Araaraat, archaeology, ARE, Association for Research and Enlightenment, Atlanteans, Atlantis, carbon dating, drilling, Edgar Cayce, fringe, Giza, Giza Plateau Mapping Project, Great Pyramid, Hall of Records, library, New Age, Old Kingdom, plateau, Pliny the Elder, pyramids, Rosicrucians, sleeping prophet, Sphinx, Ta-Ra, visions
Few ancient monuments are as enigmatic as the Great Sphinx of Giza. To this day people debate its purpose, when it was built, and what it meant to its builders. And few ancient monuments have been so fixed as a target for fringe and New Age whimsy.
One my own favorite examples of the latter is the fabled Hall of Records, a vast library of esoteric and forgotten wisdom stored in a stone-hewn cavern below the Sphinx. To think of great ancient wisdom so close and yet so far, never seen by modern human eyes, drives the imagination.
If you allow it to, that is. What can we really say about the Hall of Records? What is fact and what is fable? Where does the story come from? Can we search the ancient texts and inscriptions of the pharaonic Egyptians and allow them to show us the truth? Well, no, the ancient Egyptian written record is completely silent on the subject of the Hall of Records. There is very little ancient Egyptian writing about the Sphinx in general, much less what’s supposed to be underneath it. This means we have to turn to the ancient writings of other people.
Plenty of writers from Classical times and through Late Antiquity commented on the Sphinx. In his Natural History, for instance, Pliny the Elder explained the following (Bostock 1890: 336):
In front of them [the pyramids] is the Sphinx, which deserves to be described even more than they, and yet the Egyptians have passed it over in silence. The inhabitants of the region regard it as a deity. They are of the opinion that a King Harmais is buried inside it… (XXXVI: Chapter 17)
We know Pliny was incorrect. The Sphinx was never a tomb, nor is there anything inside it. With the exception of a couple of minor tunnels and aborted passages, likely carved at a later time, the Sphinx is solid limestone. It was carved from an original massif that protruded from the Giza Plateau.
There is ample modern writing about the Sphinx in fringe and New Age literature written by the likes of Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock, but of course these are not authors to whom one should turn when in the search for real-world, reliable, historically valid facts.
The Rosicrucians, ever obsessed with rituals and ceremonies of arcane initiation rights in the manner of the mystery cults of Rome, have forwarded all sorts of strange notions about the Sphinx and other Giza monuments and the secrets of the vast temples and other features which lie below the surface of the Plateau:
Needless to say, in the real-world of archaeology, no such features are known.
We can trace the existence of the Hall of Records, in fact, no farther back than Edgar Cayce (1877-1945). I should hope anyone who’s reading this article or was attracted to it by the mention of the “Hall of Records” in the title, already knows who Edgar Cayce was.
For those who actually do not, Cayce was known as the “sleeping prophet” because he would recline, put himself into a trance-like state, and receive “visions.” Sometimes he would channel ancient history, at other times he would perform readings about the health of visitors who came to see him.
