Akhenaten was a 14th-century BCE Egyptian Pharaoh. He is considered by many to be the first monotheist in history.
Below is a translated entry from his recently discovered diary, originally scratched onto Egyptian reed with a delicate and decorative hand. This entry seems to suggest a significant defect introduced into monotheism at its earliest stage:
Nile Delta, Egypt
I got the pharaohship through the bloodline, and like the bloodlines up and down my bowed legs, I wear the purple on the outside and warm red on the inner.
My passion might be crimson. My blood has leaked onto our cut stones and sarcophagi, I hope indelibly, like the sticky pimples of gum this gnawing populace drop from their mouths onto my city streets.
Disgusting habit, gum chewing, perhaps brought on by the perfection of our teeth and our inborn inability to keep our mouths at rest.
I was never expected to be ardent. And little did I suspect I would possess theological genius, along with a passion for imperial persuasion on that front.
My persuasiveness has not reached the fever of the pinprick, yet. I never hurt except with intent to heal. But heal the people, I must do.
There is only one God and he is the burnt yellow disc who imparts life: the Sun, the fiery orb with licking arms. More than once, through double-layered cotton, I could see his feelers whipping out, as if to me.
Aten is God’s name, as everyone in Egypt and beyond now knows.
I have opponents. Priests of the countless gods and temples. Pious layabouts. I’ve sent them packing picking pasture pods from wooly sheep hides in hinterlands. That’s a good use of a priest’s overgrown fingernails and narrow eyes.
Architects too have opposed me, they say, for aesthetic reasons.These antique Egyptian gods deface every building in my city. The etchings are nothing but a wisp of shredded thread in Aten’s eyes, true. Imagery matters mostly to me, not to Aten.
Why shouldn’t I prevent rivalry to Aten? Why shouldn’t I feel offense when I monitor the idolatrous scrapes of talented trowels upon the walls of my city? It’s my city. And I am right.
Can right permit wrong? Does wrong have rights? Does anyone have a right to be wrong? My monotheistic motto shall be, No Right To be Wrong. Will that last the ages through? If I am remembered as the first monotheist, and if monotheism persists, will my motto persist with it?
Nefertiti, the most darling of my wives, a believer like me in Aten, has advised cautious restraint. The people—by which she means the rude mechanicals, the bent-over gravel workers, the hard-eyed date growers, the filthy fabric makers with dye stained hands, and those bouncy transsexual performers—need the flourish of superstition, she says.
Ignorance, Nefertiti says, excuses. And besides, she says, ignorance finds its circuitous route to knowledge. The gods the people bow to in ignorance are as nothing, are nothing, to Aten. And Aten may accept offerings made to nothing as if they were made to him.
Amusing camel dung, I say. I say Mono means one licit way.
There’s a thing called a labyrinth in Greece. It has many routes on the way to a single exit. All of these routes are dead ends, but one. You may spend a day lost in these labyrinthine alleys. If a circuitous route is nonetheless a dead end, then it cannot lead to liberty from the labyrinth. There is only one path out. One way. Mono. One permissible way.
From a work in progress called Almost True Diary Entries of the World’s Famed Religiosos.
Featured image ‘Pharaoh’ by Matthew Caldwell via Flickr