If man is the universe in miniature, then all factors in man are duplicated on a greater scale in the universe. All drives and forces, which are powerful in man, are also powerful in the universe at large. In accordance with the Egyptians’ cosmic consciousness, every action performed by man is believed to be linked to a greater pattern in the universe, including sneezing, blinking, spitting, shouting, weeping, dancing, playing, eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse.
For Ancient Egyptians, man, as a miniature universe, represents the created image of all creation. Since Re—the cosmic creative impulse—is called:
The One Joined together, Who Comes Out of His Own Members,
so the human being (the image of creation) is likewise, A One Joined Together. The human body is a unity that consists of different parts, joined together. In the Litany of Re, the body parts of the divine man are each identified with a neter (god) or a netert (goddess).
Man, to the Ancient Egyptians, was the embodiment of the laws of creation. As such, the physiological functions and processes of the various parts of the body were seen as manifestations of cosmic functions. The limbs and organs had a metaphysical function, in addition to their physical purpose. The parts of the body were consecrated to one of the neteru (divine principles), which appeared in the Egyptian records throughout its recovered history. In addition to the Litany of Re, here are other examples:
Thy head is that of Horus
. . .
thy nose is Anubis
thy teeth are Sopdu
thy arms are Hapy and Dua-mutef,
. . .
thy legs are Imesty and Kebeh-senuf,
. . .
All thy members are the twins of Atam.
My hair is Nun; my face is Re; my eyes are Hathor; my ears are Wep-wawet; my nose is She who presides over her lotus-leaf; my lips are Anubis; my molars are Selket; my incisors are Isis; my arms are the Ram, the Lord of Mendes; my breast is Neith; my back is Seth; my phallus is Osiris; . . . my belly and my spine are Sekhmet; my buttocks are the Eye of Horus; my thighs and my calves are Nut; my feet are Ptah; . . . there is no member of mine devoid of a neter (god), and Thoth is the protection of all my flesh.
The above text leaves no doubt about the divinity of each member:
there is no member of mine devoid of a neter (god),
It is a human instinct worldwide to use a human organ/part to describe a metaphysical aspect. The Ancient Egyptian texts and symbols are permeated with this complete understanding that the man (whole and parts) is the image of the universe (in whole and part).
Here are a few examples in Ancient Egypt of the metaphysical/physical functions of some human parts:
The heart was/is considered to be a symbol of intellectual perceptions, consciousness, and moral courage. The heart is symbolized by Horus.
The tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body. A man of his word means whatever he commands with his tongue will be manifested. The tongue is symbolized by Thoth.
the Heart thinks all that it wishes, and the Tongue
delivers all that it wishes.
[More about the roles of the heart and tongue throughout the book.]
In our modern societies, the guts and spine are symbols of physical courage. This concept has Ancient Egyptian roots. In the Papyrus of Ani [pl.32 item 42], we read,
my belly and my spine are Sekhmet
Sekhmet is a lioness-headed netert (goddess). The lioness is the most fearless animal.
[The metaphysical functions of some other human parts are described throughout the book.]
We exist on a number of different levels at once, from the most physical to the most spiritual. Indeed, in one sense there is no difference between physical and spiritual; only the gradations that lie between the two ends of the spectrum.
It was believed that, upon birth, a human being possessed a physical body (Khat) and an immaterial double (Ka), which lived inside the body and was associated closely with the Ba, which dwelt in the heart, and which appears to have been connected with the shadow of the physical body. Somewhere in the body lived the Khu or Spiritsoul; the nature of which was unchangeable, incorruptible, and immortal.
All these were, however, bound together inseparably, and the welfare of any single one of them concerned the welfare of all; and as far back as in the Unas (commonly known as “Pyramid”) Texts they are welded together. Each has its own distinction and powers; but there are bi-lateral and tri-lateral relationships between the individual components.
In the Ancient Egyptian cosmology, the whole man consists of nine components as follows:
1. a vital force—called Sekhem
2. a [secret] name—called Ren
3. a Spirit-soul—called Khu
4. a shadow—called Khaibet
5. a Heart-soul [etheric body]—called Ba
6. a double/image—called Ka
7. a heart [conscience]—called Ab
8. a Spirit-body—called Sahu
9. a natural body—called Khat
Sekhem represents the vital power.
Re is called the Great Sekhem.
Sekhem is mentioned in conjunction with Ba and khu.
The Sekhem is related to [associated with] the Khu.
Ren, as the [secret] name of a man was believed to exist in heaven, and in the Unas (“Pyramid”) Texts we are told that:
his name, liveth with his Ka.
3. The Spirit-Soul (Khu)
The khu is a higher spiritual element. It is a shining and luminous component. Khu-s are also heavenly beings living with the neteru (gods, goddesses). Each khu may then be equivalent to the guardian angel.
The Khu is mentioned in connection with the Ba and the Khai-bit (soul and shadow), and with the Ba and the Ka (soul and double), but it is clear that it is something quite distinct from the Ka, Ba, and Khaibit; though in some respects it must have possessed characteristics similar to these immaterial entities of man.