In the 1930s and early 1940s Cayce received a series of visions supposedly about the origins of ancient Egypt and the reasons the Giza pyramids and Sphinx were built. The stories Cayce related are rather detailed and meandering and could be the subject for any number of debunking articles, so I prefer to keep it simple. Some examples of his readings will suffice for our purpose:
A record of Atlantis from the beginning of those periods when the Spirit took form, or began the encasements in that land; and the developments of the peoples throughout their sojourn; together with the record of the first destruction, and the changes that took place in the land; with the record of the sojournings of the peoples and their varied activities in other lands, and a record of the meetings of all the nations or lands, for the activities in the destruction of Atlantis; and the building of the pyramid of initiation, together with whom, what, and where the opening of the records would come, that are as copies from the sunken Atlantis. For with the change, it [Atlantis] must rise again. In position, this lies — as the sun rises from the waters — as the line of the shadows (or light) falls between the paws of the Sphinx; that was set later as the sentinel or guard and which may not be entered from the connecting chambers from the Sphinx’s right paw until the time has been fulfilled when the changes must be active in this sphere of man’s experience. Then [it lies] between the Sphinx and the river. [378-16; Oct 29, 1933]
It would be well if this entity were to seek either of the three phases of the ways and means in which those records of the activities of individuals were preserved — the one in the Atlantean land, that sank, which will rise and is rising again; another in the place of the records that leadeth from the Sphinx to the hall of records, in the Egyptian land; and another in the Aryan or Yucatan land, where the temple there is overshadowing same. [2012-1; Sep 25, 1939]
… the entity joined with those who were active in putting the records in forms that were partially of the old characters of the ancient or early Egyptian, and part in the newer form of the Atlanteans. These may be found, especially when the house or tomb of records is opened, in a few years from now. [2537-1; Jul 17, 1941]
… [the entity] was among the first to set the records that are yet to be discovered or yet to be had of those activities in the Atlantean land, and for the preservation of data that is yet to be found from the chambers of the way between the Sphinx and the pyramid of records. [3575-2; Jan 20, 1944]
In essence, Edgar Cayce’s visions tell us the great land of Egypt was founded by refugees from the sundered and sunk Atlantis. Atlanteans fled in all directions, taking their written wisdom with them. These records were supposed to have been stashed in hidden chambers in a couple of South American sites as well as at Giza, Egypt. It is only Egypt with which we concern ourselves here, as Cayce himself seemed to emphasize it. The Sphinx, then, was a guardian figure for the Hall of Records, while the Giza pyramids were built as temples and monuments for the rituals of the Atlanteans who founded Egypt.
Moreover, we can see according to Cayce’s visions that the Hall of Records actually doesn’t lie beneath the Sphinx but in some location to the east of it (“Then [it lies] between the Sphinx and the river”). The Sphinx stands watch over the entrance to the passage that leads to the Hall of Records.
So this is the origin of the Hall of Records. No ancient record of it occurs, aside from writers like Pliny who entertained other notions about the Sphinx. Perhaps this is where Cayce got the idea for his vision. Perhaps he got the idea from science-fiction novels of his time, which some skeptics have posited.
I don’t know where Cayce got the idea. Do I personally believe he received visions that supplied him with fantastic details about Atlantis and the civilizations its fleeing inhabitants would go on to settle? No, of course I do not. Nothing in Cayce’s visions about Atlantis or Egypt rings of truth, and none of it can be supported by real facts. Certainly, none of Cayce’s visions about Egypt have bee proved true.
For one thing, Cayce’s visions of Atlantis seem more like a cheesy science-fiction movie than anything else. The legend of Atlantis comes from the great Greek philosopher Plato, who created the story in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias. I’m perfectly aware plenty of people today believe that Atlantis was a real place as described by Plato, as were the events he portrayed in the dialogues. As ridiculous as this has always seemed to me—and no doubt at some point I’ll compose an article about Atlantis—what Plato wrote about the fabled island civilization really bears no similarities to the bizarre and unrealistic visions of Cayce, and that’s what we’re dealing with here.
In Cayce’s version of events, after Atlanteans had reached the Nile Valley, they were led to create the monuments at Giza by their high priest Ra-Ta in honor of their king Araaraat. (It’s interesting in the first place that the refugees of a western Mediterranean island, now sunk, should have Egyptian- or Semitic-sounding names all of a sudden.) Furthermore, this was supposed to have taken place many, many thousands of years before conventional research places the Giza pyramids and Sphinx: orthodox history places the Great Pyramid, for example, at around 2500 BCE, in the reign of King Khufu, while Cayce’s story takes place in the eleventh millennium BCE!
This is absurd on the face of it, of course. A great deal of work in recent decades has gone into the archaeology and research of prehistoric, late-prehistoric, and Early Dynastic Egypt (I recommend in particular the literature on this topic written by Toby Wilkinson and David Wengrow; see the references at the end of the article). Careful studies to this effect have established beyond dispute that the great kingdom of Egypt, which was founded around 3100 BCE, was the creation of the people who had lived in the Nile Valley all along; and the material culture and societal evolution of these original inhabitants show that they were none other than the people we know as the ancient Egyptians. No one came from without to create this civilization: the civilization of the Nile Valley was definitively and uniquely Egyptian from start to finish.
