The Wholistic Health/Self-Development Community
At the Crown Heights Youth Collective in Brooklyn, we studies Aikido and were introduced to “spiritual culture,” a term Master Butler used, and defined as the glue that bind one's physical culture. In addition to being a martial artist, Master Butler was an acupuncturist, and it was through him treating me, I was also introduced to alternative medicines/treatments. During our three years of working with Master Butler, I “officially” became a part of the wholistic health/self development community. Although we only did Aikido with Master Butler, I continued to do yoga on my own (and still practice to this day. In fact I intend on getting certified in Egyptian Yoga very soon.) I was still political, taught high school history, and carried on in class like Dr. Ben, maybe worse, but I realized that there was some personal development I needed to make me become a more consistent, reliable, loving, and balanced person. It was not going to happen by studying history, going to lectures, and engaging in debates. Something we learned from Master Butler, is that these activities might change your knowledge but not your being. (Asa Hilliard once said that knowledge does not lead to transformation.) The change in being was an internal process not an external one. There was no short cut—this work required work on the self. He told us our race needed more persons with being—discipline, character. He explained that that was part of the purpose for the various initiations in Afrikan culture. Master Butler's sessions became our initiation. Later Prof. Milford Graves' training would provide another initiation for me and several of the same brothers that trained with Master Butler.
In this community I was exposed to folks that did yoga, Tai Chi, were vegans, vegetarians, raw foodists, into tarot, numerology, astrology, esotericism, and alternative medicines/treatments. Though many of these items can be found in traditional society, not all are present. For example, there is no veganism, vegetarianism, or raw foodism as a way of life in traditional Afrika. (And all the breathatarians died. LOL!) There are rituals, shrine taboos, and other restrictions that temporarily place limits on one's diet—the key word is temporarily. Afrikans eat raw foods to the extent they eat fruit and certain vegetables are lightly cooked, but again, raw foodism as a way of life, does not exist. Tarot, numerology, and astrology are different divination systems, and you will find various elements of each in different Afrikan societies. Divination systems speak to us or provide prophecy, which in Afrika is based on the idea that everything has vitality or life force. And life force is constantly interacting and effecting life force, shaping and determining events. How is this possible? Because Nature is alive—a life force. When Nature speaks and we hear it, IT BECOMES THE WORD! Master Butler taught us to respect divination. He use to say, “When in doubt, divine it out!”
Upon entering this community, I knew that Kemet possess much of the knowledge that was found in various Asian societies. (The fact is that these elements were in Asian societies not necessarily because the Kemeyu had carried them their (cultural diffusion) but because earlier Afrikan migrants had laid the foundations for the Asian river valley civilization any way!) For example, martial arts whose origin is often tied to China, can be seen on the temple walls in Beni-Hassan in Kemet. We know various Afrikan societies had martial arts, Angolan capoiera being just one of them. We are aware of the stick fighting techniques that exist throughout the continent. Just as another example, Tantric and Taoist yogas (sexual yogas) are both associated with Asia, but the San, an Afrikan people (who incidentally have the oldest DNA according to the Human Genome study) also practice it. The San tell us that there is an energy called !num that resides in the stomach and when the body is heated up, this energy moves up the spine until it reaches the head. Once in the head a person enters a trance state called kia, where healing, prophecy or seeing, as well as other paranormal activities are possible. Some San say they can experience kia during sexual intercourse. The traditions of Indian and Tibetan Tantric tell us the original archaic teachers or “lineage holders” were dark skinned and very short of stature with tightly curled hair. Who might these “lineage holders” be? The San no doubt. Various peoples of southern Afrika speak of an internal energy, umbilini, which rises up the spine and that when it reaches the head one experiences “seeing.” Sexual yoga (as well as other sexual techniques) is part of the Afrikan tradition. And, yes, sexual yoga was also found in Kemet, where the energy that rose up the spine was called sa.
Let's look at Kemet. Kemetic spirituality, a very communal, ancestor dominated system concerned with maintaining the harmony of existence, becomes misunderstood, and treated as a system of personal salvation for the individual. It is in this regard that we can see that Afrikan and Asian (and European) spiritual systems have different intentionalities and worldviews. Let's be very clear: Kemetic spirituality was Afrikan, no different from the Yoruba or Akan or Dogon. It's a question of emphasis and understanding. For example, while we are all amazed by the Dogon cosmology, we overlook the fact that they too venerate the deities and ancestors. When we speak of Kemet, we talk about its arts and sciences but downplay its veneration of the deities and ancestors, their use of divination, and the fact that they lived according to cosmology, which were all vehicles that produced those “heralded” arts and sciences. Kemet is important if for no other reason than it has left us a record. One of the most prominent features of Kemetic society was its “priesthood.” The Kemeyu deemed this institution so important that they supported an extremely large one. Of all that physically survived Kemet, she left us her “temples” and other edifices that were meant for spiritual edification. We have to ask ourselves, “Why?” Because these buildings and the institution they housed were essential in creating the type of persons who could sustain culture.
I have pointed out in my book that Afrikans do not believe people are born human beings. The human being is created through culture. But a person's development does not stop there. Just as the Yoruba teach that the person with a developed ori (“head,” actually the pituitary gland) can become an orisa, all Afrikan societies share in the notion of the deification of the human being. Actual development proceeds from child, to human being (adult), to elder, to ancestor. However, for some people, beyond adulthood existed the possibility of continued spiritual growth and increased power (frequently paranormal) that was equated with deity. The temple in Kemet was the place designed for such growth. It was the place where self-mastery was realized. It was the place where being was developed creating a person of discipline and character, one qualified to lead.
As stated already, most people in this group see themselves as individual on a personal quest for self-development. But in actuality, these are the persons that in a traditional setting would be training for leadership and expected to play prominent leadership roles in their societies. Instead, the individual's developing in this community/group are generally disconnected from an Afrikan cultural foundation. They would be the leadership in-training in Kemet, where naturally they would have been selected from the various villages and thus by default would come from cultural-religious communities. And they would understand the world through that community's lens. Today, however, these two communities, the wholistic health/self development and the cultural-religious communities, are virtual strangers--alienated from each other. Sadly, the community that should provide the leadership in a traditional Afrikan system has moved from a European center to an Asia one not realizing that their journey is still incomplete. They have not come home to Afrika, and that they can only come home properly if they are cultivated through a cultural-religious foundation.