African Concept of Human Personality

In this post I shall briefly explain how our African ancestors conceived of human personality and personhood. First of all, our ancestors were ideologically both creationists and evolutionists. They believe that the supreme God (Mawu) and his servant gods created the universe and everything in it. Man was created as an imperfect being and kept in a cave. Initially he could not speak but could only growl or make grunting noises like an animal. With time man emerged out of his cave and acquired human qualities such as bipedal locomotion, speech, thought, reason, conscience and virtue etc. This implies that the earliest man was probably a hominid. This concept contrasts sharply with the Christian creation story at Genesis 1, where everything was said to have been created almost instantly and perfectly. How then do we explain genetic defects such as premordial dwarfism, hunchbacks etc. and when I was Little I knew a man with twelve toes and twelve fingers. I bet all this people will wish they were not “perfect.”

Within African setup, when a baby is born, he or she is considered a non human visitor until after eight days. If the baby dies before the 8th day no funeral was held and no one was expected to cry or weep. The idea is that the baby is an animal – comprising pure ID (Instinctual Drives in freudian terms) and not fully human yet. Within the child’s ID is the mother’s blood, the father’ spirit and a soul from God. So the child is formed by three components coming from three different sources. The child’s life, as he survives and grows, is perpertually animated by these three factors. When he or she grows old and eventually dies, he loses the blood and spirit which he acquired from his parents but his soul is not lost. It returns to Mawu (the Supreme God) who is believed to dwell beyond the stars. The servant gods that dwell among the people and take possesion of animals, trees, rocks and rivers are never called “Mawu” but rather “Trorwo” meaning deities.

Please note that the practices described here are carried out by the Ewe tribe to which I belong. Different tribes have different ideas and practices though the differences are not very drastic. Also there are two forms of African personality: Indigenous African personality lived by our ancestors and contemporary post colonial personality emphatically espoused by Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Senghor, Julius Nyerere etc. which stems from indigenous roots. 

Some Interesting Phenomena That, According To Atheists, Happen By Accident

1. Mammalian Reproduction

This whole process always intrigues me – from fertilization, embryonic development to delivery through a canal lined with numerous delicate muscles that push the little offspring out. In most cases a human baby is clearly shielded from diseases of the parents including HIV etc. Some are even born with a blood group type different from that of the parents, especially the mother in whose body the baby was conceived and developed for nine months. There is certainly some kind of complex filtration going on in the genome. Again, at the outset of pregnancy in mammals, the breast glands begin to produce milk (of the highest quality) for the baby. If at any point in time complications develop in the uterus, which threatens the life of the mother, all conditions being equal, the whole process naturally self-terminates. How can such a biological phenomenon occur by accident and without purpose?

 

2. Respiration

The simple bodily process of taking in oxygen from inhaled air and releasing carbon dioxide by exhalation after which plants take carbon dioxide in and in turn release oxygen; Such a wonderful symbiosis. According to Biologists, there are only two life forms – plants and animals. Suppose plants begin to reverse the process (since everything happens by random chance) by taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide, don’t you think that all animals, the group to which humans also belong, will be annihilated in munites? To say that things happen because conditions accidentally permit it is like saying the earth rotates on its own axis because conditions permit it. And what are these conditions? Because we all know there is no gravity in space, so what is spinning the earth? This is where the super intelligent being comes in. The more we know about nature the more ignorant we would find ourselves. It is said that a little philosophy inclines man to atheism but the deepest philosophy pushes man back to an intelligent designer.

 

3. The Hydrologic Cycle

The hydrologic cycle or the water cycle, which describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth is simply incredible. The mass of water on Earth remains fairly constant over time but the partitioning of the water into the major reservoirs of ice, fresh water, saline water and atmospheric water is, according to scientists, variable depending on a wide range of climatic variables. Still…I think someone could have done all this and set them in motion. It’s never by accident. Water alone covers 70% of the earth’s surface, yet it rarely submerges dry lands where there are large populations – even then not without “warnings.” The quantity of water that living organisms need on a daily bases may have informed the availability of such water on earth. I know of caves in my village where water comes out cleaner than tap – already filtered for drinking. Somebody or entity designed it.

