S. G. F. Brandon on the development of ideas of the Judgment of the Dead (including Karma).

Peter Myers, August 9, 2002; update May 3, 2004; minor corrections January 14, 2018. My comments are shown {thus}; write to me at contact.html.

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The quotes here concern Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greco-Roman Culture, Hinduism and Buddhism. Brandon also deals with Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian ideas, but these are excluded here because more familiar. Greek script is Romanized.

"the conception of the post-mortem judgment, as it finds its most complete expression in the Book of the Dead, represents a most significant achievement in both the history of religions and of ethics. The intimations, already found in the Old Kingdom, that a happy after-life was not to be obtained only by the practice of ritual magic, but that it must be deserved by the moral quality of one's life on earth, reached this maturity of expression in the New Kingdom. No other people were to achieve a comparable view of the eternal significance of a morally good life until many long centuries had passed"

S. G. F. Brandon, The Judgment of the Dead: The Idea of Life after Death in the Major Religions, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1967.

{Ancient Egypt}

{p. 36} ... the Second Declaration of Innocence constitutes a veritable anticlimax to the First, since the First, by virtue of its being addressed to Osiris, renders any further attestation logically superfluous, if not contradictory. The other inference is that the idea which inspires these Declarations appears to be older than that behind the weighing of the heart - indeed, it seems to stem from that conception of the post-mortem judgment which finds expression in the Pyramid Texts, whereby the deceased fears that he will be accused of misdeeds after death.

It is possible that the First Declaration may have been composed originally for royal use, since it contains no mention of the committing of an offence against the king, as does the Second. In its present setting in the Book of the Dead, this First Declaration is clearly addressed to Osiris; but there is ground for doubting whether this was the deity to whom it was addressed in its original form. The opening salutation ('Hail to thee, Great God, Lord of the Two Maati') could well be directed to the Sun-god; for the two boats used by Re, respectively, for his unceasing journey through the day and the night sky were described as the two Maati, probably from the idea that the diurnal journey of the Sun-god was both an essential part of the cosmic order and the means by which the deity observed all that happened on earth. The Hall of the Two Maati, before which this Declaration is made, might also derive from the solar cult, it being a designation of the tribunal of Re, the Sun-god.

If these inferences are sound, the First Declaration may well, therefore, represent a later Osirianized version of an affirmation of innocence used originally in the royal mortuary ritual, which conceived of the dead king as having to justify himself before the tribunal of Re. As such, it would probably date from the Herakleopolitan period (c. 2242-2060 BC). The formula would doubtless have been produced in response to the Heliopolitan tradition which had located the royal hereafter in the sky, with Re as the lord of Maat.

The Second Declaration of Innocence presents an altogether different problem. It has often been, understandably but wrongly, supposed that the forty-two deities, to whom in turn the deceased addressed himself were representatives of the forty-two nomes or districts into which Egypt was divided, so that complete cognisance was taken of misdeeds done anywhere throughout the land. The forty-two were also not judges or legal assessors, as has sometimes been asserted; they were in fact demonic beings who executed the wicked, as the titles of many of

{p. 37} them clearly indicate. It seems likely that they were in origin local demons, evoked to punish the wicked. Since they were mainly connected with Lower Egypt, they were possibly brought into a mortuary formula for the use of nobles, and so designed to provide a kind of universal cover agaist complaints coming, after death, from any area in which the deceased might have operated. In the Book of the Dead, these forty-two local demons, originally feared as executioners, are represented in a kind of executive role in the company of the Great God, a designation which there seems to apply to Osiris, but which may originally have meant Re, the Sun-god.

The redactors of this 125th Chapter appear also to have adapted the earlier 'ideal biography' for use in this context, as we noted in passing. Such material seems to have represented the solar tradition which finds expression, for example, in the tomb-inscription of Herkhuf, although the high moral significance manifest there seems rather obscured at this place in the Book of the Dead. The premium set upon knowledge of esoteric myths, and the magical import of the concluding rubrics, create an unfortunate impression and provide evidence for those scholars who think that the high moral insight implicit in the Old Kingdom conception of the judgment of the dead suffered declension later, owing to the invocation of magic in the mortuary cultus.

This interpretation brings us back to the problem of relating the conception of the post-mortem judgment, which underlies Chapter 125, with that which inspires the representations of the weighing of the heart. Basic to the discussion of this problcm is a proper understanding of the significance of the heart in ancient Egyptian thought, and of Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead.

To the Egyptians the heart was not only a vital organ of the body, it was also the conscience - in fact, it was actually hypostatized as 'the god which is in man'. As such, it was regarded as both capable of, and disposed to, acting as an independent witness against its owner at his trial after death. This belief was so firmly established that a special  prayer, addressed to the heart, was inscribed on a scarab-shaped amulet and laid on the place of the heart during the ritual of embalment. This prayer forms Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead, and, as we have already seen, it was to be uttered by the deceased at the fateful moment of the weighing of his heart against Maat. It reads in the version given in the Papyrus of Ani:

{quote} Heart of my mother, heart of my mother, my breast, the heart of my transformations! Rise not up as a witness against me, turn not against me before the

{p. 38} tribunal. Act not as an enemy against me in the matter concerning the balance. For thou art my ka, which is in my body, thou art the Khnum who fashions my members that they may be well. Mayest thou go forth to that place desired. Cause not my name to smell evil in the nose of the tribunal. Speak no lie against me before the good gods. Let thy hearing be good. {end quote}

{this idea of the heart as the self was continued within Christianity, e.g. in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, even though mixed with Greek ideas that the self resided in an immaterial soul, as in the saying "body and soul", and Jewish ideas that the life-principle was the blood, e.g. in "the Body and Blood of Christ". People can live comfortably with contradictions, provided that they are not pointed out.}

The transference of ideas, which lies behind this prayer relative to the process of weighing the heart against Maat, is obscure. For the deceased addresses his heart as an entity capable of willing and taking action in the rale of a witness before the divine tribunal; yet the pictorial representation of the weighing indicates the heart as a passive entity, whose weight is compared with that of Maat. The former idea has been seized upon by those scholars who have thought that the postmortem judgment in the Book of the Dead represents a declension from the higher moral conception of the earlier period. Accordingly, they interpret Chapter 30 not as a petition by the deceased to his heart, but as a magical spell by which he seeks to control it on this fateful occasion. But even if this interpretation could be proved on grammatical grounds, the crucial fact is overlooked that the Egyptians conceived of the decisive test as an automatic and impersonal weighing of the heart against truth (Maat). How the discrepancy between the idea of the heart as an independent witness and that of its passive role in the weighing is to be explained is not clear. Perhaps the issue should not be pressed in evaluating the existential significance of the transaction in the Book of the Dead, for both ideas are, on the last analysis, symbolical. What is more important is the fact that the Egyptians came to think of the judgment after death as a weighing of the heart, which represented a man's conscience, against truth, personified as Maat. So far as the illustrations of the transaction afford an indication of the decisive position of the scales, it would seem that moral probity was signified by the exact balancing of the heart and Maat.

It is possible that the conception which lies behind Chapter 30, namely, of a post-mortem trial, at which a man's heart (conscience) might assume the rale of witness for the prosecution, derives from a different tradition from that implicit in the idea of the weighing of the (passive) heart. A sarcophagus, found at El-Bersheh and dating from the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, seems to provide evidence of this. It bears a text, which appears to be a kind of rubric, reading: 'To cause that the heart of a man does not oppose him in the next world'. The Egyptians were apparently very apprehensive about their heart

{p. 39} after death: they feared both that it might be taken away from them and that it might act as a witness against them. Although the sarcophagus just mentioned does not bear the text of what became Chapter 30 of the Book of the Dead, the rubric certainly indicates that the fear that the heart might give damming testimony was already current and inspired measures for coping with the contingency. According to the directions given at the end of the more common version of Chapter 30, for engraving the text on a scarab-shaped amulet, the text itself dates back to the Old Kingdom and was of divine origin: 'This formula was found at Hermopolis, at the foot of the majesty of this august god (i.e. Thoth), on a tablet of stone of the South, bcing a writing of the god himself, during the time of Men-kau-re, by the royal son Djedefhor. He found it while making an inventory in the temples ...'

It would seem, therefore, that this concern about the role of the heart after death was ancient, extending back probably into the First Intermediate Period. It is possible that, in origin, it represented a refinement of the primitive belief that accusations might be brought against the deceased at a post-mortem tribunal, by making the accuser the individual's own heart or conscience, instead of men or deities. In turn, the notion of weighing, as a means of assessment, may have stemmed naturally from the imagery used in the Instruction for King Meri-ka-re of a man's deeds being set in heaps before him.

Whatever the origins of the two traditions which find joint expression in such representations of the weighing of the heart as that in the Papyrus of Ani, there can be no doubt that the attention was focused on the verdict of the balance. And that verdict was conceived by the Egyptians as being placed beyond the interference of gods or men, whatever their magical powers. If this had not been so, and it was believed that the verdict could be manipulated, the great and continuing concern about the post-mortem judgment, evidenced in the Egyptian mortuary documents, would be wholly inexplicable.

But now we must, at last, face the problem of relating this high moral notion of the weighing of the heart against Maat with the doubtful morality of Chapter 125. As we have seen, the two conceptions concerned represent two different traditions about the nature of the post-mortem judgment. Their presence in the Book of the Dead could be explained simply as due to the innate conservatism of the Egyptian mind: that nothing hallowed by religious use was ever abandoned, despite the most obvious illogicalities that resulted. However, a more satisfying explanation does suggest itself, which also has the merit of

{p. 40} being reasonable in terms of what we know of Egyptian thought and practice.

Starting from the reasonable assumption that, because these two different conceptions were incorporated into the Book of the Dead, a relation was seen between the weighing of the heart and the Declaratiops of Innocence, we may look for some scquential order. Although the actual chapters of the Book of the Dead, so far as their contents are concerned, show no such order, it is perhaps significant that in the Papyus of Ani the weighing of the soul is the first post-mortem incident illustrated, and the weighing is illustrated again in Chapter 125. These facts suggest both the priority of significance accorded to the weighing and a close relationship between the weighing and the Declarations of Innocence. Moreover, it is to be noted that the vignette of the weighing appears, from its juxtaposition to the text of Chapter 125, to indicate that the action is subsequent to the recitation of the two Declarations of Innocence. If we are right in attaching importance to these details, it would seem that not only a sequential, but also a consequential, nexus was intended between the Declarations and the weighing.

What such a nexus could have been is not hard to seek. After the deceased has asserted that he had not committed the offences particularized in Chapter 125, his heart is then weighed against Maat, to test its truthfulness. The fact that in the illustration of the weighing in the Papyrus of Ani the deceased, after the favourable verdict, is pronounced 'true of voice' (maa kher) is likewise significant; for, although the title maa kheru became a stereotyped epithet, it was singularly appropriate in this context, with its implied reference to the vindication of Osiris.

