Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 9, 1898.djvu/371
Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt. By W. M. Flinders Petrie. Methuen & Co., London, 1898.
The lectures Professor Flinders Petrie has published on ancient Egyptian religion and morality are full of interest. Whether we agree with him or not, he is always original and suggestive, and, we must add, always inclined to express everything, even the conscience, in mathematical terms. By a series of figures he has endeavoured to impress upon his readers his belief that "conscience is, like all other variables, subject to the laws of averages and distribution;" and in an appendix on "Conscience Money" he has tried to drive the belief home.The lectures do not profess to do more than give a general idea of the religion and ethical standard of the ancient Egyptians, and to sum up the chief results of the investigations that have been made into them by Egyptologists. We still know, however, but little about ancient Egyptian religion. We are far better acquainted with the moral conceptions of the people, the ethical ideals at which they aimed, and their practical success in attaining them. The fact may seem strange at first sight, when we consider how large a portion of the literature of ancient Egypt that has come down to us is occupied with religious subjects, and with what multitudes of deities and religious texts the walls of the old temples are covered. But it is always difficult to get at the real meaning of theological phrases or the actual signification that was put into them by those who used them. An archaeologist two thousand years hence would have a very false idea of the Christianity of modern England if he had to depend merely on official manuals of theology and the frescoes and stained glass windows of our churches. The Egyptologist is for several reasons in an even worse position as regards the religion of Pharaonic Egypt. The official cult had been crystallised there at a very early time,