ONTOGENESIS AND JULIAN JAYNES
A reality check:
What we know about Akhenaten
comes from three sources: the vast Archaeological excavations both from
As for 'what others have said about him,' Sigmund Freud was one of the first ones to encounter 'Akhenaten' in one of his patients who believed he was the reincarnation of this interesting ancient King. However, there is research being done and literature is growing around the possibility that Akhenaten was remembered in folk memory and that memory was transmitted verbally until it surfaced during the reign of the Ptolemies.
Others claim that Akhenaten found in the Aten ‘the One True God.’ That is a bit of a stretch for me, perhaps because Akhenaten himself never spoke of 'The One True God.' He claimed to be “living in Truth (Ankh-em-Ma’at). Moreover, the claim of his monotheism also makes all the other gods 'false' Gods, if the divine playing field only has 'true' and 'false' for a choice. But this kind of playing field is only in the dualistic mind! Many people, myself included, fall off the edge of the playing field where Akhenaten’s sole, or true God is meant for the entire world rather than for Akhenaten himself, personally.
Fortunately for us, we have
great deal of evidence that Akhenaten was actually experimenting within his own
mind! He tried on various Gods and
deities for size (and shape and fit) over his lifetime, starting with
worshiping Amun-Ra and building him some monuments in his first year on the
throne when he was still called Amenhotep (IV). Also remember that he was
16 or 17 years old when he became king and try to remember how a teenager
thinks. Soon after he changed his name
to Akhenaten, he became Shu to Nefertiti's Tefnut, then tried on Ra-Harakhty,
the Sun of the two horizons (rising and setting sun) before settling
upon Aten as the sun-disk. Nor was
he satisfied with that, but experimented with various titles for Aten,
including a royal titulary! Such a
series of changes makes it clear that Akhenaten was a thinking man. He exercised his intellect and developed his
own personal world. That world, because
he was king, affected
I see this experimentation as the world's earliest intellectual exercise in abstraction. The abstract mind (or left brain, or intellect) is one of the many brain functions human beings have. Like all the other brain functions, it has to be exercised before it provides useful feedback. Think of your mathematical skill that was as dead as a doornail at some point, then you exercised it with arithmetic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, maybe even calculus, and so on, and now you have forgotten everything (for lack of exercise) except simple arithmetic because that is all that is needed in order to use money. Or, you may have gone on to find mathematical models of our quantum universe.
Ideally, all the brain functions should work together, each supporting the other. When someone makes one function dominant to the point where the other functions are neglected, that person may become a genius – in chess, as a violin virtuoso, or a nuclear physicist, etc. In all other functions, however, that same ‘genius’ may be an asshole, or just a social misfit. Do you remember Bobby Fischer, the chess champion?
With the evidence we have that Akhenaten exercised his abstract intellect more than most of his contemporaries, he may have been the first individual in history to discover the power of the intellect, the simple beauty of linear, sequential logic (even if it is prone to false reasoning) and discovered that he is able to think like no one else could in his own time. Aten, the sun disk, as a sole god may have been the logical conclusion of a simple intellectual process that no one else was able to perform! (See my study of Akhenaten’s religion of pure reason at http://www.danielkolos.ca/dominantlogic.htm)
ONTOGENESIS AND JULIAN JAYNES
Trying to make sense of Akhenaten
October 11, 2003
The Aten had a very slow but historically short development from the time of Amenhotep III (AIII) to the death (or disappearance) of Akhenaten.* Under AIII this development is very concrete: ‘Aten’ is AIII himself, if we are to believe the Johnson-Murnane-Reeves argument.
(* UnitlAkhenaten’s mummy is positively identified, the possibility that he went into exile as Dr. William Théaux argues, has to be kept open.)
The religion of
Akhenaten has been associated with monotheism.
Henotheism is a more accurate label.
carries its own ‘baggage: it has been associated with abstracting
‘God’ away from the concrete, sensory world of experience. In order to ‘prove’ that Akhenaten
brought us monotheism, we have to find
a point where The Aten becomes abstract.
Is there such a point?
In response to my question, "Hal" sent the following quotation on email@example.com:
"How various is the world you have created,
each thing mysterious, sacred to sight.
O sole God,
beside whom there is no other!
You fashioned earth to your heart's desire,
while you were still alone,
Filled it with man and the family of creatures,
each kind on the ground, those who go upon feet,
he on high soaring on wings,
The far lands of Khor and Kush,
and the rich black land of Egypt."
"You are the One God,
shining forth from your possible incarnations
as Aton, the Living Sun,
Revealed like a king in glory, risen in light,
now distant, now bending nearby.
You create the numberless things of this world
from yourself, who are One alone
cities, field, towns, roadway, the River;
And each eye looks back and beholds you
to learn from the day's light perfection.
O God, you are in the Sun-Disk of Day,
Overseer of all creation
-- your legacy
passed on to all who shall ever be;
For you fashioned their site, who perceive your universe,
that they praise with one voice
all your labors.
And you are in my heart;
there is no other who truly knows you
but for your son, Akhenaten.
May you make him wise with your inmost counsels,
wise with your power,
that earth may aspire to your godhead,
its creatures fine as the day you made them.
Once you rose into shining, they lived;
when you sink to rest, they shall die.
