Tag: culture (page 5 of 11)

Very mysterious ancient artifacts unearthed at the Sha’ar Hagolan archeological site ~ Greg Giles

Clay, Neolithic period, Late 7th Millennium B.C.E., From Israel (excavated at Sha'ar Hagolan) On loan from the Israeli Antiquities Authority to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Clay, Neolithic period, Late 7th Millennium B.C.E., From Israel (excavated at Sha'ar Hagolan). On loan from the Israeli Antiquities Authority to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Yarmukian culture was a Neolithic culture, the first culture in prehistoric Israel, dating to circa 6400–6000 BC. The archeological site was first discovered in the 1930's, but excavation did not begin until 1949 by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, led by Moshe Stekelis.  The site was again excavated in 1989–90, 1996–2004), by another team from the same University and led by Yosef Garfinkel . The dig's official website can be found here.  

A large number of extraordinary figurines have been unearthed at this Neolithic site, artifacts that continue to puzzle modern day researchers.  

The official perspective concerning these pieces is that they are 'highly stylized' pieces of art, and may be symbolic of fertility. I will allow you to form your own opinions about these artifacts, but I will say that I feel it is at least possible these pieces are not 'highly stylized'  pieces of art, instead, as remarkable as it may seem, these figurines may have been crafted to depict just what the artists were looking at while they molded clay between their fingers. 
Greg Giles  

This is a figurine head, broken off from the rest of the piece.

Below is a figurine of what looks very much like a terrier breed of dog. Note this piece does not appear to be stylized at all, but an accurate representation of the popular breed. 

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Are we sending aliens the right messages?



Artist Carrie Paterson has long dreamed of beaming messages far out to the emptiness of space. Except her messages would have an extra dimension – smell.

By broadcasting formulae of aromatic chemicals, she says, aliens could reconstruct all sorts of whiffs that help to define life on Earth: animal blood and faeces, sweet floral and citrus scents or benzene to show our global dependence on the car. This way intelligent life forms on distant planets who may not see or hear as we do, says Paterson, could explore us through smell, one of the most primitive and ubiquitous senses of all.
It is nearly 40 years since the Arecibo facility sent messages out into space (Wikipedia)

Her idea is only the latest in a list of attempts to hail intelligent life outside of the Solar System. Forty years ago this month, the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico sent an iconic picture message into space – and we’ve arguably been broadcasting to aliens ever since we invented TV and radio.

However in recent years, astronomers, artists, linguists and anthropologists have been converging on the idea that creating comprehensible messages for aliens is much harder than it seems. This week, Paterson and others discussed the difficulties of talking to our cosmic neighbours at a conference called Communicating Across the Cosmos, held by Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). It seems our traditional ways of communicating through pictures and language may well be unintelligible – or worse, be catastrophically misconstrued. So how should we be talking to ET?

Lost in translation?

We have always wanted to send messages about humanity beyond the planet. According to Albert Harrison, a space psychologist and author of Starstruck: Cosmic Visions in Science, Religion and Folklore, the first serious designs for contacting alien life appeared two centuries ago, though they never got off the ground.

In the 1800s, mathematician Carl Gauss proposed cutting down lines of trees in a densely forested area and replanting the strips with wheat or rye, Harrison wrote in his book. “The contrasting colours would form a giant triangle and three squares known as a Pythagoras figure which could be seen from the Moon or even Mars.” Not long after, the astronomer Joseph von Littrow proposed creating huge water-filled channels topped with kerosene. “Igniting them at night showed geometric patterns such as triangles that Martians would interpret as a sign of intelligence, not nature.”

But in the 20th Century, we began to broadcast in earnest. The message sent by Arecibo hoped to make first contact on its 21,000 year journey to the edge of the Milky Way. The sketches it contained, made from just 1,679 digital bits, look cute to us today, very much of the ‘Pong’ video game generation.  Just before then, Nasa’s Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes each carried a metal calling card bolted onto their frame with symbols and drawings on the plaque, showing a naked man and woman.

Yet it’s possible that these kinds of message may turn out to be incomprehensible to aliens; they might find it as cryptic as we find Stone Age etchings.

