The "Book of the Dead" of the ancient Egyptians (part I)

The so-called "Book of the Dead" in ancient Egypt accompanied the sacrificial offerings of food for the happy outcome of the otherworldly path of the deceased's soul: the welcome in the "circle of the Gods", eternal life in the "Hotep fields" and possibility of "going out in the day", that is to return to see the living and nature in our world. Nevertheless, in addition to collecting ritual, magical and religious formulas for these ceremonies, the aforementioned papyri also seem to contain interesting parallels with the phenomena of "experience on the threshold of death" and "out-of-body experience", as well as formal and content analogies with other sacred traditions .

di Pier Vittorio Formichetti

Cover: Papyrus of Ani, XNUMXth dynasty

Oh Residence of Unnut, I exist as a Hawk in it.
I am in it as a great one among the Glorified.
I am among the indefatigable stars. 
My name will not be destroyed! [...] 
I will exist with you, I will live with you: 
I will be loved by you more than your gods.

Book of the Dead, "Book to go out daily ", CXLIX formula

When the Arabs, in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, took away from the Byzantine empire what the ancient Egyptians called "Land of Kemet" - from kemi, «Black», referring to the blackish silt left on the ground by the floods of the Nile [1] - they called "Book of the dead" (Kitab el mayytun) every roll of papyrus they found in the ancient necropolis of Egypt. However, this definition is suitable for these texts: they are generally a miscellaneous collection of ritual, magical and religious formulas whose reading had to have, so to speak, practical effects: accompanying the sacrificial offerings of bread, beer, oxen, geese, fruit, vegetables and incense for the fire (lacking which the soul of the deceased, in its otherworldly path, would have been forced to eat excrement or hated animals, such as mice), and allow the deceased to escape the dangers of the Underworld, especially imagined in the form of poisonous or anthropophagous animals. 

The formulas of the Books of the Dead were to be read by the "priest-reader" (kheri-heb) "With the right voice", that is, with the appropriate intonation to represent the human qualities of the deceased, to protect his remains mummified on the ground and to "provoke the magical vibration suitable for disintegrating and repelling adverse entities" [2] that would have hindered his otherworldly path. The deceased was honored as a particular form of the omnipresent god Osiris: for this reason, almost all the formulas of the Book of the Dead begin with the phrase «Words [mwdw] to say from ... », which is followed by the qualification «drive away"(" Osiris ") and finally the person's proper name. 

Through the priest-reader, therefore, it was the deceased himself who pronounced the formulas that would guarantee the happy outcome of his own process otherworldly. The soul that in life had acted and spoken righteously would have overcome the known final test of psychostasis, the weighing of the heart, which had to be as light as the sacred feather of the goddess Maat, that is, Truth-Justice. Thus escaped the jaws of Ammit the Great Devourer (a hybrid of hippopotamus, lioness and crocodile [3] which represented the ultimate destruction), the dead man was declared "justified" or "righteous of voice" (in the Egyptian language maa herew), was welcomed into the "Assembly" or "Circle" of the gods, and would return to "go out daily". This expression implied the complex, heterogeneous and sometimes contradictory Egyptian metaphysics, according to which the soul would acquire a new life, no longer corporeal and temporary, but immortal and spiritual, in the "Hotep Fields" or "Iaru Fields", eternal prairies similar to the Greco-Roman Elysian Fields (sometimes imagine cultivable, hence the custom of burying the statuettes of the servants-workers called ushabti), but she would also return to the physical world to enjoy the sunlight, the taste of food, the possibility of seeing living family and friends [4], without being able to be seen. Now, to them, he was a "perfect soul" or a "Blessed" (baw), a title sometimes also given to the gods.  


Some formulas of the "Books to go out every day" (so they were defined in ancient Egypt i Books of the dead) also contain one or more "magical names" which, if pronounced correctly, would have applied in a precise way the power of ritual phrases, "a performative power such as to modify the reality, starting with the personal one" [5] of the deceased, which he could thus acquire the right temporary form (HPR) to face a certain opponent or obstacle in his dangerous otherworldly journey. Some magical names, "ababab-rerek","ababab-sererek»Or«haka-haka-her»[6] they resemble, perhaps not surprisingly, the best known abracadabra e abrasax present in some magic texts and on some European amulets of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance [7]; in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the cultural climate of rediscovery of ancient pre-Christian philosophies, mythologies and religions also involved the Egyptian one, which, although it was often misunderstood in good faith, was considered up to the threshold of the Enlightenment - as indicated by the work of " Jesuit handyman "Athanasius Kircher - the mother of all subsequent traditions through the mythical figure of Hermes Trismegistus (Hellenistic version of Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge) [8]: which, of course, was not true, but - as will be seen - as regards some elements of Judaism and Christianity it could be not totally erroneous. 

