Spirit in the African Believe System - jerkand


Comments system


Saturday, 2 June 2018

Spirit in the African Believe System

The understanding of reality is very important. This is so because it aids in the understanding of the complexity of nature. Nature has its own embodiment that involves and entails so much, both within the reach of the mind and beyond it. It is based on this that we can talk about the physical realities and spiritual realities. Part of the physical reality can be related to man. On the other hand, spiritual reality can be related to spirits. Therefore, since human exists, there is something that moves and directs his movement. This we can refer to as spirit or the spirit of human person.

 The concept of spirit has been conceived by different individuals in their own ideals. Some of this scholar ideal can be said to influence by their culture and tradition. African philosophy is an aspect of philosophy that takes a sink the doing of the African person. It encompasses the African culture and tradition. In African philosophy, we have some philosophers who have spoken about the concept of spirit. The concept of spirit is in itself an important phenomenon in African philosophy. Due to the variety of culture in African philosophy, it has different connotation, one of the philosophers of African philosophy that spoke about the concept of spirit is Adebola B. Ekanola. His concept of spirit connotes that spirit are the entity that remain constant in African belief-system.

Hence, in this work we shall discuss the concept of spirit in African philosophy according to Adebola B. Ekanola. To do this effectively, the following will serve as a guide to my discus.
- Meaning of spirit.
- Types of spirit.
- The reality of spirit in African thought.
- The African belief on spirit.
Oxford dictionary volume 10 spirits gives different meaning of spirit, which defines, “the animating or vital principle in man (animal) that gives life to the physical organism, in contract to its purely material element, the breath of life. It also defines as soul of a person, as commented to God or passing out of the body in the movement of death”1. According to Robin Horton, “spirits refer to a special mode of being, or an entity existing in that mode”2. The Traditional African, spirit are real as the chair I am sitting on the computer I am working on. They are not some kind of logical construction. Africans believe that spirit exist in object, plants, animals and people. The relationship between objects, plants, man and its\his spirits can be linkened to the relationship between a canoe and its steer’s man. In this case spirit control and directs the behavior or disposition of a thing or being.

Spirit are been used in different terms and this we can see in the book title “the ideal of spirit in African philosophy”, which has different definition to it and how it was used by the western philosopher. Anaxagoras said, spirit was the active principle or order in all things. This was also supported by Parminedes. In Plato’s thought, spirit is both the factuality in man which enables him to complete the changeless eternal word of form.3 Aristotle also said spirit in its relationship to being and God as something purely external and in the nature of an object. Here, spirit is extra ordinary in nature which applies to human being and God the creator of the heaven and earth, as it is in the Bible (genesis 1:2). It was also used by Christian philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas who said spirit is understood anthropologically. As the substance or soul of the person, he went further to say that it is beyond the purely anthropological to assign spirit its proper place in the lager whole of a hierarchical metaphysics of being and the Christian doctrine of creation.

Ekanola exposes us to different types of spirit when he says that spirit exist in object, tree and human being. With this we can categorize spirit into two parts: the natural spirit and human spirit. Also in African ontology, there are many types of spirit, but specifically I shall talk on two of them which also have sub-classifications. They are the natural spirit and the human spirit.

The natural spirit is that which people associate with specifically with natural objects or forces. In some thought it is said that these spirits have been created by God initially. Other is said to have become spirit by virtue of having once been human beings in the past. According to John Mbiti, “natural spirits are personification objects or forces”5, this means that they are ascribed to in animate objects. Under this type of spirit we have the sky and the earth spirit.

These are those spirits that are associated with objects in the sky, which includes the sun, moon, stars, etc. In Traditional African Society people believe that all these natural objects are the spirit, they assume that there is something behind it. For example in Yoruba tradition, it is believe that when winds occur, there is a spirit inside the winds that is looking for someone to carry, that is why when this occur people run to their houses. They also believe that when there is thunder something very bad will happen. It is in their culture that if there is raining and thunder occur and enters a house it means that all or one person in that house had done bad thing, and they believe that all the people in that house will go and sleep in the church for seven days if they are Christian or mosque if they are Muslims. Some believe they are directly from God, why some strongly belief in the reality of the spirit because it helps them to explain the mysteries behind the forces of nature.

