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Part Three

Coming of Age > Chapter Eight



Huy stopped talking and I ventured a question:
“We learned that Amun and his first consort, Amunet, were created by Atum.”
“That is true,” Huy answered. “It is as if Amun rebelled against remaining hidden throughout his existence. So he left Atum’s company and hid in the western tombs across from Ipet Sout. There he nursed his ambitions and nursed the family who adopted him as their God. It is our dynasty who moved Amun into the daylight and declared him to be the King of All the Gods.”
“Is he?” I asked
“He was,” Huy answered, “until Amenhotep Neb-Ma’at-Ra elevated himself above Amun-Ra. Now Amun-Ra is confused and his Priests are angry. Amun-Ra has become unmasked as Amun, the hidden one. That state of being hidden is his name as well as his destiny. By merging with other Gods, his true state of being was for a long time obscured. His Priests learned potent magic and caused people to believe that Amun-Ra was a ram, or that Amun-Ra was a God with human form. It was a sleight-of-hand meant to deceive and to cause fear. Djehouty, who could trick you at every step if he wanted to, would not lead you into fear and confusion. Djehouty would only lead you to learn more about yourself. But the Priests of Amun-Ra found people to be easily persuaded and malleable when they were afraid and confused.
“But that is not your concern, at least, not just now. Ptah-Hotep, the Sage, said that there is no limit to knowledge. I know of at least two reasons for his claim. First, human beings, the Noble Cattle, continue to create new things, new ideas, new words, and new ways of acting. Secondly, the Gods, as you have just heard, have so many mysteries, so many questions about their origin, that whoever cares to examine them can spend a lifetime finding new knowledge about each God.”

Another period of silence allowed me to think through Amun-Ra’s status. I could not go beyond what my Tutor explained. When I took a visibly deep breath, Amenhotep, Son of Hapu, continued:
“Unlike any of these or the other Gods, Djehouty came into being the moment there were two Gods in existence, the moment two Gods communicated with each other. Some Sages say that he was the spark that moved between the Gods as their words were uttered. When Djehouty moved with the words, the words became Hu, ‘Divine Utterance’, and brought Sia, ‘Understanding’. Such is the relationship between Hu and Sia, that when they are present, there is Ma’at. You cannot have the one or any two of them separately. These three divine attributes always occur together. But when you recognize them, you will know that Djehouty has spoken with the trinity of his creation. It matters not out of whose mouth the words proceed. If Hu, Sia and Ma’at come with the words, then Djehouty is present. Tomorrow, if you are still alive, we will talk more about this triad of powers. There is more.”

Huy took a deep breath before he continued:
“Djehouty was present when creation took place. Some Sages call him the Messenger of the Gods. But do the Gods need a messenger? No! What is Djehouty, then? He is the balance to physical creation. He is imagination and thinking. He is the God of representation, the mirror image of physical reality. He is abstraction.
“At birth, we were born as twins: the Body and its Double. The physical world, the moment it was created, also had its double in the abstract representations we call thoughts. Through thoughts, Djehouty mirrors creation back to the Gods. Before Ptah resorted to thinking, Djehouty was the only God who used thoughts both to reflect the physical world and to create new concepts. After Ptah usurped thinking, Djehouty became the message. As a scribe, you write words that represent the physical world. But you also write words that end with a rolled-up and tied papyrus scroll. Those words that end with this papyrus scroll cannot be shown in the physical world. They are abstractions. These words reflect the order and harmony of the physical world, which we call Ma’at.

The Teacher fell silent but continued to walk. I followed him, his words echoing through my mind and forming pictures. ‘I cannot take a word and put it on the offering table,’ I thought to myself. ‘I cannot take a thought and put it into my basket. But the offering table reminds me of all the words that are inscribed on it. The basket reminds me of all the thoughts associated with it. Which one is the messenger, and which the message?

It was a long time before Huy continued:
“Djehouty was the God and Patron of thinking, talking, writing and telling stories. He created the Ogdoad to deal with the thinking and interaction of each of the four levels of being: plants, animals, human beings and Gods. Within us, Djehouty’s Eight represents us to ourselves. The Eight introduce the body to the heart on the one hand, and introduce the thinking mind to the heart on the other, so that the heart can mediate between these two different worlds with intelligence.”

We walked among the columns in silence. I no longer paid attention, my mind overflowing with the ways of the Gods. At some point, Huy disappeared. I was unconcerned and continued to walk around the columns for a while longer. I counted them, eight wide and four deep. I immediately asked myself the obvious question: ‘If the four lines of columns represent the four levels of being, then what does the eight represent?’ I answered my own question: ‘Djehouty’s city is called The Eight. Eight what? The home of the Eight Gods. Which Eight Gods?’ I looked around. I knew the answer, but I stopped the thoughts that carried their names onto my tongue. I went to one corner of the Hall of Columns and thought: ‘I am going to say hello to each one of you in turn, Djehouty’s Eight!’

