The Hidden Threads of Crypto-History
A Multi-Part Exploration of Alternative Theories of the Human Experience
According to paleoclimatology, between the close of the Ice Age and approximately 6,000 BC, North Africa was a veritable paradise of lush grasslands and sporadic forests, watered by regular rainfall made possible by an atmosphere saturated with moisture from the retreat of the great glaciers to the north. Across this virtual Eden wandered tiny bands of preliterate neolithics, the remnants of the Cro-Magnon population that survived the catastrophic close of the Ice Age. Also at around this same time, the so-called Neolithic Revolution took place -- the birth of agriculture, animal husbandry and the raising of crops.
How and why did the Nile Valley's Neolithic, or late Stone Age, hunter-gatherers who had started experimenting with agriculture and animal husbandry, so rapidly progress to urbanisation and state formation at a time when the rest of humanity slumbered in prehistory? A precise answer is still a matter of conjecture.
A third factor is also thought to be in play at the end of the period we describe above, one that was critical to the Nile's taking its pivotal place in history. Just as our Ice Age survivors began to experiment with planting seeds obtained from wild grasses such as emer, and settling down to a more sedentary lifestyle, the climate shifted (perhaps triggered by a change in Earth's orbit), leading to the increasing desertification of North Africa. The growth of large tracts of desert in what was to eventually become the Sahara increasingly restricted interaction between those who were becoming Egyptians and their neighbours; and, the increasingly arid environment and changed rainfall patterns began to force the North African peoples into the continually dwindling drainage valleys. By 5000 BC, when the first villages were beginning to emerge, they were concentrated in the major remaining river valley, that of the Nile.
It was here that Egypt (which would become known as the two lands, denoting its Upper Nile and Lower Nile components) emerged, to flourish as one of the world's great civilizations by as early as 3800 BC (Naqada phase, during the transition from Amratian to Gerzean culture), with the first great king, Menes, reigning over the two kingdoms from his capital at Memphis (by either 3130 BC or 2550 BC, depending on which dating schema is used).
This is the conventional history, as championed by establishment scholars such as Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, and Mark Lehner, a leading Egyptologist and head of the Giza Mapping Project.
But there are other views, contrary to the dogma of conventional Egyptology, and more congruent with some of the discoveries we have explored in earlier instalments of the Crypto-History series. These admittedly more 'mythical' texts include the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, the Book of the Celestial Cow, and various 'Building Texts', which were associated with specific temples.
Among these sources occurs the term Zep Tepi, or Sep Tepi, which refers to the First Time, a 'Golden Age' when gods ruled the earth and humans first acquired civilization. According to Graham Hancock, writing in Fingerprints of the Gods, Zep Tepi was:
"when the waters of the abyss receded, the primordial darkness was banished, and humanity, emerging into the light, was offered the gifts of civilization. They spoke also of intermediaries between gods and men -- the Urshu, a category of lesser beings whose title meant 'The Watchers'. And they preserved particularly vivid recollections of the gods themselves, puissant and beautiful beings called the Neteru who lived on earth with humankind and exercised their sovereignty from Heliopolis and other sanctuaries".
In previous instalments in this series, we have established the possibility that an earlier civilization existed prior to our recorded history, and we documented numerous sources which suggested that it was survivors of that earlier, Ice Age civilization that provided our current society with its earliest advances.
Just as the Egyptian myth of First Times, or Zep Tepi, suggests.
As you will recall from Instalment 6, When Gods Strode the Earth: Culture Bearers and Forbidden Knowledge, we spoke of Thoth the Egyptian, the Babylonian Marduk, the Incan Viracocha, the Mayan Kukulkan, the Aztec Quetzalcoatl, the Celtic Tuatha de Danaan, the Hindu Manu, White Buffalo Woman of the Sioux, and even the biblical serpent -- all reputed to be bearers of wisdom for the earliest humans, and bringers of civilization.
And possibly, we suggested, survivors or refugees of a civilization destroyed by climatic catastrophe.