Antique tech

“Linear drawings of a male and a female homo sapiens are legible to contemporary humans,” says Marek Kultys, a London-based science communications designer. ”But the interceptors of Pioneer 10 could well assume we are made of several separate body parts (i.e. faces, hair and the man’s chest drawn as a separate closed shapes) and our body surface is home for long worm-like beings (the single lines defining knees, abdomens or collarbones.).”

Man-made tech may also be an issue. The most basic requirement for understanding Voyager’s Golden Record, launched 35 years ago and now way out beyond Pluto, is a record player. Aliens able to play it at 16 and 2/3 revolutions a minute will hear audio greetings in 55 world languages, including a message of ‘Peace and Friendship’ from former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. But how many Earthlings today have record players, let alone extraterrestrials?
Our sights and sounds of Earth might be unintelligible to an alien audience (Nasa)

Time capsule

Inevitably such messages become outdated too, like time capsules. Consider the case of the Oglethorpe Atlanta Crypt of Civilization – a time capsule sealed on Earth in 1940, complete with a dry martini and a poster of Gone With the Wind. It was intended as a snapshot of 20th Century life for future humans, not aliens, but like an intergalactic message, may only give a limited picture to future generations. When, in 61,000 years, the Oglethorpe time capsule is opened, would Gone With The Wind have stood the test of time?

This message was taken into the stars by Pioneer - but we have no idea if aliens would be able to understand it (Nasa)

Kultys argues that all these factors should be taken into account when we calculate the likelihood of communicating with intelligent life. The astronomer Frank Drake’s famous equation allows anyone to calculate how many alien species are, based on likely values of seven different factors. At a UK Royal Society meeting in 2010 Drake estimated there are roughly 10,000 detectable civilisations in the galaxy. Yet Kultys points out that we should also factor in how many aliens are using the same channel of communications as us, are as willing to contact us as we are them, whose language we hope to learn, and who are physically similar to us.

Another barrier we might consider is the long distance nature of trans-cosmos communication. It means that many years ‒ even a thousand ‒ could pass between sending a message and receiving a reply. Paterson sees romance in that. “Our hope for communication with another intelligent civilisation has a melancholic aspect to it. 
We are on an island in a vast, dark space. Imagine if communication… became like an exchange of perfumed love letters with the quiet agony of expectation... Will we meet? Will we be as the other imagined? Will the other be able to understand us?”

Ready for an answer?

Anthropologist John Traphagan of the University of Texas in Austin has been asking the same question, though his view is more cautious. "When it comes to ET, you'll get a signal of some kind; not much information and very long periods between ‘Hi, how are you?’ and whatever comes back. We may just shrug our shoulders and say 'This is boring’, and soon forget about it or, if the time lag wasn't too long, we might use the minimal information we get from our slow-speed conversation to invent what we think they're like and invent a kind concept of what they're after.”

(20th Century Fox)
The aliens in Independence Day (1996) did not come in peace (20th Century Fox)
While we have been sending out messages, we have not been preparing the planet for what happens when we get an interstellar return call. First contact could cause global panic. We might assume those answering are bent on galactic domination or, perhaps less likely, that they are peaceful when in fact they’re nasty.

Consider how easy it is to mess up human-to-human communications; I got Traphagan’s first name wrong when I e-mailed him for this article. An apology within minutes cleared up the confusion, yet if he had been an alien anthropologist on some distant planet it would have taken much longer to fix. He later confessed: "I could have thought this is a snooty English journalist and our conversation might never have happened."

Even if Earth’s interstellar messaging committees weeded out the typos, cultural gaffes are always a possibility. These can only be avoided by understanding the alien’s culture – something that’s not easy to do, especially when you’ve never met those you’re communicating with.

Rosy picture

So, what is the best way to communicate? This is still up for grabs – perhaps it’s via smell, or some other technique we haven’t discovered yet. Clearly, creating a message that is timeless, free of cultural bias and universally comprehensible would be no mean feat.

But for starters, being honest about who we are is important if we want to have an extra-terrestrial dialogue lasting centuries, says Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at Seti. (Otherwise, intelligent civilisations who’ve decoded our radio and TV signals might smell a rat.)

