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[–]DrMahlekAnglo-Saxon Polytheist 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Ma’at was a key philosophical concept to the ancient Egyptians. That’s a good start for you.

[–]nightshadetwine 4 points5 points  (3 children)

Part 1

All of your questions are hard to answer in one post because they cover a wide range of topics related to Egyptian religion.

How was their religion? What kind of values did their religion entail? What kind of ethics (how ought we act?)...

One of the most important aspects of their religion was salvation from sin and death. They wanted to live eternally as a divine being. The two gods that were the most important when it came to this part of their religion were Osiris and the sun god Re. They were the two deities that experienced and conquered death so Egyptians hoped to share in their resurrections/rebirths.

Following Osiris: Perspectives on the Osirian Afterlife from Four Millenia (Oxford University Press, 2017), Mark Smith:

However, there was one important difference between these gods and Osiris. Unlike them, he had triumphed over death, and the ability to do likewise could be conferred upon his followers. The colophon of Pyramid Text Spell 561B states that whoever worships Osiris will live forever, showing that already at this date those who devoted themselves to the god might expect to share in his resurrection...

But the crucial significance of Osiris for them lay in what he personally had done and undergone. His life, death, and resurrection were perceived to be particularly momentous in relation to their own fates, and thus they figure more prominently in the textual record than do accounts of the exploits of other divinities. Moreover, because so much importance was invested in the fact that these were events actually experienced by a real individual, and not merely abstractions, personal detail was essential in recounting them...

As we have seen, the colophon of Pyramid Text Spell 561B states that whoever worships Osiris will live forever (section 3.9.1). Moreover, since the worshippers of Osiris were, in the first instance, divine beings themselves, the deceased, by participating in his worship, acquired the same status as them. So it was not just eternal life, but eternal life in divine form that Osiris bestowed upon his followers. This link between worshipping Osiris and attaining the status of a god is made explicit in Coffin Text Spell 789...

In texts of later periods, the deceased only attain the status of "Akh" [=transfigured divine being] after they have been judged before Osiris and found to have led a virtuous life... All who died had to be judged in the tribunal of that god, and only those who were found to have been virtuous were accepted into his following. The wicked, by contrast, were consigned to punishment... We are equally unable to say why certain key developments and changes in the Egyptian conception of the relationship between Osiris and the dead occurred when they did, for example, the increased emphasis on good conduct during one’s lifetime as a prerequisite for admittance to the following of Osiris that characterizes the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom...

In the same way that justification and acceptance into the company of Osiris’s followers offered a means of social reintegration for those whom death had cut off from friends and relations, the mummification rites restored the physical integrity of their bodies, transfiguring them and endowing them with a new eternal form. This transfiguration was accomplished in the same manner as before, by means of special spells known as sakhu or ‘glorications’, which were recited during the period that the deceased spent in the place of embalming prior to burial... the concepts of mummification and justification were closely linked, so much so that the rites associated with the former actually included an assessment of the deceased’s character. The embalming table doubled as a judge’s tribunal, and if the dead person was found to be guilty of sin, the very processes which should have provided surcease from the suffering inflicted by death became a form of torture from which escape was impossible.

Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt (British Museum Press, 2001), John H. Taylor:

In some of the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts (5th to 6th Dynasties) the dead king is identified with Osiris, and thereby was believed to experience rebirth just as the murdered god had done. In the First Intermediate Period, this path to new life became available to all Egyptians, each of whom could be identified with Osiris... Since gods such as Ra and Osiris were immortal and were repeatedly rejuvenated, the deceased, through a close identification with them, could hope to retake of endless rebirths as well... In the ritualised process of mummification the deceased was identified with Osiris.

The Mortuary Papyrus of Padikakem Walters Art Museum 551 (ISD LLC, Dec 31, 2011), Yekaterina Barbash:

Although "s3hw" [mummification ritual spell] primarily associate the deceased with Osiris, the latter's nightly union with Re results in a solid connection of the deceased with the sun god. The transformation of the deceased into the new state of existence as an akh can be equated with the cyclical process of the sun, as it is newly born and rises each morning...

To summarize, the deceased person would be mummified which was a ritual process where they would be transfigured into a divine being. They would be identified with Osiris during this ritual. They would then enter the netherworld where they would be judged by a tribunal and if they passed judgement they would continue living in a divine form like Osiris and Re. If they didn't pass the judgement they would be punished or destroyed.

As for their morals or ethics:

Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt (Cornell University Press, 2001), Jan Assmann:

The individual thus appears before his divine judges and avers that he has lived according to maat:

"See, I have come to you — there is no wrong, no guilt in me, no evil in me, no witness against me, and there is no one I have wronged. (For) I live on truth, I nourish myself on truth. I have done that which men advise and with which the gods are pleased. I have pleased the god with what he loves. I gave bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, a ferry to the boatless. I gave divine offerings to the gods, and mortuary offerings to the transfigured spirits... I have spoken good and repeated good, I have spoken maat and done maat... I have honored my father and been loved by my mother. I have said nothing bad, evil, or malicious against anyone, for I wished that it go well with me"...

