Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt

By James Henry Breasted




Nature and the State Make Their Impression on Religion—Earliest Systems     3

Natural sources of the content of Egyptian religion chiefly two: the sun and the Nile or vegetation—The Sun-myth and the Solar theology—The national state makes its impression on religion—Re the Sun-god becomes the state god of Egypt—Osiris and his nature: he was Nile or the soil and the vegetation fructified by it—The Osiris-myth—Its early rise in the Delta and migration to Upper Egypt—Correlation of Solar and Osirian myths—Early appropriation of the Set-Horus feud by the Osirian myth—Solar group of nine divinities (Ennead) headed by the Sun-god early devised by the priests of Heliopolis—Early intimations of pantheism in Memphite theology—The first philosophico-religious system—Its world limited to Egypt.




Life after Death—The Sojourn in the Tomb—Death Makes Its Impression on Religion    48

(Period: earliest times to 25th century B.C.)

Earliest Egyptian thought revealed in mortuary practices—The conception of a person: ka (or protecting genius), body and soul—Reconstitution of personality after death—Maintenance of the dead in the tomb—Tomb-building—Earliest royal tombs—Tombs of the nobles—Earliest embalmment and burial—Royal aid in mortuary equipment—Tomb endowment—Origin of the pyramid, greatest symbol of the Sun-god—The pyramid and its buildings—Its dedication and protection—Its endowment, ritual, and maintenance—Inevitable decay of the pyramid—Survival of death a matter of material equipment.



Realms of the Dead—The Pyramid Texts—The Ascent to the Sky   70

(Period: 30th to 25th century B.C.)


The Pyramid Texts—The oldest chapter in the intellectual history of man—Earliest fragments before 3400 B.C.—Pyramid Texts represent a p. xxii period of a thousand years ending in 25th century B.C.—Their purpose to ensure the king felicity hereafter—Their reflection of the life of the age—Their dominant note protest against death—Content sixfold: (1) Funerary and mortuary ritual; (2) Magical charms; (3) Ancient ritual of worship; (4) Ancient religious hymns; (5) Fragments of old myths; (6) Prayers on behalf of the king—Haphazard arrangement—Literary form: parallelism of members—Occasional display of real literary quality—Method of employment—The sojourn of the dead in a distant place—The prominence of the east of the sky—The Stellar and Solar hereafter—The ascent to the sky.



Realms of the Dead—The Earliest Celestial Hereafter 118

(Period: 30th to 25th century B.C.)

Reception of the Pharaoh by the Sun-god—Association with the Sun-god—Identification with the Sun-god—The Pharaoh a cosmic figure superior to the Sun-god—Fellowship with the gods—Pharaoh devours the gods—The Pharaoh's food—The Island of the Tree of Life—The Pharaoh's protection against his enemies—Celestial felicity of the Pharaoh—Solar contrasted with Osirian hereafter—Earliest struggle of a state theology and a popular faith.



The Osirianization of the Hereafter   142

(Period: 30th to 25th century B.C.)

Osirian myth foreign to the celestial hereafter—Osiris not at first friendly to the dead—Osirian kingdom not celestial but subterranean—Filial piety of Horus and the Osirian hereafter—Identity of the dead Pharaoh and Osiris—Osiris gains a celestial hereafter—Osirianization of the Pyramid Texts—Conflict between state and popular religion—Traces of the process in the Pyramid Texts—Fusion of Solar and Osirian hereafter.



Emergence of the Moral Sense—Moral Worthiness and the Hereafter—Scepticism and the Problem of Suffering   165

(29th century to 18th century B.C.)

Religion first dealing with the material world—Emergence of the moral sense—Justice—Filial piety—Moral worthiness and the hereafter in tomb inscriptions—Earliest judgment of the dead—Moral justification in the Pyramid Texts—The Pharaoh not exempt from moral requirements in the p. xxiii hereafter—Moral justification not of Osirian but of Solar origin—The limitations of the earliest moral sense—The triumph of character over material agencies of immortality—The realm of the gods begins to become one of moral values—Ruined pyramids and futility of such means—Resulting scepticism and rise of subjective contemplation—Song of the harper—The problem of suffering and the unjustly afflicted—The "Misanthrope," the earliest Job.



The Social Forces Make Their Impression on Religion—The Earliest Social Regeneration   199

(Period: 22d to 18th century B.C.)

Appearance of the capacity to contemplate society—Discernment of the moral unworthiness of society—Scepticism—A royal sceptic—Earliest social prophets and their tractates—Ipuwor and his arraignment—The dream of the ideal ruler—Messianism—The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant and propaganda for social justice—Maxims of Ptahhotep—Righteousness and official optimism—Social justice becomes the official doctrine of the state—The "Installation of the Vizier"—Dialogue form of social and moral discussion and its origin in Egypt—Evidences of the social regeneration of the Feudal Age—Its origin in the Solar faith—Deepening sense of moral responsibility in the hereafter both Solar and Osirian.



Popularization of the Old Royal Hereafter—Triumph of Osiris—Conscience and the Book of the Dead—Magic and Morals   257

(Period: 22d century to 1350 B.C.)

Material equipment for the hereafter not abandoned—Maintenance of dead—The cemetery festivities of the people illustrated at Siut—Ephemeral character of the tomb and its maintenance evident as before—Value of the uttered word In the hereafter—The "Coffin Texts," the forerunners of the Book of the Dead—Predominance of the Solar and celestial hereafter—Intrusion of Osirian views—Resulting Solar-Osirian hereafter—Democratization of the hereafter—Its innumerable dangers—Consequent growth in the use of magic—Popular triumph of Osiris—His "Holy Sepulchre" at Abydos—The Osirian drama or "Passion Play"—Magic and increased recognition of its usefulness in the hereafter—The Book of the Dead—Largely made up of magical charms—Similar books—The judgment in the Book of the Dead—Conscience in graphic symbols—Sin not confessed as later—Magic enters world of morals and conscience—Resulting degeneration.



The Imperial Age—The World—State Makes Its Impression on Religion—Earliest Monotheism—Ikhnaton    312

(Period: 1580 to 1350 B.C.)

Nationalism in religion and thought—It yields to universalism after establishment of Egyptian Empire—Earliest evidences—Solar universalism under Amenhotep III—Opposition of Amon—Earliest national priesthood under High Priest of Amon—Amenhotep IV—His championship of Sun-god as "Aton"—His struggle with Amonite papacy—He annihilates Amon and the gods—He becomes "Ikhnaton"—Monotheism, Aton sole god of the Empire—A return to nature—Ethical content of Aton faith—The intellectual revolution—A world-religion premature—Ikhnaton the earliest "individual."



The Age of Personal Piety—Sacerdotalism and Final Decadence   344

(Period: 1350 B.C. on.)

Fall of Ikhnaton—Suppression of the Aton faith—Restoration of Amon—Influences of Aton faith survive—Their appearance in folk-religion of 13th and 12th centuries B.C.—Fatherly care and solicitude of God (as old as Feudal Age), together with elements of Aton faith, appear in a manifestation of personal piety among the common people—New spiritual relation with God, involving humility. confession of sin, and silent meditation—Morals of the sages and moral progress—Resignation to one's lot—Folk theology—Pantheism in a folk-tale—In Theology—Universal spread of mortuary practices—Increasing power of religious institutions—A state within the state—Sacerdotalism triumphs—Religion degenerates into usages, observances, and scribal conservation of the old writings—The retrospective age—Final decadence into the Osirianism of the Roman Empire.


Index    371



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