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Chapter IV

Meridian Sun

n the sixth year of his reign, King Akhnaton sailed up the Nile to a place about 190 miles south of the site of modern Cairo, and he laid there the foundations of his new capital, Akhetaton — “the City of the Horizon of Aton” — of which the ruins are known today by the name of Tell-el-Amarna.

The City was to be built on the eastern bank of the river in a beautiful bay surrounded by low hills. The king himself chose its site and set its limits. Followed by his nobles, he appeared in stately pomp, with young Queen Nefertiti by his side. He made offerings of food and wine, gold, incense and sweet-smelling flowers to Aton, and he solemnly consecrated to Him the future City and the whole area around it on both sides of the Nile, up to the white cliffs of the desert which closed the landscape. Huge boundary-stones were set up north,


south, east and West, Marking the border of the sacred territory.” And the area within these limits belongs to Aton, my Father: mountains, deserts, meadows, islands, upper-ground, lower-ground, land, water, villages, embankments, men, beasts, groves, and all things which Aton, my Father, shall bring into existence for ever and ever” — so ran one of the inscriptions upon boundary-stones.

The king built two other cities, which he consecrated to Aton: one in Syria — in the North — and the other in Nubia — in the South — so that both North and South might hear his message of truth, and foreigners as well as Egyptians worship the God of the universe. He expected that, from those remote centres, his teaching would spread even beyond the frontiers of the Empire and his joy was great as he dreamt of the future.

At the Pharaoh’s command, hundreds of diggers and brick-layers, masons and carpenters and craftsmen of all sorts flocked to the site of the new capital. Stone quarries were opened in the neighbourhood; granite and alabaster, ivory, gold and lapis lazuli, and cedar, and various kinds of precious wood were brought from Upper Egypt and Nubia, from Sinai and Syria, and even farther still. All the Empire contributed to the great work of the king. And within two or three years, temples,gardens,


cottages and villas sprang out of the desert. The town was yet far from complete, but it was inhabitable. And the king and queen left Thebes and settled there with all the court and many thousands of people who had accepted the king’s Teaching.

The new City — five miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide — stretched between the desert and the fields and groves bordering the Nile. It seemed small, compared to Thebes. But it was lovely, with a plenty of open spaces, palm-trees and flowers.

With the coming of the court all sorts of luxuries were needed and many labourers and craftsmen remained in the City, as there was enough work for them all. Those who knew the art of producing glass of different colours were especially in demand, for the use of glass had come into fashion. And the new industry rapidly flourished. King Akhnaton promoted it by ordering large supplies of coloured glazes for the decoration of his palace. He encouraged all the arts, and did everything he could to make the people feel that his sacred City was their own. The poor-tillers of the fields and workmen in the glass-factories were allowed to build their humble homes of dried mud by the side of the elegant villas of the nobles, and even in the neighbourhood of the Pharaoh’s palace.

They sometimes had a glimpse of the royal procession as it passed along the street that led to the great temple


of Aton at the time of worship. The king and queen, and the little Princess Meritaton, their first-born child, stood in a beautiful chariot of electrum that shone like gold. The prancing white horses wore picturesque tufts of ostrich

feathers on their heads. The king held the bridles, while the queen spoke to him smiling. The little princess, leaning over the edge of the chariot, was trying to play with the horses’ tails. Never before had Pharaoh permitted the common folk to set their eyes on him in all simplicity. Akhnaton was dressed in pleated white linen as fine as muslin, but on ordinary occasions, wore no jewels. The courtiers, who found it well done, whatever he did, praised him for his simple taste. “The Sun on earth, the visible god the only Son of the living Aton,” they said, “needs no gems to adorn his beauty.” And they spoke the truth, for Akhnaton actually was lovely to look upon. But the people’s comment was different though no less accurate: “The good god does not lavish his gold upon himself,” they said, “but he builds cities, providing work and bread for us.” And many added: “He does not take our sons to send them to war. May the ‘good god’ live for ever!” Thus they spoke, for there was peace in the land, while of occasional unrest in distant Syria they knew nothing. They had enough to eat and spare, and were happy. Therefore they loved the king.

