Vanity arises when you believe beauty is a moral or social virtue. True virtue needs no classification.
My applied theurgy classes are about ways understanding and reverence for the gods can have practical benefits in life. Recently, they have been examining closely how the brain works in many different cases, and one thing that is proving universally true is everything about brain function seems to be dependent on context.
In Egyptian metaphysics, the ability to craft an idol was more than just building a look alike example of some object. The creative process was not believed to be possible without accessing the universal life force around us, and especially not without being able to access the spirit of the thing being depicted, like say a cat. They referred to a craftsman who made idols as a father of idols.
This concept was quite common in middle eastern and African metaphysics, the two having no genuine separation especially during the age of empires. You can read about the Judaeo-christian example in the book of Genesis where humanity receives from the living spirit of god without being the actual offspring of god. This was the difference between the mass of humanity and the demigod messiah.
So humans are an idol of god? Yes, literally an image of god.
Now the ages of the Egyptian empire were less than well organized. Empires really, they had dynasties not unlike Chinese history displayed. According to traditional reckoning, by destroying an idol you did not kill the god as that was impossible, but you did alienate the god from that place. The reason defiling idols would have been seen as being so wrong is that it neglected ma’at, cosmic order.
The purpose of the gods in Egyptian spirituality was not to serve as lords and masters of humanity directly. In fact, the few gods that did have a direct link to the concept of kingship were former mortals in a sense. The gods were seen to be born in the land, each god in a different region of the Nile river valley and the surroundings, and they were not all equally old even according to the reckoning of those who followed them. Like Greece, Egypt was originally not a nation but a collection of city states each governed by a local patron deity. This deity often associated with something that resided at the heart of that communities spirit and well being or their understanding of the world around them.
The goddess Bast was originally a lioness, and she was associated with the ways of war of the people of the city of Bast. The name Bastet actually means she of Bast. To her followers, Bast represented many things, especially strength of spirit and strength of community as a lioness is not a solitary hunter.
Perhaps not unlike the Berserkers of Norse lore, their warriors and their people in general valued ferocity of spirit, but this ferocity was not just centered on bloodshed. Like a cat, they lived life in such a way as to pursue everything they did with passion, and her worship in most cases was more akin to a wild party, playful and feisty and flirtatious, and killing had nothing to do with it. They would go in barges along the Nile river, dancing and singing and teasing anyone they saw along the river banks, but these worship festivals had something significant to them besides the tradition of drinking as much as they possibly could handle. There were no children involved, perhaps because the festivities were also in part a fertility rite.
To connect this lore to practical application, there is a reason mystics the world over in every culture sought to achieve unity with god in whatever form that took for them. Our brains sense of context, sense of identity, can become badly fragmented, and in this day and age this is quite common.
So reverence for the gods had a very real effect, one that people often pay at least some lip service to now. It was the core of the priests training in ancient Egypt. It provided a unifying view of the world and experience of what it means to be alive, of what the events of life mean, in a powerful way. Where humanity seems shifting and mutable and weak, the gods were strong and true to the spirit of ma’at, pillars of order, and thus of the community as well. Through reverence and meditation on the gods such as Bast, one could come to display not only strength of spirit (spirit was equivalent to character), one could develop the same traits as the revered deity.
In Egyptian metaphysics, known as heka, all the powers of the universe were embodied in each and every soul from gods down to the household cat, no exceptions. Even the lowest caste, the slaves, were seen as a part of this unity. In the slaves case, it was believed that the gods had deemed that the person serve as a servitor, and all servants were the property not of a person, but of a god.
Many of the concepts that are included in modern day Voodoo may have had their root in Egyptian spirituality in a sense. In Voodoo, they refer to the ritual dancers in their ceremony as being horses and servants of the loa.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.