Despiritualization: A Central Theme in Western Thought

by Dr. Oba T'Shaka

This despiritualized, alienated, materialistic, cerebral, intellectualorientation toward life, was to continue in the thoughts of so-called modernman. Isaac Newton revolutionized physics and the natural sciences "by reducingthe physical universe to a mathematical equation;" Adam Smith despiritualizedeconomics, reducing it to a mere material exchange, with no spiritualcomponent, as was true in the communal traditions of Africa and native Americawhere use, not ownership of land, was coupled with a moral responsibility toleave the land, air and water in better condition than you received it. Theworld of Adam Smith was a despiritualized world, where the land had no sacredquality; land was simply a private commodity, which the individual owner coulddo with it as he pleased. A despiritualized system of land ownership replaceda sacred system of land use, where the land, the air and the water were giftsof God to humanity. Africans and Native Americans could neither sell nordestroy the land because it was God's gift to humans and all living things.The communal conception of the land as sacred, required that the users of theland, air and water treat it with respect and reverence. Only responsible menand women would be given the right to use the land and water, because only theresponsible could be relied upon to pass the land on in better condition thanthey received it. Today, the Earth Mother's existence is threatened because ofthe rape carried out against her in the name of profit. John Locke, rootedfirmly in western thought, despiritualized politics, while Darwin, a Britishsubject, living in the heyday of British imperialism, deified British powerover much of the world, through what he claimed was the law of "the survival ofthe fittest." It did not matter to Darwin that neither the universe nor Mothernature operated on the strict law of the "survival of the fittest." Theuniverse operates on the principle of harmony, justice, balance, and rightorder, with the forces of harmony and balance outweighing the forces onconflict and imbalance. The sun does not attempt to suppress the moon, andwhile animals prey on natural enemies for food, including weaker prey, no partof the animal kingdom, except man wages war on members of its own species, oron animals in general. On the level of the natural sciences, physics wasdespiritualized by separating it from metaphysics. Now modern physics (quantummechanics, elementary particle theory), has revealed that the fundamentalforces of nature, which are invisible by definition, give rise to materialconsequences, which are the visible events in the universe. The classicalEuro-centric paradigm cannot explain this, therefore some western scientisthave looked outside of the European philosophic and scientific tradition toexplain certain aspects of reality. On the level of astronomy, western sciencehas turned its back on the great scientific legacy of the civilizations ofKemet, Ta-Seti, the Dogon, India, China, the Olmecs, Mayans, Toltecs and Aztecsto name only a few, who understood that astronomy and astrology wereinseparable. The ancients of these cultures all understood that the physicalscience of astronomy had limited meaning to humanity without the spiritualscience of astrology, which made it clear how the visible and invisible above,effected life below, on earth. Today, the pope in Rome, has the largestlibrary on astrology in the world. While many popes have had astrologers, TheCatholic Church has condemned astrology as superstitious. On the level ofmedicine, western medicine was despiritualized when spiritual medicine wasseparated from physical medicine. Acupuncture, a Chinese system of medicine,is based upon a knowledge of the invisible energy or meridian forces within thebody. Western medicine is the only medical system in the world that separatesthe physical side of medicine from its spiritual component.

The dominant trend of western thought and science has been to despiritualizethought and science, taking it away from the noble Kemetic (Egyptian) materialspiritual science, that made all of the sciences of Kemet (Egypt) and Africa anoble Sacred Science. These great Sacred Sciences encouraged people to live inharmony with each other, Mother nature, and the cosmos so that they could risefrom the lower intellectual level to the higher level of synthesis betweenintuition and reason, which leads to harmony, truth, balance and justice.

In this mad, despiritualized, intellectual, purely material plunge into thelower material self, those who become infected with this western mentalitybecame the great loser. What western humanity and those who took on the westernmind set lost, in the pursuit of the material to the denial of the invisiblespiritual, was a knowledge of self. The Western mind, in reducing the cosmosto a material, theoretical equation, devoid of inner spiritual meaning, lost ameaningful connection with the invisible above, that provides the basis forhumanity understanding its identity, destiny, or life purpose below on thisearth.

The despiritualization of the social sciences, the humanities, and thephysical sciences meant that minus the spiritual component, science could nolonger serve as a guide for human development from the lower to the higherself. This was the original purpose of all the humanities, liberal arts, andsciences; all were part of Sacred Cosmic Science, which taught humanity "asabove so below." The law of harmony, truth, balance, justice, and right orderthat is above, was to be internalized and practiced below. Humanity was taughtthrough the ancient mystery systems that each human being was a miniatureuniverse within the larger universe. All of the Sacred Cosmic Sciences weredesigned to place man and woman in connection with their human destiny of lifepurpose and the divine eternal, just part of their nature. Men and women weretaught to themselves; since people are miniature universes, self-knowledge wasunderstood to be the basis for all knowledge.

