Read CHAPTER III - THE MYSTERY OF THE PYRAMIDS. of Myths and Marvels of Astronomy , free online book, by Richard A. Proctor, on ReadCentral.com.

Few subjects of inquiry have proved more perplexing than the question of the purpose for which the pyramids of Egypt were built. Even in the remotest ages of which we have historical record, nothing seems to have been known certainly on this point. For some reason or other, the builders of the pyramids concealed the object of these structures, and this so successfully that not even a tradition has reached us which purports to have been handed down from the epoch of the pyramids’ construction. We find, indeed, some explanations given by the earliest historians; but they were professedly only hypothetical, like those advanced in more recent times. Including ancient and modern theories, we find a wide range of choice. Some have thought that these buildings were associated with the religion of the early Egyptians; others have suggested that they were tombs; others, that they combined the purposes of tombs and temples, that they were astronomical observatories, defences against the sands of the Great Desert, granaries like those made under Joseph’s direction, places of resort during excessive overflows of the Nile; and many other uses have been suggested for them. But none of these ideas are found on close examination to be tenable as representing the sole purpose of the pyramids, and few of them have strong claims to be regarded as presenting even a chief object of these remarkable structures. The significant and perplexing history of the three oldest pyramids the Great Pyramid of Cheops, Shofo, or Suphis, the pyramid of Chephren, and the pyramid of Mycerinus; and the most remarkable of all the facts known respecting the pyramids generally, viz., the circumstance that one pyramid after another was built as though each had become useless soon after it was finished, are left entirely unexplained by all the theories above mentioned, save one only, the tomb theory, and that does not afford by any means a satisfactory explanation of the circumstances.

I propose to give here a brief account of some of the most suggestive facts known respecting the pyramids, and, after considering the difficulties which beset the theories heretofore advanced, to indicate a theory (new so far as I know) which seems to me to correspond better with the facts than any heretofore advanced; I suggest it, however, rather for consideration than because I regard it as very convincingly supported by the evidence. In fact, to advance any theory at present with confident assurance of its correctness, would be simply to indicate a very limited acquaintance with the difficulties surrounding the subject.

Let us first consider a few of the more striking facts recorded by history or tradition, noting, as we proceed, whatever ideas they may suggest as to the intended character of these structures.

It is hardly necessary to say, perhaps, that the history of the Great Pyramid is of paramount importance in this inquiry. Whatever purpose pyramids were originally intended to subserve, must have been conceived by the builders of that pyramid. New ideas may have been superadded by the builders of later pyramids, but it is unlikely that the original purpose can have been entirely abandoned. Some great purpose there was, which the rulers of ancient Egypt proposed to fulfil by building very massive pyramidal structures on a particular plan. It is by inquiring into the history of the first and most massive of these structures, and by examining its construction, that we shall have the best chance of finding out what that great purpose was.

According to Herodotus, the kings who built the pyramids reigned not more than twenty-eight centuries ago; but there can be little doubt that Herodotus misunderstood the Egyptian priests from whom he derived his information, and that the real antiquity of the pyramid-kings was far greater. He tells us that, according to the Egyptian priests, Cheops ’on ascending the throne plunged into all manner of wickedness. He closed the temples, and forbade the Egyptians to offer sacrifice, compelling them instead to labour one and all in his service, viz., in building the Great Pyramid.’ Still following his interpretation of the Egyptian account, we learn that one hundred thousand men were employed for twenty years in building the Great Pyramid, and that ten years were occupied in constructing a causeway by which to convey the stones to the place and in conveying them there. ’Cheops reigned fifty years; and was succeeded by his brother Chephren, who imitated the conduct of his predecessor, built a pyramid but smaller than his brother’s and reigned fifty-six years. Thus during one hundred and six years, the temples were shut and never opened.’ Moreover, Herodotus tells us that ’the Egyptians so detested the memory of these kings, that they do not much like even to mention their names. Hence they commonly call the pyramids after Philition, a shepherd who at that time fed his flocks about the place.’ ’After Chephren, Mycerinus, son of Cheops, ascended the throne, he reopened the temples, and allowed the people to resume the practice of sacrifice. He, too, left a pyramid, but much inferior in size to his father’s. It is built, for half of its height, of the stone of Ethiopia,’ or, as Professor Smyth (whose extracts from Rawlinson’s translation I have here followed) adds ‘expensive red granite.’ ’After Mycerinus, Asychis ascended the throne. He built the eastern gateway of the Temple of Vulcan (Phtha); and, being desirous of eclipsing all his predecessors on the throne, left as a monument of his reign a pyramid of brick.’

