Pyramids and Pyramidology

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Pyramids and Pyramidology

The large pyramid structures built by the ancient peoples of Egypt, Peru, and Central America have fascinated scholars and lay people through the centuries. In the wake of the emergence of modern Egyptology, they have been the subject of religious and millennial speculation, and more recently occult speculation. In spite of the efforts of Egyptologists, who have done much to discover and describe the building, the structure, and the purposes of the pyramids, a number of unanswered questions, such as the unit of measurement used by the pyramid architects, remain, and provide a basis for broad speculation. The discovery and spread of public knowledge concerning the pyramids in the Americas only added fuel to the fires of imagination. Although the Egyptian pyramids served as tombs for royalty and the wealthy of society, some pyramids had no clearly discernible purpose and others had structures that seemed to have no relation to the primary burial function.

There were some eighty pyramids in Egypt, built under the reign of the Pharaohs from 3,100 to 332 B.C.E. Egyptian tombs reflect the early religious ideas about the afterlife. In predynastic times, the dead were buried in sand pits of an oval or square shape; in the dynastic era a structure called a mastaba was erected over the burial place of kings and nobles. This was made of dried mud bricks and reproduced the house or palace of the deceased, so that his soul could have a replica of earthly existence.

Eventually stone was used instead of mud bricks, and the process of development culminated in the Step Pyramid of the Third Dynasty (ca. 2686-2181 B.C.E.) The familiar square-based, triangular-sided pyramid is seen at its best in the Great Pyramid of Giza, built in the reign of Cheops (or Khufu) of the Fourth Dynasty, regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It measures 756 feet square, with a height of 480 feet. It is made of some 2,300,000 blocks of stone that average 2 1/2 tons each. The core is of local stone and the outer facing of limestone, while the granite and limestone blocks are hewn with a high level of precision.

The pyramid is entered through a shaft on the north side, where a descending corridor leads to an unfinished chamber with a blind passage; an ascending corridor leads to what is called "the Queen's Chamber," containing two-dead end shafts, and eventually to the "Grand Gallery," 100 feet long and 30 feet high, and the "King's Chamber," containing an empty sarcophagus. It is thought that it originally contained a mummy, rifled by tomb robbers who surmounted the granite plugs, false passages and other precautions of the pyramid builders.

Occult speculations regarding the Great Pyramid have arisen mainly around its construction, dimensions, and possible use. It is certainly a remarkable engineering feat, and it has been suggested that it could have been achieved only by super-normal techniques, such as levitating the great blocks of stone by mysterious occult force. However, tomb paintings, tool marks on stone, and quarry workings suggest more conventional technology.

Ruins found near the pyramid are thought to have been the barracks for about 4,000 skilled workmen. The heavy work could have been done by conscripted labor, as depicted on other tomb paintings. One such painting depicts about 172 men shifting a sixty-ton statue. The stones were probably moved on sleds and by barges and rafts. Earthen mounds may have surrounded the pyramid in the course of construction, with ramps for elevating the stones.

Pyramidology, the attempt to impose metaphysical and cosmological meaning upon the Great Pyramid, dates back to the 1830s, after Colonel Howard Vyse blasted a way inside and took measurements. The British mathematician John Taylor and Scottish astronomer Charles Piazza Smyth claimed that the pyramid embodied divine revelations and prophecy, calculated from its measurements, assuming a unit of a "pyramid inch" which was later the Anglo-Saxon inch. After Smyth pyramidology became the domain of British Israelites (who tried to prove that contemporary Anglo-Saxons were the descendants of the fables ten lost tribes of Israel) and various conservative Christians who looked to the pyramid to verify biblical speculations concerning the end of the world.

For example, by considering the inch a symbol for a year, the internal structures of the pyramid are calculated to indicate the important dates of the world's past and present history. This involves identifying the pyramid itself with biblical versions of history, such as the traditional view that the world was created about 4,004 B.C.E., duly verified by pyramid measurements, that also showed that the Second Coming of Christ was due in 1881. When this prophecy was not fulfilled, pyramidologists revised their calculations to produce a score of other dates.

It was from Smyth's calculations that Charles Taze Russell, founder of International Bible Students Association, the precursor of what today is known as the Jehovah's Witnesses, based his own prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ. The Edgar brothers, Scottish Bible students produced a massive two volume work on pyramidology beginning with Russell's early writings.