Moreover, as popular as it might be for all manner of fringe writers to try to pass off the Giza monuments as thousands of years older than anyone thought, modern science has comfortably put such nonsense to rest. Extensive carbon dating of the Giza pyramids, conducted in two rounds of testing, have established that the pyramids could not be much older than a century or so than originally thought (Bonani et al 2001). Radiocarbon dating of material objects dating to the Old Kingdom of Egypt have reinforced the accuracy of orthodox researchers’ long-held dating system for pharaonic Egypt (Ramsey et al 2010). And the work of the Giza Plateau Mapping Project, headed by Mark Lehner, has established beyond reasonable doubt that the Great Sphinx was indeed commissioned by King Khafre, owner of the second pyramid at Giza (source). In fact, the Sphinx was an integral part of the pyramid complex of Khafre.
People who believe Cayce’s visions have long demanded that the Egyptian government conduct ground-penetrating radar examinations of the Plateau to prove this one way or the other. Such techniques have indeed been conducted at Giza (as well as at many other pharaonic sites), and nothing much of note at Giza has been found. You will see on countless websites of dubious veracity that huge chambers were found by GPR analysis, which is an obvious distortion of the truth. While it’s true that small pockets and voids were discerned—small pockets and voids are the nature of limestone, after all—there is no indication of vast chambers or halls or passageways lying beneath the Giza Plateau.
Very telling was some work conducted by the Egyptian government at the Sphinx in 2008. At that time there was considerable water rising to the surface and pooling around the Sphinx. The Supreme Council of Antiquities (now the Ministry of State for Antiquities) was concerned that the water might contain sewage and damage the already frail Sphinx, so they sunk a series of deep bore holes all around the Sphinx to determine the source of the water (source). They were relieved to determine it was just normal groundwater.
This was the beginning of an examination that would lead to pumping operations to keep the Sphinx clear of water, but as long as they were drilling these deep holes, they decided to send down cameras to see if anything of interest could be found down there.
Nothing of interest was found. No chamber, no passageway, no cavern, no hallways leading to a Hall of Records.
Edgar Cayce’s elaborate stories about the founding of Egypt and the purposes for the Giza monuments are complete fiction. That should be obvious to anyone who can exercise critical thinking, and yet the idea of the Hall of Records continues to thrive. It enjoys a lively and colorful existence on the internet, where you can find it extolled on many half-baked websites of a New Age flavor. New Age might be all the rage among many people in our modern world, but rarely does it reflect reality. Rarely does it accurately address or present ancient history.
Part of the reason for the longevity of the Hall of Records fable is the organization called the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE). This organization is in honor of Edgar Cayce and his visions. The ARE takes things a bit far and descends into the realm of conspiracy theories by claiming the Egyptian government conceals facts and prohibits research work, which is certainly a distortion. I imagine they’re frustrated. After all, none of the visions of their sleeping prophet have ever come true, so they’re desperate for validation. I’ll give the ARE some credit, however. They have sponsored and financed a number of scientific explorations of the Giza Plateau. They’ve put themselves out there, and in spit of never knowing success, they continue to try.
I think the majority of us can see the absurdity in the Hall of Records. I see the strong possibility that Cayce was a fraud to begin with, but in the very least, it’s painfully obvious that “psychic visions” cannot in any way be regarded as evidence for anything. Fringe notions rarely contain the sort of logic and reason one needs when examining and studying ancient history, but it’s extremely hard to put an end to such notions. I’ve never understood why many people avoid professional research and disciplined, legitimate historical study in favor of whimsical falderal, but it seems to be an epidemic in our society. One wonders if modern educational institutions are adequately teaching students to learn and exercise critical thinking, because so many adults today seem to lack the ability to do so.
As always, thanks for reading.
AERA wesbite on the Giza Plateau Mapping Project.
Bostock, John. The Natural History of Pliny. 1890.
Cayce, Edgar Evans. Edgar Cayce on Atlantis. 1968.
Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E.: Association for Research and Enlightenment.
Georges Bonani, et al. “Radiocarbon Dates of Old and Middle Kingdom Monuments in Egypt.” 2001.
Ramsey, Christopher Bronk, et al. “Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Dynastic Egypt.” Science. 2010.
Wengrow, David. The Archaeology of Early Egypt. 2006.
Wilkinson, Toby. Early Dynastic Egypt. 2000.
Wilkinson, Toby. Genesis of the Pharaohs. 2003.