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The African Concept of God

What then is the Africanist? The esteemed elder, and the very author of the Africentric
ideology, Dr. Molefe Kete Asante basically defines the Africanist as one that is not Africentric
or African-centered but Eurocentric in their approach when studying Africa, her people, and
philosophies. The damage of this approach magnifies when we look at the fact that many of
our own Black professors, educators, and religious leaders ape this approach only helping to
further distort and dismantle their own cultural-spiritual heritage.
The Africanist is one that, even though they may claim to be religious or spiritual, and in
many cases considered "authorities" on the subject, will usually take an a spiritual method
in their understanding of African beliefs and practices. The irony is explosive in that many of
the methods and concepts they use to validate and justify their own Western belief systems
have been set in place within African ways of life thousands of years before Western religion
could take on its rudimentary form. The egocentricism and ethnocentrism that these writers
express will not allow them to see the same things of value in African belief that they
actually use in other forms to justify Biblical and Quranic thought with. .
Even though it may be true that much of the Western understanding of the Creator Essence
of the worlds was taken from Africans, I wish to make it plain and clear that the concepts
are not the same. Here we will explore the some basic differences according to African belief
itself..
Just what is the true African belief in God as expressed by Africans themselves? Once this is
shown, what is Man's relationship to this Supreme Essence? It must be first stated that
Africans all over the continent and throughout the Diaspora have always expressed a strong
and systematic belief in One God, the Soul Essence of the Universe. I use the term
systematic here to refer to a complete set of beliefs tied into a larger construct as expressed
by that particular culture. These belief sets are replete with their own moral and ethical
laws, divine directives, spiritual entities, concept of the One God, and scriptures (whether
oral or written). For instance, the Africans of ancient Kemet called the Creator Neter
(Ntr, Netcher, Netjer). The Nilotic Sudanese say Kwoth. The Yoruba of southwest
Nigeria say Olodumare and Olorun interchangeably. The Buganda of Uganda
express this entity as Katonda which means "The Creator of All Things in
Existence". The Ashanti of Ghana, descendants of the great Ghanian kingdoms, say
Mawu-Lisa, which expresses the Creator in Its fullest - as male and female energy
combined. Finally, the Dogon of Mali say Amma, which suggests a deeper kinship
with ancient Kemet than most have admitted.
One may immediately suggest that the only difference between the Biblical idea of God and
the African one is in the difference of names due to languages. I say that upon a little
further investigation one will see an even deeper difference that goes beyond just surface
name difference right into the realm of concept essentials. Symbols (of which letters of the
alphabet are in that family) are set to convey particular ideas and concepts. We find in
Kemet that one symbol (misnomered hieroglyphics) can mean over a thousand things
without contradiction. Once again, this came from the Kemetic natural understanding
of God and Nature. In most cultures, people embody their concept of God in the names,
accolades, and attributes they assign this Omnipotent Entity. When you call upon or
mention the name of a particular people's God there are certain images and
meanings that usually come to mind. Usually these meanings are an intricate part
of the culture that is expressing the concept.
For instance, the concept that reinforces the Biblical Yahweh and the Quranic Allah is
that of a totalitarian, totally male, and patriarchal god that shows favor to men
(especially men that were shepherds) and "he" is jealous and vengeful.
The time-honored wisdom of our African Ancestors would not allow such thinking
even among those African societies that tended to be a bit patrifocal.

