Egyptian Souls

 I’ve some progress on source material for the thesis today. It is kind of funny because my section on the antecedents to the Golden Dawn and its ideas concerning the soul is only one chapter but it has probably taken more research time than the Golden Dawn material. Of course, I have the Golden Dawn material at hand and am pretty familiar with it already. I hope that I don’t wind up kicking myself for taking all of this time to dig out these texts.

Today, through the help of Google Books, I have finally found a print copy of a reference to the Egyptian ideas concerned the soul that predates the Golden Dawn. This is Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought by James Bonwick. It was published in 1878 and the copy was scanned from Oxford University. I know that Bonwick lives in Tasmania but I don’t have full publication details for the book (Google doesn’t seem to have them and references to it seem to come from different and later printings).

It lists the parts of the soul that are fairly standard in Golden Dawn derives occultism (and other 19th and early 20th century texts), “ba (the soul); ask or khu (intelligence); khaba (shade); kha (the body); and sah the mummy.”

Strangely enough, I had also just found a copy of Isis Unveiled on Google Books (I don’t own it) and found Blavatsky’s reference to the Egyptian parts of the soul in it.  She makes a slightly different list: “kha - body; khaba - astral form, or shadow; ka - animal soul or life-principle; ba - the higher soul; and akh - terrestrial intelligence.” She then mentions the sah as the mummy.

She published in 1877 and Bonwick published (somewhere) in 1878. I needed a pre-1888 source in English, preferably more than one, to be able to reference these parts as an idea concerning the eypgtian soul current at the time of the Golden Dawn’s founding. Blavatsky is probably enough since Westcott and Mathers were both associated with the Theosophical Society but this helps.

I still have not found an English translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead from before the 1890’s but there was a French edition earlier. Both Mathers and Westcott translated material from French at various points (such as Levi’s work) and both spent time in the British Museum and in Masonic libraries so I’m actually assuming that their exposure would be through the French work. Budge published after the Golden Dawn was founded. This is less directly relevant because the Cipher Manuscripts contain references to the Egyptian Book of the Dead and it seems unlikely that either of them actually wrote the Cipher Manuscripts but simply made use of them. The real author is probably Kenneth Mackenzie.

I also found both of Anna Bonus Kingsford’s books, The Perfect Way (1882) and  Clothed with the Sun (1889). The latter was published after her death (and after the Golden Dawn’s founding) but the former was probably influential in that both Westcott and Mathers lectures at Kingsford’s Hermetic Society before the Golden Dawn was founded. Following her death and the dissolution of the Hermetic Society, they then went on to create their own organization.