This account is so suggestive, as will presently be shown, that it may be well to inquire whether it can be relied on. Now, although there can be no doubt that Herodotus misunderstood the Egyptians in some matters, and in particular as to the chronological order of the dynasties, placing the pyramid kings far too late, yet in other respects he seems not only to have understood them correctly, but also to have received a correct account from them. The order of the kings above named corresponds with the sequence given by Manetho, and also found in monumental and hieroglyphic records. Manetho gives the names Suphis I., Suphis II., and Mencheres, instead of Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus; while, according to the modern Egyptologists, Herodotus’s Cheops was Shofo, Shufu, or Koufou; Chephren was Shafre, while he was also called Nou-Shofo or Noum-Shufu as the brother of Shofo; and Mycerinus was Menhere or Menkerre. But the identity of these kings is not questioned. As to the true dates there is much doubt, and it is probable that the question will long continue open; but the determination of the exact epochs when the several pyramids were built is not very important in connection with our present inquiry. We may, on the whole, fairly take the points quoted above from Herodotus, and proceed to consider the significance of the narrative, with sufficient confidence that in all essential respects it is trustworthy.

There are several very strange features in the account.

In the first place, it is manifest that Cheops (to call the first king by the name most familiar to the general reader) attached great importance to the building of his pyramid. It has been said, and perhaps justly, that it would be more interesting to know the plan of the architect who devised the pyramid than the purpose of the king who built it. But the two things are closely connected. The architect must have satisfied the king that some highly important purpose in which the king himself was interested, would be subserved by the structure. Whether the king was persuaded to undertake the work as a matter of duty, or only to advance his own interests, may not be so clear. But that the king was most thoroughly in earnest about the work is certain. A monarch in those times would assuredly not have devoted an enormous amount of labour and material to such a scheme unless he was thoroughly convinced of its great importance. That the welfare of his people was not considered by Cheops in building the Great Pyramid is almost equally certain. He might, indeed, have had a scheme for their good which either he did not care to explain to them or which they could not understand. But the most natural inference from the narrative is that his purpose had no reference whatever to their welfare. For though one could understand his own subjects hating him while he was all the time working for their good, it is obvious that his memory would not have been hated if some important good had eventually been gained from his scheme. Many a far-seeing ruler has been hated while living on account of the very work for which his memory has been revered. But the memory of Cheops and his successors was held in detestation.

May we, however, suppose that, though Cheops had not the welfare of his own people in his thoughts, his purpose was nevertheless not selfish, but intended in some way to promote the welfare of the human race? I say his purpose, because, whoever originated the scheme, Cheops carried it out; it was by means of his wealth and through his power that the pyramid was built. This is the view adopted by Professor Piazzi Smyth and others, in our own time, and first suggested by John Taylor. ‘Whereas other writers,’ says Smyth, ’have generally esteemed that the mysterious persons who directed the building of the Great Pyramid (and to whom the Egyptians, in their traditions, and for ages afterwards, gave an immoral and even abominable character) must therefore have been very bad indeed, so that the world at large has always been fond of standing on, kicking, and insulting that dead lion, whom they really knew not; he, Mr. John Taylor, seeing how religiously bad the Egyptians themselves were, was led to conclude, on the contrary, that those they hated (and could never sufficiently abuse) might, perhaps, have been pre-eminently good; or were, at all events, of different religious faith from themselves.’ ’Combining this with certain unmistakable historical facts,’ Mr. Taylor deduced reasons for believing that the directors of the building designed to record in its proportions, and in its interior features, certain important religious and scientific truths, not for the people then living, but for men who were to come 4000 years or so after.

I have already considered at length (see the preceding Essay) the evidence on which this strange theory rests. But there are certain matters connecting it with the above narrative which must here be noticed. The mention of the shepherd Philition, who fed his flocks about the place where the Great Pyramid was built, is a singular feature of Herodotus’s narrative. It reads like some strange misinterpretation of the story related to him by the Egyptian priests. It is obvious that if the word Philition did not represent a people, but a person, this person must have been very eminent and distinguished a shepherd-king, not a mere shepherd. Rawlinson, in a note on this portion of the narrative of Herodotus, suggests that Philitis was probably a shepherd-prince from Palestine, perhaps of Philistine descent, ’but so powerful and domineering, that it may be traditions of his oppressions in that earlier age which, mixed up afterwards in the minds of later Egyptians with the evils inflicted on their country by the subsequent shepherds of better known dynasties, lent so much fear to their religious hate of Shepherd times and that name.’ Smyth, somewhat modifying this view, and considering certain remarks of Manetho respecting an alleged invasion of Egypt by shepherd-kings, ’men of an ignoble race (from the Egyptian point of view) who had the confidence to invade our country, and easily subdued it to their power without a battle,’ comes to the conclusion that some Shemite prince, ’a contemporary of, but rather older than, the Patriarch Abraham,’ visited Egypt at this time, and obtained such influence over the mind of Cheops as to persuade him to erect the pyramid. According to Smyth, the prince was no other than Melchizedek, king of Salem, and the influence he exerted was supernatural. With such developments of the theory we need not trouble ourselves. It seems tolerably clear that certain shepherd-chiefs who came to Egypt during Cheops’ reign were connected in some way with the designing of the Great Pyramid. It is clear also that they were men of a different religion from the Egyptians, and persuaded Cheops to abandon the religion of his people. Taylor, Smyth, and the Pyramidalists generally, consider this sufficient to prove that the pyramid was erected for some purpose connected with religion. ’The pyramid,’ in fine, says Smyth, ’was charged by God’s inspired shepherd-prince, in the beginning of human time, to keep a certain message secret and inviolable for 4000 years, and it has done so; and in the next thousand years it was to enunciate that message to all men, with more than traditional force, more than all the authenticity of copied manuscripts or reputed history; and that part of the pyramid’s usefulness is now beginning.’

