The mystery of the living bird emerging from the sealed perfection of the egg is a primeval metaphor for the energy of life emerging from the invisible world into the visible world, emerging from an interior which is itself inside an interior.

Ostriches are as tall as a man and they lay eggs as big as a human skull. The first bowl was likely an ostrich eggshell. They are used for that purpose in Africa to this very day.

Egyptian words for “ostrich,” “bowl,” “primeval waters,” “the lower heavens,” and “city/town/center,” are pronounced the same way, niu. Different determinatives provide the context, referring back to the core metaphor of the sacred container, an aspect of the hidden source of life-energy pouring forth from Eternity into Space/Time.

The egg-metaphor lives on in the European imagination, a metaphor that works, no matter how you paint it or what you call it. My favorites are the dark chocolate ones, but only if they’re fresh.


The western world began in a clay-model universe only as big as the horizon, with a roof, four walls and a very deep cellar. Beyond those walls lay monsters and chaos. We measured the horizon with our senses. Travelers, storytellers and mystics expanded our horizon, pushing back the walls until we covered the globe—and we met ourselves on the other side.

Now the incomparable images brought to us by genetic researchers, NASA and those astonishing Hubble Telescope photographs have expanded our vision beyond all horizons—yet we meet ourselves, once again, on the other side.

The future is a place toward which we are forced to travel, no matter how fiercely we cling to the safe anchor of the past. Tacit acknowledgment of the nature of time and the inexorable course of its single direction are part of our daily perception, yet this is relatively modern. In two thousand years we have gone from debating whether the new day began at dawn or at sunset to dividing time into nanoseconds. Science has shown us a cosmic view grander and more astonishing than ever imagined.

Yet in spite of the photographs, for some it will always be “turtles all the way down.” Why do we believe NASA? Why do we believe the scientists and the reality of those photographs? What is the foundation of our faith in the “scientific” view of the universe? Who convinced us?

We do have the names of the people who made the scientific description of reality emotionally real for us—Isaac Newton, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Einstein, Hugo Gernsback, John Campbell, Arthur C. Clarke, Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg and others —the list is long. They brought to us “the precision of the artist and the passion of the scientist,” as Professor Joseph Campbell describes a living mythology.

Our intellect knows that Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, but our emotions were first carried to the surface of the Moon by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. Accepting the Moon into our emotional view of the universe is not the same as putting data about the Moon into our intellect. Dr. Watson is astonished that Sherlock Holmes, despite his great thirst for information, does not care whether the Earth goes around the Sun or vice versa. The intellect needs only the facts, but Dr. Watson, the storyteller and man of emotions, needs a sense of the greater cosmos around him.

A scientist probing the edges of the atomic or the astronomical is convinced by his observations, his experiments and his intellect. We can only experience the meaning of that data through the focused emotional vision of the artist: writers, painters, cinematographers, directors, FX technicians, etc. Artists translate reality and society into manageable frameworks and perceivable patterns. Spurred on by the imagination of science fiction and fantasy, more new artistic media have been created in the past two generations than in the previous millennium.

Science fiction reaches the sublime when it tells us the stories of this incredible new universe in which we find ourselves—not to make us knowledgeable of it but to make us comfortable with it. Science fiction does not predict the future, rather it opens us up to the future, opens our imaginations so that we meet it with attention. Science fiction creates a collective awareness of the process, mysterious even to scientists, of the Past devouring the Future at the speed of Now. We no longer plod in the same old circle around the Sun. We are racing through the Milky Way galaxy on a wild, spiraling journey. We have learned to think, not just in terms of decades and lifetimes, but in millennia-sized leaps.

Can We Talk?

Where are we in the midst of that enormity of space and time? Gene Roddenberry, in a pivotal scene between Dr. McCoy and Captain Kirk, defined the way that science fiction expanded the horizons of human values. The doctor reminds the captain that, in all the immensity of suns, galaxies and the vast, unthinkable distances of the universe, there is only the one of each of us. Unique self-identity is the crown of each and every one of us.

