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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

THE VIRTUES OF MA'AT: TOWARDS A GREATER UNDERSTANDING by Minister Mxolisi Sowell




Maat is the term that came to be used in reference to the values, behaviors, expectations and aspirations that evolved amongst our ancient Kemetian ancestors in their process of being and becoming the most prolific civilization that humanity has yet known.

With the passage of time and the development of scientific-spiritual-philosophical investigation,  Maat was understood to be the infinite, omnipotent, transformative manifestation of self-realization, self-determination, and unlimited generosity and benevolence of the emergent, creative Great Force which was embodied inherently in the undifferentiated, primordial matter which came to be identified as NWN.

Further, it came to be understood that the visible and invisible worlds, manifestations of the creative self-determination of that Great Force, are omnipresently permeated with Maat -- a reality to be recognized, embraced, and utilized to facilitate the greatest good for the greatest number by those species of creation in whom and through whom the evolution of intelligence and intuition provides for the development of that consciousness.

Our scholars share with us that modern languages have no single term that embodies the fullness of the meaning of Maat; that several terms are required to begin approaching that fullness, to enable those whose intelligence and intuition would lead them to pursue that fullness for their lives and for all existence. Among the terms that have been suggested for a significant understanding of Maat are Truth, Justice, Propriety, Righteousness, Harmony, Balance, Reciprocity, and Order.

The following is our offering toward the development of our common and collective understanding of those terms to advance our quest for the restoration of Maatian consciousness in our lives and the manifestation of the unlimited great good which it portends.

1. Kweli / Truth
 Truth is that which conforms to reality; it opens the way (Njia) and is the first step to living Ma’at.

A couple of terms from the Kiswahili language base that serve to broaden and deepen our understanding of Kweli / Truth – truthfulness, reality, genuineness, certainty:
Hakika: this term says to us that Truth is that which is known with certainty as a result of investigation and strict inquiry, or having gone into a given matter.
Ukweli: truthfulness (has to do with embracing and nurturing this hakikaorientation to all things in life as a basic and fundamental element of your character).

The ancient African/Kemetian context from which Maatian Truth arises informs us that it has to do with knowing that “which is essentially good, and to restore and recreate it constantly.” (Karenga: Maat, pg 10)  In our quest to be/become New Africans and be the catalysts for the lifting of the shrouds of oppression and resignation that blanket our communities, Truth is a “project of freedom,” seeking to overcome the realities of relations, outlooks and behaviors rooted in the ongoing anti-African, humanity-eroding complexities of the Maafa, and establishing and embracing liberating definitions of human possibilities and the grounds for maximum human flourishing. (Karega, pg. 293)  
In our quest, we are encouraged to look back to the traditions of our ancestors (cultivate a Sankofa vision) for insights relative to the means and methods of defining, establishing and perpetuating our greatest good. Such engagement enables us to situate ourselves in the universe free of the limitations that inherently fetter our lives in the absence of such engagement. It aids in the development and cultivation of high morals, as it involves our exposure to virtuous values (Declarations of Innocence, Ten Virtues for the Virility of the Soul, Nguzo Saba, etc.), wherein “all living beings are enjoined to take care, in their behavior and conduct, not to soil the environment (of our existence) with any kind of impurity.” It allows the Blessed Dead to fulfill their purpose of ensuring that the living practice of truth and justice (i.e. Maat) continues. (Obenga, African Philosophy, p. 221-222) 

Within this quest, “the challenge is to constantly and critically engage tradition and make it live and respond effectively in a dialectic (a hakika process) of preservation and expansion,” not allowing tradition to become a substitute for our responsible exercise of moral reasoning. We must examine and investigate and allow the light of Truth embodied in the excellence of those Sankofa insights to inspire and reassure us in the defining, naming, creating and speaking of Truth that our contemporary and, perhaps, future realties require. “And it is in this process of engagement that a tradition reveals its resourcefulness and limitations and thus challenges its members to constantly recover its best and build on it generation after generation.” (Karenga, pp. 277-278)

