Pyramids and Temples in Egypt

By Coen Vonk

Part I

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) . . . — H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine 1:434

Many are attracted to the mysterious old buildings of Egypt: millions have visited them, television programs focus on them, and numerous books are published on this subject. Perhaps the interest is caused by something lacking in our life today. Modern society is characterized by a high degree of technological and material development, but spiritually it is barely in its infancy. People who long to balance this one-sided knowledge about matter with knowledge about spirit may intuitively feel that the civilization of ancient Egypt, with its monuments that speak to the imagination, points the way to hidden truths of life.

On the Giza plateau hundreds of tourists gaze in amazement at the gigantic structures. How and why were they built, when and by whom? The dominant scientific theory remains that the Egyptian pyramids were built to serve as tombs. Yet in the approximately 110 Egyptian pyramids discovered, not one mummy of the supposed builders* has been found, and the same applies to the 180 pyramids of Sudan, built with bricks by another culture at a later time. Though these are not as large as the Egyptian pyramids, still they are impressive. While Egyptologists maintain that mummies in the pyramids were looted, "unlooted" pyramids contained no mummies either. Moreover, in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, where all the graves had been ransacked except that of Tutankhamon, in many cases a mummy (sometimes shattered) and various related objects were found.

*A handful of mummies have been found, as well as a few bones, but none of these pertain to the supposed builders of the pyramids. They have been analyzed and appear to be of later date. The bones discovered in 1818 by Belzoni in the Pyramid of Khafre proved to be those of a bull!

We may also wonder why the Pharaoh Sneferu has three pyramids to his name: the (Northern) Red Pyramid; the (Southern) Bent Pyramid; and the Pyramid of Meidum. Why would one king need three tombs? Egyptologists reason that the first two were "failures," and only the third a success. Considering the masterwork of the Red and Bent Pyramids, which is comparable to the Giza Pyramids, it is not likely that the builders made a "mistake" with the Bent Pyramid. John Anthony West states in The Traveler's Key to Ancient Egypt:

the unique but rigorous double angle of the Bent Pyramid suggests a deliberately planned duality. And this duality is unmistakably and emphatically underlined by its system of internal chambers. The Bent Pyramid alone has a double-angled profile, and two totally separate sets of chambers, one entered from the customary north face, and a second entrance entered from the west. — p. 197

Most studies emphasize the material side of the pyramids, but even this aspect challenges us with the most divergent theories. Opinions about how the pyramids were built vary widely, and many issues remain unexplained or unconvincingly explained. First, there is the enormous quantity of limestone blocks which were cut, transported, and put into place. Second, there is the granite used in the construction of chambers and passages, for some of the casing stones of the pyramid, and for the sarcophagus. The difficulty lies in the stone's hardness — nowadays granite is cut with wire saws and an abrasive, usually silicon-carbide — and in the transportation of heavy monoliths. And third, there is the precision with which the pyramids were built.

Researcher and mechanical engineer Christopher Dunn is a master craftsman, skilled machinist, and worker at every level of high-tech manufacturing from toolmaking to operating high-power industrial lasers, yet the size of the Great Pyramid and the precision with which it was built amaze him time and again:

With such a convincing collection of artifacts that prove the existence of precision machinery in ancient Egypt, the idea that the Great Pyramid was built by an advanced civilization that inhabited the Earth thousands of years ago becomes more admissible. I am not proposing that this civilization was more advanced technologically than ours on all levels, but it does appear that as far as masonry work and construction are concerned they were exceeding current capabilities and specifications. — The Giza Power Plant, p. 105

Dunn's book is filled with diagrams which help one visualize how magnificently the pyramids are built. While presenting his own hypothesis he summarizes many controversial issues surrounding the Great Pyramid, bringing out facts which are generally ignored and providing strong evidence against the tomb theory.

