Copyright © 2016 by Yehuda Rotblum
Paradise is not an earthly entity it is a concept that exists only in our imagination. It is a grand idea created by astute minds that invented a utopian final resting place. A paradise is a steady place of plentiful, a place where life is without any worries, a place that all your needs is provided. Plato(c.428–c.348 BC) called it “indestructible, immortal and divine”.
Paradise in Egypt
From the Egyptian, their scriptures the Pyramid Text from Egypt’s Old Kingdom (2500 BC) and monuments we learn that they believed of such a place, which exist in the sky region where the “Imperishable Stars” shines.
Fig. 1 Pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu, the shafts directed toward the dwelling place of the gods in the sky.
The Great Pyramid design at Giza describes the path to Paradise. It is Pharaoh Khufu’s burial site (Fig. 1), it contains two shafts that extend in the directions toward the North Star and Orion constellation. These ascending shafts are narrow channels from the burial chamber directed to the outside world. Their direction allows Pharaoh’s soul to rise directly from its burial site to the regions of Orion and the North Star. This path maps the way that Pharaoh’s soul travels toward heaven. It starts from Earth, the burial place, and continues through the Underworld, through Orion constellation and finally reaches Heaven, which is in the location of the immortal stars around North Star. We learn about this idea from the Egyptian Book of the Dead passage that describes Pharaoh’s rise to heaven: ‘He joins Orion (Osiris) and his companion Sirius. They continue their way along the cosmic aisle… the dead souls are anxious to join the Immortal Stars’.
Fig. 2 North star region
Where is Paradise?
The ancients imagined Paradise and drew it. Fig. 3 illustrates versions of Paradise by various cultures. The tree of life dominates the scene with two branches, two hanging fruits, the coiling snake as if originating from the same master copy! A tree is a universal idea of immortality since it dies and rejuvenates every year. The fruits are a potent symbol of immortality, it is the natural organ that carries the seed of new life.
Fig. 3 Scenes of paradise in different cultures: The tree of life with the two hanging fruits of paradise
Fig. 4 shows symbolic Paradise scenes from Egypt, Negev Desert, and Sumer. The right drawing called the Newby Palette was found in a pre-dynastic Egyptian tomb. The left scene shows paradise from Sumer and the middle is a Negev rock art version. The likeness of Paradise abstractions is astonishing; they date to about 3,000 BC.
The central upright symbol, in each abstraction in Fig. 4, is a tree of life emanating from the earth and reaching heaven. The two adjacent lines at the treetop symbolize the Fruits of Paradise, an abstraction of the two lonely stars hanging from Ursa Minor wagon. The snake, the Paradise guardian, wraps himself around the tree to protect this place, a rest for souls. He represents the constellation Draco winding through the center of Paradise between Ursa Major and Minor. The circle on top symbolizes the North Star – the location of Paradise!
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.