How to Learn and Live the Principles of Maat

Maat is the ancient art of ethical conduct, righteous living and truth. And those who practice the principles of Maat in their everyday lives learn to think and act with honesty, integrity, and truthfulness to promote positive self development which will translate into becoming reliable and responsible leaders and members of society.

According to Kemetic Spirituality, cosmic order is maintained by Maat who is often represented as a goddess with a feather held to the side of her head by a bandana.  She is sometimes depicted with wings, a Papyrus scepter in one hand and holding an ankh –  the symbol of life –  in the other.

How to Learn and Live the Principles of Maat

Maat existed before Atum (God) itself, and because she is the custodian of cosmic order, everything – even the other Gods of Egypt – fall under her authority.

So if the principles of Maat can bring order to the universe, they can bring order to your life as well. Those who walk the path of Maat find spiritual awakening through balance, righteous living, and selfless service to humanity.

Thus, understanding Maat philosophy and practicing its principles daily should be goals that every student of African spirituality should embrace.

What is Maat Philosophy?

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Maat Philosophy is a Kemetic (Kemet is the proper name for Ancient Egypt) system of thought that gives the student insight into the nature of reality and existence. And with that insight, the student is able to understand every aspect of existence – from the birth of the universe to human death and the afterlife – while separating truth from illusion.

When the mind is trained to follow Maat, the impurities that cause ignorance are removed. And when the ignorance of the mind is replaced by the wisdom of Maat,  the heart, mind, and soul of the student becomes one with the Divine. At that point, there is no longer a need to practice and memorize the principles of Maat, because the student becomes Maat. 

According to Muata Ashby, the principles of Maat may be summed up in the following proverbs:

  1.  self-knowledge is the basis of true knowledge
  2.  soul to Heaven, body to Earth
  3.  become Godlike through a life of virtue and the cultivation of the spirit through scientific knowledge, practice and bodily discipline
  4.  salvation is accomplished through the efforts of the individual. There is no mediator between a person and his or her salvation.
  5.  Salvation is the freeing of the soul from its bodily ‘fetters’, becoming a God through knowledge and wisdom, controlling the forces of the cosmos instead of being a slave to them, and, ending the cycle of rebirth and dwelling with the Neters (the Kemetic word for Divine Forces) who directed control the great plan.

The 2 Most Important Concepts in Kemetic Spirituality

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Two of the most important aspects of nature and creation are the concepts of Duality and the Trinity. By understanding these two concepts, the student of African Spirituality gains a knowledge of how everything is brought into existence and how balance is maintained.

One can draw many parallels and analogies from these two concepts that apply to our everyday lives in this mortal existence. 

Duality in Kemetic science is the understanding that nothing in the universe – not even the universe itself – exists by itself. Everything is part of a pair – a relationship that brings balance to both sides.

We see these balanced relationships everywhere we look. Maat (truth, justice, balance and order) is complimented by Isfet (injustice, chaos, violence, and lies). Ausar – the archetypal man – is complimented by his wife Aset. The sun is complimented by the moon. Muata Asby writes:

From the one pure Consciousness of God comes the other two – male and female – so now there can be interaction between the three, which I really [separate parts of the same entity]. This principle of Duality between male and female is present throughout all manifestations in the phenomenal world of nature and that includes the human body. In each of us there is a male and female aspect of consciousness. 

While understanding duality helps us understand how nature is balanced, understanding the Trinity helps us understand the nature of God itself. In Kemetic spirituality, students are taught that ‘out of the one come the two’. In other words, out of the one creator (called Atum), come the masculine (Shu) and the feminine (Tefnut).

The Divine is the source of the three worlds: the physical world, the astral world, and the causal realm that is filed with potential realities.

The Trinity is represented in human consciousness as well. We all possess a conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind. And even though you consider yourself to be an individual, you are in reality just one part of a Triad that is made up of  a perceiver (which is the real you), that which is being perceived (the object) and the act of perception itself which occurs through the mind and senses.

If you want to experience this for yourself, observe your thoughts as you meditate. You will see that there is a difference between the real you and the thoughts that come and go. This is how you can come to know the nature of reality for yourself.

Our Ancestors expressed the importance of the Trinity through the most powerful symbol of authority: the crown.

Dr. Muata Ashby teaches us that the Red Crown of Lower Egypt represents the female principle. The white crown of Upper Egypt represents the male principle. And when the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt are combined, they represent the male principal going into the female – symbolizing unity balance and transcendence of duality.

