An end to animal sacrifice

March 26, 2013 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Rituals and practice 

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GoatI kinda felt it coming for months if not years, possibly even a couple of decades: Ifa finally considers it time that, at least in my house, my country, my culture and my circumstances, animal sacrifice goes the same way as human sacrifice… to wit extinct, and simply taboo.

It took the venerable Spirit of Divination long enough to make it clear to me… on account of yours truly having quite a thick skull, and regardless of me having felt it coming for a long time, some divination with the impact of a sledge hammer was needed to (Members: click to read on)


Any road will do

March 25, 2013 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Jaap's mental musings 

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LabyrinthLike many African peoples, Yorubas are well-known for their enormous collection of proverbs. In fact I feel they’re overdoing it, every now and then: it’s sometimes pretty hard to get a sensible opinion out of an African (including many of their offspring in the Americas), on account of a proverb being provided as the answer instead of the person’s own view on the issue.

A well-known proverb is “If it doesn’t matter where you’re going, any road will do”… usually explained along the lines of: “You should always know where you’re going, or you might take the wrong road”. Of course there is that aspect (duh!), but I believe there’s much more depth to the issue. My own explanation is totally different (Members: click to read on)


Ifa divination lesson 7

March 23, 2013 by · 3 Comments
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Alternative invocations for divination

Ifa-Divination-LessonsThere are several traditional and not-so-traditional methods of invoking the Spirit of the Oracle AKA Ifa. On the page Ifa divination lesson 4 I gave an example, and I also mentioned that there is a “shortcut” to “getting there”. Such a shortcut is different for everybody, it being a very personal thing between you and your Ifa.

In fact everything in Ifa divination ia a very personal thing between you and your Ifa, or between me and my Ifa. My methods are emphatically not part of the “Orunmila system” AKA Ifa as practiced in Yoruba Traditional Religion and in Lucumi – they are Ifa (Afa, Eba, Evwa, Fa, Eva etcetera) as can be cast by anybody who takes the trouble to learn the craft, without the need to be initiated as an Ifa priest or Babalawo in the Orunmila system.

Orunmila diviningI operate outside the Orunmila System… unusual to those inside Yoruba Ifa, where Ifa divination with cowrie shells is out of the question, and initiation into its tutelary deity Orunmila is required before one is allowed to divine. Other systems either have another tutelary deity, or none at all. Homework on the total Ifa divination “tree” shows that the original tree trunk is available to all, regardless of initiation. When the tree developed branches, some kept this tradition, while others introduced initiation into Orunmila or another deity. The ways of Ilé Dafa are firmly rooted in the most ancient tradition: Ifa divination AKA accessing he Wisdom of Nature, is available to all. Nobody needs anybody else’s permission (“initation”) to tap into Nature’s Wisdom… period.

Divination is all about “being in the mood”, by (Members: click to read on)


Some divination tools (1)

March 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Some divination tools (1)
Filed under: Ifa divination general 

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Ifa’s palm nuts or ikin

Ikin IfaWithin the Orunmila system of Ifa divination, the sixteen palm nuts or Ikin are considered the most elevated form of divination, to the extend that they are often called the “sacred palm nuts”. They are used in combination with the Ifa tray or Opon Ifa, on which the signs are written that are indicated by the Ikin. The diviner takes all 16 ikin in the left hand, and then grabs them with the right hand. Usually some stay behind, if one ikin is left the diviner writes a double mark (II) on the divining tray or Opon. If two remain, a single mark (I) is drawn in the iyerosun. Sometimes more than one remains in the left hand, or none at all, and such a grip is discarded and no mark is made. The process goes on until a full double Odu Ifa has been written in the iyerosun on the tray. Although the palm nuts or Ikin are held in the highest regard compared with other Ifa divination methods and paraphernalia, it’s a remarkable though sad fact that they are the easiest to deliberately manipulate by unscrupulous diviners.

Opon Ifa, Ifa divination tray

Opon IfaThe Opon Ifa or Ifa divination tray is one of the best known objects within the Ifa divination system. With collectors of ethnografica they’re very popular indeed, and some of them are admittedly quite impressive! The one pictured to the left, that once used to be mine, is very large with carvings in unusually high relief, truly a beauty! It was a very old one, and a couple of Awo’s who are much better than me informed me that it had been fed human blood, long ago…

It took me some time (and profound divination!) to figure out how to orient the tray when working with it – the proliferation of Eshu heads made it far less straightforward than would have been the case with simpler trays! And for those who are morbidly interested: no, the human blood never bothered me (wide grin)!

Of course this is only the beginning… eventually I will post many more diviner’s’ thingummies and paraphernalia.


Herbs AKA “ewe”

March 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Herbs AKA “ewe”
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Some herbs (ewe) and other ingredients that are used in Ifa-Orisha practice. It’s a growing list, and at some appropriate moment I will also add alternatives that are, although not traditional, quite effective.

