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Atenism and the Afterlife
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ImageOfAten
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 7:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Atenism and the Afterlife Reply with quote

ImageOfAten wrote:
I have heard people claim many times that Atenism had absolutely nothing to offer on the concept of death and afterlife however, I have read many different writings concerning the subject which were found inside tombs of the Amarna period that all point to the same general idea. Here is one for example:

"May thou breathe the sweet breeze of the north wind and go forth into the sky on the arms of the living Aten, your limbs protected and your heart content. No evil can affect your limbs, you remain whole and your body will never putrefy as you follow the Aten as he rises at daybreak."



This is the writing from the sarcophagus of Akhenaten (similar to the one above):

"I breathe the sweet breath that comes forth from Thy mouth;
I behold Thy beauty every day.
It is my desire that I may hear Thy sweet voice,
even in the North wind, that my limbs may be rejuvenated with life,
through love of Thee.
Give me Thy hands holding Thy spirit,
that I may receive it and live by it.
Call Thou upon my name unto eternity, and it shall never fail"

The beautiful Prince, the Chosen-one of the Sun, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Living in Truth, Lord of the Two Lands, Akhenaten, the beautiful Child of the living Aten, whose name shall live for ever and ever
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The point is--and you've illistrated it beautifully--the concept of the after-life according to the Aten religion was based on the idea that the Aten's Chosen One, his Son Who Knew All, was Akhenaten. Lesser mortals could not pray directly to Aten, but had to pray that Akhnaten would "speak" to his Father for them.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2005 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Lesser mortals could not pray directly to Aten, but had to pray that Akhnaten would "speak" to his Father for them.


And that's one of the reasons that Atenism was doomed to fail. Without Akhenaten, the core of the cult fell apart. Absent the funerary deities that had been so much a part of the afterlife beliefs for thousands of years, the prospects of the netherworld might well have seemed pretty dim to the average commoner under Akhenaten. I agree with the sentiment that Atenism does not seem to have much to offer the commoner, particularly in the afterlife, but we probably have yet to gain a truly strong understanding of such beliefs among commoners in this short span of time. There may be more to it than any of us know.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2005 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
There may be more to it than any of us know.


Or not.

Another of the odd things about Armana depictions is that only AKhenaten, Nefertiti and the Aten are named. High priests and the like rarely had names. (cant have the least amount of attention drawn away from Akhenaten. The Horror!).

However, in the aftermath, Redford notes that many of those likenesses were hammered out before the temples etc were demolished. He noted that all of those that were defaced were within arm's length - those that would have required a ladder were relatively unscathed.

The conclusion being that common folk were lashing out at the likenesses of the various local priests whom they knew; all fairly soon after Akhenaten died. If Atenism had much to offer religiously and culturally, you wouldnt expect to see that,
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2005 3:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Atenism failed because after the death of Akhenaten, no one new stepped up to take his place as the One to comunicate with the Aten. If he was the child of Aten, why couldn't someone else be too. As far as I know there was never anything said against the Aten having more than one child. I do not understand what is so bad about the commoners having to pray to Akhenaten to have him communicate with Aten for them. What is so bad about that? The commoners probably "lashed out" against the priests because they were still connected to Aten in a way and they did not want this religion in their land any longer for some reason (maybe the abolishment of their traditional gods sparked it).
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2005 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ImageOfAten wrote:
I do not understand what is so bad about the commoners having to pray to Akhenaten to have him communicate with Aten for them. What is so bad about that?


The problem is that it made the gods more removed from the average person. Where the person had been able to honor and beseech any of the "household" gods like Bes as the pleased, when they pleased, they no longer could under later Atenism - and it is not like giving up all the old gods got them anything. Akhenaten effectively took theu gods - and culture - from them.

The element of raw totalitarianism and repression cant be overlooked either. One of the many commemerative scarabs Amenhotep III commissioned was found with the Amun portion removed apparently in compliance with the one god phase later in Atenism. The thing was that this scarab was found in a private person's home.