In ancient Egypt, the mansions of the living were


never expected to last for more than a generation; the tomb, not the house, was the “eternal dwelling” to endure forever. So the king’s palace — a huge structure, covering a length of half a mile — was mainly built of light bricks. But it was magnificently decorated, for Akhnaton was a lover of art, and he was happy to see beautiful things around him.

On the walls and pavements were painted lovely scenes of natural life: here, a young bull was running through high grasses and tall, red poppies; there, were birds and butterflies, flying in the sunshine over marshy expanses full of pink and blue lotuses, and fishes playing hide-and-seek between the stems of the water-reeds; with shades of pale blue and gold and purple, their scales, glittered as the Sun shone upon them through the water; the birds’ wings fluttered with Joy, and the frisking bull crushed the poppies in an outburst of overflowing life, the tender lilies opened their golden hearts to the kiss of the Life-giver — the Sun. When looking at those paintings — true to life as Egyptian art had never been before and was never to be again after Akhnaton’s reign — one was reminded of the hymns that the young king had written to the glory of his heavenly Father:

The flowers in the waste lands thrive at Thy dawning,
They drink themselves drunk of Thy radiance, before Thy face


All cattle gambol upon their feet,
All birds rise from their nest and flap their wings with joy,
And circle round in praise of Thee
. . . . . . . . . . .
The fish in the river leap up before Thee . . .

The most gorgeous chamber in the palace was the immense reception hall where foreign ambassadors and vassals were admitted in the presence of the king and court. There stood 542 pillars shaped like palm-trees with palms of massive gold. Fragments of lapis lazuli and many-coloured glazes, deep-set between the thick curbs of gold, marked the intervals between the leaves. At dusk, under the rays of the sinking Sun, the golden columns glowed like red hot embers and the resplendent capitals glistened with all the colours of the rainbow. The envoys of distant kingdoms, when they beheld such wealth could not help thinking: “Verily, in the land of Egypt, gold is as common as dust.”

On state occasions, the young king would appear in this hall, seated in great apparel upon a magnificent throne of gold. On such days he wore his most splendid ornaments: broad necklaces of gold and lapis lazuli, heavy gold ear-rings and bracelets and snake-shaped armlets, all studded with precious stones. The tall traditional tiara rested upon his head, and rolled around


it was the golden cobra — a symbol of divine royalty, that alone a Pharaoh could wear. At the back of the throne a large, golden falcon — another emblem of kingship — stretched its glittering wings above him, while on his right and left the fan-bearers, with softly cadenced movements, lifted and lowered enormous fans of ostrich feathers, fixed on long gilded poles.

Akhnaton was then in the full bloom of youth and at the height of his power. From all sides, the effulgence of gold and gems put around his intelligent face a halo of untold splendour. And both the courtiers who saw him every day and the foreigners who had travelled weeks and weeks and crossed deserts in order to behold his majesty were dazzled at his sight, for he shone upon his throne as the Sun above a fiery cloud. But brighter than all, in his large dark eyes shone the heavenly light of infinite kindness; and those who saw it could never forget him.

The great temple of Aton lay in the northern part of the City, not far from the king’s palace. It was the finest building in the beautiful new capital. From outside, it looked much like the classical Egyptian temples of the time; lofty pylons, with their usual flag-staves from which floated long pennons of purple, stood at the entrance both of the


temple itself and of the vast enclosure that surrounded it. But as one walked through seven successive court-yards that led to the innermost altar one felt oneself in presence of an entirely new cult. Here there was nothing of the mystery and sacred awe that filled the temples of Amon and of the other gods; there were no dimly-lit lamps hanging from gloomy ceilings; no precious images buried in the depth of pitch-dark sanctuaries, like stolen treasures in a cave. But worship was carried on in broad daylight. In the first, sixth, and seventh courtyards stood an altar, on a flight of steps. There, at different times of the day, wine and beautiful flowers were offered to the invisible God whose only symbol — the Sun — shone far above, and clouds of incense went up to Him and disappeared, dissolved in the golden light of the sky.

