The Akhenaten Religion: The Basis of Today’s Major Religions
When we say, “Eshedu en la ilahe illAllah, ve eshedu enne Muhammeden abduhu ve resuluh,” we perform the very first pillar of Islam. Until they this phrase, known as the Kalimah i Shahadah, no one is regarded as a Muslim or expected to perform the following sacred duties.
The meaning of this phrase is very well known, but let’s repeat it in English: “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammed is his servant and messenger.”
It is believed that the Kalimah i Shahadah emerged around 600 AD. Now, let’s look at an earlier, but different version that dates back 2,000 years earlier: “ I bear witness that there is no god but Aton, and I bear witness that Akhenaten is his messenger delivering Aton’s light to us.”
Akhenaten was known as Amenhotep IV (Amenophis IV) when he came to the throne of Egypt. Compared to the other pharaohs, we know very little about him because his successors deliberately erased his name from history. Although it was a serious crime in Ancient Egypt, his name was even erased from his tomb.
In this article, I will dwell on why his name was erased rather than reciting the official history of Akhenaten. I can suggest many other sources for those who want to learn his official history, but in this article, I will be asking questions that go against the official history.
According to official historical sources, Akhenaten, one of the last pharaohs of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, ruled for 17 years between 1353 BC and 1336 BC. During the final years of his father’s reign, he served as regent. He acceded to the throne on the death of his father, Amenhotep III. His mother, Tiye, did not come from royal blood. She was the first queen to come from an ordinary family. According to some sources, Tiye is said to be the sister of Yuya, whereas other sources claim she was Yuya’s daughter. Yuya was a powerful courtier during the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt, and he served as a key adviser to Amenhotep III. He was honored for his efficient rule of Egypt by being buried in the Valley of the Kings despite not being a pharaoh. Tiye, despite coming from an ordinary family, had the power of a pharaoh and served as a governing figure.
The young pharaoh ascended to the throne as Amenhotep IV. Later, during his early years on the throne, he changed his name, which meant “Amon is happy,” to Akhenaten, which meant “Spirit of Aton” or “Servant of Aton.”
He established the earliest known monotheistic religion, the rules of which I will discuss in this article. To achieve such a massive reform in the polytheistic Egypt, Akhenaten established a new capital city called Akhetaton (Aton’s horizon) in today’s Tel el Amarna, located 300 km away from the previous capital of Teb.
During his reign, he focused on promoting his new religion. Just like his father, he followed a diplomatic rather than militant foreign policy. He had two wives named Kiya and Nefertiti. Although it is unclear, it is believed he had two sons with Kiya and six daughters with Nefertiti.
It is still unclear what happened after his death. It was a suspicious death, and the cause remains unknown. However, it is even more complicated when it comes to those who succeeded him and how long they reigned.
Smenkhkare’s father came to the throne after Akhenaten, but we do not have any information about “his” age or gender. According to one view, he was Akhenaten’s brother, whereas others say he was the son of Akhenaten’s wife Kiya. Some claim the new pharaoh was a woman. He may have been married to one of Akhenaten’s daughters, Meritaten. Following his short reign, Meritaten ascended to the throne. Right after Meritaten, Grand Vizier Ay declared himself pharaoh. Finally, Tutankhamun ascended to the throne. We know very little about their family relationship, but Tutankhamun taught us much about Ancient Egypt thanks to the discovery of his undamaged tomb. His name was originally Tutankaton, but he was later persuaded to change his name to Tutankhamun by the high priests of Amun.
After Tutankhamun, Horemheb, the commander in chief of the army, became pharaoh. Horemheb and his successors erased all records of Akhenaten and his successors before Horemheb. They even distorted history by making changes in the royal archives to suggest that Horemheb directly succeeded Amenophis III.
The Origin of the Abrahamic Religions
Actually, this brief history is not that important, because the official history is always written by the most recent political power. Therefore, let’s forget about the official history now, because we are fairly sure it was distorted, and focus on searching for the truth.
The things I will discuss are available from written sources. My only contribution here is to gather them together and make some connections by stating my opinions.
Therefore, we are now going to evaluate a different point of view rather than the history of the official records.