It's easy to understand that these isolated survivors of a formerly globe-spanning civilization might feel challenged, both physically and culturally. How could they ensure that their values, technology and culture outlived them, continuing to form the foundation for any offpsring they might have? (And, as we see in the example of the Tuatha de Danaan, it's possible that they don't always survive intact, ultimately degenerating into folk tale status.
For our hypothesized survivors, possessed of what Arthur C. Clarke would call "magic", it would make sense to embed their knowledge into the holiest of rituals possessed by the less-advanced peoples among whom they found themselves. Both the technology and a tradition of obeying strictures advantageous to the survivors could be codified into the fundamental tenets of a new religion, and thereby preserved. In civilizations like that of Egypt and Sumeria, as well as those of the New World, this could be facilitated by the creation of a theocratic priesthood to 'shepherd' the knowledge.
In the Zep Tepi of the Egyptians, the most senior of these early 'gods' was Ptah, the God of Heaven and Earth, and a master artificer whose symbol was the serpent. He was the father of Ra, who was himself the father of Geb and Tefnut, whose grandchildren included Osiris, God of the Underworld, his sister-wife, the sky-goddess Isis, Nephtys and Seth. Other nascent 'gods' were Thoth, and Horus, son of Osiris and Isis.
The Turin Papyrus, dating from the time of Ramses II, lists many of these personages as among the divine and semi-divine kings of predynastic Egypt, preceding the purely human kings of Lower Egypt (those who thus wore only the 'Red Cap', since the rulers of Upper Egypt wore the White Crown -- the two were later combined in the iconic pharaohonic head-dress we think of today). These were the kings of the so-called 'Dynasty 0' who preceded the unifier Menes, and who included names such as 'Scorpion', Ka, Zeser, Narmer and Sma.
Throughout the Crypto-History series, we have championed a cross-disciplinary approach which requires us to consider a people's myths as providing potential insight into their true history, just as we give credence to more corporeal evidence such as pot fragments and temple ruins. Such an approach compels us to consider the ramifications of taking the myths of Zep Tepi at face value; of asking the question: what if, as we have discussed, the so-called gods of these texts were, in fact, peoples with advanced antediluvian technologies at their disposal, salvaged from the relics of Ice Age civilization?
In From Atlantis to the Sphinx, veteran chronicler of the unknown, Colin Wilson, writes:
...it seems unlikely that this proto-Egyptian civilisation lasted until pharaohonic times. As a civilisation, it may not even have lasted until the sixth or fifth millenium B.C., when (according to Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Stone Age people began to migrate into the Nile Valley. The notion that Stone Age cultures (the Tasian, Badarian and Naqadan) could exist side by side with the remains of proto-Egyptian culture suggests that the proto-Egyptians were nothing more than a priestly remnant -- perhaps living, like the Essenes of a later age, in some version of the Dead Sea caves, and preserving their knowledge as the monasteries of the Dark Ages preserved European learning.
If Wilson is right, it adds significant weight to the theory that a core group of individuals, possessed of advanced knowledge, managed the preservation of that knowledge from antediluvian times through to the predynastic era, from whence it was available to the Old Kingdom.
His reference to the Essenes and Dark Age monasteries is even more provocative, since it implies that this corpus was preserved and passed on by guiding novitiates through graduated initiation into a body of secrets. Can we test this hypothesis? Perhaps. If Wilson's suggestion is true, we might rightly expect, to see some evidence of such an initiatory practice in the early Egyptian cultural record. It is particularly exciting, then, to read passages such as the following, concerning the Book of the Dead:
The most moderate estimate makes certain sections of the Book of the Dead more than 6000 years old…contemporaneous with the foundation of the civilization that came into Egypt thousands of years ago. That fascinating, but perplexing, old writing provides an extensive description of systems of various chambers, passageways, halls, temples and gates that were accessed in a complex journey through twelve divisions of an underworld realm of darkness called duat. It also records a compilation of prayers, magic spells and incantations, and lists amulets that were to be worn to provide assistance in safely completing the journey. Although used for funerary purposes, some descriptions provided in the Book of the Dead are frequently unconnected with the mystical realm and seem to have originally had an entirely different use...sometimes comments on particular heavenly passages show an accurate grasp of a subject matter having an earthly parallel. For example, seven halls are painstakingly described, along with a detailed description of twenty-one vertical columns or pylons.
