16. A journey to holiness

Gods in Egypt


The Egyptian cultural period offers a well-documented development of division thinking in a cultural unity over a long period. The major two-division is between North and South and the political powers, which originated in either the northern (Heliopolis) or southern (Memphis) region. However, there is also an eastern and western side of the Nile. The first to represent the living (the present) and the second to bury the dead (the great beyond)(KEES, 1926/1956; HORNUNG, 1972; TEICHMANN, 1978). A combination in a natural division of two pairs of opposites results in a four-parted unity.

The topographical division can be experienced on a higher spiritual level as a classification of the universe. These thoughts took shape in the Old Kingdom (2635 – 2155 BC.) when the pyramids were surrounded by various functional representations, complementing the four-fold structure (fig. 78).


Fig. 78 – The pyramid complex in the Old Kingdom can be seen as a four-staged journey to holiness. The mental movement follows the light from the east (where the sun comes up) to the west (where the sun goes down) and can be divided in four stages:

1. The temple near the river Nile connects the living with earth, water and day-to-day life;

2. The (covered) road represents the choice in a visible world and leads in a linear direction towards the holy;

3. The temple of the dead in front of the pyramid is the preparation at the end of the road;

4. The pyramid is the ultimate four-fold manifestation of the world of the dead and afterlife on this world.

The pyramids are, without doubt, a monument of a particular form of tetradic thinking, despite all the nonsense, which is written over the years on their shape, measurements, position and so on. The (tetradic) thoughts may not have been spelled out at the time of the building, but can be reconstructed.

This effort to understand the actual meaning of the historical builders started in the Egyptian culture itself, in the Middle and New Kingdom, and was taken up in the European cultural history at the end of the eighteenth century. Although much has been discovered since, there is still not a definite clue of the ‘tetradic spirit’, which initiated the building of the most impressive buildings ever erected by man.

The  ‘Book of the Gates’, covering the walls of graves from king Haremheb (1333 – 1306 BC.) onwards – and is prominent in the grave of Ramses I – is a simplification of the ‘Book of Amduat’. The scenes with the sun-barque are reduced from nine to three. Gods are more represented in groups (fig. 79) and the names are less important (HORNUNG, 1972).


Fig. 79 – Some four-fold divisions in the ‘Book of the Gates’. 1. The god Atum and the four directions (8th scene); 2. Apes worships the sun; 3. Gods carrying a light  (82nd scene); 4. Four gods (87th scene); 5. Gods with rams-heads and Uas-scepter (85th scene); 6. Four apes with human fist (90th scene). In1. HORNUNG (1972) (1, 3-6) and ERMAN (1909) (2).

The cyclic nature in the four-fold division of the world of the gods is well developed in northern Egypt (Heliopolis), and particularly in the later dynasties (GOFF, 1979; WOLDERING, 1981). The framework of the supra-natural universe is a combination of two- and fourfold units adding up to a nine-fold unity, the so-called ‘Ennead of Heliopolis’ (fig. 80). The creation-myth starts with Atum (generated from his own)(I), begetting Sjoe and Tefnoet as female and male children (II). This couple begets Geb (earth) and Noet (heaven)(III). They, in turn, have four children: Osiris, Isis, Seth en Nepthys (IV). In a later stage a differentiation of the four-fold division takes place: Isis and Horus are a holy nine-fold and Nepthys and Osiris create Anubis. The basic division is, however, as follows:


Fig. 80 – The ennead of Heliopolis represented as a possible development of division thinking.

The division of Creation is a combination of two pairs of opposites, made up by the top-members of the ennead (1 – 4; 2 – 3):

                                                                    1.  Re       (sun and heaven),

                                                                    2.  Shu     (the air),


                                                                    3.  Geb     (the earth)

                                                                    4.  Osiris   (the underworld),

The scheme in Memphis (Sakkara), south of Cairo, is different, although there are also nine gods involved. The southern influence of (the eight gods of) Hermopolis is joined here with Ptah (the creating god) into a unit of nine. The text which describes this event is engraved into the ‘Shabaka Stone‘, around 700 BC. and now in the British Museum. The sources of this text are much older and go back from the First to the Fourth Dynasty (2925 – 2450 BC.).

The suggestion in fig. 81 is an effort to visualize the spiritual development of the gods of Memphis, who reached a strong presence in the Nineteenth Dynasty (1307 – 1196 BC.), under pharaohs like Seti I and Ramses II.

The primal unity, the god Horus (I), generates a primary four-fold division, represented by his sons (II). The two-fold division of Ptah and Sechmet (III) makes up the visible part of the spectrum and is – later – jointed by Nefertum to form a trinity, sometimes expanded by Imhotep, the builder of the step pyramid of Zoser (2630 BC.), into a tetradic pluriformity. The third quadrant (III), as the position of the physical observations and creations, remains the most important. Pta, ‘the very great one’, is historically the centre-point, who joins with the local goddess Sechmet, shaped as a lion.