 

4. Laws of Planetary Motion

By this I am referring to certain laws inherent in nature or if you like the universe. The laws regarding space and that regarding time are all mathematical and precise. Any accidental shift will spell the end of life. But the intelligent being, so superior in wisdom, made it in such a way that there has never been a major shift in the laws governing the universe. Of course now they say it’s a multiverse. Maybe a few new planets were discovered and then that’s another universe which is all ludicrous. It could be that the universe is constantly expanding, likewise the galaxy. Again, the precise movement of the planets without ever colliding with the others, the heat and brightness of the sun and the distance at which it is placed from the earth all point to an intelligent maker. The law of contradiction is another proof that there is a master planner. The universe hardly contradicts itself. Johannes Kepler did not originate but discovered the laws of planetary motion; he was simply allowed, by virtue of his effort and curiosity, to take a peek into the mind of the super intelligent being.

 

5. The Earth’s Life Support System

Life is made possible by the great variety of foods and herbs for the consumption of all living things. Yet the atheist is never thankful. He opens his mouth and immediately tells us that life occurs by accident and has no purpose. How do you expect to know the cosmic purpose of life if you didn’t originate it? I have my purpose you have your purpose and that’s fair. If God revealed the cosmic purpose of life , we would sabotage him. It does not occur to the atheist whether the water he drinks springs forth by chance, or the potato he eats or the bark of the nim that cures his fever also grew by chance. The great variety of foods such as tubers, cereals, fruits and vegetables, milk and animal products all point to a designer who knew that these things will be needed or required for growth and survival. This process of need and fulfillment could never have occurred by chance and the interesting thing is that it seemed the earth was prepared and arrayed with trees long before the first man appeared on the scene. Humanity is probably only a little over 10,000 years old whereas the universe is billions of years old. If life started with a so called “big bang” which implies a thick cloud of fire and smoke, how did trees and rivers come about? Can water emerge from fire? There is an intelligent designer.

 

6. The Remarkable Intelligence of Certain Living Organisms Which Operate By Instinct

Man’s first wonder was how birds fly. A baby bird needs not learn the flapping of wings. It was born with the instinct such that even if its parents died at birth it will still be able to fly provided it is of a flying age. What about Birds that migrate long distances like terns and gulls, we may call them intercontinental migratory birds, if you like. How do they know the location of the north and south poles and find their way at sea? It’s like they have a bio-compass in their mind. Again, how do baby turtles find their way back to the particular location of the Mediterranean Sea from where their parents come to hatch them on the shore annually? Scientists have helped us to see that that there are more wondrous things in nature than we can imagine. For instance, how do trees make energy from sunlight? Exactly how do the body’s cells derive energy from the food we eat? Scientists themselves don’t even know exactly how these things occur. Consider the mimic octopus, the giant squid, the chameleon, the electric eel, the firefly and so forth, are you not filled with awe? Yet all this animals act effortlessly and out of pure instinct. This means someone, some entity, who is far more intelligent than us, pre-programmed them. I invite any evolutionist to explain to me how evolution equipped the electric eel with the ability to organically generate electricity.

 

7. Powers of Human Imagination

On the average, a baby can recognize millions of faces and emotions. When it grows a bit older it can roughly guess who is a good guy and who is not, sometimes based on smell. That’s how come a baby may cry in one hand and be quiet in another. The ability to effortlessly acquire language is also inbuilt in a human baby. We humans are the most privileged in terms of mental capabilities. We can draw pictures from memory; we can sing for our loved ones, we yearn for the affection of others, especially of the opposite sex (although there is a whole new theory about love, sex and gender these days). Humans have a very dynamic social organization that is based on intuition – a visit to an auntie, an uncle, a brother or an old friend can be very reviving. In emotional terms, we can understand each other irrespective of race or ethnic origins. A smile makes the face looks different from a frown and this applies to all the races. In fact, I think I mentioned somewhere in my previous posts that happiness is a social state. We, humans also use imagination to predict and solve many problems. I wonder whether atheists consider life as a whole before making conclusions. Or that they simply pick what evidence they want. Objects in the universe constantly undergo a system of birth, death and rebirth. And it is completely ludicrous to think that because you have a brain in between your ears you must understand everything about the universe. Not everything is designed for mortals to understand. There is a limit to human knowing.