Initially i Books of the dead were produced for, and used by, an elite of people who acted around the Pharaoh and by the monarch himself: who, if during his life was identified with the god Ra (the Sun) and with his son Horus (or Horus) symbolized by falcon, after death he was assimilated to Osiris, the ancient divinity of the afterlife who was depicted in the paintings of green skin, like the vegetation that always dies and is reborn. But in the period of the VI reigning dynasty (ie from 2350 to 2200 BC) people began to think that even ordinary people, once they died, would be similar to the god of rebirth: as already mentioned, "the dead, whatever was his name [rn], became Osiris, and this was always specified also in the inscriptions "[9]. This means that for the Egyptians the deceased person becomes divine because he becomes an integral part of the omnipresent god, but at the same time he remained himself. From this point of view, Osiris was understood by the Egyptians in a similar way to the Christian God of Divine Comedy (Cfr. XNUMX. Paradiso, XXXIII, 124-132), that is, a sort of totality of all souls, each of which discovers that it has been an incarnation of Him. Also in the Book of the Dead there seems to be a trace of this conception, where the divine / otherworldly dimension is defined, in a surprisingly mystical way, "The abode of those who have found their faces" [10].  

To date, the longest and most complete specimen among the Books of the Dead found and studied in the last two centuries is the "Papyrus of Turin", named after the place of its conservation: the Egyptian Museum of Turin, second in the world after that of Cairo. The Egyptian owner of this specimen was Ieuf-Ankh, son of Ta-Shrit-Min (or Ta-Shrit-Menu), his mother's name (that of his father is absent), who lived in the late Ptolemaic Saitic period, that is between the sixth and fourth centuries a. C .; the scroll, 29 centimeters high and 19,12 meters long, is therefore quite recent. Between 1836 and 1842 it was copied, printed and numbered in 165 chapters by the German scholar Karl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884), but he did not translate it. The first to publish a translation in Italian, in 1986, was the Italian-Russian archaeologist and ethnologist Boris de Rachewiltz, professor of Egyptology at the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome and at the University of Cairo, director of several archaeological campaigns in the Middle East and Sudan, author of numerous texts on Egyptology and archaeo-ethnology, as well as son-in-law of the famous American writer Ezra Pound (pictured together in the photo above, dated 12 July 1958). In the nineteenth century, translations of other versions of the Book of the Dead - the "Saitica Review" in 1867 and 1882; the «Theban Review» and that of the famous Egyptologist EA Wallis-Budge in England; the versions of Orazio Marucchi (1852-1931) and Ernesto Schiaparelli (1856-1928) in Italy - which were always compared with the Turin Papyrus. Of this, in de Rachewiltz's translation, there are also photographs of the entire original, in order to illustrate the layout of the roll in vertical lines to the reader. 

On the volume, after the images of the Turin Papyrus, seven other photographs by Books of the Dead kept at the British Museum in London, to show some main types of these texts and the way of arranging the images. Among them, attention is drawn to theat table IV, taken from the scroll of this Nestanebasheru, who lived in the 11th-XNUMXth centuries a. C., which represents among other things three divinities: Shu (the Air) who raises her daughter Nut (the Sky, especially nocturnal) after the sexual union with Geb (the Earth) [XNUMX]. It is a very ancient cosmogonic myth, the primordial separation of Earth and Heaven by the work of Air. In this drawing, Shu is flanked by two twin divine beings with the head of a ram or a goat, holding Shu's arms. To the reader who knows the first five books of the Bible (Torah o Pentateuch), this image may recall an episode of theExodus: the Jews, freed from forced labor in Egypt by Moses and led to the land of Canaan, in Palestine (around 1230 BC), found themselves fighting against some peoples living between the north of the Arabian peninsula and Palestine; during the battle against the Amalekites, Moses, already very old, observed the fight together with Aaron (his elder brother and first Jewish high priest) and Cur (husband of their sister Miriam), and supported his people by praying to God standing and with arms raised towards the sky (the same prayer pose of the ancient Christians [12], before the genuflection spread):

