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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

           Re: Symbolism
           Classification:     IT.IV.C.2.e
           Title:              Symbolism
           Author:             Grand Master of the Order of Shuti
                               Temple of Set
           Date:               December,  XXIV
           Published:          Dialogues  I.3
                               (The section on "Neters" was published in
                               issue I.4)
           Subject:            Symbolism
           Reading List:       2L, 2V
           [copyright  1989,  Temple of  Set.   Permission for  electronic distr-
           ibution by echo and on PODS has been given by the author.  Do not copy
           or distribute further without  permission of the author or  the Temple
           of Set.]
           The first session of  the year-XXIV Order of Shuti  Workshop discussed
           While the  study of symbolism itself  is not a primary  concern of the
           Order of Shuti, several  of the Order's activities do  involve working
           with forms of symbolism, or are discussed using various symbols.
           The symbols of the twin lion gods, Shu and Tefnut, who together are
           Shuti, are obviously of importance in understanding the activities
           of the Order.  The topic of symbolism was therefore chosen for the
           introductory session of the workshop.
           In discussing this session and what would be discussed, the Grand
           Master stressed that symbolism wasn't to be discussed simply as an
           intellectual exercise, but that all participants should try to
           apply the Setian yardstick of "application" to this discussion.
           Each and every topic of this session (and all sessions in the
           workshop) should be measured by the questions of a) Can it be
           applied? b) Is it useful? c) Does it work?
                                    What is symbolism?
           One answer suggested by workshop participants is that symbolism is
           a language of the unconscious.
           It is a dynamic language in which one image, a single symbol, can
           conjure up archetypical impressions, complex or complete concepts
           and/or meanings, rather than being a structured language in which
           many words and/or several sentences are needed to put together an
           equivalent concept or meaning.
           Another purpose of symbolism offered by the participants is to
           serve as a metalanguage which has two levels or multiple levels of
           Each symbol or set of symbols can have one meaning to the
           initiated, and another meaning to the uninitiated.  That symbol or
           set of symbols could also have /different/ meanings to the
           initiated, depending upon how the symbols are communicated, and how
           they are mixed with other symbols.  A statement in a symbolic
           language could even have multiple meanings communicated at the same
           time to the same person.
           A lot of the symbols Setians use in our writings are like that.
           When we read through the _Scroll of Set_ or the jewelled Tablets,
           those of us who have been using the language of the Temple of Set
           for a while will see certain words, and will know just from the way
           the words are used that the author is writing symbolically as well
           as grammatically, and he therefore means "this type of thing".
           This symbolic use of language lets us add meaning to an article
           without adding substantially to the size of that article.
           Those who haven't been in the Temple of Set long enough to pick up
           on that symbolic use of language will miss almost all of that
           meaning on their first reading.
           This is one of the reasons why we all find it useful to reread past
           issues of the _Scroll_ and to reread Tablet articles.  It enables
           us to read meaning in an article that we may have missed on an
           earlier reading.
           It sometimes happens that "unintended" meaning is found in an
           article during such a rereading.
           Even though the author may not have consciously intended to convey
           a certain meaning, that author's Higher Self may have influenced
           the writing in such a way as to symbolically give a specific
           message in the writing.  These messages remain hidden except for
           those who can perceive and understand them.
           On the other side of the scale, if our writings are read by someone
           totally unfamiliar with occult symbolism, then the message can be
           totally lost, and the reader may never see it.
           Symbolism can be visual (examples are the Pentagram of Set,
           pictures of the Egyptian Neters, etc), and verbal (the closing we
           use on our letters, "Xeper and Remanifest", is a statement and
           reminder of our dedication to this Formula, a way of developing and
           keeping the habit of Xeper and Remanifestation going strong).
           Each Word itself is a symbol (Xeper, Indulgence, Thelema, etc.),
           as is each Neter (Shu, Tefnut, Sekhmet, Bast).  A lot of principles
           can be used as symbols which have more meaning to the initiated
           than they do to those who just read about them in a dictionary.
           Visual and verbal/written symbols involve just one of our senses
           (sight).  If you include verbal/spoken symbols, we then involve a
           second sense (hearing).  We then asked the question, "Are there
           symbols which are perceived and communicated through each of our
           other senses?"
           The first examples offered by workshop participants were incense
           and music: Incense can bring about different emotions and responses
           through the sense of smell.  Music can bring about different
           responses through the sense of hearing, in ways totally different
           than the verbal symbols do (the difference between right brained
           behavior and left brained behavior).