Even as I looked at the columns, other questions sprang onto my tongue, so I said them out aloud:
“Father Djehouty, you were with Ra along with your consort, Ma’at, when he came into being. Did Ra create his own Authoritative Utterance or did you become his Authoritative Utterance? Or, was Ra his own Authoritative Utterance because you were his Understanding and Ma’at defined his Balance? Or, did you unite yourself with Ma’at and Ra sprang forth from that union. Or, did Ra create all the other Gods, as well as the Heavens and the Earth with your and Ma’at’s power?”

I was stunned for a moment that these questions did not give rise to their own answers. I felt ill at ease standing there, not knowing what to do. So I moved to the first row of columns and began to call out the eight powers of Djehouty for the plants,

I greet you Nu
I greet you Nout
I greet you Hehu
I greet you Hehut

I greet you Kekui
I greet you Kekuit
I greet you Gereh
I greet you Gerhet

Then I moved to the second row and called out the eight powers for the animals,

I greet you Amun
I greet you Amunet
I greet you Sutekh
I greet you Heroo

I greet you Sekhmet
I greet you Bast
I greet you Nenu
I greet you Nenut

I continued with the eight powers for the Noble Cattle at the third row of columns:

I greet you Geb and Nout, heaven and earth
I greet you Min and Hathor, phallus and vagina
I greet you Montu and Neith, strength and accuracy
I greet you Aseer and Ast, action and discretion

I greet you Khonsu and Bast, emotions and senses
I greet you Ptah and Sekhmet, knowledge and healing
I greet you Atum and Nout, imagination and creativity
I greet you Djehouty and Ma’at, thinking and balance

Finally, I recited the eight powers for the Gods at each of the columns in the fourth row:

I greet you Ab, body
I greet you Akh, spirit
I greet you Wast, strength
I greet you Sekhem, power
I greet you Ba, soul
I greet you Ka, double
I greet you Hu, authoritative utterance
I greet you Sia, understanding.

It was dark by the time I finishded reciting the entire content of all 32 columns. I was so excited to have completed a task that took the priests an entire year to recite that I wanted to tell someone. I could see the moonlight rising from the east and rushed to the gateway that led back to the open court. But I had to stop because a temple guard stood in my way with a spear point at the level of my heart. Instinctively I drew back into the dark shadows of the columns. I was shocked and my mind was a blank.

When my heart slowed its beating and the noise of a rushing river had subsided in my ears, I silently walked to the gateway into the Inner Temple. I advanced in the nearly total darkness a foot’s length at a time and held back a cry as a sharp pain shot into my chest. I backed off instantly: my skin had been pierced by another spear point. I felt my own warm blood trickle down my chest. I felt betrayed and, at the same time, embarrassed. My body felt twice as hot as my blood so I backed up against the cool wall of the Hall of Columns. My breath, which also doubled its rate as my body heat increased, rushed in and out, chilling my chest on the way in, burning my throat on the way out.

Fear rose in my heart, but only long enough for a thought to course through me: ‘Did Amenhotep, Son of Hapu, my Patron, abandon and betray me?’ With every new breath my discernment calmed me: ‘If my Teacher wanted me dead, I would be dead by now.’ I could hear my own heart beat inside my ears, throbbing with a heat of its own. After a few minutes I remembered that Huy had said something strange: ‘If you are still alive tomorrow….” I thought my Tutor had made a joke. Now anger rose in my heart: ‘that guard could have killed me!’

I became aware of my chest again and noticed that the blood no longer flowed. My self-awareness returned. ‘I am supposed to stay in the Hall of Columns, that is clear. So what am I afraid of? I am no longer bleeding. I’ve had far worse wounds just playing. When I was wounded, I had gone home laughing and laughed even more when everyone in the estate feared for my life. I am not afraid of weapons!’ I reassured myself. ‘I could go and twist either one of those spears right out of the guard’s hands, stand aside, flip the shaft in the process and drive the point through the guard’s bellybutton.’

It was true, I could have done that. But, instead, I stopped my internal chatter. "I am not a baboon," I said to myself. And right then and there, the God revealed himself to me. Djehouty is as baboon, and the way I chattered to myself, I was one too. I pushed myself away from the wall as if to go somewhere, then reminded myself that there was nowhere to go. I had to pee, but now that the God was with me I would not do it in His premises. Certainly not in the God’s presence. So I sat down where I stood, folded my legs under myself and went over the day’s proceedings to see why fear had settled in my belly. When I had finished and looked up, Huy stood in front of me and daylight filtered through the columns.

“Come, my son, you look as if you could use a walk. Come, visit the mound and swim in the lake until your head is as clear as the sky because we have much work to do today.” I wanted to jump up but my limbs didn’t move. “Breathe, my son, breathe!” my tutor encouraged me. “Breathe life back into your legs. Make the air dance in your toes. Let your ears sound the music of the fastest dance Bes ever performed and you will feel the healing heat of life course through you as much as it did last night after the spear point bit into you. You are alive only by the grace of the God!”

A wave of heat indeed washed over me, but it was again the heat of embarrassment. It made me so angry at myself that I jumped up and nearly fell back down again because the flagstones felt like a bed of sharp spear points. I leaned against the wall and took my tutor’s advice: I took deep breaths and hummed a lively tune within my ears. The spear points disappeared from the soles of my feet and I caught up with my Tutor just outside the pylon. The courtyard was already bright.

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