The Book of :
The Hidden Chamber
ca. 1426 BCE
or :
the Twelve Hours of the Night
the Midnight Mystery

Section 2
Egyptian Pataphysics of Creation

Book of the Hidden Chamber - Sixth Hour
The five-headed serpent "Tail-in-Mouth" :
"the mysterious image of the Duat, unknown and unseen"
Tomb of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (ca. 1479 - 1426 BCE)

by Wim van den Dungen

Section 1
History of the Midnight Mystery

Section 3
The Summary of the Amduat
The Twelve Hours : A Commentary


1 Reconstructive Cosmogenesis.

  • 1.1 Remarks on reconstructionism, historical, thematic and phenomenological.

  • 1.2 Reconstructing Heliopolitan cosmogony.

  • 1.3 Nun : the primeval, pre-existent milieu of creation.

  • 1.4 Atum : the completed origin of the elements & forces of nature.

  • 1.5 The hatching of the autogenous Atum on the first occurrence.

  • 1.6 Oneness-in-transformation and the Ennead.

  • 1.7 Divine kingship and the order of the world.

  • 1.8 The Egyptian universe for the priests of Re.

2 Egyptian Pataphysics.

  • 2.1 The basics of Egyptian magic.

  • 2.2 The perpetual return to the first occasion : the procedure.

  • 2.3 The exclusive role of consciousness : the Witnessing.

  • 2.4 The eternal cycle of rejuvenation and everlasting resurrection.

  • 2.5 Everlastingness and djedet-time : the background of creation.

  • 2.6 Eternal recurrence and neheh-time : the first cause of creation.

  • 2.7 The eternal cycle of cosmogenesis ?


In Ancient Egyptian Heliopolitan theology, "Nun" is the dark & inert stuff dominating what exists before creation. This founding concept of Egyptian thought, is conceived as an endlessly vast expanse of water, an unlimited ocean. This massive mass does not verge upon or tend towards manifestation, actualization, materialization, realization, spatialization or temporalization. It encloses and penetrates every thing : the sky ("pet"), the Earth ("ta") and the netherworld ("duat"). Already in the Pyramid Texts (ca. 2300 BCE), this crucial ontological divide between creation and what lay before it, was pivotal, and returned in all subsequent religious corpora like the Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead and the New Kingdom Underworld Books, in particular the Amduat.

From the vantage point of existence, the "virtual adverb clause" expressing this dark stuff as in "before he has (had)" or "he has (had) not (yet) ..." (Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, § 402), signals nonexistence (t < 0), i.e. a state-of-no-state before the transformations ("kheper") at hand in nature come (came) into being. So in Egyptian speculative cosmology, "being" encompasses precreation (pre-existent and nonexistent) as well as actual, existing creation. The former is made of something quite unlike what is known in the visible universe. While creation hosts light and life, the dark stuff of precreation is inimical to it. Neither does the presence of the latter end with creation, for Nun is everlasting ("djedet").
Moreover, nonexistence, the "state" before the Big Bang, is unlike nothingness. To be nonexistent, is obviously to preclude actuality, but in Egyptian thought, the absolute absence of differentiation represented by Nun, never precludes the genetic potential floating in it to transform itself spontaneously from latency into activity and give birth to light and life. Precreation, although pre-existent (before creation) and nonexistent (not actual but virtual), is unlike nothingness, the void or mathematical zero. For nothingness, as opposed to "virtual" zero, i.e. the virtual set ({Ø}), is but naught. Naught does not define anything, and hence refers to no thing. Instead, virtual nonexistence still holds the possibility or potential of a future ordered series of elements, i.e. the set of all possibilities. Naught precludes existence as well as becoming. Precreation is thus not conceived as the absolute zero of nothingness or the void (absence of any thing), but as the virtuality of a monadic, singular autogenous genetic potential, initiating and completing creation in the milieu of the limitless waters and this by acting upon it (ejecting, as it where, nature). Creation is hence "demiurgic", i.e. operating within and upon the pre-existent, everlasting, dark and inert stuff represented by Nun.

There is something before every thing, before the order, the architecture and the life of creation, manifested as a change from a nonexistent, virtual (but dual) state to an existing actuality. The virtual state is not actual, but confirms possibility, latency and potentiality. As a potency anterior to creation, it was conceived as a virtual nonexistent object, before "form", i.e. anterior to space and time, and before the creation of sky, Earth, horizon, Duat and their "natural" dynamics.

Paradoxically, this place-of-no-place and time-of-no-time was deemed essential regarding regeneration, rejuvenation and rebirth. Precreation indeed effectuates the capacity to autogenous creation or self-creation. In the unlimited ocean of chaos, a genetic potential "floats". In the absolute chaos of the infinite expanse of darkness, absence of differentiation and absolute homogeneity, a incredible energy-potential is dormant. The "abyss" of darkness contains the "pleroma" of light called "Atum". Atum, who "created what exists" and who is the "Lord of all things" (CT, utterance 306), "Lord of All" (CT, utterance 167), "Lord of Everything" and "Lord of Life" (CT, utterance 534), is "the origin of all the forces and elements of nature" (Allen, 1988, p.9). His name is a form of the verb "tm", probably a noun of action, meaning both "complete, finish" and "not be". Indeed, Atum completes creation without belonging to the created order.

"Sur le plan de la philologique, nous évoluons sur des bases fermes car des termes égyptiens tels que tm wnn et nn wn sont sans conteste des négations du verbe 'être' - le premier refermant un verbe négatif, le dernier une particule. Il y a ausi l'adjectif relatif négatif (jwtj / jwtt) et un substantif qui en dérive ; littéralement, ces termes ne peuvent signifier que 'ce qui n'est pas' ou 'ce que n'existe pas'. Les Égyptiens établissent, en outre, une distinction nette entre le verbe 'être', 'devenir' et 'vivre'." - Hornung, 1986, pp.157-158.

Anthes (1957) translates Atum as "he who is integral", Bonnet as "he who is not yet complete". Kees (1941) opts for "he who is not present yet" or "he who does not yet exist completely", whereas Hornung (1986) chooses "he who is differentiated", eliminating the important connotation of the alternation-point between a mere genetic potential (in precreation) and the beginning of its activity (or escape from latency). Atum completes everything in precreation, not in creation. Indeed, the whole creative process of Atum "hatching" out of his "egg" and initiating the "first occasion" ("zep tepi") takes place in an interstitial "First Time", the "Golden Age" of the gods and goddesses who, in the beginning of time and space itself, differentiate Atum in so many frequencies of natural differentials (natural laws and the accidents they describe).

In Nun, the genetic potential lies dormant. Spontaneously, the potential reverses and initiates its own law and energy. Between the beginning of genesis (when Atum self-creates) and the actual, historical emergence of actual laws and their energies (represented by the "primordial hill"), the age of Atum blooms.

  • Nun : the genetic potential is dormant and chaos predominates ;

  • Atum : the genetic potential contracts and the Golden Age eventuates in precreation ;

  • Horus/Nesu : the end of genesis, because of Seth murdering Osiris, is the beginning of the historical age, the emergence of the first Earth and the first divine kings.

So the beginning of genesis takes place in precreation and this sui generis. Atum is autarchic and by himself posits the reversal of the infinite dark expanse in which all happens. Dark infinity is contracted to the luminous singularity of an all-in-one pressure and density (ontological firstness). In this first moment, this singularity differentiates in an ennead of aspects of itself, constituting an eternal matrix of "golden" relationships sustaining (conserving) creation and a series of limitless energy-sources to return to in order to rejuvenate the depleted cycles of life. At a certain point, a domestic tragedy between these conserving energies eventuates creation and with it historical time.

Note that the distinction between Atum and Nun is not Cartesian. Both are called "father of the gods". It is possible to conceive Atum as the transformational principle or "Ba" ("soul") of Nun. Perhaps also during life, but more likely after physical death, the Ba is transformed into an "Akh", a spirit. Represented by a winged bird with a human head, the Ba stands for the principles of motility and transformation at work in initiatoric, funerary and rejuvinative experiences (for example of the "Ba" of Re in the Duat). Applied to the pair Nun/Atum, a higher-order synthesis makes both concepts to be the ontological constitutive of a transcendent order (beyond the limitations of the universe), a theo-ontology in which the proto-rational conceptualization of God was dependent of the following dual-union :

  • Nun : everlasting, all-encompassing, undifferentiated, omnipresent, dark and chaotic ;

  • Atum : eternal, isolated, differentiated, singular, luminous and cosmic.

Egyptian cosmology starts before the first moment of creation (our present Big Bang). It envisages at least two steps before things emerge. The interstitial step is an eternal "golden" moment, a perfect differentiation of perfect energies. Starting with Atum self-creating, it ends with the disruption of the perfect energies. In the "first moment" of space ("Shu") and time ("Tefnut" or "Maat"), this Golden Age takes place "for ever". But, "happening" in Nun, it may be compared to an island of light amid vast darkness. This darkness is everlasting, and the ultimate ontological foundation of Egyptian thought.

"Then said Atum : 'My living daughter is Tefnut. She will exist with her brother Shu. Life is his identity. Maat is her identity."
Coffin Texts, spell 80, line 32d-e.

Creation did not emerge ex nihilo. The rule ex nihilo, nihil fit is self-evident regarding how nature came about ; from nothing, nothing comes and so when something exists, it a forteriori must come from something. The world cannot be adequately conceived as the result of the grace of God, who, out of nothing, would have created everything as a gift (cf. Christianity). To properly understand the situation of being as a whole (and not only the workings of light), an exotic and alien primordial stratum of pre-existing being is invoked : Nun, or God's Dark Side. The first occasion happens in it.

The natural order (the visible universe) is a bubble of air floating in an infinite dark and gloomy expanse, in an inert, lifeless absence of differentiation, division or manifestation (appearance). Creation is order coming into being and its background or "milieu" is chaos, the radical, absolute absence of heterogeneity (all states being equally possible). Before, during and after creation, Nun subsists as the everlasting passive "body" of being, like an infinite set in which the genetic potential is diffused in each point. Before Atum hatches "ex nihilo" (autogenous), everlasting chaos is omnipresent, and the genetic potential was dispersed in it (in every point of its infinite space-of-no-space). Although manifesting in creation, chaos and creation do not interact (the former is cast out into the desert). Creation constantly floats on these vast, dark waters, and may be engulfed by them and perish. Indeed, as a boat on the Nile, order is always threatened by chaos, from the outside as well as from the inside.

In Egyptian thought, the return to the first occurrence, the first moment of the original creative intention of Atum, the "zep tepi" of timelessness, is fundamental and rejuvenates creation "de opere operato". The "old" Sun then dies, to be reborn as the "new" Sun, the regenerated source of life and order. This "psychic mechanism" represents the core of Egyptian spirituality, both this-life and in the afterlife. To return to this First Time, the dangers of the dark had to be faced and conquered. The Ars Obscura precisely deals with these matters.

A second ontological divide governs nature.  Sky ("Nut"), Earth (Geb), netherworld (Duat) and horizon (Akhet) are differentiated. The human soul (Ba), gratified by the offerings made to its double (Ka), flies up, away from Earth, to be transformed in the horizon (Akhet) into a spirit (Akh), living as a star in the body of the sky-goddess (Nut). These categories are transformational, and the Duat-experience is a necessary condition of ascent. Insofar Pharaoh-Horus rules the "Ka", Osiris is the king of the "Ba" and Re the ultimate lord of the "Akh". Nobody, except divine kings, enter the kingdom of Re without appearing before Osiris. The Duat brings the "trial" or "reckoning" of the soul. Its "inner" workings are an order of being separated from the world of the living as well as from the deities (Re and his retinue).

In the first part of this study, the "midnight mystery" or "Ars Obscura", involved the conjunction of Re (as a symbol of self-consciousness or "witnessing") and Osiris (as a symbol of matter and the "body" of nature). At this crucial point, Osiris becomes conscious of his own nature (eternal sameness & duration) and Re is rejuvenated by a return to the "First Time" of creation (the autogenous capacity of Atum involving eternal recurrence). At the hour of midnight of the dead Sun, the 6th Hour, this body of resurrection (Osiris) is transformed to house the soul ("Ba") of Re, reborn and traveling to its spirit ("Akh") in the Eastern horizon ("Akhet"). The mummified Osiris is the divine being of matter, for the mummy becomes flesh at the point of his awareness of himself. Both deities are rejuvenated, but Re is of tomorrow and Osiris is of yesterday. Re is day and Osiris is night. Both travel together until dawn, for Osiris never leaves the night, while Re dawns as completely rejuvenated, initiating a new cosmos and a new day.

The focus of this chapter is on the speculative cosmology suggested by this mechanism. It calls into being a pre-existent timeless "First Time" and a series of "operations" within it (Atum, or "Great Spirit" creating himself and his retinue), taking place against the background of everlasting passivity, the "body" of all possible being in which the genetic potential is diffused. Within creation itself, the same symbolism returns in the cycle of the Amduat, were Re (like Atum) is the enlightening pole and Osiris (like Nun) is the dark, material side of the equation.

The essential characteristics of the Ars Obscura return in most, if not all, forms of spirituality. This may help to explain the extraordinary energy-potential of mystics, who harvest a small part of the eternal potential of the first occurrence (namely eternity-in-everlastingness) and invest it in the activities of the world. The Egyptians propose a cosmological route, a direct experience of God linked to a deep understanding of the process of creation, death and rebirth. They foster a rejuvenation allowing one to become a "little Sun" and co-distribute, as the Aten, the endless gifts of the Divine to the whole of nature and humanity.

