'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

15 September 2010


MA'AT -  Order  Balance  Harmony  Truth  Justice  Righteousness  Reciprocity

In Africa we appear to see the birth of man and also in Africa we find the earliest known philosophies that attempt to explain the universe and how to govern our lives as part of the cosmos. There we began the unfinishable journey to come to terms with  the earth and the heavens, our existence, immortality and the way to relate to one another so that we can live in peace and attain personal and spiritual satisfaction or perfection. In Ancient Egypt the great guide to goodness was embodied in Ma'at who was the daughter of and co-existed with Ra, the Sun and source of life. She came into existence at the moment of creation as the divine order of the universe, controlling the stars, the seasons and the relationship between god and man. Ma'at was the form of ethics that governed life and gave authority to the Pharaohs. So important was truth that many Pharoahs including the monotheist Akhenaton used the epithet "beloved of Ma'at' and tombs show the all important inscription 'living by Ma'at'. To have Ma'at as your guide was the only way to achieve harmony, balance and order. It was the rule which brought justice, revealed truth and was the way to attain righteousness. Live by Ma'at and all was in balance. This reciprocal nature of this first philosophy was the way to peace of the soul and peace, progress and good order of the community. The Vizier who was responsible for the courts of law and justice was called the 'Priest of Ma'at'. Ma'at personified was shown wearing a feather on her head. This feather was the guide feather of the Ostrich which kept it on course. She was also represented by the feather alone or seated upon a plinth which represented the primordial mound at the beginning of creation.

In the papyrus of the 'Last Judgement'  which took place in the hall of two truths, we see the original Scales of Justice where one's life is balanced against the ostrich feather from the head-dress of Ma'at to see if one is worthy of the afterlife. For over two thousand years Ma'at affected the lives of civilisation in ancient Egypt. It inspired Plato and even today we see the scales of blind Justice as the spirit of our system of co-existence (law).
Ma'at was aligned with and also the personification of the first hour of the twelve hour day and stood on the Barque of the Sun God which travelled the sky and the underworld. "I have seen Horus at the steering oar, Toth and Ma'at upon his arms, the front rope in the Evening Barque and the back rope in the Morning Barque."
In the Old Testament book of Proverbs (the Wisdom of Solomon), Wisdom which leads to righteousness is similarly spoken of as a woman:-1:20-22 "Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets; she crieth in the chief place of concourse. In the opening of the gates; in the city she uttereth her words, saying - How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?"
How did philosophy begin? Although there were fewer people, less science and gathering and hunting were perhaps more difficult than today, life was much the same as today for early man and consciousness no doubt made him wonder about the 'from where' and the 'why'. What he could touch, he could try to understand, but the unreachable stars that hung over all no doubt provoked contemplation. Reasons for the unexplainable are generally sought in the unknown universe and the face of God began to appear. If there was visible predictability and apparent order in the sun, the moon and the stars unlike the unpredictability and dangers of the elements on earth, would not that be where the power and the source of all things lay? The heavens must be populated with those who can control what we can not. So what were their rules. It was up to mankind to interpret what they desired. Trial and error is the path of philosophy. The beginning of scientific investigation arose as theories were deciphered and tested. There was no differentiation between what we see today as science and religion, as the essence of everything from the growth of plants, to the rising of the Nile, to death, were just beginning to be tackled. That which showed no apparent cause was in the lap of god or one of his manifestations (the gods). That which we feared was the decision of the unknown gods, both good and bad.
To me the growth of religion is logical. We seek order. Just as the construction of pyramids apparently arising almost simultaneously throughout the world, seems incredible, they are a logical and easy construction, although grand and time consuming. Even a child will build a sand-castle. Pile earth upon itself and gravity will produce such a structure. The laws of nature dictate how  we progress not only in science, but also in thought. We can eventually only arrive at truth, for all else will fail the test of time. However just as from when we are born, we change as we grow and with the passage of time, so do nations, races and religious belief develop. Time is of our own making and we each select our own pace. It would be rather dull if we were mirror images in our conformity, for nothing would challenge us and the impetus for knowledge would die. All is as it should be. Ma'at will be revealed.
  "The object of the superior man is truth."  Confucius

