The Shaft, The Subway & The Causeway / 8

"Symbolic Prophecy" Secret Chambers Revealed

The appendix to the book "The Symbolic Prophecy of the Great Pyramid" by H. Spencer Lewis, first published in 1936, contains a puzzle. Lewis refers to excavations conducted by Dr. Selim Hassan in his sixth season at Giza in 1934/35 to back up his assertion that the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are connected by a network of "subterranean passageways, long-forgotten reception halls, small temples and other enclosures".[1] In particular, he quotes a description of a series of shafts that descend deep under the causeway of the second pyramid.[2] When I first came across Lewis’s book in early 1997, very little information was available about this location so the descriptions of fabulously decorated underground temples and rooms, all seemingly corroborated by an eminent Egyptian archaeologist, were most intriguing. In 1998, Dr. Zahi Hawass conducted excavations at the same location and announced that it was a symbolic "Tomb of Osiris". The location has since been shown on television[3] and documented on Hawass’s website.[4] It is clear that there is no sign of the "chambers and rooms beneath the sands, connected by these secret passageways"[5] mentioned by Lewis, yet it seemed inconceivable that Hassan could be mistaken. How to explain the discrepancy?

(New readers may find it useful to read page 6 for a synopsis of the appendix and of the search to-date for an answer to the puzzle. See also page 4 to examine the striking similarities between the diagrams in Lewis's book and those of a mystic named H. C. Randall-Stevens, who claimed to have channeled the information from an "initiate of Ancient Egypt".)

Contents of this section...

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The Search Goes On...

In April 1999, I visited Cairo, this being the fourth visit since January 1998, to continue the hunt for an explanation of the differences between the account as given in the appendix and the facts on the ground. The approach taken was to undertake a trawl through the archaeological periodicals from 1934 to the present day, or as far as they went. Some of the titles identified to be covered were: Chronique D'Egypte, Egypte Service Des Antiquities Annales, I.F.A.O. Bulletin De L'Institute Francais D'Archeologue Orientale, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology and Revue D'Egyptologie. The intention was to look for anything written by Selim Hassan, or for items on Sais and the 26th dynasty to see if there were any references to the shaft under the causeway, or anything that might explain Lewis's descriptions.

This extensive search located an item, "Selim Hassan - His Writings and Excavations" compiled by Dia' Abou-Ghazi[6] that listed all of his published writings and all excavations undertaken by him during his career. One item of particular note was a paper "In The Vicinity Of The Sphinx. The Excavations of The Egyptian University In The Zone Of The Pyramid, 1934-1935".[7] The odds on locating this paper seemed remote but fortunately the American University in Cairo (AUC) Library had a copy of the Actes proceedings on its shelves. It is this paper which provides a key to Lewis's descriptions.

Hassan tells us:

"Along the southern side of the above mentioned causeway [Khephren's causeway], some very important rock cut tombs and others constructed with local or Turah limestones, were brought to light. The tombs belong to two classes of people: members of the family of Khephren: priests and high officials of the Court. The discovery of FOUR rock-cut chapels of the family of Khephren was a very great contribution to the history of the family." He goes on to list and briefly describe the four royal tombs:

  • RH.T R C, Rekhit-Ra, the daughter of Khephren. [8]
  • LION-RC, Iwn-Ra, the director of public works of his father Khephren.[9]
  • ANKH MA-RA, unfinished, son of Khephren.[10]
  • HEMET-RA, princess, most probably a far relation.[11]

These royal tombs are all documented in Hassan’s "Excavations At Giza VI part III" (see site plan for locations in relation to the causeway). The descriptions of the tombs of Rekhit-Ra and Hemet-Ra in particular bear striking similarities to Lewis’s descriptions of "chambers and rooms beneath the sands, connected by these secret passageways".

An Analysis of the Evidence...

