Despiritualization: A Central Theme in Western Thought

by Dr. Oba T'Shaka

This despiritualized, alienated, materialistic, cerebral, intellectual orientation toward life, was to continue in the thoughts of so-called modern man. Isaac Newton revolutionized physics and the natural sciences "by reducing the physical universe to a mathematical equation;" Adam Smith despiritualized economics, reducing it to a mere material exchange, with no spiritual component, as was true in the communal traditions of Africa and native America where use, not ownership of land, was coupled with a moral responsibility to leave the land, air and water in better condition than you received it. The world of Adam Smith was a despiritualized world, where the land had no sacred quality; land was simply a private commodity, which the individual owner could do with it as he pleased. A despiritualized system of land ownership replaced a sacred system of land use, where the land, the air and the water were gifts of God to humanity. Africans and Native Americans could neither sell nor destroy 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 the land, air and water treat it with respect and reverence. Only responsible men and women would be given the right to use the land and water, because only the responsible could be relied upon to pass the land on in better condition than they received it. Today, the Earth Mother's existence is threatened because of the rape carried out against her in the name of profit. John Locke, rooted firmly in western thought, despiritualized politics, while Darwin, a British subject, living in the heyday of British imperialism, deified British power over much of the world, through what he claimed was the law of "the survival of the fittest." It did not matter to Darwin that neither the universe nor Mother nature operated on the strict law of the "survival of the fittest." The universe operates on the principle of harmony, justice, balance, and right order, with the forces of harmony and balance outweighing the forces on conflict and imbalance. The sun does not attempt to suppress the moon, and while animals prey on natural enemies for food, including weaker prey, no part of the animal kingdom, except man wages war on members of its own species, or on animals in general. On the level of the natural sciences, physics was despiritualized by separating it from metaphysics. Now modern physics (quantum mechanics, elementary particle theory), has revealed that the fundamental forces of nature, which are invisible by definition, give rise to material consequences, which are the visible events in the universe. The classical Euro-centric paradigm cannot explain this, therefore some western scientist have looked outside of the European philosophic and scientific tradition to explain certain aspects of reality. On the level of astronomy, western science has turned its back on the great scientific legacy of the civilizations of Kemet, Ta-Seti, the Dogon, India, China, the Olmecs, Mayans, Toltecs and Aztecs to name only a few, who understood that astronomy and astrology were inseparable. The ancients of these cultures all understood that the physical science of astronomy had limited meaning to humanity without the spiritual science of astrology, which made it clear how the visible and invisible above, effected life below, on earth. Today, the pope in Rome, has the largest library on astrology in the world. While many popes have had astrologers, The Catholic Church has condemned astrology as superstitious. On the level of medicine, western medicine was despiritualized when spiritual medicine was separated from physical medicine. Acupuncture, a Chinese system of medicine, is based upon a knowledge of the invisible energy or meridian forces within the body. Western medicine is the only medical system in the world that separates the physical side of medicine from its spiritual component.

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

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

The despiritualization of the social sciences, the humanities, and the physical sciences meant that minus the spiritual component, science could no longer serve as a guide for human development from the lower to the higher self. This was the original purpose of all the humanities, liberal arts, and sciences; all were part of Sacred Cosmic Science, which taught humanity "as above so below." The law of harmony, truth, balance, justice, and right order that is above, was to be internalized and practiced below. Humanity was taught through the ancient mystery systems that each human being was a miniature universe within the larger universe. All of the Sacred Cosmic Sciences were designed to place man and woman in connection with their human destiny of life purpose and the divine eternal, just part of their nature. Men and women were taught to themselves; since people are miniature universes, self-knowledge was understood to be the basis for all knowledge.

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

This descent into the unbalanced purely material realm not only denied those with the western mind-set a knowledge of self, it also denied them of any value or knowledge of the path to the higher self, the path of self-cultivation. African, Eastern, and Native American cultures all understand that self-cultivation is the means whereby man and woman save themselves, morally and spiritually. Self-cultivation is to humanity, what a mother's discipline is to her child. Self-cultivation is the process through which human beings become civilized, in the came manner that a mother's love, discipline, and wisdom 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, she teaches 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 daily life. The invisible rudder of Maat that guided heaven, inspired man and woman to do their best to reflect the invisible heavenly order in their thoughts, words, and actions. Through a daily system of self examination, people worked to examine their laws of the universe. On a daily basis, people self-cultivated through reviewing their thoughts, words and actions, and sought to honestly determine why they thought, spoke, or acted falsely. When their thoughts, words, and actions were true and straight like Maat, they praised themselves, encouraging themselves to stay on this eternal heavenly path. This path of self-cultivation is described in detail in The Art of Leadership, Volume II, in the chapter entitled "Free the Mind." The entire educational system was geared toward instilling a love of wisdom and truth. The purpose of self-cultivation was to enable humanity to free itself of wrongdoing so that humanity could return to the good, or the God within.

