SERPENT IN THE SKY: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, by John Anthony West; Julian Press/Crown (Random House); paperbound.

THE TRAVELER'S KEY TO ANCIENT EGYPT by John Anthony West; Alfred A. Knopf; illustrated paperbound.

Egyptology as a science is less than one hundred years old; as an innate yearning for the spiritual life it is timeless. West's approach to the Egypt experience either as a study or a journey is to relinquish the “cerebral approach” for the sake of the vital experience that its art and architecture conveys.

Serpent in the Sky is in its second edition, the new paperback format reflecting a resurgence of interest in ancient cultures from both scholarly and esoteric viewpoints. Serpent offers both, in addition to a trove of illustrative material that ranges from temple and tomb reliefs to mathematical theorems which articulate the sacred geometry.

West has produced a significant work in that for the first time in the English language, the prodigious work of French orientalist R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz is presented in a thorough, engaging overview. As originator of the Symbolist approach to understanding ancient civilizations, de Lubicz's work was, in the middle of this century, derided, or ignored by orthodox Egyptology. Currently, the basic premises of Symbolist thought can be found in a number of new Egypt works, and it appears that esoteric Egypt is finding its way into mainstream thinking.

The fundamental theme of Symbolist thinking concerning Egypt is that the underlying cause of its architectural, artistic, engineering, and medical achievements is the existence of a Sacred Science This body of knowledge was, according to de Lubicz, far more sophisticated and in concert with universal principles than our own physical sciences. West articulates the disciplines which compose this ancient wisdom, from Pythagorean concepts to esoteric symbolism in temple art.

The Traveler's Key to Ancient Egypt is the result of West's numerous research journeys to Egypt in the last twenty years and the development of his special guided tour events. The latter bypass standard, popular monuments for truly special sites that offer genuine spiritual ambiance. This “Guide to the Sacred Places of Ancient Egypt” offers far more than the common tourist itinerary. It is truly a pilgrim's compendium to the sacred journey through temple, tomb, and pyramid.

The Traveler's Key provides a comprehensive overview of cur rent Egypt “theories.” With the pyramids, for instance, West impartially discusses the probability of slave labor along with pyramid power claims, UFO origins, and undiscovered chambers of initiation. With his characteristic dry humor and thorough grasp of the facts, Egypt becomes easy.

Egyptian art, architecture, and the historical background of the monuments' period is discussed in opening chapters to each site. This prepares the traveler for the esoteric experience, and establishes an appreciation for the subtleties of each place. At Ombos, for instance, one may envision the temple crocodiles adorned with earrings splashing about while descending down the sacred well. At the same time, one is reminded of the ascent of the spiritual entry into the sacred marsh of time, embodied in the temple's lotus form capitals that fill the sky as the traveler attains ground level.


Winter 1991