A Summary Of The Book: The Future Of Catholic Priesthood In Igboland

Introduction and a General Overview of the Structure of the Book

The Future of Catholic Priesthood in Igboland: The Dangers and Challenges Ahead, is authored by Rev. Fr. Cornelius Uche Okeke and was first published in Nigeria by GiPi Publications, Abuja in 2006. It is a research work intended to examine the current status of the Catholic priesthood in Igboland with an eye on evaluating the methods of formation given to future priests in Igboland. With concrete data and evidences, the study highlights the inadequacies in the current system of formation, points out its implication for the future of the Catholic priesthood in Igboland and offers both theoretical and practical proposals for the formation of future Igbo catholic priests. The 252 paged work is divided into 3 parts with 7 chapters in all. Part I examines the lights and shadows of Igbo Catholic Priests. Part II using the analysis of the data obtained during the research examines how the Igbo culture affects priestly formation and ministry in Igboland while in Part III, after examining the current methods of forming Igbo priests, the author identifies some inadequacies in the method of formation and makes theoretical and practical proposals for the formation of future Igbo priests.

In summarizing this book, rather than present a general overview of the various chapters as a summary, I intend to mention and summarize the principal topics the author discussed in the book.

Lights and Shadows of Igbo Catholic Priests

Restating the observations of the bishops of Onitsha and Owerri provinces after an honest self-appraisal and a collective stock-taking of priestly ministry in Igboland as contained in the document, The Igbo Catholic Priest at the Threshold of the Third Millenium, the author reiterates the signs of the times that express the lights and shadows of Igbo catholic priests. According to him, the lights (strengths) of Igbo priests include their hard work, dedication to duty (irrespective of prevailing challenges) and the growing number of vocations to the priesthood. The shadows of Igbo priests present themselves in the inordinate quest for acquisition of money, fame, power, secular titles and academic degrees. Others are; inauthentic priestly celibacy characterized by imprudence in dealing with women and priests’ sexual escapades, arrogance and high-handedness in exercising authority and lack of enthusiasm in the pastoral ministry.

Seminarians’ Expectations of the Priesthood

In order to determine what Igbo seminarians are looking for in the priesthood, the author conducted a survey which compared first, the life and expectations in the priesthood between Igbo religious seminarians and Igbo diocesan seminarians and second, between the entire Igbo seminarians and the international group. The study revealed that the Igbo seminarians’ expectations of the priesthood tend towards the pursuit of goals that are not in conformity with the priestly ideals. Thus, the Igbo seminarians appear to be looking basically for their personal ambition. In order to correct the anomaly detected, Igbo seminarians on the whole need purity of intention to make good priests and avoid covert passivity.

Igbo Priests and the Struggle between Igbo Cultural Values and Priestly Ideals

The tension between Igbo cultural values and Christian values constitute the struggles Igbo priests go through. The author prefers to identify this tension with ‘the dilemma of belonging’ which implies the dilemma of negotiating his belonging to the Igbo society characterized by the quest for social relevance and recognition, marriage, begetting of children, quest for autonomy, longing for good life  and at the same time, remaining an authentic catholic priest. The Igbo priest is caught between fully belonging to the Igbo society like his lay colleagues and belonging fully to the priestly ministry. This makes the priest homeless and not fully integrated into either the priestly ministry or traditional Igbo cultural society.


The Meaning of Vocation Boom in Igboland

The author observed that the vocation boom in Igboland is ambiguous because only less than a third of all those who aspire to be priests express authentic and realistic vision of the priesthood. Majority of them are more driven by personal ambitions and aspirations. To remedy the situation, Igbo seminarians should see the priesthood as a spiritual calling to which the individual generously responds and seminary formation should be geared towards discerning and promoting only authentic vocations. Otherwise, the Church will admit vocations that would be problematic in future.

