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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ptahotep's Seboyet

Ma'at is kinda like the state of the universe, and the goal of Ma'at is to create a balance to bring stability, and get the universe working in harmony. In the mind of an ancient Egyptian, the gods had already decided the paths of good and evil, it was just up to us to find them.

Ptahhotep put a strong focus on Ma'at, and questioned human integrity. He was also the first person on record to address good manners, and style. There are also claims that he was 110 years old, which would have allowed him great wisdom in the ancient world and much of his advice was meant for his own son who would hold an office of great power.

The records we have written by Ptahhotep are in 37 maxims, that were actually copied many years after the original copies were actually written by Ptahhotep himself. And in the Maxims he is concerned with issues of: Moderation, generosity, kindness, respect, integrity, justice, and self-control.

An important thing to notice, is that there is no focus on things like: Valor, Courage, Bravery or even Prowess as you would find in western (war driven) society like Rome, where it is important to “scatter your enemies to the wind”.

Which is something in itself to point out about the Egyptians. There is no war god. There are no great wars. They are for the most part, peaceful with the entire world as they encounter it.

Egyptians respected age, because with age came wisdom. But they understood this in a more complete sense.

They believed that the older a person was, the closer they are to the gods. And that a young man speaking to an old man about his past, is learning about the world of his ancestors. And in turn, this child could become a model for the children after him. This gave Ptahhotep great authority (as a man claiming to be 110 years old ).

Ptahhotep put much emphasis on the words of the dead (and he shared many things he himself had heard throughout his life), as they were the ones closest to the gods.

Ptahhotep's Seboyet
In the early 1800's, on the west bank of the Nile river, in a tomb located at the Valley of Kings, a papyrus was found. 18 pages of near perfect text, closest to the Mdw Ntr (Heiroglyphics) dialect. The papyrus contained 2 separate works, one was incomplete and written to someone named “Kagame”. Most of that section has been lost, or destroyed, the other section contained the complete works of Ptahhotep (14 pages). 2 other works of Ptahhotep have been found, as well as a tomb for him near the step pyramid at Sakkara. We are not certain that this is him, but it has been suggested that both Ptahhoteps are the same (tomb and writer).

The writing says that the author (Ptahhotep) lived during the reign of Menkauhor (2396 BC-2388 BC) and Assa Djed-Ka-Ra (2388 BC-2356 BC) and also said that Ptahhotep was the “favored one” of Assa. He was Assa's grand uncle, and tutor. Ptahhotep was also said to be the eldest legitimate son of an unnamed Pharaoh, and claimed to be 110 years old at the time his book was written. Ptahhotep was supposed to be Pharaoh, but gave up the chance in order to live a less secular, more divine life as more of a priest/philosopher.

By 3100 BC Kmt (Called Aegyptos or “Egypt” by the Greeks) had become a nation state, and remnants of their older societies lay to the south. Mdw Ntr, translates into “The Nectar of God”, and were thousands of years later called by the Greeks “Heiroglyphics”. The strange thing about Heiroglyphics is that there is no developmental period. They simply appear, fully developed around the Nile, which suggests that it existed elsewhere previously.

The writings we have from Ptahhotep were not the actual copy written by him, it is a copy from the Middle Kingdom, but there is ample evidence pointing to the existence of the exact person that exists in the writing.

Here are his writings (remember, he did this in Hieroglyphics):
“God upon two Crocodiles, My God, the process of aging brings senility. My mind decays and forgetfulness of the things of yesterday has already begun. Feebleness has come, and weakness grows. Child like, one sleeps all day, the eyes are dim and the ears are becoming deaf. The strength is being sapped. The mouth has grown silent, and does not speak. The bones ache through and through. Good things now seem evil. The taste has gone. What old age does to people in evil is everything. The nose is clogged and does not breathe. It is painful even to stand or sit. May your servant be authorized to use the status that old age affords, to teach the hearers, so as to tell them the word of those who have listened to the ways of our ancestors, and those who have listened to the gods. May I do this for you, so that strife may be banned from among our people, and so that two shores may serve you?

