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When We All Spoke One Language: The Single World Religion of Humanity's Past
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
The binary soul doctrine is probably as close as the human race has ever come to having a single world religion. Thousands of years ago, people all across the globe believed much the same thing about what happened after death—that human beings possess not one, but two souls, which were in danger of dividing apart from each other when a person died. After leaving the physical body, one of these souls was often expected to reincarnate, while the other was believed to become trapped in a dreamlike netherworld. Some of these cultures believed that the afterdeath division of these two souls could be prevented or reversed, while others saw the division as being inevitable and permanent.
Simultaneously present in numerous cultures at the dawn of recorded history, the binary soul doctrine may predate all currently known civilizations. This peculiar afterlife tradition not only seems to have saturated the entire Old World at a very early date, appearing in some of the earliest writings of Egypt, Greece, Persia, India, and China, it somehow managed to jump the oceans as well, leaving yet more of its footprints in the cultural traditions of Australia, Hawaii, Alaska, the plains of North America, Mexico, Peru, and even Haiti.
Greece called these two souls the psuche and the thumos; Egypt called them ba and ka; Israel called them ruwach and nephesh; Christianity called them soul and spirit; Persia called them urvan and daena; Islam called them ruh and nafs; India the atman and jiva; China the hun and po; Haiti the gros bon ange and ti bon ange; Hawaii the uhane and unihipili, and the Dakota Indians called them the nagi and niya. The list goes on.
The most extraordinary thing about this ancient belief is not simply that it was so widespread, but that this lost model of the afterlife seems to be consistent with the latest findings in a number of areas of modern scientific research. For one thing, these cultures' descriptions of the two souls are strikingly similar to modern science's "right brain/left brain" descriptions of the conscious and unconscious halves of the human psyche, distinguishing between one part of the self that is objective, independent, masculine, logical, verbal, dominant, active, and possessing independent free will, and the other part that is subjective, dependent, feminine, fertile, emotional, nonverbal, recessive, passive, responsive, and in possession and control of the memory.
Even more interesting, the binary soul doctrine also seems to anticipate, even predict, many of the conditions being described in modern reports of near-death experiences, past-life memories, past-life hypnotic regressions, ghosts, apparitions, poltergeists, and other afterlife phenomena. These unexpected correlations carry profound and disturbing implications.
Egypt's Version of the Binary Soul Doctrine
Egypt, it seems, was convinced that the afterdeath division of the two souls could be reversed. For more than 2,000 years the Egyptian people united together in that mission, a whole people struggling as one against the greatest of enemies—death itself. They dedicated a huge percentage of their attention, wealth, and manpower to achieving a single goal, that of preventing and/or reversing the afterdeath soul-division of their leaders. Thanks to Egypt's unswerving faith in their ability to reverse this division and thereby guarantee eternal life in the next world, they left what is perhaps the most complete record of this long-forgotten belief system.
As with many of the cultures that subscribed to the binary soul doctrine, the mentality of ancient Egypt revolved around a dualistic perspective similar to China's yin and yang philosophy. Egypt's thoughts were dominated by the idea of united opposites; all reality, they thought, even including the human soul, was comprised of equal but opposite components that were dancing together in a delicate, tense balance. Even their language reflected this underlying assumption; not only was everything always either female or male, yin or yang, but their language often used a special grammatical structure called "the dual voice."
For instance, they called Egypt "The Two Lands"; their universe was called "The Dual Realities" or "The Two Truths"; they called their nether-world "The Great Double House"; their gods dwelt in "The Lake of Double Fire"; and their afterdeath judgment took place in "The Hall of Double Truth." This "dual voice" did not refer to two things, or even two halves of one thing; it referred to an integrated binary unit, two which are one, simultaneously separate and united, each part distinct on its own, yet incomplete without its equal-but-opposite, complementary partner.
Further reflecting this perspective, Egyptian mythology portrayed the universe as beginning when a set of divine twins leapt from the womb of space. The people of ancient Egypt thought of their gods as dualistic: Every masculine god had a feminine counterpart (except for one of their gods—Mut—who was actually seen as bisexual, transcending duality altogether). The Egyptians divided their gods into two groups, the "Lesser Paut" and the "Greater Paut." The highest god of Egypt was similarly differentiated into two divine elements or beings, Osiris and Ra, who were seen as two different aspects of the same being:
Then who is he? It is Osiris. In other words: his name is Ra.
—Book of the Dead, Chapter XVII
Horus, another high god, was also dualistic. The sun and moon were called the two eyes of Horus. Often called "Horus of the Two Horizons," he was the equal but opposite twin half of another god, Set, or Sutekh. Together, Horus and Set were often called simply "Those Two," or "The Rivals," or "The Two Companions." Constantly wrestling with each other, they were represented together as a single figure with two heads—the head of a man and the head of a jackal.