1 Reconstructive cosmogenesis.

"... modern egyptology is essentially nothing other than the triumph of antiquarianism over the image of Egypt that had been operative for so long in the cultural memory of the west. The fascination with hieroglyphics, the 'deistic' quest for a natural religion - both were now jettisoned as a huge misunderstanding." - Assmann, 2002, pp.432-433.

"There is, then, more to the denial of mysticism in ancient Egypt than at first meets the eye. A major factor in this denial is the historical struggle of Egyptology to be accepted as a credible academic discipline, which required that it distance itself from the earlier European metaphysical and esoteric traditions. It is this factor in the history of Egyptology that is at the root of the rejection of mysticism in ancient Egypt and the corresponding portrayal of the Egyptians as happy-go-lucky, practical, and extroverted. Such a portrayal conveniently masks the spiritual reality in which the Egyptians lived, and saves the Egyptologist from the embarrassment of having to engage with a religious consciousness that, for the modern secular mentality, is profoundly challenging." - Naydler, 2005, pp.44.

Among egyptologists, most (if not all) aspects of the jealously guarded history of Ancient Egypt is approached in four ways :

  1. antiquarian : usually associated with the beginnings of archaeological research from the 16th century onwards, it refers to a pre-scientific approach of studying the past in which the emphasis is on detailed recordings of the material evidence, as well as on ordering it in typologies, implying relative chronologies, and in spatial groups, implying shared ethnic identities of their makers. Key concepts of antiquarianism include the notion of historical progress and the ethnic interpretation of material culture. The current market value of any piece is an important element, and a factor undermining true care for the artifacts (a golden bracelet may be saved, but the arm to which it was attached not ...) ;

  2. archeological : the application of innovative methods of survey, excavation, analysis and synthesis of Pharaonic and Predynastic sites, revealing a record previously regarded as relatively uninformative, such as soil and seeds. Issues are : dating, technology, way of life, settlement & society, the how & why of change etc. ;

  3. linguistic : the study of all written materials in terms of recent linguistic theory and our increasing knowledge of the Egyptian language (out of over 110.000 objects in the British Museum's representative collection of Egyptian antiquities, about a third are inscribed with a text in some manner) ;

  4. techno-scientific : the application of alternative scientific methods to prospect sites, individual pieces and papyri, including physical, chemical and biological techniques.

"What we call history is a pale reconstruction of the actual events of the past. We make models of what we think happened, and frequently we confuse our models with reality. The fact is that our models, particularly those concerning the remote past, are no more accurate that a papier-mâché model of a jet engine. We have the rough outlines but lack insight into the essentials. This statement becomes truer the farther back we go in time." - Feuerstein, Kak, & Frawley, 1995, p.3.

At least two approaches should be added. One is philosophical, the other observational :

  1. hermeneutical : which meaningful patterns of thought do the symbols collected from written records & from works of art convey ? Is a semantic characterization of the cultural form possible ? Which symbols are crucial to understand Ancient Egyptian thought ? What is the meaning of it all ? etc. ;

  2. participant observant (phenomenological) : how can the meaningful form be enacted ? Is it possible to actualize ancient rituals ? Can the spiritual realities brought into play by Ancient Egyptian religion be experienced today ? Is a revival of such a religion possible and/or necessary ?

1.1 Remarks on reconstructionism, historical, thematic and phenomenological.

"Where our poets charts the possible and impossible, and scientists chase the dream of the exact, of certainties, the historian faces the task of assessing the most probable. (...) Our datings for the late Middle Kingdom depend not on grouping names of kings alone, but more solidly on a vast bank of data, such as typologies of coffins, analyses of alloys in metals, studies of handwriting, and study of archaeological finds in stratigraphic sections on excavation. Taken together, these widely varying source materials provide support of a 'most probable' time-line. The reader needs only to remember that a single discovery tomorrow could drastically change the entire carefully elaborated construction we have made of ancient time." - Quirke, 2001, p.12.

In general terms, reconstruction implies :

  1. to construct again or rebuild ;

  2. to assemble or build again mentally or re-create, as in reconstructing the sequence of events from the evidence ;

  3. to cause to adopt a new attitude or outlook, as in the case of a diehard traditionalist who could not be reconstructed.

"Modern books and scholarly articles on ancient Egyptian religion are probably adding to the original body of thought as much as explaining it in modern western terms." - Kemp, 1989, pp.4-5.

Egyptology tries to rebuild the history of Ancient Egypt. This is reconstructionist a priori, for the  civilization of Ancient Egypt is no longer. History itself relies on reconstruction, for the real thing is never present, but invoked by means of intersubjective languages (ideas, systems, models, paradigmata, theories, etc.) and factual stuff. Without the latter, nothing can be rebuild. A fine theory (one with scope, economy & elegance) remains speculative as long as none of its elements and/or interrelations between formative factors can be traced in what is at hand, i.e. observable in fact.

If the presence of a new outlook is put in as a conditio sine qua non, then the broad "reconstructive" activity of history may be used to construct a heuristic meta-language. This is more than a mere probable re-creation on the basis of the evidence, but indeed a direct confrontation between this historical "reconstruction" and new scientific information (from contemporary fields such as cosmology, physics, neurology or depth-psychology). This dialectic provides a new synthesis, the result of an interpenetration of the historical coordinates with contemporary scientific evidence. Especially in the fields of depth-psychology, cosmology and quantum theory may this prove successful. The structures revealed by Egyptian thought may be transposed beyond its limitations and work as a heuristic device to enlarge our knowledge in these fields.

Historical reconstruction is largely diachronic, observing the "time-line" of happenings. The narrow reconstructive activity aimed by the theme involves a synchronic & dialectic approach ; an object is first isolated and studied as a horizontal entity, but then it is re-investigated (re-understood) through the framework of another external object, theory, or cultural form ; the theme of the reconstruction. Insofar the dialectic process prevails, the object may be perceived differently. This co-determines the way elements, structure and momentum may be redefined. These tighter definitions confront the theme again, etc. This hermeneutical wheel keeps turning until, on many levels, a stable set of concepts is constantly circumambulated : the core of the reconstruction. A good example is Egyptian speculative cosmology, leading to interesting perspectives fertilizing the discipline. A fine historical example of such a reconstruction is Hermetism, which assimilated native Egyptian thought, incorporating it in a novel synthesis with Greek and Jewish materials (cf. Corpus Hermeticum).

Historical and thematic reconstruction are both based on facts. The latter is a confrontation of facts and hence a meta-language. Scope, clarity and elegance are always criteria, but a strong historical backbone guarantees the stability of the core of the reconstruction. Thematic reconstruction presupposes historical reconstruction.

Although it is impossible to recreate the Egyptian setting (to make the Nile flood again), one may wonder in what measure the symbols and rituals used in Egyptian religion may be reconstructed for the purpose of a deeper understanding of the spiritual realities upon which the Egyptian tradition was based ? Clearly such a reconstruction is not literal (and this a priori), but symbolical. This participant approach tries to assemble the necessary symbols and rituals to bring these realities into effect today. This is not a revival of the Egyptian religion, but a contemporary approach of the ecstatic naturalism at work in it. To organize this ritual effort, four factors may be called in  :

  1. verticality : the core of any religious ritual is the elaboration of the difference between the individual and the Deity, bridged by the reconnection ;

  2. horizontality : rituals acquire a historical, cultural and social dimension if its soteriological (salvic) symbols also refer to otherness and relatedness ;

  3. psychology : to perform rituals regularly has a direct influence on the ritualists, and rituals evolve as a function of the mentalities of the ritualists ;

  4. morality : religious rituals do focus on ethics, for a moral relationship between humanity and God is deemed necessary for any direct experience of spiritual realities (in Ancient Egypt, the core ritual was the daily offering of truth & justice by the divine king).

1.2 Reconstructing Heliopolitan cosmogony.

"The deities/concepts of the very ancient Heliopolitan cosmogony were employed by many theological systems. They constitute the basis of a sort of common language." -
Traunecker, 2001, p.74.

Thematic reconstruction may cover a large context (for example : the Egyptian Mystery Tradition or Hermetism) or instead focus on a particular issue, like Heliopolitan cosmogony. A thematic reconstruction of Heliopolitanism in the light of its cosmogony, may challenge our ideas about the possible scope of ante-rational thought, as well as offer heuristic devices to tackle or redefine certain aspects of our worldview (cf. speculative cosmology).

The Heliopolis of the Greeks, the ancient "On" of the Bible, now serves as a suburb of modern Cairo, in particular the Coptic area. Its original Egyptian name was "Iunu", "the Pillar" or "Iunet Mehet", "the Northern Pillar". Here was Egypt's "primeval mound", as well as the origin of cosmogonic teachings that would remain influential for at least 15 centuries. In fact, Heliopolitanism, intimately linked with the institution of divine kingship, was the "core" theology of Pharaonic Egypt.

"From the 3rd Dynasty we have the evidence for a new emphasis on a single creator, eclipsing the balance between the good Horus and the anarchic Seth. The battles of Horus and Seth do not disappear in the new, classic Egyptian arrangement of divine powers, but they become a smaller part within the general scheme of a single all-powerful creator." -
Quirke, 2001, p.83.

From the IVth Dynasty onward (ca. 2600 BCE), the king, or "son of Re", began to associate his royal titles with Atum-Re, the "great god" of Heliopolis. Until then, each king had been an incarnation of Horus (cf. the Horus-name of the royal titulary). With the Solar Pharaohs, the king became a manifestation of the Sun god Re himself.

To historically reconstruct Heliopolitan cosmogenesis, two principal sources will be used :

  • Pyramid Texts : This royal funerary corpus consists of a series of "utterances" or "spells", so called because the expression "djed medu" ("Dd" = "words" ; "mdw" = "speech") or "words to be said", i.e. "to be recited" is, as a rule, at the head of most. Nearly three centuries after the Old Kingdom began (ca. 2670 BCE), these important ritual sayings were recorded and entombed for the First Time by Pharaohs Unis (ca. 2378 - 2348 BCE), Teti, Pepi I, Merenre & Pepi II (ca. 2270 - 2205 BCE).

    "Food offerings alone, however, even when they conformed to the prescriptions regarding purity and dietary taboos (e.g. no pork, no fish), did not suffice to maintain the divine forces. These forces were nothing without ritual and efficacious speech." -
    Traunecker, 2001, p.40.

    This "eternalized" body of texts includes drama, hymns, litanies, glorifications, magical texts, offerings rituals, prayers, charms, divine offerings, the ascension of Pharaoh, the arrival of Pharaoh in heaven, Pharaoh settled in heaven, and miscellaneous texts. It is the oldest body of theology in the world, and precedes the textualization of the Vedas (ca. 1900 BCE - cf. Feuerstein, Kak & Frawley, 1995, p.105 - most likely the composition was contemporaneous with the Indus civilization, flourishing between ca. 3000 BCE & 1700 BCE). 
    The material from the tomb of Unis is available online as well as Sethe's standard edition of the Pyramid Texts (1910). In Sethe's edition, 714 Utterances are given, whereas Faulkner (1969) brings the total to 759.

  • Coffin Texts : these supersede the Pyramid Texts as early as the VIIIth Dynasty. Their principal source is the cedar coffins found in the cemeteries of the provincial nomarchs of Middle Kingdom Egypt (XIIth Dynasty). The largest number was found in Deir el-Bersha, the cemetery of Hermopolis, the city of the god of writing, Thoth (who, in the Late Period, was identified with Hermes "Trismegistus", the father of Hermetism). Although clustering in Middle Egypt, they can be found as well in sites in the North and South. These spells (1.185 of them) mainly appear on coffins of officials and their subordinates, but also on tomb walls, stele, canoptic chests, mummy masks and papyri. The deceased was almost always spoken of in the first person singular. Red ink was used for emphasis and to indicate divisions. Important spells were entirely in red.

    The complete corpus was published by De Buck (1935 - 1961). Present-day divisions are based on this edition, although new finds have increased the material. The first complete translation in English was realized by Faulkner (1973 - 1978) and in French by Barguet (1986) and Carrier (2004). With the discovery (in 1986) of Coffin Texts on a shroud of the VIth Dynasty tomb of Medunefer in Saqqara, the temporal stretch became vaster, spanning the late Old Kingdom through the Middle Kingdom. This underlines the continuity between both corpora.

1.3 Nun : the primeval, pre-existent, dark and everlasting milieu of creation.

Precreation is the fundamental concept of all traditional Egyptian systems of theology (cf. Heliopolitan, Memphite, Hermopolitan, Osirian & Theban branches of Egyptian thought). This founding concept, for which a special virtual adverb clause existed, was, like many others, also a transposition -in ante-rational and strongly imaginal thought- of an important physical process, in this case, that of water surging up as the result of the water table of the alluvial plain of the Nile (another image was provided by water falling from the sky).

In the Old Kingdom (ca. 2670 - 2198 BCE), the virtual clause "n SDmt.f", i.e. "before he has (had) ..." or "he has (had) not yet ..." (Gardiner, § 402), was used to denote pre-states, namely a potential state before the actuality of the state had happened. As for example in : "I am sorry for her children,  I grieve for her children broken in the egg, who have seen the face of Khenty (the crocodile-god) before they have lived !" (Discourse of a Man with his Ba).