There are many very obvious difficulties surrounding this theory; as, for example (i.) the absurd waste of power in setting supernatural machinery at work 4000 years ago with cumbrous devices to record its object, when the same machinery, much more simply employed now, would effect the alleged purpose far more thoroughly; (ii.) the enormous amount of human misery and its attendant hatreds brought about by this alleged divine scheme; and (iii.) the futility of an arrangement by which the pyramid was only to subserve its purpose when it had lost that perfection of shape on which its entire significance depended, according to the theory itself. But, apart from these, there is a difficulty, nowhere noticed by Smyth or his followers, which is fatal, I conceive, to this theory of the pyramid’s purpose. The second pyramid, though slightly inferior to the first in size, and probably far inferior in quality of masonry, is still a structure of enormous dimensions, which must have required many years of labour from tens of thousands of workmen. Now, it seems impossible to explain why Chephren built this second pyramid, if we adopt Smyth’s theory respecting the first pyramid. For either Chephren knew the purpose for which the Great Pyramid was built, or he did not know it. If he knew that purpose, and it was that indicated by Smyth, then he also knew that no second pyramid was wanted. On that hypothesis, all the labour bestowed on the second pyramid was wittingly and wilfully wasted. This, of course is incredible. But, on the other hand, if Chephren did not know what was the purpose for which the Great Pyramid was built, what reason could Chephren have had for building a pyramid at all? The only answer to this question seems to be that Chephren built the second pyramid in hopes of finding out why his brother had built the first, and this answer is simply absurd. It is clear enough that whatever purpose Cheops had in building the first pyramid, Chephren must have had a similar purpose in building the second; and we require a theory which shall at least explain why the first pyramid did not subserve for Chephren the purpose which it subserved or was meant to subserve for Cheops. The same reasoning may be extended to the third pyramid, to the fourth, and in fine to all the pyramids, forty or so in number, included under the general designation of the Pyramids of Ghizeh or Jeezeh. The extension of the principle to pyramids later than the second is especially important as showing that the difference of religion insisted on by Smyth has no direct bearing on the question of the purpose for which the Great Pyramid itself was constructed. For Mycerinus either never left or else returned to the religion of the Egyptians. Yet he also built a pyramid, which, though far inferior in size to the pyramids built by his father and uncle, was still a massive structure, and relatively more costly even than theirs, because built of expensive granite. The pyramid built by Asychis, though smaller still, was remarkable as built of brick; in fact, we are expressly told that Asychis desired to eclipse all his predecessors in such labours, and accordingly left this brick pyramid as a monument of his reign.

We are forced, in fact, to believe that there was some special relation between the pyramid and its builder, seeing that each one of these kings wanted a pyramid of his own. This applies to the Great Pyramid quite as much as to the others, despite the superior excellence of that structure. Or rather, the argument derives its chief force from the superiority of the Great Pyramid. If Chephren, no longer perhaps having the assistance of the shepherd-architects in planning and superintending the work, was unable to construct a pyramid so perfect and so stately as his brother’s, the very fact that he nevertheless built a pyramid shows that the Great Pyramid did not fulfil for Chephren the purpose which it fulfilled for Cheops. But, if Smyth’s theory were true, the Great Pyramid would have fulfilled finally and for all men the purpose for which it was built. Since this was manifestly not the case, that theory is, I submit, demonstrably erroneous.

It was probably the consideration of this point, viz. that each king had a pyramid constructed for himself, which led to the theory that the pyramids were intended to serve as tombs. This theory was once very generally entertained. Thus we find Humboldt, in his remarks on American pyramids, referring to the tomb theory of the Egyptian pyramids as though it were open to no question. ‘When we consider,’ he says, ’the pyramidical monuments of Egypt, of Asia, and of the New Continent, from the same point of view, we see that, though their form is alike, their destination was altogether different. The group of pyramids of Ghizeh and at Sakhara in Egypt; the triangular pyramid of the Queen of the Scythians, Zarina, which was a stadium high and three in circumference, and which was decorated with a colossal figure; the fourteen Etruscan pyramids, which are said to have been enclosed in the labyrinth of the king Porsenna, at Clusium were reared to serve as the sepulchres of the illustrious dead. Nothing is more natural to men than to commemorate the spot where rest the ashes of those whose memory they cherish whether it be, as in the infancy of the race, by simple mounds of earth, or, in later periods, by the towering height of the tumulus. Those of the Chinese and of Thibet have only a few metres of elevation. Farther to the west the dimensions increase; the tumulus of the king Alyattes, father of Croesus, in Lydia, was six stadia, and that of Ninus was more than ten stadia in diameter. In the north of Europe the sepulchre of the Scandinavian king Gormus and the queen Daneboda, covered with mounds of earth, are three hundred metres broad, and more than thirty high.’

