"Maat" has two meanings in the ancient Egyptian language. Maat 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 Maat'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 Maat is the standard by which we are measured.
From this role in the Judgement Hall arose the interpretation of "maat" 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.
Maat 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 maat was restored by this
ascension to the throne. The priests of every temple in Egypt would offer a representation
of Maat 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. Maat 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
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 maat 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 Maat 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