- Religion and Philosophy
African Wisdom Yields Timeless Lessons
I love wisdom teachings, whether they be proverbs, stories or mythologies, because of their ability to convey deep thought in a way that truly penetrates the mind. Being told that you should control your emotions is rather flat, compared to hearing an epic story of a hero or heroine who, while traveling along through much adventure, faces colorful characters who challenge him/ her and prove that the only way to defeat them is to shine a pure light of energy from the heart… a light that our heroine learned how to wield along her journey… now that really drives the point home and even entertains in the process. My favorite wisdom teachings originate in Afraka, and are full of drama, logic, and consequences that enrich.
One of the oldest and most retold stories is that of the Ausarian Resurrection. In ancient Kemet (known today as Egypt) the gods ruled the land with wisdom and evenhandedness. The land was fertile and the people prospered. Presiding over Kemet, were Ausar and Auset, who's love was a thing to behold. As their love and national prosperity grew, they aroused the jealousy of Ausar's brother Set who conspired in the shadows to overthrow his brother and take the throne for himself. Through trickery Set manages to kill Ausar by trapping him in a coffin and throwing that coffin into the sea. Auset, queen and devoted wife, searches near and far for her husband's body, eventually finding it had grown into a tree in a far away kingdom. She is able to retrieve it and returns home with it to Kemet. Once Set learns of Auset's efforts he promptly arrives to put an end to her plans to revive him. Set chops Ausar's body up into 13 pieces and spreads these remains across the distant reaches of the world. Auset collects all of the pieces save one, his phallus and returns home once again to Kemet. There, with the help of her sister Nebethet, she performs sacred ritual over his remains and calls forth Ausar's spirit. Through their spiritual union a child is conceived.
Months later she is attended to by loyal midwives and spirits as she gives birth to Heru. Fearful that Set will come and murder her son, who is rightful heir to the throne, Auset hides him away and trains him in the ways of wisdom. When he comes of age he and Set engage in endless battle, neither able to claim definite victory over the other. This, however marks a success for Set as he continues to rule the land as a tyrant in unrighteousness and greed. Heru falls victim to doubt, unsure that he will ever be able to defeat his uncle after Set terribly wounds him by gouging out his left eye. Heru also succumbs to rage when his mother shows mercy to Set. Needless to say, the situation looks bleak.
The god of wisdom, Tehuti, restores Heru's vision through magic. With his regained vision Heru along with Auset and the spirit of Ausar appeal to the council of gods for justice. Once Auset convinces Set to confess his own violation of divine law, the divine council concedes that Set is unfit to rule and Heru must take his rightful place as King of the land.
What do we learn from this story? One could say it is the quintessential story of good triumphing over evil. But that is too abstract and too "big picture." On a personal level, one can learn from this story that obstacles can be overcome through persistence (devotion of Auset/herosim of Heru). Whether you hope to attain "enlightenment," spiritual insight or to simply acquire your perfect job, Auset's devotion to the objective is what ensures success. After much determined effort, she gives birth to that very thing which will ensure the reestablishment of balance. Furthermore, before Heru can actually defeat the chaotic force that is Set, he must first become the embodiment of virtue and righteousness, in full control of his emotions. Then, he is able to stand before the council as one who was vigilant and just... in stark contrast to Set.
We also learn that not being able to control one's own emotions leads to a tyranny of the ego. This creates a distorted vision of reality concerned only with oneself and blind to others. A core tenet of Afrakan philosophy is that of reciprocity and the interconnectedness of the parts of a whole. Any over emphasis on the individual causes a void, a lack of concern for and attention to the whole. And so, as Set's selfishness plunges Kemet into chaos we must remember to avoid blind ambition less we create an unruly disharmonious kingdom of our lives.
In the end, Set and Heru are instructed to cooperate as both have a role to play in the maintenance of the kingdom. They both must hold up the sun barque of Ra. And in our lives we must insist that our emotions serve us, that they serve the higher good.
Unbridled emotions unfulfilled sometimes cause us to act out. This acting out is impotent because the emotion itself is impotent. It is coming from a place of powerlessness, a place of fear. When you fear poverty for example, you act out when you don't get what you want because you are afraid of facing the reality of having nothing and whatever that entails for you.
Next time I'll write about facing that type of fear and laughing as you dance atop it's body.
"Emotions are children of impotent revolt." -Kemetic Proverb
Aunkh, Udja, Seneb,
Sekayi Khita Hetep
For further study and spiritual practice:
This is a detailed study of Maat Philosophy. It contains a compilation of the 42 laws or precepts of Maat and the corresponding principles which they represent along with the teachings of the ancient Egyptian Sages relating to each. Maat philosophy was the basis of Ancient Egyptian society and government as well as the heart of Ancient Egyptian myth and spirituality. Maat is at once a goddess, a cosmic force and a living social doctrine, which promotes social harmony and thereby paves the way for spiritual evolution in all levels of society.