Let us go back to 1600 BC in Harran, the homeland of Abraham. In those times, the Mitanni kingdom reigned in the area. The origin of the Mitanni is unknown, just like the Hittites, but we do know they had Indo-Aryan roots. They were most likely the heirs of the ancient Indus Civilization in India.
Abraham was originally named Abram and lived in the Mitanni kingdom. He did not suddenly start believing in one God, as mentioned in the holy books. Instead, he read, studied and pondered a lot. He searched for the truth, just like we do. Later, as his faith in one God grew stronger, he started to disagree with others around him. According to some views, he was oppressed, whereas others say he moved to Harran to avoid tyranny. According to some sources, Harran was the first civilized city in the world, the city of Adam. The first university and the first observatory in the world were established in Harran as well. After leaving Harran, Abram moved to Palestine and then to Egypt.
Abram changed his name to Abraham during his journeys. The resemblance of his new name to “Brahma” is quite significant, because Brahma in the Hindu belief system refers to a god who has endless power, creates everything, and exists forever. We know the Mitanni civilization had Indus roots, so it is very likely that Abraham started to believe in Brahma and changed his name. In other words, Hindu influences may be present among the possible roots of monotheistic beliefs. There is also a lesser-known fact about this matter. According to this theory, Abraham was in fact Artatama, the king of the Mitanni civilization.
In Islam, Abraham (Ibrahim) is believed to have constructed the Kaaba in Mecca. This belief does not exist in other monotheistic religions. In fact, Kaaba was the first monotheistic temple. According to this belief, Abraham and his son Samuel (Ismail) prayed to God while building the pillars of Kaaba and blessed Kaaba as the Sacred House of the only God. Another interesting detail in this story is that Ismail stayed in Mecca to protect the Kaaba. The Quraysh family, the family of Mohammed, and the other three big families in Mecca based their family roots on Ismail and Ibrahim. Therefore, Mohammed was descended from Abraham and also distantly related to Moses and Jesus, who were Jewish. This fact also explains why he was circumcised. On the other hand, some commentators claim that Mohammed preferred to trace his roots to Ibrahim, because he didn’t want to trigger a reaction from the Jews, the dominant religion at the time, and other monotheistic religions while spreading Islam.
Now, let’s return to the main subject of Abraham travelling to Egypt. There was never slavery in Egypt pursuant to Maat laws. This is a very important fact about Egypt. People who incurred tax debts paid them back to the state by laboring, much like community service in today’s world. There was never a “master and slave” sort of relationship, and the Jews were never slaves in Egypt. While Abraham resided in Egypt, he and his fellows grew stronger in the area. They later came to power during the Hyksos Invasion, where “princes of the desert” tried to take over Egypt. However, it’s better at the moment to put aside the fact that the Hyksos had the same roots as Abraham and his ancestors.
A new migrant in Egypt grew stronger and became the main courtier to the pharaoh in the palace: Yuya. You may also know him as Yousofe. As can be observed in tomb drawings, Yuya was an Asian man, although modern Egyptologists dispute this fact, and did not look like an Egyptian at all. In fact, his different physical features correspond perfectly with the legend of him being extremely beautiful.
Yuya ruled Egypt perfectly. He had highly prestigious titles and an authority that had never been given to an ordinary person before. He wedded his daughter (or sister, depending on the source) Tiye to Akhenaten’s father, Amenophis III. By doing this, he became related to the royal family. This meant the Pharaoh’s family—including his successor, Akhenaten—would be Abraham’s grandchildren. This fact is crucial, because later in the article, we will see how people from this bloodline lost their ruling power in Egypt. In fact, they would be wiped from history.
An interesting fact is that Akhenaten also carried Abraham’s genes, just like all other prophets of the monotheistic religions.
Yuya was loyal to the monotheistic belief that Abraham had brought from Harran. Indeed, secret beliefs about one true God were already present in Ancient Egypt. Such a belief was being taught in Heliopolis, which was called “On” in those times. According to this belief, Ra is the greatest God and the God of the other gods. In time, the name changed from Ra-Horus to Re-Herakhti. A secret brotherhood continued to protect this belief in Heliopolis, and the Priests of Osiris were also guardians of the same information. Yuya’s ancestral knowledge about one single God, combined with the similar secret knowledge protected in Egypt, was ready to be spread all over the world.
