Black Spirituality Religion : The definition of Soul, at the Crossroads: the angelic essence of the African America

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by Love_Unknown, Jan 27, 2007.

  1. Love_Unknown

    Love_Unknown Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Crossroad Blues (recorded in 1936)
    I went to the crossroad
    Fell down on my knees
    I went to the crossroad
    Fell down on my knees
    Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, now,
    Save poor Bob, if you please
    Mmmmm, standin' at the crossroad
    I tried to flag a ride
    Standin' at the crossroad
    I tried to flag a ride
    Didn't nobody seem to know me
    Everybody pass me by…
    Robert Johnson

    What is Soul?

    What is the meaning of this word that seems so much a part of all that we do? Why is our music called soul music, and our food called soul food, and our people called soul brothers/sisters (back in the day of course)? What exactly is it that the likes of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Martin Luther King seemed to have/had in overabundance. Why do we seem to be the only people in the world who have any real understanding of it? Surely our ancestors must have a concept of it. How do they define it? Scientifically, culturally, spiritually speaking, what is soul?

    In looking through my books on our ancestral wisdom I believe I stumbled on the answer. The Yoruba very accurately define this power, this force, this ever present quality in everything we do as “awo.” Also interesting to note, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “soul” is derived from the Old English word “sAwol.” http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/Soul

    In the Yoruba language the word Awo is usually translated to mean “secret.“ Awo Fa’ Lakun Fatunmbi in his book Awo: Ifa and the Theology of Orisha Diviniation defines awo as:

    “The hidden principles that explain the Mystery of Creation and Evolution. Awo is the esoteric understanding of the invisible forces that sustain dynamics and form within Nature. The essence of these invisible forces are not considered secret because they are devious, they are secret because they remain elusive, awesome in their power to transform and not readily apparent. As they can only be grasped through direct interaction and participation. Anything which can be known by the intellect alone ceases to be awo.”



    The above diagram is a representation of a diviner’s tray which is used in the process of Ifa divination to provide a direct link between human beings and spirit. It is also a diagram representing the different aspects of the universe, and here it is used to represent the Yoruba concept of heaven and earth. It is also used to represent the following:

    1. Different aspects of Creation [Oludumare/God (source of dynamics and form=north,) Ela (manifestation of dynamics and form=south,) Obatala (source of light=east,) Oduduwa (light transformed into matter=west,)]
    2. Earthly society [Odu (female council to the king=north,) Ogboni (predominately male council=south,) Egbe Oko (society of farmers=east,) Egbe Oya (society of market women=west,)
    3. and The human body [Ipori (eternal consciousness that exists in heaven=north,) Ori (head/consciousness=south,) Emi (human soul=east,) and Ara (physical body=south.)

    Interesting to note that this exact diagram forms the basis structure of the Egyptian zodiac, which is said to have been originally cut into four pieces (in ancient Ethiopia) using two intersecting lines as in the exact same manner of the Yoruba diagram above (creating the cardinal points North, South, East, West, also the primary elements Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and also the four seasons Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall,) and later in Egypt four more intersecting lines were added to cut the circle into 12 to form the 12 points of the zodiac, the 12 months of the year, the 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, which the Hebrews and Christians of course copied to make the original 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 patriarchs of Judaism, the 12 apostles of Jesus. Of course in America the Free Masons use the number 13 all over the place signifying the 12 (disciples, signs of zodiac, etc.) plus 1 (the Christ/Sun in the sky/Son of God,) you know the story. And I’ve also seen the exact same diagram used in pretty much the exact same way in reference to Native American spirituality and referred to as “the Medicine Wheel.“ But back to the diagram.

    The term “W’aiye” in the center is the point of focus here. It symbolizes the invisible dimension along the surface of the earth that links human life with spiritual influence. The invisible opening between w’aiye and Olorun (heaven) is called “Yangi” which literally means “Crossroads.” We all remember Robert Johnson, the half-mystical and legendary Blues man that reputedly made his famous “deal with the Devil” at the crossroads. Most of us however are probably not aware that he is not the first Blues artist to be associated with the “Devil” and the crossroads. Ten years before Robert Johnson even began playing guitar, it was rumored that blues singer Tommy Johnson (no relation to RJ) received supernatural music making ability by selling his soul to the devil. The movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” featured contemporary Blues artist Christ Thomas King as Tommy Johnson, but most people (including myself) immediately and mistakenly assumed that his character was actually inspired by Robert Johnson.

