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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Legacy to Modern Egypt                391
teachers of religion that keeps the thought from being pulled
by the action in the direction of frank heathendom.
The same suspicion attaches in some quarters to sacrifices.
These still take place on occasions such as funerals and the
Great Feast. The interpretation, of course, has been revised:
the ancient identity of god and victim and worshipper is gone.
The sacrifice is only allowed to draw the worshipper nearer to
God; hence it is called qurban, from qirib, to draw near. Yet
even this concession does not reconcile the more extreme purists.
The process of narrowing down all worship and all life to the
service of one God was completed, but not begun, by Islam.
The seed of monotheism was inherent in the old religion. The
gods had not such distinct individualities as we are accustomed
to expect of gods. Two can be combined into one, like Amun
and Ree. The king, the magician, or the dead man can be several
deities at once. The process of fusion can be carried out system-
atically till one god absorbs all the others and becomes all in all.
By the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty Amun, fused with Re',
had outdistanced all the other gods. The heretic king Akhenaten
made too sudden a jump towards monotheism, and there was
a reaction; but at the end of the Nineteenth Dynasty the gods
were being neglected; and by Roman times Egypt was prepared
to take an active part in the spread of monotheistic religion.
Muhammad carried the process still further by rejecting all
compromise and focusing all thought on one indivisible god.
He thus reduced all worship to a simple and uniform expression.
As the god is a god of right conduct which has prosperity as a
consequence, and no longer of prosperity which is to be obtained
by right conduct, the ritual has been simplified in the extreme.
A technique of prosperity is no longer needed, but only the
observance of rules.
That indeed sums up the evolution of Egypt since antiquity:
simplification and levelling, with a consequent loss of structure,