by Shiva Das
Many people have not heard the name Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, but below the surface of the works of Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval and other modern researchers writing about Egypt, esotericism and ancient civilisations, you will find his powerful influence. The source for much of the modern re-appraisal of Ancient Egypt comes from the work of John Anthony West, who clearly tells us that Schwaller de Lubicz was his inspiration. So who exactly was Rene Schwaller de Lubicz and why haven’t we heard of him?
The first reason for de Lubicz’s low profile is that much of his work still remains only available in his native tongue of French. It seems difficult for us, conditioned to believe in the supremacy of English as a world language, to realise that there is a vast library of untranslated material of great importance to modern esotericism. Most of the works of Rene Guenon, Julius Evola and Rene Schwaller de Lubicz are still only available in their own languages.
The second reason why we probably haven’t heard of Schwaller de Lubicz is that he is incredibly difficult to read. Since he believed in the sacredness of language and of number, he used them only with reservation and respect and in a form that demanded slow, meditative consideration. His works cannot be breezed through – they demand digestion. Not something the majority of people are accustomed to, this being the era of the paperback and streamlined news broadcasts with their “two minute” concentration spans.
As his works have been slowly translated (Inner Traditions have released many of his titles including the first release of The Temple of Man, his two volume opus in 1998), it is important to consider his unique insight into the nature of Ancient Egyptian civilisation.
Sacredness of Number
The foundation of de Lubicz’ vision comes from the sacredness of number and language. As with the ancient Hebrews, de Lubicz saw language not as a simple means of communication, but as an interface between man and the divine. When the Sepher Yetzirah says that YHVH created man with the fire letters of the Hebrew alphabet and St. John’s Gospel says that the “Word was God”, we have some indication of a deeper understanding of language than our present secular usage. The same applies to number: The greatest secret of the Pythagorean brotherhood was the relationship between number, sound and form.
We may wonder why such relationships were important or had any value beyond the purely speculative. And this is where de Lubicz’s work is of great significance. De Lubicz understood through his research into alchemy and Hermeticism that in the traditional view of the universe, life was part of a “Great Chain of Being”. From the lowest particle to the greatest deity, all partook of certain characteristics and were linked together into a great scheme of existence. The foundations of this bridge of resonance were within sacred letters and numbers, with vibrations and harmonics.
This had immense practical application, for example, in conjunction with Fulcanelli, de Lubicz was able to use these underlying principles to decode the methods used to create the great windows of Chartes Cathedral. These stained glass windows show the use of certain colours that could not have been created by pigment and which involved changes in the actual molecular structure of the glass, something that is still considered beyond the state of our present technology. But by understanding the underlying harmonics of the universe, de Lubicz was able to practice the nearly forgotten alchemical arts and decode this Cathedral.
Harmonic of Egypt
The significance of such an approach is evident in his reconstruction of Pharaonic Egypt. De Lubicz examined the architecture of Ancient Egypt and found that it had an underlying symbolic code, a magnificent numerical system, that operated as an initiated form of language. By making this deduction he went on to decode the system and find the real, life changing concepts that Egypt was based on. From this research he predicted the true age of the Pyramids, the water erosion on the Sphinx, and even suggested that the Nile had been redirected years before satellite images proved his hypothesis correct. The real value of his work is not found in such speculation, but in his restoration of the primal language, of the real meaning of perception and the nature of spiritual experience as found in sacred geometry and alchemy.
To fully grasp de Lubicz’s vision we need to consider the Egyptian mindset from within the “Great Chain of Being” and remove our modernist and secular theories from the stage. For a moment consider the Ancient Egyptian’s perception of time, space, direction — all having religious connotations. Time is not simply the ticking of a clock: Time is measured by the flow of religious festivals, time within the day is correlated to stories about the gods. Therefore every moment is sacred and full of spiritual intent.
De Lubicz went further and decoded the architecture of many temples. For example, he spent years decoding the Temple of Luxor revealing that its design was based on the human body and that its dimensions reflected sacred proportions (similar to those found in Chartes and other cathedrals build on Masonic dimensions). Yet what does it mean? What does it matter that a temple is like a human body? The significance can only be understood when we consider the experience of the average Egyptian within a traditional culture based on an appreciation of the unity between the individual, the state and the divine.
