Beliefs of ancient Egypt about death?

ancient EgyptThe ancient Egypt Book of the Dead is a collection of funerary instructions placed in coffins and sarcophagi in order to prepare the soul of the deceased for the afterlife and judgment. The scenes are dramatically presented in pictures and words.  A Swedenborgian view, of how natural things correspond to spiritual matters, suggests that the instructions of ancient Egypt are based on a clear understanding of psychological progression of the soul from the outer, or physical world, to the first experiences in the inner, spiritual world. Each individual has to give an account of his character and is assessed by independent judges seen as various gods.

One papyrus shows 42 deities and the soul has to address each one by name and make a negative confession relating to various wrong-doings.

O Far-strider … I have done no falsehood

O Fire-embracer … I have not robbed.

O Double Lion … I have not destroyed food supplies.

O You whose face is behind … I have not misconducted myself or abused a boy

O You of the darkness … I have not been quarrelsome.

The judgment is made more awesome because behind the petitioner stands a monster, called Ammit, which will swallow the guilty immediately.

Let us consider this ritual of ancient Egypt in detail. If we contemplated our own death, how many of us could truthfully answer 42 separate judges and say, “I have not been loud-mouthed.” nor committed any other contraventions of right conduct? Recent research into Near Death Experiences shows that many have experienced similar evaluation in which they saw a play-back of whole periods of their life and felt they were assessing its quality, wasted opportunities or some meanness. They were not condemned, but clearly, someone was alongside witnessing their reactions.

It is perhaps easy to smile at the monster Ammit since if a person fails the first test and is swallowed up, is that the end of judgment? The human mind is more complicated and exists on different levels and has many talents which can be used for doing good or harm. Each one has to be assessed separately. Let us take as an example a frequent social evil in our society — vandalism. If the mind is challenged by an unbroken window or a fence and needs to smash it, then something is seriously wrong. Perhaps the people of ancient Egypt  were more honest during their rituals and put the blame where it belongs as they laid bare the whole mind for assessment, noting which parts of it had been corrupted with its health taken away and harmony destroyed. The mind which can only find its delight in destroying, even in killing, is clearly in a very serious state. It has been devoured by a terrifying monster.

The Christian scripture is just as uncompromising about such assessment which is generally called ‘judgment’. In the words of Christ:

There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12: 2-3)

The focus of the ancient Egypt ceremony was the weighing of the heart. During embalming, the internal organs were removed from the body and preserved separately in jars. The heart was judged by itself on the scales against Maat, the goddess of Righteousness or Truth. She was represented as a female body, but instead of a head often had a white feather. Her small figurine stood on the scales weighing the heart of the deceased, or she was represented by her symbol, the white feather. Feathers, especially wing feathers, enable birds to fly and to have a wider view of the world below. Similarly, truth elevates our thoughts to give us what we already call ‘a birds eye view.’ The goddess of truth represents the desire for truth which gives us the ability of discernment and separation between truth and falsity.

However, the heart itself can be said to have its own specific importance since it had always been seen as the seat of the emotions, and so it corresponds to our affections. Too often we think that our love is merely a temporary feeling. The ancients had greater respect for the ‘heart’. The idea is that in our love lies the primary seat of our personality. Swedenborg put it very forcefully:

A person’s life really is his love, and the nature of his love determines the nature of his life, and in fact the whole person. But it is the dominant or ruling love which makes the person….  It is the characteristic of a dominant love that it is loved above all else. What a person loves above all else is constantly present in his thoughts, because it is in his will, and constitutes the very essence of his life…Everyone’s sense of pleasure, bliss and happiness comes from his dominant love, and is dependent on this. (TCR 399)

This is an fairly new concept. Love is seen as the very dynamic of our life, of our vital energy and heat. When we love we grow warm in our body. There is a correspondence between the two. When we lack any desire, we grow cold and lack vitality. According to Swedenborg what we mainly love is also the key to our judgment and character. Each person needs to act honestly. ‘What is it that I love more than anything? What is it for which I am prepared to pay any price, make any sacrifice?’ Unless we have understood that much, we cannot know what is going on in our mind.

We can only marvel at the high degree of perception about the working of the mind revealed in ancient sacred texts.

Adapted from material by Christopher Hasler first published by the Swedenborg Movement

LOVE IS THE LIFE OF MAN

LOVE IS THE LIFE OF MAN
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida April 26, 1992

“Love is the life of man” (DLW 1).

Through the ages philosophers have wrestled in vain with the question, What is life? Scientists reluctantly admit that they do not know what life is, though some are confident that they will create it in the laboratory. The Writings, however, answer this question very simply and directly, saying: “Love is the life of man.” One may wonder, If the answer to this question is truly that simple, why have people not discovered the answer before this? The answer is that man cannot discover this from human intelligence. Life is Divine, and only the author of life can reveal its origin and nature.