Joshua did what Moses had commanded him to fight against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. When Moses raised his hands, Israel was the strongest; but when he dropped them, Amalek was stronger. As Moses felt his hands heavy with his weariness, they took a stone, placed it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur, one on one side and the other on the other, supported his hands. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down. Joshua defeated Amalek and his people and then put them to the sword (Exodus, 17, 10-13).

There is therefore a similarity between the pose of Shu and his divine assistants on the Papyrus of Nestanebasheru, and that of Moses in the account of theExodus, but this does not imply a "genealogical" link between the Egyptian myth and the Jewish tale, given that the content and purpose of the two narratives are completely different from each other. 

The composite ethnic and cultural context of the Middle East of the second millennium a. C., in which both i Books of the Dead Egyptians and the central memories of the Torah Jewish, however, allows historians to recognize reciprocal influences between the Egyptian, sedentary and agricultural-building culture, and the Semitic-Mesopotamian (but also north-eastern African) ones, mainly semi-nomadic and pastoral. In fact, de Rachewiltz writes that among the editorial staff of the ancients Texts of the Sarcophagi (from the VI to the XII dynasty, i.e. from 2350 to 1800 BC), which can be considered the embryo of Books of the Dead, and the editing of the latter,                          

a hiatus determined by the invasion of the Hyksos, the so-called "shepherd kings" of Semitic lineage from Asia. The violent Egyptian reaction of the revival period [second half of the XNUMXth century a. C.] destroyed almost all of the elements attesting to this domination: only the scarabs of tax agents and a few sphinxes were saved. The Asian invaders inevitably constituted an easy bridge for the passage into Egypt of new currents of ideas that overlapped and amalgamated with the pre-existing ones. The Book of the Dead is affected by this influence ... [13]

Among the many aspects under which the Book can be studied, here we will concentrate above all on some more or less significant correspondences between the theological-religious concepts and the linguistic expressions present in the Egyptian sacred text and those of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The latter, in fact, may reflect an assimilation and re-elaboration of the former due to the fact that they originated in the same historical-cultural, environmental and sometimes even terminological context.

For example, in Chapter XI of the Book of the Dead, entitled by the scribes who compiled it Formula for going out against opponents in the Necropolis, the deceased, now belonging to the otherworldly dimension (a condition which, in the wall paintings and in the drawings on the papyri, is indicated by a sort of red flame on the person's head), often expresses himself as if he were in the role of one of the Egyptian divinities, in this case Ra (the Sun):

I am Ra coming from the horizon against his opponent, who will neither escape nor be saved by me. I stretched out my arm like the Lord of the Crown ... [14]

Papyrus of Ani, XNUMXth dynasty

Also in the Hebrew Bible we find the gesture, referring to God, of extending the arm as a sign - evidently anthropomorphic and not unusual in the context of the wars between the ancient Middle Eastern peoples - of authority and power:

I am the Lord! He will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians, I will free you from their slavery with an outstretched arm and with great punishments [on them] (Exodus, 6, 6);

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and that the Lord brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Deuteronomy, 5, 15). 

In chapter XIV of Book of the Dead (Formula to remove the sorrow from the heart of Osiris Ieuf-Ankh justified) we then read: "May evil be removed and made to fall into the arms of the Lord of Truth" [15]. This phrase resembles a biblical advice inviting us to trust in God: "Throw your trouble on the Lord" (Psalm 54, 13). In chapter CLXII (Formula to produce a Flame ["Bes"] under the head of the deceased), we hear the priest-reader addressing the deified deceased, or the latter addressing a god: "You are the invoked god who comes to him who invokes him, and who frees the oppressed from his troubles" [16 ]. In the'Exodus we read a sentence almost symmetrical to this, expressed by the voice of YHWH in the burning bush to which Moses approached:

I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, I have heard their cry because of their overseers, I know their sufferings. I came down to free him from the hand of Egypt (Exodus, 3, 7).  