Amunimuye: Senecio Abessynicus (leaves)
Asunwon: Senna Alata (leaves)
Ata Iyere: Piper Guineense (seed)
Atori: Glyphaea Brevis
Daji: Gongronema Latifolium (leaves)
Ela: Epyphytic Orchidaceae (leaves)
Epo Agbon: Coco Nucifera (bark)
Esin: Blighia sapida (ripe fruit flesh)
Ewe Iyeye: Spondias Mombin (leaves)
Idi igi Orosun: Baphia Nitida (root)
Itala: Socoglottis Gabinensis (bark)
Iteji: Gongronema Latifolium (leaves)
Ojiji: Dalbergia Lacteal (leaves)
Odundun: Kalanchoe Crenata
Olode: Markamia Tomementosa (bark)
Pepereku(n): Alternanthera Sessilis (leaves)
Peregun: Peperomia Pellucida
Rekureku: Alternanthera Sessilis (leaves)
Rinrin: Peperoma pellucida (leaves)
Tete: Amaranthus viridis, Amaranthus Spinosus


Head feeding

March 23, 2013 by · 2 Comments
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Head feeding“Feeding the Head” AKA “rogacion”, “feeding the Ori” or “Ibori” is a common treatment/ritual in the life style of Ifa, in fact for me it is one of the most common. Often the need or the advisability is indicated by divination, but this is not always necessary: I’ve seen my Yoruba friends go for a good Ibori both inside and outside their own Ile whenever they get the chance. Both your own Head and the Orisha are pretty flexible, more so than is often realized in the West; the very basic rituals are not easily overdone.

The way I perform this particular ritual of course is not the only “right” one, nor are others “wrong”. What works is right, what doesn’t work is wrong. In other words: what’s good for life is good, the rest is un-good. The way of feeding the Head that is described below has proven to be good for life. So have many other ways.

In this contect the issue of “taboo” is interesting. Each and every person may (or may not) have taboos against any sort of substance, like children of Obatala having a taboo against eating, indeed even touching, red palm oil or epo pupa. Odly enough one of my friends, a Nigerian Obatala priest with nearly three decades of initiation behind his immaculately white belt, completely ignores this taboo when it comes to “feeding the bonce”: he lets me happily plaster his head with all seven ingredients, including red palm oil. His argument: “Ori and Obatala are completely different Orishas. I wouldn’t feed any epo pupa to my Obatala, but my Ori needs it and so does the Ori of just about everybody else”. Well, the opinion of an experienced African Obatala priest from a centuries old Yoruba family of Ifa and Obatala worshippers is good enough for me!

Seven ingredients

Seven ingredients are commonly used: cool water (omi tutu), honey (oyin), gin (oti), dried mud fish (eja aro), bitter kola nut (orogbo), red palm oil (epo pupa), and kola nut (obi abata).
The client kneels to the left of the priest, who says a prayer over the Head of the client. I have found that the prayer Aborisha use to greet the Ori in the morning, works very well.

Emi ma ji loni o, o, mo f’oribale f’Olorun.
Ire gbogbo maa’ wa’ba’ me, Ori mi da’mi da’iye.
Ngo ku mo. Ire gbogbo ni t’emi.
Imole ni ti Amakisi. Ashe.

Now that I am waking up, I give respect to Olorun.
Let all good things come to me, my Ori give me life.
I shall not die. Let all good things come to me.
The Spirits of Light are in the East. So be it.

The translation is not perfect, nor is the Yoruba version. One of these days I’ll get myself a good Yoruba font with all the accents and dots and bells and whistles, but in the meantime the above seems to do the job quite nicely. If you feel uncomfortable with ill-pronounced Yoruba, by all means pray/invoke in any language you master the best.

Dip the middle finger of the left hand into the stuff (or take a small piece of it) and softly rub/pass it over the head of the client, from right to left and from front to back. While repeatedly doing this, express the characteristics of the particular offering.

Water

Omi tutu: “Ori, please accept this offering of cool water. Just like water flows around obstacles without being bothered by them, make the life of this child flow without being bothered by obstacles. Just like water is cool and refreshing, make the life of this child cool and refreshing for herself and for those she meets. Just like water always wins and erodes its own path through even the hardest rock, make the life of this child find its own path and carve out its good ways into the memories of this Earth. Ashe!”

That’s the format; for the other ingredients it goes like this:

Honey

Oyin: “Like honey is the sweetest of things, make the life of this child sweet. Just like honey symbolizes the sweet juices of sex, make the sexual life of this child sweet and fulfilling to her, and to her partners. Honey is the sweetness that attracts bees who fertilize flowers and make them bear fruit; just like that make the life of this child fertile and let it bear fruit.”

Gin

Oti: “A good drink in fine companionship has no enemies but is universally loved. Make this child loved by all, make her attract good companionship to her. Just like gin has a strong spirit, make the life of this child full of spirit, and make her use it to the benefit of self and others.”

Dried fish

Eja aro: “Just like the mudfish is at home in water, deep in the mud and even on land, make this child feel at home wherever she is. The mudfish is supple and can bend its body without breaking; make the life of this child supple, and let it bend instead of break. Just like the mudfish is a calm and cool animal that goes about its business without much fuss, make the life of this child cool and calm, without undue fuss.”

