Riddle of the Sphinx

The Sphinx symbolises eternal life.

Although this famous monument has suffered over the centuries the archetype itself is perennial—representing the cycle of death and rebirth. When we understand this, we will come to love it as the most profound secret in the cosmos.

The picture above hints at the awesome expanse of time that has passed since this guardian was carved from the living limestone. In fact, records show that for centuries only the head was visible above the desert sands. Even today it remains the most enigmatic sculpture on Earth and has influenced many cultures around the world—versions can be seen in Greece, Turkey, India, Burma, Thailand and the Phillippines.

The Sphinx is different from most other deities because it has a human face with the body of an animal. Usually, the Egyptian gods are depicted the other way around. The inference here is that the Sphinx represents something radically different from the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. To begin exploring this, we are reminded of two animal emblems often depicted on the foreheads of initiates: a vulture and a cobra.

The vulture represents the Egyptian goddess Nekhbet. In turn, the cobra symbolises the Egyptian goddess Wadjet. These symbols of death and life were referred to as the Two Ladies. Indeed, Nekhbet victimises the world as the vulture of death but simultaneously Wadjet rejuvenates the world as the serpent of life.

There is much disagreement over the age of the Sphinx but the water erosion around its enclosure would suggest that is radically predates dynastic Egypt. By studying the weathering, geologists have concluded that construction was started sometime during the archaic Zep Tepi. By looking up instead of down however, a much more specific build date can be inferred. Regardless of these findings, it’s apparent that the Sphinx had the body and head of two goddesses:

» Mafdet the cheetah of death «

» Wadjet the serpent of rebirth «

Mafdet was known as the “flying cat” and was often depicted as a cheetah running up the side of an executioner’s staff. It was said that Mafdet ripped out the hearts of the guilty, delivering them to the pharaoh’s feet. Here we are reminded of this predator’s fixed claws—a rarity in the big cats. Mafdet then, makes up the feline body of the Sphinx.

Wadjet was portrayed as the Uraeus emerging from the forehead of the Sphinx. The Nemes headdress resembled the hood of a rearing cobra and implied protection for the pharaoh. Wadjet was revered as the goddess of birth, protector of children and in later dynasties the guardian of pharaohs. Wadjet (the winged serpent) is one of the oldest Egyptian goddesses and The Going Forth of Wadjet was celebrated annually on December 25.

Above: Wadjet means “papyrus-coloured one”

So this iconography is symbolic of the breathing out and in of the universe: Mafdet delivers attack and death and Wadjet resurrects with protection and rebirth. Built by our ancestors before dynastic Egypt, the Sphinx describes how contrary forces can be expressed within us all: in reality extremes actually give rise to each other. So the Riddle of the Sphinx deals with the relationship between perceived opposites:

Name the two sisters: one gives birth to the other who in turn gives birth to the first?

If you answered “Mafdet and Wadjet” then a most curious thing happens: you transcend the opposites. This is the intent of the riddle: it reminds us to honour the eternal cycle of corruption and rejuvenation within ourselves. So the two goddesses known for their devouring and sustaining traits must be identified within us as the “sisters” they truly are. This sacred process leads in one direction: immortality.  Eventually we accept death and rebirth as a simultaneous event. As the late John Anthony West put it:

When death is regarded not (as with us) as an ultimate dissolution, but rather as a transitional (and crucial) stage of the journey, then the apparent Egyptian preoccupation with death becomes exactly the opposite of what it seems to be. It is, in fact, a preoccupation with life in the deepest possible sense.

Above is a representation of Hermes Trismegistus (three realms expressed as one) who represents the threefold aspects of awareness—the main chakra fields of POWER, LOVE and WISDOM. Here we see the sacred geometrical origins of the Nemes and the Sekhemty. The secret of alchemy then, is described by Thoth’s triple crown:

< Power exercises love through wisdom >

< Love exercises wisdom through power >

< Wisdom exercises power through love >

This is why the Sphinx remains the most important sculpture on Earth—it embodies the three fields of the Mer-Ka-Ba. So the capstone vehicle meets its own and our pineal gland opens to reconnect with the winged light body that restores us to our rightful place in an open-ended universe that knows no end.

The Staff of Hermes is an invitation to transcend duality by balancing the forces within us. As we emerge into unity consciousness symbolised by a pair of wings, this state of harmony is angelic. Returning to dwell in this pure light is your destiny—a life in perfect balance.

The face, of course, is yours.