Sexual Psychology of the Amarna period

Posted March 2, 2007

From a discussion on Amarna Reunion (


Hi Daniel,

I've been thinking about your recent question: if modern psychology would be applicable when analyzing Akhenaten? At first I though, why not? Humans are pretty consistent in their inconsistencies. We love & hate exactly like we did back then, and it's not hard to notice that we keep reenacting the same scenarios and mini-dramas played out in every Egyptian court. So I'm guessing the same filters from which Akhenaten viewed the world have not disappeared but are just covered over by the many layers of added filters since this time. So the question becomes can we peer behind all the added layers until we reach Akhenaten's reality?

No doubt we can, but I don't believe it's begun to happen just yet. My personal theory is that both scholars and modern psychology are seriously blocked by two of the more important filters: religion & the importance of women in general, and 'mother' in particular. Problem is; these were not two separate filters. 'Mother Was The Religion'!

This is a concept modern man with 'his sole male god' has a hard time grasping; that the world used to worship a 'sole female god' as the highest of all gods.

From Egyptian pre-dynastic tribes, through the last female queen, it was the celestial mother, the Goddess Hathor who ruled supreme over the heavens, earth and netherworld. We know this because Ra and all Kings representing Ra tell us so. Ra himself could not control her and even became squeamish at her vengeful nature. And all earthy kings or Sons of Hathor absolutely needed this god to gain or maintain the throne. Keeping in mind that the Heb-sed Festival had one sole purpose: the king must impress "Hathor" in order to keep his throne.

But it wasn't just gods & kings who loved, feared, and needed Hathor. She was the first saint of the common folk, the first god ever to turn her face and body to the people. Oddly enough, then and now, it seems to be instinctive for the human race to run to the celestial mother when things get really bad and they need help in the worst way.

Which brings us to the importance of removing this filter when analyzing any of the Amarna characters. It is key to view this era as the time when the celestial mother, Hathor, came to physically live on the earth! (Can you imagine if Mother Mary did that today? Incidentally she's an archetype of Hathor) and we know this to be fact because she arrived with the living celestial father, Aten. No doubt the men were excited that Ra had moved to earth, but both races would have been in awe that Hathor was accompanying him! This was world shattering news!! Especially when Aten built Hathor an otherworldly palace in the land of the dead.

It's also important to note that the apparent equality of these two was a grant from Hathor not Aten. Fact is, Hathor would have trumped Aten's power, which could be why we see her also claiming the epitaph "The female solar disk". In other words, during his great Heb-sed, AIII, "THE GREAT LIVING GOD ATEN", still had to impress Hathor. Which lucky for him, also happened be his wife and queen.

By bringing to life this particular goddess, for which no previous Queen of Egypt had ever done before or after Tiye, meant that absolutely nothing or no one outranked her, and more importantly, nothing ever got past her!

So when trying to analyze the psychological reasoning's for Akhenaten's feminine obsessions with 'mother and women' first we must realize that he wasn't the only one affected by the 'mother syndrome', the entire known world was! Akhenaten just happened to stand closer to the flame of his mother's influence and ideology. Follow any character from Malkata too Amarna and you will inevitably bump into Egypt's highest ruler, Queen Tiye as Hathor.

A perfect example would be your mention of Akhenaten & Nefertiti challenging the Amun priesthood. (Sorry I don't have the post at hand) Personally, between the two, I don't see Akhenaten as being the more challenging or bold. He was already coregent so there wasn't much he had to fear from Amun. Yet Nefertiti on the other hand was mastering Her own chariot past the priesthood on Her way to Her own Temple in order to perform the rites of a Female King. That appears much more bold, too me.

Then again, perhaps neither of the young royals was truly all that bold or brave. The simple reason: Mother Tiye gave up her luxuries at Malkata and purposefully took up residence in Karnak during the building of these projects!! Which means: Tiye condoned, protected and funded the building of these temples and the purposes they served. Akhenaten and Nefertiti were under her watchful eye the whole time, so they were quite safe and surrounded by her military and police protection. Naturally this also means one other important thing; Akhenaten and Nefertiti may have delivered the slap in the face to Amun, but Hathor Tiye sent it!

**What ya bet the terrible thing Akhenaten heard that caused him such great anger was something ugly about his mother!?? Everyone knows the golden rule: you don't talk about a boy's mother and get away with it!