Just as Egypt perceived everything else as being composed of two parts, so too they distinguished two parts within the human soul as well. These two souls embraced the person's heart during life, but split apart from each other at death. Although Egypt named nine different aspects of the self in all, only two of these, the ba and the ka, were thought to survive physical death and so could properly be called "soul" as the term is understood today. If and when these two parts of the soul successfully reunited with each other on the other side of death's door, they were then called the akh.
The akh does not seem to have been an additional, third soul that one also secretly possessed; rather, it was an entirely new kind of soul one could potentially become—the whole that was formed by the ka-ba union, a whole that was far greater than the mere sum of its parts. The akh doesn't seem to have existed at all prior to death, and after death, it merely had a chance of becoming fully functional, or "perfected," but only if all went well with the ka-ba union. The symbol for the akh was a stork, a bird often seen wading in the marshlands of the Nile, simultaneously at home in the air and on the land, a perfect symbol for the integration of diverse elements.
To the Egyptian way of thinking, it was natural, good, right, and true (a single word in their language, Maat) for all things to be "two which were one," and so, it was thought, all people should strive to follow this pattern. This was the double truth of nature (Maati). To be divided, on the other hand, to be "two which were not one," seems to have been the Egyptian def-inition of "sin." Although duality was expected, and differentiated binary sys-tems were even appreciated, the two parts were ideally expected to work together smoothly, together forming a whole greater than the sum of their parts. Division, when the interaction and unity of the parts of the whole broke down, was seen as an abhorrent pathology in the natural system—duality taken to an unhealthy extreme. This attitude may explain why the cult of Osiris felt it was necessary to make a special point of forbidding the decapitation or dismemberment of any priests or worshipers of this god. Even the prayers during the annual festival of Osiris seem to reflect this condemnation of division:
O grant unto me a path whereon I may journey in peace. I am righteous. I have not uttered lies willfully. I have not acted a double part (or, dealt doubly).
The Legend of Osiris
The god Osiris, and his doctrine of eternal life, held center stage in Egyptian thought for more than 3,000 years, from pre-dynastic, literally pre-historic times until the Christian era. Egypt had many gods, each of whom needed to be revered and appeased when necessary. But no Egyptian god was ever worshipped like Osiris, who not only rose from the dead himself, but could make his followers rise from death as well. According to his legend, Osiris was killed by his brother Set, who cut him up into pieces and scattered them. But when those pieces were gathered and reassembled, Osiris not only found that he had been restored to divine and eternal life, but that he was then able to help others conquer death as well.
This model of death seems to be reflected in Egypt's doctrine of the division of the ba and ka souls after death, and the expectation that if these could be reunited, the person would then be fully reconstituted and perfected, transfigured into a divine being like Osiris himself. In fact, once the two souls of the deceased had reunited on "the other side," the departed person was then called an "Osiris." Egypt's annual ceremony honoring Osiris reflected this same theme: Priests would construct a figure of Osiris by placing a specially prepared paste into two halves of a mold, tying these two symbolic halves of Osiris together when the molds were formed.
These were very old concepts, even to the Egyptians. Many errors found in various copies of the Egyptian Book of the Dead reveal that the scribes who copied them were often uncertain just what those prayers were supposed to mean. This tells us that even as far back as 2000 B.C., the actual culture that originally gave birth to these theological concepts and treatises was already but a dim and flimsy memory, as far removed from those scribes as the days of the Twelve Disciples are to modern Christians, and every bit as mysterious.
Nonetheless, those prayers reveal surprises about ancient Egypt, strongly suggesting that Nile culture, so very long ago, was aware of a subtle truth that our scientists have only rediscovered and verified in recent years, that the human mind is differentiated into two distinct components: the conscious mind, which possesses the rational intellect and the autonomous free will, and the unconscious mind, which possesses the emotions and memory.
The Ba as the Conscious Mind
Just like the conscious and unconscious of modern science, both the ba and ka were considered integral elements of the person's self during life. In fact, both these two carried, independently of each other, the meaning of the self. The ba was the living conscious self. Just like the conscious mind of today's psychology, it was considered to possess autonomous free will, focused awareness, rational intelligence, and the ability to move and communicate. Like the conscious mind, the ba embodied the objective perspective, dispassionately viewing the rest of the world as objects separate and distinct from itself.
Like the conscious mind, each ba was the sole master of its own decisions, the lone witness of its own inner domain; the ba was the infinitely private and isolated experience of being the only person in the universe who was peering out through its own particular set of eyes. And like the conscious mind, the ba seems to have been conceived of as the source of intellect; while the ka was credited with making the body talk, the ba was what caused its words to make sense.