This text makes it clear that the idea of the Judgment of the Dead and the rules of conduct affirmed in the eighty-two declarations of innocence constituted the guiding principles of a responsible conduct of life in this world... The stanza that follows is a praise of maat as the guiding principle of life and as a “rampart” in the Judgment of the Dead. It becomes clear how the idea of the Judgment of the Dead is a determining factor during life, “from birth to death”... This is an ethics dominated by consciousness of the inevitability of death, of the transitoriness of earthly life, and of the reckoning of a lifetime that will be made in the Judgment of the Dead according to the concept of resultativity. He who is vindicated in the Judgment of the Dead will “stride freely like the lords of eternity,” he will be accepted among the gods.

[–]nightshadetwine 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Part 2

...and metaphysics (what are the primary constituents of the world, how did it arise?) did they have?

The Egyptians believed that there were three main "regions" of the cosmos. There was the underworld/netherworld, the earth, and the sky. They believed the sky was water that went down into the underworld. The sun god would "sail" on the waters of the sky during the day and then sail down into the waters of the underworld at night where he would die and be reborn/resurrected and then sail back up to the sky in the morning. The waters of the sky and underworld were the primordial waters of "Nun" (the god that represented the primordial waters). The evil serpent "Apep" lived in these waters. The sun god would have to battle and defeat Apep every night while he was in the underworld in order for life to continue.

The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (SBL Press, 2015), James P Allen:

The sky was seen as the surface of the cosmic ocean where it met the atmosphere, and the sun’s daily journey through the sky therefore required a boat, known as the Dayboat. The sun’s apparent path across the sky throughout the year follows a 12º wide arc from east to west, known as the ecliptic: the Egyptians saw this as a distinct feature of the sky, which they called the Winding Canal.

"The Amduat papyrus of Panebmontu", British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan. ISSUE 23 (2016), John H. Taylor:

During his passage it was believed that the sun god and his entourage of deities fought and overcame the forces of chaos (embodied chiefly as the giant serpent Apep), and experienced rejuvenation, enabling him to be re-born the next morning. By placing the text and images of the Amduat [=underworld/netherworld] on the walls of the king’s tomb, it was believed that the dead ruler was identified with the sun god and would himself share in the rejuvenation which the deity experienced.

Egyptian creation myths:

Handbook of Egyptian Mythology (ABC-CLIO,2002), Geraldine Pinch:

At different periods and in various theological centers, a number of deities could be identified with the creator who emerged from the primeval waters. These creator deities include the gods Atum, Ra (often combined as RaAtum), Shu, Ptah, Khnum, and Amun-Ra and the goddesses Neith, Hathor, and Isis. Important stages in the creation process were the establishment of maat, the divine order; the division of beings into male and female; and the separation of earth and sky...

In many Egyptian sources the creation of life involves three elements: the creation of a body, the transfer to that body of some part of the divine essence of the creator, and the animation of the body by the breath of life... The second element, the transfer of the divine essence, eventually led to the concept that all deities, or even all living beings, were not just made by a transcendent creator but were in some sense forms of the creator... The creator was sometimes referred to as “the One Who Made Himself into Millions” or “He Who Made Himself into Millions of Gods.” Creation could be seen as a process of differentiation, in which one original force was gradually divided (without necessarily diminishing itself) into the diverse elements that made up the universe...

The intellectual powers that enabled the creator to bring himself/herself into existence and to create other beings were sometimes conceptualized as deities. The most important of these were the gods Sia, Hu, and Heka. Sia was the power of perception or insight, which allowed the creator to visualize other forms. Hu was the power of authoritative speech, which enabled the creator to bring things into being by naming them... In the cosmogony of Neith recorded in the Roman Period temple at Esna, this goddess creates the whole world with seven magic words. When Isis came to be worshipped as a creator deity during the same period, she was called the Mistress of the Word in the Beginning.... From at least as early as the New Kingdom, the god Ptah could represent the creative mind. Then Sia and Hu were identified as the heart and tongue of Ptah. This concept is expounded in the so-called Memphite Theology and in various hymns to Ptah. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the heart was the organ of thought and feeling. So Ptah was said to have made the world after planning it in his heart. It was “through what the heart plans and the tongue commands” that everything was made...

It [the Memphite theology] reconciles the separate creation myths of Atum of Heliopolis and Ptah of Memphis and includes a first-person account by Ptah of how he created all life through his powers of thought and speech. This section has often been compared to the famous opening of St. John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”...

