"Since the First World War Americans have been leading a double life, and our history has moved on two rivers, one visible, the other underground; there has been the history of politics which is concrete, factual, practical and unbelievably dull; and there is a subterranean river of untapped, ferocious, lonely and romantic desires, that concentration of ecstasy and violence which is the dream life of the nation."

Norman Mailer
"The whole work of healing Tellus depends on nursing that little spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every people, and different in each. When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China--why then it will be spring."

"This new history of yours," said McPhee, "is a wee bit lacking in documents."

C.S. Lewis

Synchronicities this week

  • June 24 Midsummer/St. John’s Day
  • June 24, 1947 The first flying saucers are sighted over Mount Rainier by pilot Ken Arnold.
  • June 24, 1542 St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet, is born.
  • June 24, 1938 500 ton meteorite lands near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
  • June 24, 1717 First Free Masons' grand lodge founded in London.
  • June 24, 1374 A sudden outbreak of St. John's Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion.
  • June 24, 1314 Battle of Bannockburn; Scotland regains independence from England.
  • June 24, 843 Vikings destroy Nantes.
  • June 23 Midsummer’s Eve
  • June 23, 1972 Nixon & Haldeman agree to use CIA to cover up Watergate.
  • June 23, 1942 Germany's latest fighter, a Focke-Wulf FW190 is captured intact when it mistakenly lands at RAF Pembrey in Wales.
  • June 23, 1888 Frederick Douglass is 1st African-American nominated for president.
  • June 23, 1848 Workers’ insurrection in Paris.
  • June 23, 1713 The French residents of Acadia are given one year to declare allegiance to Britain or leave Nova Scotia, Canada. They choose the latter, migrate to Louisiana, and become Cajuns.
  • June 21 Summer Solstice (11:28 a.m.).
  • June 21, 1964 Three civil rights workers-Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney-are kidnapped and murdered by the Klan in Mississippi .
  • June 21, 1948 The 33 1/3 RPM LP record is introduced by Columbia Records.
  • June 21, 1944 Ray Davies of the Kinks born in London.
  • June 21, 1916 Mexican troops beat US expeditionary force under Gen Pershing.
  • June 21, 1877 The Molly Maguires, ten Irish immigrant labor activists, are hanged in Pennsylvania prisons.
  • June 20, 1947 Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, gangster, the “man who invented Las Vegas,” shot dead in Beverly Hills, Cal.
  • June 20, 1909 Errol Flynn, greatest of the swashbucklers, born in Hobart, Tasmania.
  • June 20, 1944 Congress charters Central Intelligence Agency.
  • June 20, 1943 Detroit race riot kills 35.
  • June 20, 1893 - Lizzie Borden acquitted in murder of parents in New Bedford Mass.
  • June 20, 1871 Ku Klux Klan trials began in federal court in Oxford Miss.
  • June 20, 1837 Queen Victoria at 18 ascends British throne ; rules for 63 years ending in 1901.
  • June 20, 1756 146 British soldiers imprisoned in the "Black Hole of Calcutta." Most die.
  • June 20, 1631 The Irish village of Baltimore is attacked by Algerian pirates.
  • June 20, 1214 The University of Oxford receives its charter.
  • June 20, 451 Germans & Romans beat Attila the Hun at Catalarinische Fields.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Temple of Man

The Temple of Luxor in the town of Luxor in Upper Egypt (actually the southern part of the country), known in Pharaonic times as Thebes, the sacred capital of Egypt's New Kingdom golden age, is one of the most beautiful and significant of Egypt's "Houses of Life" as the Egyptians called their temples.

Huge libraries have been filled with the work of scholars attempting to get inside the ancient Egyptian head. Mostly they make it sound about as mundane as it could be and still have something to do with ancient Egypt. In fact sometimes they make it all sound so ordinary that you can feel a little silly for being intrigued with ancient Egypt at all.

I haven't read much conventional Egyptology, but in what I have, the scholars never start with the effect that an encounter with ancient Egyptian art and architecture has upon contemporary men and women. Because ever since tourists started regularly visiting Egypt in the 18th century,the effect has been pretty much the same--they're blown away. What's the scholarly interpretation of that?

Here's the thing, and this is true, it's just that for some reason scholars aren't particularly interested in it--the architecture of sacred places is consciously and carefully created to have an effect on you, to transmit pieces of a vision to you even if you cannot read or write a word of the language. This is what the Pyramids of Giza do, it's what the Gothic cathedrals of Medieval Europe do, it's what the great stone circles of the British Isles do, it's what the Indian mounds of North American do, and I'm sure all these have their counterparts in Asia.

The first thing that can be said is that it's really fun being in these places. I think that if a kind of exhilaration isn't your first response then either the original builders forgot some of the important principles, or you should try again another day. Just being in the precincts sort of puts things in a healthier perspective. You--with all your list of worries and concerns that loom so large --suddenly seem blissfully small and unimportant. You're here to explore a new and bigger world. If I'm sure of anything, I'm sure this effect was part of the builders' intent.

Anyway, I've never been to Luxor, but I think Luxor Temple is probably an especially potent example of this whole thing. In the middle of the 20th century, an amateur French Egyptologist named R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz spent fifteen years poking around, measuring, sketching, photographing and meditating on Luxor Temple. He decided that Luxor was the height of the Egyptian science of sacred architecture, the "Parthenon of Egypt" and, as he ended up calling it, the Temple of Man. de Lubicz believed that one of the principals of sacred architecture is that its structures are in some sense "alive." And nowhere was this more true than at Luxor. He came to decide that the temple was symbolically a huge human body. Laying a medically accurate rendering of an adult male skeleton over a plan of Luxor Temple--head at the top by the Holy of Holies, feet at the bottom by the Pylon Gate--he believed he found a key to the design and function of the temple.

The first section of the Temple of Luxor, the Court of Ramesses the Second, corresponds to the legs from the knees down. What do you find in the Court of Ramesses the Second? You're surrounded by statues of Ramesses in an unusual striding position with the lower leg from the knee down extended forward so that at certain times of day the shin, alone of the whole statue, catches the light.

At the point in the Temple where the skeleton overlay indicates the genitals, there is a wall carving of a pharaoh with a huge erection ("ithyphallic" the Egyptologists call it. ) Where the navel should be is an inscription that says,"Here is the true birthplace of the Pharaoh." At the point where the first of the twelve vertebrae begins is a depiction of twelve interlinked horsedrawn chariots. Moving up into the Hypostyle Hall, you enter the domain of the lungs. The lungs are governed by the moon in Egyptian microcosmology, and the bases of the pillars in the Hall depict the moon processing through its full cycle. The Hall of the Twelve Columns corresponds to the eyes, and is dedicated to solar symbolism, the light by which we see. Two more final steps along the way take you to the triple sanctuary, whose three interlinked holy of holies shrines form a band across the top of the skull, Finally, the dome of the skull rises to enclose and complete the sanctuaries, the very top of the skull rising out of the top of the temple to absorb the power of the Egyptian sun and start it circulating through the body of the Temple again.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was true. After all, it seems to me that the purpose of these places is to coordinate the little cosmos--you--with the big cosmos--the universe.To show how you fit into the really big picture. I've noticed on more than one occasion that the first sensation when entering some sacred precinct is that I felt bigger. They stretch you and pull the kinks out, like a spiritual chiropractor.

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