Like the average black Joe I read what happened to Shaquanda Cotton with disgust and appall. A 15 year old African girl gets sentenced to serve a maximum of seven years in juvenile prison for shoving a 58 year old hall monitor at her high school in Paris, Texas. It should be obvious to anyone with a fraction of a brain that the injustice of the United States judicial system against its citizens of African descent knows no shame or boundary. However, this is the tip of an iceberg that runs throughout America.
Blacks are regularly made examples of injustice, prejudice, exclusion, incompetence, omission, exception, deception, rejection, condemnation, revulsion, abhorrence, stereotypes, subjugation, etc. The list never stops. Every goddamn day that passes we find more examples of America’s detest for blacks. If we listed each and every injustice we as a people have suffered on post-it notes and stacked them all together the resulting column would reach beyond the sun and back. There isn’t time to address each and every transgression The list is simply way too long.
If hurricane Katrina taught the African American community anything it is that our collective voice isn’t strong enough to stop the injustice. Days prior to the hurricane hitting New Orleans the weather forecasts had predicted the potential strike. Yet the federal government claimed they knew nothing about it. We stood by as our federal government did nothing to prepare for the cataclysm. Everyone was outraged. There were calls for investigations. There were rallies to help the victims. New Orleans was the focus of the whole world’s attention. And nothing happened.
The mother of the President of the United States pays a visit to the Houston Astrodome to draw attention and support to the people victimized by the storm. What did she have to say about the plight of the people? “What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”
Shortly thereafter Robert Davis, a 64 year old black man who was in New Orleans to check on his family’s property, was assaulted by police officers in an altercation initiated by his request for information. The man was beaten unmercifully by a number of local cops and federal agent. The police tried to hide their gaffe by alleging that Mr. Davis, a school teacher, was drunk and disorderly. As days passed attention on the fate of Mr. Davis’ case was swept under the AP News rug. And the black community did nothing.
Martin Lee Anderson, a black 14 year old at a Florida bootcamp-style detention center for juveniles, is assaulted by four camp officials. Within the first two hours of his first day at the facility officials tried to get Anderson to continue to exercise after he had collapse from exhaustion, resulting in his death. The official coroner’s report had attributed the young man’s death to a latent sickle-cell trait (a seriously lame excuse for a medical official working on behalf of the government). A second autopsy, performed two months after his death on his exhumed body, had contributed the death to suffocation. And the black community did nothing.
Abadou Bailo Diallo, a 23 year old Guinea immigrant to the United States was shot and killed by four white New York undercover police officers on February 4, 1999. Supposedly the story is that Diallo matched the description of a man already captured for serial rape. Diallo ran when he saw the white men coming for him (the brother probably had a premonition of what was about to happen). When he was cornered he reached for his wallet. Four police officers feared he might fatally identify himself to them so they shot him in a hail of 41 bullets. Diallo was hit 19 times. The officers were acquitted of any wrong doing. And the black community did nothing.
New York police officers have killed Patrick Dorismond, a Haitian security guard. New York police killed Sean Bell on his wedding day. New York police are responsible for shooting and killing more unarmed black men than all the black brothers killed in George Bush’s Iraqi War. Abner Louima was sodomized by New York’s finest with a broken broomstick handle. And how did the black community respond?
Rodney King is brutally assaulted on video by four police officers in Los Angeles. The police officers are acquitted and the buildup of frustration causes the black neighborhoods to erupt in riots. The expression of anger was a short term response to the lack of compassion from the white dominated American society at large. But what happened after that?
When will the descendants of Africa get it through our collective skull that we are not participants to the bounty of America? Measured as an entire group to the group of descendents of Europe, our schools are inferior, our medical care is inferior, our neighborhoods receive inferior attention and our opportunities for employment as a whole are far inferior. Too much of the economic wealth of the nation is controlled by people, both black and white but mostly white, who pretend to be oblivious to the disparity between African Americans and European Americans.
Yes there are plenty of house niggers (sorry, but there’s no better description for this group) out there that people across America can point to and say, “they did it, why can’t you”. But not every member of the African community has the talent to be exceptional at playing a sport, the voice to be an exceptional singer, or the stomach to maximize the size of their wallet at the expense of their racial identity.
A lot of white people and their uncle toms claim to be tired of black people crying discrimination every time an unarmed black man gets gunned down Chicagoland-gangsta-style by white and black police officers alike. But none of these people are tired enough to do anything to keep their badge carrying posse in check. Why? Because of all the hate, fear, and disdain filling their hearts these people want to drive the point home that the black community is in no way, shape, nor form respected, appreciated, nor tolerated outside the physical, mental, and social perimeters established by the white dominated society.
The problem isn’t just that the police are out of control. The abuses of the various law enforcement posses are just a sick symptom. The root of the problem is American society’s general way of thinking. This attitude can be summed up as “the black community can holler all they want but there is nobody coming to help them.” And for every Shaquanda Cotton, Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, and others that come to the light there are hundreds of incidents of abuse that exist behind a veil of secrecy, ignorance, deception, and contempt.
Imagine the year is 1840. You are an enslaved African working on a plantation in the southern United States. You work in the fields. It’s the middle of the day in the middle of summer. The sun is hot and even though your body has been conditioned to work from sun up to sun down off the meager sustenance you’re given it is nevertheless exhausting work. You need to take a break for just a minute so you stand straight to stretch your back. You look around and see the other field hands toiling in the sun. As you look around your gaze catches the porch of the plantation house. The plantation owner is sitting in a chair in the shade having what appears to be a cool drink. Now imagine sitting at the plantation owner’s feet is one of the house niggers performing some basic assignment in the shade of the porch. You can’t hear what’s being said, but it’s obvious that the plantation owner and the house nigger are having a jovial conversation.
Here’s the question: Which one of two thoughts is most likely to go through your head? Do you look with envy at the house nigger and secretly wish you could trade places and enjoy the relative luxury and comfort compared to your own situation or do you look with a sense of anger and rage wishing you can kill the plantation owner and his tom so that all the field hands could be freed from their enslavement?
I would imagine that most people would say that they would choose to put the plantation owner and his tom out of their misery. It’s obvious that to stop the enslavement would be a more community minded choice. Even though it would lead to a more comfortable life the selfish decision to become the new tom wouldn’t sit well with most. Judging from personal experience, no self-respecting field working African would want to be hated the way most would hate the uncle tom house slave. One could not imagine how any brother or sister would live so well while so many in their community suffered.
Now imagine it’s the early part of the 21st century. You work in a thankless job somewhere in the landscape of corporate America. In order to make ends meet you work as much as you can, signing up for overtime whenever you can, even taking a part-time job to help take care of yourself and your family. You come home from work mentally drained and physically exhausted. You need to forget about your day for just a minute so you turn on your television set. Flipping through channels you run across an immensely popular actor/actress, singer, sports star, musician, talk show host, corporate executive, government official, whatever of African descent doing whatever they do to earn a staggering paycheck and live a glamorous life oblivious to the plight of the community at large.