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

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

In the beginning, Christianity put forward a noble version for humanity, as had the Egyptian Mystery System, as well as the Yoruba, Dogon, Buddhist, Native American, 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 and selflessness. Christ, like Buddha before him, served as a moral model for the new faith. Christ embodied humility and selfless service to others, through moral teaching, healing, and an outstanding moral example. Christ is described in 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's artistic work in the Sistine Chapel.

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

Western Christianity, starting with the Catholic Church operated on the same will-to-power ethic as did the Western nation state, which Christianity helped to give birth to. Catholic Popes struggled with European Kings over earthly power. Absolute control and domination became the driving force of so-called sacred and secular forces. The institution of Western slavery naturally followed from the will-to-power ethic, that was so central to the organization of 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 of salvation was never explained. Christianity, which offered so much spiritual hope for humanity, had descended into another western secular enterprise. It is ironic that it is the African victim of the western Christian slave enterprise, who has become one of the true Christians in the world, who in their liberation theology have taught the doctrine of being Christ-like, by living a life of righteousness. The African victim of western Christian oppression has given the world a Christian vision that instead of separating God from man, teaches humanity that God dwells within, and this God is a God of justice who does not sanction slavery, genocide, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression. While this noble voice has spoken a liberationists theology, unfortunately, too many Black churches treat religion like a business, and Jesus like a stickup artist who only preaches to a full collection plate.

This materialistic, despiritualizing trend, which started with the Greeks, has reached its extreme under the industrial and the post industrial systems. As Chancellor Williams noted in his greatest work, The Rebirth of African Civilization, the industrial, and now post-industrial system, money, the ultimate symbol of materialism, has come to determine the course and central value of modern civilization. Through the power of money, the industrial and the post-industrial system have been able to buy the best minds to create new truths, sophist's truths, which are presented repeatedly and subliminally so that they are accepted as the only truths. Money has created an artificial culture of large shopping centers that have become the new cathedrals of the West and much of the world. Materially hungry shoppers have been taught to worship gold, diamonds, shiny cars, and sleek wardrobes, the way the ancients were taught to worship truth and justice.

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

In the industrial age, both capitalism and Marxism have both been expressions of the western drive for the material to the exclusion of the higher spiritual path. Industrial and post-industrial capitalism is a system where the few can gain as much material wealth as is possible at the expense of the many. Marxism, forged as an industrial philosophy in reaction to industrial capitalism has operated on the materialistic imperative, except in a seemingly more humane way. Marxism's virtue and great appeal lies in its promise to spread the material wealth around. This intention made Marxism seen more humane than capitalism. Yet Marxism has failed to deliver on its promise to spread the material prosperity, precisely because it remained faithful to the western paradigm--that matter is real and that the spiritual is unreal. By limiting its paradigm to the acquisition of material goods by the many, Marxism ignored the basis of the just society, just people. Neither western Marxism of western capitalism has within its paradigm the model for developing a better human being. The acquisition of goods, whether for the few or the many, rather then being just, and living just, is the central drive of both capitalism and Marxism. In centering its paradigm on material acquisition, Marxism failed to understand that the basis for the just society is empowering just people to govern that society. Governing every phase of society by all the just males and females is the basis for the just society. Lacking a vision of a balanced spiritual material paradigm where possible, Marxism descended into a system where dominance of the masculine intellect, where the revolutionary theory became a religion, and the leaders became gods who were sole knowers of the correct revolutionary path. The theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat became a disguise for a few powerful men whose primary motive, with a few exceptions (Castro, Ho Chi Minh) was the exercise of the will-to-power. Marxist societies, like their capitalist counterparts, remain societies where the powerful few dictate to the many, through either communist parties, or through a dictatorship of money, which controls the press, the people's representatives, 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 to dominate nature, has produced a hole in the ozone, and dangerous phenomena called global warning. If this deadly confrontation between western man and nature is not reversed, the earth will become uninhabitable. What is required is nothing less than a world view that reflects a balance between the masculine, and the feminine, and between humanity and Mother Nature. The West must begin to turn towards the East and towards Africa to a balanced paradigm of male-female, masculine-feminine, humanity and nature balance and synthesis.

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


Oba T'Shaka is the chair of the Black Studies Department of San Francisco State University. He is the author of the books The Art of Leadership, Volumes I & II, and The political Legacy of 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
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Oakland, California 94605
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