Marianne Luban wrote:


Velikovsky, of course, advanced the theory that the tale of Oedipus
[meaning "swollen foot" in Greek]was some kind of mnemonic
recollection of Akhenaten and his time. In fact, there are some
similarities, but it cannot be proved. However, in the end, Akhenaten
did not hesitate to mutilate the cartouches of his late father in his
zeal to eradicate the name of Amun, even in "Amunhotep". If he
referred to his father, thereafter, it was only as "Nebmaare", his
throne name. But that Akhenaten remained on good terms with his
mother is evident. That's all that can be known for sure. Some
believe that Akhenaten worshipped his deified father, but the evidence
of that is rather scant, IMO.

The elevation of the Aten, the sun, as the god of focus can be
explained both politically and perhaps even by disasters. The Amun
priesthood was very powerful, but perhaps it had become clear that
Amun had done nothing to ward off famine and disease. It is plain
that the "Bocchoris" of the Greek historians is Akhenaten--and there
was both famine and plague in his time, going back to the reign of
Amunhotep III, who had raised all those statues of Sekhmet, a rather
plain sign that plague was a concern. This "Bocchoris" also sought to
get rid of a foreign element in Egypt, who had begun to squat in the
temples of the gods, now put out of business. Also, Akhenaten may
have been troubled by a lengthy solar eclipse, which indicated to him
that the sun was displeased and therefore needed to be propitiated.
Akhenaten may never have intended to become a religious zealot, but
became one, anyway. In the "Bocchoris" and related tales, he becomes
such a tyrant that his chief advisor commits suicide rather than serve
him any longer.


Daniel Kolos wrote


Hello Vikki,


One of the first filters self-conscious people use is to be seen not the way they really are, but the way they want us to see them.  We might call it the ego-filter, but whatever we call it, heart-connected people don’t necessarily need to use this filter.  The question, in my mind, is that Akhenaten, at the dawn of having discovered pure abstraction, were not yet dominated by their reason, therefore their chances of passing out of their intellectual development stage into the personal spirituality development was far greater than ours is.  The kind of public piety Akhenaten displayed to the Aten may be interpreted as a well developed heart-connection, or finding a spiritual/religious expression that takes the place of one’s public ego-projection.


(I have a chart of the Matrix Shift Cycles at which is completely a biological unfolding, although our culture does its best to either detract us from even noticing most of these shifts, or to lead us into each so unbalanced that we are unable to follow up on the inner biological imperative!)


I totally agree with your added filters being religion and the role of Mother, and that the two were actually one and the same!  Just take a look at the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, or Mary Magdalen in the Roman Catholic sect and you will see an unabashed worship of Isis and Hathor, respectively.  Look at the systematic repression of women by all the major religions of our world, and you will find the soul (Psyche) separated from the artificial institutions we call religions.


Historia” used to mean ‘learning by inquiry’ rather than by transmission of knowledge, so that a historian had to “rediscover the wheel” for him or herself in each generation.  The book, The Rivers North of the Future: the testament of Ivan Illich was reviewed in the Globe and Mail on March 26, 2005, and the reviewer wrote, “As a former priest, Illich possessed a profound faith in the personal message of Christ and a deep nostalgia for the spirituality of early Christians.  For him, the Good Samaritan exemplifies the kind of free and personal concern for other people that is essential to a socially and spiritually fulfilling life.  The institutionalization of the church and its criminalization of sin (transforming it from the breach of a personal relationship to the violation of a normative standard) corrupted the pure spirituality of early Christianity.  Christianity and Western culture have since devolved into the worst condition possible.”  (page D13)


Illich describes the filter we are now subject to both through our religious training and through our participation in mainline culture.


But there is (at least one) another filter we must negotiate before reaching your conclusion that Hathor ruled.  I believe Jung and those who followed him found what they called the ‘anima’ in men and the ‘animus’ in women.  The anima is female and the animus is male, and both are normally unconscious within us.  Yet, a man’s anima wants to be acknowledged and to enter into a relationship with the Ego and the Self of that man.  Often, these writers note, a man will have a double anima,


“The two anima figures generally represent the light and the dark sides of man’s capacity for appreciating the feminine.  The light anima is often idealistic, lofty, noble, ascetic;  the dark anima is a gypsy, illicit, wildly sensuous, chaotic.  How the dual nature of the anima manifests itself may be as simple as the youth dating first a blond, then a brunette, in his exploration of the mystery of the anima;  or it may be build-in tragedy of Tristan, unable to relate to either of the two Iseults – one angelic, the other very human – in his life without contaminating one with the other.  The double anima is one of the points of greatest suffering in a man’s life, and our modern world is far from a solution to it.... Some cultures allow several wives; others allow concubines;  still other condone a wife and a mistress.  Our official stance is to marry once and by sheer discipline ignore the other anima possibilities in life, or one may try serial marriages....  an ideal solution is to marry a woman who bears one of man’s anima images and invest the other (anima) in an art of creative endeavor in his outer life.  It is one of the large cultural tasks facing us in our age to find a creative solution to the double anima in man. (Robert A Johson, Lying with the Heavenly Woman, p. 47-48)