    in Ifa scripture “Yangi” (the crossroads) is the home of Esu (also called “Elegbara” or “Legba”) who is the divine messenger, the source of communication between Ile (earth) and Orun (heaven.) Usually represented in his male aspect, Esu also brings down the “Ase” (divine creative power) from heaven. In Christianity this messenger angel is called Gabriel, but in the constant and insidious effort of the white Christians to brand and label everything about African spirituality and African people as backward and evil, Christian missionaries espoused the belief that Esu was actually the “Devil in disguise” in African religion. As quoted in the book “The Way of the Orisha” by Phillip John Neimark:

    “The importance of Esu is clear, yet Christian missionaries were convinced that Esu was the Devil. These missionaries confused Esu’s ability to trick and punish those who do not sacrifice with an innate predisposition to do so. Esu does punish, but he does not punish capriciously. Esu rewards, but he does not reward undeservingly. From a Christian viewpoint of divine forgiveness, the actions of Esu toward those who ignore their obligations might indeed seem extremely harsh and unforgiving, the work of “a devil.” Yet, in the Yoruba cosmology in which the universe contains all possibilities, both good and bad, and individuals have opportunities for controlling their own destinies by working with natural forces- the failure to control one‘s own destiny is seen as an act of gross stupidity with potentially dire consequences. Esu is in charge of those consequences.” (p74)

    In the 1986 movie called Crossroad, featuring Ralph Maccio (the Karate Kid) as a white classically trained guitarist trying to learn how to play the blues, Robert Johnson’s character is portrayed as having made his deal with the devil who called himself Legba. This is of course combined with the fact that Almighty God in African spiritual understanding is just that, almighty. God has no rivals, and there is no deity in anywhere near powerful enough to exist as God’s “evil opposite.” So we can clearly see that it was no “devil” that Robert and Tommy Johnson were looking to meet, because in their/our ancestral understanding there is no such thing. These men were in fact going to do something that was beyond the understanding of Whites and Christianized Black Americans. As their ancestors before them, they were going to the Yangi to meet the divine messenger who brings the Ase from heaven, the African angel/Orisha Esu.

    As stated in a website dedicated to Esu:

    Esu is the Divine Messenger between God and Man. Esu sits at the Crossroad.
    Esu is the Orisa that offers choices and possibility..
    Esu is the gatekeeper, the guardian of the door.
    Esu safeguards the principle of freewill.
    Esu is the keeper of Ase.
    Esu is called the divine trickster that lures man's emotions creating variety which spices life.
    Esu brings out the fool in man. Esu brings out the symbolic child in man. Esu's mischief serves to wake a person up and teach them a lesson.
    Esu represents the balance of nature. Day and night, white and black, construction and destruction. Esu is an old man and a child. Absolute balance of nature.
    Esu has a voracious appetite. Esu has a constant drive and is always ready (erect penis).
    Esu counterbalances aspects of our reality. Esu is the patron of the "underworld" and their way of survival.
    Esu---The means justify the end!
    Esu must always be appeased first.
    http://www.cultural-expressions.com/ifa/orisha/esuwords.htm

    When we begin to learn about Esu, we can see that this African angel is a very intimate part of the African American experience.

    Esu is the Orisa that offers choices and posibility..
    Esu is the gatekeeper, the guardian of the door.

    Esu is also known as “the opener of doors,“ and at this point in our history, not long after the harsh realities of slavery, were we not in desperate need of the angelic energy that would open doors that had been closed to us, expand our possibilities, and create opportunities where there previously had been none? What angelic energy would be more badly needed than this?

    Esu safeguards the principle of freewill.
    Again, what Orisha energy is more needed by the sons/daughters of slaves?

    Esu is called the divine trickster that lures man's emotions creating variety which spices life.
    Esu brings out the fool in man. Esu brings out the symbolic child in man. Esu's mischief
    serves to wake a person up and teach them a lesson.

    Does this remind you of anyone? How often, especially in entertainment, was/is the Black man called upon to “play the fool” in American society (Amos & Andy, Black Face entertainers, gangster rappers.) Along with being called and considered a “boy“ in America, how many Black men in America have unconsciously accepted this label given to them by white people and behave like a boy half their age. How “mischievous” have far too many Black men in America become in their daily life (drinking, smoking, cussing, carousing, womanizing, etc.)?

    Esu represents the balance of nature. Day and night, white and black, construction and destruction. Esu is an old man and a child. Absolute balance of nature.
    Not only have we assisted white people in separating the world into black and white (a very non-African way of thinking,) but is not everyone in America seem to be looking for the “missing Black men?” Black male children, adolescents, and childish adult men abound, and neither does there seem to be a shortage of elder Black men in the community either. But the energy of strong, viable, adult Black men seems to be lacking all over America, even in the heart of traditionally Black communities. Aside from the obvious reasons (prison, death, whatever,) could it be that there is yet a deeper root reason, a spiritual reason for this phenomenon here in Black America?

