Written by Tom Bane
Was Christianity influenced by ancient Egypt?
Suzy da Silva investigates the origins of Christianity in “Masks of the Lost Kings”, but finds she is side-tracked by a series of calamitous events she cannot control. The origins of Christianity that Suzy sets out to research, are clearly described in the Holy Bible, however I would conjecture that some of the ancient beliefs from Ancient Egypt may have influenced both Christianity and other ancient religions like Judaism. I believe this is more through a process of subtle adsorption and synthesis of the more profound aspects of philosophy, eschatology and religion used in Ancient Egypt rather than a direct ad verbatim copying or outright plagiarism of the ideas and beliefs of the Pharaohs.
Some interesting examples of this include that Akhenaten, the father of Tutankhamun invented the worship of one god – in his case the god was the sun disc or “Aten”, and he was considered a heretic for doing so, which ultimately led to his collapse as Pharaoh, this concept of a monotheistic religion definitely pre-dated the founding of Judaism and Christianity by more than a thousand years. Furthermore eminent historians and even the founder of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, have theorised that Akhenaten and his solar priesthood fled Egypt and secretly founded their old religion as a new one in the Levant (some scholars have suggested that this Egyptian solar priesthood was in fact the Essenes who are connected with the dead sea scrolls), Freud went further still and suggested that Moses was Akhenaten himself. Akhenaten’s priests may have fled Egypt, and taken their solar religion of one god with them, and this is what Freud connected with the story of the Exodus in the Bible, but the dates of Akhenaten’s reign ending and the timing of the Exodus are out by several hundred years (as explained in “Masks of the Lost Kings”) throwing some doubt on the validity of this whole theory.
Another theme in Ancient Egypt was the notion of a Virgin Birth, this featured heavily in both the creation myth of Osiris and also in iconography, the statue of the mother god Isis also called Mery, is often depicted nursing the infant child, which predates similar depictions of Mary mother of Jesus by thousands of years. Also the timing of the passion and the resurrection, has timings which match those used in mummification and death rituals of the ancient Egyptians, for instance the rising on the third day has been connected to Osiris.
These are just some of the themes, there are many others, such as the salutation “Amen” which originates from Amun, the Ancient Egyptian worship for the Moon- Amun, the most ancient belief system of Egypt which was founded thousands of years ago, before the worshipping of the Sun. The placing of a Halo or disc around the head, which is common in the time of Akhenaten and also often used in the depiction of the lion headed god Sekhmet, most famously expressed in the reclining statue of the Sphinx, which sits majestically beside the Great Pyramid, it is still one of the largest man-made statues in the world, it seems this depiction was borrowed in Christianity as well, for angels and sacred figures. Finally the Egyptian cross called the Ankh which is the image used at the start of this article is somewhat similar to that adopted by the great religion we know today, but not an exact copy.
However, I would say it is a mistake to equate the Egyptian view of the afterlife with the biblical doctrine of resurrection. To achieve immortality the Egyptian had to meet three conditions: First, his body had to be preserved by mummification. Second, nourishment was provided by the actual offering of daily bread and wine. Third, magical spells were interred with him. His body did not rise from the dead; rather elements of his personality - his Ba and Ka – ascended to the stars. This is very different to the Christian concept of the resurrection.
Written by Tom Bane
I must say, it’s a rare treat for an editor to be invited to come out of the shadows and discuss a book. In my case it is a book that gave me tremendous pleasure to edit, as well as posing one or two really tough dilemmas. Whilst some books arrive as little more than first drafts, Masks of the Lost Kings could probably have been published there and then and still been a hit, such was the care and attention that had gone into it by that stage. Yet the author still understood the need for it to pass through a comprehensive editing process. Why? I’ll explain in a moment but let’s just think first about the delicate relationship between author and editor.
I’m blessed with super clients, Tom being one. But sometimes I’ve been presented with a manuscript to assess for editing needs only for the author to disappear the moment anything remotely critical is suggested. All that was expected of me was a large pat on the back, confirming the masterpiece status of the work. And I can relate to this. Both giving and receiving criticism constructively takes tremendous sensitivity, judgment and sometimes courage. Like many, I’m happy to dish it out (although always very diplomatically!) but less enthusiastic about being on the receiving end. This is probably the chief reason I choose to sit on this side of the fence where it’s never my own work under intense scrutiny!
Now, Tom’s book present many different flavours – adventure, romance, intrigue, history, archaeology, science, geography – no doubt I’ve left something out, but you get the picture? It’s a complex work, packed with ideas and ingredients and the style of book that can only be written by an extremely organised as well as creative mind. And this is exactly the type of mind that would never publish anything without perusal by at least one independent specialist. It was my lucky day when he selected me and I still harbour happy memories of the hours spent examining, pondering, questioning and polishing this superbly entertaining book.
