Ifa is not Yoruba

April 1, 2013 by · 10 Comments
Filed under: Ifalution: the larger picture 

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Old globeI’ll be pissing off a lot of people by stating that Ifa is not Yoruba. Even the name Ifa is just a dialect version from a large cluster of names for the same thing: Fa, Ifa, Evwa, Afa, Ebba, Eva. But… what’s in a name? That which we call Ifa, by any other name would be as good. In fact it is (happy grin)!

So… Ifa, being the Wisdom of Nature, definitely is not Yoruba. Ifa/Nature was there long before Yorubas, Americans, Dutch, Cubans etcetera came (Members: click to read on)


Total responsibility

March 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Total responsibility
Filed under: Ifalution: the larger picture 

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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


Matter doesn’t matter

March 4, 2013 by · 1 Comment
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This is (among many others) the kind of thing that our Ifalution section will be about. Like “matter doesn’t matter”… it is Consciousness (call it “Ori” if you like!) that makes and is whatever is… including you!


Ifalution: Ifa Evolution

March 3, 2013 by · 4 Comments
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Evolution to Ifa

Under the link Ifalution in the top navigation bar, you’ll find the very fledgeling beginning of a project I’ve been thinking about and working on for a long time: finding, and evolving ourselves towards, Ifa as a world philosophy instead of simply an “African Traditional Religion”. Ifa itself doesn’t need to evolve – it is my belief (call it a “working hypothesis” if you like to) that Ifa encompasses all and everything in the world, in our universe, and in our individual and collective realities. We have to evolve towards Ifa! I want to get rid of the idea of a “chosen people” or a “color of preference”, and when progressing along these lines I will make clear to you how Ifa is waiting for you to practice Ifa your way, according to your culture, your society and your geographical position.

I think Ifa is universal, and wants to be practised in whatever particular way that works best for you! I’ll keep you posted!

 

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Ifalution-Ifalution