(See Dr. Patricia Newton’s 2011 Juneteenth presentation for additional details on this vitally important issue: http://hcvoice.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/dr-patricia-newton-speaks-to-juneteenth-celebrants/)
Context for our great quest, in terms of Truth and all aspects of Maatian Virtues, comes to us from Ayi Kwei Armah’s book, “2000 Seasons”:
“. . . there is a great force in the world, a force spiritual and able to shape the physical universe, but . .  that force is not something cut off, not something separate from ourselves. It is an energy in us, strongest in our working, breathing, thinking together as one people; weakest when we are scattered, confused, broken into individual, unconnected fragments.” 
In short, Kweli / Truth calls us to exercise the seeing of our eyes, the hearing of our ears, the breathing of our nostrils, the power of our hearts and minds -- in hakika partnership with Sisters and Brothers seeking to be of like mind, body and spirit -- to peruse things of the past and present, in order to develop and cultivate the intellectual and intuitive knowledge of the good of which we are inherently capable, and the means by which that good is to be made manifest. This we must do for the restoration and perpetuation of our greatest good as a healed and healing people.


2. Haki / Justice:
Seek what is right and good -- for the weak as well as for the strong, for the rich as well as for the poor. To do otherwise is not the way of Maat.

Haki refers to the infinite measure or manifestation of correctness or worthiness. It is a term used to reference the righteousness of The Most High, and to encourage we who would manifest Maat to be diligent in seeking to perceive and emulate that perfection.

Wajibu is another term from the Kiswahili language base that helps to broaden and deepen our understanding of Haki / Justice. This term is used to refer to the moral sense or obligation involved in the pursuit of justice, which is not to be overrun or dismissed via a merely legalistic pursuit. This is consistent, specifically, with one of the ten Kemetian Virtues for the virility of the soul -- the one that admonishes, “I must cultivate the ability to distinguish the right from the wrong” (that which is loved from that which is hated). (James, Stolen Legacy)

Karenga shares with us that, “It is in this context that civil servants, who served in the capacity of advisors to the king (in Kemet), note among their declarations of moral and social virtue that they ‘filled the ears of Horus (Heru, the king) with Maat (justice),’ – ‘For God (NTR) hates biased behavior.’” Such was the foundation and motivating principle for that just and harmonious society. (Karenga, Maat, p. 36)

From this we should take that it is our moral obligation to do all we can to truly know and show what is good, right and just – to have it reflected in the actions we take and decisions we make; to have our ears (our hearts, minds and souls), and those of every comrade and associate in the mission of CAP, to always be filled with the consciousness that impels us to always strive for that standard; and to find or create ongoing opportunities to impact every cell and fiber of every friend or foe anywhere in the world with the energy of that diligence and determination, for the restoration and perpetuation of justice and harmony in human affairs.

Simply put, Haki / Justice admonishes us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and to do all you can to make that way the law throughout the land. Throughout every land.


3. Adabu – Propriety
Strive to do/be the best, and to always reach for your highest potential, remembering that good deeds go hand in hand with good thoughts.

The following Kiswahili terms help to broaden our comprehension of “Adabu” and our understanding of Propriety:
Adabu: good manners, politeness; proper behavior.
Utaratibu: to be orderly in character and/or action according to established standards of thought and action.
Uzuri: moral excellence and goodness; good taste.
Makini: strength of character; dignified, composed, well-behaved.

Conversely, the following terms serve to enlighten us relative to an absence of Adabu:
Huna Adabu: to be lacking of adabu; an exceptionally serious state of being; (it is to be a “guttersnipe” -- of the lowest moral/spiritual character; one who wanders about, feeds on, and proliferates spiritual poverty, wretchedness and misery).
Mtoto Mnyonge: One who is abjectly low, debased, mean, degraded; one whose character reflects that he/she is/has been spiritually cramped or bent (a guttersnipe) for a prolonged period.
Mtoto wa kikopo: an impudent, shameless cheater; shamelessness in dealing; imposter, swindler.
Mhuni: one who wanders about for no good purpose; one who leaves one’s own side and goes to the other (traitor); a lawless person.

Adabu / Propriety was of interest to me because it has not been one of the terms of focus in my years of studying the seven aspects of Maat. “Righteousness” has been one of the foci instead. My intuition has told me that they are essentially the same. My study in recent days have served to strengthen that view.