What does it say that a person felt compelled to expunge a portion of the late great king's name in their own home? It says they were afraid of exposure (informers, secret police etc) and the repurcussions of being turned in. In return, Akhenatenism (which is what it really was) gave nothing in return to the average person or the kingdom.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2005 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe the average person did not get anything in return. That was probably the case because they did not honestly see what Atenism was all about. It is all about opening your heart and mind to the natural beauty of the world that is created and allowed to exist by the One, living Aten. Notice how the nobels never really received anything from Atenism except for some material goods distributed by the king. It is because no one seemed to truely grasp the whole concept of Atenism.

Savitri Devi writes:

"It is reasonable to admit that, had he (Akhenaten) met any man having the same awareness as he of his ultimate oneness with the Principle of all things, he would not have hesitated to salute in him a true "Son of the Sun" or "Sun of God", one of his rare equals."

I totally agree with her perception on this matter. We may never know for certain. However, it is a safe assumption to make. What were household gods needed for under the new religion if you could just step out your front door and see the beauty of life created by the heat and light of the Aten. You could appreciate it whenever you want to and wherever you want too, and still applies today.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...if you could just step out your front door and see the beauty of life created by the heat and light of the Aten. You could appreciate it whenever you want to and wherever you want too, and still applies today.


The difference here being, from the standpoint of the royal tenets of Atenism, your prayers to the beautiful sun disk, your adoration of it, your very supplication of it would fall on deaf ears, as it were. Without the intermediation of Akhenaten, there could be no communication with the Aten. VBadJuJu's term "Akhenatenism" is as adept as it is funny: the heretic king was the very center of this religion, the hub on which all worship focused. Without Akhenaten, there was no Atenism, and history proved that to be true. It died when Akhenaten died.

This is similar to the early Catholic church. The religious authorities of the Church actively oppressed attempts at personal education and enlightenment out of fear that a worshiper might judge himself worthy enough to commune one-on-one with God. The only proper intermediaries were the priests and bishops--common people were not worthy to address God and required the liaison of the Church, as the authorities would have it.

Today, we see how archaic and simplistic a notion that was, too. Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
Quote:
...if you could just step out your front door and see the beauty of life created by the heat and light of the Aten. You could appreciate it whenever you want to and wherever you want too, and still applies today.


The difference here being, from the standpoint of the royal tenets of Atenism, your prayers to the beautiful sun disk, your adoration of it, your very supplication of it would fall on deaf ears, as it were. Without the intermediation of Akhenaten, there could be no communication with the Aten. VBadJuJu's term "Akhenatenism" is as adept as it is funny: the heretic king was the very center of this religion, the hub on which all worship focused. Without Akhenaten, there was no Atenism, and history proved that to be true. It died when Akhenaten died.

This is similar to the early Catholic church. The religious authorities of the Church actively oppressed attempts at personal education and enlightenment out of fear that a worshiper might judge himself worthy enough to commune one-on-one with God. The only proper intermediaries were the priests and bishops--common people were not worthy to address God and required the liaison of the Church, as the authorities would have it.

Today, we see how archaic and simplistic a notion that was, too. Wink



Atenism died with Akhenaten only because none of his followers were as loyal as they said they were. There was never any evidence that anybody tried to save Atenism (not even the priests!) when the old order of Amon was being restored. If anyone attempted any form of resistance to the restoration of Amonism, it probably would have been documented or depicted in some way somewhere in Egypt.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 1:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Atenism died with Akhenaten only because none of his followers were as loyal as they said they were.


This is almost certainly true. For many (if not most) people who served pharaoh, their careers would have been dependent on the benevolence of their ruler. At the very least they would have kept their personal feelings at bay so that pharaoh would tolerate them.

