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My understanding of the Egyptian Ka and the Akh and Shade


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#1 Apech

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 07:05 AM

The ka.

The Egyptian's saw the person as comprising a number of entities and one of these was the ka. The ka was represented as a pair of upraised arms in a gesture which may mean an embrace, a greeting or an act of worship.


The ka of a person was derived ultimately from the creative power (Atum or Ra) and was inherited from generation to generation. There is a benign serpent god called "Neheb-kau" whose name means either "Uniter of kas" or "Alloter of kas" depending on whose translation you read. This winged serpent existed in the primeval waters and was later associated with the Nile inundation, it was also believed to have magic powers from eating seven cobras. This Neheb-kau can be best understood as being the continuum of power itself, an aspect of Atum (the complete one) who brought the world into being through his bodily substances. This serpent-power has the kas of all potential beings held within itself. As the process of creation develops, these kas become embodied into actual beings alive on the earth.

So the individual ka of a person comes originally from the power that brought the world into being.

The ka is often translated as 'double' because it was shown on tomb illustrations as being a figure identical to the deceased, sometimes with the ka symbol on their heads but although you will often come across the term 'double' it is undefined and not all that helpful. However it is true to say that the ka was closely connected with the body. After death the deceased is said to "go to his ka", although the physical body has ceased to function the person still 'exists' in the form of the ka. The ka, unlike the ba which is free to move about and leave the tomb, remains close to the mummy. In order to survive it requires food and other offerings. These offerings are sometimes called ka because of this connection.

In life also there are special instances of the ka. Most significantly the Royal Ka which the king receives at coronation. Here the ka is that special power or charisma that authority gives to people. You can, for instance see it operate in politicians, who on achieving high office cease to be the rather forgettable and unattractive figures they formerly were and fed by the worlds attention, seem to take on some extra sparkle (see early and late pics of Margaret Thatcher if you don't believe me). So in life the ka can be enhanced and strengthened, although better through inner working rather than the pursuit of worldly power.

Also in life the association with the body is very strong and this has given rise to the idea of an internal and an external ka. But actually these are the same thing. The heart, which to the Egyptians was seen as the centre of one's being, the mind, character and personality, was called the 'ka in my body".

"...for you are the ka that was in my body, the protector who made my members hale."

(Ch. 30b BoD trans. Faulkner)

We know from the Shabaka Stone (Memphite Cosmogeny) that the heart (together with the tongue) was seen as the 'command and control" centre of the being. And we can say from this that the ka has the same function in a disembodied state. So as well as being a vital energy, the ka had a co-ordinative and forming function. A specific energy field which during life supported and co-ordinated vital functions in the body and after death persisted on a finer level than the gross physical body.

As the ka is passed down through one's parents (although ultimately from the creative power itself) it carries with it a kind of energy signature, that is a specific set of vibrational energies which are specific to the person - which is what makes us each unique in character. This 'spark' is transmitted through sex and you could say the nature and condition of your ka is determined by the sexual chemistry of your parents. However, after being born the ka is affected by interactions with the world and can be boosted or damaged by circumstances. It can be strengthened and enhanced by internal working. Equally it can be damaged by one's own deeds or words.

In the funerary rites it was considered essential to protect, preserve and reenergise the ka following death, in order to attain a successful after life journey. For this reason special priest called hemu-ka (ka servants) made offerings to the blessed dead. This was part of what is known as the reversion of offerings. Food and other offerings were made through a specific formula known as "hotep di nesu" or the king's offering, these were made (usually) to Osiris with the plea that this god made the same 'good things' available to the person's ka in the Netherworld. When this ceremony had been completed the actual offerings were then shared out between priest, ka priests and others so nothing was lost or spoilt, hence the 'reversion'.

Ka priests were able also to contact the kas of particular ancestors such as great kings or figures such as Im-hotep the architect of Step Pyramid to seek advice and so on. But principally the idea was to ensure enough energy was available to the ka in order that it could carry out the tasks and transformations needed after death. Although this energy was provided symbolically by food offerings, obviously it was understood that the ka could not actually eat, as eating is a function of the physical body. So what were they doing? The answer is that the attention of the priests and family fed the ka. In the same way as the attention of people in the worldly situation, feeds the famous, so by remembering the dead their ka is supported and energised.

