In ancient Egypt what did the Ba and the Ka represent? They were parts of the soul but why two parts?
ka is like the spirit; its the element that makes something alive. In contrast, the
ba is more like the personality of a person.
The Ka was the life force, astral double or spiritual twin ... the Ba was the impersonal life force of the soul, the essence of one's individuality and unique characteristics.
- Ruiz, Ana. The spirit of ancient Egypt. Algora Publishing, 2001.
There were in fact five parts to the Egyptian view of the soul, not just two.
“Nor did Mythology spring from fifty or a hundred different sources, as frequently assumed. It is one as a system of representation, one as a mould of thought, one as a mode of expression, and all its great primordial types are virtually universal”
- Gerard Massey
The interpretation and translation is based on Wiesław Bator’s, scholarly work Religion of Ancient Egypt: Perspectives from Religious Studies (Jagiellonian University Publications: Cracow, 2012)
Three directive souls: Akh, Ba, Ka Three Intermediary energies: Ran, Jab (Hati), Shut (Khaibit) Three executive elements: Sekhem, Sanhu, Nacht (Sat)
Akh (bright, illumined) directs the whole intellectual sphere of a human being, and contains all his or hers intellectual potential (that may be trained). The hieroglyphic determinative and logogram of the concept Akh was the walking bird. This element returned to Yaaru (heavens) considered the house of Gods and Goddesses, it was this element that was the ‘messenger’ of the Gods that worked in accord with the laws of Maat, Akh of the deceased was identified with Stars across the universe, because Akh was also the source of all wisdom, the living wrote letters ‘to the stars’ or to the Akh of their ancestors, leaving them in their graves, where the statue (tut) of the deceased was erected, they awaited the reply in their dreams.
Ran/Ren (the name), nefer, it meant “beautiful”; “happy”; “joyful”; “glorious”; “splendid”. It was the mirroring of the universal creative word (kheru, medu), the name was considered a natural link in-between creative soul and Akh and its passive executive form (Sekhem), but also an inter-mediary element between the Necher (Gods and Goddesses) and affective-emotional domain of the being, called “hhekau” (represented in case of human being by triad: Ba, Yab, Sahh). Name, understood in such a way, was associated with all governing forces over energy, and thus the physical world. The power of the name Ren depends on the quality of Akh of its beholder;
Sekhem was considered the primal, unspoiled form of a human being — the ideal prototype of his body residing in the divine sphere of Nerchru. Visually, Sekhem reminded of earthly body, but it did not have any defects, nor did it undergo the effects of time. Observing representation of phenomena of time-less youth in artistic impressions conjured by Egyptian masters of Sekhem of immortal beings, as they were considered artistic ideations of the Earthly mirroring of Sekhem. This kind of idealistic portrayals were considered earthly mirroring of Sekhem and they were given the name Tut, which were included by some researchers into the fundamental elements of one’s personality. Egyptians did not deny tut (the figure) a form of “life” (Tut Ankh or “living image”), but always considered Tut an Earthly substitute of Sekhem. Many researchers sought in Sekhem some active force, working in an autonomous manner, which might not be completely accurate, because the same element was equal in a determinative of a standing mummy, which may be found amongst the concepts of other bodies: Sahh and Djet. Thus, all three elements of human nature belong to the same category of receptive, or passive forms. This hypothesis is supported by Egyptian mythology, that the Goddess Sekhmet, of personified Sekhem of the highest being, is seen as a passive executor of the will of the King of Gods — Atum-Re-Chepri, who, according to the Stone of Shabaka, is understood as the “heart” and “word” of the panenteistic God Ptah; The above-mentioned elements of the human personality which work in the divine sphere of Necheru were considered the most perfect prototype of a mortal, thus the numinous mirroring of his Earthly nature.
