Sunday, September 27, 2009
"There is only one self in existence. That one self is simultaneously infinite in numbers".
is a statement of an idea that bears a close relationship to ancient metaphysical conceptions that are central to Indian thought, in general, and to Hinduism in particular,has a relationship with Buddhism and with the theology of the Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas,with Classical Igbo and Yoruba thought and with mystical thought generally.
In Hinduism,it is close to the central conception of the school of Advaita Vedanta.This is the idea of unqualified nondualism which holds that the cosmos consists of an underlying reality which cannot be distinguished from its expression,the cosmos.A central exponent of that school is Sankara.It is different from the qualified non-dualism of Ramanuja which posits a degree of difference between the ground of being and the cosmos.
A classic expression that has been interpreted to suit various perspectives on this concept in Indian philosophy is the assertion by the character Krishna,described as an incarnation of the ultimate, in the seminal text of Indian thought,the Bhagavad Gita:
"Having permeated the universe with a fragment of Myself,I remain"
Another,earlier formulation from the fountainhead of Indian thought,the Upanishads,lists all the elements,from water to fire, using a formula like this:
"The immortal spirit that is in air,the immortal spirit that is in human breath,are one and the same.
That is immortality,that is life,that is All".
These assertions imply an understanding that the cosmos is unified by a central source of consciousness.That source is at times described as Brahman.All human selves are understood as aspects of that ultimate self.
Similar but not identical ideas emerge in Igbo thought.In "Chi in Igbo Cosmology",Achebe expounds on correlations suggested in Igbo thought on relationships between the chi of the human being,the pre-terrestrial and undying aspect of the self and Chukwu or Chi-Ukwu or Chi-neke,the ultimate being, and suggests a possibility of derivation of the individual chi from Chi-Ukwu .
Babatunde Lawal in "Orilonise: The Hermeneutics of the Head and Hairstyles among the Yoruba" is more explicit on a similar concept in Classical Yoruba thought in describing this structure of ideas as seeing the Ori,the pre-terrestrial and undying self of the individual,and embodiment of the potential of the self,as related to the greater Ori,the creator,from which the individual Ori derives its nature.
These African conceptions don't go as far as the Indian conceptions in advancing identity of being between the ground of being and the human self, but they suggest a strong relationship between them.
The Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas,possibly in the section of his Summa Theologica on being,is described as asserting that to denigrate the being of the created is to denigrate the being of the creator,suggesting a degree of identity of being between creator and created,an interpretation possibly, of the Biblical book of Genesis ,describing God as making the human being in his image.
The Christian thinkers and mystics Augustine of Hippo,the North African Berber , and Teresa of Avila,along with Dante Alighieri,depict the human being as sharing in the being of God, not only being made in God's image.In On the Trinity,Augustine locates analogues of the trinitarian conception of God in the human faculties of self identity,willing and imagination-a rough and perhaps partly inaccurate classification here -but that's the general idea.Teresa of Avila in the Interior Castle describes the purified human being as encountering God at the centre of their being:
..a most beautiful crystal globe, made in the shape of a castle, and containing seven mansions, in the seventh and innermost of which [is] the King of Glory, in the greatest splendour, illumining and beautifying them all.
John of the Cross,as in Dark Night of the Soul, bases his poetry and theology on the possibility of union of self between God and the human being,using conceptions of union between God and the human self at the summit of a quest between the lovers represented by the self and God.
This progression is dramatised inDark Night of the Soul and Living Flame of Love:
On a dark and secret night
starving for love and deep in flame
I left my house and came to you
led by nothing
the fire inside
Since there is no longer anything hindering our sweet encounter
tear the robe!
These conceptions are adapted by the Nigerian animist poet Christopher Okigbo in Labyrinths in terms of the "water spirit that nurtures all creation",an extrapolation of his village stream at Ojoto,Idoto,into the fundamental cosmic force.The Okigbo correlation,however,is an extension of the basic idea of the union of self and the ground of being that is central to much philosophical and religious thought and which Osuji has expressed.The previous sentence links to a video that suggests these correlations through images,verbal text and music.
Wole Soyinka's conclusion in Idanre is a rebellion against a similar conception as it emerges in the Yoruba myth of the emergence of the other innumerable Orisa-deities-from the Geat Orisa-Orisanla,in the process of Orisanla being smashed to pieces by a rock rolled onto him by his jealous slave, Atunda,a story at times interpreted as symbolising the emergence of the forces that constitute the universe through a primordial explosion or rupture.Rather than suggest ideas of an empowering and comforting unity in which the individual derives meaning from a greater whole,Soyinka characterises such conceptions in terms of a "protoplasmic broth",a biological soup in which there is no differentiation of elements and, therefore,of the sense of identity that enables individual actualisation.
Osuji's survey of Western philosophy and his efforts at original philosophising show him to be reflecting seriously on the human condition.His thinking and mode of expression demonstrate some sad inadequacies,with particular reference to denigrative attitudes towards Black people.That does not mean he is not a serious philosopher.
