Tue 3 Jan 2012
Posted by Andrew Rooke under Theosophical Articles
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The Riddle of the Sphinx
The Great Pyramid: Humility and the Horizon of Heaven
The Roads of Osiris and Horus
Mystical Ancient Egypt
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
May I be with you, you gods; May you be with me . . . your Onite (character) is in me, O God . . . See me, O Ra, recognize me O Ra, I belong to those that know you, so know me.
— Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, 2,500 BC
MYSTICAL ANCIENT EGYPT
The Influence of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt has had an immense influence on Western society throughout the ages. It was always seen in the ancient world as the very apogee of education in every field – like America today. But unlike its modern equivalent, ancient Egypt was respected throughout the ancient Western world as the pinnacle of the spiritual sciences, a little bit like we respect India or Tibet for their spiritual knowledge today.
The Hermetic philosophies of Greece and Rome which inspired Neo-Platonic thought and then later Christianity in the early Christian era, were based on spiritual knowledge from ancient Egypt. Later, following the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, or rebirth of classical knowledge in Europe, was really an attempt to rediscover the ancient knowledge of Greece, Rome, and of their predecessor, ancient Egypt.
Ultimately the very structures of the modern Western world which flowed from the French Revolution in 1789 and the formation of the USA in 1776 were both greatly influenced by Freemasonry which in turn is grounded in the spiritual traditions of ancient Egypt. The Emperor Napoleon in post-revolutionary France, President George Washington, and many of the principle founders of modern America, were Freemasons with a tremendous respect for the esoteric knowledge of ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egypt has had an immense influence on the arts in every field especially since Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 and the French scholar Jean Francois Champollion cracked the code of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs in 1822. Today the tremendous popularity of The Mummy and The Scorpion King series of films (1999-2012) and the Tutankhamen Exhibition shown world-wide, testify to the continuing fascination we have with ancient Egypt.
The Mystery Tradition in Ancient Egypt
An examination of the writings and monuments of ancient Egypt tells us that, in its prime, the civilization of the Nile possessed many of the keys to the doors of the Esoteric Wisdom. Certainly the ancients themselves were well aware of this fact. For example, the Church Father Origen tells us that the philosophers of ancient Egypt had a… “most noble and secret wisdom concerning the nature of the Divine which was disclosed to the people only under the garment of fables and allegories…” (Contra Celsum, Bk I, ch. xxii).
Theosophist HP Blavatsky understood this was true when she wrote: ‘Verily there was some truth in the old saying, “The Wisdom of the Egyptians.”…”The Mighty Ones perform their great works, and leave behind them everlasting monuments to commemorate their visit, every time they penetrate within our mayavic veil (atmosphere)…” The Secret Doctrine 1:434.
Some of these keys to the high wisdom of ancient Egypt were rediscovered in the mid-twentieth century by the great French archaeologist Rene A. Schwaller de Lubicz and his wife Isha who spent 15 years studying the esoteric significance of the design of the Temples at Luxor. Theosophists, Manuel Oderberg, and Lionel Whellams, of our own Australian Section of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) wrote on these matters in the 1940s. Theosophical writers and Rene Schwaller de Lubicz were followed by 21st Century mystical and symbolist interpreters of ancient Egyptian civilization notably – American writer and traveller, John Anthony West, and Oxford philosopher Dr Jeremy Naydler whose books and videos provide most of the information that follows in these articles.
Summarizing the mystical view of ancient Egyptian civilization and how this differs so greatly from that of mainstream Egyptologists, Robert Lawlor says:
“In the Symbolist (mystic) model of ancient Egypt, at least two concurrent, simultaneous levels are at work in any given instance. One is the study of Egypt as a civilization that existed in a factual geographic place and time, its people, mythology, social forms, its chronological unfolding, its monuments and artifacts. But this is only a backdrop, or support for another Egypt, which might be called a quality of intelligence. This Egypt is outside of chronological considerations; it is rather, both an ever present and recurring possibility of consciousness.”
Was there a Civilisation in Egypt even Older than the Oldest we currently know?
Contemporary Egyptology teaches that Egyptian civilization appeared around 3,000BC and that the people were believers in animal-headed gods and had a primitive view of the universe and man’s relation to it.
In fact the Egyptians themselves in their temple records of their history date their origins to their Gods and the Servants of the Gods who ruled what is now Egypt at least 36,000 years ago. Their science, mathematics, and astronomy seem to have been in place from the beginning (3000BC) and reached a flowering in the Old Kingdom (2686 to 2181BC) with magnificent buildings such as King Djoser’s step pyramid constructed only 500 years (2650BC) after the first comparatively primitive structures of Egypt’s earliest dynastic period (3000BC).
