EXPERT WITNESS: Reflections on forty-two ideals for living well (part one)


By Dr. John F. Sase
Gerard J. Senick,
Senior Editor
Julie Gale Sase, Proofreader

"The number 42: 'The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything'"

-Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (Pan Books, 1979)

Economics and Law neither exist nor develop in a void. These two disciplines are unified with Sociology, Political Science, Spirituality, and many other behavioral fields. Both Law and Economics are rooted in questions of morality, production of goods and services, and buying and selling. These fields have always revolved around issues involving greed and the humane treatment of workers, as well as global environment in recent decades. Law has always focused upon basic right from wrong as well as justice and mercy.

Ancient cultures and current indigenous peoples have understood the interconnectedness of all. More specifically, Economics depends upon harmonious unity of diverse resources and human cultures to sustain and thrive. The fragmentation of our global human society and the marginalization of specific groups, through the political media and by the blame laid upon large cultures for extreme acts of violence by small groups of individuals, undermine the evolution of our global economy.

In last month's column, we considered the worldly philosophy of Andrew Carnegie, made famous by author/lecturer Napoleon Hill. In addition, we referenced a number of older traditions and rules for living. The Forty-Two Ideals of Ma'at is one of these sets of codes. During the past month, I (Dr. Sase) have become very intrigued with the contents of this ancient document. I have found it to be as relevant today as it was in the third century BCE. In addition, the Forty-Two Ideals of Ma'at translate well into our modern languages and concepts. I have taken these ideals and have reflected upon them in my own words, not as religion, but as essential tools for living. This month, we will explore the first twenty-one of the ideals. Next month, we will look at the second half.

The Forty-Two Ideals of Ma'at-Numbers One through Twenty-One

Let us begin with a short overview of this ancient set of ideals. Ma'at was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice. Ma'at also was personified as the actions of the deity who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation as well as the actions of mortal sentient beings.

Ma'at is the norm for nature and society in this world and the next as recorded in the Pyramid Texts more than 4,300 years ago. The Pyramid Texts are a collection of ancient Egyptian religious inscriptions that were carved on the walls and sarcophagi of the pyramids at Saqqara. Personified, Ma'at weighed the human soul of each departed person against the weight of a feather in order to determine whether his/her soul would reach the Paradise of Afterlife successfully.

The ideals of Ma'at represent the ethical and moral principles that every Egyptian citizen was expected to follow throughout his/her daily life. Humans were expected to act with honor and truth in matters involving deity, family, community, nation, and environment. Let us commence with the ideals.

1. We should honor virtue, as realized and as voluntarily attained by each human being. In its essence, virtue is the Golden Rule: We should not do to our fellow humans that which is hateful to ourselves. Virtue is good manners, hope, justice, temperance, benevolent love, peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and control of the senses, forgiveness, non-covetousness, inner purity, reflective prudence, wisdom, truthfulness, freedom from anger, mindfulness, concentration, compassion, altruistic and sympathetic joy, equanimity, moral rectitude, courage, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty, to name but a few.

2. We benefit from gratitude because it is an affirmation of goodness in the world and the benefits that we have received from it. The source of this goodness lies outside of ourselves as we acknowledge that higher powers as well as other humans help us to achieve this goodness.

3. We should be peaceful because peace of mind prevents stress and anxiety in our lives by making our minds calm while awakening our inner strength and confidence. Though peacefulness remains independent of external conditions, it does help us to connect better with others around us.

4. We should respect the rights and property of others because this respect is fundamental to getting along with others. Through the harmony of positive interaction and respect, all of us may feel valued as well as safer and more secure.

5. We should affirm that all life is sacred because everything within life is interconnected, as are Spirituality, Politics, and Economics intertwined. Indigenous people on our planet often refer to this belief as the Earth Ethic. When we realize that Sky, Earth, and Water are sacred, we become one with all.

6. We should give offerings that are genuine. Sincere giving out of our concern for others and the world around us produces a genuine effect in the lives of all. Perhaps this reminds us that we should consider that tax deductions and potential notability are the byproducts rather than the purpose of our philanthropy.

7. We should live in truth that brings us to wholeness and to a clear higher consciousness instead of deception, which offers only false riches and superficial success. Such a lust for power, possessions, and pleasure that we witness daily in the media appears to be the true path. However, it merely leads to the inner death of our humanity.

