EXPLORING THE GREAT PYRAMID
by Dr. Robert M. Schoch © 2005
Scrambling up a series of rickety wooden ladders tied together, I had to see for myself this “definitive proof” that the Great Pyramid was simply built as a tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops). Climbing nearly thirty feet above the floor of the Grand Gallery at its southern (upper) end, I crawled through an entrance barely two feet wide and on hands and knees made my way through a horizontal tunnel about twenty feet long, and then up a series of smaller ladders, trying to keep the horrendous dust I could not help but kick up out of my eyes and lungs.
I was now climbing virtually straight up along a passage that had been blasted out with gunpowder in 1837 by the men working for the English explorer Colonel Howard Vyse. I passed a low-ceilinged chamber, with only enough room to squat, and then another one, and a third, a fourth, until finally I reached the fifth “secret” chamber, the one that Vyse had named “Campbell’s Chamber.” Here the roof is not flat and low like the other chambers, but you can actually stand up and stretch after slithering on your belly like a snake through the most narrow of openings blasted by Vyse in one corner.
Why had I come here? It was more than idle curiosity to see the chambers, which indeed many professional Egyptologists have never seen. I was on a quest to get to the heart of the meaning, the raison d’être, of the Great Pyramid. Were these simply “chambers of construction” or “relief chambers,” meant to help support the enormous weight over the so-called King’s Chamber? If so, why aren’t there any relieving chambers over the Queen’s Chamber, or the Grand Gallery for that matter? Both of these structures, being lower in the pyramid, carry even more weight. Or are these somehow resonance chambers, a part of a giant machine that the pyramid forms? Are these the Hidden Heights, representative of the Halls of Amenti, the place of the Hidden God, as suggested by W. Marsham Adams back in 1895 and described in many of the ancient sacred texts?
Something that Howard Vyse had supposedly discovered in this uppermost chamber was a cartouche, the name of the king, which read “Khufu” roughly scrawled on the ceiling by some ancient hand in a red paint. The royal name of Khufu here was presumably the ironclad proof some Egyptologists had long sought to prove the Great Pyramid was nothing more than a huge mausoleum for the egomaniacal Fourth Dynasty King Khufu (Cheops), circa 2550 B.C. Making my way over the uneven blocks that compose the floor of Campbell’s Chamber, using a copy of Vyse’s original drawings as a guide, I found the long-sought cartouche in the back corner surrounded by hideous nineteenth- and twentieth-century graffiti. But the cartouche was there, sure enough, and it indeed read “Khufu”! So is this the end of the story? Are the traditional Egyptologists correct in their assertion that the Great Pyramid is nothing more than the gigantic tomb of King Khufu? Maybe not. Indeed on seeing the cartouche, I knew this was just the beginning of my adventure.
For one thing, this particular cartouche is turned up on end, and I would soon see in the other chambers that many of the red-painted inscriptions are completely up side down. What is going on here? Well, no one was meant to view these inscriptions once the pyramid was completed and access to these chambers cut off. Vyse had suggested they were nothing but “quarry marks” put on the blocks by the gangs that cut, hauled, and positioned the stone. But was Howard Vyse being totally honest? Had maybe his workmen who blasted and chiseled their way into these chambers in fact drawn ea these crude “Egyptian” inscriptions on the blocks themselves? Were these just fakes? Studying them closely, however, they looked authentically ancient to me. I could see later mineral crystals precipitated over them, a process that takes centuries or millennia, and the inscriptions continue under the overlying blocks. But, there are more cartouches than the one of Khufu in the chambers. Working my way down, sweating profusely and covered with grime, I explored Lady Arbuthnot’s Chamber at length. Here are the most, if not best preserved, cartouches - - and not a single one says “Khufu”! Rather, here are found two different kinds of cartouches. In one of the complete cartouches I could read “Khnum-Khuf,” where “Khuf” or “Khufu” means “he protects me” and “Khnum” is the name a god, so the whole name may be interpreted as “the god Khnum protects me.” But who or what is being protected? Is it King Khufu, or is the god Khnum actually protecting the Great Pyramid? Another complete cartouche has been interpreted simply as the name of the god, “Khnum.”
