Temple of Luxor

Posted: September 7, 2012 by noxprognatus in Monuments

 

Luxor Temple, or The Temple of Luxor, is among the most beautiful Temples in Egypt. It was known in the New Kingdom period as Ipt-Rsyt, which means the southern shrine. This was to differentiate between this Temple and Karnak Temple, which was the northern house of Amon Ra.

Amenhotep III built Luxor Temple. The architect and overseer of the works of  construction was the genius Amenhotep, son of Habu. The Temple run close and parallel to the river Nile from north to south. It was constructed on the site of a small Temple of Amon, built by kings of the 12th dynasty. At the time of Amenhotep III the Temple was only 190m in length and 55m in width. Basically, Luxor Temple was consecrated to Amon Ra in his fertility aspect.

 

Ramses II, with the help of his architect Pak-in Khonso, added the front part and completed the Temple. He also added the present large forecourt, and a Pylon at the (northern) front of the Temple. Kings Merenpetah, Seti I, Ramses III, Ramses IV and Ramses VI built many more small additions. Alexander the Great rebuilt the Sanctuary.
During the Christian era, the inner section was converted to a church. The Muslims built a Mosque in the 10th century, which is known as the Mosque of Abou El-Hagag.

King Nektanebo built the Sphinx Avenue in front of the Temple that leads to the entrance. In front of the Great Pylon of Ramses II, there once were 2 obelisks. Only one of them remains standing! The other was transported, in 1819, to La Place de le Concorde in Paris, as a gift to King Philip Louis of France by Mohamed Ali (who ruled Egypt 1805-1850 A.D), after he was given a French clock, which has never worked properly – even to this day!

There were 6 standing statues in front of the Pylon, only one of them, on the western side, is still in place.

Flanking the gate of the first pylon, which is 24m high, there are two seated colossi representing King Ramses II, seated on his throne, with all the royal features. Both towers of this pylon were once decorated with relief’s depicting the Battle of Kadesh, fought between the armies of Egypt and the Hittites, in present day Syria. The 1st open court has double rows of 32 papyrus bud columns.

To the right side of the open court there is an old triple shrine made by Queen Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III, dedicated to the sacred boats of the “Triad of Thebes”. To the left is the Mosque of Abou El-Hagag.

The open court of Ramses II leads to the Colonnade, which was built by Amenhotep III, and decorated by Tutankhamen and later, Horemheb; Seti I, Ramses II, and Seti II all recorded their names there. It consists of two pairs of large open papyrus columns, which are arranged to make a long processional avenue. The walls of this colonnade are decorated by scenes of the Opt Festival, special ceremonies for the visit of the “Triad of Karnak” to the Temple of Luxor. This feast lasted for about 24 days, including the return to the Karnak Temple.

The colonnade leads to the Court of Amenhotep III (52m in length and 46m in width). It has a double row of clustered round papyrus bud columns on three sides. The Court of Amenhotep III leads to the Hypostyle Hall, which consists

of 32 columns arranged in 4 columns and 8 columns each. To the left of the Hypostyle Hall stands a Roman altar, bearing Latin inscriptions, dedicated to Emperor Augustus. On the walls of the Hypostyle Hall, there are some reliefs representing Amenhotep III hunting and killing a gazelle in front of Amon Ra, and other scenes representing the King in front of various deities.

On the rear of The Hypostyle Hall, and on both sides of the central doorway,

There are 2 long chapels. The one to the east is dedicated to Mut and the One to the west dedicated to Khonso. The Hypostyle opens south to the 1st Antechamber, which originally had 8 columns, but they were removed when the antechamber was converted into a Christian Church.

The Birth Room situated to the east, is a side room with 3 columns. Most of the scenes, depicting the divine birth of King Amen-hotep III, are in very poor condition.

After the Birth Room there is another 3 columned chamber, also with badly damaged relief’s, and then the Sanctuary of Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great, who removed the 4 original columns and built a chapel, open to the north and to the south, rebuilt this sanctuary, which once had a golden plated statue of Amon Ra. Fortunately he did not remove the relief’s on the walls.

From the shrine of Alexander the Great, we enter a 2nd antechamber, which has 4 papyrus bud columns.

After passing the 2nd antechamber, there are 2 offering rooms, in poor condition, with their scenes also badly damaged.

The original sanctuary is a small chamber with 4 clustered papyrus columns. The walls of this room are decorated with scenes depicting Amenhotep III dancing before the God Amon Ra. The outside walls of the Temple, on the west side, are covered with scenes and inscriptions, again representing the battle of Kadesh. This was the work of Ramses II to commemorate his “victory” over the Hittites.

