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 her as the most profound secret in the cosmos.

The picture above hints at the awesome expanse of time that has passed since the Sphinx was carved from the living limestone. In fact, records show that for centuries only her head was visible above the desert sands. Even today she 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 she 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 enclose would suggest that is radically predates Dynastic Egypt. Many researches have inferred that the build date was sometime during the archaic Zep Tepi. Whatever the epoch, it’s apparent that the Sphinx had the body and head of two goddesses:

» Mafdet the cheetah of death «

» Nut the goddess 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.

The sky goddess Nut was often depicted as a star-covered woman bending over the Earth. During the day the Sun and Moon would make their way across her body. Then at dusk they would be swallowed, pass through her belly at night and be reborn at dawn.

So this iconography is symbolic of the breathing out and in of the universe: Mafdet wields judgement and death and Nut 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 Nut” then a most curious thing happens: you transcend the opposites. This is the intent of the riddle. The eternal swirl of the Ouroboros then, implies that death and rebirth are closely connected. If you truly understand the esoteric meaning of the serpent eating its tail then the implications are awesome: the riddle reminds us to honour the eternal cycle of corruption and rejuvenation within ourselves. Indeed, this mythological, ancestral and archetypical story is consistent as far away as the Amazon:

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. 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.

Eventually we acknowledge death and rebirth as a simultaneous event. This is why the Sphinx remains the most important sculpture on Earth—she represents eternal life.

This is the meaning of her true name: Shesep-ankh.