The New Pyramid Age
Delivered at The Unexplained Mysteries Conference, Dorchester, April
by Philip Coppens
“Man fears Time, yet
Time fears the Pyramids.”
Until ca. 1500 AD, Egypt was believed to
be the only country where pyramids could be found. With the
discovery of America, we learned that the Mayan civilization had its
own pyramids. And that, it seemed, were the only two civilizations
that were into pyramid building as a national pass-time, if not
But in the last decade, pyramids are
being found almost anywhere:
The old status quo that it were but the
ancient Egyptians and the Mayans that built pyramids has been upset
and over the past decade, hardly a month seems to have gone by
without a pyramid being found; and almost each year, a gigantic
pyramid or pyramid complex is found somewhere.
Today, it is clear
that massive pyramids are a feature of many civilizations, while the
pyramids of Italy and Bosnia are not easily associated with any
culture that is known to have either built such large remains or
Over the past decade, the landscape of the pyramid debate has
therefore radically changed and offers science a challenge. Today, I
want to set out the challenge, as well as provide some of the
answers that may be the key revelation of what the pyramids truly
are. I hope that it will stimulate debate and can become a
“foundation stone” of what I have termed “The New Pyramid Age”.
With the discovery of the new world, the “Great Pyramid” of Egypt
remained great, but no longer the greatest: the Great Pyramid of
Cholula, in the Mexican state of Puebla, is now the largest in the
world by volume. It has a base of 450 by 450 meters (1476 by 1476
ft) and a height of 66 meters (217 ft) – making it smaller than the
Great Pyramid in height, which thus largely preserves its status as
But it is its total volume, estimated at 4.45 million
m³, which makes it almost one third larger than the Great Pyramid of
Many have not heard of the pyramid of Cholula and few tourists
visiting Mexico will find it on its path. There is a reason for
this: the pyramid remains largely unexcavated; it appears to be a
natural hill surmounted by a church. The Iglesia de Nuestra
Señora de los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of the Remedies),
also known as the Santuario de la Virgen de los Remedios
(Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Remedies) was built by the Spanish
on the site of a pre-Hispanic temple in 1594.
It is this church’s presence that is
preventing the pyramid as a whole to be excavated and restored to
its original glory. Still, archaeological excavations have occurred
and some five miles (8 km) of tunnels have so far been uncovered
It has been established that the pyramid was begun in
Pre-Classic times (2000 BC – 200 AD) and enlarged four times.
You might think that the Spanish weren’t aware of the pyramid’s
existence when they built the church on top, but you would be wrong.
The Franciscan Diego de Duran visited Cholula in 1585 and
interviewed the town’s elder, who was said to be more than one
hundred years old.
He told de Duran how,
“in the beginning, before the light
of the sun had been created, this place, Cholula, was in
obscurity and darkness; all was a plain, without hill or
elevation, encircled in every part by water, without tree or
created thing. Immediately after the light and the sun rose in
the east there appeared gigantic men of deformed stature who
possessed the land. Enamored of the light and beauty of the sun
they determined to build a tower so high that its summit should
reach the sky.
Having collected materials for the
purpose they found a very adhesive clay and bitumen with which
they speedily commenced to build the tower… And having reared it
to the greatest possible altitude, so that it reached the sky,
the Lord of the Heavens, enraged, said to the inhabitants of the
sky, ‘Have you observed how they of the earth have built a high
and haughty tower to mount hither, being enamored of the light
of the sun and his beauty?
Come and confound them, because it
is not right that they of the earth, living in the flesh, should
mingle with us.’ Immediately the inhabitants of the sky sallied
forth like flashes of lightning; they destroyed the edifice and
divided and scattered its builders to all parts of the earth.”
The story seems like a new world version
of the Tower of Babel, equally destroyed by God and equally
resulting in our scattering “to all parts of the earth”. The
question that intrigues me most for the moment is the question
whether this “tower of Cholula” was the pyramid of Cholula. Unlike
the Tower of Babel, de Duran’s story does not indicate that the
Tower of Cholula was destroyed.
Was the Pyramid of Cholula the
structure that was raised towards the sky, so that man could enter
it? It seems that within the local mythological landscape, this
could indeed be the case.
Far better known to the tourists is
Teotihuacan, the largest-known
pre-Columbian city in the Americas. It bloomed between 300 and 600
AD and covered 20 km2 (7.7 square miles), once holding a population
of 200,000 people. The name was given by the Aztec centuries after
the fall of the city and is translated as “the place where men
became gods”; the original name of the city is unknown. Recently,
the glyph that represents the city has been translated as “the place
of the precious sacrifice”.
