Part 2. Theoretical considerations
1. About the formation of human knowledge
1.3. non-power societies = tribes & animism
Tribal societies were societies without power and animism, or the tribal worldview, was shared by all. Tribesmen were free and equal individuals; free and equal women and men who willingly shared the views offered by their Man of Knowledge
(1). Nowadays the self equals ego which means “everything is about me me me la la la”. By contrast in tribal times the self referred to the well-being of the tribal group and the ego was something totally unknown of. We should all pause and think a few seconds about the real meaning of these words. In a “me me me” context it is rather difficult indeed to grasp such an idea that the self could be representing the urge to ensure the well-being of the group. In modern eyes this sounds like an insanity. That the group passed before the individual and the notion of individualism was nonexistent goes against all we have been taught. This does not fly in our Late-Modern minds!
The shock between such radically opposed conceptions of human well-being introduces us to the prime dimension of the political or what I call “the polarities of humanity”: group versus individual that I make the central tenet of the working of societies. I'll develop this point in a coming chapter 3. about societal necessity.
Let me state, from the get go, where I stand regarding this distinction between tribal and Late-Modern realities:
- Freedom is not about me me me feel-good.
- Freedom is about having an equal place at the table of decision making for all matters concerning the group we belong to.
- At this gauge, I'm afraid, the citizens of the power societies of Modernity have lost their freedom while tribal societies appear to have been absolutely free societies indeed.
Necessity to clarify the meaning of words.
In the total confusion of Late-Modernity words can take on so many different meanings that the conversation often becomes meaningless. A case in point is the word tribe.
If you listen to the news you'll hear incessantly about the difficulties governments experience in managing the tribes of their countries in the Middle-East or in Africa. The fact is that tribal life has been eradicated there since a very long time, that means, after those societies initiated agriculture.
The Middle-East reached repeatedly the stage of empire and civilization so what is called tribal life there makes no sense. What is referred to as tribes in the Middle-East today is no more than regional and local particularisms that have affirmed themselves following the collapse of the Ottoman empire. The story is similar in Africa albeit with a fundamental difference. African history has been suppressed by Europeans who have presented a picture of Africa as a land of savages who don't have a history. Since decolonization a different picture is nevertheless slowly emerging: an Africa that since long practiced agriculture and where huge tracts of the continent were governed by empires and kingdoms.
Slave trade decimated the populations of many of those kingdoms and empires and their institutions crumbled as a consequence (2). Out of these groggy nations Europeans then carved dominions of their own by tracing imaginary borders in which they imposed European like state institutions. Furthermore the proselytism of Christian preachers, most often imposed by force, destroyed much of Africa's traditional cultures. As a consequence, of mixing by force elements of imposed Western thought on top of elements of traditional African politics – economics – culture, Africa ended up in a state of total confusion that led to political, economic, and cultural chaos.
Vodoo as an illustration
Let's take Voodoo as an example. Voodoo is the mix-up of elements of Fon animist Traditions with elements of Christianity in the context of power societies that for a few centuries have been taken over by Europeans. So how did Fon animism fare in this context?
Fon animism was characterized by the following (3):
1. it inherited a worldview from its past: an animist worldview that was shared by the Fon, Gun, Mina and Ewe peoples before the emergence of agriculture and power societies.
2. as in China animism seems later to have constituted the worldview of early power societies emerging after the invention of agriculture. As far as we know, before whitemen set foot in Africa that system of thought was characterized by the following:
The Creation of the world was told to have been realized by "Mawu" (female) and "Lisa" (male). This principle affirms that the interactions between male-female polarities shape the reality of the world.
Mawu, the female principle, is fertility, motherhood, gentleness, forgiveness while Lisa is power, warlike or otherwise, strength and toughness. Moreover they ensure the rhythm of day and night. In other words the creative force, in the one and whole universe is exercised through the dance between the polarities Mawu and Lisa. This is similar to the Chinese Yin-Yang principle of polarities.
Mawu-Lisa created the "universal-spirit" or "Fa" to reveal knowledge of the unseen to all species and categories within the universe. Mawu-Lisa and Fa do neither exercise good nor evil; they simply are the principle of reality.