For it is you who are Time itself,
the span of the world;
life is by means of you."
from "Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Sun", translated by John L Foster in "Ancient Egyptian Literature", Univ of Texas Press, 2001. This quotation was posted on firstname.lastname@example.org
"Hal" accompanied the above quotation with this comment: “I find that point (of pure abstraction) clearly reached when the Aten becomes ‘Time itself’.” "Light 'is' Time," as Zenon says.
(Zenon is the alter ego or pen name of Dr. William Theaux whose thesis is that Akhenaten, Moses and Oedipus were one and the same individual and that these three were put back together again thanks to folk memory as Hermes Trismegistus. As such, Hermeticism continued to influence the world, particularly the European Renaissance where Giordano Bruno verbalized the Art of Memory, which, in turn, became the basis for Psychoanalysis.)
Technically the first mention of ‘Aten’ comes during the reign of Thutmose IV, father of AIII and the last mention has to be under Tutankhamun while he is still Tutankhaten.
In a message dated 7/11/01 6:50:39 PM
Eastern Daylight Time, I worte:
It is quite appropriate, Hal, to throw the Aten Hymns into the argument. I keep thinking of the Christian hymns I used to sing in Church for a dozen years or so: whoever composed them, some of them may have been genuine expressions of faith. But most just seemed to be either propaganda or dogma, saying that God is great and man is a sinner and there is a power imbalance. So when I look at Akhenaten's hymn, I see the poetry and the beauty, but I also see the propaganda: previously everyone had different gods and different kings, but now The ATEN is the only god and Akhenaten is The KING from Khor to Kush (Syria to Nubia); that The ATEN is the new ‘creator-god’ because Egypt is the center of the universe.
Note that Aten as a creator-god is no different than
Atum as a creator-god, neither of whom seem to need a female co-creator. Their function is fully part of what is today
called the “patriarchal’ system in which the male dominates and the
feminine function is either repressed or minimized.
The ATEN is NOT abstract as long as it is linked to real-time things everyone can identify: the entire hymn is about real-time things. Based on the theory of Julian Jaynes, I wonder if the ancient Egyptians were even able to develop their abstract logic beyond simple cause and effect? Only a small percentage of them could even read and write, the prerequisites for sophisticated abstractions.
As far as speaking a language, even four year old children associate the abstract words with real-time objects. The 'word' is the 'thing'. It is only after the age of seven or more that the reversal occurs and the developing abstract logical mind changes the concept so that the 'word' separates from the 'thing' and true abstraction begins. The concept of sitting on the word, “chair” was introduced by ?? and its behavioral abstract/concrete component discussed at http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ730804&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ730804
I have noticed that that many levels of abstractions exist with respect to concrete reality. In my study, referred to above, I argue that Akhenaten’s intellectual experimentation may have reached the realm of pure reason where is it all but disconnected from concrete realitiy!
I cannot prove to you that the ancient Egyptians functioned at the level of four year olds. However, most illiterate populations, even in our own time, function on the basis of stories and myths. Their belief system, no matter how sophisticated, is mythopoeic. In a sense, believing in myths is 'abstract', since it takes the imagination, a right-brain function, to absorb stories and pattern one's life after these stories. Such a belief system it is pre-logical.
In the Great Hymn, Akhenaten expressed a ‘cause-and-effect’ Akhenaten expressed relationship (presuming that he composed the Aten hymns) as well as the goal whereby he hoped to establish his hegemony over all the Middle Eastern as well as the Nile-based peoples. But his language is rooted in experiencable, real-time 'things'.
I find Foster's translation suspect, not so much for his abilities to read and translate hieroglyphs, which I happen to know personally as of the highest scholarly standard, but rather for his choice of words and anachronistic use of concepts! I hold that there are no such concepts in ancient
I would like to set out my take on Julian Jaynes' bicameral mind theory -- which has come up before -- and address that question of the ancient Egyptian four-year-old here.
Permit a brief resume of the Bicameral theory as I see it:
Jaynes proposes that what we refer to as consciousness nowadays had an historical origin in the breakdown of an earlier form of consciousness he calls the "Bicameral Mind", loosely or figuratively modeling it on the two hemispheres of the brain, which observed separate functions in that older pattern of consciousness. Thus the left side would be taken up with everyday tasks etc, and when tensions arose to disrupt that the right side would provide guidance in the form of voices. It started way back with the first city-builders (like the Natufians, circa 9000+ bce i think), who would hear the voice of the ancestors, or those of the 'king' of the city (marked by regular burial in a tomb in the center of the city - back then, a permanent settlement of 200+) which then evolved into the voices of gods & goddesses. But then three to four thousand or so years ago, a new development took place.
Humans started using their right brains to make picture & stories about themselves, instead of seeing/hearing messages from the other-side -- this is when they gained an ‘I’ to be conscious of. I guess the right brain sort of becomes a tool for the left brain in this -- in any case, it is here that humans learn how to deceive, among other things. Thus Cortez & Pisarro overcame the bicameral Aztec & Inca empires with a handful of soldiers, the latter by smashing the statues of the Inca gods & declaring them null & void.
According to Jaynes, Egypt & Mesopotamia
are prime examples of bicameral civilizations, though he does not deal much
I have two criticisms of this, the first being one of the reason his theory appeals. You know how they say in biology that Ontogeny (the growth of the individual being) recapitulates Phylogeny (evolutionary history of the being’s DNA)? Jaynes' description of the history of consciousness strongly mirrors the developmental pattern of individual human growth. As children we believe the word is the thing (-; :-) or treat it literally whenever possible -- the ability to deal with figurative language is one of the last we gain on our way to adulthood. Some gain it only partially, for a variety of reasons. -- But as to Jaynes’ theory, I am uncertain how much it describes an actual historical sequence, & how much it describes our individual history of growth into adulthood & civilization. A back-projection.
