Aretalogy: An Excerpt

Below is an excerpt from a new book published by Frater Jack Kausch, entitled Aretalogy. You can find full details of the publication and order links here.

“If Imhotep is the start of our philosophy,” I said to Ammonius, “and Amenhotep son of Hapu is the end of it, then what would you say our philosophy is?”

“Oh,” said Ammonius. “The Books of Wisdom. What else would philosophy be?”

“I suppose that’s true,” I said.

“Is not the initiate in the training book, The Chamber of Darkness, ‘The One Who Loves Wisdom?’ This is what we teach.”

“Who are our chief philosophers then?”

“You sound like a Greek,” said Ammonius. “The only philosopher who matters is Thoth. What can personal wisdom be, next to the divine?”

“But if you had to make a list, who would you say?”

“Well,” said Ammonius, “of everyone who has written an Instruction, the first was Imhotep. Then came Hardjedef, who was a son of King Khufu, the King of the Great Pyramid. Then there was Ptahhotep, who like Imhotep was a vizier. His son was Akhethotep, to whom his instruction is addressed. Then there was Kaires, your namesake, who was the father Kagemni, who wrote the Instruction of Kagemni.

“Imhotep, Hardjedef, Ptahhotep,” I said. “Akhethotep, Kaires, Kagemni.”

“Then we have the reign of King Amenemhat I,” said Ammonius. “This was after the rebellion of the reshyt, which Imhotep warned of in his Instruction, but which became inevitable after the reign of Pepi II. During this rebellion, there was Khety, who wrote an instruction. These were the philosophers who, because they had witnessed most the breaches of justice in their times, championed the ancient alliance of Justice and Truth: Neferty, Ptahmedjehuty, Khakheperraseneb.

“These are the greatest of our philosophers.”

“But Father,” I said. “What is this book which Imhotep wrote?”

“It is a book for how to live well,” said Ammonius. “And a reminder to the King’s Court, which almost did not receive him.”

“The famine…” I said.

“Yes, there was a famine in the time of Imhotep,” said Ammonius. “Caused by the negligence and disorder of the nobility.”

“This is what he was warning us about,” I said.

“Yes,” said Ammonius. “This is why I say Imhotep began our philosophy; Amenhotep ended it.”

“Because of your Order,” I said. “Tell me, what do our philosophers say regarding the soul, and the parts of the soul?”

“There are five parts of the soul,” said Ammonius. “The Ba. The Ka. The Name. The Shadow. The Akh.”

“Is there not also the Heart, and the Physical Body?”

“Yes,” said Ammonius. “But the Ba contains the body, and the body contains the heart.”

“What is the relationship between the Ba and the Ka?”

“The Ka transmigrates,” said Ammonius. “The Ba abides.”

“Can you explain this more to me, Father?”

“The Ba is the personality. It contains the set of all that one ever is, was, and shall be, as it occurs in Eternity. Thus the Ba is what attends in the Land of the Dead; it is the Ba which returns to inhabit the image of a person, or the embalmed body. This is the way in which the Ba is connected with the Name, or the representation.”

“So is the Name the Ba, Father?”

“No. The Name represents the Ba, and by saying the name, or making an offering, one invokes a Ba.”

“I still do not understand what you mean Father, when you say the Ba is an image of Eternity.”

“The World of the Dead is timeless,” said Ammonius. “We have within it the true Forms of all that we see here before us now. In that realm all our actions are complete. There you exist as a Ba, in the fullness of your actions, either good, or bad. This is the true meaning of the Weighing of the Heart. The Weighing of the Heart is happening all the time.”

“But how does the Ka relate, Father?”

“The Ka is the breath of life. It is the vital force. It is the cause of life. When life is done, the Ka departs and goes somewhere else. It does not abide as the Ba does. Yet when you make an offering before the shrine of one who is dead, it is to the Ka that you make the offering, although it is the Ba which arrives, and inhabits the statue or the Name.”

“Why is this, Father?”

“You are approaching the heart of the mystery of reincarnation, my son.”

“Then what is the Shadow?”

“The Shadow is the opposite of every Name, and every Ba, and is a necessary part of its existence. Even now, you have a shadow from your very body, which is the incarnation of your Ba. But you do not know it, so you do not know your Name. This is the meaning of the saying ‘Keep your shadow close.’ ”

“Oh Father,” I said. “I understand the relationship between the Ka and the Ba, and the relationship between the Shadow and the Name, but tell me, how do the Ka and the Ba combine to form the Akh?”