Fa is seconded by the "YÝ" or animating spirits who help Fa to sustain and move the world forward by animating or powering each and any specific species or category.
- the YÝ of humanity are seconded by the "sæ" which are also called human "arch-spirits" who occupy the minds of the human men of knowledge.
- all particles within the whole are interrelated and interdependent and communicate through the channels opened by the "YÝ" or animating spirits. Those channels act as the conduits for the distribution of the energy that powers the universe.
What happened to that belief system after whiteman and Christianity colonized them?
Christianity transformed Mawu-Lisa in the image of "God the father", Fa in "God the Son" or Jesus Christ, and YÝ in the "God-the spirit" who reveals the word of god the father, Mawu-Lisa, to the human specie. Christianity further transformed the nature of the animating servants sæ arch-spirits into the "vodun", also called "awovi" a term that means "son of lies", by affirming that some of them carried a negative energy. Herein we see how Christianity transformed the polarities of Fon animism into traditional Christian dualities.
Some among the YÝ's servants, sæ or arch-spirits, are being presented as evil and this sets the field for the dualistic battle between good and evil. Such an inversion of Fon traditional polarities into dualism is realized by imposing the following narrative:
- the vodun are said to have certain needs that are satisfied by human followers who offer them sacrifices in order to be in their good graces.
- those vodun, or sæ, who are not being presented with sacrifices, or not being presented with the right kinds of sacrifices, will afflict their human followers with sickness or other disasters.
- it is at this point that the Bokònò enters the picture. He advises people who are in trouble for having offending a vodun to find another sæ, or spirit-mate, a good vodun that will ensure them protection.
After living a few centuries under European power, and Christianity its worldview, the traditional belief system of the Fon people mutated into Voodoo or Vodun in Benin. The resulting mutated worldview has integrated the conceptual roots of Christianity and is now nothing more than an ethical and religious structure set up to serve the men of power. Voodoo magic and sorcery confer power to the Bokònò who, in turn, ensure the viability of the hierarchical institutions of power of their societies.
All this is at the antipode of the nature of Fon animism that has been transformed, over the last centuries, in a kind of devil of Christianity.
Animism and tribal societies.
The knowledge of animism was specific to tribal societies which existed before the advent of agriculture that transformed tribal groups into power societies. That knowledge was similar all around the world for the good reason that it was based on the long-haul observation of the same natural cycles:
1. one of the first principles that caught the attention of the Men of Knowledge was the idea that each entity was having two sides; species: male-female, human: men-women, days: day-night or light-darkness, feelings: happiness-sadness, and so on and on. Animism abstracted from those two sides of any entity the principle of polarities that interact. Later Middle-Eastern and Western thought abstracted from those two sides the principle of dualism and the necessity for each duality to eliminate the other. These two theoretical abstractions give way to two visions of reality that could not be further apart: polarism versus dualism.
2. the self of each tribesman was entirely focused on the well-being of all in the group and the idea of an ego was absent and unknown of. In such a context knowledge creation could not possibly have been conceived of as emanating from within the individual. It had to be projected on him from the outside. “primitive man” conceived that the whole or the one that contains him was the author of this projection. Practically that means that the knowledge of the shaman was understood as the result of something being poured by the spirit of the universe into his mind. That spirit was the intermediary or the representative of the whole who projected knowledge and consciousness of the interactions between all particles present in the whole into the mind of the shaman who himself was delegated by the tribe to catch the knowledge of reality.
The 2 notions of spirits and polarities are the roots of knowledge formation in animist societies anywhere on earth.
The transmission of knowledge under animism.
As I already stated earlier knowledge production was the business of the “man of knowledge” or shaman. The shaman selected a few adolescents to be their apprentices.
