Last week, we took a break from our series on spirituality and religion to publish a different article – a tribute by a dear friend to commemorate my 83rd birthday on the 1st of January. This week, we’ll pick up from where we left off exploring the concept of spirituality, religion and the impact on the way we live our lives.
In Africa, we believe in reincarnation. In some cultures, they are called Abiku and in others, they are called Ogbanje, both meaning ‘the ones who come to go.’ All these are immersed in spirituality and religion. In African traditional worship, spirituality, religion and philosophy are all so intertwined that it is most times hard to separate them. Many communities still have families or individuals that are slated or ‘fated’ to give their life in servitude to the ancestral worship of community deities. There are also some people in the very common western faith, Christianity, who are believed to be gifted with visions of coming events.
In more recent times, some people are trying to separate spirituality from religion, describing the latter as something that has elements of the former. Religion is packaged as something that has spirituality as one of its contents. Spirituality, on the other hand, is from within. It is a link of the soul and other spiritual entities around. With spirituality comes the awareness of life and something more. A strong conviction.
Akwaeke Emezi is a talented writer and one who identifies as Ogbanje, in a book titled Freshwater, they talk about the experience of coming into a body, the feeling of being absent and present and their connection to the earth goddess, Ala. Here’s quote from Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater:
“Sometimes, you recognize truth because it destroys you for a bit. The world in my head has been far more real than the one outside—maybe that’s the exact definition of madness, come to think of it. The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.”
This is a documentation of what it feels like to be an Ogbanje in a modern world that has shifted slightly from traditional belief. It is possible that a lot of other people have documented their experiences and gifts but wait for the world to notice or not consider them attention seekers or crazy before they can share who and what they are with the rest of the world.
When I was 16, I lost the only sister I had from both of my parents at the young age of 13. I was not informed of her death until a few months later. After I heard of her passing, I began to see her in my dreams, sometimes even while awake. I would even hear her voice. It happened for years. I would daydream about having a conversation with her. I would feel her presence, like she never really left, to a point where I convinced myself that I was lied to about her death and was hoping to see her or have her visit me one day. This of course never happened but, at the time, everything I was experiencing felt so real and I couldn’t explain it because I was far away from home or anything that reminded me of her, at a place she had never been to.
When I was a lot older, I finally accepted her death and went to my people who had been present at the time of her death and burial to inquire about where she was buried but they told me that they had forgotten her burial place since it had happened in a community burial ground. These made me resolve to keep a fragment of her in the form of DIDI Museum, after a sister that lived for so short a while. Sometimes, I walk around the museum and can feel her presence, almost as if our spirits are connecting.
While agreeing with Emperor Haile Selassie, Spirituality is something that comes with the inner soul and out of our sub-consciousness. Therefore, to be able to attain such a level of spirituality, some would need to build on the ability to meditate, to go into complete isolation, make some sacrifices and practice total abstention for days, months and even years.
For those who have attained such level of spirituality and are able to perform miracles, heal the sick, and talk to those that have passed on, we ask that they be ready at any time to tell us how, so that we can have more conversations, properly document, and then begin the process of entering such achievements into our history books.
To end this series, here’s the full quote from Emperor Haile Selassie I on spirituality:
“Spirituality does not come from religion. It comes from our soul. We must stop confusing religion and spirituality. Religion is a set of rules, regulations, and rituals created by humans, which were supposed to help people spiritually.
“Due to human imperfection, religion has become corrupt, political, and divisive and a tool for power struggle.
Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simply a way of life, pure and original as given by the Most High. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other.”