For comparisons with a racist thinker,one can see the great fiction writer H.P.Lovecraft,whose bias against,I think, all non Anglo-Saxon races may be have been central to the sense of ontological repulsion central to his art.If that is true,then his racism enriched powerfully his aesthetic and its expression.I don't think Osuji's anti Black views enrich his thinking but he remains a valuable example of a Black philosopher.
Monday, September 21, 2009
THEURGY, THE INVOCATION OF SPIRITS, UNDERSTOOD IN AN INTERDISCIPLINARY CONTEXT: AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
I have also learnt that theurgic techniques can be distinctive to an individual.Along those lines,I have come to the conclusion that as useful as the elaborate theurgic paraphernalia represented by the ceremonial magic of the Golden Dawn and its students is,the magicians I have mentioned being influenced by that system,one might not need them.Some of the best results I have got,although admittedly achieved involuntarily or with what looks like an initiative from the spirits themselves,has been through reverie and meditation.These approaches seem more in line with an aesthetic approach to theurgy as well as approaches in some forms of Hinduism and Buddhism,which use mandalas and yantras,geometric diagrams for focusing the mind.This may also be related to the use of sigils in the Western tradition as in the work of Austin Osman spare and the more recent work of Mark Dunn.
I would have liked to correlate ideas of human and non-human spirit interaction as this affects the human spirit,ideas of the ethics of theurgy,conceptions of relationships betweeen theurgy and philosophy understood as critical, ratiocinative thinking,ideas of relatyionships between theurgy and mysticism,the latter understood as a conception of experience of the ground of being,but that might be another day’s work.
The study of and familiarity with the arts,particularly poetry,drama,the visual arts,music,the use of smell,dance,among others,is to me,very useful,if not priceless..As far as I know,most theurgy,from Western ceremonial magic to shamanic technique,is based on ideas and techniques central to the arts,particularly artistic techniques of manipulating meaning and human expectations of reality.For me,these parallels between artistic and magical techniques of shaping meaning and reality are centred in what the English literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes about the necessary attitude of mind in engaging with what the Nigerian literary critic Biodun Jeyfo describes as the "truthful lie" that is imaginative literature.Coleridge describes this mental attitude as "the willing suspension of disbelief that constitutes poetic faith".To me,it is in or through that suspension of the gap between what can be seen and what can not be seen,that theurgic contact take places,a situation superbly summed up by Paul in his Letter to the Hebrews in the Bible,where he describes faith as the "substance of things hoped for,the evidence of things not seen" making possible the emergence of "things which are seen" from things which are not seen.
FRANK PERETTI. Piercing the Darkness and This Present Darkness,bigoted but well written works of Christian fiction which depict all non-Christian spirituality as evil but which I find enlightening on ways of relating to spirits.Peretti on Christian angels in relation to prayer I see as being in alignment with Crowley's conception of theurgy in his autobiography as intimately related to imaginative identification with the spirits being called upon ,a goal facilitated by the performative dimension of ritual,in other words,to me,a form of prayer since one is reaching out to something unseen,not fully understood.
J.K ROWLING. Harry Potter novels.Like a good number of works of magical fantasy,these works,to me,encapsulate much of what I understand as central to theurgy and are brimful of a range of techniques which I expect will prove efficacious, if one adapts them imaginatively.Along with Dion Fortune,Regardie,Crowley,and Dunn,I see imagination as a crucial key.
HOWARD PHILIPS LOVECRAFT. Short stories and novellas.Lovecraft seems to be the premier imaginative writer on the psychology of magic,even though he is described as not believing in it.For evoking mental states related to encounters with the numinous [ generally described using Rudolf Otto's characterisation as "an unseen but majestic presence,inspiring both dread and fascination, which constitutes the non-rational element in vital religion-Webster's Third New International Dictionary] ,he is unequalled in my experience.Note,though,that his cosmology is centred in beings whose relationship with humanity is often destructive of the people who encounter them on account of the disjunction between the limitations of human consciousness and the unusual ontologies[nature of being] embodied by these beings.When the person does not become mad or destroyed,a transformation takes places into a non-human or quasi-human form that would not be desirable to many,if not most people.His work seems to have provided inspiration for the anti-social anarchism of Anton Long in relation to his role in the Order of Nine Angels which is centred on making way for the entry of certain non-human forms on earth through disruptive social activity such as murder,invocations which must be carefully managed lest they lead to madness,and other intriguing but delicate perspectives.The fact that Lovecraft's work is also the centre of a scholarly industry in literature and esoteric thought indicates that he is many things to different people.He is also crucial to the reimagining by Mark Dunn,of the medieval magical grimoire of the Key of Solomon the King.
ERIC ERICCSON.The Sorcerer.Strong description of techniques of sexual magic.Powerful and perplexing conclusion that highlights the question of the relationship between good and evil in a universe where such distinctions are challenged by an exalted level of awareness.
JONATHAN STROUD.The Bartimaeus Trilogy.Spirits as servants and friends.
JOHN RONALD RUEL TOLKIEN. The Lord of the Rings trilogy.Powerfully evocative on nature spirituality,particularly on the characterisation and poetry of the Elves and the descriptions of the Elvish enclave of Lothlorien.
MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY.The Avalon Series.Evokes a strong imaginative world in terms of natrual forces and the borders of being exemplified buy the doorway between Avalon and the ordinary world.Similar to the entry and exit of the magician between worlds.
URSULA LE GUIN'S.The Earthsea Trilogy.Wonderful on cosmisc law in relation to magic.
LOUISE COOPER.The Time Master Trilogy.Built on the subject of the various possisblities of the self in relation to cosmic forces.
BEN OKRI.The Famished Road.Great on passage between dimensions.The journey of Azaro to the world of the dead while his parents try to revive his body at home is a great visulisation of interplay between dimensions,spiritual and material, and provides superb material for visualisation directed at achieving a similar goal.
ALGERNOON BLACKWOOD. "Secret Worship".Very,very strongly evocative and precise on relationships between imagination,space,time,human and non-human forms of being.
JOHN KEATS. "Ode to a Nightingale", "Ode on a Grecian Urn", "Hyperion" and "Fall of Hyperion".Keats is a master of techniques of association through reverie,a vital theurgic technique.Each ode demonstrates the evocation of reverie through one of the senses,from hearing to sight and taste.
WOLE SOYINKA. A Shuttle in the Crypt. A master of invocation.Demonstrates a hierophantic[one who brings others to the presence of the holy:priest-Wikipedia] sensitivity to different traditions.His incantatory poetry depicts the building up of imaginative associations which relate to the character of what is being invoked,moving towards an imaginative and emotionally powerful climax at which point the invocation takes place.Shows the value of theurgy for sustaining the mind in difficult situations since the work was written in many months of mostly solitary confinement in prison.
CHRISTOPHER OKIGBO. Labyrinths.A great work in the field of animistic mysticism,developing a conception of the ground of being,of the unification of existence through a focus on the water spirit,Idoto,of a river in the village of Ojoto in Nigeria,who becomes to the poet "the water spirit that nurtures all creation".In his own innimitable way,Okigbo takes us through the standard stages of magical and mystical technique and aspiration,from invocation to journey to consummation.
A rich field for theurygy,since ceremonial magical is based on dramatic role playing and spectacle but one in which I have very little exposure.
WOLE SOYINKA. Death and the King's Horseman.At the heart of this work is a superb ritual.
JERZY GROTOWSKI. Towards a Poor Theatre.Describes an intense method of emptying the self in order to assume an imaginative character.A technique used in different ways by different religions and a vital theurgic technique.To be used with care in the light of the extension of the self through integrating oneself with a spiritual Other,and even then keeping in mind Dion Fortune's theory in The Mystical Qabalahof the necessary relationship between good and evil,in relation to the side effects of invoking even good spirits into oneself.
PETER BROOK. The Empty Space. Has a beautiful chapter on theatre and the sacred.Explores the relationship between the dramatic use of space and psychological transformation,a subject at the heart of ceremonial magic.
WOLE SOYINKA. "Morality and Aesthetics in the Ritual Archetype","Drama and the African World View", "The Fourth Stage",essays in his Myth,Literature and the African World. Wonderful on the development of drama as a means of relating with what is beyond the visible world and beyond human conceptualisation,but which engages with the human being.Develops a concept of a state of being or zone of ontological and psychological transformation and of passage between human and spiritual worlds,the "abyss of transition", which can be profitably correlated with similar conceptions in Western theurgy,particularly Crowley's interpretations of the Kabbalistic abyss in Jewish and Hermetic mysticism and more down to earth understandings of transitions between states of being in relation to the Kabalah.
THE VISUAL ARTS
ULLI BEIER. The Return of the Gods:The Sacred Art of Susanne Wenger, presents theurgic technique from the perspective of artistic practice.Very down to earth and priceless in showing how one can move across cultures,invoking spirits from different cultures using similar techniques.Excellent in terms of both theory and technique.
SUSANNE WENGER. A Life with the Gods.A very rich exploration of an African cosmology in terms of artistic techniques of theurgic interaction.
These works elaborate on Wenger's vision in relation to the shrine sculptures of her school,New Sacred Art.The conceptual sophistication they develop as they reinterpret Orisa theory and practice make them some of the world's greatest spiritual literature..
AUSTEN OSMAN SPARE. A piooner in the effort to relate to spirits through art.His work depicts a phantamagoric universe which the artist is able to interact with through his art.
MAGICAL PHILOSOPHY AND TECHNIQUE:Works directed at teaching theurgy directly.
BILL WHITCOMB. The Magician's Companion and The Magician's Reflection are impressive and more conceptually expansive than the Golden Dawn students on the philosophy and techniques of theurgy.
ALEISTER CROWLEY. Autohagiography and Book Four:Magic in Theory and Practice.Anything by Crowley is important and is marked by his critical and broadly grounded mind.I expect he is one of the greatest magicians of all time and most likely one of the world's greatest religious figures. He is very good on psychology and philosophy of magic,on his practical experience,and in demonstrating the tenacity in cultivating a relationship with the unseen and unconventional realities vital to practitioners of magic
ISRAEL REGARDIE. The Tree of Life:A Study in Magic.Lucid,broad.A range of ancient references,illuminated by the very contemporary insights emerging from wonderful synthesis.A priceless book.