In the old cults — in Egypt and in the rest of the world — the holy images were bathed and fed, and put to sleep as if they were living creatures; and this absorbed time and presupposed a complicated ritual. But here, worship was at once simpler and more spiritual. There were no statues, no pictures, no representations whatsoever of Aton: “The Unreachable One, whose presence fills the universe, abides not in the clumsy works of men,” had said the king; “images were invented only to help people to think of God, but nowadays men cling to them as if they were all in all, and do not wish to know the real God. The priests have become magicians and


the images have become idols, and I must suppress both, lest they kill the soul of the people.” It was then that he had dismissed not only the priests of Amon but those of all the national gods, closed the temples, and forbidden the use of all images save that of the Sun-disk with rays ending in hands. And that even was not to be worshipped, but only to stand as a sign reminding men of the power and kindness of the Almighty, manifested through the Sun.

There were many musicians, men and women, attached to the temple, and a special choir of blind singers whom the king had appointed because of their remarkable voices. He desired that even those who could not see the Sun should praise his radiance, for the Power within it is invisible; it is the Soul of the Sun. Akhnaton had written

When Thou dawnest in the East,
All arms are stretched in Praise of Thy ‘Ka’ (soul)

All the hymns that were sung at dawn, at sunrise, at noon and at sunset were inspired poems composed by the king himself. They contained no allusions to any mythology, no mention of any name, save that of Aton, no reference to any dogma, custom or history; but in simple and beautiful words they told the joy of light, the joy of life, and the glory of Him Who is infinite love and


Infinite beauty and Who shines in the Sun’s splendour, and radiates in the Sun’s heat. They told the vastness of the world and its unity within amazing diversity, and the oneness of life in man and beast and bird and every living thing, even in the plants of the marshes. They told the growth of the young bird in the egg and the growth of the baby in his mother’s womb — the marvel of birth; they told the rhythm of day and night — work and rest — and the dance of the seasons ordained by the course of the Sun in heaven, and the sacred thrill with which all flesh salutes His rising.

The words were so simple, that the humble folk could understand them no less than the learned, and the ideas they expressed were accessible to foreigners as well as Egyptians. But the inspiration at the back of them was new. Neither in Egypt, nor in Syria, nor in Babylon, nor in any land that the Egyptians could think of, had the God Whom the king praised been revealed to men.

Behind the great temple and within the same enclosure, there was a smaller one, with only one open courtyard and one altar. On each side of its pillared gateway stood statues of the king and queen. And there were several other temples all over the City, and minor shrines in the beautiful gardens that lay on the south of the capital. They had pretty names. One that stood in a small island, within an artificial lake, was called “the House-of-Rejoicing”; another, specially


designed for worship at the time of sunset, was the “House-of-putting-Aton-to-rest.” There Queen Nefertiti herself presided over the sacred rites.

King Akhnaton found no objection in a virtuous woman taking a leading part in the public cult, though it was not the custom. “He who despises womankind sins against his own mother,” he used to say. And he was doing all he could to raise the condition of women. He had set an example by always appearing in public with the young queen by his side, and by hardly ever having himself represented without her. He loved her dearly, and ever since the early years of their married life — while he was still a boy — he had taken her into his confidence, spoken to her of the real God Whom he adored, and made her his first disciple. And though she had borne him no son, he had taken no other wives, as was usual with the Pharaohs.

Nefertiti loved him in return with all her heart, and admired him both for his graceful countenance, for his kindness and for his wisdom. She did not understand everything he said, but she believed in his message and had implicit faith in his success. “Aton will help His son to reveal His love to Egypt and to all lands,” she thought. And she was proud of her lord. She looked up to him as if indeed he were a god in human form, pleased to live with her on earth for the brief span of mortal life.


Mother of three little princesses, she was now about nineteen, and as beautiful as ever. She had a fair complexion and perfect features, tinted with indefinable melancholy. She knew she had a remarkable face, but she was not vain for her mind strove for a world of light, beyond visible beauty. One day, as a lady-in-waiting ventured to compliment her on her appearance, she said, pointing to her own reflexion in a golden mirror: “This face will be forgotten for ages while ‘his’ Teaching will still rule men’s lives, and ‘his’ name will still live.” But alas, she made a mistake; a marvellous bust of painted limestone in which an artist of the court had immortalised her features is nowadays the most popular masterpiece of Egyptian sculpture, and millions have seen it, or copies of it, and know the name of Nefertiti, while very few, besides scholars, know anything about King Akhnaton.