“This is the purpose, my son, of all our philosophy. All of the men whom I have listed made this their goal. Some, such as Imhotep and Amenhotep, have achieved it. For if one can achieve sainthood within one’s lifetime, then the Ba and the Ka will unite after death and form the Akh. Then immortality will be achieved.”

“But what of those,” I said, “to whom we leave offerings, and yet they were not saints or sages in their lives?”

“For those who do not attain union with God, we keep to the old rites such that their Bas might still have a chance of achieving salvation through their descendants. This is why the saddest thing is a lineage that has died out, for it traps the Ba-souls forever in the Land of the Dead, with no one to speak for them.”

“What a terrible fate,” I cried, “for those who are left in the Land of the Dead, with no one to remember them.”

“Yes my son,” said Ammonius. “But remember, that the soul also transmigrates, and that when the Ka completes its journey within the cycles of time, then also those Ba-souls will be released. So there is no tragedy that lasts forever.”

“This must be true, oh Father,” I said, “For the Kas and the Bas of the common people, but what of the soul of the King?”

“You are now speaking of the religion of Osiris,” said Ammonius. “This was the religion founded by Menes. It was different than the religion founded by Imhotep, and was the religion of the masses, whereas Imhotep’s religion is the religion of the educated. This is why it is said the Egyptians have two religions.”

“But what is taught in the religion of Osiris, for I desire to know that too.”

“You remember what I said to you last time?” said Ammonius. “Concerning the Order of my God, and the conflict for the throne?”

“Yes Father,” I said.

“That was a conflict between these two religions.

“The religion of Menes was centered in Abydos. The religion of Imhotep was centered in Memphis. The way of Osiris was a way for the masses to attain salvation in the person of the Divine Kingship. The King embodied the Holy Word which completes creation. As an incarnation of the ultimate upon Earth, he also wielded absolute power. As the Osirian way fell into decadence, and the later Kings were not able to embody this principle - as Imhotep warned us about - the collapse represented by the Heretic was inevitable.”

“So you are saying,” I said, “that the religion of Imhotep is the true religion of Egypt.”

“It is the tradition,” said Ammonius, “that has steered Egypt, that has been the rudder of the sacred barque, in the same way that Thoth, allied with the Moon, keeps the ledger of the sacred accounts for Re. And keeps the Sun turning in its course in the sky.”

“What are these spells, Father, which keep the Sun turning in the sky?”

“Oh, my son,” said Ammonius. “You must know we are in great danger. Across Egypt, the Oracles of the Gods are becoming silent. The divine waters are dying up. The Gods no longer speak to man. They are withdrawing from the world. We are in a crisis. Fools think that the Sun will keep turning across the sky without our ritual aid, but they do not realize that just as there are two religions, there are two Suns.”

“Two Suns, Father?”

“Yes, my Son. One appears to be the Sun we see there, which looks as though it revolves around us every day, rising in the East and setting in the West. The other is the Central Fire, the Flame Imperishable, about which the other Sun turns, as indeed our Earth does too, and all the planets with it. Now if we do not tend to the Sun of appearances with our prayers, and our constant adoration, it will cease to go across the sky. Then, no matter how it may appear, that there is still a fire in the sky, in our hearts it will be darkness, for the God of the Sun will have no way to speak to mankind, and we will be rudderless.”

“In that era, my Son, which is coming, there will be no word of the Gods anymore. Men will regard the Divine as something laughable, a fantasy. They will not be able to see what is right in front of their eyes: that the world is sacred, and deserves honor, praise and worship in the mystery of its being. They will cut themselves off from the Divine and, like children, they will cease to believe in God. Then will demons come, and drive them to madness, and chaos will rule their world. Yet still they will not realize what is happening to them: they will blame other demons, and cease to be aware that the cause of their distress are the Gods who, in their arrogance and naivete, they had banished from the world.

“Then will the stars not keep to their course. The seas will rise, and fire will rain upon the world. It is only in that time that perhaps salvation will come. In that time, I foretell, will be the true end of Our Philosophy, and we will know whether the work of Egypt has been for good, or ill.”

“Father,” I said, “thank you for the lesson.”

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