The Great Pyramid
On the rocky plateau of Giza, 10 miles southwest of the centre of Cairo, stands the Great Pyramid, ‘the most majestic and most mysterious monument ever erected by the hand of man’.1 The Great Pyramid is the largest stone building on earth, and the last surviving wonder of the ancient world. Its base covers just over 13 acres, and it is composed of some 2.3 million blocks of granite and limestone, weighing from 2.5 to 70 tons apiece, which rise in 203 layers to the height of a forty-story building. The Pyramid was originally covered with 21 acres of polished, marble-like casing stones, which, shining resplendently beneath the sun’s rays, earned for it the ancient title The Light.
The Pyramid is an unrivaled feat of engineering and craftsmanship. It is aligned with the four cardinal points more accurately than any contemporary structure, including the Meridian Building at Greenwich Observatory in London. The 350-foot-long descending passage is so straight that it deviates from a central axis by less than a quarter of an inch from side to side and only one tenth of an inch up and down – comparable with the best laser-controlled drilling being done today. The casing stones, some of which weighed over 16 tons, are so perfectly shaped and squared that the mortar-filled joint between them is just one-fiftieth of an inch – the thickness of a human nail. Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie described such phenomenal precision as ‘the finest opticians’ work on a scale of acres’; work of this calibre is beyond the capabilities of modern technology. The casing stones show no tool marks and the corners are not even slightly chipped. The granite coffer in the King’s Chamber is cut out of a solid block of hard red granite – so precisely that its external volume is exactly twice its internal volume. Engineer and master craftsman Christopher Dunn rejects the theory that it could have been cut and hollowed using bronze saws set with diamond cutting points, because when pressure was applied, the diamonds would have worked their way into the much softer copper, leaving the granite virtually unscathed. In his opinion, the evidence shows that the Egyptians possessed ultra-modern tools, including tubular drills that could cut granite with a feed rate 500 times greater than that of modern diamond drills.2
But that is not all. The Great Pyramid embodies an advanced knowledge of geometry, geodesy (the science of earth measurement), and astronomy. It incorporates not only the value of pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, but also the golden section, phi, found in the growth patterns of living things. For example, the angle of slope of the Pyramid’s outer casing was 51.85 degrees, the tangent of which is equal to 4/pi, and the cosine to the value of the golden section. The Pyramid squares the circle: the perimeter of its square base is the same length as the circumference of a circle with a radius equal to its height. The Pyramid stands at the centre of the earth’s land mass: the lines of latitude and longitude on which it lies pass through more land and less water than any others. It represents the earth’s northern hemisphere on a scale of 1:43,200: its perimeter equals a half minute of latitude at the equator; the perimeter of the corner sockets equals a half minute of equatorial longitude, or 1/43,200 of the earth’s circumference; and its height, including the platform, is 1/43,200 of the earth’s polar radius.3 It is only since the carrying out of satellite surveys from space in the 1970s that scientists have obtained measurements of the earth as accurate as those contained in the Pyramid. The Pyramid also embodies various astronomical data.4 To suggest – as most Egyptologists do – that all this is merely a matter of ‘coincidence’ and ‘chance’ is simply laughable.
In addition to the Great Pyramid, there are two other large pyramids and six small ones (plus traces of two even tinier ones) on the Giza plateau. Most Egyptologists believe that the Great Pyramid was built about 4600 years ago by Khufu (Greek: Cheops), the second king of the 4th dynasty. His son and successor, Djedefre, is thought to have begun the pyramid at Abu Roash, 5 miles northwest of Giza; little remains of it today, and it was probably never finished. The next king, Khafre (Greek: Chephren), another of Khufu’s sons, is believed to have built the Second Pyramid of Giza, the second largest stone building in the world, and Menkaure (Greek: Mycerinus), the smaller Third Pyramid. Although these two pyramids are very impressive, they do not match the craftsmanship of the Great Pyramid. Menkaure may have been preceded by Nebka, who is thought to have planned the large, unfinished pyramid at Zawyat Al Aryan, a few miles south of Giza.5 The pyramids built for 5th dynasty kings – supposedly just a few decades after those at Giza – were vastly inferior in terms of size, materials, and workmanship, and such a startling loss of construction skills would be incomprehensible if true. The dozens of pyramids built by later dynasties were smaller and shoddier still.
All three Giza pyramids were allegedly built as grandiose tombs, yet none of them was found to contain the body of its presumed builder. According to one account, in 820 AD, Arab workmen, under the direction of Calif Al Mamun of Baghdad, tunnelled into the Great Pyramid (the entrance being concealed by a hinged stone), hacked their way around the granite plugs blocking access to the ascending passage (and which appear to have been built in from the start), and finally reached the ‘King’s’ Chamber; it was completely bare except for a ‘sarcophagus’, which was lidless, uninscribed, and empty. However, since access to the King’s Chamber can also be gained via the torturous ‘well shaft’, tomb theorists can still argue that Khufu’s body and all the objects ‘buried’ with him were removed by thieves at a much earlier date. It should be borne in mind, though, that no Egyptian pyramid has ever been found to contain the body of its presumed royal builder; even sealed sarcophagi in pyramid chambers that have never been entered by tomb robbers have been found to be empty.
Although the Great Pyramid does not contain any official inscriptions or decorations saying when or by whom it was built, it is not completely devoid of hieroglyphics. In 1765 a narrow crawlway was discovered, leading from the top of the eastern wall of the Grand Gallery to a low, bat-infested compartment directly above the ceiling of the King’s Chamber. In 1837 Col. Howard Vyse and his assistants discovered four more ‘construction chambers’* above it, each two to four feet high. They had been sealed since the Pyramid was built and gunpowder had to be used to gain access to them. On some of the walls and ceilings of these four chambers crude hieroglyphs were found, daubed in red paint, which are thought to have been added by the work-crews. The inscriptions included two cartouches (royal names enclosed in an oval) – ‘Khufu’ and ‘Khnum-Khufu’ – and Egyptologists saw this as confirmation of the tradition that the Pyramid was built for the pharaoh Khufu.
