Where has the peace gone?

Hotep is one of the first, maybe only, words that people learn in ancient Egyptian. Most don’t know what it means, but they’ve heard of it. Hotep is peace, satisfaction. Imhotep does not mean “killer magic zombie mummy” it means “one who comes in peace.”

So why is there so little of it in Kemeticism these days?

The symptoms of its lack have appeared from several places in my follow list. If it was just one person, it wouldn’t mean much. What does it mean when it keeps coming up again and again? It means that something isn’t right. All is not well in modern day Kemet.

Is it a community thing where so-called leaders pretend to offer nourishment, but instead are serving poisoned bread? “This is the right way, and you’re an uneducated idiot if you don’t do XYZ.” I don’t mind reading pointers here and there that give me thoughts to consider. I really do enjoy seeing what people find out in their research, but I’d rather not have to duck when the backhand comes around.  No wonder Kemetics are so twitchy. Use one hand to cover your rear and the other hand to point at others? And if I mention it then I’m doing the exact same thing, of course.  My New Year’s resolution might be to put my hands to better use.

Is that really the cause though? Could it be the gods themselves? Even before I came to the community, my interactions with Them were not exactly peaceful. They have Expectations. They also seem a little fuzzy on the difference between asking and telling. Or they just skip over the telling part altogether.

All that said, I do believe that they love me on a personal level. I was distant from them. Not the other way around…except for him. It’s complicated, and I’ve asked Sekhmet to kick his ass if he tries that again. Or to kick mine. Is ass kicking the only language I know? No wonder peace and I are off to a rocky start.

I’m working on it though. Heru is trying to teach me. He’s been trying for a long time, but I’m a thick-headed student. Wonder where I got that trait from, eh?

It’s a problem and I don’t know the answer. If I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Got any ideas?

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9 thoughts on “Where has the peace gone?

  1. Sashataakheru says:

    I’ve noticed it too, but I also don’t know why, or how to fix it I sometimes wonder if perhaps some of it is the result of … culture shock?, of old gods and modern humans trying to figure out how to work together and speak the same language. We’ve grown up with different conceptions of gods and religion, and many of us are on our own, trying to do the best we can for Them. There’s a lot of learning to be a polytheist and worship the gods that we all do, because there aren’t any cultural rules we’re brought up with to teach us what to do and what to expect from Them. Gods and humans do tend to see things differently, and the culture difference may be part of that.

    I don’t know if it’s the Gods. I don’t have enough of that sort of experience to lead me to think it might be the Gods. It could very well be the nature of the Gods. They have Their own personalities just like we do, and Their own way of doing things, just like we do, and perhaps there are clashes here that are exacerbating this tension.

    But then, Sobek and I negotiate A LOT. About everything. I don’t know if I am unusual in this practice, though, but that’s just how we’ve always done things. He is very laid back, after all, and that suits me just fine. But I’m also rather headblind, and I don’t get a lot of the mystic spirit work stuff others do, and perhaps this is shaping the way I see things.

    Perhaps other gods are not as open to negotiation as Sobek is with me. Or perhaps, it is not a practice taken up by other Kemetic polytheists to the same extent that I do it, given bribery was definitely A Thing back in ancient Kemet. Which is also not to suggest that my way is the better way, either. It may be that my relationship with Sobek is uniquely peaceful, and the lack of chaos I’ve experienced in my relationships with the Gods means I’m not entirely aware of what other issues might be affecting this peace. They may be personal issues, it may be the dreaded ‘more recon than thou’ issue, the fractured nature of our communities, or other factors we can never really know about. Sometimes, I think it’s just something we’ve got to weather, and maybe we’ll come out stronger on the other side, if we’re lucky.

    • shezep says:

      I have had quite a bit of culture shock with Ra. He’s kind of old-fashioned. Of course with Ra you have to get in touch with that dreaded “A” word, authority, that many pagans are straight up allergic to. Many of the Netjer seem to posses this trait to a greater or lesser extent.

      As a culture we have forgotten how to serve, I think. How do you do it right? How do you put something greater above yourself without losing yourself in the process? Some people say that losing yourself is the goal and you can never give enough. I think that is an unhealthy extreme. Others think you should never compromise yourself and shouldn’t get yourself into that situation in the first place. It takes balance, and negotiation, as you said.

      How do we reach this balance? How do we maintain it? How can we show newer Kemetics how it works?

  2. I think in some cases it’s less Kemet and more people. These days, many people seem to have less peace in general. I know I do. That’s one of the many things that steered me right toward Hinduism, which seems to have some answers that work (for me personally).