    Esu has a voracious appetite. Esu has a constant drive and is always ready (erect penis).
    Do we need to elaborate on this? Our entire music industry, spearheaded by deluded Black Americans, revolves around sex. Traditional African music however is nothing like this. Have you ever really thought about why this is?

    Esu counterbalances aspects of our reality. Esu is the patron of the "underworld" and their way of survival.
    How can this ring more true? Have we not become the masters of the underworld with our pimps, drug dealers, and gangster rappers. With limited available choices we have tapped the energy of Esu which includes those of the underworld for survival. From one of our earliest and possibly strongest Black communities in Harlem did we not use the underworld (running numbers, gambling, bootlegging,) to help us survive, and even thrive? And we still do it today with our ex-drug dealers making record companies, and glamorizing a criminal lifestyle for material gain, and even raising children and paying bills which such a lifestyle. I personally have former “madams” on both sides of my family who ran brothels in their younger days (one’s almost 100 years old now, and the other’s passed.) And these women were respected, held their heads high in society, and raised whole families including children that weren’t even their own with the money they made the best way they knew how.

    Esu is by no means an evil deity. We can all feel this. How many of our most criminal, most ignorant, most self-degrading men/women completely turn a new leaf and end up becoming powerful forces of good (Malcom X as a prime example.) How many of our most disrespectful and self-destructive brothers/sisters say things like “I wanna do right but the world is wrong, that’s why I’m singing this song.” (Snoop Dogg) Why do so many artists talk about God in one song and irresponsible sex in the very next (R. Kelly, Kanye West, etc.) As stated in a Yoruba prayer:

    Esu slept in the house, but the house was too small for him. (huge in size)
    Esu slept on the verandah, but the verandah was too small for him. (huge in size)
    Esu slept in a nut. At last he could stretch himself. (very small)
    Esu walked through a groundnut farm. The tuft on his hair was just visible. (very small)
    If it had not been for huge size he would not have been visible at all.
    Having thrown a stone yesterday, He kills a bird today.
    Lying down, his head hit’s the roof. (very tall)
    Standing up, he cannot look into the cooking pot. (short like a child)
    Esu turns right into wrong, wrong into right.

    Esu represents extremes, both very tall and very short, very big and very small, very good and very bad. He does not tempt or provoke human beings to do wrong, as with the Christian “devil,” but rather rewards us for doing right, and punishes us for doing wrong. He represents choices. The choice is yours.

    Children of Esu (those who express its energy as dominant in their life) are said to enjoy: sex, having fun, large groups of people and parties, travel, good food, wine or liquor, cigarettes or cigars, dancing, brightly colored costumes, many friendships within their own gender, communications, movies and theater. It is also said that they will have trouble with: functioning in confined environments, being sexually responsible, taking orders, working within a large corporate atmosphere, being on time, being structured, dieting, quitting smoking or drinking, sticking to a formal exercise program, being bored. It is also said that such children will have a highly developed sense of right and wrong, humor, practical jokes, getting even, and sensuality. Does this not explain the Black experience in America to a “T”?

    Legendary music producer Quincy Jones is quoted as having said the following in reference to living genius Stevie Wonder:

    “You either have that thing or you don’t. I don’t know what “it” is but he (Stevie Wonder) has got it. And I think that’s the divinity first. It’s a person really surrendering themselves to become a terminal, that’s really what it’s all about. Once you decide that you are the cause of the manifestation you get in trouble because you’re taking God’s job away. We always used to say that in the studio, ‘leave room for God/god to walk through the room.’ Stevie does. He’s a great terminal. And I think the higher power appreciates a person that’s willing to become a huge terminal like that because your cup will be filled up if you surrender to that.” Quincy Jones

    One of our greatest music producers is making it perfectly clear here what the Black artist is really doing when he/she makes his/her “soul” music. He’s talking about being a terminal (a port of entry and departure) for God/god. Understanding that in the African tradition it is the angels who interact with men. That is there divine purpose. Almighty God is too awesome for human comprehension, and it is the angels/gods/Orisha/Abosom/Neter who bridge the gap. Christians restrict this job only to the Christ, but Africans enlist the entire heavenly family for this purpose, the Christ included. The Christian angels/gods are supposed to be the Christian god’s helpers, and hardly ever, if ever, interact with human beings. Africans however understand that the Almighty God needs no help. We’re the ones that need help, and the African angels exist to help us. So now we know exactly what is happening when our great musicians, singers, speakers, poets, educators, dancers, and athletes so amazingly do what they do. As stated by Awo Fa Lokun Fatunmbi:

    Awo survived by transmutation. The sacred songs of Africa became the popular music of today. Religious African dances were secularized. African scripture was transformed into African American folklore. Traditional African methods of healing became unsourced folk remedies. The rhythms of the drum were played on the banjo, guitar, and violin. Even the Christian Church services were altered by the infusion of African forms of ritual. In the American South, the Charismatic Movement has many of the characteristics of African celebrations. “Speaking in Tongues” in the Christian Church has the same quality of ecstatic movement as trance possession in African ritual. Gospel music added African harmonies and syncopation to traditional hymns. African ethical values and cultural perceptions remain strongly in place. Even African tonal patterns of speech have influenced the transformation of English and Spanish as it is spoken in the west. The stubborn survival of all of these manifestations of awo suggests that they are rooted in deep levels of human consciousness with such profound clarity that no amount of oppression can erase them from our collective memories. p172

    So in our greatest time of need, the lowest point in Black/African history, the time of our greatest misery and sadness, our ancestors called on Esu, “the opener of doors,“ and he answered their call in splendid and magnificent fashion. How is it possible that the same people who beat us, despised us, raped and enslaved us, and treated us as less than human, would turn around and fall absolutely in love with our music, our dance, our humor, our speech, and our individual expression of every kind? When in history has there ever been such an occurrence? In the concert movie about the history of the blues called “Lightning In A Bottle,” legendary blues/soul singer Solomon Burke tells of a time when he and his band actually performed his hit song “Down In the Valley” for the Klu Klux Klan! He talks about how he and his band members were invited to a venue where they were made very comfortable and fed very well and instructed to begin playing “Down In the Valley” in order to bring in the audience who would start to come in when they started playing. After the band started playing, the K.K.K., dressed in full regalia, came to the stage to watch this group of black men play their song. Their song had actually crossed over to a country western audience who loved it so much that members of the clan itself would put aside their seething and murderous hate long enough to see and hear those black men play their favorite song. That’s power. That’s Awo. It’s brought down from heaven by the angel Esu, and it is received at the crossroads. Our gods are real, and unexplainably powerful, and they are with us whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, or whether we believe in them or not.

    Living and breathing Esu energy we have opened more doors in the last 100 years than our ancestors on plantations would have ever imagined, and we open more still everyday. But what of the other angels in heaven: the likes of Obatala (god of purity, justice, and the calm way to transcendence,) Ogun (fierce warrior and tireless worker god of iron and the tools of civilization,) Sango (warrior god of thunder and military strategy,) Osun (goddess of love and beauty,) and Oya (powerful female warrior goddess of the whirlwind, the marketplace, and change.) All of the Orisha/angelic energies exist in us. We have risen from the darkest point in our history by calling on the African angel whose energy we needed most, and at the same time we have fallen by ignoring the rest.

    The “Ba” (the soul in Egyptian/Ethiopian understanding) is a combination of spirit and intelligence. The angels/gods/Orisha/Abosom work with us and through us, and the expression of awo in the human being is the combination of angelic energy with our own. There are no “freebies.” Legendary jazz saxaphonist Charlie Parker for example had tremendous soul of course. The brother virtually pitched a tent at the Crossroads. He also however put in 11 to 15 hours of horn practice a day to become the greatest jazz soloist of all time. Prayer without practice, worship without work, inspiration without intelligence is virtually useless. We did not build nations, erect pyramids, and civilize the world by worshipping and praying. We built nations, erected pyramids, and civilized the world by studying, working, worshipping, and praying.

    So now we know the definition of soul. We know what it is, where it comes from, and who brings it to us. We know the angelic energy that has been with us, that has sustained us, that opens doors for us. We know it by name. We know now what we are witnessing when we see James Brown and Aretha Franklin make music, or see Martin Luther King Jr. speak, or watch Michael Jordan fly, or Muhammad Ali dance. Now we know that our Way, the African Way, is a team effort, angels and us. And finally, and most importantly, we know that the Orisha/Abosom/Neter/angels/gods are with us. They have never left us. They are here. They are real. They are ready. They are waiting. See you at the crossroads.

    Love Unknown
     
  2. Love_Unknown

    Love_Unknown Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I had a diagram of the crossroads symbolism in the Yoruba understanding that was "supposed" to be included in the above thread. Kinda new to this internet discussion thing and working out the bugs. My apologies.
     