A young man, either Yuya’a grandson or nephew, was supposed to rise to the throne as Amenophis IV. Yuya made him his student and gave the young king-to-be the knowledge and love of a single God. Eventually, Yuya converted him entirely to the monotheistic belief.
Amenophis IV was a young man when he came to the throne. Just as Yuya did, his mother Tiya, a strong woman from a monotheistic family, had an influence on him, too. During the reign of Yuya, the relationship with the Mitanni Kingdom, the land of their ancestors, became stronger. As a result, Kiya, the daughter of the king of Mitanni, was dispatched to marry Amenophis III. However, while she travelled to Egypt, Amenophis III died, and she had to marry the new pharaoh. Kiya was a follower of the Mitanni–Harran–Sumerian beliefs, and she approved the idea of a single God.
Then Nefertiti Came on the Stage
No one knows where Nefertiti came from. The meaning of her name is something like “Here comes the beauty,” although others maintain it means “the beauty that came from the south (or faraway lands).” This wasn’t her real name but rather one that was given to her later. Even today, nobody knows where she came from. She was most probably a Sabi from the land of Saba, or she was a princess of the Mitanni Kingdom. Some even say she was an incarnation of Isis. As soon as Nefertiti arrived, she became the number-one wife of Akhenaten. She was always beside him, literally, at all occasions, and she shared Akhenaten’s beliefs. She gave birth to six daughters with Akhenaten.
The First Monotheistic Religion Is Established
Akhenaten formulated the Aton religion soon after marrying Nefertiti. In fact, Aton had been known about since early times. Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III, had also made offerings to Aton. However, in this new religion, the polytheistic pantheons disappeared, and Aton became the only God.
Some commentators tend to underestimate this revolution. They claim it was intended to reduce the power of the Amon priests because they were dominant over the state, with all state decisions requiring their consent. However, the first monotheistic religion emerged as a state religion, and Akhenaten struggled considerably to achieve this, so we cannot claim it was merely a political maneuver. That said, it is true that the power of the Amon priests, and priests of other polytheistic religions, declined as a natural result of this revolution.
We will examine the new religion of Akhenaten in detail, but we should first start with his poem dedicated to his god, Aton.
God is supreme, sole and unique.
There is no other god apart from him.
God is unique.
He created everything.
God is a spirit, an invisible spirit…
God existed since the beginning.
He was the only presence.
He existed when there was nothing else.
He created everything…
He will exist till eternity.
God is a secret. No one has seen him.
He will always remain a secret for people and other creatures…
Do you think anyone from a monotheistic belief would believe these words? Of course they would. This poem, written by Akhenaten to his only god, is available in other belief systems today. Actually, in the first two verses, you can even find the meaning of “Allah-u ekber” and “La ilahe illallah” in Islam. However, this poem was the first written text of its kind, and all religions contain the same message in themselves.
Aton, the God of Akhenaten, was symbolized by a solar disk. It didn’t have any other shape. Although all previous gods, Egyptian or otherwise, were symbolized by different forms, such as humans or animals, Aton had no specific form. Aton’s only symbol was the sun. Actually, this is an interesting fact, because in many cultures—such as the supposed Mu Civilization; the Sumerian, Egyptian, and Mayan cultures; and the Sabians in Harran—the single God has been explained by the symbol of the Sun.
Here at this point, we should take a look at the paintings of Aton along with Akhenaten and Nefertiti. In the paintings, the pharaoh is human and equal with his wife. He is a loving father. On the other hand, the art of those times shows Akhenaten with feminine aspects as well to symbolically explain his combination of both masculine and feminine aspects in himself. This is why people questioned his sexual preferences or whether he was sick. Although he looks perfectly normal in many of his pictures and statues, it is from a lack of knowledge that people refer to his best-known statue in the Cairo Museum and make incorrect assumptions about him.
