Metaphysics simply deals with first principles and seeks to explain the nature of being or reality,and ontology. Many religions, interpreted in a substantiate sense, that is dealing withexplanations and beliefs (Clack and Clack 1998), would qualify as metaphysical. Further, whenMbiti poetically stated that “Africans are notoriously religious,” (Mbiti 1990: 1) we could alsosay that “Africans are notoriously metaphysical” though not in a purely philosophical sense of spectators and speculators, but as practitioners. Therefore the cultural practices of African peopleand their descendents are valid sources of knowledge (Asante 1990; Gyekye 1995; Diop 1974;Outlaw 2004; Obenga 2004). When these are studied, it is inevitable that one encounters theesoteric or the metaphysical.Though the mode of this work is reactionary it gives agency to various African traditions bycollecting concepts, practices, patterns, symbols, and terms from African cultures, indigenousand contemporary, continental and the Diaspora to discuss them as significant in light of emerging ideas in 21
century Western thought and culture. This epistemology is distributed intofive categories: Person, Time, Phenomenon, Concepts, and Healing. Hence, taking Diop’s cuethat man is both physical and metaphysical, let us examine the person.
In the Bântu-Kôngo ontology (Fu-Kiau, 2001; Thompson 1984) and indeed most Africanontologies (Mbiti 1990), the person is at the center. The person is priest or priestess of theuniverse (Mbiti 1991) and the fullest expression of creation (Fu-Kiau 2001). The person is a partof creation like animals, trees, and nature but distinct through empowerment by choice and theability to consciously direct the energies flowing through all creation. Generally speaking,African understandings of person are multifaceted (Kaphagawani 2004; Menkiti 2004) andcontain several intrinsic characteristics: (1) a person is made up of numerous components, (2) aperson has an active moral component; and that (3) the components are synchronized betweenthe physical and metaphysical bodies. This complexity described in the Bântu-Kôngo word forperson,
is a “set of concrete social relationships…a system of systems; the pattern of patterns in being” (Fu-Kiau 2001: 42).
n’kingu a n’kingu
” a principle of principles;such that
is able “to produce materially or technologically other mechanical systems” (Fu-Kiau 2001: 70). Therefore, a
is distinguished from other beings by intelligence (Diop1991) and a unique human quality (Ani, 1994). Fu-Kiau (2001) adds that
is not orcomparable to an animal because
has a dual soul-mind,
, which can remainand interact with the local or world community after death.Indeed, the composite and transcendent person is found throughout Africa. In ancient Egypt, thephysical body is called the
. In addition, the soul or
which according to Diop(1991) is equivalent of the double of the body found throughout Black Africa, the
is theimmortal soul, or aspect of the divine that is within, the shadow (
), the name (
), and heart(
). Often these aspects were rendered on temple structures as separate entities with their ownvibrant existence.
The Journal of Pan African Studies
, vol.2, no.3, March 2008