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Home Book of Abraham Special Section The Books of Wandering Through Eternity & the Joseph Smith Book of Breathings - Ideologies Compared

The Books of Wandering Through Eternity & the Joseph Smith Book of Breathings - Ideologies Compared

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Religious Themes in The Books of Breathings and of Wandering Through Eternity

By Kerry A. Shirts

In reading Walter Wreszinski’s article "Das Buch vom Durchwandeln der Ewigkeit nach einer Stele im Vatikan," (Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache, 1908: 111-122), I was amazed to find so many similar themes and ideas in our Joseph Smith Book of Breathings. Here are some interesting themes and ideas I found with some rummaging around. Since I haven’t seen a lot of Egyptologists commenting on the Book of Wandering Through Eternity, I thought this was interesting to see the same themes crop up over and over again. I’ll give Wresinski’s comments in the German and then translate them and comment on them. I will also add what other scholars have noted about particular items and themes in these texts from the Egyptain point of view.

Wresinski says:

Der Gott von Edfu, der große Gott mit buntem Gefieder, der Atem gibt in die Nase der Toten. (p. 111)

The God of Edfu, the great God with colorful plumage, gives breath into the nose of the dead person.

My Comments:

The breath is an all important component of the Egyptian themes of death and resurrection as well as life. It is the same emphasis in our Book of Breathings, literally the "Sensen" text, which Egyptian word means "Breathing."

Rhodes in his translation says the Egyptain words "snsn=k r nh[h d.t]" reads "May you breathe forever [and ever]." (Michael Dennis Rhodes, "The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary," FARMS, 2002: 29).

Both books, the book of "Wandering Through Eternity" and the "Book of Breathings" have the idea of breathing as an important component. John H. Taylor in his finely illustrated book "Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt," (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2001: 199) notes the Book of Breathings and Book of Traversing Eternity were later funerary texts and "demonstrate that the texts have the character of divine decrees to grant new life to the deceased, notably giving him the ability to breathe."

Wrensinski then notes the book says:

Wir geben dir Glanz, die liebliche Luft des angenehmen Nordwindes, Kraft und Freudigkeit, indem Kinder auf deinem Sitze sind, dauernd, unvergänglich, immer und ewig. (p. 112)

We give you brilliance, the sweet air of the agreeable North-wind, strength and joyfulness, in that children are on your seat, permanent, immortal, forever and eternal.

My Comments:

This parallels very well with our Book of Breathings which says "may you give to him beautiful and useful things on the west [of Thebes] like the mountains of Manu." (Rhodes, p. 23). It also says "May you be happy," "May your soul live in the presence of Amon. May your body be renewed in the presence of Osiris. May you breathe forever and ever." (Rhodes, p. 29). "May you endure in life, prosperity, and health, having been established upon your throne in the Sacred Land." (Rhodes, p. 32).

Hugh Nibley gave notice of an inscription in the Tomb of Seti I which reads "when the blessed spirits [baw, ancestors] greet the arrival of Harachti with this hnw gesture, they wish him all protection, life, endurance, divine power, and joy." (Nibley, "Message of J.S. Papyri," p. 236). He further notes that Gardiner in his Grammar, at his sign list shows the heart with the windpipe together (which means "good and other related words), which Nibley says equates with being youthful, perfect, renewed, etc. (Message, p. 238).

These eternal blessings were pronounced in King Tut’s tomb as well with the formula

"shesep hotput djefau khet nebet nefret wabet en ka en wesir nesu"

"receive offerings, provisions and every good and pure thing for the ka of Osiris"

(Hany Assaad and Daniel Kolos, "The Name of the Dead: Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Treasures of Tutankhamun Translated," Mirror Press, Canada, 1979: 43).


Der Tote wird folgendermaßen angeredet

O du hn-k3 des Osiris, jmj-js, Priesters geboren von der M... Deine Seele lebt im Himmel bei Re, dein Ka ist göttlich vor den Göttern. Dein Leib dauert in der Unterwelt bei Osiris, dein Sah ist verklärt vor den Verklärten. (p. 115)

The dead person is addressed as follows

O you hn-k3 of the Osiris, jmj-js, priest born from that M... Your soul lives in the heaven with Re, your Ka is divinely before the God. Your body lasts in the underworld with Osiris, your s’h is transfigured before the transfigured.

My Comments:

To the Egyptian, the soul lived on. The body was preserved until the resurrection of the soul and body, as a divine being. The Ka, or soul is specifically identified as three things according to G. Van der Leeuw:

1. Der Ka ist das Lebensprinzip, unpersönliche Seelenkraft

2. Er is double, ein Doppelgänger

3. Er ist ein Schutzgeist

The Ka is the life-principle, the impersonal strength of or in the soul.

He/it is a stand-in, a double

He/it is a protection-spirit

(Van der Leeuw, "External Soul, Schutzgeist und der ägyptische Ka," in "Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache," 1918: 61).

