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From Light Into Darkness – Book Review

FromLightIntoDarknesAuthor: Stephen S. Mehler

Publisher: Adventures Unlimited Press

Copyright: 2005, ISBN [931882495]

Cover: Robert W. Taylor Design, Inc.

Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 22 December 2013

Summary:  Extraordinary, almost intuitive insight into religion and the history of religion framed around the concept of a Khemitian (predecessor of Egyptian) civilization. Khemitian civilization supposedly existed over ten thousand years ago.

 

If you are into thoughtful analysis, FROM LIGHT INTO DARKNESS is for you. Or, if you are one of the 14% of Americans who are “non-religious” but spiritual, or one of the 16% of the world population who are “non-religious”, you must read this book if for no other reason that it justifies an unorthodox and precarious existence.

This book comes under the category of alternative history. According to author Mehler, FROM LIGHT INTO DARKNESS is his second book on the Khemitian civilization (from 9500 to 4000 BC) and its influence on Egypt and other early civilizations. Never heard of the Khemitian civilization?  As best as this reviewer can make out, Khemit as a civilization is a deductive conclusion based on a few technical abnormalities intruding into the traditional view of ancient history. The Khemitian name however has a more concrete foundation.

On his blog, Mythic Prelude, Dan Furst offers the best etymological  foundation for something called a Khemitian civilization.  According to Furst, Khemitian comes from the word Khemit, which “was the word that indigenous people of the Nile” used to describe the topsoil of the land. The word is translated as “the Black Land.”  Hence, Furst, Mehler and others maintain that the early societies which sprung up around this area of the Nile are the Khemitian civilization.

SLAPPING “LINEAR HISTORY” AROUND

The really interesting part of FROM LIGHT TO DARKNESS is not the speculative revision of history, of which there is a lot, but rather an insight into early recorded history that is almost intuitive. But this insight is based on the interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphic text, specifically on their use of the word Neter. It is all about religion. More on this below.

On page 9, Mehler gives a succinct and concise version of the “academic approach” to unravelling the development of religious history.  The “paradigm of linear evolution” views religion as going from the “primitive to the complex” in which there are three distinct states: animism, polytheism, and monotheism.  Mehler spends a lot of time trashing this paradigm. Once he makes the central point that people, even the earliest people, did not worship animals (animism), the trashing becomes rather superfluous. The case he makes against “linear evolution” of religion is straightforward and is evident to anyone who pays attention to today’s remnants of “primitive” religious worship found in the mythologies of countless cultures.

If I say ,“she has the spirit of the jaguar,” you might assume that I hold jaguars in high regard—or not. However, if I say to you “she is the jaguar”, you have a few options for interpreting the comment.  Whatever your interpretation, it will obviously say more about you than it does about me. This is the dualistic perspective that Mehler exposes in his examination of “linear evolution” of religion versus spirituality. If this dualistic perspective were represented by a yardstick, metaphor would be at one end and literal would be at the other. Our social sciences languish at the literal end because, understandably, they have no way of deciphering or understanding the metaphorical end. (This applies not only to religion but to ancient science as well).

If you are an academic in pursuit of linear cultural anthropology or archeology, you are prone to see only the artifacts of religion—the literal. Removed from the context of your observation, removed from your interpretation is the concept of spirit—the metaphor of being.  “She is the jaguar,” has an entirely different meaning to you than it might have to me. I know spirit. You do not. This is where the concept of history as linear progression shapes and molds every facet of our existence. Mehler says as much and goes much farther.  Perhaps too far.

SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION – NOT

Mehler does not spend a lot of time explaining the Khemitian ideas about god and spirituality. He assumes the reader has read his first book.  (This reviewer has not). Central to the entire premise of FROM LIGHT TO DARKNESS is the Khemitian concept of Neters.  Neters “are divine cosmic principles, completely metaphysical in nature” according to one website on spirituality (Spiritual Legacy of Egypt Unveiled).  Then again, the website Summum, maintains that Neters were “a race of people responsible for bringing the Egyptian civilization full-blown onto the world stage. Mehler adheres to the first definition of Neters.  (There are various ways of expressing this definition:  “divine principle, nature forces”; or more simply as “nature”).

In Chapter Six of FROM LIGHT INTO DARKNESS, titled “Early Religion in Khemit”, Mehler provides an excellent exposition of how the concept of Neters morphed into gods. Of the three-hundred and sixty Neters, five are attributes describing stages of the sun and “all five Neters of the stages of the sun have mythologies as being the prime creator [of life]—Kheper, Ra, Oon, Amen and Aten.” Chapter six is the most important chapter in the book and the chapter which will certainly raise the most questions for inquiring minds.  Or not.

