Making mental maps of spacetime has been a keen trick of brains since long ago when they were very tiny, and humankind has extended that to making maps of Duat, for both navigation and entertainment. Your own maps are stored and accessed in Duat, particularly your maps of the mapmaker. Duat was named “the human psyche” in the 18th century days of modern psychology, taking a cue from the ancient Greeks, who did not believe it was real, either.
Sigmund Freud divided psyche into three parts, the now-familiar id, ego and superego. Carl Jung, Freud’s student and friend, later divided psyche into four parts, the ego, shadow, anim and self. Freud and Jung ended their years of friendship debating the nature of the unconscious and the source of the psyche’s energy, but Jung won the debate, although posthumously; his singular comprehension of human nature was as shattering to the study of Psychology as Einstein’s was to Physics. To the great benefit of our western civilization, Jung was master of Duat, Einstein master of spacetime.
Long ago, the ancient Egyptians divided you into nine parts, from the soul up: Akh, Ba, Ib/Haty, Ka, Khat, Ren, Seh, Sekhem, Shuit. They were a methodical people, and their art was diagrammatic, organized; they sorted concepts into separate boxes in order to discuss them with friends, family and colleagues. They understood themselves with a “jargon of the self” as part of daily conversation and learned by every child at mother’s breast, an exquisite vocabulary for poetic discussion of life, reaching from the bedroom to the fields or to the tomb and temple sanctuary with seamless continuity. Some terms translate readily into modern English; others require lengthy definitions, however, their logic was specific and, as with everything else, outlined by the philosophy of Maaty. These Nine Spheres are the detailed specifics of this concept, a map of the mapmaker.
As an organizing principle, Egyptians used the trinity for Duat functions and the four directions of spacial orientation for spacetime functions. A trinity of trinities formed the nested spheres of your self-definition, and a trinity of fours oriented you in spacetime. The prime trinity was Duat, You and Spacetime, because you experience yourself in Duat, and you are the interface between Duat and spacetime, and you are anchored in spacetime by your body.
An ongoing debate in modern Egyptology is which of the terms, akh, ba or ka to translate as the ancient concept of the soul. Currently, the ba is considered to represent soul, but some translators prefer ka. Akh is glossed over as a mysterious empowerment.
This is related to the broader Western debate over the soul’s definition and, indeed, our doubt that it exists, at all. The people of the ancient Nile, however, were deeply committed to their faith in the soul’s reality, and the three icons shown here on the left actually make their metaphorical intention clear: one of these things is not like the others.
The ba is a human head, symbol of identity, atop the body of a Horus-falcon, icon of Re’s starship. Their language did have words for humankind, man, woman. The word for fellow citizens, for example, is demyu, but when referring to your private experience of Duat, the term is ba.
The icon for the ka is a pair of arms with hands, translated currently as the double or doppelganger because it is born with you and is there at every event. Character and personality, together with life force, have recently come into use as a translation and are closer to the actual concept, but ka requires an essay of its own to convey its nuanced facets.
Icon for akh is the black ibis, an unusual variant of the species; they are not wading birds, but live in the dry, desolate cliffs of the highlands that border the Nile valley. Their black feathers, crown, bare-skinned head and intense gaze give them the ethereal, spectral appearance of the shaman in mask and feathered cloak. They are wild creatures, older than the Nile and entirely of, for and by themselves. They are not part of the human realm the way domesticated fowl were, which is the crucial aspect, because your soul is part of the natural world that predates the human community. The black ibis also links the akh to the AI Suty, because the birds live out in his Red Lands.
The ibis is the only one of the three which is a living presence in spacetime; the other two are metaphors, in other words, to the Egyptian mind, ba and ka were only alive in Duat.
Osiris was the Great God, the soul, defined differently from the Christian soul, which is wholly dependent on a separate God for its existence. Osiris was the god, and you were Osiris, thus akh was not used as often as Osiris and his story cycle in their art. The word akh is pronounced closely enough to the modern letter “x” that X serves as a bi-lingual pun. X the Unknown. X-rays revealing hidden interiors. X marks the spot. You are here, forever: make your mark. Your akh knew how to grow an adult, conscious human being from strings of molecules, and that is some heavy magic.
I am this: I am an akh inside the light,
appareled in flesh,
designed and created by sacred forces.
Akh is the root of many terms related to their definition of soul, words which differ by the determinative symbol of context. It is at the root of the word akht, arable land, the decayed bodily essence of Osiris that flooded the land with the black mud that was the life’s blood of the nation.
