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James Bonwick


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\* For notices of the Press see end of the Volume.









\The rights of tra?islatwn a?id of reproduction are reserved.



The author's simple design in this work, as in the
" Pyramid Facts and Fancies," was to collect information
for those with little leisure for research.

In this age of enquiry, when the foundations of belief
are being rudely disturbed, when ancient authority is less
respected as it is discovered less reasonable and worthy,
but when men, as ever, seek to know what can be known
of the Future Life, a resume of the doctrines of the wise
Egyptians cannot be unacceptable. No other race so
dwelt upon the life to come.

The frontispiece illustrates the hopes of the Nile men.
It was taken from the coffin of Aroeri-Ao, a priest of
Ammon. The red figure is the dying Egyptian. The
heavenly ^lue one is the resurrected person, with his arms
extended toward the representation of Nout, the goddess
of celestial space. On each side is the god Kneph-Ra,
the sun- spirit, who was the risen and the returning one ;
consequently, the type of the human soul.

Whether the wonderful religion of Egypt was evolved
from inner consciousness, or appeared as fragments of a

vi Preface.

primitively revealed faith, it is not less the fact that the
sacerdotal notions of other nations seem mysteriously
related to it. In that supposed birthplace of Symbolism
many find the genesis of religious ideas.

While the Pyramid Age is placed variously from B.C.
2700 to B.C. 4500, it is astonishing to find that, at least,
five thousand years ago men trusted an Osiris as the
risen Saviour, and confidently hoped to rise, as he arose,
from the grave.

The writer had no views of his own to propound. He
honestly sought to gather the facts of ancient religion.
The relation of these to Modern Thought was too obvious
to need observations of his own. The necessary con-
densation of a mass of material within a limited space
has occasioned some sacrifice of literary proprieties, for
which the indulgence of the critic is requested.

Vale of Health, Hampstead,
May I, 1878.



Primitive Religion of Egypt ...... i

Funeral Rites of the Egyptians 7

Immortality of the Soul 36

Amenti or Hades 46

Heaven 54

Purgatory 58

Hell 62

Resurrection of the Dead 68

Re-Incarnation ; or, Transmigration of Souls . . 78

Gods and their Meaning 85

The Myth of Osiris 162

Egyptian Bible 185

^Symbolic Religion 206

Animal Worship 225

Tree Worship 239

Ancestor Worship 245

King Worship : . . . 247

Sex Worship 255

Serpent Worship .262

Sun Worship 276

Sphinx Worship 292

viii Contents.


Obelisk Worship .300

Pyramid Worship 306

SiRius Worship 3^3

Star Worship 320

Religion of Magic 333

Religion of the Mysteries 345

Priests and Priestesses 351

Temple Worship 362

-^Sacrifices 374

Prayers 379

Unity of God 386

The Trinity 396

Messiah and Logos Worship 402

The Millennium 410

The Sabbath Day *. . . . 412

Circumcision 414

Baptism and the Eucharist . . ... 416

The Last Judgment 419

Conclusion 423

Appendix A— Origin of the Ancient Egyptians . . 427
Appendix B— The Exodus 447

dtgiipthtit Relief aittr Patrcnt S^Ijffitglfet.


THE Egyptians were the earliest civilised people of
whom we have any knowledge, though there is some
reason to believe that they came as settlers among the
barbarous aborigines by the Nile, bringing their civilisa-
tion from some other land. Our Interest in the people is
natural ; for, as Mr. Samuel Sharpe, the Egyptologist, ob-
serves, "The Egyptian mind still has a most important
influence upon our modern civilisation."

It Is now generally granted by Egyptologists that the
empire was founded about 5000 years before the Christian
era, and that even then there was an established religion.
Before king Menes, the gods were said to have governed
the country. This, possibly, implies a sacerdotal rule pre-
ceding the monarchical, and suggests an advanced condition
of society. We must go far further back in the prehistoric
ages for our investigations of the origin of the religion of

While a certain unity of structure can be detected in the
organized faith, and while the main features of the theology
are seen comparatively unaltered for thousands of years,
yet certain arrests of this flow of ideas, as if from intrusive
foreign forces, are not the less conspicuous. When the
image of Cephren, builder of the Second Pyramid, was


