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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - The Egyptian Mind


They [the Egyptians] are religious to excess, beyond any nation in the world.

– Herodotus

This book is about how ancient Egyptians related to and worshipped their gods, and how religion affected their daily lives. It focuses on personal involvement with religion, and how religion and the human response to it – cult actions – formed the Egyptians' material and psychological culture. The text explores what, in the most practical sense, their beliefs meant to the early Egyptians and how they incorporated religion into their lives. A study of Egyptian religious practice – of how religion permeated society and stimulated human action – must include an examination of what the people were like, how they conceived of their gods, and what they apparently (reading backward from their practices) “needed” from their religion, that is, how they approached their own beliefs and responded to those beliefs.

We are fortunate to have so many sources that describe both the impact of religion on individual Egyptians and how these individuals incorporated those beliefs into their day-to-day lives. Yet despite this wealth of sources, it is still frustratingly difficult to understand what these people, so removed from us by time, were really like. Did they cringe under the weight of the long tradition of their religion, the manifestations of which were omnipresent both physically and culturally? In many ways, ancient Egypt was one of the most theocratic societies in history.