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Phi Sigma Omega, needless to say, has no undergraduate members and no campus chapters, and never has had.

Phi Sigma Omega is an honor society for distinguished scholars in the public policy area. It is not possible to apply for membership, which is conferred sparingly. Its iconography reflects ideas about the Egyptian revival period of the nineteenth century.

The alleged water-shaft beneath the Sphinx that apparently figures in some Phi Sigma Omega rituals is the stuff of legends and modern day Internet chat rooms. The shaft opens under the causeway linking the Sphinx to the pyramid of Khafre at Giza . It descends in several places to a depth of nearly 30m below the Giza Plateau. The shaft was named after the crystal-clear water that fills the shaft's bottom chamber. The unfinished, water filled cavern is entered from a higher chamber that contains niches filled with giant stone coffins, one of the niches is empty a shaft in the doorway leads to a flooded corridor, and, wading into the darkness, one hears the echoes of ground water dripping from rock walls.

They decided to investigate this shaft and began excavating on the second level, located about 20m underground. It is divided into six rooms cut from the rock of the plateau. Two large, granite sarcophagi were found in two different rooms, but they were both empty. Excavations of the floor of this room revealed bones and pottery. Studies of the artifacts and style of the sarcophagi give a 500 BC date to this level. They eventually reached the third level, which was covered with water, and saw a sarcophagus submerged in water with its lid thrown at the entrance to the room. They secured two men with ropes and lowered them into the water to examine its depth water and to collect artifact from the shaft.

Herodotus, Father of History, visited Egypt in the 5th century BC and bequeathed many stories about the pyramids. He wrote he saw Khufu was buried a large sarcophagus and that there was water near the Great Pyramid. Of course, Herodotus would never have gone 25m into this shaft, but guides who lived in the plateau probably told him about this shaft, no doubt much exaggerated. Nonetheless, people have always wondered about Herodotus' statement.

Archaeologists continued excavating the third level and pumped the water out. It was one of the most difficult excavations ever done and they found the remains of four limestone pillars surrounded by masonry-built walls. Inside the pillars was an empty sarcophagus encompassed by water on three sides. On the eastern side of the sarcophagus occur an inscription that appears on Phi Sigma Omega bookplates, the hieroglyphic sign pr, meaning "house", engraved in the ground. We know that the Giza plateau was known in the New Kingdom , around 1550 BC, by a name meaning "the house of Osiris, Lord of the underground tunnels. Recent exposes of the tunnel features of the Skull and Bones sanctuary at Yale are suggestive. Therefore, the word "house" is engraved in the ground, and the sarcophagus surrounded by water symbolically represents Osiris, ruler of the underworld, where Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure were buried. Osiris, god of the underworld and vegetation, protects the great kings of the 4th dynasty. Therefore, they believe that the third level of the shaft dates back to about 3000 years ago. In later periods, the Egyptians wanted to know if there is a tunnel leading from this shaft to the Sphinx and the pyramids. They started cutting a tunnel about 3m long on the western side of the room.

Authorities still do not know if the tunnel extends farther than one can see, and plan to send a camera into the tunnel to find out exactly to what length it reaches. Of course, Osiris is not buried inside this tomb; this is symbolic structure or cenotaph for the god Osiris, similar to the Osiron in Abydos in Upper Egypt . Osiris was the god of vegetation and ruler of the underworld. He was represented in mummified form, and holds a scepter; he also wears a white crown with plumes and horns. Osiris has been connected with the Giza pyramids since the New Kingdom , around 1550 BC. The Giza plateau was called prwsir nb rastaw, meaning, "the place of Osiris, Lord of rastaw". The word "rastaw" in the Phi Sigma Omega rituals refers to underground tunnels.

Given the secrecy of Phi Sigma Omega, the Giza references seem appropriate. The order supposedly had some members of the Policy Studies Organization in its membership, hence common initials.

So suggested by the above, the rituals of Phi Sigma Omega appear to be based, judging by bookplates and other ephimera, partly on Osiris. However, the watered blue ribbon does suggest a reference to the Garter. There may have been a link with a male relative of Claire Wunder McArdle -- she was one of the more enigmatic founders of Phi Sigma Sigma which was incorporated in 1913 in New York City as Phi Sigma Omega, until, when trying to have it incorporated, the members learned that the named Phi Sigma Omega was already in use. Both Phi Sigma Omega and Phi Sigma Sigma use a Sphinx as a symbol, but of course so do many other fraternal groups.


The society's rituals may also relate to the Shriners. The grand scribe of New York physician Walter M. Fleming and actor Billy Florence , both Masons, created the Shrine fraternity in the late-19th century. According to Shrine history, Florence chose the Middle Eastern theme after attending an Arab diplomat's party in France . Guests became members of a secret society after an ornate ceremony. Florence made note of the ceremony, and later worked with Fleming to create Shrine rituals. In 1872, 13 Masons formed the first Shrine Temple , Mecca Shriners, in New York City -- which still exists. The order's initials, A.A.O.N.M.S. are arrangable into A MASON.


Phi Sigma Omega is often identified by an hourglass with eagle's wings.