A clue to this I idea that you energise other beings through remembering them can be found in the tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, although this applies to a god and not to a ka. The sailor in question finds himself marooned on a desert island and encounters a huge serpent. After recovering from his shock he finds that the serpent is the god of the Island and is actually very kindly. The serpent magically produces everything he needs. After a while the sailor is about to be rescued and turns to the serpent and says - how can I repay you, you saved my life and clothed and fed me, but you are a god and have everything you need. The serpent replies that if the sailor wishes to repay him then he should ensure that the serpent is remembered. This remembering of the god is about worship. The serpent is saying that the service men do for gods is remembering them. So while the man has depended on the god/serpent the god/serpent will depend on the man. This reciprocity between man and gods and man and the blessed dead is a hallmark of Egyptian religion. Its a 'you do something for me and I'll do something for you' relationship. Remembering, and particularly remembering a name had a magic significance for the Egyptians.

This reciprocal relationship between men and gods is expressed most clearly in Utterance 269, of the Pyramid Texts - a censing prayer:

"The fire is laid, the fire shines;
The incense is laid on the fire, the incense shines.
Your perfume comes to me, O Incense;
May my perfume come to you, O Incense.
Your perfume comes to me, you gods;
May my perfume come to you, you gods.
May I be with you, you gods;
May you be with me, you gods.
May I live with you, you gods;
May you live with me, you gods.
I love you, you gods;
May you love me, you gods."

(AE PT trans. R.O. Faulkner).

What the Egyptian writers were pointing to here is that the world as we perceive it is drawn out of the continuum of power (Atum). Before the world is drawn into existence all forms of existence are so mutually interpenetrating that they cannot be said to 'exist' in any real sense but lie dormant. However when the forms of existence, men or gods do come into being then they do so in reciprocal relation to each other. Without a man to 'remember' the god, there is no god, but without a god to create him there is no man. This is strikingly illustrated in the mythology around the formation of the Egyptian temple, where it is described how the ancient ancestor spirits climbed out of the primeval waters on to the first hill and then called into existence the god that created them. This paradoxical relation between perceiver and perceived is very important.

In this way we can understand that our ka is produced and maintained by the attention of self and others. So the task for the ka-priests was to maintain the attention on the ka for sufficient time for the transformations to happen. Once the akh had been formed it becomes self sustaining.

The risk to the ka then was that its energy was depleted and that it would be drawn back whence it came into the abysmal waters and reabsorbed into the Neheb-kau. If this happened then it was not possible for the person to complete the task of forming an 'akh' which is an imperishable effective spirit, as this 'akh' is formed by the interaction of the ka, the ba and the body.

The link between the ka and heart extends to the issue of 'evil' or impurity. The heart is weighed in the balance to see if the individual is free from impurities and similarly the ka. In Chapter 105 of the Book of Dead the deceased appeals to the 'ka of his lifetime' and purifies it from all the bad things he has done or said by using the 'amulet on the neck of Ra', this amulet is Maat (Truth or Order).

"Greetings to you, my ka, [of] my lifetime!
Lo, I have come to you,
having appeared and being strong,
ba-mighty, and powerful.
I have brought you natron and incense,
that I may purify you therewith and purify your sweat therewith.
Every evil statement I have made,
every evil deed I have done,
(they) will not be reckoned against me;
for I am that amulet
that is around the throat of Re
and is given to the horizon dwellers.
When they thrive, I also thrive,
and my ka thrives like theirs,
and my ka is fed like theirs."

(Ch. 105 BoD trans. Assmann).

The horizon dwellers are the akhs.


Everything I have said here about what happens after death applies equally to the living. The following is a summary of ka working.


1.Every person receives at conception a 'bundle' of energy which forms their signature energy reflecting their character, personality and being and which protects their body.
2.This ka has been handed down through the ancestral record from the original creative power until now.
3.The ka is affected by the individual's words and deeds, and adversely affected by 'evil' words and deeds.
4.The ka may be enhanced through the attention of self and others, in a worldly sense and through internal working.
5.During life the right food and attention will enhance the ka.
6.On death, or during certain practices the individual will go to their ka, that is exist as a ka and not as a body. After death this is a vulnerable period and there is a risk to the continuation of the ka.
7.The 'ultimate' task is to integrate the ka, ba and 'body' to form the 'akh'. This is the goal of Egyptian Mysticism.