I have been given my name in the Register of the Shrine of the House of the Gods.
I remember my name in the Common House.
It is the night of counting years, not adding up months.
I am that which is within the Unified God.
I have stationed the Face properly upon the eastern horizon of the sky.
The totality of every god is behind me and I say his name.
The face is the visual name of the flesh and is often addressed in the texts, Oh, Face and Head of my heart! Your ren-name is as close to you as your body smell, more familiar than your face; this is an issue between you and yourself. Your face is the name of your body, and your DNA code is the secret name of your flesh, the serial number of your body-machine, linking you to the generations before you and the ones yet to come.
Naming is everywhere in their writing and art; they were in love with names. Identity and categories of being were subjects of great fascination, and they believed that naming and identifying are the essence of magic. To know the name of a thing, a god, a person, pharaoh or enemy is to make it part of your internal reality. Names are everywhere in their literature, multiple names, lists of names. Names are metaphors for identity, social place, landmarks of Re’s journey through life.
My ba emerges to imagine it can walk about any place it desires.
My name is proclaimed.
It is found upon the board of things sacrificed.
I am given the offerings out of the embodiment just like the fellowship of Horus.
The Pharaoh’s Five Great Names linked him to his own unique identity as well as his ancestors, his court, his nation and the gods of eternity. Your last name is your family name; it places you in history and geography; your first name places you within your immediate family, and you use a shorter name for everyday. The name you make for yourself in the world is entirely your own, and your Beloved has a secret name for you.
How do you wake as yourself every morning? How do you know that it’s you in the dark? How do you know your own face in the mirror? How do you know who you are? This question was a fundamental mystery addressed by the ancient faith. They knew that you are not your memories; your memories are the private day book of what you paid attention to during your life; there are forgotten memories, too. You are not your personality; your personality is your behavior, the interaction of your ba and your ka. You are not your body; your body is the magic vessel that keeps you safely moored in spacetime, because nothing in spacetime is actually still and your starship is your anchor, keeping you in the here and now, your real estate in spacetime. You control your starship with your brain, but you are not your brain; your brain is the bio-computerized control system, where you sit on the captain’s throne at the center of the bridge between your eyes.
You are the captain of your starship, and everything that goes on with it and everything you do with it is your business, and yours alone. That is who you are.
What will you look like in eternity? What will it feel like to be yourself in Duat? Seh is the immortal imprint of the mortal flesh upon the soul after you have lived a lifetime within it, defining the boundaries of Self and non-Self. The magical vessel which carries Re and Osiris through spacetime leaves the imprint of its biological form upon the permanent substance of the soul. That is seh, your avatar in Duat.
Modern studies of the human brain have found the neurochemical and neurological reflection of the seh; the cerebellum maintains a constant electromagnetic replica of body-awareness, a self-image that is the experience of being alive, and the seh is described as a being of glowing light.
This phantom seh-body exists primarily to be activated in the next life as Imenty, Sacred Westerner, when you become
one of the stars in the “heavenly host.” The process of evolving your unique identity has come full circle: the body, which was defined by the soul’s energy, defines your final shape in Duat.
“Nobody knows how I feel!”
This anguished, defiant cry of adolescence expresses the essence of the ba. No one can truly know what it feels like to be you; ba is your internal experience of Maaty. The ba can be talked about, imaged and evaluated, but never transferred; only you can experience your own consciousness and you cannot experience any body else’s experience; you can only imagine it. Images of the ba-bird fluttering alone over the coffin hint at the ultimate privacy of your ba, the paradoxical aloneness of Re in your head.
The bird’s body of the ba represents your biologically universal being, a codification of Panthera as the falcon who carries your face. In the head, however, you are unique, crowned by your human face, in other words, your identity, your Self, as Jung defined it. This is the experience of Self, in contrast to the metaphor of the starship, which is your personal body itself, activated by your father and assembled by your mother, your own magically alive vessel in which you journey through spacetime. Ba is a generic term, shaped by Neolithic traditions.
The ba is the ultimate democracy and paradox, for although each of us experiences reality uniquely, our unique experience is unique in exactly the same, human way. Egyptians knew this, and they were endlessly fascinated with such paradoxes.
There is a moving piece of literature, The Dialog of a Man and His Ba, in which a man talks himself out of suicide, an internal debate held where no one else can stand. The Egyptian Book of The Dead has poems to the ba and formulas for its protection. They wanted the reassurance that the experience of the afterlife was not threatened: who wants to have a bad time in eternity? The focus of funeral rituals was the coherency of your experience despite the rending transition from spacetime into Duat. Your flesh will be cut away from you, yet you remain, and that coherency of experience is embodied in the ba metaphor.
