“To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.”
—Ancient Egyptian inscription
Many of us keenly feel the absence of ritual in modern life and recognize the emptiness that results from daily routines lacking in color or meaning. It seems to us that in past times, life was often punctuated by rituals and ceremonies that filled that void and provided a close familiarity with nature and divine life.
This was a sentiment often expressed to me by students in astrological and meditation groups I conducted over the years as we sought to relearn some of the sacred languages of the past. Those ancient mythologies, religions, and occult sciences beckoned to us with a deep resonance and left us with a desire to understand their possible role in our lives.
But it soon became apparent that satisfying our intellectual curiosity about those languages did not wholly satisfy the need. They had to be spoken and expressed in their context in order to be fully understood and live in our dimension. And it was Egypt that continually arose as the mother lode of all sacred languages—the cosmology, magic, architecture, and astronomy of the ancient temple. These realms of knowledge were not segregated in past times as they are now; they formed a comprehensive world view that explained the relationship between the cosmic life, nature, and human beings.
This realization resulted in the recreation of a temple practicum that became the directive for my research and retrieval of Egyptian spirituality. Through this, I understood how the essential sacred language of ancient Egypt was ritual, and it was embedded in every aspect of the culture over several millennia—long enough for other civilizations in its proximity to acknowledge its antiquity and power.
But how was that language spoken? Egypt’s divine images provide us with the first key. The cosmic gods and goddesses, spirits of celestial time and geographic place, and even divinized human beings in a vast pantheon reflect an understanding of the spiritual functions of the universe. They are letters in the sacred alphabet, standing for the sounds of creation. And rather than being remote or removed from earthly life, the Egyptians understood those functions as immanent in nature and human beings. Thus, they are not only accessible—they are bonded to our existence as much as we are to theirs. This is the key that provides us with the “what.”
The second key comes from understanding the rhythm of the sacred language—celestial phenomena. The cosmic deities communicate most effectively when we follow the approach of the ancients by observing the visible periods of the constellations and the cycles of the planets. The Egyptians observed certain rituals at the New and Full Moons, and the ingresses of the Sun into certain domains in the sky. This is the key that provides us with the “when.”
The third key is provided by the ancient legends. They were not recognized as “myths” by the Egyptians but were believed to have been actual events that transpired when human and divine beings coexisted. For example, one legend concerns the reanimation of the god Osiris after being slain by his brother, Set. Another tells of the sacred marriage between Hathor and Horus, who by their mating unite the lunar and solar lights in the sky.
Temple ritual was intended to be the recreation of those acts that gave life to the universe, so that it could be maintained in its original order and balance. It was endowed to the human race in Sep Tepi, the “first moment” in time, so that the timeless dimension in which gods and humans existed could be realized once more. Thus, the Egyptian ritual of the Opening of the Mouth is a reenactment of restoring the senses of Osiris, and the Festival of the Divine Union is a reconsummation of the divine matrimony that created the luminaries. This is the key that provides us with the “how.”
And so, in the Egyptian approach, speaking the sacred language is not only possible, it is the natural outcome of using divine images, sacred periods, and timeless acts. It is a process of speaking once more to the gods and engaging in a divine conversation that may have begun in the mists of the past but can continue to enrich us in the present.