Here’s the question: Which one of two thoughts is most likely to go through your head? Do you look with envy at the black megastar and secretly wish that it was you living the life of luxury, comfort, and public adulation or do you look with a sense of anger and rage wishing you could stop their collaboration in the enslavement of the African American community. Unfortunately, I would imagine that most people would say they don’t have a problem with the modern day plantation owners and their uncle toms. Most people of African descent exist unaware of how their collective mindset has been manipulated to not just tolerate uncle tom-ism but to actually wish to be the tom.
Ostentatious conspicuous consumption seems to be the theme these days. MTV’s Supersweet 16. I was watching one particular episode featuring Darnell Robinson, the 15.995 years old son of Sugar Hill Studios executive Leland Robinson, celebrating his 16th birthday has got to be the very best, or worst depending on the point of view, example of spending gone buck-freakin’ crazy wild. How much bling and glitz and materialism can one’s parents waste on nothing but…bling and glitz and materialism? How much value has been added to Darnell’s life now that he has experienced being the focal point of such a huge extravaganza? How much devaluation has the collective of other teenagers suffered because they could never hope to enjoy the same experience?
Darnell’s party was based on the Eddie Murphy movie “Coming to America”. The African prince Hakeem came to America to find his African queen. Women in Africa were too assimilated to a pseudo-westernized African culture for his taste. African women didn’t have enough independent thought for his taste. The perfect woman was an African American who wanted little more than to help her community. Hakeem did his best to downplay the excess of his royal life in order to win the heart of the woman he loved. The African prince understood that to be sure a woman loves him for who he was he could not tempt her with materialism. This aspect of the movie was entirely overlooked by Darnell’s party planner.
Excess was the theme of this particular MTV episode. But then again, excess is the theme of MTV. But then once again, excess is the theme of western culture. Darnell wanted to be a player and had enough people around him to yes up to his every whim. Darnell had friends wearing almost every stylish and iconic line of clothing imaginable to massage his ego. Darnell had young women and rare exotic animals auditioning to escort him to the ultra decadent bash. His parents didn’t hesitate one Rolex measured second to open their wallet to prove their love. Darnell had the adoration of every over stimulated young adult at the gala.
However, that wasn’t enough. There was the birthday gift. A top of the line arctic white Mercedes-Benz 550 was waiting for him in front of the hotel hosting the party. The night was true dedication to consumption. I think the numbers were $330,000 for the party and $110,000 for the car for a grand whopping total of $440,000 for the young man’s 16th birthday, pert near half a million dollars. Some might call it a small fortune. I may be wrong but Wal-Mart doesn’t even spend that much in annual payroll for one of its mega stores. Now that’s spending run amuck.
Was it worth it? I’m sure it depends on who you ask. With the obvious super deep pockets of Mr. Robinson I’m sure he would say it was worth every penny and then some. His son can be assured he got the best adoration money can buy. Unlike the arguably wiser Hakeem, the Robinson’s don’t give a flip about the veracity of people’s admiration of their son. Who cares about honest integrity when you can afford the finest substitute money can buy? And as long as no one else ever out does Darnell’s party it is assured that the Robinson’s will enjoy being the best party givers throughout the kingdom.
But the problem is it’s only a matter of time before someone else invites twice as many freeloaders, employs a venue that’s twice as glamorous, walks with twice the scantly clothed young ladies wearing dresses that reveal twice as much skin, hires twice as many big named hip hop artist, and buys a car that’s twice as expensive and four times as gaudy. Darnell will be a has-been until daddy ups the ante to become the number one spender again. The escalating war of party spending will be nurtured to even more intense excess. Welcome to the mad world of Mutually Assured Financial Folly (MAFF).
Without a doubt Mr. Robinson earned every penny of his fantastic wealth. His financial prowess is worth admiration. Music is one of the few industries where blacks are able to obtain a piece of the proverbial pie. All the zeroes of the Robinson’s bank accounts were built pennies at a time from a multitude of songs being sold and played endlessly. A large number of those pennies came from people who couldn’t afford to spend 1 percent of 1 percent of 1 percent of what the Robinson’s spent on daily food consumption let alone a party. Wouldn’t it have been nice if they were able to get something back for their support as well?
The Robinson’s chose a Hollywood themed imitation of an African kingdom as their model for the celebration of their son’s milestone in life. The kingdom of Robinson is doing very well and they want everyone to see their prosperity. Now what would happen if all that great prosperity was used for the fortification of other kingdoms? With great power comes great responsibility. With financial power comes financial responsibility. The resulting appreciation might earn Darnell and his family some honest adoration.
Orisas are spiritual forces of nature. Orisas are not our personal possessions. Orisas are to be shared with each and every person who seeks them out. Too often the people who have been fortunate enough to have the funds to receive their Orisa pots keep them hidden away in a locked or private shrine room that’s off limits to anyone else. There is a philosophy that goes like, “I got mine…you need to pay your own money and get your own.” This selfish, narcissistic thought process is epidemic in the Orisa communities in the western cultures. Individualism and separatism is not an inherently Orisa concept. Exclusivity is a principle developed and nurtured through human ego and the short sighted need to establish dominance over others.
An Orisa pot is not a vessel that holds some supernatural entity. Orisas don’t live in these pots. Remember, Orisas are forces of nature. Nature is not only their home, but their realm; it is where they operate. What would make an Orisa leave the beauty of nature? Think about the realm of Olokun. The deepest part of the ocean is much vaster that we can imagine. There’s so much life outside the reach of humans. It is tranquil and mysterious. Now try to envision why in the world Olokun would abandon all this vastness and life and freedom to live in a pot. It could be a very nice pot. It could be the nicest pot ever to be made by the hand of a man with gold and platinum with diamonds and rubies that could energize the largest laser beam of the wickedest James Bond villain. As humans we would be impressed with the excess finery and luxury. But an Orisa doesn’t need gold or jewels. What would be the point? The pot is just a pot. Why would Olokun, Obatala, Oya, or any Orisa leave their world to come and live in a pot in our closet?
A pot is an anchor point. It’s like a beacon enabling Orisas to engage and interact with us without having to rely on our psychic energy alone. When an Orisa comes to visit without having a pot to help anchor and channel their manifestation, the person or people who are engaged with the Orisa are more likely to be exhausted and feel drained of strength once the visit is over. A pot properly charged with the energy of an Orisa is a wonderful thing. However, it is not something that requires worship, ritual bowing, or persistent praising as if it needs its sense of self-worth stroked. It is a tool to help us with our communications.
A priest cannot charge a pot. The blood from an animal sacrifice doesn’t charge a pot. Money cannot charge a pot with the energy needed to draw an Orisa. Only an Orisa can charge their Orisa pots. An initiate of Ifa doesn’t automatically have the skill, talent, experience, or intuition to communicate with the Orisas in order to get a pot activated on their behalf. Indeed, there are many initiates and non-initiates alike claiming to have what it takes to charge these pots. Many people will pay good money to purchase the stereotypical container and participate in the authentic looking rituals from people promising to deliver the genuine article. But the promise is empty. Not everyone who has gone through the initiation ritual is a true child of Orisa and many who are true children of Orisa don’t have the knowledge or even the desire to communicate with Orisas. The Orisas communicate with whom they want and they don’t communicate with whom they don’t want. In fact, it is quite possible for people who have never been initiated or even made aware of the African religion of Ifa to have an inherited but dormant knowledge waiting for the right circumstances for activation.
