Ancient Egyptian Concept of the Soul
the Ancient Egyptians, their soul - their being - was
made up of many different parts. Not only was there the
physical form, but there were eight immortal or semi-divine
parts that survived death, with the body making nine parts
of a human.
The precise meaning of ka, ba, ach (akh), `shm (sekhem),
and so on is no longer clear to us. Well-meaning scholars
try again and again to force the Egyptian idea of the
soul into our traditional categories without enabling
us to understand even a little of it any better
-- J. J. Poortman, Vehicles of Consciousness - the Concept
of Hylic Pluralism
Khat (Kha) - The physical form, the body that could
decay after death, the mortal, outward part of the
human that could only be preserved by mummification.
- · Ka - The double that lingered on in the
tomb inhabiting the body or even statues of the deceased,
but was also independent of man and could move, eat
and drink at will. (There was both a higher guardian
angel like Ka and a lower Ka that came from knowledge
learned on earth.)
Ba - The human headed bird flitted around in the tomb
during the day bringing air and food to the deceased,
but travelled with Ra on the Solar Barque during the evenings.
- Khaibit - The shadow of a man. It could partake of funerary
offerings and was able to detach itself from the body
and travel at will, though it was always thought to stay
near the Ba.
Akhu (Akh, Khu, Ikhu) - This was the immortal part, the radiant
and shining being that lived on in the Sahu, the intellect,
will and intentions of the deceased that transfigured death
and ascended to the heavens to live with the gods or the imperishable
- Sahu - The incorruptible spiritual body of man that could
dwell in the heavens, appearing from the physical body after
the judgement of the dead was passed (if successful) with
all of the mental and spiritual abilities of a living body.
- Sekhem - This was the incorporeal personification of the
life force of man, which lived in heaven with the Akhu, after
Ab (Ib) - The heart, this was the source of good and
evil within a person, the moral awareness and centre of
thought that could leave the body at will, and live with
the gods after death, or be eaten by Ammut as the final
death if it failed to weigh equally against Ma'at.
- Ren - The true name, a vital part to man on his journey
through life and the afterlife, a magical part that could
destroy a man if his name was obliterated or could give power
of the man if someone knew his Ren - naming ceremonies in
Egypt were secret, and a child lived his whole life with a
nickname to avoid anyone from learning his true name!