A secret apprenticeship
The apprenticeship was a long process generally spanning over 10 or more years during which the shaman shared basically 2 things:
1. the knowledge of the shaman himself or what he himself accumulated along his own life: the functioning of the tribe, the knowledge of the other tribes in the environs, the care for the health of his tribesmen, the world of plants and their powers, the world of animals and their powers, and more generally the conception of “animation” that relates to the observation of the skies and of their immediate environments. Animation means that the whole of reality is being animated by the interactions between all its particles which are being facilitated by the spirits. The whole of reality is considered to be “one” or “whole” and that one is composed of an infinity of categories/species that depend on one another. This interdependence implies a communication is being established between categories/species. Such a communication is understood by tribal men of knowledge to travel along the channels the animating spirits of a species ("YÝ" in Vodoo) open to the universal spirit ("FA" in Vodoo). Such a communication is best understood as acting like the breathing by the whole. In other words this breathing was conceived as bringing the whole to life.
2. the preparation of the apprentice to make himself available for possession by the spirit of the universe or its intermediaries (""sæ" in Vodoo): This was considered the essential part of the apprenticeship. But it was also considered as something really frightening. Being possessed by the spirit of the universe was considered the condition for knowledge to possibly be poured into one's mind and the knowledge transferred by the spirits into the mind of the apprentice was considered the necessary foundation upon which he would rely to develop practical knowledge at the service of his tribe. The transfer of the knowledge of the shaman himself was thus an accessory, more or less or a contextual add-on at best, that was devised to facilitate the adoption of the knowledge poured into the mind of the apprentice by the universal spirit or its arch-spirit representatives. In other words the transfer of knowledge from the spirit to the apprentice constituted the core of the apprenticeship and the transfer by the shaman of his own accumulated knowledge to the apprentice was merely viewed as a contextual introduction that would color the lines and forms of the knowledge poured into the mind of the apprentice by the spirit.
Making oneself available to the spirit was thus essential to the knowledge formation of animism. In such a context preparing the apprentice to accept the idea to be possessed by a spirit was considered the foundation of the apprenticeship. But, by all accounts, opening oneself to the spirit was a frightening proposition. The apprenticeship prepares the apprentice to accept the idea of other dimensions than the here and now. He is made aware of such dimensions by repeated ingestion of high doses of hallucinogenic plants that make him discover parallel realities. How would anyone not be afraid of such a path? Those of us moderns who tried that kind of stuff know that the experience is not only mind altering it also opens one's vision to very strange and sometimes scary stuff. Nobody comes out of such experiences the same as he was entering them and nobody speaks lightly about them thereafter. Most are scared to death by the experience and never repeat it a second time. And those who do repeat such experiences talk about them with the utmost respect.
In what follows I'll try to give a sketch of how animist men of knowledge viewed the process of pouring knowledge into the mind by the universal spirit. The tradition I illustrate here is similar all over the world but it is not necessarily identical because particularisms, environmental or other, are indeed shaping their forms.
What I describe here should not be confused with totemism which relates to the communication with a favored animal in the environment of the tribe. It should also not be confused with the “earthly-spirits” that appear in power societies by the forced mix-up of traditional animism with the creed of a religion, most generally Christianity which resulted in a new narrative that is a hybrid between animism and Christianity. Unfortunately such a hybrid denatures both of them and, worse even, it results in a very confused narrative that justifies the existence of power and privilege.
We are speaking here about a conception of knowledge formation through pouring by the universe of its consciousness into the mind of the apprentice men of knowledge. It was considered that the universe ensures that transmission through the intermediary of the spirit of the universe (FA in Voodoo) that permeates the whole. The spirit of the universe permeates the whole as a vibrating energy that flows through all categories-species as well as their individual particles.
Primitive man understood that the task of the spirit of the universe is so huge that it has to be spread among intermediary spirits that correspond to the YÝ" and “sæ" spirits in Voodoo. The “sæ" are “arch spirits” that act like specialized components of the universal spirit each one of them communicating with one single species-category. They are the spirit of that category/specie. So there should be as many arch-spirits as the number total of categories/species around the universe.
The arch-spirit of humanity is helped by gangs of "Spirit-Mates". A spirit-mate is a parcel of the arch-spirit of humanity that detaches, with a gang of mates, with the intention to inhabit individual human vessels. Their mission is dual:
- to transmit knowledge in the mind of the human vessel.
- to develop a full consciousness about the human condition or how the inter-relatedness and inter-dependence takes place between all humans and between humans and the other particles sharing the same environment.
