Piety, Relationships, and What-if-I-make-it-all-up

Yesterday, I posted about whether the rewards of religion extend past what the gods can give us. 

And while I answered my own question…some things still weighed on my mind.

The one thing I am thinking of at the moment is whether piety/devotion puts you in the favor of a particular god. I said that I didn’t think this was fair. But. But.

In many ways, I see the relationships others have with their deities to be very reflective of human relationships. They wax and wane. There are times of distance and times of intimacy. Some deities take time to “get to know”; they want to see serious commitment before they really reach out. Others seem to embrace anyone at any time. There are those that are in your “inner circle”, and those that are periphery (like the girl at work you only ever see when you go to pick up your paycheck because neither of you have direct deposit yet).

In human relationships, people vary with respect to how readily they offer help. Some will give more freely of their resources, others are very selfish. And yet, unless people are at one extreme (Siddhartha Gautama, who gave away all of his possessions to mark the start of his journey to enlightenment) or another (Ebenezer Scrooge), I don’t really bat an eye over their decisions. They have their reasons for giving or withholding, and though I might not agree, their aid is theirs alone to distribute. Wouldn’t this same kindness, the right to distribute one’s possessions as one sees fit, be due to the Netjeru as well?

A pivotal question at this point is: Do human-netjer relationships have the aforementioned variations because this is the way the Netjeru actually operate, or because humans merely perceive them that way? In other words, Do humans influence the perception of the relationship so much that we actually dictate how hard-to-know/generous/interactive deities are? Or are the Netjeru really as “human” as we are?

For example…Let’s say John is a very passive, conflict-avoidant guy with low self-esteem and a reserved (but still healthy) libido. John is the antithesis of Set in a couple ways, and thus this lack of “commonality” may make it hard for John to establish a relationship with Set, even if he wants to. Set (or any deity) may (hypothetically) kick off every relationship with the same amount of openness…but the roadblocks stopping John from cultivating a relationship with Set dictate how easily this openness is perceived (much like if John met a super-sexual, confident, in-your-face human in real life).  (Forgive me if the example isn’t perfect).

A different example may be: there is a “cultural understanding” in some forums that Aset is a “tough love” kinda gal. Jarrel, who is coming to know Aset, becomes aware of this collective mental model. He also begins to notice that his relationship with Aset is of the “tough-love” sort (confirmation bias, yo).  In both cases, our human tendencies set the tone for our relationships with the Netjeru. The traits we give the gods shape our perceptions of and relationships with the Netjeru (one could take a very atheistic/agnostic view and assert that the Netjeru are entirely manufactured by us, anyway, and thus have very few if any characteristics we don’t give them).

In these cases, human-netjeru relationships mirror human-human relationships because its all we know how to do…humans can only go so far out of the “human box”, and the Netjeru may have to meet us half-way.

But what if this ISN’T the case? What is the gods really DO vary in how they interact with people (i.e. different Netjeru behave differently from each other, and Netjeru behave differently towards humans)? What if we aren’t perceiving these differences, but they actually exist? But most importantly…Does this absolute truth really matter, since all we can ever know is what we can perceive? In which case, the Netjeru interact differently with different people.

From these thoughts, the following key points arise:
(1) People have different relationships to different deities, and vice versa.
(2) Human-netjer relationships can mirror human-human relationships
(3) Humans vary in how selective they are in sharing their resources.
(4) The relationship a human has with the would-be recipient influences if and how much they will give.

**EDIT: I have to stop here to clarify something. When I say that someone is a recipient, I do not mean they receive physical things. I personally don’t think the gods can do much on that front. I’m speaking more to psychological things…awareness, insight, that sort of stuff. **

So, if human-netjer relationships mirror human-human relationships, wouldn’t the Netjeru be selective in their giving?

Which takes us back to piety (finally, right?). Those who have a more “devout” relationship may be more likely to to have more intimate relationships with the Netjeru, which would, for one reason or another, afford them a stronger connection and possibly more resources (whatever they may be) from that Netjeru.  The intimacy of the relationship may afford some the same benefits the intimacies of human relationships affords us. This could be because the Netjeru act (or are perceived to act) as humans in these relationships. But that’s not the biggest reason why this intimacy affords more devout practitioners more “benefits”.  From our end (the human end), a greater intimacy can allow us to more quickly “connect” to our Netjeru.

