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 The presence of Monotheism  
in the Egyptian religion

 

 

In Ancient time the term "god" was very general :

From the IIIrd royal dynasty, Ptah became the great universal creation god. He was always accompanied by the god Thot of wisdom and of truth, who had a mind of wisdom and a permanent longing for perfection.

Actually a god sometimes took the features of another: such as Atoum-Re; and Ptah and Sokar merged gradually into a composite Creator god. The New Kingdom added a 5th entity : Amon, the god hidden of Thebes.

This quiet reform of the theology of Heliopolis was made with obedience and without violence, because the temples of every region gradually moved toward the new cults without rejecting their former divinities. Some of these disappeared in the course of centuries and others lost of their importance.

The Egyptian example is interesting if one takes into account the fact that for Cyrus, the liberator of Babylon, most of the reforms led to massacres, tortures and terrifying repression.

Actually the greatest Egyptologists were not deceived, and since the year 1869 they saw a tendency for the Egyptian religion to be monotheistic rather than polytheistic. It is necessary not to forget that Champollion died in Paris in 1832, leaving his brother the responsibilty of publishing in 1836 and 1841 a grammar and dictionary of Egyptian that he had not had time to finish. But in twenty years many experts came to Egypt in order to study the history and messages of antiquity.

Emmanuel of Rougé declared in a conference held in 1869 :

The Egyptologist Erik Hornung in his book "The One and the Many," mentions Eugène Grébaut, who affirmed in 1870 that: " In the ancient Egyptian religion, monotheism is incontestable. "

This same author also mentions the affirmation of Jean François Chabas that " The multiple gods of the Egyptians are only different aspects of the One God, of the Supreme. "

In 1885, the German Carl Lepsius goes even further in the first volume of his work (entitled "The religion and the mythology of the ancient Egyptians"). " I express the conviction that for the first time, the Egyptians worshiped the ONE GOD, anonymous, incomprehensible, Eternal in His purity."

August Mariette thought that there existed " One God, Immortal, invisible and hidden, known only to the insiders of the sanctuary. "

All these men discovered a bridge between the ancient primitive religion and their concept of XIXth century religion. The works of God are like the cycle of the seasons, the revolution of the planets, the ebb and flow of the tides, the life of the animals, all the LAWS which gravitate around one centre : God, around which all matter and life revolves!

Atoum, Re, Ptah, Amon, Aton, Neith, Isis and Osiris are only the local and temporary representatives of the One Great Eternal God, who governed the Universe with his three principles: love, justice and truth. All these divinities who correspond to certain times and to different places, are in some ways the reflection of these three virtues, which indicate the way which leads souls towards eternal life.

 

MAAT : goddess of  Justice and Truth :

 

Maat and Hathor goddesses

  

" Maa " was first the personification of the material life, but also a picture of our interior life, and she embodied justice and divine omniscience.

As for the goddess " Maat ", introduced during the Ancient Kingdom, she became the eye of justice. Her father Re put her in charge of finding out the truth at the trials of the souls of the dead, (which was presided over by Osiris).

In the some Pyramid texts, the god Anubis (a man with the tail and head of a jackal), took away the dead to a large courthouse, where Osiris himself conducted the trial of the souls. In the famous drawing entitled "she weighed the soul", the heart of the corpse was placed on the tray of a huge balance, against which was weighed on the second tray " the feather of Maat ", goddess of truth.

" The god Anubis kneeling at the center of the picture was given the task of verifying the accurateness of the balance, and if the heart was heavier than the feather, the huge Ammit the devouror, could eat the heart of the corpse ! If the feather was found to be heavier than the heart, the soul was justified (through the good actions of the dead person), and could henceforth proceed toward immortality. "

Kegboi, the chief collector of taxes during the reign of the Pharaoh Sethos II, (about 1202 BC, the period of the New Kingdom), saw his king as the representative of the all powerful and eternal god who created him, as one creates his son :

Turn your face (Khépri), the rising Sun toward me
Who illuminates our two kingdoms with your beauty.
You, the light of men,
You chase away the darkness of Egypt
You have the same appearance as : " your father Re "
who rises every morning to the sky.

Your rays penetrate even into the dark caves
and no place is deprived of your splendor

You hear words and languages of all countries,
because you have millions of ears !

Your eye is more brilliant than stars of the sky.
Your aspect is better than that of the sun.

Even the voices  of those that cry out while hiding in the caves
arrive unto your ears,
and if someone hides,
your eye will see it nevertheless.

O Sethos, you the Master of beauty,
You who create the breath (of life !)
long life for the millions of years!

You only, living image of Rê, could succeed
with the great priests of the Saint of Saints
Just as the shepherd of Egypt, Horus,
The eldest son of the God of the Universe...

 

The three great new spiritual values :

 

Simultaneously to the raising of the first pyramids appeared 3 new spiritual values: Akhs - Ka - Ba :

 

"Akhs " : Luminous principles and immortals that every earthly being possesses.

