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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

Classification:     IT.IV.C.2.e
Title:              Symbolism
Author:             Grand Master of the Order of Shuti
                    Temple of Set
Date:               December,  XXIV
Published:          Dialogues  I.3
                    (The section on "Neters" was published in
                    issue I.4)
Subject:            Symbolism
Reading List:       2L, 2V

[copyright 1989, Temple of Set.  Permission for electronic
distribution by echo and on PODS has been given by the author.
No not copy or distribute further without permission of the
author or the Temple of Set.]

The first session of the year-XXIV Order of Shuti Workshop
discussed symbolism.

While the study of symbolism itself is not a primary concern of the
Order of Shuti, several of the Order's activities do involve
working with forms of symbolism, or are discussed using various

The symbols of the twin lion gods, Shu and Tefnut, who together are
Shuti, are obviously of importance in understanding the activities
of the Order.  The topic of symbolism was therefore chosen for the
introductory session of the workshop.


In discussing this session and what would be discussed, the Grand
Master stressed that symbolism wasn't to be discussed simply as an
intellectual exercise, but that all participants should try to
apply the Setian yardstick of "application" to this discussion.

Each and every topic of this session (and all sessions in the
workshop) should be measured by the questions of a) Can it be
applied? b) Is it useful? c) Does it work?

                         What is symbolism?

One answer suggested by workshop participants is that symbolism is
a language of the unconscious.

It is a dynamic language in which one image, a single symbol, can
conjure up archetypical impressions, complex or complete concepts
and/or meanings, rather than being a structured language in which
many words and/or several sentences are needed to put together an
equivalent concept or meaning.

Another purpose of symbolism offered by the participants is to
serve as a metalanguage which has two levels or multiple levels of

Each symbol or set of symbols can have one meaning to the
initiated, and another meaning to the uninitiated.  That symbol or

set of symbols could also have /different/ meanings to the
initiated, depending upon how the symbols are communicated, and how
they are mixed with other symbols.  A statement in a symbolic
language could even have multiple meanings communicated at the same
time to the same person.

A lot of the symbols Setians use in our writings are like that.
When we read through the _Scroll of Set_ or the jewelled Tablets,
those of us who have been using the language of the Temple of Set
for a while will see certain words, and will know just from the way
the words are used that the author is writing symbolically as well
as grammatically, and he therefore means "this type of thing".

This symbolic use of language lets us add meaning to an article
without adding substantially to the size of that article.

Those who haven't been in the Temple of Set long enough to pick up
on that symbolic use of language will miss almost all of that
meaning on their first reading.

This is one of the reasons why we all find it useful to reread past
issues of the _Scroll_ and to reread Tablet articles.  It enables
us to read meaning in an article that we may have missed on an
earlier reading.

It sometimes happens that "unintended" meaning is found in an
article during such a rereading.

Even though the author may not have consciously intended to convey
a certain meaning, that author's Higher Self may have influenced
the writing in such a way as to symbolically give a specific
message in the writing.  These messages remain hidden except for
those who can perceive and understand them.

On the other side of the scale, if our writings are read by someone
totally unfamiliar with occult symbolism, then the message can be
totally lost, and the reader may never see it.

Symbolism can be visual (examples are the Pentagram of Set,
pictures of the Egyptian Neters, etc), and verbal (the closing we
use on our letters, "Xeper and Remanifest", is a statement and
reminder of our dedication to this Formula, a way of developing and
keeping the habit of Xeper and Remanifestation going strong).

Each Word itself is a symbol (Xeper, Indulgence, Thelema, etc.),
as is each Neter (Shu, Tefnut, Sekhmet, Bast).  A lot of principles
can be used as symbols which have more meaning to the initiated
than they do to those who just read about them in a dictionary.

Visual and verbal/written symbols involve just one of our senses
(sight).  If you include verbal/spoken symbols, we then involve a
second sense (hearing).  We then asked the question, "Are there
symbols which are perceived and communicated through each of our
other senses?"

The first examples offered by workshop participants were incense
and music: Incense can bring about different emotions and responses
through the sense of smell.  Music can bring about different

responses through the sense of hearing, in ways totally different
than the verbal symbols do (the difference between right brained
behavior and left brained behavior).