This interpretation, accordingly, not only explains the apparent incongruity of the fact that two different conceptions of the post-mortem judgment are incorporated into the Book of the Dead, but it enables us to appreciate the full significance of the emphasis clearly given to the weighing of the heart in Egyptian eschatology. Although respect for tradition ensured the preservation of a more primitive view of the judgment after death, a deepening moral sensitivity conceived of a mode of personal evaluation that was objective and impartial. This newer and nobler view was, therefore, related to the earlier view in such a way that a venerable ethical tradition was preserved and integrated with a more developed insight.

In the light of these considerations, it may justly be claimed that,

{p. 41} despite its bizarre imagery, the conception of the post-mortem judgment, as it finds its most complete expression in the Book of the Dead, represents a most significant achievement in both the history of religions and of ethics. The intimations, already found in the Old Kingdom, that a happy after-life was not to be obtained only by the practice of ritual magic, but that it must be deserved by the moral quality of one's life on earth, reached this maturity of expression in the New Kingdom. No other people were to achieve a comparable view of the eternal significance of a morally good life until many long centuries had passed, as we shall see.

That the ancient Egyptian mortuary faith was permeated by magical notions and practices there can be no denying; the evidence of it is too obvious and abundant. As the many illustrations of the judgment scene in the funerary papyri show, the hope was doubtless strong that a pictorial representation of one's successful emergence from the grim test of the balance might have some magical potency in influencing the actual decision: a like motive is perhaps to be seen in mediaeval Christian paintings where the artist has depicted the patron in the company of the saints. But, however that may be, the prospect of a post-mortem assessment of his moral conduct was surely a disturbing reality for the Egyptian, and evidence of the vigour of the belief can be traced down the centuries into the Christian era. As the following examples show, the belief was not limited to any particular class or rank in Egyptian society.

In an inscription, which Rameses IV (1164-1157 BC) caused to be set up at Abydos in honour of Osiris, incidental reference is made to the post-mortem judgment in commemorating Osiris's role as the judge who commissions Thoth to reward or punish the dead, according to their deserts: 'I found thy majesty as the King of the Underworld, even as here in Egypt. (For) thou art he who sends forth him (i.e. Thoth) who does good to the righteous and evil to those who act contrariwise, in the other world.' Then, from a royal testimony to that of a private man. In the text inscribed upon his funerary stele, an Eighteenth Dynasty (1570-1305 BC) official named Baki declares:

{quote} I was truly a just man, free from sin, who had set God in his heart, being very conscious of his power. I am come to this city (i.e. the necropolis), which is in eternity, having done good on earth: I did no evil deed and there is no fault of which I may be reproached. My name has not to be pronounced in connection with any bad action or with any sin. I have rejoiced in speaking truth (Maat),

{p. 42} for I know that it is profitable for a man to practice Maat on earth from his beginning to his end, because it is a perfect defence to him who has so done on that day when he arrives before the tribunal which discerns intentions, judges conduct, punishes the sinner and cuts off his soul (ba). While I lived, I was not condemned; no accusation was laid against me. No fault was imputed to me before them (i.e. the members of the post-mortem tribunal). I went forth justified (maa kheru), and I was numbered among the blessed, whose ka's are transformed. {end quote}

The following extracts from an inscription on a grave at Memphis, dating from the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Dynasty, contains picturesque references both to the ancient solar hereafter and to the balance:

{quote} If one is glorified for piety, then shall I be the pilot of the 'Ship of the Million'; I shall be reckoned from boat to boat among the followers of Re, when he journeys through the heaven. If one is glorified for integrity, then shall my soul be the Master of the Balance before the Great God, the Lord of the west. {end quote}

Of special interest are the passages concerning the judgment after death in the tomb-inscription of Petosiris, a priest of Hermopolis, who lived about 300 BC. They reveal that some eight or nine centuries after the belief in a post-mortem judgment had achieved its fullest development, namely, in the Book of the Dead, it was still an effective factor in the Egyptian Weltanschauung. Petosiris thus attests his own faith, and warns those who read his inscription of what they must ultimately facec:

{quote} The West (Amentit) is the port of him who is without sin. Happy is the man who arrives there. None reaches it except he whose heart has been exact in the practice of Madt. There is no distinction there between the poor and the rich (n dnw sw(3) r bw3w); favour is shown only to him who is found to be without sin, when the balance and the weight are placed in the presence of the Master of Eternity. None escapes the verdict when Thoth as the Baboon, from the height of his throne, is concerned to assess each according to that which he has done upon earth. {end quote}

An echo of the warnings given to would-be violators of their tomb in the inscriptions of nobles of the Old Kingdom occurs here in the inscription of Petosiris:

{quote} Thoth is here to deal with him who acts (wrongly). He rests not until he has judged the affairs, whether they are good or ill, he accords to every act that which it deserves. He who does evil on earth and is not punished for it, he will be punished in the other world in the presence of the lords of Maat; for it is an abomination unto them that a man should act unjustly and that he should assault the dead. {end quote}

{p. 43} The impartiality of the post-mortem judgment renders irrelevant, according to Petosiris, the social distinctions of this life. This theme finds dramatic expression in a popular story which has been preserved to us in a manuscript dating from the second century AD, but which clearly derives from an older source. The story belongs to a cycle of tales concerning the supernatural wisdom of a young boy, Senosiris. The child is actually the reincarnation of an ancient sage; he is born to a prince named Satmi, in response to the earnest prayer of his wife who had hitherto been barren. The story is employed as a kind of parable concerning the change of fortune that might result from the assessment of a man's life after death.

One day, in Memphis, Satmi observes from the roof of his house the funeral procession of a rich man, who was being carried to the necropolis with all the pomp and lamentation customary for those who could pay for such obsequies. Immediately after this spectacle he noticed the squalid disposal of a poor man, who was carried out of the city, rolled only in a mat, and with none to lament him. Struck by the contrast, Satmi uttered the wish that his end would be like that of the rich man. He is profoundly shocked, therefore, when he hears his son exclaim: 'May there be done to thee in Amentit that which is done for that poor man in Amentit, and may that not be done to thee in Amentit what is done to that rich man in Amcntit'. To enlighten his father on his mysterious utterance, the Wunderkind Senosiris takes him into the underworld, after the manner in which Virgil was to lead Dante to see the Inferno. The underworld is pictured as having seven immense halls. As the awe-struck father and his prescient son pass into the fifth hall, they observe that the pivot of the door turns in the single right eye of one of the damned, who cries out in agony. In the sixth hall, they see the door-keepers of Amentit calling those whose cases are to be tried in the seventh hall. There they behold Osiris, enthroned, with Anubis on his left and Thoth on his right, and about them the members of the divine tribunal. In the midst is the great balance, on which the misdeeds of a man are weighed against his good deeds. Thoth has his accustomcd role of scribe, and Anubis supervises the transaction. Those whose misdeeds outweigh their good deeds are delivered to 'Amait, the bitch belonging to the lord of Amentit', so that their bodies and souls are utterly destroyed. Those who pass the awful test are conducted to heaven. The man, whose good and bad deeds equally balance, is placed among the dead 'furnished with amulets who serve Sokarosiris'.

{p. 44} Then comes the final revelation that forms the raison d'etre of the story:

{quote} While Satmi marvelled at that which he saw in Amentit, Senosiris, standing before him, said: 'Satmi, my father, seest thou that exalted personage, clothed in garments of fine linen, who is close by where Osiris sits? That poor man, whom you saw carried out from Memphis, with none to follow him, and rolled in a mat, the same is he! He was brought to the underworld, his misdeeds were weighed against the merits which he had on carth, and his merits were found to outweigh his misdeeds. Since at the time of life, inscribed to his account by Thoth, there was not a sum of happiness adequate to his time on earth, it was ordered, on behalf of Osiris, that the funerary equipment of that rich man, whom you saw borne out of Memphis with full honours, should be transferrcd to the poor man. Further, it was decreed that he should be assigned a place among the venerable souls, the followers of Sokarosiris, close to the seat of Osiris. That rich man, whom you saw, he was brought to the underworld, his misdeeds were weighed against his merits, and the former outweighed the latter which he had while on earth. It was decrecd that he should be punished in Amentit, and it was he, whom you saw, with the pivot of the door of Amentit planted in his right eye and rotating on this eye whenever the door is closed or opened, whilst his mouth utters great cries. By the life of Osiris, the Great God, if I said to thee on earth: "May it thus be done to thee as it is done to the poor man, and may it not be done to thee as it is done to the rich man!", it was because I knew what would happen to him.' {end quote}

The story shows a few variations in detail from the presentation of the judgment in the New Kingdom copies of the Book of the Dead; but these variations are not significant, and they do, in fact, prove that the tradition was too vital to become stereotyped and unchanging. Thus the weighing of a man's merits against his demerits seems to indicate a more practical way of dealing with the mixture of good and bad in human nature than the idealistic assessment of the heart against the abstract concept of Maat. But of greater significance is the presentation of the post-mortem judgment as exclusively a balancing of a man's good and evil achievements; there is no mention of the deceased's attesting his own innocence. Consequently, despite the many fantastic elements in the story, the judgment of the dead is conceived as the decisive evaluation of the individual's moral worth, without any suggestion that resort might be made to magic to gain a favourable verdict.

This account of the visit of Satmi and Senosiris to the mderworld is clearly a popular tale, and, so, we may reasonably infer that the picture it gives of the post-mortem judgment was widely known and accepted.

{p. 45} The concern shown therein about social inequality in this world and its reversal in the next is remarkable. It suggests that the doctrine of the judgment of the dead had now assumed, in addition to its personal meaning, a social significance. How this fact is to be interpreted in terms of social background or history is uncertain, since the origin of the cycle of stories to which this one belongs is obscure. The belief in the reversal of fortune hereafter could, with equal reason, be seen here as the pious hope of the poor or as an officially propagated anodyne to quicken social discontent. The striking parallel which this story constitutes to the parable of Dives and Lazarus in the Gospel of Luke rightly excites curiosity. We shall have later to examine the parable as evidence of a primitive Christian belief in a judgment immediately following death. So far as the question of its relationship to the Egyptian story is relevant, it must suffice to note that the evidence points to the latter's priority in origin.

Belief in a judgment after death, symbolized by the balance or scales, can be traced on into the Roman period of Egyptian religion, and, as the curious History of Joseph the Carpeuter shows, it passed in turn into Coptic Christianity. The idea of weighing the deeds of men had already been adopted into Jewish apocryphal literature, and the variant concept of the weighing of souls had entered into Greek thought, as we shall see. Ultimately the idea found expression in mediaeval Christian art, with the archangel Michael assuming the rale of 'Master of the Balance' which Thoth had held in ancient Egypt.

