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.

4 comments:

Barb said...


This is so deep and thought-provoking Lauren. Wonderful.

ann said...

I just read something in Tolle, that relates, and appreciate this Goddess centered point wisdom as well! To fore-give is to let go of our insular personality sense of separateness.

Another note- here are the 42 Laws of Maat - when stated in the positive - as Loreon Vigne revised the original Kemetic interpretations & left them for us:
The 42 Ideals of Ma’at of the Temple of Isis


A Positive Confession for the Present Day

1. I honor virtue
2. I benefit with gratitude
3. I am peaceful
4. I respect the property of others
5. I affirm that all life is sacred
6. I give offerings that are genuine
7. I live in truth
8. I regard all altars with respect
9. I speak with sincerity
10. I consume only my fair share
11. I offer words of good intent
12. I relate in peace
13. I honor animals with reverence
14. I can be trusted
15. I care for the earth
16. I keep my own council
17. I speak positively of others
18. I remain in balance with my emotions
19. I am trustful in my relationships
20. I hold purity in high esteem
21. I spread joy
22. I do the best I can
23. I communicate with compassion
24. I listen to opposing opinions
25. I create harmony
26. I invoke laughter
27. I am open to love in various forms
28. I am forgiving
29. I am kind
30. I act respectfully of others
31. I am accepting
32. I follow my inner guidance
33. I converse with awareness
34. I do good
35. I give blessings
36. I keep the waters pure
37. I speak with good intent
38. I praise the Goddess and the God
39. I am humble
40. I achieve with integrity
41. I advance through my own abilities
42. I embrace the All

Mana said...

I have been posting the 42 Ideals of Maat on my Isis Society for Inspirational Studies Facebook Page.
The commentary of each ideal as written by Lady Loreon accompanies these Ideals, and I have been adding my own to go with it. We are on Number 3 This week. I am Peaceful. The purport explains the breath of Isis and the peaceful place we can be in by using this breath. Maat has been on many of our minds lately. I appreciated your post particularly today. Forgiveness has been rooting around in my own heart and mind lately. It is a practice. My therapist told me we practice like. Life is not set in stone. To say we have done life makes us unable to change it. It is black or white.. completed or incomplete. But if we practice our principles of life we have the creative license to co-create and recreate our outcome. The present the moment that means something. I am almost done with the Script for April. I will post to you first. I love your creative input .
I am Peaceful...Mana

lauren raine said...

Thanks so much to all of you for your comments, which contribute so much to the exploration here of Maat.