(Another example of this potential confusion of history with individual development & their projection back & forth on one another are the theories involving an earlier matriarchy replaced historically by patriarchy, which echo a child's course of development -- first an all-powerful mother who arranges the environment about one, this later giving place to increased presence of another voice, the father's, and the learning of rules & restrictions, also more extension in the world. (Social interaction, government etc.) (remember maradise**?)
**’maradise’ is a term used by Zenon (Dr. William Theaux) to note an illusory idealism (damilos)
The other criticism I have is that he does not give enough importance to the question of writing & the development of the letter in his presentation. Writing takes over the function of the voice of the god/des/s. It is a removable memory, a storable memory. I think it can be argued that it is writing itself that causes the development in consciousness Jaynes tries to describe. This is why Homer works so well as an example for him, because 'Homer' marks a transition from oral to written culture.
But the Egyptians were literate long before Homer, and the more I look at the texts, the more modern consciousness a la Jaynes I see. I do note, comparing translations, that many Egyptologists seem to have the tendency to remain within the literal readings strongly, which has the effect of making the text seem primitive. Back when I was trying to learn some hieroglyphics, we would often work through an entire text to the satisfaction of professor & class, and I would be left wondering what the hell it was supposed to mean, and when I tried playing with the figures in the text a little they produced all sorts of interesting meanings. (Has anyone ever done a study of punning in hieroglyphic? Seems like that has potential, like with that laughing donkey IAI in "the dialogue of a man who is tired of life with his soul" (The Rebel in the Soul).
So, to get back to Akhenaten's hymn to the sun as a 4-year-old mentality's production lacking abstraction, I only see that as occurring in the insistence on a literal reading -- a reading driven by certain mythopoetized conceptions of history.
It may seem like I am dredging up the past (I am, after all, an Archaeologist ruled by Pluto), awakening dead thoughts - or reMembering them from this July 13, 2001 post of yours (above), fleshing them out with abstract concepts, tickling or pleasuring your imagination with them just as you have brought pleasure with your own post.
1. Akhenaten as arrogant philosopher
You quoted Foster's Great Hymn to the Aten as evidence of abstraction. The only abstraction I could see (other than the words themselves that represented natural phenomena) is the following:
And you are in my heart;
there is no other who truly knows you
but for your son, Akhenaten.
I see in these lines evidence of an immense arrogance: eight hundred
years before Socrates and the finest philosophers of
In the competitive world of abstractions, Akhenaten's words most likely evoke authority. If there are only a few who know God, they can appoint themselves intermediaries between man and God. Paul did just that on the road to
So what caused Akhenaten to claim for himself that position of sole arbiter of
Sol Invictus (talking about anachronisms)?
1: did he see the people around him so stupid that he couldn't imagine them thinking through a cause and effect relationship?
2: were people around him so busy thinking through the cause and effect relationship of natural and practical phenomena (how to get a loaf of bread on the table from seed; how to transform a living group of trees into a ship; how to transfer excess grain and wine from the Nile Delta into Akhenaten's storage facilities at Akhetaten, etc.) that they took no time to contemplate what makes the grain grow? or how do ships float? or what is the relationship between the sun's heat and grain growing?
3: or perhaps Akhenaten had just discovered cause and effect and thought he was the only one to know how that relationship worked?
4. Was he the only one to stand under the sun and look at its shining disk in the daytime so that it burned its image onto his retina while other people did not look at the sun for prolonged periods?
5. Was he so close to this father, Amenhotep III that he felt no one else could understand the old king as well as Akhenaten?
Since I asked questions, I might as well provide answers, although your answers will do just as well. I think he could have believed #1, so that's a Yes! #2 is No! I don't think the Egyptians thought through any of those things. #3 could be Yes! Following Julian Jaynes' theory, Akhenaten could have 'discovered', at least for himself, cause and effect. And both numbers 4 and 5 are Yes! they are both possible. Read on:
Ontogeny (the growth of the individual being)
I agree with everything you write in your review about Julian Jaynes's work. On the question of whether Jaynes projected the developmental model of ontogenesis onto the larger sphere of Phylogenesis, I believe that the answer is yes. I am also guilty of that similar projection as evidenced in much of my writing. For Jaynes, it is little wonder that he did it: the 1970s were the heady days of major breakthroughs in understanding childhood development. I was personally carried away by the euphoria of that 'new' knowledge even though I knew Rudolf Steiner has made the exact observations fifty years before when he developed the Waldorf Curriculum for children's education. I was young and the Developmental Model was Science and I was elated that science has again proven philosophy (or observation) correct!
Since then, however, it has become evident that Science is not exact and Scientists pick and choose their information just as Propagandists pick and choose their statistics. You can see this sad fact reflected in William Theaux's anger at Zahi Hawass in labeling the latter a 'Sciantist', a Deconstructionist trick invented by the French Philosopher Derrida.