In this filter, once we are in an age of Patriarchy, where men try rule by sheer force of arms and will, the mythological forms of the gods and goddesses line up to reflect the inner life of those who write ‘history’:  invariable males in ancient Egypt with a few notable exception.  So your description of Hathor’s relationship with Ra and the other gods is actually a true reflection of what happens to the anima when it is not acknowledged by a man:  it goes totally berserk, unpredictable, destructive and uncontrollable – except perhaps by the sweet words of Thoth, who begins a ‘relationship of acknowledgement’ with the anima/goddess.


Turning to Akhenaten and Nefertiti’s relationship with the Amun Priesthood, look at how each acknowledged the feminine:  Amun visited Mut once a year.  Sounds to me like an old marriage where the couple makes love once a year on their anniversary, then go and lead their own individual lives the rest of the year!  Akhenaten goes to his open-air temple several times a day, Nefertiti goes to her Benben chapel at least once a day, and, to complete your scenario, the Queen Mother, Tiye, watches over their safety with her dark but uncompromising presence.


Also pay attention to Marianne’s arguments that there was a pestilence that made Amun-Ra look powerless and ineffective, which featured in the recent KMT, A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt.  Amenhotep III (AIII) had to turn to Sekhmet because centuries of neglecting the feminine aspects of the ruling males weakened the population’s immune system, which generally reflects the thinking and belief systems of the mainline culture.  So when AIII reinvents himself as the Aten, and acknowledges Tiye as Hathor (or the Atenet), he instinctively tried to right a century of feminine repression within.  But he kept his sexual harim, perhaps believing that as a fertility god, he also had an obligation to fertilize and it became an obsession.


When Marianne writes that Akhenaten hacked out the name of Amun even in his father’s name, I think that we see an overreaction from an overactive intellect who feels vulnerable (especially after his other died) and slowly takes all power into his own hands in order to control his environment.  That is how tyrants come into existence, and that is why Redford and others see Akhenaten as a madman, a tyrant, or why Ramses saw him as a ‘criminal’!  It is possible that in the end Akhenaten swung too far the other way.  But what was that ‘other way?’  Did he finally make the connection between his ego and his anima and acknowledged the feminine within himself?  Or did he throw out the feminine altogether?  I think the former, because he kept one of his women, even his own daughters close to himself right until the end.


You have read all the articles dealing with the feminizing statues Akhenaten had make of himself.  I think it had nothing to do with homosexuality, but everything to do with having an active relationship with his inner feminine!





Hello Marianne,

Thank you for the challenges. It helps me in this continual reevaluation of Amarna. I only have a moment right now but I wanted to say that I can appreciate some of your arguments and will answer them if you like, but I had hoped with your knowledge of Tiye, you might have intercepted a few of my points.

The mother syndrome in Oedipus is based on a mindset of those who would benefit from turning the dominant mother into a villainess. And as I mentioned earlier these are the 'type of whisperings' that could have so angered Akhenaten. The reason this scenario never caries over well is because the mass conscious won't allow it, it goes against some ingrain nature.

My guess is the human race remembers from the earliest times that mothers were tops! We trust them more than anyone else; they give us life, protect us, feed us, teach us, love us and won't leave us in our hour of need. Prior to Queen Tiye, Hathor remained celestial. During Tiye, (for the only time ever) Hathor was alive on earth. There's a big difference.

A good example of the 'good mother syndrome' I'm talking about is found in the Bible's recounting of the Exodus. Notice when 'the people' became scared with their plight and turned away from the male god? What's the first thing they did? Turn to 'mother'. The golden calf or bovine was the symbol for Hathor. The reason it had to be gold; Hathor was equated with gold.

In your research of Tiye did you not come across these same anomalies alluding to her extreme power via her usage of Hathor?

Let me ask you this, do you think AIII would have ever told Tiye 'no' to anything? Keeping in mind his obsession Sekhmet, who was Hathor; who was Atenet; who was Queen Tiye; who was his domineering wife!