2 Egyptian Belief and Modemt Thought,

thrust into the well of the sphinx temple, one of these
disturbing agencies was doubtless at work. Another con-
vulsion took place at the close of the thirteenth dynasty.
The irruption of the Hycsos, or Shepherd Kings, form-
ing the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth dynasties, was
another serious interruption. The Sun Disk worship was
an important revolution under part of the eighteenth
dynasty, as it was a royal attack upon the gods and
images of Egypt. Other changes came in the twenty-
second dynasty. A dreary, dreamy pantheism ultimately
followed, dulling the national conscience, enfeebling the
national character, and preparing the grave of national

What the religion was during the Pyramid days, B.C.
4000, may be ascertained in this work ; but the anxious
enquiry of many will be, — how came that development of
opinion }

Some seek an explanation from the Vedas of India.
But the Bible of Egypt, the Ritual of tJie Dead, is, in part
at least, a couple of thousand years older. Yet both
imply a long period of anterior development. One school
of thought is satisfied with the doctrine of Degradation ;
that is, a primitive revelation, and a subsequent departure
from light. The Progressionists, on the contrary, trace
religion from the dim dawn of human intelligence. Both
Vedas and Ritual declare themselves inspired by the gods.
One writer says, —

" When a voice entered into me, I gave it birth."

Religious difficulties led the Roman Catholic Dr. New-
man to affirm, " To act you must assume, and that assump-
tion is faith." But, as Leslie Stephen adds, "To assume
the doctrine may be the best or only way of testing its
truth. But, while this is perfectly true of belief, it is not

Primitive Religion of Egypt. 3

of right belief." It is easier to assume a Church as the
depository of truth than to prove it to be so.

In the same way, an Egyptian under the Pharaohs might
assume the priests to be right, and be confirmed in his
faith from the long continuance of that form of religion.
But the man of the Pyramid age might, possibly, object
to that position, and ask whether there was a time when
Osiris and Anubis were unknown. He might say, " Did
my ancestors always deem it necessary to have Anubis as
conductor of souls V or, "What made them think the soul
went to Hades at all V

He would have been, doubtless, speedily stopped in his
speculations by the priest of the period, and have been told
that inquiry was doubt, and doubt was sin. Alarm of
conscience midit induce him to bind himself anew with
the fetters of the Infallibility of his Church. If not, he
would become a cynic, or plunge alone in the maze of
metaphysical theology.

What, then, was the more ancient religion t " Is there,"
asks Mr. Distant, " a primeval germ that has given birth
to all the great religious institutions of the world ?" We
must, however, carefully remember that one key will not
open all locks.

Dr. Eugene Flotard says, " It is easy, in running
through all the hymns of the Rig Veda with attention,
to discover the vestiges of this ancient religion." But
he styles the book "the most ancient monument of
Naturalism or adoration of the deified physical nature ; "
though, while perceiving nature worship, he is conscious
of some spiritual breath there. Zoroaster condemned the
Vedas as opposed to the primitive faith, which, with him,
had a God. Prof Whitney, of Yale, finds there " an almost
pure nature worship." Plutarch calls the ancient religion
" nothing more than a system of physics, a picture of the

4 Egyptian Belief and Modern Tkongkt.

operations of nature, wrapped up in mysterious allegories
and enigmatical symbols." Jamieson, in his Celestial
Atlas, remarks, " the science of the learned Egyptians was
their religion." " All voices," adds a French writer, " lead
man into the world of the elements." But, as the Cam-
bridge Christian advocate, Hardwick, finely observes, '' Such
veneration of the elements may not indeed have con-
sciously involved the worshipper at first in a denial of
God's sovereignty. He may have read in them the tokens,
symbols and agents of a spiritual intelligence."

The Assyrian first religion has been equally charged
with being nature worship. Mr. St. Chad Boscawen, while
thinking "its pantheon was composed of deifications of
nature-powers," admits that other Assyriologists, as Lenor-
mant and Sayce, are not 6f his opinion.

