Category Archives: Great Pyramid of Egypt

Sophia in Egypt: Twenty -Nine

Inside the King’s Chamber (continued)

When everyone has been inside the sarcophagus, Jean invites us into a time of silence. I stay where I am, leaning against the base. I am neither praying nor thinking. Hope, desire, love… they seem to belong to another life, another time. I had read that sometimes initiates in this ceremony have felt an electrical charge surge through their bodies. I wonder if any of them had felt this utter nothingness. No thing ness.

Some words come at last, though I do not heed them, do not even know how to understand them. They are the stern, strong words I heard in the sanctuary of Isis, and before that in the ritual in our Community’s prayer room:  Send Sorrow Packing.

After an unmeasured time, I become aware of movement. My companions have begun to rise, to move towards the door. Peg is standing there, speaking to each one who leaves the chamber. I cannot hear what she is saying, but it sounds as though she is asking something. When I reach the door, Peg asks, “Anne Kathleen, is your heart now as light as a feather?”

Ah. It is the question put to the soul after death, when it is led to the great goddess of truth, its heart weighted against a feather on her scales. If the heart is heavier than that feather, the soul faces many difficult tasks ahead.

I know I should be able to say “yes”. But I cannot tell a lie to the goddess of truth. Because I cannot acknowledge the full truth, cannot bear to say “no”, I waver.

“It’s getting there,” I say, and walk out of the chamber, begin the descent.

The way down is no less treacherous than the climb upwards has been, though less taxing on the breath. We move with great care, having to resist gravity, the pull to hurry down, perhaps to stumble, fall, collide with those ahead of us.

Pyramid of Giza Passage 39m 26 degrees

descent from the King’s Chamber

At last, still with backs bowed, we each emerge into the light, surprised to see the sun, surprised to see it is still morning. Surprised, too, to see a photographer with a serious-looking camera waiting to take a photo as each one of us appears.

The same photographer is now shepherding us into more or less tidy rows in front of the Great Pyramid. Jean comes to stand just behind me, and, though she has no shawl to place there, rests her hand lightly on my shoulder. I have the first feather-like hope that the deeper desire was also heard.

And in a beautiful play of Egyptian magic, the photo, when we receive it that evening, shows our group with the Sphinx, posing proudly behind us. Egyptian magic, assisted by photo-shop.

99590-004-9A5DCF21

We return to the Mena House where a late, longed-for, bounteous breakfast awaits. I join Suzanne at a table, and between mouthfuls of pomegranate, oranges, yogurt, sweet rolls and coffee, share my experience of the ritual, my feeling of being five years old, left out of the Christmas play. Suzanne tries to comfort me, saying that perhaps Valarie and Deirdre had offered to play the roles. I don’t believe this, though I appreciate Suzanne’s kindness in suggesting it. There is a pause.

Suddenly, I begin to smile, then to giggle, to laugh. The utter ridiculousness of my grief explodes within me, and soon we are both laughing, like schoolgirls.

 

We have the afternoon free to enjoy the hotel grounds, the glorious turquoise swimming pool. But Suzanne has a better idea. The Funky Store, where we shopped on our first day in Cairo, is just across the street from the hotel. Though Samai has warned us against leaving the hotel grounds, it seems the perfect way to leap over the traces, have a final Egyptian fling.  After all, I reason, if the Sphinx left me cold, and the King‘s Chamber left me empty, perhaps shopping will hold bliss.

We make our escape, walking easily out the front gate at the foot of the hotel’s entrance way. But when we see the store, our hearts waver. It beckons from the far side of a wide avenue that is alive with six erratic lanes of traffic. We stand still as small cars and trucks full of produce hurtle past.

Suddenly a uniformed Egyptian policeman is beside us. With knightly courtesy, he offers to assist us across.

Inside the store, I go directly to the place where the shawls hang in rich colours, in soft and silky fabrics. I choose two for friends, one in shades of turquoise and red, the other in a medley of greens. I check my remaining Egyptian pounds, decide I may choose one more.

