Not long ago I was asked to learn more about unconditional love in Kemeticism. I figured I’d look through a few Maxims and Wisdom Texts, read a few myths and write a basic paper on what I had found. That if I was lucky, some other Kemetics would read it and go “wow, maybe I should be less of a dick”. That is what I expected. However, reading into unconditional love has changed my world view more than I expected.
When I first started out on this journey, I thought that unconditional love was all about being a doormat. Putting everyone before yourself. Giving into the whims of everyone, despite what it meant for you. Being a “yes man”. This, of course, concerned me. How on earth could anyone or any religion possibly support being a doormat? I began to ask around for ideas and sources from other Kemetics. Looks like they had the same ideas about what unconditional love was and also questioned whether unconditional love existed within Kemeticism. I had my work cut out for me.
However, once I started to actually read about unconditional love, I learned that what most of us consider to be unconditional love is incorrect. It’s less about doing what others want and more about doing what others need. It’s a slight difference in wording, but it’s an important difference. When you enter into a situation, unconditional love asks you to consider all sides. What you need, what the other people in the situation need- and to take the best course of action for the situation. This usually means being even in your judgement. Being fair. And above all, not being a dick. Sometimes the best course of action is politely stepping out of the situation. Sometimes it’s nicely telling the person that they aren’t good for you (costing too many spoons?) and parting ways. Other times it’s putting your own thoughts aside and letting the person learn the hard way (or agreeing to disagree). And even still, sometimes it’s more about putting your foot down and preventing the person from causing more harm. It really is case specific.
If I had to sum it up, it’s all about respect. Respecting yourself and everyone else (and that means everyone on the planet, even that person you can’t stand) – and letting that respect dictate your actions. As I have read in multiple articles, unconditional love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. You actively choose how to act (or react), and in this case your actions should stem from love, compassion and respect.
In many ways, it’s Ma’at (and the root of FlameKeeping, and probably Shinto, too).
The more I read on the topic, the more I became enamored with it. Something within me said ‘this is important. You need to figure out how to work on this, to be more like this.’ All while the other part of me was screaming ‘BUT I LIKE BEING A JERK! I LIKE MY WILD EMOTIONS!’ And in truth, both are correct. I like that I am okay with my emotions- as much as they might screw me over sometimes. But that is also part of the problem- my emotions cripple me on a regular basis. And the more I read, the more I began to feel that both are the answer. I need to work on using both. Knowing when to let my emotions run loose and when to be more reserved and do what is best for the situation (which ironically, knowing when to let my emotions go falls under this as well).
Once again, this seems to circle back to making my halves whole.
In regards to whether Kemeticism has unconditional love in it, I think the answer is yes. They may not have had a word or phrase for it, and they may not have written about it extensively, but I think it’s there. There are many portions of the Maxims of PtahHotep that relate to being nice. To holding your tongue regardless of the situation (that it would bring you favor and keep you in high regard). That having good friends and family was worth their weight in gold. I think Lichtheim summed it up best:
Taken together, the thirty-seven maxims do not amount to a comprehensive moral code, nor are they strung together in any logical order. But they touch upon the most important aspects of human relations and they focus on the basic virtues. The cardinal virtues are self-control, moderation, kindness, generosity, justice and truthfulness tempered by discretion. These virtues are to be practiced alike toward all people. … The ideal man is a man of peace.
Beyond that, you can look at other mythological stories and see unconditional love. In The Destruction of Mankind Ra regrets his decision to wipe us out. He decides to show us compassion and love by tricking his daughter into getting drunk. In The Contendings, Heru and Set are able to come to amends. They let go of the past and are able to work together. Letting go of hate and turning that into love. In both of these stories, those who were angry eventually got over that anger and forgave the person or people that upset them. I think that this shows unconditional love. While it might not be something that is done OMGRIGHTNOW, it is what everyone eventually works towards. And in so doing, perhaps is what we should all be working towards.
Overall, the concept of unconditional love might not be obvious at first. However, I definitely think that the theme is there. It’s not a huge overarching theme that smacks us in the face, but if you really start to look at the stories, the wisdom literature and ma’at itself, you can see hints of it. Perhaps the gods didn’t feel they needed to hit us upside the head with it, maybe they wanted us to learn how to respect one another on our own. Or maybe they just don’t care 😉 And at the end of it all, perhaps the Kemetic community as a whole could benefit from more unconditional love. Our community has a lot of hostility in it. There is a lot of finger wagging and pointless anger, hate and bickering that really isn’t productive. Could you imagine what it might be like if more people respected each others views? If you could hold a civil conversation with someone about a branch of, or topic in, Kemeticism and not have it turn into a mud slinging contest? Imagine the things we might learn and discover about our own modern form Kemeticism. Things that are currently hidden beneath layers and layers of “I’m better than you” or “you’re doing it wrong”. I know that I’m guilty of everything I’ve just listed and after embarking on this journey as it were, I am tired of being that person. I’m tired of wagging my fingers, filling up with hate and screaming on and on about how people are ‘doing it wrong’. While I might not be Buddha, I can definitely work towards becoming more tolerant, more respectful. A being of peace. A being of unconditional love.
What do all of you think? Do you think that unconditional love existed in ancient Egypt? Do you think that it is something that is lacking in today’s Kemetic practice?