The Spiritual Level
Ifa is an African spirituality deeply rooted in African tradition. For most people who practice this spirituality, strict adherence to African social structure is absolutely necessary. These people feel that you can’t be a true Ifa devotee if you are busy developing new understandings about spiritual concepts that the wider Ifa community takes for granted simply because somebody who may be an elder says claims it as tradition.
It is inevitable that new understandings and concepts are refuted by elders with a vested interest in keeping the state of spirituality status quo. In this respect, Ifa is no different than any other organized religion that adheres to tradition for the sake of tradition and ceremony for the sake of ceremony. And without exception, the traditional way of doing things protects a very lucrative business for spiritual elders who can charge a king’s ransom to perform spiritual rituals that have absolutely no tangible or measurable results.
People can pay priest to do absolutely anything. In Ifa, there are rituals to protect health, protect relationships, assure financial success, or do whatever else somebody may want in his or her life. It is my experience that the ritual includes the slaughter of an animal in a very spiritually dramatic process. But all the ceremony and spiritual procedures in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans if a person’s character is lacking. I don’t care how well you know prayers, if your character needs attention then all the rituals in the world don’t matter. I don’t care how much you pay a priest, the best way to get a job is to prepare yourself through education or experience.
And what happens when the ritual doesn’t work and all that money is spent for naught? More than likely the priest will say that the devotee was unsuccessful because there was a bigger lesson to be learned here. But the priest would never admit that the biggest lesson a devotee can learn is to quit wasting time and money on pointless rituals. Although a spiritual ritual can make a person feel like they have spirituality on their side, things are not so cut and dry. If all it took was a ritual, everybody in the Ifa community would be living large. And that is simply not the case. But nevertheless, the orthodox Ifa practitioner believes in his or her spiritual elders, in ritual, and in the traditional thinking that eschews people developing their own sense of spiritual understandings.
The orthodox practices heap a great deal of significance on hierarchy and protocol. A great deal of significance is paid to people with impressive sounding titles. What exactly goes into getting a title? Well, a lot of it is nothing more than people buying them. And like rituals, almost any title can be bought for the low, low price of whatever. Like a prayer expertly recited can have little meaning from someone with questionable character, a priestly title can be neutralized as well.
Recently I have seen a number of communications from a number of devotees trying to expose people committing fraud in the name of Ifa. I was personally contacted by a couple in Trinidad who had a concern about a priest visiting from Nigeria. The priest did a reading and “discovered” that the couple’s baby was a gift from god and a ritual was necessary for the child to reach its full potential. Typical of a lot of spiritual work, the price of the ritual was exorbitant. And when the couple said that all they could afford was a fraction of the original asking price, the visiting priest didn’t hesitate to take what he could get.
It is a given that when someone is performing spiritual ritual, we believe that they are in communication with spiritual entities. No where is this more important than when someone is getting a reading. A reading is supposed to come directly from the Orisa Baba Orunmila himself. But not everyone has the integrity to pass along spiritual communications and keep their ego in check in the process. And when someone’s ego becomes more important than the messages, chances are they no longer recognize their purpose and are now just as misguided as the people they lead.
Fortunately, it is fairly easy to spot spiritualist who may have fallen off the spiritual bandwagon. All one has to do is look and listen and apply a little logic. When a priest says something like a child is a gift from god and a ceremony is needed for the child to reach its true potential, suspicion levels should go off the scale. What can a priest do on a spiritual level that god failed to do? My first guess would be very little. That would be one of the first clues.
Another good clue about a priest’s integrity or lack thereof would be the need for more spiritual work after getting a reading. That ranks right up there with going to get an oil change and having the mechanic tell you that your engine needs a complete overhaul and the transmission needs to be replaced as well. I will go out on a limb and say a reading should never lead to a need for more work. It just doesn’t work that way.
So before devotees get caught up in the spiritual tradition of throwing good hard earned money away by paying for expensive ceremonies and rituals from priest they hardly know, or from anyone else for that matter, I would recommend that they sit down and ask a single question. Why? It shouldn’t cost a fortune to become spiritual. Before our ancestors knew what money was they were able to establish this spiritual tradition. When did money become so important to the tradition?
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