But while we have abundant reason for believing that in Egypt, even in the days of Cheops and Chephren, extreme importance was attached to the character of the place of burial for distinguished persons, there is nothing in what is known respecting earlier Egyptian ideas to suggest the probability that any monarch would have devoted many years of his subjects’ labour, and vast stores of material, to erect a mass of masonry like the Great Pyramid, solely to receive his own body after death. Far less have we any reason for supposing that many monarchs in succession would do this, each having a separate tomb built for him. It might have been conceivable, had only the Great Pyramid been erected, that the structure had been raised as a mausoleum for all the kings and princes of the dynasty. But it seems utterly incredible that such a building as the Great Pyramid should have been erected for one king’s body only and that, not in the way described by Humboldt, when he speaks of men commemorating the spot where rest the remains of those whose memory they cherish, but at the expense of the king himself whose body was to be there deposited. Besides, the first pyramid, the one whose history must be regarded as most significant of the true purpose of these buildings, was not built by an Egyptian holding in great favour the special religious ideas of his people, but by one who had adopted other views and those not belonging, so far as can be seen, to a people among whom sepulchral rites were held in exceptional regard.

A still stronger objection against the exclusively tombic theory resides in the fact that this theory gives no account whatever of the characteristic features of the pyramids themselves. These buildings are all, without exception, built on special astronomical principles. Their square bases are so placed as to have two sides lying east and west, and two lying north and south, or, in other words, so that their four faces front the four cardinal points. One can imagine no reason why a tomb should have such a position. It is not, indeed, easy to understand why any building at all, except an astronomical observatory, should have such a position. A temple perhaps devoted to sun-worship, and generally to the worship of the heavenly bodies, might be built in that way. For it is to be noticed that the peculiar figure and position of the pyramids would bring about the following relations: When the sun rose and set south of the east and west points, or (speaking generally) between the autumn and the spring équinoxes, the rays of the rising and setting sun illuminated the southern face of the pyramid; whereas during the rest of the year, that is, during the six months between the spring and autumn équinoxes, the rays of the rising and setting sun illuminated the northern face. Again, all the year round the sun’s rays passed from the eastern to the western face at solar noon. And lastly, during seven months and a half of each year, namely, for three months and three quarters before and after midsummer, the noon rays of the sun fell on all four faces of the pyramid, or, according to a Peruvian expression (so Smyth avers), the sun shone on the pyramid ‘with all his rays.’ Such conditions as these might have been regarded as very suitable for a temple devoted to sun-worship. Yet the temple theory is as untenable as the tomb theory. For, in the first place, the pyramid form as the pyramids were originally built, with perfectly smooth slant-faces, not terraced into steps as now through the loss of the casing-stones was entirely unsuited for all the ordinary requirements of a temple of worship. And further, this theory gives no explanation of the fact that each king built a pyramid, and each king only one. Similar difficulties oppose the theory that the pyramids were intended to serve as astronomical observatories. For while their original figure, however manifestly astronomical in its relations, was quite unsuited for observatory work, it is manifest that if such had been the purpose of pyramid-building, so soon as the Great Pyramid had once been built, no other would be needed. Certainly none of the pyramids built afterwards could have subserved any astronomical purpose which the first did not subserve, or have subserved nearly so well as the Great Pyramid those purposes (and they are but few) which that building may be supposed to have fulfilled as an astronomical observatory.

Of the other theories mentioned at the beginning of this paper none seem to merit special notice, except perhaps the theory that the pyramids were made to receive the royal treasures, and this theory rather because of the attention it received from Arabian literati, during the ninth and tenth centuries, than because of any strong reasons which can be suggested in its favour. ‘Emulating,’ says Professor Smyth, ’the enchanted tales of Bagdad,’ the court poets of Al Mamoun (son of the far-famed Haroun al Raschid) ’drew gorgeous pictures of the contents of the pyramid’s interior.... All the treasures of Sheddad Ben Ad the great Antediluvian king of the earth, with all his medicines and all his sciences, they declared were there, told over and over again. Others, though, were positive that the founder-king was no other than Saurid Ibn Salhouk, a far greater one than the other; and these last gave many more minute particulars, some of which are at least interesting to us in the present day, as proving that, amongst the Egypto-Arabians of more than a thousand years ago, the Jeezeh pyramids, headed by the grand one, enjoyed a pre-eminence of fame vastly before all the other pyramids of Egypt put together; and that if any other is alluded to after the Great Pyramid (which has always been the notable and favourite one, and chiefly was known then as the East pyramid), it is either the second one at Jeezeh, under the name of the West pyramid; or the third one, distinguished as the Coloured pyramid, in allusion to its red granite, compared with the white limestone casings of the other two (which, moreover, from their more near, but by no means exact, equality of size, went frequently under the affectionate designation of “the pair").’

