The town of Abydos is only a short distance from the larger city of Luxor as the crow flies. However, like most travel in Egypt, the route follows the path of the Nile, which makes a sharp turn and the trip takes at least three hours by car. Finally, passing through the modern town, which looks medieval to the Western eye, the traveler reaches the temple complex built under the guidance of a storied ruler, Seti I.
Built over 3,000 years ago, the vast temple complex resembles a Mid-Century design, and indeed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his contemporaries used it as a model for their style. The temple, consecrated to the neter Osiris (the word neter is commonly translated as "god" but more accurately means "a cosmic force of nature"), is overwhelming in its magnitude of design and megalithic engineering, and for the countless artistic masterpieces carved as reliefs into acres of stone surfaces.
Behind and below the vast temple sits another, clearly much older, called by Egyptologists the Osirian. The structure resembles other anachronistic sites in Egypt, like the Valley Temple below the Sphinx on the Giza Plateau (and also resemble Mesoamerican sites such as those in Cuzco and Machu Picchu in Peru.
These older temples have a different style, megalithic and unadorned, constructed of perfectly hewn granite blocks weighing hundreds of tons that originated far away in the quarries of Aswan. Though there are many theories, none adequately answer the question of how these blocks were transported and hewn to perfection and how they were lifted and assembled into a magnificent structure. They are clearly much older than the temples built around them, with some Egyptologists and geologists insisting the Osirian is over 12,000 years old.
The tunnel approach, contemporary with the newer temple above, travels into and through the Osirian. The long hall is constructed with blocks of smooth, tight-fitting limestone weighing many tons forming a peaked roof and impeccably inscribed with hieroglyphic instructional litany. The tunnel gradually descends on small, well-worn steps for a quarter mile. The text on the walls and ceiling are instructions for the initiate who is meant to undergo a process of psychological death and rebirth.
The process described in the tunnel is almost identical to the guidance given for the afterlife in tombs, but these explicit and detailed instructions are meant for the living initiate who is to take the next step in an objective journey of human transformation. It is the hall of Maat, in which the subject is invited to inquire into his readiness to loosen identification with personal history and allow consciousness to rise to a level of transpersonal unity. Herein the subject is offered 42 questions of inner inquiry which are not so much a test as a means of loosening identification with past deeds and habituated identity.
Each of the 42 questions is posed by an assessor with the aim of lightening the heart, which must be weighed symbolically against a feather—the Feather of Maat—and found to be lighter.
Even now these questions are a potent consideration, not so much as a fulcrum of judgment, but rather using the inquiry itself as a means of loosening the sticky sense of self from the objects of a personal life. Here are the questions excerpted from the translation of the 42 inquiries in the Hall of Maat by Rose Dixon:
1. Have you looked after your body as best as you could?
2. Hast thou lived the fullness of time allotted to thee?
3. Have you been clean in body and mind?
4. Have you only had sexual relations with one that you loved too?
5. Have you found out information that was not meant for your ears and eyes?
6. Hast thou kept thee only to the sword or distaff?
7. Hast thou respected the bodies of the younger brethren?
8.Have you stolen?
9. Have you eaten and drunk too excess?
10. Have you killed?
11. Hast thou spoken unjustly in anger?
12. Hast thou looked upon the goods of others in envy?
13. Have you been jealous??
14. Hast thou spoken ill of any man or woman in anger?
15. Hast thou been undiligent in work?
16. Hast thou profaned the mysteries?
17. Hast thou known pride in thyself that is false?
18. Hast thou strayed from the path allotted thee?
19. Hast thou lusted for precious metals?
20. Hast thou been too worldly?
21. Hast thou been just in thy dealings in the market place?
22. Hast thou repayed all debts promptly?
23. Hast thou been generous to the needy?
24. Hast thou lied to gain from others?
25. Hast thy tongue been as a viper to cause laughter in others?
26. Hast thou been a friend?
27. Hast thou hated another to the exclusion of all else?
28. Hast thou lent thy body to any from the other side?
29. Hast thou been thy parents joy?
30. Hast thou honored all faiths that are of the light?
31. Hast thou given time to be at peace with the gods?
32. Hast thou turned aside from wisdom given in love?
33. Hast thou listened to that which is not for thy ears?
34. Hast thou lived in the light?
35. Hast thou been a sword for the weak?
36. Hast thou enslaved any other life?
37. Hast thou faced the mirror of self?
38. Hast thou taken the words of his mouth from any man as thine own?
39. Hast thou known that all journeys end but to begin?
40. Hast thou remembered the brethren of the Earth, and been compassionate to those younger brethren who serve thee as beasts in the field and home?
41. Hast thou ever worked man or beast beyond its strength in greed?
42. Is there one upon the Earth who is glad thou hast lived?