An Egyptian Journey of the Soul 1995

with Jeffrey Mishlove

An ancient Egyptian papyrus called the Imy-Dwat, or Book of the Underworld, describes an initiatory journey of twelve hours taken by deceased souls as they pass from the earthly plane to the realm of the afterlife. Each hour of the twelve is associated with a specific location along the Nile, starting with Aswan in the south of Egypt and ending in Heliopolis, now part of Cairo. Each hour also awakens a particular intuitive capacity of the soul as it progresses on its path. Egyptian archaeologist Fadel Gad suggests that the ancient temples along the Nile were each designed to stimulate particular levels of psychic functioning. He likens the river Nile to the spinal cord of Egypt and claims that the various temple sites function in a manner analogous to the chakras of ancient yoga -- centers of psychic awareness along the human spine.

The Intuition Network is sponsoring a tour of these sacred locations this December; and in preparation for that trip, Fadel Gad invited me to join him last February as he accompanied a similar program sponsored by the New Age, Christian, Church of Truth in Pasadena.

Our journey began on the Island of Elephantine, near the Aswan Dam, where lie the ruins of the temple dedicated to Khenoum, one of the old gods who is said to have created the physical universe. Here we formed a circle, holding hands, and focused on our breathing and on our feet grounded solidly on the earth, as we prepared for a journey into the depths of our own psyches. We chanted, "I am the soul, the soul I am. I am created forever. I am the soul beyond time."

The focus on this exercise was the yoga chakra located at the base of the spine that represents our relationship to the physical plane, even our sense of possessiveness (as is illustrated by the colloquial expression "tight assed"). Here resides the coiled serpent energy known as kundalini that, when awakened, rises to activate the other centers of psychic awareness along the spine. This deep understanding of the human psyche is reflected in the caduceus -- the symbol of the medical profession -- which has been used in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and India.

At each of the sacred, ancient sites we engaged in similar processes -- in order to attune ourselves to the spirit of the location and open ourselves to the possibility that our own intuitive capacities might be amplified or enhanced by entering into a state of resonance with the intentions of the ancient Egyptian temple builders. The great Swiss psychologist, Carl G. Jung, described the human psyche as containing energy complexes he called archetypes. Jung felt that the archetypes expressed themselves in dream images and could also be found in the mythological systems of all cultures. In his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung expressed the viewpoint that we are alienated from our own archetypal energies because, in the modern world, we have lost touch with the mythic dimension of life. By revisiting the lands of the ancient gods, we have the opportunity to reawaken our own psychic energies.

At Abu Simbel, high above Lake Aswan, are the twin Temples of Ramses and his royal wife, Nefertari. These sites represent the balancing of male and female energies. This site, naturally, corresponds to the yoga chakra associated with the sexual organs. Nearby, at Kom Ombo, the Temples of Horus (the hawk god) and Sobek (the crocodile god) also reflect aspects of humanity's dual nature: male and female, dark and light, higher and lower, animal and divine. The temple at Karnak -- dedicated to the father god, Amon -- corresponds to the solar plexus chakra. This is the center of the body associated with power. For example, it is a major focus of almost all martial arts training. The temple at Karnak epitomizes the power of the pharaohs. It is the largest and most imposing of all the Egyptian temples. The temple complex itself occupies over 300 acres. One section contains, for example, 134 columns -- each fifteen feet in diameter and over sixty feet high. Amon is the god to whom the pharaohs paid tribute before entering into battle. The ancient Egyptians attributed the enormous success of their culture -- which survived for over three thousand years -- to the grace of Amon.

Yet, for our group, the essence of the power of Karnak was most alive in a small sanctuary devoted to Sekhmet, the lioness goddess of healing and of war. It is interesting to note that psychologist Robert Masters has written a book on the teachings of Sekhmet as expressed through one of his hypnotic subjects. It would appear as if the archetypal energies symbolized by Sekhmet are very much alive.

Perhaps the most beautiful of the temples on the Nile is the sanctuary at Dendarah, dedicated to Hathor, the goddess of love. Naturally, this center corresponds to the heart chakra. The site is extremely well-preserved and even contains the only known profile of Cleopatra. At this temple, we were able to follow the path of the annual ritual procession of the goddess from the dark tomb-like room underneath the sanctuary (which we shared with a few timid bats) to the bright Egyptian sun on the shrine's well-preserved stone roof.

At the temple of Abydos, the ancient pharaohs paid homage to Osiris -- god of death and rebirth, whose story is regarded by some as a precursor of the Christian resurrection. Inside of the temple, surrounded by ancient images from Egyptian mythology, I found it easy to enter into states of awareness in which it seemed as if the veil separating us from the archetypal realm of the gods was removed. Their presence seemed vital and tangible. For me, it was like being in heaven. The site is quite ancient, and even includes a portion dating back to prehistoric times, with huge stone blocks reminiscent of Stonehenge. After visiting this temple, I awoke in the middle of the night from a dream that inspired me to reflect the myth of Isis, Osiris and Horus in poetry:

The ways of old Egypt are quiet and deep.

