Heavens Mirror

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Chapter 4
In the Hall of the Double Truth (cont)

Superstition, or Science?

Undeniably powerful and even disturbing, the ideas conveyed in the funerary and rebirth texts of ancient Egypt have been described by Dr Stephen Quirke, Curator of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, as belonging to an:

everlasting world ... in which the endeavour to outlast eternity reaches its most self-conscious. [They] spell out the precise phrasing by which a dead person could be made into an eternally rejuvenated being. Today we call these ancient texts "funerary literature", but this technical term does them little justice: these are texts to transfigure the dead, to make human beings into immortal gods.
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Book of What is In the Duat: the spiritualization of the deceased, flanked by two Eyes of Horus amidst a landscape of stars and winged serpents.
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The "sarcophagus" in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid. If the Pyramid was built as a model of the Duat then the sarcophagus may have been used as part of the initiate's preparation for his own inevitable death and afterlife journey and hoped-for rebirth.

The ancient Egyptians themselves often called the texts sakhu, Quirke reports:

meaning recitations that would turn a person after death into an akh, "a transfigured spirit". The only alternative was to die and remain mut, "dead". These opposites of akh and mut are roughly equivalent to the European contrast between the blessed and the damned. As in the European tradition, paradise is envisaged in terms of light, and the word akh itself is one of a group in which the idea of light and radiance is paramount, such as the Egyptian for "horizon", akhet, the home of light. Faced with the alternative, the Egyptians concentrated all their resources into securing this eternal radiance.
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Seti I Temple, Abydos: Isis, goddess of magic, offers ankh, the gift of eternal life, to the soul of Pharaoh Seti I. Behind the symbolism, and the ethereal beauty of the reliefs, the sense of a lofty and ancient purpose animates the sacred art of Egypt.

In other words, although Quirke does recognize the lofty goal expressed in the texts - to transform human beings into immortal gods - he believes that it was sought for reasons that are largely psychological. Quite simply, he argues, the ancient Egyptians found the alternatives to eternal life - nonexistence, annihilation - too horrible to contemplate and therefore created an elaborate fantasy world which they imagined that their souls could enter and in which, if suitably "equipped", they hoped that they might win the prize of immortality.

In line with Quirke's view, it has become customary amongst Egyptologists today to disparage the texts as little more than wishful thinking - "a strange accretion of spells and mumbo-jumbo ... a reflection of humanity's earliest supreme revolt against the darkness and silence from which none returns". Some scholars have even gone so far as to insist that:

In spite of their meticulous attention to detail in practical matters, the Egyptians of the Pyramid Age never evolved a clear and precise conception of the After-Life ... The impression made on the modern mind is that of a people searching in the dark for a key to truth and, having found not one but many keys resembling the pattern of the lock, retaining all lest perchance the appropriate one should be discarded.

Similarly Dr Margaret Murray observes that "the horror of death is very marked in the religious texts of the Egyptians ... Knowing that death is inevitable [the Egyptian] tried to prepare for it by a knowledge of the magic which would enable him to come back to the land and home he loved so well ..."

It is the fundamental proposition of Heaven's Mirror that matters are by no means so simple and that the Egyptian scriptures contain extraordinary material with an importance vastly deeper and darker than mere mumbo-jumbo, and far, far older than scholars have imagined.

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