The central focus of the complex is, as mentioned, a series of
pyramids: the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, whom
together with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, are the axis along which
the city was developed. The actual central axis is the “Avenue of
the Dead”, running from the plaza in front of the Pyramid of the
Moon past the other pyramid and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, and
beyond, originally covering a distance of four kilometers (ca. 2.5
It was named “Avenue of the Dead”
because of the archaeological discoveries made alongside it, though
the name may also betray a mythical aspect, as Stansbury Hagar
suggested that the Avenue may be a representation of the Milky Way –
which in mythology is normally seen as a Way of the Soul, taken by
the soul after death, to ascend to the Afterlife… Heaven.
Teotihuacan was known as a “place where men became gods”…
Teotihuacan was a place of pilgrimage in Aztec times; the Aztecs
identified it with the myth of Tollan, the place where the sun was
created – and a site that popular authors often link with Atlantis.
According to another legend, it was where the Gods gathered to plan
the creation of man and yet another legend stated that the complex
was built to transform men into gods. Like Cholula, the sun, a
“tower to reach the gods” and a point of creation seem to be
required ingredients in any pyramid package. But Teotihuacan offers
us an insight that will allow us to go beyond these initial
When astronomer Gerald Hawkins investigated Teotihuacan, he
discovered that the streets were laid out on a grid system,
intersecting at angles of 89 degrees, instead of the ninety degrees
you would expect to find. This could be a simple design flaw, until
Hawkins realized that the grid was not aligned to the four points of
the compass, but was instead twisted sideways so that the Avenue of
the Dead ran north-north-east, thus pointing at the setting of
On May 17, ca. 150 AD, the Pleiades rose just before the
Sun in the predawn skies.
This synchronization, known as the
heliacal rising of the Pleiades, only lasted a century. It is now
suggested that it was this event that was at the origin of
Teotihuacan and marked its foundation.
The sun and the Pleiades are important in the religious rituals of
the New World. The Sun-Pleiades zenith conjunction marked what is
known as the New Fire ceremony. Father Bernardino de Sahugun’s Aztec
informants stated that the ceremony occurred at the end of every 52
year Calendar Round. The Aztecs and their predecessors had carefully
observed the Pleiades and on the expected night the constellation
was supposed to pass through the zenith, precisely at midnight, the
New Fire ceremony was performed.
The story is in line with the legend that the gods gathered together
at Teotihuacan and wondered anxiously who was to be the next Sun.
The conclave occurred at the end of the previous World Age, which
had just been destroyed by a flood. Now, only the sacred fire could
be seen in the darkness, still quaking in the wind following the
recent chaos. “Someone will have to sacrifice himself, throw himself
into the fire,” they cried, “only then will there be a Sun”.
Two deities, Nanahuatzin and
Tecciztecatl, both tried the divine sacrifice. One burnt quickly,
the other roasted slowly. It is here that Quetzalcoatl’s religious
importance is explained, for it was then that he manifested himself
and was able to survive the fire, ensuring a new World Age – ours.
A subterranean passage leads from a natural cave (another parallel
with the Great Pyramid of Giza) under the west face of the Pyramid
of the Sun. It is believed that this cave played an important role
in the New Fire ceremony. The cave opening points directly to the
setting sun on May 19 and July 25, the key dates for Teotihuacan.
The cave is seven feet high and was found to run eastwards for more
than 300 feet, until it reached a point close to the pyramid’s
geometrical centre. Here it led into a second cave, which had been
artificially enlarged into a shape very similar to that of a
Each “leaf” was a chamber, about 60 feet
in circumference, containing a variety of artifacts such as slate
discs or mirrors. There was also a complex drainage system of
interlocking segments of carved rock pipes. This is strange, as
there is no known source of water within the pyramid.
The story of Teotihuacan fits within a lost Aztec Codex, written
down by Martin Matz from Mazatec Indians, who transmitted it for
several centuries within their community. The text is known as the
Codex Matz-Ayauhtla, or the Pyramid of Fire, and describes a series
of legends, from the creation myth to the New Fire ceremony, which
is the finale to the initiatory spiritual journey that is encoded
into the codex.
The text underlines the essence of the
Mayan’s religious experience, namely that life is a spiritual
journey to ascension – a return to God, the One who created the
universe. The text states how the supreme deity, Tloque Nahauque,
manifested itself as three forces – a duality functioning against a
neutral background, from which the four prime elements were created.
