Jeremy Naydler, in Temple of the Cosmos, has one of the best descriptions of isfet that I’ve read to date:
“…Through the meditation of the king, therefore, it was possible for maat to be brought down into the human and natural spheres. Or, put another way, it was possible for these lower spheres of existence to be magically projected into the First Time and thus assimilated to maat. For this to happen, however, the antithesis of maat – isfet (generally translated as “disorder” or “falsehood”) – had to be overcome and driven out of the land…”
He goes on to write:
“… Either side of the First Time, the world swings toward disorder, whether it be the primeval chaos of Nun, or the contingencies that accompany temporal existence. Maat is established only at the creation. She is, in a sense, the very substance of the First Time, and since the coming into being of temporality, Maat must constantly be renewed and reestablished in the face of the cosmological and moral tendencies toward disorder.” (Chapter 5, pg 96)
This opposite of order, this annihilation, toward which we inevitably move is isfet. It is isfet against which we struggle while trying to live in ma’at, and it is isfet that pushes back in an attempt to “un“- everything. If the idea is giving you trouble, think about The Nothing from The Neverending Story or the L’Engle’s Echthroi and you’ll have an idea about what I’m writing.
As most readers of this blog can tell (from the blog name and some earlier posts), I’m a believer in the fluidity of ma’at. As isfet is ma’at’s opposite, it therefore stands to reason that isfet is also fluid – and that standing against it requires ever changing tactics.
In the struggle against isfet, there is no threefold law. There is no concept of good works, or salvation; there are no bright blessings. There is only assessment of the situation and determination of action, and that determination must be able to be change as needed.
As we work to uphold ma’at, we cannot be constrained by “harm none” clauses or we risk not being able to do what is required . I remember once reading a post by someone who stated that Sekhmet must have been unhappy with the unrest and rioting in Egypt. My response was to remind said individual that Sekhmet’s nature involves the upholding of ma’at by any means necessary. What’s a little rioting to Her if it means Order is restored?
Ma’at must be upheld no matter the cost because isfet is *not* an acceptable outcome.