The original Melchizedek teachings really took their deepest root in Egypt, from where they subsequently spread to Europe. The evolutionary religion of the Nile valley was periodically augmented by the arrival of superior strains of Nodite, Adamite, and later Andite peoples of the Euphrates valley. From time to time, many of the Egyptian civil administrators were Sumerians. As India in these days harbored the highest mixture of the world races, so Egypt fostered the most thoroughly blended type of religious philosophy to be found on Urantia, and from the Nile valley it spread to many parts of the world. The Jews received much of their idea of the creation of the world from the Babylonians, but they derived the concept of divine Providence from the Egyptians.
It was political and moral, rather than philosophic or religious, tendencies that rendered Egypt more favorable to the Salem teaching than Mesopotamia. Each tribal leader in Egypt, after fighting his way to the throne, sought to perpetuate his dynasty by proclaiming his tribal god the original deity and creator of all other gods. In this way the Egyptians gradually got used to the idea of a supergod, a steppingstone to the later doctrine of a universal creator Deity. The idea of monotheism wavered back and forth in Egypt for many centuries, the belief in one God always gaining ground but never quite dominating the evolving concepts of polytheism.
For ages the Egyptian peoples had been given to the worship of nature gods; more particularly did each of the two-score separate tribes have a special group god, one worshiping the bull, another the lion, a third the ram, and so on. Still earlier they had been totem tribes, very much like the Amerinds.
In time the Egyptians observed that dead bodies placed in brickless graves were preserved—embalmed—by the action of the soda-impregnated sand, while those buried in brick vaults decayed. These observations led to those experiments which resulted in the later practice of embalming the dead. The Egyptians believed that preservation of the body facilitated one’s passage through the future life. That the individual might properly be identified in the distant future after the decay of the body, they placed a burial statue in the tomb along with the corpse, carving a likeness on the coffin. The making of these burial statues led to great improvement in Egyptian art.
For centuries the Egyptians placed their faith in tombs as the safeguard of the body and of consequent pleasurable survival after death. The later evolution of magical practices, while burdensome to life from the cradle to the grave, most effectually delivered them from the religion of the tombs. The priests would inscribe the coffins with charm texts which were believed to be protection against a “man’s having his heart taken away from him in the nether world.” Presently a diverse assortment of these magical texts was collected and preserved as The Book of the Dead. But in the Nile valley magical ritual early became involved with the realms of conscience and character to a degree not often attained by the rituals of those days. And subsequently these ethical and moral ideals, rather than elaborate tombs, were depended upon for salvation.
The superstitions of these times are well illustrated by the general belief in the efficacy of spittle as a healing agent, an idea which had its origin in Egypt and spread therefrom to Arabia and Mesopotamia. In the legendary battle of Horus with Set the young god lost his eye, but after Set was vanquished, this eye was restored by the wise god Thoth, who spat upon the wound and healed it.
The Egyptians long believed that the stars twinkling in the night sky represented the survival of the souls of the worthy dead; other survivors they thought were absorbed into the sun. During a certain period, solar veneration became a species of ancestor worship. The sloping entrance passage of the great pyramid pointed directly toward the Pole Star so that the soul of the king, when emerging from the tomb, could go straight to the stationary and established constellations of the fixed stars, the supposed abode of the kings.
When the oblique rays of the sun were observed penetrating earthward through an aperture in the clouds, it was believed that they betokened the letting down of a celestial stairway whereon the king and other righteous souls might ascend. “King Pepi has put down his radiance as a stairway under his feet whereon to ascend to his mother.”
When Melchizedek appeared in the flesh, the Egyptians had a religion far above that of the surrounding peoples. They believed that a disembodied soul, if properly armed with magic formulas, could evade the intervening evil spirits and make its way to the judgment hall of Osiris, where, if innocent of “murder, robbery, falsehood, adultery, theft, and selfishness,” it would be admitted to the realms of bliss. If this soul were weighed in the balances and found wanting, it would be consigned to hell, to the Devouress. And this was, relatively, an advanced concept of a future life in comparison with the beliefs of many surrounding peoples.
The concept of judgment in the hereafter for the sins of one’s life in the flesh on earth was carried over into Hebrew theology from Egypt. The word judgment appears only once in the entire Book of Hebrew Psalms, and that particular psalm was written by an Egyptian.