Khaibit is the shadow or shade—that which intercepts the light. This seems to have been an entity that served to focus or unite the lower Ka-s with all their carnal appetites and desires. The khai-bit seems to correspond with our notion of the ghost that appears mostly at cemeteries.
Baladi Egyptians believe that each person has a shadow—a separate entity—that follows him in life, dies, and goes to the grave with him.
It is of interest to note that the Egyptian word ‘Khai’ means companion/brother.
5. Ba—The Heart-Soul (Etheric Body)
While component #3 above is khu the spirit soul, the 5th component here represents the heart soul.
Later on, we will find heart Ab [Ba spelled in reverse] as the 7th component.
It must always be remembered that the term heart does not mean a physical human organ, but consciousness.
Therefore Ba as the heart-soul represents the totality of man’s vital forces that include both physical and psychic capacities. As such, the Ba is depicted as a man-headed bird.
The Benu bird represents the totality of the concept of Ba in the universe.
In the cycle of creation that reflects the role of the dual Ra and Osiris/Aus-Ra, the Bennu bird is referred to as both Ba of Ra and Ba of Osiris/Aus-Ra—the all-encompassing BA.
In summary, the Ba represents:
– External manifestation
– Embodiment of power/vital force
The manifestation of power or power manifested cannot exist independently (of the body); and therefore the human Ba must maintain contact with body.
6. The Ka or Double (Astral Body)
Ka is the power that fixes and makes individual the animating spirit that is BA.
Ka is the complex of attractive or magnetic powers whose result is what today we would call personality: the pervading sense of “I” that inhabits the body but that is not the body. (“I” may be present even when the sense of body is lost entirely as in total paralysis or certain kinds of anesthesia.)
The Ka is complex.
1. There is the animal Ka concerned with the desires of the body;
2. the divine Ka that heeds the call of the spirit; and
3. the intermediate Ka, which provides the impetus to those on the path for gradually gaining control of the animal Ka and placing it in the service of the divine Ka.
At the root of the Ka concept lies the conviction that conscious, active life is not the function of the body, but rather flows from a higher power that activates the body and is thus the actual vehicle of life. The vital power is the Ka. There is no conscious life without it. It exists only by means of its effect.
When the body was born, there came into existence with it an abstract individuality or spiritual being which was wholly independent and distinct from the physical body, but its abode was the body, whose actions it was supposed to direct, guide, and keep watch over; and it lived in the body until the body died. No healthy child was ever born without this spiritual being, and when the Egyptians drew pictures of it, they always made it resemble the body to which it belonged. In other words, they regarded it as its “DOUBLE”. Its name in Egyptian was Ka.
Ka, being double, is the double/image of its Ba.
7. The Heart (Ab)
The Ab is the heart, which corresponds to conscience. (Reverse Ba = heart-soul)
Horus is called the “dweller in hearts”, the “lord of hearts”, and the “slayer of the heart.”
Sahu is defined as a Spirit-body—the metaphysical [spiritual] body.
The Ancient Egyptians never expected the physical body to rise again – on the contrary, the texts state clearly that “the soul is in heaven, the body in the earth“. Egyptians believed that some kind of body rose from the dead and continued its existence in the Other World.
The spirit body was enabled to rise from the physical body through the rites and ceremonies that were performed over it.
On the day of burial by proper prayers and rituals, the physical body has the power of changing into a Sahu, a metaphysical (spiritual) body; awake.
Spiritual body = lasting and incorruptible
Ancient Egyptian texts read:
I flourish/sprout like the plants
My flesh flourisheth
The body that becomes a Sahu has the power of associating with the soul and of holding converse with it. It can ascend and dwell with neteru (gods, goddesses) in their Sahus.
Sahu, shown as mummy lying on a bier, indicates a spirit body that is lasting and incorruptible.
The word “sahu” seems to mean something like “free”, “noble”, or “chief”; and in this case it appears to be used as the name for a body which has, by means of the religious ceremonies that have been performed over it, obtained freedom from the material body and power whereby it has become incorruptible and everlasting.
Hence there arose the great importance of funeral ceremonies and offerings, which caused a spiritual body to spring from the physical body and the Ka to continue its existence after the death of the body to which it belonged.
Through powers of prayers and ritual, the body can change into Sahu, like the Two Sisters [Isis and Nephthys] awakening (Sahu) Osiris.
As the physical body formed the abiding-place of the Ka and the soul, so the spiritual body was believed to afford a dwelling-place for the soul; for it is distinctly said that “souls enter into their Sahu.” And the spiritual body had power to journey everywhere in heaven and on earth.
Khat is defined as a physical/natural body—corruptible.
Khat – Meaning corruptible—is the reverse of Akh (luminous, incorruptible).
Khat is subject to decay, but could also refer to a mummified body.
The above shows the nine components in descending order from their divine origin. From earth, and moving upwards through the levels, is a process of shedding these different “sheaths” and moving through the various realms to the highest point of which the soul is capable before it descends again in rebirth.
[An excerpt from Egyptian Cosmology : The Animated Universe, 3rd edition by Moustafa Gadalla]
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