Temple of Man;

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Temples (Luxor:The Temple in Man)

The temples of ancient Egypt symbolized the focal point of each Egyptian settlement, the crossroads of the cosmos, where the divine and the earthly inhabitants of the mortal realm met in perpetual harmony. Priests, being an exclusive caste of high officials that often filled other important government posts and jobs, progressively became the “backbone” of Egypt in many ways. Historically, the priests collectively challenged the authority of the Pharaoh, and even invalidated his rule at several instances in ancient Egyptian history.

Such a secular influence attest to the strong beliefs in the religion that permeated the culture, a system of divine sciences integrated into the very fabric of the whole society through cosmological symbols and magical hieroglyphs the priests alone could transcribe and “cast”.

The temple represented the apex of all the disciplines, unsurprisingly since the priestsoften functioned simultaneously as artists, literary scribes, architects, doctors, healers, mathematicians, astronomers, and government officials.

Signs and symbols riddled the temple walls, fusing into one inextricable whole allseparate spheres of study, in contrast to our modern society that divides branches apart with little or no relationship to each other.

In ancient Egypt, those divisions meant little. As such, there was no art that wasn’t religious, no religion that wasn’t philosophical, no philosophy that wasn’t scientific, no science that was not art.

The house of the gods reflected, through design and architecture, the principles of all the different studies of the universe, the sacred science, the timeless wisdom of the ancient mystery schools, enshrined behind a veil of harmony and architectural proportion, myth and symbolism. The initiate sought to unlock  the keys to the invisible college wrought in the stones, and by comprehending the powerful magic of symbolism, practiced the necessary rituals within the temple, ensuring that the gods would in fact reside within its walls.

The Layout of Luxor Temple

No place is such a conceptual divine plan illustrated better than at Luxor. There, at a city that once was the capital of the Middle Kingdom onwards, Waset (Thebes), the cult of Amun dominated the minds of the ancient Egyptian peoples.

The Luxor Temple: House of Amun

Amun meant, the “hidden one”, or the invisible science, the breath or spirit of life across the waters. Over time, as the temple stacked up in sections through 1000 years of slow and careful work done by architects,priests, artists and sculptors, the “body of Amun” (the temple) eventually stretched across the land; the living walls of Amun permanently channeled the magical powers of the “invisible one”, a force felt, absorbed, and finally understood only by specially initiated persons who unveiled the secrets of the cosmos through years of study of symbols and “talismans” in the temple.

Entrance of the Horizon 

The twin peaks of the horizon hieroglyph with sun rising between, depicted in the form  of the two architectural pylons guarding the temple entrance, symbolically demonstrates the unity of the universe dividing itself into the duality of the spiritual and manifested realms with each peak. Thus, by entering the temple, coupled with the performing of the rites, the reconciliation between the two worlds could be established through the multiplicity of the temple’s many functions and “magical acts”.

Luxor Pylons marking the “The Peaks of the horizon”

Between the two pylons, the third eye of the soul rested, so to speak, also seen in the Pharaoh’s sacred and protective Uraeus cobra snake diadem atop the forehead, the place where the ka of each person’s soul could leave or enter life and the afterlife.

Cobra Uraeus atop forehead (Note Similar shape of Nemes headdress with above Pylons)

R.A. Swchaller Lubiz noted that the pylon processional way heading into the complex exactly lined up with the starVega in the year 3500BC. That date is irrational in conjunction with the temple’s known dates of activity, as most of the structure rose up much later in the Middle and New Kingdom eras (2000-1200BC).

Such an early date may harken back to the oldest foundations of the temple, a simple shrine perhaps, during an older archaic epoch.

The Power of Amun

The forecourt beyond the main entry way, contains the relief of two mirrored images of the lord Hapi, god of fertility and the Nile, holding together the river. The unification of the two lands of Egypt on the relief, denoted by the Lotus (Upper Egypt) and Papyrus (Lower Egypt), simultaneously demonstrates the division between the mortal and spiritual worlds.

Hapi Relief

At the base of the two gods rests a pair of lungs, where the breath of Amun propels the river up through the two lands, moving that artery throughout Egypt, which the country relied on for communication and thrived upon through trade.

 

The Opet Festival Barque of Amun

The legs of Amun, rest at the forecourt, the force by which Egypt prospered through progress or movement. Here, at the important Opet festival, thousands of lay commoners and workers celebrated the divine birth of the King, a ceremony that established a connection with the current Pharaoh to the Gods.

When Pharaoh returned with the priests from the inner most sanctum to the forecourt, the people rejoiced. Then the King and priests paraded the barque with the inner sanctum statue of Amun down the Nile to Karnak with the people. Thus, the kingdom remained stable and capable of prospering into the future.

Interestingly, the temple runs parallel to the Nile river nearby, reemphasizing the visual nature of the Nile as the backbone, or the “skeleton” of Amun, indeed of all Egypt, quite literally the whole universe as far as the ancient Egyptians felt concerned.