Since the Seventies, also, both Rudolf Steiner and R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz
have been called Spiritual Scientists. That is, they were able (they are
both deceased) to balance within themselves their left and right brain
functions. They both focused their researches on ancient
The question to ask, though, is how long was the foreplay? and was it a linear development? According to William, it was linear, fear of death repressed and transferred to the pleasure principle: as long as we have pleasure in knowledge, we will keep producing knowledge! (This may be the case, according to William, with our present correspondence. Is this 'gray literature? Or gratuitous self-pleasuring? Are we producing meme?) It is a growth industry we have sustained through the industrial revolution (technological orgasm) the Atomic age (scientific orgasm), the information age (internet orgasm) and fast growing into the cybernetic age (the ultimate mind-fuck?).
Of course I have consistently disagreed with William Theaux on this issue of
linearity. Less than 5% of the world is hooked up to telephones (although
this statistic may have changed in the past few years) and only a tiny fraction
of them are interlinked with computers. (A hundred million computer users
are still only around one and half percent of the total population) In this sense, William is doing what the 19th
century biblical scholars were doing in
This methodology is analogous to a horse trotting along a narrow road with a blinder so the horse cannot see other possible routes and so it cannot be frightened by other vehicles on the road.
The fact is that other things developed besides technology and science and
computer chips. Some people moved with the technology and kept their
imagination and intuition 'up-to-date', that is, not driven by the technology
of the left brain, but staying with it,
assimilating it into the 'whole', into what is called the 'intelligence of the
heart'. The 'heart' is the place where the concrete (physical body) and
the abstract (intellect, intuition and imagination) meet for those people who
have gone through the genetically programmed matrices: Womb, Mother,
Nature, Intellect, Heart. This list, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/akhnaton
I have to accede, may also look linear, but it is not a human production such as the linear expansion of recent additions to knowledge. And upon closer examination, it is not linear: womb, mother and nature are constantly expanding environments 'outside' the human being, while intellect and heart are internal horizons. My disagreement with William stems from the fact that intellect is used culturally to control one's external environment. From that point of view, and only from that point of view, he is right: the intellect is a linear continuation of womb-mother-nature.
However, attempting to control the external environment is a pathological use of the intellect, a restricted use of a very powerful 'tool'. All of William's efforts are directed at this restricted use and towards all the pathological outcomes (industries) that use brings with it.
This restricted and pathological use of the intellect can only happen when the
genetically programmed human development goes off course or encounters human
interference: when the transfer from womb to mother encounters numbing
drugs or a cesarean cut; when the 'mother' is replaced by a blanket or a
television set; when nature is replaced by a sterile nursery or a restrictive
In its relentless course of genetic programming, the child's intellectual development opens either on its own, or is forced to open due to pathological circumstances whether or not the child goes through the full course of Mother-bonding or Nature-bonding.
The problem in our way of looking both at ourselves and at our past is that we assume that this pathology is the norm. Even Julian Jaynes made that assumption. I know this issue was not one of your two critiques of Jaynes, but it is mine. Therefore, while it is true that Jaynes superimposed Ontogeny on Phylogeny, I can either be his apologist or critic. I choose the former. At least Ontogeny has become known to a degree with which some people feel comfortable.
Since the psychiatric treatment of the culturally induced pathologies has been conducted within the paradigm of those very pathologies, William does well to step out of the paradigm. I am just not convinced that his Plural Analysis (PlAn) can help others to step out of their pathologies. I am not a professional, but as an observer I have recognized ways to avoid cultural pathologies. This argument, of course, is not one of those ways. (-;
So Jaynes looks back at the texts and art of the ancient peoples and looks for
the beginnings of pathology. If his way of assessing the earliest people
is right - that 'humans started using their right brains to make picture &
stories about themselves, instead of seeing/hearing messages from the
other-side' (your paraphrase, above, with which I agree) - then how come homo
sapiens developed such a large brain capacity in the first place, rather than
adding on to his brain capacity as his consciousness and thinking became more
and more complex?
I cannot answer that question, of course. But the analogy works with childhood development, in that children are born with this tremendously big (relative to body-size) brains that are presumed to be empty! They can perform only the barest of instinctive functions - to search for homeostasis: the mother's warmth, smell, sound and breast. Yet, the being itself is complex, but perhaps no more complex at this point than any other mammal. The fact is that the large neocortex is, for all practical purposes, empty. *(update) But we have to ask the question, empty of what? Through recent neurotransmitter studies it is known that the brain is empty of developed neurons. It is, at the same time, totally and completely filled with glia cells, each of which is ready and prepared to guide and direct the soon to be growing neurons to their goal.*
Since social life among mammals without abstractions exists and works, it is possible, therefore, that Jaynes' interpretation is correct: early peoples absorbed their social/cultural codes without speech. Once there was speech, they 'heard' or intuited it from their ancestors or early kings. Imagination and intuition are right-brain functions. Speech is a left brain function. As William is trying desperately to point out, both deal with phantasms. What William fails to point out is that both deal with phantasms only if these left and right brain functions are isolated or fragmented from the rest of the brain and bodily functions!
So let's say that Jaynes is looking at ancient peoples without a sense of modern pathology. Can we do that? According to William we cannot, because paranoia is universal today, therefore it had to be universal in the past. As long as we agree that instinctual fear such as flight or fight or fear of falling or the fear of abandonment are not paranoia, then perhaps we can. But the thrust of Jaynes' theory is that the development of consciousness was fear-based and therefore it plays right into Lacan's and William's way of looking at human being both then and now! What was the fear? Social/cultural traditions. Making sure that those alive do what the ancestors have decreed. *Perhaps this sort of fear has become part of the consciousness of our species, adapted (and adopted) into our genes as an evolutionary development. The fact is that most mammal newborn are not afraid of their environment: even bears and foxes have to ‘batter’ their offspring to ‘teach’ them when and where it is safe to go.*
Back to Jaynes, as the left-brain began to either overtake or to dominate the mental activity of these ancient peoples, the voices of the ancestors were lost. That added another level of paranoia according to Jaynes, so people began to fashion statues that might do the speaking of gods and ancestors who stopped. In that sense, this development of consciousness was fear-based.
