In The "Egyptian Book of the Dead" it is recorded that the soul would be lead before the god Osiris and recite the forty-two negative confessions beginning with the prayer, "I have not learnt the things which are not" meaning that the soul strove in life to devote itself to matters of lasting importance rather than the trivial matters of everyday life. The forty-two negative declarations (Papyrus of Ani) which followed the opening prayer went to assure Osiris of the soul's purity and ended, in fact, with the statement, "I am pure" repeated a number of times. It was not the soul's claim to purity which would win over Osiris, however, but, instead, the weight of the soul's heart.
The `heart' of the soul was handed over to Osiris who placed it on a great golden scale balanced against the white feather of Ma'at, the Goddess of truth, of harmony, on the other side. If the soul's heart was lighter than the feather then the soul was freely admitted into the field of bliss. If the heart is found heavier, then it was cast away to the floor of the Hall of Truth where it was devoured by Ammit (a god with the face of a crocodile, front of a lion and the back of a rhinoceros) and the individual soul then ceased to exist. There was no `hell' for the ancient Egyptians; their `fate worse than death' was non-existence.
The forty-two negative confessions were also referred to as forty-two deities or judges who sat at the judgement of the soul.
The ancient Egyptians called the soul by two names - the Ka and Ba. The two owl symbols in the hieroglyphs of the word 'Ammit' are a reminder of this.
The Ka was the life-force and spiritual essence of the soul.
The Ba was the roaming physical essence of the soul and was represented as a bird, a hawk, with a human head that symbolized the deceased.
The Akhu (Divine consciousness) was the divine spark of the soul that emerged when the Ka(Individual consciousness) and Ba (Astral body or the physical essence which housed the individual consciousness - this is equivalent to the 'Anandamaya Kosha in Vedic spirituality) were united. The ancient Egyptians were desperate for the Ka to survive and unite with the Ba so the Akhu, the divine spark, could re-emerge and the soul could enter the world of immortality . Should they be deemed to have led sinful lives, the part of the soul called the 'Ba' would be given to Ammit, the 'Devourer of the Dead' and 'Eater of Souls'. It is only the physical essence which is devoured by Ammit. The spiritual essence is set to roam the underworld and the Egyptians feared this 'second death' more than the physical or first death.
The 'Devourer of the Dead', the deity Ammit, is represented by the three reptilian and mammalian combination in one body and is referred as a female goddess. This combination of animals represents the territorial nature grounded in the elements of water and earth, both being the essence of the physical body. The female goddess is the embodiment of wisdom but this is the degraded wisdom in the domain of good and evil which is rooted in duality.
The esoteric concept of body and soul in Egyptian spirituality can be seen in this iconic interpretations.
The clear demarcation of the physical body and the physical essence is clearly brought out. In the theory of reincarnation, the physical essence is the embodiment of the unique consciousness which takes residence in the physical body which is discarded at the time of physical death but the astral body or the unique physical essence continues its journey into immortality through multiple reincarnations only to be discarded when the ultimate merger with the Divine consciousness occurs.
The importance of the physical essence surviving the physical body is the core theme of Karma in the eternal journey in immortality. While the Soul can never have any attributes or modifications, it is the physical essence which carries these Karmic imprints. These karmic imprints can be modified in the physical essence while in the physical body only through the Divine spark that links the physical and spiritual essence.
Let this knowledge empower us to lead a life of purity.
Love to you all.