                              Where does symbolism come from?
           When dealing with incense and music, we are leaving the mental
           processes and intellectual reactions that visual symbols will
           evoke, and going instead to the more reactive, bodily, reactions.
           We react to the smell of bodily feces with distaste because of the
           body's reaction to that sort of an input.  We find the fragrance
           of a rose very pleasing.
           One of the reasons we use fragrant incenses during a ritual is to
           bring about bodily reactions which enhance a ceremony because of
           the smells and our reactions to the smells.
           The discussion of one question leads to another.  We learn the
           reactions / interpretations / meanings of visual and verbal symbols
           (at least those discussed above).  Do we also learn reactions to
           incenses and music, or are those reactions more innate?
           The first response was that our reactions and interpretations, even
           our likes and dislikes of music are learned.
           The example given was classical music, which strikes some people
           as very soothing and relaxing, and which is likely to put these
           people to sleep.  But others who are aware of the intelligent
           dynamics and many other ingredients of classical music will find
           the same music very stimulating.
           (We believe that the workshop participant was thinking about the
           lighter classical pieces, such as "Tales from the Vienna Woods,"
           and not the more active pieces such as "Night on Bald Mountain.")
           The second response disagreed with the first, pointing out that
           regardless of whether they are used in classical, modern, or any
           other form of music, harps and strings tend to evoke emotional
           (peaceful) moods, while drums are more primal and physical, evoking
           more active responses.
           The next example we discussed referred to the sense of smell.  To
           a farmer, feces and fertilizer are pleasing and filled with
           promise, a smell of promised growth and life, a totally different
           reaction than most people will have (especially after scraping a
           dog's refuse off the bottom of one's shoe).
           Similarly, an inlander's first pleasant reaction to sea gulls on
           wing, grace in motion, can be compared to the reaction of those who
           live on the beach and have to live with the noise and the mess and
           the droppings left behind by those very same sea gulls.
           These examples tend to support the theory that we learn our
           interpretations of the sounds and smells around us.
           It seems from these examples that our reactions to inputs are
           learned, or at least they arise from our experiences.  The question
           then becomes, can symbols have innate visceral responses, or is the
           response to a symbol necessarily a learned one?
           To look at innate responses, the original responses to stimuli, we
           necessarily looked at children.
           For instance, children generally have no innate response to feces,
           and will often eat them until they learn not to.  They later learn
           to either react with disgust to feces, or to view them as
           fertilizer and the source of life.
           The first example of a possibly innate response brought to the
           discussion was that of the ephemeral beauty of a butterfly on the
           wing.  None of the participants could envision any child's reaction
           other than awe and delight at such beauty (or at least none would
           admit to any other vision).
           This brought forth remarks concerning innate childish "awe", where
           almost everything is new and wonderful.
           Children as they begin to distinguish between the multiple events
           and objects in their world are simply delighted at the beauty and
           diversity they find around them.  There is no "evil" during this
           time -- only the beauty of nature.
           Few of us have any reason to unlearn this initial response to the
           butterfly.  These reactions can therefore be considered innate,
           stemming from the earliest days of our consciousness.  Other
           reactions, unpleasant reactions and also more complex reactions,
           seem to be learned over time.
           Therefore, there's some of both types of reactions.  People will
           have initial reactions to many meaningful symbols and inputs, but
           their reactions can be modified by their experience and training.
           This discussion raised yet more questions, for which no answers
           were attempted during this workshop.  The questions were, how much
           of our symbolism is learned, and how much of our symbolism is
           innate? And if some form of consciousness or memory can survive
           from one life to another, then how much might be remembered from
           past lives?
           Symbols may or may not come to one's attention.  An extremely
           visually-oriented person may not notice or respond to other types
           of symbols, such as a room's smell, or a background level of music,
           while those who are oriented towards those senses will respond to
           those inputs, but perhaps not to others.
           Symbolism may have personal and/or experiential meaning (such as
           the manure used to plant your garden or that you step in), or
           symbolism may be abstract (learned and used in writing, teaching,
           or jewelry, but not something that's impacted upon you in the
           past).  This is the difference between a) the visceral response,
           which may be innate and may also be a learned response, modified
           through experience or training, and b) the mental response which
           must always be learned or developed.
