Page:The Religion of Ancient Egypt.djvu/25

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10
LECTURE I.

artificial, which are painted or sculptured upon so many Egyptian monuments, were indeed looked upon as symbols under which the mysteries of the religion had been concealed from the vulgar, and several attempts were made to explain them. All these efforts, however, were destitute of any scientific basis. The most elaborate attempts proceeded from the learned Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher, who is not without merit as one of the restorers of Coptic; but his enormous folios upon hieroglyphic inscriptions are mere memorials of a frightful amount of time and thought elaborately wasted. Every hieroglyphic sign was supposed to represent an idea; and groups which we now know to stand for the names and titles of the Roman emperors Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, are converted into long sentences of mystical rubbish. Even at the beginning of the present century, the Chevalier Palin indulged in dreams not unworthy of Athanasius Kircher. Dr. Birch has briefly described his views as follows. He "did not hesitate to assert that it was only necessary to translate the Psalms of David into Chinese, and write them in the ancient characters of that language, in order to reproduce the Egyptian papyri, and that these contained many Biblical books."

Spurious monuments served the purposes of these interpreters quite as well as genuine ones. In the "Isiac table" Kircher discovered a variety of sacred