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KRONOS Vol VIII, No. 3
PHARAOH SETI THE GREAT AND HIS FOREIGN CONNECTIONS - II
GEORGE ROBERT TALBOTT
Part II Seti's Cenotaph and Archaic Mystery Religions
LOCAL AND GLOBAL DIRECTIONS AND THEOLOGIES
In more traditional areas of the Moslem Middle East, blasphemy is a capital offense. To mock the Holy Names is not tolerated. Serious religion is the most stringent possible control over individual behaviour; and when blasphemy - as individual assertion or declaration of independence - is punished severely, not to say violently, the controlling institution is merely asserting and assuring its prerogatives. Looked at another way, when one's gods can be mocked and Holy Names become the object of open derision, one's power is gone; it is the end of a culture.
It is very difficult for most people, in any tradition, to realize the holiness of deities which have since become museum curiosities. Just as we walk superciliously through ruins of the Roman Forum, supposing that such chaos can never devour our centers of government, so we bask comfortably in the conviction that our own heroes and holy things shall forever enjoy uncontested prestige. In what we are about to consider, it is of rather more than passing importance to recognize the supreme holiness of abandoned grounds, the sacred light that was part of the place, the very core of the mysteries.
The physical remains under present consideration are the Temple and Cenotaph* [* A Cenotaph is a monument or empty tomb honoring a dead person whose body is somewhere else. Abydos' most famous cenotaph is that of Seti 1, and was conceived as the symbolic tomb of Osiris. It is also sometimes referred to as the Osireion (see K. Michalowski, Art of Ancient Egypt, N.Y., 1968, pp. 526-527).] of Seti at Abydos, Egypt. The principal axis of this complex actually runs from North-East to South-West, the Abydos Temple facing North-East. But Egyptian temples were constructed with respect to the River Nile. Near Seti's Temple, the Nile runs from South to North by local standards, thus the Temple faces local East.
[Fig 1: Seti's Cenotaph and Temple at Abydos (from Atlas of Ancient Egypt).]
Fig 2: General plan of Cenotaph by Al Gable (who was provided important information on comparative ancient Egyptian cosmology).]
In 1933, Henri Frankfort published a book on the Cenotaph of Seti.(1) Frankfort is to be commended for having made the materials available, and even for some of his observations and inferences on the possible use of the Cenotaph. In particular, one must praise his scholarly awareness of the relationship between texts on Seti's sarcophagus and those in the Cenotaph, as well as his knowledge of the Papyrus of Anhai in relation to the Central Hall architecture.
Dr. Frankfort is confident that the Cenotaph is a late monument, and treats with some levity the thesis of those who believe that it is very old. Professor Margaret Alice Murray, a protégée of Flinders Petrie, assigned great age to the Cenotaph because of certain architectural features similar to those of the Old Kingdom.(2) It has been suggested that it was constructed, in part at least, by Senusert the First, a Pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom.(3) There is general agreement that Seti used the Cenotaph, and that his own fabulously beautiful Temple at Abydos - constructed in its local East-West axis points directly to the tombs of the Kings of the First and Second Dynasties only three miles distant from the Cenotaph. If one stands at the entrance of Seti's Temple looking West, the Cenotaph is directly behind the temple; and three miles to the West of that, one will find the aforementioned tombs. Keeping that orientation in mind, the Temple looks like a gigantic inverted "L", the shorter horizontal line extending from left (local South) to right (local North), the longer vertical line extending down the right (North) side. The shorter, horizontal line is at the locally West end of the inverted "L"; and the terminus of the longer, vertical line is at the locally East end of the inverted "L". This is the front of Seti's Temple. The East-to-West vertical axis, being the long axis of the Temple, is also the long axis of the Cenotaph to the West and behind the Temple.
PHYSICAL OUTLINE OF THE CENOTAPH AND OF ITS CONTENTS
Professor Murray, in 1904, published an exquisite book on her then incomplete investigation of the Cenotaph.(4) Somewhat later, in 1913, the Egypt Exploration Fund was brought to bear and, under the direction of Professor Naville, excavation was continued beyond that of the Westernmost two small rooms and sloping passage known to Professor Murray. Naville's work appeared in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, in January, 1914. The 1913-1914 season saw further progress, but World War I interrupted things until the 1925-1926 season. It is here that Henri Frankfort and his wife, Groenewegen-Frankfort, began their work. That work led to the aforementioned monumental publication.(1)
The Cenotaph's recent history is nearly as mysterious as that of its early usage. In the September, 1913 issue of National Geographic, Wallace N. Stearns wrote an article entitled "Reconstructing Egypt's History"; and an appeal for funding for excavation of the "Osireion"* - as the Cenotaph was called - was made in that issue. Much excitement was generated, and motivation ran high. Today, with all of the excellent sources available, with a plethora of Egyptological materials, it is nearly impossible to find anything on the Cenotaph. Professor Murray's fine book has long been out of print, and the chief reference, that by Frankfort, had to be obtained by the author from the UCLA library, in photocopy. Had this monument been less impressive, such a paucity of material might be rational. As things stand, this scarcity of available information seems strange indeed.