A few miles to the east of the City stood the white cliffs of the desert, an even range of limestone hills that glowed at sunset with hues of reflected gold and purple, long after the plain lay in darkness. There, in a desolate valley, the king had caused a tomb to be prepared for himself and for the queen. “And there shall be made for me a sepulchre in the eastern hills,” ran the inscription on one of the great boundary-stones that limited the newly-founded capital; “my burial shall be


made there in the multitude of jubilees that Aton, my Father, hath ordained for me and the burial of the Queen shall be made there in that multitude of years.”

As time passed on, the Pharaoh caused other tombs to be hewn out of the neighbouring rocks for his most beloved courtiers and disciples. These were composed of several successive chambers, carved out in the live rock as it was the custom in Egypt. Massive pillars cut out of a single block and shaped like lotus-buds sustained the heavy roofs, while the walls were decorated with exquisite paintings and reliefs. The, scenes they represented were taken from the life of those for whom the sepulchres were designed. They contained no image of the forbidden gods, not even of those who were supposed to protect the dead, but they often pictured the king and his family, for the courtiers put special emphasis upon their dealings with their royal lord. They portrayed him, not only in religious solemnity — with his hands lifted in prayer towards the Sun — but in the familiar attitudes of daily life: eating, resting, or playing with his children; listening to music, or talking affectionately to his wife while enjoying a cup of good wine that she poured out to him. Never before had any king of Egypt been represented in, such an unconventional style. But Akhnaton liked the pictures because they were true to life.

Some artists, however, in their zeal to please the


king, stressed every feature in his face, exaggerated every curve in his body so much so that their portraits remind us of the “futurist” art of today. In other times, those paintings would have been looked upon as sacrilegious insults to the divine majesty of the sovereign. But now the king followed with interest the evolution of the art he himself had inspired. He rewarded the painters of the new style, when their productions were really good; “the expression counts more than the lines,” he said to those who were inclined to be a little upset at the sight of too much novelty. And when the pictures were bad, he merely smiled at the distorted representation of himself.

In all the paintings and reliefs, however familiar might be the depicted scenes, one could always see the Sun-disk with beams ending in hands — the sacred symbol of Aton — radiating above the head of the king and queen; for God is present everywhere and at all times to those who know Him, and “life itself is prayer” as the Pharaoh often used to say.

The inscriptions in the new sepulchres contained no prayers to the gods of the netherworld, no magical formulas for the welfare of the souls of the dead, as were to be found in all Egyptian tombs, from time immemorial. They simply referred to the titles and career of the courtiers who were to be buried there, and especially to the favour the Pharaoh had shown them. “I was a man


of humble birth; I had never enjoyed the company of princes; but the king has raised me, because I hearkened to his Teaching,” ran one of the records of a dignitary’s life. “His Majesty has doubled me his gifts in gold and silver,” stated another inscription. Elsewhere, one could see the picture of a courtier looking up to the king and to the Sun — to the Sun, through the King, who bore his name and was like unto Him; and the words the man addressed to the God within the Disk were a song of praise to Akhnaton, the “Joy of the Sun”: “Thy rays are on Thy bright Image, the Ruler of Truth, who proceeded from Eternity. Thou givest him Thy duration and Thy years As long as Heaven is, he shall be.”

The king looked to the welfare of the labourers who dug out the tombs in the desert hills, as he did to that of the workers of the glass factories in the City. He built model villages for them, some of which have been discovered and excavated by modern archaeologists. Each workman was given there a separate house for himself and his family, an airy house with a parlour in front, bedrooms behind, and accommodation outside for the beasts of burden that helped him during the working hours. Naive paintings in bright colours — the product of the men’s inspiration during their leisure — decorated the walls of their homes. The workmen who


had large families were given extra rooms, that they might live as human beings.

Numberless charms and amulets picked up in the ruins of those settlements show that Akhnaton’s rational Teaching never reached the labourers, or at least did not affect them. The saintly king, in fact, never tried to convert them. Not that he despised them; he counted among his best friends many a man of obscure birth. But he believed that the poor must first of all be treated as men and given the elementary comforts of existence, and then only taught what to think about the unknown. “Half of the world’s superstitions would simply disappear if the rich and high-born did not exploit the people, and if there were no priests to take advantage of their wretchedness,” he used to say.

