An ile must be an environment of cooperation and sharing. It’s important that people within an Orisa house at least feel like their opinion and ideas matter to their community. If two heads are better than one then an ile of people should be the best of all. Priests and priestesses know this intellectually, but it may be a little difficult to accept in reality.
One of the things I often heard senior priests and priestesses in Ifa say on a regular basis is that they welcome different opinions from the people within and without the Orisa house. If it has to be said then it probably isn’t very true. Too often an ile is ultimately managed by a classic type A personality that places little value into the opinion of people who are perceived to be of less worth or status. In order to counter the reality that the ordinary people’s opinion doesn’t matter, management will promote the ideal of an open door policy. Ile management really should be more aware of the contradiction.
The philosophy of this type of ile management model will manifest itself as an ile in constant turmoil. Some ile members will recognize the fact that in many respects they are not true members of an ile family but are merely extensions of ile management’s will. Consequently, the ile membership will experience a constant state of turnover from people who find themselves dissatisfied with a spiritual arrangement that looks more like a business arrangement. Their membership rolls will remain a fraction of what it should or could be.
But I’ve also witnessed iles that operate as a community of equals with very little hierarchy between members regardless of the length of time members have been with the ile, the length of time members may have been initiated, spiritual gifts members may exhibit, natural talent, or any other factors that may be used to separate people who have a common objective. The management of this ile model doesn’t tout their desire to have an open door policy because the members already know that their opinions, ideas, and who they are as a person are valued and respected. People feel free to express themselves without the sanctimonious rigmarole of parliamentary procedures, point of orders, and the like implemented to discuss ile affairs. The management of this ile model doesn’t fear loosing control of the people since their objective doesn’t include controlling the people.
The philosophy of this type of ile management style will foster an environment where people truly feel welcomed and respected. While getting a large number of members should never be a primary goal of an Orisa house, the membership of this particular type of ile is more likely to be strong and stay strong.
As students of Ifa it is our understanding of the universe that Olodumare is the supreme spiritual being. But when I envision heaven I don’t see Olodumare sitting around on a throne relaxing in his superiority over the Orisas and ancestors. When the spiritual entities come together I doubt very seriously if the Orisas spend any of their time stroking Olodumare’s ego or flaunting their devotion. I doubt if Orisas spend their time contesting each other to determine their proper place in the hierarchal order. I have yet to have anyone explain to me which Orisas exist at the bottom of their command chain. I doubt if someone can explain to me which manifestation of nature is the least valuable. All Orisas have a job to do and they all come together to do it. That’s the Orisa community. That’s spirituality. As it is in heaven so should it be below.
It should be remembered that the social environment of an ile is directly indicative of the condition of its spirituality. Having other people submit to one’s whims might appear to be an attractive power. But, spirituality isn’t about practicing control, superiority, and separation from another person who should be acknowledged as your equal in the grand scheme of things. There is nothing spiritual about an ile that practices the suppression of members. People who come together for the sake of community and spirituality shouldn’t feel intimidated by other members who just so happen to be the head of the house, older initiates, or anybody else for that matter.