We were lined up against a stone wall – a very old stone wall. Forty ‘mystical pilgrims’ stood in the intense humidity of the entrance chamber to the Great Pyramid, dressed in simple robes; robes that had been used earlier in the day for a ritual baptism in the ancient inland waters of Lake Moeris.
Lake Moeris is linked to the water-based initiations of the ancient priests of Egypt – as were many of the temples along the Nile. Water washes – the outer symbolism is obvious; the inner one not so much. Mystically, to ‘come alive’ in the present – which is the goal of true mysticism, we have to ‘die’ to our present state. The cares, the fixations, the emotional reactions, all of the baggage that we cling to because it defines our ‘self’ has to be let go of in a some special way.
A taste of Being is the result – if those carrying out the initiation are good at their job. Water is also an ancient symbol for truth, and contrasts with Stone, which is lower, fixed or literal truth; and wine, which is the highest form of truth.
Initiation has always provided a portal to that deeper understanding. It is method particularly suited to the western mind – a mind so proud of the intellect (and rightly so) but so ignorant of the ‘easy depths’ of the spiritual touch. We like stories; most civilisations do. Myths and legends form the backbone of what is passed down to future generations. ‘Giants’ may be real giants or they may be heroes ‘giant in being’. It depends on the context – and so much gets borrowed and re-written by those whose eyes have not been opened to another way of seeing things.
Back to the wall filled with robed mystical pilgrims. It was 2005, a frightening twelve years ago. We were at the end of a two-week trip aimed at the spiritual discovery of Egypt. I was a field officer in another organisation, one of two I greatly admire to this day. My website bio is here, for anyone who wants to look deeper.
Our journey had begun far in the south of Egypt, near Aswan. We followed the mighty Nile on a lovely boat that took us as far as Luxor, stopping at the major temples on the way. We were delighted to relax by the Red Sea for two nights, then flew to Cairo. Two days later, having seen the sights, we were granted the rare privilege of being permitted night-time access to the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid. We were to have our own symbolic initiation, carried out by the head of the organisation – who had flown to Egypt, specially, to do this…
I should have known, then… should have read the importance of that action.
The constraint was that we had only one hour to carry this out, so every minute counted. Pressed up against that wall, I was given a lighted torch to carry and placed at the head of a group of fellow pilgrims. Our sandals slapped on the old stone as we marched down the main access tunnel to locate the narrow ascending passageway, then the steep ascent of the Grand Gallery – a huge space in its own right that links the upper chambers of the pyramid to the main access tunnel and the passage down to the so-called Queen’s Chamber.
At the end of the Grand Gallery lies a short passage that leads to the doorway into the Kings Chamber. We stopped in front of it for a short mediation; and to catch our breath. The Guardian of the threshold stepped aside, and the party entered this most special of places…
It is at this point that you get a feeling of where you are: on the edge of Cairo, in the Nile’s northern delta, located at an interior point about half way up the enormous mass of the Great Pyramid.
The King’s Chamber is a huge room, but plain. Very little is known of how it might once have looked. The air is hot and humid. I would imagine those with any breathing issues are advised not to enter. Two shafts run tangentially to the exterior walls of the pyramid, so there is fresh air of sorts; but it’s not plentiful. There is no stepping outside. This is it: the highest and most purposeful place in the ancient stone structure.
Apart from the forty pilgrims the only other decoration is the large granite sarcophagus at the far end of the chamber. This is damaged in one corner, but still functional. The head of our organisation was standing next to it. I will never forget his words – indeed, they are the reason for this short piece – because they were the most important thing I learned that day, and they could have been said anywhere…
“Do not question your readiness or worthiness to be here. The act of being here is the verification that your soul is ready for what this moment contains…”
The simplest of sentiments, yet one that conveys an entirely different way of looking at the world. It took me a decade to understand the depths of what he had said; but whenever I encounter another kiss of the wonderful now, I go back to that moment and thank him… and the ‘fates’ that led me to have that revelation in that very special place.
Author’s note: we were not allowed cameras inside the Great Pyramid, so the montage above comprises one of my exterior photographs of it plus another of the interior of the temple at Abu Simbel.
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.
His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com