Compiled by Phil Meade
At the start of every philosophical investigation it is the custom, at least for all who are sound minded to invoke God. The Pythagorean golden verse 34 states: “Never start on your task until you have implored the blessings of the Gods.” Plato in Timeaus 27c affirms: “All who have even a small share of good sense call upon God always at the outset of every undertaking, be it small or great.” In keeping with the ancients may Divine Inspiration be with us today, as we speak about the Isles of the Blessed and the high goal of our immortal life after death.
The following discourse will look at the Isles of the Blessed from the standpoint of a physical reality, an emotional/mental construct, and a spiritual possibility. We will also try to trace the evolution of the concept of the Blessed Isles thru Egyptian, Greek and other cultures over time. Of course the Pythagorean perspective will be introduced and we will reflect upon our modern as contrasted to the ancient view of this high spiritual goal and the way to attain a visit or a permanent stay on the Isles of the Blessed.
Many people in our modern societies go to exotic islands for vacations or holiday in all parts of the world. In ancient times legends and tales grew up around the Fortunate Isles, which were also called the Isles or Islands of the Blessed (makaron nesoi is the Greek term). Favored mortals in Celtic legend and classical tales were received by the gods into this blissful paradise. Again these sacred islands were thought to lie in the Western Ocean near the circling River Oceanus; the Madeira and the Canary Islands have been cited sometimes as close matches. Modern geography names these islands as Macaronesia. Does this idea have some basis in stories from lost cultures like Atlantis, perhaps?
There are many problems which arise from consideration of the Deluge legends as there are large gaps in cultural histories. These legends have their connection with origin stories and primitive agricultural myths, our attention will now be directed again to Egypt and their conception of the Otherworld.
There are many experiences possible after death according to Egyptian tradition. Since the sun-god Re voyages thru the heaven on an encircling celestial sea and who emerges in his barque every dawning day from the nocturnal sojourn in the realm of the dead, there was a strong desire to join Re in one’s quest for immortality. There was located in the celestial paradise a blissful region of islands that contain the Field of Reeds and the Fields of Food Offerings. There is also an Island of the Just where Osiris is Lord and who presides over a court that awards the epithet Justified, Triumphant (Maa-kheru) to those who have passed the test of the tribunal who examines their life records.
Helen Hagan has written in her Book “The ShiningOnes” about the Oasis people. This area in eastern Egypt near the Libyan border has been in continuous habitation with peoples going back perhaps ten thousand years. This is where we can trace roots to the emotional/mental construct. The ancestors as we shall see, left stories in this place that have some clues for us to pursue as seen in the following quote:
“The oasis called by the Greeks “Oasis Ammonis” and called today “Siwa” was referred to as “Secket – Am” (the field of dates) and also as “Ima – Secket,” the field of trees. It was only one of the cultic centers of Amon, and the seat of this famous Oracle. The Oracle of Siwa might well have been at the core of an [even more] ancient oral wisdom based on the sophisticated knowledge of the stars, lunar cycles and divination which has been shared by the Dogan and the Yoruba among others. West African people, after all, have alluded to a place of ultimate revelation as being east of the large desert in a place of coolness and waters. Different texts used the term “Am’Aaru” and Secket – Aaru” for the “Blessed Isles” of the Land of the Beyond as a region where there was plenty of water and cool breezes “the place of refrigeration.” P.62 The ShiningOnes, Xlibris Corp @2000.
There is reference to an Egyptian further world known as the Isle of Fire, a spell is recited for withstanding the judgement of the dead each dawn, the sunrise – red slaughter of the forces of darkness which Ra enacts every morning as he rises from his Island of Fire in the eastern sea. This Isle of Fire is none other than the Sun. It is sometimes known as Flame Island where the sun god is said to have been born at the time of earth’s creation. Every dawn also implies not only the victory over the forces of night and darkness but also the glory of the First Time, the First Light, when light emerged from chaos and gloom. It is said in Flame Island the justified dead will know the joy of rebirth.
In the language of the Egyptian Book of Going Forth By Day [Book of the Dead], the designation “Ta – Ma – Aser” ment “the Blessed Island of the Tamarisk of the Lady Neith” and “TAMUZ” was used to designate the Blessed Land of the Ancestors, the Blessed Land of their Origin, as well as “The Beautified Ancestors.” In Egypt, we also find the teachers of the sun cult sold charms and received rewards to perform ceremonies so that chosen worshipers might enter the sun-barque of Ra; while the Osirian priests promised the just and righteous that they would reach an agricultural Paradise where they could live and work as on earth, but receive a greater return for their labour, the harvests of the Otherworld being of unequaled abundance. There are pictorial guides to the Ancient Egyptian Underworld that were carved into coffins texts from the XVIIIth dynasty. Some of these pictorial guides have the Sekhet-Aaru (also known as Field of Reeds) divided into seven sections with a gate keeper, a watcher and a herald at each entrance:
Sekhet-hetepet. (From the Papyrus of Anhai–XXIInd Dynasty. 1040BC)
The Pythagorean Y in one of many interpretations is a meeting of three ways, as one dies to physical life there is a weighing of the soul and review of the life.
Those who are not ready to move to the more refined realms and who need more practice in matter or come into death totally unprepared , pass through the Gate on the dark side (left side)of the Moon facing the Earth and there await reincarnation.
Those who have made spiritual progress, mastering matter and have a sufficient level of awakening pass through the Gate or Portal on the light side (right side)of the Moon and move to the Elysian Fields which some interpret as being of the realm of the Sun.
The second direction allows the soul to be released from the cycle of earthly reincarnation.
This life is a way through crossroads like Pythagorean letter Y broad on the left narrow on the right.
That belongs to vice, this to virtue. Leave the left way turn away from vice.
The entrance is specious but the exit is turbid and precipitous.
Follow the right [way] though thorny no way is impassable.
Follow [where] this road leads through difficulties to glory (to the Sun/light).
Keep the middle and straight path which is safest.
Bridle in the wild horse of passion least you fall down headlong.
(from a Latin inscription)
Hagan, Helen “The ShiningOnes” Xlibris Corp @2000.