The Complex Concept of Maat in Kemetic Philosophy
Notes from a lecture by Theophile Obenga
The Meaning of Maat:
The word MAAT, in Pharonic languages translates to mean, Truth, Justice, Righteousness, Balance and Order. It's opposite being "Isfet", which means, lacking in justice; out of balance, disorder, etc.
The socio-historical setting of MAAT reaches back to pre-dynastic Kemet from 4000 BCE-3500 BCE, at the time when the Egyptian state was established out of 2 kingdoms- Upper and Lower Egypt- in 2 successive unions. This was during the time of King Mena's conquest of Lower Egypt and its uniting with Upper Egypt.
Now there are 5 realities and 5 Dimensions of MAAT:
1. Religions The Religions are Sacred
2. Cosmic Cosmos
3. Political State
4. Social Society
5. Anthropological Man
MAAT in Its' Religious Dimension:
When MAAT concerns God in a religious dimension, you are dealing with Theology. Because theology is the science of the study of God.
MAAT as it pertains to the Cosmos:
MAAT is in direct coexistence with the SUN, STARS, MOON etc., as a cosmic phenomena, which also has a religious dimension. Meaning that the SUN/STARS, have a religious aspect.
The political/cosmos dimension of MAAT:
The political, being the state, or the nation of Kemet, also has a religious dimension. An example of this would be the Pharaonic institution. This is why the Pharaoh was called "Sa-Ra (The son-0f-the-Sun)." Which is why the state in ancient Kmt was divine.
Religious Dimension of MAAT:
Meant that the society had to have a religious imperative in order to have social order. Meaning, they had a religious dimension to social order.
In Dealing with MAN
This was considered Religious Anthropology: which in many ways is a New Science. Because you not only have Anthropology, but "Religious Anthropology." Because man had to learn to deal with MAAT in a religious dimension, as MAN. (i.e. in Kmt they believed that Man had many souls, Ka, Ba and so on. And that those souls were what made up his spirit. a) MAAT in dealing with the Sacred or God, had a Cosmic aspect also. Also known as the "Cosmic Dimension of God."
The Cosmic Dimension of MAAT or the Cosmos of MAAT, is the study of Cosmology.
Cosmology: includes astronomy, physics, math, etc. This was important because in order to understand nature, the world universe, the cosmos, -you had to understand first the above sciences. So MAAT was also the "Study of Global Sciences."
MAAT In The Cosmic-Dimension of The State:
Even the royalty if Pharaonic times had a cosmic dimension. Not only a Religious dimension, but the entire universe. So Pharaoh was not only the ruler of the state, but was responsible for the entire universe. Because the state belongs to MAAT. So Royalty was also cosmic. Society also had its own cosmic dimension as a result of MAAT, along with the religious dimension. And with this understanding, it brings to MAN Immortality and the cosmic light. In KMT, they believed that man did not die, but that you become a part of the Cosmic-Dimension of the universe when you past on. That was the meaning of immortality in ancient Egypt. That you belong to the cosmic-dimension of the universe.
The Political Dimension Of The Cosmos
Is the SUN-Political dimension of the state dealing with MAN is know as the study of Political Science. The states Political dimension of MAAT was called the "JA-TI", which was the administration. Which was presided over by the king himself, who was the chief administrator of the state or country. He was in charge of the management of the state, i.e., the Nile, the resources and the distribution of the resources. The society in its political dimension as far as MAAT is concerned, was not only religious, or political, but also cosmic. As far as MAN and his political dimension, he must totally depend on the State. There was no such thing as revolution in Ancient KMT. For to be against the State, is to be against the divine. So one must obey the state. No revolution, no violence, etc., because this leads to disharmony, disorder, and hence the breakdown of MAAT. There was no aggressiveness because this destroys the divine order, the political order, the religious order and the cosmic order.