The Cenotaph itself is a strange building. Its defiance of anticipated patterns, unique architectural status, the appearance of oval "cartouche" geometry (without the slightest reference to so-called "royal names") outlining human and abstract figures, and especially the subterranean, chthonic nature of the Central Hall make Seti's Cenotaph unattractive as supporting evidence for academic archaeology and its neat classifications.
Seti is often accused of trying to restore archaic religious traditions, the usual theories attributing this ambition to reaction against the detested "Atenism" of Akhnaten's reign toward the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Frankfort goes so far as to characterize Seti's tomb drawings as "witless demonology", futile archaisms, and nostalgia for a dying faith. Archaeology is also obdurate in its insistence that Seti is a pharaoh of marginal importance, someone whose claim to leadership was gained only through marriage to a more authentic blood line**. Yet, every piece of physical evidence is fully contrary to these theories. Anyone unconditioned by such prejudices, and visiting Abydos, will assume that the place might even have been an invention of Seti. Only after one has been "talked out" of his direct observations, in the manner of merchants at an Arabian bazaar, will he "see" matters in the accepted light.
Seti and his Cenotaph are of pivotal importance. To treat them as though they are accidental and incidental in the history of Egypt is to blind one's self forever to the meaning of that civilization and its religion.
Let us try to form a mental image of the Cenotaph in relation to Seti's Temple. If one passes a line directly through the center of that Temple, running from its Eastern front to its Western back, the line will pass directly through an inner Chapel of Amen-Ra and, continuing West, the line will bisect the Inner Osiris Hall at the Westernmost extremity of the Temple, pass out through the back of the Temple, and enter the Eastern end of the Cenotaph only a few meters distant from the Temple. The line will continue through the center of the Sarcophagus Room, so-named because the entire room is in the shape of a huge sarcophagus. This is at the Easternmost end of the Cenotaph, nearest Seti's Temple.
Passing out of the Sarcophagus Room, one enters the center room of a group of three at the East end, and encounters the East canal filled with water, running from North on the right to South on the left. The line continues, bisecting the canal and pointing along a staircase of stone leading from the Central Hall island directly into the canal. The same line constitutes the long axis of the island in the Central Hall, and follows a similar staircase at the Western end of the island. At this Western end, another canal having a right (North) to left (South) axis is encountered; and on the other side of the canal, continuing West, there are two small rooms, one on each side of our line. One leaves the Central Hall between these two rooms, and enters the Transversal Room.
The Transversal Room, at the West end of the Cenotaph, is parallel to and of about the same South-to-North length as the Sarcophagus Room. Our great East-to-West axis leaves the Transversal Room and exactly defines the center of the sloping passage leading upward toward the West, where it ends abruptly in the center of the wall of the larger of the two Westernmost rooms excavated by Professor Murray. On our left (South) is the smaller of the two rooms, and to our right (North) there is a long passageway leading from South to North, out to the Temenos Wall which is a wall running from East to West, some distance North of the Cenotaph. The North-West corner of the Temenos Wall, then, is just a little West of the entrance to the Cenotaph.
Returning to the Central Hall, mention was made of an Easternmost canal and of a Westernmost canal, with an island having an East West long axis in between. But actually, the canal completely surrounds the island; there is a long, East-to-West canal on the left (South) side, and a long, East-to-West canal on the right (North) side as one enters the Central Hall from the Sarcophagus Room and center small room, facing West. The island is then isolated, surrounded by water. It has ten huge pillars, five on each of its long sides, one set on the South side and one on the North. In addition to the three Eastern-most small rooms and two Westernmost small rooms on the walls surrounding the canal and facing the island, there are six rooms on the long South side, and six on the long North side. Motion of the water in the canals is peculiar; if one tries to plumb the depths of the canal, by pushing a long pole into the water, at some depth the waters reject the pole with great force, thrusting it upward.
