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Heaven and Hell

Egypt

In ancient Egypt, texts inscribed on the inner walls of the pyramids and coffins or on papyrus scrolls like the Book of the Dead, which began to circulate in the sixteenth century B.C.E., make the dead testify to their own moral character. One image weighs the heart against a standard of justice. A monster devours those who flunk. Images from the Book of Gates (c. 1320 B.C.E.) show the fate of those who oppose the sun god, Re, as he plumbs the underworld at night and ascends at dawn each day. These enemies of rebirth and of Osiris, the god who is its symbol, are dispatched into ovens and destroyed—not punished forever. The god's friends move beyond judgment to the same occupations they had when alive: cultivating fields, reaping bounteous harvests. These contrasting fates presuppose a distinction between good and evil.

Dante and Virgil in Hell (1822) by Eugène Delacroix. Oil on canvas. Dante's version of hell is multileveled in structure, with different categories of sinners confined to a particular level. The inhabitants suffer excruciating physical torments specific to the crimes they have committed. ERICH LESSING /ART RESOURCE, NY

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Habit memory: to HeterodontHeaven and Hell - Egypt, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Ancient Greek Religion, Etruscans And Romans, Judaism