*The often-repeated theory that these five compartments were primarily designed to relieve the pressure on the ceiling of the King’s Chamber is improbable, given what we know of their structure, and they must therefore have had a symbolic function. See The Theosophical Forum, Jan. 1948, pp. 20-2, and T. Subba Row, Esoteric Writings, TPH, 1980 (1895), pp. 162-3.
The authenticity of these masons’ markings has been challenged by Zecharia Sitchin,6 who argues that they were forged by Vyse and his assistants in the hope of gaining fame and fortune. He claims that the hieroglyphs are ungrammatical and misspelt (with the sign for ‘ra’, the supreme god of Egypt, being written instead of ‘kh’), that the cursive script in which they were written dates from a later era, and that they were copied (complete with mistakes) from standard contemporary works on hieroglyphics. This argument has been repeated by several other writers, including Graham Hancock (though he has since rejected the forgery theory), Eric von Däniken, and Colin Wilson. However, Martin Stower has conclusively demonstrated that Sitchin’s account is a mish-mash of inaccuracies and misrepresentation; the claimed misspelling is simply untrue, and cursive script dates back to predynastic times.7
The Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt in the 5th century BC, was told by the priests that the Pyramid had been built by Khufu, but that he had not been buried in it. Another Greek writer, Diodorus Siculus, later gave a similar account. Various Arab legends, on the other hand, state that the Pyramid was built by Hermes before the Flood to preserve knowledge of the secret sciences. What do the actual historical records from the time of Khufu have to say? Remarkably, no such records exist. As one Egyptologist remarks: ‘It is astonishing that we know so little about King Khufu, the man who ordered the erection of the Great Pyramid ...’8 The only surviving image of Khufu is an ivory seated figure, just four inches high, found in the temple of Abydos, some 260 miles south of Giza. One of the few written references to Khufu is contained in the ‘inventory stele’, discovered at Giza in the 1850s. It commemorates the restoration by Khufu of a small temple near the Pyramid, and indicates that the Sphinx, the Sphinx Temple, and possibly the Great Pyramid itself, were already in existence in Khufu’s day. The stele is written in a later style of writing and some Egyptologists initially regarded it as a copy of a 4th dynasty original. Nowadays, however, it is dismissed as a piece of fiction as it contradicts current dogmas.
The presence of the Khufu and Khnum-Khufu cartouches inside the Great Pyramid and on some of the core masonry stones on the exterior does not prove that it was the 4th-dynasty pharaoh Khufu who built it; he may have been named after the Pyramid, rather than the other way around. Khufu’s cartouche has been found on dozens of tombs and monuments in Egypt, some of them far later than the 4th dynasty. William Fix comments:
Egyptologists explain that Khufu’s name had become ‘a powerful charm’, and was put on monuments as a sign of sanctity and protection. In other words, it was used in later times as the sign of the cross has been used in Christian countries for nearly two thousand years. Of course, we do not assume that every representation of a person bearing the symbol of a cross is Jesus Christ, nor that every building with a cross was personally ordered to be built by Jesus. Neither do we assume that every person named Jesus is the original Jesus Christ.9
Fix cites evidence to show that the quarry-marks and cartouches that have been used to attribute pyramids to kings have been misinterpreted. Some of the cartouches of 4th-dynasty kings may originally have been sacred symbols identifying different schools of religious thought, rather than primarily the names of individual pharaohs. The historically known kings Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure may well have appropriated, and possibly restored, the three Giza pyramids as their own memorial monuments, and may have been responsible for some of the surrounding auxiliary structures – small subsidiary pyramids, temples, tombs, and boat pits – but there is no conclusive evidence that they built the three major pyramids themselves.
‘Khufu’ is an abbreviated form of ‘Khnum-Khufu’, which means ‘Khnum protects me’. The god Khnum was the divine potter who carried out the works of creation planned by Thoth. Thoth (or Djehuti) was the god of wisdom, the directing intelligence of the universe, and was known in later times as Hermes, Mercury, and Enoch. Thoth-Hermes was the inventor of the arts and sciences, the patron of the secret wisdom, and an initiator. The name was adopted by many initiated adepts, who were known as ‘serpents of wisdom’; the caduceus or staff of Hermes is entwined with either one or two serpents. Khnum later became known as Kneph or Chnuphis, who was represented as a huge serpent; he stood for divine creative wisdom, and was the patron of the initiates.10 These considerations are in keeping with the Arab legends that associate the Pyramid with Hermes.
In the 1980s several ancient Egyptian monuments, including the Great Pyramid, were radiocarbon dated.11 Radiocarbon dating cannot be applied to stone, but it can be used to date fragments of organic material, such as wood and charcoal, which are sometimes found embedded in the mortar between the stone blocks. The 15 samples from the Great Pyramid gave radiocarbon dates ranging from 2853 to 3809 BC, the average date being 3029 BC, which, if reliable, and if assumed to be the date of its construction, would make the Pyramid some 400 years older than is currently believed.