 

" Ka " : Born of divine breath, this represented the immaterial entity of a human being, and was in some measure his second personality, the voice of his conscience, which showed the difficult way which led to perfection.

The creation god Knouhm created two aspects of a human being on a potter's wheel : the KHET (the matter composing the human body), and the KA which was the divine breath, the spiritual body.

During the Ancient Kingdom, the function of Ka was important since it was directly bound to the divine personality of the Pharaoh (the guide of the people), but after New Kingdom, Ba was more important in that it concerned all men.

Considered the symbol of perfection, the Ka was the essence of Re; some gods could possess several Kas, which were directly bound to the essential qualities:

Life, health, radiance, nobility, intelligence, creativity, success, the perception of the senses, stability, resistance to illness, and the arts of nutrition and of aging.

The Kas (or Kaous in the plural) are inseparable from our life on earth and from our good actions, they are the treasure accumulated in the sky for the day of our earthly death. Actually the Ka sign is expressed by two arms raised to the sky, but is this not the universal symbol of prayer and of dialogue with the heavens?

 

" Ba " :  This was the energy associated with each soul. he had this from birth. It was the capability of living independently of his body and of traveling in the other world; he could also come back to earth, or close to his body, integrating with the pictures of the cult.

The Ba is comparable to the faculty of all gods, of acting from afar and of taking (with benevolent intentions) different shapes or incarnations, some animal in nature. Ba was shown as a falcon with a human head, devoted to liberty, and often represented guarding the mummified body of Pharaoh, as if he wanted to protect it.

 

Excerpts of a Treatise on knowing how to LIVE :

 

Composed by the governor KAGEMNI during the reigns of the kings HOUNI, (2718BC to 2694BC) then SNeFROU, (2694BC to 2665BC) :

A loving song opens the secret words of my oratory and expands my intelligence. As water allays the thirst, tell me that a little is important, because abject are the glutton and the idler. In the same way it is repugnant to see a man lose his thoughts and not be in control of his words.

That posterity will instruct us about your discipline, because the ways of god are impenetrable.

 

The Tombs in memory of the Pharaohs

 

The main shapes of the ancient royal tombs are :

 

1. The MASTABA :

This consisted of a small square house of stones built close to the ground. At this level were dug several wells which descended deep into the earth.

One of these wells opened on to a royal underground room dug out of the rock where the sarcophagus of the dead body was placed, surrounded by his personal possessions. As soon as the body was lowered, they closed the covering grill and filled up the wells with big stones.

In the small square house was a door opening on to a chapel containing a table which held the offerings. Behind this chapel was an antechamber (with no exit), but with a small staircase at the top of which one put the statue or a painting of the dead person, representating " his Ka ". The Egyptians imagined that the Ka of defunct could enter and leave his tomb by passing through an imaginary door drawn on the wall of the antechamber.

These mastabas contained also steles commemorating the life or history of the dead person. The body of a king or of a queen could be buried at Saqqarah, while at Abydos, a second mastaba (a cenothaph or large tomb) was sometimes erected to the memory of the dead.

 

2. The PYRAMID :

The Egyptian called it " the sea ", and it was an improvement on the mastaba. Situated for the most to the south of Cairo and to the west of the Nile, on a strip of land about 50 km wide. These imposing monuments were born out of the new religious concepts which developed at Heliopolis after the IIIrd dynasty. In the religious mind they represented a immense staircase, which led the Ba, (the soul of god Pharaoh) toward the stars where the Ka of the king was transformed into a star.

You will bathe in the starry firmament, the people of sun will call to you because the everlasting stars raised you up to the sky. (formula 214)

If in the pyramid the Ka of the king transforms into an ordinary star, his Akh, his transfigured body (Khet) will go to search for the company of the greatest stars.

O divine beings, you will reach the heavens in the shape of Orion and your Akh will reach Sothis (Sirius). (formula 412)

That is why in the pyramid of Cheops two narrow openings joined the outside directly to the royal room, one pointed to Sirius, the star which announced the flooding of the Nile, and the second pointed to the constellation of Orion. The architect of the project was an expert on the positions of the stars in the sky!

 

3. The HYPOGEE :

It is a collection of passageways and underground rooms, dug under the earth or on the side of the cliffs. Like the mastaba, it included a room for offerings, with a funeral stele decorated with two eyes, by which the dead saw the light of day, and a drawing of a door, through which the dead came to see the offerings.

After the New Kingdom, the royal tombs did not have a room for offerings, but these were replaced at Thebes by a small temple situated at entrance to the Valley of the Kings or the Valley of the Queens, or that for the nobles and dignitaries.

And we hear again the sad song of the harpist, who sings of death always following him :

" To whom can I call for help today, death is there before me, like the perfume of myrrh or that of a lotus flower! Just like a road during the rain, like the soldier who goes home to his house, like a sickness cured, like a prisoner liberated after years of captivity ..."

 

 

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