Of the fate of those who were condemned at the post mortem judgment there is no clear information in the Egyptian documents. The monster Am-mut, the 'eater of the dead', which is depicted as waiting expectantly by the great balance, would seem to constitute a very obvious witness to the fate of those who were not pronounced maa kheru. However, if this monster did devour the unjust dead, did this imply complete extinction? The word 'dead' (mwt) is ambiguous, owing to the complex nature of the Egyptian conception of man. According to this anthropology, the body, the ka, the ba, and the heart were all vital and essential factors of the living person: hence provision is made for all of these in the mortuary cultus. Did Am-mut devour all these entitics in the case of condcmnation? The story of Satmi and Senosiris, as we have just seen, provides an explicit statement that the condemned were devoured body and soul. Yet, in the sequel, the rich man, who

{p. 46} had been condemned, was undergoing the strange torment that is so graphically described.

The confusion concerning the fate of the unjust, which is thus manifest in this tale, is found in other sources. Frequent reference is made in the funerary literature to 'enemies' (hftw), of Osiris or Re in the next world, who are punished in various ways. In the Amduat, which purports to describe the underworld, these 'enemies', represented either in human form or by hieroglyphs denoting 'shadows' or 'souls' (b3w), are shown in pits of fire. With these indications of the perpetual torment of the damned must also be set the idea of 'second death', about which concern is shown in the Book of the Dead. From this conflict of eschatological imagery we can, accordingly, only safely

{p. 47} deduce that the Egyptians believed that some awful fate awaited those whose hearts were found to be not right with Maat in the judgment after death.

In any history of the eschatological beliefs of mankind, the ancient Egyptian conception of the judgment of the dead rightly demands priority of attention. But, not only did the idea first emerge in Egyptian religious thought, it also achieved its greatest elaboration there. The idea, as we shall see, has played an important part in many other faiths; in some, as for example in Christianity, that part has been essential. In Egypt, however, the concept cannot be said to have been essential to the logic of the religion current there. In essence, the Egyptian mortuary cultus was a magic technique for the acquisition of immortality or resurrection from death. Moral considerations were essentially irrelevant to the successful operation of this technique. Nor was belief in a post-mortem judgment essentially required by the Egyptian concept of deity. Egyptian religion was singularly unconcerned to relate human destiny to divine purpose. As we have seen, the idea of a judgment after death had originally a two-fold practical

{p. 48} origin, namely, fear that one's post-mortem wellbeing might be harmed by complaints made about one's moral conduct in this world; and the desire to secure one's tomb from violation by appeal to Maat, the universal order which Re, the Sun-god, embodied and maintained. But it must also be recognized, in all fairness to the ancient Egyptians, that this conception of Re as the embodimcnt of Maat could have a more positive effect. Herkhuf's statement, that he desired that it might be well with him in the Great God's presence, shows that the thought of Re's association with Maat could prompt a man to live as a good neighbour to his fellows, particularly to the poor.

Because belief in post-mortem retribution thus emerged so early, it would appear that Egyptian religious faith never experienced that disturbing problem, felt by many other religions, of reconciling the inequalities of human life here with the idea of a just God. We shall meet this conflict in our later studics. However, the noting of these differences should not diminish our respect for the moral achievement of the ancient Egyptians in conceiving, so early and so vividly, of a judgment after death. That they did not concern themselves with the problem of innocent suffering and divine omnipotence was largely due to their faith in Osiris; for the legend of his death, resurrection and justification, not only provided the rationale of the mortuary cultus, but it afforded the divine pattern in terms of which each individual saw his own personal destiny.

{p. 49} ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA: 'who is now an evildoer ...?'
Mesopotamia shares with Egypt the distinction of being the birthplace of one of the earliest literate societies. By the middle of the fourth millenium BC a flourishing city-state civilization existed in the area to the north of the Persian Gulf, which was characterized by distinctive religious beliefs and practices, attested both by written documcnts and archaeological data. At this early period burial customs suggest that a view of the after-life was held such as is found in most primitive cultures, namely, that the dead still have the needs which they had in this life and require the ministrations of the living. From the point of view of our particular subject, the so-called 'royal graves', found by Sir Lconard Woolley at Ur, are especially significant. Their evidence indicatcs that a royal personage was accompanied in death by a retinue of attendants and servants, who were put to death at the time of burial, complete with the equipment and ornaments of their offices. The purpose of such a mass inhumation seems obvious: the dead prince expected to enjoy in the after-life the same social and economic advantages which he had possessed in this world - even to the very persons of his court or household. Such a conception of the post-mortem existence is crude to the extreme, and it was clearly based on the assumption that one's destiny here could be exactly reproduced or continued in the other world. Such a view necessarily constitutes the very antithesis to the idea of a post-mortem judgment whereby the individual's eternal destiny is determined by the moral quality of his life in this world.

These 'royal burials' at Ur constitute a problem; for their apparent testimony runs counter to what we otherwise know of the Mesopotamian view of human destiny from the later written sources. This view finds its most eloquent expression in the words of Siduri, one of the dramatis personae in that supreme masterpiece of Mesopotamian literary achievcment, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Designed apparently as a

{p. 50} commentary on human life, the composition tells of the futility of man's quest for immortality in terms of the career of an ancient hero, Gilgamesh. Shocked by immediate contact with death when his friend Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh sees in the event a presage of his own demise and he is appalled. Rejecting the common fate of mankind for himself, Gilgamesh sets out to learn the secret of immortality from the only human in Mesopotamian legend reputed to have obtained it, namely, Uta-napishtim, the hero of the Flood. During his hard and hazardous journey to the place, at the world's extremity, where Uta-napishtim dwelt, Gilgamesh encounters Siduri, the wine-maiden, who is evidently intended to personify an hedonistic view of life. However, as the speech of Siduri shows, it is not just sheer hedonism of which she is the protagonist, but of a carpe diem philosophy, which was firmly based on the Mesopotamian evaluation of man. Having learned the nature of Gilgamesh's quest, Siduri replies:

Gilgamesh, whither rovest thou?
The life thou pursuest thou shalt not find.
When the gods created mankind,
Death for mankind they set aside,
Life in their own hands retaining.
Thou, Gilgamesh, let full be thy belly,
Make thou merry by day and by night.
Of each day make thou a feast of rejoicing,
Day and night dance thou and play!

The belief, which finds expression here, that the gods, being themselves immortal, withheld immortality from men whom they had created, stems from the Mesopotamian conception of the raison d'etre of mankind. In both Sumerian and Akkadian cosmogonic texts the view is set forth that mankind was created to serve the gods, by building temples for them and offering sacrifices for their sustenance. With this view of the purpose of man's being went a corresponding estimate of human destiny. So long as the gods wanted his services, the individual lived, and, if he were zealous and careful in their service, his divine masters would reward him with prosperity. This was his destiny, namely, to participate in the divine ordering of things in this world. Once the gods ceased to need him, his raison d'etre ended, and he died.

The logic of this simple explanation of the purpose of human life was, however, frustrated by the inability of the ancient Mesopotamians to free themselves from the instinctive belief, present among all primitive peoples, in some form of post-mortem survival. Unable to

{p. 51} accept the logical conclusion of their conception of man, namely, that death was personal extinction, they tormented themselves with a grim eschatology. Death, for them, involved an awful transformation whereby the deceased person became an edim or etimmu, a grisly being, and departed to an underworld, which was, significantly, named kur-nu-gi-a, 'the land of no-return'. This place of the dead was imagined as a city, enclosed by seven walls and gates, shrouded in darkness and inhabited by awful monsters: there the dead existed miserably, 'their sustenance earth, and clay their food'.

To dwell there in 'the land of no-return' was the common lot of all. Rich and poor, king and slave, all were in a like state of wretchedness. This post-mortem equality seems to be symbolized in the myth of the Descent of Ishtar into the Underworld. The narrative describes how the great celestial goddess, for some unspecified purpose, chose to visit the realm of the dead. At each of its seven gates Ishtar is required to surrender some omament or article of her clothing, until, completely naked, she comes into the presence of the dread Erishkigal, the Queen of the underworld, where she is struck by sixty diseases and expires. On her delivery by the intervention of the other gods, and her return to the upper world, she receives back at each gate in turn what she had been forced to surrender. This stripping of the bright goddess of love and fertility, as she descends to the land of the dead, would appear to be an allegory of the common fate of all in death - all the attributes of a living person, together with all appurtenances of rank or wealth, must then be shed, so that all the dead are become equal in status and being, and share a common misery. The belief is vividly expressed in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The hero's friend, Enkidu, is forewarned of his coming death by dreaming that he had descended to kur-nu-gi-a. On waking he tells Gilgamesh of his awful experience, and what he saw there:

{quote} In the h[ouse of dus]t, which I entered,
I loo[ked at the kings (?)], and (behold!) the crowns had been deposited.
I beh[eld the potentates], those who (used to wear) the crowns,
Who from the days of old had ruled the land,
In the house of dust, which I entered,
Dwell high priest and acolte;
There dwell incantation priest and ecstatic;
There dwell the attendants of the lovers of the great gods. {end quote}

Thus, in the 'house of dust', neither the trappings of royalty nor high ecclesiastical status counted for anything. Nothing, significantly, is said of the evaluation of moral worth; good or bad, no distinction was

{p. 52} observed between them. The only distinction that seems to have been imagined to exist among the dead was determined apparently by either the manner of their deaths or the mortuary service of their surviving relatives. The evidence for this belief is of an inferential nature, and it is provided by the Twelfth Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh and by a number of divinatory tablets. The Tablet concerned is inscribed with the text of an episode quite unrelated to the theme of the narrative contained on the other Tablets of the Epic. It tells how Enkidu descended into the underworld in search of two mysterious objects which Gilgamesh had lost. Through not observing certain tabus, which would have given him safe passage, Enkidu is held in the underworld. At the petition of Gilgamesh, the shade of Enkidu is permitted to re-visit the world of the living. On meeting, Gilgamesh inquires of his dead friend about the underworld. At first Enkidu refuses to tell him, because the truth is too awful to hear. Eventually he discloses what he knows; the text unfortunately is in a very damaged condition, so that its meaning is uncertain. The general implication is that the condition of the dead is somewhat ameliorated by mortuary offerings made for them by their relatives, and that to perish in some unknown place was the worst of fates, for it prevented the unfortunate one from descending to the place of the dead and forced him to feed on scraps and offal left in the streets. This view of the condition of the unburied and uncared-for dead inspired the widespread belief, attested by a multitude of tablets, that the shades of such became vengeful and plagued the living - disease and misfortune were attributed to the attacks of the restless ghosts of the unknown and neglected dead.

The logic of the accepted eschatology would seem, therefore, to have rendered any idea of a post-mortem judgment inconceivable for the Mesopotamians. And this conclusion is supported negatively by the extant evidence. Although references do occur in texts to judges in the nether-world, no clearly established belief concerning a judgment after death is attested as it is in Egypt. In a text describing the arrival in the underworld of Ur-Nammu, prince of Ur, who ruled at the end of the third milleniium BC, these judges appear rather as the authorities who assigned to the dead, or perhaps to the more notable among them, their places in the realm of the dead. It is likely that the idea involved here derived from that view of the after-life which inspired the royal burials at Ur, which we noted. The judges who are invoked in this text are the Anulmaki, demonic beings who were probably in origin ancient chthonian gods of the Sumerians. They are invoked in a somewhat

{p. 53} similar role in some other texts relating to Tammuz, who appcars to have been a fertility god of the dying-rising type; but in all these references to decisions that might be made concerning the dead in the underworld there is never any suggestion of an evaluation of the moral quality of their previous life on earth.