Kiswahili terms that serve to broaden our comprehension of “Righteousness” in that language base include:
Wema: goodness, excellence; that which commends itself to reason or conscience. (cf. –zuri)
Unyofu: straight forwardness, honesty, uprightness; being an honorable person. (cf. Utaratibu)
Haki: to be just and lawful in character; an honorable person. (cf. Utaratibu)
Uadilifu: upright, honorable, moral, righteous; righteous conduct and impartiality in dealing with people (cf. Utaratibu)

Propriety and/or Righteousness – both seem to be well served by the following definition: The thoughts, words, aspirations and actions which are the manifestations of your ongoing, continuous, diligent communions with that which is Most High in YOU! For our Kemetian ancestors this “process of living the inner life, deepening and perfecting it, became synonymous with the exercise of intelligence” and ultimately served “to acknowledge and assert their original kinship with the holy deities.” (Obenga, p. 219)

The collective dimension that seems to be an inherent element of the “Utaratibu” aspect of Adabu reminds us of the passage from Ayi Kwei Armah’s book, “2000 Seasons,” with reference to our working, breathing, and thinking together as one people. In essence, you are (we are) inherently part of that which is Most High in You! (in Us!) And its fullness is to be realized in You via the process of cultivating singleness of purpose and pursuit, and the standards of thought and action by which agreed upon objectives are to be pursued, with those who by reason andconscience are led to participate in that process with you. Adabu – Propriety/Righteousness – is the product of the continuous and diligent reverence and respect by which this process is held by each and all of its participants.

Within the Kemetian Creation tradition, Maat is the force by which The Most High is understood to have worked “magic” upon ITS own heart, giving life to the process by which the Creation came into being. In our process of working, breathing and thinking together as one people – in our collective and individual communions – let this magic be our goal: That our aspirations for the greatest good for our people be made manifest because our hearts are fully committed. Adabu!!! 

4. Amani / Harmony
We are all part of the whole and not apart from the whole, and at all times we must strive to be at one with our surroundings. Such is the way of Maat.

Amani has to do with the knowing of peace, security and safety with the placing of one’s trust in someone or something; (i.e. Namwamini Mungu -- I trust / have faith in NTR/GOD).

Other Kiswahili terms that are pertinent:
Patano – having arrived at agreement or understanding that can be the basis for an alliance;
Moyo Umoja – to be of one heart or a state of accord; to know an inmost and abiding feeling of oneness with another or others;
Kinanda – being able to mesh a variety of experiences and perspectives in a manner that can gain the allegiance (amani, patano, or moyo umoja)of each and all. (Kinanda is a stringed instrument of East African origin, requiring skillful utilization of each string in order to produce harmonious and meaningful sounds).

This Virtue serves to bring into focus that most-important admonition from our Kemetian ancestors -- “Know Thyself.” Are you one whose spirit and character, words and deeds, radiate that you are a person of Truth, Justice, Propriety, Balance, Reciprocity and Order – a person, a temple, of Maat? Are you one with whom others can know Amani, Patano, Moyo Umoja, Kinanda?  Have you mastered the passions (ego, fear, ignorance, greed, lust, superstition, etc.) that would keep you from true self-knowledge, from being/becoming an eternally growing temple of that Great Spirit of unlimited powers?

Amani has to do with each and all embracing a practical morality rooted in the recognition of the responsibility of behaving as social beings within a body of free, intelligent human beings, coupled with the training required for the fulfillment of that ideal. (Obenga, p. 203)

Let’s always do all we can, in every way we can, to make our communities more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited them -- beginning with ourselves! Amani!!!

5. Usawa / Balance
In all we do, the ideal is to strive for complimentarity, mutuality, and that which seeks and maintains harmony in our relationships with self, others and nature.

Usawa – denotes being willing and/or able to do what is required to pursue the modification of things or circumstances in order that the greatest good be served.

Other terms that are pertinent include:
Fananisha – being able to look at a thing or circumstances to discern the good, positive, or usefulness existing within; 
Linganisha – has to do with putting two things together in order to compare them, to discern what needs to be done to put them in the order or state that is correct.