Edited by apepch7, 28 November 2008 - 08:01 AM.


#2 Aetherous

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 11:20 AM

Wow, now I am finally starting to understand the truth behind Egyptian mysticism! Thanks for making this article, Apepch7!

"From what i can see, this place is like a sanctuary for many." - C T


#3 Yoda

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 11:42 AM

And I'd like to announce my candidacy for President!! :lol:

Great article, Apepch7!! (what does Apepch and 7 mean I wonder.)

What sort of food is good for the Ka? I've heard from new agey sources a diet higher in fruit and low in caffeine... I'm so so on this front. :lol:

Your pal,
Yoda

#4 Nikola

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 01:16 PM

Amazing, thanks for writing the article, got me very interested.

I wonder, what's the relation of The Sacred Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) and the ka.
Considering the Lotus' aphrodisia and the way it was used (soaked in wine) I think that blue lotus could have been very much valued in that sense.
Very very interesting, I'll have to read up on this when I find the time.

#5 Apech

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 02:56 AM

Amazing, thanks for writing the article, got me very interested.

I wonder, what's the relation of The Sacred Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) and the ka.
Considering the Lotus' aphrodisia and the way it was used (soaked in wine) I think that blue lotus could have been very much valued in that sense.
Very very interesting, I'll have to read up on this when I find the time.



The blue lotus is most associated with Nefertem and the young rising sun. I would suggest that this is linked to the ba and the aphrodisiac and perfume is to do with the ecstatic experience from uniting to your soul.

Edited by apepch7, 30 September 2008 - 02:56 AM.


#6 Yoda

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 05:58 AM

"Do not speak against anyone great or small, the Ka abhors it."
-Maxims of Good Discourse

Dig it!

#7 Andrei

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 03:46 PM

I just want to make some comments and I have some questions regarding the equivalence between Egyptian Mysticism and Christian Mysticism. Gurdjieff said that the Christian religion (at least early Christianity) was not a new religion but was ready made and imported from Egypt in its entirety of prayers, chantings and rites. I am not talking about the modern Christianity that was modified during history but the traditional or esoteric Christianity that conserved some ideas and some rites until present days.

After death the deceased is said to "go to his ka", although the physical body has ceased to function the person still 'exists' in the form of the ka. The ka, unlike the ba which is free to move about and leave the tomb, remains close to the mummy. In order to survive it requires food and other offerings. These offerings are sometimes called ka because of this connection.


My first question: is it possible to establish an equivalence between ka, ba and akh and so called etheric body, astral body and spiritual or light body? earthly soul or the ghost that remain on earth after death and heavenly soul or the spirit that goes into the light and ascends in the heavens?

We know from the Shabaka Stone (Memphite Cosmogeny) that the heart (together with the tongue) was seen as the 'command and control" centre of the being. And we can say from this that the ka has the same function in a disembodied state. So as well as being a vital energy, the ka had a co-ordinative and forming function. A specific energy field which during life supported and co-ordinated vital functions in the body and after death persisted on a finer level than the gross physical body.


Ka could be the animal soul or 'po' that according to taoism remain on earth after death as a ghost if the transformation from 'po' to 'hun' is incomplete? Gurdjieff sais that the ghost is not immortal, it will wanders on earth several years, decades or even centuries and it will haunt places and peoples but ultimately it will die, it will dissolve into the earth since the matter by which is formed belong to the earth. The heavenly soul which is made of heaven material it will return to where it belongs, which in my understanding corresponds to 'hun'...

In the funerary rites it was considered essential to protect, preserve and reenergise the ka following death, in order to attain a successful after life journey. For this reason special priest called hemu-ka (ka servants) made offerings to the blessed dead. This was part of what is known as the reversion of offerings. Food and other offerings were made through a specific formula known as "hotep di nesu" or the king's offering, these were made (usually) to Osiris with the plea that this god made the same 'good things' available to the person's ka in the Netherworld. When this ceremony had been completed the actual offerings were then shared out between priest, ka priests and others so nothing was lost or spoilt, hence the 'reversion'.


In eastern Christianity there is a tradition that you have to put a glass of water and food for the soul of the deceased because it is said that the soul still drink and eat and wanders near by the coffin until it is buried and then wanders near by grave for 40 days.