Because this state was not actual, it indicated mere possibility, virtuality or potentiality. Anterior to creation, it was imagined as limitless waters (or ocean), called by various names : "nw", "nww", "nnw", "nnww", "nnnww" and "niw", vocalized in Coptic as "Noun", from which the English "Nun" has been derived.

Nun represented a principle rather than a divine individuality. Following the Coptic "Noun", Nun has been translated as "Abyss" (Faulkner, Mercer, Allen). Nun represents primordial undifferentiated wholeness, and precedes the creation of sky and Earth. It represents the everlasting dark pre-condition of creation. This state is :

"... before the sky existed, before the Earth existed, before that which was to be made form existed, before turmoil existed, before that fear which arose on account of the Eye of Horus existed."

Pyramid Texts, utterance 486, § 1040.

In the ontology sketched in the Pyramid Texts, precreation is in the first place an undifferentiated mass of water. The Egyptians gave descriptive rather than denominative qualifications. Nun is conceived as an inchoate, dark, inert, nonexistent state-of-no-state. In the Coffin Texts and later, Nun is often depicted as a deity, and although no cult is attested, there were offerings and feasts in his honor (as on the 18th & 19th day of the month of Phamenoth). The vault of the sky conveyed a topological difference : not only was precreation something different, but it was also somewhere else. Precreation and creation are separated from each other.

A large, inert mass of water higher than the sky and deeper than the netherworld is the image conveyed. This virtual realm of the nonexistent is beyond the subtle, invisible strata of creation, beyond the sky and underneath the netherworld. The sky is a double vault, protecting creation from above and from below, shielding it from the omnipresent Nun (W24 is also present in the name of Nut, "nwt", the goddess of the sky), "who gives birth to the Sun every day" (Pyramid Texts, § 1688).

  Nun lifts the Barque of the Rising Sun
after the Papyrus of Anhai - Late New Kingdom

The virtual ocean exists above the sky and underneath the Earth. Upper and lower sky are represented by a vault keeping the inert waters outside the world, for the sky is separated from both Earth and Abyss, as it were standing in-between both. It is not a solid "ceiling", but an interface between the surface of Nun and the dry atmosphere characterizing creation. As a vault, the sky rests on the Earth in all directions, and as the goddess Nut, she touches the Earth with her feet and hands.

1.4 Atum : the completed origin of the luminous elements & forces of nature.

In precreation, nonexistence and nothingness are not identical. To be nonexistent is obviously to preclude actuality, but in Egyptian thought this never precludes the potentiality to come into existence, to become, transform or transmute. The latter is indicated by the verb "kpr", "Kheper". Hence, besides chaotic Nun, precreation also effectuates the capacity of autogenous creation or self-creation.

The issue of autogenous activity is another important concept. Chaos is not the origin of order. Light and life are spontaneous and without any possible determination, but happens in the Abyss. Precreation is the conjunction of Nun and the sheer possibility of something preexisting as a nonexistent, virtual singularity. Precreation is the dual-union of Nun and Atum, of the infinite, dark sea and the primordial atom of luminous matter.

Creation emerges from a singular, atomic monad, floating "very weary" (CT, utterance 80) in the dark, gloomy, lifeless infinity of Nun. Within the omnipresent substance of Nun, the possibility of order, light and life subsists : a nonexistent object capable of self-creation ex nihilo. Hence, although Nun is nowhere and everywhere, never and always, it is the primordial, irreversible and everlasting milieu in which the eternal potential of creation creates itself. Although creation is not ex nihilo (for there is "something" before "anything"), creation's self-creation is spontaneous and without precedent.

Precreation is hence not the mathematical zero of nothingness (void), but the virtual oneness of a singular, autogenous genetic potential to make creation rise within the milieu of the limitless waters.

"Les Égyptiens ne rencontrent l'unicité absolue de dieu qu'en dehors du monde et de la création, durant la transition fugace entre la non-existence et l'existence. Par ses travaux créatifs, le premier - et à l'origine le seul dieu, disperse l'unicité primordiale en une multiplicité et une diversité de manifestations : ainsi, en dépit de multiples caractéristiques communes, chaque dieu est unique et incomparable." -
Hornung, 1986, p.169, my italics.

Atum, who "created what exists" and who is the "Lord of all things" (CT, utterance 306), "Lord of All" (CT, utterance 167), "Lord of Everything" and "Lord of Life" (CT, utterance 534), is "the origin of all the forces and elements of nature" (Allen, 1988, p.9). His name is a form of the verb "tm", probably a noun of action, meaning both "complete, finish" and "not be". Indeed, Atum makes creation emerge and completes it without belonging to the created order.

Coptic scholars like Crum (1939) translate "noyn" as "abyss of hell, depth of Earth, sea" etc.

Coptic "Noun", or "abyss of hell" ...

But precreation is more than an deadly, dark, everlasting and limitless Abyss of liquid, lifeless space. It is more than a formless mass of confusion, inert, dark and inimical to order and life. In other words, precreation is not identical with Nun. Atum, the "Ba", "soul" or transformational principle of Nun, is the co-relative factor of Nun in nonexistence. This balanced opposite, represents singularity, order, light and life resulting from self-creation.

Atum and the first occurrence are the autogenous, genetic potential making every thing whole again and again. In this
"Pleroma" ("to make whole again") is hidden the secret of regeneration attributed to the primordial waters, i.e. the emergence upon the face of the dark waters of the light ex nihilo. As this emergence is timeless, it never stops. This order surrounded by chaotic nonexistence is the blueprint of every possible thing and the condition of its wholeness. To return to it, is to return to the first instance when all things were made and hence reestablish contact with the power of origination. For this invites one to start all over again, to recommence the cycle and accommodate the eternal recurrence of creativity.

1.5 The hatching of the autogenous Atum on the first occurrence.

A third major cosmogonic concept besides Nun and Atum is introduced : the "zep tepi" or "first occurrence", "First Time" or "first occasion". It stand between the moment of Atum's self-creation ex nihilo and the emergence of actuality (as Earth, sky and horizon).

On the first moment of the "zep tepi" ("zp tpi"), the "first occurrence" or "First Time", Atum is Atum-Kheprer. Before that moment, no order, light or life preexisted. While Atum "floated" in the inert ocean, he was as it were diffused in it
. But on the creative instance, the patterns of existence were established and enacted by focus, contraction and pressure (or singularity). Creation was thus initiated by the distinction between the surrounding waters (Nun) and the active primordial seed or monad. Atum-Kheprer creates himself ex nihilo. He is not a transformation of a previous state. Although diffused in Nun, and thus inactive, Atum-Kheprer autocreates his own change of mode, and recollects himself out of annihilation and dispersal, reversing the genetic potential, beginning genesis. Nun is not changed because of Atum-Kheprer. Although the Egyptians could well see Atum-Kheprer as the "Ba of Nun", this notion is confusing and is indicative of the dual-union of precreation ; both destructive and constructive. An analysis of creation is rational steps (as in the present reconstruction) is a theoretical exercise foreign to the Egyptian mentality. The state of Atum before his "hatching" is described as "floating" and "weary".

Let us go over this notion again. Before the monad Atum self-creates as Atum-Kheprer (changing from diffused and passive to contracted and active), lifeless, inert, dark nonexistence prevailed. With this monad bringing itself into existence, nonexistence is divided into, on the one hand, the chaotic waters (the Abyss) and, on the other hand, the seed of order, light and life (the Pleroma). Atum represents the spontaneous, genetic potential of precreation to manifest creation, and because Atum-Kheprer self-creates, there is nothing anterior to this monad, except the liquid space of disorder and darkness in which Atum floats ... Before becoming singular, Atum (the genetic potential) is diffused in Nun, and thus incapable of concentration, focus and hence creativity.

This difficult notion is touched upon in this remarkable text :

"It is me (who came out of) Nun, the sole one, without equal. If I (Atum) have transformed, it is on the
great occasion of my floating (after) I came into being ! I am he who flew up, who's {form is that of he who encircles}, who is in his egg. I am the one who began in the Nun. See : the chaos-gods came out of me ! See : I have come ! If (I) brought my body into being, it is through my Akh, (for) I am the one who made myself and I formed myself at my will according to my desire."
Coffin Texts, utterance 714, lines 343-344 : the second first person refers to Atum, not Nun as the rest of the passage makes clear (nowhere is the name "Atum" mentioned).

We further learn that in the "zep tepi", Atum creates and completes the world for his own pleasure and according to his own heart (or divine mind - cf. Memphite theology). The reason why something came out of Nun is explained as Atum pleasing himself (the image of masturbation), not parenthood. Other images convey the meaning of strong and powerful ejection (as in expectoration or ejaculation). Atum is both male and female and does not need a consort. The "zep tepi" emerges as the dreamed genesis (of the pantheon and its "golden" proportions) of an autarchic, masturbating bi-sexual African Solar deity, who at the moment of ejaculation brings actual creation into being (a "giving birth" of actualized "nature" of the godhead). Hence, creation starts in precreation, namely in the "Golden Age" of the gods and goddesses. To understand this, we need another concept, which the Egyptians derived from their sense of time : the timelessness of the cycle of creation, i.e. the first moment of the "zep tepi" being mythically "for ever".

Ancient Egyptian Time

Phenomenal Time "of men on Earth"
moment, instant, small portion of time, the time of the culmination unit of phenomenal time
period, space of time, lifetime, man's age collection of time-units
Eternal time : the repetition and duration of the "Golden Age"
timelessness - First Time, eternity, eternal and unending repetitions Atum-Re, the deities and the blessed : dynamical & cyclic
no-time, to be permanent, stable, enduring, everlasting Nun and the realm of Osiris : static & linear

Phenomenological time was measured using various calendars, of which the agricultural, based on the heliacal rising of Sirius (Sothis) in mid July, around the time of the beginning of the flood, summarized the important features of the Egyptian year. To define and subdivide collections of time-units in periods and ages, other Solar and Lunar schemes were developed.

Every night (while dreaming), during initiatic and ecstatic experiences and in the afterlife, the soul could be subjected to two spiritual economies ; either Lunar (Osiris) or Solar (Re).

In the Duat, the deceased could be justified (or annihilated) by Osiris, the king of the dead. Only rectitude sufficed. Osiris was associated with Nun and djedet-time, for his rule (as that of Nun) was everlasting and outside the power and rule of Re (just as creation is a eternal time somehow separated from the surrounding obscurity). The noble dead were granted everlasting life with Osiris. During this-life rituals, divine kings embodied Osiris to regenerate their powers (cf. the Set festivals). Processional rituals elaborating crucial moments in the myth of Osiris are obvious (cf. the Osireon) and ecstatic rituals were intended to gain access to the Duat, profiting one "a million times".

Those who knew the proper words, as well as divine kings could possibly "escape" Osiris and rise to the Imperishable Stars, the realm of Re and neheh-time. Neheh-time, the eternal moment of the beginning of creation, offers a regenerative return to the "Golden Age", which, in this First Time, can never be annihilated. Here, limitless energy is at hand, for the difference between the limitless ocean of darkness and the concentrated singularity contracted out of it, is absolute for ever and ever. To tap into this state offered optimal regeneration and illumination. The "zep tepi" is eternally at hand, and represents a continuum of "perpetua mobilia" : the energy-fields of the deities. Its golden proportion is a symphony of light happening within the vast darkness of Nun, an island of peace and order amid life-threatening chaos for ever and ever. This eternity represents but a repetition, a closed, recurrent cycle of exchanges, the unending return of the same. This is contrasted with djedet-time, the fundamental "time" of being, the static and stark solidity of chaos, the sameness of all possibilities (or absolute diffusion of Atum, the contraction).

1.6 Aloneness-in-transformation and the Ennead.

The first occurrence unfolds at the moment creation starts with the spontaneous emergence of Atum-Kheprer contracting to a point ex nihilo. Atum is alone insofar as he has no consort. He is causa sui (cause of itself) and sui generis (the only example of its kind and so constituting a class of its own unique). This is the earliest historical example of an elaborated henotheist theology (stressing transcendent Oneness but allowing Divine immanent diversity). His "greatness" ("wer") is truly absolute. But there is no monotheism though. Atum autogenerates and necessarily splits into a divine diversity. The first "stable" form in (or first generation of) this "divine comedy" is the fertile trinity "Atum - Shu - Tefnut". His oneness is "fugal" (running away) and his being alone only serves his autogeneration, which does not impend an instantaneous differentiation into life and order, on the contrary. Atum is aloneness-in-transformation, a point of alternation between the diffused genetic potential and the beginning of genesis, the reversal of this diffusion by contraction or drawing together.

Atum, autogenerating for his own pleasure, immediately & simultaneously splits and, in the "zep tepi", gives birth to Shu & Tefnut, the start of a chain of ordered structures, the Ennead or divine sequence : {1, 2, 3} U {4, 5} U {6, 7, 8, 9}. This eternal happening, the proto-type (matrix) of order, is the imaginal continuum or "Golden Age" of natural parameters, preparing creation before it happens, and sustaining it when it actually happens. This is the divine mind and "Golden Age" with its infinite number of names, attributes and functions.