With the descent into the purely material realm, the western mind and allthose who became afflicted with the western mentality, lost an understandingthat every part of the cosmos is related and connected to every other part. Toknow ourselves, is to know the universe. To see the universe, humanity andnature as one, is to regard all life, both human and non-human with reverenceand respect. True self-knowledge leads the knower to understand that men andwomen, and humanity-at-large are a cosmic humanity, a humanity that is a mirrorof the cosmos; when humanity chooses to live in harmony with the cosmos,humanity chooses to live in harmony with itself. When humanity chooses to livein conflict with the cosmos, then conflict pervades the relationships of manand woman as well.

This descent into the unbalanced purely material realm not only denied thosewith the western mind-set a knowledge of self, it also denied them of any valueor knowledge of the path to the higher self, the path of self-cultivation.African, Eastern, and Native American cultures all understand thatself-cultivation is the means whereby man and woman save themselves, morallyand spiritually. Self-cultivation is to humanity, what a mother's disciplineis to her child. Self-cultivation is the process through which human beingsbecome civilized, in the came manner that a mother's love, discipline, andwisdom are the way that a child grows up to be a good civilized human being.Like self-cultivation, when a mother practices good loving discipline, sheteaches her child to discipline himself or herself.

By being guided by the higher spiritual ideal of Maat, the ancient Kemites(Egyptians) had a noble vision that serves as a rudder and beam in their dailylife. The invisible rudder of Maat that guided heaven, inspired man and womanto do their best to reflect the invisible heavenly order in their thoughts,words, and actions. Through a daily system of self examination, people workedto examine their laws of the universe. On a daily basis, peopleself-cultivated through reviewing their thoughts, words and actions, and soughtto honestly determine why they thought, spoke, or acted falsely. When theirthoughts, words, and actions were true and straight like Maat, they praisedthemselves, encouraging themselves to stay on this eternal heavenly path. Thispath of self-cultivation is described in detail in The Art of Leadership,Volume II, in the chapter entitled "Free the Mind." The entire educationalsystem was geared toward instilling a love of wisdom and truth. The purpose ofself-cultivation was to enable humanity to free itself of wrongdoing so thathumanity could return to the good, or the God within.

Nowhere is western man's failure to achieve the higher state of spiritualgoodness more clear than in the area of Christianity. Even before capitalismhad emerged out of feudalism and mercantilism as the despiritualizing force inthe West and the world, Christianity had taken a course that reduced it tosecular force, more interested in achieving wealth and power than in achievingthe elevation of the human soul.

Historically, Christianity was an out growth of the Kemetic (Egyptian) mysteryreligion, that gave birth to Judaism and Islam. From the Kemetic (Egyptian)Mystery System, Judaism derived the idea of monotheism or one God. Moses, thebringer to Judaism and Christianity of the Ten Commandments, was a priest inthe Kemetic Mystery System In the Egyptian Mystery System, Moses learned thenoble forty-two Confessions of Innocence, that contained all of the TenCommandments, and thirty-two other noble moral teachings. The idea of theChristian Trinity, of the Father, Son and the Mother, which was later changedto the Father, Son and holy spirit, had been preceded by the Egyptian Trinityof the father (Auser), the son (Heru) and the mother (Auset). While theMother, originally the Black Madonna, was removed from the Christian trinity,she had been a central part of Christianity at its origin, as she had beencentral to the Kemetic (Egyptian) Mystery System. To this day, the CopticChristians of Ethiopia, give the Mother, or Mary, a central role in theircosmogony. The notion of the immaculate conception in Christianity is precededby the immaculate conception in Egyptian mystery teachings, where Auset hasimmaculate conception through the spirit of Auser, who undergoes life, deathand rebirth. The life of Heru the younger and Heru the elder parallels thelife of Jesus Christ.

In the beginning, Christianity put forward a noble version for humanity, ashad the Egyptian Mystery System, as well as the Yoruba, Dogon, Buddhist, NativeAmerican, and Islamic systems. Christianity, like the Egyptian Mystery System,proclaimed itself as a universal religion, whose God was the God of all people.Christianity taught human brotherhood and sisterhood, moral excellence andselflessness. Christ, like Buddha before him, served as a moral model for thenew faith. Christ embodied humility and selfless service to others, throughmoral teaching, healing, and an outstanding moral example. Christ is describedin the Bible as having hair of lambs wool and skin of copper, hardly the white,blond-haired, blue-eyed image of Christ first portrayed in Michael Angelo'sartistic work in the Sistine Chapel.

However as Marimbi Ani notes in Yurugu, Christian theology put forwardan idea of domination and control by man over nature. Man was proclaimed to bethe lord over nature. Western Christianity used monotheism as a justificationfor universal conquest and control of non-Christian peoples.

Western Christianity, starting with the Catholic Church operated on the samewill-to-power ethic as did the Western nation state, which Christianity helpedto give birth to. Catholic Popes struggled with European Kings over earthlypower. Absolute control and domination became the driving force of so-calledsacred and secular forces. The institution of Western slavery naturallyfollowed from the will-to-power ethic, that was so central to the organizationof Western Christianity and the Western nation state.

