Reality As Seen Through Traditional African Cosmology
Junious Ricardo Stanton
“Though the (African) cosmologies appear to differ according to geography and regional histories, the degree to which they coincide in fundamental principles and function defines them as multiple expressions of a single cultural/cosmological construct.” The Sankofa Movement ReAfrikanization and the Reality of War by Kwame Agyei and Akua Nson Akoto page 166
Last week we addressed the idea of African cosmology. I said it was formulated in antiquity by our wise and talented ancestors who grappled with the deepest existential issues facing humanity, who were committed to cultivating and developing their peers’ highest potential. The origins of a unified and common African cosmology go way back into antiquity to the early development of humans.
“Cosmology refers to worldview and myths in general or, more specifically, to the cultural and religious imagery concerning the universe. African cosmology, which often takes the form of oral narratives, describes the web of human activities within the powerful spiritual cosmos; it transmits the beliefs and values of African peoples. African cosmology, then, is an attempt to describe and understand the origin and structure of the universe, how humans relate to the cosmos, and how and to what extent their thoughts and actions are shaped by it.” Encyclopedia of African Religion edited by Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama page 178
In ancient KMT (Egypt), Djehuty was deified and worshipped as the god of wisdom, science, medicine, magic, mathematics and measurement. Notice how Djehuty’s persona reflected the same holistic African perspective we find throughout the continent. Djehuty was envisioned as esoteric as well as practical combining: wisdom, science, and magic with useful day to day physical endeavors like healing, communications, mathematics and measurement. This is the utilitarian essence of continental African cosmology, philosophy and metaphysics, blending the spiritual with the mundane to enhance the lives of the people.
Throughout the continent and in the ancient world African cosmologies emphasized the nexus between SPIRIT and material temporal world as the true reality. Africans and aboriginal people, unlike Neanderthals and Caucasoids, are a deeply spiritual people. We knew intuitively a self existing divine consciousness was behind all creation and this consciousness also animated and invigorated the universe with an omnipresent energy, pulse, purpose, order and symmetry.
This energy is called animatism. “Animatism, not to be confused with animism, is the belief in a supernatural power that animates all living things in an impersonal sense. It is therefore not individualized or specialized in terms of a particular object, such as one finds in animism, but is a rather more generalized belief in an invisible, powerfully impersonal energy that is everywhere… Derived from the same Latin root as animism, the term animatism was meant to differentiate the individual spirit in animate and inanimate objects from the more generalized belief in the active spirit of the universe. One cannot grant any ethical or moral quality to this active spirit because it is neither good nor evil, neither right nor wrong, but everywhere present and therefore inherently dangerous if it is violated. Some have described it by the electricity metaphor; it is everywhere and it can bring harm, but it is not moral or immoral; it is amoral. Although one may find animatism and animism in the same culture, they must be distinguished as concepts. Animism may be said to have personality Animatism and animatism is impersonal; whereas animism shows us individuals with special spiritual characteristics or traits, animatism simply exists as a force in the universe in a generalized sense” Encyclopedia of African Religion edited by Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama pages 57 and 58
Unfortunately most of what we know about Africa and Africans we have received from non-Africans who had/have a bias and hostility towards Africa and its people. The good news is more and more warrior scholars are coming to the rescue and providing the truth about Africa, its genius and accomplishments. When we view Africa and its people through the lens of historical truth we see not only are the people ingenious and innovative they set the bar extremely high for the rest of humanity.
Africans defined their reality, their origin and the beginnings of the cosmos as an expression and extension of a divine mind or consciousness with an intelligence and energy pulsating within an unlimited range of frequencies containing male and female attributes often in seeming contradiction but which are in fact the ultimate cause of the universe’s existence, being and sustainability. These ideas are essentially the same in every African ethno-cultural system. “Each of the traditional cultural systems nonetheless provides for a single creator who is a singularity and multiplicity simultaneously.” The Sankofa Movement ReAfrikanization and the Reality of War by Kwame Agyei and Akua Nson Akoto page 167
As we mentioned last week one of the essential principles of Hermeticism (an ancient African cosmology) is the principle of polarity; it states, “Everything is dual, everything has poles and everything has its pair of opposites; Like and unlike are the same; Opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; Extremes meet; All truths, are but half-truths; All paradoxes may be reconciled.” The Kybalion
In his book Person, Divinity and Nature A Modern View of The Person and the Cosmos In African Thought, Chukwunyere Kamalu says it this way, “More important from the point of view of the structure of the African worldview is the fact that ancient and traditional African beliefs incorporate all the concepts of monotheism (belief in one god) polytheism (belief in many gods/forces/spirits) and animism and pantheism (belief that the supreme being resides within everything and that therefore everything has some form of spiritual being or consciousness) African beliefs cannot therefore be described as being exclusively monotheistic, polytheistic or pantheistic.” page 146.
There is no shame or confusion in the African cosmological game. It is the essence of what the late scholar Mzee Jedi Shemsu Jehewty aka Jacob Hudson Carruthers, Jr. referred to as African deep thought! Indeed it is profound and insightful as the West is reluctantly discovering. It is real. In effect ancient African notions of reality based upon underlying, interpenetrating, interconnected codependent spirituality are being proven despite the benighted and strictly materialistic leanings of others.
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