Book of the Hidden Chamber - Sixth
The five-headed serpent "Tail-in-Mouth" :
"the mysterious image of the Duat, unknown and unseen"
Tomb of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (ca. 1479 - 1426 BCE)
Wim van den
Section 1 -
Section 2 -
This book is the pinnacle of Ancient Egyptian state-funded
research into the workings of the netherworld or "Duat" ("dwAt", netherworld,
"Unterwelt", "monde inférieur" or Rilke's "Weltinnenraum"). The Duat is the inner (dream) world, existing in parallel with
the Earth (of the living) and with the skies (of the justified and the deities).
It is before life and after death.
This realm is entered by everybody during the hours of sleep and at death. It is
the home of the deities and the spirits (of the noble, justified ancestors) in
the retinue of
Osiris. In a mysterious way, the undifferentiated inertness of
the primordial waters runs through it (cf. the water hole filled with
Nun of the
6th Hour). In Nun, the autogenetic power
Atum is the "soul of Nun" and hence the capacity to self-create eternal repetition
and therewith the forces of the universe (Ennead), creation (Horus, Re) and its
order (Maat). At midnight, as a result of his union with the mummy of Osiris, Re
taps into Atum's precreational power by projecting himself out of the created
order and returning regenerated & rejuvenated.
The Amduat (ca.
1426 BCE), the book of what is "in the Duat", divides the nocturnal journey of
Re into 12 Hours, starting at dusk.
The presence of this remarkable book, with its unseen fusion of visual and
textual meanings, also underlines the accessability of the Duat by those still living
on Earth. Although found in royal tombs and belonging to the privilege of
the divine king, these texts are not exclusively funerary, but speak of a
this-life ritual of rejuvenation (regeneration - cf. Osiris) & (royal ?)
Repeatedly, the Amduat states :
"It is good for the dead to have
this knowledge, but also for a person on Earth ; a remedy - a million times
The first speculations on record go back to the Middle Kingdom (ca. 1938 -
1759 BCE), if not earlier (First Intermediate Period). Even in the Old Kingdom,
the movement of the "sah" (the mummy), from sarcophagus (buria-chamber or
"Duat") to the transfigurating horizon (antechamber or "Akhet"), and from there to the
circumpolar stars as a spirit (or "Akh"), reflects complex preoccupations with
ecstatic & postmortal conditions.
Pyramid texts of Unas, the earliest, complete and authorative
corpus of Heliopolitanism, the Osirian rebirth and Solar illumination of the
divine king are described. It is clear ascension to Re is impossible without
passing through the kingdom of Osiris.
In the Old Kingdom, this journey was the privilege of the divine king. Indeed,
in this period of Ancient Egyptian history, his position was still absolute. But
after the Middle Kingdom, when personal responsibility (everybody had a Ba) &
the role of the deities (in particular Re) became more important than the
presence of Pharaoh, the journey had to be undertaken by Re himself.
of the Hidden Chamber,
the positions of the Ba-souls,
and what is done.
The beginning is the horn of the West,
the gate of the western horizon,
the end is thick darkness,
the gate of the western horizon.
To know the Ba-souls of the Duat,
to know what is done,
to know their spiritualization for Re,
to know the secret Ba-souls,
to know what is in the hours and their gods,
to know what he calls to them,
to know the gates
and the ways upon which
the great god passes,
to know the courses of the hours
and their gods,
to know the flourishing and the annihilated.
Title of the
In the first six Hours of the journey, the differentiation of conscious awareness (represented
by the soul of Re), started at noon, ends with depletion. At midnight, a conjunction happens between
this Solar awareness and the divine substrate or ground of consciousness. At this point of
singularity, or unity between the soul (Re) and the body (Osiris) of
consciousness, awareness spontaneously ascends to the ultimate autogenic cause
of consciousness (Atum), situated at the beginning of time ("zep tepi"), outside the natural
order of the observable universe (Nun).
In the conjunction, Osiris, the divine
consciousness-stuff as such, witnesses himself. Realizing its
autogenic potential, this living consciousness of Re-Osiris (i.e. soul united with body)
returns a formidable energy-surplus to the universe and regeneration starts. A
new cycle of 24 hour is made possible. Conscious awareness integrates itself in
the last six Hours, and its perceptions are renewed.
"This nocturnal regeneration of
the sun demonstrates, by way of example, that powers of renewal are at work on
the far side of death. At the same time, the journey occurs in the spaces of the
human soul, in which a renewal from the depts become possible. That it is an
odyssey of the soul is emphazised by the Egyptians through the indication that
the sun god descends into the depths as a ba-soul (and thus is ram-headed, since ba is
also the word for ram) ; herein lie significant antecedents of modern
These studies of the Midnight Mystery and its Ars Obscura are divided into two sections
and a discussion of the 12 Hours, to be
finished over time.