Tom kicked off the process by presenting me with a thoroughly well-prepared manuscript. But he was also up front in signposting some problems that he’d already identified – nothing huge, just question marks hovering over one or two scene descriptions, the consistency of a character, the clarity of the story’s critical turning points. With this minimal information, I read through the book and then raised some questions of my own - the point at which some authors vanish. Tom’s response reassured me that this was to be an entertaining and challenging project. I had his permission, no his instruction to provide just enough polish and tautness where needed without in any way at all undoing the immense amount of work that had gone into it.
Masks of the Lost Kings, as I’ve suggested, works at several levels; great for the end reader but a nightmare for the editor nervously fiddling with components as contrasting as dramatic pace and humour. And of course all of these ingredients must work together to provide readers across the whole spectrum with a fantastic read, whatever their expectations. My approach is to read through and gain a superficial grasp of the book. Then (shamelessly using paper and pen) I begin drilling down into the layers of the sub-structure, separating out what makes each moment, scene, character or concept plausible and valuable, almost deconstructing it before being able to see what, perhaps, is missing, out of proportion or simply not working as it should. For example, on one occasion I got out an atlas to double check the distance across a desert, and deciding whether a single tank of petrol would have been enough for that journey (I needn’t have bothered; Tom, of course, was spot on). Another time, it struck me that while the book presents a character with a particular mortal fear, the story didn’t explain its origins. This, along with questions like “would Suzy really have ignored that comment?” then becomes the stuff of debate between editor and author, simple but exciting questions to resolve.
The characters in Mask of the Lost Kings are also multi-dimensional. We have a heroine who is joined eventually by a partnering hero. Well, strictly speaking they are not heroic but they sit at the epicentre of the story (or so we think if we’re devouring it as fast as we can, breathless from its fast-paced adventure). But the secondary and even tertiary characters can be so much more interesting from the editor’s viewpoint (and doubtless give the author great pleasure too). This is something I’m going to talk about on another occasion, but for now let’s just say that one of the delights of this book is the tension that builds up as our perceptions of this or that person are subtly challenged. It can initially be disturbing, even irritating, as both the author and the story play with us in this way, but it is a brilliant device that leaves us even more gripped, eager to find resolution to this as much as to the main storyline itself.
So, as I said at the start, revisiting and commenting on an editing project is a rare privilege indeed. I find it intriguing, the way it brings back what was clearly an intense experience for me, a deep involvement with a book at the eleventh hour of its creation. In fact, you know what? It proves what I always knew; this is one of those books you definitely DO go back and read again. Which is exactly what I shall do now. Till next time.
Written by Tom Bane
Judo's return to purity- the highest and lowest belt
In the ancient martial art of Japan, the white belt was the symbol of purity, when first joining a judo class every student is given a white belt, to signify the beginners mind or a tabula rasa, the blank slate on which can be etched the elements, concepts and techniques that represent the art of judo. Beyond the black belt dan grades, there are the red belts of ninth and tenth dan, but in Japan the journey to ultimate mastery is signalled by a paradox to obtain another white belt, the ultimate goal is to return to this state of the beginners mind or mushin (the state of “no mind”), where the mind is no longer cluttered by the permutations of a myriad of different techniques, free of fear and anticipation, the state of mushin represents the pinnacle, where the body can flow reflexively with the opponents attack, a pure and clear mind like a still pond, which is able to clearly reflect the moon. But just as waves in the pond will distort the picture of reality, so will the thoughts we hold onto disrupt the true perception of reality.
The unique and only judoka who was elevated beyond the 10th dan red belt in Judo was the founder, Jigoro Kano. Dr Kano never claimed any title or rank, but after his death, Kodokan recognized him as a 12th dan and gave him the title of Shihan (teacher of the teachers). Belts superior to the 10th dan are white. In order not to confuse between true beginners and high masters, Kodokan decided that 11th and 12th dan belts would be twice the width of beginner’s belts.
In fact, no judoka will ever be nominated 11th or 12th dan, the 11th being an empty rank designate to reveal the chasm between the ability of Jigaro Kano and other judokas. Many black belts in other arts such as karate, emulate this lofty goal by allowing their black belts to fade and wear out over time, eventually exposing the white fabric underneath, as a symbolic return to mushin.
To the Westerner the side throws, joint locks and elaborate hold, etc., are tools of destruction and violence which is, indeed, one of their functions. But the Oriental believes that the primary function of such tools is revealed when they are self-directed and destroy greed, fear, anger and folly. “Purposelessness,” “empty-mindedness” or “no art” are frequent terms used in the Orient to denote the ultimate achievement of a martial artist. According to Zen, the spirit is by nature formless and no material objects attach to it, true mastery transcends the specific art, whether it be judo, karate, muay thai or jiu jitsu. It stems from mastery of oneself—the ability, developed through self-discipline, to be calm, fully aware, and completely in tune with oneself and the surroundings. Then, and only then, can a person know himself.
Written by Tom Bane
The central question posed in “Masks of the Lost Kings” is based on one the latest theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth. Only in the last few years have some renegade astronomers and particle physicists begun to explore whether there is an unexplored relation between us and the cosmos, a hidden degree of interconnectedness between what happens in the far reaches of the universe and what occurs on Planet Earth. This fascinating science has been dubbed “Astro-creationism” and this article explores some of the key insights and discoveries of this new found discipline.