Others look to the starry skies for the solution. But, as
the authoress of " Mazzaroth " shrewdly suggests, " the first
religion was the oris^in of the emblems of the constella-
tions," and " it has not been conjectured why the constella-
tions should have been so designated as to give rise to
these stories." The learned writer of "Veritas," Mr.
Melville, interprets the mythological stories by the con-
stellations, according to a rigorous system of laws, from
which there can be no deviation, or which give no play
to fancy.

Ancestor worship has been also regarded as the prim-
eval faith. But, as it supposes the ancestors to be glorified
spirits^ there is a something behind the doctrine of an
earlier date, and even an anterior conception of Deity.

The author of " Sirius,— I'origine de I'idolatrie," takes
the Dogstar, the barker, as one exponent of the idea of
thunder being the first association with the supernatural,
since the ancients applied such noises " to the denomination
of the Thundering Beingr

Primitive Religion of Egypt, '5

Fetishism is esteemed by others the earliest conception ;
though Hudson Tuttle beUeves "fetishism, polytheism
and monotheism are but expressions of one religion, differ-
ing only in degree." Maury says, " The religion of the
savage is a superstitious naturalism, an incoherent fe-
tishism." Burton finds the negro '' believes in a ghost, but
not in spirits ; in a present immaterial, not in a future."
Sir John Lubbock tells us that " a fetish is intended to
bring the Deity within the control of man." But does not
this suppose the man to have some notion of Deity t His
fetish is simply "the abode of the Deity." This fetishism
does not, as one observes, "touch the bottom of the abyss."
The Rev. J. Allanson Picton traces the progress " from
brute stolidity to fetishism, from fetishism to symbolic
nature worship, from nature worship to prophetic religions."

Max Miiller is, perhaps, our highest authority upon this
subject, and the least positive of any. " Mythology," says
he, "as a whole I have always regarded as a complete
period of thought, inevitable, I believe, in the development
of human thought, and comprehending all and everything
that at a given time can fall within the horizon of the
human mind." But, he adds, " wherever there are traces
of human life, there are traces, also, of religion." Noting
the variety of floating opinions, he writes, " There is some
truth in every one of these views ; but they become untrue
by being generalised. The time has not come yet, it pro-
bably never will come, when we shall . be able to assert
anything about the real beginning of religion in general.
We know a little here, a little there ; but whatever we
know of early religion, we always see that it pre-supposes
vast periods of an earlier development !'

Who, then, will be rash enough to pronounce a decided
opinion.? The philosophical and learned Rev. E. E.
Jenkins, M.A., Wesleyan, comes to this conclusion: "The

6 Egyptian Belief anei Modern ThotigJit,

simple phenomena of nature awaking the intuitions and
drawing out the reasoning of the primitive races, impressed
upon them two ideas ; first, that the primal and intelligent
^Mind originated the universe ; secondly, that the thinking
part of man lives on after death."

The reader of the present work will discern that the
Egyptians firmly held these two fundamental truths, how-
ever they were derived. He will be satisfied that these
truths exercised an elevating and a purifying influence on
the native character. And, surely, observation around one
at the present day shows that the men who know God,
and have a living faith in a Hereafter, are both elevated
and purified thereby.


RELIGION is indlssolubly associated with funeraL
rites. The dim shadowing of a behef is reaHzed
in the obscure burial ceremonies of the lowest savages.
Prayerless and godless as men may be, they will in the
interment of beloved ones evidence a faith in something
beyond this life. When we discover in the rudest graves
of prehistoric peoples some relics of hunting implements,^
or remains of food, we are conscious of a recognition ot
another state of being. The bones of a dog found with the
skeleton of a cave-man in the Pyrenees would indicate a
religious hope of companionship hereafter.

Let us, then, turn to the Egyptian tomb for a revelation
of Egyptian ideas upon religion.

The tombs themselves are interesting exponents of
varying civilization in that country. To Belzoni, Dr.
Lepsius and Mariette Bey are we mainly indebted for the
story about them. In " Pyramid Facts and Fancies," some
notice of them has been given, rendering it less necessary
to enlarge here upon the subject.

