THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX

For untold centuries, the Great Sphinx at Giza outside of Cairo in Egypt, has stared Eastwards with stony gaze greeting the rising sun. Known in ancient days as ‘Horemakhet – Horus of the Horizon’, the Sphinx stands guard before a complex of pyramids and temples including the mysterious Great Pyramid, itself known in ancient Egypt as the ‘Horizon of Heaven’. To the weary traveller of ancient times through to jostling busloads of tourists today, she seems to ask a riddle of all those who pass by…who am I, why am I here, what mysteries do I represent? In Greek mythology the Sphinx of Thebes was said to demand of such travellers the answer to a riddle: ‘What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon and on three legs in the evening?” What would be your answer to this riddle?

Sculpted from soft sandstone, many believe that it would have disappeared ages ago if it had not been buried in the desert sands for so many long periods of its lifetime. The body of a lion is 60 metres (200 feet) long and 20 metres (65 feet) tall. Its human face is 4 metres (13 feet) wide with eyes measuring 2 metres (6 feet) high. There is much debate amongst historians and scientists about the age of the Great Sphinx. Conventional science tells us that the Sphinx was built by the Pharoah Khafra, the builder of the second pyramid at Giza, around 2,500 BC. A thousand years later, the Pharoah Thutmose 4th (1401-1388 BC) installed a carved stone between its front paws, describing how when he was a young prince, he had gone hunting and fallen asleep in the shade of the Sphinx’s head. Thutmose had a dream where Ra Hor-Akhty the Sun God, talking through the Sphinx, spoke to him, telling the young prince to clear away the sand because the Sphinx was choking on it. The Sphinx promised him he would become Pharoah if he did this. Thutmose cleared away the sand covering the Sphinx and after two years he became king of Egypt.

There is practically no archaeological evidence at all to show that Pharoah Khafra, and certainly king Thutmose, did anything but restore what was already an ancient monument buried for long ages in the hot desert sands when they found it. Recent research on the Sphinx’s body and surrounding enclosure tends to bear out this contention. Geological research in the 1990s onwards indicates that the Sphinx has been eroded extensively by rain water for thousands of years. Yet it hasn’t rained much in that area of Egypt for perhaps 10,000 years! Some, including theosophical writers and the American visionary Edgar Cayce, believed that the Great Sphinx was built by colonists fleeing the destruction of Atlantis and it is therefore even much more ancient. Edgar Cayce said that there is a secret chamber under the front feet of the Sphinx which contains the historical records of Atlantis. Indeed, scientific surveys of the area beneath the Sphinx using a variety of instruments from the 1970s onwards indicate that there are as yet undiscovered chambers, and perhaps even a passageway linking the Sphinx with the Great Pyramid.

But what about that riddle? In Greek mythology the solution was – Man: who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age.  Of course morning, noon, and night in the riddle, are metaphors for times in a persons life. If the answer is Man, then perhaps one reason the Sphinx was put was to tell future generations that the secret of true Humanhood is symbolized in the Sphinx. The man’s head on the lion’s body indicating the transcendence of the animal aspects of the human condition by the thinking and spiritual qualities of man symbolized in the human head. The secret of overcoming much of the suffering in the world and advancing our spiritual condition is for people individually to attempt to overcome the power of the human Ego (Lower Self) which acts endlessly to retard our spiritual progress and ensure its own animal survival. Consequently we see the general trend in our world today of using human intelligence and ingenuity in the service of the Ego. Thus we see our modern society generally dedicated to earning money and worldly power, rather than using the same divine human potentialities in the service of our spiritual self (Higher Self) for compassionately and selflessly helping others. The differences between these two paths is paper thin, and simply one of attitude. Do we remain tempted by the illusions of the Ego for the bigger house, car, etc.? Or do we take what we need, and use a little time each day thinking and working for others in whatever way is suitable to our situation?