Many people feel that just having an Orisa pot entitles them to special privileges from the community. People buy them just for the bragging rights and collect them as if they’re collecting baseball or Pokemon cards. An Orisa pot isn’t even necessary for one to communicate with one’s own Orisa. An Orisa pot is very beneficial if one wants to keep in touch with that particular Orisa on a regular and frequent basis; something all Orisa worshippers should endeavor for. But it is not mandatory. Besides, if someone in the community is fortunate to have a pot or pots as part of their shrine it would be wonderful if they were generous enough, community minded enough, to allow others who may not be as fortunate access.
Traveling on vacation is probably the most recognized activity where the experience far outweighs the information. A person can read every book and study every picture about a place of interest all their life. But if fortunate enough to journey there it is totally different than what was imagined. While the information provided could have been the best available and most complete and thorough, without the actual experience to provide a point of reference, any perspective based on that information is distorted. Once experience occurs and the correct perspective is engaged everything from that point on falls into place whether it’s by book, picture, or word of mouth from someone else’s experiences. If a picture is worth a thousand words then when it comes to travel and visiting other places the experience is worth a thousand pictures.
The information versus experience argument applies to matters of spirituality as well. Most people are content to sit back in the sanctuary with the rest of the congregation and let the preacher, pastor, rabbi, priest, or whatever you may have behind the pulpit, preach the word in the name of the all mighty power or powers that be. It is true that some people will take enough responsibility for their spirituality to at least personally read or study gospel for their own sake. But in the vast majority of these particular cases study does little more than to confirm the interpretation already spoon fed into their psyche.
From a spiritual perspective a major portion of the population has been so conditioned to not think for them selves that they are convinced that they are no longer capable of taking their spiritual development into their own hands. This line of thinking runs along a pathway such as, only the teacher has the power to commune with god therefore everything they say must be the truth and nothing they do should be held against them in the court of private opinion. So many spiritual leaders have carte blanch to do as they please, say whatever they want to say.
However, there are plenty of examples of religious or spiritual leaders abusing the trust and faith people put in them. Reverend Jimmy Baker and Tammy Faye Baker pilfered millions from their supporters. The Reverend Jim Jones convinced his followers to drink cyanide laced Kool Aid to commit suicide. The less than honorable Elijah Mohammed was not above being a hypocrite. More recently the Reverend Ted Haggard convinced his followers to abhor homosexuality while the hypocrite himself participated in same sex activities with male prostitutes while using methamphetamines. Who knows how many catholic priests have abused little boys in some twisted sexual perversion. In the bulk of these situations and others there are way too many people willing to forgive and overlook these indiscretions.
But this is a prime example of the difference between information and experience. Take for example this hypothetical situation: Let’s say there’s a church, spiritual house, synagogue somewhere and someone from the congregation makes an accusation against the minister, priest, rabbi, or whatever. The person making the accusation has just given everybody some information. However, the information doesn’t supersede the experience most of the congregation may have with the accused. Most people would rally to the preacher’s defense and condemn the accusers instead of taking an impartial step back and evaluating the situation from a totally unbiased perspective. No one would ever imagine being the preacher’s victim until it actually happens to them and changes their experience.
Individuals are too wrapped up in living to bother with spirituality. So in order to console ourselves with the thought of giving control of our spiritual development to someone else we must believe that they are above reproach without any shadow of doubt. To find out that a spiritual caretaker is capable of doing wrong would result in a lot of people having to retake control. It’s easier to believe the deception than to retake the responsibility most people loathe. But if one is fortunate it will be only a matter of time before his/her experience forces them to take their spirituality far more seriously.
In the theological world of Ifa most people purchase readings in order to receive information from Orunmila through a diviner. The belief is that the readings are life instructions aimed at helping the purchaser/client to stay on the path prepared for them eons before they were born. For most people, paying to get a reading is more than enough to satisfy whatever need they may deem necessary to stay on path. And if it doesn’t require too much effort, as long as they can conveniently work it into their schedule, the person getting the reading may even follow the instructions they are told. The only problem with this particular arrangement is that the person getting the reading is making two significant assumptions. The first assumption is that the information he/she is receiving is accurately being read by someone who is in good standing with Orunmila and can actually obtain the information necessary. The second assumption is that the diviner is not embellishing or misrepresenting the information in any way, shape, or form.
Diviners perform a very important service for their community and they are to be respected just as much as anyone else. But diviners are just as human as anyone else as well. If a diviner of high integrity finds themselves in a particularly tight circumstance they can fall to the temptation to manipulate a client in order to help alleviate their own situation. Suddenly a client whose life is going well gets a forecast that trouble is on the horizon and they need to have some expensive ritual performed to remove the coming bad luck. The naive client, trusting the diviner’s integrity, will do whatever they are advised to do to keep things smooth. The diviner gets paid for extra work, the so-called bad luck is removed from the client’s future, and all is well, except for the fact that Orunmila never predicted the bad luck in the first place. Not only has the client been manipulated, but so has the Orisa.
Most readers or diviners perform their service using tools of divination such as obi, the opon tray, the opele chain, and/or any number of methods and techniques to get the information for their client by determining which one of 256 verses rooted in Yoruba mythology Orunmila is using to relay his message. Once the verse is determined the diviner and client will try to determine exactly what Orunmila is trying to reveal. This method is far from an exact science and no two diviners will follow the exact same methodology to determine Orunmila’s word. Consequently, no two readings will ever be the same or offer the same result. A practitioner of Ifa cannot go to one diviner to confirm a reading from another diviner because more than likely there is a guess involved as to what Orunmila is saying.
Imagine that you have an important, life guiding, message for your son or daughter a very long distance away. But instead of being able to talk to this person directly you have to use someone else, a middleman, on the other side of town from the person who needs to receive the message. Now to top this off you can’t actually tell the person what you want to say but you must use a series of yes and no answers to questions from the middleman to get your message across. And if this isn’t bad enough the yes and no questions don’t exactly lead to what you want to say but can only reveal one of 256 different versus that will then be interpreted into what you’re exactly trying to say. And if all this still isn’t bad enough you can only relay this message whenever the intended recipient pays the fee necessary to get the message from the middleman. This is the system most people find acceptable to receive their life guiding, spiritual directions. But honestly, would you settle for this means of communication if it was your word that needed relaying?
What’s even sillier is the fact that people will walk away from their divination session without any real authentication of what they’ve just been told but will swear it’s all true. Most are willing to use their future experiences as a way to substantiate the veracity of the information they were given. Time will tell. The only problem with this theory is that people have a tendency to subconsciously manufacturer or accept the proof necessary to support or dispel which ever they choose to believe. For example: a reading will say something like the client needs to move from where they are living. An expensive, time consuming, bothersome, and involved process when life circumstances forces relocation such as a job. But now a reading indicates bad luck will befall the client if a move doesn’t happen. An expensive ritual can be performed to protect the client until they can relocate but either way the money just isn’t in the budget for either one to happen. Time elapses. Then one day the client’s home is burglarized. When the client finds the place ransacked their first thought is my reading said this would happen, why didn’t I listen? But it would’ve been no surprise to anyone who kept abreast of the rising crime statistics within the client’s neighborhood.
