This book attempts to view and interpret the Amduat, the night journey of the Sun/Ra, through a psychological and Jungian perspective. That type of approach is right on. Egyptian motif and spirituality is highly symbolic and mystical. Modern archaeology really has no clue what Egypt was about. So if you are interested in really getting into Egypt this book must be on your list.
The books writing style is generally engaging. You can tell the author is a deep thinker and is trying hard to achieve a writing style that engages the reader. This is a fairly rare combination in archaeology books, especially those regarding Egypt. Most archaeologists convey a general conceit when the truth is more that they are ignorant of what is going on. This book takes a more realistic and open view to Egyptian motif and that is refreshing. So in general this book is a pleasant reading experience.
My concerns with the book are that if you have studied John Anthony West or Schwaller DeLubicz in the area of 'symbolist Egypt', or even of Stephen Mehler and Hakim Ayan or Mustapha Gadalla in the area of KMT, then you would frequently run into conclusions in this text that are either incorrect or inconsistent. The text frequently clings to false conclusions of standard archaeology OR fails to fully interpret the material into Jungian perspective missing huge clues that are right in the open. Heavy overtones from Christianity also frequently distract.
For examples of the clinging to standard archaeology in an inconsistent manner we come to the matter of pyramids as tombs. On page 6 (Immersion into Darkness) "Even more: the king was buried in the desert..." then in the next paragraph "The Egyptian pharaoh was buried in the dark interior of the monumental hill, that is, the pyramid". So was it the desert or in the pyramid? The fact is that NO pharaoh was ever found entombed in a pyramid. This is one of the mistaken conclusions (pyramids as tombs) that has persisted in archaeology because no tenured archaeologist relying on grant money is willing to contradict the established dogma.
Regarding the failure to stay with the thesis of Jungian interpretation, the text fails to apply unifying or self-represented convention to symbols of the amduat. Jung was not just about the collective unconscious but also about viewing attributes of the cosmos as attributes of the self. Think Joseph Campbell and the masks of the hero (=self) for instance. The text states of Ra passing through the netherword that it represents "an ultimate principle of consciousness in the collective unconscious". First, that statement makes little sense. You either have differentiated consciousness or a collective UNCONSCIOUS. The author understands and later uses the concept of individuation of the self. But he misses the point of the symbolism of Ra. Ra is not just a principle and not just the 'Sungod'. Ra IS an individual self. Ra is everyone on their path of individuation. The text cannot seem to break out of the dogma of objective archaeology and fully enter the symbolic self that IS Khemetian (alKHeMy) mysticism. The text later skates close to the domain of what alchemy actually is but not without diversions.
In other places the writing style is a bit presumptuous. "As their attention turned more and more to the various manifestations of the Sungod traveling by day in the sky above and filling the world with his life-giving sunshine, the more urgently Egyptians of the New Kingdom **demanded** to know what happened to his light during the night." Wow! this is quite a reach. First we assume the Egyptians were dummies and didn't even understand what the process of the Amduat was even though they clearly depicted it in the texts and imagery the left for us. But more than that, we are to to hear that they must have been rioting in the streets because they were so extremely clueless about their own cosmology. This kind of hubris comes up a lot in standard archaeology and occasionally in this book.
From a basic set of symbolism of the Self the text is unable to make basic Jungian interpretations of the Amduat story. Ra is not the sungod but is the Self. Apophis is not a snake demon but the lower vibratory nature of a human being. Apophis is not destroyed but is transformed. This last part should be extremely clear as at the end of the Ra's journey in the Amduat 'he' enters the tail of the snake to be birthed out of the mouth and emerge as Khepri. All of this transition of the phases of being are described in KMT as the cycle of being, of civilizations, and of large ages through the transition from Khepri (the dawn) to Ra (the stubborn) to Oon (the wise) to Aten (the wiser) to Amen (the hidden). So while later the text acknowledges that the serpent is some part of our nature, and alternately as belonging to the earth, it is an inconsistent application. The book does at times acknowledge the self-symbology of the serpent. You have to end up thinking which is it? You also have a general misinterpretation of other characters such as Set. Set is not chaos or evil. Set is the discriminating power of your own darkness/unconsciousness which is not afraid to call you out when you are not true to your own nature. Set is the inner tester. Not some demon bent on just messing up your plans.