While examining religion, we should first pay attention to the etymology of the word Aton. In the hermetic doctrine, the single God’s name was Atum, which is very similar to the word Aton. Another word is Adonai, which refers to God’s name in Hebrew. A third similar word is Adonis, which is the single God in Syria, but this Adonis is different to the well-known god of Greek mythology. Aton is a God who first created himself and then everything else. He is both mother and father, unlike other gods. It is very important that he possesses both genders in himself, because for the first time we have the idea of a God who combines himself with the universal duality. Likewise, Akhenaten positions himself as both the father and mother of Egyptians in an unconventional way, just like the combination of masculine and feminine, the most gracious and the most merciful, (Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim) or black and white…
Aton was the God of the whole universe, which was also a new concept because the previous gods used to be gods of southern or northern Egypt only, or maybe of all Egypt. However, Aton was also the god of Egypt’s enemies, even barbaric countries. This was a massive revolution, because we are discussing times when some gods were private to specific people. For instance, different members of a family were not allowed to believe in the same god. In those times, it was extremely hard to accept that your god might also be the god of your enemies. In other words, it was too hard to comprehend that both good and bad could belong to the same god.
The most significant feature of Aton was that he was always positive. Although other later monotheistic religions gave versatile messages of compassion or violence, Aton always stood for peace and love. He didn’t possess any cruel aspects. He always symbolized the compassion of both father and mother. Unlike his successors, Jehovah or Allah in Islam, he didn’t have any role as a punisher. These features seem a better model for God to more moderate followers, as well as people who prefer not to follow religion because of these reasons. He was a single god far removed from punishment, hell, and so on.
Aton was the god of both men and women, as well as the god of the whole of existence. Akhenaten and Nefertiti were always portrayed together in paintings as the symbol of Aton’s two sides. In fact, the concept of the holy trinity first emerged as Aton, Akhenaten, and Nefertiti. In one of Akhenaten’s poems, Aton was described as the god who can give life even to a simple egg. He was also described as the god that has millions of forms in his own unity. In fact, this explanation can summarize all the messages delivered through all the esoteric beliefs, from Sufism to cabbala.
Aton is a mere light, a light or a radiance. When the shadows disappear at noon, in other words at the peak of the Sun’s light, he reaches the peak of his powers and supports his believers.
The basic rules of the religion were as follows:
- There is creation.
- There is a spirit and life after death.
- Funerals should be organized for deceased people.
- The deceased is rewarded or punished based on what he did in the world when he was alive.
- A kind of ritual personal cleaning should be performed before entering places of worship. Hygiene is essential.
- A thorough personal cleaning must be done after sexual intercourse.
- Prostrating oneself is required in places of worship.
- Animals are sacrificed as a religious deed.
- Men should be circumcised.
- Eating pork is forbidden.
- Idol worship is strictly forbidden.
Let’s take a deeper look. Ablution, circumcision, not eating pork, sacrificing animals, prostration, and so on are religious rules that we are familiar with. Circumcision is especially important, because now we can better understand why Abraham was circumcised before arriving in Egypt. It was because circumcision was very important if you wanted to be accepted among the eminent in Egypt. In fact, circumcision was a sign that would indicate eminence on the day when the dead will arise. It is a requirement in both Jewish and Islamic beliefs because Abraham agreed to be circumcised to gain acceptance in Egypt. Although it is not a rule in Christianity, Jesus was also circumcised as a Jewish man, as was Mohamed. We can understand the history of religion better when we analyze circumcision.
Religious practice is another interesting issue. Every morning, every noon, and every evening the public gathered in a temple and said together, “I bear witness that there is no god but Aton, and I bear witness that Akhenaten is his messenger delivering Aton’s light to us,” just like the Kalimah i Shahadah. Pharaoh Akhenaten and Nefertiti also joined the public in these ritual services. There was no clergy at all, and the only priest was Akhenaten himself with no mediator between.
In the beginning, Akhenaten was tolerant. He tried to spread the religion of Aton to the public with patience. However, he became notably tougher after surviving an assassination attempt during a morning service. Priests who had lost power had organized the attempt. After this, Akhenaten destroyed the paintings and sculptures of other gods in all the temples, becoming the first idol destroyer in history. He started the tradition of anti-idolatry in monotheistic religions. The inspiration behind the stories of Jesus and Mohamed destroying idols comes from Akhenaten.
Akhenaten spent the rest of his life worshipping Aton and writing poems dedicated to him. Three years before he died, Nefertiti suddenly disappeared from all records. Her daughter Meritaton is mentioned instead. Many sources suggest that Nefertiti hid away in order to accede to the throne after Akhenaten’s death, or maybe she changed her identity.