Many people are so satisfied with simply getting the second hand, interpreted, and filtered information a couple of times a year through the diviner that they never think to get the experience of communicating directly with Orunmila for themselves. It’s no wonder that so many people are constantly told that they are off path when they do get a reading. On behalf of the Orisa and ancestors this essay is a challenge to all to embark on the experience of their life and for their life and take the time to learn to listen to and talk with Orunmila.
However, this is not a call for everyone to go out and purchase their own opele and opon, study the 256 verses, and learn to perform the rituals of divination. Besides, no disrespect intended but anyone can throw a set of coconut shells and pick up a book on odus to see which verse fell. It could be Orunmila talking or it could be little more than a random pattern based on the laws of gravity and physics.
Forget anything you may have learned about divination. Forget about taking lessons or buying expensive divination books and tools. Our early Ifa ancestors didn’t have the luxury of going to the local botanical to get their divination tools and divination books and take divination lessons. If one thinks about it, it stands to reason that we don’t have the need for these contraptions. The only tools you will need are the ones nature gave you, your mind and time. Sit still, calm the mind, and open the heart. It’s not something that will happen overnight. It won’t happen quickly. It will take time to develop. It will take time to practice. However, the very first time the experience occurs and the correct perspective is engaged, everything from that point on will fall into place. Orunmila, Orisas, heaven itself will open before you. If a reading is worth a few dollars then you’ll find that the experience of actually talking with Orunmila with your own mind and heart in a dialog where both of you can communicate together is priceless. Even if every reading you may have ever received throughout your entire life is accurate and perfectly relayed information the experience of talking directly with Orisa is in itself life altering.
One day I awoke early in the morning to watch the day start. The sun had yet to make an appearance, but like a light peaking around a dark corner its proximity could be seen. The sky was a deep indigo in the west and brightening quickly in the east with lighter hues of blue, reds, and oranges. I watched the sky change and the stars as they began to fade away. I praised the creation for all its glory. And as I sat there, I felt god’s presence around me.
I waited but god did nothing to breach the stillness. We sat there together and we waited. The sun broke through the horizon and started to climb and we still waited. We must’ve sat there for hours. I began to wonder if he’d ever say anything to me. It should’ve been obvious that his patience was far greater than mine. I began to wonder if he wanted to know if I loved him. After what seem to be an eternity I finally cracked. I finally asked god if he wanted to know how much I loved him.
Not at all, was his quick, short reply.
I was taken aback. Here I was with a prime opportunity to impress god with my devotion and he acts as if he didn’t care. As a young Christian I was always taught that god not only wanted but needed my praise. I started to sulk. God must’ve picked up on my funk. He asked me why I was suddenly moping.
I told god that I wanted him to know that I accepted him as my lord and savior. He asked if that was important to me. I said yes and asked if it was important to him. He said not really.
But I love you, I said. He immediately replied with do you really.
Yes god I love you. You are my lord and savior. If I was physically handicapped I would love you even though it would be difficult for me to do all the things that I take for granted. If I was blind I would love you even though I couldn’t see another sunrise or watch the stars twinkle at night. If I was deaf I would love you even if I could not hear your word. I love you lord because you are the one true god.
God was not impressed. That’s nice was all I got for my declaration.
I asked god what he wanted from me. God said nothing. It was not that he didn’t reply to me. God actually said he needed nothing from me. He continued.
Does that surprise you? Listen, I don’t mean to burst the little bubble of an ego you may carry around but I need absolutely nothing from you. I don’t need some lame profession of how you love me so much but forget about me the minute you leave my presence. I’m not so insecure that I need to hear you tell me how much you adore me every single time you get ready to stuff food in your mouth, every time you go to bed, every time something wonderful happens in your life. Just because I’m the supreme being doesn’t mean I have the supreme ego.
But don’t you need my worship in your epic struggle against the devil, I asked.
Who? God feigned ignorance through his laughter. I felt like I was being mocked. But god continued. Listen, I can appreciate your gesture. But honestly do you think I spend my time fighting some battle of good and evil with somebody who’s supposed to be, at best, my former protégé. You say you understand me to be so great but then turn around and say god’s having a little difficulty getting rid of that satan guy. What kind of faith does that sound like to you?
But that’s what I’ve been told. I’m just trying to do what’s right. I don’t want to be damned to hell you see. Don’t I get some kind of acknowledgement or dispensation because I trying, I asked.
Would you feel better if I said that you’re not going to hell, god asked. I replied immediately with a resounding yes. God laughed and told me not to worry because I’m not going to hell. In fact, god told me that no one was going to hell because there is no hell with a lake of fire or demons with pitch forks wreaking misery on everyone. God asked me how I felt about that.
But aren’t there people who deserve to be damned? Aren’t there people who commit really bad sins who deserve damnation? People like murderers, pedophiles, thieves, you know, real criminals.
Who says they’re criminals?
You did! It says so in the bible. These people committed sins that hurt people.
Have you ever hurt anyone?
Not like that. I meant serious hurt.
The people you hurt probably thought it was pretty serious enough to tell you to go to hell. Besides, don’t you believe that a sin is a sin regardless if it’s a big sin or a little sin. I lowered my head and said a little yes under my breath. I could hear god’s humor in his voice as he asked me if he condemn everyone to hell who would be left.
But don’t you care, I asked.
God made a sigh as if he was talking to an imbecile. He started talking. You know that tree you planted in your backyard a few years ago. There’s a birds nest in the upper branches. Did you know anything about that? I answered no. God asked if I bothered to make sure the birds were righteous and lived a good life the way birds do. I answered no. God asked if I found out that the birds in the nest were not the original builders, but some interlopers who pushed the original eggs out and let them fall to the ground to be killed would I go into the tree to punish them. I said no. God asked me why not and I answered I didn’t have the time. I have a job and a family to look after. Why would I bother to interfere in the lives of some dumb old birds.
God laughed for a moment and then continued. Didn’t you get the analogy or do I have to spell it out, he said. I’m the supreme being of the universe. Not just this universe but more universes than you could possibly know. The word infinite doesn’t do the actual size of the numbers justice. Each universe has its own set of physical laws and realities that must be shaped and formed. Each universe contains uncountable galaxies and each galaxy has countless planets and each planet can have a population that will run into the millions, billions, trillions, and zillions. And I’m supposed to take my time from what I’m doing across countless universes, galaxies, planets, continents, cities, and people to come back here and make sure that you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
But you’re here talking with me now why don’t you do something that might make a difference in our lives? God replied, and you’re sitting here talking to me right now why don’t you do something to make a difference in those birds’ lives.
So what’s the point in you creating me, us?