But principally the idea was to ensure enough energy was available to the ka in order that it could carry out the tasks and transformations needed after death. Although this energy was provided symbolically by food offerings, obviously it was understood that the ka could not actually eat, as eating is a function of the physical body. So what were they doing? The answer is that the attention of the priests and family fed the ka. In the same way as the attention of people in the worldly situation, feeds the famous, so by remembering the dead their ka is supported and energised.


In eastern Christianity there is a funeral rite called parastas in which the deceased is remembered by his family offering prayers for the soul and food to the poor ones.

This remembering of the god is about worship. .... This reciprocity between man and gods and man and the blessed dead is a hallmark of Egyptian religion. Its a 'you do something for me and I'll do something for you' relationship. Remembering, and particularly remembering a name had a magic significance for the Egyptians.


It is said that if you help your ancestors and kindred to ascend by prayers in which you pronounce their names and food offerings to as many people as possible, they will help you when your time has come. This memorial rites should be performed the third day after death, when the burial of the corpse should be performed, the ninth day, the fortieth day when it is said that the soul ascends in heaven, and then at first anniversary of death, at third anniversary of death and every other occasion to remember the deceased ones. Actually I think this is the key of the whole Christian rites, since all of them revolve around remembering and celebrating Jesus Christ death, resurrection and ascension.
For instance my father was architect and before his death he just finished the design and build a church with money from an interlope business man. It is a custom that rich people (and I mean very rich people that have not so good deeds to help them in the moment of death, and they know it) they spent money for building a church in which by tradition the priest and the people have to pray for and pronounce the names of the founders and builder of that church. It's like investing in your afterlife...

In this way we can understand that our ka is produced and maintained by the attention of self and others. So the task for the ka-priests was to maintain the attention on the ka for sufficient time for the transformations to happen. Once the akh had been formed it becomes self sustaining.


It is said in eastern traditions that the soul stagnates in some regions of astral realm (later became the Purgatory of the Catholicism) and the prayers of the living ones help the soul to advance its developing. The more people will remember the deceased, the better.

The risk to the ka then was that its energy was depleted and that it would be drawn back whence it came into the abysmal waters and reabsorbed into the Neheb-kau. If this happened then it was not possible for the person to complete the task of forming an 'akh' which is an imperishable effective spirit, as this 'akh' is formed by the interaction of the ka, the ba and the body.


The link between the ka and heart extends to the issue of 'evil' or impurity. The heart is weighed in the balance to see if the individual is free from impurities and similarly the ka.


This is actually the 'Judgment day' that is not as many believe in the last days of the humanity but this happens in the moment of death when according to tradition the soul ascends or descends by the purity of the heart. There is also a tradition that says that light angels and dark demons fight for the soul in case that the soul has a neutral buoyancy, still attached by deeds to the material world that does not allow the soul to ascend but also have good heart that does not allow the soul to sink into darkness. I wonder if this myth can be found in Egyptian or Sumerian/Babylonian myths...

There is also a tradition that says that after death the soul has to pass nine gates or heavenly customs, and at each gate there is a demon that claim something from the soul, and the protector angels negotiate for you to pass through the gate, evidently if the heart is pure the soul pass with no problems, it's like having a passport with visa on it. Is there something similar in Egyptian mythology?

The horizon dwellers are the akhs.
Everything I have said here about what happens after death applies equally to the living. The following is a summary of ka working.
1.Every person receives at conception a 'bundle' of energy which forms their signature energy reflecting their character, personality and being and which protects their body.
2.This ka has been handed down through the ancestral record from the original creative power until now.
3.The ka is affected by the individual's words and deeds, and adversely affected by 'evil' words and deeds.
4.The ka may be enhanced through the attention of self and others, in a worldly sense and through internal working.
5.During life the right food and attention will enhance the ka.
6.On death, or during certain practices the individual will go to their ka, that is exist as a ka and not as a body. After death this is a vulnerable period and there is a risk to the continuation of the ka.
7.The 'ultimate' task is to integrate the ka, ba and 'body' to form the 'akh'. This is the goal of Egyptian Mysticism.


Thank you for this article, I just begun to understand my birth religion that I repudiated.

Edited by steam, 30 September 2008 - 03:58 PM.


#8 Apech

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 10:48 PM

Steam,

I've tried to answer some of your questions. Hope this is helpful.


