The Weighing of the Heart
An occult investigation of the ancient Egyptian mystery of the Judgement of the Dead
Papyrus of Ani — The Weighing of the Heart — gouache on papyrus, ca. 1500 B.C.
The ancient Egyptians, in common with many other peoples, believed that the soul (Higher Self in our terminology) was judged after death, and depending on the outcome, subjected to one of three fates; to enter into Heaven, to be cast into hell, or be reborn on earth. A distorted version of this doctrine has been preserved by the Christian Church to this very day, though very few believe in it. In the Egyptian original of the Christian copy, judgement consisted of the weighing of the deeds (both good and bad) of the deceased against the implacable scales of Divine Justice. The former was symbolized by the deceased's heart and the latter by the feather of Maat or Goddess of Righteousness and Truth. The Egyptian God Thoth or Tahuti presided over the weighing of the heart, assisted by Up-Uatu, the 'Opener of the Way' or Guide of the Dead in the Afterlife, and the dog-headed ape Hapi, acting on his behalf, as can be seen in the main illustration shown above. This has been taken from the Papyrus of Ani, an Egyptian Scribe who flourished during the late 18th Dynasty.
Aside from Ani himself and the Forty-Two Assessors, or Judges of the Dead seated above him in the papyrus, there was a further important character in this eschatological drama. Ammit, the 'eater of the dead.' Indeed, the very word Am-mit means 'eat dead'. This was a most singular monster composed of the head of a crocodile, the forepart of a lion and hindquarters of a hippopotamus. There is nothing arbitrary or accidental in this bizarre combination of zootypes, each of which is an important symbol in itself, the whole making up an occult emblem replete with hidden meaning for those instructed in the sacred science of symbolism. We shall say a bit more about Ammit later in our investigation. Meanwhile, it is worth pointing out that all the characters so far described, the judgement itself and all that pertains to it in the Egyptian ritual is nothing but a whole series of interconnected symbols forming one grand emblem which was explained to those undergoing initiation in the ancient Egyptian Mystery Schools.
The Judgement of the Dead
Wikipedia tells us that the weighing of the heart took place in the 'Hall of Two Truths,' but does not explain why there were two or what they were. We can't really blame the editors of the online encyclopaedia for this or the Egyptologists either, for neither know that man has two minds or selves and that both are 'judged' after death. Hence there are two 'truths' or two 'books' to be examined, consisting of the deeds and thoughts of the two selves—the Higher and the lower. The 'judge' if you haven't guessed it already, is the Divine Soul itself, represented in the Egyptian ritual by Thoth or Tahuti. If we pause here and look at the illustration we mentioned earlier, part of which we have enlarged below, the principal participants in the judgement can be seen and identified. Only two are out of sight—Thoth and Ammit—both of which stand to the right of the scales in the full illustration we have reproduced above. So, without further preamble, let us focus on the central tableau to discover what it can tell us.
At extreme left we see two female figures identified by the hieroglyphs above them as the Goddesses Meskhenet (also transliterated as 'Mesket' and 'Meshkent') and Renenet. Actually, Meskhenet appears twice in this scene, for she is also symbolized by the strange looking female-headed block to the left of the scales, directly above the Scribe Ani. We shall explain this dual appearance as we proceed. Meskhenet was the Divine midwife and goddess of childbirth in the Egyptian Mythos. As we are dealing with the rebirth or resurrection of the soul (Higher Self) in the Afterlife, it is fitting we should encounter Meskhenet in the Judgement scene. But she signified much more than this. As the creator of the Ka, which she breathed into the human child at the moment of birth, she was associated with its future fate. In this role she was personified as the birthing brick on which ancient Egyptian women squatted while giving birth, and it is this form we see depicted above Ani, signifying his rebirth on earth in a new incarnation as well as his resurrection in a spiritual body in the Egyptian Afterlife. Thus, there are two 'births' to be considered here, one on Earth and one in Heaven.
This doctrine was reprised by St Paul, millennia later, when he wrote: "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15: 42-44). Further on in his letter to the Corinthians he writes: "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven" (1 Corinthians 15: 47). This is a distinct, albeit concealed reference to the two births, bodies and two selves, the Higher in its spiritual or astral body, and the lower in its physical body. But Meskhenet was not simply a midwife, she could also determine a person's destiny. This connects her with the God Shai who was thought to determine the length of a person's life. It is for this reason that the two are often depicted together along with Renenet who, as we shall now see, is just as important a personage in the drama being enacted in the Hall of Two Truths.