The Formation and the Future of Catholic Priesthood in Igboland, Viz, The Current Methods of Forming Igbo Priests

The author examined the two formation methods observed to be presently used in the seminaries and houses of formation in Igboland: the Conformity/Institutional Model of Formation and the Progressive Model. The Conformity/Institutional Model of Formation places much emphasis on intellectual formation. Undue emphasis is placed on memorizing what has been taught in order to pass examinations. This model stresses conformity of the seminarians’ ideals to those of the seminary in order to avoid punishment. As a result, vocationers lack internalization of the priestly ideals. The Progressive Model being experimented upon by some religious congregations and Spiritual Year Seminaries places its emphasis on the seminarian engaging himself in his own formation and it is characterized by the ‘relaxation of rules’.  Seminarians are encouraged to be open to their formators without fear of dismissal and are given the opportunity to take initiatives and responsibility in forming themselves. Unfortunately, the problem with these methods is that little or no effort is put into real human formation that incorporates the non-rational, emotional and cultural aspects of the seminarian.

Theoretical and Practical Proposals for the Formation of Igbo Priests

The author in proposing new orientation for the formation of Igbo Priests made some theoretical and practical proposals. The theoretical proposal includes the following: reconciling the ambiguities of human conditions and resolving the problem of mixed motivation as it concerns the candidate, redirecting the seminarian’s psychodynamics towards Jesus Christ, the internalization of Christian values and being aware of the dialectical tension between the ideal self and the actual self especially as it concerns one’s cultural values and the priestly ministry. The practical proposal includes: having an integral-systemic approach to personal formation where the seminarian understands the contributions of the Church and the society towards his formation as a privilege and tries to live up to positive expectations, the importance of formators knowing the unique situations of the candidates, the selection of formators not only with academic competence but also reasonable degree of human and spiritual maturity, stability of his vocation and capable of team-work. Other practical steps include increasing the number of well-prepared formators in the seminary to give proper attention to each candidate, emphasis on quality of formation and not quantity, presenting the priesthood as a vocation of self-donation to God and His people rather than a prestigious career and the need to coordinate the programs among the various Spiritual Year Seminaries and major seminaries so as to ensure continuity and consistency in what is taught.


This research concludes that the current way of forming Igbo priests is insufficient and that the formation will have to put into consideration some cultural and psychological influences on the candidate. The formation he proposes, should be geared towards helping the seminarian give his personal response to God and understand the intricacies of his priestly and cultural identities so as to harness in himself, the advantages of being an authentic Igbo and Catholic Priest at the same time. The work is both an indirect research on the effectiveness of formation in Igboland and a recommendation for the Church in Igboland on how to form her future priests.

Summary of Rerum Rovarum

Introductory Remarks

Rerum Ecclesiae is an encyclical written by Pope Pius XI on February 8, 1926. It was addressed to Patriachs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other key players in the missionary work. The Temporal setting of the Encyclical was the period when efforts were being intensified to extend the Catholic mission across the West to other areas which the Holy Father described as “peoples who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.” It was written both to encourage those charged with the responsibility of championing this course to keep labouring harder, and also to make known to them some set guideline and admonitions to aid their mission work. It is pertinent to state here that most of the success the mission enjoyed then in new mission frontiers especially in Africa and other new mission territories are thanks to the ideas of this encyclical.


According to the Holy Father, “The Church has no other reason for existence than, by developing the Kingdom of Christ on earth, to make mankind participate in the effects of His saving Redemption. Whoever, by Divine Commission, takes the place on earth of Jesus Christ, becomes thereby the Chief Shepherd who, far from being able to rest content with simply guiding and protecting the Lord’s Flock which has been confided to him to rule, fails in his special duty and obligations if he does not strive by might and main to win over and to join to Christ all who are still without the Fold” (No 1). He went further to trace how church fathers have always strived to fulfil the divine commission of making disciples of all nations. Some of these ministers had to pay the ultimate price and even suffered martyrdom in ensuring that the mission spread first through the whole Europe, and later on, to other areas.

This success being achieved by the earlier missionaries were according to the Holy Father being dampened by either lack of missionaries, or lack of the zeal and support for mission. In order to revive mission zeal, he suggests two ways of achieving this.

  1. That more trained missionaries be sent to vast regions still bereft of the civilising influence of religion.
  2. That the community of believers collaborate the efforts of missionaries through constant prayers and material support.