    In a culture where outrage (manufactured or not) and finger-pointing garners pageviews, acclaim, and a following, can we really expect people to embody the concept of “hotep”?

    In a culture of “guru-worship” without balance, is it so surprising we see turmoil?

    In a culture where your value as a person depends strongly upon who you follow, what opinions you hold, how many “internet friends” you have, what you own, etc, do we dare ask where the hotep went?

    When you look at hotep from the satisfaction perspective, we live in a world that largely has no satisfaction. No satisfaction, no peace. No contentment. Humanity overall is a huge population sample, so the lack of hotep is less noticeable. The people who are hotep kind of balance out the people who aren’t. When you break it down to Kemeticism, which is a tiny population sample, the problems are more noticeable, more serious.

    My dealings with the Netjeru haven’t always been peaceful, either, but I can’t say it’s Them who’ve destroyed my peace. Bast gave me as much peace as She could. She’s left me in better condition than when we first met. Even Set has given me a degree of peace and stability. It’s just not enough, because the problems lie within myself, and this culture, and people in general. It’s not that we’re all bad people, or that we’re headed that direction. We’re just . . . *ourselves*.

    Plus, the Netjeru are concerned with maat. I don’t think most of Them would purposely cause a lack of peace, except for good reasons. Even Set, so often paired with the Evil One, has a method to His chaotic madness. There’s still maat in what He does, we just don’t like the way He goes about things. 😉

    • shezep says:

      “In a culture where your value as a person depends strongly upon who you follow, what opinions you hold, how many “internet friends” you have, what you own, etc, do we dare ask where the hotep went?”

      I dare. 😀

      We are basically creating our own culture here. Reconstruction can give us the bones, but we have to fill in the flesh. Why do some places have a healthier culture than others? I’ve lived in various locations through my life and each place has a different culture. Some were friendlier than others. Each had good and bad points. I’ve got nothing better to do than to poke at the problem.

      What answers are you finding in Hinduism? That might give us a few clues on where to look, not that I’m converting, but they may have some ideas that could help.

      • What I see in Hinduism so far (there’s literally hundreds of scriptures and I’ve only gone through about six!) is there’s less focus on the ego and desires. In fact, these two are said to cloud the mind. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna to, “Be a warrior and kill desire, the powerful enemy of the soul.” The focus is on God in a monistic or henotheistic sense. Anything that clouds the mind separates us from Him, Her, or It, and also drives us to do selfish, occasionally downright evil, things to ourselves or others.

        Gurus–the Kemetic/pagan equivalent of “elders”–are not only instructors, they are pointers. They point the way along our path and disciples are discouraged from mixing up the guru with God. In fact, here’s a conversation between Sri Ramakrishna (a famous Hindu saint) and a devotee:

        DEVOTEE: Sir, to see you is the same as to see God.

        SRI RAMAKRISHNA: Don’t ever say that again. The waves belong to the Ganges, not the Ganges to the waves. A man cannot realize God unless he gets rid of all egoistic ideas such as, “I am such an important man” or “I am so-and-so.” Level the mound of the “I” to the ground by dissolving it with the tears of devotion.

        Compare this with many modern Kemetic/pagan movements where the guru, in a vague sense, becomes the gods, becomes the vessel through which they speak. Hinduism teaches us that these vessels are just one part of the equation. For those who have just begun their path, the vessel is useful. Actually necessary, in Hindu tradition. But there comes a point where even the guru cannot help and must be left behind.

        I also see the concept of seva, or selfless service. In Sanatana Dharma, life is not about us, about our egos, or desires. It’s about helping others, because in everyone there is a bit of God, and so to maltreat or forget another–to fail to “emboaten”–another, is paramount to maltreating or forgetting God. In the Hindu culture, an individual may give up something good for him or herself for the good of family or neighborhood. You don’t see that in Kemeticism or many modern pagan religions in general. Especially here in the west, we are very individualized, almost to the point of isolation.

        Kemeticism is too much about egos, sectarian divides, and the overweening desire to be “right”–whatever that means in the context of something as flexible as maat! We may say it’s all about the Netjeru, and sometimes it is, but more often than not it’s the ego defending its position. In fact, maybe there is, in some cases, a small lack of humility?

        There’s some moves to do some “emboatening”, or seva, but I think it would serve us well to also remember that, just like in Hinduism, there is a spark of the divine in everybody from the Kemetic perspective. If we did, I think we would be more cohesive.