If a spirit-mate does not master such a full consciousness at the passing of its host it searches a new host and that process repeats itself till the spirit-mate reaches a full consciousness. So the vision of knowledge acquisition in the animist tradition was like a feedback to the whole universe of its particles' real conditions. The whole thing must thus be seen as a process by which the whole universe expanded its own consciousness while passing to its particles-species-entities a form of knowledge that was adapted to the working of their minds.
When reaching full consciousness of the human condition the spirit-mate gifts his consciousness to the arch-spirit and so ends its mission. Having achieved its mission the spirit-mate splits in two identical new spirits called "Spirit-Twins". Spirit twins are two different spirits that have the same essence. They are the yin and yang of the spirit-mate having achieved its mission.
Animist men of knowledge considered that the mission of spirit-twins was to develop a human perspective on the full consciousness of the interrelatedness between all particles within the whole universe in order to gain access to the one. The final goal of spirit-mates was thus understood as gaining an appreciation of what universal consciousness really entails for humanity and such an appreciation was seen as the the material that they had to share with the arch spirit to complete their mission. The conscious appreciation by the spirit-twins of humanity's perspective about the universal consciousness was then also understood as being the material that they transferred to their human hosts in order to help them to attain such a universal consciousness. Animist men of knowledge considered indeed that sharing with their fellow tribesmen a pragmatic knowledge about themselves and their relations with the other particles in their environment was but one aspect of their mission as men of knowledge. Growing old and having initiated their successors they viewed their ultimate mission, as to attain illumination on what the whole is all about, in order to pass a glimpse of their wisdom, or sapience, to their successors. This perhaps more than anything else anchored tribal societies in a worldview based on continuity with its corollaries: respect and empathy for all particles in their environment and equality amongst themselves.
Being of the same essence spirit-twins permanently long to reunite with their other. But their dreams shall only be exhausted after one of them first reaches full consciousness about what they are after: an appreciation of what universal consciousness really entails for humanity. When one of the twins reaches that level it searches to re-unite with its other-twin. The path to its twin has been set since the spirit took possession of the mind of its host. This implies that the life path of its host is like traced, or programmed, to cross the path of the host of its own spirit-twin in time for them to reunite after one of them reaches the adequate level of consciousness.
Old shamanic traditions inform us that once a spirit finds its twin it will try to drag it to its own level of consciousness and when that is reached together they will try to gain an appreciation of the human consciousness of the universal spirit. But the spirit-twins can only achieve that entire process through an intimate collaboration with their respective hosts which is the most difficult aspect of the whole process as we'll see here after.
When they finally gain a full appreciation of how the universal spirit operates in the human consciousness they will merge and form again one spirit that, paradoxically, is hosted simultaneously by two different human hosts. Their mission terminates at the passing of both hosts. That's when they fuse with the arch-spirit and offer it the gift of their newly acquired higher consciousness.
The more I think about the narrative I just laid-out, and about what is going on here, the more evident it appears in my mind that this narrative comes suspiciously close to describing what system theory is all about. A vast system of knowledge transmission from the whole system to its sub-systems which, it appears to me, contains the intention to generate a shared consciousness between the whole system and its particles. There is wisdom at the center. How could we have missed this evidence?
Feedback between the one and its components.
The whole of the universe, also called the one in many spiritual traditions, is seen communicating with all its particles through the intermediary of the "Universal-Spirit". Parcels of the universal-spirit specialize in communicating with the different categories of particles-species. I call those parcels "Arch-Spirits".
The universal-spirit has full consciousness of its own. This means that:
1. it senses that it is being the sum of all the interrelations between the sum of its particles.
2. it senses that its particles are not actively conscious and so it acts to instill higher levels of consciousness into them through the intermediary of the arch-spirits.
3. After every spirit-mates have split into the spirit-twins of a category/specie and these spirit-twins all reach full consciousness they fuse with their arch-spirit offering it the gift of the sum of their full consciousness. The end of this process sees the arch-spirit gaining complete consciousness of the condition of its species or category. In this process the species-category also reaches full consciousness of the fact that the whole is the total inter-relatedness between all its particles as well as the inter-relatedness between its particles and the particles of all species-categories in their environmental context. After gaining full consciousness of their species-category the arch-spirits gain access to the universal-spirit and offer it the gift of that consciousness. This is when the feed-back loop between that specie-category ensemble and the whole is completed and the interaction flows uninterrupted forever which means that the feed-back loop sets in perpetual motion the further exchanges between the whole and the particles of that specific species/category.
