The “Pyramid Texts” are a group of hieroglyphics that were inscribed on the insides of the Old Kingdom pyramids at Saqqara 4,000 years ago, and, as such, some of the oldest writings that we are aware of. Intended only for the Pharaoh’s eyes, they reminded me of the Black School of the Icelandic folktales, where there was no teacher and all there was to know was written on the walls. Being an antediluvian, Atlantean type I’ve always been disposed to believe that ancient thought is the purest, and the idea that human wisdom has made any progress risible. Unfortunately reading the Pyramid Texts themselves was deeply disenchanting, as they were previously translated as primitive, disconnected spells and superstitions, the most infamous of which, the so-called “Cannibal Hymn” was understood to describe the Pharaoh hunting and eating the gods.
We are all extremely fortunate, therefore, that Susan Brind Morrow has written The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts a brilliant translation and exegesis of the Texts that casts everything in a completely new light. Classicist and linguist Morrow brilliantly restores the cosmic, tantric poetry of the hieroglyphics to stunning, profound effect.
A couple of thoughts that came to me as I read this fantastic book. The first is how much of our mythology and religion was inspired by people lying on their backs and staring at the night. Those twinkling lights that moved across the sky in esoteric patterns must have appeared, quite literally, as a message from the gods, a belief that persists to our day in Astrology, or even in the Christian mythos of the son/sun dying in the blue mantle of his mother only to be resurrected.
The other thing the Pyramid Texts and Morrow’s understanding of them brought home was the true nature of Poetry, as something chiseled out, deeply meaningful and informed by the most profound human feeling and philosophy, a lyrical, magical way of knowing, thinking and spell casting. So much of what passes for contemporary poetry is chopped up academic prose, designed not to be, you know, poetic, but rather inoffensive, politically correct or merely soothing. At the academic, literary end it’s often facile, watered down memoir or gauzy nature writing and at the popular end it’s bald pronouncements in romance novel language.
Frankly, I was blown away by The Dawning Moon of the Mind, as evidenced by the many passages I recorded in the old quote bag, and I will share a few of them with now you, lucky reader:
The words are after what any true artist or poet is after: to capture, to conjure the living thing — to capture the sense of a thing as it relates to the living world.
Poetry predates prose. It is telegraphic and fragmentary by nature. Poetry is dynamic: the meaning is signaled as a glimpse of the active hidden layers of reality.
Technique in poetry originally resided in the construction of the line itself. A line was like an object made by a trained hand and a gifted eye, like a beautifully carved flint knife, to have a particular effect. Catullus creates a poem that is not so much an expression of feeling as a loaded device made of words.
It is a magical device made of words. It is a poem.
Or perhaps what is meant is that the principle that underlies both the harmonizing of chaos and the miracle of the manifestation of form is love; that is the underlying vibration revealed.
…showing the use of words as multifaceted, magical vehicles that make things alike, and make things happen.
The ultimate reality is the underlying order, and its pervasive beauty. Even disorder is ruled by, folds into, and emerges from the ultimate order.
As in Plato’s doctrine of recollection, knowledge is memory, and memory is release. The connection between words and things is memory. Memory is electricity, the lighting up of the mind.
The film of personality and circumstance is only a story that dissolves at death, or resides in words alone, in memory.
The point is that holiness resides, and the eternal life resides in the body itself.
You can feel in these words poetry as a physical force that stirs an inner, tactile awareness of a living transformative reality. To define it kills it, but poetry captures it alive.
In what part of the body does the the individual life reside? If the self is not findable, transformation is possible.
It is the pattern itself that is eternity.
The great female serpent within is invoked and described as both terrifying and prompted upward by love.
Alchemy is a consciously created system of coding for the invention of time, the creation of written language and the yogic practices of Ta-ntra, “the holiness of the earth itself,” the oldest religion in the world. This method of coding, of hiding and probing the dimensions of profound realizations in elaborate constructions of words, is the origin of poetry.