I look for something that will draw me, something magical. Then I see it.  A white silken shawl patterned in the swirling rose I saw in my prayer to Isis. Some of my inner emptiness quietly fills.

We return to Mena House. I shall spend these final afternoon hours in Egyptian sunlight, first sitting beside the pool under the palm trees, writing in my journal, then swimming in the luscious tingling waters. The pool is as large as a ballroom, and I am the only dancer.

(If you are enjoying these excerpts from Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind, why not go to http://borealipress.com to order the book?)

 

Sophia in Egypt Twenty-Eight

Ritual in the King’s Chamber

In this ancient place of initiation we are about to enact a sacred ritual. We are invited to enter into a time of silence, preparing our hearts to ask for what we most desire. I see two of my friends approach the sarcophagus. Clothed in long loose Egyptian galabeyas, they take their places at either end as Jean tells us that Deidre will play the role of Isis, Valarie that of her sister Nepthys, the two goddesses who regathered the scattered pieces of the body of Osiris. I remember now that we saw statues of Isis and Nepthys beside the container of the coffin of Tutankhamen in the Cairo Museum. Jean invites anyone else who is gifted in ritual to come forward. Ellyn rises to stand with others who gather around the sarcophagus.

Great Pyramid, Khufu burial chamber

inside the King’s Chamber with the Sarcophagus at the centre back

I feel empty, ungifted, unable to offer anything to others. I sit, carved in stone, as a rush of feelings, a NiIe flooding, sweeps over and through me. I am again five years old, watching as my friends are chosen for the Christmas Pageant, feeling bereft, invisible, unchosen by a beloved teacher.

This flood continues within me, unabated. I feel helpless to stem it, to bring any adult reason to the experience. Faintly, from far away, in a far-off time, a far-off country, I hear words from my beloved Bishop friend. “You have your own beauty, your own gifts.” I hear again the tenderness in his voice, the incomprehension. But an even older memory has taken hold, is gripping my heart. A child who feels she is not loved, because others are preferred.

I sit here, gripped by a grief I can neither understand nor overcome. I have forgotten Sekhmet’s warnings, as well as all that this journey has already given me: the joy, the gifts, the desire to be a presence of love for others. This is our final ritual and I am further from wholeness than I was when I arrived. Egypt has pared me down to this, cutting away all my illusions about being a loving person, a spirit-filled being, a light for others.

I look up to see Deidre standing at the end of the sarcophagus, eyes closed, radiant. I look to where the line of those approaching has dwindled to a final few. If don’t go now, I won’t be able to experience the ritual. I stand, walk over, join the line. I have no idea what to ask for.

I take refuge in an old ploy, one from the days of my first fervour, when I fancied myself quite adept at “holy indifference”. To the One listening, waiting, I say, “Give me what you desire me to have.”

But I have grown beyond such denial of my longings. I feel drawn to a deep inner honesty. I need to name what I want most at this moment, and as embarrassing, as trivial, as childish as my desire appears to me, I ask it anyway, in the silence of my heart. “I want to be seen. I want someone to wrap a shawl around my shoulders.”

And somehow, through my naming that wish, another arises within me. I recall the moment when I sat by the window of the Moon Goddess, looking out over the Nile, feeling the pure bliss of being held in love by the Holy, the true Beloved of my life, feeling a gratitude that drew tears of joy.

In the very nick of time, for now it is my turn to be helped into the sarcophagus, I ask silently for both these gifts. I have a vague understanding, an intuition, that if I were to be given the human gift I long for, I would know that the less tangible spiritual love would also be given.

I let myself be lifted, lowered, steered, manoeuvred into the sarcophagus. I am unable to assist Dwayne and Joan in this; my muscles are atrophied, frozen before such a task. I know I must be a lifeless weight to them.

Finally, I am lying in the deep base of the coffin, looking up as Jean holds bronze bells about a foot above my body, passing them along the areas of the chakras. I am like one who has already died, who can no more be touched by any human experience.

The brief ritual ends. I pull myself up into a sitting position. Once again Dwayne and Joan, with visible effort, assist me as I stand, as I climb out of the coffin.