The Sphinx was known as the ‘Guardian of Knowledge’, ‘The Sentinel of the Opening of the Door to Higher Knowledge’, which according to theosophy, occurred in ancient days in the initiation chambers of the Great Pyramid. Simply put, this initiation process was the overcoming of the illusions of the Ego and living in the realities of the Higher Self. In a minor way we can all respond to the riddle of the Sphinx in our own lives by outgrowing our individual illusions so that they are no attraction to us at all, and moving on spiritually. This is not at all an easy process as these illusions change ‘Proteus-like’ with our progress on the spiritual path.

The nearest analogy to this process that I can imagine is of a person walking through a crowded hotel or casino where hundreds of people are enslaved to gambling machines pursuing the illusive dream of quick riches. But this dream is no attraction to the person who has a spiritual focus whatsoever…and he/she walks on. By changing our attitude to what are commonly taken to be major temptations, we spiritually grow, and gradually transform/incorporate the Lower Self into the Higher Self, turning the energies of selfishness to the service of the Higher Self – as theosophy expresses it – Kama Manas (Desire Mind) to Buddhi Manas (Buddhi Manas).

 Theosophical writer, Dr G de Purucker puts it this way:

 “…Some people imagine that the path of spiritual attainment is far away over the mountains of the future, almost unreachable, when in reality there is a relatively narrow frontier between ordinary life and that followed by the neophyte or chela [ie.a serious student of the ancient wisdom]. Essentially the difference is one of outlook, and not of metaphysical distance. It is the same distance that exists between the one who falls under the sway of temptation and thereafter becomes its bondslave, and the other who successfully resists the temptation and thereafter becomes its master. Anyone can enter upon the path, if his will, his devotion and yearnings are directed towards being of greater service to others. The only thing that prevents him from taking that most beautiful step is his convictions, his psychological and mental prejudices which distort his perspective…..” – Fountain-Source of Occultism, p.14.

 For most of us, the initiation of daily life is the progressive overcoming of such worldly illusions and finding the Inner Sun. The Great Sphinx of Egypt, as the voice of the Sun God Ra Hor-Akhty, stands witness to the centuries calling us on to this ultimate challenge of true Humanhood.

 With every effort of will toward purification and unity with that `Self-god,’ one of the lower rays breaks and the spiritual entity of man is drawn higher and ever higher to the ray that supercedes the first, until, from ray to ray, the inner man is drawn into the one and highest beam of the Parent-Sun. – HP Blavatsky.

 

THE GREAT PYRAMID: HUMILITY AND THE HORIZON OF HEAVEN

Looming triumphantly above the smog and traffic din of modern Cairo, the Great Pyramid of Gizeh stands majestically, a silent witness to the thousands of year’s history it has seen in Egypt. The mysterious Great Sphinx at its feet, the Pyramid, with its near perfect engineering and enigmatic orientations to the stars, has puzzled scientists and mystics alike as to its purpose. Modern archaeology tells us that it was the burial place of the Pharaoh Khufu approximately 4,500 years ago, yet there is much evidence to show that this Pharaoh merely renovated an existing structure buried in the sands, and that the Great Pyramid was already ancient when he found it. (see: Manuel Oderberg: Gateway to the ‘Horizon of Heaven’ at: http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/med/my-imo6.htm) The clue lies in the ancient Egyptian writing above the entrance to the Great Pyramid which says simply: ‘Horizon of Heaven’.

What can this mean? Many people don’t realize that the Great Pyramid encloses a maze of tunnels and rooms fanning away from the main entrance and serviced by airshafts to the surface which were obviously meant for living men. We know of many such passages deep within the Great Pyramid, but there may be many more awaiting discovery. According to the Theosophy, the purpose of the Great Pyramid was to provide an environment where suitable candidates could undergo spiritual initiation into higher states of consciousness. Therefore, from a mystical point of view, it was aptly called ‘The Horizon of Heaven’, ie. a place where one could literally enter the other dimensions of reality we call ‘heavens’ and ‘hells’. To achieve this spiritual awakening, candidates for initiation had to undergo a variety of tests of character, encounter some of the other dimensions or ‘worlds’, and to face aspects of themselves before achieving ‘enlightenment’ for a few in what we now call the ‘Kings Chamber’ at the very centre of the Pyramid. These tests offered a vastly accelerated Path to enlightenment for those strong souls suitable for such an ennobling experience. This accelerated opportunity for a higher state of consciousness was called by the ancient Egyptians in their Book of the Two Ways, ‘The Path of Horus’. This quick path contrasts with the slow journey for the majority of people to the same state of enlightenment but through the experiences of everyday life called by them, ‘The Path of Osiris’. Osiris was the King of the Afterlife amongst the Gods of ancient Egypt, and the Great Pyramid was also known as the ‘Temple of Osiris’.