It is as if a core of Egyptian initiates had the background knowledge to build such structures before the beginning of the historical period we know. But these highly educated people needed simply to refine the skills of enough architects and craftsmen to build such huge monuments, and to await the right astrological time for such activities – perhaps the start of Kali Yuga?
How is this possible? Perhaps there was a still older kingdom than the Old Kingdom recognized by modern Egyptology?
Ancient Stone Vases in Primitive Villages
In predynastic archaeological sites in Egypt exquisite stone vases made from some of the hardest stone known, such as Diorite, Porphery, and Granite have been found surrounded by primitive artefacts.
These have complex designs and are hollowed out in the centre. They have a hardness greater than steel but the Egyptians are supposed to have had only copper tools with which to manufacture them.
The stone is so difficult to work with that it would be difficult for us to make these stone vases today with our technology, much less 5,000 years ago. Could it be these items were remnants of an earlier civilization kept as treasured artefacts by the people of later times who were living in a post-apoplectic era after the destruction of the civilization that originally had the technology to make them?
The Great Sphinx – a lot older than we think?
There is no more iconic image of ancient Egypt than The Great Sphinx near the Great Pyramid at Giza near modern day Cairo. It was supposed to have been built during the reign of the Pharoah Khafra about 2,600 BC. But was it really?
The statue itself and the man-made temple walls surrounding it show evidence of water erosion, ie. that the statue was exposed to rain for a long period. But it hasn’t rained consistently in this area for 10,000 years at least and the Sphinx shows extensive signs of water weathering, therefore, it must have been exposed to water erosion for hundreds or thousands of years! Boston University Geologist Robert Schoch confirmed these findings in the mid-1990s.
In 1991 New York forensic artist Detective Frank Domingo, proved conclusively that head of the Sphinx was not the same individual as the Pharoah Khafra (Chefren) as identified by other statues depicting him.
Both pieces of evidence would suggest that the Sphinx is of immense antiquity, perhaps constructed at the end of the last Ice Age when the area was subject to flooding and rains.
The discovery in 1994 of a sophisticated temple complex at Gobekli Tepe in south-western Turkey dated to 12,000 years ago, indicates that there were civilizations in the region in the remote past capable of building huge monuments with stone slabs weighing up to 20 tons each. Archeologists working at the site tell us that the whole site at Gobekli Tepe seems to have been deliberately buried about 10,000 years ago!
When you consider these facts we might well agree with symbolist Egyptologist John Anthony West when he says:
“… The much vaunted flowering of ancient Greece 2,000 years later pales into insignificance in the face of a civilization which, supposedly starting from a crude Neolithic (Stone Age) base, produced in a few centuries a complete system of hieroglyphs, the most sophisticated calendrical system ever developed, an effective mathematics, a refined medicine, a total mastery of the gamut of the arts and crafts and the capacity to construct the largest and most accomplished stone buildings ever built by man. The cautiously expressed astonishment of modern Egyptologists hardly matches the real magnitude of the mystery.
A realistic approach to the mystery suggests alternatives that are unacceptable to the orthodox mind. The first is that Egyptian civilization did not develop in situ but this was brought to Egypt by hypothetical conquerors. This alternative simply translates the mystery of a period of development to the as-yet-undiscovered homeland of these conquerors.
The second alternative is that Egypt did not ‘develop’ her civilization, but inherited it…that the coherent complete and interrelated system of science, religion, art and philosophy of Egypt …came from a prior civilization possessing a high order of knowledge. In other words, this alternative brings up the old question of ‘Atlantis’…” – John Anthony West: Serpent in the Sky: the High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, pages 184-195.
Refugees from Atlantis
Theosophy teaches that what became the ancient Egyptian civilization was founded by refugees fleeing from a highly advanced, but very materialistic society – the 4th Root-Race of Humanity (we are the 5th) – Atlantis. This civilization was destroyed by a series of massive floods and subsidence of some continental areas and raising of others. This point of view is advocated also by 20th century French archaeologist Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, the American psychic Edgar Cayce, and 21st century symbolist Egyptologist, John Anthony West.
The Great Pyramid: One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The Great Pyramid is a marvel in stone. Located on the West bank of the Nile opposite Cairo; it is the largest of a group of three pyramids and surrounding temple structures including the Great Sphinx. Although dated by conventional archeologists to 4,500 years ago, it represents architectural perfection and engineering genius that would be difficult for us to duplicate today.