Thomas Brigstocke, Moses Aaron and Hur 1860

In chapter XVII (Formula of the resurrection of the Akhu of the exit of the Necropolis…), The deceased says: "I am he who closes and he who opens"; and shortly thereafter, among the answers to a series of decisive questions from some divine entities: "I am Yesterday and I know Tomorrow" [17]. The spirit of the deceased, by divinizing himself, has therefore extended his knowledge of the times equal to that of Osiris: an aspect of the afterlife according to the Egyptians on which we will return. In chapter LXIV (Formula to go out every day summarized in a single Formula) the metaphor of the power to open and close acquired by the deceased returns: "I open and seal according to what the Good Lord has granted me" [18]. And in chapter XCII (Formula for opening the tomb to the Soul [Ba] and to the Shadow [Sẉt], in order to go out daily and have power over the legs): 

What I have opened is open, what I have closed is closed, lying. I opened what was opened to my soul at the command of the Eye of Horus ... [19]

We find similar words in the Book of Isaiah (VII century BC) regarding the Jewish king Eliakim, who seven centuries later will be mentioned in theApocalypse, refer to the risen Christ in his aspect as Judge of the living and the dead: 

He who possesses the key to the house of David, He who when he opens, no one will be able to close, He who when he closes, no one will be able to open (Isaia, 22, 22; Apocalypse, 3, 7).

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Apocalypse, 22, 13).  

As already mentioned, chapter XVII is characterized by a series of always identical questions: "Who is this?" and "What is this?", indicating from time to time some deities, their symbolic objects or certain places of the Hereafter, presented to the deceased as in an examination that ascertains his knowledge (gnosis) of the cosmic and metaphysical dimension -esoteric. Lines 6-27 of chapter XCIX (Formula for driving the Boat into the Necropolis), similarly to Chapter XVII with its targeted questions, present a repeated command, "Tell me my name!", from the various elements that make up one of the divine boats on which, in the allegorical imagery of the Egyptians, the gods of 'Beyond and the cosmos [20]: in this case, the "Barca del Nu", or Nun, personification of the "primordial liquid abyss in which all existing things were contained in germs" [21]. Each command is followed by the appropriate response from the deceased, for example:

Tell me my name !, says the Support of the Oars - "Pillars of the Necropolis" is your name! 
Tell me my name !, says the Cabin - "Abode of the Path Opener" is your name! 
Tell me my name! Says the Helm - "The shining Balancer of the Waters, the Mysterious Staff" is your name! [22]. 

The primordial Nun's boat

Similarly, in chapter CXLV (Start of the Pylons of the Iaru Fields and the Abode of Osiris), occurs the dialogue between the soul of the deceased and each of the twenty-one Pylons of the eternal prairies. The dead man, identifying himself with the solar god Horus son of Ra, greets and honors: «Homage to you, says Horus, or you Pillar of the“ Being with an immobile Heart ”! I have made my way ... », and each of the Pylons (the first, then the second, and so on) replies:« Pass! You are pure "[23]. These dialogues beyond time and space in a sacred atmosphere, capable of involving the pathos of the reader, they are at the same time a request for passwords to overcome the obstacle and an examination that aims to ascertain knowledge (gnosis) of the dimension of the Sacred on the part of the soul, whose ultimate and eternal destiny is at stake. This scenario can be compared with that of the three decisive questions in medieval legends about the knights of King Arthur in search of the Holy Grail: “What is the spear? What is the sword? What is the Grail? ». In version of the film Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981), the questions are asked not by the knight (Gawain or Perceval) to the Wounded King, but by the King, who is almost a alter Christus which unites the figure of the Wounded King and the spirit of King Arthur (who, meanwhile, is precisely at the end of his life):

What is the Secret of the Grail? Whose service is it? - To yours, my Lord.
Who am I? - You are my Lord and King; you are Arthur.
Have you found the secret that I have lost? - Yes: you and the earth are One. 

On Perceval's answers depends not only the salvation of King Arthur, but also the rebirth of the Wasteland, and this may suggest the very close bond that in the weltanschauung Egyptian united the Pharaoh and the fate of Egypt, where the death of the monarch was experienced as a kind of crack in the cosmic order.           