But as I see Jaynes' presentation, it not ontogenic at all! In my view (or, as William Theaux calls it, phantasm, as it were), children come with their brain filled with the genetic material of memory: they come with knowledge – or the ability to know, gnosis - of both their genetic lineage and their reincarnational experiences. As they are born and develop, they add their own cultural codes and personal experiences to the pre-existing multitude of memories. The ideal situation, the one William derides so much, is when there are culturally provided ways or people who help the developing child to tell the difference, to know which is the pre-existing memory and which is the cultural code! And I don't find it surprising at all that there are such culturally provided people: parents and other role models. The problem enters this ideal situation, what you and William call 'maradise', when you assume only the existence of a fear-based culture: if the parents and role models transmit only the cultural fear codes, then genetic and reincarnational memory 'dies' or is cut off, is repressed.
This transfer of fear-codes happens, I don't deny it, in an increasing number of cultures. In a sense, the so-called New World Order or Globalization is spreading this cultural toxin and destroying more and more indigenous cultures with their 'healthier' child-raising practices.
Shamans in every culture had the traditional role of living outside the mainstream of life for a specific reason: to bring their people back to their communal and individual memories at special times. These shamans are different from 'priests' who manipulate cultural fears into socially acceptable religious/spiritual channels. The shamans are still around, taking people away from their paranoia, letting them walk through fire without getting burned, accustoming people to their internal power both individually and collectively.
Needless to say, Jaynes does not deal with shamans. Therefore his paradigm for looking at the ancient world is fear-based.
Akhenaten as a four-year-old
Now let's take a look at Akhenaten’s hymn and his claim again:
"And you are in my heart;
there is no other who truly knows you
but for your son, Akhenaten."
In the developmental research, children with abandonment issues tend to become possessive at any age. But, between ages 2-4 when object constancy has been achieved and before social skills are mastered, children relate to objects as if these were an extension of 'Mother'. If the objects they play with are taken away, their sense of abandonment rises to the surface. In a normal childhood this relationship changes after age 4.
We now have Akhenaten saying to his fellow Egyptians that he is the only one
who can have a personal relationship with the Sun, and that the Sun, the Aten,
is his father and no one else's. Akhenaten calls himself the "unique
one of Aten" (Wa-en-Ra). On the Egyptological lists I support
the theory that he must have referred to his flesh-and-blood father, Amenhotep
III, but here I am willing to go out on a limb and say that Akhenaten actually
thought of the Aten, the Sun's Disk or visible globe, as his 'Father'.
His 'Father' shed his light on everyone and everything, and made them live.
Akhenaten then expresses this child-like claim that only he can know that Sun,
that ‘father’. This is in a country that has worshipped the
sun for almost 2000 years before Akhenaten was born!
*So I am looking at this same 'abstraction' you have also discovered but I am seeing in it the very evidence that, rather than an abstract sophisticate, Akhenaten was much more likely acting like a four year old! Here is what Tom Hart had to say about this tendency of Akhenaten that has taken in most Egyptologists as well:
“Such minute observation (in the Great Hymn to the Aten) is charming and immediate, and the literary care expanded – the symmetry of the three… lines [You’ve brought it about for him that he fulfill his term to break forth from the egg; and he goes forth from the egg, to speak, his term fulfilled], for instance (classical rhetoricians term this an epanodos) – is engaging on a more formal level. The devotional link between this vividly articulated world and the creator and sustainer god symbolized by the sun disk has suggested biblical parallels in Psalm 104, and the apparent personalism of the Amarna hymns, because it is monotheistic, has been readily appreciated, overshadowing the widespread personalism of the ‘polytheistic’ sun hymns of the New Kingdom and Osirian hymns from as early as the Middle Kingdom. Grimal [A History of Ancient Egypt, page 230], for instance, asserts:
The originality of Akhenaten was to turn the rays of the Disc into a physical reality, the tangible manifestation of the creator within the range of the common man. He therein provided an image that was easy to understand and avoided the need to rely on the specialized clergy as some intermediaries between men and an impenetrable god. The Aten literally provided mortals with immediate perception of the divine, in complete contrast to Amun, who was the ‘hidden’ god.
“But this seeming personalism is deceptive. A more careful investigation of Amarna theology reveals a tight bottleneck between ‘The Living Aten’ and humanity: only Akhenaten (and perhaps the members of his immediate family) stood in a direct relationship to the god of Amarna, and Akhenaten himself was the unique intercessor between the god and humanity at large. … The enlightened philosopher king whom some early Egyptologists wanted to see in Akhenaten must give way to a totalitarian with exclusive access to god. Akhenaten displays unshakable self-assurance regarding his god, so that even in extolling the god’s benevolent life-giving energy, Akhenaten turns the praise around to mark his own perceptual and interpretive authority.” (ReMembering Osiris, pp. 194-195)
Hart, in my opinion, is quite right in his assessment, but misses the opportunity Jaynes would have taken, and the one I insist upon, that Akhenaten was the only one who could even think about such minutiae, the only one who had the sensibilities to become aware of the heat of the sun-rays when doming out of the shade and experienced that contrast not just as a sensation (as everyone else would experience it), but perhaps as a drug-induced total body-mind experience. I say ‘perhaps drug-induced’ because Prof. Donald Redford (then of the University of Toronto, now of Penn State) offered an alternative while once speculating on Akhenaten open-air worship of the sun, that it may not only have blinded Akhenaten, but such consistent staring, if indeed that was what Akhenaten was doing, would have been trance inducing in itself!
