THIS book has no pretensions to erudition, neither is it one that will afford a systematic representation of its subject; still less is it exhaustive. My endeavour has been to exhibit to a wide circle of readers the development and decay of a great religion through more than three thousand years, and for this task I had only a limited space at my disposal. Any discussion of disputed points was thus out of the question, and I had also to withstand the temptation to linger over points of special interest. The most important phenomena could only be sketched in outline, and where I have cited details in order to render the picture more intelligible, I have been forced to choose almost at random from the abundant material which lay ready to my hand. Other writers undoubtedly would often have differed from me in their choice.
A greater difficulty lay in the immature condition of these studies. Of the religions of the ancient world there is perhaps no other for which we possess such an amount of material, so endless and impossible to grasp, as we do for this. It is in fact too great, and in addition to this our comprehension of the ancient religious writings is still very incomplete. All the insight and labour devoted by Brugsch, Budge, Lange, Lefébure, Lepage Renouf, Lepsius, Maspero, Moret, Naville, Turaieff, Wiedemann, and many others, to the investigation of Egyptian religion, or to its description, have hitherto resulted in little more than the preliminary orientation of this intricate domain, and it will require many more decades of hard work before we shall be able to obtain a clear view. At the present time, therefore, any one who wishes to construct a picture of Egyptian