A Philosophical Examination
In a world full of mystery, the single most compelling riddle that puzzles us is the creation of our universe. Its beginnings have been pondered by humankind for millenia and it continues to beckon and call for it is woven within the very fabric of our being. Among those believed to have gained an intimate understanding of our cosmos are the inhabitants of a time referred to as the last Atlantean era. But now all that remains of this epoch are myths and legends — fables of the lost continent of Atlantis. Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, spoke of Atlantis in his Timaeus:
"...and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together... Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya with the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia."
Ancient Egypt, considered by some to be greatly influenced by the Atlantean era, marked the end of a cycle of human development; a cycle dominated with such a keen awareness of life that archaeologists and historians recorded it as one of history's most developed and outstanding civilizations. With the deterioration of these Atlantean and Egyptian societies went their secrets. Insight to their techniques of craftsmanship, science, and methods of awareness became obscured by a prevailing wave of ignorance. The earth plunged into the abyss of the dark ages, a pit from which humankind has since been emerging.
Of the numerous artifacts ancient Egypt has left us, it is the monuments of Giza that command our attention. Rising forty-eight stories above the desert plane, the Great Pyramid of Khufu stands as a sentinel guarding a land whose memories have lingered for thousands of years. As a constant reminder of the enigma surrounding this foregone era, ancient Egypt has bequeathed us a most puzzling phenomena — mummies entombed within sepulchers of magnificent splendor.
The Egyptians held the understanding that the body was a manifest form of the soul; a reflection of a divine inner being; a perfectly integrated, orchestrated union of entity and vehicle. Even after death, there remained an ethereal bond between the soul and body. They felt that entering a greater state of being depended upon several aspects which included preparation and consecration of the body, ceremonial procedures, and upon the aspirant having lived a life free from ignorance. The selective process was symbolically represented in the popular scene of the "Balance" where the heart of the deceased was weighed against a feather. Should the balance be unfavorable, the deceased's desire for a glorious new life remained unattained. The implications of this understanding were felt in Hebrew and Christian religions and represented one of the earliest introductions of a sense of inner values that served to influence people in their relations to each other.
When we hear of mummification, what generally comes to mind is ancient Egypt and its legacy. We cannot help but admire their exquisite expression of this particular science. We now know that mummies have been found all over the world — in North, Central, and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and even such places as the Canary Islands. The influence of Atlantis and Egypt held such sway over subsequent civilizations that mummification continued throughout the centuries. Although the forms may vary, basic procedures remain evident. The preserving and handling of the body with tact and exactness, and the ceremonies whose aim was to communicate to the soul and guide it along its journey, are found in all cases.
The Jewish holy book, The Torah: A Modern Commentary, tells the story of Jacob's burial Genesis 49; 50:
"When Jacob finished his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and, breathing his last, he was gathered to his people.
Joseph flung himself upon his father's face and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph ordered the physicians in his service to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel. It required forty days, for such is the full period of embalming. The Egyptians bewailed him seventy days."
The commentary goes on to explain that the purpose of mummification, widely practiced in Egypt, was to preserve the body as an aid to the soul as it made its journey to a new life. The body would be treated with myrrh and similar spices, washed, wrapped, and then placed within a cave in a mountain. The Torah makes reference to the caves in the land of Canaan that held the sacredly prepared bodies of Abraham and his wife Sara, Isaac and his wife Rebekah, Jacob and his wife Leah. Of Joseph's death, The Torah states, "Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt."
It's been said that in the early years of the life of Jesus, he traveled to the lands of India, Tibet, and Egypt where he received schooling in ancient philosophies. Whether this is true or not remains unproven. One curious detail about Jesus is the manner in which his body was cared for following his crucifixion. By all indications he was mummified. His body was cleansed and treated, then wrapped in linen and placed in a tomb. The Bible's Gospel according to John describes the entombment of Jesus as follows:
"And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand."
Another religious holy book, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, depicts the funeral care of the Dalai and Tashi Lamas, holy men of the Buddhist faith, as again a form of mummification, rich and complete in the rituals and ceremonies surrounding it. This book is a collection of spiritual teachings whose purpose is to serve as a guide to those who have died as they transition from their former life to a new destination. The book parallels concepts found within the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
Further examples of mummification include the Peking Woman, a mummified body of a woman buried two thousand years ago in a pyramid tomb in Beijing, China. Scientists were amazed how the hair and skin remained in remarkable condition for such a long period of time. Then there are the popes of the Catholic Church who were mummified, and the American Indians who practiced the same.
