Afrikan concept of God
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
December 31, 2006
Every Afrikan society has beliefs, ideas and teachings that emphasise the existence of a Supreme Being. These beliefs, ideas and teachings are found to be original with the Afrikan way of life. But, beliefs, ideas, teachings and even practices may differ from society to society and from shrine to shrine.
These differences may be found in customs, rituals, norms and sanctions. They may be found in spiritual languages as instruments of communicating ideas, beliefs and practices. They may also be found in spiritual representations like shrines, temples, relics, costumes and the application of beliefs and ideas in the numerous activities of life.
For example, cults of similar bearing in Zaire and Nigeria may differ in custom as to what means of conveyance does not defile the sacrificial ram. And customs may differ in the same Afrikan village as to when Stool Temples open for public worship and which ancestor to summon first in pouring libation.
According to Enosakhare Idubor (1991):
"The example of names ascribed to the Supreme Being by different Afrikan societies is a vital point to explain this aspect of differences."
To the one and only Supreme Being, various Afrikan societies have common attributes in different names. The Yoruba of Nigeria call him Olorun; the Mendes of Sierra Leone call him Ngewo; the Bambara of Sudan, Faro; the Ibo of Nigeria call him Chukwu; the Akan of Ghana, Nyame; and the West Camerounians, Niambe, just to mention a few.
To expand on the differences a bit further, the use of specific religious practices can be used. One example is Ifa, a popular divinatory science in West Afrika. The name Ifa is Yoruba. It is Afa in Ewe. And when the Yoruba provide spiritual explanations, they call some of their secret codes Odi, Irete, Ogunda, Iwori and Osa. On the other hand, the Ewe are referring to the same codes when they utter Di, Lete, Guda, Woli and Sa.
Similarities are also striking. For example, the Lotuko of Central Afrika perform rainmaking rituals. A rite of black goat offering is made to the sacred stones and these stones are washed with water from a sacred stream. Similar rites are also performed to the rain-stones (Tsina) of the Ewe.
In the same manner, both the Ewe and Jaba of Nigeria believe a witch could eat the "egg" in a pregnant woman's womb. Therefore, the Ewe and Jaba forbid children and pregnant women to eat "eggs." It is believed that a woman used to eating chicken eggs may be tempted to eat her own "eggs".
The point that is made here is that differences in customs, beliefs, practices, etc, are negligible. They cannot be factors that reflect different religious concepts in indigenous Afrikan societies.
The nature of Afrikan religious thinking and practices makes it such that shades of dissimilarity are normal. Even this aspect of differences is a distinct characteristic of Afrikan religion. It is open-ended and does not hinder adherents from acquiring other forms of beliefs and practices.
As such, it is safe to say that, in essence, the omnipotence of God is pivotal in Afrikan religious thinking and practices. Although practice and thinking evoke a belief in the existence of many spiritual beings or divinities, there is that fundamental/spinal belief that these beings are subjects of the One Supreme Being.
In reality, then, the mingling or interpositioning of several beings in that One Supreme Personality encapsules or manifests the basis/cornerstone of Afrikan religious concept and belief system.
This recognition of God as the omnipotent Authority must necessarily introduce readers to those attributes or qualities that, to the Afrikan, show this character of God.
In the Afrikan belief system, God is also the Artist, the Creator, that is, Ad Adanuwoto, who works with the hands and feet, Enloa Asi, 'Nloa 'Fo. This Supreme Being is thus omniscient and versatile. Both near and far, He is complex. That is why He is Kiti (close to each other, crowded, crammed) and Kata (scattered, sparse) at the same time. And by implication, God is All and One. He embodies Holism.
God is Afrikan throughout Afrika; this supreme position is found in the culture of the people. It is found in the rules of conduct and moral codes of Afrikan societies. God permeates Afrikan histories, Afrikan arts and Afrikan institutions. There are thousands of personal names to describe God. He is found in the songs of liberation and the pains that the Afrikan Continent has suffered in the Euro-plunder of its culture and civilization.
For example, Black South Afrikans sing "Morena Boloka Sachaba Sa Heso", which means "God Bless Our Nation" and all over the Continent, "Nkosi Sikelele Afrika", which means "God Bless Afrika" could be heard. God's righteousness and infallibility are seen everywhere. He is the Supreme Judge everywhere and He apportions justice in every situation. His impartiality is told in the numerous spiritual guidelines formulated by Afrikan mystics.
In the spiritual world, God built a mansion of great beauty and size for Man and Wisdom. It was enclosed by a wall of great height. Everything of comfort and happiness was there. There were laughter, satisfaction, beauty and health. It was an unrivalled paradise and everyday Man and Wisdom had revelries. They sang, ate, drank, danced and slept soundly.
But they were soon overtaken by pride, happiness and self-will. God gave them self-will. However, Wisdom knew everything in the great house, but he did not know what was outside the walls. He consequently pressed for adventure. Man, on the other hand, was convinced by Wisdom and they eventually climbed over the wall.
