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Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred Paperback – April 1, 1996
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From Scientific American
An ambitious and lucid interpretation of ancient Egyptian consciousness, especially with respect to the experience of the sacred. As such the book also sheds light on the wild and mysterious psychospiritual currents of our present time, including the Goddess re-emergence.
“. . . not only evokes the atmosphere of the myths, but re-creates that all too rare relationship with them that enables us to understand what it means to be part of ongoing cosmic processes as sacred realities.” (I. M. Oderberg, Sunrise: Theosophical Perspectives)
“The reader experiences living issues rather than the cold reconstructions of a guide book.” (Clement Salaman, Temenos Academy Review)
"An ambitious and lucid interpretation of ancient Egyptian consciousness, especially with respect to the experience of the sacred. As such the book also sheds light on the wild and mysterious psychospiritual currents of our present time, including the Goddess re-emergence." (Robert Masters, Ph.D., author of The Goddess Sekhmet)
"A valuable and original work." (John Anthony West, author of Serpent in the Sky)
“A book that breaks new ground, a scholarly yet esoteric approach to an ancient culture and religion.” (Critical Review)
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That's where this book differs. It is all about that stuff that knits a culture together. It sounds a little cliche, but it really did bring the ancient Egyptian mind to life for me. As it stands, I found Temple of the Cosmos to be very well-reasoned, well-researched, and a pleasure to read. Although it is not an academic work, it is certainly scholarly. Naydler supports his arguments with specific ancient texts and/or images. He strikes the right balance between (apparently) accepting that mystical experiences and phenomena are real, without bias toward the "truth" of any one worldview, Egyptian or otherwise. By comparison, the "methodological atheism" required in academic writing means that an author must discuss spiritual beliefs/phenomena as if they aren't real, regardless of their actual opinion on the matter, and that means they can't really engage with the deeper levels of the topic; on the other hand, for an author to accept "transmitted" information as accurate a priori would be without intellectual, philosophical, or scholarly rigor. Naydler does not succumb to either pitfall.
Temple of the Cosmos covers stories of creation, the Egyptian concept of magic as both a cosmic force and a skill set which overlapped with pretty much every aspect of life, Egyptian concepts of time, space, cosmos, and geography, the understanding of the individual spirit/psyche/soul, and the afterlife journey. If you are a student of Western magic you will recognize a lot of the themes here. While it is clear that the Egyptian worldview was very different from that of the 21st century West, you do get a feel for Egypt's massive influence at the very roots of our civilization.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in: Egyptology, history, anthropology, and archaeology; ancient Egypt generally; Egyptian mythology; Kemetic reconstructionism or Kemetic-inspired paganism; Western philosophy; and/or magic and the Western Mystery/Magical Tradition. If you are looking for someone's unverified personal gnosis of Egyptian deities, this is not the book you are looking for (but I would still recommend it).
Generally, if you know about 'symbolist' Egypt championed by Schwaller de Lubicz and later summarized by John Anthony West as in Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, then you will find some kindred material within this book. This author does describe mythic and mystical of the major deities of Egypt in a way that does cross into some new ground. So for this much along, any student of mysticism or shamanism, who also has some interest in Ancient Egypt would do well to read this book. However, this book does fail to fully cross into the potential of the subject at hand.
If you know of Stephen Mehler and his transmission of Khemetian wisdom as conveyed by Abd'el Hakim Awyan, then you would know that Hakim opened up a great lineage stream of wisdom in the true meanings of Egyptian symbolism and sacred perspective. Unfortunately the Khemetian wisdom is not evident in this book. As an example, Hakim outlines the progression of the 'deities', more properly 'neters', which are part of a five part cycle of the sun, of the consciousness of a person as they mature, and even of civilizations or societies. This cycle is Kheper (dawn), Ra (noon, 'the stubborn'), Oon (the wise), Aten (the wiser), Amen (the hidden, our current age). Frequently in this book the author conveys Kheper, Ra, Atum, and others with a lack of their clear function or meaning. So overall you do not get this understanding of Khemit nor it's benefits of a deeper understanding of what Egypt was really all about. And what you do get are very strong flavorings that are not Egyptian.
As an example, the progression from Atum through Apophis the author leans on an understanding that Apophis must be defeated in order to progress. However, there are clear analogies in the wider world of mysticism that could have been used to clarify these roles that are not. Apophis, the serpent, is a representation of the basic vibratory nature of the universe (hence the wave is represented as a wiggly serpent). This is clearly represented in the book by Figure 3.1 where Atum is surrounded by the waves of Apophis. The awareness of the one, of a consciousness, emerges within the medium of vibration. Atum is not trapped nor 'languishes' as the author would suppose. Atum facing down means that the consciousness has just become aware of itself as has not looked up in order to understand it's wider relationships to the whole. So already we see that the author cannot really read the Egyptian motifs from a purely symbolic viewpoint and uses very elementary assumptions that are often shallow if not incorrect. And we cannot fully fault the author as he is towing in many cases the standard droll archaeological interpretive fallacies. But, as in other cases the author is trying to break out of the old molds it is disappointing that he could not do it fully enough.