In short, the crown of Kemet signifies the attainment of transcendental Consciousness as well as rulership of the higher nature over the lower.  

Without the balance and stability created by duality and the Trinity, the universe would cease to exist. There would be no life or death. No darkness or light. No creation and no destruction.

Just the waters of the deep from which all things began, but without the potential to create or destroy anything at all.

What does all this mean for the student of Maat? It means that in everything you do, you must be an agent of balance. You must live your life in a way that brings order to your life and to the world around you. You must respect the importance – and the destructive power – that your actions have in the universe and strive to live righteously lest you bring destruction to yourself and those around you.

Right Knowledge Leads To Right Action

Maat Philosophy is based on the concept of actions, and right actions are the result of right knowledge.

Actions are called ari, and it translates as deeds that follow one.

Our Ancestors taught that one’s actions leave impressions on the unconscious mind and these impressions guide us into certain situations. If a person is in alignment with Maat, then their actions will produce positive results that live long after they do. However, if a person performs actions to feed their lower selves, then their actions lead to disappointment, failure, and ‘living death’.

You likely know someone who lives only to feed their desires. They drink alcohol, smoke weed, masturbate, and entertain themselves day in and day out. The more they feed into their lower selves, the less human they seem to become. They struggle to build relationships, and the work they produce is poor at best. They live only to please their lower self, and become a ‘living dead’ person in the process. This is the cost of living in isfet rather than embracing the principles of Maat.

Action of any type will always lead to some result. However, this result is not as predictable as people have come to believe in reality, the only thing that human being can control is the action itself and not the fruits of the action.

If there is concentration on the action without desire or expectation of the fruits of the action, then there can be peace and contentment even while the action is being performed. And when desires and expectations in the mind are resolved the mind becomes calm and peaceful.

When an enlightened person performs actions, they are not doing so to become happy as a result, but because it is righteous action that they are being guided to  by their connection to the divine.

Under these circumstances the follower of Maat is free from emotional highs and lows because his or her pleasure is coming from the present action in the present moment and is not based on memories of the past.

How Yoga Aligns With The Principles of Maat

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 Dr. Muata Ashby teaches us that yoga is ‘any process which helps one to achieve liberation or freedom from the bondage to human pain and spiritual ignorance.’

So whenever you engage in any activity with the goal of promoting the discovery of your true self – be it studying the wisdom teachings, exercise, fasting, meditation, breath control, rituals, chanting, or prayer, you are practicing yoga.

Egyptian mythology, when understood as a system of yoga is called smai tawi, which translates as the union of the individual soul with the universal soul. Our Ancestors taught us that the practice of smai tawi has the power to give every individual first-hand knowledge into their own divine nature and also a deeper insight into religion itself.

According to Introduction to Maat Philosophy, The disciplines of yoga fall under five major categories. These are:

  1. yoga of wisdom
  2. yoga of devotional love
  3. yoga of meditation
  4. tantric yoga,
  5. and yoga of selfless action.

For more on these forms, read The 5 Hidden Teachings Of Kemetic Yoga Every Initiate Should Know.

The important point to remember is that all aspects of yoga can and should be used in an integral fashion to effect an efficient and harmonized spiritual movement in the practitioner.

 Its also important to remember that Yoga isn’t either a religion or a philosophy. It should be thought of more as a way of life or discipline for promoting greater fullness and experience of life.

The goal of yoga is to promote integration of the mind – body – spirit complex in order to produce optimal health.

Thus, the student of African Spirituality is encouraged to practice yoga daily as a means of embodying the principles of Maat.

Gaining Enlightenment Through The Principles of Maat

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In order to gain Divine knowledge through the principles of Maat, it is not enough to just study the teachings and mindlessly perform rituals. Dr Muata Ashby teaches us that we should ‘look beyond the level of ritual worship of the Divine to the realm of practice and experience of the Divine.’

In other words, we should strive to experience Maat for ourselves. And this can only be accomplished by developing virtue.

Virtue can be defined as behavior showing high moral standards that are not influenced by emotions. Our feelings, emotions, and passions are good servants but poor Masters.

And these emotions can often lead us to sinful behavior. When we are angry, we lash out. When we are sad, we harm ourselves. When we are happy, we become addicted to chasing pleasure.