When Akhenaten died, his death was certainly suspicious. He was most probably poisoned. Semenkare came to the throne after him, and he had an interesting personality. He may have been Akhenaten’s stepbrother, with Kiya as their common mother, or maybe he was his son or stepson. He may have even been a disguised woman. His reign did not last long. It is claimed he was murdered during a healing session administered by the Amon priests. In fact, followers of the religion weakened against an uneasy public and the Amon priests after Akhenaten’s death once the charismatic religious leader had passed away.
Meritaton ruled the country for a while, but her power was not strong enough to suppress the growing opposition. After a while, Vizier Ay came to the throne. He apparently made concessions to appease the Amon priests, but in reality, he believed in the religion of Aton so strongly that he had his tombstone inscribed with Akhenaten’s poem to Aton.
Exodus: A Real Story
During this period, it became clear that the religion and its followers couldn’t reside in Egypt anymore. At this point, Moses (meaning “son” in the Egyptian language at the time) entered the stage. Moses was descended from Egyptian nobles, Abraham and Yuya to be more precise. It is not clear in historical records whether he really lived or not. There are also various views about whose son he was. In his last book before his death, Sigmund Freud claimed Moses was Akhenaten himself. People tried to find a way to leave Egypt with Moses leading. At that time the Hebrews—relatives to Moses, Yuya and Abraham—resided in Canaan, which is Palestine today.
Rather than opposing them, the pharaoh supported their decision to leave Egypt as soon as possible, so Moses and the other followers of the religion left Egypt. They weren’t stopped on their long journey by any military forces. Although the historical records about Akhenaten and his successors were erased, there was a perfect system of record keeping in Egypt. These records do not mention any military defeat or anything about the Red Sea being parted.
Nine of the ten commandments of Moses, the Sabbath day command being the exception, are quoted from the Book of the Dead that was among the graffiti of Akhenaten’s capital city. They may have been inscribed onto stones on Mount Sinai too, but these commands were valid to the Egyptian religion and the new religion of Akhenaten, just like circumcision, prohibition of pork, prohibition of idol worship, and so on.
Moses combined his god Aton-Adonai with Yahweh, the violent volcano god of his distant relatives and their local community. Another significant point here is that Moses could not speak the local language, being an Egyptian man who grew up in Egypt. Although it was claimed that all baby boys were killed aside from Moses, his brother Harun was his translator. How could this be? The priests of this new religion could only descend from Egyptian families, and this rule was strongly debated later on. The local community were not allowed to become priests because the real truth was that the roots of the religion lay in Egypt with Akhenaten. Therefore, the religion was divided into two. For outsiders, the religion was harsh and dependant on Yahweh. Whereas for those from Egypt, it was a tolerant religion dependant on Adonai and Elohim, in other words Kabala.
According to Freud, the Jews who wanted to continue idol worship murdered Moses. Even if that was not the case, a frequently discussed thesis claims there were two different Moses. The first one was a tolerant religious leader, while the other one was the harsh and political Moses. These two different characters and religious views have always existed, and they became institutionalized during the period of kingdoms and the Babel deportation.
Religion Becomes Harsher
Because of the environment and rules, the Jews preferred the concept of Yahweh that was initially harsher. That is why the Old Testament, which was written in exile to revitalize nationalist views, is full of blood and battle. The belief system that was embellished with Ancient Egyptian history and Sumerian myths changed the previous religious pattern. Nevertheless, a closed group of people inside protected the concept of a tolerant and loving God and the knowledge that he could be reached only through purification, willpower, and love.
After a while, a group of Jewish people realized their monotheistic belief was being ruined and established a separate cult. Of course, many other cults were also established for this purpose, but our main focus here is the cult that was called the Essenes. The Essenes exposed the good and pleasant sides of God. Having been religious Jews, they established a religious system that was more tolerant in conceptual terms, yet much harsher in practice, because they believed the previous religion had been spoiled. The new belief system of this mysterious group was influenced by Indian doctrines. However, it was more likely to have been in line with the Maat belief, the basic ethical rules of Ancient Egypt. In other words, it was the principle of living with respect to truth. It is also known that this cult also influenced many esoteric organizations that exist today.