There are three parts. Above is the Mastaba, or chapel ;
near that is a Pit, some twenty to ninety feet in depth,
leading, by a passage, to the Burial Chamber, in a corner
of which stands the Sarcophagus. After the interment of
the body, the pit was filled up, and the entrance concealed.
The mastaba was open to passers-by, and was the place
in which the friends of the deceased met to deposit their
offerings, say their prayers, and hold their anniversary
funeral festivals. Around the sides of this upper chamber

8 Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought.

were pictures and writing, descriptive of the past or future
life of the departed, and relating to gods and pious duties.
These outer tombs, as remarked by Mr. Fergusson, are
truncated pyramids. They are found in groups, and are
usually associated with a pyramid, which may be assumed
as the centre of the Necropolis. While we have no
remains of dwellings, and scarcely a ruin of an ancient
palace, the tombs were constructed of such material, and
were of so solid a character, as to be, in many cases, as
perfect as when formed five or six thousand years ago.
Some of these structures covered a large area. One has
been found 400 feet in length, and another 320. The
^ Egyptians lived, so to speak, in their tombs. The labour
and wealth thus expended upon the construction and
adornment of the sepulchre were not mere evidences of
luxury and vainglory, but the tokens of the deepest in-
terest in the Unseen World, not less than of respect and
affection for the departed one. It was religious feeling
more than ostentatious pride that originated these magnifi-
cent and durable abodes.

The mastaba above was not only decorated by paintings
and illuminated by hieroglyphics, but furnished with seats,
fauteuils, tables, etc. Statues of the deceased were occa-
sionally deposited therein. Children's toys, female orna-
ments, men's tools or emblems of callings, are equally
conspicuous. While the entrance door was to the east, a
false door, in the chief place of the chamber, ■ held the
steles giving the records of the deceased, inscribed on those
stone tablets. One entered from the east to look to the
west, the supposed place for the dead, the setting station
of the sun. But, like as the sun reappeared in the east,
so would the beloved one, temporarily lost to view in the
western shades, reappear with the celestial sun in the glow-
ing east of returning life and day.

Funeral Rites of the Egyptians, 9

Mr. Gllddon, the American Egyptologist, describes the
interior of the mastaba. "The scenes of ordinary Hfe,"
he says, " were painted on the walls. Study, gymnastics,
feasts, banquets, wars, sacrifices, death and burial are all
faithfully delineated in these sepulchral illustrations of
manners, which are often epic in their character. You
have the song with which the Egyptian enlivened his
labours in the field ; the anthem that when living he
ofi"ered to his Creator, and the death wail that accompanied
his body to the grave. Every condition, every act, every
trade, figures in this picturesque encyclopedia — from the
monarch, priest and warrior, to the artizan and herdsman.
Then, these little tombs are real museums of antiquities, —
utensils, toilet tables, inkstands, pens, books, the incense-
bearers, and smelling bottles are found in them. The
wheat which the Egyptian ate, the fruit that adorned his
dessert table, peas, beans, and barley ; the eggs, the desic-
cated remains of the very milk he once used for his break-
fast, even the trussed and roasted goose of which the
guests at his wake had partaken."

The Table of Ojferings is the most important object of
regard. This is seen in the earliest tombs yet discovered
in Egypt. Of stone, and often highly ornamented, it
stands to receive the offerings of friends visiting the tomb
from time to time. Into this pleasant-looking chamber,
always bright and cheerful in that sunny land, widows,
widowers, orphans, and the childless came to deposit the
token of remembering affection.

The absent one was not lost. Below, far below, beneath
the very feet of visitors, in the rock-cut chamber, lay the
mummied remains. But there was something not to be
buried and preserved. That something belonging to the
deceased was the object of afi"ectionate regard. The body
had received the care which duty and love exacted. But

I o Egyptian Belief and Modern ThongJit.

that something else was associated with the visit of friends.
The prayers were not directed to the corpse. The offer-
ings were not dedicated to the entombed. Supplications
rose in the mastaba for the spirits of dear ones. Offerings
came from the living to the living. The soul ivas a fact
in the thought of Egyptians. Apart from the body, how-
ever mysteriously associated with it still, it could welcome
tears and kisses, appreciate presents, and be blessed by the
gods in the entreaties of mourners.

