Pyramids are really just a big billboard that says “the richest guy in Egypt is buried here” – Quora
In the 1976 playoffs the Toronto Maple Leafs made it to the semi-finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. This was pretty rare back then because the Leafs had been floundering for years. The fad at the time was pyramid power. All along the Leaf bench pyramids could be seen. The club thought it was bringing them good luck. They lost anyhow.
A couple of years later the British musician Alan Parsons released an album called Pyramid. Pink Floyd had already released Dark Side of the Moon (1973) with a prism – a miniature pyramid – on the album cover.
Pyramids had taken off in pop culture. They moved from an esoteric curiosity to a commercially viable symbol. Soon after, the 80s New Age movement put a new spin on everything weird and wacky associated with the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids. And whatever was said, there was always a price tag on it. That is, something to buy—a workshop, book or cassette tape.
A whole new mythology about the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids was born in the 70s and 80s. It was a myth intricately linked to consumerism, as we find today.
We only have to turn on the TV or search the web to find out how ETs built the pyramids with special tech unavailable even in the 21st century. Or we might discover some elaborate theory about the End Times, allegedly predicted by the geometry and placement of the pyramids.
Fantastic scenarios aside, it is true that nobody is entirely sure how the Egyptians moved those huge stone blocks. A prevailing theory maintains that wooden sleds were hauled over wetted sand, the added water reducing friction.
What we do have is clear archaeological evidence, through graffiti, that real human work gangs with specific names – like Toronto Maple Leafs or Philadelphia Flyers – not only did the hauling but took pride in their achievement.
So much for ETs and their laser beams.
New Age pundits glorifying the pyramids also tend to overlook or rationalize the fact that in Mesoamerica these structures were used for human sacrifice. Moreover, pyramids in Egypt were built for the Pharaoh, not the common people. Egyptian rulers believed a pyramid would facilitate their transit to the afterword. But commoners didn’t get a pyramid of their own. Only those with money could afford such a royal link to the afterlife.
So much for the glory.
Admittedly, the pyramids are impressive. But so is the Roman Colosseum. And we know what went down there. Feeding live Christians to lions. Sickening… nay, horrifying.
The pyramids were mostly about two things: Worldly power and a selfish desire to attain personal immortality. Foreign visitors to Egypt wrote that the pyramids inspired not only awe but fear. These structures spoke clearly about who had power and what would happen if the average gal or guy stepped out of line.
Carl Jung, a Swiss depth psychologist, tends to gloss over the cultural context of historical symbols like the pyramids in favor of developing his theory of the collective unconscious. This isn’t necessary wrong but I think it is incomplete.
Jung believes the architectural similarities among the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids support his concepts of the archetypes and the collective unconscious. However, Raymond Firth questions Jung’s archetypal theory. Firth says any symbol, be it a pyramid, a totem pole or a national flag, conveys as many possible meanings as there are individuals to interpret it.¹
This debate brings to mind the philosophical problem about innate psychological structures vs. regional and individual forms of creativity. Jung had his own way of resolving this issue by differentiating the archetype proper (common, underlying structure) from the archetypal image (cultural expression of that structure). But something still seems a bit too easy with his theory.
Jung, himself, admitted that he didn’t have it all figured out.
So full marks for his honesty.
¹ An anthropologist, Firth emphasizes the immediate, sociological aspects of symbols while not negating the possibility of deeper levels of meaning. See Raymond Firth, Symbols: Public and Private, New York: Allen and Unwin, 1973. Postmoderns like Jacques Derrida would agree with Firth on multiple interpretation. Symbols connote countless meanings. Rarely is anything actually denoted. And even if it is, there is always room for connotation.