Bitter kola nut

Orogbo: “Just like orogbo is both tasteful and bitter, make the life of this child tasteful and bitter, for even in bitter is much good to be found. Like the eating of orogbo makes the blood bitter to insects so that they don’t sting, make the life of this child bitter to her enemies so that they don’t sting her.”

Red palm oil

Epo pupa: “Just like red palm oil lubricates friction, make the life of this child so that she can lubricate friction wherever she encounters it. Red palm oil is among the best things to offer; make this child realize that offering frequently is the way to fulfilment.”

Kola nut

Obi abata: “Like the kola nut is used in divination and gives us Ifa’s wisdom, grant the wisdom of Ifa to this child, and make her a source of wisdom for others. Like the kola nut is a delicacy shared with visitors and friends, make the presence of this child a delight to her friends and visitors.”

Stay on top

Of all the offered foodstuffs a little should remain on top of the head of the client. The sequence generally is not important; the kola nut (split in four pieces) however is always the last and, after one or all four parts having been passed/rubbed over the client’s head, should be used as divining tools on ground or mat to find out if all offerings have been accepted. If not, ask which ingredient has to be re-applied, or whether other ingredients must be added to the mix. This might or might not need to be repeated several times. Once the answer turns out to be “yes”, place the four pieces of nut in the shape of the relevant Odu on top of the client’s head. Then a white cloth or shawl should be wrapped around the head, and it all stays on during the night. This is the reason why the best time to do a head feeding is during the evening.

The client shouldn’t go out that night or do anything exhausting, especially no sex – not even with oneself (grin)! This is a time of quiet and meditation. On account of a head feeding being a quite intense experience, the client should preferably stay at the diviners house (or the other way around, depending on where the treatment takes place) until the next morning to provide support, if/when needed. Usually some relaxed small talk develops before sleep takes over. If this is not possible, the client should definitely not drive home alone, in that case it’s a good idea to bring a trusted friend to do the driving, and to stay at the client’s home during the night.

Feed ones own head

After each offering has been applied to the head the client, the priest and all others present should eat/drink just a little of the remainder. In the morning the client can remove the white cloth with the remains of the foodstuffs (including the Odu); usually they can be cast away without any particular ceremony. Of course the above formulas are just formats: about all ingredients many more things can, and often will, be said. It is the distinguishing mark of the good Awo that he/she defines exactly what this particular client needs, and emphasizes the relevant aspects.

Basically the above can also be done by initiated/capable individuals to feed their own Ori. Of course the combined Ashe of diviner and client is stronger and more effective, but there’s not always a diviner around in which case a self-feeding is the way to go.

A small note for the dedicated worriers:

Some Aborisha like Omo Obatala may be uncomfortable with some of the ingredients like red palm oil… in other words: every now and then a taboo (eewo) may be involved. I have a very realistic and equally traditional view on this subject. A taboo against for example food stuff is often because said stuff will help you in case of illness or crisis. It’s like antibiotics: never use them if you don’t need them, because you will develop a resistance and they won’t help you when suddenly they are needed. But when they are needed, don’t hesitate! Same goes for many religious taboos – a taboo against eating or touching this or that is fairly often in place because, in case of emergency, touching or eating that or this will be your “antibiotic”!


Ori coming out (1)

March 23, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Ifalution: the larger picture 

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Considering that there are so many gays in our religion, it’s always been surprising to me how little “coming out” there is in other ways. Sexually the whole lot is joyfully and rightfully “out” (whether he, ho, bi or trans), while spiritually just about everybody is (still) in the closet – not only that, but also desperately keeping the door to that self-chosen confinement hermetically closed.

 

What is your experience with the religion?

Coming out

I know just about nothing of any of you. I don’t know how you experience the religion, I don’t know what your theological views are, I don’t know how you experience the joys of being a “person of the cloth”, because… you never tell me what you think, experience or feel. Questions are answered with “That’s how I’ve been taught so that’s how I do it”, “My elders told me to do it so”, “This is what my godparents say”… never something like “eye say this”, “eye have figured this out”, “eye believe thus or so”, “eye think it’s that way and therefore I teach it”… really, it sometimes seems to me that there simply is no “you”, that everybody hides in the closet and never, never at all, comes out saying what the religion is to them… instead of to their Elders.

Nobody is coming out…

I don’t know how long this situation can last, because the times they are a-changing. Attitudes, beliefs, traditions and methods that have functioned quite well for quite some time, are coming to an end… just like our era is coming to an end. Our world is already completely different from that of only one human lifetime ago, and the changes are picking up speed. Not only technologically like us being able to have this conversation worldwide, me in Europe and most of you in Africa or the Americas, but also spiritually and consciousness-wise. Humankind itself is changing. Consciousness is shifting from small “group consciousnesses” to two opposites: on the one hand individual consciousness, on the other hand large group consciousness, maybe even world consciousness – who knows. I firmly believe that we should not fight this development, but use it to the advantage of ourselves, of others, and of humankind in general. I also firmly believe that the importance of Orishas as “guiding spirits” is (at least temporarily) beginning to take second place to the importance of Ori as “destiny spirit” or “consciousness”. And about fuggin’ time! Our society has, since let’s say the industrial revolution, become almost unconscious, and our destiny is heading towards disaster. Much in our religion has become empty ritual, which can be seen in many threads all over the net.. discussions about whether a person with “pinaldo” is “older” than a person without, indignation about somebody who didn’t “throw” themselves to somebody else, endless discourses about the behavior of others (it’s always about others – never about oneself) on Bembe’s and such, people dancing who shouldn’t dance and people not dancing who should, indignation about a Shango crowning an Oshun in another House because “in my rama” that can not be done… it’s all about form, almost never about content. Nobody is “coming out”, everybody stays safely inside the closet. Form is the closet, the closet is form. Ritualistic bullshit, more often than not.