"... the concept of the Ennead describes the interrelationships between nine fundamental forces and elements of the Egyptian universe. Of these, four are primarily operative in the world of life and death as its exists after the creation. Osiris and Isis, Seth and Nephthys represent the opposing but balanced principles of order and disorder, growth and destruction, and the transmission of life." -
Allen, 1988, p.8.

With Atum-Kheprer and the (eternal) first occurrence, no actual thing is positioned, but only the divine structure necessary to manifest the real. This is the "Ennead" of Atum : Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Seth, Nephthys. Only the formal conditions of creation are given (i.e. an outline of its elements and forces). The world is in the image of Atum ("iti tem"). The "zep tepi" is the eternity of the divine mind, the demiurge or architect of creation itself. It is conceived as outside creation, although it always preludes it. As shall be seen, its "eternity" is absolute only insofar creation is destroyed.



to not be
to be complete

Autogenitor, cause of himself, unique and alone at work in two modes : namely diffused in Nun and as "Khepri" a differentiating singularity. Creator of every thing, Lord of the Universe, and "father of the gods".


to lift, to rise
plume of light

By rising and lifting up his daughter Nut, Shu creates space, differentiation, order and life. His vital breath is the first sigh of creation and thus the first natural differential of the First Time. He is the principle of life itself and Lord of the (four) Winds.


to spit
to change form

As Shu represents the masculine atmosphere of the upper world, Tefnut, spat out by Atum, is the feminine lower world, said by its arms to support Geb, the Earth. She is associated with water, morning-dew, humidity and order.


throw to Earth

Geb, as Earth, finalizes the four cosmic elements of creation (Atum = Fire, Shu = Air, Tefnut = Water). He lies at the origin of the organization of the element and of divine kingship on Earth. He is the first divine king.



Being separated by her consort by her father, Nut is far above the living, but near to those leaving the Earth. Every evening, the soul of Re enters her body through her mouth, to re-emerge reborn at dawn from her vulva in the East.


seat of the eye
who makes his throne

As king of Egypt, Osiris is murdered by his brother Seth. He is reanimated by his wife and sister Isis, who through her magic, becomes pregnant of their child Horus. As king, the latter makes his father whole by offering his Left Eye. Thus Osiris becomes the king of the Duat and of the dead.



As loyal, vigilant, protective and assisting queen of Egypt, Isis mourns her brother, seeks out his members, reanimates him, gives birth to Horus and brings him to adulthood.


swtH - stH - stsh
he of the South
he of the strips

Brother and murderer of Osiris, the Lord of Storms is the sworn enemy of Horus, son of Isis and Osiris. He nevertheless serves the divine king, who sits on the throne of Geb, as well as Re. Associated with violence, evil and sexual perversities (like sodomy).


nbt Hwt
Lady of the House

Sister and wife of Seth, she is the relentless assistant of Isis and often coupled with her. Sterile, she is nevertheless able to give birth to Anubis, son of Osiris but chases him away so that he could not hurt his nephew Horus.

The differentiation of Seth takes place during the "Golden Age". His presence disturbs the natural sequence of unfoldment of the powers precipitating creation. The latter started with the pair Shu - Tefnut, repeated as Geb - Nut and Osiris - Isis, but disrupted by the birth of Seth, who is not a child of Osiris and Isis, but of Geb and Nut.

"... Geb and Nut did not bring forth only one male-female twin, but also Seth and Nephthys. This disturbs the harmonious development of creation, wherein each pair of gods only produced one other pair. Thus the birthday of Seth is the beginning of confusion. Seth is the one who caused disorder before his name existed." -
Te Velde, 1977, p.27.

With the emergence of "ta-Tenen", the primordial Earth or risen land (cf. the islands emerging after the inundation and the hypostyle hall in the Egyptian temple), with the first Sun-ray of Re, the physical incarnation of Atum-Kheprer in the sky, touching this Earth (cf. the Benben as a petrified beam), the first occurrence is over and creation is a historical, phenomenological, actual fact. Re is the physical synthesis of the process of genesis started by Atum and thus the most ample source of energy available. For being rooted in the causa sui of Atum, implies direct access to an endless (re)generative capacity at work ex nihilo (as the "perpetua mobilia" of the "zep tepi"). This creative capacity takes "places in" the boundless chaos of the primordial ocean. The first occurrence is timeless & eternal, but not static and everlasting (for given to a quasi-eternal cycle of recurrence).

1.7 Divine kingship and the order of the world.

Horus is the justified king of Egypt on the throne of Geb. He is the divine king ("nesu"), the "10th factor" completing the Great Ennead. If Re is the physical manifestation of Atum in the sky, Horus-Nesu is his manifestation on Earth and Osiris the king his presence in the Duat, the netherworld. The rising of the primordial hill is the cosmogonic counterpart of the murder of Osiris, for by it historical time was initiated.

At some point in the "Golden Age", when Osiris was killed, Seth usurped the throne of Egypt. This ended the age of perfection, and initiated the age of Horus, who brings division to unity, pacifies the Two Lands (of the living and of the dead) and safeguards creation against imminent relapse into evil and chaos. In the first Dynasties, Horus the sky-god was associated with kingship, but as soon as the cult of Osiris gained popularity and entered the royal cult (about the IVth Dynasty, if not earlier), he was identified with Horus, son of Isis.

Horus had to avenge his father, fight his evil uncle to be justified by the gods and inherit the throne of his father. The end of the "Golden Age" is the beginning of "isefet", evil, represented by the gang of Seth. This situation needed to be reversed, and only Horus was able to do so. His magical conception and birth balanced the presence of Seth in the Ennead of Heliopolis and restored the legitimate rule (endorsed by Atum-Re and Geb). Without the divine king, creation would no longer be a result of light, but would be light chained to the darkness of Seth. Re's creation would be transformed into a kingdom of lies, treachery, terror & violence. Every historical king of Egypt is, by his own Horus name, an incarnation of Horus, son of Osiris. By his daily sacrifice, he is the sole guarantee of the regenerative equilibria between sky and Earth, Earth and Duat and Earth and the (double) horizon.

The core of this sacrifice is to give in accordance with Maat, the rule of order and justice. This is not the rule of humans, but the theocratic law of the deities, the symbolical and mythical representations of natural differentials (processes involving differences and thus energy) vital to regeneration and the renewal of life after death and dismemberment (psycho-biological fragmentation).

The divine king of Egypt was "Horus", "the Living Osiris", "son of Re", and "Osiris the King". In the Old Kingdom, only the king's "Ba" or winged soul (a bird with a human face), the dynamism of his own spiritual emancipation, was entitled to fly away and to enter the sky of light. By the Middle Kingdom, everybody had a "Ba" and could, if proper magic was applied, be transformed into an Akh, a spirit.

  • "Horus" : the first historical kings of Egypt were "Followers of Horus". These Shemsu Hor incarnated the sky-god Horus ("He upon high") and united the Two Lands, symbolical of Horus (North) and Seth (South). The former is not yet "son of Osiris", but a celestial deity. Every king of Egypt (by the first name of his titulary) is such a "Horus", an overseer ;

  • "the Living Osiris" : in the Pyramid Texts, to rejuvenate, the living Horus assumes the role of Osiris (enters the Duat) and returns from it as a reinforced Horus (Naydler, 2005). These this-life rituals bring the ecstatic dimension of Egyptian religion to the fore. Related with fertility and rebirth, they evidence spiritual realities akin to those of Predynastic communities ;

  • "son of Re" : in the IVth Dynasty (ca. 2600 - 2487 BCE), by adding "son of Re", the royal titulary was completed. This title underlined that the future king, as a royal prince, was divine by birth. This formula, preceding the "nomen" (or personal name), was never used before the coronation ;

  • "Osiris the King" : after physical death, the son of Re enters the Duat but is not judged. He is "Osiris the King", and after death, as during life on Earth, he enters the realm of Osiris as Osiris, the netherworldly aspect of Re. After being rejuvenated as Osiris (again, but without returning to Earth as a new Horus, for this is the role played by his successor), he leaves Osiris behind in the Duat and, via the horizon, ascends to the sky of Re. There he stays as a soul totally transformed into an effective spirit, and Akh among the Akhu, at work around Atum, for ever and ever celebrating the "Golden Age" of the first occasion, the eternal beginning of genesis.

These four historical aspects of the divine king are the ante-rational characterization of what could be called the role of the "Divine Witness", representing the all-seeing "eye" of the Divine, its capacity to encompass all what happens when it happens :

  • "Horus" : perched on a "serekh", this sky-god animates the all-seeing capacities of the king, who "sees" what happens in the Two Lands, who "sees" the various deities in their shrines in the temples, during his Heb Sed run and in the Duat. He represents the distance of objectivity, the ability to detach oneself from the object and observe it from afar ;

  • "the Living Osiris" : the "Divine Witness" is a "Great Magician", who enters the Duat and returns. Nothing, not even the invisible and the dead, escapes the eyes of the king. He experiences the more subtle (imaginal) planes of existence. He knows how to manipulate the force binding everything together ("heka", "magic"). Because he knows voluntary death, he is truly alive ;

  • "son of Re" : the "Divine Witness" is also ontologically divided from the rest of creation, for he is the great exception, in this life and the next. He is the only living spirit on Earth (all other deities are in the sky). He encompasses all possible events of creation, organized as a dyad but kept together and apart by the witnessing consciousness ;

  • "Osiris the King" : physical death is an entry into the netherworld as the god Osiris.

1.8 The Egyptian universe for the priests of Re.

Sky, Earth, Duat and the (double) horizon constitute the Egyptian concept of creation. They appear everywhere, in writing, monuments and artworks and even define the architecture of the royal Old Kingdom tombs. Indeed, these ontological realms also suggest the path of the soul after death or during initiatic & ecstatic experiences (cf. Allen, 1988 and Naydler, 2005) :

  • the Pyramid : like most of the stone monuments of Ancient Egypt, the pyramid represents Earth (the primordial hill or risen land) in general and the presence of the deities on Earth (because of Pharaoh) in particular (and this through the "horizon", where Earth and sky touch) ;

  • the Duat (burial-chamber) : though a part of creation (Earth), but neither Nun nor sky, the netherworld is inaccessible to the majority of the living and outside normal human experience. It is separate from the sky and reached prior to it. ;

  • the Horizon (antechamber) : "Axt" ("Akhet"), translated as "horizon", is both the junction of sky and Earth and a place in the sky underneath this point (before eastern dawn and after western dusk), a secret interstitial zone reached and crossed by boat. It is a zone of transition and a "radiant place", the "land of the blessed". The horizon is the place of becoming effective, the locus of the becoming "Ax" ("Akh"), an effective spirit. The Cannibal Hymn, thematically belonging to the East gable, summarized Pharaoh's passage through the night sky to the Sun at dawn. The process of spiritualization ends with the emergence of the new light. In this hymn to Pharaoh, the king prepares the deities for his meal ;

  • the Imperishable sky (northern entrance/exit tunnel) : the process of transfiguration (ultimate spiritualization) being completed, the Akh-spirit leaves the tomb and ascends to the northern stars.

The Egyptian conception of the universe is cosmogenic throughout. The Egyptian is interested in the first stir of creation, for according to his view on temporality, the beginning is the crucial moment. As time is inherently degenerative, namely running away from the source of energy towards its own depletion, the "Golden Age" of genesis is the pivotal concept here. Only by returning to the "zep tepi" is it possible to completely regenerate. This is nothing less than entering the domain of the Akhu of Re, being among the luminous spirits in the retinue of the Solar god and his Barque of Millions of Years ... This is the flotilla of sacred boats traveling eternally on the heavenly Nile, the body of Nut, the Milky Way ...

"The Nurse-canal is opened.
The Winding Waterway is flooded.
The Fields of Rushes are filled with water,
(and) I am ferried over thereon to yonder eastern side of the sky,
to the place where the gods fashioned me,
wherein I was born, new and young."

Pyramid Texts, § 343-344.

To enter the domain of Re, the horizon had to be accessed. This junction of sky and Earth was probably exclusively reached by boat and after a netherwordly odyssee. The king, along with Re and the other deities, rows or sails on it (cf. PT, § 1687a-b). The Akhet itself is a zone of transition associated with the transformation of the soul (Ba) into a spirit (Akh). According to Allen, the Akhet,

"... is the place in which the king, like the sun and other celestial beings, undergoes the final transformation from the inertness of death and night to the form that allows him to life effectively - that is, as an akh- in his new world." - Allen, 1989, p.20.

But he denies the connection between "akhet" and words referring to light, either that of the Sun and/or of the stars, deemed "consistingly different". The opposite is true. For can it be denied (as the New Kingdom use of the word indicates - cf. the Great Hymn to the Aten), that the transformation at hand is related to the final Solarification of the king, while both horizons are the two daily pivotal interstitial waymarks in the diurnal arc and its various variations in luminosity relative to the local horizon of observation ? Also in the Amduat, the First Hour, summarizing the complete nocturnal cycle of 12 Hours, represents the juncture of the normal, daily state of consciousness (Re shining by day) and the netherworldly, inner state of consciousness (Re traveling at night), whereas in the 12th Hour, the Eastern horizon is the locus of Re's rejuvenated reappearance. The king and his celestial companions are said to rise from the horizon, not because the akhet is a place on the horizon, but an area of transition from the plane of actual existence (Earth) to the ultimate plane of being. This birthplace of transformation is an "island", on "the eastern side of the sky" (PT, § 344a-b) and "the place where the gods are born" (PT, § 1704c, 1705b, 1706b). This place is not on the horizon, but in the horizon. It is an inner, cosmic lightland situated in the East, to be reached by Re when at dusk he sinks in the western horizon, and enters the Duat.