My first question: is it possible to establish an equivalence between ka, ba and akh and so called etheric body, astral body and spiritual or light body? earthly soul or the ghost that remain on earth after death and heavenly soul or the spirit that goes into the light and ascends in the heavens?


Yes I think so, since we are dealing with 'real' things with some cultural overlay. The emphasis and imagery may change but ultimately a person is a person then and now. The issue is that some of these ideas have had to go underground because of church doctrine which steers people away from knowledge based work towards 'simple' faith and thus simply just talking about a soul, for historical reasons.



Ka could be the animal soul or 'po' that according to taoism remain on earth after death as a ghost if the transformation from 'po' to 'hun' is incomplete? Gurdjieff sais that the ghost is not immortal, it will wanders on earth several years, decades or even centuries and it will haunt places and peoples but ultimately it will die, it will dissolve into the earth since the matter by which is formed belong to the earth. The heavenly soul which is made of heaven material it will return to where it belongs, which in my understanding corresponds to 'hun'...

Could be - don't know about the 'po'.

In eastern Christianity there is a tradition that you have to put a glass of water and food for the soul of the deceased because it is said that the soul still drink and eat and wanders near by the coffin until it is buried and then wanders near by grave for 40 days.

From my (very limited) experience of Eastern Orthodox Christianity I would say that it has preserved some of the old ways. However the mummification process took 70 days and this was linked to the period in which certain stars were invisible in the sky. When invisible the stars were thought to be going through the same regeneration process as a person would undergo in the after life.



This is actually the 'Judgment day' that is not as many believe in the last days of the humanity but this happens in the moment of death when according to tradition the soul ascends or descends by the purity of the heart. There is also a tradition that says that light angels and dark demons fight for the soul in case that the soul has a neutral buoyancy, still attached by deeds to the material world that does not allow the soul to ascend but also have good heart that does not allow the soul to sink into darkness. I wonder if this myth can be found in Egyptian or Sumerian/Babylonian myths...

In the Egyptian Judgement Scene the heart (which stands for the mind/consciousness of the person - the ka in the body) is weighed against the feather of Maat. Maat is truth or order. But the feather is also the symbol of Shu the air god whose name means something like 'light filled emptiness'. So the heart has to be as light as a feather to pass the judgement by Osiris.

There is also a tradition that says that after death the soul has to pass nine gates or heavenly customs, and at each gate there is a demon that claim something from the soul, and the protector angels negotiate for you to pass through the gate, evidently if the heart is pure the soul pass with no problems, it's like having a passport with visa on it. Is there something similar in Egyptian mythology?


There are gates in the Underworld - usually 12 because they mark the twelve hours of the night. Each gate is protected by a demon and to pass it the deceased needs to know the name of the demon. Knowing the name and how to speak it is the essence of magical power in the next world. Originally in the Old Kingdom all this was very much a matter of 'knowing' but later the emphasis changed towards moral character for successful negotiation of these obstacles. But the Egyptian Religion never dispensed completely with the magical solution in favour of the moral. So if you had a lot of impurities through your actions on earth you could purge them magically - but obviously it was better not to have them in the first place!

Edited by apepch7, 30 September 2008 - 10:50 PM.


#9 Yoda

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Posted 01 October 2008 - 07:35 AM

Steam,

Thanks for your very interesting thoughts! Very interesting about Christianity being a fairly straight up adaptation of Egyptian thought.

Apepch7,

So you've touched on Ka and Ba. I was wondering if you could do an intro on the Akh? I seem to remember a few more bodies than that in the Egyptian tradition, but maybe I had just come across different names.

Thanks!
Yoda

#10 Apech

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Posted 01 October 2008 - 08:15 AM

Steam,

Thanks for your very interesting thoughts! Very interesting about Christianity being a fairly straight up adaptation of Egyptian thought.

Apepch7,

So you've touched on Ka and Ba. I was wondering if you could do an intro on the Akh? I seem to remember a few more bodies than that in the Egyptian tradition, but maybe I had just come across different names.

Thanks!
Yoda


Yep, I can do something on the akh. If you read about this stuff you will get quite a long list including 'ren' - name, 'sah' the mummy, 'af' the body, 'kha' - body, 'shewt' - shade as well as ka, ba and akh. I can cover these I guess.

Cheers.