In seeking to find some hint of a Mesopotamian belief in a post-mortem judgment, reference has sometimes been made to certain texts found in tombs at Susa, in Elam, which date from about the sixth or seventh century BC. The very fact that they have to be laid under contribution for this purpose is significant; because, not only do they come from an area outside the main centres of Mesopotamian culture, but their witness is most problematical. The following texts appear to contain the most likely references to such a judgment, or rather, to a post-mortem assessor. In the first the deceased seems to be invoking the aid and comfort of his own protecting deity on the journey which will bring him before a dread tribunal:

{quote} Come and I will come, O my god, my master,
To face the Anunnaki
I will traverse the gigunu.
I will take thy hand before the gods supreme,
Hearing my sentence, I will seize thy feet.
Illuminating the house of darkness, O my god,
Thou shalt cause me to cross
The marshes of weakness and of pain.
In this place of difficulty
Thou wilt watch over me.
Thou wilt give me water to drink and oil
In this place of thirst. {end quote}

The other text appears to describe the journey of the dead to the next world:

{quote} They take the route, they proceed on their path.
The gods Ishnikarab and Lagumal go before.
Shugunlak in the pit pronounces a word.
He is there; he speaks to the muskekil: {end quote}

Professor Ebeling, who has cited these tablets as evidence of a post-mortem judgment, translates the word muskekil as 'weighter' or 'assessor'; but this interpretation has been contested, and, even if it could be substantiated, its testimony would be very meagre and enigmatic. We may notice also, in this context, that a scene which

{p. 54} appears on several seal-stones has also been identified as a representation of the judgment of the dead. It depicts a strange half-human, half-bird figure, chained and held before a deity, who seems to be delivering a judgment on him. Since there is evidence that the Mesopotamians conceived of the dead as being clothed like birds with 'garments of wings', the figure has been interpreted as a dead human being. Unfortunately the scene has no accompanying text which explains it; and it has also been interpreted with equal reason as a representation of the Zu-bird, a mythical figure that has no connection with a post-mortem judgment.

Against these very doubtful indications of some idea of a judgment after death the logic of the Mesopotamian estimate of human nature and destiny is overwhelming. It is, moreover, confirmed by a remarkable document which takes the form of a dialogue between a master and his servant, in which the cynicism bred of the Mesopotamian view of life finds eloquent expression:

{quote} 'servant, obey me.' Yes, my lord, yes. 'I will do something helpful for my country.' Do (it), my lord, do (it). The man who does something helpful for his country, - his helpful deed is placed in the bowl of Marduk. 'No, servant, I will not do something helpful for my country.' Do it not, my lord, do it not. Climb the mounds of ancient ruins and walk about: look at the skulls of late and early (men); who (among them) is an evildoer, who a public benefactor? {end quote}

The difference between the Mesopotamian and Egyptian evaluations of human destiny is so striking that many attempts have been made to account for it. Difference of geographical environment has sometimes been invoked to explain the grimmer outlook of the Mesopotamians. Such environmental differences have tended perhaps to be rather exaggerated in this connection, and, even if they did exist to such a degree, it would be difficult to see how they alone caused the Egyptians to believe that they had the means of achieving a happy destiny after death, while their Mesopotamian neighbours were wholly pessimistic. However, when the two outlooks are compared, it is the Egyptian whieh must be adjudged the more extraordinary of the two. The Mesopotamian view of death was a more realistic appreciation of the evidence of man's demise than the Egyptian belief that by means of a magical technique, centred on Osiris, the fact of death could be reversed, or its disintegrating process stayed, and a state of everlasting felicity aehieved. Where the Mesopotamian evaluation failed to be completely realistic was in overcoming the deeply rooted conviction,

{p. 55} common to all early peoples, that the individual in some way survived death. But even here their apparent predisposition to realism prevailed, to preclude their imagining that the post-mortem state could be anything but grim, miserable and hopeless. Consequently, since none were exempt from this fate, no ground existed for supposing that the individual's condition after death coud be improved or worsened by his conduct in this life. It would seem, therefore, that, if we seek to make a comparative evaluation, the ancient Egyptians came to believe in a post-mortem judgment through fear that their well-being after death might be adversely affected by complaints then brought against them the Mesopotamians, on the other hand, convinced of the inevitable wretchedness of the after-life, were consequently unconcerned about the post-mortem significance of their conduct in this life. The conclusion, to be drawn from this comparison, would seem to be that belief in a moral assessment after death can only arise where there is hope of eternal beatitude.
{p. 76} GRAECO-ROMAN CULTURE: the Problem of a Non-Theistic Judgment of the Dead
Guided by a sound instinct, we turn back always to ancient Greek culture in seeking to understand the basic ideas of our Western society. We know that the Weltanschauung of mediaeval Europe derived from a fusion of Jewish religious insight and Greek metaphysical thought, the catalytic factor being the movement that stemmed from Jesus of Nazareth. Having already traced the evolution of the idea of a post-mortem judgment in Jewish eschatology, we naturally turn now to see whether or in what manner the idea found expression in Greek religion. The need to do so, however, is not only part of a necessary preparation for our subsequent study of the Christian doctrine of the judgment of the dead; to know how so brilliant a people as the Greeks dealt with the question whether man has to answer in another life for his conduct in this, has its own intrinsic interest. This interest is, moreover, enhanced by the fact that the Romans also were profoundly affected by the Greek culture which they adopted.

Our quest has to start far back in the Aegean culture that preceded the invasion of what was to be Hellas or Greece by Indo-European peoples about the middle of the second millennium BC. This culture, which had its centre in Crete, though ruined by the invaders, was not completely eliminated, and many of its religious traditions evidently survived and were incorporated into the complex structure of Greek religious faith and practice. It is unfortunate that so far the decipherment of records written in the so-called Linear B script have thrown but meagre light upon religion in Crete or the Greek mainland during the period which they document (c.1400-1200 BC). Much may possibly be learned, if the tablets inscribed with the Linear A script are ever deciphered; in the meantime our knowledge of ancient Cretan

{p. 77} religion comes almost wholly from archaeological data, and, consequently, lacks the confirmation and illumination that written sources would provide.

What may be deduced, relevant to our subject, from archaeological remains, is very puzzling. The general indication of the evidence of burial practice is that the Cretans believed that the dead continued to live on in some way in their tombs or in some subterranean realm, where they still needed food and drink. In this other world they were still apparently in the care of the Great Goddess, whom they had served in the world above. Such a primitive conception of the state of the dead is intelligible, and it can be paralleled by the funerary practices of other ancient peoplcs. There is, however, some apparent indication of the existcncc of a different belief. In what appears to be a funerary scene painted on a sarcophagus found at Haghia Triada an object looking like a boat is depicted as being prescnted to the dead man or carried to his tomb. If it is a boat, its presence at once suggests that the deceased is to make a journey by sea, presumably to the land of the dead. Such a notion at once recalls a tradition preserved by Hesiod (fl. 730 BC), that some of the ancient heroes had been transported at death to the islands of the blessed (ev makaron vesoisi) where they lived untouched by sorrow. In this delectable land, Hesiod says, they were ruled by Kronos. This statement could be very significant for us, because Kronos was remembered as the ancient god, connected with Crete, whose rule had been supplanted by Zeus, the chief god of the invading Indo-Europeans. If Hesiod does, accordingly, preserve the memory of a pre-Hellenic belief, which, as we shall see, differed from Hellenic belief, that some heroic personages were transported at their deaths to a transmarine paradise, the Haghia Triada sarcophagus assumes a new significance. From its size and ornate character it was undoubtcdly made for some important person, and the fact is further indicated by the elaborate mortuary rites which are depicted as being performcd on his behalf. We may, therefore, have in this sarcophagus concrete evidence of the belief, of which Hesiod preserves the memory. The man concerned, because of his eminence, was believed to have a special post-mortem destiny. Instead of joining the company of the ordinary dead bcncath the earth, he would journey to the islands of the blessed, perhaps in the boat which was placed in his tomb.

On what grounds such a differentiation of post-mortem destiny was made we have no knowledge. It would seem likely that the owner of the Haghia Triada sarcophagus was accorded such a blessed after-life

{p. 78} because of his wealth or social importance. No moral factor need have been involved in the achievement of this better lot after death. Hesiod gives no reason why some only of the heroes were transported to the isles of the blessed; in the Odyssey, however, the hero Menelaus is excepted from the common fate, as we shall see, in being promised everlasting felicity in Elysium because he had married Helen and thus was related to Zeus. It would, accordingly, seem likely, if the Greek poets were drawing upon pre-Hellenic tradition here, that the ancient Cretans and Mycenaeans believed in a form of post-mortem judgment or distinction, based on social status, possibly involving a claim to divine descent.

The passage from the Odyssey, to which reference hasjust been made, has a further interest for us. Menelaus is promised that he would not die, but that he would be conveyed to 'the Elysian plain ... where dwells fair-haired Rhadamanthys, and where life is easiest for men'. Now, not only does the fate promised to Menclaus contradict that decreed for all other men according to Homeric theology, but both the names 'Elysion' (helusion) and 'Rhadamanthys' are not of Greek derivation and thus indicate that the poet was here drawing upon an alien tradition. But this is not all: the mysterious Rhadamanthys, who is described as dwelling in Elysion, is represented in Greek legend as the brother of Minos, the king of Crete, and also as being, with Minos, one of the judges in Hades.

The confusion of legendary lore manifest in this passage can only safely be interpreted as preserving, in a very garbled form, some memory of ancient Cretan eschatology which accorded special destinies after death to certain eminent personages. It would seem that a kind of paradise called Elysion was imagined as the eternal dwelling-place of this elect company, which may have included the priest-kings of Crete, if 'Minos' was the dynastic title as some evidence suggcsts. The famous painted sarcophagus, found at Haghia Triada, could thus be our sole surviving record of the mortuary ritual performed to achieve the transportation of a Cretan magnate to this paradise which Hesiod describes as situated 'along the shore of deep swirling Okeanos'.

There is another curious scrap of possible evidence concerning the existence of some concept of a post-mortem judgment in pre-Hellenic religion. In certain Mycenaean tombs miniature scales or balances, with figures of butterflies, have been found. Since the butterfly could symbolize the soul in later Greek thought, and since the balances are too fragile for practical use, it has been thought by some scholars that

{p. 79} belief in psychlostasia or the weighing of the soul is thereby indicated. That some eschatological symbolism was involved would seem to be certain, but its exact significance is difficult to determine. Balances could symbolize the apportioning of fates to living men: thus in the Iliad Zeus is represented as weighing in golden balances the fates of Achilles and Hector at their fatal encounter. On the other hand, the
{p. 79} fact that the Mycenacan balances have been found in tombs suggests that they had some mortuary significance. It is in matters likc this that our lack of written evidence is most keenly felt. We can only speculate on the meaning that such objcets could have in the mortuary ritual of the Mycenaeans. In such speculation we may also wonder whether the Egyptian belicf in the weighing of the heart of the deceased had any influence here; for Egyptian influence can be traced in many other aspects of Cretan and Mycenaean culture.

