Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Weekly Essay: The Weighing of the Heart (H1)

A common theme we discussed in this past week was the concept of life after death, and how philosophers of the classical era often included some version this idea in their teachings. What all this talk of different Greek philosophers' beliefs about the ideal afterlife and how to achieve it actually brought to my mind was something even older. The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead contains vast insight into the society's many elaborate funerary rites, and there is a passage within that describes the divine judgement of any mortal man or woman who seeks passage into the afterlife. After swearing that their lives were full of truth and righteousness, they would have their heart set upon a scale, and weighed against a feather from Maat, the Goddess of Justice. If their heart remained even with the feather, then they would be granted access to the Fields of Hetep and Iaru. But, should the indignities of their life weigh their heart down, then it would be fed to a monstrous beast known as Ammit. For the Egyptians, the heart was the center of their being, their very soul. It was the one organ never discarded or separated from the body in the embalming process because it was crucial it be carried over with them into the afterlife, and to lose it would mean to cease existence entirely. My pragmatic conscience tends to deny any claims of truth by the various religions of the world; I have not yet been provided with any reason to believe some kind of divinity exists within the universe. I don't believe any religion has the right to assert that its beliefs are any more true than every other religion that exists, or has existed throughout history, nor that any earthly religion can accurately describe at all that which may be beyond the scope of human comprehension. However, I also don't keep my beliefs set in stone. I will not stubbornly refuse proof when it is provided to me. I personally am not as daunted by the idea of permanent erasure as the ancient Egyptians. But, I acknowledge the possibility of an afterlife, and I hope to plan accordingly on the off chance that it is true, if not just for curiosity's sake. I believe that there is honor in living a dignified life, and that regardless of if we are given the opportunity for life after death, leaving this world with a righteous heart as light as a feather is its own reward.


  1. Very well put. A certain "lightness of heart," rather than a heavy solemnity surrounding all the things we don't know, seems like the right approach to living.

  2. I too have been fascinated with the ancient Egyptians' view on the afterlife. I always thought that this would be a good way to judge a person's conscience though it always seemed a little unfair to me because what defines whether or not a life was full of "truth and righteousness," as you put it? Is it how the person feels about their deeds and life or is it how Egyptian society overall would view how the person spent their life?

    1. Sorry, I forgot about this post and just now checked it and saw your comment haha. I think that there are certain constants across all human cultures with respect to what behavior can be regarded as "righteous" and "just", and things such as murder, incest, cannibalism, and other generally horrid things definitely do not fit into this category. Some other frowned upon acts are a little more flexible from people to people, but most of these are things that people know are wrong and do them anyway. I think that this should be represented as guilt, and I think that someone with a mental condition that cannot differentiate between right and wrong for instance should be exempt from this because they actually thought it was ok. So I guess to answer your question, it would have to be on more of a personal level to be fair for everyone, or there would have to be different metaphorical "judges" for every unique society.