Below is a review of Jeremy Naydler's essential and outstanding text Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt.

Dr. Naydler argues that the current prevailing lens through which much of ancient Egyptian culture -- including the pyramids -- is viewed is incorrect.  

He provides extensive evidence and a clear argument that the funerary interpretation obscures the evidence that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt may well have used the pyramids for initiatory and mystical rites during which they deliberately underwent a death and rebirth experience that opened their consciousness to a world beyond ordinary material human experience -- as Dr. Naydler explains, "the king was brought to the threshold of death in order to travel into the spirit world" (120).

This argument is stunning in its implications, and (as Dr. Naydler demonstrates) completely upends the conventional paradigm that has dominated academia for over a century, which denies a mystical tradition in ancient Egypt -- primarily because such a possibility undermines the cult of progress which has dominated academia since the triumph of Darwinian materialism.  

As Dr. Naydler explains:
The assumption that modern materialistic science provides the only sure path to acquiring knowledge, and that true knowledge began with the Greeks not the Egyptians, to a large extent rests on a second deeply rooted assumption: that human history constitutes a steady progress not only of knowledge, but also of social organization and psychological and spiritual maturity.  Just as our knowledge today is considered to be more accurate and comprehensive than that of the past, so too our social and political forms are deemed more just and humane, and people today assume that they are more psychologically developed and enlightened than people of the past.  Thus the idea of progress not only works to our advantage, but it also disadvantages the past, for the earlier the culture, the more primitive it must have been.  32-33.
Dr. Naydler's work is thus extremely important on many levels.  The evidence that the pyramids may have been primarily for mystical rites undergone by the pharaoh on behalf of his people is compelling.  Among the most obvious is the fact that many of these sites contain sarcophagi which, when found, contained no burial remains -- even if the site was undisturbed when found.  In some cases, sarcophagi were found that were still sealed, and yet empty.  

Dr. Naydler argues that the pharaoh, guided by the priesthood, underwent a powerful death and rebirth experience, during which his consciousness became aware of the supernatural world and he or she experienced a cosmic ascent to the celestial realm, as well as a profound awareness that the end of material life was not the end of consciousness.  As a result of this experience, Dr. Naydler demonstrates, "the mystic knows that he or she is a spiritual being as well as a merely physical being" (121).  

He also shows how the language of the Pyramid Texts (among the oldest if not the oldest texts we can examine today) mirror the death and dismemberment and rebirth experience of shamanic tradition, as well as the cosmic ascent (by means of a ladder or by means of turning into a falcon, eagle, or other soaring bird) themes of shamanic tradition.

In Hamlet's Mill, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend also noted this connection between the most ancient Egyptian texts and the shamanic tradition, but Dr. Naydler examines the connection in much greater detail.  The importance of the shamanic tradition for our understanding of human consciousness, the human experience, and human history has been discussed in other previous posts including this one, this one, and this one

Dr. Naydler's thesis also sheds important new light on celestial and mythical subjects central to those discussed on this blog and in the Mathisen Corollary book itself, including the theme of Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Seth, and the aspects of the heavens discussed in posts such as "The Undying Stars."

Author Lucy Wyatt has explored the possibility of ancient Egyptian shamanic consciousness further in her own work as well, including her book Approaching Chaos.  In fact, I became aware of Dr. Naydler's work through Lucy Wyatt's discussion of his thesis. 

Dr. Naydler's book is essential reading for anyone interested in ancient Egypt, and in the spiritual aspect of human experience in all eras, including our own.