  3. Amnat77

    Amnat77 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Excelent post! Love Unknown...although, i was under the impression that Esu had both characteritics of male and female parts....to represent the duality of our natures...what are you thoughts on that....like the ankh symbol of ancient Kemet.
     
  4. Love_Unknown

    Love_Unknown Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Right you are Amnat77. You might not believe me but I just knew somebody was going to mention that (duality seems to be a very popular concept at Destee.:D ) The Orisha shrines in Nigeria I'm told consist of both male and female Esu with the male figures clasping swords, spears, and fly whisks (symbols of magical power,) and the females clasping their large milk-filled breasts. As with human beings however, one of the energies tend to be dominant, according to the sources I've read, and the Esu energy is usually referred to as being male in nature. I kinda thougtht I alluded to this when I mentioned its "male aspect," but you're right, I probably should have expressed that in more detail. I see I have to stay on my toes up in here. :D That's a good thing. Nice comment Amnat77.
     
  5. Amnat77

    Amnat77 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Oh you're welcome! i have family members that practice the yoruba religion...so i was exposed to it at a very young age...you are right, the 'Esu energy is usually referred to as being male in nature'
     
  6. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    Awesome

    The cats played for the Ku Klux fathamuckin Klan. Aw man. I am reminded of **** Gregory being told he couldn't perform somewhere because the audience was southern whites. He said I don't care if the KKK is in there. I am here to perform. Then he told the audience "I understand you gentlemen are from the south. I know the south very well. I spent twenty years there one night. The last time I was in the south I went to a restaurant and the waitress said they didn't serve negroes. I said that's okay. I don't eat negroes. Bring me a whole fried chicken. So when I sat down the three cousins came in--Ku, Klux and Klan. They said 'Now boy, whatever you do to that chicken we're gonna do to you'. So I picked up that chicken and I kissed it."

    Ain't that Awo?
     
  7. kamanu

    kamanu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    hahahahahahaha

    he shoud have gave the chicken a 100 dollar bill! hahaha
     
  8. Keita Kenyatta

    Keita Kenyatta going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    In one word..."MELENIN" ! You wanted to know from a scientific, spiritual, cultural perspective. So now you have it. MELENIN !!
     
  9. Love_Unknown

    Love_Unknown Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Hello Keita, one of the brother’s from my “Destee all stars” list. Very glad to meet you. I partially agree with your statement. I certainly would agree that melanin contributes to superior mental, physical, and spiritual capabilities. I do not think, however, that the full genius, the raw power, and beautiful magnetic energy that we see when we witness soul expressed in its highest form can simply be contributed to a chemical in the body. Melanin is a receptor and an amplifier, but a receptor and amplifier of what? The ancestors explain this very well, in amazing detail. I would think that they would be far better qualified to explain this phenomenon than contemporary scientists (of any color) who are still trying to prove the existence of God. When I speak of soul/awo, I’m not simply referring to the high tech stereo receiver (the melanin rich human body,) I’m speaking of the nature and source of the signal itself. The radio is the manifestation of the radio wave, but certainly not the source of the transmission. Possessing melanin, as we know, does not automatically “tune you in” to the right frequency. I firmly believe that it is our thousands and thousands of years practicing science, real science that recognizes the spiritual world as primary and the physical world as its mirror reflection, that has tempered the African mind, body, and soul to receive these signals so clearly, and to channel them into such crystal clear, polyphonic, dolby digital quality sound. I would personally equate the melanin chemical itself with an antenna, and an awo/soul signal amplifier.

    My own personal term for soul music is “pyramid music.” The same method of combining spirit with intelligence to make music, or any other manifestations of soul, is the same process that was used to build those pyramids. The word awo literally translates to mean “secret” (a central feature of the Egyptian Mystery System,) and that it involves the utilization of and interaction with spiritual forces that “remain elusive, are not readily apparent, and are awesome in their power to transform.” Western science’s ignorance of this process is the reason why neither white, black, or any other scientists utilizing white western scientific methods can reproduce the results of African scientists. African healing methods cannot be duplicated by western doctors, even when the exact same herbal components, preparation methods, and application techniques are utilized. Whites and other musicians around the world spend an entire life time studying soul music but can’t make it. Contemporary scientists and engineers can‘t build African pyramids, even when they use the best heavy machinery available. The physical aspect alone, the lesser aspect of the dual universe which includes body chemistry, medicinal practices, construction methods, and technical skill, will not in themselves create African herbal remedies, make soul music, or build pyramids.

    Love Unknown
     
  10. Love_Unknown

    Love_Unknown Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I would definately say so. This little story's hilarious by the way, and I know there had to be an angel in that restuarant somewhere. Flow on mighty Nile.
     
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