Development and change:
From Orisha religion to Ori religion

Ilé OriAre the times a-changing? I’m not asking you, I’m telling you: they are. And as a religion we are lagging behind. Couple of thousand years ago, way back in Africa, “we” were at the forefront of scientific knowledge, of spiritual development, of social advancement. We were leading then… now, we are dragging and lagging. We had the edge, and we let it go blunt. However, we’re in the midst of a big pendulum swing… back from outer details towards inner essentials. Consciousness, deplorably shrunken in modern society at large, is expanding in small pockets all over the world, including in our Religion. Individual consciousness, and collective consciousness. I see a shift (a necessary one, in my opinion) from “Crown Orisha consciousness” to “Orisha Ori consciousness”, in other words a shift from small groups revolving around one or more commonly held Orishas, to individuals using their personal consciousness and thus contributing to collective consciousness… and the latter you may call “the World’s Ori”, for all I care. Guys ‘n gals, the religion is rapidly moving past the stage of spiritually incestuous Ilé’s into the stage of individuals who use their personal Ori/consciousness to contribute to a much larger, overall Ori/consciousness. From Orisha religion to Ori religion, if I may be so bold.

Such fear shouldn’t exist..

I am aware of several individuals who are already kind of outside the limited structure of Ilés where it’s always done the way it was always done, people who are already “coming out”… hesitatingly because sometimes they still feel and fear the pressure of their elders and peers to tiptoe the line. Such fear shouldn’t exist… and it never did, in olden days when the world around the religion was cataclysmically changing. In Africa the religion was born and, to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel: after changes upon changes it is more or less the same. And take Cuba: Lucumi was shaped by visionary individuals of whom I only know a few names… Ferminita Gomez comes to mind, Adesina does, and there are more… after these highly conscious individuals had done their visionary jobs, Lucumi was able to develop into what it is today, i.e. the branch that has more than any other branch spread the religion over the whole of North America and even parts of Europe. Candomblé: between strongly preserved African parts it has proudly changed to become a truly Brazilian religion, and an enormous one to boot!

Fear – No change – No development
versus
No Fear – Development – Change

If icons of the religion like Gomez and Adesina hadn’t “come out”, hadn’t done what their consciousness told them was necessary, the worldwide picture of the religion would be completely different from what it is now. These people didn’t hide behind “That’s how I’ve been taught so that’s how I do it”, “My elders told me to do it so”, or “This is what my godparents say”… no, they said: “This is how we will do it from now on!”… and they did.

Ladies and gentlemen.. what do you believe? What do you contribute to the religion in this era where things are changing faster than ever before? Are you satisfied to be just an obedient descendant, or will you also be an ancestor, an enlightening example, for those who will come after you? Are you stagnant, or does the river of your consciousness flow? Are you coming out, or will you stay in the safe and comfortable closet?

I’m out, I’m Independent, I’m responsible…

Well, let me tell you: I am out! Those who’ve known me for a while are aware that I never was much in the closet to begin with (wide and wicked grin!), but nowadays I’m even less inclined to hide who I am behind safe statements like “I have learned this” or “Ifa told me that” or “tradition teaches me thus” or “my godfather told me so”… I’m sick and tired of that cowardly crap. I am Independent, and as such I am the sole responsible person for what I do or don’t in the religion. I do not conform to many rules, nor do I try to create too many of my own. I’m definitely “into” Ifa and Orisha, no doubt about it… but my very own consciousness, my very own Ori, my very own Destiny, has brought me where I am now. I don’t put the praise or blame on anyone… because it was always me. I am not a Babalawo… yet I divine with the Ifa system. Why? Because my Ori tells me to. I am an Oshoosi priest… yet I owe more to my Ori than to my Head Orisha. Why? Because that’s how my Ori works – and it seems to have a pretty good deal on the matter with Oshoosi, because this worthy joyfully concurs. My Ori creates my destiny, my personal reality. And I’m doggamn grateful that it’s doing so.

I am not “one of the guys”, nor do I want to be. I am “less” than that, and at the same time I am “more”. “Less” because I am a sole individual, a small man who lives by his small wisdom and his tiny consciousness… and “more” because, being small and all, I know that my tiny consciousness is not limited to being part of an Ilé or being “one of the guys”, but is part of all consciousness, the “greater Ori” of All That Is. And so are you… so why don’t you come out?

Continued at Ori coming out (2)!