The golden discs aboard the Voyager spacecraft require aliens to understand how to play a record (Nasa)

“Let's not try to hide our shortcomings,” says Vakoch. “The message we should send to another world is straightforward: We are a young civilisation, in the throes of our technological adolescence. We're facing a lot of problems here on Earth, and we're not even sure that we'll be around as a species when their reply comes in. But in spite of all of these challenges, we humans also have hope – especially hope in ourselves."

Yet ultimately what matters, says Paterson, is that they stop and consider the beings who sent them a message; the people who wanted to say: “Here are some important things. Here’s our DNA, here is some maths and universal physics. And here is our longing and desire to say “I’m like you, but I’m different.”

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New Light on the Ancient Maya

During the past two decades, discoveries and research by archaeologists, epigraphers, art historians, and natural scientists have changed many of our ideas about the origins and nature of Maya civilization, and the probable causes of its collapse in...

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The New American Dream ~ The Case for Colonizing Mars

Excerpt from Ad Astra

by Robert Zubrin

Mars Is The New World

Among extraterrestrial bodies in our solar system, Mars is singular in that it possesses all the raw materials required to support not only life, but a new branch of human civilization. This uniqueness is illustrated most clearly if we contrast Mars with the Earth's Moon, the most frequently cited alternative location for extraterrestrial human colonization.

In contrast to the Moon, Mars is rich in carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, all in biologically readily accessible forms such as carbon dioxide gas, nitrogen gas, and water ice and permafrost. Carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen are only present on the Moon in parts per million quantities, much like gold in seawater. Oxygen is abundant on the Moon, but only in tightly bound oxides such as silicon dioxide (SiO2), ferrous oxide (Fe2O3), magnesium oxide (MgO), and aluminum oxide (Al2O3), which require very high energy processes to reduce.

The Moon is also deficient in about half the metals of interest to industrial society (copper, for example), as well as many other elements of interest such as sulfur and phosphorus. Mars has every required element in abundance. Moreover, on Mars, as on Earth, hydrologic and volcanic processes have occurred that are likely to have consolidated various elements into local concentrations of high-grade mineral ore. Indeed, the geologic history of Mars has been compared to that of Africa, with very optimistic inferences as to its mineral wealth implied as a corollary. In contrast, the Moon has had virtually no history of water or volcanic action, with the result that it is basically composed of trash rocks with very little differentiation into ores that represent useful concentrations of anything interesting.

You can generate power on either the Moon or Mars with solar panels, and here the advantages of the Moon's clearer skies and closer proximity to the Sun than Mars roughly balances the disadvantage of large energy storage requirements created by the Moon's 28-day light-dark cycle. But if you wish to manufacture solar panels, so as to create a self-expanding power base, Mars holds an enormous advantage, as only Mars possesses the large supplies of carbon and hydrogen needed to produce the pure silicon required for producing photovoltaic panels and other electronics. In addition, Mars has the potential for wind-generated power while the Moon clearly does not. But both solar and wind offer relatively modest power potential — tens or at most hundreds of kilowatts here or there. To create a vibrant civilization you need a richer power base, and this Mars has both in the short and medium term in the form of its geothermal power resources, which offer potential for large numbers of locally created electricity generating stations in the 10 MW (10,000 kilowatt) class. In the long-term, Mars will enjoy a power-rich economy based upon exploitation of its large domestic resources of deuterium fuel for fusion reactors. Deuterium is five times more common on Mars than it is on Earth, and tens of thousands of times more common on Mars than on the Moon.

But the biggest problem with the Moon, as with all other airless planetary bodies and proposed artificial free-space colonies, is that sunlight is not available in a form useful for growing crops. A single acre of plants on Earth requires four megawatts of sunlight power, a square kilometer needs 1,000 MW. The entire world put together does not produce enough electrical power to illuminate the farms of the state of Rhode Island, that agricultural giant. Growing crops with electrically generated light is just economically hopeless. But you can't use natural sunlight on the Moon or any other airless body in space unless you put walls on the greenhouse thick enough to shield out solar flares, a requirement that enormously increases the expense of creating cropland. Even if you did that, it wouldn't do you any good on the Moon, because plants won't grow in a light/dark cycle lasting 28 days.