        The Akhu are sometimes called Netjeru. The akh, the “light body” in all of us, is divine enough to fly with Ra as He sails across the sky. If we had no divine nature in us, it would be utterly hubristic to adopt the name, form, and powers of a Netjer during ritual. But, as the Hindus say, ego, anger, sloth, and lots of other negatives cloud this truth and make us treat each other like garbage far too much. I’m not saying Kemeticism should adopt this Hindu idea wholesale. What I’m saying is it’s worth considering in the context of ancient Egyptian theology.

        It seems a shame to leave my (epic) comment off on a negative note. So I’d like to close with a quote from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

        “The heavenly voice of the thunder
        repeats this teaching. Da-da-da!
        Be self-controlled! Be giving! Be compassionate!”

        • shezep says:

          I apologize for not replying sooner. It’s that time of year when ym brain goes “bleh” and I’ve had all kinds of distractions at home.

          You have reminded me of some important things. It’s been a long time since I’ve studied Hinduism. I think you’re right, a lot of it is an ego problem.

          I’ll have to go back and think about how to go about being a vessel without falling into the trap. That IS my relationship with Heru, and kingly anything can go screw itself. I’ve always kind of aspired to being a monk, quite frankly, not a guru, or priest. Maybe I need to go back and think about what that would entail.

  3. naiadis says:

    A few caveats before I comment: I am by and large disconnected from any one particular group that would be considered a community; it has been years since I was involved in the groups that would suit my path. I’m active online sporadically, and I’m incredibly selective about what sorts of issues I give my attention to — and i’ve gotten more selective in the recent years because I am a *notorious* train-wreck watcher/reader. I grew up in a drama-filled household, and the sort of drama and chaos that can come about from watching the trainwrecks spiral out of control nourishes unhealthy things in me, so I endeavor to keep myself on a tight leash, as far as that goes. My “community” is wide flung, does not fit into any one specific tradition. I’m not trying to make one particular group better, I’m not trying to do my part to improve the situation/treatment of people in one community, I’m not trying to focus on intrafaith dialogue. I learned long ago that, for me, interacting with people that I do not know well is important in helping me to think about things in new ways, so I don’t get stuck in one way of doing things, and also to remember that though we are different, we share a few common core things as humans. I need to remember that or I dance with darker ways of thinking of people, and compassion is this thing I’m meant to work at.

    With that out of the way, what you are describing as being a problem within Kemeticism is not a special thing that only Kemetics face. I’ve been involved with a number of groups over the years, and I’ve talked to people who are in yet more groups, and these “do it this way or you’re an idiot” and the back biting and the pettiness is not something unique to Kemeticism, nor to pagandom, nor, dare I say, to religious groups at all. This is a human struggle, not so much a religious one, and I’ve begun to think that the root of the problem is one of security. I suspect that it’s a matter of instincts. We are, instinctually, social animals. There’s a wide spectrum, of course, between loners who are happy enough with non-human community, and super social people who need to be around others of the same kind, but we are, at an instinctual level, social creatures. And part of the baggage that that can come with is the desire to be part of a group, and in some people I’ve noticed that deviations from what they find vaild, meaningful, useful, result in their feeling threatened, or feeling that the group is threatened. And I suspect that that causes a lot of the “you are doing it wrong/you aren’t really X!”. And, I’ve noticed that unfortunately a lot of the people who react that way are either unwilling or unable to step back and look at the situation and their reactions objectively. When we feel threatened, we aren’t concerned so much as to why, but rather we are concerned with making it stop.

    This is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately, and a few particular individuals whose actions and behavior has demanded me to look at the situation and find a way to place them in a compassionate place, within, because otherwise frustration at the hate that they spread as going to devour me. It’s helped me, though it’s not easy, and, again, I’m a bit removed from the actual situation, because in my religious practice I’m something of a loner, and i’m most definitely a ‘use what works’ person. Which does not go along well with some of the more restrictive recon approaches.

    • shezep says:

      You’re right. I’ve seen this in a lot of other groups too. People are more likely to attack others when they feel threatened in some way. Insecurity does seem to go to the root of the problem. A person who is insecure tends not to be peaceful, either within themselves, or while interacting with others.

      I guess the next question is, why so insecure? Yes, people afraid of losing status in the group, but if more group members were more sure in themselves, then there would be a less judgmental atmosphere in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle.

      The worst offenders are the most in need of compassion. That’s a nice thing to say, but how does that translate on the ground? How do we get the insecure to calm the frack down? Is it even possible? Maybe not 100%, but is there was way to make progress? Or will thinking such thoughts only result in driving myself (more) crazy?

  4. […] note: Hotep is a concept that Shezep brought to the forefront of my mind some time ago (link: https://shezep.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/where-has-the-peace-gone/). After my studies in Hinduism, further studies in Kemeticism, and meditations on what Hotep means, […]

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