If you compare Egyptian cosmology, for instance, to Andean cosmology, the serpent is the totem animal for the lower world. There is nothing 'wrong' with the serpent. In mysticism you do not generally 'overcome' something (the serpent) by slaying it (a Christian notion) but by integrating each thing/persona into the larger whole. Also within Andean cosmology, the totem animal of the middle world, this world, is the Puma. This is also represented by the Sphinx and by Sekhmet in Egyptian cosmology. So at figure Figure 3.3 the author subtitles 'Atum, in the form of a cat, kills the serpent' New Kingdom Papyrus, the author shows they cannot read the scene symbolically. Atum does not kill Apophis. The consciousness being raised to the level of Atum, begins to disassemble the previous concepts that it held when in Apophis in order to rearrange and assimilate them into a higher order. Finally in figure 7.2 'Knifing and binding Apophis' and the text 'Selkit knifes Apophis in six places, thereby destroying his power.' If the author had looked at the drawing he would realize that six divisions equals seven pieces. Seven is the number of perfection in most cultures. Here Apophis is not bound or destroyed. The lower nature once perfected becomes a boat or vehicle for the further development of consciousness. Duh. This drawing is clearly saying that by perfecting the 'lower' nature of the full consciousness, and having thus integrated the subconscious into the whole, this person/soul is able to travel safely through all domains of consciousness and all realities. You can also see this clearly if you kept in mind the serpent/cobra as the Uraeus on the Pharaohs headdress. The lower vibratory nature, the serpent, when joined with the upper nature, the vulture/condor, is present in a consciousness that is divine and human at the same time. It is only by ultimate union of principles into a complete unity, a whole, that a meaningful mystic interpretation can be applied. We are so embedded in these Christian/Western filters that we default to using them. The author uses very out of place words in this text like 'Godhead' (clearly a Christian notion).
Schwaller de Lubicz stated clearly that 'pharaonic' mentality is 'noncerebral'. It is the intelligence of the heart and as such is expansive, synthetic/integrative, and is accessed primarily through intuition, not analysis. See Nature Word for more explanation. When you approach any high culture, through their motifs, writings, and sacred sites, you must approach as an open slate and leave behind everything you think you know about interpreting reality. This book at times brushes into this zone but you will need to use very active filtering and your own intuition to get the message of the neters and Egyptian consciousness.
To help you become aware of how to intuit and comprehend the Egyptian consciousness we should look at another example from the book around the neters Geb and Nut. Whereas these neters represent the polarities of sky/ether and earth respectively, they, in their visual positioning as polarities give rise in the area between them to Shu which is air. The author says "The image of Geb and Nut's enforced separation in particular evokes the idea that the world comes into existence on the basis of pain. Pain and suffering are the condition of life in the manifest world." Wow! Really! This is all just pain and suffering? Is this a primary Egyptian concept? Sounds more Christian or Buddhist. When approaching mystical motifs you have to leave your own culture and religions behind. I'll dispel the many misconceptions in this example through using the word NOT. Geb and Nut take their stations willingly. Geb and Nut are NOT forcefully separated. The world does NOT come into manifestation through pain and suffering. The primary interpretation of manifest reality by the Egyptians is NOT through the filters of pain and suffering. The Egyptian focus is on harmony and the evolution of consciousness. Geb is NOT powerless in his recline as the earth. Gebs postion is completely voluntary. Shu, being air, formed between them is like a filament filling the space between them. Shu is NOT keeping Geb and Nut apart. There are legion more examples of rudimentary Western biases coming in getting in front of really perceiving what is going on with these neters but this should suffice. If you want to discover the neters you must take anything someone with Western training says as one possible interpretation. Just remember the Western mind, being so analytical, most often cannot perceive/intuit the message of higher consciousness.
On the positive, the author does bring out elements of Egyptian 'magic' and ritual and does bring out some important aspects of Egyptian consciousness especially in the sections on the Ba and Ka. So I do see, at times, strong glimmers or realization here. However, the author does not make the strongest and boldest leaps that the underlying evidence points to. These include views such that not only is the sun seen mythically as Ra, but that Ra, and every neter, is an aspect of everyones consciousness. You are the Ra crossing in the sky. You are the Ra crossing on the boat in the underworld. You are Sekhmet, Isis, Osiris, all of these macrocosmic archetypal principles exist both without and within. To see these 'neters' as external gods is to miss being able to fully relate to them. And this book does, eventually, try to elaborate the neters as personable. But this pursuit does not reach it's natural climax here. Even in Chapter 8 The Soul Incarnate the author quotes "My face is the face of Ra. My eyes are the eyes of Hathor." But the author brushes past these deep mystical ideas only to switch gears immediately into the 'catastrophic psychic fragmentation' of the process of Osiris, something that is given neither adequate prolog nor solid enough context into the preceding text. It's as if great images inscribed on a golden cup are bypassed order to look at the glitter and wow factor of a 'smartphone'.
Ironically the final four chapters, dealing with the discarnate soul and the journey through the underworld are among some of the most lucid and thoughtful insights into Egyptian consciousness you will find. These chapters are clear and very easy to follow. The purchase price of the book is justified by it's ending alone.
Overall the book could have done more to emphasize the personal and inner shamanic nature of the Egyptian consciousness. The pyramid texts with the hieroglyphics on the walls in the temples were not just rites for the king. These readings, prayers, magic, were all personal ('magical') invocations in an attempt to awaken these archetypes within each person present. It is likely that only upper echelons of Egyptian society were in attendance at the most serious ceremonies, but it is also likely that many ceremonies were open to the wider populace. Egyptian visual presentation is symbolic, laden with meaning, and about balance and primary experience. To think of it as 'art' or merely depicting something 'out there' is missing the point. Egyptian consciousness is highly symbolic and nearly obsessed with number, ratio, placement, and direction. Images of a person are often depicted with two left hands or two right hands. The clues are there but you have to read them with an open mind.
There are few books that can teach you how to read sacred drawings. One I can high recommend is Burning Water: Thought and Religion in Ancient Mexico.
Most recent customer reviews
by Jeremy Naydler
Oh, this book is fascinating ...Read more