 

8. Evolution

I know at the mention of evolution, ears stand erect. Many take the theory of evolution, specifically “Origin of Species” as evidence of non existence of an intelligent designer. But upon careful observation of the whole theory, evolution may actually be the doing of an intelligent creator. The core objective of life is first to survive. Therefore the intelligent designer made his creatures incredibly dynamic – able to adapt and readapt depending on general living and climate conditions. That’s how come the dinosaurs gave way to man. Let’s forget about specifics and focus on generalities. Take the manufacture of automobiles for instance. The first make was very noisy and produced a lot of fumes. Then came an improvement on the first and another and another and another all aimed at eliminating the things that failed to work and maintaining what worked. Now we have cars that run on solar energy. Does the evolution of cars or defects inherent in cars prove that cars exist by chance? Or does the evolution of computers or defects inherent in computers prove that computers exist by chance. The natural selection processes we see to be random are not random at all. They follow a precise pattern – a pattern of progression, otherwise, apart from convergent and divergent evolution; there would have been what I will call “reverse evolution” since according to atheists it’s all happening simply because conditions permit it. What are these conditions? And why are they following a pattern of progression from inferior to superior forms?

 

9. Death

Death! It teaches us more about God than life. I admit, life for the most part is beset with numerous vicissitudes so that it becomes completely absurd to speak or even think of a good God. But I assure you all dying men see God. Two things are eternal: change and demise. An so how is it that there is such uniformity – in an event or an ending that all living organisms go through at a particular stage. In other words death is binding on all of us including even unicellular organisms. So somebody may have instituted that.

This world is not a perfect place. But I think it does little good to be in perpetual denial. What one believes says a lot about him or her. Of course there are many “sound” arguments for atheism but does that lead to any meaningful end? As far as I can imagine, most radical atheists gravitate towards sensualism, through a kind of chronic despair to anarchism and eventually end up in nihilism. The choice, of course, lies with the individual and I don’t think the lack of a complete understanding of God or gods should be a barrier to acceptance that certain super human being exists, if such a belief ultimately makes one a better person.

Note that, I am not a Christian apologist. My position is only a philosophical position. I don’t attend any church or feel the need to make senseless noise in the name of worship. I think that is lunacy. But, other than ascribing events and existence to random chance, I simply hold the view that there is an entity higher than man, who originated the universe.

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

 

 

 

A New Beginning

New beginning...

Photo credit: alexkess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doctors and Scientists do not know everything,

They condemn that which they do not understand,

And fix meaning where there is none,

Many times, doctors give people death sentences,

When in fact there is a new life ahead,

They say it’s the age of reason,

But the more rational we become,

The more problems we create,

I do not know what your worry is,

Maybe you have a health condition,

Or maybe you have lost a loved one,

Or you are simply on the wrong side of life,

Whatever it is,

Take a look, deep down into the depths of your soul,

And perhaps, just when you understand ”Why me?”,

You will be healed and that will be a new beginning.

African Idea of the Universe

In indigenous African societies, God is thought of as a giver, a protector and a liberator. He has personal qualities such as wisdom, eternity, invisibility, omnipresence and most importantly justice. He reveals himself through earthly and heavenly things such as the sun, the moon, the stars, rocks, trees, rivers and rains. It is obviously beyond the scope of this article to delve deep into African Philosophy mainly because each African tribe has slightly different belief systems as regards nature and origin of life. I shall however try turn every stone in an attempt to find the most common element that runs through all tribes and draw conclusions.