To obtain some idea of the arrangement of texts, it is best to progress through the Cenotaph in a direction opposite to that described. Let us then go near to the North-West corner of the Temenos Wall, and enter the long corridor going from North to South. On the East walls of the corridor there are texts which have been described as "liturgical", and about which we shall have much to say in our discussion of the Egyptian language.(4a) On the West walls of the North-to-South corridor, one finds The Book of Gates, exactly as it is written on Seti's sarcophagus.(5) Therefore, as we walk toward the two rooms at the Southern end, we see on our left the so-called "liturgical" texts of a most peculiar character, and on our right The Book of Gates. The texts "read", by the conventional method, from North to South.
When we have gone as far South as we can, we enter the larger of the two rooms at the Westernmost end of the Cenotaph. The texts from this room, and from the smaller room adjoining it - which mark the end of the North-to-South passage - were published by Professor Murray,(4) and are not given in Frankfort's work.(1)
The Sloping Passage leads downward from the larger of the two rooms, and in a direction from West to East; thus, the ninety degree turn onto the long axis of the Cenotaph is made when we leave that room and enter the Sloping Passage. The names of the Egyptian Decans are encountered. The passage itself is incised with a vignette and associated Seventeenth Chapter of The Book of Per Em Heru, the so-called "Book of the Dead", or the "Book of Coming Forth By Day". Texts in the Transversal Room are utterly illegible, if ever they were there at all. It must be realized that the entire Cenotaph, like so much of Egypt, is a pathetic ruin, hardly a shadow of its former magnificence. The Eastern end of the South Wall of the Sloping Passage has the first few "chapters" of The Book of Per Em Heru, together with the aforementioned Chapter XVII. Texts on the North Wall begin at the Western end, with Chapters XCIX and CXXV. Between these is Chapter CXLV.
Merenptah figures very heavily in the Cenotaph. There are inscriptions on the granite architraves of the South side of the Central Hall, and the Eastern wall of the Central Hall is divided into five inscribed sections. All are dedicated to Merenptah. Seti's grandson has comprehensive cosmological importance in the Cenotaph, and of this we shall have more to say later.
The final set of texts is located in the Sarcophagus Room, and these are, by any standard, of the utmost importance. Texts appear on both the East and West sides of the roof of the Sarcophagus Room; the East side depicts the most esoteric and sacred of all Egyptian beliefs, the passage from death to life, and this is given in an "enigmatic script", one of a kind in all of Egypt. Seti's ascension to heaven, his identity with the "Sun" god, the relation between souls and stars which figures also in The Book of Gates and in Plato's Timaeus - all are shown here. On the West side of the roof, there are Decan tables and cosmographical texts. Here the identity of the human body (the so-called "figure of Nut") and the universe leaves little to the imagination.
[Fig 3: Plan of Central Hall and Sarcophagus Room by Al Gable]
Also on the West side of the roof of the Sarcophagus Room is the much-discussed "Shadow Clock Text". An instrument is depicted for telling time by the casting of shadows, but in spite of all attempts to "make it work", the device does not appear to have any relevance in the present system of nature. Both Frankfort(1) and Neugebauer, in his Egyptian Astronomical Texts , I, try to make sense of the thing, but there is much to be said for the notion that it is not even a clock for any ordinary purpose. Neugebauer's account is worth further discussion in a later part of this series.(6)
Finally, on the West side of the roof, one will find the "Dramatic Texts", usually supposed to deal with the "mysteries" involved in the relations between the principal gods of the Egyptians. Horus, Thoth, Isis, Osiris, Set, Nephthys, Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, and Nut figure strongly in these mysteries; there is a family history to unravel, and Pharaoh's relation to it or identity with it.
LIVING DESCENDENTS OF SETI'S CENOTAPH
The present Dalai Lama of Tibet - the Fourteenth - is, for Tibetan Buddhists, an incarnation of Chenrezi - a timeless spirit, some of whose bodies are entombed in the Potala at Lhasa. Many Occidentals may find this belief quaint and absurd. Buddhists acquainted with the rigors of selection of a Dalai Lama, and with the virtually failproof tests of authenticity, do not find the belief so humorous. The child candidate must identify not one, but many articles belonging to the recently expired Dalai Lama, even to the point of differentiating authentic from imitation items. Mocking statisticians would have quite a time with the data.
