Discussions that are revolving around the human soul can often be complicated. In this modern society, studies of a spiritual nature are usually reserved for conversations that are revolving around the human spirit, as well as religion and the broader idea of the Universe. We often speak about the soul as being an entity within our human body or the true essence of what makes a person.
In history, there have been a lot of interpretations of the soul. Ranging from those who see the soul as the true self that is going to move on the afterlife when our time on the planet is done. To those who are believers in the concept of reincarnation, with the soul returning in a new form after each physical death.
For example, in many ancient cultures like those that are found in Asian, African, and even America, we can see a soul concept analogously similar to the idea developed by the religions of the Judeo-Christian group (including Islam) and European philosophy. The ancient Greeks, for instance, believed in the concept of the ‘world soul,’ which is also known as anima mundi. This was an essence that surrounded everything in the world, specifically the natural world. In the Greek culture, when a person died, it was believed that their soul would leave the body from their limbs before traveling to the afterlife.
From the Vedic or Veda point of view, the soul is the being which by nature is eternal of a substance different from that of the physical body and which also has its consciousness. From this point of view, the material science or that which studies physical or material phenomena is limited as it cannot examine spiritual aspects since its nature is different from physics.
But just like those ancient cultures are explaining in detail the concept of the human soul, the ancient Egyptians who are known to have been one of the most advanced ancient civilizations to ever exist on Earth developed a fascinating concept that explains the human soul. In ancient Egypt, the soul of a person was thought to consist of nine separate parts that were integrated into a whole individual but also had very different aspects. Eight of those parts were immortal and survived death, and the 9th one was our physical form. Each of these separate parts had its name, as well as its purpose in our life. While we cannot completely understand the real meanings of these terms, we do still have a pretty good look at the use of each of them of the soul. According to the Egyptians, the nine parts of the soul included the following:
1. Khat (Kha [The Body])
Khat, which is the only physical part of the human existence, was the physical form that a person would take while walking the Earth. During life, the Khat functioned as a vessel permitting the soul to exist in the physical world. When the physical body would die, the Ancient Egyptians would mummify it and continue to make offerings to the physical form because they believed that the form would supernaturally absorb nutrients, as well as sustenance from these offerings.
2. Ka (The Vital Spark)
Of all the nine parts of the Egyptian soul, this one is the closest thing to the modern understanding of the word ‘soul.’ It was believed that Ka was a vital concept in the soul because it distinguishes the difference that is between a living and a dead person. Also, it was thought that every living thing possessed a Ka – including both animal and plant life. This was an astral self which came into being at the moment of birth, guiding people throughout their life. This part of the soul would return to the tomb after death. It was believed that it was the part that would ultimately absorb the offerings left with the Khat.
3. Ba (The Personality)
Ancient Egyptians believed that the Ba was everything that makes a person unique. As a form of a human-headed bird, and it also has the capability to move back and forth between the heavens and Earth. While it did make this trip throughout the life of the individual, these trips were more frequent following death as it would visit with the Gods or travel to the placed which the individual loved during their life, while still maintaining a connection to the physical form.
4. Khaibit (Shuyet)
The Khaibit, always present throughout life as well as into death, was the shadow of the soul. The ancient Egyptians believed that this shadow depicted all that a person represented in their life. The Khaibit served a function of protecting and guiding the soul as a whole in the afterlife.
5. Akhu (Akh, Khu, Ikhu ([The Immortal Self])
The Akhu was the ‘immortal self’ of the individual, continuing to live on in the afterlife. It would return to Earth only when necessary to reconnect with the Khat. The Akhu was also the manifestation of the intellect, intentions, and will of a person.
6. Sahu (The Judge)
The Sahu is best compared to our modern-day idea of a ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit.’ It would haunt those who had done the individual wrong or protect those that they had deeply cared for and loved. Sahu was differentiated from all the other aspects of the soul once when the person was ‘justified’ by the God Osiris and judged worthy of eternal existence.
7. Sekhem (Another aspect of Akh)
This is another aspect of the Akh that permitted its mastery of circumstances. It was considered the vital life energy of the person that manifested itself as the power that could control one’s surroundings and outcomes.
8. Ab (Ib) (The Spiritual Heart)
The Ab, which is believed to be the ‘spiritual heart,’ would separate from the physical heart after death. It was believed to be an integral part of the Egyptian soul. It was believed to form from one drop of blood from the child’s mother’s heart, taken at conception. This was also a part of the soul that would be judged to be either good or evil, defining the character of an individual. If they were deemed to be good, it would live among the Gods.
9. Ren (The Name)
Ren was another crucial part of the soul. When one was born, they believed that they were given a ‘true name,’ a magical entity that could destroy a person if it were damaged or give power to any who discovered this name. They would also live their life under a nickname, keeping the ‘true name’ or Ren a secret from the world. However, it was known to the Gods. So long as the Ren continued to exist, the individual could also live throughout eternity.