Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thus says Thoth, judge of truth

The above scene, known as the Judgment of the Dead or the Weighing Scene, is one of the most famous in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  The above image is from the version contained in the Papyrus of Ani, widely considered to contain the superlative artwork of all the known copies of the Book of the Dead to have survived into modern times.  From the artistry of the scene above, one can immediately appreciate why the artwork in the Papyrus of Ani is held in such high regard. 

The vignette above is described in the outstanding edition of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, conceived and produced by James Wasserman and edited by Eva von Dassow, as follows:
The dramatic focus of the entire vignette is on the scales in the center, with Ani's heart on the left pan and the feather of maat "Truth, Rightful Order" standing upright on the right pan.  Adorning the top of the scales is a small image of a baboon, a form of the god Thoth, who is associated in the afterlife with the judgment of the dead.  Thoth himself, in his usual ibis-headed form, stands to the right of the activity.  He wears a white sash diagonally across his chest, indicating that he is assuming the role of lector priest, the official who reads (and writes) the rituals.  In his hands he holds the tools of his (and Ani's) scribal trade, a reed brush and a scribal palette.  He is ready to record the results of Ani's judgment. 155.
The description of the text associated with this scene is also informative.  It indicates that in many scrolls this scene is accompanied by the famous "Negative Confession," but that in this version the accompanying text is somewhat different:
The critical moment of Ani's BD, the Judgment of the Dead, occurs in Plate 3, directly following the Hymn to Osiris Wennefer in the preceding plate.  Normally Chapter 125, the 'Negative Confession,' is associated with this scene.  In this papyrus, however, that chapter does not occur until much further on in the last third of the roll (Plate 31), where it incorporates a miniature version of the weighing scene.  In Plate 3 we find instead Chapter 30B, written in the group of vertical columns beginning above and to the left of the scales and continuing over the figures of Ani and Tutu.  Chapter 30B is often called the 'Heart Scarab' spell because it is known primarily as the text which appears on large funerary scarab-shaped amulets which were placed within the mummy bandages near the heart.  Many BD papyri contain a longer version of this chapter, but the short form is the one used in Ani's papyrus.  On the right side of the plate appears a speech of the Great Ennead, a speech by Thoth, and a brief speech by Anubis.  155.
The speech by Thoth is profound, and worthy of careful consideration and long contemplation.  In the translation by Dr. Raymond O. Faulkner found in the edition linked above, that speech reads as follows:
Thus says Thoth, judge of truth, to the Great Ennead which is in the presence of Osiris: Hear this word of very truth.  I have judged the heart of the deceased, and his soul stands as a witness for him.  His deeds are righteous in the great balance, and no sin has been found in him.  He did not diminish the offerings in the temples, he did not destroy what had been made, he did not go about with deceitful speech while he was on Earth.
The tremendous importance the sacred texts attach to "not going about with deceitful speech" found in Chapter 30B is echoed in the Book of the Dead Chapter 29A, the "Chapter for not taking away the heart of one whose conduct has been vindicated in the God's Domain."  There the text declares:
My heart is with me and it shall not be taken away, for I am a possessor of hearts who unites hearts.  I live by truth, in which I exist; I am Horus who is in hearts, he who is in the middle of what is in the body.  I live by saying what is in my heart, and it shall not be taken away; my heart is mine, and none shall be aggressive against it, no terror shall subdue me.  I take it that I may be in the body of my father Geb and my mother Nut, for I have committed no sin against the gods, and nothing shall be deducted in that respect from my vindication.  103.
Clearly, of all the aspects of being declared "righteous in the great balance," the concept of "living by truth" and "not going about with deceitful speech while on Earth" appears to have been held paramount.

One can perhaps profitably consider this concept in light of the previous post on the life of Giordano Bruno.  It cannot be denied that Bruno spoke what he felt to be the truth, even when threatened with death for so doing.  It can also be observed that Bruno strongly believed in "not going about with deceitful speech" -- once he had determined that he no longer believed the things which had compelled him to take religious vows and join a monastic order, for example, he did not pretend to continue to believe them, but instead left and then "publicly defrocked himself" rather than declare by his words or deeds something which he did not believe to be the truth.

The previous post linked above also notes that Bruno wrote and published a text concerning the subject of "bonding in general," which deals with the methods by which mass groups of people can be manipulated and "bound" through psychological techniques, and the ways the reader can avoid such "bonding."  It can readily be seen that the control of masses of people often involves the spreading about of deceit, lies, and half-truths, as well as the withholding of the truth that could free people from their "bonds."  

One living in the modern age cannot help but agree with the assertion that today, the art of "binding"or "bonding" through techniques of psychology, association, propaganda, and the outright  use of deceit, lies and half-truths is very widespread -- it may be, in fact, one of the distinguishing features of the modern age since at least the early decades of the twentieth century.  It is surely no exaggeration to observe that the citizenry of most western nations today are generally more often controlled by the withholding of truth and the repetition of lies and half-truths than they are controlled by outright physical force or violence.  (In other words, by mind control).

The words of the Egyptian Book of the Dead should give pause to those who have made the spreading about of deceitful speech their stock-in-trade (to say nothing of those who believe that it is acceptable to use force to suppress or even murder those who speak the truth, as was done to Giordano Bruno).  

In fact, we should all carefully consider the solemn declarations of these ancient sacred texts, and resolve to say along with Horus, "I live by truth, in which I exist," and to aspire to live the words of Thoth: "he or she did not go about with deceitful speech while on Earth."