There is one other matter Hart deals with that can be updated. On the same page, 195) he notes that “a subsequent section of the (Great) hymn (to the Aten) is also extraordinary for its focus on the different races (literally ‘skin colors’) and languages of people, for whom the sun god provides means of sustenance with their different geographical circumstances….” Farmer, et al, have identified such classifications as having developed from a pre-modern mindset that begins around the middle of the first millennium BCE and becomes universal by the end of it. Akhenaten, in that case, shows up as an early anomaly that Farmer may not be aware of! I quote the research:
“Correlative structures show up world wide in premodern magical, astrological, and divinational systems; in the designs of villages, cities, temples, and court complexes; in abstract orders of gods, demons, and saints; in formal numerological systems; in hierarchical and temporal cosmologies; and in many similar phenomena. The idea that reality consists of multiple ‘levels’, each mirroring all others in some fashion, is a diagnostic feature of premodern cosmologies in general; tracing this idea from its primitive origins to its modern decline is one of the major challenges faced by specialists in premodern thought.
“One of the simplest forms of correlative thought lay in the realistic links typically posited between objects and words or visual symbols in primitive magical-ritual systems; the cross-cultural similarities in those systems suggest that the deepest roots of correlative thought lay in neurobiological processes…. Establishment of word-object correlations was guided by matters of gross resemblance and intense etymological speculation; classic examples are found in early divinational treatises like the Yijing or in the magical formulae of the Atharvaveda and Egyptian funerary texts. While a number of motifs show up globally in correlative systems – including heaven/earth distinctions, astrological correspondences, and man-the-microcosm concepts, ethnographic field studies suggest that the detailed contents of those systems typically arose from idiosyncratic Shamanic and/or dream experiences; the result is that it is impossible to predict the exact forms of correlative thought that emerge even in primitive societies existing in nearly identical ecological and social conditions.”
Excerpt from an article by Steve Farmer, John B. Henderson and Michael Witzel
In “Neurobiology, Layered Texts, and Correlative Cosmologies: a Cross-Cultural Framework for Premodern History. (BNFEA 72, 2000) pp. 49-50*
You point out another matter that shows
Akhenaten immature. You ask about the Egyptian tendency to have fun with
puns. They were masters of it! In the Contendings of Horus and
Seth, for example, Seth declares to the Court where he argues for taking
Even though the meaning is clear enough that Seth claims to have sodomized Horus, the word for 'work' is a homonym of the word for 'vagina'. Puns are everywhere, and the entire culture laughed greedily at the mere hint of a double entendre. But this punning is missing from Akhenaten's writings! Was he never secure enough to relax and laugh? Probably not. He was obsessed with his public image. There we have a pathology that is prevalent in our own culture: when people think it is more important what other people think of themselves rather than the self-image or the self-worth they themselves might have, they usually have a very negative self-image and very little self-worth. Rather than accusing me of superimposing this 'modern' attitude upon the ancient Egyptians, I claim that that this very characteristic is that of an adolescent - you can read that in any Psych 101 textbook!
I rest my case. And we have not even entered the arena of mythopoeic mindset yet!
Hello Daniel! (September 20, 2001)
Have been working through http://groups.yahoo.com/group/akhnaton/message/1936
this past day or so. You begin with Akhenaten, go on to Ontogeny (growth of the individual being), then to Jaynes and finally back to Akhenaten. I will follow this sequence, excerpting & responding to some of your words (in << >> ) from the above (our long postponed 'dialogue'?) -- though when Jaynes appears I think I will slip over to a little text of Lacan before getting back to Akhenaten.
Here you call Akh "an arrogant philosopher" using the lines from the Hymn to Aten (in Foster's translation):
<< And you are in my heart;
there is no other who truly knows you
but for your son, Akhenaten.
This is evidence of an immense arrogance: eight hundred years before Socrates and the finest philosophers of Greece, Akhenaten tells us that only he has eyes to see the cause and effect relationship of the sun to the earth.> >
Is that what he tells us? That would indeed be silly. I think humans have been seeing/talking that relationship for some 40,000 years now at least.
<< In the competitive world of abstractions, Akhenaten's words most likely evoke authority. If there are only a few who know God, they can appoint themselves intermediaries between man and God. >>
(You invoke competition & questions of power here, which I want to hold onto.) --
In the context of Akhenaten's time, those intermediaries were already firmly in place -- priesthood of Amun, etc. His words express immediate knowledge -- or gnosis, if you will -- the sun is in his heart, and he 'Akhenaten' is son of the sun.
This hymn, as we know, was strong blow against those intermediaries of Amun, like a whipping delivered to money-lenders & thieves in his father's temple.
