Updated: Sep 5, 2018
A teacher does not judge, neither does she assume to know. The greatest of teachers are the smartest of learners
The history of Africa’s colonial past is well known and documented. The scars that this legacy has caused are visible in individuals, and in our diseased communities. One of the symptoms of this dis-ease in our communities, on the continent and in the Diaspora, is the demonizing of Africa’s believe systems. When we say God as Africans, even in our native tongues, we often imagine man of European descent, blue eyes and long grey hair and beard. This is and has been the image presented by all religions foreign to Africa, through pictures, film and oral descriptions.
This process was and still is subtle. For example, the Christian religion was introduced by white missionaries, and God as the father of the person introducing the believe system will resemble that person. The messiah according to Christianity, Jesus Christ, has been presented as a white man, the son of God. It therefore becomes logical for the brain to associate God with this image; as the son so is the father. This has had a profound impact on the image of the people who have been at the receiving end of this doctrine. Although this religion has been modified and re-colored recently, the impact of being told that the only true God that you must worship looks like the very same man who is responsible for your castration, the raping and pillaging of your women and your land cannot be overlooked.
This topic, of religion, spirituality and the God concept as seen through an African lens, has been getting a lot of attention and space for discussions and opening dialogues that get many people shrinking, while others turn their backs away from whoever opens this can of worms. Many even get down-right violent to protect that which they feel and believe they owe their lives to. This is not surprising given the fact that presenting new information to someone who has always believed that the information they hold is the only truth is very destabilizing. The brain attempts to shut out this information because the person’s very being is challenged. Destabilizing information is never well received, regardless of who presents it and whether it shall bring any positive results. Besides the nature of human beings to want to hold on to what is familiar, and reject all that threatens their view on life and truth, a lot of things contribute to the reactions that surface when discussions on religion and African believe systems are started. And these things, done by many who supposedly walk the path of African spirituality is proving to be even more damaging as the indoctrination of foreign religions to the African is.
Making individual choices personal
By this I mean the tendency of people to make others’ choice of believe system their personal mission. It cannot be denied, Africa’s believe systems have been eroded, the concept of God as our people understood it has been reduced to mere idol worshiping, in definition and practice. In light of this, teachers, scholars and anyone interested in imparting the old age wisdom, that is the vertebrae of Africa’s people and a crucial part of its development, has a greater duty, not only to themselves and their people but to this knowledge and wisdom.
This journey of knowledge, like all journeys of life, is an individual one. It takes certain experiences in life for one to arrive at a fork in the road where everything does not make sense anymore and the journey of seeking begins. It is an individual journey, one that is for finding answers to personal questions. Everyone have answers to their own questions that they have so far discovered during this journey of seeking, and these answers are not one-size fit all. The journey of spirituality will always lead you to the answers you seek; answers that are tailor made for you and would not fit the next person as perfectly. When one seeks to instill their ways of understanding in others, to offer their personally tailor made answers as the only available answers, they inadvertently prevent the truth seeker from finding their own truth. We should always remember that truth is subjective; it is based off of individual perspectives, emotions and opinions. Therefore truth becomes a dodecahedron, with multiple sides based on where one is in life. You might be seeing a corner on your side but the other person is seeing a flat plane at that very same moment.
The mistake that those who consider themselves teachers of spirituality make is insisting that the shape is made only of corners because they are seeing a corner, failing to realize that a shape cannot have corners without having straight lines that come together. Teachers should not tell students what to see, but rather how to look. Often times we come across others who insist that those who are on a different journey to theirs are lost and should therefore abandon the journey and join theirs. Others’ individual journeys should not be your personal mission; you too have a journey to undertake. You meet on a junction, you teach and learn from each other, and you continue on your journey. Do not attempt to drag the other person along with you. You might not move at all for the heavy weight you carry, and you might cause the other to get lost because their level of understanding has not reached the level you are at.