Fig. 81 – The different gods of Memphis are given here in a quadralectic reconstruction based on the associated numbers in the various stages. The creation-theory of Memphis is, more then the spiritual-physical orientated one of Heliopolis, put forward as an intellectual system, nurtured by a human point of view. Thinking and saying (‘sia’ and ‘hoe‘) are the real creative powers. The alternation between unity and multitude is another characteristic.

The city of Hermopolis, situated in Middle Egypt, had a particular worship of the gods based on eight basic powers (KEES, 1956). They are divided in four pairs, the so-called ‘ogdoade‘ of Hermopolis:

                                                Noen  +  Naoenet  (the primal water)

                                                Hoeh  +  Haoehet  (the endless space)

                                                Koek  +  Kaoeket  (the darkness)

                                                Amoen +  Amaoenet (the unknown)

The male powers are figured as frogs and the female gods as snakes (fig. 82). The four pairs are the synthesis of a two- and a fourfold way of thinking, which is typical for the Egyptian cultural period.


Fig. 82 – The ogdoade of Hermopolis. The sun god Ra sits on a lotus blossom in the Messer Lake and appears for four gods with frogs’ heads alternating with four gods with snake heads. In: STRELOCKE, 1979.

In other places in Egypt, there is also a concentration of worship caught in a four-fold structure: the four crocodile-gods of Fajum, the four bulls of Hermonthis, Tuphium, Karnak and Medamud and the rams-heads of Chnum in Elephantine, Esna, Hypsele and Antinoë.

The god Chnum is the Creator, the father of all fathers and the mother of all mothers and finally the whole world (LURKER, 1974/1980). Sometimes Chnum is depicted behind a potters wheel, where a young king is created from the clay (fig. 83).


Fig. 83 – The creation of man on a potters wheel. Chum shapes the young king and his ‘ka‘, while the goddess Hathor holds the ‘ankh‘, the symbol of life. On a monument of Amenhotep III (1405 – 1370 BC.) at Luxor. In: BRANDON, 1969/1973.

Another creation-story was concerned with the division of heaven and earth and was reconstructed by Maspero (ERMAN, 1909). The god Nut is lifted by the sky-god Schu, while Keb, the god of the earth, lies on the ground. This representation seems like a three-fold affair, although in some cases – like in the Book of Dead of Deir el Bahrti (Greenfield papyrus, XXI Dynasty, tenth century BC.) – Sjoe is assisted by two other goddesses, bringing the total of contribitants of the creation to five.

The god Osiris is responsible for the return of the seasons and rebirth. Later this cyclic renewal is symbolized by the bird Phoenix (also called Bennu or bnw) (RUNDLE CLARK, 1949/1950) (fig. 84). The House of Bennu is closely related to the creation-myth of Heliopolis.


Fig. 84 – The bird Phoenix is the symbol of cyclic periods in time and therefore closely related to an important aspect of the (modern) quadralectic way of thinking. In: GERU, 1974.

The length of a period, as stated by several classical authors, can vary (WALLA, 1969). Most common is a period of five hundred years, mentioned by Herodotus (480 – 430 BC.) and Ovidius (in the ‘Metamorphoses’). Others, like Plinius, Martial, Laktanz and Claudian, report a thousand-year period.

GUTBUG (1977) noticed – in an article on the ‘Four Winds’ in the temple of Kom Ombol (Upper Egypt) – that the four directions occur in the early pyramid times as half gods in an undifferentiated shape and only much later as distinct figures: ‘Es ist bemerkenswert, dass die vier Winde als geschlossene Darstellungsgruppe nur auf Reliefs der ptolemäischen und römischen Zeit vorkommen’ (p. 337) (It is remarkable that the four winds as a representational unit only figure on reliefs in the Ptolemaean and Roman times). From the second century BC to the second century AD about eighteen theriomorphe (or mixed) figured like the four-headed rams-heads (fig. 85/86/87) are known (GUTBUG, 1977; p. 241). There is also a connection with Schu, the son of Re, who sends the winds to the Four Corners of the world.


Fig. 85 – Sun god as a ram with four heads New Kingdom (1150 – 1050 BC.). This is an early occurrence of the motif. In: GUTBUG, 1977.

These few examples are only fragments of a much wider occurrence of division-orientated thinking within the Egyptian cultural period. SETHE (1916) draws attention to the ‘runde oder heilige Zahlen‘ (round and holy figures), which are used over a long period of time. The figure four is, in his view, of prime importance: ‘Die Vier ist die eigentliche heilige Zahl der Ägypter‘ (The figure four is the real holy number of the Egyptians). And he added (p. 32): ‘In den späteren Zeiten der ägyptischen Geschichte scheint die Zahl 4 als heilige Zahl mehr und mehr hinter der 7 zurückzutreten‘ (In the later period of the Egyptian history the figure four as a holy number seems to be outshine by the number seven).

