In ancient Egypt there were many degrees of Initiation and many Levels of Priesthoods. Some of the priests were born into families of Priests or Priestesses where it was assumed they would follow the path of the family bloodline. Secrets were told within the families about the mystery teachings and the Rites-Passages of Initiation. One could also become a Priest or Priestess after a long course of study, fasting, and ritual.
High Priests were initiated by Ra, himself, in the Great Pyramid when the Sun aligned with the capstone by exact degree.
These Priests would study for many years to achieve this level of spiritual accomplishment. They would forfeit all personal goals and belongings living a life of semi-solitude and worship of the Great Gods and Goddesses of Egypt. For the most part they were men, but there were High Priestesses.
At the time of the Initiation of the High Priests and Priestesses, a stillness would befall the land. Night would become day as the Sun would be seen directly over the capstone of the Great Pyramid of the Sun God Ra.
Once inside the Great Initiation Pyramid the illusions would begin.
The Initiates would enter a secret Chamber in the Pyramid where anything could happen. It was often a test of their endurance. They were to discern what was real and what was illusion. Not everyone passed the tests even after years of study.
Only the very few would witness the appearance of the Sun God, Ra, who would give them the sacred teachings of creation. When their course of study was complete Ra would give them special rods and powers. Next they would then be sent out to Teach, to heal, and to Initiate those who would follow them.
There were times when Ra would be accompanied by a Goddess, Isis or Hathor. It was not unusual to present gifts to the Gods and Goddesses who came to initiate the Priests and Priestesses.
A list was kept of those who passed the tests and became part of the Great White Brotherhood of the Thoth or Isis Mystery Schools.
The High Priests and Priestesses would Initiate others novices who one day hope to expire to greatness working with the Gods.
These novices spend forty days and nights in fasting, prayer and study of the Mysteries.
The fasting consisted of abstaining from all pleasures of the table, to eat no living thing, and to drink no wine.
Part of their study was the memorization of long lines of text given by the priests and magicians of our Inner Mystery School Circle and the reciting of certain magic formulae, declarations, incantations, spells, litanies and some funerary liturgy.
Also the curriculum included certain riddles and mind puzzles of an esoteric nature, bearing a resemblance in form, but not in content, to those commonly used these days as pass times in certain intellectual upper classes.
At the Midwinter evening ten aspirants gathered by the altar between the paws of Hu [Sphinx's paws] waiting for their entrance into an antechamber located underneath the colossus' belly.
It was a fresh peaceful evening still reflecting on the pyramids the crimson afterglow of the sun Aton, "to Whom all creation worship".
The candidates, talked among themselves about their sacrifices and earnest preparation and fasting prior to the ceremony.
Some stepped at the Thothmes stele at the Sphinx's breast and read some of its lines.
The thrill in anticipation filling their hearts was perceived in their words as they recalled especially the last two weeks of work. As time passed, all quieted and sat absorbed in their own thoughts and expectations.
To some, the answering of the Sphinx's riddle, as a password to get admittance into the temple, seemed a little bit scary. "Could I actually answer it correctly?"
It was known that some students had failed to give the right answer and with embarrassment were asked to return home.
Even if successfully answering the riddle, it was still that fear of the imminent trials, knowing that some past initiates, not using right judgment, did not survive the experience.
They waited patiently between the paws, in silence, that same silence of secrecy of initiation that Hu [the Sphinx] symbolized.
As the initiates waited outside, a mantra was barely heard coming from inside.
The Thothmes stele slowly and mysteriously moved half way sideways as if supported by invisible hinges. An entryway with a cleverly hinged bronze door was revealed at which they saw a torchbearer standing.
He was carrying aloft a torch.
The boy looked about 18 years old and reflected a clear determined countenance.
His voice sounded so confident for a boy of his age. Actually he was a devout student of the Art and dedicated to practice it.
He asked the students this question: "Art thou, dwellers of the outer darkness where ignorance dwelleth, praying admittance into our sacred Temple to seek the Light of Initiation?"
The candidates nodded affirmatively responding: "Yes, we are".
Then he said, "The Path to initiation is treacherous and filled with trials and temptation.
Art thou willing to take it?” They again responded affirmatively.
Next he asked them to make a line and escorted the first in.
The interior passageway was dark as night and musty.
He stepped inside the passageway, closed the door and with a soft voice asked the prospective initiate the following question: "What is that animal which in the morning has four legs, two at noon, and three in the evening?"
The postulant gazed at the floor as he tried to find an answer to this strange and puzzling riddle he had never heard before.
That description did not seemed to reflect the pattern of any living animal he has ever known.
After some time of thinking, he murmured an answer to the torchbearer who nodded in affirmation and guided the initiate into a small chamber.
Then he returns to bring the next initiate in.
Seven students were able to answer the riddle: four men and three women. Seven! the number of the perfect man!
After the stone slab was slowly closed at the Sphinx's breast and also the bronze door, they walked down a spiral staircase into a soundless passage that led them to the antechamber where all gathered, murmuring among themselves the answer in excitement: "it was man!".
Underneath the Sphinx is located the Sphinx's Antechamber, annex to a colonnaded Circular Temple. Also, the Sphinx is connected to the Pyramids through subterranean passageways.
The tunnel passage from the Sphinx to the Temple of Aten [Great Pyramid] is commonly taken by the initiates during various ceremonies. Other hallways and rooms exist not to be mentioned here.
The Antechamber was illumined by six torches mounted on holders located five feet above the ground, three torches on the East wall and three on the West.
The yellowish lights were mellow and flickering.
The initiates, sitting on chairs located against the walls, had just started a short period of meditation when the torchbearer came in and invited the women to follow him to an annex room furnished with four beds and a desk with papyrus scrolls.
The walls were decorated with Holy Scriptures and prayers.
The men were conducted to a separate and similar room.
Both groups were bade to rest and wait.
That night some students had unusual dreams of a prophetic nature anticipating the coming initiation.
The student that referred to me the story, described that... "at about midnight, I saw a floating glowing circle in the middle of the room, the circle slowly turned into a snake with a glittering back and a dark belly that had written a final letter on her tail and a first letter on her head.
Her head was constantly eating her tail without diminishing the size of her body. As I stared at the symbol, big Egyptian hieroglyphs were appearing on top of the symbolic snake stating:
'Every End is the Beginning of a New Cycle'.