But on Mars there is an atmosphere thick enough to protect crops grown on the surface from solar flare. Therefore, thin-walled inflatable plastic greenhouses protected by unpressurized UV-resistant hard-plastic shield domes can be used to rapidly create cropland on the surface. Even without the problems of solar flares and month-long diurnal cycle, such simple greenhouses would be impractical on the Moon as they would create unbearably high temperatures. On Mars, in contrast, the strong greenhouse effect created by such domes would be precisely what is necessary to produce a temperate climate inside. Such domes up to 50 meters in diameter are light enough to be transported from Earth initially, and later on they can be manufactured on Mars out of indigenous materials. Because all the resources to make plastics exist on Mars, networks of such 50- to 100-meter domes could be rapidly manufactured and deployed, opening up large areas of the surface to both shirtsleeve human habitation and agriculture. That's just the beginning, because it will eventually be possible for humans to substantially thicken Mars' atmosphere by forcing the regolith to outgas its contents through a deliberate program of artificially induced global warming. Once that has been accomplished, the habitation domes could be virtually any size, as they would not have to sustain a pressure differential between their interior and exterior. In fact, once that has been done, it will be possible to raise specially bred crops outside the domes.

The point to be made is that unlike colonists on any known extraterrestrial body, Martian colonists will be able to live on the surface, not in tunnels, and move about freely and grow crops in the light of day. Mars is a place where humans can live and multiply to large numbers, supporting themselves with products of every description made out of indigenous materials. Mars is thus a place where an actual civilization, not just a mining or scientific outpost, can be developed. And significantly for interplanetary commerce, Mars and Earth are the only two locations in the solar system where humans will be able to grow crops for export.

Interplanetary Commerce

Mars is the best target for colonization in the solar system because it has by far the greatest potential for self-sufficiency. Nevertheless, even with optimistic extrapolation of robotic manufacturing techniques, Mars will not have the division of labor required to make it fully self-sufficient until its population numbers in the millions. Thus, for decades and perhaps longer, it will be necessary, and forever desirable, for Mars to be able to import specialized manufactured goods from Earth. These goods can be fairly limited in mass, as only small portions (by weight) of even very high-tech goods are actually complex. Nevertheless, these smaller sophisticated items will have to be paid for, and the high costs of Earth-launch and interplanetary transport will greatly increase their price. What can Mars possibly export back to Earth in return?
It is this question that has caused many to incorrectly deem Mars colonization intractable, or at least inferior in prospect to the Moon.

For example, much has been made of the fact that the Moon has indigenous supplies of helium-3, an isotope not found on Earth and which could be of considerable value as a fuel for second generation thermonuclear fusion reactors. Mars has no known helium-3 resources. On the other hand, because of its complex geologic history, Mars may have concentrated mineral ores, with much greater concentrations of precious metal ores readily available than is currently the case on Earth — because the terrestrial ores have been heavily scavenged by humans for the past 5,000 years. If concentrated supplies of metals of equal or greater value than silver (such as germanium, hafnium, lanthanum, cerium, rhenium, samarium, gallium, gadolinium, gold, palladium, iridium, rubidium, platinum, rhodium, europium, and a host of others) were available on Mars, they could potentially be transported back to Earth for a substantial profit. Reusable Mars-surface based single-stage-to-orbit vehicles would haul cargoes to Mars orbit for transportation to Earth via either cheap expendable chemical stages manufactured on Mars or reusable cycling solar or magnetic sail-powered interplanetary spacecraft. The existence of such Martian precious metal ores, however, is still hypothetical.

But there is one commercial resource that is known to exist ubiquitously on Mars in large amount — deuterium. Deuterium, the heavy isotope of hydrogen, occurs as 166 out of every million hydrogen atoms on Earth, but comprises 833 out of every million hydrogen atoms on Mars. Deuterium is the key fuel not only for both first and second generation fusion reactors, but it is also an essential material needed by the nuclear power industry today. Even with cheap power, deuterium is very expensive; its current market value on Earth is about $10,000 per kilogram, roughly fifty times as valuable as silver or 70% as valuable as gold. This is in today's pre-fusion economy. Once fusion reactors go into widespread use deuterium prices will increase. All the in-situ chemical processes required to produce the fuel, oxygen, and plastics necessary to run a Mars settlement require water electrolysis as an intermediate step. As a by product of these operations, millions, perhaps billions, of dollars worth of deuterium will be produced.