It's dead are awake when the world is asleep.

The gods of Egypt are subtle and bright.

They awaken the dead to a life in the light.

Osiris, the god-king, the brother of Set,

Was married to Isis, and his love was well met.

Set killed Osiris, the husband of Isis,

Creating upheaval and darkness and crisis.

Set wanted to sit on his brother's royal seat.

So he cut Osiris into pieces of meat.

He scattered those pieces all over the Nile.

For Isis to find them took quite awhile.

She put each piece of meat into Osiris' casket.

The last was the penis to fit in her basket.

She flew like a hawk to the organ of life.

For she was a goddess and she was a wife.

Isis grabbed that penis with all of her might.

She gave birth to Horus, the hawk god of light.

Horus the sun god was Osiris the king,

Reborn as a hawk with a beak and a wing.

He chased Uncle Set and drove him to flight,

As the sun drives away the darkness of night.

Yet night and day are like brothers that fight.

Light needs darkness and darkness needs light.

So, Seti the pharaoh, was named after Set.

He rebuilt Abydos so we wouldn't forget.

Osiris, the white mummy with skin of green

Lord of the afterlife, with Isis, his queen.

Osiris reminds us that death is not real.

For even a mummy has powers that heal.

At Sakkara, near Cairo, we visited the Step Pyramid, which is considered the oldest of the Pyramids. Here, the earliest pharaohs honored Ptah, the patron of builders and craftsmen, whose title "architect of the universe" suggests Masonic associations, even in those early times. The Step Pyramid was designed by the sage, Imhotep, who was also credited with setting down the pattern for many aspects of Egyptian culture. A legendary healer, Imhotep eventually came to be regarded as the son of Ptah and his consort Sekhmet. As such, the Egyptians believed that their culture itself came directly from the gods. The Greeks also came to worship Imhotep as Aesclepius -- and built many healing temples in his honor. At these sanctuaries, those in need of medical attention would sleep inside the shrine. There the god would appear to them in their dreams. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, received his training at such a sleep temple on the island of Kos.

The sites dedicated to Imhotep and Ptah are associated with the throat chakra. This is the intuitive center associated with the gift of teaching, communication, and cultural knowledge.

On the Giza plateau are situated Egypt's most famous monuments, the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. One need only look at a dollar bill to be reminded that the pyramid is a time-honored symbol of the mystical "third eye" chakra -- associated with visionary experience and clairvoyance. There are three chambers inside of the Great Pyramid -- representing the subconscious mind, the conscious mind, and the superconscious mind. Our guide, Fadel Gad, was able to arrange a private visit to each of these initiatory chambers after midnight when the pyramid was free of noisy tourists. Without exception, members of the tour found this experience to be profoundly moving. Accompanied by the sound of a single flute, we crawled through ancient passages into the deepest corners of our own souls. In the King's Chamber, we each experienced a period of time lying in the royal sarcophagus. Many echoed my own experience that it was a moment of opening from the silent death of a massive limestone tomb to the brilliance of the celestial firmament. It was as if a doorway between the dimensions had opened.

To the north of Giza, still within the boundaries of modern Cairo, is the ancient site of Heliopolis -- known to the earliest Egyptians as the home of the most ancient sun god, Ra. This is the location that the Egyptians believed that order emerged from the chaos of the primeval universe. Our guide, Fadel Gad, associated this site with the "thousand-petalled lotus" chakra located at the top of the head -- associated with the intuitive perception of the eternal, infinite reality. Having completed our journey of awakening along the Nile, I felt prepared for the extension visit to Mt. Sinai. Along the tour, we saw many indications of the Egyptian roots of the Judeo-Christian tradition. (In fact, "Egypt" is the single location most often referred to in the Bible.) We even visited Coptic Christian sanctuaries that maintain a tradition regarding Jesus' visit to upper Egypt, with Mary and Joseph, seeking sanctuary from the Romans. Waking up at two in the morning, we climbed for three hours in darkness from the St. Catherine Greek Orthodox monastery at the base of the mountain to the summit. As the sun rose, I was able to reflect that it was in the light of Egypt that, at this very location, Moses had received the Ten Commandments over three-thousand years ago. Egyptian culture, already very ancient then, and was beginning its slow decline.

As our December 1995 tour is scheduled to end on the 23rd, we have decided to modify the extension. Instead of visiting the Sinai peninsula, we will fly to Israel for Christmas in Jerusalem.