete One' and entered our world…’

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