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In fact, as mentioned specifically about the Ashanti, most African names for God convey
the idea that this Essence is both female and male - two sides of One Supreme
Energy working in harmony to produce the whole of creation itself. Nothing like
this exists within the Western mode of thought pertaining to religion and
philosophy. The view and true knowledge that God could not be all male is what
led to the esteemed status of the general African woman and the very powerful
offices such as that of the Queen -Mothership and High Priestess in areas such as
Kemet, Yorubaland, and Ashantiland just to name a few.
Among most Africans, the very power and word of God is expressed as a divine feminine
energy. It is said among the Yoruba that the male ruler of the holy city of Oshogbo is
to be given spiritual authority to rule by the Orisa (Goddess/Power in Nature)
Oshun. Oshun is the feminine energy of fertility, wealth, and unconditional love
towards all humans. She possesses the keys to spiritual communication and the
effective use of that communication in governing our lives and the world. In the
story of Ausar (Osiris) and Auset (Isis) of ancient Kemet it was the divine words of
Auset (female power in Nature) that "resurrected" Ausar. Nothing becomes
legitimate among the Ashanti of Ghana without the spiritual and political approval
of the Queen Mother of the nation. This seems to be a universal pattern among those
African societies that have remained true to their indigenous forms of government and
worship and virtually unheard of where Christianity and Islam have put strangle holds on
the culture.
None of this means that Africans worship two Gods - one male and one female. It simply
means that thousands of years before the Chinese Taoists taught of these
metaphysical principles in terms of yin and yang, the Africans along the Hapi
(Nile), Oya (real name of the Niger River), and their kinspeople had mapped out
the universe and intuited this divine knowledge and expressed it in their symbols,
metaphors, parables, sacred histories, scriptures and sacred rituals. The rights that
women in Western society have fought and dies for were a given to women in African
society who based their understanding of spiritual phenomenon upon careful intuitional
observation of the cosmos that is without and within. This spiritual understanding was
also reflected in their governmental policies. For instance, women truly began to be
ordained into the Christian ministry in the 1950s; almost 2000 years after the
founding of their religion!
Therefore, the Goddess concept is very important in Africa and within African belief.
Sister Diedre Badejo, in her book Osun, implies that part of this understanding comes from
the "mystery and power of the womb". The womb is the origin as well as the
formative, but we have believed for thousands of years that God created a man and then
from his rib a woman was created. One can easily see how this, and the concept of a
totalitarian all male God can cause such misery and aggressive destruction in the world.
Let's look at it logically. If your concept of God is infused with anti-woman sentiment
then you are going to constantly view the woman as something to be controlled
and owned. There is a constant battle there. Now, if the woman truly does
represent Nature then you will be raising children that will not want to fight and
subdue the woman, hence Nature.
Another major point that obscures a true understanding and acceptance of African
beliefs is the falsified Judeo-Christian-Islamic propagation that Africans worship
many gods and that they have no real sense of the concept of One God that
created all in existence. Within this worldview is the falsified notion that not only
do Africans worship many gods, but that they also worship trees, rocks, rivers,
etc. As a spiritually Africentric student, I am often saddened by the fact that so many of our
own well meaning and intelligent African people allow so many tricks to be played on them
about their own culture. One must understand that different cultures develop the approach
the same problems and mysteries in life in different ways.

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These different ways are what we recognize as culture or cultural specifics. What is true
for one group may not be true for another. To put this further, one cannot understand
African religion with Western religion as the measuring rod of truth and vice
versa. Therefore, we will attempt to explore the African concept of various gods and
goddesses as expressed by Africans themselves with a special emphasis on the neteru of
Kemet, and the Orisha of the system of worship called Ifa by the Yoruba of
Southwest Nigeria.
As pertains to Kemet (Ancient Egypt) let us erase one major misconception. When studying
Kemet we always run across someone saying that our ancestors of this great African nation
worshipped the Sun. Since Kemet serves as a classical African civilization, it is imperative
that we make reference to her whether we are speaking of religious, political, economic, and
other life sustaining institutions when reconstructing our lives around an Africentric
paradigm. By any means, the Sun, contrary to the popular Western misunderstanding, was
not worshipped as the God by the Kemetians. Early on in their development they saw
the Sun as the most powerful visible testament of Gods omnipotence and
omnipresence. It is the Sun that sustains life, thus maintaining Gods creations. We can
look at it as the Sun being Gods Lieutenant of the Life-Force, and the Africans of old
saw no problem in respecting and reverencing its power. It is through the
observation of the Sun that we get a glimpse of Gods energy - Its omnipotence
and glory. The Sun was not worshipped as God, but recognized and reverenced as
the symbolic manifestation of Its life-sustaining power.
Western anthropologists, archaeologists, and Egyptologists, in their usual
brilliance, have confused reverence with worship. It must be said that they did not
care to get it right either. The one word worship put in place where it should be
more properly understood as reverence, used to distort our Ancestors true
concept of their relationship with Nature and spirit forces, has caused so much
academic and cultural criminality towards the descendants of these spiritual concepts.
Africans have never worshipped anything besides the One God of the Worlds, but
the myth goes on about the African concept of God being polytheistic. Here we can
see the total inadequacy of the English language to express non-Western spiritual concepts
in full.
Polytheism has come to mean in Western theological academia that there is more than One
God being worshipped; all being accorded the same worship as the One God. Now, I am the
first one to say that Africans do not have a monotheistic concept of God either. That is a
Western concept that does not give due reverence to all of Gods creation.
Most of us come out of some form of Western religion or philosophy into African religion.
That is why we must keep in mind that when studying African belief we are actually
studying a belief that contrasts greatly with the Western beliefs we come from and that
these contrasts are mainly due to the different worldviews of the two culture groups.
To illustrate this point I would like to borrow two very profound concepts from two of the
foremost fighters in our cultural and spiritual liberation struggle. Elder Marimba Ani, in her
classic Yurugu, infallibly argues that there is a certain essence that drives the European in
her/his cultural arrangement, or better termed cultural aggression. This essence has much
to do with how and where the European essentially developed. In this, she is in line with the
great Ancestor Dr. Cheik Anta Diops Two Cradle theory that describes the essential warlike
and male-dominated nature of the European (including the Biblical Hebrews/Semites) in
terms of how they had to develop. Ani uses the Swahili term asili, which means the
developmental germ/seed of a culture. The cultural asili of the European is most
definitely expressed in the cultures idea of God and their religious vehicles that teach this
idea.