Beyond the sheer dimension of our humanity, science fiction has expanded our moral horizon. We freed the slaves in the 19th Century, yet for seven generations we continued to question whether the people we had freed were human. Once we met “Little Green Men,” “Bug-Eyed Monsters From Outer Space” and the mysterious “Grays,” our racial differences dissolved into the single, multihued human face. We even ask whether parrots, whales and apes might be human by similar standards. At the end of World War II the word “alien” was tainted with horror, sabotage and racism. Now we want to meet the aliens, talk to them—maybe even get some answers about those crop circles. “ET phone home!” is more than a cute slogan; it is an emotional acknowledgement of our place in space and time.

Within our original clay-box universe, we portrayed ourselves as the interchangeable pawns of gods, demons and irresistible forces. In the universe which science fiction unfolds before us, we can see ourselves as unique creations made of stardust, children of the Milky Way, of the Sun and of the Earth—self-evolved, self-designed and self-directed. Ancient mythologies bequeathed to us dimensions of demons, gods and angels hovering above, below and in the interstices of the “Middle Earth” realm of humankind. Science fiction, first in literate and then in cinematic form, created the metaphor of the energy of consciousness superimposed upon or intertwined with space/time, using stargates, wormholes and dimensional interfaces. Only within the domain of science fiction can we ask: “What if consciousness is really an energy force like electromagnetism? How would the properties and potential of this force manifest themselves?”

Many different forms of literature and art explore the relationships of consciousness-to-consciousness. Science fiction is the only art form that separates consciousness from its container and explores the nature of that relationship. Only in science fiction do we ask: “Is that you in there? Is there anyone in there I can talk to?”

A modern metaphor re-stating the core concept of the Egyptian metaphor-system:

 You are Osiris. Osiris is that eternal, permanent part of you, you soul/self. Osiris is your eternal film, the ultimate data-storage medium. You are the camera, the cameraman, the hero of your life-story, the villain as well as many of the extras. You are the writer, director and cinematographer. You are the casting director, the set decorator. You are also the audience, the critic, your most devout fan. You are the Star of your own show, the number-one celebrity of your life. Eternity in the Next Life is a forever movie show, with your entire life, every bit of it, running onscreen non-stop. The theater was designed by you. The chairs are real comfy. No need for bathroom breaks; the popcorn is perfect and always available. The sodas are just the right temperature. You can have any pizza you want, with all the  toppings and no fear of calories or cholesterol. You can drink beer and get buzzed but never nasty drunk. You can have anyone you want with you as audience in that theater—well, you can have their avatars there with you. You are an avatar in the theaters of those who know you. Pets are allowed. All of them and they don’t fight. You have eternity to get to know yourself and your life; you will at last understand why you wrote the script that way.

Of course, you also have to watch the awkward, embarrassing and cruel moments of your life-story. Think about that as you walk through your life toward this other dimension, toward eternity. Think about it in the way that you treat the people in your life. Their avatars will be there to accuse you. You decide how the script reads. You decide what kind of hero you are going to be.

Osiris is the data-storage medium. Re is the light, the light of consciousness, of perception, of self-awareness. Only your Re-light can cross from this life to the next, the only carrier of the data that makes you who you are. Horus is the focal point of that light. Horus is the lens which focuses light upon the substance of Osiris, your eternal self.

These three are the prime trinity and the trinity is within us. You are this trinity. This is your story.

 Ki jed*

As I am Osiris-eternal, so are you also Osiris-eternal. As I am Horus, pharaoh of my inner world, so are you also Horus, pharaoh of your inner world. As I am immortal, so are you also immortal. As you are mortal, so am I also mortal. As I am perfect, so are you also perfect. As you are flawed, so am I also flawed. As you are human, so am I also human. We can only visit each other’s inner worlds as avatars; the better we get to know each other, the more realistic those avatars will be. The differences between us are the spice, the excitement, the thrill of adventure we write into our scripts.

 What If?

Egyptians asked the first science-fiction question: “What if the next life is eternal? What if consciousness is immortal?” They then set out to create lives worth living in eternity, individual stories worth watching over and over. They shared each other’s stories, each other’s dreams and nightmares and in so doing expanded the view of the Real World that they could take with them as memories. They knew that only memories can cross into that final silence. The elaborate rituals and wealth involved in their funeral rituals were metaphors of their profound respect for the living, biological container that is the human body, vessel of Osiris, carrier of Re. Animals become food. Human beings do not become food. The flesh gets to rest, at last, its physical burdens set down. Egyptians showed their gratitude to their bodies for carrying them through life by the respect they gave in burial. The lesson of this was not lost on the living.