4. The last step in this dynamic towards universal consciousness is for all arch-spirits to offer the gift of their complete consciousness, of the condition of their species or category, to the universal spirit. Most species-categories cease to exist before completing the loop with the whole. Only those species-categories that succeed to complete the loop with the whole eventually reach a universal consciousness. In other words this particular stage of consciousness completes the feed-back loops between the whole and its living constitutive species-categories. The completion of the totality of such feed-back loops procures an absolute universal consciousness to the whole, its constitutive species-categories, and its particles. Now hey... this invokes the completion of a universal cycle and the eventual shift into a newer cycle. But the tradition of animistic knowledge transmission is unfortunately mute about what such a newer cycle might be. It might be interesting to know how physicists and cosmologists interpret this animist idea of the completion of the cycle of universal consciousness. Unfortunately I never encountered such a commentary.
5. Ultimately the whole mechanism of feedback loops unveiled by animism provides sense to the principle of life. It procures a reason for life to have emerged in the first place and why it then expands. Life is indeed the force that possibly powers the feed-back loop between all the parts of the gigantic system composed by the whole and between the whole universe and its parts. Life is what projects a path towards consciousness into the minds of the parts of the whole and life is what ultimately gives full consciousness to the whole itself. From an artistic perspective this idea of completion of a grand cycle of consciousness through the whole universe suggests the idea of beauty possibly becoming true.
The spirits' human vessels.
In the animist wordview spirits enter into possession of selected human vessels to whom they transmit their knowledge. Those vessels grow into the future Men of Knowledge in their society. In other words the spirits that possess them act as their benefactors and after their apprenticeship ends they'll collaborate with their spirit in further knowledge generation which, in turn, gains the spirit an internal look at the process by which its species gains higher levels of consciousness.
It's worthwhile to focus a little deeper on the exceptional character, as perceived in our modern eyes at least, of such an apprenticeship.
Knowledge is indeed passed on from an external source as if the mind were a vessel and knowledge was poured in that vessel. This has nothing to do with a conscious effort by an individual at acquiring or generating knowledge.
Another aspect of the animist apprenticeship is the fear of being possessed and being drawn into bizarre and scary unknown situations that can eventually put the life of the apprentice at risk of dieing of an overdose of fear. This must assuredly have drastically reduced the number of candidates to become shaman. The role could not in the least have been popular and this is perhaps the ultimate reason why everyone was so eager to follow their advice.
One has to imagine that in the eyes of his fellow tribesmen the shaman's knowledge was understood to have been gained after numerous sessions of something akin to mind torture. So to accept such a torture in the service of the group must have generated a lot of gratitude, for the shaman, which explains why he was exempted from all labor chores while nevertheless being supplied with all that he needed.
The idea that Knowledge is being poured into the mind from an external source has been explicated by some, like Terence McKenna for example (4), as being more like the pouring of the subconscious into the conscious. But the process of knowledge accumulation by transfer from subconscious to conscious, as described by McKenna and others, is as dramatic as if it was being the result of pouring from an outside source. Both require the recourse to psychotropics and both are earth shattering experiences that frighten most that try them. McKenna himself speaks about the subject as necessarily instilling a reasoned fear and a profound respect for psychotropics as well as an infinite tolerance for the unknown unknown.
