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

 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
 distribution by echo and on PODS has been given by the author.
 No 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 symbolism.
 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
 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
 else 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 signs in the representation of divine
 beings and spirits, b: artistic imitation or invention that is a method
 of revealing or suggesting 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
 form of consciousness.
 Let's use the word /Awake/ to mean the highest form of consciousness.  
 Remember -- the capital letter indicates I'm using 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 individual's attention is brought to the
 subject, then the symbol and its meaning can be recalled and the process
 repeated without any difficulty.
 If symbols are generated and communicated, if they are transmitted
 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 uncon
 scious, 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
 also 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 been
 found in use all over the earth.  We therefore can ask whether their
 meanings are similar, or are the symbols used simply because they are
 simple geometric figures, but with meanings arbitrarily assigned by the
 individual cultures?
 One participant brought forth Ouspenski's example that "Table" has 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 Aware
 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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