           The Grand Master wishes to note that the discussion at this point
           had unintentionally left the strict topic of symbolism, and was
           dealing instead with experience and reaction to stimuli, on the
           unspoken assumption that these reactions applied to our use of
           We feel this to be a valid assumption, since the pleasant reaction
           we have to a butterfly or to a unicorn extends to and impacts our
           use of those images as symbols.  Those with differing reactions to
           sea gulls as described above would similarly have different
           reactions to Johnathon Livingston Seagull's story.
           Also, by concentrating on experience and reaction rather than
           symbolism, we temporarily lost sight of the most important measure
           of symbolism -- that of meaning.
           Yes, music has impact, but that music is symbol only if its impact
           includes meaning, such as the sense of freedom and power that
           accompanies the visual image of the "Flight of the Valkyries" and
           similar images of meaning those who are familiar with the movie
           will get from various pieces in the sound track from 2001.
           Likewise incense is symbol only if its impact includes meaning.
           That meaning may be supplied by the smell, or that meaning may be
           supplied by knowledge of the ingredients within the incense.
           Meaning may also be supplied by the words used during the censing
           of the chambre.  Without some meaning, incense is not symbol, but
           only smell.
           Closely related to the sense of smell is the sense of taste, and
           it's fairly easy to see that certain tastes can have meaning as
           During Passover Seder, a ritual meal of thanksgiving and freedom
           (celebrating the Exodus), Jews will dip greens into salt water and
           eat the salty greens, to remind them of tears shed by the Jews in
           bondage.  They will eat bitter herbs to remind them of the
           bitterness of slavery.
           Likewise, there can be kinesthetic symbols as well.
           We feel different when we hold a sword in ritual as opposed to when
           we hold a dagger.  We feel different when we are standing up than
           we feel when we are sitting down, and different still when we are
           kneeling or laying down.  We feel different in charged rooms, dry
           rooms, wet rooms, hot rooms, cold rooms, still rooms, breezy rooms.
           Uncontrolled, these latter experiences are just stimuli.
           Controlled and used meaningfully, these latter experiences can be
           symbols, manipulated and understood as such.
                               How should symbolism be used?
           The first obvious use of symbolism is in the communication of
           ideas, whether written, spoken, or communicated through one or more
           other senses.
           Based on the idea that a single symbol can have a whole galaxy of
           meaning, a useful communications skill is the ability to use
           symbols in the proper places, in the proper ways, to communicate
           more meaning in a smaller package (with fewer words).
           Perhaps of greatest importance within the Temple of Set are the
           magical aeonic Words: Xeper, Remanifestation, and Xem, and the
           preceding Words of Indulgence and Thelema.  By using these Words
           in writing or other forms of communication, we communicate the
           meanings associated with those Words.
           If I say the word "Xeper" to an initiate, it means something
           totally different than it would mean to someone off the street, and
           it means something totally different to a Setian than it would mean
           to an Egyptologist who /thinks/ he knows the Egyptian god Xepera.
           Our use of the Word is quite different and the symbol carries so
           much more meaning than just the word "Xeper" would carry in a
           modern Egyptian dictionary.
           This use of symbolism doesn't apply just to magical Words or
           Formulae, but applies to symbols of many different kinds, in many
           different uses.
           You'll sometimes find certain words capitalized in text, as are
           "Words" and "Formulae" above.  When not overly used, this is a
           clear indication that the author wishes you to view these words
           with their symbolic meanings, rather than their normal meanings.
           During group ritual, certain words will be spoken more
           flamboyantly, perhaps louder, perhaps longer, and often with more
           gesturing.  These words are then generally being used symbolically,
           with special meaning at least to the speaker, if not to other
           Symbolism can also be used in Lesser Black Magic, as tools to
           influence certain people (singular or multiple) in certain ways.
           The magician (or politician or religious leader or arts director
           or other manipulator) will use lighting, music, fragrance, and
           other symbols in ways particular to their audience's response to
           the symbols.
           Symbolism can be used upon ourselves in a similar manner, to bring
           out responses from us that we want to bring out, as in ritual or
           as an aid to Xeper.
           Words which have become symbols to us can be used as a means of
           increased concentration, as a visual mantra or as a sensual mantra.
           Such mantras can be used in ritual, in nonritual meditation, or
           whenever we choose to remind ourselves of the principles carried
           within that symbol.
           Over time, some symbols can become richer and can carry more and
           more meaning to those people who work with the symbol.