Following this logic, the “pious” are favored, but perhaps not because the Netjeru play favorites. Maybe its just because they have more practice connecting to those things which bring them peace, wisdom, and joy? Maybe its because devotion hones certain abilities or thought patterns so that we can manifest positive changes ourselves.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cleargreenwater
    Sep 13, 2015 @ 09:39:57

    Oh god, thinky thoughts, do I really wanna be here all morning.

    OK. I’m starting with the last post, because holy crap I’m seeing something profound here!

    I think because Kemetic religion relies on an active reestablishment of connection between the worlds, that the gods may be more *aware* of worshippers who pump more connection out there.

    How it works with “favor” I think is…I do think the netjeru can effect things that aren’t outside of ma’ats ruling. Like they can influence you to drop your keys and find $20 in the grass, but it is a matter of ma’at whether you use it to buy drugs or donate to charity so they need to defer to will. They can throw a few pamphlets at you if they’re really determined, but ultimately the choice is yours. I also think you can pray to them for clarity and suggestions in a situation and that this can be effective. You can ask them to help pick a job, and if sufficient awareness is there they may respond. They aren’t omniscient unlike monotheistic faiths, though; they might have a view of what may seem


    • cleargreenwater
      Sep 13, 2015 @ 09:40:39

      Shit, it posted. I’ll finish this on my blog & ping-back to your posts ^^


    • cardsandfeather
      Sep 13, 2015 @ 11:26:41

      I know you aren’t finished yet, but…

      I am intrigued by the idea that the gods might be more aware of those who call out to them.I’ve never made the connection between the Netjeru’s awareness of you and the prayers they answer. That’s a really good thought, and one I think I also agree with.

      With respect to affecting things outside of Ma’at…That’s another good idea! I wonder though, can the Netjeru ever do things outside of Ma’at? Is there evidence for that? Is that a part of their nature, or are they strictly bound to the confines of Ma’at? *more thinky thoughts* I can’t answer that just yet. What are your thoughts?

      I can’t wait for you to finish. Also, thanks for replying. I’ve always aimed to provide “food for thought” here, and its GREAT when someone replies so thoughtfully ^^


  2. cleargreenwater
    Sep 13, 2015 @ 19:40:45

    Hmm, I hadn’t thought of “outside of ma’at”. Rereading I don’t think that was really accurate. It’s probably more like they’re so intimately concerned with ma’at that they never consider interferring with it? IDK.

    Was just a lot more thinking than I’d banked on today, LOL.


  3. von186
    Sep 14, 2015 @ 20:48:06

    I personally dislike the idea of equating intimacy and dedication to piety. Piety is a really baggage laden word, and it means a lot of different things to a lot of people,and I personally don’t consider myself pious, though I do consider myself dedicated. (and even though i’m dedicated, I haven’t received much in terms of blessings, imo).
    I personally think that the gods can and do pick and choose who they give stuff to, and that they aren’t 100% even in what they give to whom. In addition to this, I think the NTRW in particular aren’t in a spot to really give out a lot of gifts for free, and a lot of NTR are limited in what they can give because they have a lack of resources. F’ex, Set is still limited in power in the pantheon (UPG) and therefore has limited resources to bestow on his following, even though he has one of the largest followings in the modern era.
    I tend to shy away from the notion that devotion=blessings, because there is so much in this world that the gods can’t control. The idea that if you give the gods more, they’ll give you more back is toxic, imo, and often gets used to hurt people as opposed to help them.
    I always urge people to develop relationships without the notion that you’re gonna get something in return. Otherwise, I feel like the relationship (unless it’s a contractual working relationship) is more shallow and more likely to fail. Kinda like making friends with someone who has a lot of money because you hope they’ll spend some of that money on you, you know? Just doesn’t sit well with me.
    YMMV, but that’s how I tend to look at this kind of thing.