The next triad of the elements of a human being are: Ba, Yab, and Sahh, which belong to the inter-mediating sphere of the whole being. Here, all weight of afterlife of a human being rests, because it is them that determinate what will one do living one’s life, and what was the intention of his doings. Thus, they are the main protagonists of the judgment over the dead, because they are responsible for a human beings conscious actions and submit to the judgment over the dead. They are as follows:
Ba: This element is most closely associated with the understanding of a ‘soul’ in the Western occidental civilization. Ba may be the reflexive, passionate element, responsible for life choices. Egyptians held that Ba was a loyal servant, thus a soul of one was his loyal servant (bak). Ba is described in writing by two different determinatives: the older one is a black stork, the younger one falcon with a human head. The reflexive soul was thus considered an inseparable companion, which suggests motives and way of acting. Ba was not responsible for creative thought, but advised how they should be applied, it resided in the “heart” (yab), and its inclinations influenced the active heart (Hati). The heart commanding separate senses and movements decided which of the Ba-influences to execute, and which one should be rejected. When Ba is recommending inner tranquillity, moderation, care for oneself and others, or it “persuades Maat”, then it has a chance of attaining the state of divinity and it awaits a reward in the afterlife. This happy fate met him/her only when they conducted themselves as above. When the Ba-soul contradicted the order of Maat and influenced the human being to act against his con-science (co-feeling), or the voice of the Yab-heart which was inscribed with unfaltering laws and principles stemming from Ren in the Necheru sphere — then it must have been punished with other elements of the deceased, belonging to the sphere Hhekau, dying in cruel condition in the Underworld; The advices of the soul might be completely contradicting con-science, and even may put afterlife in doubt, in the scripture ‘Conversation of a suicide with his Ba” we may note a complete contradiction between the Ba-element and inner consideration of a man. The soul or Ba in this case seem to be a synonym of sobriety and at all costs it attempts to silence the burdened con-science. The Ba, attached to all pleasantries of life conjures its image and recommends idleness. Operating on rational arguments the Ba negates afterlife, just to protect the protagonist from suicide. It knows that it leads to the extermination of consciousness in the afterlife. To the life in opposition to Maat it portrays a noble death, which is saving from wickedness and assures existence in the afterlife. The con-science suggests that a person living in accord with Maat has more influence in the world than the living body, attaining a degree of post-mortem divinity and the ability to conjure miracles. In the light of Egyptian narrative, the Ba is not only belonging to the human existence, also Gods and animals possess it. Yet, Gods are not limited to having just one Ba as the ‘rational friend’, the Ba may undergo transformations. Of course, a Ba belonging to a Deity is of much higher hierarchy than that of a mortal or an animal, it is higher, perfect, and infallible. In essence, the Deity-Ba is similar to human Akh, Ba of the divine is a manifestation of Necheru, may inhabit the bodies of many animals and this fact is the basis of Egyptian zoolatry (for example the Deity Horus, as the God of Life, may be emanating through all living beings in the positive aspect of their expression).
Yab/Hati, or ‘heart’ is the main concept of Egyptian anthropology and the key to the active human being, Egyptians believed that that it is the ‘temple and store-house’ of thoughts, and thus they assigned it a role similar to this that we are assigned to the brain nowadays (it might be said that the brain and associated cognitive processes and affective states and feelings are modulating the essential heart, thus experiences, and pain, suffering, influences or cleanses the heart alike to karmic inclinations, when a heart ‘drowns’ in its despair, or becomes alike to stone — different from detached abiding — it grows cold — but it may not be limited to biochemical physiological brain functions, it works with the components that give the feeling component authenticity, and the genius its proper, spiritual function, thus also it might be said that apart from a regular heart pumping blood through the organism, there is a hidden layer, a spiritual heart and its circulation, through which all states of being are carried throughout thus some believed that in blood therein is also contained the vital force of the ‘heart’, it is a violation thus to abuse the blood of one’s ‘heart’, as it develops a parasitical dependence, and reliance on someone else’s ‘heart’ thus rejecting one’s own as an independent being). The heart was divided into the passive form (con-science) called yab, and directive active part (desire, or rather — direction) — hati. As “con-science” the heart (yab) is never bribed and it may be a witness against the deceased in the world of the dead. Some researchers believed that “yab” is directed towards the meta-physical worlds, while hati directs the doing of a human being in the world of the senses, for “hatia” means also “ruler”. It thus also has in Egyptian texts a function alike to defence-double (ka) controlling the visible physical body. According to Egyptians they are different in the sense that “hati” is guided by conscious working of our body, and Ka controls only the physiological functioning of our organism that is not guided by our will (in essence Yogins of the East, by establishing Hati-Hatia command over Ka, they could be in charge of the emotional, affective, cognitive and other functions of the mind and body, thus establishing a seat of consciousness linking it with the ‘true will’ or the higher image). The “hati” heart, as a collection of active desires, emotions, also commands the passive form (“body”) related to the sphere of Hhekau, also called Sahh
