On Truth and Ma’at

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A couple days ago, I wrote a piece talking about personal ma’at, in reference to being overworked. And today, I want to continue talking about personal Ma’at. Specifically, I want to talk about truth, and how it effects Ma’at.

Strictly speaking, Ma’at is truth. Ma’at literally means truth. And that makes sense to me, because it’s hard to build anything (relationships, careers, whatever) when the foundation is made up of lies. Truth is a super simple concept, too- it’s that which is, as opposed to that which isn’t.

…And by that logic, to properly work with Ma’at, one would always tell the truth.

I tell lies. I tell them by accident (when I don’t know something is, or I think that something isn’t, doesn’t exist). I tell them on purpose too, though. And technically, if Ma’at is truth, and lying is not truth, that implies that a lie is likely isfet. (assuming that every action is either Ma’at or isfet. Which I’m not sure is the case.)

And on that note, I would say that most lies are isfet. Because lies are used to tell a person that which isn’t; they’re used to mislead, and that in itself is wrong.

But… I guess what I’m wondering is if it’s always isfet to lie?

My first answer is no. There are some situations (from the dire and drastic to the mundane and still drastic) that would cause a person undue harm if they told the truth about who they were or what they were doing. So in this case, for instance, a homosexual in the nineteen fifties wouldn’t be doing isfet if they lied about being a homosexual.

My second answer, though, on thinking about it is yes… maybe lies are always isfet. And maybe a little bit of  isfet is okay sometimes, so long as it’s used to uphold Ma’at. Or, perhaps isfet is not okay, and maybe never okay.

Sometimes though, maybe a little isfet is necessary.

…But then again, maybe not. Saying isfet is ever necessary makes me squeamish, because it reminds me of people talking about doing things “for the greater good”.

I think that my third, final answer is that lies, in general, are isfet, but that they can be potentially be used to keep people safe (which would be ma’at). And that the amount of isfet that a lie does depends on its effects on a person or people. There’s a big difference between pretending to love a meal that your partner worked all day to cook for you and manufacturing numbers in order to steal from a nonprofit.

…And that was way deeper than I meant to go. So what do you think? Where do you think lies fall, on a scale of Ma’at to isfet? Is isfet never an expression of Ma’at, or can isfet be used to uphold Ma’at? And is isfet sometimes necessary? Thanks for reading, and may the sun be with you.


2 thoughts on “On Truth and Ma’at

    von186 said:
    February 16, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    I consider all aspects of ma’at to be entirely contextual. I don’t think there is a single thing that I can think of that will always be ma’at or always be isfet. Generally speaking, I think telling lies is sometimes necessary- for your safety, for the safety of others, etc. The gods themselves sometimes tell lies 😛

    So yeah, I consider lies to be a grey area. In a lot of ways, everything is grey in some capacity. That’s why so many of us don’t translate ma’at as truth, inasmuch as we translate it as balance. Quirke translates ma’at as “what is right”, which is equally as vague.

    But then again, the Egyptians never really defined ma’at, either. So it makes sense we’d have a hard time figuring out in the modern era, too.

    Liked by 1 person

      ian288 responded:
      February 17, 2016 at 2:36 am

      That’s why I love the concept of ma’at- what’s “right” and/or balanced is totally up for discussion. There’s a lot of freedom for people to develop their own values, which I think is *super* important for personal growth.

      I agree about everything being grey to some extent. In general, I think I would consider everything to have shades of both ma’at and isfet- particularly actions- because I doubt that there’s anything that one can do that doesn’t have both negative and positive results. Life is all about balancing the two, and deciding what types of ma’at and isfet are “acceptable”.


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