ISRAELREGARDIE. The Complete Rituals and Teachings of the Golden Dawn.A work that,in its inspirational power and symbolic density equals,to me the Bible,the Koran,the Gita,the In the Light of Truth scriptures of the Grail Message,the Shariyat ki-Sugmad scriptures of Eckankar.But unlike all these works,which are limited to evoking inspiring visions and often downplay actual guidance on how to actualise those visions in relation to making contact with spirit,the Golden Dawn text is also a detailed,encyclopaedic and most powerful work of practical magic and spiritual work.I expect its value is inexhaustible.
DION FORTUNE. Works of exposition of magical theory,particularly The Training and Work of an Initiate, Applied Magic,Sane Occultism,Practical Occultism,The Mystical Quabalah.Excellent on philosophy, psychology and ethics of magic.
MARK DUNN. www.goetia-girls.com.Excellent description of a minimalist technique of theurgy,focusing on invocation through sigil meditation and mantra chanting represented by the spirit's name.His bold and culturally wide ranging reinterpretation of the Key of Solomon the King demonstrates par excellence the flexibility of dealing with spirit,as demonstrated in the need to create forms that enable the manifestation of spirit,forms dependent on what inspires the magician and the magician's range of knowledge and capacity for association.His vigorous visual art brings these conceptions vividly alive.
A superb body of theory and technique in Hinduism and Buddhism that sums up much of what is known about theurgy.
AJIT MOOKERJEE and MADHU KHANNA'S The Tantric Way:Art,Science,Ritual
Along with dreams,herbalogy might be one of the earliest facilitators in theurgy.
PIERRE VERGER. Ewe:The Use of Herbs in Yoruba Tradition
HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
MIRCEA ELIADE. Theory of hierophany and of ritual,as exemplified,among other works,by Patterns in Comparative Religion, Myth of the Eternal Return and The Sacred and the Profane are insightful on how magical thinking transforms the ordinary into the magical and on the relationships between time and experience,conventionally understood,and as participation in a larger than human reality,effected through ritual.The Wikipedia entry on him is a useful beginning.
KAREN ARMSTRONG. A History of God and The Great Transformation.Centred on a conception of religion as mental transport facilitated by a range of means.
I think I will rest here.These works reflect my own interests,which have not been developed in a systematic manner but in terms of what I liked.
All in all,I think the key is do what works for you and continue to experiment,keeping in mind that the mind is often the key and every other aspect of technique is meant to aid the mind to enter into states of consciousness that make possible relationships with what is not visible but which is sentient.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Police Raid Shrine In Enugu, Arrest Eight Robbery Suspects [THE UNFORTUNATE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SHRINES AND CRIME IN NIGERIA AND THE SHRINE AS NERVE
A response to the last post below this one titled "Police Raid Shrine In Enugu, Arrest Eight Robbery Suspects."
Unfortunate Relationship between Shrine Culture and Culture of Crime in NigeriaThe relationship that has emerged between shrines and crime in Nigeria is most unfortunate .I wonder why this relationship has come about in the first place.This relationship spans actual accounts of shrines serving questionable and less than savoury purposes,as the case of the Okija shrine,about which I don't know much and so will not expound on, to the shrine in the "Atakwu evil forest" in Akagbe-ugwu community in Enugu in the report below where robbers are described as "hibernating",to rumours,as that surrounding a tree shrine in Lagos,the venerators of which were described as seeking 24 human heads to sacrifice to as the tree needed to be cut down to make way for a road.The Nigerian artist Dimprozulike had his museum,which he had been building for years,burnt down,because according to him,people saw it as a shrine,and therefore,a place of evil.These negative associations are most unfortunate because a shrine can be a place of great succour,of inspiration,as demonstrated for me by my own experience with shrines,particularly nature shrines-shrines that consist of natural forms,such as trees and rivers-in Benin-City and its outskirts,such as Ugboviowoke (Please forgive this and other poor spellings of Bini names).
Positive Values of Shrines in Classical African Religions:Bini and Yoruba
Historical Value and Value as Centres of National Spirituality and Ethos:Oro and Ikopa Slope Sacred Groves in Benin-City
What of the fantastic grove on a hill at Ikopba Slope in Benin-City where the Oba is described as going to commune with his ancestors when he ascends the throne?
Types of Shrines in Benin-City:Public,Private,
Aesthetics of Human Made Household Shrines in Benin-City
Nature Shrines,Private and Public,Domestic,Wood and Forest Locations
The Ogba Forest
The most fascinating one I have come across of public natural shrines is the Ogba forest,which,to me,is a wonder of nature.It is because of certain qualities it possess,in relation to the fantastic space within it,where one can see the water of the Ogba river bubbling up from the earth,emerging in a flood from the forest.Along with these wonderful natural qualities ,which include fascinating wildlife such as antelopes,scorpions,water and land snakes it has a fantastic atmosphere.This atmosphere is both mysterious and inescapable.Its density makes its presence an issue that transcends faith. .The concept of holiness,of something set apart from normal human experience is demonstrated by that uniqe atmosphere.This atmosphere becomes even more dense once you pass a particular point in the river as you go deeper towards the spot from where the river emerges from the forest.People describes this atmosphere as the expression or evidence of the presence of the spirit of the river.An old man who farms there claims that an Oba's wife transformed herself into a river at that spot.
