The Nile chakras
Egypt is not a country you live in—it lives within you.
Art thou aware that Egypt is the image of heaven, or rather, that it is the projection below of the order of things above? If the truth must be told, this land is indeed the temple of the world.
This quote from Hermes Trismegistus reveals what the ancients knew for thousands of years—that the Nile was not just a reflection of the Milky Way, but also a manifestation of the human chakra system. The neophyte then, started in the south and worked their way downstream as they became an initiate, an adept and eventually a magus in the temples of the north.
This process might take years and only when the priests were satisfied could a mystic progress. Some temples were pleasurable where sexuality were explored, while others were terrifying and required true feats of strength, courage and endurance to prevail.
The Nile temple network then, is a direct manifestation of the energy system of the human body. The lower energy centres of survival, sex and power were balanced by the higher centres of communication, intuition and connection. The most important chakra was therefore the heart where these forces were harmonised.
Chakras are the energy centers of the body. They are located along the spine, starting at the base and running upwards towards the crown. The chakras coincide with a gland in the physical body and each radiates a unique colour. Since the chakras relate to specific spiritual, emotional and physical aspects of our being, their inhibition can lead to corresponding disorders. The conscious balancing of these energy centres on the other hand, can lead to profound states of awareness.
The process of enlightenment then, involved the neophyte starting at the root chakra at Philae and working their way north to the crown chakra at Per-Wadjet. This journey may have taken years as specific lessons were mastered. Temples were seen as houses for the gods to whom they were dedicated. Indeed, the services and rituals were seen as necessary for the gods to uphold Ma’at—the divine order of the universe.
The most important part of the temple was the sanctuary, which contained the Atet. Otherwise known a solar barque, this was a mythological representation of the Sun riding in a boat. In this way, Ra was said to travel through the sky in his barge, providing light to the world. Reminiscent of the Ark of the Covenant, this wooden boat was usually covered in gold.
As the rooms outside grew more elaborate over time, so the temples evolved from small shrines to large edifices. Indeed, these temples remain the largest and most enduring examples of Egyptian architecture, with their designs reflecting beautiful patterns of sacred geometry.
Above: the river tree within animalistic man
Besides the temples themselves, the Egyptians created neters or animal gods whose traits embodied the personalities of the chakra system. For neophytes struggling to master the sacred within themselves, then a stroll beside the river may have inspired fresh insights.
Here we arrive at the most profound difference between ancient and modern man: our ancestors considered themselves part of the animal kingdom—not separate from it. The true process of enlightenment then, meant recognising the animal spirits (Neters) of the world around us as a reflection of our inner natures.
THE CROWN OF CONNECTION: the serpent chakra is manifested by Wadjet who connects with divinity and generates a sense of oneness. Because snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation and immortality. The form of the rearing cobra on a crown is termed the uraeus. Per-Wadjet showcased the rearing cobra that was used as a symbol of sovereignty, royalty and authority.
THE THIRD EYE OF AWARENESS: the falcon chakra is a pathway to accessing cosmic wisdom through meditation and divination. Horus fixes his eye on a point with superior vision and focus. The falcon eye is among the strongest in the animal kingdom—at least five times better than that of the human. Through expanded awareness it is possible to see all things as they truly are with no questions, no judgment. “The City of the Sun” Heliopolis represents this chakra.
THE THROAT OF COMMUNICATION: the ibis chakra opens the portal of communication, freedom of expression and higher truths. Hermopolis is aligned with Thoth—the enlightened herald and scribe. Ibises have a guttural rumble that sounded like “God” to the ancient Egyptians. They were also found amongst the reeds of papyrus—the wetland sedge used to make paper.
THE HEART OF LOVE: the hippopotamus chakra is the wisdom of the heart and when this is opened our spiritual selves blossom. The hippopotamus (a descendent of whales) is a symbol of the heart because this nocturnal mammal is extremely vocal. Yet despite being doting mothers, hippos can be aggressive, ruthless and unpredictable. Denderah is the temple site dedicated to Hathor the goddess of music, love and merriment. Abydos is linked to the death of Osiris and his rebirth. The heart chakra rules compassion and wisdom.
THE SOLAR PLEXUS OF POWER: the cheetah chakra is devoted to awakened ability and manifested potential. Mafdet the cheetah inspired Sekhmet the lion at Karnak. Often associated with strength, courage and justice the big cats remain at the top of the food chain. At Luxor Temple we once learned about power, control and ego. This place is often referred to as The Temple of Man.
THE SACRAL OF SEXUALITY: the crocodile chakra is dedicated to Sobek at Kom Ombo. Crocodile courting goes on for hours and involves all the senses—they are passionate lovers. Unlike many other reptiles and mammals, alligators sport permanently erect penises that hide inside their bodies and only emerge during coitus. The origin of his name, Sbk in Egyptian is derived from a causative of the verb “to impregnate”. As a fertility god, Sobek was often shown with a nilometer above his head.
THE ROOT OF SURVIVAL: the ram chakra is dedicated to Khnum. The god of creation sits on the potter’s wheel and forms people out of clay. Rams were considered a symbol of virility due to their rutting behaviour. The violent rut is characterised by increased testosterone, exaggerated sexual dimorphisms and aggressive posturing. Elephantine Island is dedicated to Khnum—the ancient god of faith and trust.
So this voyage down the Nile was designed to evolve someone from a neophyte to a magus. Once they had finished their final ceremonies in the north they were anointed as a high priest—perfectly embodying the principles of Ma’at. There is no temple dedicated to this goddess because she represents the balance of all of them.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile flooded every year from of the tears of Isis over the death of her husband, Osiris. On a practical level, this flooding of the Nile was actually the result of the yearly monsoon between May and August causing enormous precipitation in the Ethiopian Highlands. Most of this rainwater was carried downstream by the Blue Nile and the Atbarah River.
The temple of Isis at Philae then, celebrated fertility just as the waters of the mountains rejuvenated the desert every year. Within its walls, Isis was described as the goddess of creation. Like Khnum, she formed the cosmos “through what her heart conceived and her hands created”.