Practically an apprentice Men of Knowledge was selected by the shaman who lived with him during the many years of his apprenticeship. The shaman guided the apprentice on the way to enter in contact with a spirit-mate. That way was paved with learning "to see", "being a fighter", "conscious dreaming", "the second attention", and so on and on. Carlos Castenada (5) gave an entertaining but confused description of the process in his stories on Don Juan's teachings. In the words of Castenada Don Juan himself was aware of the bizarre character of the teachings of his line of men of knowledge and imputed this to the start of his line under Toltec power and the fall of the tribal model of society. Whatever might have been the “overdoing of the will” in Don Juan's shamanic line the fact is that when shamanism was the worldview of egalitarian tribes the apprentice was known to serve as the vessel for the spirit who occupied his mind till he passed away. Spirit-mates search the company of their mates and so they naturally drive their vessels toward each other and once the vessels meet regularly they gradually become soul-mates. They share indeed the same experiences, they re-comfort each other, help each other out, become the best of friends and eventually partners in love. Shaman soul-mates formed a brotherhood that was spreading over multiple tribes and were keeping their fellow tribesmen at a distance. Soul-mates and spirit-mates both have always been seen having a task to fulfill that can be summarized as follows:
1. soul-mates have to reach the full consciousness of all that lives or simply is in their environment and spirit-mates have to register the working of the minds of their human vessels. Spirit-mates have also to instill in soul-mates' minds the consciousness of the mechanisms by which the energy of all these particles can be used to propel humans out of sickness or on top of their game while hunting or repelling invasions of their territory. This is, in essence, how spirit-mates fostered the pragmatism of tribal knowledge.
2. soul-mates had to reach, among other, the full consciousness of the interrelations of humans between themselves which was a very long process that necessarily implied tribal stability. One of the essential missions of the shaman was thus naturally to try solidifying the cohesion of his tribal group in order to ensure its unhindered reproduction from generation to generation. This was the contextual condition for the shaman to possibly succeed in his mission and that's how the arts were initiated and put to use in trying to glue the minds of all the members of the community. Visual signs, music and dance were indeed the instruments per excellence to foster societal cohesion. Now the fact that we have forgotten this in Late-Modernity unmistakably sets our societies up for trouble. But this is another question that I talk about in other chapters.
3. Soul-mates have also to reach full consciousness of all the interrelations with the particles of all the other categories/species within their environment. What is described in these 3 points gains soul-spirits a clear consciousness of the condition of their species-category.
Being possessed by their spirit-mates the vessels soul- mates grow up grasping a better and better understanding of the human body-mind and how to treat it when sick or hurt. They also gain a better understanding of human relations between themselves and human relations with the particles of other categories-species with whom they eventually entertain totemic communications. That kind of knowledge serves the shaman well in answering all concerns and solving all problems encountered by their fellow tribesmen and this, in the end, is what shapes the pragmatism of tribal knowledge.
A spirit-mate fulfills its task after gaining full consciousness of the human condition understood as being the sum of all the interrelations of humans between themselves and also with the particles of all their other categories-species within their environment. That's when the spirit-mate can finally access its arch-spirit to offer it the gift of its acquired consciousness and as a token of gratitude the arch-spirit splits the spirit-mate in identical twins.
Soul-twins and Flames.
Once a spirit-mate fulfills its task it splits into two different and separate spirits who are called spirit-twins. Being of the same essence they will long to re-unite during the whole span of their separate existence. The vessels of the spirit-twins are called soul-twins and, after satisfying their mission, they are called soul-flames because of the intensity of the experiences they share. The spirit-twins that possess the soul-twins are on a path to absolute consciousness with the promise to fuse again after reaching their goal. When they do fuse is the moment when the soul-twins become real soul-flames possessed simultaneously by the same spirit.
Soul-twin unions are the most fulfilling of relationships on all levels however they are extremely rare. Many attempts at reunion of spirit-twins are unsuccessful because their vessels are not ready for the intensity of a soul-twin union. In other words most often soul-twins can't cope with the intensity of such an encounter. Such a relationship is indeed way more intense, at the soul or spiritual level, than any other relationship. This does not mean that there is no strong attraction at the physical and emotional level. it simply means that the strongest attraction is of the spirit.
To possibly cope with their spirits' objectives the soul- twins need both to have reached a high level of consciousness about themselves and the game in which they play. They also need to have been able to get rid of much of their past individual emotional baggage. Nothing is indeed allowed to block the closeness of soul-twins because everything that one of them did not succeed to heal previously has to be healed by that relationship.
When soul-twins break away their spirit-twins are also being separated and left with no other alternative than to wait for the passing of their present vessel at which time they will start to search for a new one in the hope of re-uniting anew with their spirit-twins.