The Roman Concept of the Genius Loci,the Spirit of Place
Possibilities in the Study and Adaptation of Shrine Culture
Another response to the armed robbery report:
.......They were searching for the remnants of the gang of deceased robbery kingpin, Chuka Arum, who was popularly known as "Ngwu-ekere-omu.".........
I think that these SHRINES owners and operators are they themselves are the robbers ...... they are the beneficiaries of these killings and robbery activities.
They make billion as MENTORS and SPIRITUAL GUIDES to these hoodlums that it is no longer funny.
They collect minimum of 40% of every loot...many a times 60% when lives are not lost on outings,
NO BUSINESS IS BAD BUSINESS.
Police Raid Shrine In Enugu, Arrest Eight Robbery Suspects
By Emmanuel Nzomiwu, Reporter Enugu
In a manner reminiscent of police invasion of the Okija shrine, a combined team of policemen from Enugu State police command on Thursday raided a dreaded shrine in Atakwu evil forest in Akagbe-ugwu community in Enugu,
They were searching for the remnants of the gang of deceased robbery kingpin, Chuka Arum, who was popularly known as "Ngwu-ekere-omu."
The notorious robber was reportedly killed by the police the day his gang raided three banks in Nsukka, Enugu State and killed the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), CSP Joe Ejitegha.
The police also killed one other member of the gang and arrested three others while millions of naira carted away from the banks was recovered.
But following a tip off that remnants of the gang were hibernating in the shrine, the police team, numbering over 60 and comprising men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and mobile policemen, moved into the evil forest and raided the shrine.
Eight suspected armed robbers were arrested in the raid but the Chief Priest of the shrine who was identified as Nicholas Ugwu, fled on sighting the police.
The police recovered two pump action rifles from the shrine during the raid that lasted for several hours.
Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Enugu, Ebere Amaraizu, confirmed that arrests were made during the raid of the shrine, which until now served as a camp for robbers and kidnappers.
Amaraizu disclosed that one of the arrested suspects, who he identified Okwudili Ani (Aka Okwy one eye) was the second-in-command to the deceased kingpin (Arum) and had been on wanted list until his arrest during the raid.
Others who were arrested, according to the police spokesperson, are Ekene Agah, Ikechukwu Chime, Ifeanyi Chime, Chukwuma Chime, Ugwu Emmanuel, Ewo Emmanuel and Ewo Chidiebere.
He revealed that Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Zarewa, has established an anti-kidnapping unit, adding that men of that unit are now undergoing two months' training in Obingwa, Abia State, from where they would return to Enugu, when a base must have been made available for them and police anti-terrorist unit.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
While writing my essay,I reflected on the fact that these knowledge systems are understood to be significantly esoteric,and that the training of their practitioners is a priestly training consisting in both ratiocinatively acquired knowledge as well as through relationships with entities that are not human,and might not be ordinarily visible,what people describe as spirits. I resolved that I very much wanted such spiritual affiliations even if I were not be able to reach them through the conventional channels of initiation into the divinatory priesthoods.
I went to bed last night exhausted but very pleased about the progress I had made in my research.I woke up early this morning,8th September 2009, and continued with reading a very stimulating essay on the philosophy of divination.
I then slept off again and had the dream I will now narrate.
I found myself in an open space in a place like a town or a city.There was something like a festival going on.I was at the rear end of a crowd in front of which I seem to remember seeing three humanoid like forms dancing,even though from what looked like the golden sheen of their colour and the size of their forms,they could be described at best as either wearing costumes or as different from human beings as one knows them.Their dancing was the focus of attention of the crowd.
I realized that I was in an altered mental state.By this I mean that (1 ) I was conscious of myself and of my environment and able to distinguish between the two.The character of the conscious state was not identical,however,with my normal,everyday waking state.(2) I realized that my presence at that place,with those people,at that time,meant I was being briefly aware of something that I would not ordinarily be able to be aware of;that the form of reality to which I had gained access to or found myself in was different from my conventional experience of reality but it could demonstrate its own value and its own internal consistency.(3)As will become obvious,I was aware that I was dreaming,making the state that of a lucid dream.
With that awareness of the window of opportunity offered by this opening into an unusual reality,I resolved to make sure I remained alert and make the most of the situation,even though my awareness was not as sharply oriented as it normally is when I am awake.I decided to make sure,first of all,that the people around me as well as myself could interact through the sensory immediacy possible to flesh and blood human beings so I grabbed someone in the crowd and the person grabbed me back.I had established the physical solidity enabled by the interactive space.We could touch each other as we would if I was awake.