1. Do not be proud and arrogant with your knowledge. Consult and converse with the ignorant and the wise, for the limits are not reached. No artist ever possesses that perfection to which he should aspire. Good speech is more hidden than Emeralds, yet it may be found among the maids at the grindstones.

2. If you meet a disputant in the heat of action, one who is more powerful than you, simply fold your arms and bend your back (bow?). To confront him will not make him agree with you. Pay no attention to his evil speech. If you do not confront him while he is raging, people will call him ignorant. Your self control will be the match for his evil utterances.

3. If you meet a disputant in the heat of action, one who is your equal, one who is on your level, you will overcome him by being silent when he is speaking evilly. There will be much talk among those who hear and your name will be held in high regard among the great.

4. If you meet a disputant in the heat of action who is a poor man, and who is not your equal, do not attack him because he is weak. Leave him alone, he will confound himself. Do not answer him just so that you can relieve your own heart. Do not vent yourself against your opponent. Wretched is he who injures a poor man.

5. If you are a man who leads, a man who controls the affairs of many, then seek the most perfect way of preforming responsibilities, so that no blame falls on you. Great is Ma'at. It is everlasting. Ma'at has been unchanged since the time of Assar. To create obstacles to the following of Ma'at, is to open a way to a condition of violence. Baseness may obtain riches, yet crime never lands its wares on the shore. In the end, only Ma'at lasts.

6. Do not scheme against people. Ma'at will punish accordingly; If a man says, “I shall live by scheming” he will lack bread for his mouth. If a man says, “I will be rich” he will have to say “My cleverness has trapped me”. I he says, “I will trap for myself” he will not be able to say, “I trapped for my profit”. If a man says “I will rob someone”, he will end by being given to a stranger. People's schemes do not prevail. Ma'at is what prevails. Therefor, live in the midst of peace. What god gives comes by itself.

7. If you are one among guests at the table of a person who is more powerful than you, take what that person gives, just as it is set before you. Look at what is set before you. Don't stare at your host. Don't speak to him until he asks. One does not know what may displease him. Speak when he has spoken to you. Then your words will please the heart. The man who has plenty of the means of existence acts as his Ka commands. He will give food to those who he favors. It is the Ka that makes his hand stretch out. The great man gives to the chosen man, thus eating is under the direction of Ma'at. It is a fool who complains about it.

8. If you are a person of trust, sent from one great person to another great person, be careful to stick to the essence of the message that you were asked to transmit. Give the message exactly as he gave it to you. Guard against provocative speech which makes one great person angry with another. Just keep to the truth. Do not exceed it. However, even though there may have been an out-burst in the message, you should not repeat it. Do not malign anyone, big or small, the Ka abhors it.

9. If you plow and if there is growth in your field and Ma'at lets it prosper in your hands, don't boast to your neighbor. One has great respect for the silent person. A person of character is a person of wealth. If that person robs, he or she is like a crocodile in the middle of the waters. If Ma'at gives you children, do not impose on one who has no children. Neither should you brag or decry about having your own children, for there is many a father who has grief for a mother with children that is less content than another. It is the lonely who Ma'at nurtures, while the family man prays for a follower.

10. If you are poor, then serve a person of worth so that your conduct will be in line with Ma'at. Do not bring up the fact that he once was poor. Do not be arrogant towards him just because you know about his former state. Respect him now for his position of authority. As for fortune, it obeys its own law and that is her will. It is Ma'at that makes him worthy, and keeps him safe while he sleeps, or who can turn away from him.

11. Follow your heart (Ma'at) as long as you live. Do no more than is required of you. Do not shorten the time of 'follow the heart' for that offends the Ka. Don't waste time on daily cares over and beyond providing for your household. When wealth finally comes, then follow your heart. Wealth does no good if you are glum.