The report of Ibn Abd Alkohm, as to what was to be found in each of these three pyramids, or rather of what, according to him, was put into them originally by King Saurid, runs as follows: ’In the Western pyramid, thirty treasuries filled with store of riches and utensils, and with signatures made of precious stones, and with instruments of iron and vessels of earth, and with arms which rust not, and with glass which might be bended and yet not broken, and with strange spells, and with several kinds of alakakirs (magical precious stones) single and double, and with deadly poisons, and with other things besides. He made also in the East’ (the Great Pyramid) ’divers celestial spheres and stars, and what they severally operate in their aspects, and the perfumes which are to be used to them, and the books which treat of these matters. He put also into the coloured pyramid the commentaries of the priests in chests of black marble, and with every priest a book, in which the wonders of his profession and of his actions and of his nature were written, and what was done in his time, and what is and what shall be from the beginning of time to the end of it.’ The rest of this worthy’s report relates to certain treasurers placed within these three pyramids to guard their contents, and (like all or most of what I have already quoted) was a work of imagination. Ibn Abd Alkohm, in fact, was a romancist of the first water.

Perhaps the strongest argument against the theory that the pyramids were intended as strongholds for the concealment of treasure, resides in the fact that, search being made, no treasure has been discovered. When the workmen employed by Caliph Al Mamoun, after encountering manifold difficulties, at length broke their way into the great ascending passage leading to the so-called King’s Chamber, they found ’a right noble apartment, thirty-four feet long, seventeen broad, and nineteen high, of polished red granite throughout, walls, floor, and ceiling, in blocks squared and true, and put together with such exquisite skill that the joints are barely discernible to the closest inspection. But where is the treasure the silver and the gold, the jewels, medicines, and arms? These fanatics look wildly around them, but can see nothing, not a single dirhem anywhere. They trim their torches, and carry them again and again to every part of that red-walled, flinty hall, but without any better success. Nought but pure polished red granite, in mighty slabs, looks upon them from every side. The room is clean, garnished too, as it were, and, according to the ideas of its founders, complete and perfectly ready for its visitors so long expected, so long delayed. But the gross minds who occupy it now, find it all barren, and declare that there is nothing whatever for them in the whole extent of the apartment from one end to another; nothing except an empty stone chest without a lid.’

It is, however, to be noted that we have no means of learning what had happened between the time when the pyramid was built and when Caliph Al Mamoun’s workmen broke their way into the King’s Chamber. The place may, after all, have contained treasures of some kind; nor, indeed, is it incompatible with other theories of the pyramid to suppose that it was used as a safe receptacle for treasures. It is certain, however, that this cannot have been the special purpose for which the pyramids were designed. We should find in such a purpose no explanation whatever of any of the most stringent difficulties encountered in dealing with other theories. There could be no reason why strangers from the East should be at special pains to instruct an Egyptian monarch how to hide and guard his treasures. Nor, if the Great Pyramid had been intended to receive the treasures of Cheops, would Chephren have built another for his own treasures, which must have included those gathered by Cheops. But, apart from this, how inconceivably vast must a treasure-hoard be supposed to be, the safe guarding of which would have repaid the enormous cost of the great Pyramid in labour and material! And then, why should a mere treasure-house have the characteristics of an astronomical observatory? Manifestly, if the pyramids were used at all to receive treasures, it can only have been as an entirely subordinate though perhaps convenient means of utilising these gigantic structures.

Having thus gone through all the suggested purposes of the pyramids save two or three which clearly do not possess any claim to serious consideration, and having found none which appear to give any sufficient account of the history and principal features of these buildings, we must either abandon the inquiry or seek for some explanation quite different from any yet suggested. Let us consider what are the principal points of which the true theory of the pyramids should give an account.

In the first place, the history of the pyramids shows that the erection of the first great pyramid was in all probability either suggested to Cheops by wise men who visited Egypt from the East, or else some important information conveyed to him by such visitors caused him to conceive the idea of building the pyramid. In either case we may suppose, as the history indeed suggests, that these learned men, whoever they may have been, remained in Egypt to superintend the erection of the structure. It may be that the architectural work was not under their supervision; in fact, it seems altogether unlikely that shepherd-rulers would have much to teach the Egyptians in the matter of architecture. But the astronomical peculiarities which form so significant a feature of the Great Pyramid were probably provided for entirely under the instructions of the shepherd chiefs who had exerted so strange an influence upon the mind of King Cheops.

