By Jay Weidner
In the current use of our language, the words 'soul' and 'spirit' have essentially the same meaning. They are terms used to describe a mysterious state of awareness, or presence, that is the driving or animating force behind the externalized, concrete physical body that surrounds it.
According to the teachings of the world's major religions, this mystical soul, or spirit, somehow lives on after death. They tell us that just as we as human beings, living in a material body, grow and learn through linear time, so the soul, or spirit, grows in knowledge and experience through many successive incarnations.
However, there is much evidence from the past that reveals that there may once have been a more complex meaning to these two terms, soul and spirit. There is a distinct possibility that they may not originally have meant the same thing at all. It may be, that somehow in the past, these two words became confused and that their separate meanings became lost in the well of history.
In a way, this loss of understanding between these two words 'soul' and 'spirit' may lie at the root of much of our modern spiritual confusion. Perhaps it is time to reimbue these terms with their true historical meanings once again.
In order to understand the subtleties of these two terms with greater clarity, let us take a look at the teachings of the rich and complex civilization of ancient Egypt. First of all, it is important to realize that the people of ancient Egypt lived a completely different type of existence than we do today.
The ancient Egyptians lived each day, and each life, with a complete devotion to what today we would call the unseen world of soul and spirit that transcends our ordinary day to day existence. Time, for them, was not measured by the incessant ticking of the clock, or the hope of a secure future, but was built on a much larger concept, which included not only their time on Earth, but the afterlife as well.
In fact, their entire culture, including their incredible edifices and their sacred science, was all constructed around a complete understanding of the afterlife and what happens to that animating force of human consciousness at the moment of death.
These ancient sacred scientists found that there is a great moment of confusion at the instant when the consciousness separates from the body. Examining this confused state, they realized that there was a division that occurred at this crucial moment. Consciousness became divided into two separate states, or entities. They called each of these states by a different name.
The first state in this division of consciousness was called the 'Ba'. This is the immortal state of existence. This is the aspect of consciousness that reincarnates. The Ba separates from consciousness at the moment of death and goes back into the well of souls to be reborn again.
In our current lexicon, the words 'soul' and 'spirit' mean, essentially the same thing. But looking at it more closely, it can be seen that the word 'soul' is actually referencing the BA The BA, or the soul, never dies, it reincarnates and continues it's sacred pilgrimage towards total illumination.
It has been described in religious literature as that spark of divinity that resides within us all, the aspect of our multidimensional being that inspires us to overcome our animal nature, to move beyond the cravings of the small self-centered ego so as to experience an interconnectedness with the entire universal reality.
Called the 'breath of life', it is that unseen force, or essence, that travels throughout eternity from body to body on it's great journey of experience, purification and enlightenment.
In the hieroglyphs or symbolic language of Egypt, the BA is written sometimes as a winged human head and sometimes as a human-faced bird. It is the part of us that is conscious of leaving the earth at death and therefore is depicted as a winged human or a human bird. This bird motif will be more properly understood in part II of this article.
Suffice to say for now that bird symbol for the BA represents the force that can free itself from the Tree of Life and soar into the cosmos, liberated from gravity and the material realm.
The second aspect of this great separation at death was named the 'Ka'. The kA is the part of the human consciousness that remains here on Earth, and is represented in the hieroglyphs as two up stretched arms in front of a horizon.
It is perceived as the 'ghost' or psychic residue of the previous conscious being. It is the spirit. It is the part of us that has a connection with the place that the physical body lived, with the objects it possessed, with the people that it knew. It literally haunts the place of its life forever. And so do all of the spirits that existed in a place.
The kA then is the aspect of consciousness that is left when the BA, or animating force, departs the physical body. It is the shadow, or remaining psychic imprint, of soul consciousness, or the 'spirit' which haunts a place, that occupies illusory heavens and hells, that may relive it's own human life over and over for eternity. Therefore, in this light it can be seen that the word 'spirit' is actually referencing the "kA"
It was through their knowledge and understanding of the consanguinity between the BA and the kA that the Egyptians realized the science of the afterlife and the great relationship that exists between soul and spirit, blood and soil, between our possessions and our spirit, between our ancestors and our own personal being.
Many philosophies, religions and spiritual teachings have spoken clearly about the BA, including Hinduism, Buddhism and many indigenous traditions. But the awareness and understanding of the kA has fallen by the wayside. Lost in superstition and legend, the great Egyptian knowledge of the afterlife has become forfeited in our modern world. Yet, there are many these days who seek deeper knowledge of the mystic realms.
It is important to once again explore the great science of Egypt, the science of the afterlife, so that we contemporary seekers can have the opportunity to view the meaning and import of our lives on earth from a larger perspective.
In our exploration of this fascinating subject, it is interesting to note that recently, many Hollywood films have begun to focus upon this mysterious aspect of human experience, or the 'Ka' state.
Perhaps our great cultural confusion concerning the kA is at the root of this phenomena. In fact, these films are using the mysterious state of the kA as vital subject matter in their story lines.
For example, The Sixth Sense , which is one of the films nominated by the academy in the year 2000 as Best Picture, is not only about a boy who can see the spirits in their kA state occupying the world around him, but also about a man who is living through the very beginning of his own kA existence.
This man (played by Bruce Willis) spends much of the picture confused and bewildered by what he sees around him, that is, until he realizes that he is not alive, that he is in his kA state. No longer alive in terms of physical reality, as a disembodied spirit, he is playing out a dreamlike scenario in order to realize - and possibly correct - the mistakes he made during his life.
Traveling through this illusory, but seemingly real drama, his kA, or psychic imprint from this previous life, is presented with the opportunity to learn from these mistakes. In many spiritual traditions these illusory landscapes are referred to as heavens and hells, which present the kA or disembodied spirit with scenarios which allow it to realize and purify it's sins or reward it for a 'good life.'
The movie 'Ghost' was also about the kA state. Remember the demon spirit who haunted the underground New York subway system? This mad ghost, this haunted kA, was caught there in the subway system possibly forever. One gets the idea that this mad demon committed suicide there in the subway.
Now he is condemned to reliving the incident over and over as his kA is driven insane. In addition, like Bruce Willis's character in The Sixth Sense, the hero in Ghost, Patrick Swayze's kA, is presented with the opportunity to 'make things right'.