<<The Egyptians considered Maat to be a force of nature—actually, the most fundamental of these forces. The hieroglyph used in the writing of the word probably reflects this view (bottom picture). It appears to represent a pedestal or base on which an object such as a throne or a statue can stand, and that is perhaps why it has come to be used as an ideogram for something basic or fundamental. Like other natural forces, the Maat was divine as well. As a goddess, Maat is normally represented in human form, identified (for unknown reasons) by the feather she always wears slid in her headband. From this association, the pen also became an ideogram for Maat..
Like the other forces of nature, Maat was established at creation when the Sun (Ra) rose in the world for the first time; for this reason, the Goddess is often called sat ra "the daughter of the Sun (Raa)". For the Egyptians, the existence of Maat himself assured that the world would continue to exist as it has since the dawn of time:
"Maat is efficient, durable, and sharp;
She has not been disturbed since the time of her creator.
He who breaks his rules is punished:
this is the way (to follow) even in the face of the ignorant. ...
In the end, Maât lasts:
a man declared, "This is my father's legacy"
(The 88-98 L2) .
Maat operated both in the world at large and in the world of human affairs. At the cosmic level, it governed the proper functioning of the universe. Maat was what held the elements of the world in their place, following the seasons according to their natural order, making night give way to day, and each generation followed by the next. From an Egyptian perspective, this ideal order did not mean that the most desirable parts of nature should eliminate the less desirable; instead, the concept of Maat was one in which all parts of nature lived in balance and harmony . The desert surrounding Egypt, for example, was a wild and dangerous place, but it also served to isolate the country from its enemies for much of Ancient Egypt's history. Similarly, life is preferable to death, but death is also necessary if future generations are to enjoy the same benefits and opportunities as their ancestors.
Maat also ruled the narrower world of human affairs. In this area, Maât served as a reference by which the Egyptians measured most of their important experiences: the values of their society, their relationships with each other, and even their own perception of reality. According to which of these areas of human activity Maat was used, it corresponded to several different modern concepts, and can be translated to a number of abstract names such as: "law", "correct behavior", "order", "j" ustice" ; and "truth".
Maât's opposition in each of these areas was sparks: "false"; "improper or antisocial behavior", "disorder", "injustice"; and "lying"...
Although Maat was established by the creator, within the natural world order, the opposite came from human beings themselves. In a text from the Middle Empire, the creator says:
I have made every man equal to his neighbor. I did not order them to do Isfet: it is their spirit that destroys what I have said (CT VII, 463f-464b)...
It was the duty of all Egyptians to live in accordance with the Maat. This was the condition to join the society of the dead when they died. The final judgment to be faced by every Egyptian (even the king) was not a religious test but a social one: people who had been disruptors in the society of the living could hardly expect to be acc ueillies as members of the blessed society of life after death. >>
James p. Allen p146