Ideas may be another possible export for Martian colonists. Just as the labor shortage prevalent in colonial and nineteenth century America drove the creation of "Yankee ingenuity's" flood of inventions, so the conditions of extreme labor shortage combined with a technological culture that shuns impractical legislative constraints against innovation will tend to drive Martian ingenuity to produce wave after wave of invention in energy production, automation and robotics, biotechnology, and other areas. These inventions, licensed on Earth, could finance Mars even as they revolutionize and advance terrestrial living standards as forcefully as nineteenth century American invention changed Europe and ultimately the rest of the world as well.

Inventions produced as a matter of necessity by a practical intellectual culture stressed by frontier conditions can make Mars rich, but invention and direct export to Earth are not the only ways that Martians will be able to make a fortune. The other route is via trade to the asteroid belt, the band of small, mineral-rich bodies lying between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. There are about 5,000 asteroids known today, of which about 98% are in the "Main Belt" lying between Mars and Jupiter, with an average distance from the Sun of about 2.7 astronomical units, or AU. (The Earth is 1.0 AU from the Sun.) Of the remaining two percent known as the near-Earth asteroids, about 90% orbit closer to Mars than to the Earth. Collectively, these asteroids represent an enormous stockpile of mineral wealth in the form of platinum group and other valuable metals.

Historical Analogies

The primary analogy I wish to draw is that Mars is to the new age of exploration as North America was to the last. The Earth's Moon, close to the metropolitan planet but impoverished in resources, compares to Greenland. Other destinations, such as the Main Belt asteroids, may be rich in potential future exports to Earth but lack the preconditions for the creation of a fully developed indigenous society; these compare to the West Indies. Only Mars has the full set of resources required to develop a native civilization, and only Mars is a viable target for true colonization. Like America in its relationship to Britain and the West Indies, Mars has a positional advantage that will allow it to participate in a useful way to support extractive activities on behalf of Earth in the asteroid belt and elsewhere.

But despite the shortsighted calculations of eighteenth-century European statesmen and financiers, the true value of America never was as a logistical support base for West Indies sugar and spice trade, inland fur trade, or as a potential market for manufactured goods. The true value of America was as the future home for a new branch of human civilization, one that as a combined result of its humanistic antecedents and its frontier conditions was able to develop into the most powerful engine for human progress and economic growth the world had ever seen. The wealth of America was in fact that she could support people, and that the right kind of people chose to go to her. People create wealth. People are wealth and power. Every feature of Frontier American life that acted to create a practical can-do culture of innovating people will apply to Mars a hundred-fold.

Mars is a harsher place than any on Earth. But provided one can survive the regimen, it is the toughest schools that are the best. The Martians shall do well.

Robert Zubrin is former Chairman of the National Space Society, President of the Mars Society, and author of The Case For Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must.

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6,000-year-old temple discovered in prehistoric Ukraine settlement

An overhead shot of the excavated 6,000-year-old temple. (Burdo/Videiko/Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) Excerpt from upi.com  NEBELIVKA, Ukraine, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Researchers in Ukraine have be...

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The Mayan Palenque Astronaut

3D Model of the Palenque 'Astronaut'

Ancient Aliens: “Arguably the most remarkable Mayan artifact ever found – the stone sarcophagus lid of King Pacal – has produced considerable controversy. Mainstream scholars believe the depiction of King Pacal on a journey to the underworld, but ancient astronaut theorists believe the king is portrayed at the seat of the controls of a space craft and have dubbed him the Palenque astronaut.” - See more at: http://ancientaliensdebunked.com/references-and-transcripts/pacals-rocket/#sthash.3FONBN2W.dpuf

Also known as Pacal's Rocket, the stone sarcophagus lid of King Pacal has produced considerable controversy since its reported discovery in 1952 by Alberto Ruz. Many mainstream scholars believe the depiction of King Pacal symbolizes a journey to the underworld, but after Erich von Daniken injected the artwork into popular culture in the early 1970's, many today instead see Pacal at the controls of a spaceship. What do you think? 

