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REVIEW: Secret Chamber, by Robert Bauval

SECRET CHAMBER by Robert Bauval is available from Amazon UK

I’m always on the lookout for a good book on the Giza plateau. Lately, there have been some excellent choices – Lehner’s scholarly but very accessible THE COMPLETE PYRAMIDS, and Lawton & Ogilvie-Herald’s encyclopediac (in size at the very least) GIZA: THE TRUTH. So I looked forward to reading through another book on the subject, this time SECRET CHAMBER (available from Amazon UK) by Robert Bauval. The focus of Bauval’s latest effort is on the possibility of a secret chamber somewhere on the Giza plateau, and as this book was written by someone who had been intricately involved in the politics of the plateau for the past 10 years I couldn’t wait to see what his take was on the ‘truth’ about Giza.

The prologue of SECRET CHAMBER outlines the structure of the book. Bauval has chosen to separate his narrative into two main sections. Part I covers the background information on secret chambers in Egyptian and Hermetic tradition, which is meant to better equip the reader for understanding the events outlined in Part II – which deals with the actual explorations, politics and scandals which have become such a major focus of the Giza ‘scene’. As Bauval says, the background information helps the reader to “understand the motives and agendas behind recent expeditions”. Book cover for Robert Bauval's "Secret Chamber"The prologue also serves to introduce another major theme of the book – that the Giza Plateau needs to be understood as a powerful hermetic device, and that control of such a device brings with it enormous power.

The first chapter begins with a quick overview of Giza and its associated mysteries, as well as some of the more prominent personalities who have been involved in the past few decades. This serves as an introduction to the more detailed information coming in Part II, as well as providing the lead-in for the rest of Part I. This begins with some fascinating research on the tradition of secret chambers in Ancient Egypt, as well as later Hermetic prophecies on the same subject. At almost three chapters worth, there is plenty of good reading here and being a fan of Ancient Egypt and occult matters, I enjoyed this section of the book immensely.

Following this, Part I continues with a number of chapters which attempt to outline how this ancient tradition has been transmitted through the ages. This begins with Chapter 5, ‘The Knowledge’, which discusses Gnosticism and the syncretism of ancient Alexandria. This is linked to the Hermetic tradition, and the next chapter discusses the revival in Hermeticism during the Renaissance. In particular, Bauval takes a detailed look at Giordano Bruno’s ‘World Religion of the Ancient Egyptians’, the PICATRIX and Hermetic/stellar talismans, and a great Hermetic prophecy concerning the return of the gods to Egypt.

The final two chapters of the first section deal with the tradition of a secret chamber in Freemasonry and in the Edgar Cayce readings. Chapter 7, ‘The Parent Country’ begins by discussing the different strains of Freemasonry worldwide, and the influence of Ancient Egypt on many secret societies. It then centres in on secret societies within Egypt, starting with Napoleon and moving right through to the banning of Freemasonry after independence in 1952. There seemed to be a lot to say here, but sadly Bauval covers it quickly and moves on. The following chapter ‘The Hall of Records’ discusses the prophecies of Edgar Cayce. Bauval takes a skeptical view of the Cayce readings, preferring to find simple explanations for his alleged abilities (which is commendable, as it would be easy for Bauval to support Cayce as they agree on the 10,500 BCE date).

Part II consists of four chapters and an epilogue. The first two chapters deal in the main with the ARE and their links at Giza. Chapter 9, ‘The Search’ covers the early explorations (as far back as 1957), in particular the much discussed 1978 expeditions involving SRI. Bauval also talks about the links of both Lehner and Hawass with the ARE – here he seems to sit on the fence: while saying he doesn’t believe the conspiracy theories he is quite willing to mention the connections on numerous occasions. Chapter 10 then deals in depth with the more recent Schor expeditions, and here Bauval quite rightly takes them to task for the secret manner in which they were conducted. This chapter also provides an example of usefulness of multiple volumes on this topic – while Lawton and Ogilvie-Herald’s GIZA: THE TRUTH makes note of Bauval, Hancock and West’s attack on Jahoda at a conference, Bauval only makes a casual mention of the incident. The chapter finishes with a cursory look at other recent ‘controversies’, namely those involving Nigel Appleby/Operation Hermes, and the Hunter/Hillier/Hoagland allegations.