To restate and clarify the above paragraph, generally the book does fail in it's attempt to interpret the drawings of the Duat which is the main objective of this book. The text does not fully convey an understand Egyptian symbolism. In seeing the baboon iconography as part of hour one, the book relies on a story a story told to him about a veterinarian who witnessed baboons in African greeting the rising sun each morning. So this chapter/hour is narrowed or short-circuited by reducing it's meaning to that of connecting with the animal soul. Unbelievable! To start, the first hour of the duat would be immediately after sun, those baboons would be settling in for sleeping. (Unless the first hour of the Duat is actually the dawn in another realm (hint, hint)). So rather than keep with the theme of translating symbols the text clings to a literal, and inappropriate, interpretation. In all Egyptian iconography the baboon is the representative/alter form of Thoth/Tehuti, a very lunar persona. So rather than pickup on the obvious symbolism here where the first hour of the duat Ra (having actually entered as Amen, the hidden) is greeted by it's energetic counterpart, the moon, we only have some baboons reminding us of our monkey/animal self. The book is unable to fully interpret the duat iconography, only to draw out references to certain Neters and clinging to rote conventional Western concepts mired in misunderstanding. The text suffers from a heavy reliance on Western and overtly Christian themes which causes it to both miss and veil the underlying meaning of the imagery of the Duat. From Apophis and Set being cast in erroneously bad lights, to hour five having some 'satanic' challenge to the main character/self. This set of views is inappropriate and incomplete. When approaching any mystical topic like this you HAVE to leave behind as much as possible your own biases and return to basic principles of symbology. All of the Egytian motif is concerned with life and blessing. The heavy biases conveyed in the text have largely been informed by the Christian/Biblical/Dualistic (good vs evil) meme. This has largely prevented the book from uncovering what these images are really about. But keep in mind there is currently no work I have found where any author has even scratched the surface on decoding the duat drawings, including this book. So in this book you have a better attempt than most.
I really do appreciate this book in what it has done and attempted to do. For most readers who have not studied KMT or symbolist Egypt my comments may seem overly critical. Most readers would appreciate this book as something accessible that does bring in a LOT of understanding of the inner Duat process. I only draw out what I see as the books shortcomings as someone who has studied mysticism for decades in a wish that this topic would be fully elaborated in full clarity and without the archaeological assumptions and dogma that most other books on Egypt are mired in. As this text has expanded on Erik Hornung, we can hope that a future author with knowledge of KMT will take on the subject of the Amduat and give us a much purer interpretation. Given that this message is so important, actually carrying a hidden seed of Egyptian mystical consciousness, I will give you my impressions next of what the Amduat process is really about.
I believe the imagery itself is closer to the 'truth' than many sections of the accompanying texts (Book of Hours, Going forth by Day (Papyrus of Ani), etc.) The imagery, paired with an ability to interpret the clues left there, is enough to crack open the meaning of the Amduat process. In this book there are glimmers coming through the book even though these insights are covered over by returning to an erroneous set of Western biases (good/evil). Leaving these biases and filters behind it is possible to see the Amduat process for what it is in itself (noumenon or 'Ding An Sich' ala Kant). The core clues show up now and then but reach an accessible level on page 103 of the text. This page, along with careful consideration of it's accompanying drawing of the 5th hour, hold the key(s). By looking very carefully at these images and their symbology one can begin to understand the process illustrated here. The passage through death to the next realm, and the process of a man and a woman creating new life, the process of generation and gestation, is really the heart of the Amduat. Life and fruiting of consciousness is at the heart of all Egyptian motif. (The shape of Hathors head and it general similarity to the shape of a uterus is known within Egyptology.) The process is creation/transformation/generation in various realms of both the body and of consciousness. This process is entirely composed of life and blessings. There is only Ankh here (transmission of blessing, life, awareness). There is no anti-Ankh in Egypt. There is no evil here, no opposition, only the process of life, blessing, and love. I've already given it away. Go through this text with this key I have just given you. You will begin to see in the symbols the hidden allusions to:
- life energy (snakes,neters)
- consciousness (neters)
- penis ('knives' protruding from the pelvis of seated neters in 2nd hour)
- sperm (snakes),
- vagina (various tunnels as in 4th and 5th hours)
- uterus (5th hour top middle and bottom middle, entire 'Cavern of Sokkar')
- fetus in-utero (5th hour bottom middle) in the woman/ISIS (5th hour middle)
- fetus in-utero (6th hour middle right)
- fetus moving in the watery womb (10th hour lower middle)
- umbilicus (as snake in 11th hour middle)
- water breaking (spitting snakes/females in 11th and 12th hours)
- fetus turned down preparing for birth (11th hour lower middle)
- fetus moving in labor (figure seated on snake 11th hour top left)
- radiant birth (including a head and arms of a new being emerging - 12th hour right side).
Of course these are more 'physical' components of what is a mystical process. I suspect much of the AmDuat is not only formation of a body/vehicle (prepared for that dimension) but also ingression of consciousness and spiritual training in-utero. The text comes close to achieving this realization through the use of the term 'incubation'. But the text is also stuck in a convention of considering the ''Cavern' of Sokkar' as being a place of darkness, depression, and suffering. That is a rather grim way to view gestation.
So is this book worth your time? Yes. But please try to see the deeper process at work here. The book supports understanding the Amduat if you can actively filter out the diversions and side-trips so often encountered in the text. There are other texts to help deprogram you from the rote Western/Egytology misconceptions listed below.
You should read Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt
And if you save up some money and want to listen to the master who recovered much of what Egypt was really about read this The Temple of Man.
And check you tube for any videos of Dr. Abd'el Hakim Awyan.