Soul-twins who succeed to unite experience an extreme acceleration in their spiritual growth. They get on a fast track learning about wisdom and experience all kinds of states of consciousness. This experience is unique in the field of human relationships and its creative intensity captures all the energies of the soul-twins. The creativity of one is encouraging the other and they are ecstatic of being on such a roll. It is their task to become whole balancing their female and male sides which matures the output of their creativity and gains them excellence which, in turn, serves their spirit-twins on their path to absolute consciousness. Once stabilized from the euphoria of the encounter and the changes brought in their life the communication between soul-twins shifts gradually to telepathy and hugging each other becomes the food of their spiritual growth.
The goal of spirit-twins is to:
1. help their soul-twin vessels to access full universal consciousness which means:
- grasping the reality of the inter-connections woven between all the particles within the ensemble constituted by each species-categories.
- grasping the reality of the inter-connections woven between all the ensembles of species-categories.
- grasping the reality of how the totality of such inter-connections gives, or makes, the one or the whole.
2. catch the human perspective on such a universal consciousness to share it, in turn, with the universal spirit.
It is a widely held belief among traditional men of knowledge that after all spirit-twins within the human species complete their mission the universal loop of inter-connectedness shall be closed resulting in a perpetual motion of exchanges between the whole, human societies, and all human individuals. Traditional men of knowledge concluded that this will manifest in a universal sharing of beatitude, blissfulness. ecstasy and love by all humans on earth. It was also their belief that, in the meantime, after soul-twins reach full universal consciousness they unite in such beatitude, blissfulness, ecstasy and become soul-flames.
The term soul-flame got a really bad rap after it was co-opted sometimes during the flower-power current that set in motion the new Feedback between the one and its components.age band-wagon of followers and, as a consequence, we see it used nowadays in all kinds of romantic sauces that totally denature its original meaning among animist men of knowledge. This bad-rap questions the wisdom of opening the field of knowledge to all and it sheds some useful light on the tradition of secrecy that was practiced originally by all traditional knowledge systems. All traditions of thought were indeed based on the secret sharing with selected few. This means that their knowledge was not in the public domain and was only accessible after undergoing a rigorous and long apprenticeship. Such a transmission of knowledge guaranteed a uniform sharing by all of a common meaning to the words and concepts and acted as a sanitation mechanism on the knowledge. With the advent of what was termed the democratization of knowledge we have assisted at a fragmentation of meaning that, in Late-Modernity, has reached atomization levels when all and everybody is feeling entitled now to give their own personal meaning to all words and concepts. And so we are engulfed in a worldwide cacophony where noise making passes for knowledge sharing.
An approximation of the intelligence of the universe
For centuries Western ideologies imposed the idea of their suprematism and painted a radically distorted picture of tribal life and animism. It is only in the very last few years that we start to get a picture of what was the reality of these societies and the distance between the ideology and the reality is staggering to say the least.
What has been going on along the last centuries is almost unbelievable. It is nothing short of an intellectual scandal that makes us wonder at the sanity of the entire project of Modernity.
Today an entirely new picture of tribal reality is starting to emerge. The new narrative is simply astonishing and it is imposing a re-evaluation, not only of our conception of history but also, of our conceptions about the self, about the working of societies and the impact of our specie's activities on ourselves, our environment and on mother earth. But this re-writing of history is nevertheless still relegated to the margins of intellectual life. Academia is slow to follow.
"... in so far as the academic discourse of history—that is, 'history' as a discourse produced at the institutional site of the university—is concerned, 'Europe' remains the sovereign theoretical subject of all histories, including the ones we call 'Indian', 'Chinese', 'Kenyan', and so on. There is a peculiar way in which all these other Histories become variations of a master narrative that could be called 'the history of Europe.' " Dipesh Chakrabarty (6)
The fact that some scholars are starting to publish an alternative narrative to the history of Europe is sign enough that the boat of knowledge is beginning to move away from the narrow path of Eurocentrism and Western exceptionalism. It will take some more time for the boat of knowledge to sail in the open oceans and prove its viability to all. But, at long last, such a time is coming.