Matz made the journey himself; he visited an initiatory site with
his shamanic guide, where he took a hallucinogenic substance (in his
case mushrooms), entered a cave at a specific moment in the
calendar, and consequently was shown a landscape of pyramids,
including one that was dedicated to the Moon. The initiate was then
taught about the World Ages, the success of Quetzalcoatl, and how
ascension and world ages were connected via the New Fire ceremony –
and how they were performed every 52 years.
The American author John Major Jenkins has described this as “the
ultimate self-sacrifice that is the ritual death attending the
mystic initiation into divine life […] in order to merge with
Quetzalcoatl, which according to my reconstruction of the New Fire
ceremony represents the Pleiades in the zenith with sun at nadir”.
It is clear that Teotihuacan formed a site where this New Fire
festival was performed: the cave inside the Pyramid of the Sun, with
its specific alignment, is primary evidence. But we also need to ask
whether the pyramids of Teotihuacan were – could be – a visual
representation of the hallucinogenic landscape that the initiates
experienced… Was Teotihuacan the materialistic representation of a
dream – literally?
Also, let us note that the purpose of the codex and the essence of
our existence is the transformation of man into God – which is what
the name Teotihuacan signifies. But how was man transformed into
God? Was the New Fire ceremony the literal burning of men, who died
It now seems clear that Teotihuacan too is indeed a “Tower of
Babel”, or a “Tower of Cholula”: a place where men tried to become
one with the gods – which, to make a quick parallel with the Old
World, in Egypt was known through the myth of Osiris.
Let us listen to the Mayan story of creation, which has survived the
destruction of the Spanish invasion. It is contained within the
Popol Vuh, a 17th century book of the history of the Quiche Maya.
The focus is on the activities of the Twin Maize Gods and their
family at the time of this Third Creation, which the Maya date to
3114 BC. Many scholars now believe that August 12, 3114 BC marked a
significant celestial event – though its exact nature remains
There are several parallels between the Codex Matz-Ayauhtla,
describing the New Fire ceremony, and the Popol Vuh. When playing
ball, the Twin Maize Gods disturbed the lords of Xibalba, the Maya
underworld. The Xibalbans summoned the Maize Gods to the underworld
to answer for their disrespectful behavior. There, they subjected
them to a series of trials. When they failed these tests, they were
killed and buried in the Ball court of Xibalba. The eldest twin was
decapitated, his head hung in the tree next to the ball court, as a
warning to anyone who might repeat their offence. It is the Mayan
equivalent of the two contenders for the new sun who entered the
Fire and perished.
Despite the stern warning not to meddle with the gods, the daughter
of a Xibalban lord went to visit the skull, which spoke to her,
spitting in her hand and thus making her pregnant. She escaped from
the underworld and gave birth to twin boys, the Hero Twins, Hun-Ahaw
and Yax-Balam, who themselves were summoned to the Underworld, after
they had found their dead father’s ball playing equipment. Like
their father, they too had made too much noise, but they, unlike
their predecessors, were not fooled by the trials of the lords.
After a long series of ballgames, the Hero Twins defeated the Lords
of Death and resurrected their fathers, which were reborn as
infants. They quickly grew to adulthood, and with dwarf helpers
(indeed), woke up three old gods. Two of them became known as the
Paddler Gods, because they paddled the Maize Gods to the Place of
The third oldster, God L, was the patron of the merchants
and warriors, and destroyed the Third Creation by a great flood. I
will briefly point out the many parallels between both accounts: the
ballgame vs. the Fire, the destruction of the Third Creation vs. the
end of a World Age, etc. But above all, it involves yet another
“point of creation”.
When the Gods arrived at the place of the New Creation, they sprang
up from a crack in the back of a Cosmic Turtle. The crack is
identified with the Ball court. But the Maya identified this turtle
with the three stars of Orion’s Belt – and we thus finally
understand why the pyramids of Teotihuacan – if not Gizeh – were
laid out in this form.
Once reborn, the Maize Gods directed four old gods to set up the
first Hearth of Creation, to centre the new order. This was a hearth
made up from three stones. The first stone was in the shape of a
jaguar, the second in the form of a snake and the third was a
crocodile or shark. The first was set in a place called Na-Ho-Kan,
by the Paddler Gods. The second stone was set on the Earth, but by
whom is not known.
The third was set in the sea by Itzamna,
the First Sorcerer.
The Maya saw this hearth in the sky, as the triangle of stars below
Orion’s Belt (Al Nitak, Saiph and Rigel), with the Orion Nebula as
the fire. And it is this hearth that was set up on August 12, 3114
BC – the day of creation – the date of a New Fire ceremony.
later, on February 5, 3112 BC, the Maize Gods completed the Fourth
Creation, by setting up the four sides and corners of creation and
erecting the central tree – the world tree.
