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Tony Grist

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The Duat [Dec. 16th, 2004|08:56 am]
Tony Grist
The ancient Egyptians put a lot of effort into preparing for the next life. They thought it would be just like life on earth. One would have parties with musicians and dancing girls, one would go wild-fowling among the reed-beds, one would ride in one's chariot or go boating in one's felucca. By imagining this future life one made it real.

And one backed up one's imagination with images. The dead person was launched into the afterlife in a little capsule full of painting and sculpture. Everything she would need was there in picture form. She would open her eyes in the dark and look around and see mirror and comb and fish-spear and fowling-net and heaps of fruit and bottles of palm wine.

It was a very powerful magic. The Egyptian otherworld- the Duat- still exists. With the right passwords, the right nod to the gate-keepers, one can go into it and look around.

I had a friend who did just that. She had friends in the Duat. They told her that after three- four- thousand years the magic is beginning to weaken and many of the old ghosts are giving up on it and dropping back into incarnation.

Three thousand years of partying and wild-fowling and boating and chariot-driving- I can see how it might pall- how one might feel as if one were stuck on a dead end street. Perhaps through the thinning walls of magic one might get glimpses of other worlds and be curious about them.

The afterlife is a static place. We create it from what we know in this life. Once we are dead the stream of experience dries up- and we can add nothing to our store of image and emotion. Our magnificent imaginings may keep us happy in our heavens for a long, long time, but in the end, if we've got anything about us, we'll be craving something new.

And so we come back to earth. It's the workshop of the universe. All other worlds are created here.

[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-12-16 01:11 pm (UTC)
First: did I ever mention my friend's dream to you? If felt like something else to me.

(She was an old woman, almost blind from glaucoma, and her husband had recently died after losing a leg and had left her alone. She had been depressed, felt increasingly frail, and had planned to turn down an invitation for Thanksgiving at her daughter's. Then she had this dream, which she carefully wrote down in the form of a letter to me. When I dropped by that morning, she started crying, and read me the letter. Later we sent it to a relative of hers who was dying of cancer.)

"This morning I had a dream. I am writing this before it fades from my memory. I saw Charles again.

"I was walking on a little track, like a railroad track, but more narrow, and to my left were great white waves, lashing up higher and higher to a white misty sky. Charles came walking to me, in his nice jacket I always liked. I told him I was afraid, but he said, Come with me. I am afraid, I said, and he showed me how to sit down on the track and dangle my legs over the side. I told him we would ruin our clothes if we went out into the waves, because the little track began to move towards them. Charles left me then, and disappeared into a crowd of people. They were talking, and out of the crowd came a man who seemed familiar to me. He helped me up and said, Your trip has been postponed. There is something you need to do.

"Then a pretty young girl came to me, wearing a white dress, and she led me down a path to a beautiful park where rocks were all around a deep pool. I climbed on the rocks like a girl, without worrying about falling or being old and dizzy, since I wasn't.

"These are the most beautiful rocks, I told the girl. Then I saw the pool and was drawn to it. I wanted to go inside it, but the girl took my hand. I'm going to take you home, she told me, and then I woke up in my bed."

I could see, she told me, and Charles was young again, like me.

What a beautiful dream, I said. It was real, wasn't it?

It wasn't a dream, she agreed: it was so clear, I can see it now, just as clearly as anything. . .

I said, Charles loves you, and others love you, not just here; and when it is time, it will be so easy, as easy as your dream.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-16 01:41 pm (UTC)
Some scientists say that experiences like this can be explained by funny things happening to the brain's chemistry. I think they're quite wrong. The quality of the experience speaks for itself.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-12-16 01:51 pm (UTC)
The quality of the experience speaks for itself.

She told me many times that the dream didn't fade as usually dreams do.

At the time, I thought (still do, really) that the essence of who she was somehow wandered away from her weighted body.