Lewis makes reference to a "magazine edited in Egypt, and more or less privately published in London"[12] as being the source of his descriptions. Although currently unidentified, it is my belief that this publication must exist because it was clearly impossible for Lewis to refer to "Excavations…" published in 1951, yet the Actes paper of 1935 does not contain all the detail that we find in Lewis’s references. For the purposes of this argument, we shall compare the descriptions from this unknown publication against the descriptions given in the Actes paper and in "Excavations At Giza VI Part III". Where comparisons are made using material from "Excavations At Giza VI Part III", the references are as for the royal tomb end-notes given above and the text shall refer to "Excavations…".

To make a meaningful comparison, it is necessary to quote a short extract from the appendix to Lewis’s book:

"A description of the chambers and rooms beneath the sands, connected by these secret passageways, reveals that there were inner courts and outer courts and a Chapel of Offering cut into one of the huge rocks with three pillars in its center. The three pillars representing a triangle are highly significant points in the study and analysis of the purpose of these underground chambers.

Another chamber, much like a burial chamber but undoubtedly a room of initiation and reception, was found at the end of a sloping passage, cut deep into the rock in the west side of the Chapel of Offering. In the center of this chamber was another large sarcophagus of white Turah limestone, and there were excellent examples of alabaster vessels found in the chamber.

The walls are beautifully painted and sculptured with scenes and inscriptions and the Lotus flower is an important emblem in the pictures. Other chambers were discovered with pillars in the center and in some of these were carved figures of a young woman in a beautiful gown, plainly indicating a ceremonial robe."

There are many magnificently carved figures in these various underground rooms and chapels, temples and hallways, also many beautifully colored friezes. In examining the photographs of some of these we are deeply impressed with the improved form of the art, showing the distinctive characteristics of the period that followed Amenhotep’s mystical reawakening of Egypt."[13]

The "Chapel of Offering cut into one of the huge rocks" and the "chamber, much like a burial chamber" are almost certainly references to the mastaba tomb of Queen Rekhit-Ra (see plan of the tomb for a description). In "Excavations…", Hassan describes the mastaba as having a large rock-cut chapel with a roof supported by three square pillars and tells us, "Cut in the northern part of the floor of the chapel is a sloping passage which leads down to the burial-chamber". An examination of the plan shows that the sloping passage is cut in the northern part of the west side of the chapel. Hassan describes the burial chamber as being entirely cut in the rock with finely dressed walls, and containing a large uninscribed sarcophagus of white limestone. He also records details of five alabaster objects (a model dish, a model jar, two model vases and another alabaster fragment), that were found while clearing the burial chamber.

The condition in which the sloping passage was found seems to preclude the use of the burial chamber as anything other than a tomb. Hassan tells us in "Excavations…", "The passage was originally made wide enough to allow for the introduction of the sarcophagus, after which it was filled in with masonry, leaving enough space open along the eastern side to permit the body to be brought into the burial-chamber on the day of interment. After the funeral ceremonies were completed, the passage was finally closed by means of five large blocks of limestone, placed one behind the other. These plug-stones were found in position, but the plunderers had obtained access to the burial-chamber by removing the upper course of the filling masonry." From this, it is difficult to see how the burial chamber could originally have been a "room of initiation and reception" when the only means of access was blocked by plug-stones.

Lewis’s reference to pillars with "carved figures of a young woman in a beautiful gown plainly indicating a ceremonial robe" almost certainly stem from the mastaba tomb of Princess Hemet-Ra. Hassan describes the tomb in his paper "In the vicinity of the Sphinx":

"The tomb of this princess is magnificently cut in the rock and contains some of the best coloured figures of the princess and her entourage, carved on the four pillars supporting the central hall. The colours and designs introduced in the different robes of the princess surpass in beauty and fineness of work the robe of the Goddess Hathor in front of Seti I (in the Louvre)."

The description of the tomb in "Excavations…" includes two colour illustrations of the carved figure of the Princess.

Hassan makes mention of the lotus flower in his description of the southern pillar: "On the eastern face, Princess Hemet-Ra is depicted standing, and smelling a lotus blossom which she holds in her left hand." Hassan reports that there are three registers of illustrations in front of the figure of the Princess and that "In the second register is the figure of a man holding a long-stemmed lotus blossom with both hands." Further references to the lotus flower are found in Hassan’s description of the northern face of the southern pillar.