To the south of the City lay beautiful gardens.

Canals and artificial lakes kept thy earth forever moist, and beds of flowers of every kind and colour, and trees of every shade of green thrived there. At the king’s command the desert had bloomed into a fragrant paradise, a marvel of beauty, freshness and peace.

The lakes were full of pink and blue lotuses; and the canals were crossed by wooden bridges delicately carved, painted and gilded like precious toys.

In an island in the middle of one of the lakes the king


had built a small temple. He often came to worship there, alone or with the queen. As he stood before the altar, in the sun-lit courtyard, the sight of the whole gardens stretched before his eyes, through the broad doorway that led out of the temple. Between deep patches of green, the ponds reflected the ethereal blue of the heavens; on the large floating leaves of the water-plants, drops of dew sparkled in the dazzling light and subtle perfumes went up to the Sun from the newly opened flowers. A flight of pink ibis sailed through the sky with a flapping of silvery wings. There was beauty everywhere. Heaven and earth seemed as one divine dance of light. And Akhnaton was happy. The presence of God filled his heart. And he gave expression to his joy in some new hymn, composed in a flow of inspiration:

How manifold are Thy works,
O sole God Whose Power none other possesses
. . .

There was a beautiful summer palace inside the gardens. It was built near a lake and had a richly decorated reception hall where the king often sat with official guests. Banquets were also held there in his presence, with all the artistic display that was common in Egypt at that time. The hall was decorated with flowers, and langorous perfumes floated in the air; pretty


dancing girls — the ornament of all ancient feasts — displayed their rhythmic skill, and musicians played and sang while delicious wines were served to the party in cups of gold. They sang love and merriment, the thrill of the passing minute, the illusion of time, and the reality of life. The king looked at the dances and was pleased, because they were lovely. He listened to the music and songs, and he enjoyed them. He was too pure to find any harm either in their languid tunes or in their words of passion. To him, they did but express, through the magic beauty of sound and verse, an essential stage of life. He enjoyed them as a lily enjoys a ripple of fresh water at its feet.

At times, he spoke pleasantly to his guests, listened to the stories they had to tell, smiled at their jokes. For he was not one of those gloomy philosophers who despise the tonic of laughter. His friendly manners made everyone feel at ease. Creatures on earth do not know how far away is the Sun; yet they are happy in his light. So the king’s guests, who ate and drank and made merry in his presence, were hardly conscious how far above them all he was, how much more he knew and understood. Yet, they loved to be with him, without being able to say why.

Akhnaton used to spend long hours in the gardens


teaching his favourite disciples, or explaining the essentials of his simple and strange religion to foreigners who came to visit him. Among the courtiers, very few could really follow all what he said; and fewer still seriously tried to model their lives on his example. Most of them lacked the insight to recognise the same man in the inspired preacher of the One God, and the tolerant Pharaoh who presided over their banquets. Of the two, they liked the latter; but they listened to the former for the sake of court discipline and out of an innate veneration for royalty.

In the early morning or at dusk, after the service at the altar of Aton, the Pharaoh would take them to some particularly beautiful spot, to a place where there was a plenty of shade and a plenty of water, and from which one’s eyes could command a broad view either of the Nile or of the desert. There they sat with him and heard from him of the marvel of unity at the bottom of differences — the mystery of God and creation. They used to put questions to him. He encouraged them to do so; not to accept all what he said just because it was he, the king, who said it, but to try to understand his teaching. “Superstition and mummery begin where reason ceases,” he said, meaning by these words that there is only one step from the blind submission to religious authority, to the blind routine of meaningless rites and observances.


Once a zealous disciple was hesitating to ask about something that puzzled him. “I would not like to look as if I were criticising the actions of Your Divine Majesty . . .” he began, in a subdued voice. “Fear not,” said the king, “and tell me what is wrong with my actions. Where truth is concerned, there is no divine majesty save that of the living God.”

“It is about the bull of On; I was wondering . . .” the man continued. But he broke down in sheer confusion, without finishing his sentence. The king understood: a sacred bull — “the Sun incarnate,” as once the priests of On used to call it — had recently died of old age, and it had been buried with great solemnity by the Pharaoh’s orders, in the new royal City consecrated to Aton. The zealous disciple wondered why.

