The Soul Cluster: Reconsideration of a Millennia Old Concept (cont.)
By Ede Frecska, Levente Móró and Hank Wesselman
The Ancient Egyptian concept of the soul
The conception of the soul in Ancient Egypt was complex. The Egyptians conceived of a person’s individuality as being made up of several independent beings, each of which was a distinct personality seen as a whole having a separate existence both during life and after death. Their belief system that appears to have been based in direct shamanic experience, included a number of souls or soul aspects and auxiliary entities that together constituted the individual. According to Egyptian funerary texts, man is composed of a mortal body, the Kha, and at least three soul principles: the Ka, Ba, and Akh.
– Ka represented the spiritual essence, which made the difference between a living and a dead person. It was received at the instant of birth by breath, and death occurred when Ka left the body. The ancient Egyptians contributed life-giving energy to the Ka. This characteristic makes Ka similar to the concept of 'life-soul' or 'spirit' in other religions and the ‘energy body’ in contemporary Western thought.
– Ba referred to all those qualities that make up a person, including everything non-physical that makes an individual unique similar to the Western view of personality. In this regard, Ba is the closest to the contemporary notion of 'ego-soul’ or ‘mental soul’. Ka and Ba were held to be very much attached to the physical body: they had physical needs, like food and water, confirming their resemblance to Arbman’s two body-souls.
– The most important player who has the leading role in the Afterlife was the immortal soul called the Akh. Following the death of Kha, the Ba and Ka had to be reunited to reanimate the Akh. The Egyptian funerary customs were intended to aid the deceased in becoming an Akh, to prevent rebirth and “dying a second time in the Afterlife”. In the Egyptian religion, this second death was possible and permanent. Akh was associated with thought, but not as an action of the mind; rather, it was a form of pure consciousness, analogous to the higher self or immortal spiritual oversoul in Western thought. It was believed to be able to wander away (Ka and Ba could also do that), to haunt the deceased body if the tomb was not in order, and it could do either harm (sickness, nightmares, and bad feelings) or extend good (protection) toward persons still alive. Within the frame of the ancient Egyptian belief system Akh corresponds the best to the 'free soul' or higher self of a human being.
In addition to the Ka, Ba and Akh, there were further principles, which make the comparison more difficult: the Ib (metaphysical heart center of compassion), Sheut (shadow aspect of the person), Ren (name soul aspect of the person), Sahu (energetic spiritual body for the Akh), and Sekhem (spiritual-energetic immortal character dwelling in the Afterlife in association with Akh).
Accordingly, it can be observed that the ancient Egyptian soul concept is an example of the inflation of the number of soul aspects: In comparison to other traditions (Table 1), a segregation and transformation of soul components is presumable. The idea of an independent and pure immaterial existence was so foreign to Egyptian thought that it assigned spiritual body (Sahu) and energetic force (Sekhem) to the potentially eternal soul form (Akh), and delegated the other soul forms (Ka and Ba) for its help. that incorporated the other souls (Ka and Ba) after the death of the physical body. It also seems that ancient Egyptians introduced a complementary, ethereal version of the 'life-soul' (vital force) by granting Sekhem (spiritual force) to the deceased person’s Akh. After all, in Egyptian cosmology nothing existed in isolation, and duality was a norm.