For 3,800 years it was the world’s tallest building. It is constructed of 8 million cubic feet of stone; 2.3 million stone blocks weighing 2.5 tons each; and originally entirely covered in white limestone which shone brightly in the desert sunlight for miles around. It is equidistant from the pole and the centre of the earth showing an exact knowledge of latitude and longitude. The French emperor Napoleon’s surveyors found that the Great Pyramid was at the apex of an exact triangle fanning out from the Pyramid over the Nile Delta like the Greek capital letter ‘Delta’.
Further amazing facts about the Great Pyramid and other pyramids in Egypt is available in an article by Coen Vonk: ‘Pyramids and Temples in Egypt’ at: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sunrise/52-02-3/eg-vonk.htm
Was the Great Pyramid a Tomb?
Archaeologists say that the Great Pyramid was just a tomb for the Pharoah Khufu (2589-2566BC) – but was it really just that? No body; no coffin; no funerary appurtenances; and no after-life pictures on the walls were ever found in the Great Pyramid. Khufu’s name appears only on a few stones in the upper courses of the pyramid. The so-called ‘burial chambers’ are 150 feet above the ground not below as would be expected for a burial. Air channels run 200 feet from the surface of the Pyramid to certain chambers. These were obviously meant for living men.
Funerary scripts from the tomb of Queen Henutsen, one of Khufu’s four wives, refer to her husband’s restoration work at the Great Pyramid – he cleared away the sand, restored, and possibly added to, an ancient existing structure. In ancient Egypt, the Great Pyramid was known as: the ‘Temple of Osiris’ – Osiris was the king of the Underworld and patron of the ‘Mysteries’: a system of learning about the nature and processes of the cosmos and man, and, ‘Akhet’ – the ‘The Horizon of Heaven’.
Theosophy says that the Great Pyramid was really a Temple of Spiritual Initiation
Inside the Great Pyramid there is a maze of tunnels and rooms fanning away from the main entrance and serviced by air-shafts to the surface meant for living people. Theosophy says the purpose of the Great Pyramid, as with most other of the larger pyramids, was not as a tomb, but an environment where suitable candidates could undergo spiritual initiation into higher states of consciousness – hence its ancient name ‘Horizon of Heaven’ – a place where one could literally enter other dimensions of reality which we call ‘Heavens and Hells’.
HP Blavatsky hints in her masterwork, The Secret Doctrine (2:432), that it was built originally three processional cycles, or 78,000 years ago, by refugees from the doomed Atlantis based on the design of their own temples. To achieve spiritual awakening candidates had to undergo a variety of tests of character, encounter first-hand some of the other dimensions, and to face various aspects of themselves before achieving ‘enlightenment’ for a few in the very centre of the Pyramid – the ‘Kings Chamber’.
These initiation tests offered a vastly accelerated path to enlightenment for strong souls called by the ancient Egyptians in their Book of the Two Ways, ‘The Path of Horus’. The Egyptians had three degrees/stages of spiritual initiation with several sub-stages, personified under the ‘three guardians of the fire’ in the Mysteries. This quick Path contrasts with the slow journey for the majority of humanity to the same state of enlightenment but through the everyday initiations of daily life experience called by them – ‘The Path of Osiris’.
Osiris was the King of the Underworld, patron of the Mysteries, father of Horus, and the Great Pyramid was also known in ancient Egypt as the ‘Temple of Osiris’. A wealth of information on the Great Pyramid as a temple of initiation is available in an article by I.M.Oderberg: ‘Gateway to the Horizon of Heaven’ at: http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/med/my-imo6.htm
Secret Rites of the ‘Sed Festival’ and the Pyramids
Recent academic research by Dr Jeremy Naydler published in his book, Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts – the chapter of his PhD thesis – ‘The Pyramids as the Locus of Secret Rites’ – 2005) shows that many of Egypt’s pyramids, including the Great Pyramid, feature inscriptions and pictures of the king involved in the mysterious ‘Sed Festival’. This festival ostensibly celebrated the continuing power of the king after thirty years in power, but history shows that it was often held more frequently and that there was an outer festival for the people, and an inner festival of ‘secret rites’.
The very kernel of the Sed festival are the mystical experiences of the king (candidate for initiation?) during these ‘secret rites’ associated with this festival which seem to have been conducted in the pyramid and surrounding buildings during the life of the king. The central experience of these secret rites was that the king was brought to the very threshold of death in order to travel into the spirit world.
These secret rites bear comparison with ‘shamanic’ initiation rites described by peoples all over the world including our own Australian Aboriginal peoples. They belong essentially to the same mystical tradition that we find in the Eleusian and later Greek mysteries – see Grace Knoche’s book: The Mystery Schools, available at: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/mysterys/MysterySchoolsGFK.pdf – the dialogues of Plato, and some of the later Hermetic dialogues.