The Messages of Jesus
Although the Romans kept perfect records, there is no account of Jesus in them. He was similar to Apollonius, a real historical character. When Jesus appeared as a follower of the Essenes, his message was always the same: Morals and love. He explained the knowledge and love of the Mighty Creator and told people how important loving and caring for God was. To keep this God happy, it was enough to obey the Maat belief of Egypt. However, as Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and wanted to become the Jewish king, the Essenes were not pleased about Jesus preaching the secret doctrine. They withdrew themselves and went underground. After Jesus gave his well-known teachings to people and returned to God, his followers went quiet, like the Essenes.
Although he didn’t know Jesus personally, a Jew called Saul, later known as Paul, announced himself as an apostle and established a new religion by turning the messages of Jesus inside out. In this new religion, God could also be furious. The idea of heaven and hell was put into use. People were taught to fear God instead of loving him. A church was then built in Rome on top of St Peter’s imaginary grave. Later, the Council of Nicaea, which gathered 300 years after the death of Jesus, added many new concepts into the new religion based on Jesus’ messages. However, these new concepts had nothing to do with Jesus. The same council also made several interesting decisions about Apollonius. The real messages of Jesus are undeniably available from the original Bibles found in Kumran and Nag Hammadi, and they are a far cry from what Paul said. In fact, Jesus was offering a new Jewish sect with his messages. He explained that faith in God was exactly the same thing as love in Judaism. He also explained the Maat belief in his original messages.
Later, a new religion was born in Mecca. Mohammed preached about the sole God to people who preferred idol worship. It is obvious that Mohamed had a thorough education, rather than being ignorant as described in some records. Many commentators also talk about kabalistic masters and Jewish doctrines. It is no coincidence that Moses is one of the most frequently mentioned names in the Quran. It was terribly difficult for Mohammed to persuade people of the concept of a single, loving God, because these people had very strong beliefs in idol worshipping. They even filled the holy house of the single God, constructed by Mohammed’s ancestor Abraham, with idols.
When Mohammed began delivering his messages, everybody believed he had shifted to the Sabi religion because most of his doctrines were influenced by it. Actually, out of all the holy books, only the Quran regarded the Sabi religion as being monotheistic. The Pillars of Islam—such as worship, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), ablution, and sacrifice—come from Sabi beliefs and rituals.
All of these beliefs are rules in the Sabi religion rather than of Arabic traditions as suggested. In fact, worshipping, or more precisely the ritual prayer salat, completely derives from the Sabians. In modern Latin-based languages, Sunday refers to the day when the Sabians worshipped the Sun, and Monday/Lundi refers to when they worshipped the moon. The same goes for Mercredi for Mercury, Saturday/Samedi for Saturn, and so on.
Although there was no such rule in the beginning, Mohammed preferred to pray while facing toward Jerusalem. The reason for this is still unknown, but it is assumed to be out of deep respect for the Jewish belief. After the migration to Medina, he started facing toward Mecca in hope of returning and bringing victory to the ousted people. The new religion, having a name meaning peace and serenity, had its breakpoint through this change. Some Islamic scholars point out the differences between the verses written in Mecca and the ones written in Medina in terms of their content and style. The Mecca messages, namely the Mekki verses, are more universal and about love, whereas the Medina verses, namely the Medeni verses, are more localized and concerned with fear. The Medeni verses contained many regulations about social life, civil law, the organization of the state, and even how women should dress. These verses are the ones that came into use with Omar’s direct intervention.
Mohammed is a well-known historical character whose existence is better documented than that of Moses or Jesus, who delivered his messages directly himself. However, the Medeni verses that came about during the extraordinary circumstances of the Hegira led to new comments emerging about Islam after Mohammed’s death. The Sunnahs and Hadiths established a new form of Islam despite warnings from the Quran and Mohammed himself. As a result, people who defended the love of God moved to an esoteric understanding of Islam, while the masses preferred embracing the fearful messages of the virtual Islam.
I will be writing further articles addressing the followers of the major monotheistic religions, but we should first understand that Christianity and Islam both emerged as derivations of Judaism. In turn, Judaism derived directly from an ancient Egyptian belief, so today’s dominant monotheistic religions are all based on Akhenaten’s religion.