Temple of the Cosmos by Jeremy Naydler
I have had the pleasure of reading Temple of the Cosmos – The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred by Jeremy Naydler. I read the book per the recommendation of Mer-Rekh on Twitter. I can right away state that the book is highly interesting. Up until now, I had not delved deeper into the religion and metaphysics of the Ancient Egyptians, but their Gods have always had a certain place in my heart – not in the same way as the Indo-European Gods, but a place nonetheless. I had the great fortune of playing Age of Mythology in my younger years (which instilled a love for mythology). I am no stranger to Egyptian history and have always viewed the civilisation with admiration.
Whenever I review books, I note down particularly interesting pages and passages which contain insights that I wish to share. This book contains a spectacular amount of those! Below are but a few.
A Divine Land
The author notes that the Ancient Egyptians were much more connected to the divine (spiritual, metaphysical) than modern man. The two quotes below explains this quite well:
‘The physical universe had a “vertical dimension”; it reached up into, and included within itself, spiritual realities that for the modern consciousness are no longer a living experience.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 2.
‘The Egyptians themselves did not experience any gulf separating the spiritual from the physical realm. There was little in nature that could not effectively communicate a divine power. The starts, sun, moon, wind, and earth – all were gods or expressions of gods to them. Animals, plants, trees, serpents – all were capable of mediating a divine presence. For the Egyptians the natural world was full of gods. And the world of physical objects could equally become filled with divine powers.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 133.
Statues and Idols
On the same page as the passage above, the author explains that the Egyptians never worshipped idols and that idolatry was not an issue. The reason for this is that the concept of an idol (i.e. a mere physical object) was unconceivable for the Egyptian mind – the physical and metaphysical did not have the clear distinction as they would come to have in later centuries. The concept of an idol was introduced by the Israelites. We encountered a similar discussion regarding idolatry in our review of The Agni and The Ecstasy by Steven J. Rosen. Also interesting to note is that the Egyptians ensouled statues in rituals.
Horus and Seth – The Two Lands
A central conflict in the Egyptian cosmology is that between Horus and Seth. Horus is connected to the life-giving powers of the Nile; Seth is connected to the death of the desert. The conflict is thus between creation and destruction – order and chaos. This conflict was seen in the very landscape itself with the annual rise and decline of the Nile. Just as the Germanic weltanschauung was intertwined with the cycles of the year, so was the Egyptian (although these cycles are, of course, quite different).
‘From the beginning, the Delta was the domain of Horus while Upper Egypt was the province of Seth, the great opponent from whom the imperiled life and fecundity of the Nile valley had annually to be won. Seth ruled the desert; the desert was Seth’s land. And Seth was eternally opposed by Horus; eternally combatted and defeated.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 2.
The author goes on to note that Egypt was referred to the Two Lands not only because of the distinction between the North and the South, but also because of the contrast between the fertile Black Lands of the Nile (black = fertile soil) and the Red Lands of the desert. Metaphysically speaking, there was also the distinction between the spiritual realm on the one hand and the world of lifeless matter on the other.
‘Horus rules in opposition to Seth. Horus is the protector of life, the guarantor of order and harmony on earth. Seth is the destroyer of life, the instigator of disorder and chaos.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 71.
Horus was associated with the king; Seth with enemies.
East and West of the Nile
The author notes that the physical geography of Egypt played a role in their metaphysical conception of the world. The rise of the sun – the daily rebirth of Ra – was in the east. His descent into the realm of the dead was in the west. Therefore, mortuary temples and similar structures had to be on the western side of the Nile (the side of the dead).
A Beautiful Poem and an Epic Quote
As loyal readers will know, I am always on the lookout for beautiful poems and epic quotes. To my great delight, I found several in this book. Below is a hymn to the Sun-God Ra:
‘Splendid you rise, O living sun, eternal Lord!Temple of the Cosmos. Page 2.
You are radiant, beauteous, mighty,
Your love is great, immense.