Among most tribes, God is believed to be the father of all men. He is the almighty, the Supreme Being and though Africans appear to offer sacrifices to lesser gods, ancestors and deities, we revere him most. The Ewe tribe of south-eastern Ghana, parts of Togo and Benin call him ‘Mawuga Sogbolisa’ meaning ‘The Undefeatable’. The Akan of central Ghana and parts of Ivory Coast call him ‘Nyame’or ‘Nyankropong’ meaning the universe and the Yoruba’s of Nigeria call him Chukwu.

According to the myth of the Bantu tribe (scattered all over the West African sub-region), the universe begun precisely with the Supreme Being stepping a foot on the ground and out of his foot stump arose men, women, trees and in fact any object in the universe. The Akan has it that God lived in the Sky, so close to us that whenever an old woman pounded fufu ( boiled cassava) her pestle constantly kept hitting God. Angered and frustrated, God moved far away into the heavens hence the great distance between the sky and the earth.

Among the Ewe, God is said to have created mankind and hid him in a cave. He then sent the deities (lesser gods) to go and cleanse the earth of all evil forces or objects. While the cleansing was going, man became increasingly impatient in his cave and finally came out without the approval of God. This explains why men are always susceptible to evil spirits.

Another Ewe tribe has it that in the beginning God created mankind and presented him with three gourds from which to choose his destiny. One contained stones, the other salt and the third contained jewellery and happiness. After some time of deliberation, man went away with the second gourd but realizing that it contained salt, he brought it back and asked God to replace it with happiness. God declined and that’s how come happiness has eluded mankind. Another story which is particularly interesting is that God created and presented man with two gourds. One looked beautiful and shiny on the outside but contained only sand and stone, the other dirty and worn out but contained a lot of good things. Mankind, in a haste and without much forethought immediately chose the beautiful gourd and discovered the sand and stones – and such was his destiny.

I assume that so far so good and maybe to some extent, these stories make little sense to the reader. There are probably a dozen other such stories but lets pause and see what our ancestors are trying to tell us with these stories.  In my opinion,  they are surely telling us about a certain failing inherent in all men. Now let us turn the mental compass towards the inner world of the individual, to subject the stories to the test of truth – the absence of logic notwithstanding.

1. All over the world, life is considered a journey. This journey as we can see in the first myth started with God by his stepping on the ground and we arising out of his step. The myth simply tells mankind that we must walk in the path of righteousness laid for us by God.

2. It is interesting to note that God did not punish the old woman in the second myth but rather chose to resign into the skies. The myth tells us that God desires to be close to us if only we are ready to behave appropriately to please him.

3. Talking about humans coming out of a cave is no news. I think this myth can survive even a scientific test. For the earth is considered a mother goddess among most African tribes. She is called ‘Asaase Yaa’ by the Akans. During libation, the fetish priest addresses the Supreme God, followed by the Earth Goddess and then finally the Ancestors. All of these have specific roles and rankings which I shall expound on in my subsequent posts.

If the earth is a goddess and female at that, then it is reasonable that all humans came out of her uterus which more or less is a hole ( with all due respect to womenfolks). The primitive man’s idea of the origin of the universe stems from his own birthing process. This was the case with the aborigines of Australia and the Bushmen of the Kalahari.

I will like to now turn my attention to what is happening today under our own eyes. The other day, I read that Scientists say the universe came about as a result of a certain ‘Big Bang’ that occurred millions of years ago. A ‘Bang’, I came to know, means copulation but of course Scientists meant a completely different thing. The same of such thing applies to the primitive man. The numerous cave paintings found in Lascaux in France, parts of North Africa and even records of Greek and Roman mythologies speak  sometimes directly, of intercourse between two forces of nature ( usually male and female gods). The female god if not degraded into particles, then gives rise to mortals or in some cases immortals. It is obvious, whatever the case that there can never be a ‘Big Bang’ without two counteracting forces. The primitive man called these forces male and female.

Forgive me if I have not done enough justice to the topic. To  summarize,  mythologies reveal the deepest of truths about instinctive thought patterns and feelings of mankind but most of us dismiss them as false because our rational mind cannot handle them. The absence of reason is not the absence of truth.