Last year a young lady came to Ola Olu for initiation. When she arrived she informed us that her good friend, a male attorney, had spent almost the entire previous night warning her about getting involved in this " cult thing." Despite pointing out that this was a proud and ancient religion, practiced by over 50 million people around the world, and pre-dating almost all Western philosophies, her friend remained adamant. Indeed, she told Olufadeke and myself: He had insisted on driving to Bloomington with her, was staying in town at a hotel, and had told her that if he didn't hear from her on the cell phone he carried, he was 'calling the police' .
On one hand, it's amusing. On the other, quite disturbing. It all came flashing back when a female attorney, who is to be initiated this July, informed me that her husband was alarmed at her getting involved in "a cult," and was "afraid of her being brainwashed."
First and foremost, what it does express is the worldview, and inner belief system, of the person expressing these misconceptions and fears. As my father, the wisest man I have ever known, used to say: " Philip, if a thief knows you work in a bank he will presume you steal." What he was explaining to me was that people look at your behavior or actions, and ascribe motivations to them, from their own psyches. In other words, a thief, working in a bank, would steal. So they see you working there and presume you will steal as well.
So, what worldview do these people possess? Well, it's a Supremacist view. A view where they grew up in a religion (Christian, Judaism etc.) where their way was the only way, and any deviation would meet with dire consequences. In other words, a religion of fear, control and disempowerment.
Meaning no disrespect to those who follow Catholicism, it would seem to me that if someone told me about a group that 1. Insisted on a ritual where an infant was submerged in water in order to save their soul. 2. That life was a constant battle between their imperfect nature and an implacable entity (the Devil) seeking to lure them into sin, 3. That the results of any deviation from these, and a host of other daily, weekly and yearly rules, would result in the eternal damnation of their souls in a hideous kingdom called Hell, I would think I was dealing with a dangerous Cult.
It's easy to see where their fears, confusion and attitudes were developed.
Perhaps future initiates will point this out to their friends and partners. Perhaps they will reference the fact the United States Library of Congress has even published guidelines specifically removing African religions from any "Cult Reference" and referring to them now, and in the future, as Religions and Philosophies.
The Journey into initiation should not be needlessly burdened by others fears and misconceptions.
Oluwo Philip Neimark