This tree was the Wakah-Kan, or “Raise
up Sky”. It was a great ceiba tree in flower, because February 5,
the day of its erection, was also the flowering season for this
popular Latin American tree.
The tree’s stellar equivalent is the
Milky Way, leading us back to the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan.
The temples of the Chichen Itza complex are amongst the most widely
visited in Mexico and its proximity to the holiday resort of Cancun
is not solely to thank for this – though it definitely helps.
sits at sea level, the climbing experiences are less harrowing than
for example Teotihuacan. But pyramid climbing unfortunately detracts
from the tremendous insights that this complex is able to provide
us: Chichen Itza is the easiest location where one can enter into
the mind of its builders – or, to be more specific, where we can
answer that all-important “why”-question.
The name Itza itself is derived from Itzamna, the chief Mayan deity
that sat on top of the World Tree – like the musician of the
Papantla Flyers. Itza functioned as a regional capital of the Maya
from 750 to 1200 AD. Chichen Itza’s Mayan name means “city on the
edge of the water sorcerer’s well” and that well is the Sacred
Cenote, the path the tourists will best remember for being lined
with endless souvenir stands that lead to a round lake – which for
some tourists has less appeal than the toilet facilities next to it.
Still, it is the Sacred Cenote’s
presence that may have been the main reason why the town was built
where it is – a fact that most tourist guides on the complex fail to
underline… some tours leaving out the Sacred Cenote – and toilet
facilities – altogether.
In one version of the myth, the Aztec built a temple on top of Snake
Mountain for their patron god Huitzilopochtli, who then built a ball
court at the base of the mountain, and in the centre he placed a
hole, called an Itzompan, or Skull Place. It won’t come as a
surprise to learn that there is a Ball Court next to El Castillo.
Indeed, the Ball court of Chichen Itza is both one of the most
impressive and one of the best preserved.
The Ballgame had a sacred function, visualizing with the Myth of
Creation and Origin. The most essential message we should retain
from it is that it was the visualization of the story of the
creation of the Fourth World; it thus should be seen as theatre,
more than sport. Finally, nearby is indeed the “Skull place” –
confirming that Chichen Itza was indeed built following the layout
indicated by the creation myth. Tour guides will tell stories that
the captain of the winning team was decapitated, whereby his
decapitated head was brought to the T-form shaped platform.
Perhaps… perhaps… but perhaps the true
answer to the enigma of the “Skull place” can be found in the
creation myth. And could it be that it was here that one of the
enigmatic “crystal skulls” was located?
When I walk around Chichen Itza, I can see legends and mysteries
come to live, painted against this stone backdrop. Like the inside
of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, El Castillo contains a
man-made cave, which was believed to be a passage to the Otherworld.
On the “mirror side” of Chichen Itza, we find the High Priest’s
Grave, which was constructed over a natural cave and which has been
described as a “smaller version of El Castillo”. Pyramids, sitting
on top of natural caves, with artificial chambers inside… it sounds
so much like ancient Egypt. It sounds like the Great Pyramid.
The chamber inside El Castillo contains a statue of a red jaguar,
decorated with flint teeth and jade eyes. A jaguar… almost like a
lion? Like the Sphinx? What archaeologists have accomplished in the
Mayan world over the past two centuries – and on many sites, in less
than a century – is impressive. The buildings have been interpreted
within their religious framework, that of the creation myth, which
is intimately linked with an astronomical cult, in which key dates
to do with the star Venus and its position to the Earth were of
extreme religious and social importance.
The Inca do not appear to have been great pyramid builders, though
they took over the management of several existing pyramids along the
Peruvian coastline. As impressive and beautiful as
Macchu Picchu or
Cuzco are, there are no pyramids, though sites such as Sacsayhuaman,
on the hill above Cuzco, are clear evidence that the Incas were able
to work with gigantic stones.
I can’t blame the Inca for not building pyramids: building pyramids
at altitudes sometimes in excess of 9000 feet may stretch the notion
of fun – most people have problems walking at their normal pace from
the hotel to the boats moored on the shores of Lake Titicaca, at
3821 meters (12,536 feet) the highest navigable lake in the world.