In the Turin papyrus, Khufu, the alleged builder of the Great Pyramid, is said to have ruled for a period of 23 years. If we suppose that he himself built this pyramid as his tomb, it would probably have been built within that 23-year period. The following excerpt from Dunn's book indicates what an enormous task this would have been:

Richard Noone asked Merle Booker, technical director of the Indiana Limestone Institute of America, to prepare a time study of what it would take to quarry, fabricate, and ship enough limestone to duplicate the Great Pyramid. Using the most modern quarrying equipment available for cutting, lifting, and transporting the stone, Booker estimated that the present-day Indiana limestone industry would need to triple its output, and it would take the entire industry, which as I have said includes thirty-three quarries, twenty-seven years to fill the order for 131,467,940 cubic feet of stone. These estimates were based on the assumption that production would proceed without problems. Then we would be faced with the task of putting the limestone blocks in place. — p. 56

The transportation and positioning of the enormous blocks is another amazing aspect of the building program. The blocks used in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, 43 meters above ground level, are estimated to weigh between 50 and 80 tons. Blocks used in the Valley Temple and Mortuary Temple of Khafre are estimated to weigh up to 200 tons. Some of the obelisks are estimated to weigh up to 1,000 tons. How does this relate to our present-day capacities?

My company recently installed a hydraulic press that weighs sixtyfive tons. In order to lift it and lower it through the roof, they had to bring in a special crane. The crane was brought to the site in pieces transported from eighty miles away over a period of five days. After fifteen semitrailer loads, the crane was finally assembled and ready for use. As the press was lowered into its specially prepared pit, I asked one of the riggers about the heaviest weight he had lifted. He claimed that it was a 110-ton nuclear power plant vessel. When I related to him the seventy- and two hundred-ton weights of the blocks of stone used inside the Great Pyramid and the Valley Temple, he expressed amazement and disbelief at the primitive methods Egyptologists claim were used. — The Giza Power Plant, p. 109

Some writers have proposed that the pyramids were built using the power of sound, vibration, or magnetism. Several investigators, such as John Keely (1827-1898) and Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), have given us an idea of the possibilities of sound activating a power capable of lifting enormously heavy objects. The power of sound has also been stressed in theosophical writings:

We say and maintain that SOUND, for one thing, is a tremendous Occult power; that it is a stupendous force, of which the electricity generated by a million of Niagaras could never counteract the smallest potentiality when directed with occult knowledge. Sound may be produced of such a nature that the pyramid of Cheops would be raised in the air, or that a dying man, nay, one at his last breath, would be revived and filled with new energy and vigour. — The Secret Doctrine 1:555
 Entrance to the Great Pyramid

Various events testify that human beings have hidden powers; for example, the power to change magnetic polarity and cause objects to be repelled instead of attracted. Edward Leedskalnin (d. 1951) claimed to know the secret of the building of the pyramids, based on the idea that "all matter consists of individual magnets and it is the movement of these magnets within materials and through space that produces measurable phenomena, i.e., magnetism and electricity." He never revealed his secret, but the castle which he built completely by himself in Florida using blocks of coral weighing up to 30 tons proves that he knew how to move heavy objects. We have many accounts of devoted Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu monks and nuns who have levitated in the air, often spontaneously. There are also reports of people who could raise heavy objects in the air, and in some cases even very ordinary people appear able to do so in a crisis. But did the pyramid builders make use of psychic powers or the power of sound? Although it is possible that some ancient Egyptian adepts had such powers, they may not have used them to this end. When asked whether the Great Pyramid was built by magic, music, or vibrations, G. de Purucker answered:

No. It was builded by mechanical means, but magic in the higher sense of the word had a great deal to do with it. Great initiates were the architects of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, which is the one you allude to especially, I believe. Human hands cut the stones and put them into place, but magical wisdom directed the work of those human hands. I will tell you that the Pyramid of Cheops was a temple of initiation, as some others of the pyramids were, but not all. — Dialogues 2:322