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Shekem Ur Shekem Ra Un Nefer Amen, king of the Ausar Auset Society and author of Metu
Neter Vols. I and II, goes a bit further and informs us that when comparing predominately
Black societies with those that are predominately white one must also approach this issue
from a psychological level. Amen states that when comparing these civilizations we are
actually looking at one group that thinks and expresses from a right and/or balanced
brained perspective, and one from a predominately left brained perspective that is out of
alignment with spiritual truth. The right brain is mainly responsible for intuition, a key
for true spiritual revelation. The left brain is responsible for such things as writing,
competition, war, and general aggression. An imbalance of either can cause
disaster. In Kemet, and other classical African civilizations (whether in Africa or not) we
see the epitome of the balance needed to create a highly spiritual, and yet materially
successful civilization as such.
The overbearing left-brained thinking of the Biblical Hebrews is a main reason for their
decasualization of Nature. We must understand this if we are to gain any grasp of how to
even identify an African belief system. For instance, in the Bible Nature is to be subdued.
The man is given dominion over Nature, and is set to rule it according to Genesis. Western
philosophy further teaches that Nature is personified as feminine. This being a
universal cultural expression, the picture becomes a bit clearer. Elder Ani states The
divine feminine is associated with the fecundity of the earth and the centrality of
the cyclical order and the workings of Nature in our lives. It is evident that both
African and European ethos recognize Nature as a feminine energy, but Elder Anis
statement shows the diametrical difference in the African projection of that understanding
verses the European one. This leads right into the core of the African concept and
expression of the One God.

God in African Belief Part II

A Theological Overview of God in African Belief

What do Africans find in Nature that they also find within themselves, and what is the
spiritual significance of such concepts? In Kemet, we run into the problematic term neteru,
which the Egyptologists have misdefined as gods. Even E.A. Wallis Budge had to admit to
the danger of translating this term as gods (Book of the Dead; Budge). Schwaller de
Lubicz in his Temple in Man defines the neteru as powers of nature which is closer to
an Africentric view. Not only are they powers within Nature, but they are also powers within
the human nature. This was the profound teaching of the sem (priests) in the temples of
ancient Kemet.
These Africans along the Hapi (Nile) not only viewed themselves as one with Nature, but
also as mini mirrors of the larger universe. Ra Un Nefer Amen tells us that the faculty
within Man associated with elevating the lower base nature to the Divine Self is
called Ausar from the Kemetic theological perspective. These powers and concepts did not
disappear with the fall of Kemetic civilization to Europeans and Arabs. They survive
transaharanly and Diaspora wide among such groups as the Akan, Congolese, and the
Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria. The Yoruba term Orisa (pronounced oh-ree-sha) is
sometimes translated as selected conscious. Each Orisa represents one of the
various states of consciousness within Nature and the human being. For instance,
Obatala represents clarity and purity of heart, thought, and intention, but it is
Ogun that clears away the excess rubbish that blocks our roads to upliftment,
hence true success. But none of the Orisa function in any capacity if they are not in
harmony with the will of Olodumare (God). Among the Buganda it is said that Katonda
(God) functions Its powers through the lubaales. The Igbo call their emissaries of Chukwu
(God) ayaana. All three of these concepts represent that the One Gods works are manifest
variously, and further underscores the fact that Gods power cannot be
compartmentalized and rationalized as is often done in Western religious
theology. Elder Ani states The task of the European theologian was to give European
religion the shape of European philosophy, so as to enhance its value(p.182).
According to the Eurocentric worldview, belief and spiritual experience are non-values, or at
least less valuable than European rationalistic philosophy.