The picture that is slowly starting to emerge, of what tribal life and animism was really all about, is one of a very complex and sophisticated approximation of reality that succeeded to integrate the interactions of its different dimensions as they participate in the sustenance of the principle of life:
- the earthly environment
- the whole universe.
Their model of knowledge transmission suggests feedback-loops of information between the whole and its particles, and the particles and the whole, that appear as if those feedback loops were powering a continuous development in the process that generates consciousness throughout the life system of the universe. It is as if the animist men of knowledge were driven by an innate knowledge of systemic complexity that impressed in their minds the need to recourse to pragmatism as a way of life.
Primitive men and their tribal societies seem indeed to have come to grips with the systemic complexity that sustains life and, as a consequence, their actions appear to have been sustainable with the conservation of their environment and the passing of a livable world to their descendants. Something we can't unfortunately say of Modern societies (7).
This is simply baffling. What does this say about us Moderns? The least we should recognize is that the knowledge legated to us by animism unleashes a series of troubling questions about the sanity of our modern ways.
1. About tribal societies and animism. See From Modernity to After-Modernity (5) Animism
2. Slave trade: "The Portuguese began trading African slaves in Europe in the 1440s, and by the early 1500s ships filled with slaves captured in Africa began sailing across the Atlantic to the New World. During the four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, an estimated 12 million Africans were taken from their continent and brought to the New World and Europe." in "The practice of Voodoo: Preserving a world heritage" by Dah Jah & Netiva Caftori
3. Fon animism.
3.1. The Traditional Religion of the Fon of Benin. A Culture Report, May 1994 by Anthony B. Parker
3.2. The following notes are extracted from Stewardship in West African Vodun: a case study of OUIDAH, BENIN By Hayden Thomas Janssen B.A., French University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2003 Thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts In Geography. The University of Montana Missoula, MT May 2010.
- "The first appearance in writing of the term “Vodun” occurred in a 1658 work by the King of Allada to King Philip IV of Spain titled Doctrina Christiana. ... The slave trade through Ouidah had reached a volume of probably 10,000 slaves per year by the 1690s, and attained its all‐time peak in the years 1700‐13, when probably around 15,000 slaves annually were passing through the town; at this period, indeed, Ouidah may have been accounting for around half of all trans‐Atlantic exports of African slaves. (1). Many scholars of West African history, such as Robin Law, note that Vodun was first practiced near the modern village of Ouidah, Benin. Historical records date the foundation of the town by King Kpassé to be around 1550. In the pre‐colonial period, it had belonged successively to two African states, first the kingdom of Hueda and from 1727 that of Dahomey. (2)".
(1) Citation from Suzanne Preston Blier in "African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power". Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995.
(2) Citation from Robin Law in "Ouidah: The Social History of a West African Slaving 'Port' 1727-1892". Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2004.
- "One significant result of the trading operations in the towns of Africa was urbanization along European lines, which transformed the traditional structures drastically. The traditional village structure with a few well‐ordered compound houses gave way to sprawling townships." Citation from Kofi Awoonor in "The Breast of the Earth". New York. Doubleday, 1975.
- "Ouidah is the first village. It’s where whites were first seen, the Vodunsi came from everywhere and congregated in Ouidah. ... The most common religion practiced by the colonizers was Catholicism, and as such, Catholicism has played animportant role in how Vodun has evolved within the community of Ouidah. Europeans publicly criticized many Vodunsi for their religious views when they first arrived in Ouidah. Thus, it became necessary for Vodun, as a whole,to publicly incorporate certain Catholic ideals into their own religious practices so as to avoid blatant persecution" Citation from Stewardship in West African Vodun: a case study of OUIDAH, BENIN By Hayden Thomas Janssen
6. Dipesh Chakrabarty as cited by Harry Garuba in “On Animism, Modernity/ Colonialism, and the African Order of Knowledge: Provisional Reflections"
7. From Modernity to After-Modernity (13) 3. Late-Modernity. See posts 13 to 18.
My whole point in those posts was to show that the era of dominance of the worldview of Modernity is entering its late age. We are indeed entering an age of transition from Modernity to what comes after Modernity. The failure of Modernity and the urgency of societal answers to humanity's present predicaments are indeed shedding a new light on animism that appears to contain the substance of workable answers.