But there is always a but…
The legend of Viracocha and how he “walked” the sacred valley, which
roughly stretches from
Tiahuanaco to Cuzco and onwards to Macchu
Picchu, brings us face to face with the enigmas of the Incan
civilization: Tiahuanaco, Cuzco and Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo and
Macchu Picchu. They designate key sites on his voyage, the “Holy
Road” travelled by the Creator Deity.
The recent fame of Macchu Picchu has
somewhat upset the importance of this “path” as a whole, but two
Peruvian authors, which I will refer to as the Salazar brothers,
clearly identify that Ollantaytambo was in Inca times much more
important. Though at first apparently much less impressive than
Macchu Picchu, its sitting within the landscape is nevertheless
complex – and contains more symbolism than Macchu Picchu. Again,
though there is no pyramid at Ollantaytambo, it is a sacred site and
it has been carefully positioned within the natural landscape, with
which it interacts.
Research has identified that the Inca civilization had specific
preferences of alignments to certain mountain tops, evidence of
which can be found in Macchu Picchu. These mountains were the
residences of the apu, the mountain gods and every year, a major
procession still makes it way up one mountain, to come face to face
with the divine abode of god. But the pilgrimage is hard and only
fit men dare to go on it. Many – most – both now and in Inca times,
had to experience their religious life in the valleys below.
At Ollantaytambo, most guides point out how the impressive
megalithic structures were placed on the side of the hill and the
effort that went into them. But the Salazars point out that what
gave the site its sacredness was the profile of a human being,
identified with Viracocha, which can be clearly distinguished in the
mountain side opposite the main sanctuary.
They have further identified that the
temple at Ollantaytambo is aligned to certain notches in that hill,
the alignment of which coincides with important sunrises in the
calendar. In Ollantaytambo, it is the stone face of Viracocha
towering over the site that is part of the Inca legend; it is this
presence that shows that the creator god is still present, literally
“watching over” his people… and the modern tourist.
There are more such solar alignments incorporated in this area’s
sacred layout: the Salazars identified that in the valley below
Ollantaytambo, the first beam of the sunrise falls on the so-called
Pacaritanpu (“House of Dawn”), where the gods became divine and
which they identify as the site of the Inca’s mythic origin – a
place of creation.
When you look upon this “House of Dawn” from Ollantaytambo, it is hardly identifiable and definitely does not
look important, unless it is looked upon with the “right eyes”. At
first, there appears to be nothing but a cultivated field.
Though dating from the Inca time period,
the question why an ancient field should be so important, is a good
one. But a second glance will reveal that the entire field portrays
a gigantic pyramid. So, rather than build an actual pyramid, the
Inca have used an “optical illusion” to create a pyramid out of
delineating fields. It is a pyramid, but it’s a pyramid in two
dimensions, though when viewed from the right location – which was
marked as sacred – it looks like a three-dimensional pyramid.
The Salazar brothers say that the Incan legends identify the
Pacaritanpu as the site from which the first Incas came into the
world after the Flood, the end of the previous age and thus the
point of creation of the new world.
“So wrote Cabello Balboa in 1586
without understanding the magnitude of the monument he was
describing, because this place […] was not built to be seen from
the dwellings of man […] but rather from the heights where the
mountain powers have their abode.”
This abode is a place called Intipuncu,
or Gateway of the Sun, and is located five hours of continuous
ascent from the valley floor. Climbing this mountain would be
suicide (and I “of course” did not have the time… and it rained at
the time as well…), so I will let the Salazars describe what all
tourists can see on the pages of their book:
“the succession of nine terraces
used for cultivation (and provided with irrigation canals and
founts of water) appears to the observer to make up the two main
faces of a pyramid […] Recent studies carried out in the area
agree with a tradition that says that the soil for these
terraces was brought from far away in order to build them.”
This sand thus sits in the same category
as the mica of Teotihuacan and that other enigmatic sand inside the
Great Pyramid; “out of place materials” incorporated into the
The Salazars draw specific attention to two areas on one “side” of
the pyramid, which they describe as “two enigmatic ‘windows’”:
Inca mythology these ‘windows’ symbolize the doorway through which
one gains access to the world of the unknown.”
So it seems that
these windows were like a gateway, an entrance – a
stargate? – into
“They also represent the sacred
receptacles with which, by means of light from the sun, the
upper world communes with the interior world in the cycle that
activates the principle of generation that give life to man and
So, once again, the sun and stories
about (re)generation of man and the Earth – linked with floods and
What does it mean?
Modern research suggests that the Sacred Valley
of the Vilcamayu and Urubamba rivers symbolized the Milky Way –
further parallels with the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan and
other pyramid and religious centers.