Three main elements of the universal mystic experience can be identified within the Pyramid Texts related to secret initiation ceremonies of living people:
- Cosmic Ascent: the ecstatic flight away from the earth and away from the physical realm. The description of such as ascent is often by means of a ladder. In this connection, it is interesting to note that many of Egypt’s pyramids are in the form of steps.
- Vision of the Gods: in this heavenly region amongst the stars, the mystic has a direct vision of the Gods.
- Spiritual Rebirth: The mystic knows that he or she is a spiritual being as well as a merely physical being. This direct experience of one’s spiritual and immortal core is often described as a ‘rebirth’.
“…All these themes … are present in the pyramid texts of Unas. Their presence suggests that the Pyramid Texts, far from being funerary texts, were primarily concerned with mystical experiences of a similar type to those that the living king had during the ‘secret rites’ of the Sed festival, for they can clearly be seen to belong to a genre of archetypal human experiences at the crossing point between this world and the spirit world…” – Jeremy Nayder: Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: the mystical tradition of ancient Egypt (2005), page 121.
Sacred Architecture: The Great Temple of Amun in Luxor
The great Temple at Karnak (Luxor) dedicated principally to the God Amun, representing the principle/animator (or Neter) of growth in the Universe, was founded in 3,200BC and built continuously over a period of 2,000 years. It covers 1.5km by 0.8km. The area dedicated to Amun alone would hold 10 large European cathedrals. The Hyperstyle Hall is still the largest religious room in the world with 134 huge columns. In addition to the main temple complex there are many minor temples and a vast sacred lake.
The Temple as a Spiritual Teacher
The French symbolist Egyptologist, Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, and his wife Isha, spent 15 years studying the Temple of Amun at Karnak and produced his masterful study: The Temple of Man. This study shows that esoteric philosophy is embodied in the design and structure of the Temple complex which represents Man as a reflection of the Universe – ‘As Above So Below’.
The design and measurements of the building reflect sacred geometry, the mathematics of the Fibonacci Scale upon which nature builds its forms, esoteric anatomy of the human body, and geomancy in the alignments of the buildings – from the beginning to end of construction. Isha Scwaller de Lubicz was inspired by the temple to write her series of novels on ancient Egypt – the Her Bak series – which dramatizes the esoteric life of an ancient Egyptian priest as inspired by what she learnt from her experiences in the Temple of Amun.
21st century popularizer of the Schwaller de Lubicz’s ideas, John Anthony West says of the great Temple of Amun:
“… The Temple at Luxor is designed to evoke understanding of the creative power of the Absolute through a strict imitation of its creative processes.
The Temple is ‘alive’. Though obviously it has no power of self-replication, nor physical autonomy, as far as our sensory apparatus is concerned it is in constant motion; its intricate alignments, its multiple asymmetries, make it oscillate about its axes. (This secret was either handed down or rediscovered by the builders of the Gothic cathedrals, which incorporate similar asymmetries.) The Temple ‘grew’ in discrete stages; symbolically it grew from a ‘seed’. Schwaller de Lubicz claims that Egyptian temples were constructed and demolished according to astrological plan, and never according to the whim of a pharaoh …” – John A. West: Serpent in the Sky: the high wisdom of ancient Egypt. 1993. Pages 162-163.
Magic in Ancient Egypt:
Magic has received a bad reputation from Christianity where it is equated with dark forces. In Egypt religion, magic/spirit world and daily life in the material world were all One not separated as they are now in modern Western society.
Heka – ‘Master of the Sky’
Heka was the god of magic representing the all-pervasive power underlying everything and the power enabling manifestation closely associated with the maintenance of order in the Universe represented by the Goddess Maat.
Heka literally means activating the Ka, the aspect of the soul which embodied personality. Theosophically, the Ka would be the equivalent of the ‘astral body’. The art of practical magic includes control of astral forces. Egyptians thought activating the power of the soul was how magic worked. “Heka” also implied great power and influence, particularly in the case of drawing upon the Ka of the gods. Heka acted together with Hu, the principle of divine utterance, and Sia, the concept of divine omniscience, to create the basis of creative power both in the mortal world and the world of the gods.
Magic touched every aspect of life and those trained in the ‘Houses of Life’ became, ‘Masters of The Secrets’, and were the high officials and professionals. The spiritual and physical realm was considered as One, similar to Australian Aboriginal peoples, so statues were ‘alive’, words have great power, written language gives power over what is described, hieroglyphs symbolised and gave keys to the powers they represented, and human gestures in art carried great power.