Your rays light up all faces.
Your bright hue gives life to hearts,
When you fill the Two Lands with your love.’
In the chapter titled The Marriage of Myth and History, the author notes that historical events were often presented as mythological. The Battle of Kadesh was a historical battle between the Egyptians under Ramesses II and the Hittites under Muwatalli II. Below is an epic quote which tells of the battle in a mythological fashion:
‘I was like Ra, when he rises at dawn.Battle of Kadesh Inscription (the quote appears on page 115 in Temple of the Cosmos).
My rays, they burned the rebels’ bodies,
They called out to another:
“Beware, take care, don’t approach him…
Anyone who goes to approach him,
Fire’s breath comes to burn his body.”
Thereupon they stood at a distance,
Kissing the ground before me.’
In the same chapter, the author notes that Egypt’s enemies – Ethiopians to the south, Libyans to the west, Asiatics to the east – became symbols of the archetypal enemy that the king of Egypt had to eternally defeat. In this chapter, he also refers to the teachings of Mircea Eliade, whom we have encountered before – in our review of The Myth of the Eternal Return, for example.
Religion and Magic
The author notes that for the Egyptians, religion and magic were not separated – religion was magical. Moreover, he notes that, generally speaking, it was necessary to be a magician in order to hold office of state. This makes perfect sense with the knowledge of how important spiritual matters were for the people – a ‘separation of church and state’ would have been an absurd proposition! He also elaborates on the importance of Egyptian magic to the later Western Esoteric tradition. He shares the following quote by Jakob Böhme (1575–1624), a German philosopher and mystic:
‘Magic is the best theology, for in it true faith is both grounded and found. And he is a fool that reviles it, for he knows it not, and blasphemes against both God and himself, and is more a juggler than a theologian of understanding.’Jakob Böhme (the quote appears on page 122 in Temple of the Cosmos).
He also shares the following quote by good old Paracelsus (1493–1541):
‘Magic is the greatest wisdom and the knowledge of supernatural powers… acquired by obtaining more spirituality and making oneself capable to feel and to see the things of the spirit.’Paracelsus (the quote appears on page 123 in Temple of the Cosmos).
We encountered both Jakob Böhme and Paracelsus in our review of Evola’s The Hermetic Tradition.
In the chapter titled The Theology of Magic, the author notes that the hieroglyphs were the product of a different mentality than the modern (more profane) one – therefore, it is a misconception to only view the hieroglyphs as symbols without a deeper meaning. In this sense, they remind us of the Runes – which all contain deep mysteries and teachings (I will elaborate at length about the Runes in my upcoming book).
Ka – Ancestral Vital Energy
The book contains many interesting passages about the various metaphysical elements of a person. Elaborating on these lies beyond the scope of this book review; but one metaphysical element of particular interest is the Ka – the source of a persons vital energy. This energy was (for the common people) bestowed by an extraneous source:
‘This was the ancestral group that existed in the spirit world as a source of power at one with ka energy. It was the ancestors who directed this energy toward the physical realm, thereby infusing not only human beings but also animals and crops with vitality.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 193.
One could say that the Egyptian dead were not really dead, but influenced the living world in a sense. The author notes that ‘going to the Ka‘ was an experience of becoming absorbed into the ancestral group.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
In case you encountered Thoth’s War Elephant of Enlightenment on Telegram, Twitter, or Instagram and wondered where he is from, I can reveal that the picture you see is a screenshot from Assassin’s Creed: Origins. AC: Origins is one of the better games in the franchise, and a game I can recommend for those who are into gaming and Ancient Egypt. The game is not set in the Ancient Egypt of the native Egyptian pharaohs, but rather Egypt during the Hellenistic era – in any case, the aesthetics and setting are great!
As noted in the introduction, I thoroughly enjoyed this fine tome of knowledge and can definitely recommend it not only for those interested in Ancient Egypt, but also to those interested in spiritual matters in general. The book is 286 pages and written in accessible language. Great stuff!
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