                   Where does symbolism come from?

When dealing with incense and music, we are leaving the mental
processes and intellectual reactions that visual symbols will
evoke, and going instead to the more reactive, bodily, reactions.

We react to the smell of bodily feces with distaste because of the
body's reaction to that sort of an input.  We find the fragrance
of a rose very pleasing.

One of the reasons we use fragrant incenses during a ritual is to
bring about bodily reactions which enhance a ceremony because of
the smells and our reactions to the smells.

The discussion of one question leads to another.  We learn the
reactions / interpretations / meanings of visual and verbal symbols
(at least those discussed above).  Do we also learn reactions to
incenses and music, or are those reactions more innate?

The first response was that our reactions and interpretations, even
our likes and dislikes of music are learned.

The example given was classical music, which strikes some people
as very soothing and relaxing, and which is likely to put these
people to sleep.  But others who are aware of the intelligent
dynamics and many other ingredients of classical music will find
the same music very stimulating.

(We believe that the workshop participant was thinking about the
lighter classical pieces, such as "Tales from the Vienna Woods,"
and not the more active pieces such as "Night on Bald Mountain.")

The second response disagreed with the first, pointing out that
regardless of whether they are used in classical, modern, or any
other form of music, harps and strings tend to evoke emotional
(peaceful) moods, while drums are more primal and physical, evoking
more active responses.

The next example we discussed referred to the sense of smell.  To
a farmer, feces and fertilizer are pleasing and filled with
promise, a smell of promised growth and life, a totally different
reaction than most people will have (especially after scraping a
dog's refuse off the bottom of one's shoe).

Similarly, an inlander's first pleasant reaction to sea gulls on
wing, grace in motion, can be compared to the reaction of those who
live on the beach and have to live with the noise and the mess and
the droppings left behind by those very same sea gulls.

These examples tend to support the theory that we learn our
interpretations of the sounds and smells around us.

It seems from these examples that our reactions to inputs are
learned, or at least they arise from our experiences.  The question

then becomes, can symbols have innate visceral responses, or is the
response to a symbol necessarily a learned one?

To look at innate responses, the original responses to stimuli, we
necessarily looked at children.

For instance, children generally have no innate response to feces,
and will often eat them until they learn not to.  They later learn
to either react with disgust to feces, or to view them as
fertilizer and the source of life.

The first example of a possibly innate response brought to the
discussion was that of the ephemeral beauty of a butterfly on the
wing.  None of the participants could envision any child's reaction
other than awe and delight at such beauty (or at least none would
admit to any other vision).

This brought forth remarks concerning innate childish "awe", where
almost everything is new and wonderful.

Children as they begin to distinguish between the multiple events
and objects in their world are simply delighted at the beauty and
diversity they find around them.  There is no "evil" during this
time -- only the beauty of nature.

Few of us have any reason to unlearn this initial response to the
butterfly.  These reactions can therefore be considered innate,
stemming from the earliest days of our consciousness.  Other
reactions, unpleasant reactions and also more complex reactions,
seem to be learned over time.

Therefore, there's some of both types of reactions.  People will
have initial reactions to many meaningful symbols and inputs, but
their reactions can be modified by their experience and training.

This discussion raised yet more questions, for which no answers
were attempted during this workshop.  The questions were, how much
of our symbolism is learned, and how much of our symbolism is
innate? And if some form of consciousness or memory can survive
from one life to another, then how much might be remembered from
past lives?

Symbols may or may not come to one's attention.  An extremely
visually-oriented person may not notice or respond to other types
of symbols, such as a room's smell, or a background level of music,
while those who are oriented towards those senses will respond to
those inputs, but perhaps not to others.

Symbolism may have personal and/or experiential meaning (such as
the manure used to plant your garden or that you step in), or
symbolism may be abstract (learned and used in writing, teaching,
or jewelry, but not something that's impacted upon you in the
past).  This is the difference between a) the visceral response,
which may be innate and may also be a learned response, modified
through experience or training, and b) the mental response which
must always be learned or developed.

