Monday, July 1, 2013

The Egyptian enneagram, part one


Today we're going to begin a series of essays on one of the earliest detailed descriptions of an enneagramatic diagram, ensconced in one of the oldest Egyptian creation myths.

The Shabaka Stone In the British Museum contains one of the earliest known teachings about the Egyptian God Ptah. The teaching is referred to as the Memphite Theology. The document is notable on  a number of different levels.

 The document begins by announcing that Ptah. "Lord of eternity," "created the Nine Gods." This establishes the idea that an ennead, or set of nine individual influences or principles, is at the foundation of the universe.  The passage firmly places Ptah in the transcendent position which, in material manifestation, occupies the note "do." The division of the "land" described in the document refers not just to the external kingdom of Egypt, but also the inner kingdom of man; and we can infer from this that the Egyptians constructed their society in such a way as to reflect esoteric qualities.

Horus and Seth rule over, respectively, the natural and spiritual sides of the enneagram. In this theology,  which espouses a balance and a unity of action between Set and Horus, Horus is nonetheless granted the ultimate authority; researchers who look into the ambiguous—yet prominent, and in fact vital—role that Seth plays in Egyptian mythology will see that he, as a God, is a long-suffering character with sometimes contradictory qualities.  As with much of Egyptian religious practice, the myth comes to us in fragments, and clearly deviates from historical explanations (see the article on Set.)

 The myth of Osiris is an allegory depicting the separation of centers, the suffering that results from it, and the need to travel through the mythological path of the enneagram  in order to reconstruct the wholeness of being which has been disrupted.

The Memphite theology mentions enneads, or sets of 9, in numerous places, and creates a specific hierarchy in which one ennead begets another, which begets yet another, and so on:

"(55) His (Ptah's) Ennead is before him as teeth and lips. They are the semen and the hands of Atum. For the Ennead of Atum came into being through his semen and his fingers. But the Ennead is the teeth and lips in this mouth which pronounced the name of every thing, from which Shu and Tefnut came forth, (56) and which gave birth to the Ennead."

 This unmistakably fractal reference relates directly to another image from the enneagram resource page:


Ultimately, in the document, each ennead, or set of nine influences, emanates from the one above it. So the document recapitulates the basic principles of the enneagram in a number of ways.

Ptah's role as the transcendent deity, and his iteration as a diverse series of hierarchical, godlike entities, is remarkably consistent with Ibn Arabi's doctrine of the Names of God.

 I realize that this is a lot to think over. We will wrap this post up here and I will offer some more comments on it in the next one.

May your soul be filled with light.


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