Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Egyptian Symbology by J.H. Mitchiner 1893
Egyptian Symbology by J.H. Mitchiner 1893
See also Symbology & Ancient Symbolism - 100 Books on DVDrom and Babylon, Sumer and Ancient Egypt - 200 Books on DVDrom
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Heraclitus observes: "The harmony of the world, like that of a harp, is made up of discords consisting of a mixture of good and evil." Likewise Euripides, another old Greek writer, gives utterance to the same idea: "Good and evil cannot be separated from each other, though they are so tempered as to produce beauty and order." Growth of character as the resultant of the play of opposing moral forces is a doctrine which may be clearly recognised in the ritual of ancient Egypt. In their school of thought it is questionable if evil (per se) had any real existence whatever. Evil was simply the absence of good, just as darkness was but the absence of light, and they recognised the necessity for both forces in the economy of moral unfoldment, an idea to which Tennyson, in our own day, gives expression:
"And power was with him in the night,
Which makes the darkness and the light,
And dwells not in the light alone."
In Egyptian mythology, Osiris represented the principle of good, Nut and Typhon that of evil. The duality of the latter was probably differentiated by ideas appertaining to sex, as the hieroglyphic legends point to Typhon as a female deity. That both the good and the evil deities were concrete embodiments of abstract mental opposing ideas is manifest in the names they relatively bore. Osiris was Love and Harmony, Typhon Enmity and Strife. Osiris was called the Unit, the Definite, the Fixed, the Straight, the Odd, the Square, the Equal, the Dexterous, and the Lucid. Typhon was known as the Duad, the Indefinite, the Movable, the Crooked, the Even, the Oblong, the Unequal, the Sinistrous, the Dark. Whatever was temporary and noxious was ascribed to Typhon, whatever was permanent and beneficial to Osiris.
With much natural gaiety and light heartedness the Egyptians combined an intensely religious spirit, and to apply the term superstition to their deep thought and high spirituality is evidence only of modern ignorance and arrogance. Some considerable acquaintance with the "Night side of nature," possessed by their natural teachers, the priesthood, may not unreasonably account for an universal, childlike acceptance of a life after death. Occult study had brought the priests into practical acquaintance with the fact of a world of spirit pervading, surrounding, and permeating this world of physical existence. The "Mysteries" recognised in all material forms of physical life only so many different vehicles for the external expression of some internal force. Death for the Egyptians was merely the passage from one form of existence to another. No life and no thing was or could be annihilated. Dissolution heralded transformation, the reproduction of the ego under new conditions of existence. Egyptian theology anticipated no arbitrary sentence at death delivered from the lips of a god; each man's conscience, released from the sinful body, became his own judge. They believed that every act of their lives which their conscience condemned as done amiss, would be found recorded against them in the great Book of Thoth. In Egyptian symbolism, the god Thoth, subsequently the Hermes of the Greeks and the Mercury of the Romans, the messenger and recorder of the gods, is represented with a human body and the head of an ibis, an allegorical symbol emblematical of the communicating medium of the divine intellect. Their ideas of the Creator, of Man, his "whence and whither," and his relations to the Deity, are found embodied in an elaborate system of symbol, written on papyri, painted on mummy cases, cut on the coffins, sculptured on sarcophagi, drawn on the walls of tombs, and engraved in the living rock. While the Divinity Himself is never represented in Egyptian sculpture, the depicted symbolical figures of gods are various deified attributes, indicative of the intellect, power, goodness, might, and other qualities of the eternal Being. All their symbolical representations are pregnant with significance. On the bottom of the sarcophagus is sculptured the figure of the goddess Athor, the great Mother of Nature, waiting to receive back again into her bosom the worn-out, forsaken, earthly tenement, while on the lid or cover of the same is figured the goddess of the Dawn, the Aurora of the Romans, emblematical of the resurrection.
In the drama of the "weighing of the heart" the chequered harlequin dress worn by Osiris on the occasion has come down to the present day in the costume of the harlequin of the pantomime, and typified the great transformation scene of nature which the Osiris of the midsummer heavens produced. Perhaps no portion of Egyptian symbology is more suggestive, or will better repay studious consideration than this scene of the "weighing of the heart." At the death of the body, the soul (represented as a hawk with a human head) is ushered into the hall of the Two Truths, there to witness its own trial. Pen in hand, the god Thoth stands before the balance ready to record the verdict. In the one scale rests the heart of the deceased; in the other the weight,—a feather! The selection of the emblem of law and justice for the weight is not without significance, and some suspicion of satire is implied in the sufficiency of a feather to outweigh the good deeds of a man. Anubis, the Jackalheaded deity, who holds the office of director of the weights, is engaged in examining the index of the scales. On his left is the goddess of Justice, and behind stand the twin goddesses of Birth and Fortune. The presence of the latter at the weighing of the heart is exceedingly suggestive. The Egyptians, by admitting these goddesses to the final trial of the deceased, emphatically recognise degrees of human responsibility arising from differences and inequalities of birth and circumstance. To use the language of 19th century civilisation, a child may be born "a gutter child," of poor, careless, indifferent and vicious parents, grow up untrained, and live and die a neglected outcast, or it may be nursed in luxury, carefully cultured, and from infancy instilled with high and noble principles. The presence at the final adjustment of the goddess of Birth was a necessity in their conception of justice. So also the goddess of Fortune. Rich men are strangers to temptations incidental to poverty, and the poor know nothing of the temptations besetting the path of the rich. Neither is the race always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. A just balance would be equally unattainable, lacking the presence of the "fickle" goddess. Behind the god Thoth stands Satan, the Accuser, guardian of the lower regions, the Egyptain Typhon, prototype of the Greek Cerberus, waiting to devour the deceased should the record forbid his admittance to the regions of the Blessed. Seated above are the forty-two Assessors, genii who severally preside over the same number of sins, which, according to Egyptian theology, a man was capable of committing. Apart on his throne, with Isis and Nepthys standing behind, sits Osiris the Good, the judge of all the dead, waiting to receive from Thoth the report of the result of the weighing. In one papyrus we have the verdict in these words: "His heart came out of the balance sound; no defect has been found in it." In another: "He is found to be straight in the great balance." Thoth then addresses Osiris as follows: "Lord of Divine Words, Great God resident in Hethar, he has given the Osiris his heart in its place."
After this report the deceased is taken by the hand by Horus and introduced into the presence of Osiris, who gives judgment in these words: "Thy father Tum (the setting sun) has bound thee with this good crown of justification, with that living frontlet; beloved of the Gods, thou livest for ever."
J. H. MlTCHINER,