The Book of :
The Hidden Chamber
ca. 1426 BCE
or :
the Twelve Hours of the Night
the Midnight Mystery


Book of What is in the Duat

Book of the Hidden Chamber - Sixth Hour
The five-headed serpent "Tail-in-Mouth" :
"the mysterious image of the Duat, unknown and unseen"
Tomb of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (ca. 1479 - 1426 BCE)

© by Wim van den Dungen
Antwerp - 2012

Section 1 - Section 2 - Section 3

This book is the pinnacle of Ancient Egyptian state-funded research into the workings of the netherworld or "Duat" ("dwAt", netherworld, "Unterwelt", "monde inferieur" Rilke's "Weltinnenraum"). The Duat is the inner (dream) world, existing in parallel with the Earth (of the living) and with the skies (of the justified and the deities). It is before life and after death. This realm is entered by everybody during the hours of sleep and at death. It is the home of the deities and the spirits (of the noble, justified ancestors) in the retinue of Osiris. In a mysterious way, the undifferentiated inertness of the primordial waters runs through it (cf. the water hole filled with Nun of the 6th Hour). In Nun, the autogenetic power floats ...

Atum is the "soul of Nun" and hence the capacity to self-create eternal repetition and therewith the forces of the universe (Ennead), creation (Horus, Re) and its order (Maat). At midnight, as a result of his union with the mummy of Osiris, Re taps into Atum's precreational power by projecting himself out of the created order and returning regenerated & rejuvenated.

The Amduat (ca. 1426 BCE), the book of what is "in the Duat", divides the nocturnal journey of Re into 12 Hours, starting at dusk. The presence of this remarkable book, with its unseen fusion of visual and textual meanings, also underlines the accessability of the Duat by those still living on Earth. Although found in royal tombs and belonging to the privilege of the divine king, these texts are not exclusively funerary, but speak of a this-life ritual of rejuvenation (regeneration - cf. Osiris) & (royal ?) illumination (Re).

Repeatedly, the Amduat states :

"It is good for the dead to have this knowledge, but also for a person on Earth ; a remedy - a million times proven !"

The first speculations on record go back to the Middle Kingdom (ca. 1938 - 1759 BCE), if not earlier (First Intermediate Period). Even in the Old Kingdom, the movement of the "sah" (the mummy), from sarcophagus (buria-chamber or "Duat") to the transfigurating horizon (antechamber or "Akhet"), and from there to the circumpolar stars as a spirit (or "Akh"), reflects complex preoccupations with ecstatic & postmortal conditions.

In the Pyramid texts of Unas, the earliest, complete and authorative corpus of Heliopolitanism, the Osirian rebirth and Solar illumination of the divine king are described. It is clear ascension to Re is impossible without passing through the kingdom of Osiris.

In the Old Kingdom, this journey was the privilege of the divine king. Indeed, in this period of Ancient Egyptian history, his position was still absolute. But after the Middle Kingdom, when personal responsibility (everybody had a Ba) & the role of the deities (in particular Re) became more important than the presence of Pharaoh, the journey had to be undertaken by Re himself.

Treatise of the Hidden Chamber,
the positions of the Ba-souls,
the gods,
the shadows,
the Akh-spirits,
and what is done.

The beginning is the horn of the West,
the gate of the western horizon,
the end is thick darkness,
the gate of the western horizon.

To know the Ba-souls of the Duat,
to know what is done,
to know their spiritualization for Re,
to know the secret Ba-souls,
to know what is in the hours and their gods,
to know what he calls to them,
to know the gates
and the ways upon which
the great god passes,
to know the courses of the hours
and their gods,
to know the flourishing and the annihilated.

Long Title of the Amduat

In the first six Hours of the journey, the differentiation of conscious awareness (represented by the soul of Re), started at noon, ends with depletion. At midnight, a conjunction happens between this Solar awareness and the divine substrate or ground of consciousness. At this point of singularity, or unity between the soul (Re) and the body (Osiris) of consciousness, awareness spontaneously ascends to the ultimate autogenic cause of consciousness (Atum), situated at the beginning of time ("zep tepi"), outside the natural order of the observable universe (Nun).

In the conjunction, Osiris, the divine consciousness-stuff as such, witnesses himself. Realizing its autogenic potential, this living consciousness of Re-Osiris (i.e. soul united with body) returns a formidable energy-surplus to the universe and regeneration starts. A new cycle of 24 hour is made possible. Conscious awareness integrates itself in the last six Hours, and its perceptions are renewed.

"This nocturnal regeneration of the sun demonstrates, by way of example, that powers of renewal are at work on the far side of death. At the same time, the journey occurs in the spaces of the human soul, in which a renewal from the depts become possible. That it is an odyssey of the soul is emphazised by the Egyptians through the indication that the sun god descends into the depths as a ba-soul (and thus is ram-headed, since ba is also the word for ram) ; herein lie significant antecedents of modern psychotherapy."
Hornung, 1999, p.27.

These studies of the Midnight Mystery and its Ars Obscura are divided into two sections and a discussion of the 12 Hours, to be finished over time.

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initiated : 22 IX 2004 - last update : 21 X 2013 - version n°1

© Wim van den Dungen