November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Written in July 2006.
One of the concepts in Egyptian belief that makes most sense to me is the idea that there are many parts that make up a person. These are the khat, or physical body; the ba, or core eternal part of the soul; the ka, or spirit/double; the khaibit, or shadow; the ren, or true name; the sekhem, or essence; and the yb, or heart. I often use these terms in explaining some of my beliefs about reincarnation, selfhood, therianthropy, and multiplicity, among other concepts; they are convenient, useful terms. However, some of my interpretations of the various parts of the self differ from the widely accepted interpretations.
If you are interested in the basic traditional interpretation of the Egyptian concept of the self, there’s a decent write up of it here.
Following is my interpretation of the parts of the self. This may change as I learn more or as my paradigm evolves.
- The khat is the physical body. This is what can be measured, felt, and seen. It includes the neurological and biological processes, and is the vehicle by which the soul usually experiences and affects the environment. Temperament and a number of other psychological traits have their source in the physical body, which also contains many perceptual “filters” that affect the reception and translation of external (and sometimes internal) information. It will eventually die and decay.
- The ba is the soul: the core, eternal part of the self. It is akin to a spiritual version of temperament – it’s the base from which the self is built. The ba is the part that reincarnates. It retains impressions and colorings from past lives, but usually no more than brief flashes unless the life was very recent or had a significant impact on the ba. The ba is something like the Reclaiming idea of the Higher Self, that subconscious (or perhaps more accurately, supraconscious) part that is aware of and connected to the entirety of being, and especially the nonphysical realm; it’s also similar to the idea of the “inner self”, the version of a person with (supposedly) full memory of all past incarnations and interactions.
- The ka is the spirit; it is you-this-life. Where the ba is the core, the ka is the flesh; the personality of ka overtop the temperament of ba. It is affected by the ba, and affects it in turn; life shapes the ka, as does the environment and the foundation of the ba. The ka is closely connected with physical existance; it is one’s consciousness, in a manner; it’s the part of a person that is generally aware. While the ba reincarnates after death, the ka does not. I’m not sure what happens with the ka after death. It either unites with the khaibit to become the akh, gets a spirit-body (called the sahu) and continues to the afterlife; or perhaps it remains on Earth as a sort of ghost; or perhaps it dissolves into reusable energy after death (though certainly not always).
- The khaibit is the shadow, and is much like the Jungian shadow. It’s made up of all the parts that a person hides from herself and refuses to admit, or the parts that she buries for whatever reason. It is the dark mirror reflection of the soul. Much of it is made up of so-called “negative” traits (despair, anger, vengeance, etc) or “positive” traits that the person doesn’t allow herself (vulnerability, openness, even love), all of which, when viewed and used properly, can become aids and assets. It’s not a bad part, or even all that negative, but many people are afraid of it. If not dealt with, accepted, and integrated into the ka, the khaibit can linger after death as a ghost. Generally it stays with the body; sometimes it stays with a thing, place, or person the individual had a strong attachment to in life. It does not reincarnate but either fuses with the ka or remains as a ghost until released or until it fades in some manner (shattering, dissolving, etc).
- The ren is the true name. It can sometimes be approximated in sound, but I don’t think it’s something spoken. It’s that which sums up the essence of a person; it contains all of who a person is. Some think the ren is one’s individual DNA. Others think it’s one’s energy signature. I think these are part of the ren (and can account for the Law of Contagion, since in Kemetic belief, knowing someone’s ren gave one power over that person). I don’t know precisely what the ren is, though; my mind can’t quite grasp the idea of something that encompasses the entirety of a person.
- The sekhem is the power or essence; one’s “energy”, so to speak. I think this reincarnates along with the ba. The sekhem contributes greatly to one’s energy signature or “feel”. It is the personal core life-energy that one normally draws on; it can be supplemented or replenished by external energy through such exercises as grounding. It’s the pool or wellspring found at one’s center. It’s connected to (if not the same thing as) one’s will.
- The yb is the heart or mind. I’d guess it’s a mix of the neural pathways that are the brain and the circulatory system of heart and blood. The Egyptians thought a person did their thinking and feeling with their heart, rather than their brain, so I think it could be safely said that the yb is the mind. It’s more connected with the sahu and ka, and does not reincarnate; it’s also the part that’s weighed against the Feather of Ma’at during the Weighing of the Heart in the Hall of Two Truths after death.