The Grand Master wishes to note that the discussion at this point

had unintentionally left the strict topic of symbolism, and was
dealing instead with experience and reaction to stimuli, on the
unspoken assumption that these reactions applied to our use of

We feel this to be a valid assumption, since the pleasant reaction
we have to a butterfly or to a unicorn extends to and impacts our
use of those images as symbols.  Those with differing reactions to
sea gulls as described above would similarly have different
reactions to Johnathon Livingston Seagull's story.

Also, by concentrating on experience and reaction rather than
symbolism, we temporarily lost sight of the most important measure
of symbolism -- that of meaning.

Yes, music has impact, but that music is symbol only if its impact
includes meaning, such as the sense of freedom and power that
accompanies the visual image of the "Flight of the Valkyries" and
similar images of meaning those who are familiar with the movie
will get from various pieces in the sound track from 2001.

Likewise incense is symbol only if its impact includes meaning.

That meaning may be supplied by the smell, or that meaning may be
supplied by knowledge of the ingredients within the incense.
Meaning may also be supplied by the words used during the censing
of the chambre.  Without some meaning, incense is not symbol, but
only smell.

Closely related to the sense of smell is the sense of taste, and
it's fairly easy to see that certain tastes can have meaning as

During Passover Seder, a ritual meal of thanksgiving and freedom
(celebrating the Exodus), Jews will dip greens into salt water and
eat the salty greens, to remind them of tears shed by the Jews in
bondage.  They will eat bitter herbs to remind them of the
bitterness of slavery.

Likewise, there can be kinesthetic symbols as well.

We feel different when we hold a sword in ritual as opposed to when
we hold a dagger.  We feel different when we are standing up than
we feel when we are sitting down, and different still when we are
kneeling or laying down.  We feel different in charged rooms, dry
rooms, wet rooms, hot rooms, cold rooms, still rooms, breezy rooms.
Uncontrolled, these latter experiences are just stimuli.
Controlled and used meaningfully, these latter experiences can be
symbols, manipulated and understood as such.

                    How should symbolism be used?

The first obvious use of symbolism is in the communication of
ideas, whether written, spoken, or communicated through one or more
other senses.

Based on the idea that a single symbol can have a whole galaxy of
meaning, a useful communications skill is the ability to use

symbols in the proper places, in the proper ways, to communicate
more meaning in a smaller package (with fewer words).

Perhaps of greatest importance within the Temple of Set are the
magical aeonic Words: Xeper, Remanifestation, and Xem, and the
preceding Words of Indulgence and Thelema.  By using these Words
in writing or other forms of communication, we communicate the
meanings associated with those Words.

If I say the word "Xeper" to an initiate, it means something
totally different than it would mean to someone off the street, and
it means something totally different to a Setian than it would mean
to an Egyptologist who /thinks/ he knows the Egyptian god Xepera.
Our use of the Word is quite different and the symbol carries so
much more meaning than just the word "Xeper" would carry in a
modern Egyptian dictionary.

This use of symbolism doesn't apply just to magical Words or
Formulae, but applies to symbols of many different kinds, in many
different uses.

You'll sometimes find certain words capitalized in text, as are
"Words" and "Formulae" above.  When not overly used, this is a
clear indication that the author wishes you to view these words
with their symbolic meanings, rather than their normal meanings.

During group ritual, certain words will be spoken more
flamboyantly, perhaps louder, perhaps longer, and often with more
gesturing.  These words are then generally being used symbolically,
with special meaning at least to the speaker, if not to other

Symbolism can also be used in Lesser Black Magic, as tools to
influence certain people (singular or multiple) in certain ways.
The magician (or politician or religious leader or arts director
or other manipulator) will use lighting, music, fragrance, and
other symbols in ways particular to their audience's response to
the symbols.

Symbolism can be used upon ourselves in a similar manner, to bring
out responses from us that we want to bring out, as in ritual or
as an aid to Xeper.

Words which have become symbols to us can be used as a means of
increased concentration, as a visual mantra or as a sensual mantra.
Such mantras can be used in ritual, in nonritual meditation, or
whenever we choose to remind ourselves of the principles carried
within that symbol.

Over time, some symbols can become richer and can carry more and
more meaning to those people who work with the symbol.

These symbols can become "magnetic", in that each use of the symbol
brings forth yet another repetition of the symbol.  Each reference
brings forth a constellation of meaning, with one meaning and use
leading to another.  Each use of the symbol sparks, or attracts,
another use of the symbol.