These observations are of importance in a modern, quadralectic approach to history. Not only is the timing of the sphere of interest of the observer (i.c. the European cultural period) with regard to the Egyptian history of significance, but also – in the same interaction – the interpretation of the various periods of prominence of a certain type of division-thinking. This type of historical research, based on a philosophical framework, has only recently been discovered.


Fig. 86 – Left: The God Chum, the Creator, with four heads of a ram (In: CHAMPOLLION, 1823); Right: The god Amun-Re with the spirit of the four directions. From the New Kingdom. (In: JUNG,  1953/1968) and ENDRES & SCHIMMEL, 1984).


Fig. 87 – The Four Winds as a lion with four heads. From the time of Ptolemaeus XI Neos Dionysos (80 – 51 BC.); Dendara, Egypt. In: GUTBUG, 1977.

The four-parted element in the Egyptian culture was associated with creation and death. Beginning and end, the marker pointing to a dichotomous view, are intrinsic constituents of tetradic thinking. They provide the range of physical visibility in a communication.


Fig. 88 – The four sons of Horus. The urns with intestines of the dead were closely related to tetradic symbolism. The canopic vessels represented, from left to right: Hapy (baboon), Doeamoetef (jackal), Amset (human) and Kebehsenoef (falcon). They contained the vital parts of the body: Hapy guarded the lungs, Doeamoetef the stomach, Amset the liver and Kebehsenoef the intestines. In: GUTBUG,  1977.

The children of Horus were an important element in the Egyptian funeral-cult. They were shaped in so-called ‘kanopen‘ (fig. 88). These were vessels, which contained the ashes of the dead:

                   Sons of Horus                             Shape                                   Content


                        Amset                                      human                                   liver

                        Hapy                                        baboon                                  lungs

                         Doeamoetef                           jackal                                    stomach

                        Kebehsenoef                           falcon                                   intestines

The custom to preserve the body parts in vessels went back to the earliest dynasties: the oldest known kanopen-chest was of the mother of Cheops, Queen Hetepheres (RAVEN, 1992). The funeral custom of the kanopen became interrupted during the XXth Dynasty (1196 – 1080 BC), because King Ramses V (1156 – 1151 BC.) had his primary organs stored in four separate packages in the abdominal cavity. This type of tradition lasted for about four hundred years.  The use of the vessels was only restored in the Egyptian renaissance of the XXVth and XXVIth Dynasty (713 – 525 BC). However, the kanopen were produced in the intervening period (Third Intermediate Period, 1070 – 713 BC), but only as fake vessels or statues. They were not used to contain the vital organs of the dead.

Another occurrence of tetradic imagery in the afterworld is the Lake of Fire, which is represented in the ‘Book of the Dead’ (WALLIS BUDGE, 1901/1905) (fig. 89).


Fig. 89 – Two examples of tetradic symbolism in the Egyptian mythology are given here. Above: The Lake of Fire from the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’. Below: The same motif from the papyrus Ani.

The pyramids of the Old Kingdom (2600 – 2100 BC) are the hallmark of Egypt and a cultural statement of prime importance. These signs have to be understood in the tetradic spirit. Unfortunately, many statements about the pyramids, presented under the mimicry of science and pseudo-science, demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of the Egyptian historical background.

The tendency to bring the ‘unconscious’  ideas of the Old Kingdom down to earth is immanent in the ‘realistic’ Middle Kingdom (2000 – 1600 BC). Details are now important, leading to an increased visibility, but a loss of the width of the spectrum. In the New Kingdom (1500 – 1070 BC) the historic visibility reached a climax. By that time, the representational aspects (of power) developed into a cult.

The urge to visualize ideas means a shift into the world of opposites. Delineation and putting a mark are the means to achieve visibility in an invisible world. By doing so, the invisible world looses its wholeness and becomes intelligible. All (cultural) entities, which reach a degree of prominence in historical hindsight, have to go through this stage. The old ideas and images are reworked and get a new meaning. They are consciously blending with modern elements to reach an explicit expression and driven by the intention to fit the past into a new understanding.

The euphoria of this understanding cannot last forever, although it endured for nearly five hundred years in the Egyptian cultural history. It will fade away in its own understanding. In Egyptian history this period is sometimes called the Third Intermediate Period (1070 – 713 BC) (KITCHEN, 1972).

A new consciousness of the past emerged towards the end of the cultural presence of Egypt, in the XXVth and XXVIth dynasty. Old ideas revived, up to a point of decadence. Any person who has visited the graves of the Apis-bulls (Serapeum or Serapeion) in Sakkara, knows what that means. Psammetich I built, around 600 BC, a long, under-ground tunnel with enormous tombs to bury the bulls. The twenty-four red granite and black diorite sarcophagus weigh up to sixty-five tons, and were shipped from Assuan, some 750 km to the south. It was the last, incredible engineering performance inspired by religion, before the dawn of a great historical and cultural presence started to fall.

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