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The belief current among the Egyptians has already been referred to, that the soul was an emanation from the Creator of the world, and in accordance with this we find indications of a common idea in early times, that the soul was to return to its source and be absorbed again into the deity; yet the expressions of ancient authors on this point are vague and contradictory, and the evidence is too scanty to furnish a complete elucidation of the opinions entertained. It is undoubted that the Egyptians believed in the doctrine of transmigration, which they taught to Greece, but it is difficult to reconcile the idea of a return to the source of the soul's emanation and an eternal metempsychosis from one form of animated being to another, and inore difficult to see the use of preserving a man's body, if the disembodied spirit were to go to heaven, or about to be transformed into a bird or serpent. Indeed, the very fact that so much care was spent in embalming the dead body, showed that it was believed to be of some future use to its former possessor, and this, coupled with some doctrines known to have been entertained by the ancient Egyptians, justifies the belief that the resurrection of the body at some future period was looked for. The various changes through which a soul was believed to pass, may be thus gathered from the details of older authors, and especially from the sculptures and paintings on the ruins of Thebes, and on the walls of the neighbouring royal tombs. As soon as death, who strangely enough seems not to have been deified by the Egyptians, had severed the mortal tie, Thoth came to conduct the disembodied spirits to Amenti, the world of spirits; it was at once introduced into the presence of Osiris the judge of the future world, who presided on his throne of judgment, wearing a look of unalterable serenity. Beside him sat his consort Isis, but a more stern and unrelenting goddess, than the earthly Isis, and arrayed around them stood the other gods, as spectators or administrators of the sentence
of the supreme judge. The good and bad deeds of the being before the tribunal were then balanced together as already described, and a punishment proportionate to the guilt incurred, inflicted on the sinful spirit. No representation illustrative of Egyptian mythology, can be compared in interest to the frequently repeated pictures of this remarkable scene,-the judgment of the soul. In one example, which has been engraved by Dr. Pritchard, Osiris is seen seated on his throne, and before him are ranged the spirits to be judged, who, according to the unideal forms of Egyptian art, are represented as mummies. Behind them stands Thoth, who has ushered them into the royal presence, holding in his hand a tablet which appears to contain the record of the "deeds done in the body," and behind, the gods Anubis and Aroeris are weighing in a very large balance an object bearing a rude resemblance to the human heart, while in the middle stands Typhon, the Satan of the Egyptian creed, gaping with his horrid jaws, and seemingly waiting for the souls of the condemned. Thus the judgment which the Egyptian expected to undergo in the unseen world was a just though rigid one, and we might, on first sight, esteem the moral rectitude of a people who looked forward to their final doom being settled by the investigation of their conduct on earth, and the examination of the state of their heart or feelings, on appearing in another world. There is not wanting abundant evidence how little influence such teaching exercised on the moral rectitude of this curious people.
Much doubt and mystery still pertains to the ideas we are able to form of the heaven and hell of the Egyptian creed. No theory will accord with the known facts of belief, however ingenious. We know the period of time, however, which was believed to extend between the creation of the world and the resurrection of the dead and final destruction. The Egyptians believed that at the
creation of the universe all the heavenly bodies stood in particular relations to each other, which every year of the world's age had tended to change. The planets (for all the stars were planets with the Egyptians) were believed to revolve in mighty circles and in a mysterious manner, known only to the sacred astrologists. After the lapse of three thousand years, it was believed that all of them would return to the mutual relations subsisting between them at their creation, and that on the occurrence of this the world would be destroyed; according to some, the whole universe. The longest period then during which punishment could be inflicted was this cycle of time, which was known to the Egyptians under the name of the Great Year.
Those whose sins were greatest were punished with transmigration; according to the nature of their crimes they were transformed into birds, beasts, or serpents, and sent back to the world. For the slighter crimes they were again clothed with the human form and returned to upper air; so that an Egyptian, a firm believer in the latter part of the creed, could never be sure that among the mummies he carefully preserved as the relics of his forefathers, there was not one, perhaps two, which he himself had formerly occupied, or that having had one, before his present earthly tenement, he had to look forward to wearing out a third. One would imagine such an idea to have been a most perplexing one, yet the Egyptians seem to have delighted in all sorts of odd contradictions, and perhaps they may have reasoned on the probability of their having three bodies to pick and choose among when the great year had run its course, and their souls would return to inhabit their former tenements.
Some, however, as kings and priests, seem to have been thought so pure as to require no punishment, and were believed to be retained in the world of spirits till the great year was ended; but royalty by no means proved
an invariable passport to the Egyptian paradise. To all, however, whatever their immediate fate, was given the cup of the waters of Lethe, a draught which swept from the memory all traces alike of the joys or sorrows of the past. The author of the Epicurean has thus beautifully rendered the address with which this draught of oblivion. was proffered to the soul:
Drink of this cup,-the water within
Like a long forgotten dream;
All that of evil or false by thee
Shall melt away in this cup, and be
When all recollection of a former state of existence had been banished from the memory, the spirit, if pure and sinless, was consigned to repose, to slumber out the appointed cycle; if sinful, clothed anew in the form of man or of one of the lower animals, it was sent back to earth to enact life's drama again. It will be observed that thus far the belief in an eternity of punishment is excluded from the Egyptian creed, the transmigration of the soul from one animal to another being looked upon as a purgatorial expiation of sin committed, yet their sculptures have been thought to warrant the belief that the Egyptians held a doctrine of certain unpardonable sins, the commission of which were believed to entail on the guilty spirit unending misery. It is very difficult, however, to say what ideas were entertained of the duration of the happiness or misery of disembodied spirits, in other words, to what extent the Egyptians believed in the immortality, of the soul; they certainly believed in the soul's surviving the body, and that for a very long period, but what was to become of the soul at the conclusion of their famous great year, when the heavenly bodies were to return to
the respective positions they had assumed at the creation, and the world was to be destroyed, can not be confidently stated. Doubtless the ideas entertained by the great mass of the people were extremely vague and undefined. The winding up of this great astronomical cycle, involving the ruin of the world and destroying the distinction between time and eternity, seems to have been too appalling a thought, offspring of their imaginations though it was, to be often contemplated, while it was no doubt turned to good account by the priesthood, as a convenient engine of superstition. Hence all that we know of the matter is shrouded in symbol and mystery. Yet from certain doctrines handed down to us by ancient writers, contempo raries of the Egyptians, and from symbols which all are agreed in believing to signify eternity and immortality, it seems reasonable to believe that the idea of the immor, tality of the soul was included in the expectation of a future world. Certainly many of the Egyptians believed in the doctrine, very warmly maintained in the ancient world, and eloquently defended by many of its most accomplished writers, that on the destruction of the present world a new globe should be created, in every respect similar to that which had preceded it, inhabited by the same individuals, and the scene of the very same actions and events. Few feelings could be more perplexing or more likely to blunt moral feelings than such a belief, for a philosophic Egyptian could never be sure that this world had not existed in the same state over and over again, nor could he be certain that he himself had not performed the same actions for an indefinite number of times. Such a doctrine of course encouraged the most rigid fatalism, and its believers might say in the words of the author of Eugene Aram: "The colours of our existence were doomed before our birth, our sorrows and our crimes; millions of ages back, the eternal and all-seeing ruler of the universe,-Destiny or God,—had here fixed the