Tibetans are a very old people who somehow, though attacked many times by outsiders, managed to preserve traditions which come from the roots of mankind. Samye is a monastic city in Tibet founded by Padmasambhava. The 108 chapels of Samye are a microcosm. Samye is what Tucci has called a "magical reconstruction of the world having the King himself as its ideal center".(7) When the King subscribed to the new Tibetan Buddhism, he assumed control of a State protected by a pantheon with which he himself was identified through a thaumaturgic ritual. All of Samye is a model of the universe, and consciousness in that universe is not a passive film, but the power out of which all is made, the power which evokes reality from the void. We glimpse here something that was alive in Egypt many thousands of years ago, and perhaps also up to the first few centuries of the present era. The significant point to note, in relation to Seti's Cenotaph, is that a building complex was created to model reality.
Many Egyptologists have been unable to accept the fact that ancient Egyptians, like modern orientals, if not universally then at least in great number, believed in reincarnation. It is because of Biblical associations that Egypt has been identified with an essentially Western perspective. Transformations of Osiris have been interpreted for many generations as a parallel to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is sometimes argued that the Christian doctrine is an Egyptian inheritance. Closer examination shows that Egypt is an Oriental culture with many features in common with ancient Tibet, especially with the Tibet of Padmasambhava (ca. eighth century of the present era), with ancient China, and with pre-Aryan India. In all of these cultures, it is necessary to sift what is endemic from what has entered through oppression.
Ancient China and Tibet are not Mongolia; ancient India is not Persia and Arabia; and ancient Egypt, whatever it became later, is not Byzantium or Islam. Ancient Egyptian religion, like Tibetan Buddhism, is methodological and rational, conceptual and manipulative. At this point I shall not argue that it is "true", though more of that later. What I shall argue is that it is dedicated to controlling experience, not to pleading for forgiveness and mercy. It is virtually opposite, in mood and approach, to all religions which discourage knowledge of ultimate principles. By its apparatus - its texts and reliefs and funerary equipment and temples and ceremonies - it sought to control the universe and, what is the same thing, the course of human experience. Its Pharaoh was accepted as the embodiment of Nature, truly the principal microcosm. The institution of the Dalai Lama in Tibet is not ancient, and traces principally from a Mongolian influence slightly antedating the Italian Renaissance period, but it is based upon a far more profound and esoteric tradition of great antiquity.(8)
Since we shall require several discussions of Tibetan Buddhism, more particularly of the Tantric tradition, it will be helpful to give some account of the variety of Buddhist doctrine, for the Dharma is not singular. Buddhism has wrestled with the "problem of individuality", and the struggle continues into our own time. "Orthodox" Buddhism denies reality to any so-called "individual" and insists that the illusion of individuality is broken by a cold dissection of that notion into its parts. One will, it is said, find only a destructible mechanism, a composite, which can be characterized by a "pudgala" or flame which, once "blown out" by cutting off its fuel of passion and desire, is never again re-assembled into the illusion of "self". Until one extinguishes the pudgala, the composite mechanism is re-structured in body after body, being forced to undergo birth, old age, disease and death repeatedly.
This agony, the basic nature of which is asserted in the first of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths, is due to passionate attachments to self, people, and the world - to the things which it, itself, has projected. This "orthodox" view, found principally in Ceylon and Thailand, and variously called "Theravadin" or "Hinayana" Buddhism is the older doctrine. Mahayana Buddhism is quite different in metaphysics, though much the same in practical morality. The search for individual release from the world is not regarded as a high goal by the Mahayana Buddhist. He seeks instead to lead others to freedom and, as a Bodhisattva, to open the way for full and rewarding life for all that senses and lives, for all that weep and suffer and try and fail. Tibetan Buddhism is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, but its elements include doctrines which far antedate the historical Gautama.(9) For Egyptian and Tantric Buddhist alike, forces of reproduction form the energy out of which reality is structured.
In the Tibet of Padmasambhava, it was believed that mental formations determine what will become of the individual in his next life. All forms of Buddhism, indeed all forms of traditional oriental philosophy, agree upon the power of mental formations. The mind is regarded as a dynamo rather than as a "tabula rasa". It causes things to happen, either under its own control, or when controlled in the "collective" by others. It is not a mere "recorder" of what others produce. In ancient Egypt, what was painted in the tomb and depicted in the time flow of hieroglyphics expressed a mental formation, a causal structure which would determine the future. Anyone who does not understand this must fail to understand the real purpose of tombs, and the great effort to make them inaccessible, exact, and comprehensive. Even casual observation shows the admixture of human, animal, and celestial elements - a universe which finds its microcosmic compression in human structure. This view is not passed along as a "myth", but as a literal truth. The boundary of the ego spiraled outward to encompass the stars.