The atmosphere was festive.It was like the general conviviality at the end of a football match where strangers are friends beceause they have all shared the same festive experience.I experienced myself as welcome even though I knew no one there and I knew nothing of what the festivities had been about and was convinced that I knew very little about the kind of people I found myself among and who proved so accommodating.
I very much wanted to know who all these people were and what was happening. I badly wanted to establish who these people were-were they spirits or humans?-but no one seemed to be paying much attention to my questions.One response I got to my curiosity was from a friendly figure who told me that if I wanted to join the group I could collect an application form from an official figure who was prominently visible in the grounds outside the open space where the festival had taken place.I asked my informant that would I have the application form with me when I woke up in bed later?I very much wanted to be able to take back with me something concrete from the experience.He smiled a half amused wry smile and responded that it was not likely the form would go with me to my waking world.
I moved closer to the official figure and saw he was a priest like personage,solemnly performing something that looked like a ritual of slowly pouring a potent liquid onto the outstretched hands of a young,eager supplicant,who seemed to be dressed in white and was standing in front a cubical box like shape while others looked on.I wondered,should I request to have this initiatory ritual,as it looked, conducted for me too?Perhaps it would seal the awareness afforded by the experience and make the encounter definitive instead of receding into the near amnesia of dream by the time I woke up?I decided to pass up the opportunity and moved on,preferring to learn instead by asking questions of my former co- spectators at the festival.I understood that I was free of any compulsion to make any choices.
I passed a group assembled as if to debate the finer points of what they had just experienced like spectators debate the finer points of a football match after the game.I then felt myself as if I was carried on someone's arm and gently carried through the crowd as one carries a child through a delicate place.I found myself on my feet after some time and excitedly asked a friendly face near me , "Are you aware that I am actually sleeping somewhere even though I am here right now?"The man grinned in response,and replied in the way one at times responds to a child whose interests do not exactly coincide with those of one's adult world,but whom one wishes to at least respect. He responded that no,he really was not particularly aware of my state of being both sleeping and yet present at that place.He was a Black man,as everyone I remember noticing was Black.
I then found myself in the company of an elegantly dressed and most dignified looking man,dressed in an elaborate but most refined Yoruba men's wear.He was in the train of those leaving the festival,and,like the others his mood was accommodating. I asked him if he and the others were there in spirit or in the flesh.He responded that there was no significant difference between both forms of self.I wanted to interact further with him but at that point he stopped to look at a brightly lit store window,where an attractive domestic display was visible.A woman near us,also very tastefully dressed in a native Nigerian women's wear, went into the store and took out what looked like a stool.While wondering how she could have purchased the stool so fast,also since the entire experience seemed to be taking place in the limited light of night ,I could not see the elegantly dressed man again.I could only see another man who had also taken something from the store,but he had three Yoruba ethnic marks on the side of his face which I had not seen on the man I had been talking to; his dressing too was not distinguished as the other man's own was nor was he tastefully dressed like the woman.He looked somewhat rough and ready.
I ran round,looking for the elegant man but he was nowhere to be seen.In the process I found myself in a neighborhood such as one might find in Nigeria which would benefit from a significant redevelopment to improve the standard of living of people who live there.I asked myself as I searched for the man,why Africans with the wonderful knowledge of their endogenous knowledge systems,could not live better on the average.Then it occurred to me that the question was not one of the possession of knowledge but of the use of knowledge,and that if this knowledge were adequately harnessed and applied,it could help improve living standards in these communities.
With that,I woke up in my bed in Cambridge,England where I had gone to sleep.I had a sense of having participated in something that left a most wholesome feeling in me,as if the aura around those people had been very positive and healing.I laughed with pleasure when reliving the dream,enigmatic as it is.For most of the day,I carried in me a sense of accomplishment,as if something important had taken place,as if a vital threshold had been crossed.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
DR. MERCY GABRIEL MULTIPLE PHD HOLDER, FORMER UN WORKER AND PRESENTLY PROUD FEMALE TAXI DRIVER IN NIGERIA
Her school mates will find it incredible: their own, Dr. Mercy Gabriel, is now sweating it out under the scorching sun in the city of Abuja, undergoing the inherent rigours of a business that even valiant men loathe - taxi driving. For her, it all began on May 16, this year. And on and on, it’s been a success story!
"The whole effort is a component of Mercy Group of Companies, but the funds with which to begin the whole project in the first place were late in coming. The vision is built around one of the components, publishing, so that by the time I am able to raise enough money from my published books, I will be in the position to launch Mercy Travels of my dream," she gave an insight into her new-found love.
However, she did not just get behind the wheels. Hear her: "Initially, the idea was not for me to be driving the taxi because we’re supposed to have a fleet. But when I could not get the money I had targeted for the project and was no longer in the employ of the United Nations Commission for Refugees as a contract staff, I felt I should do something. Therefore, I turned my private vehicle to a taxi, to kick off my dream, which will ultimately grow to an agency with Mercy Airline. The concept includes packaging various trips for tourists as well as holiday packages.