How a church whose pope's had divided the world between Portugal and Spain,for the purpose of slavery, extermination, and conquest, could be the agency ofsalvation was never explained. Christianity, which offered so much spiritualhope for humanity, had descended into another western secular enterprise. Itis ironic that it is the African victim of the western Christian slaveenterprise, who has become one of the true Christians in the world, who intheir liberation theology have taught the doctrine of being Christ-like, byliving a life of righteousness. The African victim of western Christianoppression has given the world a Christian vision that instead of separatingGod from man, teaches humanity that God dwells within, and this God is a God ofjustice who does not sanction slavery, genocide, white supremacy, and otherforms of oppression. While this noble voice has spoken a liberationiststheology, unfortunately, too many Black churches treat religion like abusiness, and Jesus like a stickup artist who only preaches to a fullcollection plate.

This materialistic, despiritualizing trend, which started with the Greeks, hasreached its extreme under the industrial and the post industrial systems. AsChancellor Williams noted in his greatest work, The Rebirth of AfricanCivilization, the industrial, and now post-industrial system, money, theultimate symbol of materialism, has come to determine the course and centralvalue of modern civilization. Through the power of money, the industrial andthe post-industrial system have been able to buy the best minds to create newtruths, sophist's truths, which are presented repeatedly and subliminally sothat they are accepted as the only truths. Money has created an artificialculture of large shopping centers that have become the new cathedrals of theWest and much of the world. Materially hungry shoppers have been taught toworship gold, diamonds, shiny cars, and sleek wardrobes, the way the ancientswere taught to worship truth and justice.

For many, money is god. Material accumulation, gained at the expense of thepoor, is worshipped, and its possessors have become the standard of civilizedman. The rich for many, are held in higher regard than Jesus, in fact, insteadof being concerned about being Christ like, western Christianity and too muchof the rest of the world is caught up in a frenzy of becoming Lee Iococas orRoss Perots. These men have been so idolized that their worshipful followersfeel blessed if they will use their wealth to become the people's servants. Asthrough a millionaire or a billionaire could be any one's servant.

In the industrial age, both capitalism and Marxism have both been expressionsof the western drive for the material to the exclusion of the higher spiritualpath. Industrial and post-industrial capitalism is a system where the few cangain as much material wealth as is possible at the expense of the many.Marxism, forged as an industrial philosophy in reaction to industrialcapitalism has operated on the materialistic imperative, except in a seeminglymore humane way. Marxism's virtue and great appeal lies in its promise tospread the material wealth around. This intention made Marxism seen morehumane than capitalism. Yet Marxism has failed to deliver on its promise tospread the material prosperity, precisely because it remained faithful to thewestern paradigm--that matter is real and that the spiritual is unreal. Bylimiting its paradigm to the acquisition of material goods by the many, Marxismignored the basis of the just society, just people. Neither western Marxism ofwestern capitalism has within its paradigm the model for developing a betterhuman being. The acquisition of goods, whether for the few or the many, ratherthen being just, and living just, is the central drive of both capitalism andMarxism. In centering its paradigm on material acquisition, Marxism failed tounderstand that the basis for the just society is empowering just people togovern that society. Governing every phase of society by all the just malesand females is the basis for the just society. Lacking a vision of a balancedspiritual material paradigm where possible, Marxism descended into a systemwhere dominance of the masculine intellect, where the revolutionary theorybecame a religion, and the leaders became gods who were sole knowers of thecorrect revolutionary path. The theory of the dictatorship of the proletariatbecame a disguise for a few powerful men whose primary motive, with a fewexceptions (Castro, Ho Chi Minh) was the exercise of the will-to-power.Marxist societies, like their capitalist counterparts, remain societies wherethe powerful few dictate to the many, through either communist parties, orthrough a dictatorship of money, which controls the press, the people'srepresentatives, and the electoral process itself.

Today, the western paradigm, rooted in the will-to-power, alienation,conflict, and a materialistic despiritualization is collapsing before our eyes.The mad pursuit of the material, and the effort by western scientists todominate nature, has produced a hole in the ozone, and dangerous phenomenacalled global warning. If this deadly confrontation between western man andnature is not reversed, the earth will become uninhabitable. What is requiredis nothing less than a world view that reflects a balance between themasculine, and the feminine, and between humanity and Mother Nature. The Westmust begin to turn towards the East and towards Africa to a balanced paradigmof male-female, masculine-feminine, humanity and nature balance andsynthesis.

(Excerpted from "Chapter 3--The Western World View: The Path Away from theJust Society" of the book Return To The African Mother Principle of Male andFemale Equality, Volume I )

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Oba T'Shaka is the chair of the Black StudiesDepartment of San Francisco State University. He is the author of the booksThe Art of Leadership, Volumes I & II, and The political Legacyof Malcolm X. He is the National vice chairman (Organizing & Training)of the National Black United Front (NBUF).

The book Return To The African Mother Principle of Male and Female Equality,Volume I can be obtained from:

Pan African Publishers
11015 Monan Street
Oakland, California 94605
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