Ancient Aliens: “Arguably the most remarkable Mayan artifact ever found – the stone sarcophagus lid of King Pacal – has produced considerable controversy. Mainstream scholars believe the depiction of King Pacal on a journey to the underworld, but ancient astronaut theorists believe the king is portrayed at the seat of the controls of a space craft and have dubbed him the Palenque astronaut.” - See more at: http://ancientaliensdebunked.com/references-and-transcripts/pacals-rocket/#sthash.3FONBN2W.dpuf
Ancient Aliens: “Arguably the most remarkable Mayan artifact ever found – the stone sarcophagus lid of King Pacal – has produced considerable controversy. Mainstream scholars believe the depiction of King Pacal on a journey to the underworld, but ancient astronaut theorists believe the king is portrayed at the seat of the controls of a space craft and have dubbed him the Palenque astronaut.” - See more at: http://ancientaliensdebunked.com/references-and-transcripts/pacals-rocket/#sthash.3FONBN2W.dpuf
Click to zoom

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19 Minutes That Can Change Your Life!

"We (YouAreCreators) created this channel to share one of the greatest secrets of the universe, and the secret is, we literally create our reality! (Quantum Physics now proves this) We are all governed by a set of Universal Laws, and these laws were...

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What Would You Take With You to the Afterlife? – Life, Death, Out-of-Body Experiences & the Journey of Consciousness

By Matthew Butler 

People save up for retirement, but how well do we prepare for the journey after? Ancient cultures put great emphasis on the afterlife, because they knew consciousness continued after death. They were right: Out-of-body experiences reveal we really do exist beyond the body. Knowing this truth should inspire us to seek in life what really matters and remains after death – awakened consciousness.

What is the greatest mystery of life? According to a legendary Q&A in the Indian spiritual epic the Mahabharata, the greatest wonder is that countless people die every day, yet those left behind believe they will live forever.
There is a well-known saying that the only certainty in life is death, but our hyper-connected modern society is not exactly inspiring much reflection on what lies beyond the transient.
People put aside savings for retirement, and some take out life insurance to take care of the loved ones they leave behind. This looks after physical needs, but what about the needs of consciousness which continues without the body? What preparations are made for its journey after death – the ultimate journey of a lifetime?
Religious institutions offer a solution to their followers that usually depends on adopting a set of beliefs rather than personal spiritual discovery.  On the other hand, some scientists will tell you with equal conviction that nothing comes after death, so don’t worry about it. Both of these points of view depend on belief, but what if, when the final moment comes, you realise you wasted the great opportunity your life provided? An alternative option is to discover for ourselves why we are here, and what  our place in the universe is, while we are alive and have the opportunity to do something with the knowledge we gain.
Ancient spiritual cultures almost universally placed importance on the individual’s preparations and journey into the afterlife. They clearly understood our existence extended beyond our bodies, and that life and death were best seen with the bigger picture of creation in mind – as part of an ongoing journey of consciousness – with life presenting an amazing opportunity for conscious evolution that we take the fruits from after death.
This was bought home to me in an interesting way during a trip to a museum exhibition showcasing ancient Egyptian afterlife cosmology; it reminded me of the universal nature of the afterlife, and how Near-Death Experiences and Out-of-Body Experiences offer us a glimpse into the reality of existence beyond the body, revealing that awakening consciousness is what creation is really all about.
With our modern culture drifting more and more into shallow short-sighted materialism and faux metaphysics, the need to re-discover and live this deeper purpose to life, so cherished by the ancients, is more important than ever.

A Journey into the Ancient Egyptian Afterlife

A while back I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take a one-way self-guided tour through the ancient Egyptian afterlife, thanks to a special museum exhibition featuring artefacts from the British Museum collection.
The local museum was packed, and we had to wait in a queue before being allowed in. Finally we entered a dimly-lit passage thronging with people, winding past ancient Egyptian artefacts, artworks, tools, scriptures, and mummies.

Geb_Nut_Shu-300x202The exhibit started with depictions of ancient Egyptian cosmology like this. Here the sky goddess is held up above the earth.