"I am more convinced that the taxi business connects more positively to the concept. This is because, there is a programme I called evangelism on wheels, through which I preach the gospel. This is achieved through the DVD player mounted on the sun shield. With the gospel messages and music from the CD, I’m able to share the words of God with my passengers. It revitalises their faith, convert wiling souls and provide entertainment while the trip lasts. I always feel fulfilled each time people board my cab because they would alight more spiritually challenged."
She explained other components of her vision: "I have also designed the Faith Tool in a playing card format. It can be played manually and electronically. It is in assorted packages for all to reinforce their Christian faith because each card of 70 is laced with bible verses. The taxi business connects perfectly with this as it serves as a means of distribution for the Faith Tool."
The taxi business, she said, "is just to get enough money for the launch of her books. After the launch, the Mercy Travels comes next, then the Faith Tool and the organized tours. But man can propose, it is in the hands of God to turn dreams to reality. Instead of sitting down at home praying and waiting for money to come, I have to go out and look for it the honest way. I have to go out and prove that faith without work is naught".
But how do we explain an author, with two doctorate degrees, driving a taxi cab? Is it that you could not find a job of your dream, or that banks turned you down or could be it be gender syndrome?" This correspondent asked.
Swaying her head left and right, she said: "There is nothing like that. I was with the United Nations Commission for Refugees. I earned good salary but I left the job. Apart from the fact that I hate injustice, I also have no passion for salaried jobs. I concluded my Masters Programme in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Jos in 1999 and set up a non-governmental organisation on practical skill acquisition for women. It’s not about shouting gender on the air without substance. In a session, my NGO had 125 women in different vocations of computer training, dress making, baking, hairdressing and so on. We also have a day care centre for children of unwanted pregnancies. Between 1999 and 2004, by the grace of God, we trained about 500 women; they are the ones I referred to as my children whenever anyone asked. There is no way you can create jobs and empower people and say you are looking for a job."
She explained how she copes with the rigours of taxi driving, house chores and writing, thus: "I hop into my cab in the morning, I close between 6:00 and 7:00pm and I attend to other things in the house and by 3am, I’m up to write, review or proof-read my book or review my projects. It has always been a part of me greatly influenced by my late husband, Prof. Gabriel. I go to work in the morning and do my writing at night. As a matter of fact, I pray to God over my ambition to own a Mini Book Fair for people to know that taxi driving differs from book writing. It is what you do with yourself and achieve with your hands that matters at the end of the day."
Mercy’s perception of life was that no one should allow himself to be destroyed with psychological intimidation from adversaries because that was what she faced at the beginning. She surmounted negative reactions from colleagues and male chauvinists by taking the fights right to their doorsteps. "My taxi driving has earned me respect from my peers, with loads of admirers, men and women. Even the people at the UN House could not believe that I could leave their job for taxi driving. Many of them were dumbfounded on learning that I turned down the renewal of my contract. It is a major hindrance to your destiny when you feel your life depends on what you have at a time, having no courage to accept change and challenge. One of them said I would beg for food for dropping the job. But I rejected it. I refused to be cowed, I drove my taxi to the UN House and called some of them to come out and see it; I even drove to one of my bosses’ house in Asokoro. His response was, ‘Mercy, this is crazy.’ But he was impressed and prayed for me."
She shared her experiences while behind the wheels as witnessed by our correspondent who was moved to see her: "First, it was always shock and surprise combined. Some bold passengers often ask me: ‘Are you sure you are doing this job or is it because your driver failed to show up today? Or is that you need to confirm how your driver has been cheating you?’ I always tell them that it’s my own job. I have noticed several private vehicles and taxis trailing me to be sure that I pick and drop passengers.
"On several occasions, it is bravo from other vehicle owners and those in the vehicles. Many, even in posh cars, on seeing that it’s a woman driving the taxi cab, would hail me with thumbs-up signs. I have lost count of how many times car owners would yell: ‘Carry go! Some would say: ‘Madam I dey behind you, I’m your fan,’ as if I’m a famous footballer. I even enjoy special treatment from male and female drivers on the road; they give me passage easily with nods of appreciation and encouragement. ‘Yes, this is the real women empowerment we are taking about, not making noise in the media without action. What a man can do, a woman can do better’, one elderly lady said to me."
Radiating fulfillment, she recalled that Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church Worldwide, populartly known as Winners’ Chapel, had made her a topic of sermons thrice just because he heard that a member of his congregation was driving a taxi rather than be complaining of joblessness.
What in the eyes of many, may seem a gamble, has turned a blessing for Mercy. How? Many organizations now invite her to give talks on poverty eradiation, wealth creation and women empowerment. "Now, one group wants to give me the Woman of the Year award, while a magazine wants to put me on its cover. Even when I was running an NGO, these weren’t coming my way. I just can’t thank God enough for His mercies," elated Mercy said.
Admirers’ love for him has not been coming only in mere words. Hear her: "Somebody once gave me $1,000. A foreigner also once gave me three Ghana-must-go bags filled with Senegalese fabrics worth over N1.2 million. I picked her from the airport and took her to the various places where she delivered her goods. When she was leaving after a week, she just asked me to find a way of selling the fabrics in the bags. She said it was to appreciate the fact that as a woman, I drove taxi with passion and kindness. She started praying for me after giving me the gift. Can God’s blessing be more?