Looking for somewhere where I might be hidden from view, I choose a place at the base of the sarcophagus where I sit leaning my back against its unreceptive granite. I lift up my hands, palms outwards, call on my own Ka energy, my spirit, to bring to life whatever needs to be born. I remember the swirling rose of love outpoured that I had visualized in the “Recrowning of Isis” ritual, just before our visit to Sekhmet.

While I lay in the coffin, the bronze bells that Jean rang above me may have activated that gift. I hope this might be true. But I feel nothing. Nothing at all.

Sophia in Egypt Twenty-Seven

The Great Pyramid

189745-004-16FD89FC

Though it is clearly visible across the wide expanse of sand, the Great Pyramid is too far from the Sphinx for a casual walk. We reboard the bus to travel to the place of our final Sacred Ritual in Egypt. Mohammed has arranged for our group to have this magnificent place to ourselves for the next two hours.

Up close to the Great Pyramid, all perspective is lost. I might be gazing upwards from the base of a mountain, its peak unseen. Except that this mountain has not grown up out of the earth but was placed upon it, block by block 4500 years ago. It is the largest building ever constructed, covering thirteen acres.

This pyramid functioned as an enormous sundial. Its shadow to the north, and its reflected sunlight to the south, accurately marked the annual dates of the solstices and the equinoxes. Once these weathered stones were young, fitted together with such precision that no breath could move between them, a seamless creation. Today, they are teeth worn down by time in the mouth of someone ancient of days. They are rounded, gaping. And they are not smiling.

Jean Houston leads us up a path that has been carved into the sides of this pyramid, with stone blocks for steps, crossing at an angle, leading into an entranceway. Later, I would see the analogy of entering a birth canal, climbing back up inside a womb. Now, I am aware only of being in a scarifyingly narrow stone passageway, drawing us upwards. The air is dusty, the light dim, the path morphing into an alarmingly steep tilt. Here we must bend our backs, lean forward to walk like ancestral apes to avoid the low ceiling. Our feet would surely slip, creating a dangerous domino effect on the people behind us, were it not for the placement of horizontal bars of wood, a ladder embedded in stone. At one point, we are invited to look down, down, down to our right, into a great carved hollow that is called the Queen’s Chamber. The climb is featureless, offering no indication of progress, no promise of soon reaching the end, no helpful wall maps that say You are here.

I feel tired, breathless, and wonder how my companions are managing. Soon I have energy only to concentrate on getting myself up, up, up into the highest chamber in the pyramid: the King’s Chamber.

Hope comes in song, as music drifts down towards us, at first only a faint chanting, increasing in volume and clarity as we climb towards our companions who are already within the chamber. Quite suddenly the passageway ends and I follow those ahead of me into a rectangular high-ceilinged room, as wide across and about half as long as the chapel at the Garrison Centre where we gather for Mystery School. Jean is leading the singing that I heard, leading the group in the sacred Egyptian chant of Sa, Sekhem, Sahu.

I join in, knowing now that singing activates the sacred space, remembering our resonant song in the tomb in the Valley of the Kings.Members of our group continue to come through the doorway, each finding a place to sit, backs resting against the stone walls, picking up the chant. As we sing, I gaze around the room. I am relieved to see the subtle glow of artificial lights, to hear the faint breath of an air exchange system. Without these amenities, it must have been a terrifying place for the ancient initiates. For this room was once a place of sacred ritual for Mystery School students. At one end of the room, to the right of the entrance way, a huge stone sarcophagus stands, open, waiting.

Jean and Peg explain the ritual. Each of us is invited to form a request, an inner desire, and then to approach the great sarcophagus. Two of our companions, Dwayne and Joan, will assist each of us to climb into the sarcophagus, creating a balance of masculine and feminine energies. We will lie there for a few moments, a ritual of passing through death, before rising, emerging into life. Unlike the ancient initiates, we will not spend a night in the coffin.

coffer

the Sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber made of red Aswan granite

(from Called to Egypt on the Back of the Wind by Anne Kathleen McLaughlin, Borealis Press, Ottawa, Canada, 2013) This book may be ordered online at http://borealispress.com