However, radiocarbon dating is subject to several possible sources of error.12 In particular, the concentration of radiocarbon in the atmosphere is not constant, and samples can be contaminated with old or young carbon from their environment. There are numerous instances where radiocarbon dating has yielded false ages. For instance, there are living snails in artesian springs in southern Nevada which have such low radiocarbon contents in their shells that they have theoretically been dead for 27,000 years. A bone from beds at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, which, on the basis of other radiocarbon dates and geological considerations, are thought to be over 29,000 years old, yielded a radiocarbon age of only 3340 years. Tektites (glass-like bits of rock) which were dated at about 700,000 years on the basis of potassium-argon dating and stratigraphic studies, were found to be only 4830 to 5700 years old according to radiocarbon dating of accompanying charcoal.
Even if the radiocarbon dates for the 15 samples from the Great Pyramid that were tested are assumed to be reasonably accurate, there is still no certainty that they tell us its age. All of them came from the exterior of the Pyramid, from between the core masonry blocks or between the core masonry and the former casing stones, and they may therefore date from later repair work. The radiocarbon dates of 2085 BC and 2746 BC for the Sphinx Temple certainly do not indicate the date of its construction, for the huge limestone blocks from which it is built were obtained during the carving of the Sphinx, and the weathering patterns of the Sphinx prove beyond doubt – to most geologists, if not to conventional Egyptologists – that it must be at least 7-9000 years old.
Another way of trying to date ancient monuments is archeoastronomy – the investigation of possible astronomical alignments in the past. The coordinates of the stars as viewed from earth gradually change over the course of time. One of the main causes is the precession of the equinoxes, a cycle lasting an average of 25,920 years, which results from the fact that the earth’s axis slowly sweeps an approximate circle around the poles of the ecliptic (the places in the heavens to which the ends of the axis would point if it was perfectly upright instead of being tilted). If precession were the only factor involved, stars would appear to return to exactly the same position every 25,920 years. But there are two further factors to take into account. Firstly, all stars, including our own sun (together with its family of planets), are undergoing their own ‘proper motion’ through space. Secondly, the tilt of the earth’s axis varies.
At present the tilt is 23.5 degrees, and scientists have established by observation that it is steadily decreasing by about a hundredth of a degree (47 arc-seconds) per century. They theorize that the tilt oscillates between about 21.5 and 24.5 degrees over a period of some 41,000 years. According to theosophy, on the other hand, the axis gradually inverts through a full 360 degrees, at an average rate of 4 degrees every precessional cycle (55 arc-seconds per century), and therefore traces not a circle but a spiral around the poles of the ecliptic. In addition, sudden axial disturbances occur from time to time, resulting in major cataclysms.13 Scientists would dismiss this as impossible because they do not know of any force that could produce such an effect. Then again, they cannot explain what causes the earth to rotate on its axis – but it keeps on turning just the same.
According to one early theory, the Great Pyramid could have been built around 3400 BC or 2170 BC because at these epochs the descending passage would have been aligned with the then polestar, Thuban (Alpha Draconis), at its lower culmination. An alternative, more elaborate theory has been developed by Robert Bauval.14 He shows that the relative positions of the three main Giza pyramids match those of the three stars of Orion’s Belt,* and that the match would have been most precise around 10,500 BC, when Orion last reached its lowest point in the sky as part of its periodic ascent and descent resulting from precession. He argues that the Giza site was laid out and the Sphinx carved at this time (the Age of Leo). But he contends that the Great Pyramid was not built until around 2500 BC, about 100 years after the accepted dates for Khufu, because at about that time the northern shafts in the King’s and Queen’s Chambers pointed at Thuban (in Draco) and Kochab (in Ursa Minor) respectively, while the southern shafts pointed at Alnitak (in Orion’s Belt) and Sirius (in Canis Major). In Egyptian mythology, Orion and Sirius stand for Osiris and Isis respectively.
*The apexes of the three pyramids also lie along the curve of a logarithmic Fibonacci spiral or ‘golden spiral’ (Graham Hancock, The Mars Mystery, Crown, 1998, pp. 153-4, 293; Robert Temple, The Sirius Mystery, Century, 1998, pp. 37-8).
If we use the ‘scientific’ formulas to calculate these alignments, and take into account not only the stars’ proper motion across the sky, but also their motion towards or away from our own solar system,15 we find that the southern shaft of the King’s Chamber was aligned with Alnitak in 2445 BC while the northern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber was aligned with Kochab 100 years later.* This presents a problem, because the Queen’s Chamber is at a lower level than the King’s Chamber’s and must obviously have been built first. Only two conclusions are possible: either the Pyramid’s builders made an error (despite the incredible accuracy displayed in other features of the building), or these particular alignment dates tell us nothing whatsoever about when the Pyramid was built.
*The corresponding dates calculated using the above-mentioned theosophical parameters are 2560 and 2280 BC. These are probably more accurate, for the tilt of the axis measured by ancient Chinese astronomers in 1100 BC is significantly greater than the value calculated with the ‘scientific’ formula, whereas the rule of a 4-degree change every 25,920 years gives a result much closer to the measured value.
Bauval argues that the Great Pyramid was used during the 4th dynasty for religious ceremonies connected with the stellar rebirth cult for kings: the four shafts served a fertility or phallic role, and assisted the soul of the departed king to ascend to the celestial kingdom of Osiris-Orion. Bauval finds support for this in the Pyramid Texts, inscribed in several pyramids of the 5th and 6th dynasties. According to the theosophic tradition, on the other hand, the Great Pyramid was originally used as a temple of initiation.* H.P. Blavatsky says that it ‘was built ages before [Khufu] 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 [the opposite pole to Thoth].’16 She links the Pyramid with the Egyptian Temple of Dendera, some 270 miles south of Giza, and states that since the two Dendera zodiacs show – among other things – the passage of three precessional cycles, or about 78,000 years, the possibility that the Pyramid is of a similar age is worth serious consideration (SD 2:432). Whether any significant astronomical alignments existed at this time is considered in Part 2.**
*Marsham Adams shows that there are allusions to the Pyramid’s unique system of passages and chambers in the Egyptian Book of the Dead – the title given to a collection of sacred writings dealing not only with the soul’s journey after death but also with the stages of initiation (see The Book of the Master of the Hidden Places). For G. de Purucker’s description of the pyramid initiation, see The Theosophical Forum, Jan. 1948, pp. 20-2.