When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do."  William Blake

 “He abused me, he hit me, he defeated me, he looted me” – Such thoughts are given space to by man in his heart. This kind of a man cannot be liberated from malevolence. Malevolence can never be destroyed by malevolence. It can be destroyed only by love." Buddha

"The wickedness of the soul is ignorance and the virtue of the soul is knowledge." Egyptian Book of the Dead

" There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance."  Socrates

We are heading towards a better state and we seek guides, we seek enlightenment. 
The Buddha indicated the need to follow the eightfold way of -
right Views   right Intention   right Speech   right Action   right Living   right Effort   right Mindfulness   right Concentration
Throughout the history of belief and philosophy we can see the many similarities and cross fertilisation of the search for knowledge and truth in our various cultures. We are an inquisitive people and as I mentioned elsewhere truth is like a law of nature and must be eventually recognised, but I believe as we make progress we also make mistakes. It may take us centuries to realise these mistakes, but like a scientific experiment we must try and fail, add to the jigsaw of proven information, and test and re-test. We will no doubt get there one day or at least grow a little closer to understanding the mysteries of the universe and our place in it. Unfortunately that day may be a very long way off but the journey is life.
As in the past the source of what many see as truth is based in the religions of our planet. Much of this can be so, but although there is a certain observed continuity through time and across civilisations, there are also times where what was once wrong is no longer so and what was accepted is not so any more. Those who seek absolute certainty should beware. I now seem to be comfortable with some indecision as to what is truth. The older I get  and with the realisation of how my opinions can change from time to time, I tend to treat my beliefs with respectful scepticism. I am not sure I could ever say I  am firm on anything, and that I don't mind because it means I am constantly  thinking and analysing life and history and spirituality or even the need for spirituality. I am not sure I could be confident ever to say something is true or not, certainly not in the absolute. I can allow the possibilities and act according to what seems the most likely, but subject to subtle modifications which suite my needs from day to day or year to year. I think I like the state of uncertainty unlike the dogmatic certainty I often expressed in my past. Possibly this is sitting on the fence or perhaps it is a better reality. My words may be confusing, but to me they make sense, today at least. Anyway, after years of indoctrination combined with my artistic preferences I do see something special in religious vestments, ceremony, music and deference. It speaks to my soul or perhaps merely to my emotions. It is my cultural preference and nothing more. I was thinking about my  hatred for the cruelty the Churches have imposed on so many, but unless you are in a particular victim group you do not generally notice. To the masses who look not beyond their immediate lives, religious bigotry is not often observed.
Hideous ignorant hatred only sees black and white.
 For the average straight family person consideration of this misuse of believed truth does not come to mind. 
Generally within a comfort zone most would not hear or notice except for those who take heart that finger pointing supports their own narrow minded superiority and vengeful bigotry. We search for truth and justice, but mostly in our own lives and seldom do we hear the cries of others. Many want to know, but in the end I would think that love and acceptance are higher goals than mere knowledge. As so often said by the great philosophies, ignorance is evil, but it is also what we do with the knowledge we obtain that makes for the better life. A little knowledge is dangerous, as is also often said, so the more we understand the better and the more we must realise that reasonable uncertainty is healthy. We are so often told that faith is all, but faith has so many variations. Blind faith is said to be good amongst those who share the same beliefs. Faith that opposes yours is usually considered wrong. How do we know if we do not have reasons based on facts or tested ideas. It is a dangerous assumption and a complexity for the human race. Today much is described as fundamental truth, but are not these fundamentals no more than the ideas passed down from men of one particular point in the past. Simplistic and ancient is not necessarily correct and also these fundamentals are usually the modern interpretation and sometimes misrepresentation of what one assumes were the ideas of the past. Ideas that are both taken in isolation and motivated by a need to believe that "I" alone hold the truth.
I only pose the questions for I too seek the answers.
Click to see also my page on Xenophobia.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment here or in side bar or you can email me at pepispictures@gmail.com

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...