Sahh: is a passive being of the human being, which is at disposal of the heart and executed through the meditation of the Sahh(-body) the will of the Ba-soul. It works without the interference of the senses and as a signal to act it is enough to think (emanate or vibrate) a “word” (any directed thought-form, or act, voice etc.). It may be called “soul-body”, “subtle-body”, or “emotional body”. Because its determinative is also a standing mummy, a corpse, it is said the true process of mummification was an attempt at turning a regular body into Sahh (perhaps an astral double). These concepts, however, are not identical because the mummy is described with the Egyptian word “Ui” although equipped with identical determinative. In any case Sahh was the principle tool (and perhaps a protective carrier-shielding) in working of the Ba-soul through mediation of the heart, and it could take any shapes and infiltrate physical matter. It could also shape it into proper, visible imaginations; It is her that could morph its being into notions, or representations of Deities (modern idea of ‘godforms’, ‘masks’ or ‘illusions’, unlike true Deities), animals, plants, and symbols. It could also change things into another (transmutation, for example modifications on the mental-astral plane, or endowing physical objects with various kinds of energy — consecrated, or ‘cursed’ objects). That is why Sahh was an element, without which no magical work could be performed, that was considered obvious and common. The third sphere of the world, in which a human being played was the physical world, called nachtu. There are three functional elements here: directing — Ka, intermediary (Khaibit, Shu) and executive (Djet), from all listed elements of personality only the last one is captured in a sensual way, khaibit (shadow-being) is a delicate substance, and Ka is considered an invisible care-taker sustaining the human body in a good condition.
Ka — It is not commonly agreed, but some speculate that it is closest to the form close to ‘platonic ideas’, others that it is a blind instinctual force without any form of spirituality (it might happen that in fact it is blind, instinctual at first, but undergoes refinement into the divine, numinous ‘ideas’ that penetrate this world as interpretable powers, or eternal grammar of the world, which understood, becomes reflected in it). The main function of Ka is providing nourishment to the physical body. The female version of Ka, or Hemsut proves that this component has a role in sexual differences and regulated physiological needs. Ka has also some relation with the ancestors and heritability, Ka might look like a double (perhaps an astral double, representing the image of the person at a given time). Ka most likely was not responsible for psychic and moral traits of a human being. The energy-basis which Ka operates in, governing the physiology of a human being is khaibit (shut). After death, Ka resided (with two other elements) in the grave, still having physical needs.
Khaibit (shut), or “shadow” was considered amongst the Egyptian thinkers an intermediary element that transports the recommendations of Ka to autonomous physiological systems. It was always portrayed as pitch-black, and that’s why it was called the ‘shadow’. This shadow-soul accompanied a human being even at night, being his visual representation of vital and reproductive forces (thus shadow-substance may be considered as a psycho-sexual energy in relation to living organisms). As a state of physical reality, mediating between pure energy and matter may be often “borrowed” by Sahh, which in such a way is materializing and assumes a visible form. After death, Khaibit lived in the grave altogether with Ka and Djet, and like them, required nourishment.
Djet: One of the many names of the physical body. In Egyptian texts there are several synonyms: “kat, sat, hha”. As the most sensuous of them all and the only fully accessible sensuous element that played a major function. The most important function of Djet was to execute the commands of “heart” or hati. In such a way the physical body realised in the world ideas of purely conceptual element — Akh descending from the divine sphere of Netcheru and through Djet the effects of conscious choice of man and his decisions which he makes in the sphere of hhekau. No wonder that caring for the body was a fundamental responsibility for every Egyptian, moreover aversion towards ascesis was on par with aversion to lack of moderation in submitting to physical lusts. Both stances led, according to Egyptian wise-man to the destruction of an organism, and thus criminally limited the potential acting of the Ba-soul and divine particle Akh in the physical world. After death, Djet was transformed into a ui-mummy for Khaibit and Ka to live further;