With MAAT the Gods even had a Social Dimension
Ethics, morals, values, are mandated by the Gods. This is the social dimension of God as far as MAAT is concerned. That the values are guaranteed by Gods in the social dimension. In other words, you can't acquire values or morals just-like-that. It had to come from God who was also involved in the society. Which in turn affected the behavior of man.
The Social Dimension of the Cosmic Process is the Action. All actions have a Cosmic Dimension.
In the social dimension of politics, the Pharaoh in dealing with MAAT, must protect the country. So when he went to war, it wasn't to conquer other lands, but to repel others away from the state who knew nothing about MAAT. It was not to colonize. It was to protect the country against chaos. So they had to accomplish the will of MAAT by protecting the country.
The Society as the Social Dimension of MAAT (also known as Sociology).
MAN in his social dimension, as far as MAAT is concerned, has to have a sense of community in the form of solidarity. Integration harmony, all had to be done by the order of MAAT. Your responsible for your community.
Anthropological Dimension of the MAAT of God; as it pertains to Man
In KMT, they believed that you can't know God. The Anthropological dimension of God as seen by the ancient Kemetic was through Anthropomorphism- Their view of God was anthropomorphic. In other words, you give to the Gods your own form. All Gods were anthropomorphic. Meaning that you create God in your own image. This is the anthropological dimension of MAAT as far as the sacred is concerned.
The Anthropological Dimension of The Cosmos as it pertains to MAAT:
The ancients of KMT said that death, life, old age, etc., are cosmic phenomena. It is a part of the cosmic process. This is why they didn't fear death. They believed that when you died, you became a part of the cosmic process of integration.
The Anthropological Dimension of MAAT as it relates to the State
The state provides all aspects of life to MAN. Even in death. For ex. The state was in charge of entombment.
Anthropological Dimension of Society as far as MAAT is concerned:
is social memory, consciousness. Meaning you must know your parents, mother's family, father's family-your ancestors. This was very important for MAAT. You must have cultural memory. To have this is to link you to MAAT. There can be no MAAT without it. You must have knowledge of your values, your art, your language, your culture etc. This is why the Anthropological dimension of MAN is really a new science. Because of MAAT. So there are many sciences involved with the implementation of MAAT. Sociology of MAAT, The Theology of MAAT, Cosmology of MAAT, etc.
MAATIAN Dimension of Beauty:
Beauty was also worshipped under MAAT, which they called "Neferu". The arts, architecture, crafts, etc. had to be beautiful in ancient KMT because of MAAT.
There was also the MAATIAN Dimension in Medicine and Healing
Where they used herbs in pharmacology. But the herbs had to have a Cosmic Dimension before they could be used to heal. In other words; they selection of certain herbs is based on the position of the sun, or the moon at a certain time of day. Or when the "Star Sirius" is at a certain point in the sky. Or the picking of herbs at a certain time of day or night. This is MAATS Cosmic Dimension of pharmacology. There is also the Social Dimension to Healing. Certain prayers or hymns or giving libation to the ancestors in the form of good speech in asking for help in healing, was used to cure the sick.
The Symbol of MAAT is the Feather
Because MAAT is very light, but can be very heavy because of the things we just mentioned above. MAAT is balance, both light and heavy. Social MAAT: to practice social MAAT is to have active solidarity, reciprocity. Taking care of one another. Also community solidarity.
MAAT in The Goal of Education in Ancient KMT:
The first process of MAAT in education was that man must learn how to listen first. They called it "OMO". And when you do speak, your voice must be "just". Which they called, speak with (MA-ERU)
MAAT in the Role of The Pharaoh
His definition was the (chief-0f-action) In charge of all provisions allocated to the divine power (of God). To protect and secure the county. This was the Pharaohs job.
So you can see, MAAT can be used to explain everything. The worship of God, the political, sociological, anthropological, the cosmic and the religious aspects of man. It is through MAAT that we can transform ourselves, to rebuild a new African World Order. Let us walk with MAAT in our lives for the creation of a new vision, a new hope, a new world and a new spiritual dimension for all African people.
Copyright Richard Fields
The Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations presents