William Sullivan reports on the
intentional flooding of Cuzco, when in January, at sunset, they
opened the floodgates and let a torrent of water rush through the
streets of the capital:
“As the floodwaters scoured the
streets, they washed along the ashes of all the burnt offerings
from the previous year. Runners waited at the bottom of the
city, at the point where the Tullumayu and Huatanay rivers
convened, and swept the offerings into the Vilcamayu River. As
the flood approached them, the runners began a race of more than
thirty miles along the banks of the Vilcamayu, all the way to
Ollantaytambo, where the river begins to drop off steeply toward
confluence with the Amazon.”
Sullivan and others have seen the
Vilcamayu as the “River of the Sun”, taking on the form of the Milky
Way. The inhabitants of Cuzco, it seemed, remembered the Flood of
the previous world by creating one annually. It clearly signified a
renewal of life, the New Year, and washed away the “ashes” of the
And, in what should now be
unsurprisingly, as the flood washed away the ashes of the old fires,
a new fire was lit – a New Fire Ceremony.
“at a bridge spanning the river,
[others were waiting] and threw a final offering of coca into
the torrent. Throughout the night, innumerable torches,
stationed along the river bank, lit the runners’ way. […] The
river, then, was meant to carry the offerings right out of this
world. […] According to Molina, this event began at sunset in
the month of January, that is, when the southeast/northwest
branch of the Milky Way was up and moving toward the zenith.”
Why is there this connection between the
Milky Way and the soul?
Because it was seen as the path the souls
took on their way from this realm to the “Otherworld”. Did the
lights along the runner’s course represent both the stars and the
souls of the deceased, along which the runners raced towards Ollantaytambo, the site near the “Pyramid of the Dawn”, where the
gods became gods – like at Teotihuacan, where a ceremony involving
water and fire equally seemed to “make gods”?
In Teotihuacan, “men became gods”; they ascended. The Egyptian
hieroglyph for “ascent” is a step pyramid. Was the pyramid therefore
a stairway to heaven, to help the king ascend to the sky, to the
abode of the gods?
Ancient Egypt was a concretization of tribal shamanic knowledge. The
tribe’s shaman not merely focused on death, but also on the world of
the living, which many cultures saw as preparation for death. The
notion that life and death are not mutually exclusive but should be
seen as an integrated whole can also be found in the innovative
approaches of Lehner and Hawass. They are slowly abandoning the old
dogma that the pyramids were nothing but tombs. They may have been
tombs, but it is now also more and more obvious that they performed
a function for the living king – they were a temple, as well as a
This forces us to see the pyramid as places of initiation, rather
than gigantic mausoleums. Such an interpretation was very much in
vogue a century ago, mainly by people of Masonic ideology. But
Freemasonry is, in essence, a stylized rendition of a voluntary
death during the lifetime – an initiation. Before Hawass and Lehner,
the “pyramid as temple of initiation” debate – which makes the
Egyptian pyramids conform to the pyramid template – was revived in
1982 by the Egyptologist Edward Wente and has been discussed
by British author Jeremy Naydler.
Naydler stated that,
generally accept that this ‘voluntary death’ was one of the central
aims of the Greek and Hellenistic mystery cults, Egyptology has
resisted the idea that any such initiatory rites or experiences
existed in Egypt.”
In my opinion, this would make Egypt unique
amongst all ancient civilizations – by the absence of such
practices. It would mean that Egypt, of all ancient cultures, did
not have a religion that allowed for the spiritual development of
the soul… which would be extremely odd, for all ancient accounts
argue that Egypt was precisely the world’s authority on such
But, Egyptologists argue, where is the
evidence? What, apart from ancient travelers’ account (which for
Egyptologists somehow do not seem carry any evidentiary weight
whatsoever)… what is there?
Though it is without doubt that the Pyramid Texts focus on the king,
Jeremy Naydler argues that they focus mainly on his role as ruler –
not as the deceased head of state. The Texts thus become records of
the rituals that the king performed, at key times of his rule, which
Naydler has identified as his coronation and the Heb Sed festivals,
which was a renewal of his kingship that occurred at thirty year or
These rites confirmed the power of the
king over this and the “otherworld”, the union of which was
accomplished by the king, through which he established his divine
rule over the land.
Let us note that in this interpretation, the
pyramid becomes a temple, and the inscriptions on its wall were not
meant to be read by the funeral cortege, or by the deceased soul of
the pharaoh, but by the living pharaoh, as he performed these
rituals in the interior of the pyramid.
