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One episode of Martin Yan's Chinese cooking program takes the viewer to the restaurant of a German chef in Hong Kong who has mastered the art of Cantonese cuisine. Although Mr. Yan's admiration for his colleague was unmistakable, it was apparent to me that it made him somewhat uneasy: (you know) it's a Chinese thing, which, of course, it is. Similarly, at the Indian store where I buy clove cigarettes, there is a small Shiva shrine. One day, before checking out, I stepped over to that inconspicuous area to salute the Lord. The register clerk then appeared to take on a quiet sense of, well, alarm. Once upon a time, I wrote a letter of praise for a certain book to the Egyptian lady who'd authored it. I made some reference to my religious beliefs, and this elicited from her a response that she took mysticism "seriously", and didn't believe that it should be left in the care of "amateurs". Of course, I later realized that she was of the clan that claims the Prophet of Islam (peace be unto him) as its ancestor. I then understood that her position in life draws heavily upon her status in a group with a vested interest in the extinction of the old ways (except, possibly, as secret societies). I felt sad and insulted until, a few weeks later, I heard Charlie Chaplin to say in a film, "Amateurs is all we can ever be. We don't live long enough to become anything else!"

The great sage Ptah-hotep said that no artist ever achieves the perfection of his craft. He also called his religious pattern the "Way of the Heart". Most of us who practice the classical Egyptian system refer to our religion as "Ma'at". Both of these terms, however, allude to honesty as a way of properly balancing correctness with fairness. Both Rev. Lita Reynolds of the CES and HH Ptahmassu of the Eternal Lotus Fellowship have (quite independently) emphasized to me the importance of the heart being "in the right place" as a requisite for bringing correct knowledge to bear successfully upon spiritual objectives. As a servant of Thoth, whose priesthood toils in the vineyard of obtaining the most reliable information possible for use by the followers of Ra, I understand why Crowley valued truthfulness so highly in working the will effectively upon reality. We may not be able to safely publish all the knowledge that we attain, but unless we are on the level with our colleagues, we can hardly ensure that our data is free of corruption.

Thus, we may perceive the hazard of a possible clash between rigid orthodoxy and a living, thriving, faith. There are time-honored ways of doing things, ways that modern man has been in danger of discarding, to his impoverishment. The religion that was practiced by the ancient Egyptians is foremost among these ways. Still, there is always an evolution in how beings in any space-time frame go about utilizing the timeless truths of ma'at, the Egyptian equivalent of dharma. Traditions are cherished modes of behavior and production. If exoteric modes are never modified, they become inert. If esoteric modes assert themselves in an improper way, they become false, or lead to an eruption, or both. Permitting a valuable mode of faith to fall into disuse for a time is not a thing to be taken lightly, or sanctioned for the sake of any arbitrary or simply convenient reason. Thus we must remember that religion of Egypt did not fall away because it had outlived its value to its constituents. It was legislated out of public practice by a hostile imperial government that had embraced a dogma designed to keep slaves under control at a great distance from its central authority. This is why I emphasize the value of an authentic approach. We cannot, however, ignore the fact that most of the servants of the Neteru are, at this time, not of predominantly Egyptian ancestry. Hence, we are obliged to proceed with pristine intellectual and moral integrity.