What was the point of you planting the tree?
I wanted a nice garden. I wanted a view. I wanted to plant some life to make things better and the yard less barren. I don’t know. And god replied, I wanted a nice universe. I wanted a place to visit. I wanted something that might grow life in harmony with nature. In many ways you and I are very similar. But don’t believe for a second you can understand me or what I’m accomplishing. I really don’t have time to monitor you, your family, your planet, whatever. There is just way too much that has to be done and even a god has his limits.
You created me in your image.
Slowly god said the world no. It was more I’m-talking-to-an-imbecile speech. God continued, you created me in your image. I have no real form to speak of. I created the birds in the tree in your backyard as well. You think they look like me too?
But you created me. I’m your child.
I created the birds too. Are they not my children as well? Do you refer to them as your brothers and sisters, he asked me.
That’s ridiculous. I’m nothing like them. They don’t love you like I love you.
That may be true. But I must say that they don’t need me to constantly stroke their egos like you do either. Instead of constantly looking for some kind of confirmation they are content to just be.
And they don’t bother to improve themselves either, I said with a boast.
And you feel that you can improve what I’ve done? You think your technology and your bank accounts can do things better for you than what I have provided through nature. He let out another huge sigh and he continued with disappointment in his voice. There goes that ego again. I really do need to do something to get that under control for you. Suddenly the disappointment in god’s voice was gone and replaced with a cheerfulness as he said, I know…
It only took a moment of seconds for it to develop. It was a loud roar like a hundred locomotives running at full steam. The wind blew with a force I never knew possible. My heart pounded from the unexpected dump of adrenaline into my blood. I put my hands and arms up to protect my face. The earth started to shake violently and I fell to the ground. I rolled on to my back and looked up at the world around me. Incredibly thick clouds had gathered blotting out the sun and darkening the sky. Flashes of lightening pierced the heavens that were so tranquil just seconds before. Suddenly a blue-white column of fire from the clouds slammed into the ground not far from me. My reflexes tried to react and get me away from the blast. But I was like a turtle on its back. Instantly I was deaf and blind. My ears rang from the hot explosion of thunder as the air was super heated around me. My eyes burned from the brightness of the lightening strike. Although I was deaf and blind, I could still feel the wind’s pounding and the ground’s rumbling. I tried to scream but I had no idea if I was successful or not.
My ears may not have worked but I heard god’s voice in my head. Where’s your technology now, he asked. How much money can you pay to convince me to stop?
Not bothering to give me a chance to answer either question, the world began to tilt and I started to slide. I couldn’t see but if felt like the ground was opening up and everything around me was being swallowed in. I rolled over to my stomach and tried to climb over whatever I could to get to higher ground. But the wind was pushing against me and I was struggling just to get my arms extended. All of a sudden, as if I had climbed over the edge of the world itself, I started to fall head first into the abyss of darkness waiting for me below. God had lied and I was on my way to hell.
There was an eruption of pain as my vision was restored in a burst of stars.
My face had absorbed the majority of the energy from my impact with the floor. My arms and legs were tangled in the sheets. I was babbling. Random noises came from my throat. The bed clothes were wet and I struggled to escape them. Once clear I staggered to my feet and kicked the sheets aside. I looked around the room as if I was seeing it for the first time. I noticed my pajamas were wet. I pulled at them. I had pissed in my sleep. No surprise there. My dream felt so real and the world was coming to an end. I was breathing heavily and my pulse was racing. I was having trouble keeping steady on my wobbly legs so I sat on the edge of the wet bed. I started to rub the side of my face trying to massage the pain of my landing away. I looked up around the room again. The dream was all so real. I looked out the window and I saw the tree I planted a few years back. It was if I was seeing it for the first time since it was planted. I heard birds cheerfully chirping their song. I had never noticed them before. I looked around the room a third time. It could have been my imagination, but I would’ve sworn I heard someone laughing.
Favoring one race over another is a natural part of human nature. As a black man, it is natural for me to find black woman more attractive than woman of another race. It is also natural for me to feel more comfortable around black people more so than people of another race. It is also natural for me to identify with other black people more so than people of other races. It’s natural to assume we share more in common. In certain situations I can’t help but favor one race over another. But does that favoritism manifest itself into racism?
Racism can be defined as a policy or principle that allows one race to dominate, control, or suppress another race. As much as my ego may want to disagree, I seriously doubt if my dating or social preferences comes at the expense of another race. Besides, although it may be my preference to date black women, I’ve had the experience of dating a number of other races. My social life isn’t solely driven by my preference of black people.
With a good amount of certainty, it can be logically concluded that if I ran a company I doubt very seriously that I would operate off any assumption remotely similar to one that claims that one race is better at any particular job than any other race. As an employer, my racial preference doesn’t manifest into an employment policy. My preference wouldn’t keep me from finding the best person for the job at hand and for the company as a whole.
Racism doesn’t allow for such discretion. The big problem with a racist is the fact that the perpetrator is so willing to allow their personal, racial preference to carry so much weight in the day-to-day decision making process. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand the effect a racist employer can have on a community. If only white people are allowed to work or are allowed to have the best jobs, it is only a matter of time before that racist employment policy leads to an economic policy that stands on a foundation of racism where only the white people would have the disposable income to afford luxury items which in itself leads to a racist policy of who deserves the attention and service in a retail environment. This cascading set of proverbial dominos will continue to fall throughout the social structure.
Racisms effect on law enforcement is notorious. How many minorities are subjected to the prejudices of a police officer, law enforcement agent, or government prosecutor who has a passion for a case is driven by a narrowly focused desire to apprehend a minority while turning a blind eye to a white law breaker? How many journalist and commentators work to defend the policies that protect the white establishment? How many doctors and nurses treat minority patients with less enthusiasm for their white charges? How many teachers, principals, deans, counselors, and other educators work to develop white students while letting minority students to slip by or, worse, slip out?
Similarly, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand the damage a politician can inflict on a community with a similar policy towards racial preferences. Government policies that favor white people in education, employment, legislation, representation, law, immigration, housing, military service, business ownership, and in any other area that falls under the jurisdiction of government. The higher the level of public office, the more widespread the damage from a racist policy can be.
Imagine a Supreme Court that feels that minorities are not completely equal to the white population. Imagine the impact a director of a federal agency responsible for the safety of citizens who feels that minorities cannot be trusted and should be stopped and searched at the whim of law enforcement. Imagine a commander-in-chief who turns his back on a minority population during a natural disaster.
George Wallace made the infamous quotation, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever”. As the Governor of the great state of Alabama George Wallace made it state policy that racism was a fact of life for residents of the state. Did blacks suffer under such a racist policy? Then Governor Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama before he would allow a black to enroll.
Let us fast forward to the present. 21st century politicians regularly flaunt their thinly veiled contempt for non-whites. The “macaca” slur of Senator Allen is only the latest in a long line of racially insensitive remarks. The Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond was immensely popular with South Carolina even though he is credited for saying, “And I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theatres, into our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches.”
Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond for his Dixiecrat reputation saying, “When Strom Thurmond ran for President, we [the people of Mississippi] voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”
The conservative magazine National Review referred to Jesse Helms as prejudiced against blacks, yet he remained very popular with the residents of North Carolina. Senator Robert Byrd was a card carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan in his youth.
The mother of the President of the United States said of the black victims of Katrina, “Almost everyone I’ve talked to says, ‘we’re gonna move to Houston.’ What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality, and so many of the people in the arenas here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. This is working very well for them.”
And while we’re on the subject of the President, let’s examine the racial record of George W. Bush. Mr. Bush has publicly admitted his disdain for affirmative action and civil rights laws. Mr. Bush waited until the sixth year of his presidency to meet with representatives of the NAACP (dangerously close to becoming the first President in a generation to shun the organization).
The non-politicians who feel free to make statements that are racially provocative are even more numerous. Former Education Secretary William Bennett is on record for saying that aborting “every black baby in this country” would reduce the crime rate. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow feigns surprise when blacks react to a comment he makes referring to an issue as a “tar baby” on his first day on the job. Just a few weeks later republican Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts uses the “tar baby” phrase and acts like he never knew people found the term insensitive. FOX news commentator John Gibson urges white people to have more babies to counter the growing number of minority immigrants. Pat Buchanan calls for an immediate end to immigration in order to preserve the dominance of the white race in America in his recently released book “State of Emergency”. FOX so called news commentator Bill O’Reilly makes it a point to defend aristocratic white privilege and white authority on a regular basis. Rush Limbaugh does much more than his fair share of defending racial bigotry. It’s no wonder that many minorities feel disenfranchised.
Now here’s a question, how much influence do these public figures have on public opinion? How much influence do their arguably racist policies have on the masses? How much damage can they inflict on the minority community? How much comfort does the general white population get from these celebrities? These people and many more just like them are popular because many of the masses can identify with their line of thinking. Many conservative and moderate whites agree with a public persona that closely mimics their personal interest and the interest of their white peers. Woe to the individual that disagrees with or challenges their group thought. Not many non-whites have the ability to affect the public with the same fervor as these knowledgeable pundits.
A white golfer looses to a black man in a championship tournament. The white man, obviously disappointed, is recorded before a camera making a suggestion to serve friend chicken and watermelon at the dinner to celebrate the new minority champion. The statement was obviously a racial slur in the poorest of taste. But what’s most surprising is not the slur itself, but the number of people calling in to radio talk shows defending the racist.
A nationally syndicated and wildly popular television show about cops performing their duties shows car chases on a regular basis as part of the program. The narrator routinely refers to minority suspects as thugs and culprits while the white suspects are referred to as being distraught and in need of help.
Many people like to claim that blacks and other minorities are just as racist as white people. But the definition of racism is a policy or principle that allows one race to dominate, control, or suppress another race. It’s a fact that not too many white people fear the racist minority individual. Minorities aren’t represented on the air waves with a daily, nationally syndicated radio shows specifically designed to promote racism. The individual on the corner that has the bitter disposition towards the white establishment really doesn’t have much of a chance to influence the masses. I seriously doubt if the brother or sister will get a chance to air his or her opinion on anything that resembles the Rush Limbaugh show or the O’Reilly Factor.
The vast majority of famous minority pundits are on record bending over backwards trying to win the approval of the white establishment. Many of our famous minority contemporaries will choose to blame their impoverished racial peers for their lack of an education or wealth. Many claim that if we just make sure that our children got good grades then they too will be successful. But the truth of the matter isn’t how high their grades are, but how well they toe the line of those in power. Many minorities are successful because they make it a point not to rock the boat. Many choose to distance themselves from their contemporaries in order to achieve financial success at the expense of their ancestor’s cultural integrity.
History shows that a society that insists on being divided by those who have and those who have not cannot last indefinitely. The clock is ticking towards the inevitable end of this hyper-aristocratic so-called culture. If our chain of social order is only as strong as the weakest link, then this chain is dangerously thin and weak along the majority of its length. Instead of the population working to better uniform the strength of the chain, we are steadily working to strengthen the strong parts while continuing to weaken the weak parts. Are there any pundits out there willing to tell me how we will survive?
According to a BusinessWeek article dated February 14, 2007, automobile sales in the American market rose 6.5 percent in January 2007 compared to January of last year. While sales rose for vehicle makers like Toyota, Honda, Nissan and others the domestic automobile manufacturers continue to plummet like rocks. Sales were down at GM 16.7 percent, at Ford 19.6 percent, and the Chrysler unit of Daimler Chrysler was down 2.3 percent.
The Detroit automobile manufacturers represent a traditional way of thinking about building and marketing cars, rooted in an arrogance born out of years of doing business with little serious external competition. When the Japanese automobile car makers came on to the scene they represented something fresh and new. And they were dismissed as no threat to tradition. The initial wave of foreign cars from Asia were so small, plain, and gutless that these 4 cylindered cars could never compete with the big, fashionable, and powerful 8 cylinders coming from Detroit. Detroit’s confidence was enormous and supreme.
The orthodox practice of Ifa is believed to have been performed for millennia. Priest and priestesses follow the same rituals, protocols, and operate the same rules they believe originated with the very first devotee to be initiated. Many houses that observe African religions would rather keep seriously outdated rules alive, regardless of the impact on their community, instead of doing genuine work using more open-minded processes. Older priest are more concerned with keeping younger priest in line, younger priest are more concerned with keeping the non-initiated in line, the more knowledgeable non-initiates are more focused on rituals and protocols so they can keep the inexperienced initiates in line, and so forth up and down the line. The confidence in this hierarchy is enormous and supreme.
When the first energy crises hit the United States back in the early part of the 1970s, a number of people began to reassess what was important in their transportation needs. While Detroit continued to focus on superfluous characteristics such as excessive size, excessive power, and excessive chrome, many foreign automobile manufactures focused on fuel economy. When quality issues surfaced in the foreign vehicles the manufacturer worked to solve the problem. But with the domestic manufacturers, quality issues were swept under the factory rug. Traditionally, automobiles were delivered to the dealership regardless of condition and any glitches were left for the dealership and the customer to work out. Some people became aware of the fact that they were being taken for granted by Detroit and purchases foreign automobiles. Detroit was content to let these customers leave because there were so many customers willing to purchase their inferior product.
The second energy crises in the mid 1970s drove the notion home that change was imminent. The price of gasoline traditionally held to about 30 cents a gallon, more than doubled to 65 cents a gallon in something like a three year period. The economic impact that rippled through the country drove the US government to respond with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards setting minimum mpg goals for car manufacturers. Emission standards were enacted to reduce the effect of smog and other air pollution. The foreign automobile manufacturers adapted quickly to the new operating climate and people began to take notice. After years of maximum style but little substance people wanted and needed more from the cars, the dealerships, and the manufacturers.
Years of ignoring the wishes of the auto buying public suddenly came to a close as consumers realized that they had an alternative to Detroit’s traditional way of doing business. Detroit had no choice but to make changes. But the initial changes in Detroit were half-assed attempts with downsized vehicles and inefficient engines choked with pollution controls. No changes would be made at the expense of short-term profits. The vehicles may have looked different, but issues of quality and reliability would continue to dog the manufacturers for decades to come.