<< On the Egyptological lists I support
the theory that he must have referred to
his flesh-and-blood father, Amenhotep III, but here I am willing to go out
on a limb and say that Akhenaten actually
thought of the Aten, the Sun's Disk or visible globe as his 'Father'. >>
I would say you are right on both counts, and it is only, well, 'mono-thinking' that keeps one from holding these two abstractions together at once. I would argue that what we have operating here is the rhetorical structure known as chiasmus, another word for Williams 4-fold Lacanian equations I think.
Chi is that x-shaped letter in Greek, the crossing of two lines. I cite an exemplar from Nietzsche (Genealogy of Morals), where he crosses good/evil with good/bad, and goes on to show how different those two 'goods' are, in spite of the fact that they get rhetorically confused all the time. This first pair, good/evil, is applied in moral judgments, generally of human behavior. The second pair, good/bad relates on the other hand (cross) to functionality. So if, say, my coffeemaker broke, that would be 'bad', though it would hardly make my coffeemaker 'evil'. Likewise, if it works, that's 'good', but I am still not much tempted to pat it on head good dog or worship it good god, however much I like the caffeine it produces for me... (hm, bad example, maybe, as I build a little shrine here to coffee... :-)
But lets take this chiasmus cross to akhnaten/sun & akhnaten/father. You see one Akhenaten there, I see two. Amenhotep III is father to one of them, and the sun to the other. One says "I Akhenaten am son of Amenhotep III" and the other says "I Akhenaten am son of the Sun" -- now, denying one father's name for the other's makes for the complicated Oedipus we gno so well, and the circle the deny rolls.
But in these words, I see Akhenaten extend a further complication/abstraction axis, when he says the sun is in his heart, so we see there is also the line akhnaten/heart to reach from the cross in the circle to the cube in the sphere.
Here I am, he says, a six-rayed star! And he speaks this as pharaoh, high house representative for all the people, against the intermediaries standing between people & the divine. Look at me, he says, Unique & One in Ra, in Wa greatness! This is how you enter the kingdom of heaven! Beautiful are the manifestations of Ra! (Nepher-kheperu-re wa-en-re)
And this was a very strong magick to oppose to the Amun priests great sorcery -- & I bet he had early prescient flashes of where it & he must go, did it knowing what it was to mean for him.
And the words themselves, they sound so like another’s much later, who cried at the end to that father Adon/Aten, asking why forsaken...
"Why hast thou forsaken me, Adonai!" said Christ on his cross, and I hear these words resonate back to Akhenaten’s time, and wonder if Tut, forced to stay home when Dad left for his desert adventure, charged to take care of things as best he could in His place, cried something the same, when the soldiers, in employ of intermediary-amon-priests, came and hacked him limb from limb.
II. Ontogeny (growing to be)
Here I must confess, I find the developmental model of ontogenesis as hysterical as William does History-Akhstory. The shiny perfect human who exist as abstract phantom in isolation bores me to tears, till it hurt.
A tree is growing on a mountainside and a big rock falls to crash against it, bending & partly breaking it. It draws more water & sunlight, & over the years, grows its way around that rock all twisted. Is it now a bad tree? Everything twists as it grows into econiche, econiche twisting too. Is that all bad?
(Yes! says sunhead Sophocles, and ROFLs: "Best never to have been born, next best to die young!" LOL LOL LOL)
Pathology I can make signify what creates emotions, and then not worry so much about whether it is good or evil pathology. It just is, in its truth, and I am free to judge it as I will, without orders from dog or god. Like with orgasm -- neither good nor bad in itself, & i note there a lot of different expressions of it, from the knowledge explosion/dissemination you note to ones like we saw in recent double orgasm that took down the two towers in
********* ********** **********
one thing you say I think almost the opposite:
<< with childhood development [...] children are born with this tremendously big (relative to body-size) brains that are presumed to be empty! >> & <<The fact is that the large neocortex is, for all practical purposes, empty.> >
Already full of light I am sure, electrical energy readable, and racing thru more circuits than the brain will have later (after adolescence), to very great practical ends.
On a tangent to this light explosion, now vinculated to it, your mentions of 1970's developmental psychology brought up memory of a short paper I wrote when going back to school in the mid-80s to pick up my secondary school teaching certification, on an argument Lacan had with Piaget about the notion of egocentric discourse.
I quote a relevant passage, from a lecture by Lacan headed: "The Subject & the Other: Alienation" (in "The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis" London 1977 translated by A Sheridan from Jacques Lacan "Les Quatres concepts fondamentaux de la Psychanalyse" Paris 1964):
"The Piagetic error ... is an error that lies in the notion of what is called the egocentric discourse of the child, defined as the stage at which he lacks what this Alpine psychology calls reciprocity.. Reciprocity is very far from the horizon of what we mean at that particular moment, and the notion of egocentric discourse is a mis-understanding. The child, in this discourse, which may be tape-recorded, does not speak for himself, as one says. No doubt, he does not address the other, if one uses here the theoretical distinction derived from the function of the "I" and the "you". But there must be others there -- it while all these other fellows are there, indulging all together, for example, in little games of operations, as they are provided with in certain methods of so-called active education, it is there that they speak -- they don't speak to a particular person, they just speak, if you'll pardon the expression, "à la cantonade".
"This egocentric discourse is a case of 'hail to the good listener!'"
You guessed it already, maybe:
In the Hymn to Aten, what you call it egocentric discourse I call a case of 'hail to the good listener' in the light that is time, and one of the first & greatest ceremonial magick blows to the empire of the Amun (the power intermediary).
