The Swt Shadow

18 Aug

Mental patients from up and down the Nile were sent to the facility in Thebes that carried the name the House of Struggle, for that was what occurred within it. Priests from the temple of Thoth, the god of wisdom and learning, were the therapists and counselors there.

Young, scholarly Hehs was overjoyed when he was assigned to serve as a novice physician in that institution. He found his way to the private sanctum of the medical director, an elderly priest named Sarr.

The two men sat on low stools, facing each other at a close distance.

“What is it that inspires you to join us here?” began the bald, skinny veteran in the whitish yellow robe of a priestly therapist.

The towering newcomer hesitated for several seconds before responding.

“I have always been fascinated by illnesses of the inner self and how they are treated by professional healers. My aim is to perfect my knowledge and skills to the point where I can try to produce cures, and if that proves to be impossible, then lessen the pain and suffering of the ill. That is what I hope to do with all my talent and education.”

The pair looked searchingly into each other’s dark eyes.

Sarr seemed to look away, into the faraway distance.

“We avoid any treatment that resembles heka magic or spell-casting. Our methods deal with the evil thoughts that plague those who come to us. We depend upon prayer, meditation, and self-revelation. The goal of our priests is to discover what it is that the patient is wrestling with. We hunt to find the demonic spirit that dwells in the heart of the victim.”

“Such troubles are difficult to uncover and study, I have read and been told,” noted Hehs, wrinkling his young brow. “My ambition is to become able to identify the forces that are in contention and bring inner peace to the sufferer, to the extent that is possible.”

Sarr pursed his thin lips. “Many years of work have taught me that failure is much more common than success. You will see many cases of defeat, my son. That is disappointing and depressing.”

“I am willing to go onward, regardless of immediate results,” vowed the novice.

The first several patients with whom Hehs met spoke to him openly, candidly of their internal stresses and divisions.

“I can never lay at rest, because all these worries about my future are ever-present, always there with me. There is no use my looking for release on my own, because I am unable to find escape for myself.”

Similar confessions of frustration and despair came from others.

“There is a heavy weight that burdens my thought every day, every night. If only I could be certain where it comes from and what it consists of. But of that I am entirely ignorant.”

The one emotion always present in some form appeared to be a sense of deep guilt.

“Can I blame anyone but myself for my pain and trouble? What did I do to deserve such a condition? Why are the gods ignoring the demonic torture that I am suffering?”

How could Hehs answer such pleas? There was little he could say to them in reply. The invisible forces and powers involved seemed beyond his capacity to contend with. How could he overpower these influences, these spirits and demons? he asked himself many times.

Then one afternoon, a patient made a short, incidental observation that struck the young priest as fraught with possible meanings.

“Sometimes, I feel as if I contained two twin brothers who hate and battle each other, like Set and Osiris.”

Hehs recalled the statement that night as he sought rest and sleep.

Two fraternal divinities at odds with each other, caught in an unending war.

Most of that night, the new therapist recalled what he had learned about the pair of eternal enemies.

Set stood for darkness, chaos, and evil. The wild black bear was his figurative symbol. He carried in his belt the knife of death and destruction. There was no good in him at all.

Osiris was his opposite, his total opponent. Light, order, and goodness were his values. He is whole and everlasting. Osiris promises resurrection to all, including all of the dead. To follow and obey him is the first step toward eternal life and happiness.

Set cuts up and kills with his deadly knife. Osiris brings wholeness for all eternity. The mummifying of the dead is symbolic of their future rebirth in paradise alongside Osiris.

The war between the brothers was an unending one through eternity. But how does it enter a person and cause mental division? How can a person deal with its harmful consequences? Only an outside influence might provide some alleviation and peace.

Hehs determined to find out more through deeper, more detailed questioning of the patients he was now treating.

“Do you ever have a dream in which there is a presence that originates from the god called Set?” the young priest cautiously asked a new patient who was suffering chronic nightmares. “Are there any marks or traces of his evil thoughts or actions after a bad dream? What are you able to remember?”

It was at last evident to Hehs that the man across from him had a reluctance to give a true, complete answer. There was some unseen factor inhibiting his previous cooperation with the physician-priest.

“There could be an indirect, secondary influence of the god Set,” he added. “Do you have any memory of such a connection to Set?”

The patient, after a short hesitation, began to speak as if to himself.

“At times I can feel a kind of shadowy presence, a certain shapeless dark. Does that make any sense to you?”

Hehs did not answer his question, but posed a new question of his own.

“Could that shadow be the source of conflict and tension within you?”

The man under questioning opened his mouth and seemed to be gasping for air, only giving his answer once he restored a modicum of balance and self-control.