As the Egyptian approaches the temple, he is not isolated from it. He approaches it at a certain time, correlated to a god or religious concept, from a direction intent with meaning. He is not isolated from the architecture — it is alive. Its form, shape and dimension all communicate to him. He knows they have the same proportions as his body, hence he is part of the architecture, he is connected to the temple and it to him. Further to this, he knows it has been placed in a “sacred location” and is connected to his motherland and to his people. So there is no division – there is a harmonic and unity between the individual, time, space, direction, architecture, land and people.
As the temple rite begins, the Egyptian does not feel that it is only for the priest class or that they get more than he does. He knows that he is part of a great chain of being, an organic state where he is linked to all others in the country from the lowest worker to the Pharoah himself. As the Pharoah acts he influences the whole state, as he practices the ancient rites, all are affected. There is no artificial division between religion, politics, the divine and the secular.
The Egyptian experience is one harmonic, one unity that encompasses all aspects. This unity was the foundation for the Egyptian Harmonic which sustained Egypt for thousands of years. Indeed, Egyptian art did not change for some 2,000 years until the advent of Akhnaten and afterwards then returned to its “Old style” until its fall. The great unity of Egypt was its sustaining vision, its essence not only found in the state or political structure or in the priesthood, but within every aspect of its expression, from art to architecture, from music to medicine. Like a hologram, even a single artefact can reveal the language of the greater form. Rene Schwaller de Lubicz understood this and used the mathematics of the temples to give us a glimpse of the greater vision of Egypt.
The Great Chain of Being
The plan and structure of the world, which, through the Middle Ages and down to the late eighteenth century most educated men were to accept without question – the conception of the universe as a “Great Chain of Being”, composed of an immense or infinite number of links ranging in hierarchical order from the meagerest kinds of existents… through every possible grade up to the ‘ens perfectissimum’. This greater vision was not only found within Egyptian civilisation, but it certainly was its greatest expression. The traditional worldview underlied much of Medieval thought, though its unity was not expressed as clearly as in Egypt.
Since the reference point for modern man is the material world, he judges life by his perceptions and acts accordingly. His life is governed by physical desires and material requirements. This way of life, whether it be Western consumerism or Marxist materialism, was created by the development of the (Western) scientific worldview, whereby man was removed from his place at the centre of the universe and reduced to his new status as an “evolved monkey”. Beginning in the 19th century (some would argue earlier) prevailing ideologies began to jettison God, spirituality and the Medieval worldview and replace “superstition” with a “scientific” model based on matter, evolution and technology coupled with a blind belief in progress. This new scientific model was and is a direct contradiction of the earlier “traditional” model, that was based on the “Great Chain of Being”.
This Great Chain of Being is the traditional view of the universe that is not locked in a simple “nuts and bolts” view, but which encompasses the great span of existence from the very heights of spirit to the depths of the infernal realms. The Great Chain of Being finds expression in many cultures but is not doctrinally specific — it can be found in Hindu, Buddhist, Platonic, Christian and Mystical cosmology, and throughout literature on myth and legend, as well as in the visions of Dante.
Modern man’s vision of reality can be seen like those locked into Plato’s cave — he perceives only shadows and presumes these to be real. This is far more dangerous than we admit, for if we limit our reality to our senses alone then we remove all possibility of ethical or spiritual insight and reduce existence to material banality. While psychology may wish to somewhat expand our horizons by positing spiritual equivalents within the mind, it is still reductionist and everything is referenced back to the senses and the material world. If it is from matter we come, then to matter we shall return.
The Harmonic of Ancient Egypt and the sacred mathematics of Pythagoras, the blazing power of language and the divine proportions of architecture, reflect a worldview where all was sacred. From the labourer to the Pharoah or king, all partook of the essence of the organic whole.
It is only today with the advent of so-called individual freedom, the scientific method and man-centred political systems, that this union has been shattered and modern man is left alienated and lost in a hostile world. Perhaps de Lubicz’s work is a glimpse of just how much we have lost.