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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Book of Coming Forth by Day, The (Pert Em Hru, also known as The Book of the Dead) From about four thousand years ago, the Egyptian document titled The Book of Coming Forth by Day was placed in the sarcophagus alongside the mummified body of an important person. This guide to the underworld, the text of which was often also drawn or inscribed on the tomb walls, was intended to instruct the ka (spirit) of the deceased in the proper protocol for facing the perils to be encountered after death.
      In reality, it contained a long list of formulas that could be recited to ward off the penalties that might be incurred. It was a sort of Egyptian version of a Christian Indulgence, a magical system to defeat the intent of the gods or to placate them.
      Before the problem of reading Egyptian hieroglyphics had been solved, a copy of this document on the original papyrus was purchased by the elders of the Mormon Church and was divinely interpreted by them to be a lost book of the Bible that established their religion as orthodox, a claim maintained even after it was clear that the book was no such thing. The explanation now offered by the church spokesmen is that there are really two translations of the book, one mundane and the other divine. To some people, this is not a convincing argument.

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