Next, it seems clear that self-interest must have been the predominant reason in the mind of the Egyptian king for undertaking this stupendous work. It is true that his change of religion implies that some higher cause influenced him. But a ruler who could inflict such grievous burdens on his people in carrying out his purpose that for ages afterwards his name was held in utter detestation, cannot have been solely or even chiefly influenced by religious motives. It affords an ample explanation of the behaviour of Cheops, in closing the temples and forsaking the religion of his country, to suppose that the advantages which he hoped to secure by building the pyramid depended in some way on his adopting this course. The visitors from the East may have refused to give their assistance on any other terms, or may have assured him that the expected benefit could not be obtained if the pyramid were erected by idolaters. It is certain, in any case, that they were opposed to idolatry; and we have thus some means of inferring who they were and whence they came. We know that one particular branch of one particular race in the East was characterised by a most marked hatred of idolatry in all its forms. Terah and his family, or, probably, a sect or division of the Chaldaean people, went forth from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan and the reason why they went forth we learn from a book of considerable historical interest (the book of Judith) to have been because ’they would not worship the gods of their fathers who were in the land of the Chaldaeans.’ The Bible record shows that members of this branch of the Chaldaean people visited Egypt from time to time. They were shepherds, too, which accords well with the account of Herodotus above quoted. We can well understand that persons of this family would have resisted all endeavours to secure their acquiescence in any scheme associated with idolatrous rites. Neither promises nor threats would have had much influence on them. It was a distinguished member of the family, the patriarch Abraham, who said: ’I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.’ Vain would all the promises and all the threats of Cheops have been to men of this spirit. Such men might help him in his plans, suggested, as the history shows, by teachings of their own, but it must be on their own conditions, and those conditions would most certainly include the utter rejection of idolatrous worship by the king in whose behalf they worked, as well as by all who shared in their labours. It seems probable that they convinced both Cheops and Chephren, that unless these kings gave up idolatry, the purpose, whatever it was, which the pyramid was erected to promote, would not be fulfilled. The mere fact that the Great Pyramid was built either directly at the suggestion of these visitors, or because they had persuaded Cheops of the truth of some important doctrine, shows that they must have gained great influence over his mind. Rather we may say that he must have been so convinced of their knowledge and power as to have accepted with unquestioning confidence all that they told him respecting the particular subject over which they seemed to possess so perfect a mastery.

But having formed the opinion, on grounds sufficiently assured, that the strangers who visited Egypt and superintended the building of the Great Pyramid were kinsmen of the patriarch Abraham, it is not very difficult to decide what was the subject respecting which they had such exact information. They or their parents had come from the land of the Chaldaeans, and they were doubtless learned in all the wisdom of their Chaldaean kinsmen. They were masters, in fact, of the astronomy of their day, a science for which the Chaldaeans had shown from the earliest ages the most remarkable aptitude. What the actual extent of their astronomical knowledge may have been it would be difficult to say. But it is certain, from the exact knowledge which later Chaldaeans possessed respecting long astronomical cycles, that astronomical observations must have been carried on continuously by that people for many hundreds of years. It is highly probable that the astronomical knowledge of the Chaldaeans in the days of Terah and Abraham was much more accurate than that possessed by the Greeks even after the time of Hipparchus. We see indeed, in the accurate astronomical adjustment of the Great Pyramid, that the architects must have been skilful astronomers and mathematicians; and I may note here, in passing, how strongly this circumstance confirms the opinion that the visitors were kinsmen of Terah and Abraham. All we know from Herodotus and Manetho, all the evidence from the circumstances connected with the religion of the pyramid-kings, and the astronomical evidence given by the pyramids themselves, tends to assure us that members of that particular branch of the Chaldaean family which went out from Ur of the Chaldees because they would not worship the gods of the Chaldaeans, extended their wanderings to Egypt, and eventually superintended the erection of the Great Pyramid so far as astronomical and mathematical relations were concerned.