Who or what was Khnum-Khuf? The early Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie suggested back in 1883 that maybe Khufu and Khnum-Khuf were co-regents that shared the throne of Egypt. Even more radically, it has been suggested that these cartouches are not even the names of a person or persons, but rather either different names for a single god, or the names for several different gods. The researcher William Fix hypothesized (in his book Pyramid Odyssey, 1978, p. 93), based both on the attributes of various gods, their symbolism, and etymological similarities, that “Khnum, Khnoum, Khufu, Souphis, Khnoubis, Chnouphis, Tehuti, Thoth, Mercury, Enoch, Hermes, and possibly ‘Christos’ are simply different representations of the same figure and power that finds remarkably similar expression in cosmologies extending over many thousands of years.”
Is the Great Pyramid essentially the Book of Thoth memorialized in stone, as Marsham Adams contended? Did the postulant, the initiate, and the adept follow through the interior of the Great Pyramid to be subjected to trials of body and soul, ultimately (if successful) to die and be born again, finding illumination? Were the chambers of the Great Pyramid used for initiation rituals, just as the crypts and passages of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, or the Temple of Osiris would be thousands of years later? I left the hidden heights of the Great Pyramid and was now determined to plummet its innermost depths. I was off to the Subterranean Chamber deep within the bowels of the rock under the Great Pyramid.
First, though, I found myself again in the inexplicable Grand Gallery. Nothing like it is found in any of the other Pyramids of Egypt, or in the world for that matter. Many explanations have been proposed for the Grand Gallery and the intricate internal geometry of the Great Pyramid. Was it an ancient power plant or a giant water pump? Was this all designed as a mechanism to interface or transition the pharaoh from life unto death to an eternal afterlife? Or was the Great Pyramid a product of the ancient Egyptian emphasis on the stars, where the Grand Gallery was at one time open at the top and could serve as a huge astronomical device used to observe the night sky in those pre-telescopic days? Or was it a gallery that displayed the images of the gods, or the ancestors of pharaohs? Was it a Hall of Judgment where the postulant was questioned?
The mystery only deepens when we consider the narrow passages and two chambers, one off the top of the Grand Gallery and the other off the bottom of the Grand Gallery, traditionally known as the King’s Chamber and the Queen’s Chamber respectively. Totally lined with granite shipped down the Nile from Aswan, the King’s Chamber is not only a glorious site to the eyes, but a sensation to the ears as well. The acoustics and resonance qualities of the chamber, and indeed of the entire pyramid, are striking. To chant and meditate in the King’s Chamber is a powerful emotional experience, one that I shared vicariously with Napoleon. It is said the dictator, ordering his aides away, asked to be left alone in the King’s Chamber for the night. The next morning he emerged pale and shaken, refusing to his dying days to talk about what he had experienced there.
At one end of the King’s Chamber sits a huge, lidless, solid granite “sarcophagus” or “coffer” - - so this proves, many a traditional Egyptologist has claimed, that this is where the pharaoh was interred. Problem is, no riches or funeral trappings were ever found in the Great Pyramid. Tourists meditate and chant in the King’s Chamber, and given the opportunity, will take turns lying in the granite coffer. It is an experience that is difficult to describe. I felt this was more a place of rebirth than death, and the granite box was more closely related to a baptismal font than a sarcophagus.
On the north and south walls of the King’s Chamber are small openings that lead to narrow channels that run up and out to the exterior of the pyramid. Sometimes referred to as airshafts or ventilation shafts, it was long thought that they were simply functional, bringing fresh air to the chamber. But if it was a tomb, why would the deceased need all this fresh air? Was this room actually used by living persons - - perhaps for initiation or religious rituals? But what of the exactness and perfection of the shafts, pointing directly into the northern and southern sky? Four thousand five hundred years ago the northern shaft pointed to the star Thuban in the constellation Draco while the southern shaft pointed to the belt of Orion (associated with Osiris by the ancient Egyptians).
Next I made my way down the Grand Gallery and into the Queen’s Chamber which is smaller, and perhaps even stranger, than the King’s Chamber. It has a gabled, pointed roof and a niche in one wall that mysteriously seems to reflect the cross section of the Grand Gallery. Was a statue or mummy placed here in the very heart of the Great Pyramid? Was it designed to hold a pendulum clock ticking away the moments of eternity? Or was it left empty, as the empty chamber in a Buddhist stupa, signifying the divine void that is all and nothing and is beyond mortal comprehension. And then there are the shafts that run from the north and south walls of the Queen’s Chamber. The southern shaft apparently pointed toward the star Sirius (which the ancient Egyptians associated with the goddess Isis) in the ancient night sky while the northern shaft pointed toward the constellation we now know as the little dipper. In the case of the Queen’s chamber, there is no question that these shafts were never used for the mundane purpose of ventilation. Not discovered until 1872, originally they stopped some inches behind the stone covering the walls. In the 1990s robots were sent up them with small video cameras to explore, discovering small doors blocking the shafts! Later a robot drilled through one door, only to discover another door behind it.
