The Sphinx

The Sphinx has mystified travellers since the dawn of time.

Above: the lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding

Although this monument has suffered over the centuries the archetype itself is perennial. Today the White Lion remains the most enigmatic sculpture on Earth and has influenced many cultures around the world—versions can be seen in Greece, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. Below is an example from an Attic grave monument:

There is much disagreement over the age of the Sphinx but the water erosion around his enclosure would suggest that it radically predates dynastic Egypt. By studying the weathering, geologists have concluded that construction was started sometime during the archaic Zep Tepi.

The head of the Sphinx indicates a triquetra that is also embodied in the Möbius strip, which is an indicator of the “three that are one”. Like a headband with three twists in it, this surface has only one side and one boundary. The white lens in the middle is known as the Reuleaux triangle where all points on a side are equidistant from the opposite vertex. It also has the property of being unorientable.

Above: the serpentine musical chord of Atum

In music, a chord is a harmonic set of pitches that are sounded simultaneously. In classical music the most frequently encountered chords are triads, so called because they consist of three distinct notes: the root note, and intervals of a third and a fifth above it.

In the Book of the Dead, the sun god Atum was said to have ascended from the primordial waters as a snake. Atum was a self-created deity, the first being to emerge from the total darkness and watery abyss that existed before creation. A product of the energy within this chaos, he created his children (the Grand Ennead) out of loneliness.

The Sphinx then, displays the face of Atum—the god of creation. Atum’s name is thought to be derived from the verb which means “to finish”. Thus, his name has been interpreted as being the “complete one”. Like a white lotus emerging from water, he was seen as the creative mandala of the world because he embodied ALL the colours.

In the Pyramid Texts (Utterances 587 and 600) Atum is also referred to as a “mound”. This was a pyramid within which Atum lived. The Benben Stone, named after the mound, was a sacred stone in the temple of Ra at Heliopolis which was the location on which the first rays of the Sun fell. It is thought to have been the prototype for later obelisks and the capstones of the pyramids themselves.

This implied that the solar cult of Atum was all about order. The rising and setting of the Sun was linked with stability because it happened every day and therefore represented Ma’at—the guiding principle of the universe. It was also a symbol of the pharaoh, who embodied the “divine king” every morning when he rose like a lotus.

In the case of the Sphinx, Atum was portrayed in the “lion couchant” position—indicating restrained power. As king of the jungle, the lion was not only sovereign—Sekhem or the “power of powers” was also an ancient healing modality that inspired heka. As a symbol of this perennial life force a lion was often portrayed above Heka’s head. Many of the Egyptian deities associated with the Zep Tepi are leonine beings, and the ancient tradition of feline shamanism in African cultures was inspired by these heroes.

Finally, because he represented creation, Atum was linked to Regulus—the brightest star in the Leo constellation and known as the Heart of the Lion. Aligning with the Sun on August 23rd, this was a time of great celebration. Also known as the Lion’s Gate, this was when a stellar pathway opened from the Great Central Sun.