The Balance of the Two Lands: Ancient Egypt's Division According to the Ratio of Triangular Equilibrium (As immortalized in the Great Pyramid) (cont.)
By William Glyn-Jones
So having established the geometric reason for the Memphis region being the Balance of the Two Lands, we might wonder what this has to do with the constellation of Orion. The mixture of geometric and astral aspects of the geodesy may at first glance appear rather puzzling, until we recall a fact which is made clear by the internal geometry of the Great Pyramid. From the "King's Chamber" an "airshaft" proceeds due south towards the exterior at an inclined angle of 45 degrees, which targeted the culmination of Orion's Belt in the Pyramid Age. Considering this in diagrammatical form makes it perfectly plain that seen from Giza, a site within the Nome of the Wall, Orion's Belt at culmination was located at the Balance of the Upper and Lower Duats, the Balance of the Sky.
The mixture of geometric and astral reasoning can now be seen as a most elegant whole. Memphis is at the Balance of the Two Lands, and, seen from a little further north, (but still in the Memphite region), Orion's Belt was seen to be at an equivalent place of balance in the sky, as well as being located next to the Great River of the Sky, the Milky Way. At some period close in time to the construction of the Giza Pyramids the 45-degree altitude of Orion's Belt will have been true for the exact Memphis latitude, a little south of Giza. Altitudes are higher when seen from latitudes further south, so at Saqqara the altitude of stars is a little higher than at Giza. Also, Orion was lower in the sky at earlier times, and has been getting progressively higher. Therefore, the Belt of Orion will have been exactly at the Balance of the Sky seen from the Memphis latitude some time a little earlier than the period about 2,500 years BC when the Giza Pyramids were built. It is entirely conceivable then that the establishment of the Balance of the Lands by Menes at the beginning of the Dynastic Period dates from that somewhat earlier period.
The Full Hermetic Scheme
But have we come yet to the original governing foundation of this scheme? The real southern limits of Egypt in the terms of the Pyramid Age pharaohs were the cataracts further up the Nile where rapids made the river un-navigable. It is when we expand the map to include the second and third cataracts, namely the borders between, respectively, Egypt and Lower Nubia and Lower Nubia and Upper Nubia, that the scheme, based on the halving of the square, makes much more sense, showing as it does a genuine geometric balance between four separate geographical borders - these two cataracts, the place where the Nile fans out into a Delta at Memphis, and the coast. The second cataract is at the sight of Semna, a name recalling the Egyptian word sema, 'unite', used to refer to the binding of the two lands, and elegantly enough this cataract is on the central meridian that runs through Memphis, although we are not here considering whether longitudes are part of the scheme once such great distances across the desert come into play. We are discussing only the relative latitudes, so easily measured from changing star and Sun altitudes at different places along the river.
You'll notice that I have also marked on the map the relative distances from the Sun of the Inner Planets: Earth, Venus and Mercury, and linked them to the sites in question, for not only does the same geometrically-derived ratio happen to apply, but we also find astonishingly relevant associations at these sites. So Thebes, the centre, corresponding to the Sun, was sacred to the solar figure of Amun-Ra; Hermopolis at the Mercury distance north from Thebes having been formerly sacred to Thoth was to become in due course sacred to Hermes-Mercury, and Memphis, corresponding to the Venus orbit, was the site of a famous temple of Hathor-Mistress-of-Foreign-Lands who Herodotus calls Aphrodite the Foreigner, as well as being the site sacred to Hathor in her name of Lady of the Sycamore.
I will be honest and say that I do not fully understand how it came to be the case by Graeco-Roman times that the sites all had temples to the gods representing the planets with which the same sites are associated by the equivalent geometry. Surely they hadn't measured the relative distances of the planets from the Sun, or is this an easier calculation than I realize? Or was this elegant ordering of cult sites due to some plan in unseen realms manifested through oracular influence? However it came to be, the scene was set for this scheme to click into place upon Alexander's triumphant arrival and expulsion of the Persian overlords in Egypt. If that sounds biased against the Persians, bear in mind that it was the earlier Persian ruler Cyrus the Great who had inspired Alexander with the idea of an empire that honored the diversity of local cults. The movements of Alexander and his army also echo the mythical conquest of Egypt and the East by Dionysos the wine god and his band of revelers, and a story is told of how Alexander's men, arriving at a place in India, wreathed themselves in ivy and vine and went cavorting over the hillsides in celebration of the god. The Egyptians welcomed Alexander's arrival and the oracle of Amun pronounced him the legitimate new pharaoh. So it was that Egypt knelt "before the vine-leaf crown," to quote Keats.
To what extent the Macedonian ruling elite of particular periods over ensuing centuries lived up to this promise is another question, but certainly Alexander founded a great city in Egypt, the most brilliant of the Hellenistic period, and it was here that the Greek and Egyptian philosophies and traditions fused. Included in the texts known as the Hermetica written down in Hellenistic Alexandria in Egypt is a statement that reads, in the translation of Freke and Gandy (Piatkus): "Egypt is an image of the Heavens and the whole Cosmos dwells here, in this its sanctuary, but the gods will desert the Earth, and return to heaven," while another statement reads "Unlike Atum, the hidden light, who is only known in thought through attentive contemplation, Ra [the Sun] exists in space and time, and we may see him with our eyes, shining the brightest in the Cosmos. Placed in the centre and wearing the cosmos like a wreath around him, he lights up above and below." Regarding other gods the Hermetica says "the Mind of the Cosmos created from fire and air the seven administrators who regulate Destiny - the five visible planets and the Sun and Moon whose orbits encompass the world of the senses. These celestial powers, [when] known by thought alone, are called the gods." Putting these quotes together we see that the Hermetica was saying that Egypt is made in an image of the Cosmos, while the Cosmos has the Sun in the centre, and it is also pretty clear that the gods were drawn down to 'dwell here [Egypt], in its [the Cosmos's] sanctuary' and that these gods, as explicitly stated, are the planets. So despite a healthy skepticism about the measurement of relative planetary orbit distances in Hellenistic Egypt, it really cannot be denied that the Hermetica's description fits the planetary orbit scheme here outlined perfectly. And why would they have wanted to draw down the 'gods' in this way? This information is also given: "From them [the planets] there flows into matter an uninterrupted stream of Soul." This is an example of an idea that was taken up enthusiastically in Renaissance Italy after the Hermetica were translated - there are influxes through the planets that can be put to beneficial uses. My own take on the philosophy has strong affinities with the Hermetica's assertion that it is when the planets are contemplated by the mind that they become gods - Venus and Mercury and so on as transpersonal Ideas, not quite the same as Jung's archetypes of the collective unconscious, but similar. The contemplation in question is partly that of the mythic characters as they appear in our stories, with their various layers of significance and beauty, and also largely the movements of those planets, their cycles, relative year lengths, retrograde periods, and of course their relative orbit distances. Venus, for example, has a year length that is the Golden Proportion of the Earth's year. Both Plato and the Hermetica make a point of the fact that although the planets move, which might lead to an association between the planets and the world of flux rather than the eternal realm of Forms, at the same time the cycles of movement themselves, when contemplated with the mind of the Philosopher, are eternal Ideas. The same goes for the relative orbit distances, especially where harmonious geometric relationships can be seen, as between the Earth and Venus.