Visualize the emergence of order and life as the result of the contraction of an infinitely diffused genetic potential, afloat in Nun, to a single point of absolute density and singularity. This is the  autogenesis of Atum.

Atum-Kheprer differentiated into the One and the Many. In the First Time, in the eternal moment of the gods, the universe is completed.

This hatching of Atum is the beginning of genesis or the Golden Age of the deities in the retinue of Atum. With Horus and the primordial hill, the actual dual world (of life and death) is born. It differentiates into sky, Earth, Duat and horizon.

Once creation comes into being (as the exclusive domain of Horus, the 10th factor completing the Ennead), two heavenly vaults protect it : one upper sky, shielding the world from the infinite ocean above it (the water falling from the sky) and one lower sky, avoiding the flooding of the Duat (water surging up from underneath). The horizon separates the Earth from the Duat. Death (in the West) and rebirth (in the East) delimit the function of this "double horizon" (akhety). Both Re, his deities and humanity are subject to this organization, and Osiris, the king of the kingdom of silence and darkness, has, in the order of things, a dispensation of his own.

In this way, the four major categories of Egyptian ontology emerge : genetic potential (in Nun), genesis (also in Nun, but on the First Occurrence), actuality (the primordial hill and Horus-Re), annihilation (of the universe).


not creating



& Ennead


eternal First Time :

Heru & Nesu

not creating


phenomenal time

& Osiris

(not) creating


eschatological time

Nun, the primordial, dark, everlasting, inert limitless ocean is not creative nor created. It has been always there and it will always be there. There is no escaping from it. It permeates every thing, and creation as a whole. The gods themselves have to deal with it. After the First Time, degeneration is thus inevitable, and if left by itself, creation would relapse into high-entropy (disorder of absolute chaos). Every energy or process of nature is doomed to be depleted without the quasi-eternal, limitless power of genesis, the moment between the hatching of Atum and the emergence of the first land.

Atum, the genetic potential, actualizes as genesis, the First Time before actual creation. He is creative nor created, but self-created. Contrary to Nun, the Egyptians envisaged Atum in two possible modes : "floating in Nun", as a diffused, passive and dormant genetic potential, versus "hatching out of his egg", as a contracted, active, one-pointed, solitary creator-god, causa sui. One who is awake and conscious. The sole source of the universe, of life and of humanity, sui generis. Nothing could act on Atum and only Atum is the origin of Atum-Kheprer. Atum "existed" (afloat) before he "existed" (as possibility of unity and multiplicity in the "zep tepi") and before he transformed into Re, the actual universe, with its order, life and justice (thanks to Nesu, the king who was Re's son).

Re, like Horus and Pharaoh, represents the divine within the order of creation. They guarantee that this world continues to exist. They are the outcome of a divine play of forces that precedes them in the logical order of the myth (if there is any). Re is a manifestation of Atum. Horus is a manifestation of the Sun and the son of Osiris. The king of Egypt is the son of Re. These forces are created to conserve the proper order (Maat) of things. Atum-Re is the first conserver.

When creation ends, the whole edifice collapses. Time stops. The risen land is engulfed by the uncreated realm of Nun and is no longer seen. Atum again "floats" in Nun, but he is accompanied by Osiris ! The cosmic cycle is not closed and does generate a surplus, namely the principle of resurrection and regeneration accompanying Atum in his passive mode. We may speculate that the operational "power" gathered by the netherworld in the previous cosmic cycle, is somehow helpful to "regenerate" Atum, i.e. assists in the "contraction" of the diffused genetic potential, again autogenously giving birth to a completely new focus of order and life. Each "new" cosmic cycle would then profit from the surplus harvested in the previous cycle. As Nun is infinite, the number of possible cosmic cycles is also infinite. Not the "zep tepi" of this universe, but the "zep tepi" of all universa is truly "eternal".

In the above "ideal" iconographic summary of Heliopolitan cosmogony, the green (Earth) and the dark blue area underneath (Duat), represents creation, the area of the "Two Lands". They are surrounded by the everlasting Nun, floating underneath the Duat (and entering this world through the netherworld). In the West (bottom left), the Night Barque of the Soul (cf. the Jabiru bird) enters the Duat to seek the regeneration which is offered by the midnight mystery of Osiris (the star on red background). If justified (the scales of Maat), the soul either stays in the Duat (becomes a noble dead) or enters, via the horizon and by ascension to the stars, the sky which leads to the realm of the Akhu. In the horizon, the justified soul on the Day Barque on the bottom right is transformed into a spirit and as such ascends to the star topping the pyramidion. This star is part of the body of Nut, the sky, and leads to the white area above, representing the First Time. Only deities enter this domain. This latter possibility is rather exceptional, and mostly reserved to Pharaoh, royalty and the upper clergy, deemed worthy enough to be deified.

The actual created world is a double division. Day and night bring the contrast between Earth and netherworld to the fore. So do life and death, speech and silence. Moreover, besides political divisions, the Two Lands also evoke the divide between, on the one hand, common people, strictly organized in fixed patterns of collective, hierarchical labor (cf. the pyramid) and this in accordance with the rule of theocratic justice and order (represented by the Shu-feather, emblem of Maat), and, on the other hand, the divine king attending the deities of Egypt, the pyramidion of Egypt and creation. Without him, the edifice of order would collapse and be lost in the yawning space of nonexistence, for Nun and his representative Apophis, constantly threaten order, life and justice. At dawn, this king greets the Sun, his father, and opens the double doors of the horizon (the shrine containing the cult figure of the deity). By thus facing the deity and offering Maat, he enters the inner "horizon" and by it rejuvenates creation. Being in touch with his "star" in the horizon, Pharaoh enters the sky of Re and communes with the deities "face to face".

2.Egyptian Pataphysics.

In the Egyptian view on the cosmos and cosmogenesis, a number of interesting features occur which deserve some reconstructive effort. In the light of the regenerative pattern at work in the hidden chamber and the Ars Obscura of Osirian faith, the thematic core of this exercise is an understanding of "the mysterious image of the Duat, unknown and unseen", the so-called five-headed, many-faced serpent "Tail-in-Mouth" ("aSA-Hrw"), the Greek Oroboros.

The First Occurrence is never "over". It happens as long as Atum leads the deities. When this ends, creation flashes into oblivion. Neither is creation "closed". The natural depletion of the cosmos can be curtailed by accessing the eternal pool of energy of the initial conditions of the universe, envisaged as an eternal moment of divine plenitude, differentiation and celebration outside the universe. This divine totality is symmetrical (the Ennead) but contains a symmetry-break (Seth). Although outside creation, it is accessible and its power can be tapped and harvested. Creation is rejuvenated by this energy, called into being by divine differentiation.

The knowledge hidden in the Duat is called "pataphysical". Historically, "pataphysics" is an absurdist concept coined by the French writer Alfred Jarry, who defined it as a philosophy dedicated to studying what lies beyond the realm of metaphysics. It was coined in his article "Guignol" in the 28th of April 1893 issue of L'Echo de Paris littéraire illustré. Later, Jarry called it "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments" (Gestes et opinions du Docteur Faustroll, 1911, II, p.viii). Others described pataphysics as resting "on the truth of contradictions and exceptions". It has been seen as a parody of the theory and methods of modern science and is often expressed in nonsensical language. But this is not necessarily so. The Collège de Pataphysique, founded in Paris on the 11th of May 1948, is a group of artists and writers interested in the philosophy of pataphysics. The motto of the college is "Eadem mutata resurgo" ("I arise again the same though changed"). This theme is consistent with the present approach as well as with the spirit of Egyptian thought.

In the present paper, pataphysics is restricted to the art and science of imaginary, artistic solutions for problems of cosmogenesis and cosmic conservation cast in a symbolical language. Later, these structures will be used as heuristic devices to develop a speculative cosmology, a metaphysics able to inspire science. But because pataphysics is not metaphysics, which is always arguable although not testable, it can be, like poetry, paraconsistent and even trivial. It does not stand "next to" physics, but tries to catch physical reality in symbolical and imaginative terms devoid of any restrictions (either of observation or of linguistics).

2.1 The basics of Egyptian magic.

The word "magic" comes from the Greek "magos". The "magoi" were itinerant seers and priests who came from Mesopotamia and Persia. In Persian, the roots "mog", "megh" and "magh", signify "wise", "priest", "excellent". The Chaldean word "maghdim" or "sacred philosophy" originated from these. The magoi, like those mentioned in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, are astrologers or "Chaldeans" and they represent the sacred science of the Ancients, summarized as astrology, gold, incense and myrrh.

Egyptian magic has been approached historically, descriptively and thematically. But, neither the evolution of the concept in time, the various perspectives taken (of the magician, the sacred images, the sacred words and the ritual actions), nor the study of themes (healing, protection, resurrection, rejuvenation, etc.) reveals how to make magic effectively work, either as the indwelling of spiritual energies in material substance or as the ability to bring the former energies to bear upon the physical plane. In the West, two prejudices have worked against any serious study of magic :

  1. monotheist demonology : In § 2117 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997) we read : "All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons." At the beginning of the previous century, the Catholic Encyclopaedia defined "magic" as the art of performing actions beyond the power of man with the aid of powers other than God. Magic was deemed a "grievous sin against the virtue of religion", an attempt to and communicated, not with God, but with demons and lost souls and coerce them. Even if these practices are constructive (as in white magic), they are contrary to religion. No approach of the spiritual world other than the salvic paths offered by exoteric, formal religion are accepted. The three monotheism have this exclusive soteriology in common : either the Mosaic law, the Christ or the Allah of Mohammed. In Judaism, magic was expelled from the synagogue, but moved underground in qabalah. In Islam, it remained popular and entered Sufism, the mystical Islam so often in conflict with the orthodoxy of the jurists. In the West, it reemerged in the Corpus Hermeticum, translated by Ficino during the latter part of the fifteenth century and, a century later, became "technical" in the Enochian system of dr.John Dee and his Christian Hermeticism (influencing subsequent Freemasonry & Rosicrucianism). Because of the position of the church, Christian magic went underground and, thanks to secularization, resurfaced in the XXth century as the many-headed New Age spiritualities (cf. Hanegraaff, 1996).

  2. the arrogance of the academia : in 1666, Colbert evicted astrology (one of the crucial techniques of Hermetism) from the French Academy of Science. As only efficient causes exist, stars & planets can exert no direct or indirect influence on a human being sufficiently strong to determine his or her physical, social or psychological situation (Thomas Aquinas had accepted that the physical part of man was inclined by the stars to do this or that, but never necessitated). Before the ban, Morin de Villefranche (1583 - 1656), the most influential French astrologer of his time, had written his monumental Astrologia Gallica (published two years after his death) in an attempt to reconcile astrology with rational thought ("principiis & rationibus propriis stabilita"). But to no avail. Alea jacta est. Astrology and the occult sciences had become the shadow of modern science ...  In 1984, university students are told by the high authorities of the Belgian academia not to occupy themselves with topics unworthy of an intellectual, to wit : astrology, homeopathy, parapsychology, magic ... Deemed nonsensical a priori, these subjects are banned and left undiscussed. That such an attitude runs against science was noted by Feyerabend, who, comparing an outstanding textbook on witchcraft (published by the Roman Church in 1484), with a statement against astrology, published in 1975 in the September/October issue of the Humanist, signed by 186 scientists (among whom 18 Nobel Prize Winners !), concluded : "Comparing the Malleus Maleficarum with accounts of contemporary knowledge the reader can easily verify that the Pope and his learned authors knew what they were talking about. This cannot be said of our scientists. They neither know the subject they attack, astrology, nor those parts of their own science that undermine their attack." (Science in a Free Society, Verso - London, 1978, p.92). Astrology, magic and alchemy are tied together and rejected.

The religions reject magic because it works "next to" God, while modern science refutes it because a priori magic cannot work, and if it does happen to work, it cannot be understood and controlled (seems extra-categorial, and hence unworthy of study).

If, as logical positivism asserts, spiritual energies do not exist, then only material causes can effectuate change. Magic offers the opposite : mind over matter. The ability to bring spiritual energies to bear upon the physical plane has, since the middle of the XIXth century, been the object of so-called "psychic research", made respectable as parapsychology. That telepathy (ESP, extrasensory perception) and telekinesis (PK, psychokinesis) are possible, has been confirmed by many experiments, but because there is no available model to explain these peripheral events, science prefers to ignore them ... Why ? Because the materialist paradigm, the current academic ideology, has developed no logic, frame or method to deal with its own periphery, nor with the failures of its ceteris paribus clauses. Instead of adjusting its materialism (as in hylic pluralism), it prefers, as did the Cardinals who condemned Galileo, to ignore the data or consider them trivial, because, like volcano-eruptions, they cannot be repeated often.

"The evidence for ESP and for PK -and I have presented only brief summaries of a few examples of it- seem to be adequate. Serious attention to the evidence should be convincing to all except those who are irreversibly committed to the worldview of materialism and sensationism, according to which ESP and PK are impossible in principle." -
Griffin, 1997, p.89.

