“KNOW THY SELF” is one of the cardinal concepts in ancient African sacred wisdom which underlie many of the Proverbs that are inscribed into the walls of the Temple of Luxor in Egypt. There are six great temples in that area, the most renowned being Karnak (the northern sanctuary: Ipet Isut) and Luxor (the southern sanctuary: Ipet Resyt) – both headed by Amun. Ipet Isut and Ipet Resyt are situated on the east bank of Africa’s sacred Nile River at the fourth Upper nome in Uaset (Thebes in Greek). Built during the New Kingdom, Ipet Resyt was dedicated to the Kemetic Sacred Triad: Amun~Mut~Montu and was the site of the Opet Festival, an annual celebration of fertility in which a cult statue of the god Amun would be paraded in the upriver direction between the sacred compounds of the divine consorts.
Below are a selection of the powerful Proverbs inscribed on the external walls of Ipet Resyt that would be used as tools to teach BaNtu (‘people’… ‘of Ntu/God’) an understanding of the universe and of the divine order that exists between Wo/Man, the Creator(s), Nature, and the Heavens. More advanced teachings were contained in the inner sanctuaries of the Temple, whose access was restricted to initiates who’d proven themselves worthy…
GODHOOD / DISCIPLESHIP
- Wo/man, know yourself… and you shalt know [the] god/dess.
- A wo/man’s heart is her/his own Neter [God/dess].
- If the Master teaches what is error, the disciple’s submission is slavery. If he teaches truth, this submission is ennoblement.
- Not even the greatest Master can go one step for his disciple; in himself he must experience each stage of developing consciousness. Therefore he will know nothing for which he is not ripe.
- A phenomenon always arises from the interaction of complementarity. If you want something look for the complement that will elicit it. Set/Seth causes Heru/Horus. Heru/Horus redeems Set/Seth.
- Altruism is the mark of a superior being.
- Seek peacefully, you will find.
- One’s moral qualities are measured by one’s deeds.
- The kingdom of Heaven is already within you; if you understand yourself you will find it.
- The body is the house of the God/dess. That is why it is said, “Wo/man know thyself.”
WISDOM / JUDGEMENT / MA’AT
- Judge by cause, not by effect.
- You will free yourself when you learn to be neutral and follow the instructions of your heart without letting things perturb you. This is the way of Ma’at.
- Ma’at, who links universal to terrestrial, the divine with the human is incomprehensible to the cerebral intelligence.
- Leave him in error who loves his error.
- In every vital activity it is the path that matters.
- People bring about their own undoing through their tongues.
- If you search for the laws of harmony, you will find knowledge.
- If his heart rules him, his conscience will keep him out of trouble.
- Every man is rich in excuses to safeguard his prejudices, his instincts, and his opinions.
- The first concerning the ‘secrets’: all cognition comes from inside; we are therefore initiated only by ourselves, but the Master gives the keys. The second concerning the ‘way’: the seeker has need of a Master to guide him and lift him up when he falls, to lead him back to the right way when he strays.
- Understanding develops by degrees.
- As to deserving, know that the gift of Heaven is free; this gift of knowledge is so great that no effort whatever could hope to ‘deserve’ it.
- An answer is profitable in proportion to the intensity of the quest.
- Listen to your convictions, even if they seem absurd to your reason.
- Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world, for this would be to project your illusion.
- Each truth you learn will be, for you, as new as if it had never been written.
- Envious greed must govern to possess and ambition must possess to govern.
- A house has the character of the man who lives in it.
- Organization is impossible unless those who know the laws of harmony lay the foundation.
- When the governing class isn’t chosen for quality it is chosen for material wealth: this always means decadence, the lowest stage a society can reach.
- Two tendencies govern human choice and effort: the search after quantity and the search after quality. They classify humankind. Some follow Truth, others seek the way of animal instinct.
- Social good is what brings peace to family and society.
NATURE AS TEACHER
- The best and shortest road towards knowledge of truth is Nature.
- If you are searching for a Neter (God/dess), observe Nature!
- The body is the house of god/dess. That is why it is said, “Wo/man know yourself.”
- To teach one must know the nature of those whom one is teaching.
- All is within yourself. Know your most inward self and look for what corresponds with it in nature.
- The seed cannot sprout upwards without simultaneously sending roots into the ground.