“I have heard of the swt that a person has,” whispered the patient in a low voice. “Perhaps that is what is shadowing me after I experience a nightmare. The swt is said to be a protecting spirit attached to me that I can never see with my eyes. It is said to be a dark shadow.”

“Can a guardian swt contain an invisible force that reflects the image of Set?” said Hehs as if asking that of himself. He grew excited as he reflected on this, his thoughts taking a broad, bold leap forward.

“I do not know for certain,” said the priest to both the patient and himself. “The question that you asked me is an important one. Thank you for presenting it to me. I must think long about the role that the shadowy swt may be playing on what happens to you in your dreams.”

Hehs decided to go to the director of the House of Struggle for advice and guidance. As soon as the pair were seated in the official’s chamber, the novice started at once on the subject that had brought him there. The eyes of the director grew large as he heard the new theory of conflict between the images of Osiris and Set within the swt of the mental patients.

The superior spoke as soon as Hehs finished his account of what he had uncovered about this eternal warfare.

“Yes, the idea that the swt shadow influences the state of our thoughts has existed from far distant past ages, but it has never been firmly established or generally accepted.” He paused a few moments to think. “I do not possess the knowledge or wisdom needed to answer the questions in your mind. There is a thick fog of mystery around the entire human shadow.”

“I wish that we knew more about what exists in our guardian swt,” mused the young priest. “That could help us a great deal in our treatment of the ill.”

The two men looked at each other in silence until Sarr suddenly made a proposal.

“Since we must carry forth an exploration of the shadow swt, let us begin among ourselves. Would you let me place you in a dream spell so that I can question you about the elements of the protective guardian that is attached to you? What we learn from that could aid us in our patient therapy, I am certain.”

Hehs at once perceived the logic of the project proposed to him.

“Yes,” he agreed, “that is a promising initiative, I believe. Let us proceed with it.”

Arrangements were made for the pair to carry out their plan in the therapeutic cell used by Hehs. The two met there early the following morning and sat down on the stools facing each other.

Sarr started out with a sharply pointed question.

“Have you ever done anything for which you still remain profoundly ashamed?”

Hehs felt a sudden lightning bolt hit his body and his thinking heart, the site of his mind. He grew abstracted and wholly thoughtful, concentrating completely on what he now began to reveal.

“When I was a small child, my older brother and I played with toys and puppets. Out of enormous jealousy, I destroyed a dozen figurines that were his. This was done out of the profound inner hatred that I felt. No one caught or suspected that I was the actual culprit. Neighboring children were considered the guilt ones. I myself never told my part in it to anyone. The evil deed lies buried in my memory. Perhaps only my swt still has knowledge of the nature of my crime.”

In his excitement on hearing this, Sarr leaned far forward on his stool. “Tell me, were you a child who struck others, such as your brother?”

The face of the younger priest hardened as if made of stone. “How do you know? How did you guess?” he replied with emotion close to anger.

“It is obviously true that you were often at odds with others,” said the director in a low, quiet tone.

At this point, he decided to place Hehs in a deeply abstracted state of trance. Using both hands, he waved them with slow movements in front of the face of the other.

When it was clear and certain that the young man was hypnotized, Sarr began a series of questions meant to to uncover what the swt contained in terms of thoughts and emotions.

“Concentrate your attention upon your guardian spirit, the swt,” commanded the director. “Describe what the god named Set is doing in this adjoining shadow that is always with you.”

Hehs, his dark eyes still opened, entered a trance different from any and all forms of sleep.

The deep exploration of the swt took several minutes of intense effort, coming to an end when the young man started to shake and tremble.

It took this physical and mental cataclysm to make him completely awake.

“What did you learn?” asked Sarr, the director. “Did you see your swt shadow?”

Hehs looked down at the ground as he answered.

“There is no final, trustworthy remedy,” he muttered confusedly. “I am divided, you are so, and so are all like us. Human beings, in their very nature and character, combine opposing elements, both Osiris and his brother Set. Both these twins are present always, in everyone who is a human.”

Sarr was inspired to continue the string of thoughts further. “Like the son of Osiris, the divine Horus, we too suffer the loss of an eye to his uncle, Set. But it is an inner spiritual eye. And like Osiris himself, we have been cut up and broken into pieces ourselves. We do that to ourselves. And like Osiris, we need to be resurrected.

“Osiris was reborn. That was difficult and costly, but must be repeated by us again and again, without end.

“Only an unending, never completed battle will bring harmony to the swt and the humans who suffer from its eternal division. That is not easy, but it is unavoidable for all of us.”

Hehs rose and excused himself.

“I must ready myself to see my patients tomorrow,” he softly murmured as he left with the tragic knowledge just acquired by him: to be a living human being is to experience an endless conflict of opposites and contradictions.

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