Next I crawled down hundreds of feet through the Descending Passage to the chaotic Subterranean Chamber. Carved in the bedrock underlying the Great Pyramid, this room looks truly chaotic. Huge chunks of rock emerge from the floor, and there is also a strange “well” or “pit” on one end. Many traditional Egyptologists consider the Subterranean Chamber unfinished or abandoned. But why an unfinished chamber in what is arguably the most precisely aligned and built structure in the entire world? I received a powerful, strange sensation in this chamber. Other people have picked up powerful energies here also, as have inanimate machines!
At the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory of Princeton University, since 1979, scientists have been running credible experiments on such much-maligned subjects as extrasensory perception and the interactions of consciousness with matter. Sophisticated, highly sensitive, and finely calibrated electronic random event generators (REGs) can be used to measure, by the machines picking up anomalous non-random trends, the influence of mind over matter - - that is psychokinesis and the effects of consciousness on matter. Dr. Roger Nelson, an expert on the use of these REGs, carried a REG on a trip to Egypt in the 1990s and found many anomalies in the inner sanctums of various ancient temples. He also visited the Great Pyramid. Dr. Nelson found relatively little unusual activity in the King’s or Queen’s Chambers, but in the Subterranean Chamber the machine became very “excited.”
Some researchers believe the Great Pyramid was built as a Freemasonic or Rosicrucian temple. Perhaps the “Rite of the Little Dead,” during which the initiate spent three days in total darkness without food or water experiencing altered states of consciousness, took place in the Subterranean Chamber. Dr. Nelson’s startling REG results are compatible with this hypothesis, as well as with a suggestion made by Robert Bauval, one I had independently been thinking about too. Perhaps the Subterranean Chamber, and the natural rock mound in which it is found - - a rock mound that is now covered over by and enclosed in the Great Pyramid - - is much older than the Great Pyramid itself? Was it considered sacred for thousands of years before the Great Pyramid was actually built?
It was getting late and the Egyptian authorities wanted me out of the Great Pyramid. Up through the Descending Passage and out to the dark cool night sky with the lights of Cairo in the distance. My head filled with reverie, I began to think back to the late afternoon when I had first arrived at the foot of the Great Pyramid. Before entering I had examined the few blocks remaining of the once beautiful, highly polished, finely jointed façade. The four sides are aligned to the cardinal points with a degree of accuracy that is nearly impossible to duplicate in a building of this size and mass today. Many people do not realize it, but the four sides of the Great Pyramid are not perfectly flat, but hollow slightly in, an effect that can only be seen under the right conditions. This hollowing may have been used in ancient days to determine the precise times of the equinoxes and solstices by observing the changing shadows on the sides of the Great Pyramid, an incredibly subtle and highly sophisticated methodology on a building whose base covers thirteen acres and stands over four hundred and fifty feet high.
On the airplane from Cairo to New York the next day, my head filled with ancient dreams, I thought of what my Egyptian friend Emil Shaker had told me. Looking at a map of Egypt, the outlines of the country can be compared to a person, or more specifically the resurrected person in the form of Osiris, with raised and outstretched arms. The head of Osiris is the Great Pyramid, the body and legs are the Nile stretching to the south, the delta is the up-stretched arms that touch the Mediterranean Sea, which represents the sky. Osiris is both welcoming and gathering his children. The Great Pyramid beckons. Egypt draws one in. The quest had begun.
A not-so-final note: I had been to Egypt before, and I have found myself traveling to Egypt on many more occasions. The quest is not yet over. After much meticulous study, I have concluded that the beginnings of the Great Pyramid extend back in time hundreds of years earlier than generally thought, indicating a level of sophistication not usually acknowledged for such a remote period. In many ways, tracing the history and meaning of the Great Pyramid is key to understanding our origins as civilized beings. The Great Pyramid is not just a stagnant pile of ancient rock, but a structure that embodies the human spirit and it has lessons to teach us today.
Robert M. Schoch’s most recent book, co-authored with Robert Aquinas McNally, is Pyramid Quest: Secrets of the Great Pyramid and the Dawn of Civilization (Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, June 2005). Previous books by Schoch and McNally are Voices of the Rocks: A Scientist Looks at Catastrophes and Ancient Civilizations (1999) and Voyages of the Pyramid Builders: The True Origins of the Pyramids from Lost Egypt to Ancient America (2003).
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