A Search in Secret Egypt

By Sanjay Sivadas, travel writer, 2014

In 1936, Paul Brunton (1898-1981) wrote A Search in Secret Egypt; a fascinating travelogue about his cross-country journey across Egypt. It took him to Cairo, the Pyramids at Giza, the ruins of Karnak and the temple of Hathor at Dendera and Luxor. Many times, as the author unwraps the secrets of Egypt, you feel as if you were there yourself.

The Pyramids of Egypt have fascinated people since time immemorial. The finest of these are the pyramids of Giza, located on the outskirts of Cairo. The Great Pyramid, which happens to be the largest of the three pyramids of Giza, is the only one amongst the 'Seven Wonders of the Ancient World' still standing to this day. Paul Brunton's account of an entire night spent alone inside the Great Pyramid is mesmerizing.

It had been a particularly daunting task for the author to secure permission from the government of Egypt to spend a night alone inside the Great Pyramid. "Had I asked for permission to fly to the moon, the face of the official who listened to me could not have betrayed more utter stupefaction." He was told by the official from the Department of Antiquities, "I have never had such a request before… Impossible! The thing is unheard of." The author humorously said, "I felt that he regarded me as a fit candidate for a certain institution which few of us would care to enter as inmates."

Nevertheless, the author got his way. "We are taking a risk in leaving you alone inside all night. You won't blow up the Pyramid, will you?" the author was asked. To which he replied, "I promise you not only that, but I shall not even run away with it!"

And so, one beautiful evening, Paul Brunton drove out of Cairo towards the Giza plateau, some 25 kilometers away. Although he was ready to spend the entire night alone inside the Great Pyramid, he wasn't sure what the night might bring forth…

Brunton made his way into the Great Pyramid through the gaping hole which Caliph Al Mamoun had made when he broke into it in 820 AD.

"A strange feeling that I was not alone began to creep insidiously over me… Shadows began to flit to and fro in the shadow less room; gradually these took more definite shape, and malevolent countenances appeared suddenly quite close… Never again would I repeat such an experiment; never again would I take up a nocturnal abode within the Great Pyramid" wrote Brunton.

Not long afterwards, two High Priests (in white robes and sandaled feet) from ancient Egypt appeared to him in luminous form. The author was sure that a momentous hour of his life was at hand. The High Priests bid the author to lie inside the lidless granite sarcophagus at the King's Chamber. The latter is located 140 feet above the ground inside the Great Pyramid.

"I laid myself flat upon my back. What happened immediately afterwards is still not very clear to me. It was as though he had unexpectedly given me a dose of some peculiar, slow-working, anesthetic, for all my muscles became taut, after which a paralyzing lethargy began to creep over my limbs. My entire body became heavy and numb."

The author found himself being led by one of the High Priests down a secret corridor whose entrance he had not seen. "The sense of gravity seemed to have gone and I was literally floating on air, with that strange half-suspended, half-standing feeling… I noted a trail of faint silvery light projecting itself down from me." The High Priest warned Paul Brunton not to look backwards. The author failed to heed the warning. He turned his head and looked back. Immediately, he found himself transported back to the granite sarcophagus in the King's Chamber.

The High Priest told the author "My son, it matters not whether thou discoverest the door or not. Find but the secret passage within the mind that will lead thee to the hidden chamber within thine own soul, and thou shalt have found something worthy indeed. The mystery of the Great Pyramid is the mystery of thine own self. The secret chambers and ancient records are all contained in thine own nature. The lesson of the Pyramid is that man must turn inward, must venture to the unknown centre of his being to find his soul, even as he must venture to the unknown depths of this fane to find its profoundest secret."

If you haven't read A Search in Secret Egypt before, you definitely should. It doesn't matter if you do or don't believe in spiritual journeys. Brunton's writing alone is worth the read.

- Sanjay Sivadas, Travel writer