The Egyptian theology of magic, of which all writings, monuments and artworks testify, will be evoked in an attempt to avoid the confusion brought to bear on the subject by modernism, monotheism and Greek philosophy and science. In Egyptian thought, spiritual energies and physical realities constantly interact. Not only can the spirit exist in matter (the query at hand in the materialistic West), but certain material "nets" or "receptacles", namely sacred images, activate their spiritual counterparts ex opere operato (a position eclipsed by the aniconic, "logoic" way monotheism represents the Divine). In his Enneads, Plotinus (205 - 270) praised the sacred science of the ancient sages, and wrote :

I think, therefore, that those ancient sages, who sought to secure the presence of divine beings by the erection of shrines and statues, showed insight into the nature of the All. They perceived that, though this Soul (of the World) is everywhere tractable, its presence will be secured all the more readily when an appropriate receptacle is elaborated, a place especially capable of receiving some portion or phase of it, something reproducing it, or representing it, and serving like a mirror to catch an image of it."
Plotinus : Enneads, 4.3.11 (Mackenna & Page).

In the Coffin Texts, the god "heka" is the creative power contained in the divine word of Atum.

"It is I who give life to the Ennead. It is I who act as he pleases, father of gods, lofty of standard, who make the gods effective in accordance with the command of Who-bore-Atum. The august god who eats and speaks with his mouth."
Coffin Text, spell 261. 

Because Heka is rooted in the Golden Age, it is the most powerful energy possible. It circulates between the planes of existence, materializing the spiritual and spiritualizing the material. The ontic and functional aspects always work together. In the New Kingdom, the god Heka has the hindquarters of a lion on the top of a standard on his head (F22, meaning "strength", or, in enigmatic hieroglyphs, "creative word"), while the name contains D28, the Ka-sign (two extended hands), suggestive of the circulation of vitality and the sacred science of images (the "double" as a material representation coming to life by being infused by divine energy). In the Ritual of Opening the Mouth, the protective energy of Heka, or "sA" (V17), is circulated by a staff called "Ur-Hekau", or "Great in Magic". In the Pyramid Texts, we read that Pharaoh is the Great Magician who aligns the heavenly and earthly realms. In Egyptian thought, the world could only continue to exist by offering Maat. This required the activation of Heka in harmony with Maat. Indeed, Heka and Maat can be seen together, on either side of the Sun god Re-Horakhety. In the Tomb of Ramesses VI, Heka is caught and projected with nets (Book of Gates, 9th division - cf. Piankoff, 1954, p.199). The six gods with nets are "those who preside over the words of magic". What do these various images indicate ?

"Heka" is used to denote (a) the "primordial Sa", the ever-dynamical energy of creation, issued from the word of Atum when he created himself as Atum-Kheprer, and (b) the "primordial field" underpinning creation. Sa-energy was present from the beginning, when Atum-Kheprer hatched out of the primordial egg floating in Nun. Sa-energy is a superluminal phenomenon, defying entropy by absence of dissipation. As a "superlight" outside creation, it connects all parts of Atum's creation and is highly conductive. The Heka-field protects creation by continuously embracing it in every part. In doing so, it encompasses creation and sustains its order, life and humanity. Magic (energy and field) is what keeps the machinery of the universe going, protecting nature's constants, architectures and forces. Heka is the father of manifestation, underpinning actual creation. If the Heka-field helps to conserve creation, Sa-energy is the dynamical manifestation of the primordial power.

"In order to understand Heka, therefore, we have to think of these two related aspects : Heka as the divine creative power that underpins and pervades all that exists in the spiritual and material world ; and Heka as the means by which the different spiritual and material levels connect with each other and can flow into each other." -
Naydler, 1996, p.125.

Although a dynamical energy (a product of divine differences) from outside creation, Heka can be caught and concentrated as part of creation. The deities themselves have "eaten" magic. They collect and project Heka by throwing their nets properly, i.e. in a ritual defined by sacred images and words of power ("hekau"). The Ennead itself can be seen as a huge reservoir of primordial Sa-energy animating each deity, a kind of stable energy-field. Although in essence luminous (or "white"), the creative potential can be caught and chained to destructive ends (become "black"). As a slave of Apophis, Heka becomes a destructive power, stopping the course of Re and bringing total annihilation.

In total four elements are crucial : the magician (the person gathering and projecting), the net (the object used to gather and project), the Heka-field and the Sa-energy. If these work together, producing an effective result, the magician (or deity) is said to have power ("sekhem"').

The power of the magician depends on his esoteric knowledge of the Duat and its Lunar tides (from New Moon to Full Moon to New Moon, etc.). At this point, the dynamics between the "kas" of his offerings and the justification of his own "ba" are crucial. Entering the netherworld and journeying there at will, makes the magician commune with the gods and be taught how to gather (as part of his consciousness) their specific Sa-energy (determining their magic). Returning to the waking state "on Earth", he then, to eventuate change, projects, using the proper channels, this energy upon the material plane. Ritual action does precisely the same, but the whole operation is projected as a series of actions symbolical of the magical intent at hand. Insofar as the impersonal ritualists (fused with a god-form) execute their rubrics properly, the same effect is reached as entering the Duat by more passive, individual, contemplative way (with eyes shut). Both contemplation and ritual may also be combined and probably they were.

The net is double : on the one hand, a series of sacred images of the deities has to be visualized, and, on the other hand, a sequence of sacred words has to be uttered at the right time. It goes without saying that prolonged mental training is required to be able to fully concentrate on the net and throw it well. Even more so if ritual performance is to be perfected. The proper elocution of the sacred words of power in the image of the sacred, most holy being, will stir the Heka-field, and set its Sa-energy in motion, productive of new effective transformations and rearrangements within creation. In this sense, magic is the efficient power of religion (if Pharaoh was unable to bring a "good Nile", a Sed-festival would be necessary to rejuvenate his "sekhem"). Without the power to change events in a so-called "supernatural way" (in fact a power hidden within the natural order), religion is a spiritual graveyard. Reduced to a spiritual form of ethics, religion looses its spiritual core and becomes another nature morte. If magician are unable to produce magical effects, then nothing had been gained. The proof of magic lies in what happens after some special things were done and in nothing else.

"In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths ; of Spirits and Conjurations ; of Gods, Spheres, Planes and many other things which may or may not exist. It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow ; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophical validity to any of them." -
Crowley, A. : Liber O, in : The Equinox, 1909, volume 1, nr.2, 2.

The Heka-field sustains the luminous plane of creation generated by Atum. It came into existence together with Atum when the latter as Khepri hatched from the primordial egg afloat in Nun. It is present in the First Time, when the cosmic building-blocks of creation (Atum/Fire, Shu/Air, Tefnut/Water and Geb/Earth), heaven (Nut) and the four fundamental anthropic principles (of Osirian faith) were generated and the Ennead was established for ever. In this field, every luminous thing was, is and will be contained. The Heka-field is the protector and regenerator of creation. Although radiating through every thing, it has its root "outside" creation, namely in the First Time of the Golden Age. To return to this field, is to harvest a practically infinite and eternal source of energy. Pharaoh, the Master Magician, merges with it, and becomes Atum-Re.

The Sa-energy, contrary to the all-embracing aspect of magic, is dynamical and local. It needs, like in irrigation, proper channels to flow and fructify. The deities are huge reservoirs of Sa-energy. They immobilize it in their "image" ("iti") and "power" ("sekhem"). To transfer this energy, a special ritual was developed. In it, the "mouth" and "eyes" of a statue or a mummy were "opened". At a certain point (namely in the Fourth Ceremony of The Book of Opening the Mouth from the tomb of Peta-amen-ap, cf. Budge, 1972, p.142), a staff called "Ur-Heka" or "great one of magic" is used to bestow the "two-fold strength of all kinds" and the "fluid of life". Of the instrument is explicitly stated that it is used to open "the mouths of all the gods of the South and of the North". In general, Osiris, king of the Duat, was invoked to assist in any operation involving Sa-energy, for the Lunar tides rule its flux and intensity.

If Heka is the universal field of magic, the Sa is a local expression (or energy) of that field. The Ur-Heka has the head of a ram, like the creator-god Khnum, the potter who fashioned humanity out to clay. The staff gathers Sa-energy (when passive) and conducts it when used in magical rituals. The channels and reservoirs used by the magician are defined by the magical intent. This is the kind of pot to be made, defined as a function of its use. If we take the sacred images and words as represented by the clay, then the actual action of the potter, while turning his wheel, giving symmetrical pressure to the clay, is an image of the dynamical nature of Sa-energy.

The principles of magical ritual can also be divided in subjective and objective. Images and words are necessary to bring the ritualist into trance (as a lower form of ecstasy), and although they do represent (and bring into manifestation) spiritual realities, these indwellings are interior and intimate (and need transposition to work out in the physical world). Instead, Heka and Sa are objective and manifest in the so-called "outer" world "out there". Magical field and magical energy are the two essentials of the objective mechanics of magic, the art and science of gathering and conducting Sa-energy, the ability to ignite the dynamism of radical change, as it were in "supernatural" ways (with massive ESP, PK and synchronicities). Although magic can be very spectacular, its inner thrust is the continuous interplay of the elements of creation with the aim to precipitate the Golden Age on Earth (the concrete manifestation of the higher balance and form of the Heka-field). Although the spirits of the deities never leave heaven, they do allow their many souls and doubles to descend and inhabit all kinds of bodies within. In this way, a receptacle for their specific Sa-energy can be made and their magical energy properly diffused upon the lower planes or called in and directed to specific goals.

The magic of the Egyptian state was Solar (Re) and Lunar (Osiris). As most magicians were also priest, Egyptian magic aimed at the recurrent rejuvenation of the Solar power (sustaining, together with the other stars, creation) and the periodic resurrection of Osiris, the Lunar power of fertility, birth, death and rebirth. The first cycle was projected upon the apparent movement of the Sun and the stars behind the ecliptic, and linked with Eastern dawn (rise, rejuvenation, horizon of transformation) and Western dusk (dawn, depletion, land of the dead). The second cycle stood for the human drama of the end of the Golden Age and the sequence of murder, dismemberment,
reassembly, reanimation, restoration & ascension of Osiris. This Lunar cycle is fundamentally ethical, for conscience ("ib", heart) is weighed. It was projected upon the Lunar tide and the yearly flood, direct cause of Egypt's wealth or demise. At the beginning of July, the land was dry and scourged by the violence of Seth. Then suddenly, from the South, the Nile slowly rose, turned green and stank for several days. Next, a stronger current purified these waters and the inundation was on its way. This extraordinary set of phenomena was the result of the resurrection of the god Osiris, the "body" of the Sun voyaging in the Duat, from where the flood came..

In the Pyramid Texts, focused on Pharaoh, the image of ascension dominates. The divine king is able to resurrect as Osiris and ascent to the sky of Atum-Re. In the Coffin Texts, everyman receives a soul to transform (into a spirit), but opposing forces have to be stopped by words of power. Without the protection of magic, the soul would surely be lost. The ascent is postponed or made impossible (cf. the spirits of the Duat) and the idea of judgment becomes more important. The unjustified will not enter heaven, and face annihilation. In the Book of the Dead and other New Kingdom texts such as the Amduat, the progress becomes even more difficult and lengthy hours, gates or pylons have to be navigated.

2.2 The perpetual return to the first occasion : the procedure.

"Through the paradox of rite, every consecrated space coincides with the center of the world, just as the time of any ritual coincides with the mythical time of the 'beginning'. Through repetition of the cosmogonic act, concrete time, in which the construction takes place, is projected into mythical time, in illo tempore when the foundation of the world occurred. Thus the reality and the enduringness of a construction are assured not only by the transformation of profane space into a transcendent space (the center) but also by the transformation of concrete time into mythical time. Any ritual whatever, (...) unfolds not only in a consecrated space (i.e., one different in essence from profane space) but also in 'sacred time', 'once upon a time' (in illo tempore, ab origine), that is, when the ritual was performed for the First Time by a god, an ancestor, or a hero." -
Eliade, M. : The Myth of the Eternal Return, 1965, p.21.

How well does this apply to Egyptian magic ! The core of the operation is a return to the fugal moment of cosmic unity represented by Atum-Kheprer, the precise moment Atum (as a unity transcending Nun) contracts into a singularity, i.e. repolarizes from diffused to fused. As Atum autogenitor splits in Shu, Tefnut, Geb etc., this singularity is only tangential, for the provoked repolarisation balances out after the emanation of Horus-Re, i.e. outside the "order" of the First Time (outside the proto-universe). This suggests that creation is the kingdom of Atum-Kheprer, the state in which the divine order stabilizes into symmetrical and conscious patterns. The risen land is the actualization of the divine order and of the possibility to witness the latter.

Hence, creation is a divine order, a child of light. Its laws and forces are well-formed. As the Ennead shows, the architecture of the First Occasion is overall symmetrical, with only one symmetry-break (Seth). Even Atum-Kheprer himself is a dual-union, bi-sexual and autogenous.

How is the return to the First Time realized ? The activation of magic requires sacred action or ritual. This is an coordinated set of movements filled with spiritual content, in particular a sequence of actions symbolically representative of a potent (Sa-filled and thus powerful) spiritual semantic, defined as a unity of image (in the mind) and word (on the tongue). Space, time and individuality are bracketed and so the magician makes him- or herself into a sequence of living hieroglyphs, embodying and conduction Sa-energy transcending the normal physical theatre of operations. In this way, the magus is the unity of word, icon and action.

