The Mirror of Tem

By Gerald J. Schueler

Man has always had a desire to know the truth about himself and his world, and the quest for truth has ever been considered a noble effort. This search is a process which is sometimes called initiation. According to G. de Purucker, "The aim of initiation is to ally the human being with the gods, which is begun by making the neophyte at one with his own inner god."

And again --

Every human being in the core of the core of his essence is a sun, destined to become one of the starry hosts in the spaces of Space, so that even from the very first instant when the divine-spiritual part of us begins its peregrinations throughout universal Being, it is already a sun in embryo, a child of some other sun that then existed in space. Initiation brings forth this inner, latent, stellar energy in the heart of the neophyte. -- Fountain-Source of Occultism, pp. 55, 62.

This idea can also be found in ancient Egypt where the initiate was called a Son of the Sun. The Egyptian texts commonly known today as the Book of the Dead were in fact magical and mystical texts for the neophyte, and were titled "Coming into the Light." They recorded various states of consciousness encountered during the quest for truth and special stages of development in the initiatory process.

The ancient Egyptians taught that man could temporarily leave the physical body and travel in a subtle Body of Light into the invisible worlds where the gods and goddesses resided. This world was called the Tuat, a word which is literally "starry place," and is equivalent to the astral plane of modern theosophy. At least one purpose for conducting these magical exercises was to attain initiation. For example, chapter 44 of the Book of the Dead records a way to obtain a special magical device called the Mirror of Tem. The candidate must find a pathway to the ibis-headed god of wisdom, Thoth. Then he is told to --

Consider the god Thoth . . . address Thoth and say: "Grant therefore O Mighty Thoth, the Mirror of Tem. May you see no discord. May you not send confusion to the years, but may they pass in whole months. May those who make trouble be kept hidden away from everything that you do. I am with you, O Thoth. I have traveled a pathway to you, to your all-inclusive nature. I am not among those who are trouble and must be hidden away. I have not made trouble."

The candidate must assure the god (and himself) that he is morally deserving. He must visualize himself as pure -- one who has "not made trouble." This psychological technique, a characteristic of ancient Egyptian esoteric wisdom, is essential for success. It not only uplifts one's attitude and outlook, but also helps assure a positive outcome. Probably the essence of this technique can be found in the term "truth-speaking" used in reference to the neophyte throughout the Book of the Dead. In order always to be truth-speaking, one must have developed moral strength and must possess a strong sense of ethics. But exactly what is the Mirror of Tem? According to another verse,

The Mirror of Tem is for you to see your own face. Your image will have no distortion . . . The Mirror of Tem will allow you to travel to the divine Great Ones . . . Your face will then look like the face of Tem.

Such a mirror will not be appreciated by any but the candidate for initiation. When turned outward, this mirror will reveal the human being as he or she really is. Only such a candidate would want to know what kind of a person he is, without his egotism or pride distorting the image. When turned inward, into one's essential nature, the image shown in the mirror is Tem himself: the inner nature of the neophyte is divine.

We may understand the god Tem better if we look at the Story of Isis and Ra where a revealing statement is spoken by the sun-god Ra: "I am Khepera in the morning, Ra at noontime, and Tem in the evening." Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead echoes this by stating: "Visualize this: This is the god Tem, who dwells in his divine solar disk. Sometimes it is said that it is Ra when he shines from the horizon on the western side of Heaven." The sun can be seen as having three separate phases as it appears to pass over our heads each day. The rising sun is the beetle-headed Khepera; the sun at noon or midday is Ra; the setting sun is Tem.

These three Egyptian gods compare closely to the three Hindu gods: Brahma (creating), Vishnu (sustaining), and Siva (destroying/regenerating). Tem, like Siva, was especially favored by mystics and those seeking spiritual enlightenment. The destruction of matter, the ending of manifestation, is a way of revealing the immortal ideas that exist behind mortal forms. Tem, like Siva, is a revealer of truth to those who have been prepared to see his revelations. His mirror could have been a symbol only for the divine power of unbiased introspection.

Modern psychology has shown how difficult it really is for us to look within and see ourselves as we really are. It sounds simple, but it is actually very difficult. The Mirror of Tem, a gift from the wise Thoth, made the task easy; but getting the mirror in the first place and daring to look at your reflection in its surface requires a great deal of preparation and inner courage.

According to the text, in order to receive the Mirror of Tem, the neophyte must enter a special garden. He is directed to --

Consider the god Tem and concentrate on him while saying:
"I have come into a garden which has no water and is without air. It has ten parts. It is dark. It moves. (Say this twice.) It has life within it, and peace for the heart, but it will not allow sexual pleasures to be produced there. I have received a spirit there that is indifferent to water and air and sexual pleasures. The heart is at peace there, and is indifferent to flesh and food and drink."

This garden is symbolic of a spiritual state of consciousness. Its description sounds very much like the samadhi of Eastern yogic tradition. The neophyte must raise his consciousness into a high spiritual state. There he will have the ability to see himself as he really is. In theosophical terms, this says that when we raise our consciousness to the level of the individuality (buddhi-manas), and then turn our focus outward onto the personality (kama-manas), we will see it as it really is, without egotistical distortions. If we focus our attention inwardly toward the spirit (atma) then we will see our own inner god face to face.

The Egyptian texts imply that the ancients knew how hard it is to look within ourselves and see truth. We usually see only illusion. Our emotions and thoughts are distorted by our desires. All too often we see only what we want to see, or what we expect to see rather than what is really there. But deep within every person is a divine spark, an inner god, a Son of the Sun. The neophyte seeks to become more aware of this spiritual part of himself. In degree, we can each become a neophyte. As we do so, we tread the path to truth. We pursue the timeless quest to find, to some extent, the reality that abides behind the illusions of our everyday lives. We gaze in part into the Mirror of Tem.

(From Sunrise magazine, June/July 1989; copyright © 1989 Theosophical University Press)