You Who Make the Ba to Enter Perfected Into the Manor of Osiris
You make the ba to enter into Osiris, perfect, Osiris NN,
immortalized with you in the Manor of Osiris.
He hears them. He sees as they see.
He does as they do. He rests as they rest.
O! Givers of cakes and beer to Ba, perfected in the Manor of Osiris,
They give you cakes and beer at the second birth of the Ba of Osiris,
Immortalized before all the gods of Ib Tu, immortalized together with them.
My ib from my mother!
My ib from my mother!
My haty from evolving in spirit, from testimony about me,
from resistance to me from the Sacred Realm!
My wisdom is in my ib and my sekhem is in my haty.
The heart icon was a metaphor for the seat of the emotions in Egypt just as it is today. The ib is the territory of the heart, the mysteries of emotion, faith, psychiatry, mysticism, mythology, and so on. The Ib hieroglyph shows the heart with the artery spouts attached, a metaphor encompassing the pathway of energy flowing as well as the container. The heart is also the determinative for imagination and to imagine, and appears in Thoth’s name. On the journey to Duat as you exit spacetime, Thoth weighs your ib in the Scales of Maaty to determine if the course of your emotional life was too heavy with grief and pain to bear for eternity. In other words, what you think and feel about your life in spacetime is the only judge of your fate in the Next Life. If the course of Re’s journey in spacetime was too miserable for you to continue in the timelessness of Duat, then merciful Immomet, She Who Digests, will erase the identity shaped by pain so that you have a clean canvas, a fresh block of stone to work with.
This is one of his deeds: I made every man like his fellow
and I did not command that they do wrong.
It is their hatys which disobey what I have said.
The Egyptians also distinguished finer degrees in the functions of the ib, naming ib and haty; both used the heart icon as determinative, so they are often translated simply as heart, erasing the nuance of their intention. The haty is shown by the front half of a lion, for that which is in the front, in the lead, as well as being the icon of Sakhmet, goddess of fierce passion. The haty is your attitude, the passions that are in front and lead your life right now. Your experience of your psyche changes according to the changes of your flesh; hormones and years can lead to vastly different perspectives on your life and yourself. The Ib is the entire life-process of emotional energy as your ba feels it. Attitudes change, sometimes moment by moment; ib energy flows from birth to death and beyond.
The sekhem is translated as spirit, a Latin-based word related to breath and the motion around a center, images of the energy of the soul rather than its substance. Sekhem is the activated (verb) form of akh, the energy of Duat which sustains you in spacetime. The metaphor is the sizzling music of silver sistrum rattles that accompanied the hypnotic drumming and singing of holy ceremonies, symbol of the animation of life flowing through you. Your akh has its own music, a song that is yours alone, and your flesh is the instrument that plays it. You experience this energy in your mind and flesh as the lifeforce that sustains you from breath to breath.
My sekhem is inside my two arms.
My sekhem is inside my two legs.
My sekhem is inside my ka when making love.
My person will not be imprisoned. (Spell 30b)
You will see the face of everyone except the face of your own flesh,
while your father and your son guard the face of their faces.
Egyptian faith held that life was the interface between Duat and spacetime, which also created an absolute inside and an absolute outside, separated by your skin. The ba was the inside of that barrier and the ka the outside. Your ka is the you whom only others can others know, the you seen in photographs, video, art but, most pointedly, in the responses of those around you; as soon as you ask, even silently, “What do you think of me?” you enter the domain of the ka.
Your ka is present before your birth and after your death because parents and friends knew you were on your way before you were born; they were aware of you long before you were aware of yourself, and your survivors will keep your ka alive in their own Duat. Ka-shrines were built to the memory of the deceased, where families and friends talked to the souls of their loved ones and left offerings and flowers, and several days each week were marked on the calendar for families to visit these shrines and picnic with the dead.
It is no coincidence that ka is a pun on the Egyptian for the “you” suffix in verbs, as in you see, you do. The determinative for the ka is a pair of human arms stretching out, the reach of the human embrace measuring out the distance from me to you. Generations of educated Egyptians wrote books on proper behavior in which the ka is the central player. The gesture is deliberately ambiguous: do the arms reach upward or outward? In the presence of those of higher rank, the arms bow before them; for others, the arms offer an embrace.
