The Ancient Egyptians did not believe that the world had been created out of nothing. Rather, they held the view that material of some kind had always existed. To them, the original creation was a process of shaping that formless material into an ordered world.
This was not a homogenous worldview held by all theologians. Rather, there were many versions regarding how this process happened. During the third millennium, the great religious centres at Heliopolis, Memphis and Hermopolis came together and reached an agreement on the essentials.
To them, the world had not been shaped by a god that had existed forever. Rather, what had existed forever was chaos. This chaos was described in negative terms. Despite difficulties in explaining what this chaos was, it was viewed as ‘not anything’; a negation of the present world that was in existence.
It was chaos that existed before the sky, the earth, humans, gods and even death. As a material form, chaos was a boundless ocean within which existed–in a latent state–the primal substance out of which the world would be formed.
Submerged within this chaos was the demiurge who would fashion the world. At this stage, however, the demiurge himself was pure potential. He was not yet aware of himself nor of the task that lay ahead.
Regarding the first step in the making the world, there was widespread consensus. At a certain point in time, which was known was The First Time, a tiny island rose out of the water. It was the primordial mound.
The chaos was known as ‘The Nun’. It existed before there was any god. It was not an active force–even if he was known as ‘The Father of the Gods’. The organisation and ordering of the world had to be done by the demiurge. The demiurge embodied the process of differentiation and definition. Chaos was boundless. Boundaries to the ordered world began to emerge with the demiurge.
The demiurge brought light where there had only been darkness. In the light, things could exist separately. Through the work of the demiurge, Oneness was transformed into multiplicity. The demiurge was envisaged as ‘the One who makes himself into millions’.
The theologians of Heliopolis and Hermopolis held that the demiurge was the Solar God Ra. Those of Memphis, however, believed that he was the Earth God Ptah. The demiurge came into full existence at the moment when the primordial mound emerged. When he was in the primordial darkness, he was in a state of inertia. When he became aware of himself, he transformed himself and the world around him.
The demiurge was neither begotten of any father nor conceived by any mother. Of his own volition, he gave himself a body and entered into active–as opposed to latent–existence.