Hating the person along with their believe systems
This is a very prevalent phenomenon among believers in religion and ‘new students’ of spirituality. I call them ‘new’ because these are people who have recently come to the knowledge they have sought, and instead of humility and wisdom, they instead acquire virtues that do not teach, and help lead others to this knowledge. They become judges of those who do not see what they see; they embody the same sentiments that they blame religions such as Christianity to embody. Sentiments such as being judgmental, hating that which is different from you and does not ascribe to your views. Christianity and Islam, and many other religions and their factions have been known to hate and demonize other believe systems that seem to have different views to those they hold. Therefore to say you are on the path of truth but profess with your mouth, actions and heart to hate all those who ascribe to the religion that was used to break the backbone of our people is to don the same cloth that those who formulated these religions donned.
You cannot walk the path of truth, which is love when you continue to hate, and judge those who are still to come to the knowledge that you have come to. It is well known that for one to grow in wisdom one has to let go of hate or there would not be any movement. Hate is a heavy emotion and if you are holding on to it, you can only stay down with it to hold it there. It is the same with being on the spiritual journey. It is a journey of understanding, a journey of teaching and learning and not of condemnation. Africans have been condemned for centuries merely for being themselves and stripped of their dignity, their knowledge of God, and it is destructive to now condemn them for being in a system that keeps them there with fear, and also because of familiarity. Religion is a social construct, it works through the minds of people; change that, and you effectively shake the foundation of the system that keeps them stuck.
Assuming to know it all
A teacher does not judge, neither does she assume to know. The greatest of teachers is the smartest of learners.
This is the truth that applies to all aspects of life. Often it lacks in what has come to be known as the conscious community; people who have become conscious of certain truths that have made them distance themselves from western religions and streams of thought. These are people who have come to know that the one who controls your thoughts controls you, and for some reason have come to believe that they know it all because they have found the relieve that comes with not being indoctrinated.
The bartered ground between revolution and spirituality
I refer to this ground as ‘bartered’ because this is where being a revolutionary and a spiritualist meet and have a battle. This battle is often internal and not easy to notice. This is a dangerous and conflicting stage to be at. This is a stage where one yearns to bring the knowledge to everyone they get in contact with, but get frustrated when the information is not well received or when the process of unlearning and unbecoming takes far too long. At this stage, the African revolutionary in you has donned his thinking beret and feels powered to free his people from mental slavery, injustices, prejudice, economic oppression, etc. This stage is very precarious. Victory over all these lies in the minds of the people that you seek to impact, and religion, mainly Christianity, seems to counteract every effort made to get people to realize that power lies within them, that they are capable of controlling their own thoughts and relinquishing believe systems that were brought to them through whips and castrations.
The fabric of modern African society is made of foreign religions, and the downfall of African empires was at the hands of those who held the bible, therefore all injustices done to Africa, directly and indirectly has been through these hands, and those who used the teachings of the bible to disarm the people. It then becomes crucial to unshackle people from mental slavery because until they denounce the believe system that equates them and all they do to evil, they will not rise above the level reserved for them. This is where many lose their footing. Here the African spiritualist becomes unbalanced, because the spirit and upheaval cannot dwell in the same abode. It then becomes apparent that the revolutionary must learn to balance the upheaval, the radicalism, and avoid letting it seep into their spiritual teachings because the spirit always denounce that which causes confusion. The spirit in human beings is love, and although radicalism is born out of love for one’s people and a need to rectify that which is wrong, radicalism is not calm; the process of radicalism is not peace. Therefore if these are not balanced out properly, the same people we seek to teach will draw away. Many do not have any memory or even teachings on how Christianity came to Africa’s shores, and have come to associate it with peace and love and not with the purpose it served. It is therefore unlikely that one would move from a place of peace and love to what they will see not only as demonic because bible teachings said so, but something that is associated with hatred and thoughts of radicalism.
African Spirituality is morality itself. The laws of nature guides the teachings of African spirituality; therefore seek not to move away from that knowledge
photo cred - JoanLopez