But not only have we already decided that the pyramids were not intended solely or chiefly to sub serve the purpose of astronomical observatories, but it is certain that Cheops would not have been personally much interested in any astronomical information which these visitors might be able to communicate. Unless he saw clearly that something was to be gained from the lore of his visitors, he would not have undertaken to erect any astronomical buildings at their suggestion, even if he had cared enough for their knowledge to pay any attention to them whatever. Most probably the reply Cheops would have made to any communications respecting mere astronomy, would have run much in the style of the reply made by the Turkish Cadi, Imaum Ali Zade to a friend of Layard’s who had apparently bored him about double stars and comets: ‘Oh my soul! oh my lamb!’ said Ali Zade, ’seek not after the things which concern thee not. Thou camest unto us, and we welcomed thee: go in peace. Of a truth thou hast spoken many words; and there is no harm done, for the speaker is one and the listener is another. After the fashion of thy people thou hast wandered from one place to another until thou art happy and content in none. Listen, oh my son! There is no wisdom equal unto the belief in God! He created the world, and shall we liken ourselves unto Him in seeking to penetrate into the mysteries of His creation? Shall we say, Behold this star spinneth round that star, and this other star with a tail goeth and cometh in so many years! Let it go! He from whose hand it came will guide and direct it. But thou wilt say unto me, Stand aside, oh man, for I am more learned than thou art, and have seen more things. If thou thinkest that thou art in this respect better than I am, thou art welcome. I praise God that I seek not that which I require not. Thou art learned in the things I care not for; and as for that which thou hast seen, I defile it. Will much knowledge create thee a double belly, or wilt thou seek paradise with thine eyes?’ Such, omitting the references to the Creator, would probably have been the reply of Cheops to his visitors, had they only had astronomical facts to present him with. Or, in the plenitude of his kingly power, he might have more decisively rejected their teaching by removing their heads.

But the shepherd-astronomers had knowledge more attractive to offer than a mere series of astronomical discoveries. Their ancestors had

Watched from the centres of their sleeping flocks
Those radiant Mercuries, that seemed to move
Carrying through aether in perpetual round
Decrees and resolutions of the gods;

and though the visitors of King Cheops had themselves rejected the Sabaistic polytheism of their kinsmen, they had not rejected the doctrine that the stars in their courses affect the fortunes of men. We know that among the Jews, probably the direct descendants of the shepherd-chiefs who visited Cheops, and certainly close kinsmen of theirs, and akin to them also in their monotheism, the belief in astrology was never regarded as a superstition. In fact, we can trace very clearly in the books relating to this people that they believed confidently in the influences of the heavenly bodies. Doubtless the visitors of King Cheops shared the belief of their Chaldaean kinsmen that astrology is a true science, ‘founded’ indeed (as Bacon expresses their views) ’not in reason and physical contemplations, but in the direct experience and observation of past ages.’ Josephus records the Jewish tradition (though not as a tradition but as a fact) that ’our first father, Adam, was instructed in astrology by divine inspiration,’ and that Seth so excelled in the science, that, ’foreseeing the Flood and the destruction of the world thereby, he engraved the fundamental principles of his art (astrology) in hieroglyphical emblems, for the benefit of after ages, on two pillars of brick and stone.’ He says farther on that the Patriarch Abraham, ’having learned the art in Chaldaea, when he journeyed into Egypt taught the Egyptians the sciences of arithmetic and astrology.’ Indeed, the stranger called Philitis by Herodotus may, for aught that appears, have been Abraham himself; for it is generally agreed that the word Philitis indicated the race and country of the visitors, regarded by the Egyptians as of Philistine descent and arriving from Palestine. However, I am in no way concerned to show that the shepherd-astronomers who induced Cheops to build the Great Pyramid were even contemporaries of Abraham and Melchizedek. What seems sufficiently obvious is all that I care to maintain, namely, that these shepherd-astronomers were of Chaldaean birth and training, and therefore astrologers, though, unlike their Chaldaean kinsmen, they rejected Sabaism or star-worship, and taught the belief in one only Deity.

Now, if these visitors were astrologers, who persuaded Cheops, and were honestly convinced themselves, that they could predict the events of any man’s life by the Chaldaean method of casting nativities, we can readily understand many circumstances connected with the pyramids which have hitherto seemed inexplicable. The pyramid built by a king would no longer be regarded as having reference to his death and burial, but to his birth and life, though after his death it might receive his body. Each king would require to have his own nativity-pyramid, built with due symbolical reference to the special celestial influences affecting his fortunes. Every portion of the work would have to be carried out under special conditions, determined according to the mysterious influences ascribed to the different planets and their varying positions

now high, now low, then hid.
Progressive, retrograde, or standing still.

If the work had been intended only to afford the means of predicting the king’s future, the labour would have been regarded by the monarch as well bestowed. But astrology involved much more than the mere prediction of future events. Astrologers claimed the power of ruling the planets that is, of course, not of ruling the motions of those bodies, but of providing against evil influences or strengthening good influences which they supposed the celestial orbs to exert in particular aspects. Thus we can understand that while the mere basement layers of the pyramid would have served for the process of casting the royal nativity, with due mystic observances, the further progress of building the pyramid would supply the necessary means and indications for ruling the planets most potent in their influence upon the royal career.

