On Ma'at
Balance, Order, Righteousness, Justice, Harmony, Truth, and Reciprocity
- The Seven Principles of Ma'at  
Personified as a beautiful African woman crowned with a simple upright ostrich feather, the earliest
writings on Ma'at appear around 2400 b.c.e.  These 4,400 year-old inscriptions describe Ma'at as the
one who was not with Ra before the beginning of all things. Ma'at presents herself at the time of
creation with the Eye of Heru (the Udjat) when it is sent out by Ra to set order in the disordered
places (the Island of Fire).  It would seem that Ma'at is the divine order of wisdom (Udjat) which is
created by Ra as a manifestation of this supreme power in the created world. For this reason, stories
of the "creation" of Ma'at do not exist.  It is possible that other even more erudite descriptions of
Ma'atian philosophy were authored during the Old Kingdom, however, they have either not yet been
re-discovered or have been lost to antiquity.

The Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom provide some of the clearest descriptions of Ma'at.  At the
very moment of creation, the primordial waters speak to Ra.  They tell him to "breathe Ma'at" so that
his "heart may live".  In fact, each Nsw Biti (often misnamed Pharaoh) is obligated to restore Ma'at in
order to ensure the unceasing process of alignment with the forces which under gird our physical
world.  While the ancient mind was comfortable with this metaphysical undercurrent, contemporary
scientific findings also support this thinking.

The scientific world is replete with examples of a metaphysical order.  Just think of all of the bodily
processes which occur outside of our own will (digestion, circulation, healing, etc.) or the fact that
organic growth is often governed by a equation (Fibonacci sequence), or that the movement of
celestial bodies has an effect of the female menstrual cycle.  There seems to be a set of laws that
govern our existence.

New Kingdom texts such as the Heru Em Pert Em Heru Em Kher or the Book of Coming Forth to Day
from Night (misnamed the Book of the Dead) provide us with a description of the importance of the
individual commitment to Ma'at.  The state of not living in Ma'at, or isfet, has dire consequences.  The
paintings on the Papyrus of Ani display the deceased being led before the scales of Ma'at by the
Neter Anpu for his final judgement.  As his ab (heart) is weighed against the feather of Ma'at; it must
be lighter in order for him to enter the Hall of the Ma'ati (doubly righteous).  If heavier, his soul is
devoured by Amut, and he will cease to exist.  If his ab is equal in weight, his fate would be in the
hands of the Neteru.  In a precursor to the modern Western jury, these Neteru "vote" by raising their
ankhs (see top of image below) to signal his justified soul.  Justified, Ani is then presented to Ausar,
Lord of the Afterlife, by his son, Heru (the symbol of divine rulership on earth).  

In addition to underscoring the importance of Ma'at, the Heru Em Pert Em Heru Em Kher also provides
us with a helpful set of 42 "Negative Declarations".  These "laws" not only seem to be a predecessor
of the 8 of the Christian Bible's 10 commandments, but they are a comprehensive description of one
of the world's earliest ethical codes.  They form the basis of the primary teachings of the Center for
the Restoration of Ma'at.  Listed below, they are edited from "The Book of the Dead" by E.A. Wallis
Budge.
Ma'at, The Neter
(Personified Divine
Force)
The 42 Negative Declarations of Ma'at
The Final Judgement of Ani
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1.
Not have I done wrong.
22.
Not have I polluted myself.
2.
Not have I despoiled.
23.
Not have I caused terror.
3.
Not have I robbed.
24.
Not have I committed offense
4.
Not have I slain men: twice.
25.
Not have I inflamed myself with rage.
5.
Not have I defrauded the offerings.
26.
Not have I made deaf myself to the words
of right and truth.
6.
Not have I diminished [oblations].
27.
Not have I caused grief.
7.
Not have I despoiled the things of the god.
28.
Not have I acted insolently.
8.
Not have I spoken lies.
29.
Not have I stirred up strife.
9.
Not have I carried off food.
30.
Not have I judged hastily.
10.
Not have I afflicted [any]
31.
Not have I been an eavesdropper.
11.
Not have I committed fornication.
32.
Not have I multiplied my words upon words.
12.
Not have I made to weep.
33.
Not have I harmed, not have I done evil.
13.
Not have I eaten my heart.
34.
Not have I made curses of the king.
14.
Not have I transgressed.
35.
Not have I fouled water.
15.
Not have I acted deceitfully.
36.
Not have I made haughty my voice.
16.
Not have I desolated ploughed lands.
37.
Not have I have I cursed God.
17.
Not have I been an eavesdropper.
38.
Not have I committed theft.
18.
Not have I set my mouth in motion [against any
man].
39.
Not have I defrauded the offerings of the gods.
19.
Not have I raged except with a cause.
40.
Not have I carried away offerings from
the beatified ones.
20.
Not have I defiled the wife of a man.
41.
Not have I carried off the food of the infant,      
not have I sinned against the god of the town.
21.
Not have I defiled the husband of a woman.
42.
Not have I slaughtered the cattle divine.