    • cardsandfeather
      Sep 14, 2015 @ 20:58:23

      I agree. I realize the words “piety” and “devotion” and “intimacy” can trigger different thoughts/feelings/meanings for different people, and that I also failed to define them properly. I don’t think devotion wins you very much, at least not from the gods’ side. But I do think the skills that come from devotion (f’ex, I meditate during my devotional time, and the benefits of doing that regularly follow) are things that we sort of give ourselves via our devotion. I also think we can receive insight from the gods, comfort, and so on.

      As for how much/who the gods give to…I’m still (personally) torn over that, mostly because I’m still so torn over the nature of the gods. In my agnosticism, I often oscillate between “They are only as real as I make them…so they can’t really give very much” and “They are real in some sense, but not omnipotent/omniscient)” That oscillation blocks me from taking my opinions much further. But I do think they only have so much to give as well. Also, I should have clarified…in either case, I don’t believe the gods can do very much at all to effect the physical. So when I say “give stuff”, the stuff I’m talking about is psychological…insight, presence, awareness, aid in perseverance. etc. I’m not talking about cars or money or things of that nature. I should have specified.

      Thanks so much for your comment! May I ask what you think of when I say, “intimacy”? For clarity, I meant, “familiarity with a person/thing after having a long relationship”. I realize now that you’ve brought this word to my attention that my definition leaves out a lot others would include (like trust, love, “closeness”, etc.). I would include that in a human definition, but not really one with divine and human parties.


    • cardsandfeather
      Sep 14, 2015 @ 21:11:26

      Also: thanks for replying in such detail. You pointed out a few things I hadn’t considered 😀


    • cardsandfeather
      Sep 14, 2015 @ 21:38:27

      I had to think about your last two paragraphs for a bit, that’s why this comment comes separately 😀

      I agree that we shouldn’t advocate for devotion=blessing; I agree that that is toxic. I also don’t think we should really give the gods very much outside of that which is also beneficial to us…which means things like “I garden for X” or “I serve hot soup at the shelter for Y” are alright, if they don’t infringe too heavily on your existing obligations, because they offer opportunities for you to grow as a person. And this is why they should be offered (IMO), because while they can be done “for” a god, they are also offering you something…so in essence, you are doing it for yourself. However, when they do begin to infringe, or when offerings become expensive, then its no longer serving its purpose (which is to help you). In the end, I think all acts of religion should be, in the end, self-serving (Whether its through Ayn Rand means [altrusm makes me feel good so I do it] or more explicitly [I want to learn the sax, Hathor likes music, I want to honor her, I’ll play some songs for her]).

      In this light, devotions =/= “blessings” from the gods. However, if they achieve the “offerings are beneficial to me” criteria, you should gain something out of it. In this light, devotion becomes a means for growth, if its done regularly. This is what I meant by “favored”…its not in the traditional sense of the word. And honestly, I realize this will not generalize to the religious practices of others. I know many pagans and Kemetics do not see things in this light, and thus this logic will not apply to them. I should have extrapolated on this in this post, or linked to another post where I do extrapolate on this point.

      In “sharing” this idea, I would have ideally made the “beneficial to me” criteria clear. Because I agree that religion can be dangerous when we draw lines in the proverbial sand (Do this to get a prize), and I realize now it may seem like I am supporting those lines (I am not).

      I’m still figuring this stuff out, so if you see any flaws in this logic, I’d hope you point them out. These sorts of comments really spur growth for me, because they force me to question what I’m thinking and to consider what I missed.


    • cardsandfeather
      Sep 14, 2015 @ 21:56:21

      So, in the last comment, I said that I don’t think the gods can give physical things to us…but upon further review…I don’t act that way. When I worry about my family members or their health…I pray for them. This means I spent time talking to the Netjeru about it and figuring out what I can do to help. But there have definitely been times where I’ve asked, “If there’s anything you can do to help, please do.”

      So obviously, I don’t know myself as well as I thought. I think I will have to rethink my stances, given that what I say and what I do don’t really match right now.


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