Cutting the hard stone presents another difficulty. The granite statues, sarcophagi, and perfectly square granite blocks testify that ancient Egyptians had fully mastered working in granite. The process of cutting granite by inserting wood into slots, then wetting it so the wood expands and splits the granite like a diamond cutting a sheet of glass, still does not explain what kind of material cut the slots, or how ancient Egyptians hollowed out granite vases and sarcophagi or shaped granite statues. Did the ancient Egyptians possess machinery, a lost technique, or a combination of both? Granite blocks such as those clearly visible in the Valley Temple of Khafre or in the Oseirion near Abydos seem to have been cut with a jigsaw, and we see sawlike toolmarks on stones which Petrie brought to our attention (cf. his Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh). The material these saws were made of, however, remains unknown. All the tools found, except some dolerite pounding blocks and mushroom-shaped stones, are made of copper, which can cut granite with much difficulty if an abrasive of quartz sand is used, as demonstrated by Denys A. Stocks in his article "Ancient Egyptian Granite-Working Methods in Aswan, Upper Egypt" in Antiquity. In his experiments, it took workmen 14 hours to cut a slot 3 cm deep and 95 cm long, while the saw blade was ground down 7.5 millimeters. Whether the Egyptians used this technique is still a matter of debate, since some of the drilling marks seem to indicate that the work of the Egyptians advanced much faster. It is also not unthinkable that the Egyptians had iron tools in contrast to the prevailing view. Herodotus mentions them, though some translations leave this out. Furthermore, an assistant of Howard Vyse, J. R. Hill, after blasting out two outer tiers of stones in the Great Pyramid in 1838, found an iron plate embedded in an inner masonry joint. Because of its location, the plate seems to have been placed there when the pyramid was first built. However, recent studies based on metallurgical analysis are divided: one favors an ancient date, the other a post-medieval one.

Our admiration for the cutting, moving, and transportation of the stones increases further when we consider the precision with which some of the pyramids are built:

When Petrie made his critical measurements of the Great Pyramid casing stones in 1882, he was astounded by what he found: "The eastern joint of the northern casing stones is on the top .020, .002, .045 [inches] wide; and on the face .012, .022, .013, and .040 wide. The next joint is on the face .001 and .014 wide. Hence the mean thickness of the joints is .020; and, therefore, the mean variation of the cutting of the stone from a straight line and from a true square, is but .010 on length of 75 inches up the face, an amount of accuracy equal to most modern opticians' straight edges of such length."
Petrie's close examination of the casing stones revealed variations so minute that they were barely discernible to the naked eye. — The Giza Power Plant, pp. 50-1

Another masterpiece of construction is the descending passage in the Great Pyramid. Over a length of 105 meters it deviates only 6.35 mm from a straight line. Are modern drilling machines capable of achieving such results?

Who were the builders of the pyramids? The dominant opinion is that the pharaohs, starting with Djoser (2630-2611 BC), ordered their construction. The evidence supporting this theory is not based upon many hard facts, however. The Great Pyramid, for example, is supposed to have been built by Khufu or Cheops because of the red-painted cartouches discovered in one of the five chambers above the King's Chamber by Howard Vyse in 1837. Some of them read "Khnum Khufu": "Khnum (or the divine potter) protects me." This inscription, found in various other places in Egypt, could have been a spell of protection. Khnum later became known as Kneph, also called the enlightener.

There are no ancient Egyptian historical accounts of the building of the pyramids or of their builders. All we know about them is based, firstly, upon accounts by ancient Greeks who received their information from the Egyptian priests and rulers of their time; and secondly, on a handful of inscriptions, statues, and other objects found in surrounding temples which are related to the pyramids on the assumption that they date from the same time period as the pyramids themselves, leaving aside evidence to the contrary. Such inscriptions and objects may easily have been added at a later date. On the so-called Inventory Stele, Khufu is said to have had repair work done to the Great Sphinx and the Isis Temple (he called the Great Pyramid the "House of Isis"), which latter he discovered buried beneath the sand. The Stele also mentions that Khufu built small pyramids for himself and his wife and family, next to the Great Pyramid. Egyptologists attribute this inscription to a later period and question its authenticity because they reason that at a later time there were priests who called themselves after the pharaohs "Khafre" and "Khufu." But why not continue this line of reasoning and consider the possibility that the pharaohs Khafre and Khufu were themselves named after other pharaohs or ancient god-men? A list of gods or god-men who ruled before the pharaohs is on the wall in the temple of Abydos opposite the one containing the list of kings, but it has been relegated to the category of myth and fable. It is quite possible that the supposed builders of the pyramids only reused the surrounding temples and modified them, and performed repair work on pyramids which had been out of use for a long time. This agrees with a statement by H. P. Blavatsky about Cheops as the supposed builder of the Great Pyramid:

Cheops never built it. It was built ages before him and he only desecrated it by giving it another use. In his day no more initiations took place in it and he consecrated it to Tet, or Seth-Typhon. — Collected Writings 4:287

The evidence for the supposed builder of the Great Pyramid is as poor as the evidence for the supposed builders of the pyramids of Khafre, Menkaure, and the Red and Bent Pyramids of Sneferu in the Dashur group. John Anthony West writes on the Pyramid of Khafre:

Like all the other pyramids of the Giza and Dahshur group, it is essentially anonymous. The attribution is made through Herodotus' account, and the surrounding funerary complex which repeatedly refers to Chephren. There are no inscriptions in the pyramid, nor is there any evidence that Chephren or anyone else was ever buried in the sarcophagus embedded in the main chamber. — The Traveler's Key to Ancient Egypt, p. 123

It therefore seems more reasonable to conclude that we do not know who built the pyramids, rather than to force questionable conclusions into dogmas which only serve to prevent us from discovering the truth.