"Many would give me more than the normal fare; many would pray, to the extent that I start feeling that all Nigerians are prayer warriors, just in support of my dreams. I can’t forget one little girl I carried. After dropping her and she paid what I charged her, she started searching through her bag. I asked whether her phone dropped in the car, she said no. Suddenly, she brought out N20 and said: "Please ma, take this N20; it’s all I have.’ I said: No, my daughter, don’t worry.’ But she refused and started praying for me. It was like she realized that for this woman to be driving a taxi, something must be behind it. A youth corps member, just a couple of weeks back, refused to take his balance and I asked why. He said it was his own seed into my company, adding that when he was passing out, he never knew what to do, but God had shown him his path through my example; then another prayer session began. Just recently, after dropping a Chinese woman I picked, she asked me to get a shop, which she promised to stock for me!"
To Mrs. Ayodele Johnson, Mercy is worthy of emulation. "I see this woman as a role model in the same country where our young ladies complain of being molested while searching for jobs. Emulating this woman would definitely lead to the reduction in prostitution and poverty and ensure honest creation of wealth."
Another impressed resident, Alhaji Mahmud Abdulqadir, said: "She comes across to me as an aggressive forward-looking person. If she wanted to start going from one ministry to the other looking for contracts, I have no doubt she won’t fail but knowing what goes behind, she probably felt she could do it and opted for taxi driving. I commend her courage. Who says Nigerian women are not amazons? This is one of them."
However, a young lady who simply gave her name as Zainab, who was picked in Kado Estate, was filled with fear for her, and she expressed it: "I don’t want her to continue with this job; it’s too dangerous, especially at night. It’s strange in this environment to see a woman drive taxi, but I admire her courage. She is a woman to be proud of. I am privileged to be in her taxi. I wish her God’s protection and all the good luck in the world".
"This is the re-branded Nigerian we are talking about: bold and ingenious. I don’t have anything to add," said Muazu Salau, a student of Federal University of Technology, Minna. Perhaps, that says it all about the man in Mercy!
Gani was one of the ever resilient few,along with Nobel Laurete Wole Soyinka and other figures,who insisted on fighting causes whose primary or only relationship with their own well being was that it affected all Nigerians.He endured imprisonment,harassment and the climate of assassination created by the Babanginda and Abacha regimes in battling causes which,even though,they did not always succeed against totalitarian governments who controlled the organs of the law,succeeded in focusing national and international attention on the villainy represented by a significant number of the activities of such governments,as well as highlighting their illegitimate means of coming to power.Particularly memorable for me is his long,dogged and unsuccessful attempt to prosecute two military officers,Halilu Akilu and Tunde Togun,on cirumstantial evidence,for complicity in the 1986 assassination of the journalist Dele Giwa,during the Babangida regime,a murder unsolved till today and for which,as far as I know, no prosecution has been carried out.
His death this morning,5th September 2009, suggests the beginning of the end of an era of a particular generation of public activists in Nigeria,following on the death in 2006, of Beko Ransome Kuti(1940-2006), who,along with Fela Anikulapo (1938-1997) and Olikoye (1927-2003),to adapt the words of former President Olusegun Obasanjo,were,along with their sister,Dolupo,their mother,Funmilayo Ransome Kuti ( 1900 – 1978)and father Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti (1891 to 1955) members of "the legendary Ransome Kuti [family] of Abeokuta".
Younger and older members of the group who fought such death defying battles are still with us,such as Femi Falana and Wole Soyinka,but I wonder whether the culture of civic resistance these people represent is still as powerful as what they demonstrated.The fact that Nigeria has had a democratic government for some years,with relatively orderly succession at the highest level in one election,means that the inspiration and the character of such resistance might be changing.Perhaps the struggle is becoming less spectacular,more focused on the effort to speak truth to power,to mobilise the resources of the press and the Internet in presenting and mobilising support for alternative perspectives to those of the government.
The culture of civic activism Gani represents is marked by being embodied by members of a highly educated and cosmopolitan elite,most,in my understanding ,being from Southern Nigeria,and a few from the North.
Do people like those,whose vision and career are visibly centred in self and tribally transcending values,have a place in government?Should such people try to influence public policy and its execution through participation in the political process?Those who are better informed than myself can better judge the character and accomplishment of various Nigerian politicians and of technocrats in the Nigerian government..In doing that,the brief career of Wole Soyinka in the Babangida government and of Gani's efforts at the centre of a political party would be examined as to the challenges facing Nigerian visionaries in politics.Soyinka's role was different from that of Gani,Soyinka being appointed by Babangida,as Olikoye Ransome Kuti was in the health ministry,to oversee particular initiatives under the auspices of the government.Gani's aspiration was different.His political amibitions were not centred in the idea of :simply working within a government but he sought to be central to the formation of a government.I do not know how seriously he pursued that vision.His lifetime of activity as a gadfly of the state in the Socratic sense,however,will remain legendary in Nigerian history.