This Virtue, Usawa / Balance, brings us, once again, face to face with the admonition, “I must cultivate the ability to distinguish the right from the wrong.” But also, “I must cultivate the ability to distinguish the real from the unreal” – in things and circumstances, but even more so within ourselves. Know when it’s Maat, and know when it’s not!!! Dr. George G.M. James records that knowing the real from the unreal involves having a sense of values (Stolen Legacy, pg. 106); a sense of values that most assuredly grows from yet two other admonitions – “I must have faith in my ability to assimilate the Truth” and “I must have faith in my ability to wield the Truth.”  Let us be diligent to know that “which is essentially good (the aim of Maatian Truth), and to restore and recreate it constantly” – within our world and, more so, within ourselves!!!


6. Maagano / Reciprocity
Create the context for good and righteousness, and they, too, will seek you. This is the way of Maat.

Maagano:  agreement, promise, mutual understanding (cf. Patano).
Another term of pertinence is:
Kutendana sawasawa ushirika: to be committed to the pro-active use of energy, force, intelligence and consciousness for the equitable sharing of the benefits and blessings of our pursuits – mental, spiritual and material -- (by every righteous means available and necessary).

A word of wisdom from Kemetian sage, ASAR Ptah-Hotep, admonishes, “Be diligent as long as you live, always doing more than is commanded of you. . . .” (Husia, p. 42)  The “more” that we are commanded to do is to “emulate GOD (NTR) in . . . knowing and doing Maat, i.e., beneficence, generosity, loving-kindness, justice, reciprocity.” (Karenga: MAAT, p 326)

Yet another wise word from Ptah-Hotep admonishes, “Share with your friends that which you have, for that which is yours is a gift of (NTR)/GOD. . . . Peace will not be found in a city where friends are forgotten and their needs not answered.” (Husia, p. 45) The ultimate that we have to share -- along with, yet above and beyond, anything else -- is this: We are made in the image of GOD! We’ve been granted an effective measure of the Ashe’!No one is lacking of at least some measure of NTR’s infinite divine beauty – Maat! This requires those who know “to act a certain way towards others as well as towards ourselves.” (Karenga: MAAT, p 326)

Further, in that same flow, the Nguzo Saba principle, Kuumba, calls for those who know, “to always do as much as we can, in any way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.” Above and beyond the often superficial thoughts and actions that arise in terms of our “creativity,” Kuumba is a term used in reference to the spirit of The Most High doing the work of Creation. At its most significant level, this principle seeks to inspire us to know that same great power within ourselves and to bring it to bear on the restoration of our people and our worldwide African community, and our righteous African way of life.

Finally, this Reciprocity is not a tit-for-tat enterprise. It is one that calls on those who are committed to the doing of Maat to respond “not only to the good that we solicit, and not only for the good that we explicitly accept, but also for all the good that we are aware of having received.” (Karenga: MAAT, p 367) We do it because we know that our greatest good as a people requires it and that NTR loves it. We do it because we know it causes our children to live; because we know that wealth is given to enable and empower the doing of good and that giving to the vulnerable is in fact to give unto God (NTR). We do it because we know that in the Maatian philosophy of life one who is doing good for others is actually doing it for him/herself. We do it to be worthy of honor and love in the hearts and minds of our family, community and nation, and because we know that is shall be repaid by The One that gives the gifts of life and eternity. We do it because we know that this is at the heart of the way of Maat. (Karenga: MAAT, pp. 101, 306, 302, 125, 282, 308)

7.Kanuni / Order
All things in life have their roles, relevance and function. When we find the purpose of a thing, put it in its proper place; and for others, allow them to find their space.

Kanuni: – that which is regular, necessary or indispensible; a fundamental rule.

Kanuni is a noun which is best used with adjective modifiers -- “Enea” or “Kamili” -- when referring to Maatian Order. Kanuni Enea: refers to universal or omnipresent order; Kanuni Kamili: denotes complete or perfect order.

Other pertinent terms include: Yakini – that which is known, or can be known, with certainty through diligent determination and discipline of heart and mind; Kiada – that which occurs in an orderly, distinct, intelligible way.

When it comes to the Kanuni Enea (Universal Order) or Kanuni Kamili (Perfect Order) which is Maat, we learn that our Kemetian ancestors “conducted an intense and radical investigation of the tough realities of our surrounding cosmos” for over 25 centuries. (Obenga, p.601) This enduring assignment was the task of certain priest-scientists who observed the ebb and flow of celestial activities every hour of every night and day.

