Sin, Isfet, and Living in Ma’at

Side Note: The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is about ma’at and isfet, and I’ve thought about getting involved, but I don’t really know how that works out…  There’s a lot of discussion going around right now about the two concepts, and then I heard a minster on the radio talking about sexual impurity and sin and how to prevent it… and these things got me to thinking… so here we go:

I think I’m one of those “annoying” Pagans that loosely combines the ideas of physics in to my metaphysical beliefs to justify them when I probably shouldn’t.  And it is usually Newton’s Laws, and it’s usually the third one:  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In physics, the most basic meaning is that if I push against the wall, the wall pushes back against me.

In metaphysical meanings, I’ve often heard of it as the “What you put out gets brought back to you” principle.  If you put positive energy out into the world, then positive energy will come back to you.  It’s not the same as the three-fold law, which I don’t believe in, which states that whatever you put out comes back to you three times stronger.  Newton’s Third Law says “equal,” and I’ve heard this analogy of a stone into a calm pond and how the ripples get bigger as they go out and if they hit something and bounce back to you, it’s always a larger ripple… except that those ripples don’t have the same strength, so to speak.  They may get bigger, but their “power” is definitely lacking…

Anyway, rant over.

Isfet is the power behind uncreation.  It’s opposing force is ma’at, or the power behind creation.  To really understand what this truly means, you need to understand where everything started, according to the myths.  There’s a lot of different creation myths that the Ancients knew of, but they all have pretty much the same line of thought:  There was this primordial water by the name of Nun.  The self-created God(s) rose up out of this primordial water and all of the rest of creation came in some way shape or form afterwards.  Personally, my favorite story is the self-created deity (be it Aten, Amun, Ra, or some combination of the three) rises up out of the Nun and speaks all of creation.

I read somewhere, and now I can’t remember where I read it, that Apep, and by association, isfet, was created by accident during the creation of… well… everything.  Apep is the being that personifies isfet. Apep seeks to undo all of creation, and we’re not just talking about plunging the world into chaos.  Plunging a world into chaos implies that there are memories of a time before chaos, and Apep would be destroying those memories as well.  Think of uncreation as a permanent obliviate memory charm from Harry Potter.  The scene where Hermione makes her parents forget she was ever born… her image fades from all the pictures… except Apep would destroy you too.  You become uncreated.  You would disappear from all existence, and everything you do or did or anyone you ever met… any memory of you from your parents, other family, friends, random people you meet on the street… all of them would forget you.  All of your belongings and accomplishments would either no longer exist or belong and exist to someone else.

I use to equate isfet as the Kemetic version of sin, but I don’t think that’s a good analogy.  Sin is any act against divine law.  Some Christians will tell you that everything we do, pretty much, is a sin.  Some obvious sins are infidelity, murder, cursing, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, worshiping a non-Christian God, not going to church, and being born.  Sin started out as a way to stay healthy, procreate, and be clean, but now it’s turned into control.  Preachers all over the United States and the World, especially here in the southeast use sin as a way to control people, specifically minorities, whether they are women, GLBT, people of color, other religions.  Sin is used to teach hate and discrimination behind a mask of godliness and faith.

As a Kemetic, one of the main principles I try to live by is to uphold ma’at, shun isfet, worship my Gods, and worship against Apep.  The problem becomes, though, that a lot of people, myself included, struggle to really get a grasp on what it means to do all those things.

Ma’at is creation.  It’s opposite is not chaos, it is isfet.  Chaos is often necessary to allow creation to continue.  Destruction, in some forms, can be healthy.  Farmers will sometimes burn entire areas to better grow the next season of crops.  Floods in Egypt were known to bring fertile soil and food for the entire year.  Chaos isn’t always a bad thing.  So if isfet isn’t chaos, then how can we better understand it in a practical sense?

Fellow blogger, Kiya, over at Peaceful Awakenings, wrote a blog about “shopping cart theology.”  It’s all about the ideal situation where everyone who uses a shopping cart returns the cart to where it needs to go.  It keeps the system happy and functioning for everyone.  Everyone gets a cart when they need it and everyone does their part to make sure the system continues.  But, Kiya also mentions that it’s not always the way it works out.  Sometimes, we are struggling in life and can’t get the cart back.  Sometimes people take more than one cart back to make up for others who don’t take their cart back.  Even though it’s not ideal, the end result is that the system continues to work because everyone interacts with it in some way.

Aubs Tea over at Mystical Bewilderment wrote a blog last year called “Kemetism is Orthopraxic: Live in Ma’at.”  The writer says, “Some people think that living in ma’at means that we should put the shopping carts away. This isn’t so bad of a concept either. It means everything is orderly. It means that everyone does their part to make everything work out in that orderly concept. The problem is that not everyone puts their carts away, do they?”

This got me thinking: I know ma’at is sometimes defined as order, balance, truth, and justice.  I think this was/is a way to fit a non-western concept into a western language.  I mean, how can we uphold a concept such as creation, which encompasses things that maybe we don’t particularly like about creation, like destruction and chaos?  How do we shun somethings like uncreation when that concept doesn’t really make a lot of sense to begin with?

Maybe the shopping cart theory isn’t about the order of the system.  Maybe it’s about being mindful of the system and interacting with it as we should.  They system works, whether we put the carts back or not, the system will keep on working.  If no one puts a cart back, eventually someone will need a cart and they will grab one and take it with them.  Hopefully, some one will realize what a pain everything’s become and put all the carts back… Sometimes we can put our cart back and maybe someone else’s cart, but sometimes we can’t for whatever reason.  We’re interacting with the system whether we realize it or not.

I think the key to upholding ma’at is to be mindful of the system.  I’ve read that it’s all about the 42 Negative Confessions, but let’s be real… without a really solid modern translation, the 42 Negative Confessions are about as relevant to today’s society as Leviticus is.  Or at least parts of them are.  If we are mindful of the system, we uphold creation in that the system is what keeps creation going.  The system sometimes includes chaos and destruction (in that people don’t always put their carts away), but that’s okay because it’s part of the system.

We shun isfet by being mindful and being in the moment, being aware of our situation and the “system” we are currently in.  When we fail to be mindful, we allow Apep to potentially disrupt and complete destroy the system, that is, creation.  On a practical, daily level, we can uphold ma’at by simply being mindful of our situations and living in the moment.

In a more spiritual and ritualistic level, we can uphold ma’at, worship our Gods, and worship against Apep by praying, leaving offerings, and destroying the snake.  All those things we think of when we think of being Kemetic and doing our faith and spiritual practice.  The Gods need us to help them protect creation.  Through prayer and meditation, we can spiritually connect to them to grow our relationship to the Gods.  As that relationship grows, the Gods can begin to work through us and better use us to help protect this wonderful creation all around us.

Posted on September 13, 2014, in Kemeticism, Pagan Blog Project, PBP, Religion, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I do appreciate when someone actually understands the shopping cart theology.

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