**Note that the same stellar alignments do not recur at intervals of one precessional cycle. The combined effect of proper motion, precession, and the gradual inversion of the axis means that the shaft alignments with Thuban and Kochab, which are currently fairly close to the celestial pole, have occurred only in the present precessional cycle (on two occasions), while the alignments with Sirius and Alnitak could have occurred twice (at varying intervals) in each of the last few precessional cycles.
The neoplatonic philosopher Proclus stated that the Pyramid had been used as an observatory before its completion, and the British astronomer Richard Proctor later concluded that it would have made an excellent observatory at the time it had reached the summit of the Grand Gallery, which could have been used for viewing the transit of stars. Although the ‘King’s Chamber’ would probably not have existed at that time – at least not in its present form – the following passage from H.P. Blavatsky is noteworthy in that, if the gallery mentioned refers to the Grand Gallery, it would imply that the Pyramid was still truncated at the time the initiation ceremonies she speaks of took place. The ‘Queen’s’ Chamber is also thought to have contained a ‘sarcophagus’ at one time.
The initiated adept, who had successfully passed through all the trials, was attached, not nailed, but simply tied on a couch in the form of a tau ... [and] plunged in a deep sleep ... He was allowed to remain in this state for three days and three nights, during which time his Spiritual Ego was said to confabulate with the ‘gods,’ descend into Hades, Amenti, or Patala (according to the country), and do works of charity to the invisible beings, whether souls of men or Elemental Spirits; his body remaining all the time in a temple crypt or subterranean cave. In Egypt it was placed in the Sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber of the Pyramid of Cheops, and carried during the night of the approaching third day to the entrance of a gallery, where at a certain hour the beams of the rising Sun struck full on the face of the entranced candidate, who awoke to be initiated by Osiris, and Thoth the God of Wisdom.17
- W. Marsham Adams, The Book of the Master of the Hidden Places, The Search Publishing Company, 1933, p. 27.
- Christopher Dunn, The Giza Power Plant: Technologies of ancient Egypt, Bear & Company, 1998 (www.gizapower.com); Christopher Dunn, Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt: Advanced engineering in the temples of the pharaohs, Bear & Company, 2010, ch. 11.
- L.C. Stecchini, ‘Notes on the Relation of Ancient Measures to the Great Pyramid’, appendix to Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid, Harper & Row, 1978; Wm.R. Fix, Pyramid Odyssey, Jonathan-James Books, 1978, pp. 22-33, 236-45.
- P. Lemesurier, The Great Pyramid Decoded, Element Books, 1989, pp. 299-311.
- I.E.S. Edwards, The Pyramids of Egypt, Penguin, 1993, p. 146; M. Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, Thames and Hudson, 1997, p. 139.
- The Stairway to Heaven, Avon Books, 1983, pp. 253-82; Venture Inward, magazine of the A.R.E., Nov./Dec. 1996, pp. 33-7.
- ‘Forging the Pharaoh’s name?’, http://martins.castlelink.co.uk/pyramid/forging; Frank Dörnenburg, ‘The faked name’, http://doernenburg.alien.de/alternativ/pyramide/pyr03_e.php.
- A. Fakhry, The Pyramids, University of Chicago Press, 1969, p. 102.
- H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, TUP, 1977 (1888), 2:210-11; E.A. Wallis Budge, From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt, Dover, 1988 (1934), pp. 174-5, 255-8.
- Pyramid Odyssey, pp. 89-90.
- Venture Inward, Nov./Dec. 1985, May/June 1986, Nov./Dec. 1986.
- W.R. Corliss, Anomalies in Geology: Physical, Chemical, Biological, Sourcebook Project, 1989, pp. 249-52; Michael A. Cremo & Richard L. Thompson, Forbidden Archeology, Bhaktivedanta Institute, 1997, pp. 764-94.
- SD 2:331, 725-6; G. de Purucker, Fountain-Source of Occultism, TUP, 1974, pp. 346-7; S.A. Mackey, ‘Mythological’ Astronomy of the Ancients Demonstrated, SD Reference Series, Wizards Bookshelf, 1973 (1822/23).
- R. Bauval & A. Gilbert, The Orion Mystery, William Heinemann Ltd., 1994; R. Bauval & G. Hancock, Keeper of Genesis, William Heinemann Ltd., 1996, also published as The Message of the Sphinx, Doubleday, 1996.
- A. Hirshfeld, R.W. Sinnott, F. Ochsenbein, Sky Catalogue 2000.0, Vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed., 1991, p. xv.
- H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, TPH, 1969, 4:287.
- SD 2:558.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is so enormous and yet of such immaculate workmanship that its construction would tax the skills and resources even of today’s technology to breaking point. Standing on the boundary of the Sahara Desert and the fertile Nile, this colossal monument – containing over 6½ million tons of stone and rising to a height of over 450 feet – has been called ‘a masterpiece of technical skill and engineering ability’, ‘the greatest single building ever erected by mankind’.1 The conventional belief that the Pyramid was built in just 20 years by tens of thousands of peasants using only simple tools to serve as a grandiose tomb for a megalomaniac pharaoh, King Khufu, who lived about 4600 years ago, is no more than a feeble hypothesis. To complete the Pyramid in only 20 years would require laying one block of stone every two minutes – which in view of the precision involved is utterly absurd.