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Not wanting to reject or neglect their Greco-Roman heritage, they included Greek
philosophy in their theology to rationalize and reason religion. Thus, their left-brained
thinking caused them to concretize spirituality in their religious formulation. As the great
Yoruba poet and dramatist Wole Soyinka stated in an interview: People do not
realize how unrealistic christianity is.
The African concept of God allows for the harmonious interaction between Man
and her environment as expressed in Nature, as opposed to the Western concept
of a constant battle with Nature (just as they say there is a constant Battle of the
Sexes). Sadly enough, this anti-Nature sentiment seems to have become the very
drive behind their technology which serves many good purposes, but is destroying
the very world around us due to their imbalanced worldview (remember right
brained and left brained thinking). Who else could have thought of a way to burn a hole
in the sky? Science has been falsely deified and made the measure of all things "true and
real". This is guised under the Western pseudo-universal way-of-knowing, which is
commonly known to us as reason and rationalization (in a very non-spiritual and concrete
form). Rationalization, more than not, includes a more physical and anti-spiritual
mode of recognizing truth, or what is perceived to be the truth in the rational
tradition. Those wishing to truly understand the Africentric perspective of spirituality must
keep this in mind. This Euro way-of-knowing has little to no respect of the
metaphysical realm. The metaphysical realm is that invisible realm of origin from
whence all physical phenomenon arises. From the lack of spiritual cultivation, the West
has deified the physical side of the equation. Of course, I am not in any way implying that
the physical should be neglected. I am only saying that you cannot worship the creation as
the highest end while ignorantly neglecting that creations origin - the Creator Itself. Do not
worship the messenger and miss the message for the messenger tends to convey the
message imperfectly and you will miss the point.

The Orisa in Relation to Man and Creation: As mentioned earlier, Africans on the
continent proper and throughout the Diaspora have different names for the Creator, but
more importantly share a unifying concept of Mans relationship to the Creator.
Africans from the original Anu who produced the original Kemetic dynasties to the Ashanti
of present day Ghana, have always believed in and drew strength from the fact that
the Supreme Source of All works through the very creation that emanates from It.
Westerners and Arabs could not understand this in the processes of their rampage, pillage,
sack, and in many cases plagiarization, and utter desecration of Mother Africa, her people,
and culture. If it is God that works through the creation, and Africans were the first to
understand this (which seems quite plausible with them being the original people), then
suffice it to say that Africans in no way could worship the creation itself. Africans have
reverence for creation and Nature, but they do not and could not worship them. I once
heard a high ranking Catholic priest at a local university say that Catholics do not pray to
the saints and statues of saints, not that they in fact pray through them. Why is it that they
can not use this same understanding when they come into contact with indigenous forms of
worship such as African and Native American belief?
Just what is the philosophy behind the Ifaic concept of God? How is it that the Orisa express
the totality of the One Ruler of the Worlds? And what, if any, are the Orisas connection to
the Neteru of ancient Kemet? Chief Baba Ifa Karade in his monumental Ojise: Messenger of
the Yoruba Tradition states on page 113: The Orisa are the elemental entities consisting of
divine creative essence and nature substance called in combination ase (pronounced ahshay). They are perpetual, continual, self generative and self-illuminating. They possess the
ability to integrate their inherent energy-ase into the more physical forms of nature such as
rivers, trees, mountains, animals, human beings, and so forth. I gather from Baba Ifas
instructions that the Orisa are the unseen motivating forces in the cosmos that have
been here since the dawn of creation, and before. In nature, we see the Orisa as
natural phenomena. In humans, we see the Orisa as different aspects of the Creator (called
Olodumare in Yoruba).