These designated by being associated with thing and forces or objects of the earth; among the spirits of the earth are the hills, mountain, rocks, trees, forests, and water, different animal, insects and certain diseases. etc. Some of these are regarded as divinities. “African believes that trough their natural spirit they have a direct link both with the inanimate things and with all living things”6. For example the Yoruba, people believe that animal are not die  at once; after killing them there spirit will still exist. They also said that when these animals want to die finally the hunter will shoot 7 bullets before they die. This is also related to the issue of river, in my area there are some rivers that nobody dare to go there for fishing, because either the person die or they will not see him again because they that the spirit in that river do not allow just any person to fish there.

These are the spirits of those who were once ordinary men, women and children, under which we have different type of spirits. For example spirit of those who died long ago, spirit of those who died recently, spirit of witches, spirit of born-death-child (abiku).  Just mention a few of them. All these spirit, African believe that there were very essential for example the spirit of their ancestor in which they seek their help in anything they are doing.

Many Africans believe that the spirit of those who have died long ago still exist in the invisible world. Hence, the spirit of those who were once leaders, heroes, warriors (men and women) have been honored and their assistance are also consulted during prayer when their names are mentioned. Apart from these people are also afraid of some of these spirits which they are called “spirits of unknown person, ghost spirit”7. They believe that this spirit did not attain proper burial that is why they become ghost, they fear this spirit because it the possession of human being.

This spirit is what Yoruba are call (abiku) this is because when the child is born he\she may die on his or her celebration day or any important day in his or her life. This spirit are mostly common among the female child because it is believed that some or many of them are in spiritual society in which they themselves have power, the reason why this child are died on their celebration day is that, people believe that they had made vows for their society the day they will come back.
According to Bolaji Idowu, the belief here is that there are wandering spirits who specialize in the sadistic mischief of finding their way in to the wombs to be born in order to die8.

The reality of spirit in African thought described by Ekanola which he describe that “African are of the opinion that spirit are to exist indirectly, through their effects on the material plan of existence or when they chose to manifest in a physical form”9. This shows that African believe that spirit is real and this shows that there is no doubt in it and through their manifestation in physical reality. The reality of spirit can be seen in two categories of philosophers in western philosophy which are idealist and dualists, but for them there is much condition about it actual nature and relationship with the material world.
The problem in accepting the account of the nature of the spiritual aspect of reality and its relationship with physical object remains a recurrent problem on its own. In African the ideal of reality of spirit show in my presentation in human spirit concerning the ghost and spirit of born died child who point out the reality of spirit in African thought and show their conception belief in the reality of spirit.

The African belief on spirit is very important because African belief that spirit reside on object, plants, animals, and people even the relationship between an objects, animals or man and its\his spirits can be linkened to the relationship between a canoe and its steers man. African belief that if some human behavior is bad there is one spirit that controls him or her, Africans belief that spirit is everywhere, African believe that spirit leave the body of those who dead and roaming about especially those died early or ripe age. Another example is of the witches whose spirit leaves their bodies in form of particular kinds of bird.

African believes that persons, animals or birds are to be instruments of possession by spirit in all description, they also believe that spirit may cause insanity or diseases, miscarriage of women or deformity in human being. They also believe that most diviner are under possession by spirit when engage in divination.

The issue of spirit in African philosophy generally is not a problem as to the western philosophy in which they doubt the existence of spirit the one that African did not doubted on. This problem is one of the western problem in metaphysic which they are deliberating on, which they use interchangeably with two other concepts that: mind and body. The western metaphysics was dominated by the notion of spirit and spirit as being both in and above man. The reality of spirit to western philosophy is just a mere thing, which they argues that there is no relationship between the spirit and objects, how the spirit can reside in an objects, but to Africans it is very realistic for them because through their effect on the material plane existence or they choose to manifest in a physical form. The reality of spirit in African belief is very highly recognized, this show in born-to-die-spirit, because when this happen continually, the Yoruba will give a mark to that child and if it happen that the woman give birth again and this mark show, they will said that the spirit of that dead child was entered the woman’s womb again.

I will like to conclude with a rhetorical question which is on our world today that now as we are African of today, “is there any reality of spirit again or are we sure that spirit still exist?
the Oxford English dictionary, vol. s. v. “spirit”
Gregory Ebalu Ogbenika the ideal of spirit in African philosophy , safmos publishers Ibadan, 2011.
                  ‘Dapo J.


No comments:

Post a Comment