Renenet (also transliterated as 'Renenutet', 'Rennenet' and 'Ernutet') was depicted either as a woman, a cobra or a woman with the head of a cobra wearing a double plumed headdress or the solar disk. In this illustration she is identified not only by her name written in cursive hieroglyphs but also by the serpent 'squiggle' directly above her head. The hieroglyphic signs composing her name furnish the key to her functions. These contain the word renen meaning to 'bring up' or 'nurse' but also renent meaning 'fortune', 'luck,' or even 'riches'. Thus the two Goddesses together stand for Fate and Fortune respectively. We may regard the former as the destiny mapped out for us by the actions of our former lives and the latter as the good fortune accruing from them, always assuming our deeds were of such a nature as to confer any good fortune or riches!
Renenet was sometimes considered to be the wife of Geb (or Seb) the God of the Earth. This is interesting, as for most people 'good fortune' consists of material benefits only. These are naturally in the gift of the God of the Earth, whom the Jews called Jehovah and the Greeks and Gnostics the Demiurge, rather than Ra, the God of the Sun, who confers spiritual blessings upon his followers, not material ones. Renenet was also considered to be the mother of Nehebkau—a gigantic serpent—who guarded the entrance to the underworld and protected Ra as he passed through it every night. The symbolism of this guardian and his role in the Egyptian eschatology is not without significance, but an explanation of what it may portend would take us too far away from our theme so we must leave it to the interested reader to follow this up if he or she so wishes. But it does provide us with the opportunity to say that there were many different aspects to each and every God or Goddess in the Egyptian pantheon. To assign one meaning only to Ra, Osiris or Isis, is to fall into a very great error. Moreover, as the Egyptian civilization evolved over many millennia, so too did the conception of its Gods and Goddesses change. Unless we bear this in mind we can never hope to grasp the underlying meaning in even the simplest of Egyptian symbols, let alone complex compound emblems such as the Judgement scene in the Hall of Two Truths.
Immediately above Meskhenet and Renenet we see the soul (Higher Mind) of Ani in the form of a human-headed hawk called Ba in Egyptian. This tells us that Ani is an advanced soul who has carried the quintessence of the experience he gained on Earth with him into the Afterlife. He stands upon a little house—emblematic of his home in the 'Fields of Peace'—the upper Heaven of the Egyptians which they called Sekhet Hetepet. Between the Ba of Ani and Meskhenet figured as the birthing brick we mentioned earlier, we find Ani's heart suspended from the beam of the balance. This, as we also mentioned earlier, represents the sum total of the deeds of the deceased which are to be weighed upon the scales of Divine Justice.
If the heart was found to be lighter or equal in weight to the feather of Maat, the deceased had led a virtuous life and would go on to dwell in the Egyptian Heaven. If, on the other hand, the heart was heavier in the balance it was devoured by the monster Ammit and its owner condemned to remain in the Duat or Egyptian underworld. This was all the common people knew, nor, with the exception of a few enlightened Egyptologists such as E. A. Wallis Budge who came close to discovering the hidden meaning of these allegories, do our modern scholars know any more. Only those initiated into the Sacred Mysteries knew the great truths they concealed.
We said earlier we would tell you a bit more about Ammit, the 'eater' of the dead. You will recall that this monster has the head of a crocodile, the forepart of a lion and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus. Now, who are the 'dead' the monster 'eats'? Those human beings who have deliberately severed all connection with their Higher Self and willingly embraced all that is dark and evil. These are the proper food for Ammit, for they are made in the monster's image. Like her, they are cruel (crocodile), they are addicted to material strength and power (lion) and wallow in the mud of materialism (hippopotamus). Thus Ammit is no more or less than a symbolic portrait of our old friend, the lower self. She eats herself. That is to say, the erstwhile personality of the deceased perishes with the body since there is nothing of it worthy of preservation in the Afterlife. This answers the question of whether the consciousness of the personality persists after death or not that so puzzled Bombast and Flitterflop in the fourth of their series of twelve Astral Conversations. It all depends on how much or little of it gravitated toward the Higher Self during life on Earth. As the mysterious 'M' tells the two interlocutors: "The spiritual 'I' is immortal; but will carry away from your present personalities only that which merits immortality, namely, the aroma alone of the flower that has been mown by death."
