Wab, Hm-Ntr, and Hm-Ka

Egypt-HieroglyphsA couple years ago I was reading up on Egyptian hieroglyphics just for fun. Okay, so it was just one book, and I’m in no way qualified to write anything about hieroglyphics, but I’m not going to let that stop me! :)

The book I was studying from identified three different Egyptian words for priest: wab, hm-ntr, and hm-ka. They kind of translate to pure-person, god-person, and spirit-person, respectively.

The book didn’t go into any detail about the relative roles of the three, but the names got my imagination rolling. In modern America, I suppose that our archetypal image of a priest is some combination of these — a pure person who communicates with God and has an understanding of the spiritual nature of things. However, I think that in particular belief systems, one of these aspects is usually dominant over the others.

In non-evangelical Protestant Christianity, it seems that the priest is closest to the “wab”, or pure-person. He is a pastor, an upstanding, moral individual who guides his flock with encouragement and example. He’s not necessarily personally acquanted with God or the spirit world, like the hm-ntr and hm-ka, but he does study about these things from the scriptures and tries to relay them to his congregation.

The Restoration movement, both within the LDS church and in other “spiritual gifts” movements, like Quakerism and Pentacostalism, claimed that man could, in fact, know God for himself. The hm-ntr-style priests (or prophets, as is perhaps more accurate) sought direct revelation beyond the words of the scriptures. Joseph Smith, of course, falls squarely here, as he often contrasted himself against the wab-style priests of his day, with their sanctimony and righteousness.

The hm-ka, or spirit-person, seems to be represented best in the new spirituality-without-organized-religion movement. Gurus, shamans, and neo-pagan priestesses all act in this role of spirit-guide.

I think it’s interesting to look at the American mainstream sequence from wab to hm-ntr to hm-ka, and to see how it plays out in the LDS church specifically. As the church has moved toward emphasizing its conventional Christian-ness, our priesthood function seems to have moved from hm-ntr to wab, at least in public appearance.

So as you consider your own relationship to God, would you classify yourself as a wab, hm-ntr, or hm-ka?

6 comments for “Wab, Hm-Ntr, and Hm-Ka

  1. I guess I think of myself as a hm-ntr sort of person. I feel like I’ve been really lucky and blessed to have had clear directives– like hearing Him speak to me — from Heavenly Father at various points in my life. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s happened enough to self-define me as a person who would “know God for him(her)self”

  2. If those are my only choices I’d have to go with HM-NTR with some very strong periods of Wab…

  3. Interesting ideas. You should expound on these Dane. If anything the future of LDS studies, I think, is rooted in comparative religion.

  4. Excellent piece, Dane – you have given me and all your readers much to think about.

    I am a bit uncomfortable to place myself in any group, but, since you asked, I would say the later.

    Despite all my good Mormon upbringing, I have a great skepticism about God and who God really is. I don’t think any of the churches, including the one that raised you and me, comprehend or envision God very well at all.

    I wonder about the spiritual, and about spirits, yet I often seem to feel spiritual presences and signs that seem to strike beyond the probabilities of coincidence that these spiritual presences are real have become too many and too frequent to outright dismiss as such.

    So, knowing nothing about any of this but still feeling, I go for hm-ka.

  5. Thanks Brad. If I had an extra me, he would be studying dead languages. I’d love to learn enough from the words of those ancient people to get a picture of what their world was like. Did the Egyptian kids play ball in the street on warm summer evenings? What did Babylonians eat for breakfast?

    Between Bill, meems, and Jax, it looks like we’ve got our three bases covered. As for myself…I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it some more.

  6. Bill, Like you, I was raised by types 1 or 2. I don’t think you (or me) is a #3(?)
    In getting my degree in Anthropology, I had the luck of spending some talking time with Carlos Castaneda who was just finishing up his Phd paper on “The Teachings of Don Juan” at UCLA. Don Juan was clearly a #3. A hm-ka, Yaqui shaman, and seer.Don Juan was able to go to separate realities. There is a great write-up on Castaneda in Wikipdia, with a photo of him as I knew him.

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