In some systems the Ka would be considered the etheric double, and that it persists for a time after death. It is the energetic matrix that sustained the body, and when the body dies, this matrix is released, until it tiself eventually disintegrates. If you visit Egyptian temples you will often see stone doorways where the symbol for the Ka is inscribed. these were doorways for this part of the departed individual to use after death (presumably). It is represented by two upraised hands (see below).
The soul is represented more closely by the Ba, a bird figure, that departs when the body is mummified with all due ceremony. Initially it was believed only kings had a Ba, but later teachings suggested it was part of everyone.
The teachings of the Egyptians influenced Greek thought profoundly. Both Pythagoras and Plato acknowledge their debt to Egypt. Pythagoras studied in Egypt, and Plato talks of his ancestor, Solon, having learned about Atlantis from the Egyptians.
The Egyptian belief system was woven into the totality of their existence. the genius of the early Hellenic thinkers was to represent these ideas in a way that could be grasped by the intellect. That is why the study of early Hellenic myths and hymns is so rewarding. Much is hidden that is of value to a spiritual seeker even today.
The myth of Persephone is a case in point.
Hades is brother to Zeus. He is king of the Underworld whereas Zeus rules in the Olympian Heights. Hades has taken a fancy to Persephone, who is daughter to Zeus and Demeter. When Persephone picks flowers on the Isle of Sicily, Hades swoops upon her and abducts her (abduct being a gentle synonym for rape).
Demeter searches for her daughter and eventually finds her with the help of Hermes. Hades says she can leave if she has eaten nothing in his realm; but she had taken a few pomagranite seeds. Demeter gets the King of the Gods to agree that Persephone can spend half the year in the world and half in the Underworld as Queen to Hades.
This myth, and the one relating to Psyche, present through story something of the mystery of the descent of the Soul into material existence and its return.
Another myth tells of how Aphrodite (Greek Venus) was jealous of Psyche's beauty, and wished her tricked into marrying a hideous monster. Eros (Greek Cupid) was sent to accomplish this, but instead he fell in love with the beautiful maiden, and took her to his hidden dwelling. There, he said she could never see him and must never look on his face. They were very happy (especially at night) but Psyche's two sisters were jealous and said that she had indeed married a monster and must look on his face.
That night she lit a candle while Eros slept, and gazed on his extraordinary beauty. Moving closer, she dropped hot wax onto him and he awoke. In sorrow she was banished to wander Earth and even the Underworld, completing seemingly impossible tasks for Aphrodite. Eventually she was reunited with Eros.
These two myths contain much profound understanding about the nature of the Soul (Psyche). Persephone, daughter to Demeter, by plucking the flowers entangles herself with the realm of Hades (namely duality and material existence). Once having become involved she has to pay her due to Hades, and although she is able to rule the Underworld, she is stuck there for half of the year. Of course there are many ways this can be interpreted, and there is never simply one meaning to any of the great myths. What we learn though, is that the Soul has to descend to a realm where it may rule, and only then may ascend back to her true home (on Olympus).
In other words Psyche sits between two worlds, the Spiritual Olympian realm, where her beauty rivals that of Aphrodite, and the Earthly realm where she may be Queen to Hades, but is always separated from her true mother.
The second myth involves Aphrodite rather than Demeter, and introduces the relationship between Psyche and Eros. Now, while Eros has bequeathed his name to erotic love, that is not what is of primary importance here. Eros is also the first expression of the Absolute, namely Eros Protogonos, the First Born Light and Love. In this sense, Eros is the final Home of the Soul.
But Psyche was unprepared to look on such perfect Beauty and could not comprehend it. Once seen, she (the Soul) had such a longing that she would seek for ever to find what she had lost. Hence, she searches the world and the underworld, without rest,
What do these myths mean?
There are many ways in which the mystery of the Soul may be elucidated through these myths, and one or two will be suggested here. Psyche, the Soul, in her perfect beauty is a Divine creation without flaw. She dwells within that perfection but without self awareness. This perfection can never be lost, but it can be sullied.
Psyche falls or descends because of her own actions (plucking the flowers of transiency or choosing to disobey and look on Eros.). In either case she must then experience the realms of duality and illusion while she gradually learns what (or who) she truly is.
The tasks set by Aphrodite (like those given to Herakles in another myth) are to strengthen the Soul. Psyche is potentially perfect, but is not actually perfect, and for that reason she can make mistakes.
If we consider the Soul in less poetic language, then we may see her as situated between the Eternal and the Transient. She is both outside the Great Dream of Time, Space and Condition, and within that dream. Indeed she is both within the dream and is a co-dreamer (she after all is Queen of the Underworld).
Her return to her true estate is a journey through transiency (the ever changing realms of duality) to find her real nature (Demeter). To do this she is given much help (represented in the picture below by Hermes – Greek Mercury – with his Divine Insights).
Murray Morison is a novelist living in Crete
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When a teenage priestess, living 5,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, connects with Rhory, an English schoolboy visiting the British Museum, she puts herself and him in grave danger.
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