There remains one more puzzling fact which we must consider in seeking for evidence of some concept of post-mortem judgment in pre-Hellenic religion. At Eleusis, a little town close to Athens, there were

{p. 80} celebrated annually mystery rites which were believed to confer upon those initiated into the mystery a happy lot after death. Unfortunately, despite the devoted research of many scholars, the origin and nature of this Eleusinian mystery-cult still remain obscure, owing to the lack of truly informative evidence. However, certain factors are clear, and they have a special significance for us. First, it is evident that the rites were of very ancient origin and undoubtedly predate the coming of the Hellenes. They were linked with the cult of two goddesses, Demeter and Persephone. The former was a corn-goddess, whose cult seems to have been introdueed at Eleusis, from some unknown place, about the second half of the fifteenth century BC. Persephone or Kore, the daughter of Demeter, was known to the Greeks, and the fact is very significant for us, as the goddess of the underworld and the wife of Hades or Pluto. Next, we are fortunate in possessing a brief statement at the end of the so-called Homeric Hymn to Demeter describing the privilege conferred by initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries: 'Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has a lot of like good things (oukoth omoion aisan exei) once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom (phthimenos perupo zopho erenti) The apposition of the fates of the initiated and the uninitiated here, although the exact nature of the post-mortem situation of the former is not described, indicates that initiation into the mysteries eelebrated at Eleusis was the decisive factor in determining a person's destiny at death. So far as our knowledge goes, it was essentially the fact of initiation which secured this post-mortem beatitude, not moral character or aehievement. There was indeed one moral condition requisite for initiation, namely, that one should not have committed murder; but this prohibition was probably intended to prevent the pollution of the rites and the sanctuary in which they were performed.

The fact of the great antiquity of the Eleusinian mysteries, and that of their connection with goddesses of the corn and the underworld, go to reinforce the other evidence we possess concerning the eschatology of the Aegean peoples before the incursion of the Greeks. From our study of this sparse and disparate material there is reason for concluding that there was some belief in a form of post-mortem judgment or discrimination, in the sense that all of the dead did not share in the same fate, as, for example, was the view current in Mesopotamian and early Hebrew religion. However, this differentiation was not made on grounds of moral character and achievement. Kings and nobles, perhaps by virtue

{p. 81} of their claims to divine descent, expected to be transported to some remote paradise, where they would enjoy everlasting felicity. The Eleusinian mysteries suggest that for ordinary folk also there probably existed cults, connected with chthonian deities, which promised a happy lot after death to those who underwent a ritual of initiation. Again, no moral criteria seem to have been involved, and we have, accordingly, to conclude that these Aegean tests to determine a person's post-mortem destiny compare very unfavourably, in terms of ethical insight, with the Egyptian belief in the judgment of the dead.

It has been neeessary to assess pre-Hellenic belief in this connection, beeause such an assessment will help to illuminate the puzzling situation which we encounter when we examine Greek ideas about judgment after death. This situation finds its earliest literary expression in the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. In these writings a very distinctive evaluation of human nature and destiny is set forth, whieh evidently represented the view of the poet and his public. Man is regarded as a living organism eompounded of three parts: his body, his thymos (thumos), and his psyche. The thymos was the conscious self, and the psyche something akin to the life-principle. To the Homeric Greeks a human being was only truly a human being when body, thymos and psyche were all functioning properly together as an interrelated whole. Death shattered this living whole: with the dissolution of the body, the thymos was merged with the air, and the psyche, transformed into a shadowy replica of the living person and known as the eidolon, descended into Hades, which was conceived as an immense cavern or cavity below ground. There, with the wraiths of all the other dead, bereft of self-consciousness and capable only of chirping sounds, the eidolon lived on in dismal gloom. Such a state is remarkably like that of the Mesopotamian dead in kir-mi-gi-a, or that of the departed in the Hebrew She'ol, as we have seen. Since this transformation and descent into Hades was the common fate of all, Homeric echatology no more found place for a post-mortem judgment than did the eschatologics of Mesopotamia or early Israel. Good or bad, rich or poor, king or peasant, all alike shared this shadowy consciousless existence in the realm of the dead, over which ruled Pluto and his queen Persephone.

The eleventh book of the Odyssey contains a graphic description of the dead in Hades. It occurs incidentally in the account of Odysseus' descent into Hades, whither he went to consult the dead seer Teiresias concerning the succession of misfortunes that prevented his return

{p. 82} home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. The idea of a living man descending into the realm of the dead had already found expression in Mesopotamian literature; there it seems to have been used as a means of describing the awful nature of the underworld and its baleful rulers and ministrants. Such does not appear to have been the primary purpose of the Homeric poet in sending his hero down into Hades; for, apart from developing his theme of Odysseus' wanderings as due to the spite of the god Poseidon, the poet seems intent on using the visit of Odysseus to Hades to describe the fortunes of other actors in the Trojan drama. He does this through the reports given to the hero by the shades of those with whom he had been involved in former times, and who had subsequently died and descended to Hades. It is in the course of his encounters with these ghosts that the concept of the state of the dead incidentally emerges. The grim pathos of their condition informs the description of Odysseus' first meeting with them: 'Then there gathered from out of Erebus the spirits of those that are dead, brides, and unwedded youths, and toil-worn old men, and tender maidens with hearts yet new to sorrow, and many, too, that had been wounded with bronze-tipped spears, men slain in fight, wearing their blood-stained armour'. Although Odysseus recognizes many whom he knew among these shades, no communication with them is possible until they drink of the blood of an animal which he had sacrificed. The fact is significant of the poet's view of the dead: these eidola or shades of former living persons have no memory until a fleeting restoration of consciousness is effected by imbibing blood, the substance of life.

{as also per the Jewish idea that the life-force resides in the blood}

That death was thought to reduce what survived of the dead to a common state of dismal wretchedness is stated by the poet in a most remarkable manner. While in Hades, Odysseus meets the shade of Achilles, the most renowned of all Greek heroes who had fought at Troy. Odysseus is represented as saluting the dead Achilles and congratulating him on the great reputation he had won. In concluding, he seeks to reconcile Achilles to his fate: 'Wherefore grieve not at all that thou art dead, Achilles'. Achilles' reply is devastating in the contrast it makes between life here and hereafter: 'Nay, seek not to speak soothingly to me of death, glorious Odysseus. I should choose, so I might live on earth, to serve as the hireling of another, of some portionless man whose livelihood was but small, rather than to be lord over all the dead that have perished.' The grim negation that death imposed on all social values and distinctions is here stated in all its stark reality. For the military aristocracy, described in the Homerie epics, martial glory

{p. 83} and renown were the most highly prized of all values. Yet the poet, mindfill of the accepted eschatology, had the insight to perceive that even the greatest hero of all would be in no better state in Hades than the meanest of men.

The logic of the Homeric doctrine of human nature and destiny was obvious: the shadowy unconscious eidola of the dead, because they were unconscious and insubstantial, existed in a state so neutral and apathetic that the idea of a post-mortem judgment, and of reward or punishment consequent upon it, was simply irrelevant and meaningless. It is surprising, therefore, that, shortly after this meeting with the ghost of Achilles, Odysseus has another series of encounters which implicate a wholly different situation, namely, that the dead are judged in Hades and certain evildoers are terribly punished. The first of these encounters is described as follows: 'There then I saw Minos, the glorious son of Zeus, golden sceptre in hand, giving judgment to the dead from his seat, while they sat and stood about the king through the widegated house of Hades, and asked him for judgment'. The discrepancy which this passage constitutes in relation to what had gone before is obvious, but it is difficult to assess it accurately. Minos is depicted rather as a legislating (themioteuonta) and judicating king, and this portrait, as we have seen, may well derive from some pre-Hellenic memory of the sovereignty of the Cretan king. But why Minos, who is described as the son of Zeus, should be making or administering laws for the dead in Hades is unknown to us. It is possible that he was relegated there in Greek legend rather after the manner in which the ancient Aegean god Kronos, who was superseded by the Hellenic high-god Zeus, was assigned some lesser role. In other words, Minos, the great law-giver of an earlier and now obsolescent order of things, was transferred to Hades, where he legislated for those 'dead and gone', as Homer describes them. The nature of the judgment given by Minos is also puzzling. The dead are not described as being judged by him, but as asking for judgment, or rather perhaps justice (oi de min amphi dikas eironto anakta). The impression conveyed by the passage as a whole is that of a royal eourt, at which the king makes laws and receives pleas from those who believe that injustice has been done them by others. This conception is reminiscent of a certain aspect of the Egyptian idea of the post-mortem judgment, and, like the Egyptian idea, it was doubtless conceived in terms of current practice in royal courts in the Aegean area.

How far this passage in the Odyssey is to be interpreted as evidence of

{p. 84} belief in a judgment of the dead is difficult to assess. In the first place, in view of the condition of the dead, namely, as unconscious wraiths, which is attested to throughout the Homeric epics, and which, as we shall see, formed the accepted evaluation in Greek thought on into the Graeco-Roman period, and because that condition was the common lot, in which all shared, whether good or bad, the idea of a post-mortem judgment was essentially irrelevant and illogical. Then, the judgment which Minos is depicted as administering to those who petition him is not recorded as issuing in any form of retributive punishment of the guilty or reward of the righteous. There were indeed, as we shall presently see, certain notorious individuals who were punished in Hades, but their cases are not connected with the judgment given by Minos. The juridical activity of Minos, as described here, could perhaps be interpreted as implying that he legislated for the dead in Hades, in the sense that he gave to them laws to obey as denizens of the underworld. But such an interpretation would mean that the transaction could not be properly regarded as a judgment of the dead. The simplest solution to the problem which the passage raises, therefore, seems to be that already suggested, namely, that the memory of the great power once wielded by the kings of Crete had led to the transference of Minos to Hades, where he was imagined as continuing to legislate and judge in that shadowy realm for those who were 'dead and gone'.

The problem which Minos and his tribunal constitute is paralleled by that contained in what follows in the Odyssey. Odysseus relates how 'I saw Tityos ... lying on a levelled ground, ... and vultures twain beset him one on either side, and gnawed at his liver ... For he had dealt violently with Leto, the famous bedfellow of Zeus, as she went up to Pytho through the fair lawns of Panopcus'.

