The Doctrine of Eternal Life
The physical body of a man was called KHAT, a word which
indicates something in which decay is inherent; it was this which was
buried in the tomb after mummification, and its preservation from
destruction of every kind was the object of all amulets, magical
ceremonies, prayers, and formulae, from the earliest to the latest
The god Osiris even possessed such a body, and its various
members were preserved as relics in several shrines in Egypt. Attached
to the body in some remarkable way was the KA, or "double," of a man; it
may be defined as an abstract individuality or personality which was
endowed with all his characteristic attributes, and it possessed an
absolutely independent existence.
It was free to move from place to place upon earth at will, and it could enter heaven and hold converse with the gods. The offerings made in, the tombs at all periods were
intended for the nourishment of the KA, and it was supposed to be able to eat and drink and to enjoy the odour of incense. In the earliest times, a certain portion of the tomb was set apart for the use of the KA, and the religious organization of the period ordered that a class of priests should perform ceremonies and recite prayers at stated seasons for the benefit of the KA in the KA chapel; these men were known as "KA priests."
In the period when the pyramids were built, it was firmly believed that the deceased, in some form, was able to be purified and to sit down and to eat bread with it "unceasingly and for ever;" and the Ka who was not supplied with a sufficiency of food in the shape of offerings of bread, cakes, flowers, fruit, wine, ale, and the like, was in serious danger of starvation.
The soul was called BA, . the meaning of the word seems to be something like "sublime," "noble," "mighty." The ba has similarities with our concept of 'personality', in that it comprised all those non-physical attributes which made one human being unique.
The BA dwelt in the KA, and seems to have had the power of becoming corporeal or incorporeal at will; it had both substance and form, and is frequently depicted on the papyri and monuments as a human-headed hawk; in nature and substance it is stated to be ethereal.
It had the power to leave the tomb, and to pass up into heaven where it was believed to enjoy an eternal existence in a state of glory; it could, however, and did, revisit the body in the tomb, and from certain texts it seems that it could re-animate it and hold converse with it.
Like the heart AB it was, in some respects, the seat of life in man. The souls of the blessed
dead dwelt in heaven with the gods, and they partook of all the celestial enjoyments forever.
The spiritual intelligence, or spirit, of a man was called KHU, and it
seems to have taken form as a shining, luminous, intangible shape of the
body; the KHUs formed a class of celestial beings who lived with the
gods, but their functions are not clear. The KHU, like the KA, could be
imprisoned in the tomb, and to obviate this catastrophe special formulae
were composed and duly recited.
Besides the KHU another very important part of a man's entity went into heaven, namely, his SEKHEM.
The word literally means "to have the mastery over something," and, as used in
the early texts, that which enables one to have the mastery over something; _i.e._, "power."
The SEKHEM of a man was, apparently, his vital force or strength personified, and the Egyptians believed that it could and did, under certain conditions, follow him that possessed it upon earth into heaven.
Another part of a man was the KHAIBIT or"shadow," which is frequently mentioned in connexion with the soul and, in late times, was always thought to be near it.
Finally we may mention the REN, or "name" of a man, as one of his most important constituent parts. The Egyptians, in common with all Eastern nations, attached the greatest importance to the preservation of the name, and any person, who effected the blotting out of a man's name was thought to have destroyed him also.
Like the KA it was a portion, of a man's most special
identity, and it is easy to see why so much importance grew to be
attached to it; a nameless being could not be introduced to the gods,
and as no created thing exists without a name the man who had no name
was in a worse position before the divine powers than the feeblest
To perpetuate the name of a father was a good son's
duty, and to keep the tombs of the dead in good repair so that all might
read the names of those who were buried in them was a most meritorious
act. On the other hand, if the deceased knew the names of divine beings,
whether friends or foes, and could pronounce them, he at once obtained
power over them, and was able to make them perform his will.
We have seen that the entity of a man consisted of body, double, soul,
heart, spiritual intelligence or spirit, power, shadow, and name.