The soul of the deceased of the Book of the Dead, continuing to speak like a god, he then declares: "I preside over the inventory of what is and what will be" [24]. Even the metaphor of the inventory of present and future times can recall a biblical theme: that of the "Book of Life" on which only God can write or cancel the name of every human being according to the actions and events of which he, during earthly life, he was responsible (cf. Exodus, 32, 32; Psalms, 68, 29; Daniele, 12, 1; Letter of Paul of Tarsus to the Philippians, 4, 3; Apocalypse, 3, 5; 20, 12-15). The cancellation, in turn, resembles what will be defined in Latin damnatio memoriae - the cancellation of the written and iconographic traces of a public figure guilty of some crime or declared such - which was sometimes also practiced by the Egyptian Pharaohs (perhaps the best known application is the one that struck some monuments of Queen Hatshepsut after her death in the 25th century BC) [XNUMX]. 

Papyrus of Ani, XNUMXth dynasty

In ancient Egypt, therefore, there is the idea that the soul of the deceased, in the Hereafter, can acquire some prerogatives of the gods (especially Osiris), including the possibility of knowing the future and classifying events based on a criterion. The metaphysical classification of events is not to be confused with predetermination or predestination, which excludes human free will: otherwise the conception and magical-ritual practice of the ancient Egyptians expressed in the Book of the Dead, aimed at saving the deceased from any otherworldly condemnation as a result of evil deeds performed during life, would have no reason to exist. It must therefore be assumed that the metaphysical "inventory" of natural and human events is based on a criterion already decisive in mindset of the Egyptians: the correlation of events to one of the two cosmic-political dimensions in mutual contrast, the maat (truth, order, balance, justice) or, conversely, theisft (chaos, disorder), to which the invasion of foreign peoples, natural disasters, political crises, epidemics were assimilated [26].

The faculty of foreseeing the facts by the soul of the deceased thus becomes, like that of Osiris, extended over a potentially infinite time and over a presumably unlimited number of events. But you have the impression that the ancient Egyptian theologians thought that the blessed soul also acquired a kind of spatial extension: the soul of the deceased, no longer limited by the body and coming to coincide with the divine Being of Osiris, perhaps becomes omnipresent like him or almost, acquiring the point of view that we could say celestial:

I have gained greater height and greater extension, and take full breath in the Abode of my father the Great (XXXII, Formula not to let the glorified spirit remove its Spells in the Necropolis by the crocodiles);

… The Lord of the nos [temple center] rising in the middle of the Earth. He is me and I am him. […] O Ra, […] may your streets be pleasant for me; may your roads widen for me, to cross the earth and expand into heaven (LXIV, Formula to go out every day summarized in a single Formula);

O Glorified, […] you will not be imprisoned by those who have the custody of Osiris, and who watch over souls, and who lock up the Shadows of the dead. Who will contain you will be [only] Heaven (XCII, Formula for opening the tomb to the Soul [Ba] and the Shadow [Sẉt]);

Eternity is for you as the duration of the reward, given as gratification, to make the justified Osiris Ieuf-Ankh (CIX, Formula to know the Spirits of the East); 

The face of the justified Osiris Ieuf-Ankh is as large as the Great (CXLIV, Knowledge of the names of the Guardians of the seven Arrit) [27]

Papyrus of Ani, XNUMXth dynasty

It seems that the individuality of the deceased has expanded into space, and his vision, now independent of the bodily eyes, can now include in his field of vision an immeasurable portion of the Earth, rather than only the part limited by the horizon in earthly life. This probable widening of the visual field can be compared with what appears to be found in some cases of out-of-body life experiences today. (OBE: Out of Body Experience) and experience on the threshold of death (NDE: Near Death Experience), not infrequently linked together, suggesting the possibility that the body is the material support, the means of manifestation, of the soul-consciousness, which, however - being part of what we could call cosmic consciousness (in Sanskrit: cit) or, with the famous cosmologist Stephen Hawking, "the Mind of God" - in itself would exceed the tiny part of the universe occupied by the body. From some testimonies collected in the book Life beyond life da Raymond Moody Jr., physician and psychiatrist who has reliably dealt with OBEs and NDEs, it appears that the soul-conscience, exactly like the part of the soul that the Egyptians defined Ba, he could see not only his own body from the outside [28], but sometimes also a panorama impossible to embrace with the body sight:

"[I] could see everything around me - including my body on the bed - without taking up any space." [...]