(To be continued)

Part II

"The Great Dragon has respect but for the 'Serpents' of Wisdom, the Serpents whose holes are now under the triangular stones," i.e. "the Pyramids, at the four corners of the world."
(b) This tells us clearly that which is mentioned more than once elsewhere in the Commentaries; namely, that the Adepts or "Wise" men of the three Races (the Third, Fourth and Fifth) dwelt in subterranean habitats, generally under some kind of pyramidal structure, if not actually under a pyramid. — H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine 2:351-2

As we have seen in Part I, we do not know who built the pyramids. In what time period do we then place them if we cannot base it upon the time when the supposed builders lived? H. P. Blavatsky tells us that:

One of the books of Hermes describes certain of the pyramids as standing upon the sea-shore, "the waves of which dashed in powerless fury against its base." This implies that the geographical features of the country have been changed, and may indicate that we must accord to [the pyramids] . . . an origin antedating the upheaval of the Sahara and other deserts. — Isis Unveiled 1:520

It is food for thought that salt encrustation was discovered in the Queen's Chamber when it was first opened:

One of the greatest mysteries of this chamber has been the salt encrustation on the walls. It was up to one-half-inch thick in places, and Petrie took it into account when he made measurements of the chamber. The salt also was found along the Horizontal Passage and in the lower portion of the Grand Gallery. How did salt come to build up on the walls?
Those who have seen some significance in the presence of the salt have speculated that it could have been deposited on the walls as the water of the biblical Great Flood receded. Others have speculated that the Great Pyramid and its neighbours were surrounded by water at one time. — Christopher Dunn, The Giza Power Plant, p. 193

At least some of the salt may have been exuded from the limestone itself, because limestone is a rock consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, often composed of the organic remains of sea animals. Still, some of the salt has a mineral content consistent with sea salt. And there is more evidence for seawater surrounding the pyramids:

Legends and records . . . speak of the fact that, before the Arabs removed the Pyramid's outer casing stones, one could see water marks on the stones halfway up the Pyramid's height, in about the 240-foot level, which would be 400 feet above the present Nile level. The medieval Arab historian Al Biruni, writing in his treatise The Chronology of Ancient Nations, noted: "The Persians and the great mass of Magians relate that the inhabitants of the west, when they were warned by their sages, constructed buildings of the King and the Giza Pyramids. The traces of the water of the Deluge and the effects of the waves are still visible on these pyramids halfway up, above which the water did not rise." — Joseph Jochmans, "How Old Are the Pyramids?"

The level of the watermarks corresponds to the level of salt incrustation in the pyramid's interior.

And what are we to think about the various boats which have been discovered near the pyramids? The one found next to the Great Pyramid, now in the Boat Museum nearby, is 43 meters long. It was found dismantled in a pit sealed with huge limestone blocks. The pit is too small for the assembled boat, and therefore the boat seems to have been purposely dismantled. This could indicate that the pyramids were once surrounded by water, though not necessarily seawater. While solar and funerary boats are commonly found in tombs and mentioned in ancient texts, there is some evidence that these particular boats may have actually been used and did not fulfill only a symbolical function:

The broad terrace to the east of Khafre's pyramid is made of massive limestone blocks weighing up to hundreds of tons. Huge limestone piers project beyond the northeast and southwest corners of the terrace, looking like slipways or giant docks. Five narrow boat-shaped trenches carved into the natural rock extend into the recesses between the two piers and the mortuary temple. — Mark Lehner and Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Pyramids, p. 123

If seawater once reached the level of the Queen's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, there must have been a considerable rise in sea level and, if they had been built, the valley and mortuary temples of the three pyramids as well as the Sphinx would have been under water. These temples are not closed structures and, had they been inundated, it is likely that rainfall or Nile flooding would have since washed away any salt encrustations. Furthermore:

Silt sediments rising to fourteen feet around the base of the pyramid contain many seashells and fossils that have been radiocarbon-dated to be nearly twelve thousand years old. These sediments could have been deposited in such great quantities only by major sea flooding, . . . This evidence alone suggests that the three main Giza pyramids are at least twelve thousand years old. — Martin Gray,

That the Sahara and its deserts in the northern part of Africa were once seas can be concluded from the salt plains in the Western Desert of Egypt. H. P. Blavatsky states in her Secret Doctrine:

There was a time when the whole of the Sahara desert was a sea, then a continent as fertile as the Delta, and then, only after another temporary submersion, it became a desert similar to that other wilderness, the desert of Shamo or Gobi. — 2:405

The idea that the pyramids have been surrounded and exposed to seawater has not been given much thought because it would involve considering the pyramids to be much older than 5,000 years. G. de Purucker says the following about the age of the Great Pyramid:

the Great Pyramid was built at least seventy-five thousand years ago, and I am of opinion it was twice that long time, 150 thousand years ago. But I believe H.P.B. has stated somewhere that the Theosophical scientist who knows what he is doing could prove at least three full circlings of the precessional cycle, each one nearly 26,000 years long. — Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 135

In a manuscript preserved in the Bodleian Library and translated by Dr. Sprenger, Abu Zeyd el Balkhy quotes an ancient inscription which mentions that the Great Pyramid was built at a time when the Lyre was in the sign of Cancer, and this has been interpreted by some as referring to a time 73,000 years ago. Unspecified Arabic accounts also shed light on the function of the pyramids:

According to the Arabian descriptions, each of the seven chambers of the Pyramids — those grandest of all cosmic symbols — was known by the name of a planet. The peculiar architecture of the Pyramids shows in itself the drift of the metaphysical thought of their builders. The apex is lost in the clear blue sky of the land of the Pharaohs, and typifies the primordial point lost in the unseen universe from whence started the first race of the spiritual prototypes of man. Each mummy, from the moment that it was embalmed, lost its physical individuality in one sense; it symbolized the human race. Placed in such a way as was best calculated to aid the exit of the 'soul,' the latter had to pass through the seven planetary chambers before it made its exit through the symbolical apex. Each chamber typified, at the same time, one of the seven spheres, and one of the seven higher types of physico-spiritual humanity alleged to be above our own. Every 3,000 years, the soul, representative of its race, had to return to its primal point of departure before it underwent another evolution into a more perfected spiritual and physical transformation. — Isis Unveiled 1:296-7

Of the known pyramids only the Great Pyramid has at least seven "chambers": the King's Chamber plus five chambers above it (see diagram in Part I), the Queen's Chamber, and also an eighth chamber, the Pit, which might correspond to an eighth planet sometimes called the Planet of Death. The rooms above the King's Chamber can hardly be called chambers, however, because they were physically inaccessible.

Corbelled Ceiling, Red Pyramid

Nowadays, through forced entrances made by dynamite, one is barely able to crawl into them. The Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid at Dashur have two and three chambers respectively. However, the typical corbelled, step-like ceilings of the various chambers have a comparable symbolic function, and their craftsmanship matches that of the Hall of the Double Truth (the Grand Gallery) in the Great Pyramid. This hall was also called by the Arabs the Hall of the Orbit and its long walls were built in seven corbelled or overlapping steps which correspond to the seven sacred planets of the ancients. The roof in one of the chambers of the Red Pyramid is made up of twelve such courses which may well correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac. In the step pyramids one finds similar astronomical significance in the number of layers, six or seven. Some believe that these layers and the number of chambers were related to the journey of the initiate to other spheres and planets.

We may also look to other traditions since Egypt is not the only country with pyramids. They have been found in Central and South America, in Sudan, China near Xian, and on Tenerife in the Canaries. Ziggurats, terraced pyramid-shaped temples, exist in Mesopotamia, while many pagodas and temples have a pyramidal shape, like the enormous Dhammayangyi Temple in old Bagan in Burma. According to theosophical literature, the pyramidal form is an ancient heritage found in earlier world civilizations. The center of one such civilization, often called the Atlantean, is said to have been centered in what is now the Atlantic Ocean, but in its entirety to have covered more land mass than we have now on earth. According to the legends, major floodings ended this civilization, while at the same time new lands emerged. Various waves of emigration are said to have taken place from the remaining islands in the Atlantic Ocean, both in western and in eastern directions. One wave reached the highlands of what is now Ethiopia, and later settled in Egypt which was then being formed. Travelling to the west another wave of emigrants arriving in Central America were responsible for building the pyramids in that land. The destruction of Atlantis is said to have happened over a period from 850,000 to 11,000 years ago. Therefore these "new" civilizations on new land go back to remote times.

