In just a few days the British Museum will open its much anticipated Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead Exhibition. I have always thought that one of the best arguments in favor of Ernest Becker’s thesis in The Denial of Death is the historical and cultural fact of ancient Egypt.
While it is hard to agree entirely with Becker’s argument that our lives are wholly governed by the fear of death, there is much to be said for the fact that most people do their best to deny death and alleviate the intense anxiety which surrounds it.
Over at the Guardian, Vanessa Thorpe has written an article about the forthcoming exhibit that provides a good introduction to Egyptian books of the dead, which can be thought of as “comprehensive guidebooks to the afterlife.”
The ultimate goal for the dead sojourner was to reach a paradise — which much resembled fertile oases on the Nile — where one’s ancestors were gathered. It was the ancient Egyptian version of heaven.