Code of Ethics: Egyptian Beliefs vs. Modern-Day Values

To the Egyptian’s god, Osiris, each Egyptian must be seen having committed no offenses covered in the Egyptian Book of the Dead during their time on earth before death. Otherwise, it would affect the opportunities they could have in the afterlife. The book did not just appeal to one social rank, but rather it applied to every class ranging from the laborers to the elites. This was, as the Ancient History Encyclopedia states, the afterlife was seen to be “a continuation of life on earth,” so their actions in their lifetime had effects on their afterlife. Their life in the present can serve to dictate or reflect the type of life they will have after death. The Egyptian Book of the Dead represents the standard set of values and beliefs that Egyptians had in terms of positive behavior. In a sense, it can be seen as a code of ethics or morals that everyone stood by in order to be considered a righteous person in the eyes of Osiris.

In modern society today, individuals do not live in accordance to a singular guidebook as the Egyptians did; however, we can still see similarities in how we universally follow a certain set of morals. It is known to be morally wrong to steal, cheat, or murder, but it is morally right to help others. Each of these points are reflected in the book. For example, it is explicitly stated that one can not “cause [a] man to suffer” or “[give] the order for any man to be slain,” nor can one allow a “man to go hungry.” For the Egyptians, while they must live a proper life without committing these offenses, it was imperative to also take care of others. In the modern age, individuals still try to live their best life without trying to affect others negatively as well. For example, those who feel a desire to give back to their communities may engage in various philanthropic activities, such as dontanting time or money to causes that they feel most invested in.

Additionally, a parallel can be drawn between the Egyptians to today in terms of how individuals still value religion. There are people today who are pious and live by their religious beliefs, which can be mirrored in the Egyptian Book of the Dead since Egyptians could not have “thought scorn of the god” or “stolen the offerings of the spirits.” On the other hand, due to modern conceptions, a stark difference between the two can be centered around the presence of extreme politicization, social media addiction, and drug abuse. We have been struck with a variety of epidemics surrounding opioids and the push for legalization of marijauana in the past decades. No presence of drug use or either substances were ever mentioned in the book being in part because of the differences in the way of life today.

For my own Book of the Dead, I would use these 5 statements as a testament to living a good life: I have not subtracted from the population, I have not stolen from my progenitors, I have not deceived any of my comrades, I have not consumed exuberant quantities of alcohol, and I have not suffered severe memory loss from an over consumption of narcotics.

—Waehung Ng

Word Count: 545

https://www.ancient.eu/Egyptian_Book_of_the_Dead/
The Book of the Dead, Volume 11, translated by E. A. Wallis Budge, 1911

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