Modernity without Restraint: The Political Religions, the New Science of Politics, and Science, Politics, and Gnosticism

By Manfred Henningsen; Eric Voegelin | Go to book overview

2
Akhenaton

The oldest political religion of a highly civilized people was the Egyptians' worship of the sun. Its beginnings merge with the dawning of history, but its development—which we can trace up to its climax in the sun cult of Akhenaton and the subsequent catastrophe— illustrates the contours of the problem almost more clearly than the later and better known cases of the Mediterranean and European culture groups.

The factors that defined the development of the myth can be found at the beginning of historical time. The kings of the first dynasties already considered themselves to be successors to the sun god Horus, one of the rulers of the dynasty of gods who reigned over the country during its mythical beginnings. The pre-dynastic kings of the two distinct kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were summarily called “servants of Horus.” They attained the status of semi-gods, and later they were venerated as gods in the cities over which they ruled. The first kings known in history carried the title of Horus, since they were considered to be his successors, as well as the title of a “good God”; and after their death they were also worshipped as gods in their temples. Moreover, the “state form of religion” can already be found at the beginning of historical time. The king is the mediator between humans and the gods. Theoretically, he alone has the right to worship the gods, but in practice he has high priests and colleges of priests carry out his mediatorship in the different temples.

Thus, the main figures of the inner-political religious power struggle have been introduced. There were numerous local deities whose powers were not always clearly delineated, and in the large cities there was not only one Sun God but several. Each god had its priesthood, and the colleges of priests struggled with each other to

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