It is this Ka, or doubkle of the person, along with the resurrected physical body that was made divine and made to breathe forever. Interestingly, he equates these descriptions as parallels to the "Malak Jahve," that is, the Angel of Jehovah in the Old Testament.

(Er ist die Person Jahves selbst, aber losgedacht von ihm, eine external soul der Gottheit. Eins mit ihm, tritt er gesondert von ihm auf)

He is Jahves the person, but free thought from him, an external soul of the deity. One with him, he (the Ka) steps apart from him (Jehovah). (p. 59).


Dein Erbe wächst auf Erden bei Keb, und dein Nachfolger ist vor dem lebenden. Dein Name dauert im Munde der Menschen wegen dieses Buches vom Durchwandeln der Ewigkeit. (p. 114)

Your inheritance grows with Keb on Earth, and your successor is before the living. Your name lasts in the mouth of the people because of this book of the Wandering through the Eternity.

My Comments:

Interestingly, with the Book of Breathings we find the importance of the text as well. Rhodes translates – "it is effective for a man in the god’s domain so that he might live again successfully millions of times." (Rhodes, p. 28). Nibley shows that the book is for the owner’s benefit in this life as well as the beyond! It is a "text book for life on earth, with useful and important information, e.g. about the secrets of nature, to guide the living as well as the dead." (Nibley, "Message," p. 89).

Walter Federn has shown that the Book of the Dead itself is for instructing the dead man how to be resurrected, and go on living forever. It is also a manual for the living. The living can transform themselves in this life as well, into better people, more righteous, etc. (W. Federn, "The ‘Transformations’ in the Coffin Texts: A New Approach," in "Journal of Near Eastern Studies," October, 1960: 245ff). Anthony Spalinger noted that the fesstival of Opet at the Luxor temple was "the premier shrine dedicated to the living, divine ruler; when the king approaches the god reverentially performing the rituals of the Opet Festival, his ka is renewed or restored, and his right to rule is reconfirmed." (A. Spalinger, "Soveriegnty and Theology in New Kingdom Egypt: Some Cases of Tradition," in "Saeculum," 1996-1997: 228). His ka, or double, was renewed while he was alive! His right to rule was reinstated because he would also have this right as he joined the company of the "Council of the Gods." (One of the inscriptions calls the Gods a council or group of them)

How one came into the company of the Council of the Gods is by the staircase. Abd El Hamid Ahmed Zayed has shown an inscription at Abydos that states: "I set up a ladder to heaven among the Gods, and I am one among them." The vignette accompanying this inscription shows Anubis, the Jackal headed God with a drawn knife within the staircase. (Cf. our Fac 1). It is on the divine ladder that the dead ascends to the Gods above. (Zayed, "The Staircase of the God in Abydos," in "Annales du Service," 1977: 169-170). Gardiner said the "psdjet dmd-ti" = the entire ennead (cycle of nine) of the gods." (Grammar, p. 241).


Du gehst heraus bei Tage, du vereinigst dich mit der strahlenden Sonnenscheibe, wenn sie deinem Antlitz leuchtet. (p. 115)

You go out by day, you unite with the beaming sun-disk, when your countenance shines.

My Comment:

In other words, the dead is being deified, or divinized, as the Sun God Re. Part of the dead’s divinity concists of the ability to both breathe, as well as wander about and travel all over the cosmos as Wreszinski now notes.


Deine Nasenlöcher ziehen die Luft ein, deine Nase atmet den Nordwind... und... deine Kehle holt Luft, und du nimmst das Leben auf in deinen Leib. (p. 115)

Your nostrils draw in the air, your nose breathes the North-wind... and... your throat gets air, and you accept the life into your body.

My comment:

Now because he is breathing, the candidate also is increased, so to speak with greater capacities according to Wreszinski.


Du öffnest deinen Mund, und du sprichst zu den Göttern; du gebietest vor den Verklärten. Du ißt Brot und trinkst Bier. Deine Majestät geht aus als lebende Seele. Geöffnet sind dir deine Augen, und erschlossen sind dir deine Ohren, daß du mit ihnen schauest und hörest. (p. 115)

You open your mouth, and you speak to the God; you have command before the transfigured. You eat bread and drink beer. Your majesty goes out as living soul. Your eyes are opened for you, and your ears are opened up for you, that you look [with your eyes] with hear [with your ears].

My comments:

Again, Rhodes demonstrates that this is precisely the point of the Book of Breathings as well. They are designed to make way for the resurrection of the dead back to youthful vigor, with all his senses restored to him/her and to live among the gods as a god. (Rhodes, p. 15). Rhodes notes the J.S. Book of Breathings says "May your soul make for you invocation offerings of bread, beef, beer, and foul. Libations and incense during the course of every day. Your flesh is on your bones, made like your form on earth." (Rhodes, p. 30).