The Heb Sed festival lasted five days and took place immediately
after the annual Osiris rites, at the time when the Nile’s Flooding
retreated, at the moment of the rebirth of the land, mimicking the
creation of the world – and a new age. It is yet another clear
parallel with the “New Fire ceremony” of the Maya, for the five days
preceding the Heb Sed festival, a fire ceremony called “lighting the
flame” served to purify the festival precincts.
The most sacred parts of the rite occurred in a secret chamber – and
the question is where this chamber was located. From the reliefs of
Niuserre, the 6th ruler of the 5th Dynasty, we know that this
chamber contained a bed (a couch?), though other depictions show
that in certain cases a sarcophagus was used.
Naydler has titled one of the chapters of his book “The pyramids as
the locus of secret rites”. He argues that the Heb Sed festivals
were performed in the pyramids. There is an obvious contradiction in
the fact that the construction of a pyramid seemed to be abandoned
as soon as a Pharaoh died. When he was most in need of a tomb, all
work on his tomb was stopped?
Let us note that several Pharaohs who
did not live long enough, had no pyramids whatsoever. Djedefra,
Khufu’s son, did not live very long and his pyramid was never
completed – though he clearly died, the son of a dynasty of pyramid
builders extraordinaire who could surely have spared some men to
build at least a small or minuscule tomb for this king?
This makes little sense. Surely his successor – often his beloved
son – on occasion would desire to have his father’s and/or
predecessor’s tomb to be completed, so that his father could be
buried inside, before work commenced on his own pyramid? If the
successor was in his early twenties when he ascended to the throne,
there was more than enough time left before he had to wonder about
death, as the life expectancy of an Egyptian pharaoh was not too
different from most of us. But each time, work is stopped, as if the
pyramid is no longer required now that the pharaoh is dead. In the
“pyramid = tomb”-equation, that does not make sense.
I.E.S. Edwards described how
the Sphinx was said to guard the
“Splendid Place of the Beginning of All Time”, which is of course
the primeval hill – the Mound of Creation. Furthermore, Gizeh and
Heliopolis were connected by the “Sacred Roads of the Gods”. Anyone
travelling from modern central Cairo towards Gizeh can cross one of
the southern bridges.
They will see the majesty of the
pyramids rising in front of them. The two greatest pyramids rise
like two mountains, next to each other. It is a magical sight that
has lost little of its splendor when the casing stones were removed.
As the primeval hill was a place of descent for the Creator God, was
the myth of Atum descending to Earth related to the Gizeh plateau?
The primeval mound was the location where the Creation had occurred;
it was the site sacred to the Creator God, the god to whom we would
return at the ascension. The original word for “mound of creation”
is “niwt”, which means the numinous centre of the universe, the seat
I will leave it to you to put the pieces of the Gizeh puzzle
yourself – or invite you to read my book.
We may think that Egypt is the cradle of the Pyramid Age, but in
truth, it seems that Mankind almost received a “cosmic imperative”
to start building pyramid. Or perhaps Mankind was finally able to
express the Creation Myth in stone – a pyramid. But if there was
indeed a cosmic imperative, then we could look towards an
extraterrestrial being telling us what to do. But this is more than
unlikely the right answer.
Instead, perhaps we should wonder
whether there is any connection at all with the start of the Mayan
calendar, August 12, 3114 BC, a date which seems to have had no
specific significance for the Mayan civilization, which did not yet
exist at the time. It was a date predating their culture, but which
was clearly an important date. Why?
And what are we to make of the end of
this calendrical event,
December 21, 2012 AD? Is it a coincidence
that it is in the two decades leading up to 2012 AD, in fact since
1994, that Mankind has grown to understand the message of the
For centuries, they have intrigued us –
but they equally puzzled us. Then, since 1994, we are suddenly
finding answers, new pyramids, new interpretations, as if a cycle of
time is about to end and this type of information is linked with
such key calendrical dates. If it is mere coincidence, what an
intriguing coincidence it is.
What is also amazing, is not that we find pyramids in various areas
of the world. What amazes, is that they all conform to a clearly
identifiable “pyramid template”, which, as any template, was adapted
according to local circumstances. Though details of the template may
vary across cultures – though often within one culture as well – the
core of the message remains the same: if you see a pyramid, you have
found “a place of creation”, linked with sacred kingship and rule,
linked with the Creator God, the start of a new era, linked with a
New Fire ceremony.
Though on numerous occasions in the past, such correspondences
across continents and space have been seen as evidence of
extra-terrestrial interventionism, in my opinion, it shows that we
are face to face with a core myth of Mankind, one that it possessed
from its earliest origins as a species, before it began to disperse
across the world. Perhaps one should say it cherished this myth from
its own point of creation?
