Fragments of a story

File:Hierakonpolis khasekhemuy.jpg“The Two Lords are at peace in him.” How do we grope towards learning the meaning of that?

Most of the remains of the Early Dynastic period of Egypt are tombs. Has economics always been about waste? Now, Chinese make televisions which must be superseded and replaced every three years, and Britain spends on nuclear submarines, then craftsmen made beautiful things to bury in tombs, such as that of Khasekhemwy in the early dynastic period (before 2686BC) which had 58 rooms in a gallery 68m long and 39.4m wide at its widest point. The division between the Early Dynastic and the Old Kingdom is modern- the kings were related- but justified by King Djoser’s innovation in tomb architecture, his step pyramid, 109x125x63m and clad in polished white limestone.

Flinders Petrie in the 19th century proposed a way of arranging the chronology of the Naqada period, the fourth millennium BC, by the development of ceramics, and this has been supplemented but not superseded by dendrochronology, carbon dating and thermoluminescence. We can know so much: but writing begins to tell stories.

The earliest surviving writing includes the names of kings in the Serekh, as on the Narmer Palette. The serekh is at the top between the Goddess heads: the cone is the name, under a bird- we read back later symbols, and say this is the falcon Horus. The cricket-stumps to either side are colonnades, representing the palace. File:Edwin Longsden Long - Alethe Attendant of the Sacred Ibis in the Temple of Isis at.jpgWriting began in Naqada III, around 3200-3000 BC. Hieroglyphs survive on the seals of the king and his officers, their names and titles, and identifying goods and their places of origin. Texts ordered by grammar came later. From the middle of the first dynasty there are symbols for the year of the king’s reign.

Khasekhemwy’s predecessor, Peribsen, used a serekh surmounted by the hound or jackal symbolising Seth rather than the usual falcon of Horus. I thought Seth the Enemy, first from Doctor Who- The Pyramids of Mars– and then Norman Mailer, Ancient Evenings. He sought to destroy his brother Osiris, but Isis collected Osiris’ body-parts and resurrected him as Horus. We know these stories from documents such as The Contendings of Horus and Seth, but that is 1600 years later.

An enemy God but a blood relation: in such stories Gods could symbolise tribes or individuals, as Robert Graves reports in The Greek Myths. In Khasekhemwy, the two lords- Horus and Seth?- are at peace. By reconciliation, or by conquest? By reconciliation, I say: it is my character to prefer reconciliation to conquest; but also in the Narmer Palette and elsewhere I see kings destroying their enemies, clubbing them, trampling their corpses, and there are those headless corpses carefully laid out for ritual- so, for conquest “The One Lord is Supreme” seems more likely to me.

“The Two Lords are at peace in him.” I know almost nothing of Khasekhemwy. I have taken much of this from The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, but my understanding, and my writing, is filtered through me.

Defensive measures was crying in the dojo. This is less than ideal.

There is so much to think about. Look straight forward. Torso vertical. Hips on/off. Position of feet, knees, thighs. That is before doing the block or strike itself: flow into it, the power and the effort comes at the last moment. In the first kata I should place my foot then turn, the torso stays straight above the hips and the turn comes from the legs, where the power is. In one of the turns, I was blocking with the wrong arm, Andy told me. That rather surprised me, and so I concentrated on that rather than the position of my legs and the way of turning. “That’s it. Excellent.” Says Andy. And the very next move I was punching one way rather than turning and punching, and cursing myself for getting it so simply wrong. “‘Don’t praise me, don’t praise me’, she says,” Andy echoed.

I first noticed this, taking driving lessons in 1983. Whenever the instructor told me I had done something well, the next thing I did badly. It still puzzles me a bit why I would react like that. Possibly a defensive measure, do not stand out by doing things remarkably well. Possibly self-punishing, I do not deserve praise. Whatever. I started crying because I had responded in that terrible, self-destructive way. How could I be so stupid, now? I managed to hold it in check. Breathe. It is alright. Responding in that way is OK, it is no great disaster, I reassure myself. It is OK. I do not need to respond in that way, but when I do no harm is done. I will learn not to respond in that way in time, and I do not have to get it perfectly right every time.

We do the second and third kata, and, in between, I still need to stand, reassuring myself, eyes closed, hands channeling healing Qi to my solar plexus chakra. I am glad that Andy spent time talking to others about how they are doing the kata and how it may be improved. I did not have to walk out.

I am sitting with it now.
All my outdated defensive patterns,
however sub-optimal or even self-destructive they are,
I took on to protect myself.
I am glad that I could protect myself,
and however I did it, that is OK.
And if I find myself repeating them now,
that is also OK.
I need not do them now,
but sometimes I do them reflexively.
This is not a disaster.
I will do them less, learn other ways of being.
Everything is all right.

O God, I have been so damaged.
Thank God, I have time now to heal.

It is a beautiful sunny day, and before I went to karate practice I had time to kneel in my ritual space. The feeling that came to me there was Gratitude. Now, though it is October, I am sunbathing.


I find spiritual matters easier to accept if there is a rational explanation, and so am intrigued by the Reticular Activating System, a part of the brain of all vertebrates. It regulates transition between sleep and wakefulness, and between relaxed wakefulness and periods of high attention. Since such high attention is something I delight in and think of as “Spiritual”, I am practising it. It also regulates attention so we may take notice of what is important, and ignore what is not. So if I set an intention, I start to notice things relevant to that intention. That is the theory, anyway. I am pleased that there is a theory. So the Law of Attraction makes greater sense to me. Not having a complete knowledge of brain physiology- has anyone?- I am happier to accept “Spiritual” explanations, the observation may be on to something.