#11 Andrei

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 08:01 AM

Yep, I can do something on the akh. If you read about this stuff you will get quite a long list including 'ren' - name, 'sah' the mummy, 'af' the body, 'kha' - body, 'shewt' - shade as well as ka, ba and akh. I can cover these I guess.

Cheers.



apepch7 thank you for your answers. I have more questions I will try to put in the following.

Yoda, these ideas were introduced by Gurdjieff, which researched in his early years the ancient Egypt religion. The philosophical system that he built apparently is a mixture of Egyptian, Babylonian, Judaic, Christian, Sufi and maybe some other Asian influences since he traveled all over Middle Orient up to Himalayan mountains. He stopped his search the moment he found in a hidden monastery somewhere in the norther Tibetan mountains a very ancient system which he claims was the original teaching of all the modern religions. Actually he said that these teachings originated in Atlantis, then migrated to ancient Egypt and spread from Babylon all over Asia.

To put short he spoke about the Ray of Creation which originated from Absolute Sun which is the center of all creation which corresponds to the Absolute World. The world is put into motion by three forces which he called the active force, the passive force and the neutral force. These three forces by countless combinations form the material world which is not material but made of vibrations. The vibrations form the octaves which are made of seven tones or different frequencies. These octaves divide the one world into several worlds which are intermingled, the higher frequencies penetrate the lower frequencies. So the world is formed by subtle substances that form more complex gross materials. The Absolute Sun is the center of All Galaxies which form the All Stars World. Each galaxy is formed of stars and each star has its own world that is called the Sun World. Each Sun has planets around it that form the Planetary World. Finally our planet formed the Earth World. Each world is inhabited by beings that are made of the same materials that form the respective world, which means that the world and the beings are on the same frequency band or on the same octave. We as human beings found ourselves on planet Earth and we are made of gross substances to finer substances that come from the subtler worlds. The earthly substances form the physical body which belongs to Earth, the planetary vibrations form the astral body which belongs to the Planetary or Astral world. The sun vibrations which is light form the light body or spiritual body which belongs to the Sun World, and so on.
So in his system we the humans we have (already?) or we must grow four bodies which are the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and the spiritual body which is the maximum that can be achieved on Earth. In my understanding each stage of development has its own 'science' such that magick coresponds to etherical world, astrology to the planetary world and religion(?) to the sun world.

Here comes my questions: what are the roles of the magick, astrology in the Egyptian mysticism? What were the roles of the pyramids? What is the link between Sirius star, Orion belt stars and the solar religion in ancient Egypt, if any?

#12 Apech

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 08:25 AM

apepch7 thank you for your answers. I have more questions I will try to put in the following.

...

Here comes my questions: what are the roles of the magick, astrology in the Egyptian mysticism? What were the roles of the pyramids? What is the link between Sirius star, Orion belt stars and the solar religion in ancient Egypt, if any?


Steam,

Thanks for that interesting stuff on Gurdieff.

To answer your questions as best I can:

1) Magic(k) in Egypt was central. It was at heart a magical religion. Magic was called Heka (pron. Hey-ka) and was personified as a god with the same name who was among the 'crew' of the sun's boat. In Egypt magic was seen as both an ability i.e. to know the right words and how to say them and also a kind of energy which could be 'eaten' ... the king in the Pyramid Texts talks about magic being in his belly. Isis (sometimes Hathor) was called 'Urt-hekau' which means Great Magician and was shown as a winged cobra. In the underworld the god of magic was accompanied by two others called Perception and Command. It was all about seeing what to do and how to do it. This is where knowing names comes in, because the use of magic was seen as the ability to utter the right spell. In the Book of the Dead the deceased is hailed as magician when he summons the ferryman to cross the sky to the East. (By the way Heka is thought to be the origin of the goddess Hecate - the witch goddess.)

2) Astrology ... well not really. There was astrology in Egypt but it was a late emergent. The famous temple ceiling from Dendera had a Zodiac but it was essentially a Mesopotamian import. However stars, the sun, the planet and some constellations were important to the Egyptians.

3) The South Sky star and constellation of Sirius and Orion were very important to the Egyptians. Sirius called Sopdu (the sharp/bright one) was seen as Isis, while Orion known as Sahu was seen as Osiris. The Southern direction to the Egyptians was the direction of the source of the Nile and thus the origin of fertility (because of the Nile flood). The presence of the brightest stars of the sky in this direction reinforced this sense of life force and growth.

