The Egyptian afterlife

A visitor to the British museum might reflect on the fate of ancient Egyptian spiritual capital and its accompanying technologies.

The Pharoahs believed the were destined for an afterlife, judged by the gods based upon their deeds of this world, abiding forever in a land where rivers flow, tended by slaves, hunting and farming heavenly territories. And they believed they’d travel there in sarcophagi of wood and stone, the symbolic and the physical blurred. No doubt their priests understood the esoteric, inner meaning of their cult, but the exoteric meaning is (as with all religions) the master signification system to the subordinate tafsir of the mystic (the priest is dependent on the normative system to provide a text at least, basic capital to afford his speculative derivative trade a basis).

Therein lies the uncanny aspect of an exhibition of this deprecated religious coinage, to the 21st century eye. The technology of the Egyptians did transport them to an afterlife of sorts – the afterlife of symbolic influence. So much of their belief system – their symbolic capital – remains buried deep in the DNA of Abrahamic faith, now gone global, mutated, translated, already passed through and bifurcated over several intermediate host bodies – and now, even in this post religious age, still structuring our view of life, work, morality, rest, legacy … And the state’s role.

That’s the sublime aspect of these mummies and their quest’s end. Like Enoch transformed into Metatron, or Mary ascending to Catholic heaven, they remain bodies of skin and bone, encased now within the museum’s metamodel of historicity, abiding within a land where rivers of data flow audit trails of (yes, anxious) influence.


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