The senses corresponding to sight and hearing are not only intact in the spiritual body, but they seem strengthened, perfected; one man recalls that sight seemed incredibly more powerful: "I can't understand how I could see so far." A woman observes: "It seemed that that spiritual [visual] sense had no limitations, as if I could look anyway and anywhere." [...]

Many reported seeing, while out of the body, things that happened at a distance, sometimes outside the hospital, which were later confirmed by witnesses. [29]. De Rachewiltz believes that one of the main functions of the Book of the Dead, that of a "form" whose reading by the priest aimed at accompanying and safeguarding the soul of the deceased, is also fundamental in the Bardo-Thödol, Book of the Dead of Tibetan Buddhists [30]; similarly, Raymond Moody wrote that the Book Tibetan "was read to those who were dying (and, for a time, even after they were already dead) so that they would know better what awaited them" [31]. Moody never talks about the Book of the Dead Egyptian, but the comparison between some elements of this and the brief summary of the Book Tibetan made by him [32] may suggest that there may be some commonality between the Egyptian and Asian text also as regards the alleged experiences of the deceased on the threshold of the Hereafter. Chapter XXIII (Formula for opening a person's mouth in the Necropolis) opens like this:

May my mouth be opened by Ptah, and may Ammon, god of my city, untangle the shackles of my mouth ever since I came out of my mother's womb [33].

Ptah, one of the gods characterized by an entirely human aspect, according to the cosmogony of the priests of Memphis was the tutelary god of the voice and its power to affect reality. In a document dating back to the 2500th dynasty (2350-XNUMX BC) which has come down to us only in copy on a stele engraved by the pharaoh Sciabaka (end of the XNUMXth century), Ptah is presented as the creator demiurge (and therefore also considered patron of craftsmen):   

a very original and exceptionally spiritual doctrine in comparison with the materialism of the creation of the demiurge of Heliopolis [who used his own bodily excretions]. Ptah operates creation with "the heart", that is, with the will, and with "the tongue", that is, with the word, the verb (in mythical guise identified respectively with Horus and Thoth), a true creation "by Logos", intellectual . [34]   

The god Ptah with Ramses I (wall painting in his tomb).

Creation through the Logos, that is, the thought expressed with the voice-word, is a fundamental element in the Judeo-Christian tradition: the God ("Elohim", later called by the revealed name YHWH) makes the elements of the world exist by expressing his own thought through the voice: "And God said:" Let there be light! " And it was light ... "(Genesis, 1, 3). On this basis, centuries later a Gospel will affirm: “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos he was with God [...] and everything that exists was done through him "(John 1, 1-3). 

But also in Greece and India there were concepts of creation starting from a sound energy: in the Greek case, the mathematical-musical theories of the followers of Pythagoras, and those - similar in some ways, different in others - of Plato [35]. For Indians devoted to the god Shiva - wrote Pio Filippani Ronconi - the divine dimension is "a universe of energies in which the Cosmic Word is refracted, Pāra Vāk"; in the literature produced by the Shivaite philosophical schools, collected under the name of Agama, the feminine form of the Divine called Shakti, "Bride-power" (of the god), is conceived as the mother of further feminine divine entities including the goddess Word (Vāk, assonant with the Latin Vox, voice) which, being "audible sound" (sabda), is also the foundation of human language; furthermore "the Supreme Word, Pāra Vāk, is identical to the power of Shiva, for which the Reality is nothing other than Sound (the “harmony of the spheres” of Pythagoras!) "[36]. According to some Shiva schools, an indistinct sound is said para-nada, at the beginning of every cyclic creation of the universe, it fills the entire space and has the same nature as light: it then concentrates in a single point (bindu) and from here it expands into the "great creative sound", the Sabda-Brahman [37]. This idea of ​​the sound-light concentrated and then expanded at the beginning of the universe seems almost to anticipate two fundamental elements of current cosmology: the "initial singularity" and the "cosmic background radiation", made up of photons (ie of light), whose very distant hum (which has been defined "the echo of the Big Bang") is audible today with current scientific instruments [38].

