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| | |-+  1st Commandment
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Sa_Sutcha
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« on: October 28, 2003, 07:38:51 AM »

by Sincere1906 (Wed, Feb 06, 2002)

The 1st Commandment

I think part of the problem here is that too many people are making assumptions. Traditional African spiritual thought on the continent of Africa yet exists (largely in areas like Benin) and sporadically in other regions, but for the most part it is submerged beneath western religious concepts (namely Islam and Christianity) that have been entering the region now near since the inception of both. With European colonization Christianity spread even more so, with Islam already well entrenched in several areas.

Traditional African religions practiced centrally on their own merit are now much more rare. 1 in 3 Africans on the continent are Muslim. And Christanity, often evangelical forms, is growing fast.

It is not that African spiritual and philosophical concepts are completely gone, it is more that they exist on the fringes or are formatted to fit Christianity or Islam. The degree to which this is done is varied depending on region, group, etc. Thus some speak of Islamized Africans or Africanized Islam. At any rate, what is obvious about both is that they exist as the central religious belief in many African societies with the traditional beliefs relegated to incorporated themes (similar to how for instance Roman, Middle Eastern and Teutonic traditional mythos keeps the idea of the hare/rabbit and eggs of the goddess Astare alive in the Christian celebration of Easter). After all, as many know, much of what are Christianity and Judaism is built greatly on reinterpretations of so-called "pagan" mythos.

I know many African Americans who seem confused when they meet Africans (be they Ibo, Yoruba, Xhosa or Tutsi) who espouse often very STRONG Christian beliefs. Sometimes even, as I have seen, these Africans may even speak of many traditional African concepts as "backwards, primitive or even evil."

As an anthropologist and historian, to me it is of course disheartening. The same western cultural hegemony that has sent many African languages to the brink of extinction has done much the same with *traditional* African religion. Though truthfully many Africans keep their own traditional concepts in part, remolding them to fashion around the western religions.

That is not to say all Africans think in this manner. I know several Africans, even those born Christians, who wrestle between the Jesus that has entered their knowledge in the last few hundred years (unless you count the Coptics of Ethiopia or Egypt who were converted well over 1500 years ago) and the traditional belief of their ancestors. I know others who reject the western religious concepts outright.

True enough most African spiritual ideologies are malleable and practical enough to include both a San figure like Cagn and the Christian Jesus.

The problem of course is that pesky 1st Commandment of the Old Testament Judaic-Christian God. It unfortunately demands abandonment of other deities in its favor. And this is not just an African phenomenon. Certainly European traditional religious philosophies were sent into extinction or banished to the mythic fringes as Christianity made its way across the continent. The entire notion of St. Patrick`s day, the villlifying of Druid practices (slanderous accusations of child murder etc. as part of Christian propaganda) and the symbolic act of "chasing snakes out of Ireland," is a classic example.

To be blunt, the 1st Commandment of Yahweh/Jehova/Allah is bigoted and ethnocentric. It basically asks the world to conform to the religious ideology of a group of Western Asian Semitic nomads. In its eyes the many thousands of other human spiritual philosophies are meaningless---unless they can be used to make comparisons of being close to the same thing (i.e., Christian missionaries often used the tactic of interpreting non-Christian god figures as approaching some archetype ideal of western religious monotheistic thought. So for instance the Sudanese-Ugandan notion of Jok is proclaimed by Christians to be one in the same with the Christian Yahweh/Jehova to more easily convert "the natives" to Christianity. But in actuality, Jok is distinctly more intricate and differentiated from the Christian god figure).

As long as this 1st commandment exists in its current form and is interpreted as it is, arguing with a member of the western religions as to the legitimacy of traditional non-western religious ideologies is near a futile exercise.

Jewish theologian Regina Scwarz in her work "The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism" tackles this issue. In a way, Chinua Achebe`s work "Things Fall Apart" can be seen to allude to this---though not directly. And it has been discussed in numerous works. So its not like I`m saying anything new or profound in the least.