There is a contrast between Pharaonic Egypt and the Orient, but not in perspective of mechanism. To both, the universe is a mental construction, an emanation of the eye of god as an organ of reproduction. As in Tibetan Yoga, the reproductive energy brought to the head, retention of the "tig lee", is the source of creation. But the contrast between ancient Egypt and the Orient is mirrored within Egypt when we compare archaic Egyptian practice with Egyptian Gnosticism. Gnosticism, like Buddhism, is tired of the construction. It wants to return to a time before the Creation. It is sick to death of "reality", of physical power and things. It wants to cast off the physical garments, the nets laid upon it as it passed from birth to death to rebirth through nested celestial layers.(10)
In contrast, ancient Egypt was content with starlight and Sun and Moon, with animals and plants, with multitudes of incarnations, and with a great cyclic river in which life itself - in all its waxings and wanings - is mirrored. It is impossible to examine early Egyptian art without knowing that it was made by people to whom the Earth was new.
Did these people, creators of exquisite architecture and showing a mastery of many practical arts, believe that an animal-headed deity stood in a boat which progressed across the sky as Sun, Moon, or star? Where is the star they depicted? Where is the ubiquitous water on which the celestial boats ride? Are the Egyptians illustrating stars as modern astronomers would understand them, or are they not rather depicting the water-supported, life-dependent images of the heavens that microcosmically spin in the human realm? Out of those images, those visualizations, Nature is projected, not the Occidental reverse. We laugh this away with immense confidence, but what do we ourselves know of the heavens? Since when have we transcended the world of images and representations? What gives us the right to claim knowledge of reality independent of our own structure? Of our own mathematical and conceptual framework? Of our senses and associated neurological apparatus?
The center of Egyptian civilization was Pharaoh, but his frequent characterization as military dictator leaves much to be desired. He focused the forces of Nature in his person; he was the center of Egyptian religion, and unless this is clearly understood his funerary dress and equipment are wholly incomprehensible.
As noted above, a cenotaph is a model of a tomb. A cenotaph is to a real tomb what a mental formation is to a reality, what a generality is to a particular exemplification. It is an entity closer to Plato's "intelligible world", representing the prototype on which all else will be patterned. If one understands that the Egyptians really meant what they said when they called Pharaoh a "repeater of births", like the Dalai Lama, then the existence of an "empty tomb", a master pattern in the intelligible world upon which all specific instances in the sensible world will be based, is fully coherent.
Seti's Cenotaph was built before his grand tomb in the Valley of Kings near Thebes. There is no other building like it in the Nineteenth Dynasty; and for one who understands the facts, there is no other building like it in the whole of Egypt. We deal here with a pivotal monument, a structure having a purpose related to beliefs still extant in the Far East.
In Seti's own time, a galaxy of mystery religions existed which had the Cenotaph as their center. What would later be called the "Hermetic Doctrines" were born here; and the subterranean waters within the Cenotaph are the real basis for the "myths" of Hermes conducting the dead over the River Styx. And not far away, the Assyrian Mysteries were conducted, in one-to-one correspondence with the Eight chthonic gods of Hermopolis - the same water-oriented metaphysics which appears in the words of Thales, and in Plato's figure of the icosahedron in his Timaeus. Greek civilization and philosophy were not immaculately conceived. The Cenotaph expresses a cosmology and cosmogony common to the world in which Seti lived; and his role in that religion was enormous.
THE CENOTAPH AND MYSTERY RELIGIONS
Mankind tries in every age to determine the origin and composition of his world. This leads to some kind of analysis, a multiplicity of interactive components. Western civilization, even with the advent of relativity and wave mechanics, remains in a tradition which tries to account for reality in terms of inanimate elements. Great elaboration separates Democritus, Lucretius, and even Sir Isaac Newton from modern physical theory. But localized, inanimate probability distributions are not all that different from Nineteenth century cue balls. "Particles in the void" still represent the ontology of practical science. No "genuine scientist" would take seriously a view of Nature which ascribed life to its elements. Indeed, even the weaker assertion that some kind of "field" can animate a properly balanced physical or chemical mechanism evokes mocking laughter. All is believed to be the operations of a network of wave mechanical gadgets. As for the mind, even an old fashioned box camera can model that very nicely. It simply "sees" what is "really" "out there". And "out there" are the sophisticated, mathematically elaborate cue balls. Finally, the "observer" is less than a microbe in an overwhelming expanse of space, time, and matter.