This by one of time's master punsters, who punned the name of the father out of & into existence, Wa-en-re (Amenhotep IV, Akhenaten... Nepherkepheru-re!
It's a wonderful reply, Hal. There are several points to comment on:
1. Priests of Amun as 'intermediaries'
I am not sure that they were 'intermediaries,
or, at least, that was not
Akhenaten's problem. Their economic power spilling over and wanting to influence or control the Royal Family was more likely the problem.
Great example, though I am not sure it applies. Good/bad as separate from good/evil may work for us. Overlooking the fragmentation aspect of it, let's look again at Akhenaten: Akhenaten as Son of the Dazzling Aten does not look separate from Akhenaten as the Son of the Dazzling Aten. Amenhotep III called himself the Dazzling Aten. The Sun's disk was also called the Dazzling Aten.
The 'Murder-of-the-Father' concept has an inherent weakness I pointed out in a recent post (September 12, Murder in Maradise): if the father/teacher inspires the son/student to become greater than him (the father/teacher) then the separation between the two needs not be murder.
3. Akhenaten as six-rayed star:
"Here i am, he says, a six-rayed star! And he speaks this as pharaoh, high house representative for all the people, against the intermediaries standing between people & the divine. Look at me, he says, Unique & One in Ra, in Wa greatness! This is how you enter the kingdom of heaven! Beautiful are the manifestations of Ra! (Nepher-kheperu-re wa-en-re)
"And this was a very strong magick to
oppose to the amon priests great sorcery
-- & I bet he had early prescient flashes of where it & he must go, did it knowing what it was to mean for him."
This paragraph is utterly beautiful.
What it says to the Amun priests and to
the people of
Invoking the 'kingdom of heaven' and superimposing the Christian mythology, however, denies or represses Akhenaten's uniqueness, don't you think?
The evidence from
4. The shiny perfect human
The developmental model of ontogenesis has everything to do with avoiding repression and nothing to do with perfection. If it did, the Aryan supremacists would have long ago latched on to it! Perhaps this aspect that the developmental model bores you and excites me shows the healthy variety of our train of thoughts. The fact that this model is based on observation, not on an abstract theory, makes it a practical tool for me. I have raised my children by observing them and enabling them to learn or practice their next genetically opened field. This model also helped a group of local people to apply the developmentally based Waldorf Curriculum. It was a matter of following the course of nature, rather than fighting it.
Perfection in the children is not an issue here. That is an unwarranted conclusion. In one sense, children are 'perfect' at any given moment in their lives. But you allude to 'perfection' as an ideal, a phantasm. In fact, children are the ones that will bend and grow around the 'rocks' that push against them or might split them, without becoming psychotic of schizophrenic. To equate the developmental model with Hysterical phantasm is to call all life parasitic: no one can stop you, but that state of mind will blind you to the beautiful and delicate eco-system that nurtures that life - and death.
5. Piaget and Lacan
Thank you for sharing this discourse between the two. The fact is, however, that the Developmental model has left Piaget, its founder, behind and has been in the hands of neurologists for over 20 years. My own interpretations of vast amounts of research, often with conflicting conclusions, is guided by two main actors, J.C. Pearce, a psychologist with a long history of meditative practices and Rudolf Steiner. Though one is dead and I only met the other twice, I consider them 'teachers'.... The reason I am willing to read William's thoughts is because Lacan was his 'teacher' and William knows he has gone beyond Lacan. I know I have gone beyond Steiner. It doesn't mean that I have nothing more to learn from Steiner. But he had his blind spots, one of which William identifies as avoidance of sexuality. That avoidance is not enough of a reason to dismiss Steiner or belittle him, nor to repress/suppress him.
6. Master punster
Yes! He had to do it so that he, Akhenaten, would step outside the paradigm where Amun-Ra was the King-of-all-the-Gods. It took an immensely clever magic indeed.
We have a similar challenge today, although it is not generally noticed: as 'citizens' or 'residents' we are merely slaves or, at best, indentured servants to the debts of the governments within whose territory we are 'citizens' or 'residents'. By definition, our individual sovereignty does not exist while we have the status of being 'citizens' or 'residents'. As long as we don't care, there is no problem. As long as the Egyptians didn't care that they were ALL included under Amun-Ra's economic blanket, Amun-Ra ruled. Whether Thutmose III and his successors removed themselves from that blanket designation with a judicious mix of magic and diplomacy or by force and terror makes no difference. Akhenaten tried to remove himself probably with magic and terror just at the point when magic and diplomacy almost succeeded. In that sense, he lost the 'battle' for all of us since 'Amun' still has control over us economically.
What intrigues me is how William, and perhaps you and others, arrive from three imperfect individuals such as Akhenaten, Moses and Oedipus, to the idealism and Gnosis of a Hermes Trismegistus and dismiss all other idealisms. I know that this sort of transformation/transmutation exists in Nature: place manure on the soil and the subsequent planting will be healthier than without manure. Manure, in itself, may be imperfect, but in combination with other factors, it becomes food for our food. Akhenaten, Moses and Oedipus, by themselves, may be imperfect, but what are the other factors that make them food for thought (Gnosis)?
Father relevant correspondence will be added if and when they 'happen'.
For a deeper examination of William Theaux's work on anew historical model based on his formula that the repressed memory of Akhenaten, Moses and Oedipus became Hermes Trismegistus, please see:
Akhenaten's Role in History:
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