But in sharp contrast to modern science's conception of the conscious mind, the ba was also credited with eternal life—it was thought to permanently possess both the spark of life and the power of motion and animation. The ba, Egypt thought, could never die, never cease to exist, never cease to be conscious and aware. No matter what happened, it would at the very least always still be alive and aware of its own existence. But its sense of continuity, the coherence of its sense of self—that was a different matter. That was not guaranteed, and all the funeral rituals and prayers and mummification efforts of ancient Egypt had but a single purpose, to maintain the coherency of the ba's self-experience while passing through the doors of death.
The Ka as the Unconscious Mind
The ka was not so lucky. It was possible for the ka to cease to exist. In the eyes of every Egyptian, one's ka was at grave risk.
What was at risk? Egypt's terminology has confused scholars for centuries, The ka, a different element of the person altogether, was somehow also considered to be the self. Actually, ka is an Egyptian word for "you"; this pun-like choice of words seems to emphasize the ka's role in relationships. In many respects, the characteristics of the ka precisely match modern science's concept of the unconscious mind. Also like the right-brain unconscious, it was associated with dream activity during sleep. Like the mysterious unconscious, it was also thought to be able to work in secret, without its owner's knowledge.
A person's ka was even able to deceive or betray its owner, which sounds rather like Freudian slips, neuroses, and all the other ways the unconscious is still "misbehaving" today. Just as modern therapists teach their clients how to get the unconscious to work for them instead of against them, so Egypt thought the ka could either work for or against its owner. Like the subjective unconscious, the ka was also polarized toward a subjective or intersubjective orientation, providing one with the crucial ability to relate to and interact with others. Just as the unconscious is today, the ka was thought to be the source of one's subjective sense of belonging, one's sense of having a living connection with others.
Reminding us of the moral voice of the unconscious, the ka was also considered to be the source of the person's conscience. Like the unconscious, the ka was also considered to be moldable, programmable, changeable, and potentially unreliable. Just as popular culture today thinks of the unconscious as the equal but opposite dark interior to the conscious mind's lighted exterior, so too was the ka often depicted in Egyptian art as a blackened reverse image of the person.
The ka was often called the person's "double"; it seems to have been thought of as being, or embodying, the person's "pattern" by molding itself into a perfect image or likeness of the individual and his character. Reminding us that memory is stored in the unconscious, the ka was also thought to contain a record or model of all one's personal experiences, and thus, one's sense of self-identity; it contained the shapes of one's memories (on which the continuity and coherence of one's sense of self-identity depends, as any amnesiac will testify). It also constituted a complete database of a person's psychological disposition, containing the shape or pattern or reflection or memory of all one's needs, desires, fears, expectations, appetites, and emotions. In fact, the ancient Egyptian word ka still lives on in our language, in words like character and charisma.
In short, the ka seems to have been the yin to the ba's yang, the form that gave shape to the ba's substance. The ka was closely associated with the concept of form and image, what allowed different shapes to be taken. Without the ka, the ba was unable to have any form at all; unable to manifest. Without the ka, the ba would be substance without form, text without context, potential without manifestation, being without identity, existence without self, rather like the Eastern religious concept of the impersonal, nonformed essence of one's being. Without the ka, the ba would be in just such a predicament. But unlike the Eastern religions of today, ancient Egypt saw this impersonal existence not as a desirable goal, but as the worst of all possible fates.
Excerpted from THE LOST SECRET OF DEATH by PETER NOVAK. Copyright © 2003 Peter Novak. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
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|Introduction: A Threatening Babble||xxiii|
|1.||When We All Spoke One Language: The Single World Religion of Humanity's Past||1|
|2.||Two Selves in Every Brain: Modern Science's Binary Soul Doctrine||35|
|3.||Witnesses of Division: Near-Death Experiences||50|
|4.||Descendants of Division: Past-Life Regression||92|
|5.||Victims of Division: Ghosts and Poltergeists||108|
|6.||Healers of Division: Shamanic Soul Retrieval and Out-of-Body Rescues||123|
|7.||Conquerors of Division: Psychics and Mystics||140|
|8.||That's Why They Call It a Blind Spot: Cognitive Illusions in Afterlife Experiences||155|
|9.||Why We Have Two Souls: The Divine Dichotomy and Our Binary World||178|
|10.||Why Would Our Souls Divide at Death? The Pathology in the System||189|
|11.||Message in the Messenger: The Encoded History of the Jews||211|
|12.||Forging a Self That Won't Shatter at Death: Baptism into the Authenticity of the Third Soul||225|
|13.||The Old Path to the Third Soul: The One World Religion of the Pyramid Builders||246|
|14.||The Toltec Teachings: Living Voice of the Old Path||254|
|15.||Forging a New Path to Immortality: Christ's Mission to Save the Human Race||265|
|16.||The Third Day: Consummation||283|
|Conclusion: A New Vision of Life and Death||286|
|Appendix A||What Was Baptism for the Dead?||297|
|Appendix B||Integrity and the Nondual||301|
|Appendix C||How Can Belief Save Anything?||307|