           These symbols can become "magnetic", in that each use of the symbol
           brings forth yet another repetition of the symbol.  Each reference
           brings forth a constellation of meaning, with one meaning and use
           leading to another.  Each use of the symbol sparks, or attracts,
           another use of the symbol.
           In these cases the symbols will often be repeated over and over
           throughout a conversation or other communication, each time
           exercising one or more of those meanings, and through the course
           of the communication this symbol can almost hold or reflect an
           entire world view.  This is the way the people influenced by the
           symbol see their world.
           At a political rally the symbol might be "America", "Democracy",
           or "the Party" (citizens of other countries may substitute those
           symbols meaningful in your domain).  To some, the symbol might be
           "the Environment".
           The symbol "Xeper" has a similar impact within the Setian culture.
           Group consensus is important for communication through symbols.
           Different groups can have differing uses of symbols, and attempts
           to communicate between these groups using the symbols particular
           to one group (or those symbols which are viewed differently by
           different groups) can result in confusion or worse.
           Because Setians come from such diverse backgrounds, we have various
           communication problems related to these diverse backgrounds.
           Members from the O.T.O. may know all of the Qabalic
           correspondences, while members from the Wiccan background couldn't
           care less about the Qabalic attributions, and have correspondences
           which are totally different.  Numerologists apply different
           meanings to their numbers than do the Qabalists.  And all of these
           symbolic systems work.
           But very, very few of them work for all Setians.
           Qabalists within the Temple of Set who write articles and/or
           letters steeped in Qabalic symbolism find that very few others care
           enough about their symbols to wade through the text.  Those from
           other backgrounds with intensive use of symbols similarly find
           difficulty communicating within the Temple of Set, since our
           symbolic vocabulary is so much less cohesive.
           This lack of similarity in symbolism affects not only written
           communication, but also ritual activity.
           Each pylon seems to develop its own pattern of symbolism, and
           inter-pylon rituals can at times be very difficult.  Fitting many
           diverse magicians with their diverse backgrounds into one
           meaningful ceremony can be a challenge, a challenge faced at each
           Conclave, and at each activity like the Order of Shuti Workshop.
                               Language of the Unconscious?{fn 1}
           The first question asked by the Grand Master was, "What is
           symbolism?" The first answer received was, "A language of the
           Parts of the workshop's discussion might seem to support this
           definition, while others contradict it.  So let the Grand Master
           Symbols have many attributes.  Among the more important of these
           attributes is their ability to cause reaction in their audience,
           visceral if not innate reactions, as discussed above.
           Elizabeth S. Helfman, in her book _Signs and Symbols around the
           World_, defines symbol as being: "anything that stands for
           something else."
           Look in your dictionary.  Mine includes several definitions of
           symbol and symbolism, including:
           >> Symbol: 2: something that stands for or suggests something
           by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental
           resemblance. 5: an act, sound, or object having cultural
           significance and the capacity to excite or objectify a response.
           >> Symbolism: 1: the art or practice of using symols esp. by
           investing things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the
           invisible or intangible by means of visible or sensuous
           representations; as a: the use of conventional or traditional
           in the representation of divine beings and spirits, b: artistic
           imitation or invention that is a method of revealing or
           immaterial, ideal, or otherwise intangible truth or states. 2: a
           system of symbols or representations.
           Symbolism is an art, a practice, something which is done.  It is
           used to communicate meaning.  It is a language.
           Our visceral responses to symbolism may be unconscious, but if
           that's all there is, then have we received and/or responded to
           The transmission and communication of *Meaning* requires some
           of consciousness.
           Let's use the word /Awake/ to mean the highest form of
           consciousness.   Remember -- the capital letter indicates I'm
           a symbol; Setian use of this specific symbol (Awake) most often
           refers to Ouspenski's heightened state of consciousness and
           awareness, a state of being totally awake.
           For simplicity, let's assign a whole range of various levels of
           conscious awareness to the name "conscious".  This name can apply
           to heightened states of consciousness which those we would call
           Awake, those that barely miss being Awake, down to the almost
           somnabulent states in which most of mankind spends their day.
           Finally, I would call the preconscious state one of consciousness
           in this case, a state in which meaning can be received,
           interpreted, and acted upon, without the individual being
           "consiously" aware that this has happened.  But if the
           attention is brought to the subject, then the symbol and its
           meaning can be recalled and the process repeated without any
           If symbols are generated and communicated, if they are
           and received, in one of these three states, then I believe we can
           correctly talk about symbolism, about language.