End of part 1 of 2 - Continue 


[1] Term from which the Arabic will also derive kimiya, from which al-kimiya and our "alchemy" and "chemistry": cf. Serge Hutin, The daily life of alchemists in the Middle Ages, Milan, Rizzoli, 1998 [ed. or. Paris, 1977], p. 23.

[2] The Book of the Dead of the Ancient Egyptians. The Papyrus of Turin, edited by Boris de Rachewiltz (hereinafter: The Book of the Dead (BdR)), Rome, Edizioni Mediterranee, 1986, reprint 2001, with the flap on the cover. 

[3] One wonders if the monster Ammit can be reflected in the Hebrew Behemoth, which means "beasts", with which the Jews defined the hippopotamus, considered the animal that embodied all animality together; cf. Anthony S. Mercatante, Universal Dictionary of Myths and Legends, Rome, Newton & Compton, 1988, p. 349 (which refers to Book of Job, 40, 15-24); Laura Tuan, The great Dictionary of Dreams, Milan, De Vecchi-Euroclub, 1995, p. 198.

[4] "The Egyptians could not accept not to see the living after death [...] This" going out during the day "is of the utmost importance for the dead": G. Rachet, The Book of the Dead of the Ancient Egyptians. Text and representations of the Papyrus of Ani, Casale Monferrato, Piemme, 1997, p. 23.    

[5] Spring Fisogni, In the name of thought. As the ancient Egyptians thought, Cosenza, Santelli, 2019, chap. IV (typescript in the possession of the writer, p. 84). 

[6] Cf. The Book of the Dead (BdR), pp. 62 (Formula XLII) and 135 (Formula CLXII). 

[7] The "abracadabra", apparently, is found for the first time as a formula against disease in a second-century writing, when Christian communities were freeing themselves from Jewish origins: from this point of view, tradition ( see Merchant, Universal Dictionary of Myths and Legends, cit., p. 19) which derives the "abracadabra" from the Hebrew words Ab-Ben-Ruah ha-Kadash (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) can be questionable, because of the first two words (ab e ) only the initial letters would be present, while the last two syllables (da-bra) are not assonant with kadash o kadosh (holy, sacred) but rather with dabar o will give (word).

[8] See eg. Eugenio Garin, Hermeticism of the Renaissance, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1988; Silvio Curto, The rediscovery of ancient Egyptin Egypt. Introduction to the world of the Pharaohs, edited by CRAL and SIP Members, Turin, Piedmont Regional Council, 1987; Boris de Rachewiltz, Anna Maria Partini, Egyptian Rome. Egyptian cults, temples and gods in imperial Rome, Rome, Edizioni Mediterranee, 1999. For Kircher and Egyptology: Maristella Casciato, Maria Grazia Ianniello, Maria Vitale, Encyclopedism in Baroque Rome. Athanasius Kircher and the Roman College museum between wunderkammer and science museum, Venice, Marsilio, 1986; Joscelyn Godwin, Athanasius Kircher and the Theater of the World, Rome, Polygraphic Institute and State Mint, 2010; Piervittorio Formichetti, The Isiac Table of the Egyptian Museum: an Egyptianizing find from ancient Rome to Turin, "Piemonte Mese" April 1, 2014. 

[9] Whistles, In the name of thought, Postal Code. III (typescript cit., P. 65). 

[10] The Book of the Dead (BdR), p. 66 (chapter LVIII, Formula to breathe the air and have dominion over the water in the Necropolis). It seems a way of understanding the link between the Divinity and the human being that can lead to think that this essentially coincides with that, as in the Sufi Islam of Jalal ad'din Rumi (1207-1273) and in the mystical Christianity of the German Johannes Eckhart (1260-1326).

[11] Cf. The Book of the Dead (BdR), table IV and caption on p. 156. We note the similarities between the Egyptian names of the gods of heaven (Nut) and earth (Geb) and some corresponding Indo-European names: Sanskrit Naked (Vedic-Hindu goddess of the night), hence the Latin Nox - Nocte (m); the Greek Ge o ghee, "Earth", hence the terms geography, geology, geometry, etc ..   

[12] The same pose (a human figure standing with arms raised) and the same meaning ("I invoke protection") are present in stylized form in the fifteenth of the Germanic-Scandinavian runes, Algiz.   