Closely connected with the mysteries of the Great Pyramid is the Great Sphinx, the most spectacular sculpture on earth. Carved out of the natural rock of the Giza plateau, the Sphinx is 240 feet long, 66 feet high, and 13 feet 8 inches at its widest. Orthodox Egyptologists believe that it was carved during the reign of Khafre, around 2550 BC. It is supposedly a portrait of him, though some people think it has more of a female appearance, or that the features resemble those of sub-Saharan Africans. There is now strong scientific evidence that the Sphinx predates the reign of Khafre by many millennia.2 Following a detailed examination of the severe, undulating erosion on the body of the Sphinx, Dr Robert Schoch, together with other geologists and geophysicists, concluded that the Sphinx has been weathered mainly by rainfall before the Sahara became a desert, and must therefore be at least 7-9000 years old. Since we do not know exactly how much rainfall there has been in the distant past, the Sphinx could be of far greater antiquity.
‘Dissident’ Egyptologist John Anthony West argues that the sudden rise of Egyptian civilization in the third millennium BC points to the fact that it was not a new development but a legacy – a carry-over from an earlier, lost civilization. Further evidence of a predynastic civilization is provided by the Sphinx Temple, ‘Khafre’s’ Mortuary and Valley Temples, and ‘Menkaure’s’ Mortuary Temple. They are partly built from huge limestone blocks, weighing up to 500 tons, removed during the carving of the Sphinx, and have suffered similar erosional damage. Nothing else in Egypt shows the same type or degree of weathering (the pyramids were formerly protected by their high-quality casing stones). Another piece of evidence is the subterranean Osireion, built of cyclopean masonry, which was excavated at the turn of the century from the silt and sand behind the Seti I Temple at Abydos. Like the megalithic Giza temples, the Osireion is characterized by stark simplicity, and is devoid of sculptures and decoration. There are probably a great many more surprises still buried beneath the sand.
Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock have proposed that the Sphinx may have been built around 10,500 BC, during the last Age of Leo. West doubts this, because the earth was then in the midst of intense upheavals associated with the end of the last ice age, whereas everything on the Giza Plateau testifies to an advanced, secure, and long-settled civilization. He suggests that the Sphinx may have been built not in the last Age of Leo, but a whole precessional cycle earlier, around 36,000 BC, a date more in keeping with the history of Egypt as chronicled by certain Egyptian king lists. West also relates the following anecdote: When he and Robert Schoch finally got official permission in 1991 to enter the Sphinx enclosure with a camera crew and a group of their sponsors, Schoch looked at the rocks in awestruck silence and exclaimed: ‘Wow! These rocks look like they’re hundreds of thousands of years old!’ Then, realizing he had a considerable audience on hand, he quickly added: ‘But don’t quote me on that.’3
The various chronological records of Egypt place its foundation up to 50,000 years before the beginning of dynastic Egypt about 5000 years ago, and some classical authors state that the history of Egypt goes back hundreds of thousands of years. According to the records of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, as reported by H.P. Blavatsky, the first settlers arrived in Egypt 400,000 years ago (SD 2:750). About 430,000 years ago, the tilt of the earth’s axis was 90 degrees, and the earth was lying on its side with its poles in the plane of its orbit (the ecliptic). At that time, there would have been a period of continuous daylight and tropical heat in summer and a period of continuous darkness and intense cold in winter, and the least inhospitable latitudes would be those closest to the equator. At the foundation of Egypt, therefore, the earth was beginning to reawaken from the last ‘age of horror’ (the existence of which is amply attested to by ancient legends).4 According to tradition, the first settlers arrived in Egypt from the south, from the heart of Africa.
Referring to a period following this initial migration, but long before the building of the great pyramids, Blavatsky says that there are records which show that initiated Egyptian priests journeyed from one land to another in order to supervise the building of colossal zodiacs and other stone monuments, and earthen mounds (SD 2:750-4).* Carnac in Brittany and Stonehenge in England are two of the monuments whose original structures date from this period. (It should be borne in mind that towns, temples, and other monuments were commonly rebuilt or restored on the same sacred sites.) An Egyptian influence is still discernible in the modern name ‘Carnac’, which clearly resembles ‘Karnak’, the site of the largest and grandest surviving Egyptian temple. The name of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, survives in hundreds of Toot or Tot hills all over England. The system of measures embodied in the great pyramids of Egypt, a system based on the dimensions of the earth, is reflected in ancient monuments in many different parts of the world. For example, the sarsen ring of trilithons at Stonehenge is the same size as the Egyptian ‘year circle’.5
*This took place during the ‘second subrace of the Aryan family’. Our present Aryan or Indo-European humanity is said to have evolved into a distinct root-race in Central Asia approximately one million years ago. If we divide its history into a series of subraces, each lasting 210,000 years (SD 2:435), then the third subrace began some 370,000 years ago. Since the first of these subraces was still distinctly ‘Atlanto-Aryan’, the third subrace can also be called the ‘second subrace of the Aryan family’.
Note that the largest pyramid in the world is Cholula Pyramid in Mexico, a flat-topped structure 210 feet high, covering 45 acres. According to legend: ‘In the beginning, before the light of the Sun had been created, this land (Cholula) was in obscurity and darkness ... and immediately after the light and the Sun arose in the East, there appeared gigantic men ... who built the said pyramid, its builders being scattered after that to all parts of the Earth.’ (SD 2:276fn) This could refer to the ending of the last ‘age of horror’, and the return of a normal succession of day and night, which, in the latitude of Cholula, took place about 310,000 years ago.