Imagine yourself now as one of those candidates for initiation, standing in the ‘Grand Gallery’. You have overcome the dread tests of the downward passage into the ‘underworld’ of dimensions ‘below’ our everyday world and ascended through many challenges and terrors to the point where you stand now. Further tests of character and instructions in cosmology follow from the assembly of initiates gathered to greet you in the magnificent Grand Gallery. Later, in the ‘Queen’s Chamber’, the ‘choice’ is made as to the level of enlightenment we are capable of withstanding. To return once again to the Grand Gallery, we now stand at the entrance to the ‘Kings Camber’ where, if we enter, we lie in the stone sarcophagus at the centre of this small room. Body entranced, our soul wanders the spaces of consciousness, both within ourselves, and outside into the cosmos at large. If victorious, we overcome the last shape assumed by the ego, and win free to wisdom, joining the company of the ‘Aakhui’ – the initiates or ‘Masters of Wisdom’, literally “The Creatures of Light”, or sometimes known as ‘Sons of the Sun’. During these trials we have given willingly of ourselves to the denizens of each place we visited. The now ‘Osirified’ initiate is not content to remain exultant as a ‘Son of the Sun'; but sets about his return to the commonality of men, the new initiate’s ‘table of offerings’ for humanity before him being the faculties and qualities he has perfected within himself and now offered to help uplift Humanity’s consciousness level.

If you stand at the entrance to the Kings Chamber where these final initiations took place, you will notice that you have a very difficult entry indeed that requires you to bow down low to enter the Kings Chamber. The granite floor-stones and walls of this entrance are worn down with the footsteps of generations of initiatory candidates and, in more recent times, tourists visiting the Great Pyramid. This entrance forces you to proceed in a crouched position symbolizing to me that only those who are humble in body, soul, and spirit, have the right to enter the inner camber of spiritual enlightenment. Surely, if the quality of Humility was an absolute requirement of the ancient mysteries, then there must be a lesson here for us all following the path of daily-life initiations in the everyday world – the ‘Path of Osiris’ as the ancient Egyptians would say.

Most of us would instinctively recognize that a spiritually advanced person is not absorbed in their own ego fulfilment, and such a person becomes increasingly less personal as spiritual awareness grows. A kind, gentle individual is most likely the one that people will turn to in a personal crisis. Such a person is directing the energies of their mind ‘upwards’ towards compassion, rather than ‘downwards’ towards desire for personal benefit. The desire mind is very personal and even as the mind grows more keenly aware with intellectual learning, it becomes highly critical of how others think and act. In fact, much of our education system and entertainment these days is directed to developing such a keen critical faculty which at a deeper level fortifies the ego-centre and its sense of superiority.

We of course, need to be critical in our Path of spiritual development, in the sense of determining what is right from what is wrong free of the personal element. In Hinduism this is known as the quality of rightful discrimination or ‘Viveka’. This is the quality of discrimination allied to humility in that the non-personal attitude gives birth to kindly feelings and understanding of the struggles others go through. We have the opportunity everyday in our interactions with other people to develop such a kindly attitude of humility free of egotism that will make sure we keep to the ‘Path of Compassion’ in our spiritual journey into the future.

More information on the qualities Theosophy encourages us to develop on the path of compassion can be found in G de Purucker’s ‘The Path of Compassion’ available at: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/fso/ptcom-hp.htm .