The offerings of food, drink, perfumes, oil, flowers, gar-
ments, books, ornaments, incense, etc., might have been, as
with many nations of the present day, evidences of a belief
that the other life was like this, though in a spiritual form,
and that the essence, as it were, of the objects so presented,
would be useful as well as grateful. The very feasts of the
dead, or banquets in their honour, were solemn seasons.
While friends partook of the dainties provided, the aroma,
or essence, could be accepted by the ghost of the departed.
The modern wake, however, although a survival of the
past practice, is, from its alcoholic associations, neither
pious nor loving.

But the offerings laid upon the sculptured and dedicated
table, or Tebhu, meant something more. They, like some
of the prayers, illustrated the homage needful to be paid
to the deceased. Removed from earth to the society of
the " great majority," brought into connection with the
deities themselves, they were something more than mortal.
If yet to be benefited by the offerings and supplications of
friends and relatives, they were grander in being, worthy
of reverential respect, and demanding, in some sense, the
homage paid to celestials. This was ANCESTOR WORSHIP.

The tombs differ in appearance according to period. In
the times of the Ancient Empire, or during the first dozen
dynasties of the kings of Egypt, they have a grand simpli-

Funeral Rites of the Egyptians. 1 1

city. The earliest of them, according to Mr. Fergusson,
the architectural writer, show "evident symptoms of having
been borrowed from a Avooden original."

M. Chabas is content with remarking, "A certain number
of these tombs have been constructed at the same time as
the Great Pyramid, and finished before that colossal monu-
ment." But as the Pyramids of Saqqarah are more
ancient than those of Gizeh, so are the graves of its
Necropolis. It is, at least, a recognised fact, that both
those of Gizeh and Saqqarah were closed up altogether
against fresh interments in the sixth dynasty; probably
5000 years since. M. Renan refers to the long streets of
magnificent sepulchres around the Great Pyramids as,
" those precious specimens of Egyptian sculpture four
thousand years before Jesus Christ;" and adds that "the
tombs so numerous in the lands of Sakkara, and at the
foot of the pyramids, are all dated from the first six
dynasties." Dr. Birch, of our Museum, declares most of
those around the Great Pyramid to be the princes and
other members of the family or time of Khufu, the Cheops
who built the pyramid.

M. Mariette Bey delights in comparing the solidity and
good taste of the edifices of the Ancient Empire with those
of later and richer times. The writer was charmed and
astonished at the collection which that distinguished
Frenchman, now worthily raised to such dignity by the
Viceroy, had gathered at the Boulaq Museum, near Cairo.
The tombs of the Ancient Empire are nowhere else so
nobly and completely illustrated. The relics of wooden
doors of the mastaba are remarkably preserved. Huge
slabs against the Museum walls make known the everyday
life of that remote epoch. There are to be seen represent-
ed, men engaged at their various trades and amusements,
women in domestic engagements and social enjoyment.

1 2 Egyptian Belief and Modern Thonght.

soldiers and sailors, writers and merchants, shepherds and
farmers, glassblowers and artists, marriage celebrations and
funeral processions, in vivid colours and in excellent pre-
servation, though from 5000 to 6000 years old.

A fine story is told there of one Sabou Abba. We see
the table of offerings laden with gifts, while servants and
others are streaming in with new contributions. Another
picture shows him seated in a palanquin borne on servants'
shoulders. There is a long hieroglyphic account of the
several presents by friends from Athribitis, Latopolitis,
Arabia, Hermopolitis, etc. There is a view, also, of this
gentleman in his boat on the Nile. Auguste Mariette
believes all this to be no representation of the past life of
the man, but of that he was then pursuing in Hades, the
Amenti, or place of the departed. The tomb of the
grandson of Snefrou, king before the pyramid was built,
is described as " a complete model." It is vaulted in the
middle, bears the ordinary invocation to Anubis, the
Egyptian Pluto, and mentions the various fetes to be cele-
brated in honour of the deceased on certain days.

The early had but one chamber. During the first
three dynasties, yellow bricks were more frequently used
than stone ; afterwards, nothing but stone was employed.
Mariette tells us of these primitive sepulchres, that ** the
plan of the chamber has tJie form of a crossT It is, how-
ever, generally so small that one can scarcely turn in it.
'' But that which strikes us before everything," observes the
Bey, " is, in the midst of all the scenes which form the
subject of these pictures, the absolute absence of all repre-
sentations of divinities, and of all religions emblems^

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