The Holy Father also made reference to a Missionary Exhibition which was held in the Vatican to draw the attraction and support of people for mission work. He further called on all involved to reignite their zeal and carry the gospel of salvation farther. For him,

There is no need to insist how foreign it is to the virtue of charity, which embraces both God and men, for the members of Christ’s Church not to think of those unfortunate souls who live in error outside the Fold. Surely the obligation of charity, which binds us to God, demands not only that we strive to increase by every means within our power the number of those who adore Him “in spirit and in truth” (John iv, 24) but also that we try to bring under the rule of the gentle Christ as many other men as possible in order that “the profit in his blood” (Psalms xxix, 10) may be the more and more fruitful and that we may make ourselves the more acceptable to Him to Whom nothing can possibly be more pleasing than that “men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy ii, 4) (no 5)

The task of evangelisation must be carried out with love and care for the souls. It should be a task joyfully embraced and thus must not be seen as a burden to those sent on mission. Hence to Holy Father urges these missionaries to see this task as an assignment from God who will demand an account of stewardship from them at the end of time.


The mission work is God’s work, and hence cannot be done without God’s grace. In this vien, the Holy Father urged the fathers of individual churches to emphasize the vitality of prayer to the God of the harvest to send more labourers into his vineyard. Acknowledging the efforts of the missionaries in heathen lands, the Holy Father admonished that these efforts will amount to nothing “if God by His grace does not touch the hearts of the heathen in order to soften and attract them to Himself.” (no 7) He thus invited every Christian to offer prayers for the growth and success of mission activities. He further requested for the special prayers of children and religious women for this purpose.


The harvest of the Lord’s vineyard is very rich. However both labourers and tools are few. In a bid to bring more labourers into the task of harvesting souls in the hinterlands, the Holy Father added two affiliate associations to the Association for the Propagation of Faith (Propaganda Fidei). They are the Holy Childhood Association, and the Association of St. Peter the Apostle.

The Propaganda Fidei was founded by Stephaine Bigard in Lyon. Its headquarters remained in Lyon. The Pope however relocated the headquarters to Rome and made it an umbrella body for support for the mission. The Holy Childhood as an affiliate of Propaganda Fidei, trained children to get themselves accustomed with supporting mission. This they do by offering prayers for mission, and also by setting aside certain amounts of money for the purpose of mission work, particularly for the sake of giving children in mission areas affordable education. The Society of Saint Peter on its part, is faced with the challenge of offering prayers and financial support for the smooth running of seminaries. They were also charged with the task of granting aids to some select seminaries that the church in that particular area cannot bear the financial burden of running the seminary alone. These arms were regarded as vital for the sustenance of the mission.


The encyclical was written when most missionaries regarded their host nations as barbaric and uncivilised (this unfortunate colonial trend continues today in new ways). Many missionaries saw the natives as not rational enough for mission work. Those who were lenient enough could only allow these natives take minor positions as catechists, interpreters, father’s house helps, and other numerous jobs as such. The church in these areas were wholly foreign. The white men celebrated the mass, the language (then Latin was the official Language of the Church) was as well alien to the people. The natives were just meant to follow the white men’s directives. Most of the so called interpreters were not well grounded in the Church’s doctrine, hence they interpreted what they understood and not necessarily what the church held.

The above stated problems, coupled with the fact that most countries were no longer hospitable to missionaries (either because of the parts played by the missionaries during the war period of those countries, or because the leaders of these countries were now civilised and reasonable enough to remove the leadership of the state from expatriates), necessitated the Pope’s call for the Fathers of individual churches to begin making plans to get natives capable of managing their own local church.

Citing Pope Benedict XV’s Maximum Illud, The Holy Father bemoaned that

 “It is a matter of genuine sorrow that there still exist countries to which the Catholic Faith was brought centuries ago but where, in spite of that fact, one does not find even now native priests except possibly those occupying minor posts; also, that there are races who were converted long ago and who have risen from a state of barbarism to such a high degree of civilization that they have produced men of standing in every profession and walk of civil life; yet these very people, despite the fact that they have lived under the saving influence of the Gospel and of the Church for centuries, have not been able to produce a bishop to rule them or priests whose teaching authority is respected as it should be by their fellow citizens.”

He urged them not to in any way discourage the natives from collaborating in the mission of Christ, but rather see them as more veritable tools of mission evangelisation. These natives, being conversant with the language, culture, and terrain of their locality, ought to make more impact in cultivating the mission in their locality if given the arsenals to do so.