We may conclude from this that the wise Egyptian Initiates, at least in the time that Ani lived, were fully conversant with the laws of reincarnation and evolution we discuss in our Occult Studies Course. For them Ammit held no terrors, for it was simply a composite emblem of the laws which liberated the righteous from the wheel of Rebirth and enslaved the unrighteous to another incarnation on Earth. It is the liberated Ani we see standing before the God Up-Uatu, later confounded with Anubis. It is Up-Uatu, whose name quite literally means the 'opener' or 'guide' of the way, who led the souls (Higher selves) of the righteous into their rightful place in the Afterlife.
Not all the participants depicted in the Papyrus of Ani we have discussed with you are depicted in every copy of the Book of the Dead that has come down to us. Some copies omit Meskhenet and Renenet; others substitute the Goddess Maat for the Ape of Thoth who bestrides the balance. These differences cannot all be attributed to scribal 'errors' as the 'experts' tell us. We are of the firm opinion that, as in the case of Ani, certain details were included quite deliberately to convey particular truths to those who possessed the keys to their elucidation.
We have neither the time nor the space to say more about this. Nor do we intend to discuss the Book of the Dead itself, though we hope to do so in a future series of articles. What we can say in passing is that the essential texts of the book date back to the very earliest dynasties and are found inscribed on the subterranean walls and sarcophagi of the pyramids at Saqqara from the Fifth Dynasty onwards. The oldest of these writings have been dated to over 5,000 years ago, but we are in no doubt that they are much older than this. They were originally intended for those undergoing initiation to acquaint them with the laws and principles of the occult sciences and prepare them for their future explorations of the higher and lower dimensions or planes of the Astral World. As such they also provided a 'map' of the conditions and beings the explorer would encounter, both in life during so-called 'astral projection,' and after death.
Later these discrete texts were codified into a continuous narrative which we call the Book of the Dead, but which was known to the Egyptians themselves as 'The Chapters of Coming Forth by, or into Day,' meaning the Light. When an Initiate died, his or her 'book' accompanied them into the tomb. Later, this practise was extended to all the Nobility, whether they were Initiates or not. Thus we arrive at the late period from the 19th Dynasty onwards when copies of the book, or just parts of it, were entombed with private individuals, provided they occupied some position of importance within the state. Many of these copies were poorly executed and contained numerous errors. But this did not matter in the slightest, as by this time the book had taken on the character of a sacred object in its own right with 'magical' powers that would protect the deceased after death and ensure his or her safe arrival in Heaven, regardless of whether they were a good man or woman or an out and out scoundrel. Superstition had finally triumphed over Wisdom and from then on the Book of the Dead served much the same purpose and was regarded in much the same way as the sacred relics of the Catholic Church. But in the First Dynasty which Joan Grant recalled so vividly in Winged Pharaoh, Wisdom still dwelt in the hearts of the rulers of Egypt and her temples still sheltered the One Light of Truth as we shall now see.
The Negative Confession
What follows is the 'Negative Confession' of the deceased before the Forty-Two Assessors of the Dead, as remembered by Joan Grant through her recollection of a previous life lived in ancient Egypt as the First Dynasty Pharaoh Meri-Neyt. For those who are interested this Pharaoh really existed and appears in the list of Egyptian Kings recorded on the Palermo Stone as Djet, also known to Egyptologists as 'Wadj', 'Zet', and 'Uadji.' The questions asked by the Assessors and the answers given by the deceased differ materially from those in the Papyrus of Ani. This is understandable given that more than four thousand years separate the First Dynasty from the 18th. Joan Grant's narrative is preceded by a short introduction which we feel is worth quoting in full as it contains a number of important truths. She writes:
"When the traveller reaches the end of his journey, he finds himself upon the bank of a river, and before him he sees a boat, which is the Boat of Time in which he must take passage. But before the decks allow him to set foot upon them, he must call them by name; and he must name the oars, or they will not row him; and he must name the prow, or it will not lead the boat along the river. He journeys in the boat over the dark water until the river down-plunges into the Great Caverns. Here he is beset by demons, which assail him in their shapes of terror, but if he is without fear, they cringe back into the shadows. Then he disembarks upon a quay where seven steps lead up to a great door. He must call upon the bolts by their name, and the hinges by their names, and he must know the secrets even of the planks that make it. At the hearing of their names, the door opens before him, and he passes through into a great hall of audience, where, seated on their thrones, are the Forty-two Assessors of the Dead.