"Central to all magical techniques was the invocation of the First Time. By the First Time, the Egyptians meant the nontemporal realm in which archetypal events enacted by the gods take place. The First Time is the realm of myth, and hence of spiritual realities more powerful than anything mere physical. By identifying a given terrestrial event with an archetypal First Time event, the former could become charged with a supramundane content. This was achieve through an act of invocation in which the supramundane or archetypal reality was brought down into the mundane, suffusing the latter with spiritual power." -
Naydler, 1996, p.147.

The core of the Ars Obscura also refers to this crucial conjunction of a temporal situation of the operational principle (or "Ba") of Re, the source of light, with a mythical "event" taking place in the First Time, in this case : the myth of Osiris. In the 6th Hour, the soul of Re is encircled by the five-headed serpent, and a mysterium coniunctionis occurs. Thanks to this union with the "body" of Osiris, the soul of Re is rejuvenated by momentarily fusing with the Sa-energy of Atum and the Ennead. Likewise, the magician, who identifies with one of the gods, becomes attuned to the specific Sa-energy of the deity at hand, and by this approach, steps "outside" creation, and enters the First Time. There, as a deity, the magus reorders nature "top down" (so above, so below). Because of the semantics of the deity chosen, as well as its specific Sa-energy, the magician works out specific forms of magic, to be classed as either defensive (prophylactic, preventive, curative, counter-charms, psychological), productive (obstetric, weather-charms, love-charms), prognostic (obstetric, divinatory, soothsaying, prophetic) or malevolent (the confrontation of demons, repelling evil, countering magical attacks, counter-attack, attack).

Egyptian magic involves a dynamical relationship between the physical (Ib - heart), vital (Ka - double), dynamical (Ba - soul) and effective (Akh - spirit) levels of every actual thing. Two movements stand out :

  1. bottom-up (from the physical to the spiritual : the magic of Osiris) : because here, the effect is to be tangible on the spiritual plane, Sa-energy is build up from ground-zero. To escape Geb, the Earth, the etherical double or (Ka) of the deity is fed. This cannot be realized without a hidden theatre of operations, co-relative sacred images & sacred words, and a series of rites linked to the Lunar tides. The Ka is made strong by the devotional practice of the magus, who feeds it with offerings, ultimately rooted in the four cosmic elements of creation : Fire (Atum), Air (Shu), Water (Tefnut) and Earth (Geb), i.e. the first differentiations of the Ennead. These offerings gratify the soul, and trigger the dynamical process (effectuated in the Duat) to the higher Akh-level (abiding in the sky of Re) ;

  2. top-down (from the spiritual to the physical : the magic of Re) : contrary to before, the effect is on the material plane, and so adequate irrigation conduits needs to be shaped to channel the Sa-energy from the plane of the Akh down to the material world. Without as it were lowering its octave by means of Bas and Kas, no precipitation is possible, for operational (dynamical) transposition is lacking. A magician like Pharaoh, the divine king, immediately ascends and enters the First Time. There, the Akh-power (the Sa-energy of a specific deity) is contained within its proper icon and logos, concentrating on the specific ways the deity transforms its own spirit into soul. These ways appear in the deity's own myth. By identifying with and acting out the archetypal form in ritual, the magus contains part of the Sa-energy (limitless at Akh-level) in the limited Ba-form(s) of the deity at hand, and then brings it further down, animating the Kas and physical bodies favored by the gods (localized or manifesting as events).

2.3 The exclusive role of consciousness : the Witnessing.

As early as the Early Dynastic Period (ca. 3000 - 2600 BCE), divine kingship was deemed an institution, and each king was a royal prince in whom, at his coronation, Horus the Elder (or "Heru-Ur") incarnated. Like Re, Horus the sky-god ("he who is far", "he who is elevated", "the high") represented the overseeing capacities of the immanent godhead, able to encompass the "Two Lands", the fundamental division between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, as well as between the Eastern land of the living and the Western land of the dead. All these were transcended in the figure of the divine king, the embodiment of the unity of Egypt and of the cosmos.

In the Old Kingdom (ca. 2670 - 2198 BCE), the theologians of Heliopolis, who monopolized political power, placed the divine king in the center, and developed the world's first theocratic system. Only the king assured that the primordial Nun would not overwash the dry land of creation, or, worse, stop the flood from happening. His presence proved that the Two Lands were united and at peace. Only the king had an active, dynamical spiritual principle (or "Ba") to be changed into an efficient spirit, an "Akh" busy with its own. In the temples, he and his representatives mediated (by offering Maat, i.e. truth and justice) between the Earth (the mineral, animal and human kingdoms of Geb) and the sky of the deities, who were so many manifestations of the one and unique Atum-Re, his and their divine father. Cult was mainly royal cult.

"... the king is not a human being, but a manifestation of the sun god with the outward form and mortal lifespan of a man. Automatically all our preconceptions about rulers fail. The European concept of dynasty, as a family tree, has no meaning if each king is a direct issue of the sun god. Instead there is a single line of individual manifestations of Ra. There is no royal blood, only the divine solar king and the human women with whom the sun god has contact." - Quirke, 2001, p.18, my italics.

In his house in the sky, the king encounters no desert, no darkness and no frightening features, obligations and punishments. On the Barque of Re, the light of day never sets and these Solar kings see this light and spend eternity in their father's company. Living in the fullness of Re's light and power, the king himself is transformed, while his mummified (sacralized) body rests in the sarcophagus, his double (or "Ka") is fed and his Ba changes into an efficient spirit, into a god. Because of the sacred mechanism of his royal ritual (including his Daily Ritual, Coronations, Sed festivals and "secret rituals"), the divine king is rejuvenated during this life (as are the deities) and, in the afterlife, is no longer the son of Re, but himself a creative god as Re, his divine father.

"The institution of kingship was projected as the sole force which held the country together, and the dual nature of the monarchy was expressed in the king's regalia, in his titulary, and in royal rituals and festivals. This concept -the harmony of opposites, a totality embracing pared contrasts- chimed so effectively with the Egyptian world-view that the institution of kingship acquired what has been called a 'transcendent significance'. This helps to explain the centrality of the institution to Egyptian culture, and its longevity." - Wilkinson, 2001, p.185, quoting Frankfort, 1948.

The king manifests the unity of the Two Lands. His embodiment and great residence is the "horizon of horizons", i.e. the horizon of the great witness, the sky-god Horus, a focus of divine (cosmic) consciousness, incarnate. The king is the exclusive point of view, the horizon of the divine on Earth. With the emergence of a unified Egypt (ca. 3000 BCE), the process by which the Neolithic and Predynastic cults of the great goddess of the Moon (ca. 5000 - 3000 BCE) had been slowly assimilated by the cult of the king, incarnating the male dominance of the overseeing "eye" of the Horus-falcon and the brilliant light of the Sun, culminated. The two main cycles of nature had been successfully coupled, and the dominant role of the Lunar type relinquished. Only the king, the "Bull of his Mother", the male incarnation of the male sky-god Horus, guaranteed the unity of the Dual Kingdom, being the ultimate Witness of the royal horizon.

The light of the Sun, grasped as the ultimate symbol of vitality, plenty and divinity, may be associated with the awareness made free by the surplus of food and a stable economy (or household) enabling the development of an inner life (consciousness perceiving its proper mode of being) and the blossoming of culture. This "Solarization" of the Lunar fertility myths goes hand in hand with a stronger centralized control. The core of the light of Re is associated with the light of the Imperishable Stars, and the ultimate expression of consciousness is the station of the "Akh" or light-spirit, the spirits of the gods, goddesses, ancestors and blessed deceased, the company of stars. The core of consciousness is awareness, the capacity of consciousness to be aware of itself. Of all the Akh-spirits, the divine king is the only one to exist in a physical human body on Earth.

  • Atum-Re : the awareness of consciousness of itself : What ?

  • Barque of Re : the extension of consciousness : How much ?

  • Horus : the identity of consciousness : Who ?

Pharaoh the magician, Horus and son of Re, is ultimately protected (as the sailor on his barque), because he is able to go to and return from eternity-in-everlastingness, i.e. the eternal repetition associated with his father Atum. He returns to neheh-time without loosing consciousness (avoiding the drop to merge with the ocean by representing the ocean in the drop). This dialectic between heterogeneity (consciousness) and homogeneity (unconsciousness), between order ("maat") and chaos (cosmic as "Nun" and moral as "isefet"), between a "good Nile" and social ruptures, is fundamental.

The archetype evoked by Pharaoh, the "great house", who transcends all differences and is an Akh-spirit on Earth, is the myth of the God-with-us, the recognition of the incarnation of the Divine. Without the presence of the Divine within the natural order, the latter is deemed impossible. The cosmos is a self-sustaining organism because of this immanent presence of the Divine in creation. Pharaoh is both "maximum concretum" and "medium absolutum". He is a concrete example of the perpetual renewal of the Sun-god.

"In today's psychological language we can understand the Sungod as a symbol for the source of consciousness. At the collective level, he is then the creative spirit of the unconscious that brought about the evolution of human consciousness ; at the personal level he is a symbol for the higher ego or the self." - Abt & Hornung, 2003, p.24.

2.4 The eternal cycle of rejuvenation and everlasting resurrection.

In the New Kingdom, the interaction between and harmonization of the myths of Re and Osiris (cf. the Middle Kingdom notion of Osiris as the "Sun of the night") was complex (cf. the New Solar Theology). As an old deity (Atum), the Ba of Re entered the Duat in the West. Vanishing in the mouth of Nut at dusk, the dynamical potential of Re emerged rejuvenated from her vulva in the morning (Horus the Child). In the middle of the nocturnal arc, the mystery of mysteries happened, and the soul of Re was rejuvenated by entering the body of Osiris. May we conceive this conjunction of the Ba of Re with the passive body of Osiris as the analogue of Horus bringing his (left) Eye of Wellness (the wedjat) to Osiris ? Although reassembled and reanimated by Isis, the state of the netherworldly Osiris was still one of weariness. When Horus defeats Seth and sees his Left Eye restored by Thoth, he brings the Wedjat to Osiris to restore him. Only then does Osiris "rise" and become the true "king of the dead", the "foremost of the Westerners".

Both mythical instances reflect the "dark night" of the divine principles ruling day (Re) and night (Osiris).

In the Amduat, the first six hours evidence the depletion of the dynamical and transformational powers of Re (his Ba). The visual semantics of this process is given by the iconography of the barque of Re. During the first six hours, the self-contained functioning of the Sun-god is visualized as the shrine in which he stands. This is also the "horizon", the place in which the god embodies his soul(s). In the 7th Hour, after Re's rejuvenation, instead of the shrine, the Mehen-serpent or "The Enveloper" appears around Re. In the 7th Hour, this serpent protects Re against Apophis, assaulting the Solar Barque namely just when Re's renewal is on its way. This serpent envelops Re until dawn, and represents the personal acquisition by Re of the Akh-power he gathered when, at midnight, he entered the body of Osiris and, thanks to this mysterium coniunctionis, was projected in the First Time to harvest the Akh-power of Atum on that level of reality.

The heart of the Solar myth of Atum-Re is eternal recurrence, and the image of Tail-in-Mouth is the visual summary of Egyptian cosmogony : the eternal cycle of renewal. This is the recurrent order of the Pantheon and of life. The extraordinary "oasis" called "order and life" (cf. Nile Valley geography) is surrounded by Nun : chaos and death. Life hangs over an abyss. The "salvic" sequence is circular : to rejuvenate, the end (Re) returns to its own origin (Atum). In the cosmic order of things, Re is able to project himself outside creation and merge with his own Akh-state as Atum-Kheprer. From this fusion, he returns rejuvenated to the world.

By contrast, the Lunar myth of Osiris does not feature circularity but linearity. His is a one-time, dramatic unfoldment which in essence can not be repeated, for it "happens" in the "Golden Age" before creation ("zep tepi"). Although irreversible, the "human" Osiris drama can and was play-acted in mystery plays (cf. Abydos). It returns in all drama involving marriage, murder, motherhood, fatherhood, childhood, vendetta, justification and restoration. Although king Osiris, after being murdered and dismembered by his brother Seth, is reassembled and reanimated by his wife and sister Isis, and this to the point of the magical conception of Horus, he is not happy in the Duat. His energies have not been fully restored and his condition is deplorable. His woe is heard by his son Horus. Constantly preyed upon by Seth, who tries to sodomize or kill the boy, Horus grows up and wants to avenge his father and claim the throne of Egypt, lawfully his. After a very long battle with Seth and an even longer debate among the deities, Horus is finally justified and proclaimed king of the Two Lands.

The Left Eye of Horus healed

During the battle, Seth damages the Left Eye of Horus. Restored by Thoth, Horus brings, after being proclaimed king, this healed eye (made whole again) to his father Osiris in the Duat. The healing power of this Eye of Wellness (or wedjat), the healed Left Eye of Horus, restores Osiris fully. Now Osiris can guarantee his son a "good Nile". In this way, Horus is the genuine witness and overseer, the king of Egypt, the "great house", the lord of the whole cosmos, the one blessed by the gods. Because Horus makes the ultimate sacrifice, the necessary condition is met and the subsequent outpouring cannot be stopped (its magic is inevitable).

