What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?
– Terry Pratchett, Going Postal.
Kylo Ren has no soul. I don’t say this because I hate his character, or because I think he’s a monster, I say this because he’s so clearly tried to destroy one key part of his soul – his name.
According to the Ancient Egyptians, the human soul came in five parts. The Ib, the Sheut, the Ba, the Ka and the Ren.
Your Ib was your heart and, like the other parts of your soul, was essential to you surviving in the afterlife. To enter the afterlife your heart was weighed against the Feather of Truth – if you failed your heart was devoured by Ammit and you were damned and destroyed for all eternity. This was why the heart was not placed into Canopic Jars but left in the body: so Anubis could weigh it against the feather and judge if you were worthy or not. Your heart, according to the Ancient Egyptians, was the very seat of your emotions, thought, will and intentions. If you sinned, it weighed on you here.
The Sheut was your shadow, the thing which proved you real and tangible in the world. Always present so long as there was light, always following the person, to the Ancient Egyptians it was obvious that it carried some part of the person it was attached to – indeed, following this same logic statues were sometimes referred to as shadows. The shadow was also not exempt from the afterlife – some people were given “shadow boxes” in which part of the Sheut was stored.
The Ba was the personality of a person, what made them them. Probably the part of the Ancient Egyptian soul easiest to equate to the modern Western perception of the soul, it was your defining character, your very self – where the Ib was intention and emotion, the Ba was the personality behind that. Indeed, the Ba was said to re-join the Ka in the afterlife –
The Ka being your vital spark, that which makes you alive. It is this which distinguishes the living from the dead – when the body, the Ha lost it’s Ka, it was dead. The Ka is your living energy and so, to live, it requires, like any living thing, food and drink. It is because of the Ka that food and drink were left by graves or buried with a Mummy – so that, even in the afterlife, the Ka could eat and drink it’s fill and not die.
All these things about the first four parts of the soul. But what about the fifth?
The Ren is the name given to you at birth. Egyptians could and would change their names – Pharaohs most notably, with Akhenaten, called Amenhotep before his name-change and Tutankhamun, born Tutankhnaten – but the name was still a sacred thing. It was even, when written or carved, protected by a Cartouche, and many Ancient Egyptians made numerous attempts to protect and preserve their names. Conversely, should someone be considered to have committed so great a crime there was no other punishment suitable, their name would be hacked off monuments and inscriptions, in a form of what the Romans would later perform, and called damnatio memoriae.
As Pratchett says – “a man is not dead while his name is still spoken”. So too did the Ancient Egyptians believe – if your name still existed somewhere, if it could still be read and understood and spoken… you would live. Provided the other efforts to preserve your soul, your Ba and Ka, your Ib and Sheut and, in the realm of the living, your Ren you could survive in the afterlife for ages upon ages.
Kylo Ren has shed his name. His name is not even entirely a name – he is a Knight of Ren, a Knight of the Name, and what passes for his name now reflects that. He may have his Ba and Ka, he is certainly a creature of his own Sheut, but his Ib… has been shaped and moulded into something else and is weighed down by sins.
And his Ren, his name… is gone. He is just another name bound into Snoke’s service, made to shed a part of himself, a part of his soul.
Kylo Ren has no soul. Not because he’s a monster, but because he has sacrificed his name in Snoke’s service. He is a Knight of Ren, a Knight of Name.
Perhaps, a Knight in name only. Will he take on his old name? Will he take on a new name entirely? I don’t know.
But Kylo has no Ren.