The Return of the Neters


   The ancient Egyptian legend cycle of Isis and Osiris is one of the world's most beautiful and enduring spiritual myths. It is the seed myth of Western literature, containing everything from the Green Man and the eternal vitality of nature to the healing, redeeming power of the feminine, from the Hamlet plot of the son avenging his father's murder to the showdown battle between Good and E Word. It has inspired countless stories and works of art from the dawn of history, yet it remains as fresh as this morning.   

 Its themes of love and desire, power and betrayal, death and immortality have always been universal. But today, Isis and Osiris, and the other Neters or "gods" who shape their story, speak to us more compellingly than they ever have before, as the emerging Gaian consciousness of today's world reminds us of a time that once was, and now comes again, when Divinity and Nature (including humankind) were different expressions of the same energy, and this is why the Egyptian word Neter (plural Neterw, pronounced Neteru) and the Latinate  word Nature have always been mirror images of each other. As our awareness of Divinity shifts from the Piscean model of awesome hierarchy, with God remote in the sky and human beings wedged in the mire of Earth, to the Aquarian paradigm of God immanent in Nature and every human heart, we gravitate easily again toward spirituality as a joyous celebration of friendship that links human beings with one another, and with Mother Earth.



   As we recognize this interdependence of all things in the physical and spiritual universe, it is only natural that we are fascinated once again with the Neters as powerful mythic embodiments of natural forces. We imagine that the Neters are returning. The reality is that they never left, but we lost sight of them and now are learning to see them again.

Lost Wisdoms and Spiritual Sciences

   All of this is not merely some wide-eyed modern spin on a very ancient tale. These ideas have been within the Isis and Osiris story all along, for it is the product of meditative techniques that were taught for thousand of years in the Egyptian mystery schools for the express purpose of empowering individual souls to discover and integrate their hidden forces, and direct them toward the goal of transcending the flesh, and attaining the limitless love and wisdom of eternal, Divine life. For the Egyptians, soul evolution was an exact science that we are only beginning to grasp in its logic and practicality.

   As today's new discoveries of lost wisdom help us to see more clearly that the ancient Egyptians, far from being superstitious animal worship- pers, were in fact skilled spiritual scientists who knew exactly what they were doing, we can better understand the amazing longevity and vitality of the Isis and Osiris story. It was the dominant myth of the ancient Mediter- ranean world, celebrated continuously for some 4,000 years, from the dawn of Egyptian history until it was restricted by early Roman and Byzantine Christianity, and finally driven underground, at least as a public ritual, by Islam

  Among the unusual features of the Isis and Osiris religion was an effort- less persuasiveness that won adherents on the strength of its spiritual and emotional potency alone, with little need for enforcement of dogma Unlike other religions that owed their expansion to aggressive military and com- mmercial power, the rites of Isis and Osiris actually grew more famous and beloved as Egypt itself decayed.

As Egypt was conquered successively by Persians, Greeks and Romans, the worship of Isis and Osiris multiplied itself in new versions all over the ancient world.

Isis in particular became the most important deity of her time, revered as the Mother Goddess everywhere from the silk route of Asia to the western provinces of Rome, where the story and image of the Virgin Mary became the most enduring memorial to the loving mercy and boundless, healing compassion of Isis, the eternal nurturing mother.


 The Egyptian Ritual Play


    The rite of Isis and Osiris owed its enduring appeal not only to its promise of resurrection and eternal life, its universal meaning and the richly entertaining qualities of the story itself, but also to the exquisite beauty and sensuousness of the ceremony. Egyptian popular religion was inherently dramatic because it directly involved the voices and bodies of the participants in the telling of the story. The rites of the Neters were celebrated in an annual festival cycle of interactive theatre pieces, in which performer/priests and priestesses led their celebrants in a series of song and dance rituals, all enacted to precise frequencies of light, color, sound, aroma, herbal teas and ritual foods, all designed to work together to create a complete multisensory experience of spiritual lift and transformation.

    For a look at how the Egyptian ritual play worked, let's visit the famous Temple of Luxor.



Copyright 2001 Dan Furst



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