"How beautiful it that which I have done for Osiris, more exalted than all the (other) gods ! I have given him the land of the dead, while his son Horus is the heir upon his throne in the Lake of Fire. I have made him have his seat in the Boat of Millions of Years, (so that) Horus is established on his throne (by) his supporters, and his monuments are founded."
Book of the Dead, chapter 175.

In the logic of sacrifice underpinning Osirian faith, the "Eye of Horus" and the theme of "bringing the Eye" are two crucial elements. Osiris is often portrayed as the god of resurrection, and although this is perfectly true, in the drama leading up to his ascent to the netherworldly sky, Osiris remains remarkably passive. Osiris is not able to protect himself against his brother and is easily tricked. Assassinated and dismembered, he is reassembled and reanimated by Isis and restored by Horus. Thanks to his family, Osiris is restored to the point of his ascent as an Akh and his coronation as king of the dead and the West.

The "Eye of Horus" is the offering of alimentary offerings. Because the mechanism of magic demands that the heart ("Ib") intends to feed the "Ka" to gratify the Ba, offerings, the food of the Ka, accompany all rituals. Usually, the best material produce was offered, but to speak sacred words, to make a voice-offering, was also deemed potent, and both were usually (if not always) combined. The Wedjat stood for all possible alimentary offerings and contained in itself all the healing (feeding) power Horus brought to Osiris. In Lunar magic, based on the relationship between "Ib", "Ka" and "Ba", it stood for the reintegration, reassimilation and regeneration of the magician, as it had been for Osiris.

"To say : O Osiris King Teti, stand up ! Horus comes and claims You from the gods, for Horus has loved You, he has provided You with his Eye, Horus has attached his Eye to You. Horus has split open your eye for You that You may see with it, the gods have knit up your face for You, for they have loved You. Isis and Nephthys have made You hale, and Horus is not far from You, for You are his Ka. May your face be well-disposed to him ! Hasten ! Receive the word of Horus, with which You will be well pleased. Listen to Horus, for it will not be harmful to You. He has caused the gods to serve You."

Pyramid Texts, §§ 609 - 611.

By the divine king, a Horus, the Wedjat is brought to Osiris. The king enters the Duat and brings his Eye of Wellness to his father. The king enters the Duat in a state of ritual trance, communicates with Osiris, and (as the corpse of Re at midnight) unites the image of Osiris (the mysterious flesh) with the source of divine healing power. Osiris is restored by his son and can assume his office as king of silence and darkness, while the king of Egypt rules as a "good" Horus, blessed with fertile lands.

"Whether Osiris is identified with the dead king, who spiritually embraces his successor, or is thought of as a condition of soul that the living king experiences in order to undergo an inner rebirth and to 'become akh' is immaterial to the crucial fact that insofar as we accept that the embrace was actually experienced by the Horus-king, what he experienced was a fusion with Osiris." - Naydler, 2005, p.70.

Let us accept, with Naydler, that an exclusive funerary interpretation of Egyptian religion is to be avoided. The available corpus evidences initiatic and ecstatic (Naydler has "shamanic") this-life rituals and spiritual experiences. The Horus king, son of Re, brings the Wedjat to Osiris and offers Maat to Re. On the one hand, he enters the Duat in trance and restores Osiris through his Lunar Eye. In doing so, he guarantees for himself a "good Nile".

"The Great Throne (Memphis) that gives joy to the heart of the gods in the House of Ptah is the granary of Tenen, the mistress of all life, through which the sustenance of the Two Lands is provided, owing to the fact that Osiris was drowned in his water. Isis and Nephthys looked out, beheld him, and attended to him. Horus quickly commanded Isis and Nephthys to grasp Osiris and prevent his drowning. They heeded in time and brought him to land. He entered the secret portals in the glory of the Lords of Eternity, in the steps of him who rises in the horizon, on the ways of Re at the Great Throne. He entered the palace and joined the gods of Tenen Ptah, Lord of Years. Thus Osiris came into the earth at the Royal Fortress, to the North of this land to which he had come. His son Horus arose as King of Upper Egypt, arose as King of Lower Egypt, in the embrace of his father Osiris and of the gods in front of him and behind him."
Shabaka Stone, Memphis Theology, lines 61-64, my italics.

On the other hand, he (re)connects (in monumental Temple rituals) the luminous world with its super-luminous origin in the First Time, namely the Solar (Right) Eye of Atum-Kheprer. By doing so, he sustains the order of light & life.

Ptahhotep wrote :

"Lo, the good son, the gift of god,
exceeds what is told to him by his master,
he does Maat and his heart matches his steps.
(O my son) as You succeed me, with a sound body,
the king at peace with all what is done,
may You obtain many years of life !"

Maxims of Good Discourse, epilogue.

2.5 Everlastingness and djedet-time : the background of creation.

May we associate Osiris with the everlastingness of djedet-time and with Nun ? During the Pillar Festival (held on the first day of Shomu, the season of harvesting), the Djed-pillar was raised. This symbolized the resurrection of Osiris. Its annual re-enactment, in elaborate festive occasions, invoked the death and renewal of the yearly cycle. In the Pyramid Texts, Osiris is indeed called "Lord of the Year".

"Osiris appears ! The Sceptre is pure ! The Lord of Right is exalted at the First of the Year, (even he), the Lord of the Year !"
Pyramid Texts, utterance 577, § 1520.

Only Osiris, the fertility god of old, guaranteed the stable abundance of future crops. So, despite the Lunar tides (the Moon's constant state of renewal) and the yearly Sothic timing, the agricultural cycle itself was not the issue here. Instead, the continuity, stability and permanence of the resurrection is at hand, as well as the reinitiation of the cycle (of life). Indeed, the rising Nile is the insignia of Osiris, while Nun is the source of the river. By associating Osiris with the Djed, the backbone of their livelihood, the Egyptians invoked the permanence of the resurrection of Osiris, the mythical event of his rising to heaven and being enthroned as king of the West. Osiris is a permanent netherworldly order next to Re's eternal recurrence. Just like Nun, who represented precreational, everlasting darkness, Osiris was the god of darkness, but then of a shadow realm (a hell) within creation. Just like Nun, who had no cult, Akhenaten and deceased Egyptians tried to escape Osiris ... but, for most, to no avail.

"Osiris was a special case. His dominion, the hereafter, was not subject to any authority based in the world of the living ; the god of the dead did not hesitate to remind everyone of this from time to time. (...) The netherworld came under a separate jurisdiction, as we would put it today." - Meeks & Favard-Meeks, 1996, p.39.

Nun is separated from Atum-Kheprer, the Ennead ("zep tepi") and creation (sky, Earth & horizon). Osiris, Lord of the Duat, although part of creation, is linked with Nun, the dark river running in the depths of the Duat. Both Nun and Duat are realms of darkness, silence and imminent danger. Both are separated from the source of life & order and the hierarchy of lights emanating from it. Both deities are rather passive and remote, although both harbor the power of luminous creation (in Nun, Atum floats and by Osiris, resurrection is guaranteed).

"Osiris is quite different, he demands sympathy. He is the completely helpless one, the essential victim. Yet he is avenged and his passion had an end at last, when justice and order are re-established on earth. The other gods are transcendent, distinct from their worshippers. Osiris, however, is immanent. He is the sufferer with all mortality but at the same time he is all the power of revival and fertility in the world." - Clark, 1959, p.97.

Nun is the dark, lifeless infinity of an undifferentiated mass of sameness. Nun is also the matrix of the dormant genetic potential, at it were scattered in it. Nun is the fundamental nature of every thing and everlasting (eternal sameness). This is a womb containing potential (virtual) creation. It keeps the luminous potential hidden, by scattering it in the vast and permanent sea of darkness, which, as it were, envelops it. Before the First Time, Atum, as a mere genetic potential, floated "very weary" in these lifeless primordial waters. His limbs were everywhere (and so nowhere). In this mode, "(i)tm(w)" stands for "to not be". He is a mere potentiality within the Nun.

Because of Nun's potential, the chaotic sea of precreation is not an entirely negative or empty concept. It represents all possible creativity kept immobile and dormant by infinite inertia. Moreover, there can be no principle within Nun to draw its genetic potential (or "Ba") together, for the inertia of eternal sameness cannot be overwon. So, despite the virtual prospect of a contraction of Atum to a point, there is nothing in Nun to promote such, quite on the contrary. To contract a luminous world from infinite darkness is contrary to the fundamental nature of non-luminous things, but not contrary to that of luminous entities.

2.6 Eternal recurrence and neheh-time : the first cause of creation.

In the Coffin Texts, Atum says : "It is my son 'Life' who lifts up my heart, that will enliven my heart when he has drawn together these very weary limbs of mine." (Coffin Texts, spell 80, lines 34j-35a). Although "alone with Nun in inertia" (line 33e-f), his heart is "lifted up" and his members are "drawn together" by his son Shu ... resulting in the Ennead and creation, or "Atum" in the meaning of "to be complete".

Note that (a) Atum's heart is uplifted and enlivened and (b) Shu and Tefnut are consubstantial with Atum-Kheprer. The former reminds us of the beginning of the Memphis theology and the theology of the sacred word, whereas the latter points to the paraconsistent (paradoxical) features of Atum, who at the fugal point of singularity splits and differentiates.

"There comes into being in the heart ; there comes into being by the tongue, (something) as the image of Atum ! Ptah is the very great, who gives life to all the gods and their Kas. It all in this heart and by this tongue."
Shabaka Stone, Memphis Theology, lines 53-54.

A contradiction persists : if Shu is the first emanation or theophany of Atum, then he cannot possibly "gather" the limbs of his father to initiate creation. The only one able to do so is Atum as Atum-Kheprer, as the Pyramid Texts underline. Atum-Kheprer is the father of the gods, the one who brings himself into being.

"To say : Hail to You, Atum !
Hail to You, [Kheprer] the self-created !
May You be high in this your name of 'Height',
May You come into being in this your name of Kheprer."

Pyramid Texts, utterance 587, § 1587.

Hence, two modes characterize Atum :

  • Atum afloat in Nun : the genetic potential is diffused and scattered in the infinite and inert expanse of chaos. This is the mode of the everlasting foundation of things non-luminous ;

  • Atum-Kheprer : the genetic potential is drawn together to a single point, which immediately splits into an Ennead of deities, spilling over (as Horus), cooling down and forming the material universe (as Pharaoh). As long as this universe exists, its Akh-power can be harvested by returning to the First Time. This is the mode of eternal recurrence, the foundation of every luminous thing.

Atum ends his dispersion and initiates his completion by Kheprer, the self-created. The genetic potential, instead of being left diffused, is contracted to a point. Atum-Kheprer is causa sui and sui generis. There is no cause before Atum-Kheprer and he is the only creator-god fashioning himself. At the moment Atum-Kheprer comes into being (i.e. at the reversal of diffusion or the start of genesis), a differentiation of the singularity takes place in so many divine self-manifestations (First Time). These eventually, due to inherent Sethian symmetry-breaks, "emerge" as manifestations of cosmic (Horus), legal (Pharaoh) and netherworldly (Osiris) order.

2.7 The eternal cycle of cosmogenesis ?

The serpent in the primeval darkness was a common image for Atum in his emergent form, performing creation by masturbation. Apparently, at the end of time, when all of humanity has reverted to the slime, this great surviving serpent prevails.

"God the Serpent therefore exists at both ends of time, when the world emerged from the waters and when, at the end of the present dispensation, it is engulfed in them once more."
Clark, 1959, p.52.

"Truly, I (Atum) will destroy everything that I have made, the Earth will become again part of Nun, like the Abyss of waters in their original state. I am (then) time and Osiris, (just I and Osiris), when I will have changed myself back into serpents, who knew no man and saw no god."
Book of the Dead, chapter 175.

Atum returning to (or emerging) from Nun - drawing by Rossini (1999).

If the world comes to an end because Atum destroys it, then the "zep tepi", the First Time (or Golden Age) of this universe, also eventually stops. The eternal recurrence of which Atum-Re, in his ongoing cyclical rising and setting, is a symbol, would, in this interpretation, not be "eternal" at all, but only for a very very long time. "How long shall I live ?" asks Osiris, and Atum replies : "[Atum] decrees that You are for millions of millions of years, a period of millions of years." (Book of the Dead, chapter 175). In what sense is the recurrent cycle of Atum then "eternal" ?

At the end of time, on the Last Day of creation, Atum makes the world return to Nun, and so every luminous thing is brought back to its original non-luminous state. All luminous things are again only potential, for there is nothing in manifestation. But there is a difference : Atum is no longer alone, but accompanied by Osiris. This "surplus" of the previous cosmic cycle is as it were added to precreation and suggestive of the forthcoming resurrection of creation as a whole.

So, the cosmic cycle of Atum (the presence of the actual universe and its dispensation) is made part of the larger cycle of cosmoi, the truly "eternal" recurrent process. Actual creation is then but one possible drawing together of Atum to a creative point of ultimate density among an infinite number of possible contractions and subsequent universes. The creation of the universe is recurrent, and this is the truly eternal cycle of Atum, each time rising and setting as the creator of a new universe.

A periodic steady state unfolds : Atum is dormant, autogenerates himself and brings all luminous things into existence. After a very very long time, Atum destroys the world and returns, together with Osiris, to a period of latency, after which a new cycle of creativity is begun, and this ad infinitum.

siteplan - sitemenu - search - general info - copyrights - contact

initiated : 25 X 2005 - last update : 07 XII 2010 - version n°2

© Wim van den Dungen