 

Click image:
Ifalution-Ori Coming Out-1


Total responsibility

March 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Total responsibility
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How not to fuck up your daily life, and if you do, how not to whine about it!

I wrote this article a long time ago, in the late 1980’s when I was running my “Dutch Church of Ifa”. Re-reading old stuff always feels a bit awkward… kind of like sniffing your own dirty underpants: undoubtedly a form of perversion, but at least it doesn’t hurt anybody. Still it isn’t too bad, reading this article after so many years. Although there are some ideas and concepts I would approach in a slightly different way now, these are details – generally speaking I still feel: “Holy shit! So that’s what it’s all about”! I hope you will have a similar feeling. J.V.

Ifa: the Doctrine of Total Responsibility

Nelson Mandela. A man of integrity and responsibility.“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

Well now… the use of this particular text as introduction to an article by the Dutch Church of Ifa might make you raise your eyebrows in wonder. You clicked on this page to learn more about the religion of Ifa, and the first thing you see is old hat in the shape of a bible text. Jaap Verduijn finally off his rocker now?, you may ask. No, he ain’t – at least not more than usual.

So why do I quote the Bible in an article that’s definitely not Christian? There are two answers to that. Firstly the Bible is not Christian either (it’s part Jewish, part “Paulinic”), and secondly the Bible, just like for instance the Quran, the Gita, the Gilgamesh Epos and the Ese Ifa, has not been composed by complete idiots. The Bible has been written in flowery language full of ellipses and metaphors, the very style that still prevails in spoken and written language of the Middle East.

When traveling there, in the Middle East, don’t plunge straight into the heart of the matter when talking to your desert nomad host. Only after long preliminaries and elaborate formula’s, accompanied by food and beverages, has the time arrived to carefully bring up the purpose (if any) of your visit. Your host might invite you to do so with something like: “Effendi, I am sitting on the carpet of expectation.” This does not mean that the man is pregnant on a rug, it simply is his way of saying: “Go ahead. What is this all about?” Be aware of this use of language, try keep an open mind for symbolism. Then you cannot help but recognize that the bible is a palimpsest that offers, hidden underneath flowery metaphors and longwinded gewgaws, a terse message.

In other places, more accessible

Now this message can be found in many other places too, and often in a much more accessible version. The Dutch Ifa Church simply says about creation: “There is a Supreme Being: the Creating Force without whom nothing can be. This Creating Force has given itself shape in all that exists, and may henceforth be called All That Is.” The message is clear: a Creator has created. Simple. And exactly what the Bible book Genesis says. We just don’t make so much hullabaloo about it, and don’t go minutely into details we know nothing about. The Christians don’t know those details either, but they seem to be better pretenders.

The exegesis of the concept “Creating Force” in Dutch Ifa is quite different, however, from the Christian one. A Christian sees this force as a personal God, anthropomorphic, having the shape of a human being. The Christian also thinks that this God must be continuously crawled to, applauded and abjectly praised, on punishment of being thrown into hell where eternal flames will forever eat the sinner’s writhing carcass. For Christians there is also an absolute separation between Creator and creature. The One has made the other, and the creature does wise to remember this, again on punishment of… yes indeed: hell, flames, writhing carcass etcetera. A lousy prospect for independent thinkers.

This attitude finds no foundation in the doctrines of Dutch Ifa. God, whether you call him/her/it by that name, or Olodumare as is more common in the Ifa traditions, is not a wrathful man with a long beard, who together with his Son and an enigmatic being called the Holy Ghost sits on a throne, and from that lofty position sternly rules the world. Not at all! Olodumare is the creating primaeval force of the universe and possibly even beyond, having given Himself physical shape in everything that exists. Like in grains of sand, galaxies, fluffy kittens and humanity. There is nothing that is not part of Olodumare, hence there is no human being that may not call themselves divine. One of the basic priciples of Dutch Ifa-Orisha therefor is: You Are God! Yes, you too!

Creation is not finished!

Creation is not finished!This astonishing but not utterly unpleasant fact of life has its own consequences and brings its own responsibilities, especially in the light of another Dutch Ifa teaching: All That Is is in a constant state of growth and development; in that sense creation is not finished nor will it ever be finished. Fine words, but what exactly do they mean? They mean that everything is constantly changing and constantly striving for improvement. Look around you: All That Is, literally all that is, wants to grow, evolve, develop, and eventually reach the finish in a competition with itself. The Greek saying “panta rhei”, the given fact that everything flows, is almost as ancient as the world itself, and it’s still true. Mankind, as a part of God, cooperates in that development. Man/woman accomplishes this by in daily life doing everything they do as perfectly as possible – at least that’s what they should! I’ll come back to that later.

Humanity cooperates in yet another way in God’s growth and development, namely by literally carrying out part of His/Her creative work. Literally. It is a dogma in the Dutch Ifa doctrine that every human being creates their own reality. Let’s repeat this and write it in bold type, for it is immensely important: you create your own reality! We ourselves, and nobody else, are responsible for the whole blessed world around us. And if that world ain’t to your liking you should not sit down in a corner and whimper and complain. You should wake up, rub the puff pastry out of your eyes and change it! Period! But… how exactly does man create his own reality? What tools to do so has he been supplied with? And how does he know what to use them for? The answer is plain and simple: he usually doesn’t. That’s the sad truth, resulting in the general bugger-up we call modern civilization. Yet such tools exist. And we all use them, albeit in incomplete and often unwise ways, without knowing.