Edited by apepch7, 02 October 2008 - 08:27 AM.


#13 Apech

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 11:27 AM

Here is my take on the akh, the sun rise and time (amongst other things).

Hope you find it interesting. If anything isn't clear then let me know.





The Akh

The Ancient Egyptian texts and books were called 'se-akhu' which means akhifiers, or akh-makers. The purpose of the various Chapters, Utterances and Spells was to allow the person to transform into an akh. The word 'akh' comes from a root which means 'to be effective'. That is to have power and ability. So the akh state means that you have the ability to travel through and act in all the realms of this world and the next.

The word is also related to the 'akhet' which is usually translated as 'horizon'. The idea of the horizon was different to ours, it was not an artificial line in distance but was rather a kind of intermediate zone or land between the day and night. It was thought of as a light filled space into which the sun returned at night and from which it emerged in the morning. It was the place in which the sun-god died each night and then at sunrise took on its new form or body so that it could emerge into the day. Its body is the visible sun disk or aten (not to be confused with the Aten god of Akhenaton).

The akh was also identified with certain stars, principally those in the North sky which have the special quality of never rising or setting but rotate around the fixed astronomical North point. This means they have transcended the cycle of birth an death to which all other beings are subject.

So to become an akh means that you have extended your functionality to all possible forms of existence and through this you do not need anymore to go through the cycles of dissolution and rebirth that otherwise would be necessary.

To understand what this is all about we have to get some idea about the meaning of the sun cycling and therefore what role the akhet and the akh had in this.

The Egyptians had two concepts of time, or actually two concepts of eternity. One called "neheh" means the eternal cycles of existence which are seen as recapitulations of the 'first time', i.e. the mythic original creation of the world. Because of "neheh" time, each sunrise was viewed as being the original creation.

The other view of time was called "djet" time and is usually translated as everlastingness. This is about the linear time stretching back through history and forward into the future. The Pyramids and other stone structures were an attempt to establish an eternal existence within "djet" time.

At a key stage in the after-life the ba of the deceased left the tomb to view the sunrise. This was significant for two reasons. One is that this showed that the soul had survived the first night and the other is that because the sunrise recapitulated the creation, the vision of the sunrise was actually a vision of reality.

Imagine you are witness to the first moment of creation, the beginning. The pre-beginning is called the 'Nun' and is an infinite watery expanse, which is characterised (in as much as it can have a character) by these four aspects, it is watery (or fluid), it is infinite, there is no visible light and everything is hidden. This Nun contains the seeds of all possible beings and states of being but they are inert and without life. Within this vastness is a power. This power is also infinite and extends everywhere and is complete to itself. This continuum of power is called Atum. This power has the potential to create but because everything in the Nun is hidden there is no direction, no orientation, no up, down, left or right and so the power cannot act. In order to act the Atum condenses some of its body in order to make a 'place to stand' - this is the first place of orientation - and thus the first mound or hill comes into being. Although this hill has substance it is surrounded and permeated by the waters of the Nun, it is like a muddy hill half in existence and half out. But it is enough for Atum to begin to generate a world from his own body.

As Atum does this he reflects on his own being, which is complete and whole and all powerful and as he expresses this unity a bright sun rises over the first hill. This sun disk is the first visible thing and is an expression of the unity of the Atum and all beings. As this happens, something else happens, time comes into existence. Atum is also Khepera whose name means 'evolver' and is the one who unlocks time.

Why does time come into existence? Because now the sun has risen there is a 'before' and an 'after'. Now the sun has risen there is this reflection, "how did this come into being?" And to us as witness we can ask, "where did that come from?" This is our first step into duality and so there are two answers to this question. Immediately and at once, both the moment of the sun rise and the history that lead to 'this' sun rise come into being. And we realise that this sunrise is a recapitulation of all sunrises, a recapitulation of the very first sun rise.

This is the meaning of eternity in a moment.

The Egyptians say that the creator said "I am yesterday and I know tomorrow."

