Whether I live or die I am Osiris,
I enter in and reappear through you,
I decay in you, I grow in you,
I fall down in you, I fall upon my side.
The gods are living in me for I live and grow in the
corn that sustains the Honoured Ones. I cover the earth,
whether I live or die I am Barley, I am not destroyed.
I have entered the Order (Ma’at), I rely upon the Order,
I become the Master of the Order, I emerge in the Order,
I make my form distinct . . .
“Ma’at” has two meanings in the ancient Egyptian language. Ma’at is first the goddess of justice and truth, who gave meaning to the world and bestowed order upon the chaos of creation in the First Times. She governs the movement of the stars, the rising and setting of the sun, the inundation and retreat of the Nile, and the laws underlying all of nature. In the Judgement Hall of the Tuat, the heart of the deceased is weighed against Ma’at’s feather, which represents truth. If the heart is found to be free from the weight of sin, the deceased joins the company of the gods; otherwise, the soul is devoured and destroyed. Thus Ma’at is the standard by which we are measured.
From this role in the Judgement Hall arose the interpretation of “ma’at” as a systemized spiritual ideal. The order she represents was apparent everywhere in the world around her faithful worshippers. It was observed in the orderly motion and interaction of the heavenly bodies and reflected in the natural laws at work on the earth. It was deemed necessary to act in accordance with universal law and to understand one’s place in the natural order to ensure the soul’s position among the stars above.
Ma’at is the underlying current that connects all things in an intricately woven network. Each nexus is the balance of the lines of force that pass through it. It was considered essential to live according to the principles of balance and justice so as not to disturb the very fabric of creation. The ultimate will of the gods is that order is to prevail.
Each pharaoh on his or her coronation day would proclaim that ma’at was restored by this ascension to the throne. The priests of every temple in Egypt would offer a representation of Ma’at to the presiding god in the temple’s shrine each evening, to symbolize their conviction that the day’s work of worship and guidance was in accord with the universal order. Ma’at is the reason that things are, and the means by which they continue to exist. It is the voice of divine imperative that at once reigns over this world and promises just reward in the next.
We hear echoes of this voice resounding through the philosophical and metaphysical constructs of all times and nations: the Christian prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”; the Muslim concept of “shari’a”, or submission to the will of god; the familiar edict of Western occultism, “as above, so below”; and scores of other observations on the interaction of the divine and the earthly.
What is most striking about the systemization of ma’at is that it found root in such ancient soil. The Egyptian culture was epochs ahead of its contemporaries, and its wisdom embodied concepts that the rest of the world would have to wait centuries to cultivate.
It is clear from archaeological evidence that the goddess Ma’at was worshipped in Egypt from the earliest dynasties to well beyond the Greek and Roman invasions. It is clear from the depth and sophistication of the Egyptian culture, and the richness of the dreams that it inspires in us, that the philosophical maat persisted and flourished as well.
*This information was originally provided in part by Wikipedia.