There is another reason why this vital truth has not been known. The human mind is first formed from appearances, which can be put off only with great difficulty. For confirmation of this, take as an example the fact that it took untold centuries for mankind to see through the appearance that the world is flat. Until comparatively recent times people regarded the earth as the center of the universe. Also until relatively recent times, matter was believed to be solid. Now we know that it is not, despite the appearance that it is. When we were children we had to be told that the sun does not rise and set, that in fact the earth revolves on its axis. We, as children, unconsciously believed that everything revolved around ourselves. That is the way it appeared to us. In fact, all things we sense are only appearances of realities that are beyond sensual experience.

The appearances by which the mind is formed cannot be dispersed except by the exploration of causes. People did not discover the nature of matter until they began to wonder why matter behaved in certain ways under certain conditions. As they began to search for the causes, they began to learn more about the real nature of matter.

This same principle applies to our knowledge of the nature of life. We cannot discover the nature of life until we rid our minds of the appearances with which they are imbued from infancy, and look to causes. As the cause is on a higher plane than the effect, we must look for our answer in the pages of Divine revelation wherein are revealed the spiritual causes of all things natural.

The Word states that love is the very essence of man’s life. Everyone who reflects on this statement can see that it is true. For it is plain that the inmost vitality of human beings is from love. When love is present we grow warm; when it is absent we grow cold (see HH 14).

Because love is the life of man, it can be said that we are what we love. That is, we are what we love above all else. We are our ruling love! People have many loves which appear under many and varied forms, but all loves are subordinate to, and derivations of, the ruling love. The ruling love may be likened to the head of a kingdom who governs and controls his subjects, and through them achieves his ends, both directly and indirectly.

That which one loves above all else is continually in the thought and will. For instance, if a person loves riches above all else, he continually revolves in his mind how he may obtain them. We read: “He inmostly rejoices when he acquires them; he grieves inmostly when he loses them; his heart is in them. He who loves himself above all things regards himself in each thing: he thinks of himself, he speaks of himself, he acts for the sake of himself” (NJHD 55). The ruling love is in the will like the hidden current of a river bearing us on even when we are seemingly engrossed in other things. It is the animating force in all that we do. For we like to think about and do that which we love (see NJHD 56,57; Life 1).

The Word teaches that there are two loves from which all other loves are derived, and to which all loves may be referred. “The love which is the head of all heavenly loves, or to which they all relate, is love to the Lord; and the love which is the head of all infernal loves, or to which they all relate, is the love of rule springing from the love of self. These two loves are diametrically opposed to each other” (DLW 141).

This teaching makes it clear that all of our loves are either heavenly in origin or opposed to heavenly love, and thus to the Lord. This is what the Lord was speaking of when He said to the Pharisees: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matt. 12:30). We would note that these words were addressed to the Pharisees, who are described by the Lord as being those who “say and do not do” (Matt. 23:3). They are also called “hypocrites” (Luke 12:1). This is significant. It means that these words apply especially to all those who are in the habit of living contrary to what they profess with the lips.

It is important for us to be aware of the fact that there is no such thing as a neutral love or affection. All loves and affections spring from the Lord and look to Him, or they spring from hell and look to self. We all tend, when we see an evil in ourselves, to pardon it by saying that it is not really evil; it just isn’t good. Then there are times when we are afraid to examine an affection because we suspect it of being evil in origin. We think if we don’t know its origin it will do us no harm; at least that is our hope. To the extent that we do this, we delude ourselves. The Lord’s words are clear and unmistakable: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matt. 12:30).

Now it is true that we are given freedom of choice, the freedom to choose heavenly loves or infernal loves and make them our own. But this does not make us neutral. Freedom of choice is a God-given faculty; it is not ours. We are what we love. Our ruling love is our life, and our spiritual quality is according to this dominant love. That love our ruling love looks either to the Lord or away from Him toward self.

We see from the doctrine here presented that our text, “Love is the life of man,” is not merely a philosophical abstraction. It is a fundamental truth, with an eminently practical application. In the light of Divine truth we should examine our loves objectively, with a view to determining their origin and quality. To help us in this task we ought to examine our delights. They give us an indication of what we love, for we delight in what we love.

If a person delights in personal praise and the submission of others to self, either in actuality or fantasy, that person loves self more than others. If one delights in obscenity, in thought or deed, or if one delights in reading salacious literature, he is in the lust of adultery; for such things are opposed to conjugial love, which is from the Lord. If we delight in the things of this world, in its luxuries and comforts, in its sports, recreations and entertainments more than we do in spiritual riches, which are goods and truths from the Word applied to uses, or in spiritual recreations which are worship, feasts of charity and discussion of the doctrines of the church looking to use, then we may know that we love the world more than heaven, and ourselves more than the Lord and our neighbor.