Other metaphor-systems contemporary with Egypt lived by the admonition, “All life is sorrowful.” Erase the memories when you leave. Erase the film that was your life. Egyptians loved life too much, loved their experience of life in the Nile Valley. They knew that life was sorrowful. They also knew that sorrow is the sweetener of joy, and both are part of your eternal story. Their answer was, “Yes, life is sorrowful–so let’s face the music and dance.”

(*ki jed is Egyptian for “in other words.” They said it a lot.)

Witches, demons, goblins, ghosts and sometimes even the Devil himself wait for you at the crossroads. The Demon Of Indecision will inevitably find you there. Down one road is the Angel Of Despair; down the other is the Demon Of Hope. The road ahead is lost in darkness. The last choice is simply to turn around and go back the way you came. A bad choice, because while you were trying to decide, that road sign changed to Neurosis Lane.

Crossroads, crossed paths, two roads diverging in a wood, these are iconic metaphors for choice, indecision and doubt. Indecision breeds anxiety and anxiety is not just a state of mind. Anxiety is a demon who chews away at you from the inside, eroding your internal biological defenses and corroding your mental machinery. Anxiety is a neurochemical response to indecision or danger, and that’s true. Your internal experience, however, might as well be a demon from the depths. That is how it feels.

You will have more success dealing with anxiety if you discuss it with yourself in demonic terms. First of all, this puts you at one remove from the emotional and physical stress. This is important, because this remove can free you from guilt. Feeling anxious has elements of guilt involved and these tangle your feet when you try to move forward. Simply naming the demon to its face is often enough to harness it to your needs. Sometimes you might need a longer conversation.

You can’t choose your demons. They choose you. You can, however, put your demons to work for you if you find the right set of metaphorical images for controlling them. For starters, knowing which way to take at a crossroads can be helped by having the right internal compass at hand.

Peace is hard.

Peace is much harder than war.

War limits options. Peace expands them.

The longer peace lasts, the more options arise.


War has no choices, only inevitable outcomes.

Someone wins, but only because some else lost.

Peace is hard.

War is the coward’s choice, because peace is hard.

Blowing things up is easier than building them.

Killing is easier than healing.

Peace is hard.

Civilization is too smart to take the easy road.

Take the hard road. The high road.

The Horus metaphor began in pre-pharaonic Egypt and held center stage to the last breath of Cleopatra. Horus is the “Face Of Heaven,” the mysterious paradox of unique identity expressed in universal terms. Horus is that set which contains all sets that can have one and only one member.

Biology regularly produces the soundest proof of the paradox of identity: identical twins are genetically identical, yet grow up as separate, unique individuals. This is still true when their bodies grow stuck together as Siamese Twins. Twins not stuck together have a hierarchy of “oldest and youngest,” even when the difference between their births is only a matter of moments. Their bodies are identical, but they are each uniquely placed in time.

This metaphor of unique identity reaches larger proportions when you realize that, however vast the universe, it required an entire universe to create the single, unique “you” who is each one of us. No matter who or what you believe started the universe, it has led to you, to each of us in our billions—and maybe even untold numbers of unique identities throughout the galaxies. No matter how many we are, however, each of us is unique.

Pharaoh identified himself with Horus because pharaoh was, within his being, the living identity of the land and people. The people in turn were unified by their identity with pharaoh. Egyptian funeral texts make frequent reference to ruling in the next life as pharaoh. In other words, you rule in eternity. You rule in your inner world.

 Horus Two-Faced

A second paradox of the Horus-metaphor:

Horus has two births, which is confusing only if you concretize the metaphor. In the Egyptian creation myth Osiris, The Original Horus (or Horus The Elder), Sutekh, Isis and Nephthys, (“Lady Of The House”) are born from the love of the Earth and the Sky for each other. Horus is conceived by Isis from the dead body of Osiris; the Golden Horus is then born to represent his father Osiris in heaven.

As a metaphor, the birth of Osiris, Original Horus, Sutekh, Isis and Lady Of The House represent the Egyptian perception of the birth of human beings as a race and human beings as individuals. We each bring the gods with us when first born. Original Horus is unique identity as an archetype; uniqueness as a universal element. Horus born of Osiris and Isis is the individual ego, the self-identity which each one of us feels ourselves to be. That is also why pharaoh is Horus—your self-identity rules your ego-function and is the center of your self-awareness immersed in reality.

