One of the most important insights which runs through the analysis of Alvin Boyd Kuhn is his understanding, based upon his reading of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and of ancient philosophers such as Plato, Euripides, and Plotinus (among others), that the condition described in the ancient texts and myths as death actually refers to the soul's condition when plunged into the realm of matter during this incarnate life -- a point missed by almost all modern scholars and researchers of ancient myth, who have perhaps been misled by nearly two centuries of literalistic interpretation of ancient wisdom: literalistic interpretation which has missed the metaphor entirely.
In Lost Light (1940), Alvin Boyd Kuhn writes:
We have the whole idea most tersely expressed in the Gorgias of Plato:
"But indeed, as you say also, life is a grievous thing. For I should not wonder if Euripides spoke the truth when he says: 'Who knows whether to live is not to die, and to die is not to live?' And we perhaps are in reality dead. For I have heard from one of the wise that we are now dead; and that the body is our sepulcher, but that the part of the soul in which the desires are contained is of such a nature that it can be persuaded and hurled upward and downwards."
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The great Plotinus (Enneads I, lviii) gives us a clear presentment of the Greek conception:
"When the soul had descended into generation (from this first divine condition) she partakes of evil and is carried a great way into a state the opposite of her first purity and integrity, to be entirely merged in it . . . and death to her is, while baptized or immersed in the present body, to descend into matter and be wholly subjected to it . . . This is what is meant by the falling asleep in Hades, of those who have come there." (Lost Light, 160 - 161).
The entire symbology of the great wheel of the heavenly cycles, such as the annual cycle of the year, whose renewing we celebrate at this time following the December solstice, allegorizes the endless interplay between light and darkness. We might initially think that the plunge down into the "lower half" of the year, when hours of darkness dominate over hours of daylight, would represent "death and the underworld" -- and they do! But in the ancient system, as explained by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, the concepts of "death" and the "underworld" are representative of this very life in the lower realm of matter and incarnation:
As Kuhn explains elsewhere: "Here is philosophical testimony that negates the existence of any hell or underworld below life in the body. Any observer of human life knows that it is possible for the soul to fall to the most abject baseness while in the body. We are in the lowest of the hells -- Amenta" (204).
Based upon this interpretation, Kuhn believes that the descriptions of "judgment" which ancient scriptures such as the sacred texts of ancient Egypt and of the Bible depict as taking place after death are actual describing a process which takes place during this incarnate life-- during which we are supposed to be working on our "spiritual body" or our "robe of light and glory" (576 - 577). This is a process which, according to the ancient wisdom imparted in the myths, is not accomplished in a single lifetime, but rather in a long cycle of incarnations (see 199 - 200).
According to Kuhn's analysis of the ancient myths, "Incarnation was regarded as a continuing experience, the periodical rhythm of release from the body no more breaking the sequence of lives than does our nightly sleep break the continuity of the experience of the days" (161).
The indestructibility of the soul through the cycles of incarnation is attested to by many ancient texts. As Alvin Boyd Kuhn describes the imperishable soul in one memorable paragraph in Lost Light:
It was on earth to trace its line of progress through the ranges of the elements and the kingdoms, harvesting its varied experiences at the end of each cycle. It was described by greek philosophy as "more ancient than the body," because it had run the cycle of incarnations in many bodies, donning and doffing them as garments of contact with lower worlds, so that it might treasure up the powers of all life garnered in experience in every form of it. The mutual relation of soul to body in each of its incarnate periods is the nub of the ancient philosophy, and the core of all Biblical meaning. As the Egyptian Book of the Dead most majestically phrases it, the soul, projecting itself into one physical embodiment after another, "steppeth onward through eternity." No more solid foundation for salutary philosophy can be laid than this rock of knowledge, and civilization will flounder in perilous misadventure until this datum of intellectual certitude is restored to common thought. 41.
Alvin Boyd Kuhn believes that the symbology of the ship of Ra in ancient Egypt corresponded to the eventual transcendence of this cycle of incarnation -- and that it is constructed in the "inner sanctuary" of each man or woman during those cycles. Kuhn writes:
It is evident that the tabernacle which the Eternal ordered Moses to build, in which he might dwell with his children, the Israelites, and eventually be raised up, is but another form of typism for the inner shrine of the sanctuary, the holy of holies in the ark of the covenant. And this in turn is depicted under the water emblemism as the ship of the sun, or the boat of Ra. The exchange of passengers from the boat of Horus to the ship of Ra betokened the successful completion of the incarnation cycles. It was the index of their new birth, which was not now that of water. [. . .] The material of the ship of Ra is imperishable stuff, formed out of the indestructible essence of solar light. Imprisoned for many incarnations in the tabernacle of the flesh, we finally are released from it, to pass over into another temple of shining glory, our true spirit body. One of the great purposes of our coming into the world is to build this fabric. When it is finished we exchange our house of darkness for this vessel of light. This is most plainly indicated in a sentence on a Chaldean tablet: "O man of Surippak, son of Ubarratutu, destroy the house and build a ship." A house is stationary, bound to a given locale. A ship is mobile. In the glorious vesture of the sun-body the soul of man can traverse all realms and worlds with electric alacrity. When the Osiris obtains command over the upper sea he exclaims: "Collector of souls is the name of my bark. The picture of it is the representation of my glorious journey upon the canal." 411.
Through these incredible symbolic allegories, the ancient myths given to humanity (at some point in extreme antiquity, predating the earliest texts of Egypt and Mesopotamia) endeavor to convey to our understanding the nature of our sojourn here in this incarnate life -- and to assure us that the soul does not die: its "periodic release from the body no more breaking the sequence of lives than does our nightly sleep break the continuity of the experience of the days," as the soul "steppeth onward through eternity."