Life in the Balance

by Deni Gross


Take responsibility in the matters entrusted to you,
and you will accomplish things of note.
– Instructions of Egyptian Vizier, Ptah-hotep,  circa 2400 BCE


Thinking about the state of global affairs, I find myself considering ancient Egypt. In particular, the symbolism of the scales of justice and balance as personified by the Egyptian Goddess Ma’at come to mind. Humanity, our planet and all other life forms on it are currently experiencing crushing chaos and imbalance on many levels. Perhaps understanding and implementing the teachings about the ancient Egyptian goddess Ma’at and what she represents can help us address these issues and more positively move forward.

In a recent e-mail meditation, we talked about the importance of dispelling negative thoughts and vibrations in order to bring calm to the chaotic planetary ethers. While any individual can contribute positive energies to the ethers through good thoughts, speech and actions, discharging the negativity already existing in the ethers is another matter, usually left to esoteric workers. In ancient Egypt, initiates familiar with the teachings of Ma’at were tasked with maintaining peace and balance in their society, no doubt taking on the role of dischargers of negativity.  Andrew Rooke, National Secretary of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) in Australia, explains it like this:

"What you speak of is what the ancient Egyptians called “Ma’at” who was personified as a Goddess of Balance and Harmony. She is always pictured with the feather of Truth in her head-dress and this feather was weighed against the heart of people transitioning to the underworld after death pictured in the famous Hall of Judgement scene from the Book of the Dead. The ancient Egyptian society, at least at its height in the Old Kingdom, was dedicated to the maintenance of Ma’at in the manner you depict, with the Pharaoh and initiates having a special role to maintain this balance."

Though initiates took the lead in this work, all Egyptian citizens were expected to help in the effort to avert chaos and imbalance by following the example of Ma’at in their everyday lives. They were to act truthfully and honorably in all their dealings with anyone with whom they came in contact. While this practice of right behavior greatly aided the efforts of the initiates, citizens also believed it guaranteed a good outcome when their deeds were weighed in the balances before the journey to the afterlife.  Perhaps of even greater importance, however, it served as an ethical guide for the calm, orderly and peaceful continuation of communal life, particularly because Egypt, like our present culture, was a land of diverse peoples with sometimes conflicting interests. The consistent practice of unselfish, kindly, right behavior is something which, we might argue, is frequently lacking in our current society. It cannot go unnoticed that today’s emphasis on individual rights and desires at any cost often overshadows behavior which might result in more productive functioning of the whole.

This is evidenced in an article which Andrew Rooke will be publishing in the upcoming June issue of his organization’s magazine, Theosophy Downunder. The article’s author, Eugene Harris, explains the importance of Ma’at like this.


"Ma’at, the principle of Balance, is at the foundation of all aspects of human being. In the cosmos of Egypt, the polarities of Horus, representing Good, and Set, Evil, symbolized the tension and interplay of opposing forces. The meeting of Horus and Set in harmony represented the re-establishment of Ma’at, a dynamic balance.

The very forces of daily life are battling pro and con, testing each of us.
Without Ma’at as Justice, there is just anarchy.
Without Ma’at as Truth, human existence is uncertain and unpredictable.
Without Ma’at as Health or Sanity, human life is ill or insane - witness the phrase “unbalanced mind”.
Without Ma’at, the Weather is erratic and rendered chaotic."


Notice Mr. Harris’s choice of words – anarchy, unpredictability, illness, insanity, erratic and chaotic weather patterns. These are the images which populate our world today – rioting in the streets, psychotic behaviors leading to unprovoked gun violence and mass shootings, wars and regional conflicts, the recent pandemic, financial volatility, seemingly inexplicable weather anomalies – all attributable at least in part to instability in the planetary ethers. Would not a greater societal emphasis on balance and harmony help stabilize this pervasive negativity and increase the health and sanity of our world, as Mr. Harris suggests?

In 1888 in Luxor, Egypt a scroll containing hieroglyphics dating from about 3000 BCE was discovered which contains the 42 Laws of Ma’at, said to represent the divine order established at creation and reaffirmed with the reign of each new Egyptian king. Below is a modern re-writing (attributed to Lady Loren Vigne, Temple of Isis) of these laws taken from the website of an Egyptian tour and travel company ( Here you can also find the original translation. These laws are a valuable daily guide and meditation tool and can be shared with any who are struggling to handle the stress and uncertainty of life today, as it seemingly hangs in the balance.


A Modern Re-writing of the 42 Laws of Ma’at
by Lady Loren Vigne, Temple of Isis

  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.
  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.