Lastly, we will consider Lewis’s reference to photographs of beautifully coloured friezes and of being "deeply impressed with the improved form of the art, showing the distinctive characteristics of the period that followed Amenhotep’s mystical reawakening of Egypt". In the explanations given so far, we have relied on Hassan’s report to the 19th International Congress of Orientalists held in Rome in 1935 as a link to the more detailed descriptions to be found in "Excavations At Giza VI". In this final case, there is no such link, but the evidence seems clear. It might seem unlikely that the more natural form of art of the Amarna period is to be found in an Old Kingdom necropolis, but once again, Hassan has the answer. In his description of the mastaba of Tesen[14] he included a section "Some Notes on the Decoration of the Mastaba of Tesen" in which he comments on the unusual form of art found in the tomb:

"Although the scenes represented upon the walls of the chapel of this tomb conform to the normal conventions of Old Kingdom art in the subject matter displayed, yet there is a subtle difference in the way the figures are arranged, an originality of detail and a surprising naturalism of drawing that is quite unusual in Egyptian Art, with the exception of the El-Amarna Age, and the period immediately following it."

Towards the end of the section, Hassan states:

"In short, it may be said that the art displayed in this mastaba possesses all the grace and naturalism of the Amarna Age, combined with the virile strength so typical of the Old Kingdom school."

(The section is reproduced on a separate page for those wishing to read more of the artistic detail employed in this tomb.)

More examples could be given but the above should be sufficient to show that Lewis’s "chambers and rooms beneath the sands, connected by these secret passageways" are not associated with the shaft under the causeway. Rather than being rooms of initiation and reception for the ancient mystery schools of Egypt, the locations are the tombs of the family and officials of Khephren. It seems likely that Lewis’s unknown magazine article contained descriptions and illustrations similar to those that eventually appeared in "Excavations At Giza" and Hassan’s other reports.

The evidence presented here seems sufficient to bring the puzzle of "The Symbolic Prophecy of the Great Pyramid" to a close. That said, it is still the intention of this site to find the missing article and/or photographs referred to by Lewis. The location of the material needed to continue the search is now known but unfortunately it will not be accessible until later in the year. Watch this space.

In closing, many thanks are due to Annie Haward at St Peter’s College, Oxford for providing plans and illustrations from "Excavations At Giza" V and VI, without which this article could not have been completed. I am also indebted to AUC for providing access to the Main and Rare Books libraries, and also to the ARCE library in Cairo for assistance received.

List of References...

[1] See "The Symbolic Prophecy of the Great Pyramid" by H. Spencer Lewis, sixteenth edition 1982, second printing 1988, p181. The diagrams to which he refers in this connection may be found on page 4 of The Shaft, The Subway & The Causeway.

[2] Ibid p185, 187-188

[3] FOX TV Special "Opening the Lost Tombs" - 2nd March 1999, full details on page 5 of The Shaft, The Subway & The Causeway.

[4] The Osiris Shaft -

[5] Symbolic Prophecy p189

[6] Annales Du Service Des Antiquities De L'Egypte Vol. 58 (1964). p61-79

[7] Actes of the 19th International Congress of Orientalists in Rome (1935) p151-154

[8] See Excavations At Giza VI Part III, (1934-1935) - Cairo 1951 (Excavations of the Faculty of Arts, Fouad I University. Published by Service des Antiquities de L'Egypte) p1 for a full description.

[9] Ibid p32

[10] Ibid p35

[11] Ibid p43

[12] Symbolic Prophecy p184, Lewis states that the magazine was published in January 1935.

[13] Ibid p189-191

[14] See Excavations At Giza V (1933-1934) - Cairo 1944 (Excavations of the Faculty of Arts, Fouad I University. Published by Service des Antiquities de L'Egypte) p277

The Shaft, The Subway & The Causeway - Contents

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