Who, then, can tell what still lies beneath the sand? Looking at archeological research conducted in Egypt, it should be remembered that excavation of the ancient temple called the Oseirion, as well as those of some of the pyramids, has stopped because of groundwater seeping in, and digging deeper for more ancient monuments has not been attempted. According to an article in Blavatsky's Collected Writings, much more could be discovered at greater depth:

owing ever to the yearly increase, amounting but to a few inches in a century — of alluvium brought down by the Nile, the old Hapimu, the traces of the oldest Egyptian civilization, one that was as superior to the latest or the one with which the Egyptologists claim acquaintance with, as your own is now superior to that of Tibet — is hidden for ever from the knowledge of your sub-races. How many millenniums have rolled over pyramids surpassing the present ones, each millennium throwing its 50 or 60 inches of earth over entombed ruined cities, still older Sphinxes and palaces, it is for you . . . to calculate. Dig deeper and deeper into the sand and slime of the ages, and perchance you may find; and then cast and sum up your figures. — 13:319

If this deposition rate is an average, a period of 100,000 years* would imply that the excavation should reach a depth of 127 to 152 meters. Still, large and ancient pyramids like the ones of Giza and Dashur may well be this old, and one is inclined to question why these are not covered by the alluvium of the Nile. If we look at a contour map of the Nile and the area of the pyramids, we see that all the pyramids yet discovered are on the contour line of 35-65 meters elevation, while the Nile lies at only 16 meters. Again, these pyramids are about 10 kilometers from the Nile. Perhaps only the outer line of pyramids has been discovered, and older pyramids are buried within the 10 kilometer zone where the ancient Egyptian capital Memphis is supposed to have been located. This city now lies on a contour line of only 20 meters and very little of it has been found, no more than a few statues dating from around the time of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC). Some Egyptologists even maintain that this city is not actually Memphis. At any rate, an enormous area along the Nile has been buried by alluvial mud, which undoubtedly makes it difficult to find the monuments of the oldest Egyptian civilizations.

*Blavatsky suggests that the earliest Egyptians settled there about 400,000 years ago (The Secret Doctrine 2:750).

In recent decades various types of scientific research have been performed, especially around the Giza plateau. Many projects were concerned with finding more chambers in the Great Pyramids, hoping that the solution to their mysteries would be found written on papyrus. Many techniques have been employed, but so far nothing significant has been discovered. Nor have ancient Egyptian inscriptions been found which inform us about the age, origin, or builders of the Giza Pyramids, but inscriptions were once there according to Blavatsky:

The beautiful outer casing of both the pyramids — of Cheops and SenSaophis — has disappeared, engulfed in the palaces of Cairo and other cities. And with them are gone inscriptions and engraved records and cunning hieratic symbols. — Collected Writings 11:359

What can we say about the purpose behind these marvelous structures? For those who enter the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, or one of the three chambers in the Red Pyramid of Dashur, there is no escaping the deep silence, and perhaps even the feeling that lofty things have taken place in these chambers. Many ancient peoples believed that initiatory rites revealed eternal truths about the soul. Such initiations were related to the mysteries of death. The candidate was placed in the "sarcophagus," where he or she entered into a trance and died, as it were, in order to travel consciously on the journey which the human soul takes after death. This journey is said to lead through the seven sacred planets up to the heart of the sun, and sometimes even further. Radiating divine inspiration, the candidate returned by the same pathway, to be born a second time in the same physical body. On this journey one learned to know himself as well as the visible and invisible spheres of the solar system and all its inhabitants. One penetrated deep into the mystery of the Egyptian god Ra, the divine sun. It is an inner journey, for man is the mirror of the cosmos and is in the deepest sense one with it. Here lies one key to understanding the Egyptian pyramids and temples.

(From Sunrise magazine, June/July and August/September 2003; copyright © 2003 Theosophical University Press)

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