           However, if the generation and/or reception of the symbol is
           unconscious, and/or totally unintended, then I propose that that
           instance is not an example of symbolism, not language or
           communication, but rather the accidental generation of and/or
           visceral response to sensory input.
           [Now let us return to the discussion as it took place in the
                                 Planetary Symbol System?
           We know there are differences in the meanings of many symbols.
           "Patriotism" can be exceedingly important to a Republican and
           to a Libertarian, but the meanings that this symbol will have can
           be quite different in many ways.
           This leads us to ask the question of whether there might perhaps
           be a "planetary symbol system" in which some symbols at least can
           be found commonly used in many or all cultures.
           The cross, square, circle, and most or all simple symbols have
           found in use all over the earth.  We therefore can ask whether
           their meanings are similar, or are the symbols used simply
           they are simple geometric figures, but with meanings arbitrarily
           assigned by the individual cultures?
           One participant brought forth Ouspenski's example that "Table"
           a function, an innate form or essence, which can be perceived
           beyond words, and beyond a learned experience.
           "Table" provokes an image, feeling, or essence that is evoked
           through a willed perception that extends beyond the actual set of
           tables that a person may have ever experienced.
           Ouspenski claims that at a certain state of consciousness the
           individual can see this deeper meaning or essence, and that this
           deeper meaning or essence can be commonly perceived by all who
           reach this level of consciousness.
           Similar ideas were offered by Plato, and the concept of Platonic
           Forms is very prevalent throughout the Setian use of symbolism.
           We often speak of the Egyptian Neters as being Forms, the
           original or specific essence of an Ideal.
           This is certainly an area that needs deeper investigation.  The
           workshop session discussion however left the topic of abstract
           Forms, and instead investigated the historic use of symbols in
           various cultures.
           Looking first at the more complex god forms, it seems each major
           culture has a "trickster" god:  Coyote fills this niche in several
           Amerindian cultures, Loki in the Norse mythos, and Thoth (Hermes
           and Mercury) in the Egyptian (Greek and Roman) mythologies.
           The Trickster is that Spirit who makes you Think.  He is the Spirit
           who is unpredictable in his actions or reactions, who gets himself
           and everyone else into trouble.  In the process of doing so -- most
           often after everyone is already in trouble -- he makes people
           Think, and in the end he generally gets everyone out of trouble by
           To represent the Trickster, each culture used that type of symbol
           or god form which for them was most appropriate for that type of
           The coyote is a fairly independent and hard to track animal in
           America, requiring more than the usual amount of intelligence and
           stealth to catch.  Monkeys similarly were appreciated for their
           seeming intelligence and playfulness, and so Egyptians assigned the
           Trickster attribute and the monkey's form to Thoth.
           The question becomes ... is this type of being, this symbol,
           something which is universal, cross-cultural, or is it something
           which happens in just a few cases, and many other societies never
           had any use for it?
           Jung was exploring this area.  He defined specific symbols which
           he felt were common to many or all cultures.  They were fairly
           common within his culture and Jung did manage to validate them with
           some cross-cultural study.
           We still need to ask how complete his studies were, how extensive
           and wide spread.
           Given people in extremely different environments, such as the
           Eskimo, Hawaiian, Indian, Tibetan, etc., cultures where the people
           have many different experiences, totally different social and
           physical environments, it can be expected that these people would
           have very different reactions to the symbols that Jung thought he
           had commonality on.
           Jung's _Man and his Symbol_ was recommended by one participant as
           containing documentation on his cross-cultural studies in this
           Not having access to any resource materials that would answer our
           questions at the time, the workshop session then proceeded into the
           topic of Egyptian Neters and the use of Neters in symbolism.
           The Workshop discussion of Egyptian Neters started with a brief
           discussion of the Egyptian languages.
           The ancient Egyptians used three different written languages, the
           hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic.
           The demotic language was a mostly alphabetic language used for
           common communications among those who could read and write.  Its
           primary uses were for social and business reasons.
           The hieratic language was a pictographic language related to the
           hieroglyphic, but in which the pictographs were abbreviated and
           simplified to speed writing.  It was used for important state
           documents and many later religious texts.
           The hieroglyphic language was the most ornate of the three
           languages, the most ancient of the three languages, and the most
           symbolic.  It was used for the most important religious and
           philosophical statements, and for the most important state
           Many of the symbols used to form the hieroglyphic language had
           assigned sounds, and many others did not.  In addition to the
           sounds and symbols used to form words, the Egyptians used
           determinatives, signs added to specifically identify each word.
