Sigmund Freud divided the human psyche into three parts—id, ego, and superego. The social changes brought about by this awareness revolutionized our modern view of being human.
Carl Jung, Freud’s student, later divided psyche into four parts—ego, shadow, self, and anim—taking that revolution immeasurably further. Ancient Egyptians divided psyche into nine parts—the akh, ba, ka, sekhem, ib, khat, shuit, ren, sahu. This revolution of thought brought forth an empire out of mud and rock, using pen, paper, string and conversation.
Freud used Latin in order to draw his map of the human psyche: id, ego, and superego. “It,” “I am,” and “Above I am.” He theorized that our sexual drive is the single fuel which powers all human motives, actions and intentions. The direction, misdirection, sublimation and suppression of sexuality were supposedly the foundation of human behavior.
Jung realized that this was too simplified, that sexuality was itself an expression of a larger, all-encompassing energy of the psyche. Jung recognized instincts and drives as universal elements of the psyche and not part of the personal unconscious. Jung’s divisions were: ego, shadow, anim and self.
Ego is the “I am” of the mind, the light by which you perceive reality, both inner and outer. Jung saw, however, that this light cast a shadow, those dark parts of the mind which function behind your back, as it were.
Anim is the reflection of the opposite gender in the psyche, subliminally directing the way in which the “I am” factor identifies and relates to sexuality and the opposite sex. Anima is the inner woman of every man, guiding his choice of goals and loves. Animus is the inner man of every woman (or more accurately, her inner panel of judges and mentors).
Self is the full sphere of the human psyche, containing conscious, pre-conscious, subliminal, and neurochemical elements of the human being.
Jung described an additional, fifth element, individuation, the unification or individuation of the four elements of the human being. This element knows how to grow an adult human being from strings of molecules, as well as how to make you happy.
The Cat’s Nine Lives
The ancient Egyptian child learned the nine parts of being as the definition of self at mother’s knee. These beliefs guided their lives and were the primary metaphors with which they talked about themselves.
- • Akh: the eternal soul/self
- • Ba: your inner experience of life, the you inside your mask
- • Ka: you as only others can know you, the outside of your mask
- • Sekhem: energy pattern of the psyche, song of the soul/self
- • Ib: life-force, psyche, territory of the heart
- • Khat: soul/self’s biological container, that which decays: “I stink, therefore, I am.”
- • Shuit: the living shadow, proof of your place in the outer world’s reality
- • Ren: the magic of your name, immortal identity
- • Sah: boundary of the psychic self, the self in eternity
The experience of the immortal soul/self immersed in mortal existence was the guide for their entire lives. Their literature is filled with intricate, detailed, and poetic metaphors for this experience. Some terms translate readily into modern English. Some do not. The goal of all these divisions of psyche—three, four, or nine—is self-awareness and natural self-control.
(author’s note: these nine terms will be defined more fully in future posts. – RLW