Horemheb, a powerful military commander with a long career in the Egyptian army, would be a classic example. He served Akhenaten as a general but by all accounts could not stand the man or the religion he imposed on the people; Horemheb was one of the first truly to lead the restoration of the old ways, and was certainly one of the primary string-pullers of the boy-king Tutankhamun. So though Horemheb was a high court official during the Amarna Period, he couldn't act fast enough to stamp it out of history once Akhenaten was dead.

There's nothing to suggest that men like Horemheb ever even bought into Atenism, based on how rapidly the religion crumbled once its leader was dead. They paid Akhenaten the requisite lip service to keep their careers in place. And without Akhenaten the priests of Atenism were devoid of power and position--they were never the likes of the priests of Amun, who had held to thousands of years of power and wealth. I doubt there was much if anything the priests could do to save Atenism; they probably were very fast to switch their allegiance to the old deities.

Quote:
If anyone attempted any form of resistance to the restoration of Amonism, it probably would have been documented or depicted in some way somewhere in Egypt.


I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this. To my knowledge there never was any attempt to restore Atenism once Akhenaten was dead. We have the minor and ephemeral ruler Smenkhkare, whose identity is sadly unclear to this day, and then Tutankhaten, who under the control of men like Ay and Horemheb quickly reverted the state to the old ways (and himself became Tutankhamun). Atenism clearly lacked fundamental support among the people, judging by how swiftly it collapsed. Even Akhetaten, the place where it was focused, was rapidly reduced to dust, its talatats used as fill for other rulers' monuments.

But even if a sect of Atenists attempted to restore their religion in at least a minor way or in a remote location, later rulers like Horemheb and especially the Ramessides would have destroyed evidence of it as they did with so much else associated with the "criminal of Akhetaten" and his religion. Either that, or evidence of it still exists but has yet to be found.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 2:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it is such a shame what the rulers who followed Akhenaten (especially Horemheb, someone I am personally not too fond of) did to his wonderful city. They did not just vandalise the art and writings then shut the Aten temples down, they totally leveled it into oblivion. Then after that he erased everyone associated with Amarna from history. I am willing to believe that that was not the end of the foul play either. That is a lot worse than anything Akhenaten ever did.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ImageOfAten wrote:
Atenism died with Akhenaten only because none of his followers were as loyal as they said they were.


So, is it the fault of the entire populace of about 2 million because they failed to 'get onboard', or the fault of Akhenaten for not providing a more robust theology? The answer 'they werent smart enough to understand it' really isnt good enough.

You have common people lashing out at the religion well before it was repressed by the state. People excising the names of the gods in their own homes. There is also evidence of people mocking the king as a monkey; coutiers themselves maintained some loyalty to the old gods based on finding of cult objects in their homes.

Countless pictures of AKhenaten passing out gold to the "faithful" and a ubiquitous military presence (even so far as to protect the fiece Strong Bull of the king from his own concubines!). You also have a whiny king bemoaning "vile words" (sedition or mere rejection?) he heard.

Taken together it seems clear that Akhenaten relied on bribery and repression to force his view on the rest of the country. A very few went along for the gold and potential for increased status, but it is his fault it failed.

Atenism was an inch deep and only a yard wide. Not only was his "theology" incomplete but his forceful tactics were NOT inclined to produce true converts. Keep in mind, he didnt ADD Atenism to the brew and then lead people to it, but attempted to drive or force them to it.

In effect, he told 2 million people in a thriving empire they were wrong and he ALONE was right (#1 on the political list of Things NOT To Do). From their prosepective, if thats true, why were the gods so kind to Egypt? The Nile continued to innundate every year, gold flowed in from Nubia and the empire was nearly at its zenith...the old gods seem to be working quite well, thank you very much (and PS, you and your kids look funny).