In these cases the symbols will often be repeated over and over
throughout a conversation or other communication, each time
exercising one or more of those meanings, and through the course
of the communication this symbol can almost hold or reflect an
entire world view.  This is the way the people influenced by the
symbol see their world.

At a political rally the symbol might be "America", "Democracy",
or "the Party" (citizens of other countries may substitute those
symbols meaningful in your domain).  To some, the symbol might be
"the Environment".

The symbol "Xeper" has a similar impact within the Setian culture.

Group consensus is important for communication through symbols.
Different groups can have differing uses of symbols, and attempts
to communicate between these groups using the symbols particular
to one group (or those symbols which are viewed differently by
different groups) can result in confusion or worse.

Because Setians come from such diverse backgrounds, we have various
communication problems related to these diverse backgrounds.

Members from the O.T.O. may know all of the Qabalic
correspondences, while members from the Wiccan background couldn't
care less about the Qabalic attributions, and have correspondences
which are totally different.  Numerologists apply different
meanings to their numbers than do the Qabalists.  And all of these
symbolic systems work.

But very, very few of them work for all Setians.

Qabalists within the Temple of Set who write articles and/or
letters steeped in Qabalic symbolism find that very few others care
enough about their symbols to wade through the text.  Those from
other backgrounds with intensive use of symbols similarly find
difficulty communicating within the Temple of Set, since our
symbolic vocabulary is so much less cohesive.

This lack of similarity in symbolism affects not only written
communication, but also ritual activity.

Each pylon seems to develop its own pattern of symbolism, and
inter-pylon rituals can at times be very difficult.  Fitting many
diverse magicians with their diverse backgrounds into one
meaningful ceremony can be a challenge, a challenge faced at each
Conclave, and at each activity like the Order of Shuti Workshop.

                    Language of the Unconscious?{fn 1}

The first question asked by the Grand Master was, "What is
symbolism?" The first answer received was, "A language of the

Parts of the workshop's discussion might seem to support this
definition, while others contradict it.  So let the Grand Master


Symbols have many attributes.  Among the more important of these
attributes is their ability to cause reaction in their audience,
visceral if not innate reactions, as discussed above.

Elizabeth S. Helfman, in her book _Signs and Symbols around the
World_, defines symbol as being: "anything that stands for
something else."

Look in your dictionary.  Mine includes several definitions of
symbol and symbolism, including:

>> Symbol: 2: something that stands for or suggests something
else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental
resemblance. 5: an act, sound, or object having cultural significance
and the capacity to excite or objectify a response.

>> Symbolism: 1: the art or practice of using symols esp. by investing
things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the invisible or
intangible by means of visible or sensuous representations; as a: the
use of conventional or traditional signs in the representation of divine
beings and spirits, b: artistic imitation or invention that is a method
of revealing or suggesting immaterial, ideal, or otherwise intangible
truth or states. 2: a system of symbols or representations.

Symbolism is an art, a practice, something which is done.  It is used to
communicate meaning.  It is a language.

Our visceral responses to symbolism may be unconscious, but if
that's all there is, then have we received and/or responded to

The transmission and communication of *Meaning* requires some
form of consciousness.

Let's use the word /Awake/ to mean the highest form of consciousness.  
Remember -- the capital letter indicates I'm using a symbol; Setian use
of this specific symbol (Awake) most often refers to Ouspenski's
heightened state of consciousness and awareness, a state of being
totally awake.

For simplicity, let's assign a whole range of various levels of
conscious awareness to the name "conscious".  This name can apply to
heightened states of consciousness which those we would call Awake,
those that barely miss being Awake, down to the almost somnabulent
states in which most of mankind spends their day.

Finally, I would call the preconscious state one of consciousness in
this case, a state in which meaning can be received, interpreted, and
acted upon, without the individual being "consiously" aware that this
has happened.  But if the individual's attention is brought to the
subject, then the symbol and its meaning can be recalled and the process
repeated without any difficulty.

If symbols are generated and communicated, if they are transmitted
and received, in one of these three states, then I believe we can
correctly talk about symbolism, about language.