Further, it seemed to me that her husband was confused when she mentioned her clothing--that's when he disappeared into what sounded amazingly like a "cloud of witnesses"--the woman described it as lots of people all together in a shifting pattern like a kaleidescope, and out of that cloud came another person--she didn't see her husband after that. To me, reference to clothing seemed almost like a signal that she was still a part of the world of matter.

When people describe near-death experiences, so often they find some final barrier that pulls them toward it--in her dream it was the pool of water. I've read also about fences, walls--

(When you think about it that way, Frodo's journey to drop the ring into Mount Doom is fascinating because in some ways it is a similar journey to the one a soul might take at death.)
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-12-16 01:23 pm (UTC)
Second, I found this interesting page when poking around in Google looking up the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Jesus the carpenter's son sounds very erudite and scholarly. Lost years, indeed!
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-12-16 01:42 pm (UTC)
Having read more of the Mary Magdalene texts, I think they sound wrong, somehow--they have the same "ring" to them as some of these fake spiritual books, in which some author holds fantasy philosophy sessions with ideal participants--

There are so many of these. Remember (did you read) Carlos Castaneda and his wonderful magician mentor?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-16 01:52 pm (UTC)
I sidestepped Castenada- but I've read a lot of similar things.

I've been looking at the site- which seems to be huge. There's a story about a woman who proves the existence of God through The Torah Codes (which I've seen convincingly debunked on TV) and then this guy who debated with her goes to India and gets drunk and meets a man on a donkey... and yes, it's getting to sound very much like a work of fiction.

But the Gospel of Mary Magdalene is a bona fide gnostic text (of the kind the orthodox church tried hard to suppress.) I don't suppose Mary Magdalene had anything to do with it, but that doesn't mean that it isn't interesting and valuable.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-12-16 02:02 pm (UTC)
I had heard of the Gospel of Thomas, parts of which are very beautiful.

I wonder about the translations, which sound thoroughly Elizabethan, rather than modern. All those "whithers" and "thous."

In contrast, the translation of Mary Magdalene as shown on those pages seems refreshingly modern.

I'm wondering when these fragments were found.
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[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2004-12-16 02:12 pm (UTC)
How odd that I found myself earmarking some of the "lost" books of the Bible at Amazon for my next purchase (which is probably several months away).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-16 02:26 pm (UTC)
Here's a site which reprints the whole of the Gospel of Mary and (I think) a whole lot of other Gnostic texts. http://www.gnosis.org/library/marygosp.htm

The codex containing The GoM was purchased by a German scholar in Cairo in 1896, but not published until 1955.
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[User Picture]From: kaysho
2004-12-16 07:28 pm (UTC)
Ever since I was a child, that was one thing that bothered me about afterlives.

They all seemed so boring.

Well, either that or they were an eternity of torment, which didn't seem any better.

Eternal life is only a blessing if there is eternal growth. Otherwise it's the worst dead-end job you'll ever have.

Bad pun intended. :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-16 08:27 pm (UTC)
Exactly. That's why I reckon reincarnation is the only way to go.
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[User Picture]From: hepo
2004-12-17 11:21 am (UTC)
I like this, a nice easy read.

I found your last line very poetic, is it something you've read elsewhere? I'm sorry, but it's impressed me so much that I couldn't help but play with it. Hope you don't mind.

And so we come back to earth. It's the workshop of the universe. All other worlds are created here.

...and so,
to earth we come,
the workshop of the universe
where decisions are made
and worlds created.


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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-17 11:32 am (UTC)
Not at all. I'm flattered.

I don't suppose the idea is new. No idea ever is. But the words are my own. They started off rather hammy and overblown and I spent quite a long time wrestling them down into simplicity.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-12-18 11:39 am (UTC)
I fancy something a bit like Cathy envisaged in Wuthering heights. The angels threw her out when she complained about being in heaven and she woke up on wuthering heights sobbing for joy.
I would prefer to stay here I think.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-18 12:05 pm (UTC)
I don't think I'd want to be a ghost, though. All the evidence suggests that ghosts lead very, very limited "lives"- trapped in bugbble worlds of their own projection.
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