DEVELOPMENT OF RELIGION AND THOUGHT IN ANCIENT EGYPT:
Lectures delivered on the Morse Foundation at Union theological seminary.
by James Henry Breasted
London : Hodder & Stoughton
CONTRARY to the popular and current impression, the most important body of sacred literature in Egypt is not the Book of the Dead, but a much older literature which we now call the "Pyramid Texts." These texts, preserved in the Fifth and Sixth Dynasty Pyramids at Sakkara, form the oldest body of literature surviving from the ancient world and disclose to us the earliest chapter in the intellectual history of man as preserved to modern times. They are to the study of Egyptian language and civilization what the Vedas have been in the study of early East Indian and Aryan culture. Discovered in 1880-81, they were published by Maspero in a pioneer edition which will always remain a great achievement and a landmark in the history of Egyptology. The fact that progress has been made in the publication of such epigraphic work is no reflection upon the devoted labors of the distinguished first editor of the Pyramid Texts. The appearance last year of the exhaustive standard edition of the hieroglyphic text at the hands of Sethe after years of study and arrangement marks a new epoch in the study of earliest Egyptian life and religion. How comparatively inaccessible the Pyramid Texts have been until the appearance of Sethe's edition is best illustrated by the fact that no complete analysis or full account of the Pyramid Texts as a whole has ever appeared in English, much less an English version of them. The great and complicated fabric of life which they reflect to us, the religious and intellectual
forces which have left their traces in them, the intrusion of the Osiris faith and the Osirian editing by the hand of the earliest redactor in literary history--all these and many other fundamental disclosures of this earliest body of literature have hitherto been inaccessible to the English reader, and as far as they are new, also to all.
It was therefore with peculiar pleasure that just after the appearance of Sethe's edition of the Pyramid Texts I received President Francis Brown's very cordial invitation to deliver the Morse Lectures at Union Theological Seminary on some subject in Egyptian life and civilization. While it was obviously desirable at this juncture to choose a subject which would involve some account of the Pyramid Texts, it was equally desirable to assign them their proper place in the development of Egyptian civilization. This latter desideratum led to a rather more ambitious subject than the time available before the delivery of the lectures would permit to treat exhaustively, viz., to trace the development of Egyptian religion in its relation to life and thought, as, for example, it has been done for the Hebrews by modern critical and historical study. In the study of Egyptian religion hitherto the effort has perhaps necessarily been to produce a kind of historical encyclopedia of the subject. Owing to their vast extent, the mere bulk of the materials available, this method of study and presentation has resulted in a very complicated and detailed picture in which the great drift of the development as the successive forces of civilization dominated has not been discernible. There has heretofore been little attempt to correlate with religion the other great categories of life and civilization which shaped it. I do not mean that these relationships have not been noticed in certain epochs, especially where they have been so obvious as
hardly to be overlooked, but no systematic effort has yet been made to trace from beginning to end the leading categories of life, thought, and civilization as they successively made their mark on religion, or to follow religion from age to age, disclosing especially how it was shaped by these influences, and how it in its turn reacted on society.
I should have been very glad if this initial effort at such a reconstruction might have attempted a more detailed analysis of the basic documents upon which it rests, and if in several places it might have been broadened and extended to include more categories. That surprising group of pamphleteers who made the earliest crusade for social justice and brought about the earliest social regeneration four thousand years ago (Lecture VII) should be further studied in detail in their bearing on the mental and religious attitude of the remarkable age to which they belonged. I am well aware also of the importance and desirability of a full treatment of cult and ritual in such a reconstruction as that here attempted, but I have been obliged to limit the discussion of this subject chiefly to mortuary ritual and observances, trusting that I have not overlooked facts of importance for our purpose discernible in the temple cult. In the space and time at my disposal for this course of lectures it has not been possible to adduce all the material which I had, nor to follow down each attractive vista which frequently opened so temptingly. I have not undertaken the problem of origins in many directions, like that of sacred animals so prominent in Egypt. Indeed Re and Osiris are so largely anthropomorphic that, in dealing as I have chiefly with the Solar and Osirian faiths, it was not necessary. In the age discussed these two highest gods were altogether human and highly spiritualized, though the thought of Re displays occasional
relapses, as it were, in the current allusions to the falcon, with which he was so early associated. Another subject passed by is the concept of sacrifice, which I have not discussed at all. There is likewise no systematic discussion of the idea of a god's power, though the material for such a discussion will be found here. I would have been glad to devote a lecture to this subject, especially in its relation to magic as a vague and colossal inexorability to which when invoked even the highest god must bow. Only Amenhotep IV (Ikhnaton) seems to have outgrown it, because Oriental magic is so largely demoniac and Amenhotep IV as a monotheist banished the demons and the host of gods.
