Theophile Obenga advanced an interesting argument regarding the degree to which Kemetic ethics were secular in essence and practice, particularly when one looks at the concerns about civil ethics, or ethics pertaining to good governance in Kemet. He writes, “Egyptian morality was, in this sense, civil and secular, profoundly focused on the life of the community.” However, it should be noted, as Jacob H. Carruthers has argued, that these ethical ideals were contextualized within a cosmology wherein Maat was a seen as a fundamental organizing principle of the universe. In fact, one might argue that there is a tension in the characterization of the Kemetic paradigm as “secular”. There was really no true separation in their worldview, so this language of “secular” versus “spiritual” is insufficient.
In many respects, the conceptualization of ethics in Kemetic society is indicative of an effort to express the consubstantiality of beingness, that is that one’s say, speech, was reflective of the ideals of the society, while also reflecting the basic order of the cosmos–hence the interrelationship between medew nefer (good speech) and medew netcher (divine speech) captures the inextricable connections between the mundane and the cosmic in the Kemetic worldview.
The idea of an ordered cosmos, or stated in a more Kemetic fashion, the principle of Maat, is not unique to the Nile Valley–though it is our oldest example of it. We find similar ideas among other African cultures who described an orderly rather than chaotic universe.
In fact the Kongo paradigm, which has gained a great deal of popularity due to the pioneering work of Dr. Fu-Kiau, offers a very intricate and sublime model of space and time that captures in magnificent fashion basic aspects of African ontology. Like other cultures, we find that the Kongo attempted to model the universe in the design of their cities and towns. This is an example of how such cosmological notions contributed to the prevalence of fractal geometry in African cultures.
In short, the African worldview sought to capture the seamlessness in all things–humans, nature, character, the cosmos, government, family, and so on. Thus, building on Carruthers’s work, much of the cosmological discourse offers dynamic representations or “dramatizations” of human experience. Thus the life of the society and the cosmic backdrop were conjoined, as humans sought to reflect cosmic ideals in their daily lives.
The secular and the spiritual