           Through the use of the determinative, it was impossible to mistake
           one written word for another, even if verbal sounds were the same,
           even if the letters used were the same.
           This use of a purely symbolic, picture-oriented language encouraged
           the ability in the learned ancient Egyptians to think with right
           brained methods while doing the left brain activity of reading.
           It also encouraged these educated and intelligent Egyptians to work
           with symbols as they worked with language.  They were able to
           communicate ideas and ideals in a language particularly well suited
           to this purpose.
           Setians use the ancient Egyptian neters as symbols, representing
           aspects of the world, or aspects of the individual.  We feel this
           is very close to the way the higher initiates of the ancient
           Egyptian Temples, the priests of the Temples, and the smarter
           pharaohs used and viewed their neters.  The neters were concepts
           that could be communicated to and shared among the initiated,
           rather than being actual gods and goddesses.
           The common man may very well have believed in the literal existence
           of his many gods and goddesses, but we believe the elite of the
           Egyptian society understood that these neters were purely symbols.
           When the Egyptian elite paid homage to the neters, they paid homage
           to the aspects of the universe or of the self represented by those
           One neter of obvious importance is Set.  In dealing with this
           symbol, we try to identify the original meaning of the symbol, and
           try to eliminate the corruptions of the symbol imposed by the later
           rule of Osirian religion.
           Rather than take space here to discuss the corruptions and
           distortions that were applied to the symbol of the neter Set
           through the Osirian culture, we'll simply refer the interested
           student to appropriate books in the reading list: 2A, 2E, 2G, 2W,
           and 2AA.
           It is rather clear that the use and peripheral meanings of the
           neter Set changed over time.  The study of Set must therefore
           include the careful consideration of the source of whatever
           writings are being studied.  Fortunately most other Egyptian
           symbols/god forms did not change significantly over time, and such
           care need not be used in studying and working with them.
           The neters were used and viewed as symbols.  But the Egyptian
           temples _were_ temples, and were recognized as religions, not
           simply as centers of enlightened philosophy.  This brings up the
           question: Do/did the Egyptian Neters actually exist? Were these
           religions founded to worship or work with beings that actually
           existed? Or were they simply the creations of the ancient Egyptian
           Rather than tackle immediately the question of whether the Neters
           actually existed, workshop participants first chose to examine ...
                                   Egyptian Priesthoods
           The first statement made about these priesthoods was that each
           temple in Egypt taught a different area of philosophy or knowledge.
           Those temples dedicated to a major neter or god taught that their
           primal Form was the First Cause.  These were the major temples of
           the land, and an initiate who studied at temple after temple would
           be presented with the opposing claims that each god was the god,
           The Creator.
           We noted in our discussion that the priesthoods of several of the
           "minor" neters did not make any such claims.  Thoth as a single
           neter never seemed to be treated as the creator god; nor was Geb.
           However, many of the major neters were treated as creator gods, and
           many gods were intentionally combined into units (such as
           Amon-Thoth-Ra) in order to form a god which would be powerful
           enough to qualify as The creator god.
                                     Neters as Symbols
           We returned to discussing the neters as ways of viewing possibility
           and potentiality, and ways of viewing different aspects of the
           universe and of the individual.
           For example, Ra, the sun god, was a most pervasive and powerful
           being, since every single day, there he is in the sky.  Ra was
           consistent, reliable, and therefore powerful.
           Similarly each force in nature was given a personality, because
           each force in nature has a personality (or seems to, to those who
           humanize such things).  This is the basic principle behind most
           spirits of most animistic religions.
           These personalities are generally reliable.  A rain cloud is going
           to rain; it isn't going to add to the day's heat.  The Nile was not
           going to dry up -- it was going to overflow once a year, and
           deposit good, rich, fertile earth upon the ground.  Each force of
           nature, each personality, was given a name, a face, and a story.
           The most powerful stories, faces, and names are those that belong
           to the creator gods.  There are so many creator gods, that it's
           really difficult to pin down an actual order of precedence.
           This brings up the fact that there are many apparently conflicting
           stories within the Egyptian mythology.
           The Grand Master pointed out that in several Egyptian myths, Shu
           and Tefnut are self-created.  In others they were created by tears
           of the master creator god (whoever he happened to be according to
           the story teller).  In yet others they were created by the master
           god's masturbation.