 “Who humbles himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” (Psalms 113:6)  

 “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5).

 

THE ROADS OF OSIRIS AND HORUS

In ancient Egypt, the process of spiritual growth was often pictured as the adventures of the soul in the after-life. One of these stories tells of a soul travelling down a road and reaching a fork offering two paths called “The Two Paths of Liberation”. Whilst each path leads to the abode of the ‘Gods’, each involves different experiences. One path, passing over land and water, is that of the Egyptian God Osiris who represents cyclic nature and this path involves many incarnations. The other way leads through fire in a direct and shortened passage along the road of the God Horus, who in many texts symbolizes the divine spark in the heart.

Many other cultures speak of a pathway to a blessed, or heightened state of spiritual understanding, though such a pathway is usually for ‘warriors’, or the brave at heart, eg. The American Indians speak of the ‘Red Path’ in similar terms. In Egypt, such a brave soul if successful in his journey along the Road of Horus became an initiate of the mysteries and was called an Akhu (the ‘Blessed’) – a name for the Gods, and also for successful initiates. For the rest of mankind travelling the Road of Osiris, the way is slower, progressing certainly, but more gradually, through the challenges of daily life through many incarnations. The ultimate achievement is the same, to radiate the highest qualities of the spiritual element locked within the aspiring soul. So how, and why, should people aspiring to spiritual understanding make the considerable effort even to set foot on the Road of Horus?

Why? Because the world desperately needs all the assistance it can get from people who are working in every way to uplift human consciousness. In particular, people who are prepared to attack the root causes of suffering in our world are few and far between, and recruits to their ranks are needed in all fields of endeavour. How do we take the first tentative steps towards the Road of Horus?

By taking charge of your life and trying to self-direct our evolution instead of being driven along by external circumstances. I recently heard two superb pieces of practical advice on taking control of your life from the writings of Dr Edward Bach, the discoverer of the famous Bach Flower Remedies, available in most chemist shops. Dr Bach called upon his own soul adventures to offer these signposts for us to the Road of Horus.

 Firstly he said it is necessary to ‘Know Yourself’:

“…Have courage to think for yourself. Trust your own convictions, take only from teaching courses and other people’s opinions what you feel within is true. For what is true for others may not be so for you, or what is true for you may not be so for others. Know yourself. That is the way you learn, that is the way you exercise your gift of free will. Choose between what is right and wrong for you. To choose through this gift of free will determine how you will face all the external conditions, experiences, and stresses that come your way. Whether you take them with cheerfulness, with interest, learning from them how to deal with another such experience. Or whether you let them get you down, cause you fear, worry, depression, strain. Yours is the choice.”

And secondly, on his basis of his experiences as a medical doctor, he advised ‘Looking Forward’:

“…many sick people find it very difficult to allow themselves to become free from past mistakes. Self condemnation is as much a stumbling block to recovery as self pity, pessimism, and other such negative forms of outlook. It does not matter how serious or trivial the error. The fact that you recognize a mistake, and then work to avoid making the same mistake again is forgiveness itself. It is recognition, the lesson learnt, that is the all important aspect to consider. Once you can accept that all mistakes occur for our own benefit. That all experiences whether good or bad are equally important in our development, then we are in true perspective. Life’s problems and setbacks are not periods of bad luck. They are purposeful tests offering exciting challenges. If we can then recognize the true value of these lessons we will emerge so much the wiser and prepared for whatever life has in store for us unshackled from the past.”

Further information on the ancient Egyptian teaching on the two paths is available in The Ancient Egyptian Book of Two Ways translated by Leonard H. Lesko, 1972. See also I.M.Oderberg’s article ‘Light from Ancient Egypt’ on the internet at: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sunrise/34-84-5/re-imo2.htm from Sunrise Magazine for April/May 1985, pages 124-128 for more information on the Road of Horus.

“We come back to earth because on it and with the beings upon it our deeds were performed…because here is the only natural spot in which to continue the struggle towards perfection.” – W.Q.Judge: The Ocean of Theosophy, p.84