However, if the generation and/or reception of the symbol is uncon

scious, and/or totally unintended, then I propose that that instance is
not an example of symbolism, not language or communication, but rather
the accidental generation of and/or visceral response to sensory input.

[Now let us return to the discussion as it took place in the 

                      Planetary Symbol System?

We know there are differences in the meanings of many symbols.
"Patriotism" can be exceedingly important to a Republican and
also to a Libertarian, but the meanings that this symbol will have can
be quite different in many ways.

This leads us to ask the question of whether there might perhaps be a
"planetary symbol system" in which some symbols at least can be found
commonly used in many or all cultures.

The cross, square, circle, and most or all simple symbols have been
found in use all over the earth.  We therefore can ask whether their
meanings are similar, or are the symbols used simply because they are
simple geometric figures, but with meanings arbitrarily assigned by the
individual cultures?

One participant brought forth Ouspenski's example that "Table" has a
function, an innate form or essence, which can be perceived beyond
words, and beyond a learned experience.

"Table" provokes an image, feeling, or essence that is evoked through a
willed perception that extends beyond the actual set of tables that a
person may have ever experienced.

Ouspenski claims that at a certain state of consciousness the Aware
individual can see this deeper meaning or essence, and that this deeper
meaning or essence can be commonly perceived by all who reach this level
of consciousness.

Similar ideas were offered by Plato, and the concept of Platonic Forms
is very prevalent throughout the Setian use of symbolism.  We often
speak of the Egyptian Neters as being Forms, the original or specific
essence of an Ideal.

This is certainly an area that needs deeper investigation.  The workshop
session discussion however left the topic of abstract Forms, and instead
investigated the historic use of symbols in various cultures.

Looking first at the more complex god forms, it seems each major
culture has a "trickster" god:  Coyote fills this niche in several
Amerindian cultures, Loki in the Norse mythos, and Thoth (Hermes
and Mercury) in the Egyptian (Greek and Roman) mythologies.

The Trickster is that Spirit who makes you Think.  He is the Spirit
who is unpredictable in his actions or reactions, who gets himself
and everyone else into trouble.  In the process of doing so -- most
often after everyone is already in trouble -- he makes people
Think, and in the end he generally gets everyone out of trouble by


To represent the Trickster, each culture used that type of symbol
or god form which for them was most appropriate for that type of

The coyote is a fairly independent and hard to track animal in
America, requiring more than the usual amount of intelligence and
stealth to catch.  Monkeys similarly were appreciated for their
seeming intelligence and playfulness, and so Egyptians assigned the
Trickster attribute and the monkey's form to Thoth.

The question becomes ... is this type of being, this symbol,
something which is universal, cross-cultural, or is it something
which happens in just a few cases, and many other societies never
had any use for it?

Jung was exploring this area.  He defined specific symbols which
he felt were common to many or all cultures.  They were fairly
common within his culture and Jung did manage to validate them with
some cross-cultural study.

We still need to ask how complete his studies were, how extensive
and wide spread.

Given people in extremely different environments, such as the
Eskimo, Hawaiian, Indian, Tibetan, etc., cultures where the people
have many different experiences, totally different social and
physical environments, it can be expected that these people would
have very different reactions to the symbols that Jung thought he
had commonality on.

Jung's _Man and his Symbol_ was recommended by one participant as
containing documentation on his cross-cultural studies in this

Not having access to any resource materials that would answer our
questions at the time, the workshop session then proceeded into the
topic of Egyptian Neters and the use of Neters in symbolism.


The Workshop discussion of Egyptian Neters started with a brief
discussion of the Egyptian languages.

The ancient Egyptians used three different written languages, the
hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic.

The demotic language was a mostly alphabetic language used for
common communications among those who could read and write.  Its
primary uses were for social and business reasons.

The hieratic language was a pictographic language related to the
hieroglyphic, but in which the pictographs were abbreviated and
simplified to speed writing.  It was used for important state
documents and many later religious texts.

The hieroglyphic language was the most ornate of the three
languages, the most ancient of the three languages, and the most
symbolic.  It was used for the most important religious and

philosophical statements, and for the most important state

Many of the symbols used to form the hieroglyphic language had
assigned sounds, and many others did not.  In addition to the
sounds and symbols used to form words, the Egyptians used
determinatives, signs added to specifically identify each word.
Through the use of the determinative, it was impossible to mistake
one written word for another, even if verbal sounds were the same,
even if the letters used were the same.