History gives us many examples of mummification, both ancient and recent. We find that mummification was practiced by many diverse people and cultures ranging from saints to lamas, Abraham to Christ, Jewish to Buddhist, Egyptian to Christian. It was practiced by people who at the time appeared to be at a height in their personal development.
Life After Life
What could be the reason behind such an elaborate, thorough, yet gentle treatment of a body apparently devoid of its life force? What is the purpose for the ceremonies and rituals that accompany the burial of the deceased? Most of us feel that there exists a permanence of life, although, our fear of death clearly indicates our lack of understanding the subject. This stems from our inability to know our own spirit or essence. There really is no ultimate death, but rather a changing of states — a continual process of the genesis of life. Nature gives us the perfect example by which we may better understand this concept:
There is a creature known as a caterpillar that during its life, reaches a stage where it wraps itself in a cocoon. For a number of days, an internal energy generates change and metamorphosis. The caterpillar dies, only to be reborn and emerge out of the chrysalis as a beautiful butterfly.
The Principle of Correspondence, one of the deeper principles of nature, states, "As above, so below; as below, so above." It means the laws governing events in the cosmos are at work on all levels of life and being. By applying this principle, we can examine things not clearly understood such as death. In the example of the caterpillar and butterfly, the caterpillar is "as below" and we are "as above." We can do the same as a caterpillar, except on a larger level. Following in the footsteps of the ancients, might we not help ourselves by leveraging the event of death to transport our being to a beautiful new life?
Whereupon you die and leave your body, it is not so much an end as it is a continuous flow leading to a new beginning or rebirth. Although you have left your body, you remain capable of feelings and are very much aware of the incidents taking place, for your attention remains intact. This is evidenced by the fact that in many documented cases where subjects were pronounced clinically dead and then revived, they described "out of the body" experiences wherein they observed their body and those around it from another vantage point.
The change, however, is normally a frightening and puzzling experience. Your sense of time and space has changed. Your essence (which is really you) finds itself in a very unfamiliar situation. You have mental abilities but are unclear how to deal with the current conditions. You look for anything familiar that will help reduce your fears and the body you just left is the most familiar thing to you. Most people are buried or cremated and this places their essence in less than favorable circumstances leaving it to fend for itself.
In mummification, the preserved body serves as a reference point for your essence, a "home base" if you will that allows communication of instructions to help guide you to your new destination. This can alleviate much of the fear, anxiety, and confusion that you would normally experience. The communication of instructions is a component of the science of "Transference." Transference, also referred to as the Rites of Passage, creates an environment that is conducive to effecting a smoother experience as you transform from one state to another. It is a directed change, allowing you the opportunity to gain an understanding and awareness of what is occurring. Arriving at your new destination, you are transformed into a "butterfly," greater than what you were before.
Depending on the circumstances, when the essence leaves the body, separation between the two is not necessarily abrupt nor instantaneous. It is more likely to be lingering and bewildering. At first, you don't even realize you have died. This is evidenced by statements from subjects who were clinically dead and revived, and it is referenced in writings found within The Bardo Thodol, a book written well over a millenia ago. Mummification and Transference enables the inevitable separation to be a directed and enlightening change.
There is another aspect to the preservation of the body. As we rediscover knowledge in this age of a new millennium, we can employ mummification to perfectly preserve the DNA and genetic message within each cell indefinitely. At Summum, we refer to this as a "sumsoshoeugenic" state. Sumsoshoeugenics lends itself to new considerations and implications for the future as scientists perfect the technique of cloning.
Modern Mummification has much to offer us. Not only does it provide an alternative to current burial methods which accomplish little more than sanitary disposal of the deceased, it provides a burial of distinction and a heightening of our cultural standards. It allows us to experience facets of life unknown to most people. Mummification is such a profound and exact science, its re-emergence may very well change the course of contemporary humankind and elevate us to levels once occupied by our ancestors.