One of the central tenets of “Astro-creationism” is that the long-term vitality of life on Earth depends upon the productivity of light absorbing microbes (which undergo photosynthesis) in the Sea and that this productivity varies directly with the supernova rate of stars in our galaxy, indeed when nearby stars undergo massive explosions, these supernova lead directly to falls in sea-level. The match gets even better between climate and supernova rates, high supernova rates can cause ice ages and a lack of supernova can cause warming periods.
So how can far-off Exploding stars affect climate and life on Earth? The answer is deceptively simple, the exploding supernova jettison high energy cosmic rays that travel to earth and hit our atmosphere, the cosmic rays splinter apart aerosol molecules, which causes them to become ionically charged, these ions attract water vapour forming clouds. In a nutshell that is how the proposed mechanism works, the final step is that the clouds reflect the sun’s rays and cause the Earth to cool. The severity of cooling can affect the climate but if the supernova is sufficiently powerful it can also trigger changes in life itself!
A controversial area of the theory, is that a supernova close to Earth 2.75 million years ago caused a global cooling which caused vast swathes of tropical forest in Africa to diminish forming the Savannah grassland that still flourishes today, for the African ape-man these changes proved disastrous, with little manual dexterity and inferior intelligence, his larger brained cousin homo habilis gained favour, with his ability to grip tools and hunt for game the ape-man was to die-out superseded forever by the birth of man, for modern –day humans are thought to be directly descended from homo habilis.
Further investigations and experiments are necessary to fully validate the theory, but early signs of promise show that we really could be the “Children of the Stars”.
A discussion of a recent paper by distinguished scientist Henrik Svensmark is included here on the Royal Astronomical’s website which explains the link between life on Earth and the supernova rate http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/219-news-2012/2117-did-exploding-stars-help-life-on-earth-to-thrive.
Written by Tom Bane
When I wrote the first draft of my novel “Masks of the Lost Kings” in 2009, I thought that people might think I was crazy or had lost my mind! I’d spent months analysing long-term global temperature data and I had discovered a new and revolutionary theory proposed by a particle physicist called Henrik Svensmark that helped explain it. The hitherto unexplained linkage between global temperature cycles, carbon dioxide and the variations in Solar activity. However my “Eureka” moment was when I found some subtle clues and evidence for the same linkage, buried in the tombs and artefacts of Tutankhamun and the Mayan civilisation. It was using these two disparate themes that allowed me to write “Masks of the Lost Kings”. I believe the Mayans and Egyptians understood the cycles of the Sun and used it to predict global temperatures and climate change on Earth, but they couldn’t answer the question why? It’s only recently that Henrik Svensmark’s explanation has explained the phenomena and he has been largely by himself in pioneering this theory against a backdrop of determined opposition.
However, recently some eminent scientists and opinion makers have been heeding the same view. Last week, in London, the Global Warming Policy Foundation hosted a lecture by a leading German green – former activist and Hamburg state environment senator Professor Fritz Vahrenholt. The evidence is pointing towards the Sun’s activity diminishing from the solar maximum in 2012 and causing a global cooling of temperatures in the future. Even the fervently global warming pundit Professor Phil Jones – of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit – concedes that there has been no ‘statistically significant warming’ since 1995. And if we’re to believe Fritz Vahrenholt in what has become one of Germany’s bestselling books- Die Kalte Sonne (The Cold Sun) there is a lot of evidence for variations in Solar activity causing temperature change on our planet. Vahrenholt’s thesis – based on the observations of Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark – is that the main agent of climate change is variations in the solar wind mediated by the effect of cosmic rays, the solar wind protects the Earth from high energy cosmic rays, when the solar wind is weak more cosmic rays get through the atmosphere and cause aerosol molecules to cleave apart which attract water molecules and form clouds. More clouds means the sun’s rays bounce off the tops of clouds away from Earth and the temperature cools, vice versa when the solar wind is strong- simple!
Vahrenholt isn’t the only green guru to change his mind. Earlier this year, Professor James Lovelock conceded his doomsday claims about climate change – for example his prediction that 80 per cent of all humans could be wiped out by 2100 – was somewhat of an exaggeration. Much of the mild global warming we’ve experienced in the past 150 years (a rise of about 0.8C) was, it would appear, the result of solar activity (detectable in the number of sun spots) which is now slowing down. We are now entering a period of ‘weak’ solar cycles, and this decline in activity is expected to continue until about 2040, by which time – according to some pessimistic predictions – global mean temperatures will have fallen by 2C.
However, what if global warming over the last 100 years was man-made? What if man-made global warming caused by CO2 is true as well? it’s just since 1995 the reduction in solar activity has just been strong enough to mask any contribution from man-made global warming, what happens then? As reduced solar activity after 2012 causes nations to abandon their CO2 targets we could be faced with a dilemma or a runaway scenario after 2040 when solar activity picks up again, if we don't curb carbon emissions. This is the turning point that I identify in “Masks of the Lost Kings” and it’s happening now, from 2012 onwards.