The House of Life was the center of cultural endeavor to preserve and ensure the ongoing progress of cosmic, political, and social life. A holy place and scriptorium, The House of Life contained secret, magical writings which they had composed or copied and which were said to have the power to renew and sustain life and further the rebirth of Osiris at his annual festival.
The significance of the House of Life and the rituals performed there was universal. Like the temples it stood for the whole creation, just as the reborn Osiris symbolized eternal life in general. According to tradition, time and again people went to the House of Life to consult ancient writings, when they needed answers to problems of their day. In ancient Egyptian writings and architecture, the House of Life is an institution aligned with kingship, preserving and creating knowledge in written and pictorial form.
The overseer of the private rooms of the king, bore the title of 'overseer of writing in the House of Life, a man to whom all sacred matters are revealed', and 'keeper of secrets of the House of Life'.
The ancient Egyptian civilization was strongly connected with nature and the Universe that surrounded them. They were well aware of the functioning of the human body and had well educated specialized doctors. Mind and body were strongly connected. A sound mind lives in a sound body. Therefore they created various ways to maintain a sound condition of the physical body. They analyzed the plants in their neighborhood and built various schools that they called Per-Ankh, House of Life. The school of Abydos, the House of Life, attracted many healers in the course of time and became very important as a base of knowledge about healing and medicines.
The Per Ankh is a solar temple of sacred science (mystery school) and an institution of learning, healing and training. The House of Life, also known as the Per Ankh, is an organization of Egyptian Magicians, founded by the God of Learning, Thoth. The Per-Ankh, the “House of Life”, served as the library of Egyptian temples. There various texts were transcribed and kept by scribes, including the “books of the dead”. According to Jeremy Naydler, the House of Life was also a center of esoteric training where students may have undertaken a course of spiritual development, resulting in initiations into “various degrees of symbolic death and rebirth”.
Although schools as you know them today did not exist, the House of Life was an institution that provided some education and training for a select few. A House of Life was attached to most temples. Each stored a number of texts relevant to that particular temple. The term is often mistranslated as a school, university, library, or archive. However, it was a strange institution that was all of these things and yet did not fit any of the descriptions particularly well. Although shrouded (intentionally) in mystery, the following is known about this institution:
- The House of Life stored a number of religious texts, which were used for training priests and medical professionals. Being educated here was a great privilege, available to only a chosen few. However, how students were chosen remains unknown.
- The priests in charge of the House of Life were responsible for conserving, copying, and storing religious texts. The texts stored here were world famous. Later, Greek and Roman authors praised the wisdom recorded in these texts. The texts are said to include information about medicine, medical herbs, geography, geometry, astronomy, and the history of kings.
- The institution was not open to the public. The extremely restricted access only enhanced its aura of mystery. Many literary tales refer to texts stored in the House of Life that have information on how to speak the language of all animals, birds, and fish in the world, as well as a text that enables the reader to see the sun god.