8. We should regard all altars with respect because many paths to higher truths and consciousness exist. Since the most ancient of times, these sites have been respected as the place, point, or vortex at which the divine and human worlds interact.

9. We should speak with sincerity because this constitutes the bold, though arduous, path to moral perfection. When we know right from wrong, sincere speech helps us to do what we say and to avoid doing the opposite.

10. We should consume only our fair share because the world contains scarce resources. These resources are spread across our planet to greater or lesser degrees of equanimity. The economics of a fair share are marked by impartiality and honesty. Fair share reflects the economics of freedom from unfair self-interest, prejudice, and favoritism. In business relations, this practice forms the basis for knowing, liking, and trusting a trading partner.

11. We should offer words of good intent, especially in situations of great struggle. On a battlefield, soldiers often envision the enemy as either nonhuman or subhuman. Words of good intent include calling those whom we confront as brave, enduring, honorable, sincere, loyal to their cause, and other terms that we ourselves would want to be called in such situations, ones that military generals remind us should occur only as a last resort.

12. We should relate to others in peace because this forms the path to the ideal of freedom and happiness among people. This sense of world peace reflects the idea of planetary nonviolence by which nations cooperate willingly in a way that prevents warfare-a cessation of hostility amongst all humanity.

13. We should honor animals with reverence because of the inherent value and equality of all life, human and nonhuman. As a species, we have forgotten our place in the food chain and our responsibility for dominion that we once practiced on this planet. Ethical stewardship involves protecting animals from unnecessary exploitation and suffering.

14. We should be trustworthy because being trusted is a greater good than being loved. On a higher plane, the ability to be trusted by others requires that we be knowledgeable and well-informed. Only then can we humans be trusted to govern ourselves.

15. We should care for the earth because we have dominion, but not control, over it. This means that we have neither the moral right nor the technical ability to exercise complete regulation and exploitation of this planet. As the dominant sentient beings, we have the responsibility to guard, protect, and serve as stewards of the earth.

16. We should keep our own council. This means that we should be discreet, careful, and circumspect in what we say concerning our own thoughts, deeds, or situations. Also, this extends to mean that we should keep the appropriate secrets of others in confidence.

17. We should speak positively of others because negative attitudes and conversations act like diseases that devour the essence of being in others and in ourselves. When directed within a group, positive-speak helps to unite while negative-speak alienates and destroys.

18. We should keep our emotions balanced because they play key roles in achieving happiness, success, and lasting relationships. Medical science tells us that people who age best are those who have positive feelings and who experience positive actions in their lives. Our ability to remain emotionally intelligent and to keep our nervous systems in balance ensures that our immune and other systems can preserve and repair our bodies.

19. We should be trustful in our relationships because trust is the foundation for building strong bonds. Research suggests that trust serves as an essential ingredient in any healthy relationship, one that is defined by honesty and dependability.

20. We should hold purity in high esteem in order to regard it with respect and to think well of what frees us from anything that debases or pollutes us or our environment. Within ourselves, purity suggests a freedom from guilt, evil, or inappropriate elements that may contaminate our lives.

21. We should spread joy because of its message. Joy fills the hearts of all who encounter it. A smile, a kind word, or the smallest act of caring has the ability to turn around a life. Furthermore, joy creates a cycle of good will that emanates and touches many lives.

A Seasonal Wish

We hope that this introduction to the Forty-Two Ideals of Ma'at is edifying to our readers and provides a valuable resource for the end of this year and the beginning of the next. We wish joyful holidays to our audience as well as a healthy and prosperous New Year.


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Dr. John F. Sase has taught Economics for thirty-five years and has practiced Forensic and Investigative Economics since the early 1990s. He earned an M.A. in Economics and an MBA at the University of Detroit and a Ph.D. in Economics at Wayne State University. He is a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. Dr. Sase can be reached at 248-569-5228 and at

Gerard J. Senick is a freelance writer, editor, and musician. He earned his degree in English at the University of Detroit and was a supervisory editor at Gale Research Company (now Cengage) for over twenty years. Currently, he edits books for publication and gives seminars on writing and music. Senick can be reached at 313-342-4048 and at You can find some of his writing tips at

Julie G. Sase is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. She earned her degree in English at Marygrove College and her graduate certificate in Parent Coaching from Seattle Pacific University. As a consultant, Ms. Sase coaches clients, writes articles for publication, and gives interviews to various media. Ms. Sase can be reached at and

Published: Wed, Dec 16, 2015