Another test that we may apply in determining the quality of our loves is examining the things that we are willing to sacrifice for. We are willing to make sacrifices for things we love sacrifices in time, energy and money. The truth of this is obvious. There is a well known saying that we always find time for the things we love. Another is that if we love a thing enough we will pay any price for it. And again it is said that if a person really loves a thing, no amount of work will keep him from it. The strength of our loves can be measured by the sacrifices we are willing to make on account of the things we love.

This test is easier to make than the former test because it deals primarily with deeds rather than our thoughts and imaginations. Although it is easier to make, it may be more revealing and personally embarrassing, and for this reason we may seek to avoid it. Nevertheless, if we would know what our loves are, indeed what we ourselves are, we must examine ourselves fearlessly and objectively.

We should ask ourselves, Do we set aside time for reading and meditating on the Word of God? Do we make regular provision for attending church in order to worship the Lord, and attend church functions in order to promote our spiritual development? How does this compare with the time we set aside for worldly recreation and entertainment? How much money do we spend on luxuries, and how does it compare with the amount we devote to the maintenance of the Lord’s church and the promotion of its uses? How much of our energy do we expend in serving our family and our church, and how much in doing things that focus on self? I am not suggesting they have to be equal, or even nearly equal, but there should be a rational relationship that represents a solid commitment to the things of eternal life.

The answers to these questions will give us an indication of our spiritual state. As we apply the same principle to our many other loves we will see more clearly the nature of our ruling love. We will be able to see whether the things we love most derive their quality from the loves of self and the world or from love to the Lord and the neighbor.

The spiritual need for self-examination is enjoined on us many times in the Writings. Repentance is said to be the first of the church in man. But repentance must be preceded by self-examination, for we can repent only of evils which we have discovered in ourselves after examining our delights and our loves.

If we do this sincerely, we are bound to find evil, for we are born with tendencies toward evils of every kind. The recognition of evil in ourselves should not surprise us, nor cause us to despair, for while we live in this world we have the possibility of changing our loves. Indeed, we are placed in this world so that we may freely choose those loves which we wish to make our own, and that these loves may become permanent, fixed and enduring in the world of space and time.

When we leave this world, our loves cannot be changed. We lose the ultimate plane, that is, it becomes quiescent and can no longer be active. This is what is meant by the statement, “As the tree falls, so shall it lie” (Ecc. 11:3). Therefore, we are told that after death each person becomes his own love, both as to his interiors and as to his face and body, and that he associates with those who are in similar loves.

Those who have chosen and confirmed good loves appear beautiful and fair, while those who love evil become dark, ugly and misshapen. Those who love what is good are intelligent and wise, while those who delight in evil are stupid and idiotic (see HH 281:2). This takes place for the reason that one’s life is one’s love, and in the spiritual world, where appearances are stripped away, a person’s loves appear in the externals of one’s life.

In conclusion, we would recall a story recorded in the gospels. When a woman who was a sinner was being accused in the Lord’s presence, the Lord said: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47). Evils are forgiven when we repent of them, and we repent of evils only in the measure that we love what is good and true.

If we would regenerate, we must begin by examining our delights and our deeds in the light of the Lord’s exhortation: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-22). Amen.

Lessons: Deut. 29:10-21, 30:15-20; Luke 7:36-48; HH 480

Heaven and Hell 480

Man after death continues to eternity such as his will or ruling love is. This, too, has been confirmed by abundant experience. I have been permitted to talk with some who lived two thousand years ago, and whose lives are described in history and thus known, and I found that they continued to be just the same as they were described, that is, in respect to the love out of which and according to which their lives were formed. There were others known to history that had lived seventeen centuries ago, others that had lived four centuries ago, and three, and so on, with whom I was permitted to talk, and I found that the same affection still ruled in them, with no other difference than that the delights of their love were turned into such things as correspond. The angels declare that the life of the ruling love is never changed in anyone even to eternity, since everyone is his love; consequently, to change that love in a spirit is to take away or extinguish his life; and for the reason that man after death is no longer capable of being reformed by instruction, as in the world, because the outmost plane, which consists of natural knowledges and affections, is then quiescent and not being spiritual cannot be opened (see above, n. 464); and upon that plane the interiors pertaining to the mind and disposition rest as a house rests on its foundation; and on this account such as the life of one’s love had been in the world, such he continues to be to eternity. The angels are greatly surprised that man does not know that everyone is such as his ruling love is, and that many believe that they may be saved by mercy apart from means, or by faith alone, whatever their life may be; also that they do not know that Divine mercy works by means, and that it consists in man’s being led by the Lord, both in the world and afterwards to eternity, and that those who do not live in evils are led by the Divine mercy; and finally that faith is affection for truth going forth from heavenly love, which is from the Lord.