"They soar above him into the shadows and their faces are beyond his sight, for he is in a valley among the mountainous Gods.
"Each in his turn shall challenge him; and if he cannot answer them in truth, saying, 'By the Feather of Truth, thee have I conquered', then shall the floor open under his feet and he shall be in darkness until he emerges from his mother's womb. And in his conquering, the virtues shall enter into him and the evils shall enter the strength of their overthrowing into his heart.
"Upon the four sides of the hall are the Assessors upon their thrones.
"And the first shall challenge him, saying: Hast thou treated thy body wisely and considerately, even as thy creator cherished thee in the days of thy youth?
"And the second shall say: Hast thou lived out the full span upon Earth that the Gods allotted thee?
"And the third shall say: Hast thou kept thy body as a clean garment unstained by the River of Filth?
"And the fourth shall say: Hast thou lain only with the woman whom thy spirit loveth also?
"And the fifth shall say: Art thou free of the knowledge of the body of thy mother or thy daughter or thy sister or thine aunt?
"And the sixth shall say: Hath no man been unto thee as a woman?
"And the seventh shall say: Is there any animal that can call thee husband?
"And the eighth shall say: Have thine hands taken that which was not theirs to hold?
"And the ninth shall say: Hast thou eaten of food until thy belly was tormented and cried out against thee, or taken of strong drink until thy will was the slave of thy body?
"And the tenth shall say: Hast thou severed the silver cord of any in violence?
"And the eleventh shall say: Hath thine anger been just, and the flail in thine hand been as the Flail of Pharaoh?
"And the twelfth shall say: Hast thou looked upon the rich and the skilled and known not envy?
"And the thirteenth shall say: Hath thine heart been untorn by the claws of jealousy?
"And the fourteenth shall say: Hast thou spoken no evil except of evilness itself?
"And the fifteenth shall say: Hast thou left no plough idle in the furrow when the seed was ready for sowing?
"And the sixteenth shall say: Hast thou lusted after knowledge for those things that were not for thine ears or for thine eyes?
"And the seventeenth shall say: Hast thou seen thy giant shadow upon the wall and thought thy semblance mighty?
"And the eighteenth shall say: Hast thou turned from the right path when it was beset with danger?
"And the nineteenth shall say: Hast thou chained thyself to Earth with fetters of gold?
"And the twentieth shall say: Hast thou looked upon the things of Earth until thine eyes were blinded?
"And the twenty-first shall say: Hast thou been upright in thy dealings in the market-place?
"And the twenty-second shall say: Hast thou shown gratitude to all who have befriended thee upon thy journey, whether it be thy companion, or the pomegranate that refreshed thee when thou didst thirst?
"And the twenty-third shall say: Hast thou given bread to the poor and the fruits of thy vineyards to the weary?
"And the twenty-fourth shall say: Hast thou closed thy mouth against falsehood?
"And the twenty-fifth shall say: Hast thou been so prideful of thy wit that thy wisdom was clouded?
"And the twenty-sixth shall say: Hath thy friendship been a strong rock in a desert of shifting sands?
"And the twenty-seventh shall say: Hast thou chained thyself to no man with the shackles of hatred?
"And the twenty-eighth shall say: Hast thou known no sorcery nor polluted thyself, and hast thou kept thy body thy dwelling-place alone?
"And the twenty-ninth shall say: Hast thou brought contentment to the heart of thy mother and honoured thy father's house?
"And the thirtieth shall say: Hast thou honoured all true priests?
"And the thirty-first shall say: Hast thou remembered the Gods throughout thy journey and asked their counsel?
"And the thirty-second shall say: Hast thou closed thine ears to wisdom that speaks in a loud voice?
