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What drew me to the stories of Ancient Egypt?

I guess I’ve always been curious. How did we get here? What are our
origins? Why are things as they are? I wanted to conceive a story that
offered the discerning reader a different entry point to these age-old
questions.

I began by looking through the glass darkly into the past. I ended up in
Ancient Greece, and eventually in Ancient Egypt, the earliest recorded
historical culture.

The Ancient Egyptians also imagined their origins though creation
myths, of which is the myth of Osiris. He was king to Isis’ queen. But
Set murders Osiris, dismembers him and distributes his body parts all
over Egypt. Isis gathers them together, miraculously brings him back
to life, and bears him a son, the hawk-headed Horus. This is a story
of life and death, procreation, rebirth and the struggle for power, all of
them archetypal themes. And the basic ingredients of the myth are not
a bad template for a novel: start, weave the threads, spread them far
and wide, then collect them altogether again into a pulsating climax.

That wasn’t all. Many great men have set their feet upon the path to
Egypt: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte. It
was the first and oldest civilisation, and therefore influenced everything
that followed. The first in any field always does. In this respect, Egypt
is the Mother and Father of all things.

That set me going.

What seed lodged in your consciousness and drove you to start
exploring its possibilities to flourish into a full novel?

Next up, I discovered legends from other ancient cultures that mentioned
cross-breeding between species, of mixed genetics, and hybrids. The
apocryphal The Book of Enoch spoke of the Grigori, or ‘fallen angels’,
who came to Earth and mated with ‘the daughters of men,’ spawning
the Nephilim, an antediluvian race of giants. The Epic of Gilgamesh
talked of strange beings such as fish-men, who came ashore for the
day, and returned to the sea at night. Even today, you can see a stone
carving of such a creature at the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut behind
the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

These and other sources fired my imagination. What if these ‘fallen
angels’ manifested in human form and settled in Ancient Egypt? What
if antediluvian genetics were unstable, in that the normal bindings
that prevented the existence of crossbreeds had become loosened,
spawning mixed genetic creatures and humans with the head of
animals?

The germ of the idea for the novel was born: an alternative genesis of
the human race.

Interwoven with these threads was esoteric information about such
concepts as the astral light and the akashic record, referenced by
the Theosophical Society and, more recently, the Emin Society. The
akashic record is conceived as a compendium of thoughts, events,
and emotions encoded in a non-physical plane of existence.

This is where I derived the name for the novel’s heroine, Akasha, a
Sanskrit word meaning aether or atmosphere.

Also mooted was the astral body, a sort of personal spirit entity, which
could leave a person (usually during sleep) and travel the astral light,
there to explore the akashic record and so re-live any event or person
from any time in history. This is what Edgar Cayce, an American mystic,
claimed to have done. His profuse and profound writings speak of the
time before the Flood.

All this nourished my fascination for the supernatural.

Doris Lessing’s Shikastra contained some interesting ideas about how
humans may have lived in the times before recorded history.

I got the name Samlios, where the Akasha is born and where the initial
action of the novel unfolds, from Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to his
Grandson.

Then the Flood. Where did that fit into the story? Now, think about it
for a moment. If it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, how did all that
water get up there in the first place? What about this utterance from
the Ancient Egyptian Pyramid texts:

‘I shall cross the great lake in the sky and return home to my double
on the sun.’


More recently, Old Mother Shipton, an Yorkshire prophetess, coined
her answer:

‘Beneath the water, men shall walk. Shall ride, shall sleep, shall even
talk.’


What if the waters were already up there in the sky, and the earth had
shrunk like a dried prune, leaving the remaining oceans on narrow and
shallow sea beds?

Another element of the world of The Genes of Isis was taking shape.

How did you build a narrative and characters around the
ingredients gathered from your knowledge of Ancient Egypt?

With two main sources, I needed two protagonists, one to speak for
the humans, and the other for the angels, whom I called the Solarii. I
envisaged the embryonic human race as blue-blooded, gentle folk, and
kind. The Solarii on the other hand, were drawn as severe, powerful
and dedicated. A comparison of opposites yielded a girl and boy, young
and old, Akasha and Horque. The main characters took shape.

Then in the novel, I twisted another Biblical weave: instead of having
the Jews as slaves to the Egyptians, I conceived of them as willing
helpers and servants.

When I started work on the novel, I began with the idea, a rough
storyline, giving me the destination. Then the characters emerged out
of the plot and suggested parts they could play. Sometimes I heard
their voices when composing the dialogue. Sometimes my imagination
revealed things about them, like what they carried in their pockets. I
found my characters crouching behind the plot lines, emerging out of
the shadows of the narrative, and in the great halls of the unconscious
(yes, even in dreams).

What haunted you throughout the process?
Looking so far back into pre-history, there was an abiding sense of
peering into a dark timeless abyss, and where sometimes, as Nietzsche
predicted, the abyss stared back. That was unnerving. Especially as
most of what I was researching had no fixed points, no salient facts on
which anyone agreed.

Then again, it did leave plenty of room for the imagination.

All this and more is in The Genes of Isis.

 
Copyright: Justin Newland, 2017.