           Shu and Tefnut by definition are the first male and female.  The
           master god's masturbation in these latter stories was always male
           masturbation, but Shu is the first male.  Shu and Tefnut begat Geb
           and Nut, but Nut was the all-pervasive universal sky that preceded
           the first god...
           This confusion is the result of centuries of Egyptian story
           telling, and while some of it appears to be contraditory, most of
           it is useful.  We certainly must hesitate to consider this
           mythology as one consistent symbolism, and must be careful if we
           wish to communicate consistent meanings using these symbols, but
           we have found value in this mythology.
           Each story is a different way of looking at the world, a different
           way of looking at the first cause, and of looking at the symbols.
           By using these symbols, we can then indicate not only a symbol, but
           also which way we are looking at the world.
           Hence, if in ritual or other communication we call upon
           Ptah-Geb-Nu, we are calling upon the creator of the earth and sky,
           the god who created the physical universe.  If instead we call upon
           the Neter Ra-Ptah-ankh, we are calling upon the god who brought
           light and life to this planet.
           Having discussed these differing views of the world as expressed
           by the many symbolic neters, we felt that this was a good point
           from which to launch into a discussion of one of the ways in which
           we look at Neters.
           Set, the prime source of intelligence and the ageless intelligence
           himself, is a wee bit complex for someone a mere 20 or even 200
           years old to understand, regardless of whether we look at Set as
           an actually existing being or instead as a master symbol.
           So rather than try to encompass all of Set, intellectually or
           emotionally, rather than try to understand all of Set, we can work
           with neters which are facets of Set's being, facets of Set's
           symbolism.  Each neter can be thought of as a specific element of
           As examples, Shu is one set of symbolism, one set of ideas, that
           an initiate can work with to "get somewhere" with, to accomplish
           certain initiatory goals.  Tefnut is another set of ideas, as is
           Geb, Isis, etc.
           Rather than trying to encompass and work with the entire universe
           simultaneously, grab whatever you can hold onto, work with that
           handful, study that symbol or symbols, and see what it leads to.
           We had originally intended to discuss whether or not the Neters
           might or might not exist in their own right.  Having discussed the
           above, it seemed somewhat unimportant as to whether the Neters
           actually exist.  That topic will be left for a later discussion.
           While the following books and papers were not necessarily discussed
           nor referenced during the workshop discussion (or in completing
           this article), the initiate interested in studying symbolism as a
           subject on its own would be well advised to begin with this
           bibliography.  Additions to this bibliography are welcome, and
           should be sent to the Grand Master.  (_RT_ entries are from _The
           Ruby Tablet of Set_.)
           Barrett, Ronald K., "Book of Opening the Way (Key #4)".  _RT_
           Barrett, Ronald K., "Stele of Xem".  _RT_ IT.II.A.4.a.(3).
           Cavendish, Richard, _The Black Arts_.  4C (TS-3).
           Crowley, Aleister, _The Book of Thoth_.  9L (TS-4).
           De Lubicz, Isha Schwaller, _Her-Bak_.  2L (TS-1).
           De Lubicz, Isha Schwaller, _Symbol and the Symbolique_.  2V (TS-4).
           Fisher, Leonard Everett, _Symbol Art:  Thirteen Squares, Circles,
           and Triangles from Around the World_.  NY: Four Winds Press,
           MacMillan Publishing Company, 1985.
           Helfman, Elizabeth S., _Signs and Symbols Around the World_.  NY:
           Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., 1967.
           Jung, Carl G., _Man and his Symbols_.  Garden City: Doubleday &
           Co., 1964, 1968.  Also NY: Dell Publishing Co., 1968, and London:
           Aldus Books, 1964.
           Menschel, Robert, "Remanifestation:  A Symbolic Syntheses", _RT_
           Menschel, Robert, "Tarot Primer", _RT_ IT.II.B.3.e.(3).
           Norton, Lynn, "Golden Section Tarot Working", "Atu XV: The Devil",
           and "The Dialogue".  _RT_ IT.II.A.3.k.(1), 4.h.(1), and 4.h.(2).
           Regardie, Israel, _777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister
           Crowley_.  9M (TS-4).
           Schaefer, Heinrich, _Principles of Egyptian Art_.  2R (TS-4).
           1. The Grand Master wishes to digress temporarily from the
           workshop's discussion, and to comment at this time on one of the
           first statements offered during this discussion.

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