The account of the next sufferer whom Odysseus meets has provided the classic instance of perpetual torment and supplied a corresponding word to the languages of many peoples:

{quote} Moreover I beheld Tantulus in grievous torment, standing in a mere and the water came nigh unto his chin. And he stood straining as one athirst, but he might not attain to the water to drink of it. For often as that old man stooped down in his eagerness to drink, so often the water was swallowed up and it vanished away, and the black earth still showed at his feet, for some god parched it evermore. And tall trees flowering shed their fruit overhead, pears and pomegranates and apple trees with bright fruit, and sweet figs and olives in their bloom, whereat when that old man reached out his hands to clutch them, the wind would toss them to the shadowy clouds. {end quote}

{p. 85} No reason is given for these strange torments which are inflicted upon Tantalus. The Homeric poct doubtless drew on a tradition known to his readers, and it may fairly be assumed that the nature of Tantalus's offence was well known. Later writers indicate that he had in some signal manner intruded upon the divine prerogative. No cause also is given for the ceaseless labour and torment that afflicts the third sufferer seen by Odysseus. This is Sisyphus, who toils to push a huge stone up a hill, the weight of which sends it rolling back each time the summit is reached.

Since the torture suffered by Tityus is definitely stated to be punishment for his having outraged the supreme god, Zeus, it is reasonable to suppose that the torments of Tantalus and Sisyphus are also retributive, most probably for some heinous offence against Zeus. In view of the nature of their sufferings, it would also appear that these three notorious sinners had to be excepted from the common destiny, in that in Hades they still retained their physical bodies and their consciousness; for presumably they knew that they were being punished and the reason for it.

Why the Homeric poet chose to include these three examples of post-mortem retribution, thus contradicting the general theme of his eschatology, is unknown. It would seem improbable that both the sinners and their fates were invented by him; more likely would it be that they were so well known in current folklore that the poet felt it necessary to record that his hero had seen them during his visit to Hades. It is perhaps significant that Odysseus is not described as having held converse with them as he had with the shades of those he knew. Tityus, Tantalus and Sisyphus just appear in his narrative as type figures, well established as minatory examples of the fate that awaited any human who trespassed upon the privileges of deity.

Whatever may have been the motive of the poet in presenting Minos as the judge of the dead or describing the punishment of the three sinners, there ean be no doubt, in view of the key importance of the Homeric epics in the scheme of Greek education, that the picture given therein of the underworld exercised an immense influence on people's ideas of human destiny. This picture, as we have just noted, was not a consistent presentation, and its two diverse views of human destiny, though first finding literary expression in the Iliad and Odyssey, must surely have reflected an existing divergence of popular opinion among the Greeks. However, the epics had the effect both of giving the two views a dramatic concretion, and of ensuring their propagation.

{p. 86} In so far as there was an established doctrine of human nature and destiny among the Greeks throughout both the classical and Hellenistic periods, it found expression in the Homeric phrase: 'the strengthless heads of the dead' (nekuon amenena karena). Life in this world was the only full and proper life for men and women; what survivcd death was but a negative shadowy replica of the living pcrson. This evaluation is reflected in literature and art, and in funerary epitaphs. An official inscription commemorating the Athenian dead who fell in he battle of Potidaea in 432 BC can say no more of the dead warriors than that, 'The air has received their souls (phuxas), the earth their bodies. By the gates of Potidaea were they slain.' And private persons proclaimed their belief that life had no ultimate significance in epitaphs such as this:

{quote} I was not, I became; I was, I am not -just this!
And if any man asserts the contrary, he will lie; I shall not be. {end quote}

Such an estimate of man and his destiny clearly afforded no ground for belief in a judgment after death. Even though that primitive inability to envisage complete personal extinction caused the majority of the Greeks, as it caused the Mesopotamians and Hebrews, to think that something of the individual did survive death, that something, since it was a consciousless wraith, could not be regarded as the responsible representative of the living person, to be punished or rewarded for the deeds of that person. However, the thought of some form of post-mortem survival was a potent source of fear, and, as we  shall see, it tormented many and inspired a terrifying eschatology. Some philosophers were concerned about its depressing effect upon men's lives, and they sought by the exercise of reason to deliver their  fellow-men from the terror of death and the hereafter. Most notable among those who sought to do this service was Lucretius, the Roman disciple of Epicurus, and in the third book of his De Rerum Natura he employed his considerable talents in logic and literary expression to show that the disintegration of the human person wrought by death was so complete, that nothing survived. Because of this total extinction, he argued, there could be no suffering after death: 'For if by chance anyone is to have misery and pain in the future, he must needs himself also exist then in that time (in eo hm tempore) to be miserable. Since death takes away this possibility, ... we may be sure that there is nothing to be feared after death, that he who is not cannot be miserable (nec miserunlferi qui not est posse).

The effort made by Lucrctius in this connection is significant of the

{p. 87} enduring influence of the idea, so graphically presented in Homer, of retributive punishment after death. Lucretius endeavoured to reinterpret this ancient fear in terms of life in this present world, thus notably anticipating a mode of rationalizing away primitive beliefs that is often practised today. 'There is no wretched Tantalus,' he argues, 'as the story goes ("ut falnast"), fearing the great rock that hangs over him in the air and frozen with vain terror; rather it is in this life that the fear of gods oppresses mortals without cause, and the fall they fear is any that chance may bring.' The sufferings of Tityus are explained as the torment of the passions. Sisyphus and his unceasing but futile struggle with his rock symbolizes the griefs of the over-ambitious in this world. He also re-interprets a punishment unmentioned by Homer: young girls, in the flower of their beauty (aevo florente) who toil usulessly in seeking to fill with water a leaking urn, represent the torment of discontent. Developing his theme, he maintains that the terrors of the underworld are really the fear of punishment experienced in this world by the evildoers and the guilty conscience. He concludes that, 'the fool's life becomes a hell on earth'.

This attempt by Lucretius to re-interpret the traditional view of Hades as a place of retribution, and the earlier attempt of the comedian Aristophanes seemingly to ridicule such belief, attest to the fact that despite the accepted evaluation of human nature and destiny, there was a significant body of opinion which affirmed that after death men would be judged on their conduct here. This belief was authorized by the poetry of Homer, which was truly the 'Bible of the Greeks'; but it gradually assumed a more elaborate form under the impetus of other forces. We have just noticed that Lucretius deals with an example of post-mortem punishment not mentioned by Homer; it will be our task now to trace out the development of this other side of Greek eschatological belief, and to assess its significance for our study.

What is perhaps the most eloquent testimony to a basic human factor which operated among the majority of ancient Greeks, as it has done among men of other nations, to make them fear the possibility of a post-mortemjudgment is uttered by an aged man named Cephalus in the course of the dialogue of Plato's Republic:

{quote} But you know, Socrates, when a man faces the thought that he must die, there comes upon him fear and foreboding about things that had not troubled him before. Once he laughed at the tales (muthoi) about those in Hades, of punishment to be suffered there by him who here has done injustice. But now his soul is tormented by the thought that these may be true, and whether from the

{p. 88} bodily weakness of old age, or bccause he is now nearer that other world, he himself sees those things more clearly. He comes full of fear and suspicion. He begins to reckon up and consider if he has done any injustice to any man. And finding in his life many such acts, often, like a child, he awakes out of sleep in terror, and lives in expectation of evil. But with him that is conscious of no injustice in him, kindly hope, th nurse of age, as Pindar calls it, is always present, ... {end quote}

Plato also provides a valuable clue to identifying those who then propagated an eschatology concerned with rewards and punishments in the after-life. In the Republic he represents one of his characters, Adeimantus, in discussing the nature of justice, as referring to those who taught that virtue would be rewarded and vice punished in the next world:

{quote} Musaeus and his son (Eumolpus) endow the just with gifts from heaven of an even more spirited sort. They take the righteous to another world and provide them with a banquet of the saints, where they sit for all time drinking witll garlands on their heads, as if virtue could not be more nobly rewarded than by an eternity of intoxication ... When they have sung the praises of justice in that strain, with more to the same effect, they proceed to plunge the sinners and unrighteous men into a sort of mud-pool (eis pelon tina) in the other world, and they set them to carry water in a sieve (koskino). {end quote}

This description was obviously intended to ridicule the teaching of Musaeus and Eumolpus, who were the legendary teachers of Orphism, the other Greek mystery-cult which clearly exercised a great influence on Greek religious thought, although our knowledge of its origins and doctrines is very imperfect and problematic. That Orphism must have been distinguished by its emphasis upon post-mortem retribution, and that its eschatology included a more elaborate imagery than that of Homer, are evident from a variety of sources. Aristophanes refers to immersion in mud as a punishment for evildoers in Hades; it would seem that he had those uninitiated into the mysteries in mind, since in his continuing account of Hades he describes, by way of contrast, the blessed state of those who were initiated. Plato refers to judges in the underworld, Minos, Rhadamanthys, Aiakos and Triptolemus, the latter being an Orphic figure. And in the Gorgias he represents Socrates as referring to the teaching of the Pythagorcan sage Philolaus about the fate of the uninitiated: 'these uninitiate will be the most miserable of all, and will carry water into their leaky jar in a sieve equally full of holes'. Further evidence of this belief, that it was the

{p. 89} uninitiated rather than evildoers who were punished in Hades, is provided by what Pausanias tells of a famous picture of Hades, painted at Delphi in the fifth century BC by Polygnotos, and by similar scenes on certain vases, found in southern Italy and dating from the fourth and third centuries BC.

Orpheo-Pythagorean doctrine, so far as it can be determined from the very fragmentary and disparate data available, did not apparently envisage the post-mortem destiny of the individual as definitively fixed by a judgment pronounced after death. According to what can be made out from the extant sources, human destiny could be understood only in terms of the origin of human nature. The key to this seems to have been provided by the myth of the murder of Dionysos-Zagreus, the Son of Zeus, by the wicked Titans. These monsters, having eaten the divine child, were blasted by Zeus and from their ashes mankind arose. This myth was evidently intended to explain the dual nature of man, namely, that his soul is ethereal and immortal, having derived from the divine child, but it is imprisoned in a material body of Titan-origin. There were probably other allegorical interpretations of the dual nature of man: Plato explains human nature and destiny in terms of the inability of souls to maintain their ethereal position and their consequent descent and cohabitation with matter.

The conception of human nature denoted here obviously implies a departure from that expounded in the Homeric poems. Instead of the distinction between the conscious self (thymos) and the psyche as the unconscious principle of life, by the sixth century BC the psyche had evidently come to be regarded as the pre-existent conscious self that survived the death of the body. Together with this conception went belief in the transmigration of the soul. Empedocles, who seems to have been connected with Pythagoreans, believed that he remembered earlier lives not only in human feminine form, but also in the forms of a fish, a bird, and even a bush.

