What Osiris said to Atum:What does it mean that I must go to the desert of the kingdom of the dead? It has no water, it has no air, it is so deep, so dark, so endless.You will live there in peace of mind.But no sexual pleasure can be had there.I have given transfiguration instead of sexual pleasure, water and air, peace of mind instead of bread and beer.But how painful it is for me not to see your face.I will not allow you to suffer want.What is the duration of life?You will have millions of millions. Life there lasts for millions. But I will destroy everything that I have created. This earth will return to the Nun, to the deluge, as in its primal state.
Here are some thoughts to ponder. A fragment of this Egyptian story is found in two places: the Coffin Texts of the 12th Dynasty and the papyrus of Cha in Turin, 18th Dynasty. It’s final resting place (pun intended) was in the Book of the Dead, as one of its many ‘Sayings.’ But if the average person—papa Joe or granny Smith—was asked what the “meaning” of this fragment is, a wide variety of guesses could be offered. Perhaps it’s about the end of the world, with its destruction of all human life on earth. Or perhaps it’s about life after death, and the preservation of a god in the realm of the underworld. Some might even guess that it’s about existence between two worlds, between an old creation and a new creation.
All of these have elements worth serious consideration, but none on their own are entirely accurate. For those of us today who presume that this text has a surface-level “meaning” that’s obvious, let me challenge your presumptions with this fact: This text is an ancient temple text. It’s not about the end of the world. It’s not about the destruction of all human life on this globe we call “earth.” It’s not even ‘about’ existence of gods between two worlds. It was about the destruction of sacred land with it’s central sanctuary where all the gods and their worshipers dwelled at the time, and the destiny of Osiris by Atum in that soon-coming destruction. It was also an ancient lament of ‘Mankind’ about that judgement by Atum, as portrayed through the mouth of the gods they had been worshipping.