They explain this by saying yesterday is Osiris and tomorrow is Ra. This means that if you stand in the moment of witnessing the sunrise you can look forward or you can look back. If you look back you know that that you are Osiris, which means you are that generative force passed down through generations from the very first life to now. Osiris is also the collection of 'memories' of all previous existence and his body forms the limits of a special region called the Dwat. And being this makes it possible that the sunrise is recognised. And (this is the hard part) that that whole history springs into being instantly like the sun. 'I know tomorrow' means that in that sun is all the energy of being and all the consequences of that energy. This means that once the sun has risen then the 'day' is ordained by that sun.

So you are standing as witness to that sunrise which recapitulates the first act of creation and every sunrise. It is a vision of the unity of being reflecting Atum as Atum-Ra i.e. consciousness unified and self luminous. It unlocks time because it precipitates its own history and its own future.

Because there is time, then there is energy and the consequence of energy. There is a kind of timeline of that energy. This means that the consequences of that sunrise will work themselves out in a finite way and that the time taken to do so will comprise the day. At the end of the day the sun will return where it came from, into the West and into darkness. This West will form an entry into the Dwat (Underworld) where the sun will shed the accumulations of the day. Within this world it will encounter the generative force of Osiris and the two souls, that of the sun and of Osiris will embrace. The two souls will unite. This will give the sun new energy to take on a new form in the Eastern horizon (akhet) and then rise.

For the sun to travel from the East to the West it must pass across the surface of the waters of Nun. This surface is the sky, the goddess Nut. The hill which was formed to allow creation becomes the earth. And so we have a world which has three parts. The sky, the earth and the Dwat.

A person then, in order to exist within this world has three parts. A body, like the earth. A ba which is his sky being, essentially divine like the sun god and his ka which relates to the Dwat. A person also can follow the sun path, through the Dwat and be reborn like the sun is each morning. To do this he re-enacts the embrace of Osiris and Ra each night. This is the union of the ka with the ba. The site of this event is the body, or more correctly the magically reconstructed body which is the mummy, called 'sah'.

The product of this union is the akh, which is self-luminous and indestructible.

So we have ka, ba, body and akh.

Now the body has several terms used about it. One is 'khat' - which means corpse. Another is 'af' which means flesh. And most importantly the dignified dead, who has gone through all the rites is the 'sah' or mummy.

Also we have the name, or 'ren' in Egyptian. Magically a name was significant because to know the true name of something was to have power over it. There is a famous story of how Isis became called Urt-Hekau "Great magician" by tricking the Ra into revealing his secret name. This was because this name was not the accidental label that we usually use, but the actual signature energy vibration of the being. Because of this the name is linked closely to the 'ka'.

The shade or "Shewt" (sometimes called khaibit - but this is wrong) is linked to the ba. It is the form that the being takes on when entering the underworld and looks like a silhouette. It emerges with the ba to greet the rising sun. It is the reflex of the ba, which is a light being. In order for balance to be retained both light and dark have to be present, just as everything in sunlight has a shadow.

I have already explained about the heart as the 'mind' or centre of the being. So this gives us - body, heart, ka, ba, ren, shewt, and akh.

Stepping outside the field of Egyptology as such I would like to make the following comment. These aspects to your being, your ka and your ba can yield great treasures. For instance the ka can allow you to access all the wisdom of the ancestral record if you know how to do this. The ba can reveal uncharted vistas of consciousness and the free interplay of energy. But they both hold dangers. For a person who wants to work with these ideas the key is poise and balance. By that I mean that we have to centre ourselves in our hearts and let the forces that influence us come to a state of balance or peace. Having established this peace it is possible to explore and take our consciousness into the realms that usually lie hidden to us, with the ultimate goal of unifying all the parts of our being into the indestructible light body of the akh.

Edited by apepch7, 02 October 2008 - 11:32 AM.


#14 Aetherous

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 02:24 PM

Very very very times 10 thousand, awesome.

Have you written a book on this stuff yet? Because you should! I would buy it.

The ideal thing I would like to read is 1) a translation of important stuff (like the book of the dead or whatever you think is most important and summarizes it all) 2) a commentary on the translated text 3) putting the ideas into practical use (like where you would talk about your personal experience working with ka and ba)

That would probably be the greatest book on ancient Egypt ever made. :lol:

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#15 Andrei

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 02:50 PM

thank you apepch7, just one more question raised in my mind: why would they preserved the body by mummyfication since their goal was to achieve the akh - light body?

#16 Yoda

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 02:53 PM

Amazing writeup, thanks!!




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