In Ifa it is very common for a person to become a member of an ile only to leave after a short stay. Each person has his/her own reason for leaving. But there is no doubt that the majority of the reasons people leave is due to the fact that the spiritual leadership they are receiving was not meeting their spiritual needs. Eventually, awareness develops that the leaders of the spiritual house were too deeply rooted in their traditional rules and regulations to respond to the needs of people. In essence they felt like they were being taken for granted. Ile management was content to let dissatisfied people leave because they knew that if they stayed they could have affected others within the ile. Besides, management knew there were plenty of other people willing to stay and support the house. The majority of the people will continue to pay for their readings regardless and pay for whatever ceremonies and rituals house management says are necessary.
Inevitably, there will be a rather good percentage of members leaving within a short span of time. The ile management will respond to the mass exodus with an announcement of how they had to “clean house” of all the negative influences. The ile is taking a corner and the insecure baggage got ejected on the last curve. House management will promise a round of changes and a new direction for the members who stay. New house projects will be announced and people’s attention will be refocused. Half-assed changes will be made like new décor in the meeting place. New titles will be bestowed on members. New and superfluous rituals and protocols will be enacted. But it’s just a matter of time before people fall back into old patterns and members are contemptuously taken for granted once again.
Over the years the domestic car manufacturers steadily lost market share to their foreign rivals. Independent quality assessments clearly found the foreign products superior to their domestic counterparts. Detroit responded by jumping onto the “buy American” band wagon. Anyone who purchased a foreign car was unpatriotic and disloyal.
People in iles come and go on a regular basis. House management will promise to work hard to limit the “revolving door” syndrome. But ile doors spin faster than the revolving doors to Macy’s the Friday after Thanksgiving. Most people who decided to leave were often scorned for their lack of loyalty to the ile and to Orisas. House management will declare former followers unworthy of time or effort and judge the house better for whoever’s departure. But after a short absence many people whose integrity was disparaged in their absence would return and welcomed with open arms. It’s as if the whole matter was nothing more than a misunderstanding swept under the ile rug or a short vacation.
The automobile industry went through a change. Today, foreign automobile manufacturers are prospering and growing while the domestic automobile manufacturers become ever smaller fractions of their former selves. True there are many factors that continue to force their demise. But the theory here is that the majority of the domestic automobile manufacturers’ problems stem from the fact that they failed to respect and appreciate their customer base during their many years of feasting. It is easy to label all the customers who continue to buy foreign automobiles as disloyal and unpatriotic. But it is awfully duplicitous to call purchasers of foreign cars disloyal after the domestic car companies choose time and time again to pass on so many opportunities to give the buying public what they needed/wanted.
Ifa is on the verge of change. The priest and priestesses in positions of leadership have an opportunity to guide their members through these changes. But like Detroit took for granted their customers a few decades ago, many of the so-called leaders of Ifa will continue to take their members for granted. There are way too many current and potential members available to worry about the few enlightened ones that choose to leave. The management of way too many iles suffers from virtually the same hypocrisy and arrogance that plagues Detroit. Instead of taking effective steps to halt the spin of their revolving doors and reverse the trend for members to leave these organizations that claim to operate under the spirit of the Orisa will only make changes that do little to alter the status quo. People will continue to leave. People will continue to return. But the changes on the horizon will give more people an alternative to the standard ile operating procedure. There will be an alternative to business as usual. Over time more and more people will choose not to return to the same old house setup. Soon thereafter the old houses will find themselves merely a shadow of their former selves. Priest and priestesses will look back and disingenuously reflect bitterly on the disloyalty of their former congregation.
The original Matrix is one of my most favorite movies. The symbolism of this particular movie is so applicable to what has happened in the past, to what is happening now, and to what will happen in the future of human existence. The film illustrates the conflict between the rebellious, independent thinkers, the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar captained by Morpheus, and the remainder of the so-called civilized human society, the residents within the illusion of the Matrix. The film speaks volumes as to what is and, possibly most important, what is not acceptable by the establishment.
My favorite scene in this film is when the hero Neo has his greatest epiphany. Not the one where he actually learns about the Matrix from Trinity, the woman who will eventually becomes his love interest. Not the one where he learns about his abilities in the Matrix from Morpheus, his mentor. The scene to which I refer happens almost at the end of the film, where Neo is killed by Agent Smith before he could escape the artificial world. Neo dies for just a moment and is then reanimated. In an instant he achieves clarity and looks at things deeper than anyone thought possible. The world melts before him. His understanding is enhanced to a point where the sum of what is presented before him actually dissolves and he sees the world for what it truly is for the very first time. He understands that the world in which he operates is an infinite, mathematical succession of bits and bytes and he sees each and every one of them to the finest of detail.
The story of the Matrix is a commentary on the behavior of people. It is an analogy of most people’s choice to stay stuck in the shallow world of day-to-day, mindless repetition, and the thoughtless acceptance of the regulations and conventions. The entities that make the rules are completely foreign to the population that follows them. The ultimate governing body of the world consists of these machines whose primary purpose appears to be nothing more than to feed off the energy of the people. And the machines will do anything and everything to protect that energy source.
As long as the people don’t think too much and stay within the confines of acceptable behavior stability is maintained. But the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar has no intention of following established procedure. Morpheus and his league are like an infection that threatens the order of the machine’s universe. Therefore, they must be exterminated at the earliest opportunity.
How many parallels does this story share with the human condition? It could be a commentary on the relationship between the government as machines and the governed being the people. It could be an analogy of the corporate world with management being the machines and the employees being the human cattle. It could be a correlation between the United States and the rest of the countries of the world. It could be a parallel of any relationship between the controllers and the controlled. Sadly, it could also be analogous between the priest of Ifa and the people who are looking for spiritual guidance to Olodumare, the Orisas, and the ancestors.
Compare the story of the Matrix to the reality of Ifa. According to the story, the number of people that had chosen to be awakened to the true reality of the world is tiny compared to the number of those who choose to remain oblivious in a world of someone else’s, or something else’s, making. In the reality of Ifa many priest choose to live a life separate from the majority of the people in the Ifa community. The rest of the people within the community are content to be led by the priest and live by traditions and concepts that they don’t fully understand or take to heart. Many Ifa followers are more than happy to let the priest within our community lead us and tell us where we need to do with our lives and our spirituality. In return, we pay them for the services they render us and we exalt them for their assistance.
Regardless of what correlation is applied one thing remains the same. The character of Neo represents a new way of thinking, a new way of doing business, a new day. According to Wikipedia, the word neo, derived from the Greek, is a prefix that denotes something new or a revitalization of something in a modern form. By definition, this new manifestation of a revival is a threat to anything that constitutes the traditional way of doing anything. Traditionalist who benefit from keeping the status quo will do their best to suppress anything that will modify their conservative customs.
