“As high priest of Ra-Horakhti, Akhenaten had often gazed into the face of the sun-god. It was from meditating upon the cosmic significance of the sun that the young mystic came suddenly to understand the true meaning of light and good and truth. …
“It came forcibly to Akhenaten’s mind that the sun symbolized not only the glory of God and the magnificence of the celestial power, but also the infinite tenderness and intimacy of life. … Akhenaten found the spirit that dwells in the innermost and rules the furthermost. He bowed in adoration before the truth he had discovered …
“As a symbol of his religion, Akhenaten chose the shining face of Aten—the solar disc. The effulgence of the Aten he represented by rays flowing in all directions from the solar face. Each of the rays ended in a human hand to represent the active power of the light… The whole figure represented the hand of God in all things. … The young mystic walked with God, hand in hand with the ever-living light. … Akhenaten then made another great discovery. He discovered the secret of living the Aten. Recognizing the presence of the Universal Father in himself he strove to live as the personification of the light.” ~Manly P. Hall in his book “Twelve World Teachers”.
Akhenaten is one of the earliest known spiritual leaders to promote both the ideas of a single God and the idea of a spiritual sun that can enlighten men who seek for such enlightenment. Sadly, much of what he wrote, or was written about him during his lifetime, was lost after he died and the Egyptians returned to their older beliefs and destroyed much of what Akhenaten created. Enough has survived though to tell us that he was a truly enlightened person.
I particularly find it interesting that Hall’s description of Akhenatens moment of epiphany is very similar to that of St. Francis, one of the greatest of Christian saints. Akhenaten is described as gazing on the sun and meditating when he had his moment of awakening. St Francis is said to have been lying in his sick bed, suffering from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and watching the sun rise through the open window, when he had his epiphany.
In the picture above, Akhenaten is accompanied by his wife, Nefertiti, and two of their daughters as they pray to Aten. The rays of the sun do end in hands, though it is hard to see here. Manly says these hands represent the active power of the light. That is certainly true, but it is more than that. It also symbolizes that God is reaching out to us via the spiritual sun, we have only to gaze upon the spiritual sun to connect with God and be awakened ourselves.
Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds to look upon the spiritual sun. If we simply look up at the sunrise with our physical eyes, we will be looking at the physical sun, not the spiritual. This is not at all what is desired. Looking upon the physical sun can not only harm the eyes, it is a source of material powers and can make us even more materialistic rather than spiritual. You have to be taught how to look beyond the physical sun to the spiritual. It is not an easy thing to do. Even the best students still look at the physical sun to some degree, but hopefully not enough to prevent their spiritual awakening and growth. It is largely because of this that it is important for anyone seriously desiring to develop his spiritual side to work through a good spiritual teacher or spiritual school.