Chapter 11, ‘Secret Chamber’, provides a detailed view of Bauval’s take on the saga involving ‘Gantenbrink’s Door’. Again, this illustrates the benefits of multiple volumes – while GIZA: THE TRUTH and Picknett and Prince’s THE STARGATE CONSPIRACY attack Bauval’s part in the controversy, based on Gantenbrink’s testimony, Bauval is able to tell a different story by relying on his own documented evidence. In fact, this chapter is a watershed in understanding the events of 1993 and after – Bauval has kept records of all his contact with Gantenbrink, Edwards et al, and also publishes some questions he posed to both Gantenbrink and Rainer Stadelmann. Unfortunately, all of this evidence doesn’t resolve who should be wearing the black hat – every statement in this whole affair seems to contradict the previous, and not too many people come out smelling like roses. Nevertheless, this chapter is well worth the price of admission alone.

The final chapter looks at the possibilities of finding a secret chamber, either behind Gantenbrink’s Door or around the Sphinx. Naturally enough, Bauval discusses the now infamous ‘Tomb of Osiris’, and waxes lyrical a little about how mysterious it is (which was probably aided by the fact that when he visited there was no working lighting system). He also confuses the situation regarding further tunnels running from this tomb – perhaps again aided by the lack of light (Ogilvie-Herald and Lawton dismissed the possibility outright after their investigation). Finally, the book winds up with an epilogue, ‘A Plot of Words’, which was probably unneeded. The subject matter is diverse and could have been inserted into earlier chapters. It does allow Bauval though to continue on with his thoughts on Hermeticism and stellar talismans, and provides the opportunity to plug his next book with Graham Hancock, THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY. The book finishes with a quick look at the (non-eventuating) millenium capstone ceremony at Giza, and ties it into the stellar talisman material by showing that Sirius will culminate at precisely the same time. Some interesting stuff here, but probably deserves to be in its own book (as it seems it will) rather than being tacked on here. However, the relevance of the capstone ceremony probably justifies its inclusion.

So, the verdict? An excellent book, which provides fascinating reading on two subjects – the tradition of a secret chamber, and the recent controversial expeditions at Giza. As I have noted, I would recommend a double (or triple) purchase with SECRET CHAMBER – both GIZA: THE TRUTH and THE STARGATE CONSPIRACY cover a lot of the same events and/or personalities, although from a quite different perspective. This allows at least a more rounded view on these subjects. On the negative side, the constant allusions to Giza as a hermetic device only make for confusing reading. While I am all for a discussion of Hermeticism, Bauval’s coverage is too thin and perhaps too personal as well – for a better take on the subject I would recommend Baigent and Leigh’s THE ELIXIR AND THE STONE (which seems to have taken Bauval’s fancy as well). However, probably the most annoying aspect of the book was the constant implication of conspiracy, while at the same time disclaiming any thoughts of the same. On the one hand, Bauval disputes those who would claim a ‘Giza Conspiracy’, and yet in the same breath we have passages such as “some sort of private agenda has been in the making since at least as far back as 1978 between the ARE and the Egyptian authorities, or perhaps just with Dr Hawass”, and talk of a “bizarre plan” to “hijack” the hermetic device that is Giza.

It’s easy to criticise however, and my comments aren’t meant to degrade the book as a whole. I found it to be a very enjoyable read, as well as an invaluable aid in my own research (and I think a lot of TDGers are into doing their own research). Bauval’s professional writing style presents no difficulties to the reader, and the book is set out quite logically with each chapter leading nicely into the next. Sometimes the focus is lost, usually when Bauval feels the need to give extended personal comment on Hermetic aspects, but this is a small quibble. I recommend SECRET CHAMBER to anyone who is interested in Giza, particularly the recent controversies that have enveloped that amazing location. Now if we can just find a few people that agree on these subjects, that would be something…

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