Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": DEBATE BETWEEN OSIRIS AND THE HIGH GOD


('Book of the Dead,' Chapter 175)

After his death Osiris finds himself in a cheerless underworld and laments his lot.

OSIRIS O'Atum! What is this desert place into which I have come? It has no water, it has no air, it is depth unfathomable, it is black as the blackest night. I wander helplessly herein. One cannot live here in peace of heart, not may the longings of love be satisfied herein.

ATUM You may live in peace of heart, I have provided illumination in place of water and air, and satisfaction and quiet in the place of bread and beer. Thus spoke Atum.

OSIRIS But shall I behold your face?

ATUM I will not allow you to suffer.

OSIRIS But every other god has his place in the Boat of Millions of Years.

ATUM Your place now belongs to your son Horus. Thus spoke Atum.

OSIRIS But ,will he be allowed to dispatch the Great Ones?

ATUM I have allowed him to dispatch the Great Ones, for he will inherit your throne on the Isle of fire.

OSIRIS How good would it be if one god could see another!

ATUM My face will look upon your face.

OSIRIS But how long shall I live? says Osiris.

ATUM You will live more than millions of years, an era of millions, but in the end I will destroy everything that I have created, the earth will become again part of the Primeval Ocean, like the Abyss of waters in their original state. Then I will be what will remain, just I and Osiris, when I will have changed myself back into the Old Serpent who knew -no man and saw no god.

How fair is that which I have done for Osiris, a fate different from that of all the other gods! I have given him the region of the dead while I have put his son Horus as heir upon his throne in the Isle of Fire, I have thus made his place for him in the Boat of Millions of Years, in that Horus remains on his throne to carry on his work.

OSIRIS But will not also the soul of Seth be sent to the West-a fate different from that of all other gods?

ATUM I shall hold his soul captive in the Boat of the Sun-such is my will- So that he will no longer terrorize the divine company,


Translation and introductory note by R. T. Rundle Clark, in his Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt (London, 1959), pp 130-40

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