12. If you are a wise man, train up a son that will follow the Ma'at. If he is good and takes up after you, take good care of him. Do everything that is good for him. But an offspring can make trouble. If your son strays and neglects good council, and disobeys all that is said, with his mouth or spouting evil speech, then punish him.

13. If you are a guard in the store house, stand or sit rather than leave your post and trespass into someone else's place. Follow this rule from the start. Never leave your post, even when tired. Only Ma'at can penetrate the secure storehouse where the rules are followed, even by those of privilege.

14. If you are among the people, then gain your supporters by building trust. A trusted man is the one who does not speak the first thing that comes to mind; and he will become a leader. A man of means has a good name, and his face is benign. People will praise him, even without his knowledge. On the other hand, he whose heart obeys his belly, asks for contempt of himself in the place of love. His heart is naked. His body unannointed. The great hearted are Ma'at. He who is ruled by his appetite, is fed by his enemy.

15. Report the thing that you were commissioned to report without error. Give your advice in the high council. If you are fluent in your speech, it will not be hard for you to report. Nor will anyone say of you “who is he to know this?”. As to the authorities, their affairs will fail if they punish you for speaking truth. They should be silent upon hearing the report that you have rendered as you have been told. If you are a man who leads, a man whose authority reaches widely, then you should do perfect things (follow Ma'at), those which posterity will remember. Don't listen to the words of flatterers or to words that puff you up with pride and vanity.

(I need to get another book that has 16)

17. If you are a person who judges, listen carefully to the speech of one who pleads. Don't stop the person from telling you everything that they had planned to tell you. A person in distress wants to pour out his heart, even more than they want their case to be won. If you are one who stops a person who is pleading, that person will say “Why does he reject my plea?”. Of course not all that one pleads for can be granted, but a good hearing soothes the heart. The means for getting a true and clear explanation is to listen with kindness.

18. If you want friendship to endure in the house that you enter, the house of a master, of a brother or of a friend, then in whatever place you enter beware of approaching the women there. Unhappy is the place where this is done. unwelcome is he who intrudes on them. A thousand men are turned away from their good because of a short moment that is like a dream, and then that moment is followed by death that comes from having known that dream. Anyone who encourages you to take advantage of the situation gives you poor advice. When you go to do it, your heart says no. If you are one who fails through the lust of women, then no affair of yours can prosper.

19. If you want to have follow Ma'at, to be free from every evil, then above all guard against the vice of greed. Greed is a grievous sickness that has no cure. There is no treatment for it. It embroils fathers, mothers and the brothers of the mother. It parts the wife from the husband. Greed is a compound of all the evils. It is a bundle of all hateful things. That person endures whose rule is righteous, who walks a straight line, for that person will leave a legacy by such behavior. On the other hand, the greedy has no tomb.

20. Do not be greedy in the division of things. Do not covet more than your share. Don't be greedy towards your relatives. A mild person has greater claim than the harsh one. Poor is the person who forgets his relatives. He is deprived of their company. Even a little bit of what is wanted will turn a quarreler into a friendly person.

21. When you prosper and establish your home, love your wife passionately. Then fill her belly and clothe her back. Caress her. Give her ointments to soothe her body. Fulfill her wishes as long as you live. She is a fertile field for her husband. Do not be brutal. Ma'at will influence her better than force. Do not contend with her in the courts. Keep her from the need to resort to outside powers. Her eye is her storm when she gazes. It is by such treatment that she will be compelled to stay in your house.

22. Help your friends with things that you have, for you have these things by the grace of god. If you fail to help your friends, one will say you have a selfish Ka. One plans for tomorrow, but you do not know what tomorrow will bring. The right soul is the soul by which one is sustained. If you do praiseworthy things, your friends will say “Welcome” in your time of need. Do not repeat slander, nor should you even listen to it. It is the spouting of the hot bellied. Just report a thing that has been observed, not something that has been heard second hand. If it is negligible, don't even say anything. He who is standing before you will recognize your worth. Slander is like a terrible dream against one covers the face.