 A third paradox of the Horus-metaphor:

Egypt acknowledged that Horus and his nemesis, Sutekh, were one and the same. Images show Horus with his head and the black head of the Sutekh Animal on one body. Ego has a dark side.

Sutekh’s place in the Egyptian pantheon is interpreted as “the Lord Of Chaos,” representative of the hard desert land beyond the reaches of the Nile, but Sutekh is also Protector Of The Sunship. He keeps it on course and wakes the Sun to make him rise in time for dawn. In other words, Sutekh is as two-faced as his other self, Horus.

Sutekh is a metaphor for the power of discipline within the human psyche, the “mind/body” connection. He is associated with the desert and with the mighty and dangerous hippopotamus because these dangers are best overcome by discipline, training, habits, courage and quick reflexes.

Horus is the counterpart of Sutekh because discipline and self-control are functions of conscious will-power. Horus and Sutekh are rivals because instinct can overcome awareness, making decisions outside the realm of self-control—sometimes spontaneous but just as easily dangerous, harmful or destructive. You have to guard the guard. As Captain Kirk found out, you cannot command as captain without a firm grip on your shadow. Your instincts and training can save your life; they are there to keep you and your life on course, just don’t forget who’s pilot of this starship.

Sigmund Freud divided the human psyche into three parts—id, ego, and superego. The social changes brought about by this awareness revolutionized our modern view of being human.

Carl Jung, Freud’s student, later divided psyche into four parts—ego, shadow, self, and anim—taking that revolution immeasurably further. Ancient Egyptians divided psyche into nine parts—the akh, ba, ka, sekhem, ib, khat, shuit, ren, sahu. This revolution of thought brought forth an empire out of mud and rock, using pen, paper, string and conversation.

Freud used Latin in order to draw his map of the human psyche: id, ego, and superego. “It,” “I am,” and “Above I am.” He theorized that our sexual drive is the single fuel which powers all human motives, actions and intentions. The direction, misdirection, sublimation and suppression of sexuality were supposedly the foundation of human behavior.

Jung realized that this was too simplified, that sexuality was itself an expression of a larger, all-encompassing energy of the psyche. Jung recognized instincts and drives as universal elements of the psyche and not part of the personal unconscious. Jung’s divisions were: ego, shadow, anim and self.

Ego is the “I am” of the mind, the light by which you perceive reality, both inner and outer. Jung saw, however, that this light cast a shadow, those dark parts of the mind which function behind your back, as it were.

Anim is the reflection of the opposite gender in the psyche, subliminally directing the way in which the “I am” factor identifies and relates to sexuality and the opposite sex. Anima is the inner woman of every man, guiding his choice of goals and loves. Animus is the inner man of every woman (or more accurately, her inner panel of judges and mentors).

Self is the full sphere of the human psyche, containing conscious, pre-conscious, subliminal, and neurochemical elements of the human being.

Jung described an additional, fifth element, individuation, the unification or individuation of the four elements of the human being. This element knows how to grow an adult human being from strings of molecules, as well as how to make you happy.

The Cat’s Nine Lives

The ancient Egyptian child learned the nine parts of being as the definition of self at mother’s knee. These beliefs guided their lives and were the primary metaphors with which they talked about themselves.

  •  • Akh: the eternal soul/self
  • Ba: your inner experience of life, the you inside your mask
  • Ka: you as only others can know you, the outside of your mask
  • Sekhem: energy pattern of the psyche, song of the soul/self
  • Ib: life-force, psyche, territory of the heart
  • Khat: soul/self’s biological container, that which decays: “I stink, therefore, I am.”
  • Shuit: the living shadow, proof of your place in the outer world’s reality
  • Ren: the magic of your name, immortal identity
  • Sah: boundary of the psychic self, the self in eternity

The experience of the immortal soul/self immersed in mortal existence was the guide for their entire lives. Their literature is filled with intricate, detailed, and poetic metaphors for this experience. Some terms translate readily into modern English. Some do not. The goal of all these divisions of psyche—three, four, or nine—is self-awareness and natural self-control.

(author’s note: these nine terms will be defined more fully in future posts. – RLW