Adult or Infant?...
Adults or Infants? One of the basic choices that individuals interested in the philosophy of Ifa must make, is: Do we wish to be Empowered or Dependent? On the surface this sounds like an easy choice. After all, don't we all wish to be personally more responsible, more able to accomplish our goals of love, success and growth? Sure we do...but, for the most part, we don't want to pay the price that achieving that requires. Particularly in this hemisphere. Here, we want things done for us. And, for the most part, Western religion catered to that character weakness.
Ancient cultures, such as the Yoruba, understood that the parents , and to a lesser extent the Communities, job was to nurture and raise the child to become an Adult. The teaching, training and responsibilities that children assumed were designed to make them self-sufficient and strong. In European culture, and religion, that concept was distorted and corrupted so that a child's natural dependence and reliance on a Parent or community to make them safe and care for them as children, was extended to create permanent reliance and dependence on individuals and institutions to protect and care for them once they were grown. Our biological Father (parents) became our spiritual Father (in heaven) who, if we continued as adults to adhere to His particular set of rules would care for and protect us. The Church or Temple was structured to take over as the Community. In order to benefit from this duality of dependence you had to give up your independence of thought and action. The rules were clear and permanently inscribed. Your job was to follow them!
In the Ifa/Orisa philosophy, the opposite was true. Indeed, the reality that there was no Church ( the world that Oludumare created was our Church), that we could all benefit and grow from the Truths of Nature, that we were all different ( different Orisa crowning our heads and different Destinies chosen) , refuted the concept of "cookie cutter" people and Truth by rote instead of thought.
That's why the incursion of Christianity into the philosophy is not simply some Anthropological curiosity, but a mortal threat to the Truth and empowerment Ifa was designed to provide.
A simple example is the process of Initiation in Ifa, as compared to Santeria/Lucumi. While Ifa recognized, and extolled the process as one of re-birth, as a path towards growth and empowerment, the Santeria/Lucumi community turned it into an infantalizing experience. Everything from the initiate eating like an infant on the floor to the restrictions on learning for an entire year, all mirror and mimic the dependence of Christianity rather than the independence of Ifa. Even after that time, the dependence on the Ile', the inability to explore and grow, all seek to disempower and control the individual rather than providing the soil and climate for personal growth and achievement.
When you add the inclusion of a devil ( small "d" intentional) along with a host of "uncontrollable" forces, you have successfully said to the individual: " You are not capable of growing and caring for yourself, without the help and protection of those priests who know." Ifa, on the other hand, taught the Natural order of the universe and the energies it contained. Certainly, some were difficult and dangerous, but the INDIVIDUAL had the capacity and tools to harvest the good and avoid the difficult..and Ifa offered that knowledge freely and openly to all.
These comparisons can go on and on...but the bottom line is do you wish to be a responsible adult in control of your own life and destiny, or do you prefer to remain a frightened infant hoping for the largess of your parental guides?
At the Ifa Foundation we initiate and teach individuals to become empowered adults. The choice is clear.
Oluwo Philip Neimark