Excerpt from "The Western Lands" by William Burroughs
The ancient Egyptians postulated seven souls, Top soul, and the first to
leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to
my Director, He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The
Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that's where Ren came in.
Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power,
Light The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons.
Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she, or it is third man out . . .
depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and
head of light. Sort of thing you might see on a screen in an Indian restaurant
in Panama. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his
defense- but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go
beck to Heaven for another vessel.
The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the
Land of the Dead. Number four is Ba, the heart, often treacherous. This is a
hawk's body with your face on it, shrunk down to the size of a fist. Many a
hero has been brought down, like Samson, by a perfidious Ba.
Number five is Ka, the Double, most closely associated with the subject. The
Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the
only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead to the western Lands.
Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning
from this and other lives.
Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains.
I first encountered this concept in Norman Mailer's, Ancient Evenings, and
saw that it corresponded precisely with my own mythology, developed over a
period of many years, since birth in fact.
Ren, the Director, the Secret Name, is your life story, your destiny-in one
word or one sentence, what was your life about? Nixon: Watergate. Billy the
Kid: Quien es?
And what is the Ren of the Director?
Actors frantically packing in thousands of furnished rooms and theatrical
hotels: "Don't bother with all that junk, John. The Director is on stage! And
you know what that means in show biz: every man for himself."
Sekem corresponds to my Technician: ,Lights. Action. Camera. ' "Look, boss,
we don't got enough Sek to fry an elderly woman in a fleabag hotel fire. And
yoa want s hurricane?" "Well, Joe, we'll just have to start faking it"
"Fucking moguls don't even know what buttons to push or what happens
when you push them. Sure; start faking it and leave the details to Joe."
Look, from a real disaster you get a pig of Sek: sacrifice, tears, heartbreak,
heroism and violent death. Always remember, one case of VD yields more
Sek than a cancer ward. And you get the lowest acts of which humans are
capable-remember the Italian steward who put on women's clothes and so
filched a seat in a lifeboat? "A cur in human shape, certainly he was born and
saved to set a new standard by which to judge infamy and shame." With a
Sek surplus you can underwrite the next one, but if the first one's a fake you
can't underwrite a shithouse. Sekem is second man out: 'No power left in this
set" He drinks a bicarbonate of soda and disappears in a belch.
Lots of people don't have a Khu these days. No Khu would work for them.
Mafioso Don: "Get offa me, Khu crumb! Worka for a living!"
Ba, the Heart: that's sex. Always treacherous. Suck all the Sek out of a man.
Many Bas, have poison juices.
The Ka is about the only soul a man can trust. If you don't make it, he don't
make it. But it is very difficult to contact your real Ka.
Sekhu is the physical body, and the planet is mostly populated with walking
Sekhus, just enough Sek to keep them moving.
The Venusian invasion is a takeover of the souls. Ren is degraded by
Hollywood down to John Wayne levels. Sekem works for the Company. The
Khus are all transparent fakes. The Bas is rotten with AIDS. The Ka is
paralyzed. Khaibit sits on yon like a nagging wife. Sekhu is poisoned with
radiation and contaminants and cancer.
There is intrigue among the souls, and treachery. No worse fate can befall a
man than to be surrounded by traitor souls. And what about Mr. Eight-Ball,
who has these souls? They don't exist without him, and he gets the dirty end
of every stick.
Eights of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your dirty rotten
vampires: A hundred years ago there were rat-killing .dogs known as
Â«Fancies." A man bet on his "Fancy," how many rata he would kill. The rats
were confined in a circular arena too high for a rat to jump over. But they
formed pyramids, so that the top rats could escape. Sekhu is bottom rat in
the pyramid. Like the vital bottom integer in a serial, when that goes, the
whole serial universe gone up in smoke. It never existed.
Angelic boys who walk on water, sweet inhuman voices from a distant star.
The Khu, sweet -bird of night, with luminous wings and a head of light, flies
across the full moon . . . a born-again redneck raise's his shotgun. . . .
The Egyptians recognized many degrees of immortality. The Ren and the
Sekem and the Khu are relatively immortal, but still subject to injury. The
other souls who survive physical death are much more precariously situated.
Can any soul survive the searing fireball of an atomic blast? If humans and
animal souls are seen as electromagnetic force fields, such fields could be
totally disrupted by a nuclear explosion. The mummy's 'nightmare:
disintegration of souls, and this is precisely the ultrasecret and
supersensitive function of the atom bomb: a Soul Killer, to alleviate an
escalating soul glut.