{note the similarity of the above, and the following, with Buddhist ideas of Karma and Rebirth}

This process of metempsychosis was regarded as the penalty suffered by the soul for some original fault, and its continuance resulted from the soul's ignorance of its true nature and its willing involvement with matter. The poet Pindar, who seems to have been influenced by Orphic ideas, writes cryptically of 'those from whom Persephone shall exact the penalty of the primal woe, in the ninth year she gives up again their souls to the sunlight of the world above'. Empedocles speaks, equally obscurely, of 'an oracle of Necessity (anagkes chrema)', which decrees that those demi-gods (daimones) who sin in various specified ways,

{p. 90} shall wander far from the blessed for three thousand seasons 'in the forms of all manner of mortal things and changing one baleful path of life for another'. In the Phaedrus Plato, who, despite the caustic reference to Orphic eschatology which we earlier noticed, seems to reflect Orphic thought, outlines a carefully articulated scheme of metempsychosis. Those souls who fall from their primal state of beatitude and involve themselves with matter, and the evil inherent in it, have to pass through a series of incarnations, some of them in bestial form for ten thousand years before regaining their former state. Certain enlightened souls, however, can reduce this awful burden of births and deaths, and all the concommitant misery, by living as philosophers during three successive incarnations during the third millennium of the 'sorrowful weary wheel' of mortal existence. According to this Orphic interpretation of human destiny, it would appear that after each incarnation, the soul, having experienced the death of its body, went to Hades for judgment. If Plato is following the Orphic scheme in the Phaedrus, his account is very illuminating. The fallen souls, having become incarnated, are

{quote} on the termination of their first life, brought to trial; and, according to their sentence, some go to the prison-houses beneath the earth, to suffer for their sins, while others, by virtue of their trial, are borne lightly upwards to some celestial spot, where they pass their days in a manner worthy of the life they have lived in their mortal form. But in the thousandth year both divisions come back again to share and choose their second life, and they select that which they severally please. And then it is that a human soul passes into the life of a beast, and from a beast who was once a man the soul comes back into a man again. For the soul which has never seen the truth at all can never enter into the human form; it being a necessary condition of a man that he should apprehcnd according to that which is called the generic form, which, procecding from a variety of perceptions, is by reflection combined into unity. And this is nothing more or less than a recollection of those things which in time past our soul beheld when it travelled in the company of the gods, and, looking high over what we now call real, lifted up its head into the region of eternal essence. {end quote}

In view of the earlier evidence, which we noted, that initiation was regarded by the Orphics as the decisive factor in determining one's post-mortem state, the relation of this view to the process of metempsychosis, as it is, for example, presented by Plato, is difficult to discern. The apparent discrepancy may, however, be due to the nature of Plato's presentation. It is essentially philosophical; therefore, while it undoubtedly reflects Orphic view, it is probably a far more sophis-

{p. 91} ticated interpretation than that held by the ordinary Orphic teachers and initiates. While these accepted the principle of metempsychosis, accounting thereby for the nature and situation of man, they surely attached primary importance to initiation as the factor which made them spiritually superior to their fellow-men. A truer reflection of what an Orphic initiate believed is probably to be found in the formulae inscribed on thin sheets of gold and placed in the graves of the faithful, for their use in the next world. The following example shows that, although cognizant of the doctrine of metempsychosis ('the sorrowful weary Wheel'), the initiate was taught to believe that he could now attain to a state of divine beatitude:

Out of the Pure I come, Pure Queen of Them Below,
And Eukles and Euboulcus, and other Gods and Daemons:
For I also avow me that I am of your blessed race.
And I have paid the penalty for deeds unrighteous,
Whether it be that Fate (Mora) laid me low or the Gods Immortal

I have flown out of the sorrowful weary Wheel;
I have passed with eager fect to the Circle desired;
I have sunk beneath the bosom of Despoina, Queen of the Underworld;

And now I come a suppliant to Holy Phersephoneia
That of her grace she receive me to the seats of the Hallowed -
Happy and Blessed One, thou shalt be God instead of Mortal.
{end quote}

The Orpheo-Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis, like that in Hinduism and Buddhism, undoubtedly helped to explain the inequality of fortune experienced in this life. Theoretically the situation of each individual was of his own making in this or in former lives. However, the fear that naturally follows from belief in post-mortem survival, namely, that there may be punishment for former misdeeds, was evidently felt, so that for the Orphics each life was not immediately followed by a new incarnation; instead there was an intervening period of either reward or punishment, which some infernal judge or judges decreed. Such a belief already had the authority of Homer; but it is evident the situation of the dead in Hades was a fruitful theme for speculation, as it has been in other religions, and imagination, prompted by fear, greatly elaborated the original Homeric picture.

Because neither Greek nor Roman religion were controlled by powerful priesthoods which were concerned to maintain and promote

{p. 92} orthodoxy, eschatological belief was never formally defined. In Graeco-Roman society variety of interpretation of the traditional Homerie concept of Hades continued to characterize religious faith and practice. It even produced, as Cicero shows, the strange idea, which Dante was later to elaborate, that the damned were punished not in a subterranean Hades but in the turbulent air that surrounded the globe.

Among the more notable of these ideas of post-mortem judgment we may notice what seems to have been the belief of the neo-Pythagorean sect that built the underground basilica, near the Porta Magiore, at Rome. The members of this community, which flourished during the first century AD, conceived of salvation as the ascent of the soul into the Aether, its true and original home. Condemnation to Hades, which was the lot of the uninitiated, meant the endless transmigration of the soul, and the sufferings attendant in the experience of so many incarnations.

The way in which the traditional picture of Hades, with the torment of the damned, could be combined with an esoteric doctrine of metempsychosis is to be seen, dramatically presented, in Virgil's Aeneid. Following the precedent of Odysseus' visit to Hades, the Latin poet conducts his hero through the underworld, which task provides him with excellent opportunities both to develop his theme of Rome's imperial destiny and to comment upon many other matters. He depicts Aeneas as wondering at a host of shades (animae) gathered on the banks of a river. He is informed by the shade of his father, Anchises, that the river is that of Lethe, from the drinking of which the dead lose all memory of their former life. They gather on its banks, because they have now to be incarnated again in the world above. To Aeneas's further inquiry his father explains at length the process of human destiny. After death, the souls of men expiate their former misdeeds:

Some are being stretched out to the empty winds; from some the stain of guilt is washed away under swirling floods or burned out in fire. Each of us suffers his own spirit; then through wide Elysium are we sent, a few of us to abide in the joyous fields; till lapse of days, when time's cycle is complete, takes out the inbred taint and leaves unsoiled the ethereal sense and pure flame of spirit. All these, when they have rolled time's wheel through a thousand years, the god (deus) summons in vast throng to the river of Lethe, in sooth that, reft of memory, they may revisit the vault above and conceive desire to return again to the body.
{end quote}

Behind such esoteric teachings there surely lay a deeply rooted fear of what might be experienced beyond death, particularly by way of

{p. 93} retribution. The penal aspcct of Hades clearly loomed large in many minds. Apart from the type-figures of tormented sinners such as Tityus, Tantalus and Sisyphus, man's imagination soon conceived other forms of torment, designed as punishment to fit social, rather than religious, crimes. Plato, in his curious myth of Er in the Republic, had described in detail the post-mortem punishment of Ardiaeus and other tyrants and notorious sinners:

{quote} fierce men, like coals of fire to look upon, came forward, and some they took in their arms and dragged away, but Ardiaeus and others they bound hand and foot and head, threw them down, and flayed them. They dragged them out of the way to a place apart, and there carded them on thorns, saying to all that passed that they were being taken away to be plunged into Tartarus, and explaining why thls was done to them. {end quote}

Virgil, as we have briefly noted, continued, in his generation, this tradition of Hades as place of retributive punishment. In the underworld, Aeneas comes to a parting of the ways: one leads to Elysium, the other to the place where the wicked are punished. An horrific description follows of this place which has the form of an immense fortress, encircled by a river of fire. From within come groans and the sound of flogging and the clank of iron chains. Acneas is informed that here Rhadamanthys 'hold his iron sway; he chastises, and hears the tale of guilt, exacting confession of crimes, whenever in the world above any man, rejoicing in vain deceit, has put off atonement for sin until death's late hour'. Awful demons, with writhing snakes, torment these sinners. Elsewhere others, guilty of specified crimes, suffer, some rolling a huge stone, some hanging outstretehed on the spokes of wheels.

The cynical Lucian, writing during the second century AD, describes the underworld scene in a way that must reflect popular belief, though an undercurrent of mockery runs through his description. In his tractate Menippus he depicts Minos as judging the dead, who stand naked and downcast before him. The place of punishment has all the engines of torture and execution of the world above - the lash, the stake, the raek, the gibbet and the wheel. All classes of men are punished, repenting of their sins there: kings and slaves, governors and paupers, the rich and beggars. The classical victims are also there - Ixion, Sisyphlls, Tantalus and Tityus. But, curiously, the mass of dead mankind is not involved in this torment; instead they are seen as skeletons, lying in confused heaps ...

{p. 165}8 Hinduism and Buddhism: Karma as Judgment

[...] The so-called Vedic literature, which documents this earlier period

{p. 166} of Indian history, begins with the Rig-Veda. This is a collection of hymns, written in Sanskrit, which were originally used in religious ceremonies by the Aryan peoples who invaded north-western India about the middle of the second millennium BC.These hymns are addressed to various gods, who were mostly personifications of natural phenomena. The view of life that finds expression in them is essentially a vigorous affirmation of the desirability of life in this world. The gods were besought for material blessings: abundance of food and offspring, and a long life. Religion was essentially a transaction: worship and sacrifice in exchange for divine bounty. There was some consciousness of sin, which took the form of both moral and ritual infringement. In a manner reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian concept of maat or the Iranian asha, a cosmic law (rta), connoting both order and truth, was imagined, and a god called Varuna was regarded as the guardian of rta. This deity was of an inscrutable nature, and, by sinning against him unwittingly, men were caught in the 'fetters' of Varuna, and had to pray for deliverance. Varuna seems to have confined his concern for the maintenance of law and order to this world, and he does not appear as a judge of the dead.

The eschatological beliefs of this Aryan people, as they find expression in the Rig-Veda, are imprecise and in some ways contradictory. A god of the dead, named Yama, the son of Vivasvant, was regarded as 'the first of mortals to die and enter that other world'. From the brief references to him, it would appear that Yama was related to the Iranian Yima, and figured originally in an ancient Aryan myth of a Primordial Man of a Golden Age before death and evil afflicted mankind. The realm of Yama was subterranean, and the pitrs (fathers) dwelt there - its location was doubtless conceived in terms of the grave, as in the mythologies of many other peoples. In one hymn of the Rig-Veda, however, it is depicted as a veritable paradise, irradiated by light, where the 'fathers' dwell in company with the gods. Elsewhere in the Rig-Veda, and in later Vedic literature, it is pictured as a much more sombre abode. Reference is made to the two dogs of Yama: they each have four eyes, and guard the way to the land of the dead. It is possible that the passage by these formidable guardians constituted a kind of test as to the fitness of the deceased to enter the kingdom of Yama: if not properly buried and equipped with funerary offerings, the unfortunate soul would wander hopelessly between the land of the living and that of the dead.