Unfortunately for them, they landed in a world of sorrow or Isfet. This represented war, pain, poverty, hunger, lust, disease, imbalance, chaos and bitterness. But God, their Father, showed sympathy and kindness to them. He requested the divinities to throw food and other requirements to them. He nevertheless instructed the divinities to withhold from Man and Wisdom the "key of return" until an unknown time. This has resulted in man's limited knowledge of the spiritual world beyond him.
Enosakhare Idubor further states that:
"The Afrikan believes in the existence of God. This belief pervades his religious thinking and practices. The many attributes to God in proverbs, axioms, art, music, philosophy and science and the recourse found in him by the Afrikan illustrate this point. The Afrikan also believes in the existence of other spiritual beings. These are intermediaries between God and him, a source of instruction to communicate with God. But a direct connection is also discernible in everyday demands, actions and thoughts of the Afrikan. God is also to be found at the center of worship."
The fact of the matter is that there is a notion that has been bandied about that "God could only exist among Muslims, Christians and Judaists." However, these prejudices"could be easily attached to those (Euro) prejudices established by colonialism and racial discrimination."
The reality is that historiography proves that "important parts of the Judaist religious writings had been copied from Afrikan societies" in the B.C. era. In fact, many of the well-known, revered religious leaders in the world received their religious lessons/teachings from the Temple of Waset (renamed Thebes by the Greeks and Luxor by the Arabs) in ancient Kemet (Egypt).
Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan ("Doc Ben") has already proven quite convincingly that "Afrika is the origin of the world's major western religions" (1970). This beginning is key to the originality of Afrikan spirituality and it is this historical reality that European Supremacy seeks to deny or to assign to the Afrikan.
Afrikan spirituality also deals with the twin aspects of good and evil. "Afrikans seek to explain the interplay of that good and evil, to arrive at a higher plane of unity." In this regard, the Afrikan believes that "those opposing forces may not necessarily produce a negative unity. The underlying religious philosophy is that although these forces are at variance in any given situation or tend to oppose in a particular direction, there is possibly a resultant positive constant, the Whole, that eludes the exponent of the devil-angel theology."
Hence, it need occasion no great surprise that the ancient Kemites (Afrikans) built the Horem Akhet (renamed the Sphinx by the Greeks) in order to express the spiritual significance of "the triumph of good over evil."
In other words, this Stone Monument has the head of Pharaoh Khafra and the body of a lion. The lion represents the most feared, powerful beast in the jungle or zoo; it signifies evil. The head represents the brain of a human being which has the ability or power to overpower/outthink the animal beast. Animals have no thinking powers, human beings do. Hence, the human being with his brains can outmanouver the brainless lion and prevent any wrong or evil action from taking place.
In other words, regardless of how powerful one may feel, there is always a more powerful force than can outthink and outsmart you. In this way, good or Ma'at will always prevail or triumph. The ancient Kemetic spiritual belief system of Ma'at represents order, balance, harmony, justice, compassion, truth and reciprocity. The goodness of the human spirit is hereby manifested.
Hence, the purpose of life in ancient Kemet was to achieve Human Perfectibility. It was not to achieve total power and control as the lion represents.
The bottom-line is that the Afrikan sees life "as mystery to be lived out on a mysterious earth ruled by spiritual forces of good and evil. There is no event without a spiritual/ metaphysical cause; hence, man must look beyond physical events to their spiritual etiology."
It must be clear that the Afrikan "does not separate the evil from good in his dealings with God." In the Afrikan's thinking, "this belief is not seen to be incompatible with the notion of God delegating authority to the divinities for the governance of the earth."
When man begins to challenge the authority of these spiritual divinities, then Isfet ensues. This is the phenomenon that now exists on this planet as a result of five hundred years of European religious Supremacy. Or what Dr. Ivan van Sertima correctly terms "the five hundred year curtain."
In the Afrikan spiritual belief system, nothing happens by accident. It "has no room for accidental deaths or natural illness. It has no natural cause and effect category; every event has metaphysical etiology. In other words, every event has a spiritual cause and explanation."
Indeed, one of the major concepts in Afrikan spirituality is the concept of Monotheism or One God. This concept is not Euro-Christian in origin. It was introduced in ancient Kemet by Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (who changed his name to Akhenaton) in the XXVIth Dynasty 1370-1352 B.C. During the reign of Akhenaton, his High Priest was the Egyptian-born Moses. And it was this spiritual experience/training that Moses came up with his First Commandment:"Thou shalt have no other God but me."
In ancient Kemet, there were "42 Negative Confessions", " 42 Admonitions of Ma'at" or "42 Declarations of Innocence" under this spiritual system, a system that Moses knew as High priest. Moses just collapsed the "42 Negative Confessions" into the Ten Commandments as the bedrock of religious Christianity.
The reality is that in the B.C. era, Afrika and Afrikans were known as "the land of the spiritual people"; as a result of European Supremacy, Afrika and Afrikans have been transformed into a religious people. Isfet (that is, chaos, imbalance, disorder and disharmony) has replaced Ma'at in the lives of Afrikan people 24/7/365.
Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.
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