Notice also the sacrament motif of eating bread and drinking beer. It is also physical sustenance. He is a commanding figure now. Interestingly, Nibley has the notion that the bread and wine can be traditional symbols, so to speak, of the Nile and the grain which grows on its banks. It is also the liquid of the waters of Nun, i.e. of creation! Nun is actually described as "Nwn pw it ntrw" = "The father of the gods." (Gardiner, Grammar, p. 105).

This has a cosmological setting that normally is not understood unless one knows the Egyptain symbolisms. The Nile was the life giving moisture. In the Book of Breathings 3279 the subject makes requests of Hapy, the innundation, for refreshment of heart or regeneration, and a happy old age in the resurrection. He receives the bread of Geb (the earth) and the lustrations of the Nile. (Nibley, "Message", p. 165). As Taylor noted, "In the ancient Egyptians’ view of the universe, the continued existence of the world and its inhabitants depended to a large degree on the fulfillment of natural cycles. The rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the motions of the stars, the annual flooding of the Nile, and the growth and death of plants were perceived as manifestations of potent creative forces and as reassuring sights that the ideal order of familiar things would continue indefinitely." (Taylor, "Death and Afterlife" p. 12).


Dieses dein Herz ist beständig an seinem rechten Flecke, dein Herz ruht auf seinem mk-t. Deine Eingeweide sind an dem Orte, an dem sie sein sollen, indem die Söhne des Gottes sie behüten. Deine Hände greifen, deine Sohlen schreiten, jedes Glied von dir tut seine Arbeit. Du ziehst einher als ein Wind, du huschst als ein Schatten dahin, du nimmst die Gestalt an, die immer du willst. (p. 116)

This your heart is permanently at its right spot, your heart rests on its mk-t. Your guts are at the place, at which it should be, in that the sons of the God guard them. Your hands grasp, your soles stride, each of your limbs does his work. You pull along as a wind, you scurry as a shadow there, you assume the shape that you always want.

My comments:

His body is able to live, move, and be animated in the heavens. He is alive in other words. Rhodes in his translation of the hypocephalus noted that in chapter 162 of the Book of the Dead, in Richard Lepsius’ "Todtenbuch" it reads in part, "You rise consistently shining forth and never ceasing to rise. You are a master of forms, who has numerous are a strong roarer in the midst of the Assembly of the Gods." (The Egyptian word "psdjet" literally means the "nine," which Hans Goedicke suggested to Rhodes meant Assembly of the Gods, as the strokes are plural) See Rhodes, ("A Translation and Commentary of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus," "BYU Studies," 17(Spring, 1977): 260-261).

The shadow that Wreszinski noted in the Book of Wanderings is the double, or the Ka of the man.

Interestingly, Wreszinski in commenting on exactly how he scurries about as a shadow, notes the hieroglyphics are the Horus hawk. Wreszinski notes "Erzeuger der Urgötter herrlicher Sperber, der als Falke fliegt; Metternichstele 225 beschützt sei Horus als großer Sperber, der fliegt am Himmel, auf der Erde und in der Unterwelt. (p. 116)

Translated reads:

The Father of the Urgötter, splendid Sparrow-hawk, that flies as a falcon; The Metternichstele 225 is protected by Horus as a big Sparrow-hawk, that flies to the heaven, on the earth and in the underworld. (Cf. the bird in Fac 1).

Gardiner in the "Grammar," noted that the Ka name or the "Horus name" of the kings in Egypt signified "the king as the earthly embodiment of the old falcon-god Horus…and as such was identified with the sun-god Re, himself." (p. 72). Elsewhere in the Grammar, Gardiner noted that " r pt m nrwt, prr.i hr tpt" = "whenever you go up to heaven as vultures, I go up on the tip of your wings." (p. 357).

Now comes perhaps the most interesting part of the Book of Wanderings Through Eternity. Wreszinski shows something remarkably interesting.


Wenn du dich zum Himmel erhebst, wird dein Arm nicht gehindert, wenn du zur Unterwelt niedersteigst, wirst du nicht abgehalten. Du wandelst auf dem Wege der Götter, die im Horizonte wohnen, und du bereitest deine Stätte bei den Bewohnern des Westens. Du umwandelst den Himmel hinter den... Gestirnen und umkreisest das Firmament der Unterwelt mit den Sternen. Du kommst als Bote der Herren des Horizontes und folgst denen die in der Unterwelt sind. Du vereinigst dich mit dem Herrn der Ewigkeit, wenn er am Tage aufgeht, und mit dem Herrn der Unendlichkeit, wenn er eintritt in der Nacht. Geöffnet ist dir diese Erde als einem Edlen der Lüfte.

when you rise to the heaven, your arm is not hindered, if you descend to the underworld, you are not kept away. You continue on the way of the Gods that live on the horizon, and you make ready your place with the Westerners. You circulate in the heavens in their times... You circumambulate with the stars in the heavens of the underworld. You come as the messenger of the Lords of the Horizon and accompany those that are in the underworld. You unite with the Lord of Eternity, when he rises on his course in the day, and with the Lord of Infinity, when he enters the night. This earth is opened for you as a noble one of the airs.