Lemme give you a hint on what some of these tools might be. In psychology it is well known that autosuggestion can make a person ill on the one hand, or heal ’em on the other. Even a child (especially a child!) knows that. Less known is that a human being can even die through (auto)suggestion. I’ve witnessed it happen in Australia, dozens of years ago, not once but twice. When among Australian Aboriginals a medicine man cursed a bloke by “pointing the bones” at him, the pointee croaked within a few days. His belief in the reality of the curse was so strong that he simply snuffed it, and in doing so made the curse a self-fulfilling prophesy. Neither the bones nor the medicine man killed; it was the victim’s belief that killed. What you believe is true. Everything a human believes in strongly enough, happens. Faith can literally move mountains. I’ve just never met anybody whose faith was strong enough to perform that major trick, but that doesn’t change the principle. So I haven’t given up the search.

Total responsibility

Us humans are slow learners. I have no illusion whatsoever that all my readers now utter a satisfied sigh and lean back in their chairs in the conscious knowledge that their beliefs create reality. Some will, though. But for those my words only confirmed what they already knew for a long time. And that doesn’t count. Luckily Olodumare has included that in His planning, the sad fact that we are slow learners. He gives us much more time than just this single life. The followers of Dutch Ifa believe in reincarnation, they know that they have all the time in the world to learn what has to be learned. Such person knows that what he messes up today, can be put right in a next life. Those incarnations are in continuous interaction with each other, and are able to influence each other favorably. Nothing is lost forever. That is a soothing thought.

Human beings as God. That puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. We can’t shrug things off anymore. You create your world, you are responsible for everything you do in your life and for everything that happens in your life. That’s why it’s called your life, and not mine; I’m quite capable of fuckin’ up my own. Don’t need you for that. So the doctrine of Dutch Ifa-Orisha is the doctrine of total responsibility. We don’t put the blame on anyone else. We don’t invent excuses. We realize that all of us are God, and we act accordingly. In daily life that ain’t even too difficult. You don’t have to fall down on your knees for a vague God living somewhere up in heaven, and pray and wangle him out of some lofty assistance. Such God doesn’t exist. God is not vague but very earthly and quite real. God is a flower. God is a child. God is a tree. God is a turd. God is the vision of a poet. God is you. And you are God. Once you realize that, the concept of religious service becomes crystal clear. God doesn’t ask you to pray three times a day, wear orange clothing with a silly hat, or sing depressing psalms. He/She (let’s call him It, from now on) only expects that you, being a part of It, do everything to the best of your capabilities. Don’t bungle, for you are cooperating in Its creation, that is never ended. You wouldn’t want to fuck up Creation, would you now?

Make that creation as beautiful and effective as possible, and don’t overlook the tiny simple things for they are important. Be nice to your neighbor. Take a bunch of flowers home every now and then. Don’t kick the dog. Dutch Ifa people are not better than others, they just (hopefully… grin!) do better than others. At least that’s the idea. In the early stages that ain’t easy, but in the long run it becomes enjoyable. There is joy in doing things well! That makes the Dutch Ifa practitioner a happy person, even if bad luck hits him hard in the face. He knows that he has created his own bad luck, and that it doesn’t have to hit him again. That’s what he believes, and the funny thing is that “bad luck” itself believes it too, and duly stays away.

Followers of Ifa, whether they be strictly orthodox or truly liberal like the Dutch Ifa, know that the world is theirs, that they may interact with it in order to enhance their own joy of life and that of others. In doing so you don’t have to stay away from earthly pleasures because all abundance, all well-being, all riches and all pleasures that you can even remotely think of, All That Is dangles luringly right in front of your nose. Believe in it and it’s yours. Abundance is not evil. Can anything Olodumare offers to Its creation be evil? Aw, c’mon! If you believe that, you might as well be a Christian with their fixed ideas about good and bad.

Rich and poor

Other religions often murmur that poverty is good for you, and highly educational. Riches are bad, they say, and only poor people live spiritual lives. The followers of such religions believe this. And what they believe is true, so bully for them! They don’t realize that they are being taken (or rather taking themselves) for a ride, and that they can change their beliefs and thus their reality. They don’t know better, but you do! Don’t let yourself be lied to by priests that preach poverty. Let those priests themselves eat dry bread and drink stale water. Maybe they learn from it.

So it’s pretty clear that the Dutch Church of Ifa doesn’t consider poverty a necessary or even desirable step on the stairs to spiritual growth. Nor do riches necessarily pave the road to hell. Hell doesn’t objectively exist, and man makes his own reality, including or excluding abundance. Just take your pick. Being rich is more fun than being poor, let’s freely admit that. I myself am, according to Western standards, far from rich, but I’m lacking nothing essential and every now and then I am even able to buy myself something nice, which invariably makes me very happy. No person in their right mind will, methinks, declare in all honesty that buying a new car, drinking Chivas Regal, throwing an extravagant party, or making love to an expensive call-girl isn’t fun. Those who insist that it ain’t, have created themselves a sour reality, and of our Religion they have understood nothing.

