The secular and the spiritual

Theophile Obenga advanced an interesting argument regarding the degree to which Kemetic ethics were secular in essence and practice, particularly when one looks at the concerns about civil ethics, or ethics pertaining to good governance in Kemet. He writes, “Egyptian morality was, in this sense, civil and secular, profoundly focused on the life of the community.” However, it should be noted, as Jacob H. Carruthers has argued, that these ethical ideals were contextualized within a cosmology wherein Maat was a seen as a fundamental organizing principle of the universe. In fact, one might argue that there is a tension in the characterization of the Kemetic paradigm as “secular”. There was really no true separation in their worldview, so this language of “secular” versus “spiritual” is insufficient.
In many respects, the conceptualization of ethics in Kemetic society is indicative of an effort to express the consubstantiality of beingness, that is that one’s say, speech, was reflective of the ideals of the society, while also reflecting the basic order of the cosmos–hence the interrelationship between medew nefer (good speech) and medew netcher (divine speech) captures the inextricable connections between the mundane and the cosmic in the Kemetic worldview.
The idea of an ordered cosmos, or stated in a more Kemetic fashion, the principle of Maat, is not unique to the Nile Valley–though it is our oldest example of it. We find similar ideas among other African cultures who described an orderly rather than chaotic universe.
In fact the Kongo paradigm, which has gained a great deal of popularity due to the pioneering work of Dr. Fu-Kiau, offers a very intricate and sublime model of space and time that captures in magnificent fashion basic aspects of African ontology. Like other cultures, we find that the Kongo attempted to model the universe in the design of their cities and towns. This is an example of how such cosmological notions contributed to the prevalence of fractal geometry in African cultures.
In short, the African worldview sought to capture the seamlessness in all things–humans, nature, character, the cosmos, government, family, and so on. Thus, building on Carruthers’s work, much of the cosmological discourse offers dynamic representations or “dramatizations” of human experience. Thus the life of the society and the cosmic backdrop were conjoined, as humans sought to reflect cosmic ideals in their daily lives.

Culture and sovereignty: An evaluative criteria

The reclamation of our culture and the restoration of African sovereignty in the world are two of the highest struggles that we can engage in. The first enables a fuller realization of and engagement with our humanity. The second makes us the shapers of our collective destiny.

All of our politics should be evaluated through the lens of how and whether they support these two goals: Does this achieve the restoration of our culture? Does this achieve our actual sovereignty in all spheres of life? If not, then these politics are, at best, insufficient.

Far too many of us have made vacuous investments. We’ve gone down the rabbit hole of alien paradigms that can in no way inform or produce an African reality, but merely a caricature of a European one.

The mtu (human being) and African spirituality

Within the African worldview we see a conception of the mtu (human) as existing in body, mind, and spirit. At the foundation of this scheme and within the framework of traditional society was a comprehensive orientation towards developing the self and each of its facets holistically.
Hence, the warrior arts are but one small part of the cultivation of the body. Whether we are referring to boxing, wrestling, or weapons training, these not only sharpened the body, but also the mind. It is this orientation which continues to inform the work of many enlightened practitioners.
The mind is a major concern within African cultures, as the cultivation of intelligence, wisdom, discernment, propriety, and ethics are major ends of the process of socialization. This is why intelligence and wisdom are common themes in sayings, proverbs, and stories from throughout the continent and the diaspora. Many of the most scathing critiques relate, not only to behavior which is regarded as unethical or improper, but also to behavior which demonstrates a lack of intelligence. Further, the former is linked to the latter, as people who seem to be incapable of proper action are often regarded as being intellectually deficient–hence expressions such as someone being “messed up in the head”, “touched”, needing to “get their mind right”, or “special” are meant to convey such deviance.
Lastly, “spirit” is a major concern within African cultures. “Spirit” is variously conceived as the non-physical aspect of the being–the source of one’s vitality, often a higher or more elevated self, a self that has transcended time and space (as in an ancestral self), as well as one’s destiny. Much of the nurturing of the mtu in the traditional context was related to the notion that each human being arrives with a purpose, a veritable message from the ancestors to bring forth into the world. Apart from literal interpretations, this can also be seen as indicating that each mtu represents a purposeful existence, a set of dynamic and finite capacities that gain expression through the permutations of their journey through life, and the degree to which these facilitate a higher level of realization as to their inclinations, capacities, potential, and their ultimate decision (either conscious or unconscious) of a path in life–and that these are, inescapably–linked to their ancestral inheritance.
It should be noted that these concerns are the core of much of what is articulated or presented as African “spirituality”, and that this obviously entails a range of social structures whose work is focused on the development of the mtu and the independence of the taifa (nation). Ultimately there was no separation in terms of the path towards “spiritual enlightenment” and the means which enabled the society to minister to its needs on a day-to-day basis. Thus those concerned both about the practice and institutionalization of African spirituality should be mindful of this.