Atenism died because it had nothing in it for anyone but Akhenaten. It was a cult of Akhenaten much like Jim Jones, Heaven's Gate or David Koresh.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do not find the population at fault or Akhenaten for that matter. Atenism just needed a lot more time to take root, and Akhenaten died way too soon before it had a chance to do that. I did not say the people were not smart enough. I said they did not wholeheartedly understand and perceive it the way it was meant to be. They were still in an uproar over the loss of Amon. So I really believe if Atenism was given another fifty years or so, it probably would have come to be accepted. The theology was not incomplete, he didn't want to offer anything that could have proved to be false. Like the idea for death, he himself had never experienced it and he did not want to offer an untrue fabrication, so he let the people decide how they wanted to deal with that personally as long as it was not too farfetched.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ImageOfAten wrote:
I said they did not wholeheartedly understand and perceive it the way it was meant to be.


How could they? Why would they? Akhenaten said that he had been given the word from his father the sun disk...but he never explained what that message was. That is what I meant by incomplete.

Akhenaten didnt say 'come follow me, I will teach you of the Aten', his message was 'come worship me for I am the unique child of the disk.'

ImageOfAten wrote:
Like the idea for death, he himself had never experienced it and he did not want to offer an untrue fabrication, so he let the people decide how they wanted to deal with that personally as long as it was not too farfetched.


Not quite true. Many of the traditional practices like mummification and the like prevailed, but in later years Osiris was proscribed. But, epithets had to be changed because of their Osirian nature, shawabti inscriptions - the spell to make them rise in the afterlife - were suppressed and had to be changed. If you heartily believed you would rise in the next life, Akhenaten's singular intolerance was in effect possibly condeming you to an eternity of toil.

Other deities gained prominance over the course of time, Amun for instance started out as a rather minor diety in earlier times. Egypt would sometimes 'adopt' gods they encountered in foreign cultures. No such luck befell Atenism because it had so little to offer.

An argument can be made that Atenism died because it really only had one follower: Akhenaten. For the rest of the kingdom it was worship of Akhenaten.

An argument can be also made that by the end of his reign even he knew it was a failure. His own coregent, Ankhkheperure (some would say his own wife, Nefertiti!!) was dedicating temples to Amun either while Akhenaten was alive or so soon after Akhenaten's death that his misshapen corpse could hardly have been cold.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:10 pm    Post subject: evolution of consciousness Reply with quote

it is as probable that our own linear definitions of what we percieve as atenism ie dilineation within other constructs of amenism-
are limited by their own parameters.
I find the notion that atenism usurped or replaced amenism overally simplistic. Both are naturalistic philosophies. One could compare them with Hinduism and Buddhism. The religion of the time was triumverate Atumism - several reincarnations later it could be defined as Ausirian triumverate.

Before I lose that train of thought, what hieroglyphic symbols lead this assumption that Akhenaten alone was to be worshiped?
In my way of thinking and based on what could be interpted as the birth of a newly invigorated middle class artisans, and sculptors etc- the iconography of the amarna inhabitants -including the royal family-
lived in an air of realism. In my mind creativity was deified and pious ignorance was exposed.
Amenism like Buddhism embraced the evolution of consciousness.
Perhaps Atenism marked a moment in the cycle of AE spiritual-religious
evolution?
Monotheistic notions have often precluded that creationism or religion are the only true enlightenment or higher thought. If God so wished the world was flooded and all perished but those deemed worthy of their inherited souls.
Evolutionists convinced us of the potential inherent in natural design.
Evolutionary potential is the gist of the theory of natural selection.
Creationists and their intellectual contemporarys parlayed what could have been described as the great hope of evolutionary potential into a reductionists dogma. Survival of the fittest emerged as its new stigmata.

Amenism is in my opinion the true source of our modern monotheistic religion(s). IT is unfortunate that the naturalistic philosophy's greater tenants have been lost to humanity. Earth is no longer the sacred sphere of God's handiwork that it once was. Atenism marked a moment when the collective psyche was recalled as if to acknowledge the birth of individualistic percspectives of an earth born into cycles of consequence.
When one studies the frescoes of Amarna it is difficult to not appreciate the presence of foriegners and their contributions -

perhaps the end of the bronze age created a diaspora or waves of emmigrants searching for meaningful dialogue outside of the parameters of religious extremism?
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