It was arranged so that you went on an afterlife “journey” vicariously, stage by stage, in the way the ancient Egyptians understood it. It began with displays showing ancient Egyptian depictions of the world’s creation, and culminated with the judgement of the soul and its journey after death. In between you were shown artefacts demonstrating how ancient Egyptians understood and prepared for death.
There were ancient scrolls of the pyramid texts on display, and ancient art depicting the soul’s journey through the afterlife. A major theme in their art was judgement and the “weighing of the heart”, where a deceased person’s heart was weighed against a feather, and their fate was dependent on their inner qualities and the sum of their actions while alive. Toward the end of the exhibition they had a mockup display of this, with a large set of scales on which you could weigh your “heart” against a feather, while Egyptian Gods looked on from a mural.
After that, you passed into a depiction of the Egyptian paradise before stepping outside into the sunlight. I doubt the effect was intentional on the part of the exhibitors, but after passing through the exhibition’s dark passageway with its ordered depictions of the afterlife, judgment and then stepping into the light, I couldn’t help but think of accounts of near-death experiences, in which people often report passing through a dark tunnel toward the light, and experiencing a life review where they see the consequences of all their actions.

BD_Hunefer_cropped_1-300x231Depiction of the “weighing of the heart”

The exhibit really brought home to me how the ancient Egyptians understood they existed for a purpose that went beyond everyday life. Death was a doorway to the next stage of existence, and their lives were an opportunity to prepare for it. They knew we do not cease to exist when we die, and saw the quest for immortality through awakening consciousness as the real purpose to creation.
From looking at artefacts from different periods, it was apparent the ancient Egyptian understanding of death changed over time. It seemed to me that originally, the emphasis was on living spiritually and obtaining an immortality of the soul, while in later periods their understanding declined into more literal interpretations of preparing the body (rather than consciousness) for the afterlife through mummification, and a preoccupation with the arrangement of one’s burial and tomb with the right spells and amulets.
But I was vividly struck by how through that civilisation’s long and varied existence, the importance of the afterlife always reigned supreme, and being prepared for life after death was absolutely central to existence. Death, and therefore life, was taken very seriously.

I couldn’t help but notice a stark contrast between our modern culture and theirs. It was a bit like being in some kind of time warp, where two very different cultures collided. The artefacts of the Egyptians gave a sense of the sacredness of life and creation, but the bustling, noisy crowds of modern onlookers apparently saw this ancient preoccupation with the afterlife as mere novelty and amusement. How different ancient Egypt was to our modern society where the reality, and inevitability, of death is given little thought or preparation, and the understanding that consciousness continues after death is often summarily discounted and ridiculed.
I highly doubt that many people who attended the exhibition paused to reflect on whether they would continue to exist after death and, if so, how? And why are we here anyway? This was driven home when, just prior to reaching the scales of “judgement”, I noticed a whiteboard, styled with papyrus veneer, with a pertinent question written at the top.

What would you take with you to the afterlife?

Good question. A pen hung from the board, inviting people to write their response underneath. The answers ranged from the sentimental, to the mundane, to the silly.

WP_000293-EDIT1-1024x845How would you answer the question?

Some wanted to take their friends and family with them, while others wanted to take things like their iPhone, make-up, favourite band, football team, favourite rock star, chocolate, alcohol, and so forth.
A “time machine” was perhaps the only clever response. I could see the benefit of that if you realised you had wasted your life. I don’t think it’s really an option however.
This brought home how we don’t take death and the meaning of our lives anywhere near as seriously as we should today. The ancients knew a lot more about life and death than we do. We have lost their ancient wisdom, and with it the understanding of the amazing opportunity our existence in this universe presents.
This is a serious problem. Our consciousness will continue to exist without the body. But if we don’t question our existence and why we are here, we will not awaken consciousness and we will never reach our true potential.

Near-Death Experiences and the Reality of Existence Beyond the Body

Existence after death is not something the ancient Egyptians invented. Concepts of an afterlife are so common across geographically isolated cultures around the world that it cannot simply be dismissed as a coincidence. There may be cultural differences in the details, but the understanding that we continue existing without the body has been pretty much universal for thousands of years.
In fact, the burial of the dead and the realisation of an afterlife are considered some of the most important hallmarks of cultural development in Stone Age people. It was a sign of intelligence distinguishing people from animals, and paved the way for the development of more sophisticated civilisations.