The king smiled. “I loved the dear old bull,” he said; “that is why I wished it to have here a decent place of rest. And if I gave it an unusual burial, it was not to prompt people to make once more a fetish of ‘sacred’ animals. I rather did it so that they may not forget that all living things are sacred, and that life is one.”

He paused for a while, and continued: “That was indeed the teaching at the bottom of all the care given to certain beasts in the name of religion, whether they be sacred bulls or sacred cats, ichneumons or crocodiles. Most superstitions do contain a kernel of sound doctrine; cast away that which is superfluous, that which merely


diverts your minds from truth; but keep the precious kernel; grasp the truth, and live up to it.”

Ever since the beginning of his personal rule in Thebes, Akhnaton had added to his official titles that of “Living in Truth.” It was all his Teaching, all his being, expressed in three words. And no man ever deserved such a glorious title more than he.

A courtier asked, as many were to ask ever since, up to the present day: “What is truth?” And the Pharaoh replied: “Truth is that which never changes.”

A flush of wind suddenly blew and the large fan-like palm-leaves rustled. A bird flew from a branch across the sun-lit sky. “Does not everything change all the time?” said one of the foreigners, an old man from the Aegean Isles. He had been a youth at the time the capital of Crete, magnificent Knossos, was sacked and burnt, some fifty years before. And since then he had travelled from the Black Sea to the Arabian desert and seen more changes than any man.

“Everything changes,” said the king, “but the laws according to which changes occur have been and will be for ever the same. They are the laws of being, and I would add ‘the laws of thought’ if thought were not inseparable from all conceivable existence. All the happenings of the universe, from the fall of a feather to the fall of a star are but the movements of one everlasting dance; the laws that link each movement to the other


and to the whole rhythmic scheme in time and space, are eternal. They are true.”

And as he said this, his face beamed as if he could actually behold the endless dancing harmony and hear the divine music of the stars spinning round and round.

There was a young enthusiast who had only recently joined the circle of the king’s disciples. He loved the Teaching, but many of its fundamentals yet escaped his knowledge. “They are true because God. Has established them,” he ventured to say, referring to the laws of being.

“On the contrary, it is because they are true that we say ‘God is’,” answered Akhnaton. “It is because they are true that we know that the world of change and strife is not all. It is because they are true that we behold Something indestructible behind all things that appear and vanish, Something that is behind all things that seem to be. That unique essence is what we call God. It is unknown — perhaps unknowable. But there are moments when one gets a direct glimpse of it in a way that words cannot explain, for as it is at the bottom of all things, so it is too at the bottom of our own being.”

The disciples remembered one of the king’s hymns to Aton:

Thou, Lord, art in my heart . . .

They were carried away by the young Pharaoh’s


enthusiasm, as he spoke of the inmost Reality. But, simple as they were, his words were far from clear to them. “If God is to be sought within ourselves,” said one of them at last, “why do we praise Him in the Sun?”

“It is not the fiery Disk, the visible Sun we praise, but the invisible Energy which radiates in it as light and heat — the Soul of the Sun,” said the Pharaoh. “That Energy is the very same which manifests itself in all life and lies at the bottom of our own soul, for light and heat and the spark of life are but different expressions of the same Principle: Radiant Energy, which is God. And we praise it as Aton — the Disk — because nowhere its manifestation is more glorious than in the Sun, and because the rays of the Sun are the sustainer of all life and the, source of all power in the world.”

He stopped speaking and remained for a while as though lost in thought. “Invisible Energy is at the basis of everything,” he continued; “visible and invisible, existence all proceed from it. That is why we call Aton ‘Father’ and ‘Creator’; that is why we sing to Him:

Thou art alone, but millions of vitalities are in Thee . . .

“I have told you the universe is as one everlasting dance, and so it is. Every different form of the one


invisible Energy depends upon a particular rhythm of its own,” he added, anticipating the result of scientific discoveries that were to take place thirty-three hundred years later. “The rhythm that produces light is not the same as that which produces heat, or sound. And at the root of life — the marvel of creation — there is also rhythm. When we feel that rhythm as distinctly as we see a visible object, then we realise God’s harmony within ourselves.”