Passions of the flesh

Passions of the flesh...Some of the above remarks may have made you frown. The expensive call-girl, for instance. Does the Head Honcho of the Dutch Ifa Church encourage fornication, lewdness and unbridled wallowing in debauchery?

No, said Head Honcho doesn’t, but neither would he strongly oppose it. Everybody should know/decide for themselves. Passions of the flesh, as long as no one gets hurt by them, may just like spiritual needs be satisfied to your heart’s desire. Lechery is a fiction, produced by our never ending urge to meddle in other people’s sex lives. And prostitution is nothing more than exchanging money for favors that every woman has the fullest right to supply either for free, or cash on delivery. It is none of your fornicating business. The sorry fact that our society looks upon prostitution as something shady, tells us more about said society than about both whore and whore-monger. The mental health of any society is inversely proportional to the amount of public indignation about voluntary prostitution.

The second statement that might need explanation is: “I myself am, according to Western standards, far from rich”. On a daily base I teach that every human creates their own reality, that every human has access to everything; couldn’t one expect from such a teacher that he is, at least, reasonably wealthy? I don’t have a perfect answer to that. I wouldn’t mind becoming rich, but for some reason I don’t. Maybe deep down I don’t really believe being rich would be good for me. Or maybe the sum total of my belief is insufficient to heap on top of my already so pleasant life also the added pleasures of riches. I might die from too much enjoyment. All this would simply mean that my “enlightenment” does not really proceed post-haste, and that I have quite a lot of educational reincarnations in front of me. Oh, well… a certain amount of fleas is good for a dog, otherwise the dog forgets he is a dog.

Of course there is also a more flattering explanation: maybe I have in the course of my many lives learned to see that money really is not the key to happiness. Although I frankly doubt if I have learned that much, it is not totally impossible. For indeed, to those who have really acquired insight, material wealth simply has lost its meaning. In Zen-buddhism I have occasionally met such fellows: not a single penny for a bowl of rice, and no cloths on their body to speak of – but utterly balanced and truly happy. Am I that far advanced? Me? That far? I sincerely doubt it. The first explanation is much more likely than the second. The kind of looks I cast on other people’s cars, houses or wives do not indicate a high level of detachment. So shall we just leave it undecided? Good!

Doing things better

On the mundane level of our daily lives, the possession of money is not a bad thing, and neither of course is the earning of it. Since most of us earn their daily bread by working for it, this work should, even if it is dirty or boring, be seen as a meaningful road to happiness. The assembly-line worker will have his doubts on the negotiability of that road and as an ex-colleague I heartily agree with him, but that doesn’t change the principle. Yet work is much more. An ancient, both wise and rather pompous, Egun in the Dutch Church of Ifa once declared: “The as complete and as well as possible performing of all tasks of daily life, whether they be going out to work, enjoying life’s good things, making gorgeous love, or even the pursuit of wind, are all ways of worshiping All That Is.”

That’s why the Dutch Ifa bunch should distinguish themselves from others by producing better work, satisfying their partners more intensely, and the better mowing of their lawns, to give but a few examples. And if that’s to his heart’s desire also by getting drunk more efficiently in the local bar, or hitting harder in the boxing ring. Everything we do should be optimized: cars repaired by Dutch Ifa worshipers run better, their letters show no spelling mistakes, change is correct up to the last cent, and their “yes” be “yes” and their “no” be “no”. That’s how us humans worship Olodumare to the best of their abilities, according to Its needs and wishes.

Why is that so?

But why is that so? Why does the Dutch Church of Ifa attach so much value to doing things well? How can the more efficiently putting of peanut butter on a sandwich be worship of All That Is? All That Is is in a constant state of growth and development; in that sense Creation is not finished and quite probably will never be finished. Doing things to the very best of your capacities is a great contribution to this growth and development. The biggest contribution any human being, actively cooperating on the continuing, never ending story of creation, can give. Beautifully put, but again… why is this so?

All That Is is literally all that is. Therefor It can only realize Its growth and development through the cooperation of Its collective and individual parts, because outside of those parts simply nothing exists: stimulus nor growth, raw material nor product, development nor improvement. That is not a weakness of All That Is, but the logical result of the shape It has chosen for Its reality. All human beings, all animals and all things, concrete or abstract, together form the sum total of all that exists, but the Totality is more than the result of adding up its parts. That Totality is not a brimfull repository of disconnected pieces, no fallen over type-case that by accident produces a sensible word. It is a unity, a one-ness, complete, outside of which there is nothing; the great Completeness that we help to construct: All That Is, the Creator, Olodumare, God! Let this filter through to your consciousness. Realize deep inside the marrow of your bones that you are a part of God, and that everything you do contributes to Its never ending Creation. Once you realize this, it becomes impossible for you to continue doing things half. You will consider it your glorious right to do things well! The doctrine of Dutch Ifa is the doctrine of total responsibility. Dutch Ifa-Orisha’s adherents are fully aware that they, both individually and combined, create the world that God wants to see. To make that world as good as possible down to its most minute details, that is the only thing It asks from us.