But new ideas and new ways of thinking are inevitable. Nature itself at times may appear to be stagnant in the relative millisecond of time we as a race may exist. However, nature is in a perpetual state of development. The balance of nature could not be maintained without changes. Change is the only constant in our universe.
When the analogy of Ifa is applied to the story of the Matrix, everyone on the Nebuchadnezzar would represent the people with the desire to end the illusion of the machines and develop a relationship with the reality of Ifa that is empowering and true for all people. The actual energy of the sleeping and unaware people is harnessed for the sole benefit of the controllers. This manipulation is impossible with anyone who achieves true consciousness. Therefore, anyone who becomes aware is a threat to the system. An attempt is made to terminate conscious people by unplugging them from the Matrix and literally flushing them down the toilet into the waste system.
The reanimated Neo achieves the ultimate enlightenment. He sees the world through eyes opened to the genuine reality of the bits and bytes. Now if we continue to apply the story to Ifa, then the level of Neo’s consciousness makes it impossible for him to see the world and not see the essence of the Orisas in everything that is. Imagine the power of perceiving Orisa in everything. I would imagine that that level of consciousness would frighten most people. It would be impossible for such a person to be manipulated or deceived, even by them self. The material world would hold no value because such a person would have no need for it within his/her ultimate connection with their spiritual self.
The great majority of people would prefer not to ever wake from their slumber. The people who make up this group are so busy with their everyday existence that they don’t recognize the inability to fill the emptiness in their lives. Luxurious trinkets loose their luster after a while and have to be replaced with even larger, faster, shinier trinkets. A much smaller group of people are somewhat aware of their predicament, but the sacrifice necessary to achieve a deeper conscious may be more than what they are willing to pay. This group believes that they are content to have someone else guide their semi-conscious existence or they are content to traverse life with their half-assed consciousness.
The final group, the tiniest fraction of the whole, will strive to develop their consciousness to become the Neos of Ifa, the foundation of a new understanding among a spiritual tradition that has developed into a mere shadow of its former self and now appear out of touch with the needs of the population. The Ifa Neos will work to uncover the truth and stop the deception. They will be attacked and vilified at every opportunity by the Ifa machines. The power source that allows the machines to continue their existence would be threatened. But the Ifa Neos will understand that the very future of all humanity is at risk if something isn’t done to force the changes necessary to terminate the traditional relationship with the machines.
Ifa is a spiritual tradition rooted in the culture of the Yoruba and passed along from one generation to the next using the ages old African tradition of word of mouth. Parents would teach the concepts to their children through immersion with techniques such as constant recitation, ritual, and ceremony. The children spent their entire lives not just learning the principles but living the principles. With minimal changes to their environment for centuries these time honored techniques served the people well.
It’s not too far a stretch of the imagination that when Africa was “discovered” by the European explorers, irreversible changes were introduced into the Yoruba style of living by the western cultures. European influence introduced a new level of materialism never before imagined by the African people. Suddenly there was a need for wonders never seen before such as more sophisticated and refined jewelry, clothing, decorations, weapons, etc. There was a new focus on individual materialism that began to invade the culture where before a more communal environment existed. For centuries, although individuals in the tribe may have had their own possessions no one really had much more than anyone else, including the tribal leaders. Everyone enjoyed in the bounty of a feast or paid the sacrifice for a famine. But the communal philosophy was eventually abandoned in favor of a more “every man for himself” way of thinking. With no regard for one’s neighbor it’s no surprise to see integrity, equality, and justice dissolve while deceit, disparity, and corruption develop in their wake.
The reality is that today, after a history of corruption and incompetence within all levels of government, Nigeria, largely recognized as the modern incarnation of Yorubaland, has been left a country rich and abundant in resources but mired in debt and poverty for the majority of its population. Government administrators are more concerned with personal enrichment and immediate survival than with long term prospects for future generations. Bribery, favoritism, military coups, and short lived government administrations have become the standard way of life. The practices of the government are a reflection of the people. Therefore, the study of the Yoruba culture truly makes one of the poorest examples for a correct form of Orisa worship. Although the Yoruba are credited with being the first civilization to recognize and develop this particular spiritual practice, the focus on Orisas, ancestors, and community have become secondary to personal gratification. The insistence of following a doctrine of strict adherence to long-established hierarchal structure based on titles, seniority, and class assures the perpetuation of customs that have absolutely nothing to do with spirituality but everything to do with personal benefit.
By developing an ever expanding system of hierarchies and tiers based on so-called African traditions the priest and priestesses towards the top of these rankings have secured their place in a system that looks very much like the infamous multi-level marketing plan otherwise knows as a pyramid scheme. The non-initiates at the bottom of the spiritual hierarchy without their own godchildren or certification of importance will see little personal benefit while the royalty, priests, and chiefs at the top reap benefits, status, and credibility for little more than being where and/or who they are.
Many priests will allege that they are doing the work of the Orisa and must be respected, honored and compensated for such. For sure priests and priestesses are a vital component to the community they serve and should be compensated for their services. But what is the focus? Does a person become a priest to serve as a spiritual guide to the community and as a voice for Orisa or is the priest’s endeavor merely for personal gain?
Too often the community service that should be the focus becomes community domination when priest and priestesses develop a sense of entitlement that comes from being well placed within the spiritual pyramid. The impression of entitlement leads to a sense of disassociation from the “little” people for whom a priest is supposedly here to serve. Feeling the need to win the favor of the priest/priestess in order to gain a more favorable position within the pyramid, lower members of the community will indulge as many impulses as possible from the members higher relative to their position, which reinforces the sense of entitlement, and perpetuates the cycle. As members of the community rise through the spiritual pyramid they feel entitled to work the system that they have helped to establish. The various investments that the men and women make as lesser members will reap rewards and benefits when they gain their spiritual upper status. But eventually, people who suffer from a lack of integrity will find the pursuit of personal rewards and material compensation too much of a temptation to resist and they will have their sense of community service knocked right out of their conscience. Unfortunately, the version of Orisa worship based on the Yoruba system justifies this condition.
If one is a scholar of history the study of the Yoruba culture with respect to Ifa makes for a logical pursuit. But as a guide for how one honors and upholds Orisa and ancestor worship it is without merit and is a hindrance to true spiritual enlightenment. For someone to claim that the study of Yoruba culture is recommended in order to develop a true understanding of Orisa is, to be polite, fabrication. No where is it written that the study of the Chinese culture is a prerequisite to being a good Buddhist. No one of merit requires the study of Jerusalem’s culture in order to be a good Christian. Conversely logic holds to reason that just because a person is of Italian descent and may know something of their culture doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more proficient in Catholicism. One does not automatically or necessarily lead to the other.
Credit must be given where credit is due. Present day Nigeria, which was at one point known as Yorubaland, is the cradle of Orisa worship. That much is true. But because one might be born in Nigeria or may be aware of Nigeria/Yoruba culture, does not automatically endows them a special place in the in the eyes of Orisa. The spiritual pyramid based on knowing the Yoruba culture is little more than an artificial concept used to control the masses and protect someone’s ability to reap undeserved benefits. To study Yoruba culture as an example to spirituality is flirting with an invitation to wander off path.