Anyone who wants to understand mystery religions of ancient times can do no better than to start here, and realize that the archaic view is virtually the opposite of what we have just described. That in itself is quite interesting. A merely "different" view is common, but a view which contradicts, point for point, every thesis, major and minor, of another perspective seems to have come from design. It is as though a new world order found it necessary to demolish even remembrance of things past. The Holy Names are mocked, and the culture destroyed.
Modern man places oppressive emphasis on accuracy in matters physical and mathematical; errors and free decisions are not allowed. In matters of living he assigns vanishing significance to what he does. Being a microbe, what difference does it make? Thus his morality is situational and relativistic, his language arbitrary, and his behaviour ungoverned by precise law. Exact laws of Nature are acknowledged, but nothing comparable patterns his social world, or channels him to dependability. Any suggestion of conforming to season or time or principle is rejected as a violation of individual freedom. He will love whom and as and when he will, and the same will apply to food and drink and time and place; it is an open matter, to be decided only by desires of the moment. These characterizations apply more precisely, the newer the culture. Surely they do not fit Kosher, Orthodox or deeply religious families. But it is interesting to note that order in matters religious and social is statistically a dying institution.
Here, again, one must reverse this depiction of social attitudes if he wishes to project himself into the atmosphere of the mystery religions of ancient times. If one is a microcosm who can never die, if one has an irreplaceable status in the order of things, if one is charged by God with a task to perform, if one's actions necessarily affect all that lives, if one's thoughts can project worlds, then it is mandatory to be governed by law - even as the stars and still more completely. Though modern man may be fascinated by the powers and images of mystery religions, it is doubtful that he will find the requirements which I have cited palatable; for, in the mystery religions, man is the center of the universe, and must behave himself as lawfully as the most venerated objects of mathematical physics.
Modern man's image of Egypt is his own image. Pharaoh charging arrogantly and arbitrarily upon a weak foe, piling gold and cedar and precious stones into his treasury, looting and killing for adventure - these we understand. These acts are enjoyable, if only vicariously and aided by television. But Pharaoh possessed by the Holy Light, moving in ageless patterns before figures characterizing the forces of mind and Nature, chanting mantras before the great mandalas of his civilization and becoming, like the shaman, identical to each of his gods in turn - this we have never understood. It is too strange for sterile scholarship, embarrassing in a world which has forgotten its roots.
We have seen that the archaic tradition is not dead, but only rare and infrequent. What is now of interest is to trace that tradition back to the time of Seti, and to note the threefold reflection of its essence in Egypt, Assyria, and Greece. All scholars are aware that Seti, as we have noted already in Part I (KRONOS V:3, pp. 23-35), is supposed to be long anterior to both Assurbanipal and Plato. No letter to the Editor is required to remind us of the grade school chronology. However, what can be shown clearly is not merely a resemblance, but an identity, between the three traditions. Our archaeological and literary evidence constitutes the Cenotaph of Seti, The Seven Tablets of Creation of Assurbanipal, and the Timaeus of Plato. Beyond that demonstration, and some observations on the Egyptian language, no "proof" of proximity in time will be presented. Yet, at the very least, our demonstration will amount to evidence. We shall begin with a comparison of the gods of Hermopolis and those of the Seven Tablets of Creation. We shall then examine the Papyrus of Anhai* and the Cenotaph to note the manner of anthropomorphic creation by means of water. We shall find that all of these make the same statement.
As in the most ancient Chinese documents, the Egyptians at Hermopolis found eight primordial elements at the base of reality. The Chinese, in the pre-Confucian classic I Ching, symbolized these as the Eight Trigrams and founded the binary number system in the process. The Egyptians, who also based everything on binaries, associated eight names with their earliest ontology ("ontology", because these name elements were regarded as the stuff of the universe, the root of material reality emergent from the "Sun" as present-tense). It is significant to observe that here, as in the antique foundation of all Tantric doctrines involving Shiva and Parvati as personifications of Nature, THE fundamental contrast is between male and female, and THE fundamental process is reproduction, with the "Sun" arising from a lotus plant at the center of an island emergent from waters identical to the pre-structured and pre-categorized universe.