In the Rig-Veda there are a few cryptic references to a division made

{p. 167} between the good and the wicked after death. The deceased is invited to heaven, 'with thy good deeds', while the deities Indra and Soma are described as hurling the wicked into an eternally dark prison, from which there is no return. To the same place are also consigned various categories of sinners, including evil-intentioned magicians. No indication, however, is given of how judgment is passed upon them or by whom. Later Vedic literature is a little more specific. Yama is represented as separating those of mankind who speak the truth from those who lie. The familiar concept of weighing also appears: 'In that world they lay (good and bad deeds) on a balance. What of either - whether good or bad - draws (down), the consequences are in accordance therewith. But he who knows, he alrcady ascends the balance in this world, (and) renders unnecessary a weighing in that world. His good works prevail, not his bad works.' In the Talavakara-Brahmana a detailed account is given of punishments suffered by the wicked in the next world. This hell or purgatory is comparted, like those in other eschatologies, for the pullishnlent of specific crimes. Although nothing is said of a post-mortem judgment as such, the penalties suffered are strictly retributive.

It would, accordingly, appear that during the Vedic period of ancient Indian cuture there was a tradition of belief concerning post-mortem rewards and punishments. The mode of assessment is obscure, as is also the identity of the judge or judges conecrned. Deeds deserving of beatitude after death were of both a ritual and moral character, as were also those which merited punishment. It would seem that both this beatitude and damnation were everlasting, and exactly retributive. It is significant, however, in view of the profound change that was to take place in Indian eschatological thought, that the idea of a second death (punamittyu) begins to appear in the Brahmanas as a penalty for those who had failed to perform certain necessary sacrifices. In other words, it would seem that some fear had now raised itself about the permanence of post-mortem well-being, and that the possibility of having again to experience the grim process of dying was envisaged. The conception of a second death is not unknown in some other religions, and, as we have already seen, the mortuary faith of ancient Egypt provides the earliest example of it. Its appearance in Indian thought at this period however, is invested with a special interest as being a possible anticipation of the later belief in samsara, for the transmigration of the soul implied an unending series of dcaths. As a form of post-mortem punishment, it interests us also because of its implication of some form of judgment.

{p. 168} However, before we go on to trace out the presentation of the idea of a post-mortem jadgment in terms of the doctrine of samsara and the concomitant doctrine of karma, it is important that we properly notice a very significant fact. It is that Vedic literature, which constituted the sacred literature of subsequent Hinduism, contained an eschatology that was essentially different from that authorized by the logic of samsara. Thus, the life of the individual in this world was seen as a unique experience which terminated at death and could not be repeated. What survived of the person at death departed to the land of the dead, where it would enjoy endless felicity or suffering according to its merits, which represented both ritual and moral achievement or failure. The other world, accordingly, was imagined as containing both a heaven and hell, the latter being subdivided to provide suitable punishments for various categories of sinners. The punishment was retributive, in some cases exactly so. This eschatology involved the action of a number of gods, although the exact role of each is obscure. The idea of a divine judge of the dead occurs in connection with Yama, although it also is imprecise. Yama was certainly regarded as the death-god, who sent his messengers to summon those about to die. According to the legend of Savitri in the Mahabharata, the great epic poem which dates from about the fourth century AD but incorporates much earlier tradition, the length of a man's life was determined by his destiny though Yama could decide the exact moment of his death. Yama also ruled over the dead, who apparently stayed in his kingdom for ever.

Such, then, was the tradition of Indian belief concerning human destiny, when the new evaluation appeared somewhere about the seventh or eighth century BC. It is not necessary to our subject that we should try to unravel the complicated problem, already mentioned, of the origins of the Indian doctrine of the transmigration of the soul. It will suffice to quote a passage from the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, which is one of the earliest documents of the new philosophy of life that now began to be expounded at first, it would seem, in esoteric circles, by a sage to his disciples. As will be seen, the teaching presupposes some curious ideas which probably arose out of speculation connecting the dead with the celestial phenomena, and parallels to it can be found in other primitive religions. The passage concerned is given here in the translation of Dr S. Radhakrishnan:

{quote} Those who know this as such and those too who meditate with faith in the forest on the truth, pass into the light, from the light into the day, from the day into the half-month of the waxing moon, from the half-month of the waxing

{p. 169} moon into the six months during which the sun travels northward, from these months into the world of the gods, from the world of the gods into sun, from the sun into the lightning (fire). Then a person consisting (born) of mind goes to those rcgions of lightning and leads them to the worlds of Brahma. In those worlds of Brahma they live for long periods. Of these there is no return. {end quote}

Such, then, is the destiny of those enlightened by this esoteric doctrine. After their lengthy journey, they reach a destination where they abide for ever. The significance of the fact that they never return from there is evident by contrast with the fate of those described in the following passage:

{quote} But those who by sacrificial offerings, charity and austerity conquer the worlds, they pass into the smoke (of the cremation fire), from the smoke into the night, from the night into the half-month of the waning moon, from the half-month of the waning moon into the six months during which the sun travels southward, from these months into the world of the fathers, from the world of the fathers into the moon. Reaching the moon they become food. There the gods, as they say to king soma, increase, decrease, even so feed upon them there. When that passes away from them, they pass forth into this space, from space into air, from air into rain, from rain into the earth. Reaching the earth they becomc food. Again, they are offered in the fire of man. Thence they are born in the fire of woman with a view to going to other worlds. Thus do they rotate. But those who do not know these two ways, become insects, moths and whatever there is here that bites. {end quote}

Behind the strange compound of csoteric speculation and mythological imagery in these passages, it is possible to discern the lineaments of an eschatology combining earlier Vedic concepts with the new idea of metempsychosis. Two 'ways' or 'worlds' for men after death are distinguished which clearly derive from earlier tradition, namely, the devayana, 'the way of the gods' and the pitryana, the 'way of the fathers'. The former is associated with the destiny of the enlightened, which is regarded as the highest form of bliss and which they deserve by virtue of their enlightenment. Those without this redeeming knowledge, but who have the merit of fulfilling the requirements of the traditional ritual practice, reach the world of the ancestors, and then pass on to experience some curious metamorphosis which begins in the moon. By the process of human generation they are eventually reborn for further incarnated lives. In other words, the lack of enlightenment results in their reincarnation in human form. To these two clearly defined forms of destiny there is added a brief statement, apparently

{p. 170} out of context, about a third form of destiny. Those without enlightenment and ignorant of the means of acquiring ritual merit, were reborn in non-human forms, namely, as insects or other noxious animals.

In this primitive form of the doctrine of samsara nothing explicit is said about the process of karma, which, as we shall presently see, plays such a fundamental role in the classic form of the Hindu view of human destiny. Thus no explanation is given why the third group in the passage just quoted should be condemned to be reincarnated in such lowly and disgusting forms of being.

The Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad fortunately contains in another section a passage concerning karma which indicates that the idea was still a closely guarded secret of the specially initiated. The passage takes the form of a dialogue between a renowned sage, Yajilavalkya, and a disciple who seeks instruction about the disintegration of bodies caused by death. The passage is given also in the translation of Dr Radhakrishnan:

{quote} 'Yajnavalkya, when the speech (voice) of this dead person enters into fire, the breath into air, the eye into the sun, the mind into the moon, hearing into the quarters, the self into the ether, the hairs of the body into the herbs, the hairs into the trees and the blood and the semen are deposited in water, what then becomes of this person?' (Yajnavalkya replies:) 'Artabhaga, my dear, take my hand. We two alone shall know of this, this is not for us two (to speak) in public.' The two went away and deliberated. What they said was karman and what they praised was karman. Verily one becomes good by good action, bad by bad action. Therefore, Artabhaga of the line of Garathara kept silent. {end quote}

Karman or karma means 'deed', 'work', 'action', 'rite'. As the term came to be used in connection with ritual act, it tended to signify not only the action itself but the efficacy of the action. Consequently, the Brahmanic emphasis upon the cosmic potency of ritual sacrifice associated karma with the idea of an impersonal force generated ex opere operato. The application of this concept to human destiny in connection with that of samsara produced a revolution in Indian thinking which is reflected in the passage cited. The rather trite observation that 'one becomes good by good action, bad by bad action' enunciates a principle of fundamental import which finds fuller and more significant expression in the following passage, also from the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad:

{quote} According as one acts, according as one behaves, so does he become. The doer of good becomes good, the doer of evil becomes evil. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action. Others, however, say that a

{p. 171} person consists of desires. As is his desire so is his will; as is his will, so is the deed he does, whatever deed he does, that he attains.

{quote continues} On this there is the following verse: 'The object to which the mind is attached, the subtle self goes together with the deed, being attached to it alone. Exhausting the results of whatever works he did in this world he comes again from that world, to this world for (fresh) work. But the man who does not desire, he who is without desire, who is freed from desire, whose desire is satisfied, whose desire is the self; his breaths do not depart. Being Brahman he goes to Brahman.' {end quote}

The full proportions of the new evaluation of human nature and destiny are seen in this passage, and its significance for our subject becomes evident. Man is conceived as an immortal being or self (atman) indwelling, in this world, a physical body. The life that he is now living here is not the first, but the latest of an infinite series of past lives, and the condition in which he now lives is the result of his conduct (karma) in those former lives. At death, the self (atman) departs to another world, where it works out the consequences of its karma. Later Indian and Buddhist thought, as we shall see, greatly elaborate the conception of these other worlds: some were pleasant places where the consequences of virtuous action would be enjoyed; others were hells where retribution was suffered for evil deeds. When the consequences of its karma were worked out, the self was reincarnated in this world. This rebirth resulted from the self's desire or attachment to this phenomenal world, which it took for reality. The form in which the self was reincarnated could include that of non-human species, as we have briefly seen. A fuller statement of this belief oeeurs in the Chandogya Upaniad, which is also one of the earliest documents of this new phase in Indian thought:

{quote} Those whose conduct here has been good will quickly attain a good birth (literally womb), the birth of a Brahmin, the birth of a Ksatriya or the birth of a Vaisya. But those whose conduct here has been evil, will quickly attain an evil birth, the birth of a dog, the birth of a hog or the birth of a Candala. {end quote}

In these passages we see, accordingly, an interpretation of human destiny which accounts for the present condition of each living being as due to the operation of karma. This principle works as an impersonal force, without reference to any deity, determining the future of each person. It constitutes a veritable post-mortem judgment that has a twofold form of operation. ...

{end quotes}

Many of the "whites" (Europeans) who, prior to World War I, appeared to have conquered the world, now seemn to be going the way of the Aryan conquerors of India, giving up conquest for the inner life. This is the meaning of the "New Age" movement.

Evidence that belief in Reincarnation and Karma was brought to Ancient Greece from Ancient India: india.html.

S. G. F. Brandon on the derivation of the story of Adam and Eve, from the Epic of Gilgamesh: adam-and-eve.html.

S. G. F. Brandon shows that what we know as Christianity emerged from the Roman defeat of the Jewish revolt of 66-70: jewish-revolt.html.

Postmortem Journeys - Resurrections and Descents into Hell: postmortem-journeys.html.

The religion of the First Persian Empire (559-330 BC) was Zoroastrianism; it has shaped Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Marxism and Radical Feminism: zoroaster-judaism.html.

Did Judaism once have a Goddess? jewish-taoist.html.

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