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march 2nd

7 pages84 viewsWinter 2011

Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC250Y1
Professor
Joseph Bryant

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Soc Religion March 2nd
Death in Early Civilization
-The dead must be treated honorably
-the likelihood of the living being plagued by the vengeful dead
-transition from neutral death (all human beings are fated to die and all human beings
go to the same place) to moral death (death is now overlayed with the notion that the
type of life you lived is going to determine what type of after-life you will have)
-earlier regardless of whether you were a king or a commoner you would all go to the
same place
-from the odyssey- odysseus is consulting the dead when the spirit of achilles floats by.
Odysseus is praising achilles and the spirit says to him that it is better to be a slave alive
on the earth than to be a lord over all the spirits in the underworld. Even the heroic
achilles is fated to the same death as everyone else
-from writings from sumeria and Babylonia we can see that their focus is very much on
the here and now and they ask for worldly fulfillments in this life rather than in the after
life
-Sargon of Assyria for example asks for long life, health and stability in his reign
-All the calls to the divine in early civilizations are for long life and worldly pleasure
-The polytheistic gods were basically about giving worldly advantages- fertility, success
in trade etc.
-In moral death, the central notion is that fates in the after life are going to differ. Not
everyone will go to the netherworld. Some people will have a better fate and some
people will have a worse fate. And from here the notion of hell rises. Hell is not
everyone goes but rather those who transgress
-sociologically, this development, (1)this means an intensive religious regulation of life,
the imposition of a normative code for conduct (2) and it introduces the notion that this
life is preparatory for the life to come
-with the moral death idea, this world becomes subordinate to the afterlife picture
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-There is a gradual shift towards the moral death idea and it does not just suddenly
appear
Ancient Egypt
-most powerful and greatest of the ancient civilizations and had great cultural influence
on its neighbors
-it is commonly viewed egyptian civilization was the one most preoccupied with the idea
of death- it is the land of temples and tombs
-all cities were cities of particular deities
-the earliest records show that the ancient egyptians saw themselves as dependents of
gods and that certain cities were dependent on a particular deity
-agriculture and favor was seen as being the gift of the gods in return for worship
-in the developed egyptian world view there gods, the living dead and the transfigured
dead. Humans can partake of immortality
The old kingdom (2700-2100 BCE)
-for the old kingdom we have the Pyramid Texts, inscriptions on the walls and
sarcophagai of the royal burials in the period
-the inscriptions were mostly spells or magical utterances that are primarily concerned
with preserving the pharaohs remains, reanimating his body, and empowering him to
ascend to heaven after death (ladder, boat, flying) there to be welcomed by his father,
the earth god. There are also threats to the gods if they do not help him on his journey
Middle Kingdom
-coffin texts. the immortality promise is democratized whereas in the earlier text it
seems to be reserved exclusively for the pharaoh. The coffin texts that all can become
immortal. Here too we see largely magical formulae that are designed to ensure that
the dead reach the blessed afterlife. The inscriptions were found on walls, canopic jars,
mummy masks, often in abbreviated form
-full versions were found later in the egyptian book of the dead. These spells were
designed to ensure that the living spirit moved on from the sarcophagus into the after
life. They concern the underworld run by Osiris
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