When writing a book it is probably not a good idea to get into a seed-spitting contest with the estimated eighty-four percent of the religiously affiliated population of the planet.  Mehler does this by tracing the history of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism to a gross misinterpretation of Khemitian spirituality.

Specifically, Mehler maintains that the basis of the three dominate religions of the world originated from the Khemitian concept of the Neters. More specifically, it was the attempt by Akhenaten to elevate Aten (the symbol of light symbolized by the sun disc) over Amen (night-darkness which originally had no symbol) that lead to a sequence of events intensifying the separation between spirituality and religion.   It is a remarkable and comprehensive supposition because Mehler lays it out in such logical detail. The problem of course is that logic has little to do with religious history and even less to do with religious faith.  When Mehler writes on page 84 that, “Judaism even identified Amen with Yahweh and adopted many of his [Amen] ritualistic practices”, you can, as he hints, feel the cloud of rebuttals and vehement denials exploding from simply having read the words. (When Mehler uses the pronoun “his” for Amen, we assume he is using it in the dynastic Egyptian sense and not the Khemitian stages-of-the-Sun sense. This stuff gets pretty tricky).

AKHENATEN AND THE SUN DISC BLIP

The Egyptologist’s traditional view that Akhenaten introduced the concept of monotheism into the world is where our understanding of ancient cultures and religious history took a wrong turn. Instead, according to Mehler, Akhenaten desired merely to replace the spirit of “night-darkness” (Amen) with the spiritual principle of light (Aten—the Sun disc).  Historians have mistakenly taken Akhenaten’s effort as an attempt to introduce monotheism into Egypt. But neither Amen nor Aten are gods in the sense of being deities:  they are stages of the Sun and are just two of five such stages.  But Egyptologists and historians can be excused for their “ignorance” on this point. Even the Egyptians themselves, by the time of Akhenaten (1353-1336 BC), had lost the underlying concepts of spirituality embodied in their elaborate religion. The reason spirituality lost out to religion in shaping dynastic and daily Egyptian life is rather easy to understand.

First and paramount among those reasons is that Khemitian civilization evolved into a structured society in which there were food producers and food distributors: this lead to government and a clergy or priesthood. As already mentioned, Mehler traces these developments as the foundation of the early dynastic period of Egypt. He mentions on page 68 that the “Hanuti (priests) created the beliefs that there was an individual soul, an essence that did not die with the body and could return. . .”  The rest, as they say, is history. The “afterlife” became a murky mix of physical reality (for those who could not understand the concept of spirit) and the individual personality (for those who perceive spirit as the individual). This murkiness was far removed from the original Khemitian concepts of spirits (Neter) governing the world and the cyclic nature of the world (five stages of the physical existence). All this was simplified for a ruling class (priests and kings) and a populace (everyday Egyptian) who required the consistency of rituals: priests and kings could be the intermediaries between everyday life and the afterlife, and everyday folk could concentrate on the really important stuff—tending crops and building monuments.

We do not mean to be flippant about these purported theological developments. We especially do not want to denigrate the significance of beliefs in souls and hereafters given the amount of blood and ink spilt around the subject.  But Mehler points out an obvious fact of ancient and modern life:  religion is a business. The early Egyptians, in adopting Khemitian beliefs to fashion a cohesive, stratified and productive society had developed a template for every civilization that followed. By the time Akhenaten came along with his idea of returning to the fundamentals of Khemitian spiritualism, spirituality was beyond being saved. It was all about religion. The priests (Hanuti) were ensconced in their seats of power and would not be moved. They fought back against shifting the exercise of daily life from the principle of Amen to Aten because Amen had become a God. They won the fight.

After Akhenaten’s death, the “Aten cult” gradually lost favor and the revolution in Egypt’s religious life came to an end. However, according to Mehler, in a chapter titled “Akhenaten and Moses” (Chapter 8), the seed of rebellion sown by Akhenaten was taken up by remnants of his distant relatives and the priests who adhered to his view.  Lost in carrying forward the rebellion was the concept of the spiritual (Neters).  Aten the “sun disc” became merely a different version of Amen, the “night-darkness” with a new name and a different abode.  According to Mehler, “El/Eloh, Yahweh, Jehovah and Allah” are all this  same god, Amen. The conundrum here is that there never should have been a “god” in the first place. But religion is a business and business and business.

In reading FROM LIGHT INTO DARKNESS, you will probably find much to disagree. However, it is a highly provocative read and is so well constructed that you will have to do a lot of digging to come up with a coherent and feasible argument against its premise.

 

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