A variety of partly conflicting theories concerning the use of Stonehenge as a solar and lunar observatory have been put forward, and often hotly debated, all based on the assumption that it can be no more than a few thousand years old. The midsummer sun does not rise over the heel stone today but just to the north of it, and this discrepancy would have been greater 5200 years ago, when the first phase of the main construction work is thought to have begun.6 The official dates for Stonehenge are largely based on radiocarbon dating of fragments of organic material found in the ground nearby, but obviously there is no guarantee that this material is as old as the original structure. Frederick J. Dick offers a more radical interpretation.7 He points out that approximately 150,000 years ago the axis of Stonehenge would have been directed to the rising of Aldebaran, the Eye of Taurus (the Bull) – the star from which the Egyptians commenced their calculations of the new cycle (SD 2:785). (Note that about 350,000 years ago, Aldebaran was probably the brightest star in the night sky.)
The temple of Stonehenge was called in days of old the Giants’ Dance. According to legend, the colossal stones were brought to Ireland by African giants, and then to England by Merlin the Magician. Blavatsky says that megalithic monuments the world over are the surviving handiwork of ancestors of a physical size far greater than our own. The Atlanteans in their heyday, several million years ago, are said to have been of gigantic stature, but humans were reduced from 15 to 10 or 12 feet in height from the third subrace of the Aryan stock (SD 2:753). Many remains of humans up to 12 feet tall have been found in recent times,8 and 150,000 years ago people 8 or more feet tall may not have been uncommon.
The great pyramids of Egypt were built following a second migration to Egypt some 80 to 100 thousand years ago.9 Blavatsky quotes an ancient Commentary which says that the great pyramids were built at the beginning of a precessional cycle, ‘when Dhruva (the then Pole-star) was at his lowest culmination, and the Krittika (Pleiades) looked over his head (were on the same meridian but above) to watch the work of the giants’, and she identifies the polestar in question as Polaris (SD 1:435). Dick interpreted this obscure statement to mean that the first pyramids were built when Polaris, the polestar at the time the Commentary was written, was furthest from the actual pole at the time the Pyramid was built, and was on the same meridian both with the latter and Alcyone (the chief star of the Pleiades), the latter being higher than the pole.10 He calculated that the last time such an event occurred was 86,960 years ago,* during the Age of Cancer (the Crab) – a constellation that is displayed very prominently in the two Dendera zodiacs. This is in agreement with Blavatsky’s statement that ‘the Egyptians have on their Zodiacs irrefutable proofs of records having embraced more than three-and-a-half sidereal years [precessional cycles] – or about 87,000 years’ (SD 2:332).
*In theosophical terms, this date marked the beginning of the present (Caucasian) family race. Since a family race can be divided into seven national races, each of them lasting for one precessional cycle (25,920 years), the present European nations comprise the fourth national race, which began about 9200 years ago and has another 16,000 years to live, before a series of cataclysms cause the submergence of many parts of Europe and usher in the next cycle of civilization. (SD 2:331, 1:439n; G. de Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, TUP, 1945, pp. 35-9; Fountain-Source of Occultism, TUP, 1974, pp. 163-4.)
Calculations by this writer reveal a number of potentially significant astronomical alignments for the great pyramids during the precessional cycle that began 86,960 years ago (the third prior to the present one). However, in view of all the uncertainties involved, the scenario set out below is only tentative.* There appears to have been a master plan from the very beginning, because in the case of pyramids that seem to have been built in several stages, the features that indicate the completion dates belong to an earlier phase of construction.
*Stellar coordinates were first corrected for transverse and radial proper motion and then precessed on the basis of a precessional rate of 50" per year and a change in the axial inclination of 4 degrees every 25,920 years. The main uncertainties are the exact angle of the various passages and shafts, the variation in the rate of precession and change in the axis over time, exact data for stellar proper motion, distance, and radial velocity today, and the variation in proper motion and radial velocity over time. All the alignments mentioned in the text are accurate to within one degree.
The great pyramids include the two huge pyramids at Dahshur, 17 miles south of Giza, which are usually attributed to Khufu’s father Sneferu (‘Sen-nefer’ means ‘the two energies’). Just as the position of the three Giza pyramids reflects that of the three stars of Orion’s Belt, so the Bent (southern) and Red (northern) Pyramids of Dahshur correspond to Aldebaran and Epsilon Tauri respectively, with the Nile representing the Milky Way. The Bent Pyramid is so called because its lower part has a steeper slope than its upper part. This symbolizes duality, as do the two entrances (one of them in the western face), which lead to two separate sets of chambers.11 Furthermore, both entrance passages change their angle of descent part-way. The lower part of the pyramid may have been built 86,500 years ago, when the vernal (spring) equinox passed from Cancer into Gemini (the Twins), and the lower part of the northern descending passage was aligned with Nekkar, the then polestar, in the constellation Bootes.
The ‘Second’ Pyramid of Giza is unique in having two northern entrances. Again, this is a sign of duality, and there may be a link with Gemini. The bottom few courses of this pyramid, up to a height of about 30 feet, are built of gigantic blocks, similar to the core masonry blocks used in the megalithic Giza temples, which were quarried from around the Sphinx. Since the temple alongside the Second Pyramid is linked to a temple near the Sphinx by a causeway, the lower part of the pyramid was probably built at the same time as the Sphinx.* Several writers, including the astronomer Sir Norman Lockyer, have suggested that the Sphinx is half lion, half virgin, and symbolizes the junction of the constellations Leo and Virgo (it also symbolizes the supremacy of the spiritual self over the animal self). Significantly, at the same time as the summer solstice passes from Virgo into Leo, the spring equinox passes from Gemini into Taurus. The last time this event occurred was around 6580 years ago, but if we go back a further three precessional cycles, we arrive at an epoch 84,340 years ago. At this time the lower descending passage of the Second Pyramid would have been aligned with Lambda Bootes, the previous polestar of that era.