This is not an impossible demand, and you don’t need to constantly walk on the tips of your toes. For most things are quite good the way they are; even the imperfect has its value, for without imperfection growth and development are just theoretical fictions. All of us play a little game together, and that game is called “Playing All That Is”. It’s a kind of competition with very simple rules: all of us run, and try to reach the finish in front of the others. But that finish constantly moves away from us and so, every time we think we’re there, there always is one more step to go. The funny thing is that for each of us the finish moves away at different speeds. Those with great talents and capabilities must run faster than others who have less possibilities. And so no human being must run faster than he can, and the chances are perfectly equal: nobody ever reaches the finish. The Bible text “There are many who run, but only one is the winner” has lost all meaning to those who recognize that the game is endless, and partaking the prize.

Good and bad have no meaning

Still leaking... But does it really matter?This taking part exists of doing all things as good as possible, thus contributing to the never ending Creation. It is hard to imagine that anybody who has understood this, will purposely refuse to do their utmost best. But… there are so many reasons to let go the reigns every now and then without really wanting to! Should you feel guilty if that happens to you? A faucet that still leaks after you have put in a new washer – is that doing a bad job and should you be ashamed of yourself?

Yes and no. If being ashamed is your dearest wish then by all means do, but there is no real need, and seen from a somewhat more elevated level you haven’t even done a “bad job”. For you are part of God, and from the God-level the concepts good and bad lose every meaning. All That Is contains everything, the infinite good as well as the infinite bad. Both “infinites” counterbalance and thus cancel each other out, and we’re back at our comfortable starting point: good and bad have no meaning on the level of Olodumare. Of course, in a relative sense there sure is a difference between what us humans call good and bad. Bad is whatever gives yourself or others pain, and good is whatever does not do that at all, or at least to a lesser extend. My paternal grandfather croaked in 1956, but I still remember one of his favorite sayings on the matter: “What’s good for life is good, the rest is un-good”. I fear old Gramps would have found a lot of “un-good” if he were around today! So try to see it all in a relative light. That leaking faucet was irritating, and you would probably have done better to repair it correctly. That’s all. As far as I’m concerned you’re completely free to call your faulty reparation “bad”, but let it be a consolation to you that, bad or not, it was a contribution to growth and development. For something happened, and that is “better” than nothing.

There is yet another consolation. You feel you’ve failed, and you’re looking for excuses. If you hadn’t been in such a hurry you would have bought a better fitting washer. If your neighbor wouldn’t have borrowed your pipe wrench and never brought it back, you wouldn’t have used that lousy monkey wrench. If you hadn’t this…, if you hadn’t that… You can find dozens of reasons why you didn’t repair that faucet to the best of your capabilities, but you don’t need any of them. For what do they matter? Nothing! It’s over and done with! Although time does not exist on the level of Olodumare, us humans in our self-created reality pretend it does: the past is gone and the future ain’t here yet. So what part of time remains to live in? Good, well done: the present! It’s in the present that we live, work and achieve (or fail… that’s also a way of achieving). Don’t worry about yesterday, but take care that you do things the very best way today! Use the possibilities our time-based reality offers, to leave your mistakes behind you. Do whatever you do now, and let the dead bury the dead. That was Jesus who said that, I guess; a guy from another religion but he wasn’t too bad. Would have made a great Ifa priest, I reckon.

Omo Olodumare

The Dutch Ifa Church doesn’t prescribe many rules to its adherents, and the few it does prescribe are pretty easy to follow. Yet every now and then it is difficult to belong to our club, because more is expected from us than from others: the finish runs away from us much faster than it does from non-believers! Being totally responsible, hurting no one, doing everything better than others, not blaming anyone else but yourself… that ain’t nothing! But then again: our powers are not inconsiderable either: for aren’t we God’s own limbs, Its very hands and feet, and would It then allow us to fail? We can energize ourselves to our heart’s content from the primaeval energies of All That Is, and also our own incarnations, both past and future, help us to carry the present on our shoulders like All That Is wants us to do.

That “present” is a heavy load, but it ain’t too heavy. Long before we were born we were already part of All That Is, so how could we be less than that now, and fail? Our divine heritage cannot be taken from us, for there ain’t no one to buy: we’re all divine! I can imagine nothing that is wider, greater or more expansive than the reality of Dutch Ifa, because it is the reality of God Itself. That’s why I have no problem with the fact that more is expected from us than from others: that’s a small price to pay for being an Omo (offspring) of Olodumare. Don’t be afraid that your talents and capacities are insufficient to pay that price, your powers too little, your force too small. God’s inexhaustible wells and sources of power are at your disposal, Its reality opens mines filled with spiritual diamonds and gold! Drink freely from those wells and sources, dig power from those mines, for they’re yours by birthright. Since the beginning that never was to the end that will never come, you have been and will be part of All That Is. You are God.

 

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Ifalution-The Doctrine of Total Responsibility


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