Letters from the Nisut, House of NetjerMa'at is more than right action or right process.... even the word "right" in English has as many meanings as does "justice," and not all of them good. I am left with a word I cannot explain to you in the language I must use to explain it, and so we have a limitation. We will do our best to come to some understanding of what Ma'at is, even if we cannot agree on how best to term it in our native tongue.
First of all, Ma'at is a process and not an event. Ma'at happens; it is not simply a monolithic yardstick for behavior, such as the Ten Commandments of Christianity. While there have been some useful comparisons of the 42 "negative confessions" one is asked to say in the judgment halls of the Kemetic Orthodox afterlife to the Ten Commandments (such as in Karenga's The Declaration of Innocence), it is not a one-to-one comparison where Kemetics feel a need to tack on 32 more prohibitions than the Jews. The important part of the judgment of the dead, actually, is not the negative confession, but what comes afterward: the weighing of the heart (the central essence of a person, not the actual beating red muscle in one's chest) against Ma'at.
May 10th, 2004: Daily Devotions, House of NetjerThey are referred to as the "Negative Confessions" or the "42 Laws," yet they are really neither.
What each of the 42 lines consists of is a prayer and a purification. Beginning with the invocation of a local god for each of the 42 provinces of Kemet, and ending with a recitation of a thing which a person did not do (as opposed to reciting what a person did do, an interesting declaration of innocence rather than of guilt in itself), the 42 lines were actually priestly requirements, from a list of things that priests in life were required to perform (or in this case not) perform, immediately before serving before Netjer in a temple.
As the deceased is about to enter the presence of Wesir, it makes sense that he or she must be "purified" in the same way as a priest and prove it to "the 42 assessors," symbolic of the entire land and people of Kemet.
This being said, the 42 purifications also give us some idea of what the people of Kemet considered appropriate behavior, and even the living person who is not a priest cannot help but benefit from that study.
In short, the 42 Negative Confessions are statements of principles for the everyday Kemetic to keep in mind and strive to achieve - not hard and fast rules that must absolutely be followed at all times by everyone.