Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt

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Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt

By James Henry Breasted

Epitome of the Development

Nature furnishes the earliest gods—The national state makes early impression on religion—Its forms pass over into the world of the gods—Their origin and function in nature retire into the background—The gods become active in the sphere of human affairs—They are intellectualized and spiritualized till the human arena becomes their domain—The gods are correlated into a general system—In the conception of death and the hereafter we find a glorious celestial realm reserved exclusively for kings and possibly nobles—Herein, too, we discern the emergence of the moral sense and the inner life in their influence on religion—Recognition of futility of material agencies in the hereafter and resulting scepticism—Appearance of the capacity to contemplate society—Recognition of the moral unworthiness of society and resulting scepticism—The cry for social justice—The social forces make their impression on religion—Resulting democratization of the formerly royal hereafter—Magic invades the realm of morals—The Empire (the international state) and political universalism so impress religion that the "world-idea" emerges and monotheism results—Earliest manifestation of personal piety growing out of paternal monotheism and the older social justice—The individual in religion—The age of the psalmist and the sage—Sacerdotalism triumphs, resulting in intellectual stagnation, the inertia of thoughtless acceptance, and the development ceases in scribal conservation of the old teachings—The retrospective age—A religious development of three thousand years analogous in the main points to that of the Hebrews.



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