- The seed includes all the possibilities of the tree…. The seed will develop these possibilities, however, only if it receives proper nourishment and corresponding energies from the sky.
- Grain must return to the earth, die, and decompose for new growth to begin.
- All seeds answer to light, but the color is different.
- The plant reveals what is in the seed.
- There grows no wheat where there is no grain.
- The nut doesn’t reveal the tree it contains.
- Always watch and follow nature.
- All organs work together in the functioning of the whole.
KNOWLEDGE / TEACHING / LEARNING / INTELLIGENCE
- The way of knowledge is narrow.
- Your body is the temple of knowledge.
- Knowledge is not necessarily wisdom.
- Love is one thing, knowledge is another.
- For knowledge… you should know that peace is an indispensable condition of getting it.
- The first thing necessary in teaching is a master; the second is a pupil capable of carrying on the tradition.
- We must not confuse mastery with mimicry, knowledge with superstitious ignorance.
- Popular beliefs on essential matters must be examined in order to discover the original thought.
- Physical consciousness is indispensable for the achievement of knowledge.
- A man can’t be judge of his neighbor’s intelligence. His own vital experience is never his neighbor’s.
- Knowledge is consciousness of reality. Reality is the sum of the laws that govern nature and of the causes from which they flow.
- A pupil may show you by his own efforts how much he deserves to learn from you.
- When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
- Images are nearer reality than cold definitions.
- Men need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source.
- True sages are those who give what they have, without meanness and without secret!
- True teaching is not an accumulation of knowledge; it is an awakening of consciousness which goes through successive stages.
- It is better not to know and to know that one does not know, than presumptuously to attribute some random meaning to symbols.
- What reveals itself to me ceases to be mysterious for me alone. If I unveil it to anyone else, he hears mere words which betray the living sense: profanation, but never revelation.
- An answer brings no illumination unless the question has matured to a point where it gives rise to this answer which thus becomes its fruit. Therefore learn how to put a question.
- To know means to record in one’s memory; but to understand means to blend with the thing and to assimilate it in one’s self.
- There are two kinds of error: blind credulity and piecemeal criticism. Never believe a word without putting its truth to the test; discernment does not grow in laziness; and this faculty of discernment is indispensable to the Seeker. Sound skepticism is the necessary condition for good discernment; but piecemeal criticism is an error.
VISION / CONSCIOUSNESS / AGENCY
- Growth in consciousness doesn’t depend on the will of the intellect or its possibilities but on the intensity of the inner urge.
- Routine and prejudice distort vision. Each man thinks his own horizon is the limit of the world.
- By knowing one reaches belief. By doing one gains conviction. When you know, dare.
- Our senses serve to affirm, not to know.
- The key to all problems is the problem of consciousness.
- Peace is the fruit of activity, not of sleep.
- Exuberance is a good stimulus towards action, but the inner light grows in silence and concentration.
- Every man must act in the rhythm of his time… such is wisdom.
- Everyone finds himself in the world where he belongs. The essential thing is to have a fixed point from which to check its reality now and then.
- Man must learn to increase his sense of responsibility and of the fact that everything he does will have its consequences.
- If you would build something solid, don’t work with wind: always look for a fixed point, something you know that is stable… yourself.
- If you would know yourself, take yourself as starting point and go back to its source; your beginning will disclose your end.
- What you are doing does not matter so much as what you are learning from doing it.
- The only thing that is humiliating is helplessness.
- The only active force that arises out of possession is fear of losing the object of possession.
- If you defy an enemy by doubting his courage you double it.
- Experience will show you, a Master can only point the way.
De Lubicz, Isha Schwaller; Lamy, Lucie (1954). Her-Bak: The Living Face of Ancient Egypt. Hodder and Staughton.
De Lubicz, Isha Schwaller; Lamy, Lucie (1978). Her-Bak: Egyptian Initiate. Inner Traditions International.
De Lubicz, R.A. Schwaller; Lamy Lucie (1981). The Temple in Man: Sacred Architecture and the Perfect Man. Inner Traditions. (First published 1949)
Malaika Mutere, Ph.D. is author of Towards an Africa-centered and pan-African theory of communication: Ubuntu and the Oral Aesthetic perspective Communicatio 38 (2) 2012: 147-163