Hieronymus_Bosch_013The medieval painting ‘Ascent of the Blessed’ by Hieronymus Bosch shows the light at the end of the tunnel common to NDE accounts

Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) provide compelling anecdotal evidence that the afterlife mythologies of the world share a real common source and that consciousness exists beyond the brain. In NDEs, people who are clinically dead or close to death go through experiences that follow a pattern with universal traits, which they recall after being revived.
These include an out of body experience, where they leave their body and realise they are separate from it, perhaps seeing their body lying beneath them. Then they may go on a journey, which may feature common aspects like travelling through a tunnel, and a life review, where a person is shown everything they have done, and feels the effects of their actions toward others, whether good or bad.
Although some scientists speculate that these phenomena may be caused by the brain, the reality is that these experiences have occurred when patients are clinically brain dead, and it has not been proven these experiences are produced biologically. Furthermore, there is no ultimate proof that consciousness is produced by the brain anyway, although this is a strongly-held assumption among those entrenched in materialistic beliefs.
NDEs challenge rigid materialistic beliefs about life. In light of the prevalence and commonality of NDEs, some scientists now suggest that consciousness interacts with the brain rather than being produced by it. Rather, the brain is a conduit through which consciousness can express itself, much like the way a computer is a conduit for the internet, but the internet continues to exist when the computer is switched off.
NDEs are increasingly reported in the modern world due to improvements in health care leading to more people being revived, but they are also an ancient phenomenon. Research by the scholar Gregory Shushan found there are universal afterlife experiences which underpinned both modern NDE accounts and ancient afterlife mythologies. His research involved an in-depth comparative analysis of afterlife conceptions of five ancient civilisations (Old and Middle Kingdom Egypt, Sumerian and Old Babylonian Mesopotamia, Vedic India, pre-Buddhist China, and pre-Columbian Mesoamerica) and compared them to modern NDE accounts. He demonstrated that, although there were some variations in the details based on the cultural origin, there were specific recurring similarities that reappeared too consistently to be mere coincidence, suggesting that, “afterlife conceptions are not entirely culturally-determined and… appear to be universal or quasi-universal to some degree”.

Life is an Opportunity to Awaken Consciousness

Realising that you are consciousness, and continue to exist without the body, awakens you to the bigger picture of life. It puts your whole life in perspective.
In an NDE life review, people tend to see that what really matters in life is not how much money they made or what they achieved in a given field, but how they treated other people, and whether they acted with love. These experiences tend to change people’s lives, inspiring them to be more spiritual.
Discovering you exist beyond the body can be a life-changing revelation

We do not need to have an NDE to verify that we exist without the body, or to have life-changing experiences. Through astral projection, we can have wilful out of body experiences and use these mystical experiences to learn about ourselves and make positive changes in our lives.
Realising that we exist beyond the body can open the door to awakening. You realise that what really matters in life is not what we gain physically, but developing consciousness. Then the question, “what will you take with you to the afterlife” becomes much more meaningful. You can’t take physical things with you when you die like your iPhone, but you can take consciousness. Then you see that the focus on the afterlife in ancient cultures was not a preoccupation with death, but a deep understanding of life, and how to live it in the most meaningful way to bring spiritual benefits to yourself and others, the effects of which continue after death.
States like anger, greed and hatred have their consequences in the world which are bad enough, but who wants to take these states with them to afterlife? If these states don’t bring happiness here, why drag them along after death? Expressions of consciousness like love, wisdom and inner peace are much  better qualities to carry within. By awakening and expressing consciousness in a world filled with ignorance, hatred and darkness, we not only help to make the world a better place, but continue to carry these spiritual qualities in our consciousness when our body is left behind.
Understanding this is so important today. We live in a society bombarded with elite-controlled propaganda and entertainment that not only hides the darker agendas working in the world, but blankets people in ignorance, keeping us from uncovering the deeper potential of our consciousness and empowering ourselves by striving to awaken – which enables us to break free of the grip of darkness that exerts its influence over humanity. Failing to wake up to this agenda has it implications in the world, and also for our consciousness, and it’s consciousness that really counts, both in life and beyond.
So what would you take with you to the afterlife?

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