Sincere 1906

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Rootsie
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2003, 07:40:40 PM »

I think it is crucial to point out what we see as the mistaken teachings in Judaism and Christianity. In the West, the liberals like to say the atrocities carried out by Christians has nothing to do with the religion, but can be laid on the laps of certain evil individuals. This is mistaken and dangerous thinking. When it comes to colonialism and slavery, we're not just talking about a few lone nuts:we're talking about entire countries and regions that engaged in these activities and supported them. And still do today.

Many peoples in the history of the world have had a Promised Land/Chosen People, ideology, for example, but put firepower behind that idea and look what happens. The last 2000 years. Such an idea has simply got to be rejected.

And now today, anybody who questions the policies of Israel is labeled an anti-Semite, and fast, by the vastly powerful global Israeli propoganda machine.

The arrogant and murderous Judeo-Christian colonization of spiritual truth must be interrogated and rebuked by moral people everywhere.

Rootsie
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Tracey
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2004, 10:57:22 PM »

Something I have become aware of is how the modern mind trys to superimpose it's thinking upon ancient idealogies and practices. This simply cannot work to bring about present day understanding. The context is completely skewed. What the ancients had access and awareness of..we in the present, seemed to have lost sight of, or connection to. We have so twisted the original meaning of our ancestral spiritual roots in order to suit each generation of peoples that it now seems like a far off reality.."submerged beneath western religious concepts" is an understatement for real.

The ancients were so integrated between heaven and earth that truly there was no separation. Spiritual life was one in the same..every thought, action and deed carried deep significant meaning with regards to higher ramifications. Their's was an internalized world..ours has become external. An example of how ancient Egyptians regarded nature and natural law:

Exerpts from: "Temple of the Cosmos"...

"The concept of natural law - that there are certain rules that nature must obey - is a modern idea, and is symptomatic of our modern relationship to nature. We can talk about laws of nature only because we experience nature as wholly externalized from us and also from itself. The nature that exists from the modern scientific consciousness is a nature that has no interior; it has no soul. Hence, all that occurs in nature has to be explained in terms of blind "obedience" to laws, originally concieved in the seventeenth century as commands imposed by God upon the natural world. Parodoxically, the lifelessness of the nature that obeys these commands is contradicted by terms of analogy. For analogy of natural law is clearly based on the relationship of living citizens to their rulers. The reason why this analogy came to be regarded as appropriate, however, is that people's experience of God had become separated from their experience of nature. The spiritual was not beheld within the world of sense experience, but was felt to occupy a separate sphere. Therefore, the connection between the divine and natural realms could only be concieved in terms of remote and impersonal kind of relationship; it could be nothing more intimate than "law."

In ancient Egypt, the experience of the relationship between nature and deity was otherwise. The sun did not go around the earth in obedience to law, but was an expression of the life of the sun deity who passed through the different spiritual phases of Kheprer, Ra, and Atum, which were imaged in the sun's daily cyle. The sun was the countenance of the divine. It transmitted something of what goes on in their souls. As for the sun, so for all of nature as the Egyptians experienced it; nothing in nature was simply an "it" - all was animated and alive. In such nature there can be no question of "laws," because human experience of nature is essentially an experience of spiritual entities active within the physical domain. The relationship of sun god to sun could not be that as a lawgiver any more than could that of human soul to bodily gesture; the one manifests through the other. The spiritual does not impose laws on the physical, but expresses itself in and through the physical."

"The historical process, rather than consisiting in a withdrawl of projection, has been, on the contrary, a process of introjecting into the psyche spiritual powers that, for the ancients, had an ontological status that was independent of, and prior to, the psyche. A veil had not yet been drawn across the interiority of the world by a psyche ever more absorbed in it's own subjectivity."

"The ancients did not project their gods into nature: they apprehended them there."

~

How the ancients viewed their world was entirely different than what we consider to be relevent here in these modern times. It does indeed require an open mind to part the shrouded veil that lie hidden beneath ancient myths/reality to even begin to ponder the depths of what they understood to be their intimate, mystical relationship to the cosmos and by extension God..
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