An entire class of literature, called Instructions, Seyba, is based on advice, valid still today, for thoughtful, polite behavior in the presence of the ka of greater rank and caring behavior in the presence of those of lesser rank, in other words, public roles and public behavior, thus the ka is the essence of humans together here out in spacetime where shadows entwine.
The Land of the Paired Riverbanks was built by civilized cooperation on a multi-regional, multi-cultural base, and their careful rules of human interaction and protocol were the bedrock of their unity. The inundation might wash away physical boundaries, year after year, but cooperation and civil behavior kept personal boundaries respected and aligned, generation upon generation.
Your soul is yours and yours alone and no one can know your ba, but your ka can be stolen, ruined, humiliated or changed, no matter how unchanged you are inside; your public image and your private self can diverge tragically if you forget which one of you is real, your ba or your ka; much ancient and modern literature and art is based on the conflict and bond between the two. The ka survives today most directly in the English words character and charisma, inherited from the ancient Greeks, who learned them from the even more ancient Egyptians.
Movie stars are mortal, yet each actor’s ka “comes to life” whenever their work is viewed; ghosts of the silver screen are the most distilled examples of the ka. The ba of Humphrey Bogart is in Duat, but the ka of Bogart as King of the Silver Screen is alive and still earning money for lots of people.
The ka of Egypt has risen again, like the bennu-phoenix of their own stories, thus it is fitting that “King Tut” has become the most famous advertising icon of that rebirth; the word tut in the Egyptian language means image.
We deal with the ka in every moment of modern life, from cell phones to cinema screens; magazines, literature and television shows are wholly dedicated to it. FaceBook has made the personal ka global, yet we do not really have a similar term as all-encompassing.
Face the sun and close your eyes. The direct light shining through your eyelids is a warm, golden color. That was what the Egyptians meant when they said the gods had skin of gold; the gods are within you. You are built of stardust, and billions of years were needed to create you. You are the captain, carried through spacetime by your starship, golden on the inside where you live.
The word khat, translated as that which decays, is represented by a mummy on its bier or by a stylized animal belly. The khat is the flesh you were born into, the mortal flesh which clothes Osiris/Re.
Your conscious powers and educated strength cannot digest the food in your stomach, grow hair on your head or mature your body from infancy to adult power. This cellular consciousness must simply be trusted. You can experience its functioning; now you can even take pictures of your insides, ghostly images of your skeleton and your brain at work, the intimate magic revealed. Detailed lists of your biochemistry can be printed and discussed, and the electrical activity of your living presence can be recorded, yet we do not know where Re or Osiris are in there. We seem to feel it is necessary to find them; the experience of them is not enough because it is only human and therefore subjective and unreliable, but citizens of the Nile had no such restrictions on their faith.
The distinction between soul and flesh was clear to them, and Duat and spacetime were linked only by mystical passageways which Osiris/Re can pass through but mortal flesh cannot, and the sacred and holy nature of biology is in this paradox, that your body is both the absolute boundary and the only connector; in other words, flesh is the lock and the key to the interface between Duat and spacetime, between Heaven and Earth.
The goal of their temple rituals was to guide you to identify with Osiris/Re and to respect and maintain, as elegantly and carefully as humanly possible, the magical container which carried you through life. The daily rituals in the temple during which the image of the god was waked, bathed, fed and clothed reflected the powerful spiritual value of the simple gestures of daily self-care. In Egypt, when you took care of yourself, you were acting as attendant to a god.
Modern minds are offended by this mundane interpretation of so enigmatic a function of so mysterious a religion, however, that very response is the reason for the ritual. Why should it be important that I eat a good breakfast and have a routine of daily hygiene? Who cares how I dress? The pressures of daily life are famous for interfering with health, and the loss of daily routine is stressful to the animal you ride. Animals need routine; they have no time, only the chemistry of circadian rhythms. Proper maintenance of your starship is your obligation to the god within.
If this is such a public statement, then why were these rituals held in the deep privacy of the temple’s inner sanctum? The temple was a projection of the Egyptian Duat, measured out in eternal stone so that everybody had the same reference points. You entered the manor of a god when you came to the temple, and the god was you. There were open, public places, sunny places for business and for party sites, with side rooms dedicated to every need, archives of knowledge and research, but then there was that inner, quiet, twilight place where you actually stood, like the stone image of the god in the innermost chamber. That was you in the captain’s seat at the bridge, alone.