He paused again, and said: “There are forms of Energy of which we do not even suspect the existence; of which, perhaps, men will never know. Yet I tell you: each one of them corresponds to a different rhythm, but they are all manifestations of the One Essence which radiates in the Sun, both as heat and light, and which is Aton, the only living God, Whom I have tried to reveal to you.”

The Sun was getting hot. Akhnaton and his disciples got up, and walked towards the summer palace. There were important officials and foreign envoys waiting there to see the king.

And many marvelled at the king’s wisdom; for he was a youth little more than twenty, and this was not the first time that he had spoken of his God, in words so simple that one could not but listen to him,


and so extraordinary that, after hearing, one did not know what to think. The old men wondered, as Queen Tiy had done, in Thebes, years before: “Wherefrom did he acquire his strange knowledge, if not from the Sun himself, the divine Ancestor of his race?” And the young men said in amazement: “Others have conquered by the sword; he shall conquer by the spirit. From the beginning of time, no king of Egypt ever was as great as he.” And the foreigners said: “The Egyptians, in their pride, call all their Pharaohs gods; but this one is truly godlike.”

And as years passed, the world at large came to know that the young king “Living in Truth,” the ruler of Egypt, Nubia and Syria, and of the lands bordering the Upper Euphrates, was a man of divine wisdom. The friendly king of Mitanni was proud to count him as one of his relatives. And the king of Babylon betrothed his son and heir to one of Akhnaton’s daughters. He sent the little girl — then not more than five or, six, years old — a beautiful necklace of more than a thousand precious gems.

Many learned and wise men among the foreigner’s who had heard of the Pharaoh’s Teaching, recognised in the universal Being, Aton, the God Whom all religions praise under different names and with different symbols. And, for the first time, the idea that God is One dawned upon their minds. The Mitannians said: “He is no


other than the ‘Lord of Rays’ praised by our forefathers in the East, long long ago. And the Syrians and the Babylonians, said: “Does not the king of Egypt call Him ‘Lord of Life’, and ‘the-One-Who vivifieth all hearts with His beauty, which is life’? Surely He is none but the god who dies, year after year and every spring rises from the dead, raising the dead world with him”; for the cult of such a god was, popular, both in Syria and in Babylon. And had Akhnaton’s fame reached in his days the mystic shores of India, no doubt the men of that land would have said: “His God is none other than the Supreme Soul of the universe, Whom our sages seek in meditation.”

But the world was not yet then as shrunken as it has become now. The world was ever so large. Each country, each region, more different fro m the neighbouring lands than we can imagine today, was like a separate world in itself.

Yet Akhnaton saw the unity of God above and within the world’s diversity. “Many countries; but one sky and one Sun,” he thought; “and one flow of life through all creation,” he added, remembering the animals and plants, which all render praise in their own manner to divine light and heat-the Energy within the Sun.

And stretching his hands towards the sky, before the altar of Aton, he sang to the Sun:


Thou Lord of them all, resting among them,
Thou Lord of every land, Who risest for them,
Thou Sun of the day, great in majesty
. . .

The Nile in the distance was like silver, and in the opposite direction glowed the barren cliffs of the desert — the hills of rest. The world seemed ablaze under the meridian Sun. And the king’s face beamed. He knew how few understood his Teaching, even among his close friends. But he was young and God was with him. The rays of the Sun carried to him from heaven, the message of eternal life. His Teaching would live through ages “until the swan turns black and the crow turns white,” as a courtier had once said. One day, ignorance and strife would cease; truth would conquer; and all the world would know God.

From all countries far and near, even from those of which the king had never heard — from Isles so faraway that that it would have taken years to reach them, from undiscovered continents — an endless song of praise rose already to the Sun. Many a time Akhnaton had listened to its echo in his heart. Confused and discordant as it was, it was the first hymn of all the human race groping in quest of the real God. And his would be the last, the song of a purified world in which science and religion would no longer remain separate, the hymn of a future


mankind that would perhaps take millenniums; to appear, but of which he was the forerunner and the seer.

And a thrill of boundless joy ran through his body as he thought of those distant glorious days to come.