From this diligent process came the supreme and commanding perception that creation (the cosmos) flowed from “the awakening of higher consciousness (NTR) within the primordial essence (NWN), with Maat being “the primary principle coordinating all values” by which primal NWN was/is transformed into structured cosmos. The word ntr gained a spiritual, evolutionary meaning related to the phenomenon of the Sun “ceaselessly born and reborn from its own energy,” thereby extending the Creator’s creation daily.” (Obenga, p. 541, 603) Additionally, those priestly-scientific observations produced the certainty that “humanity and the universe are part of the same unfolding process originating in NWN”; that each person is a comic order to be designed and regulated, ceaselessly, by “intelligent human imagination.” (Obenga, p 602) (As above, so below.)

On the temporal/communal/human level this dynamic was symbolized by the placing of the king’s name within a cartouche, representing the deeply abiding expectation that every person under the leadership of the king and the ongoing process of the Per Ankh (House of Life) would – must – ceaselessly and progressively grow in “knowing one’s proper place and greatest potential within the realm vitalized by the Sun.” (Obenga, p. 192)

In this context, the intellectual life of Kemet was “nothing short of a collective obsession” seeking to develop and cultivate persons (minds) that:
  • understood that Maat is the energy that animates both the visible and invisible worlds; (Obenga, p. 224)
  • would “participate fully in the cosmic order of Maat”; (Obenga, p. 606)
  • would know and abidingly respect the omnipresent command to “take care, in their behavior and conduct, not to soil the environment (of our existence) with any kind of impurity;” (Obenga, p. 223)
  • respected and reflected the “whole range of essential moral, philosophical and esthetic qualities” embodied in Maat in all things – agriculture and architecture, education and child-rearing, public works projects, music, dance, rituals, all works and crafts. All things! (Obenga, p. 606-607)
(As it was with those worthy ancestors, so must it be with you and me!)

Maatian Order, then, is the distinctly intelligible process of the being and becoming of all beings and things, all forces and phenomena, throughout the universe, most profoundly known, appreciated and beneficially extended by those who are diligent in cultivating and incorporating the virtues of Maat in all aspects of their lives. (Kinara, Imani)

It is the foundation for the cultivation of the sovereignty consciousness, the Kujichagulia, by which our central project of freedom can flourish, leading to the Justice, Harmony, Balance and Reciprocity for which the energy that animates the visible and invisible worlds causes our hearts and minds to yearn.

It is foundation and inspiration for the bold initiatives that we must take “if we want (our world African community), now building itself in a world of implacable cruelty, to avoid getting alienated from its own specific culture that, of course, is also part of the universal heritage of humanity.” (Obenga, p. 607) (Ujima, Kuumba)

Maatian Order is the foundation upon which “we can design for ourselves a world culture of our own.” It is the foundation from which we can say, “It is a challenge we accept gladly, because everything we know tells us . . . that we can meet it.” (Obenga, p. 609) (Imani)


The Nguzo Saba/Kwanzaa tradition, which has come to us as a distillation of the cultural-spiritual-philosophic character of a broad variety of African civilizations, according to its chief innovator, Dr. Maulana Karenga, provides an excellent threshold by which to explore the assertion of Dr. Theophile Obenga that the morality at the heart of Maatian philosophy is still alive in African societies that have not been irreparably savaged by eurocentric impositions and internal corruptions (Obenga, p. 204). Additionally, this tradition serves to provide dedicated Africans throughout the Diaspora with excellent grounds by which to examine the values and practices that have served their best interests and aspirations for freedom and fullness over the ages, and encourage the conscious and purposeful embracing of those principles for our future well being.

For a fuller exploration of the Nguzo Saba/Kwanzaa tradition relative to Dr. Obenga’s assertion, which is indicated and supported in this writing, as well as significant perspective on the cultural-spiritual-philosophic character of African civilization that Dr. Karenga sought to present in bringing that tradition to us, you are encouraged to read “Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba: Something Sacred For and From the Souls of Black Folks,” by Minister Mxolisi Ozo-Sowande (aka Mxolisi T. Sowell).

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