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In respect to humans, in their contractive aspect they are latent variegated energies, but in
their expansive state they are manifested personalities, psychic abilities, trance abilities, or
simply put, energies that have taken on some degree of form. They are within the human as
different levels of potential spiritual expression.
The Yoruba teach the Orisa originally came to earth (aiye) as emissaries of Olodumare to
set the earth evolution in motion. They were to live the human experience in order to better
speak to the multifaceted human condition. Thus, they along with the Ancestors, have to set
the guidelines, according to the will of Olodumare, of righteous living. Thus, the human
evolution is to be a divine mission according to Yoruba theology. Human evolution
should be as much a replica of divine example as possible. A careful study of Ifa divination
will show us a glimpse of the unfolding of the divine plan according to what Baba Ra
Fagbemi calls the Opon Principle. Baba Ra states simply that the Opon Principle is likened
unto the Law of Cycles. You must study the divine cycles of the cosmos in order to
attempt to study the plan of God. It is like reading Nature, which, of course,
means the reader, has to be in tune with Nature Herself.
The sacred scriptures of the Yoruba, called the Odu Ifa, say this of the human
condition in the Holy Odu Irosun Iwori: Surely, human beings were put here to do good. As
stated, the Orisa are within Man, and it is a part of Mans destiny and duty to tap
within that divine spirit-well that Olodumare created all humans with called ase.
Baba Ifa Karade teaches us that several of the major Orisa can be likened unto the Eastern
concept of chakras. And why not? It is well known, but not highly publicized by Western
science, that there are energy centers within the human body that can be opened
up to receive and express divine metaphysical enlightenment. It is also well known
that many people have been healed with the proper knowledge of how these centers work in
harmony with the Divine Plan.
Now if these energy centers have always existed within the human (God is, always was, and
will always be) then it is obvious that those cultures that first recognized this fact are going
to label them according to their own language. And it is a known fact that Blacks in Africa
and India came to this conclusion and taught it thousands of years before the current
Hindus of India codified it. So we find that Baba Ifa is well on point in this concept.
Let it be known that the Orisa are not something to simply be understood intellectually. We
must realize that these are spiritual realities to be experienced within our very
beings. This is the understanding of Africans and all other earth-centered cultures
(Native Americans, Eastern religions, etc.) that allowed them to remain in such a
harmonious state with Nature and God. The Yoruba call upon and give praise for the divine
presence and manifestation of these latent forces within the human experience. Real
spiritual truth is to be experienced and the Orisa exist to lead us to that truth.
Within the African worldview there is no concept of a devil that is in constant
battle with God. Only through colonization and enslavement have Africans adopted such a
notion, and in some instances they have infused it into their own indigenous belief systems.
Africans believe that Father-Mother God created all things in the universe, but that
the creation itself, through time evolution, is not perfect. Imperfection cannot help
but bring about conditions that misrepresent Gods divine plan. Hence, there exist
negating forces throughout the universe called the ajogun by the Yoruba. From my
understanding of Ifa theology, Olodumare did not create the negating forces.
Olodumare created humans that are not perfect that created the conditions that
would allow negating forces to germinate and then manifest. They have ultimately
found their place within the balance that Olodumare rested the worlds upon. These negating
forces seem to be emanations of the evil we see in the world. It is held that Olodumare is
essentially good, but it is through the human faculty of free choice that evil comes
about. There is no the devil made me do it blame-shift philosophy in African belief.
Africans, due to their right view of God, have never felt unworthy of the Divine Mercy.
He/she who errs in African society is not a sinner all alone going to a place called
hell, but they are simply out of balance and conversion to a better way of life does not

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require the Western concept of repentance or the admittance of any degree of


worthlessness. What it does require is a true effort for better understanding. As
pertains to Man being in a state of imbalance, the African sage Amen em Ope of Kemet says
that God is in Its perfection. Man is in his/her inadequacy. This is not a sinner for life
or born in sin inadequacy, but it is simply based on the idea of Mans failure to reach the
divine inner recesses of his/her soul where his/her destiny imprint resides - Gods individual
blueprint for you to be guided by Ancestral wisdom (Akan, Congo, Ifa, etc.).
The Yoruba teach that the human chooses a destiny in the heavens (Orun) even
before the physical conception process takes place. It is through the birthing process
that Man forgets this destiny, hence the first step towards misalignment. Through Ifa
divination (dafa) the human can access the true intent of the spirit realm, and retrieve that
destiny in order that stability may preside over ones life. It is the humans responsibility
to develop genuine, gentle, and divine character called Iwa Pele to live truth and
contribute to the balance of the world. In the aforementioned proverb by Amen em
Ope, he warns against human egotism, boastfulness, and self-righteousness. On the other
hand, Paul exerts his new Jewish sect to be perfect, thus presenting an unrealistic
challenge to someone he earlier says is born in sin! It seems that Christianity has
often presented its adherents with the proverbial carrot on the stick syndrome. It is
dangling right there in front of you, but it seems as if you can never grasp the nourishment
that it purports to offer. On the other hand, African religion teaches us about the world
as it is, and how to deal efficiently with that reality by developing Iwa Pele.
We are like roses that have grown from concrete. One of the greatest miracles to date
is that African people are still here after the rapes, lynchings, burnings, brickings,
floggings, neighborhoods being terrorized by the US government genocidal
programs, and the like. We are still here fighting; trying to gain a semblance of
what it means to be African in such a society. African spirituality reveals that
these are trying times for African people worldwide. But it is also a time of reawakenings. We are returning to tradition and becoming the better for it.
If we return to
tradition as a unified front, there will be no more need for singing and marching, begging
and feet shuffling. Our own African traditions have all the answers we need to get back to
our original grandeur. Let us continue in song, dance, prayer, study, and daily struggle to
raise up the divine spirits of those that have come before us. Sankofa, an Adinkra word

from the Akan people of Africa. Gerima says that the English translation of
this word would be " 'returning to your roots, recapturing what you've
lost and moving forward." An alternate translation is "No matter how
far away one travels, he must always return home"

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