The Ancient Egyptian Afterlife

Why did the ancient Egyptians think you had to preserve your mummy AND have a statue of yourself in the serdab looking out through a chink in the wall, just in case your mummy didn’t last, when they also thought you went to the sun boat and travelled through the next world and rose with him in the morning, and they also thought you went to the Field of Reeds and fished and that like in real life?
In other words how could your sense of self go to three different places: mummy or statue, sun boat, and heaven place? Didn’t some priests wonder,“Hmm, even though the people are too busy working in the fields and building the pyramids et. al. to think about it much, what do we who think about it think?”
Plus I just recalled that Frankfort or somebody says the priests thought you joined the circumpolar stars, which adds a fourth possibility.
Also, when Akhenaten came along he banished Osiris, so where did he think you went when you died? A recent book says you just stayed around him, but what did he think about all the former dead ancient Egyptians, where were they? Did they hover around Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and their little daughters Maketaten, Merytaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Nefernefertiti Tasherit, Neferneferure, and Stepenre, and Akhenaten’s other wives Gilukhepa, Tadukhepa, and Kiya, and his mother Tiy, Cousin Baketaten, etc.?

“Ancient Egypt” covers a lot of time… IIRC, the Old Kingdom began in c. 3500 BC, Akhenaten was getting on for two thousand years later… in that time, religious beliefs grew and changed. A lot of old views were preserved as relics, others were modified to suit the prevailing climate of opinion - even though, one suspects, the priesthood made every effort to preserve an image of timeless continuity of belief, the fact is that religious practices and the theology behind them changed as the Egyptian culture developed. Consequently, it’s not surprising to find apparent inconsistencies.

Besides, I think (I don’t have references handy on this) that the Egyptian view of the self was more comlex than the traditional Judaeo-Christian soul/body dualism. I’ve seen references (somewhere, not here, unfortunately) to as many as eight separate components - the only ones I can remember the names of are the ka, which is the “life force”, and the ba which is the individual personality, except it’s supposedly detachable from the rest of you and can fly around during the day. Apparently, the ka needs a physical body, hence mummification; I’m honestly not sure what’s supposed to happen to the ba.

Like you say: it’s kind of complicated. As for Akhenaten: he was, by all accounts, a pretty complicated character in his own right, and I wouldn’t even try to figure out what went on in his head.

Would some nice Egyptologist out there like to set me straight on any of this…?

I am no expert, though Egyptology is my first love and has been a hobby of mine as long as I can remember and I do have an Associates degree in it. I have devoted much time and money to studying it on my on, as well as participated in several student digs. That said, it is important to keep in mind that no one person can be called the definaitive expert on the religion of Ancient Egypt. There are many experts in the field and just as many opinons. Here’s mine:

The ancient Egyptians believed that to attain the afterlife, one’s body must be intact, hence the highly ritualized mummification of the dead. There worst fear was that the corpse might be destroyed which would destroy its chance at eternal life. “Die not a second time” was written an the bottom of many coffins.

They also believed the soul consisted of more than one part, though “soul” is inexact because the Egyptians saw being as having three parts: the body, the ka and the ba. The ka was a part of the divine essence issued from the Universal Spirit which gives life to all matter; the body, the material part, and the ka, the spiritual part which gave the body its personality, was born of the chaos of the world. The ka was often referred to as man’s double. It could be called his life force. The ba, which appeared at the union between body and ka, was truely the soul, man’s moral sense; it was this that bore the responsibility for man’s behavior when he went to face the gids, and which was his individual conscious. After death, the ba and ka left the bodily remains. The ba, which belonged only to man, could only survive if it was closely united to the ka which is by defination immortal. Which is what the ushabati, the statues, were for. Phaorahs had temples in the funerary complex where priests left offerings of food and drink at the feet of the statues to “feed” the ba. The fact that the actually offerings didn’t disappear was explained by saying the “soul” had taken the spiritual essence of the offerings.

As for the Afterlife itself, the Underworld changed from region to region over many Dynasties. It was the Pharoahs, the earthly incarnation of the god, who joined the other gods in the stars upon the death of their physical form.

Akhenaten, The Heretic, didn’t really give much thought to his misguided ancestors, just as the priests who destroyed his city and his religion didn’t give much thought to him-other than Maat would devour him and his followers who didn’t recant in the Afterlife.

What Steve and Arden said. Here’s a link with some more details.