Wherever and whenever we established “true” kingship, we have built
pyramids scattered about the surface of the Earth are
the legacy of this knowledge…
The Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of the
Sun in Teotihuacan, but equally the small pyramid of Falicon in
France, incorporate natural caves, suggesting that the sites on
which the pyramids were constructed were deemed to be sacred before
the first stone of the pyramid was placed – they had already been
mapped according to the “point of creation template”.
The pyramids are more than just tombs.
For an Egyptologist, it is
the threshold he needs to cross, however dangerous it can be for a
career. Lehner and Hawass seem somewhat daring to go beyond, though
it is with trepidation in their steps. The naturalist Thomas Shaw
visited Cairo in 1721. When he entered the Great Pyramid, he felt
its interior was not suited to be a tomb and therefore considered it
to be a temple. He interpreted the sarcophagus as an implement for
the mystical worship of Osiris.
Others agreed, including the
physician Charles Perry and Cornelius de Pauw.
They described them as temples for the
worship of “the Being who filled the universe with light”, viewing
the interior chambers as the tomb of Osiris. At the same time, Abbé
Terrasson raised the notion that the pyramids had served as places
of initiation, which he outlined in his novel Séthos, published in
1731. Terrasson wrote at a time when Freemasonry had just come in
Freemasonry used Egyptian imagery into the construction
of their rituals and initiations.
Almost three centuries later, the fascination with ancient Egypt and
the pyramids remain.
Rainer Stadelmann described how,
“before and just after sunrise, the
faithful of the pyramid mystery sects, along with members of
Masonic lodges with mystical leanings, gather in the tomb
chamber and the so-called Queen’s Chamber and devote themselves
to hours of meditation and soft chanting.”
Many Egyptologists scoff at the notion
that these pyramids are used as such (in fact, some seem incapable
of understanding that other people than they may have a right to
enter an archaeological site). But even if the pyramids were “just”
tombs, it is clear that they thus were a religious building… which
incorporated religious services: prayers, meditations and perhaps
even hours of soft chanting for the soul of the deceased king.
Pyramids are not just relics of the past, there as mute and dead
witnesses of a by-gone age that by all accounts should be left
alone. They still exist and though at one point our ancestors
stopped the religious obedience their builders desired, any such
return would coincide with the intended desire and purpose of the
builder. And it are his wishes we should place central, not that of
a chorus of people believing they are the sole guardians of these
monuments and its builders.
That doesn’t solely apply to Egypt… it
applies to every pyramid, if not any monument.
Recently, a newspaper ran the article that “Aymara Language and
Gesture Point to Mirror-Image View of Time.” It reported that new
analysis of the language and gesture of South America’s indigenous
Aymara people indicated a reverse concept of time. The study
provided a unique insight into “points of creation” and ancient
civilization's obsessions with calendars.
The article stated that contrary to what
had been thought to be a cognitive universal among humans – a
spatial metaphor for chronology, based partly on our bodies’
orientation and locomotion, that places the future ahead of oneself
and the past behind – the Amerindian group located this imaginary
abstraction the other way around: with the past ahead and the future
The scientific study noted that,
“cognition of such everyday
abstractions as time is at least partly a cultural phenomenon.
With the same bodies – the same neuroanatomy, neurotransmitters
and all – here we have a basic concept that is utterly
In the 1920s, Arthur Eddington
was one of the first physicists to propose that the Relativity
Theory suggested that “the stuff of the world is mind stuff” and
that this “mind stuff” is not spread out in space and time; “these
are part of the cyclic scheme ultimately derived from it”.
science found out was the central role of consciousness and how it
seems to enter into another dimension – or even a multitude, such as
Heaven and Hell – may have been practically known by our ancestors
for thousands of years and may have been at the core of the “point
of creation template” – and the pyramid.
We look towards chronology and time and try to place the pyramids
within this construct. It is the scientific method and it has helped
us a long way. But to go the final furlong and truly understand the
pyramid in all of its importance that it held for these communities
that worked years and sometimes centuries to construct it, our
modern approach will fall short. We will need to let go of our own
habits, acquire new capabilities, and transform science itself into
a method of understanding – true understanding.
For the Aymara, neither time nor space exists as it does for us; we
may share a world with them, but not a reality. And what we see as a
long sequence of events, seeing history as linear, our ancestors saw
as cycles. The pyramid was seen as a sign of creation – a place
outside of time, and a time unaffected by space.
Time fears the pyramids, indeed.