*The Sphinx does not face due east but 4.25 degrees south of east; its azimuth is therefore 94.25 degrees – or 30-pi. The Sphinx is a very tiny (and perhaps very young) kitten by comparison with the enormous 5500-foot-long Panther Mound in Florida, whose location, as Carl Munck has shown, encodes the key number 30-pi. (See The Code 1997, L L Productions, pp. 85-7.)
Alnitak, the star represented by the Great Pyramid, coincided with the vernal equinox 83,860 years ago (i.e. its ecliptic longitude was 0°), and at this time the Pyramid’s descending passage would have been aligned with the then polestar, Alkaid (in Ursa Major). The lower part of the Pyramid may date from this time, including the subterranean chamber and the descending passage (or at least the part cut out of the bedrock).* The Second Pyramid may have been completed around 83,770 years ago, when Alnilam, the star that it represents, coincided with the vernal equinox, and its upper descending passage was aligned with Alkaid. Some 70 years later, Mintaka, the star represented by the Third Pyramid, coincided with the equinox and the descending passage pointed at Alkaid. According to an ancient Arab inscription, when the Great Pyramid and Second Pyramid were built, the Lyre (or Vulture) was in Cancer. At the dates mentioned here, the celestial meridian of Vega, the brightest star in the Lyre, would have intersected the ecliptic in Cancer and Capricorn. The causeways leading to the Great Pyramid and Second Pyramid point 14 degrees to the north and south of due east respectively, and at this epoch, this was exactly one-third of the angle between due east and the sunrise points at the summer and winter solstices.
*Carl Munck has demonstrated that ancient monuments the world over were designed and positioned according to the same scientific code, and that the Great Pyramid marked the prime meridian (zero-point) of this global matrix. Prior to the Pyramid’s construction, this function may have been performed by the mound of rock that marked the site, part of which was incorporated into the Pyramid’s base; it symbolized the ‘primeval mound’ which, in Egyptian mythology, first emerged from the waters of chaos at the dawn of creation.
The construction of the Red Pyramid of Dahshur may have begun around 82,710 years ago, when Aldebaran (the star it represents) coincided with the vernal equinox, and the descending passage was aligned with the then polestar, Mizar (in Ursa Major). The upper part of the Bent Pyramid may have been built about 200 years later, when Epsilon Tauri (the star it represents) coincided with the vernal equinox and the upper part of the northern descending passage was aligned with the polestar, Alioth (in Ursa Major). The combined angle of the lower and upper parts of the unique western descending passage of this pyramid equals the number of degrees that the equinox would have moved (westward) through the zodiac during the long period between the pyramid’s commencement and completion.
The bulk of the Great Pyramid may have been built towards the end of the precessional cycle that began 86,960 years ago. What is commonly called the Grand Gallery was in ancient times known to some as the Hall of the Orbit, and Dick suggested that given the extraordinary astronomical knowledge of the Pyramid’s builders, it was probably built to lie in the exact plane of the earth’s orbit at that time. The ascending passage to the Hall of the Orbit is inclined at about 26°7', and the Hall of the Orbit at about 26°22', corresponding to a tilt of the earth’s axis of 33°54' and 33°39' respectively. The former tilt refers to a date of about 67,800 years ago, and the latter to a date of about 66,180 years ago.
About 67,800 years ago the northern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber would have been directed at Albireo (in Cygnus, the Swan), while about 66,180 years ago the northern shaft of the King’s Chamber pointed to Sulafat (in the Lyre). The southern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber would have been directed at Aldebaran about 67,100 years ago, and that of the King’s Chamber would have pointed to Alcyone about 66,500 years ago. After being built up to the top of the Grand Gallery, the Pyramid was probably left truncated prior to the final phase of construction, and used partly for initiations and partly as an observatory. By the time of the Pyramid’s completion, the three stars of Orion’s Belt would have been close to their lowest point in the sky, and would have provided a perfect match with the layout of the three Giza pyramids on the ground.
67,800 years ago the summer solstice occurred in Capricorn, the Goat. One of the oldest gods of Egypt is Khnum, who is depicted with a goat’s head, and is associated with Capricorn. A goat also appears in the hieroglyphs reading ‘Khnum-Khufu’ (‘Khnum protects me’), sometimes abbreviated to ‘Khufu’, which appear on some of the stone blocks used in the Great Pyramid, and are usually assumed to refer to the 4th-dynasty pharaoh Khufu. Capricorn is found at the head of the rectangular zodiac in the Temple of Dendera (a word meaning ‘place of the orbit’). The present temple dates from the 1st century BC, but it is built on the site of a succession of earlier temples. It is oriented 71.5 degrees north of east, and according to an ancient inscription, when the (original) temple was laid out, the king directed his gaze to Ursa Major.12 The latitude of Dendera is the same as the angle of the ascending passage of the Great Pyramid, and at the date represented by this angle (67,800 years ago), Dubhe, the brightest star in Ursa Major, was about 71.5 degrees from the celestial pole. At this time the earth’s north pole would have pointed near to the neck of Cygnus (situated next to the Lyre). Dick suggests that the Pyramid was built at this time because the earth’s axis was then pointing to the solar apex – that point in space towards which the sun (and the entire solar system) appears to be moving. Astronomers estimate that the solar apex is currently located near the border of the Lyre and Hercules.*
*Theosophy holds that as our solar system orbits the centre of the galaxy, it also revolves around a ‘central sun’ or ‘raja-sun’ (just as the moon orbits the earth while both of them orbit our own sun). The central sun is located in the constellation Hercules (H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, TPH, 1950, 5:162-3; letter from Mahatma KH, in: H.P. Blavatsky & Daniel H. Caldwell, The Esoteric Papers of Madame Blavatsky, Kessinger, 2004, p. 660). This is consistent with modern astronomical data, which indicate that at the same time as the solar system moves towards the Lyre at a velocity of about 20 km/s with respect to the local stars, the group of stars to which the sun belongs orbits the centre of the Milky Way at a velocity of about 220 km/s.