(I need to get a book that has 23)

24. If you are a man of worth who sits at the council of a leader, concentrate on following ma'at. Your silence is much better than boasting. Speak when you know that you have a solution. It is the skilled person who should speak when in council. Speaking is harder than all other work. The one who understands this, makes speech a servant.

25. If you are mighty and powerful, then gain respect through knowledge and through your gentleness of speech. Don't order things except as it is fitting. The one who provokes others to get into trouble. Don't be haughty, lest you be humbled. But also don't be mute lest you be chided. When you answer one who is fuming, turn your face and control yourself. The flame of the hot hearted sweeps across everything. But he who steps gently, his path is a paved road. He who is agitated all day has no happy moments, but he who amuses himself all day can't keep his fortune.

26. Do not disturb a great man or distract his attention when he is occupied, trying to understand his task. When he is thus occupied, he strips his body through the love of what he does. Love for the work which they do bring men closer to Ma'at. These are the people who succeed in what they do.

27. Teach the great what is useful to them. Be an aide to the great before the people. If you let your knowledge impress your leader, your sustenance from him will then come from his soul. As his favorite's belly is filled, so will your back be clothed and his help will be there to sustain you. For your leader whom you love and who lives by useful knowledge, he in turn will give you good support. Thus will the love of you endure in his belly. He is a soul who loves to listen.

28. If you are an official of high standing, and you are commissioned to satisfy the many, then to hold in line with Ma'at, when you speak do not lean to one side or the other. Beware, lest someone complain, saying to the judges, “he has distorted things”, and then your very deeds will turn into judgement of you.

29. If you are angered by a misdeed, then lean toward a man on account of his rightness. Pass over the misdeed and don't remember it, since Ma'at was silent to you on the first day of your misdeed.

30. If you are great after having been humble, if you have gained you wealth after having been poor, and then you go to a town that you know and that knows your former condition, don't put your trust in your newly acquired wealth which has come to you through Ma'at. If you do, one day someone who is poor may very well overtake you.

31. Accept the authority of your leaders, then your house will endure in its wealth. Your rewards will come from the right place. Wretched is he who opposes his leader. One lives as long as he is mild. Baring your arm does not hurt it. Do not plunder your neighbor's house or steal the goods of one that is near you, least he denounce you before you are even heard. One who is argumentative is a mildless person. If he is also known as an aggressor, then that hostile man will have trouble in the neighborhood.

32. Be circumspect in matters of sexual relation.

33. If you examine the character of a friend, don't ask other people, approach your friend. Deal with him alone, so as not to suffer from his anger. You may argue with him after a little while. You may test his heart in conversation. If what he has seen escapes him, if he does something that annoys you, stay friendly with him and do not attack. Be restrained and don't answer him with hostility. Do not leave him and do not attack him. His time will not fail to come. He cannot escape his fate.

34. Be generous as long as you live. What leaves the storehouse does not return. It is the food in the storehouse that one must share that is coveted. One whose belly is empty becomes an accuser. One who is deprived becomes an opponent. Therefore, do not have an accuser or an opponent as a neighbor. Your kindness to your neighbors will be a memorial to you for years after you satisfy their needs.

35. Know your friends and then you prosper. Don't be mean towards your friends. They are like a watered field and greater than any material riches that you may have, for what belongs to one belongs to another. The character of one who is well born should be a profit to him. Good nature is a memorial.

36. Punish firmly and chastise soundly, then repression of crime becomes an example. But punishment except for crime will turn the complainer into an enemy.

37. If you take for a wife a good time woman who is joyful and who is well known in the town, if she is fickle and seems to live for the moment, do not reject her. Let her ear. The joyful person brings happiness.

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