By Tibetan Pho-Wa, or Shamanistic Possession, Pharaoh as Almighty God personified in turn each of the male elements of Hermopolis, his "wife" or consort personifying each of the female elements. For Seti, Ramses II fitted the role of Osiris, Nature of green fields and flowing Nile and earthly life and youth; Ramses' wife fitted the role of Isis, and Merenptah, Seti's grandson, the role of Horus. Ceremonies in the Cenotaph repeated The Creation. Frankfort came very close to this realization when he identified the Cenotaph island with the primordial "mound of creation" on which the "Sun", Ra-Atum, first appeared. In the "mystery play", analogous in many respects to the No Plays of old Japan and to the mystery dramas of Tibet, Seti played the role of Creator God - thus his identification with Thoth, or Hermes, as the Greeks would have it, is established in his Tomb writings in the Valley of Kings, and in those texts stating Ra's passage of Supreme authority to Thoth.
All of the texts in Seti's Cenotaph are cosmological and cosmogonic; consider the "chapters" from the "Book of the Dead" which appear in the Sloping Passage. What we have classified as "Chapter XVII" is concerned with the Hermopolitan creation, emergence of the material world from a watery abyss. Chapter XCIX, dealing with the passage of a personified boat into the Netherworld, is also chthonic; it is no accident that this "chapter" appears with XVII. "What is the god who determines the Earth?" appears in Chapter CXXV; and it goes on, "It is Thoth". And Chapter CXLV deals with the "gates", the twenty one gates of the "god with a motionless heart". Even allowing for translation difficulties of the kind already discussed, these works together with The Book of Gates and Central Hall architecture make a fully coherent picture. It is also, in great measure, the picture of creation in Babylonian and Assyrian civilization.
The eight Hermopolitan figures, using my own transliterations of the hieroglyphics in conformity to conventional rules, are called Nu, Nut, Hehu, Hehut, Kekui, Kekuit, and the nocturnal figures, Gereh and Gerehet. This final pair is sometimes given the hieroglyphics corresponding to Amen and Amenet, evidently the figures of Amen and his consort. Now, in the Seven Tablets of Creation, there is not only a corresponding Ogdoad, but an Ogdoad having identical characteristics. This is no childish association of "eight and eight" which of course means nothing at all, but a genuine cosmological identity. The corresponding Assyrian names are Apzu-rishtu, Mummu-tiamat, Lakhmu, Kakhamu, Anshar, Kishar, Anu, and Nudimmud. In later sections, we shall satisfy technical readers with hieroglyphics and cuneiform strings; here it is enough to note the key patterns.(11) As though this were not enough, and it is, one will as easily notice that the stone steps leading from the Cenotaph island into the water appear in the stepped structures of Babylonian cosmology and in the Papyrus of Anhai.
The Papyrus of Anhai shows the mummy on a stepped structure having five steps, with the Hermopolitan Ogdoad symbolized above the mummy as eight white circles, four on each side of the representation. Seti's Cenotaph has twelve steps on one side and eleven on the other, both leading into the water; there is no "bridge" leading from the island to any of the walls in the Central Hall. No Egyptological scholar will haggle over the number of steps; the Papyrus of Anhai reaffirms creation of a new body with that of a new "Sun", material embodiment occurring through the medium of water, the material or earthly representation of spiritual heaven or sky. That the Babylonian cosmology has seven steps ought not to disturb us; they are the same steps. The steps were associated with gods and planets influencing each reincarnation. For Assyrians and Babylonians the steps were aligned with Moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. In order to pass from the upper half of reality to its lower half, one had to cross a body of water which, on every side, separated the two principal abodes.(12)
Thus, whereas it is a trivial fact that, in the Graeco-Roman and post-Alexandrian sense, the Egyptians of olden times had no "astrology", it is of profound importance to realize that they most certainly did have a cosmology in which human and celestial materials formed one tapestry. What followed as "astrology" is only a pale and scarcely coherent reflection of an earlier and more interesting system of Nature in which man, far from being a "tabula rasa", is hardly distinct from the gods. It was this sovereignty and pride of ancient man which Western religion was most intent upon destroying in the new order of things.
... to be continued.
REFERENCES AND NOTES1. H. Frankfort, The Cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos, I-II (1933). Thirty-ninth Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Society. Although the Frankfort work is listed in Books in Print, the present author has been unable to locate a single valid source. The listed source no longer carries the work. If the reader knows of a source, KRONOS and the author would be appreciative for this information; and similarly for the Margaret Alice Murray work on the Osireion.
