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Religio Duplex: How the Enlightenment Reinvented Egyptian Religion

ISBN: 978-0-7456-8149-8
224 pages
February 2014, Polity
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Description

In this important new book, the distinguished Egyptologist Jan Assmann provides a masterful overview of a crucial theme in the religious history of the West - that of 'religio duplex', or dual religion. He begins by returning to the theology of the Ancient Egyptians, who set out to present their culture as divided between the popular and the elite. By examining their beliefs, he argues, we can distinguish the two faces of ancient religions more generally: the outer face (that of the official religion) and the inner face (encompassing the mysterious nature of religious experience).

Assmann explains that the Early Modern period witnessed the birth of the idea of dual religion with, on the one hand, the religion of reason and, on the other, that of revelation. This concept gained new significance in the Enlightenment when the dual structure of religion was transposed onto the individual. This meant that man now owed his allegiance not only to his native religion, but also to a universal 'religion of mankind'.

In fact, argues Assmann, religion can now only hold a place in our globalized world in this way, as a religion that understands itself as one among many and has learned to see itself through the eyes of the other. This bold and wide-ranging book will be essential reading for historians, theologians and anyone interested in the nature of religion and its role in the shaping of the modern world.
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Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Abbreviations ix

Introduction 1

1 Egyptian Foundations: The Dual Meaning of Signs 9

Religio Duplex and the Endgame of Egyptian Culture 9

Sacramental Interpretation: The Dual Meaning of Signs 14

The Two or Three Scripts of the Ancient Egyptian Culture of Writing 20

2 From the Dual Meaning of Signs to Dual Religion 36

Verba Duplicata: Moses Maimonides 36

Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Mosaic Laws: John Spencer 39

The Platonic Construction of Dual Religion: Ralph Cudworth 43

3 Religio Duplex and Political Theology 54

John Toland and the Critique of Political Theology 54

William Warburton and the Redemption of Political Theology 61

Secrecy under the Banner of Morality and Politics 73

4 Religio Duplex and Freemasonry 79

Secret Society Novels 79

Secrecy under the Banner of Nature and Revelation 87

Ignaz von Born and the Vienna Mysteries Project 94

Subterranean Egypt 101

The Magic Flute: Opera Duplex 108

5 In the Era of Globalization: Religio Duplex as Dual Membership 114

Globalization, Cosmopolitanism and Cultural Memory 114

Moses Mendelssohn and the Idea of a ‘Religion of Mankind’ 127

Patriot and Cosmopolitan: Lessing’s ‘Ernst and Falk’, with a Glance at Herder and Wieland 134

Homo Duplex 144

Prospectus: Religio Duplex Today? 149

Retrospectus: Are There ‘Dual Religions’? 157

Noah and Moses 158

Visible and Invisible Religions 163

Notes 175

Bibliography 211

Index 235

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Author Information

Jan Assmann is Professor of Egyptology at the University of Konstanz.
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Reviews

"With his characteristic erudition and lucid prose, Jan Assmann explores a fascinating question: why is religion so often double-layered, with the religion of the philosophers arrayed against the religion of the fathers? His genealogy of religio duplex begins with ancient Egypt and Israel, with their mixtures of universalism and particularism, and extends to the modern search, by Gandhi and others, for a rapprochement between particular religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. – and a universal religion of human dignity. Assmann’s study brims with philosophical acuity, historical depth, and contemporary relevance."
Ronald Hendel, University of California, Berkeley

"Assmann is well placed to write such a book, and Religio Duplex is an interesting read covering a wide range of topics of various kinds, not least those concerned with belief and with public and private ritual. Students of the Enlightenment and of the nature of religion should read this volume."
James Stevens Curl, Member of the Royal Irish Academy, Times Higher Education
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