In the modern world we seem to have largely forgotten our direct connection with the spiritual world and its powers to such an extent that we are in danger of losing sight of our ‘soul’ altogether to our great peril – global environmental damage for example.
The hieroglyph for Heka’s name featured a twist of flax within a pair of raised arms; however, it also vaguely resembles a pair of entwined snakes within someone’s arms. It may represent the ‘Kundalini’ or ‘Serpent’ power which is said to be one of the fundamental energies utilized by magicians of all ages.
In ancient times, Heka was said to have battled and conquered two serpents, and was usually depicted as a man choking two giant entwined serpents. Medicine and doctors were thought to be a form of magic, and so Heka’s priesthood performed these activities.
Methods in the Practice of Magic
There were five basic steps in the practice of magic in ancient Egypt:
Invocation of the First Time: like the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime, a time before time began in which archetypal events were enacted by the gods. Like the universal sea of energy which modern physics tells us forms the material universe. The Egyptian magician would invoke this First-Time of ‘Nun’, the ocean of primal energy – and identify with it.
Identifying with the Gods: the magician would identify with the appropriate ‘Neter’ or universal principle/God and assume that name to get his work done.
Confronting Demons: anything physical is a reflection of the inner spiritual world so the possibility of possession by inner world beings always exists. Medical doctors would principally try to identify what demon /natural imbalance was at work, and invoke the name of an appropriate God to confront that demon.
Threatening the Gods: Heka, the God of Magic, existed in the First-Time before the Gods and therefore he can control the Gods. The magician could literally threaten the very Gods to achieve his work. Man has to conform to natural and cosmic cycles and if he doesn’t this can have catastrophic results, ie human actions have cosmic implications.
Reordering Nature: nature is a living unity. Nothing is ‘dead’ in the way we think of it in the modern world. Therefore inanimate objects can become animate, eg. The story of the rods turning into snakes from the Bible, statues that could talk and move about commonly referred to in ancient Egypt. The rivers, wind, and sun are alive in their own way, ‘real and ‘not-real’, I and not-I, were not thought of in the same way as we do. The structures of reality are inseparable from the consciousness perceiving them.
So, what can we learn today from mystical ancient Egypt?
- Human civilization could be a lot older than we imagine under current scientific understanding.
- Spiritual initiatory systems to accelerate the development of human consciousness – the Path of Horus – have been around for a long time. Ancient Egyptian society at its height was dedicated to the preservation of the knowledge that produced such enlightened people. It was dedicated to the production of such people and extension of their influence in the world even down to today from the radiant influence of their art and buildings that remain to us.
- The spiritual and physical worlds are aspects of an organic living universe which is a Oneness.
- Related to this, we are not separate from Nature or other species and nothing in Nature is ‘Dead’. Somehow today we are being given the opportunity to relearn this lesson with global environmental crises and species depletion.
- We should not make the mistake of many New Age groups to try and recreate ancient Egypt today. Since then, in modern Western society we have developed a sense of our individual self and right to find our own way, psychic autonomy, and moral responsibility. We have to combine the spiritual with the intellectual in a way suited to the modern world where individuals can find their own way spiritually – this is the same goal but very different from ancient Egyptian society which was very ordered and had a different sense of the individual in relation to society.
The Riddle of the Great Sphinx
The riddle of the Sphinx – symbol of spiritual and material elements – applies not only to the culture of early Egypt, but to the enigma of our own lives here in the modern world. Perhaps the head stands for the inner man of intuition and the Higher Mind (or, on a cosmic level, the Christos-Horus aspect), whilst the body betokens the animal side of man and nature generally, ie. The future of mankind lies in the control of the animal side of human nature by the intuitional Higher Self.
Will we find our own way from the Desire Mind to the Compassion Mind as the ancient Egyptians encourage us to do even now with the testament of their mighty monuments calling to us from a long gone era?
Rene A. Schwaller de Lubicz:
- The Temple of Man.
- Sacred Science.
Isha Scwaller de Lubicz:
- Her Bak: The Living Face of Ancient Egypt.
- Her Bak: Egyptian Initiate.
- Temple of the Cosmos: the Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred.
- Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt.
John Anthony West:
- Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt.
- Magical Egypt – series of eight videos available on You Tube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tshlYmX8OkI
I.M. Oderberg: any of his articles on ancient Egypt published in Theosophical Forum and Sunrise from the 1940s through to 2000. Available at Theosophical University Press online: http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/ts/tup-onl.htm
. . . the doctrine of the Egyptians concerning principles, proceeding from on high as far as to the last of things, begins from one principle, and descends to a multitude which is governed by this One . . . Iamblichus, Syrian Neo-Platonic philosopher, 3rd century AD.
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