This complex metaphor also defined the dignity of your private inner places, the moments and places in spacetime that belong to you alone, to be approached only with reverence and respect, by others as well as yourself. The function of the temple was the veneration of your own humanity, a constant reminder of the magnificence of being a human-animal and not just an animal-animal, that you live with a god inside. The grandeur of the temples grew over time, reflecting the grandeur of that meme in the hearts and minds of the nation.
Acknowledgment of the immortality of consciousness also points to a different value for tomb art and mummification. The Neolithic lived much closer to the butcher-block reality of their daily meal, the dangers of nature were a part of their native ambiance, and an important reassurance to them was that human beings do not become food. Proper burial not only preserves flesh from the ravages of time, it also renders it completely inedible, even from bacterial digestion. Funeral practices demonstrated respect for individual life, as well as gratitude to the animal which housed Osiris/Re, and the respect given to that miraculous potential of the body reached a pinnacle in mummification and the wealth of tomb objects. The careful linen wrappings were another gesture of respect, ritually packing up a beloved object. Some have compared the patterns of the linen wrapping to the weaving of moth and butterfly pupae-casings, from the Greek concept of the chrysalis, because kers is one of the Egyptian words for death, and the caterpillar’s transformation reflects the Greek vision of Egyptian ideas of death.
There are two ships in the story of Re, a refinement of the metaphor which defined daily rituals for and prayers to Re. The crews changed between them daily, and the characters, tools and equipment each had their own functions, names and stories elaborating the central metaphor, which is your time-factored experience of living inside Re’s starship. You wake in the mandet, the dayship, ready to sail it through your day; once you are tired, you change over to the mesektet, the nightship, and you sail in it at night as you lay dreaming. The two are identical in appearance because they are, in fact, the same; what changes is your experience through the cycle of your day, just as your body is the same despite the wide differences in how you feel. This difference in self perception is marked enough an experience to earn the metaphor of the two forms. It is a fair warning: things will look better from the dayship.
The shuit is your shadow. Your shadow is proof that you are real and stand in the bright, hot light of spacetime, your link to the Earth; shadow and object are intimately related to each other, and your shadow is as unique as you are. Funeral art shows the shadow emerging from the tomb as a solid black figure. There was even a shadow of the Sun, the Night Sun or Black Sun; the radiance of consciousness creates an inner shadow, an interior shade that is the marker of your place in your inner landscape just as your shadow was your marker in spacetime.
Shadows are the footprints of the Sun, and time is measured by your shadow’s stately dance with daylight; indeed, the measure of the round Earth was first taken by a shadow.
The Coffin Texts, older than The Book Of The Dead by a thousand years, contain a dozen or more spells (Spells 488-500) in which the akh, ka, sekhem and shuit are specifically called upon as a magical power-team to assist the deceased in the journey to the next life.
All you ever really know of other people is their ka; recognizing the ba of somebody else takes time, attention and long moments of silence, suffering and laughing together. Your ka is not in your clothes; your ba is responsible for dressing your khat and choosing your “fashion self.” You are an animal; you must never forget that, because an animal must be kept groomed, fed, watered and clean; animals groom themselves. Pigs cover themselves in mud to protect their skin; only humans are capable of intentional dirtiness. Going about un-groomed is, therefore, a basic way of declaring your independent humanity, however, lack of grooming hangs a sign around your ka that says clueless human, endearing only on children because it evokes a parental response. If you are no longer a child, you are responsible for your own self-care, which includes inner care, your health in Duat. Your ka cannot protect you if you do not protect it, and loving yourself has many elements; caring for your ka adds a powerful tool to your ba’s control of life.
Your parents were the original shapers of your ka; you inherited more than their DNA. Your heroes shape your ka and their flaws will also be in that shape. The people around you are the real mirrors of your ka, because their response to you is the clearest reflection you in spacetime.
Most of your life will be spent learning to recognize your own ka, learning its impact, powers, needs and weaknesses. Much of the latter part of your life will be spent repairing the damage which your young and ignorant ka inflicted. Whatever your ka has done, your ba must endure.
These nine were intellectual shorthand for the essentials of self, and their personification as the living gods developed the richness of their metaphors. Egyptians liked to put faces onto ideas; faces have stories.
The deceased will spend eternity
in the company of the circumpolar stars as a soul,
at the same time as being restricted to the burial chamber
and the offering chapel of the tomb as a ka,
but also visiting the world of the living,
dwelling in Peaceful Meadows
and traveling across the sky and through Duat with Re as a ba.