[13] The Book of the Dead (BdR), p. 13.

[14] Ibid, p. 37.

[15] Ibid, p. 38.

[16] Ivi, p. 135.

[17] Ibid, p. 42. 

[18] Ibid, p. 69.

[19] Ibid, p. 85.

[20] For example, the cycle of the Sun was imagined as a journey of Ra through the sky on a boat that changed its name according to the middle of the day (or it was thought to be two boats): Antit o Andjit it was the "morning ship", from dawn to noon; Mesketet the "evening ship", from noon to sunset.

[21] The Book of the Dead (BdR), p. 172. This conception seems almost to anticipate that of the "primordial soup" developed by the Russian scientist Aleksandr Oparin in 1924 to indicate the fluid state of the prehistoric universe, from which all subsequent organic elements (molecules, microorganisms…) would have arisen.

[22] Ibid, p. 89. 

[23] The Book of the Dead (BdR), pp. 120-124 passim. The "motionless Heart" of Osiris is a metaphor of his superiority and imperturbability to human passions, which often make people susceptible to influence and inconstant.

[24] Ibid, p. 42.

[25] In the famous film Ten Commandments by Cecil B. DeMille (1956) la damnatio memoriae it is used as a narrative device to explain the absence of Egyptian evidence of Moses, after it was discovered that he belonged to the Jews. The name Moses, however, is Egyptian: the word mose o smoke means "begotten of", "son", "little boy", and in personal names it has a meaning and function similar to the suffix -poulos of Greek surnames (son of, or: the little one, the young man): eg. the pharaohs Thutmosi, Ahmosi, Kamose; such a Thutmose husband of Isis was a contemporary of Ramses II; a century and a half later, another Thutmose was a priest of Ammon and owner of a funeral papyrus similar to the Books of the Dead, the Book of the Am-Duat (see Anna Maria Donadoni Roveri, Egyptian museum, Turin, Barisone Editore, sd, pp. 11 and 37). The meaning of «Extract [in Hebrew Moshe] from the water "is a Hebrew interpretation of the name suggested by the circumstances of its discovery: Moses was called that not by his mother, but by the pharaoh's daughter, who found him at the age of three months in the floating basket in a canal of the Nile and adopted him (Exodus, 2, 10).         

[26] See Fisogni, In the name of thought, capp. V and VI passim (typescript cit., p. 95).

[27] The Book of the Dead (BdR), pp. 56, 68, 86, 94, 120. The seven Arrit are the seven metaphysical "Rooms" in which as many gods reside as Guardians of the Gates of the Hereafter.

[28] Raymond A. Moody, Life beyond life and New hypotheses on life beyond life, Milan, Mondadori, 1977, pp. 27-28, 38-39, 41, 47, 77. See also Mike Dash, Beyond the borders, Milan, Corbaccio, 1999, pp. 106-116. 

[29] Moody, Life beyond life cit., pp. 44, 51, 259. 

[30] The Book of the Dead (BdR), p. 14. 

[31] Moody, Life beyond life cit., p. 241. 

[32] Ibid, pp. 103-106.

[33] The Book of the Dead (BdR), p. 51.

[34] Edda Bresciani, Ancient Egypt - Religionin History, vol.1, From prehistoric times to ancient Egypt, Novara De Agostini-Turin UTET-Milan Mondadori 2007, p. 664.

[35] See eg. Armando Bertinetti, Musical cosmogonies (also available on the internet in .pdf format).

[36] See Pio Filippani-Ronconi, Hinduism, Rome, Newton, 1994, pp. 64-65, 71-72, 85.

[37] See Sarvepalli Radakrishnan (ed.), History of Eastern Philosophy, trad. it. Milan, Feltrinelli, 1981, volume II, pp. 521-522.

[38] See eg. Halliwell, Krauss et al., Cosmology. In search of the origins of the universe, Milan, Mondadori, 2003, pp. 10, 25, 46-47, 67, 71. Curiously, in 2003 a NASA satellite picked up a musical note from the constellation Perseus, a B-flat 250 million light-years away and "a million billion times more low of the sounds that the human ear can perceive "(Piero Bianucci, Have you ever heard a black hole whistle?, "Specchio" 11 October 2003, pp. 96-100).   

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