Far from being an ‘idle and silly display of royal wealth’,13 as Pliny called it, or ‘a dead end in massive stone construction’,14 the Great Pyramid was a majestic temple of initiation and stands as an enduring monument to the wisdom of the initiated adepts who designed it and supervised its construction. The pyramid shape symbolizes the emanation of matter from spirit; it ‘conveys the idea that all things had their origin in spirit – evolution having originally begun from above and proceeded downward’.15 It is interesting to note that the Great Pyramid was never entirely completed. Pyramids were generally crowned with a granite or basalt capstone, sometimes gilded to represent the sun. The capstone of the Great Pyramid, however, is missing, and there is evidence to suggest that it was never added. Another novel feature of the Pyramid is the existence of four corner sockets cut into the bedrock a little outside the original corners; the Pyramid was therefore built slightly smaller than the full design. The unfinished Pyramid can be regarded as a symbol of our unfinished evolution.
Similar symbolism can be found on the reverse side of the US seal, which shows a pyramid without the capstone, with a blazing eye in a triangle above it; the inscription at the top means ‘he has looked with favour on the beginnings’, and the one at the bottom means ‘a new order of ages’. This design, which has appeared on the dollar bill since 1935, reflects the desire of the founders of the United States – several of whom were freemasons – to establish a new order in the west.16 The four corners of each side of the truncated pyramid can be interpreted as symbolizing the lower quaternary, the four lower aspects of the sevenfold human constitution – physical body, astral model-body, life-energy, and lower thoughts and desires – which constitute the limited, personal self. The eye in the triangle above it is the eye of Horus, standing for the invisible, spiritual sun, the source of our higher nature, and for the ‘third eye’, the faculty of inner vision which, when awakened, allows direct perception of nature’s truths. The triangle itself stands for the upper triad, the three aspects of our spiritual self – the higher mind, intuitive wisdom, and inner divinity. The aim of human evolution is to ‘so purify the Lower Quaternary that it shall vibrate in unison with the Upper Triad’,17 that is, to refine our lower nature so that it can manifest the nobler qualities of our higher self, our inner buddha or christ.
The same message can be found in the Bible, where we read: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner’, the ‘head of the corner’ or ‘chief cornerstone’ being identified with Jesus himself – i.e. the christ-element within us.18 Our journey through the human kingdom is far from complete, but by following our deep-seated aspirations to higher things, life after life, we shall gradually bring to expression our spiritual nature – the ‘capstone’ of our constitution – and the wisdom represented by the Great Pyramid will then become the inheritance of all mankind.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, 1992, 5:288.
- J.A. West, Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, Quest, 1993, pp. 184-232; Robert M. Schoch (with R.A. McNally), Voices of the Rocks, Harmony Books, 1999, pp. 33-51.
- J.A. West, ‘Giza: the (half) truth’, part IV, www.jawest.net/half_truth.htm.
- H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, TUP, 1977 (1888), 2:331, 725-6; G. de Purucker, Fountain-Source of Occultism, TUP, 1974, pp. 346-7; S.A. Mackey, ‘Mythological’ Astronomy of the Ancients Demonstrated, SD Reference Series, Wizards Bookshelf, 1973 (1822/23).
- J. Michell, The New View Over Atlantis, Thames and Hudson, 1983, pp. 121-52; P. Lemesurier, The Great Pyramid: Your personal guide, Element Books, 1987, pp. 145-6.
- G. Cornelius & P. Devereux, The Secret Language of the Stars and Planets, Chronicle Books, 1996, pp. 116-20; P.L. Brown, Megaliths, Myths and Men, Book Club Associates, 1977, pp. 60-161.
- F.J. Dick, ‘Restoration of Stonehenge’, The Theosophical Path, Feb. 1921, pp. 134-8.
- SD 2:276-80, 293, 336, 753-6; W.R. Corliss (compiler), Biological Anomalies: Humans III, Sourcebook Project, 1994, pp. 43-6.
- Studies in Occult Philosophy, TUP, 1973 (1945), pp. 538-44.
- F.J. Dick, ‘Ancient Astronomy in Egypt and its Significance’, The Theosophical Path, March 1916, pp. 287-303.
- J.A. West, The Traveler’s Key to Ancient Egypt, Quest, 2nd ed., 1995, pp. 196-9.
- J.N. Lockyer, The Dawn of Astronomy (1894), Kessinger, n.d., pp. 176-7.
- C. Staniland Wake, The Origin and Significance of the Great Pyramid, Wizards Bookshelf, 1987 (1882), p. 42.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15:314.
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, TUP, 1972 (1877), 1:154.
- W.Q. Judge, Echoes of the Orient, PLP, 1980, 2:70-3.
- H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, TPH, 1980, 12:692.
- Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:10-11; Ephesians 2:20-21; I Peter 2:4-7. See also H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, TPH, 1984, 14:220-1, 285; SD 2:626-7.
November 1997. Last revised: August 2010.