The nature of the gods/goddesses

Hi all,

Does anyone else struggle with getting their head around the gods not being omnipotent or omniscient?

At times I get frustrated with them but then I remember that they are not all knowing or everywhere all at once.

But then I struggle to understand how they can be spiritual beings that interact with so many people at the same time or appear in dreams etc and not omnipotent or omniscient to make that possible.

Anyone come across any interesting/good explanations about the nature of the Netjeru or god’s/goddesses from other pantheons?

Or do you have your own theories that make sense to you?

This is a complicated question! I’m liable to write a book on it…

Petrie has something to say on this in his work on Ancient Egyptian Religion. I think it is particularly important to try and divorce oneself from modern notions. The word ‘god’ is steeped in a judeo-christian-graeco-roman legacy that makes it a completely nonsensical word to my mind, at least in its ordinary interpretation.

At the risk of sounding offensive: The one all powerful, pervasive and persistent god of monotheism makes so little sense on so many levels that it is hard to divorce that nonsense from the word. I am convinced that the typical modern antithetical, iconoclastic and uncivilised stance on polytheism stems from how poorly formed their notion of god is. I can picture my ancestors crying over this… :frowning:

Ra is not a ‘sun god’ to my mind, he is never referred to this way that I have seen in hieroglyphs, he is the sun and personification of such, no more, no less. I am enjoying his warm and loving embrace today…

We can talk about the netjer being in human form, and we can tell stories from that perspective, or reason about them in this way.

Khepri is often invoked like a verb or noun - and in fact I feel there is a good argument for the language lacking strict notions of noun, verb or personality that we use today. The wikipedia page on this is a bit confusing… If you look in the Book of the Dead you will find several uses of the verb using the netjer determinative, in the many ‘spells’ (r’) of ‘transformation’ (xpr) into X

By far the most common occurrence I see of ‘netjer’ in writing is as the epithet ‘netjer aa’, usually translated as “the great god”, but it is also used to refer to the king, and is mentioned in the offering formula with reference to the deceased as receiving “all the pure (wab), beautiful things (nefer) from which the god (netjer) lives (ankhet)”.

Personally my more direct experiences are complicated to explain… I do not think there are some kind of magical entities with personalities that transcend space and time or the laws of nature, but I have certainly looked on the faces of the netjeru and known their power. I’ve long suffered from hallucinations including nightmares of what I now interpret as Nun. For me something essential about the nature of ‘gods’ is their impact, this is what makes them real for me - I don’t need to project anything onto them in terms of notions of personhood.

When I wake up and hallucinate a colossal jackal watching over my sleep and feel safe rather than terrified, and I’m left in awe, I know what that is. I do not fully understand where it comes from, people are incredibly complicated. I’m very prone to feeling religiously inspired when I’m in these states as well… and I absolutely believe that this is some part of the legacy of my ancestors.

Speaking of people and personalities, I think the more complex concepts of self and personhood from the Kemetic languages are extremely useful, and we can find references to e.g. Heka being one of the bau of Ptah. Its also worth noticing that individual people are constrained to having a single ba, unlike netjeru who are not so constrained.

EDIT: if i wanted to be scientific and precise about it, perhaps netjeru are some expression of our genetics, or some legacy thereof… but to attempt to use the old language and go beyond that, some piece of the ‘ka’ of people - what it means to be human.

“the universe” or “all people” are certainly “one thing” in some way, and so i don’t think i need to invoke mysticism, or unnatural phenomena to justify some monism as part of the answer… we all come from the same place, and ancestor worship seems to be fundamental across all peoples.

If i was going to pick on a day-to-day example, we all must listen, so we all are subject to experiences of ‘sedjem’ as netjer… and if we try to improve or change ourselves we will experience ‘khepri’, also netjer… ‘seshat’ is perhaps one of the most powerful examples of this, one we have drilled into us at schools. these things have a life beyond the individual’s experiences of them, they are a shared experience… interconnected and alike, without breaking the speed of light anywhere.

I wonder what Djehuty would think on this? Although I doubt I’d have time to hear it all … :stuck_out_tongue:

EDIT 2: for an extra science, Ra indeed will grow old and die, and it matters (!)

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