This use of a purely symbolic, picture-oriented language encouraged
the ability in the learned ancient Egyptians to think with right
brained methods while doing the left brain activity of reading.

It also encouraged these educated and intelligent Egyptians to work
with symbols as they worked with language.  They were able to
communicate ideas and ideals in a language particularly well suited
to this purpose.

Setians use the ancient Egyptian neters as symbols, representing
aspects of the world, or aspects of the individual.  We feel this
is very close to the way the higher initiates of the ancient
Egyptian Temples, the priests of the Temples, and the smarter
pharaohs used and viewed their neters.  The neters were concepts
that could be communicated to and shared among the initiated,
rather than being actual gods and goddesses.

The common man may very well have believed in the literal existence
of his many gods and goddesses, but we believe the elite of the
Egyptian society understood that these neters were purely symbols.
When the Egyptian elite paid homage to the neters, they paid homage
to the aspects of the universe or of the self represented by those

One neter of obvious importance is Set.  In dealing with this
symbol, we try to identify the original meaning of the symbol, and
try to eliminate the corruptions of the symbol imposed by the later
rule of Osirian religion.

Rather than take space here to discuss the corruptions and
distortions that were applied to the symbol of the neter Set
through the Osirian culture, we'll simply refer the interested
student to appropriate books in the reading list: 2A, 2E, 2G, 2W,
and 2AA.

It is rather clear that the use and peripheral meanings of the
neter Set changed over time.  The study of Set must therefore
include the careful consideration of the source of whatever
writings are being studied.  Fortunately most other Egyptian
symbols/god forms did not change significantly over time, and such
care need not be used in studying and working with them.

The neters were used and viewed as symbols.  But the Egyptian
temples _were_ temples, and were recognized as religions, not
simply as centers of enlightened philosophy.  This brings up the
question: Do/did the Egyptian Neters actually exist? Were these
religions founded to worship or work with beings that actually

existed? Or were they simply the creations of the ancient Egyptian

Rather than tackle immediately the question of whether the Neters
actually existed, workshop participants first chose to examine ...

                        Egyptian Priesthoods

The first statement made about these priesthoods was that each
temple in Egypt taught a different area of philosophy or knowledge.

Those temples dedicated to a major neter or god taught that their
primal Form was the First Cause.  These were the major temples of
the land, and an initiate who studied at temple after temple would
be presented with the opposing claims that each god was the god,
The Creator.

We noted in our discussion that the priesthoods of several of the
"minor" neters did not make any such claims.  Thoth as a single
neter never seemed to be treated as the creator god; nor was Geb.
However, many of the major neters were treated as creator gods, and
many gods were intentionally combined into units (such as
Amon-Thoth-Ra) in order to form a god which would be powerful
enough to qualify as The creator god.

                          Neters as Symbols

We returned to discussing the neters as ways of viewing possibility
and potentiality, and ways of viewing different aspects of the
universe and of the individual.

For example, Ra, the sun god, was a most pervasive and powerful
being, since every single day, there he is in the sky.  Ra was
consistent, reliable, and therefore powerful.

Similarly each force in nature was given a personality, because
each force in nature has a personality (or seems to, to those who
humanize such things).  This is the basic principle behind most
spirits of most animistic religions.

These personalities are generally reliable.  A rain cloud is going
to rain; it isn't going to add to the day's heat.  The Nile was not
going to dry up -- it was going to overflow once a year, and
deposit good, rich, fertile earth upon the ground.  Each force of
nature, each personality, was given a name, a face, and a story.

The most powerful stories, faces, and names are those that belong
to the creator gods.  There are so many creator gods, that it's
really difficult to pin down an actual order of precedence.

This brings up the fact that there are many apparently conflicting
stories within the Egyptian mythology.

The Grand Master pointed out that in several Egyptian myths, Shu
and Tefnut are self-created.  In others they were created by tears
of the master creator god (whoever he happened to be according to
the story teller).  In yet others they were created by the master
god's masturbation.

