The resurrection and immortality in ancient Egypt

In perusing the literature of the ancient Egyptians one of the first things which forces itself upon the mind of the reader is the frequency of allusions to the future life or to things which appertain thereto. The writers of the various religious and other works, belonging to all periods of Egyptian history, which have come down to us, tacitly assume throughout that those who once have lived in this world have "renewed" their life in that which is beyond the grave, and that they still live and will live until time shall be no more.
The Egyptian belief in the existence of Almighty God is old, so old that we must seek for its beginnings in pre-dynastic times; but the belief in a future life is very much older, and its beginnings must be as old, at least, as the oldest human remains which have been found in Egypt. To attempt to measure by years the remoteness of the period when these were committed to the earth, is futile, for no date that could be given them is likely to be even approximately correct, and they may as well date from B.C. 12,000 as from B.C. 8000. Of one fact, however, we may be quite certain; that is to say, that the oldest human remains that have been found in Egypt bear upon them traces of the use of bitumen, which proves that the Egyptians at the very beginning of their stay in the valley of the Nile made some attempt to preserve their dead by means of mummification. If they were, as many think, invaders who had made their way across Arabia and the Red Sea and the eastern desert of the Nile, they may have brought the idea and habit of preserving their dead with them, or they may have adopted, in a modified form, some practice in use among the aboriginal inhabitants whom they found on their arrival in Egypt; in either case the fact that they attempted to preserve their dead by the use of substances which would arrest decay is certain, and in a degree their attempt has succeeded.
The existence of the non-historic inhabitants of Egypt has been revealed to us in recent years by means of a number of successful excavations which have been made in Upper Egypt on both sides of the Nile by several European and native explorers, and one of the most striking results has been the discovery of three different kinds of burials, which undoubtedly belong to three different periods, as we may see by examining the various objects which have been found in the early graves at Nakādah and other non-historic sites of the same age and type. In the oldest tombs we find the skeleton laid upon its left side, with the limbs bent: the knees are on a level with the breast, and the hands are placed in front of the face. Generally the head faces towards the south, but no invariable rule seems to have been observed as to its "orientation." Before the body was laid in the ground it was either wrapped in gazelle skin or laid in loose grass; the substance used for the purposes of wrapping probably depended upon the social condition of the deceased. In burials of this class there are no traces of mummification, or of burning, or of stripping the flesh from the bones. In the next oldest graves the bodies are found to have been wholly or partly stripped of their flesh; in the former case all the bones are found cast indiscriminately is the grave, in the latter the bones of the hands and the feet were laid together, while the rest of the skeleton is scattered about in wild confusion. Graves of this period are found to be oriented either north or south, and the bodies in them usually have the head separated from the body; sometimes it is clear that the bodies have been "jointed" so that they might occupy less space. Occasionally the bodies are found lying upon their backs with their legs and arms folded over them; in this case they are covered over with clay casings. In certain graves it is clear that the body has been burnt. Now in all classes of tombs belonging to the prehistoric period in Egypt we find offerings in vases and vessels of various kinds, a fact which proves beyond all doubt that the men who made these graves believed that their dead friends and relatives would live again in some place, of the whereabouts of which they probably had very vague ideas, in a life which was, presumably, not unlike that which they had lived upon earth. The flint tools, knives, scrapers and the like indicate that they thought they would hunt and slay their quarry when brought down, and fight their foes; and the schist objects found in the graves, which M. de Morgan identifies as amulets, shows that even in those early days man believed that he could protect himself against the powers of supernatural and invisible enemies by talismans. The man who would hunt and fight in the next world must live again; and if he would live again it must be either in his old body or in a new one; if in the old body, it must be revivified. But once having imagined a new life, probably in a new body, death a second time was not, the prehistoric Egyptian hoped, within the bounds of possibility. Here, then, we have the origin of the grand ideas of the RESURRECTION and IMMORTALITY.
There is every reason for believing that the prehistoric Egyptian expected to eat, and to drink, and to lead a life of pleasure in the region where he imagined his heaven to be, and there is little doubt that he thought the body in which he would live there would be not unlike the body which he had while he was upon earth. At this stage his ideas of the supernatural and of the future life would be like those of any man of the same race who stood on the same level in the scale of civilization, but in every way he was a great contrast to the Egyptian who lived, let us say, in the time of Mena, the first historical king of Egypt, the date of whom for convenience' sake is placed at B.C. 4400. The interval between the time when the prehistoric Egyptians made the graves described above and the reign of Mena must have been very considerable, and we may justly believe it to represent some thousands of years; but whatever its length, we find that the time was not sufficient to wipe out the early views which had been handed on from generation to generation, or even to modify some of the beliefs which we now know to have existed in an almost unchanged state at the latest period of Egyptian history. In the texts which were edited by the priests of Heliopolis we find references to a state or condition of things, as far as social matters are concerned, which could only exist in a society of men who were half savages. And we see from later works, when extracts are made from the earlier texts which contain such references, that the passages in which objectionable allusions occur are either omitted altogether or modified. We know of a certainty that the educated men of the College of Heliopolis cannot have indulged in the excesses which the deceased kings for whom they prepared the funeral texts are assumed to enjoy, and the mention of the nameless abomination which the savage Egyptian inflicted upon his vanquished foe can only have been allowed to remain in them because of their own reverence for the written word.
Source : Gutenberg

6 Comments:

generic cialis said...

Very interesting, I wonder why many cultures believe in the after life and stuff, personally I don't believe in anything, I'm a person of facts (I'm not a scientist or something like that) I just believe in what I can see, touch or feel.
Thanks

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tonyon said...
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tonyon said...
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Tamizh Selvan said...

Well said, life is the most beautiful thing that any human being would like to concentrate on.But no one achieved in their way to discover the secret on How to become immortal , and it is merely impossible to achieve immortality.

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