Monday, January 18, 2016
The Questions of Maat
In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that the Goddess Maat waits in the Underworld, before a door all souls who have died must enter to pass into new life. She holds in her hand a scale and a feather. Maat weighs hearts, and none may pass until they have answered her questions, and their hearts are as light as the feather of truth. How heavy is each heart?
I find "the questions of Maat" such a significant metaphor, a metaphor about forgiveness and releasing the past to new evolution. Because to dream a new life, to be born again, one must truly know the life that has been lived, one must forgive and be forgiven, enter into the stream of transformation.
When I turned 60 it was a tremendous passage for me. Certainly, I felt the "lightening" that came with transit into my 6th decade. I had the urge to get rid of things that weighed me down, weren't relevant, and demanded my attention in some unnecessary way. Old love letters that just made me sad, pretty dresses that no longer fit and probably never will, dusty boxes of mementoes, weary assumptions, heavy handed beliefs, habits of mind that once were useful adaptations to something or other, but now were boringly repetitious. I went through a period of self-examination, and noticed that very many of my assumptions were erroneous, often blocked my vision, and was probably unfair to somebody somewhere, including myself. Unused possessions require care, require storage, require energy, require memory. It was time to light-en up and enter the stream.
Natalie Goldberg, in her book "Writing down the Bones", tells of meeting Meridel le Sueur in her eighties. A true nomad, Meridel told her that she lived nowhere. She visited people and places, writing wherever she was. The elderly writer asked Natalie if she knew a place to purchase a used typewriter. When she is ready to leave, she said, she will give it away so she doesn't have to take it to her next destination. Now that I understand. Why should one wish to lug a typewriter around, or a bulky suitcase, or for that matter, an old grudge, a worn out storyline, or an exhausted persona? Such unexamined baggage surely slows the creative journey of life down, making it difficult to create into the future.
A reporter once asked the artist Pablo Picasso, at 90 or so, what he thought, after such a long and distinguished career, his greatest work was. He replied "The next one." This is the lightening of the heart and mind the Goddess Maat weighs. Maat's name meant "truth" in ancient Egyptian. Her questions do not "damn" those who wait before the door....but without answering them, without finding the truth of one's life, no passage to other realms of being is possible. We are stuck at the station, waiting for the train.
Maat's questions are questions each soul must answer sooner or later. "Who have I not fore-given?" "What have I done that I cannot fore-give myself for?" "What part of my life story have I not been able to see, or to fore-give?"
I am always stunned when I examine out of context the language we unconsciously take for granted in daily speech, and humbled further when I consider that each language has its singular depths of meaning unique to its cultural evolution. In English usage, to "fore-give" is to do just that - to "give the energy forward". To the future, to the unknown, to new possibilities of relationship and creativity, to new responsibilities, endeavors, and perhaps high adventure. To the continual growth of wisdom and compassion. When we don't fore-give we are left with psychic baggage, stories told so many times they have lost any semblance to the truth.
I am not saying that fore-giveness is a simple thing. Sometimes it involves working through layers of experience, telling our story over and over until it can be truthfully seen, and sometimes we need help from wise or impartial listeners. But ultimately I believe fore-giveness comes from being able to gain a wider perspective, the integral Soul's perspective. From that perspective, which often requires faith as well, there is a greater landscape that weaves together the ways we were challenged and deepened by our experiences, our betrayals, our failures, our losses, our ignorance, and our blessings.
I remember years ago there was a man I was attracted to. The Eros of my experience fueled enormous creativity in me. His considerable talent inspired me as well. And because I had a lot of unripe, naive ideas, and did not know how to confront him, he also had a lot of fun manipulating and humiliating me, probably just because he could. He never pretended that he was a kind or conscionable person, and I still cringe when I think about it.
But until I was able to fore-give him and myself, I was unable to see the gifts in that experience, indeed, unable to get beyond it. Now I realize that had I not met him, I would not have created what I did at that time in my life. And I probably would not have moved through the well defended "victim" template I was deeply entrenched in and attached to. I could not assume a "victim" position with this man. I had to grow and take care of myself, and from that perspective, ultimately he empowered me. That is the paradox of Maat's Truth.
Raukkadessa is a Finnish term a musician friend, Kathy Huhtaluata, used in her Saami inspired music. She told me it means "beyond love". I find this concept profound - because even love, as we experience it, can be a veil, impenetrable in the present moment, and beyond that momentary experience is something vast, beyond the pairs of opposites, beyond time itself. Beyond love is the soul's love, the greater evolutionary pattern.
A Buddhist once told me that we should cherish all sentient beings, because, from the perspective of reincarnation, any sentient being you meet has at one time or another been your mother, brother, lover, enemy, has been your food, or has devoured you.
One thing is certain. When we don't fore-give, we are unable to move fore-ward, because we are stuck in the past of phantom hurts and ghostly losses, attempting to keep them alive with our own life energy.
And from my perspective, one of the wonderful things about having had the privilege of achieving the maturity of 60 some years is that one has the means and experience to finally know just that. May all hearts be light as Maat's feather.