The Vignette which accompanies Chapter 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead depicts the famous scene of The Weighing of the Heart. Between the great columns which support the Hall of Twofold Truth stands Osiris Ani. He has passed through the portals of death, and before he can proceed upon his journey his past earth-existence must be evaluated. In one scale of the Balance of Justice rests his heart, in the other the Feather of Truth. Is the heart undefiled, guileless and true; or has it become heavy with cupidity, sloth, or self-love? Horus stands in the center and observes the weight.
At this fateful moment no word is necessary. No supplications, no justifications, no specious sophistries avail. The Scales, presided over by Maat, inexorable Goddess of Truth, mark with impersonal exactness the worth or lack of worth of the pilgrim. Osiris, the sun-god, waits in an inner chamber while Thoth notes down upon his tablet the record of the life just over. What his report will be determines whether the pilgrim can continue to the solar heart or must enter for a time the purgatorial fires.
Thus in ancient days did the Egyptian hierophants by this graphic symbol teach to countless generations the secret of the after-death state. What must have been the psychological effect of such a vivid representation upon even the uninitiated people? And how would the knowledge of such a teaching affect the actions of men today? For this is not merely a relic of Egyptian religious ritual. Osiris Ani is Everyman, who must witness his own judgment after death. He must watch himself being prepared for the sifting process by which his "sins are separated from his soul," as the Egyptians phrased it, before, freed and purified, he can pass on to the "heaven-world."
How futile at this supreme hour will appear all the deceptions of the past life: the tortuous arguments with which we justified our actions; the elaborate mayas we wrapped about ourselves, living in a fool's country of self-made dreams! How transparent the insincerities will become with which we cheated ourselves — and others; while within the secret chambers of the heart earthiness and corruption were entertained!
On the other hand, to one whose life, strive as he would, was clouded in confusions and misunderstandings, failures and disappointments, the weighing of the heart may bring an infinite peace and consolation, if through every trial and difficulty he has "kept his heart with all diligence." For this keeping of the heart means that he has held faithful to the behests of the Dweller within as far as his undeveloped capacities will allow. To do this consistently in all the occasions of life is no trifling task. The temptation to compromise, to put up a pleasing front to the world, to say the half-truth, to "play safe," to refuse to think when thinking reveals unpleasant things — all these temptations appear so plausible that we persuade ourselves we have solved the problems of living by making use of them. But the heart suffers meanwhile and becomes weighted down by these counterfeits; for each measure of deception, insincerity, prevarication or indolence that we indulge in adds its modicum of weight little by little through the years of our life, and thus we are, through ignorance, preparing an unfortunate after-death judgment for ourselves — ourselves working against our own best interests.
Purification of the heart requires an assiduity and alertness, a fidelity and strength of purpose that nothing can overthrow. It is the beginning and end of all progress; because this mystic heart, of which the physical vital organ is but a poor representative on earth, is the channel by means of which the human self contacts its divine original. May this, perhaps, account for that indefinable quality, that warmth, that radiance, surrounding those who live the heart-life even in minor degree? A little of the celestial light shines through?
"Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" — for they shall be found true in the trial of the Scales of Justice; and death shall mean for them a passing on into the presence of Osiris, the god whose sun-splendor they have earned the right to share consciously.