However, the majority of pyramidology texts were put to use by the British Israelites, and the decline of British Israelism that had followed the dismantling of the British Empire had manifested in a marked reduction of interest in pyramidology in the last half of the twentieth century. Among the last noteworthy attempts at selling pyramidology was one made by the Institute of Pyramidology. Adam Rutherford founded the institute in London, England, in 1940, and it became an international body a year later with the launching of Pyramidology Magazine, with special emphasis on "Divine Revelation" and prophecies. The Institute for Pyramidology is located at 108 Broad St., Chesham, Bucks. HP5 3ED, England.

Occult speculations on the Great Pyramid have been varied and somewhat disjuncted. For example, in the 1880s, Ignatius Donnelly had suggested that the Great Pyramid had been built by the descendants of the Atlanteans. That idea was picked up in the 1920s by Manly Palmer Hall who went one to suggest that they were the focus of the ancient Egyptian wisdom schools. Edgar Cayce built upon Hall's speculations.

Through this century, other writers have suggested that the plan of the Great Pyramid and its internal structures may have embodied a mystical symbolism of the journey of the soul, as described in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Ani). It is also not unlikely that the north-south orientation of the pyramid and the nature of its dimensions reveal astronomical and geometrical knowledge of a high order. It seems clear that the Egyptians were aware of the mathematical radio of pi.

During the last generation, widespread publicity has been given to two interesting speculations about pyramids. The first was proposed by Erich von Däniken who, drawing upon popular ignorance about the broad findings of Egyptology, suggested that the pyramids had been built by extraterrestrials. Through the asking of rhetorical questions, he proposed a system by which the space visitors used anti-gravity devices to lift the very heavy block from which the structures were built. He failed to account for numerous other observations as to why the pyramids did not embody any modern technology or advanced architectural discoveries, not even the Roman arch. His speculations where soon put to rest and remain the property of a small circle of followers.

Pyramid Energy

The second set of speculations concerning pyramids have centered upon the possible existence of an unknown energy concentrated in pyramidical structures. Pyramid energy was re-discovered in the early 1970s after it was introduced in the popular best-selling Psychic Discoveries behind the Iron Curtain by journalists Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder. They described their experience with a Czech radio engineer, Karl Drbal, who had taken out a patent on a pyramid razor blade sharpener. The idea was picked up by New Age writer Lyll Wat and then a host of others including Peter Toth, Greg Nielsen, and Pat Flanagan. Through the 1970s, it was a common theme at psychic and New Age gatherings.

The idea of pyramid energy goes back to the 1920s. As early as 1928, at Lyons, a 33-year old Frenchman named Georges Gaillard demonstrated the ability to mummify two mutton chops by holding them in his hands for a minute. The French radiesthetist Antoine Bovis reported that meat, eggs and other organic substances could be mummified by placing them in a cardboard model of the Great Pyramid, which he claimed accumulated the same radiations as the King's chamber of the pyramid. It was Bovis's claims which were later picked up by Karl Drbal.

In 1950, at the Scientific and Technical Congress of Radionics and Radiesthesia, held in London, England, Noel Macbeth claimed that a cardboard model pyramid could mummify organic substances such as an egg and that this energy was connected with that radiated by the hands of gifted human healers. Such claims had also been made in Britain during World War II, when there was a shortage of razor blades.

Through the 1970s into the 1980s, experimentation with pyramids was one of the prominent New Age fads. For the most serious, pyramid tents and energy generators are marketed by Pyramid Products of Glendale, California. Interest in pyramids faded through the 1970s and exists in the mid 1990s as a mere shadow of its peak in the 70s.

In spite of all of the claims made for pyramids, from sharpening razors to the beneficial effects on the health of the persons sitting in one of the larger models, to date no scientific study has validated the reality of pyramid energy and the evidence of its effectiveness remains entirely anecdotal.


Clark, Jerome. "Life in a Pyramid." Fate 36, no. 6 (June 1983): 38-44.

Davidson, David. The Great Pyramid: Its Divine Message. London, 1924.

De Camp, L. Sprague. The Ancient Engineers. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960. Reprint, New York: Ballantine Books, 1974.

Ostrander, Sheila, and Lynn Shroeder. Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1970.

Smyth, Charles Piazzi. Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid. London, 1864.

Stewart, Basil. The Mystery of the Great Pyramid: Traditions Concerning It and Its Connection with the Egyptian Book of the Dead. London, 1929.

Tompkins, Peter. Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

. Secrets of the Great Pyramid. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

Toth, Max, and Greg Nielsen. Pyramid Power. London: Freeway, 1974. Reprint, New York: Warner Books, 1976.

Watson, Lyall. Supernature. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press,1973.