The King is Born

In the wide hall where the stomach of Amun resided, the announcement of the birth ofthe King was made by the priests, evidenced by hieroglyphic inscriptions. The place of birth in the womb, clearly corresponds to the belly of Amun overlaying the whole temple layout at the court of Amenhotep.

At the place of the lungs, the hypostyle hall housed fluted columns inlaid on the ground with the phases of the moon, providing a monthly calendar the priestsused to monitor the days of each month. The right and left wing of columns correlate with the two lobes or wings of the lungs. Within the portico just beyond the hall, the heart of Amun lay, marked by 8 columns, divided in half as well, corresponding to the twoseparate ventricles of the heart each.

Given the elaborate mummification processes the ancient Egyptians developed over the centuries, the familiarity the priests and builders displayed within the architecture of the temple mimicking the visual intricacies of the internal organs, is not a surprising one.

The Name of the King

Further up, the offering hall coincides with the vocalchords of the patron god. There the different names ofthe King are written in hieroglyphs lining a carved relief of Amun and wife Mut; a passage literally, “portrays the Annunciation [of a god] and creation through the [spoken] verb.”

At the mouth of Amun lies the holiest inner sanctum, which enshrined the god’s statue. From here, the earliest phase of the temple remained accessible only to the high priest, and symbolized the very seed or point of origin from which the temple grew forth the body of Amun over the centuries. The original shrine was later replaced with one dedicated to Alexander the Great c.300BC.

Amun Speaks

The mouth, obviously, is paramount in the sustaining of life and growth, as it allows one to eat, to breath, to speak, and to drink water. Here, the high priest prayed and “listened”, hoping to hear the words of Amun. The inner sanctum also functioned as the place of “coronation” of the King by the priests.

Through the Eyes of Amun, the Universe Unfolds

Above the inner sanctum, lies the hall of hours, which contains 12 columns. The eyes of Amun directly hover over the hall of hours when the skeleton is superimposed over the overall temple layout. Altogether the columns represented the hours of the day, 12 in all.

A series of bulls carved into the west wall with backs to the observer, sit opposite another set of bulls facing forward the observer on the east wall. Thus, what one actually sees or perceives, back of bulls or front, greatly depends on ones own unique point of view, or  one’s position in space or time.

Once again, the 12 columns directly align with the 12 optical nerves occurring beyond the eye sockets, 6 on the left which connect to the right brain (the intuitive self), and the 6 on the right to the left brain (the logical/linear brain).

Through the construction of the hall, the priests believed that the opposing oddities between the linear rational mind of the sciences and the artful endeavors of non-verbal intuition might perhaps be reconciled with the secret magic of Amun.

The fluted columns contain arched designs on one half of the hall to the east, symbolizing duality and disunity, the separation between spirituality and the manifest, while the smooth ogival fluting on the western columns features completion and fluidity between spirit and man.

The sun’s journey over the sky, horizon to horizon, in many ways symbolizes the journey of man or humanity, as the individual grows and matures over time, gaining wisdom as the initiate travels further and further into the temple.

The Highest Wisdom

At the very end of the temple, where the brain sits, the highest levels of enlightenment and wisdom and learning are sought. The internal organ of the brain wasn’t viewed as important to the ancient Egyptians, as the organ usually was discarded in the mummification process.

Instead, the invisible “third eye”, the rearing cobra atop the forehead, is seen as the ultimate point of the higher mind, the seat of the intelligence-of-the-heart below, the translator or communicator of the divinity of the heart (soul). The last sanctuary’s unique geometry contains the exact proportions of the ratio 8:9, the designation of an important musical note at the beginning of the Egyptian scale, indicating the inner journey did not end with awakening.

Initiation into the Mysteries

Through study and contemplation, the initiate aimed to recognize the seat of the intelligence-of-the-heart, the embodiment of Amun, by understanding the united cosmology of the abstract “temple in man” which the physical temple attempted to reconstruct.

An initiate tried to fully comprehend the idea until the mind transcended the outer body with a new communion finally established as the true dweller in two worlds that alone held the dual intelligence of Amun, the “hidden one.”

With the simultaneous wielding of the two types of intelligence, the formerly invisible world of Amun opened up to the initiate.

Due to the innate mysteriousness of the knowledge the priests held elite access to, the growth of the Amun cult collected greater and greater power over the people and even the Pharaoh into the New and Later Kingdoms, until the caste finally usurped larger control over the southern half of Egypt c.1000BC through vast land grants gifted by pharaoh and officials.

**All of the following information is based on the brilliant research of one John Anthony West,  and also inspired from the earlier R.A. Swchaller Lubicz. I claim no ownership or credit for the research of these two brilliant researchers. Please check out West’s book called, Serpent in the Sky.

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