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African Rites of Passage Symbols

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Significant Symbols in African Tradition are a synthesis requiring very high level thinking and oriented to Esoteric Knowledge concerned with an understanding of the Cosmos and ones Selfhood. By being Metaphysical "Logic Figures of Speech," their meaning, rather than lying in the Symbol itself, points to something in the spirit world related to power, time, or eternity that does not separate Spirit and Matter. Again, their purpose is to act as a bridge between two realities--man and the spirit world. In African Tradition a Spiritual Symbol = the Cause (or Source) of "what something is" when it comes into Being + the essence of that Being + that Being's Effect based upon "what it does" + the Being's assumed appearance incorporated into an Image. For example, African Names, believed to derive from Spiritual realms, and their inherent strengths and attributes, ensure unity of an individual with her/his Soul, the final seal of completeness (Donkor, African Spirituality p63).

A Supernatural Symbol = an assumed Spirit message + its observed or sensed Effects + an assumed Image appearance. Illustrating a Composite Supernatural Symbol in an early Ancient African mythological story is the god Tehuti, the ibis-headed god--conceived of symbolically as a bird form of the transcendent principle. After being borrowed into Greece during their mythological Olympian period under the name Hermes, he recovered attributes of the bird life to add to his chthonic (Underworld) nature as a serpent. His staff acquired wings above the serpents, becoming the Caduceus (an Ancient African development) or winged staff of Mercury. Meanwhile, the god himself became the "flying man' with a winged hat and sandals. Here, notice the full power of transcendence whereby the lower transcendence from Underworld snake-consciousness passes through the medium of earthly reality, and finally attaining transcendence to superhuman in his winged flights.

Sythesized Spirit/Matter Astral Symbolism is a form of "Heart" or Soul-felt suggestion whose symbol is gathered from multiple planes of existence. For example, Water, rites, and other things are used for Symbolic Cleansing Rituals--i.e. the purifying of the body and mind of whatever is self-defeating. The more vivid the visual imagery used, the stronger the suggestion. Ancient African Shaman perhaps said: "As the river always flows forward and never back, so your illness will never return." To make this Symbolism effective, they utilized those Right Brain faculties enabling seeing inner factors that unify things, based on their mutual relationships and interdependence with each other and the whole. By going even deeper so as to perceive all the structural components underlying things and events, they were able to see the entire Circle of Wholism. This wholistic mode of thinking is called Synthesis (Amen, Metu Neter II:105). Aspects of the Circle of Wholism are then expressed through abstract or metaphoric use of Images and Symbols of things and events. Still the Receiver's Intuition is indispensable in the interpretation of these Images and Symbols. Allow me to inter-relate all of this.

Rites of Passage were among African Shamans' earliest forms of sacred traditions. Its intention was for its Symbols of Transcendence to connect Initiates with periods of transition in their lives. Initiation begins with a Rite of Submission (willingly shedding ones False Self); followed by a period of physical Containment; and then, by a further Rite of Liberation. Mentally, the Rite's "Symbols of Transcendence" are those representing ones striving to attain a Higher (Divinity) Self. Overall, this relates to particular phases in ones life and unless they are properly understood and translated into a new way of life, the advantages are lost. But its symbols do not seek to integrate the Initiate with any religious doctrine or secular group-consciousness. Instead, they point to ones need for liberation from any state of being that is too immature, too fixed, or is evil. In other words, they concern ones release from--or transcendence of--any confining pattern of existence, as one moves toward an elevated or more mature stage of development. Transcendence Knowledge is coming to the reality of the instability of all external things. Only what comes from ones Soul is stable--the source for living a steady unchanging life inside a changeless reality. In this way one can reconcile the conflicting elements of ones personality--striking a balance that makes one truly human and truly master of oneself--master of what one does--and master of the situation one is in. This Selfhood Anchor Image is an ideal lifetime goal.


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