But when we cultivate virtue and are no longer ruled by our emotions, sinful behavior will not be possible even if there is an opportunity for it. Our sinful nature is tied up in the same way that Set – who represents our lower selves – is tied up by Heru – the Son of Ausar who represents enlightenment.

Enlightenment is the term used to describe the highest level of Spiritual Awakening. It means attaining such a level of spiritual awareness that one discovers the underlying unity of the entire universe as well as the fact that the source of all creation is the same source that connects our soul to the Divine.

True happiness is defined as an experience of the state of Enlightenment, whereby one experiences balance all the time, in all conditions and under all circumstances.

This means that true happiness is a state of being one with Maat.

Practicing The Principles of Maat In Life and Death

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 You are the creator of your destiny. Since God is your intrinsic reality, there is no one to look to for redemption other than yourself. – Muata Ashby

With all that we have written about the principles of Maat, the question then becomes how do we practice these principles? The answer is by living our daily lives in ways that serve the Divine order of the cosmos.

Dr. Ashby teaches us that ‘Maat  comes to a person in the form of human beings in need, so as to give the aspirant and opportunity to grow spiritually through selfless service.’ To be successful in selfless service, the aspirant must be able to sublimate the ego by developing patience, dealing with difficult personalities without developing resentment, and not taking attacks personally as well as developing a keen understanding of human nature and human needs.

 Again, the point of right action and selfless service is not to gain anything.  One does not perform an action and then wait for a response or praise.In fact, one does not even develop the expectation that ones efforts will succeed, because there may be failure in what one is trying to accomplish.

With this wisdom you need to develop a feeling of contentment within yourself and to avoid useless and negative expectations. People expect things out of life, not realizing that the world is not setup to pamper anyone’s ego. You may expect things and work for things out of life but knowing that the Divine will grant you what you need just as a good parent provides what a child needs.

Surrender your egoistic will and your egoistic desires to the will of the Divine self. When you do so you will realize that the tension, anxiety and stress you create by pressuring yourself is useless and destructive because it leads you away from inner peace and didn’t allow you to have the clarity of mind to see the way out of your situation.

As we go through our lives, we also carefully avoid letting our anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, discontent, covetousness, happiness, stress, or ecstasy influence our behavior.

Of course, there are times when we will fail but that does not make us failures or sinners. In fact,  there is no real badness in the truest part of you, the deepest part of you. Your soul in reality is pure.

You are a child of the universe and when you tread the path of spiritual aspiration, even though it may be difficult at times, you will be provided for. This is a spiritual law

Unrighteousness of the past can be counteracted with correctness and righteousness of the present. With each new day comes a new opportunity to re-balance the scales by walking the path of truth and peace.

Above all else, the principles of Maat teach that you and you alone are responsible for your actions. Even if you feel that you were treated unfairly or provoked into action, how you respond is what you will be judged on.

You will notice that every single Declaration of Maat emphasizes the word ‘I’. Our Ancestors understood that you assume responsibility for your actions, thoughts, words and feelings. If you constantly blame your  adversities on others or on situations, you will be living life according to ignorance and weakness.

True spiritual strength comes from leaning upon the self within for spiritual support and well-being rather than upon external situations, people or objects. – Introduction to Maat Philosophy

How we live also determines what happens to us after we leave our physical forms. In the Ancient Egyptian system there is no death, only a transformation based on one’s actions, thoughts and innermost Consciousness while living in the physical world.

If you have lived a balanced life of MAAT then you will not have the possibility of experiencing Heaven or Hell. Rather you will retain presence of mind and will become one with Atum and you will experience timelessness and boundlessness with the eyes of God.

But for those who embrace isfet and live to serve their lower selves, the soul will experience torment from the negative energies that they have unleashed in the world. Their actions will come back to haunt them and they will be punished by self-torment, regret, and anguish.

They become their own demons and their own Satan. Even worse, if they are so attached to worldly pleasures, they are punished by reincarnation until they finally learn to live according to the teachings.

The most important thing to remember now is that your present effort can overcome any and all of your past negativity if you apply yourself with earnestness and resolved to become fully established in virtue.

This means that you must decide to dedicate your life to discovering and facing all shades of vice and negativity within you and in doing so, never fall back into the pits of ignorance which will lead to pain and sorrow.

Through the deeper understanding of cosmic order and by the practice of living in harmony with that order, the individual will lead him or herself to mental and spiritual peace and harmony.

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