Historical story

Psychostasia and Weight of the Soul

Why did the ancient Egyptians practice mummification ? And in what did this practice consist? A testimony, although now disputed and overcome thanks to modern archeology, comes to us from the historian Herodotus :he left us a fairly accurate description of this practice, arguing that it happened differently for more or less wealthy individuals. For the richest the body was carved and gutted, for the poorest it was dried in salt. To date we know that, on the contrary, mummification was a much less "class" process, that in some circumstances both the heart and the brain of the deceased were found in the body and that the extraction of the viscera by trans-abdominal incision was foreseen. for everyone. The reasons for this practice, which required the careful work of expert embalmers who have allowed the remains to be preserved until today, are nothing short of obvious:the body, home of the soul, had to remain intact to allow the final journey and, at least for the upper castes, mummification was a must :the body should not have decomposed for any reason, otherwise it would not have allowed the immortal forces to make the journey and then rejoin on the other side.

In the body of a man, according to the ancient Egyptians, three vital forces coexisted: Ka , Ba and Akh . The main one, Ka, is the fulcrum of the human being:it is the center of his soul, his spirit; Ba, on the other hand, is its strength, its individuality. Akh is a third component that shows up at its maximum post mortem only.

in addition to the body, the soul also had to reach the afterlife pure and intact:in order to verify it, once the deceased arrived "on the other side", he had to undergo the judgment of the dead :he initially passed tests of strength and courage, after which he arrived, accompanied by the god Anubis, in the presence of Osiris and his 42 judges. 42, like the prescriptions of Maat, goddess of the cosmic order, justice and truth; his prescriptions were simply "commandments" not to be broken at all in life. The 42 judges also represented the 42 sins:they sat in a long line, the deceased had to deny one by one the sin over which each judge presided.

At this point, the most difficult test, psychostasia :the weighing of the heart. The deceased made a declaration of innocence, the heart was placed on a scale. On the other? The feather of Maat. The god Thot recorded the verdict:if guilty, if the scales hung on the wrong side, then the soul ended up being fed to Ammit, "the devourer" a monstrous creature (half crocodile, lion and hippopotamus, the most dangerous beasts of Egypt) if instead innocent continued towards the luminous kingdom of Osiris, the salvation of the soul, direct continuation of earthly life.

Even the animals received a "soul-saving" burial, worthy of a sovereign; this is demonstrated by places such as the Serapeum, Bubasteion, Anubieion ... the first, unearthed in 1850 by Auguste Mariette (pioneer of Egyptology, founder of the Cairo museum and the Egyptian antiquities service), housed the burials of the Apis bulls, which they were really buried like pharaohs:eviscerated, mummified, equipped with canopic jars and ushabti with the features of bulls. The Bubasteion was home to cats, the Anubieion welcomed jackals. Animals received this treatment as they were venerated in the same way as divinities:it is no coincidence, in fact, that they were often associated with an animal, a living image of the same, hypostasis.

But does the soul weigh? And how much?

In April 1901, a curious study was conducted in Massachusetts:Dr. Duncan McDougall he studied the bodies of six dying patients, weighing them before, during and after death; he actually detected weight differences, which dropped by a few grams, a few fractions of a second after death.

The experiment was repeated and, in 1907, the New York Times described the historic moment in which the patient ceased to live and the slingbar moved, at an incredible speed and timing. Obviously, many did not want to believe it, what could have caused that weight loss? All the hypotheses were considered, from body fluids to the air in the lungs, nothing explained what happened. After his studies, after comparing the results, Dr. McDougall concluded:" the human soul weighs 21 grams “.

Animal studies did not give results, he therefore concluded that only human beings have a soul .

Bibliography :

Egyptology course at the University of Milan
Laboratory of "texts and archives of Pharaonic Egypt" at the University of Milan
Herodotus, "second book of stories" (mummification)
Film:"21 grams", year 2003 (has as its subject the studies of Dr. McDougall)
Psychostasis, Book of the Dead, chapter 125