Book of the Left on Read

The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian text that advises its readers on what to say when they face Osiris’s judgement.  Based on the Book of the Dead we can see that the Ancient Egyptians value fair and kind treatment from a master to a slave as well as between a patriarch and his family.  This can be seen with verses such as “I have not domineered over slaves” and “I have not oppressed (or wronged) [my] kinsfolk.” This sense of just treatment (insofar as there can be such a thing with slaves) shows that while Egyptian society is not equal, they do have a sense of everyone’s individual personhood, which implies some form of rights.  This is further backed up by the edicts against more classical crime This has to do with the many lines dealing with not stealing, defrauding, and killing. Examples of these lines include “I have slain no man,” “I have not cheated the pointer of the scales,” and “I have not taken away the milk from the mouths of babes.” While these are necessary for a society to not collapse in on itself, the fact that these are considered moral imperatives show that they are built into the Egyptian worldview.

Stealing and defrauding is applied both to men and gods, which suggests a very physical relationship between the Egyptian views of gods and creation:  “I have not filched the offerings in the temples. I have not purloined the cakes of the gods.” This grounds the Egyptians in the archaic view of offerings to the gods.  These crimes are not committed against man like the other ones, but rather they are an affront to the gods themselves. There is also a sentence about having “not known worthless men,” which suggests a strong emphasis on one’s reputation.  This importance of reputation is so strong that the Egyptian’s think one ought to appeal to the company they keep on judgement day.  

In comparison to our current values, we share many themes with the Egyptians like no stealing and killing.  However, we do not consider crimes against gods within our moral codes. Also, while we pay attention to reputation, we do not say that one’s reputation makes them bad or good.  We do not care about the treatment of slaves within our society because slavery is illegal.

A contemporary Book of the Dead would likely have clauses related to not presenting a false image of one’s self.  Such as, I have not tweeted angrily on Twitter, especially in topics that I am not knowledgeable about. As well as, I have not led an unhealthy lifestyle and blamed all of my problems on everything but myself.  Other clauses would have to do with maintaining good working and leisure habits. I have not wasted excess amounts of time in random, uninspired content from youtube, facebook, instagram, etc. I have not wasted my finances on faddish items that I forget in three days.  There would also be clauses to avoid becoming an overexaggerated Buzzfeed article. I have not emotionally manipulated or coerced others into broken relationships. I have kept my computers and mobile devices well protected from malicious actors on the internet. Finally, with the rise of mental health issues, care for others suffering would likely be addressed.  I have not neglected my friends when they are mentally suffering.

Word Count 559

Zachary Peterson

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