"And the thirty-third shall say: Hast thou quenched with thy wisdom the thirst of the parched for truth?
"And the thirty-fourth shall say: Hath thy power been used only for the Light?
"And the thirty-fifth shall say: Hast thou been a sword in the Army of Horus?
"And the thirty-sixth shall say: Has thou led any man upon the path that leadeth not to freedom?
"And the thirty-seventh shall say: Hast thou a vision of thyself in thine heart in honour?
"And the thirty-eighth shall say: Hast thou known thine own heart and been a true scribe of all thy works?
"And the thirty-ninth shall say: Dost thou know that the end of one journey is but the beginning of another?
"And the fortieth shall say: Hast thou remembered the plants, which were once thy brothers, and quenched their thirst and tended them so that they flourished?
"And the forty-first shall say: Hast thou been to all animals as thy master is to thee, using wisdom, kindness, and compassion unto them who were once thy brothers?
"And the forty-second shall say: Canst thou say in truth, 'I have never worked man nor beast beyond his strength. I have known that all upon Earth are my fellow-travellers and I have succoured them upon their journey.'?
"Then he shall no longer hear the sonorous voices of the Gods, and in the silence his own voice shall ring forth, saying, 'Thee have I conquered, for upon Earth there is no sinful one, no sorrowful one, no suffering one, through any act of mine.'
"Then this Hall of Truth shall be as the noonday, made luminous by the pure clear flame of his spirit; and if all the winds of Earth should gather their forces upon this flame, still would it burn serenely undisturbed. He no longer sees the Gods towering above him, for he has become of their stature, and to him their faces are as though he looked in a true mirror and saw his own countenance, for he is a brother in their semblance.
"Then before him he sees the Great Scales of Tahuti. Upon the one side is his heart in the form of the jar of his maat and upon the other side is the Feather of Maat. And they are poised each to each in perfect balance, for upon both sides there is Truth.
"And the walls open before him like a great gateway, and he walks forward into the light of the Celestial Fields, where the corn that stands seven cubits high awaits his garnering."
There will be some readers who are strongly offended by the condemnation of homosexuality, adultery and gluttony in the Negative Confession. There will be many more who feel unable to accept, never mind live up to, the exacting morality many of the questions demand of us. There will be few indeed—the writer included—who can answer every question in the negative. None of this matters. We have not researched, written and published this article to offend, shame or pass judgement upon anyone. On the contrary, our purpose has been to shed a clarifying light on the subject of the judgement after death which awaits us all. However bad we think we may have been, or however many errors we think we may have committed in this life, there are always new lives in which to make amends. We would also add that the man or woman who never went astray or who never committed any crimes is not a human being but a robot with no free will of their own and no red blood coursing through their veins.
As we said at the commencement of our investigation, we are our own judges. At the time of passing over, and even in some Near Death Experiences (NDEs) we are compelled to review the life that has just ended. It is not an experience that can be compared to any kind of review on Earth. There is no possibility of dissembling, least of all of lying. We, that is the erstwhile personality we have just quitted, is stripped bare. It is utterly naked before the Judge which is, as we have said, our very own Soul, though very few will recognise it as such. Christians will see it as Jesus, or even Almighty God Himself. Muslims as Mohammed or one of the great Islamic Angels. Hindus may see it as any number of Gods, Goddesses or Holy Beings. In short, all will behold the Judge, or Judges in the light of their own personal religious paradigm, or lack of any. The good that they did will be evenly weighed against the evil, and likewise the good they might have done, but did not, with the evil they were tempted to commit, but resisted.
The searching Light of Divine Justice will be illuminate their every act and every thought in the life just past. Nothing will be omitted, no matter how well they may have hidden or suppressed it. But the balance will always err on the side of Mercy, for Divine Justice is merciful knowing how easily mankind is led astray and falls into error and illusion. All this and more was known to the wise Egyptian Sages who recorded it in such writings as the Book of the Dead that future generations might profit from the knowledge of what awaits us all after the death of the physical body, which is no death for most people, but rather an awakening to a greater and richer life than any to be enjoyed on Earth. A truth that has been forgotten and which it has been our privilege to remind our readers of.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article published 26 April 2020. Updated 12 February 2023.