Isfet is a form of destructive chaos, uncreation, un-naming. It is personified in Apep (Apophis), the great serpent that tries to devour the sunboat while it is travelling in the underworld at night. As such, the great serpent which we all, Names and humans alike, fight each day. It is imbalance or impurity, destructive power, and worse – it’s “uncreation”. How isfet manifests in each person’s life will be different, but many people can identify the sort of turmoil that leaves them feeling undone, as if their sense of self is being stripped away and destroyed, their sense of identity: that is isfet. Isfet acts counter to ma’at.Isfet is the opposite of ma’at, i.e. untruth, falsehood, disorder, unrighteousness, injustice, etc.). The Ancient Scriptures teach that isfet is an abomination to God. It may gain ground for a while; it may bring pleasure for a while; it may bring gratification for the moment; but in the end it leads to destruction.
As Ptah-Hotep says, “Ma’at is great and its value is lasting. Although wickedness may bring wealth, wrongdoing has never brought its wares to a safe port. In the end it is Ma’at that endures and enables one to say, “it is the legacy of my father and mother.” Therefore, we should speak and do ma’at. It’s wages are an enriched and fulfilled (abundant) life now and later.
In ancient Kemet, balance, order and harmony or the system of Ma’at existed; in today’s world, the system of Isfet exits in which chaos, conflict and confusion are omnipresent – a system of full-blown European control and supremacy.
Ma’at kept Isfet at bay. However, now, ma’at has to be constantly established, re-established, and maintained; especially within society as [mankind is] more prone to do isfet. It is a constant struggle, and one that is maintained by all humans and for which all humans have a certain measure of responsibility. And within society, those with more social responsibility have more responsibility to Ma’at. As such, it was the highest duty of the Pharoah to establish and maintain ma’at within the kingdom.
As ma’at permeates Creation, it is no surprise that ma’at affected the morality of the Ancient Egyptians. There are many texts which instruct on how to keep ma’at, how to “do ma’at”, and how to “speak ma’at.” Constantly trying to achieve ma’at was a guarantee of a good afterlife.
No on reaches the salutory West unless their heart is righteous by doing ma’at. -Petosiris
However, this does not mean that ma’at was a rigid morality governing the Ancient Egyptians. Anything that becomes so rigid that it restricts all forms of behaviour is no longer ma’at. The concepts of ma’at are more guidelines than rules, as shown in the Negative Confessions. [Side note: This is one of the reasons why we believe the concept of ma’at was never written down.]
But in regards to isfet, the Ancient Egyptians did not believe it could be completely defeated. They understood that isfet would always exist, humans would always be susceptible to it, and that isfet would continue to exist as long as humans exist.
Ma’at is a balance, and it seeks to balance out the destruction wrought by isfet. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the elements of isfet (evil, lies, injustice, irrationality, etc) are successful in the short term, and “…if the end has come , Ma’at remains.” (Ptah Hotep).
Responsibility for Ma’at
Upholding and maintaining ma’at is a never ending cycle. Ma’at must be constantly established and re-established daily to keep the forces of isfet at bay.
As mentioned before, ma’at imposes certain responsibilities and obligations on all of the social classes; some more than others. Those with higher standings in the community have a larger responsibility to ma’at than those who are lower in social standing. The highest law of the land (that is, the Pharoah) had the greatest responsibility to uphold ma’at.
Truth was the first utterance of creation. Truth is life creating and life sustaining. Truth is being responsible and accountable to life. Truth is going through the day with integrity giving no room to lies, deceit, injustice, corruption, or ignorance. Truth is giving in to nothing that would contravene celebrating, creating or sustaining life.
Truth is being in action with integrity, to fight any foe on any level. Each day lived within order and balance is the truth. To complete ones job to the best of ones ability is the truth. To establish a family, have children, nurture them, and cause them to be responsible citizens to the society is the truth. Being up-right, supportive, accountable, fearless, giving, and positive, is the truth.
To the individual, truth is realizing your commitments and responsibilities of the day. Truth is having and sharing only thoughts of optimism and accomplishment. Truth is to utter MDR NTR and no words of isfet – anger, jealousy, comtempt or disrespect.
Truth is being at peace from moment to moment. Truth is to be in the now with what order and balance require. It means being clean and neat, maintaining a clean and neat environment.