Remembering the mysterious influence which astrologers ascribed to special numbers, figures, positions, and so forth, the care with which the Great Pyramid was so proportioned as to indicate particular astronomical and mathematical relations is at once explained. The four sides of the square base were carefully placed with reference to the cardinal points, precisely like the four sides of the ordinary square scheme of nativity. The eastern side faced the Ascendant, the southern faced the Mid-heaven, the western faced the Descendant, and the northern faced the Imum Coeli. Again, we can understand that the architects would have made a circuit of the base correspond in length with the number of days in the year a relation which, according to Prof. P. Smyth, is fulfilled in this manner, that the four sides contain one hundred times as many pyramid inches as there are days in the year. The pyramid inch, again, is itself mystically connected with astronomical relations, for its length is equal to the five hundred millionth part of the earth’s diameter, to a degree of exactness corresponding well with what we might expect Chaldaean astronomers to attain. Prof. Smyth, indeed, believes that it was exactly equal to that proportion of the earth’s polar diameter a view which would correspond with his theory that the architects of the Great Pyramid were assisted by divine inspiration; but what is certainly known about the sacred cubit, which contained twenty-five of these inches, corresponds better with the diameter which the Chaldaean astronomers, if they worked very carefully, would have deduced from observations made in their own country, on the supposition which they would naturally have made that the earth is a perfect globe, not compressed at the poles. It is not indeed at all certain that the sacred cubit bore any reference to the earth’s dimensions; but this seems tolerably well made out that the sacred cubit was about 25 inches in length, and that the circuit of the pyramid’s base contained a hundred inches for every day of the year. Relations such as these are precisely what we might expect to find in buildings having an astrological significance. Similarly, it would correspond well with the mysticism of astrology that the pyramid should be so proportioned as to make the height be the radius of a circle whose circumference would equal the circuit of the pyramid’s base. Again, that long slant tunnel, leading downwards from the pyramid’s northern face, would at once find a meaning in this astrological theory. The slant tunnel pointed to the pole-star of Cheops’ time, when due north below the true pole of the heavens. This circumstance had no observational utility. It could afford no indication of time, because a pole-star moves very slowly, and the pole-star of Cheops’ day must have been in view through that tunnel for more than an hour at a time. But, apart from the mystical significance which an astrologer would attribute to such a relation, it may be shown that this slant tunnel is precisely what the astrologer would require in order to get the horoscope correctly.

Another consideration remains to be mentioned which, while strengthening the astrological theory of the pyramids, may bring us even nearer to the true aim of those who planned and built these structures.

It is known also that the Chaldaeans from the earliest times pursued the study of alchemy in connection with astrology, not hoping to discover the philosopher’s stone by chemical investigations alone, but by carrying out such investigations under special celestial influence. The hope of achieving this discovery, by which he would at once have had the means of acquiring illimitable wealth, would of itself account for the fact that Cheops expended so much labour and material in the erection of the Great Pyramid, seeing that, of necessity, success in the search for the philosopher’s stone would be a main feature of his fortunes, and would therefore be astrologically indicated in his nativity-pyramid, or perhaps even be secured by following mystical observances proper for ruling his planets.

The elixir of life may also have been among the objects which the builders of the pyramids hoped to discover.

It may be noticed, as a somewhat significant circumstance, that, in the account given by Ibn Abd Alkohm of the contents of the various pyramids, those assigned to the Great Pyramid relate entirely to astrology and associated mysteries. It is, of course, clear that Abd Alkohm drew largely on his imagination. Yet it seems probable that there was also some basis of tradition for his ideas. And certainly one would suppose that, as he assigned a treasurer to the East pyramid (’a statue of black agate, his eyes open and shining, sitting on a throne with a lance’), he would have credited the building with treasure also, had not some tradition taught otherwise. But he says that King Saurid placed in the East pyramid, not treasures, but ’divers celestial spheres and stars, and what they severally operate in their aspects, and the perfumes which are to be used to them, and the books which treat of these matters.’

But, after all, it must be admitted that the strongest evidence in favour of the astrological (and alchemical) theory of the pyramids is to be found in the circumstance that all other theories seem untenable. The pyramids were undoubtedly erected for some purpose which was regarded by their builders as most important. This purpose certainly related to the personal fortunes of the kingly builders. It was worth an enormous outlay of money, labour, and material. This purpose was such, furthermore, that each king required to have his own pyramid. It was in some way associated with astronomy, for the pyramids are built with most accurate reference to celestial aspects. It also had its mathematical and mystical bearings, seeing that the pyramids exhibit mathematical and symbolical peculiarities not belonging to their essentially structural requirements. And lastly, the erection of the pyramids was in some way connected with the arrival of certain learned persons from Palestine, and presumably of Chaldaean origin. All these circumstances accord well with the theory I have advanced; while only some of them, and these not the most characteristic, accord with any of the other theories. Moreover, no fact known respecting the pyramids or their builders is inconsistent with the astrological (and alchemical) theory. On the whole, then, if it cannot be regarded as demonstrated (in its general bearing, of course, for we cannot expect any theory about the pyramids to be established in minute details), the astrological theory may fairly be described as having a greater degree of probability in its favour than any hitherto advanced.