2. M. A. Murray, Egyptian Temples (London, n.d.), pp. 36-44, and especially p. 43 on the Osireion.
3. M. A. Murray, The Splendour That Was Egypt (London, 1949), p. 23 on Senusert (Sesostris) I and the Osireion.
4. M. A. Murray, The Osireion at Abydos (London, 1904).
4a. The East wall liturgical texts, opposite the Book of Gates, represent the so-called "Book of Caverns". The only other complete version that I know is from the Tomb of Ramses VI. See The Tomb of Rameses VI by Alexandre Piankoff (Bolligen, 1954).
5. S. Sharpe and J. Bonomi, The Alabaster Sarcophagus of Oimenepthah I, King of Egypt (London, 1864).
6. O. Neugebauer and R. A. Parker, Egyptian Astronomical Texts, I. The Early Decans (Providence, 1960).
7. G. Tucci, To Lhasa and Beyond (Rome, 1956), p. 120.
8. Ibid, p. 80. The institution of the Dalai Lama dates from the fifteenth century, recent as Tibetan history goes. The Mongols supported the so-called "Yellow Sect" of Tibetan Buddhism, of which the present Gelugpa Order, to which Tenzin Cyatso belongs, is a direct descendent. The Mongols essentially gave this Monastic order grand political power; thus an abbot of this order became the political leader of Tibet. There are actually four orders of the Buddhism of Tibet. The most ancient and, to me, most authentic, is the Nyingmapa founded by Rimpochee Padmasambhava. Then there are the Kagyupa, famous through association with Milarepa and with sorcery, the Sakyapa, and the Gelugpa which until 1950 reigned supreme in the land. Thus, while Tibet's gift to Mongolia was a great religious culture, Mongolia in turn influenced Tibet. Much of the harsh discipline since the time of the origin of Dalai Lamas is Mongolian; like the Ptolemaic influence on Egypt, it is not indigenous to the land or culture.
9. Tibetan Buddhism is, taken generally, Tantric. Tantric doctrines originated in India, in association with the worship of Shiva and Parvati as Nature gods. Tantric Buddhism, in its pure form, is a holy doctrine, clean and disciplined, and based upon the idea that the root of reality is the complementarity of male and female elements evoking reproduction not only of other sentient beings, but even of the entirety of Nature. As in all religions, various lower class elements corrupt the teachings, and Tantric philosophy has often been identified - wrongly - as an advocation of erotic orgies and obscene behavior. The Buddhism of Tibet is a clean religion which sees erotic feeling and contact as itself clean and pure, if properly represented. The male element of action, held symbolically in the right hand, is the vajra or dorje, the diamond thunderbolt; and the branch of Mahayana Buddhism which Tantric Buddhism teaches is called "Vajrayana". The other symbol of Vajrayana is the bell, held in the left hand, which represents the female element, or wisdom.
10. The contrast has often been made between the "preservation of the body", e.g. the mummy of ancient Egypt, and the Oriental cremation of bodies, as still generally practiced in Buddhism. But this contrast can be made within Egypt itself when the old religion, which adored Nature, is contrasted with the late religion, Gnosticism, which detested the Creation. Interestingly enough, both old and new religions had complete belief in a spiritual realm which alone gives reality meaning and even continued existence (a belief still held by religious Tibetans). However, the difference is that the new religion desired an abolition of physical reality, and a return to "The Holy Father" in a pure spiritual sphere. The ancient Egyptians, on the other hand, liked the freedom of "transformations" within Nature, the ability to enter and leave the "eternal house" represented by their tombs and to choose to remain a spirit, or to enter into rebirth as a human being. Seti is called "He who repeats his births", and the meaning is not vague or symbolic He believed in reincarnation, and regarded his tomb as his spiritual headquarters. For some excellent reading on Gnosticism as the late Egyptian religion, see the following: The Jung Codex, trans. and ed. by F. L. Cross (London, 1955); H. Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (1958); J. Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics (1960). Since the original manuscripts are in Coptic, and since it is well-known that the Monophysitic Church of Egypt tried to demolish Gnosticism, it is worth recording that Indian Buddhists were sent by the Indian Emperor Ashoka (third century B.C.) into Egypt. This is unambiguously on the Rock Edicts of Ashoka. I would, therefore, submit that Gnosticism is just the Near East's form of Buddhism, and that even the Christian monastic institutes were of Buddhist origin.
11. Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, Part XIII, The British Museum Publications (London, 1901).
12. W. F. Warren, The Earliest Cosmologies (N.Y., 1909), pp. 33-40, and note the enormous number of authoritative references. If Warren's interpretations are sometimes subject to controversy, this portion of his great work is not.