Are you aware that African spirituality beliefs are the original contributions to modern-day spirituality? They are a living example of the inseparable nature of the spiritual and physical worlds. A feature of African spirituality is that humans are holistic beings, meaning that we see spirituality and everyday life as one and the same.
It is hard to understand African spirituality by reading a book, watching a video, or doing similar activities. It is a journey into the nature of the African worldview. And into how the spirit world affects everyday life.
The basis of African tradition centers around the puzzle of how man relates to the world and how humans should live in society to achieve a common goal. Unlike in African spirituality, religion and spirituality are separated into component parts in western society. This is one reason why traditional African beliefs may seem so foreign to us today.
AFRICAN SPIRITUALITY BELIEFS
African spirituality is an umbrella term that describes the beliefs and practices that are indigenous to Africa. Three building blocks constitute African spirituality: belief in a Supreme Being and lesser spirits, ancestral veneration, and community. These beliefs and customs are the foundation of life on the continent. African spirituality is the “glue” that holds everything together; this is the reality of traditional African religion.
African spirituality is a holistic way of life and embodies the notion of living in harmony with nature and the world around you. Most people in non-traditional cultures don’t think much about the spiritual world that surrounds them. But Africans conceive spiritual phenomena in everyday life. It’s about aligning your physical life with your spiritual self. African spirituality is a holistic form of spirituality that aims to describe the totality of being a human in relation to every aspect of life.
Belief in Supreme and Lesser Spirits
Traditional African ideas about truth and fate are profoundly entrenched in the spirit realm. All social and spiritual phenomena govern the activities and deeds of spirit beings. It is vital to note that believing in spirits in all four categories (the Supreme Being, lesser divinities/gods, familiar spirits, and ancestors) dominates the African continent and its ancient religions and worldview.
The Creator (God) is first in the order of existence, followed by the deities, object-embodied spirits, ancestors’ spirits, and other non-human spirits that include benevolent, innocuous, and malevolent spirits. Humans stand between this colony of spiritual beings in the spirit realm and the natural world.
The Supreme God is believed to be the Creator of all – spirits, humans, plants, animals, and other life forces. In many African belief systems, this being is thought to be an impersonal deity not much concerned about the daily affairs of humans. In some traditions, this deity is considered feminine, in others masculine, and a combination of the two in some belief systems.
The existence of other impersonal and personal spirit beings, forces, powers, divinities, and gods also permeates the entire universe. These beings are assigned to care for specific regions, elements, humans, animals, plants, etc.
As a result, “this universe is fundamentally spiritual rather than physical,” and life has divine potential. Whatever occurs in the physical domain has a spiritual equivalent and vice versa. This is why we give offerings and sacrifices to effect positive change in the Earthly and Heavenly realms.
African spiritual beliefs hold that our ancestors are very much alive and among us. Though they may no longer exist in physical form, they maintain an active and ongoing presence in our lives. Whether we acknowledge or honor them, our ancestors are always around us – rewarding or admonishing us for our deeds or misdeeds.
Venerating, honoring, or connecting with our ancestors in various ways is key to maintaining salient family and individual connections. Doing so ensures prosperity, long life, and happiness for future generations. According to the African worldview, there are many ways to honor our ancestors, and traditions vary from culture to culture. But every African culture has one thing in common – they believe in nurturing ancestral bonds through prayers, rituals, and ceremonies.
The Principle of Community
The African community perspective is similar to the holistic view. Like the rest of the world, man is part of a community. Society is the man interacting with the human world, the natural world, and the spirit world.
Humans are not independent beings. That is, we live in a state of relationships and interconnectedness with all life forms. Also, we live within the context of this communal relationship and according to our collective mindset towards everyone. This ultimately means that our thoughts, words, actions, and deeds have a global effect on the collective.
Humans are not the only ones who are in the community; they are also in harmony with the worlds of spirits and natural elements. Humans should not assert their rights and independence but rather perform societal commitments and duties to maintain balance. As such, it is paramount that we respect all life forces to achieve equilibrium throughout the cosmos.
Kinship refers to familial links that may be traced back to our ancestors. But according to African belief, kinship does not end with human relationships. Instead, the African worldview accepts and encourages kinship or family relationships among all living elements.
That means one should consider his or her blood relatives, ancestors, spirit or totem animals, plants, rocks, trees, etc., as part of his or her cosmic family. In doing so, we naturally and innately maintain a state of homeostasis for all living beings.
African spirituality is often described as an African religion or a collection of cultural beliefs, values, traditions, and practices that African people have developed over centuries. In African societies, spirituality is a way of life. Most of Africa’s traditional religions are based on the belief that there is a profound spiritual layer to existence. And the African approach focuses on the interconnectedness of everything.
Learn more about African spirituality by listening to this episode of the African Spirit Reintegrated + Reimagined podcast:
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