It will be seen, then, that no rigid outline of categories has been set up. I have taken those aspects of Egyptian religion and thought in which the development and expansion could be most clearly traced, the endeavor being especially to determine the order and succession of those influences which determine the course and character of religious development. It is of course evident that no such influence works at any time to the exclusion of all the others, but there are epochs when, for example, the influence of the state on religion and religious thought first becomes noticeable and a determining force. The same thing is true of the social forces as distinguished from those of the state organization. This is not an endeavor, then, to trace each category from beginning to end, but to establish the order in which the different influences which created Egyptian religion successively became the determining forces. Beginning shortly after 3000 B.C. the surviving documents are, I think, sufficient to disclose these influences in chronological order as they will be found in the "Epitome of the Development" which follows this
preface. Under these circumstances little effort to correlate the phenomena adduced with those of other religions has been made. May I remind the reader of technical attainments also, that the lectures were designed for a popular audience and were written accordingly?
Although we are still in the beginning of the study of Egyptian religion, and although I would gladly have carried these researches much further, I believe that the reconstruction here presented will in the main stand, and that the inevitable alterations and differences of opinion resulting from the constant progress in such a field of research will concern chiefly the details. That the general drift of the religious development in Egypt is analogous to that of the Hebrews is a fact of confirmative value not without interest to students of Comparative Religion and of the Old Testament.
I have been careful to make due acknowledgment in the foot-notes of my indebtedness to the labors of other scholars. The obligation of all scholars in this field to the researches of Erman and Maspero is proverbial, and, as we have said, in his new edition of the Pyramid Texts Sethe has raised a notable monument to his exhaustive knowledge of this subject to which every student of civilization is indebted. May I venture to express the hope that this exposition of religion in the making, during a period of three thousand years, may serve not only as a general survey of the development in the higher life of a great people beginning in the earliest age of man which we can discern at the present day, but also to emphasize the truth that the process of religion-making has never ceased and that the same forces which shaped religion in ancient Egypt are still operative in our own midst and continue to mould our own religion to-day?
The reader should note that half brackets indicate some uncertainty in the rendering of all words so enclosed; brackets enclose words wholly restored, and where the half brackets are combined with the brackets the restoration is uncertain. Parentheses enclose explanatory words not in the original, and dots indicate intentional omission in the translation of an original. Quotations from modern authors are so rare in the volume, and so evident when made, that the reader may regard practically all passages in quotation marks as renderings from an original document. All abbreviations will be intelligible except BAR, which designates the author's Ancient Records of Egypt (five volumes, Chicago, 1905-07), the Roman indicating the volume, and the Arabic the paragraph.
In conclusion, it is a pleasant duty to express my indebtedness to my friend and one-time pupil, Dr. Caroline Ransom, of the Metropolitan Museum, for her kindness in reading the entire page-proof, while for a similar service, as well as the irksome task of preparing the index, I am under great obligation to the goodness of Dr. Charles R. Gillett, of Union Theological Seminary.
JAMES HENRY BREASTED.
The University of Chicago,
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.
NATURE AND THE STATE MAKE THEIR IMPRESSION ON RELIGION--EARLIEST SYSTEMS
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 -religious system--Its world limited to Egypt.
LIFE AFTER DEATH--THE SOJOURN IN THE TOMB--DEATH MAKES ITS IMPRESSION ON RELIGION
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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.
BEGINNING OF THE DYNASTIES WITH MENES, ABOUT 3400 B.C.
EARLY DYNASTIES, I AND II, ABOUT 3400 TO 2980 B.C.
OLD KINGDOM OR PYRAMID AGE, DYNASTIES III TO VI, 2980 TO 2475 B.C., ROUGHLY THE FIRST FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM B.C.
MIDDLE KINGDOM OR FEUDAL AGE, DYNASTIES XI AND XII, 2160 TO 1788 B.C.
THE EMPIRE, DYNASTIES XVIII TO XX FIRST HALF ONLY), ABOUT 1580 TO 1150 B.C.
DECADENCE, DYNASTIES XX (SECOND HALF) TO XXV, ABOUT 1150 TO 660 B.C.
RESTORATION, DYNASTY XXVI, 663 TO 525 B.C.
PERSIAN CONQUEST, 525 B.C.
GREEK CONQUEST, 332 B.C.
ROMAN CONQUEST, 30 B.C.