The worship of animals is a species of idolatry that was especially practiced by the ancient Egyptians. Temples were erected by this people in their honor, in which they were fed and cared for during life. To kill one of them was a crime punishable with death. After the death of these animals, they were embalmed, and interred in the catacombs. This worship was derived first from the earlier adoration of the stars, to certain constellations of which the names of animals had been given ; next, from an Egyptian tradition that the gods being pursued by Typhon, had concealed themselves under the forms of animals ; and 1astly, from the doctrine of the metempsychosis, according to which there was a continual circulation of the sculls of men and animals.
But behind the open and popular exercise of this degrading worship the priests concealed a symbolism full of philosophical conceptions.
Gliddon says, in his Otia Egyptiaea (page 94), that "Animal worship among the Egyptians was the natural and unavoidable consequence of the misconception, by the vulgar, of those emblematical figures invented by the priests to record their own philosophical conception of absurd ideas.
As the pictures and effigies suspended in early Christian churches, to commemorate a person or an event, became in time objects of worship to the vulgar, so, in Egypt, the esoteric or spiritual meaning of the emblems was lost in the gross materialism of the beholder. This esoteric and allegorical meaning was, however, preserved by the priests, and communicated in the mysteries alone to the initiated, while the uninstructed retained only the grosser conception."
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