My comments:

Here we are brought grandly into the cosmology of these texts. Man is united with eternity, with the cosmos, and does so as a God. He can come and go as he pleases. As Hugh Nibley has noted, "the ultimate damnation for the Egyptian was to be deprived of identity and freedom to move about, having no claim to renewal in the cosmic cycle of things." (Nibley, "Message" p. 205). He now is properly the "neb-er-djer," "The Lord of the Universe." (Gardiner, Grammar, p. 62, ).

As Robert Ritner translates a portion of the J.S. Book of Breathings, "…again, so that he might unite with the horizon together with his father Re, [so that his ba-spirit might be made to appear gloriously in heaven in the moon disk, so that his corpse might shine in Orion within the body of the sky-goddess Nut,…]" (Robert K. Ritner, "The ‘Breathing Permit of Hor’ Thirty four Years Later," in "Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought," 33/4 (Winter, 2000): 106).

Michael Rhodes very interesting analysis of Facsimile #3 in the Book of Abraham is also worth noting. He describes the Facsimile, and points out that the figure behind the throne is wearing the horned moon disc headdress. On the ceiling of the Facsimile are painted stars! This is the cosmological setting here. (Rhodes, Book of Breathings, p. 23). Rhodes also translates the hieroglyphs in this facsimile which are seriously worth noting. The hieroglyphs on the bottom line are:

In ntr.w imn.t, ntr.w qrty.w, ntr.w rsy, mhty, imn.t, i3b.t: swd3 Wsir, Hr, m3’ hrw, ir n T3y-hy-by(.t).

The gods of the West, the gods of the cavern, the gods of the south, north, west, and east say: "May Osiris Hor, justified, born of Taykhebt, prosper." (Rhodes, Bk of Breathings, p. 25).

Rhodes also translates a portion of the Breathings text as follows:

"May you enter into the Horizon together with Re. May you receive your soul into the Neshmet boat with Osiris. May they make your soul divine in the House of Geb, since you are justified forever and ever." (Rhodes, Bk of Breathings, p. 29).

In the Book of Breathings 3284, the God Re, is called the "Far strider," showing he traverses Eternity, i.e. the sky continually in circulating rounds. (Rhodes, Bk of Breathing, p. 68).

This is further emphasized by Wreszinski:

Du schreitest zu dem Orte, zu dem du willst, du fährst nordwärts, und südwärts von Elephantine bis zum Delta an den Festen aller Götter. Du steigst auf die heilige Barke mit den Seligen, dein Sitz ist vorn im Götterschiff. (p. 118)

You proceed to the place, to which you want, you travel northwards, and southwards from Elephantine up to the delta at the festivals of all the Gods. You climb on the sacred Barke with the blessed ones, your seat is in the front of the Ship of the God.

My Comments:

To be allowed onto the ship of the God is to traverse eternity with the gods. This is one of the ultimate goals of the Egyptains.And this is another point to realize. Heaven is not a boring place where there are simply seats and seats row after row of happy folk with nothing else to do except sing forever. That isn’t heaven at all in this view. Heaven is to move, to travel, to enjoy seeing new sights, and enjoy good company. Heaven is learning, and working on our ignorance. There is nothing static about heaven in these views of these ancient documents anywhere. It is energetic, alive, diffuse, interesting. The ultimate blessing is to share these exciting learning and enjoying experiences with friends and family. And this is precisely how the Book of Wandering Through Eternity ends. It is a delight to contemplate.


Kraft, Freudigkeit, zu eilen bei Tag und Nacht im Horizonte der Ewigkeit... Dein Name bleibt und wächst, dein Haus dauert und hat Bestand auf Erden, indem dein Sohn gesegnet ist auf einem Sitze und deine Kindeskinder dauernd gemacht sind hinter dir, unvergänglich, immer und ewig.

Strength, joyfulness, hurry along with day and night in the horizon of the eternity... Your name remains and grows, your house lasts and has continuance on Earth, in that your son is blessed on a throne (seat) and your grandchildren are continually behind you, immortal, always and eternally (forever and ever).

My comments:

The value of reading the Egyptian ideas is the same as reading any other cultures’ ideas, ancient or modern. We can use them to compare our own assumptions about what we wish to have or be, or what we hope is truth or right or just. By comparing/contrasting ideologies, we become a better people. This is always one of the things that keeps me coming back to the Egyptians. I suspect they really were onto something significant and worth understanding.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 13:29  

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