In simple terms, it was written specifically to be comprehended on two different levels of understanding; esoteric and exoteric...understood to assist the departed [but] also used on the physical Earthly plane by the living and were coded initiatory processes used by ancient Egyptian priesthoods, the original guardians of the Secret knowledge... the Book of the Dead is a secret manual of initiation from the mysterious First Times and describes a series of procedures and passwords to be spoken that purposely have two distinct levels of meaning, one spiritual and the other physical.
A secret manual of initiation from the First Times!
A shocking and provocative conclusion -- but one that is completely aligned with the overarching hypothesis of the Crypto-History series. Adding further weight to our theory is the discovery that the Rosicrucian Order, a modern-day secret society that claims to trace its own hermetic knowledge back to the Mystery Schools of Ancient Egypt, agrees that this initiatory behaviour can be identified in predynastic Egypt, in Abydos, the home of the Dynasty 0 kings.
In the sacred domain of Abydos, the great temple of Osiris is completely destroyed. However, several documents (for instance, the Papyrus of Ani, plate 10, or the Papyrus Greenfield, plate 108, in the British Museum) preserve its main characteristics: Under a mound surrounded by trees was a basin filled with water where pillars supporting the roof of the sanctuary stood; and from the center of this basin emerged a terrace with two staircases on which lay the mummy of Osiris…since the Osiereion seems to be a copy of the destroyed temple, all the details of the texts pertaining to this temple can be transferred, without risking too much error, to the architectural complex of the still-standing Osireion of Seti…we must know whether or not secret initiations were conducted in Egypt, especially in Abydos. In this regard, an ancient text dating back to ca. 2000 BCE, quite unknown up to now, seems to give an affirmative answer: "To follow the god to his abode, in his tomb Anubis sanctifies the hidden mystery of Osiris (In) the sacred Valley of the "Master of Life" (Osiris). (It is) the mysterious initiation Of the Master of Abydos!"
What could be plainer?
What is plain here is the depiction of a process using ritual, degrees of initiation into ever-more mysterious secrets, architectural symbolism denoting universal concepts, and even a death and rebirth ritual, symbolic of the transition from novice to initiate. In fact it's no stretch to suggest that a modern Freemason, conducted through a ritual such as we describe, would feel quite at home.
This conclusion bears restating, so that none may miss its cataclysmic significance. We have found evidence of a body of knowledge -- very possibly antediluvian in nature -- placed in the care of a corps of adherents who jealously guard those secrets, only allowing access to initiates who are guided through a series of graded degrees replete with ritual, symbolic weighting and esoteric meaning.
Furthermore, the fact that this model is in place in predynastic times, prior to the rise of the Old Kingdom theocracy, is critical. We may recall that in Egypt, the priestly caste, in conjunction with the dynastic families, served as the keeper of not only religious ritual, but also law, science, technology, culture, and records.
... when the ministers of religion were also the ministers of science (and knowledge ;) so that they united in their own persons two of the noblest missions with which man can be invested, the worship of the Deity and the cultivation of intelligence...
This means we have established a direct link between the knowledge possessed by our Ice Age forebears and all those cultures for whom Egypt and its Mystery Schools served as the fountain of learning, including Greece, Israel, Rome.
The ripples from such a finding are really quite staggering when we consider the degree to which our fundamental understanding of the world -- even in the 21st century -- is shaped by a common cultural heritage received by way of Egypt. We will explore some of that heritage further our next instalment, Moses, Monotheism and Magic, coming soon to this column.