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The ancient Egyptian conception of Maat includes connotations of ‘order’, ‘harmony’, ‘rightness’ and true witness. It is used in a wide range of religious, ethical and cosmological contexts. Maat as a goddess and idea constituted a fundamental touchstone of ancient Egyptian religion and social life. It emphasized harmonious cooperation as a social idea but also represented the constant cosmic struggle against chaos and disorder. The structural aspects of Maat moved beyond normative descriptions and came to reinforce individual piety, intercessory and confessional patterns of prayer, ‘lay’ religious associations and the emergence of saviour cults that became prominent from the Late Period onward.
For modern thinkers, Maat provides a useful reflection point on human justice and its relationship to nature and the environment. Beyond the intergenerational justice required by the ecological need for sustainability into future generations and the intra-generational demands of social justice, we too need to conceive of the deeper interconnection between the human and natural orders.