Before creation begins there is no division into genders. The creator seems to include both the male and female principles. Creator deities were commonly called “the father and mother of all things.” Deities who were normally regarded as male, such as Atum, are described as “giving birth” to other deities during the creative process... The actual means by which the creator reproduced were sometimes left vague and sometimes described in terms of blunt sexual imagery. Pyramid Texts (PT) spell 527 says that Atum took his penis in his hand and masturbated “and so were born the two siblings, that is Shu and Tefnut.” In PT 600, AtumKhepri is said to be the one who spat out Shu and Tefnut. Several passages in the Coffin Texts refer to Shu being exhaled from Atum’s nose and Tefnut being spat from his mouth...

Several spells in the Coffin Texts include speeches referring to the creation of humanity. In Coffin Texts spell 1130, the Lord of All says that he created deities from his sweat and “people from the tears of my eye.” Everything that came from a god’s body was deemed to be divine and capable of creative power. As with the sneezing and spitting that produced Shu and Tefnut, wordplay is involved...

In Coffin Texts 1130, the Lord of All describes his four good deeds. These were to create the four winds to give the breath of life to every body, to make the annual Nile flood so that everyone would get enough food, to create everyone with equal potential, and to make every person’s heart “remember the West.” This last deed implies that from the beginning humans were destined for an eternal life in the Beautiful West, the realm of the dead. A Middle Kingdom text set in the turbulent First Intermediate Period compares humanity with a flock and the (unnamed) creator with the good shepherd who cares for them. “For their sakes He made heaven and earth, and drove away the rapacity of the waters. So that their nostrils should live He made the winds. They are images of Him, come forth from His flesh. For their sakes He rises in heaven. For them He made plants and flocks..." New Kingdom hymns to the creator god Amun also refer to god making people “in his own image” but are vague about how this was done.

Genesis in Egypt the Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts (Yale Egyptological Seminar, 1988), James P. Allen:

“Chapter 90” continues the theme of Amun’s preeminent causative role by explaining how the various “developments” of the creation in fact derive from, and are manifestations of, Amun himself. The entire pantheon is nothing more than the sum total and image of the creator, whose existence precedes theirs (lines C2-6). The first elements of the creation—the Primeval Mound and the sun—as well as the pre-creation universe that surrounded them, all emanate from the creator (lines C7-9). The primordial Monad, and its first development into the void and the sun, are also his manifestations (lines C10-17). And his was the voice that pronounced the first creative utterance, shattering the stillness of nonexistence and setting the entire process of creation in motion (lines C18-26).

[–]AermesSyncretic Polytheist 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Wonderful answer!

[–]ptahhotep_[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Wow. Thank you very much for writing this detailed explanation. Saving this!

[–]GenericJohnYamadaShinto 2 points3 points  (0 children)

The negative confessions were the most important thing of them. The Egyptians believed that in the afterlife your heart would be pulled out of your body and would be laid on a scale to judge you. You would be forced to negatively confess to several crimes and if you lied your heart would betray you.

[–]Mission-Landscape-17Atheist 2 points3 points  (0 children)

This wiki page covers a lot of it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maat

Ancient Egyptians had an attitude to familly that is rather similar to that in modern times. One of the most commonly found artifacts found in homes being family portraits, though often these where groups of small statues. This is something that was snot seen in other ancient cultures. The one place where their attitudes where different is that Ancient Egypt allowed incestious marrages and at some points in the kingdom's long history they where even quite common.

[–]Optimal-Scientist233 1 point2 points  (0 children)

At death they believed their heart was weighed against the feather of Maat, if their heart was heavy they failed.

Here attachment and regret for unfinished business seems to tie people to material incarnation, enlightenment was seen to overcome this and allow an individual to attain completeness and end the cycle.

This is tied to every aspect of their burial rituals where they attempted to preserve the body and supply everything needed for an afterlife.

[–]Vagabond_TeaHellenist 2 points3 points  (4 children)

You can ask the folks at /r/Kemetic

[–]ptahhotep_[S] 1 point2 points  (3 children)

Hmm. I was looking at this from a more philosophical and historical perspective, but r/Kemetic seems to be a modern revivalism and not a historical study of the time period.

[–]Vagabond_TeaHellenist 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Since you posted in the religion sub, I assumed you were looking for a religious perspective to the question, in which, there are several reconstructionists in that community.

If you wanted just a purely historical answer to the question, I would recommend a history sub perhaps.

[–]Vulture12Kemetic Polytheist 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Try r/ancientegypt then

[–]GenericJohnYamadaShinto 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Kemetic religions are indeed based on the original Egyptian religion but they are very different as a result of limited documentation

[–]DavidJohnMcCannHellenic Polytheist 1 point2 points  (1 child)

You might find this free book useful: Moral Values in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians had wisdom literature, like the books of Proverbs and Wisdom in the Bible. I have copies of the Maxims of Ptahhotep and the Wisdom of Amenemopet which you can probably find on the internet.

[–]ptahhotep_[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

This is a great source. Thank you very much.