Shu and Tefnut by definition are the first male and female.  The
master god's masturbation in these latter stories was always male
masturbation, but Shu is the first male.  Shu and Tefnut begat Geb
and Nut, but Nut was the all-pervasive universal sky that preceded
the first god...

This confusion is the result of centuries of Egyptian story
telling, and while some of it appears to be contraditory, most of
it is useful.  We certainly must hesitate to consider this
mythology as one consistent symbolism, and must be careful if we
wish to communicate consistent meanings using these symbols, but
we have found value in this mythology.

Each story is a different way of looking at the world, a different
way of looking at the first cause, and of looking at the symbols.
By using these symbols, we can then indicate not only a symbol, but
also which way we are looking at the world.

Hence, if in ritual or other communication we call upon
Ptah-Geb-Nu, we are calling upon the creator of the earth and sky,
the god who created the physical universe.  If instead we call upon
the Neter Ra-Ptah-ankh, we are calling upon the god who brought
light and life to this planet.

Having discussed these differing views of the world as expressed
by the many symbolic neters, we felt that this was a good point
from which to launch into a discussion of one of the ways in which
we look at Neters.

Set, the prime source of intelligence and the ageless intelligence
himself, is a wee bit complex for someone a mere 20 or even 200
years old to understand, regardless of whether we look at Set as
an actually existing being or instead as a master symbol.

So rather than try to encompass all of Set, intellectually or
emotionally, rather than try to understand all of Set, we can work
with neters which are facets of Set's being, facets of Set's
symbolism.  Each neter can be thought of as a specific element of

As examples, Shu is one set of symbolism, one set of ideas, that
an initiate can work with to "get somewhere" with, to accomplish
certain initiatory goals.  Tefnut is another set of ideas, as is
Geb, Isis, etc.

Rather than trying to encompass and work with the entire universe
simultaneously, grab whatever you can hold onto, work with that
handful, study that symbol or symbols, and see what it leads to.

We had originally intended to discuss whether or not the Neters
might or might not exist in their own right.  Having discussed the
above, it seemed somewhat unimportant as to whether the Neters
actually exist.  That topic will be left for a later discussion.


While the following books and papers were not necessarily discussed

nor referenced during the workshop discussion (or in completing
this article), the initiate interested in studying symbolism as a
subject on its own would be well advised to begin with this
bibliography.  Additions to this bibliography are welcome, and
should be sent to the Grand Master.  (_RT_ entries are from _The
Ruby Tablet of Set_.)

Barrett, Ronald K., "Book of Opening the Way (Key #4)".  _RT_

Barrett, Ronald K., "Stele of Xem".  _RT_ IT.II.A.4.a.(3).

Cavendish, Richard, _The Black Arts_.  4C (TS-3).

Crowley, Aleister, _The Book of Thoth_.  9L (TS-4).

De Lubicz, Isha Schwaller, _Her-Bak_.  2L (TS-1).

De Lubicz, Isha Schwaller, _Symbol and the Symbolique_.  2V (TS-4).

Fisher, Leonard Everett, _Symbol Art:  Thirteen Squares, Circles,
and Triangles from Around the World_.  NY: Four Winds Press,
MacMillan Publishing Company, 1985.

Helfman, Elizabeth S., _Signs and Symbols Around the World_.  NY:
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., 1967.

Jung, Carl G., _Man and his Symbols_.  Garden City: Doubleday &
Co., 1964, 1968.  Also NY: Dell Publishing Co., 1968, and London:
Aldus Books, 1964.

Menschel, Robert, "Remanifestation:  A Symbolic Syntheses", _RT_

Menschel, Robert, "Tarot Primer", _RT_ IT.II.B.3.e.(3).

Norton, Lynn, "Golden Section Tarot Working", "Atu XV: The Devil",
and "The Dialogue".  _RT_ IT.II.A.3.k.(1), 4.h.(1), and 4.h.(2).

Regardie, Israel, _777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister
Crowley_.  9M (TS-4).

Schaefer, Heinrich, _Principles of Egyptian Art_.  2R (TS-4).


1. The Grand Master wishes to digress temporarily from the workshop's
discussion, and to comment at this time on one of the first statements
offered during this discussion.


Next: SET