The Holy Father also frowned at the idea of the expatriate missionaries regarding the local missionaries as inferior. For him, the native missionaries are in no way, either physically or mentally, inferior to their foreign counterparts. Given the same opportunities with their foreign counterpart, the natives may perform better than their foreign counterparts (most of these locals who studied with their expatriate counterparts not only did well but did better than their expatriate counterparts).

The Holy Father held that the aim of mission work is to plant the mission in whichever area cultivated. This according to him, cannot be achieved without the collaboration of native missionaries. He thus admonished that “From the fact that the Roman Pontiff has entrusted to you and to your assistants the task of preaching the Christian religion to pagan nations, you ought not to conclude that the role of the native clergy is merely one of assisting the missionaries in minor matters, of merely following up and completing their work.” He bemoaned the fact that the expatriate missionaries were shielding the native clergy from active participation in mission work. He thus asked “Why should the native clergy be forbidden to cultivate their own portion of the Lord’s vineyard, be forbidden to govern their own people?”

The Pope urged the expatriate clerics to be foresighted and appreciate the fact that it is only by collaborating with the native clergy that the mission will be strengthened and sustained. He urged them to consider the fate of the mission in a situation whereby the government of their host state expelled them from the country. Moreover, the Holy Father reminded them that they have to bring more labourers into the Lord’s vineyard so as to help the church fight the growing Protestantism raging during that period.

He further urged them not to be deterred by the paucity of funds to train clerics in these areas. He promised the universal Church’s aid in that regard. He however stressed that this urgent need of native clerics should not lead them in making wrong choices of labourers in the Lord’s vineyard.


In a bid to ensure that the missionaries actualise much with the little number of clerics available, The Holy Father urged them to subdivide their mission parishes into stations, these stations according to him, should be placed in the care of the catechists. The priests in the area should then pay these stations as regular visits as possible to ensure that the sacraments and brought to the faithful in the area. This according to the Holy Father will help the good news of salvation to spread further to hinterlands. It will also ensure that mission presence is felt in some degrees in those areas which the clergy cannot frequent. This tasks also implied that the catechist is well grounded in the Catholic doctrines to avoid him going contrary to the dictates of the church as regards his teachings and actions.


The Holy Father stressed that the most important tool in the mission work of Christ was compassion. This was seen predominantly in his care for the sick and the children. In line with these, he urged the missionaries to ensure that they follow the path of Christ in their mission evangelisation. They thus ought to take health care and basic education as part of their mission work.

During this period, many nations were not abreast with Western civilisation. Health care was administered by native doctors who sometimes give their patients overdosed herbs. Many ailments were then attributed to be caused by the gods and hence untreatable. Formal education then was rarely available. The dictates of a community were passed on orally and children were taught societal codes informally. Some obnoxious traditions as the killing of twins were still in vogue. The Holy Father saw the need for the church to provide not only spiritual salvation, but material salvation as well.

As a means of actualising this desired goal, the Holy Father urged the Church fathers not to engage in frivolous spending on projects as building gigantic Cathedrals, but rather channel these resources in building health care centres and elementary Schools. The health care centres will aid in catering for the physical health of the faithful. This would go a long way to buttress the fact that Christianity is not a religion that alienates physical wellbeing from the spiritual growth of the faithful. The elementary schools on their part aid the children in acquiring sound moral education. It would also serve as an avenue for inculcating sound Christian doctrines on the kids.



The Holy Father in his encyclical, finally urged the Church fathers to have a right disposition to the task of the mission assigned them. He admonished them not to see particular territories as their birth right, but rather to be sincere and honest enough to ask for the aid of missionaries elsewhere when the task becomes too enormous for them. He urged them not to segregate between missionaries who are not of their congregation as all have the same task of winning souls for Christ. He further advised that they do not take the particular area they are assigned to work as assigned to them in perpetuity. He urged that they rather see their task as one done on behalf of the Roman Pontiff who reserves the right to make some adjustment when he deemed it necessary.


Though addressed to the Church Fathers in a particular era, the ideas of Pope Pius XI’s encyclical have proved very fruitful in the task of evangelisation. In the encyclical, one sees a lot of foresights that was vital to the survival of the native church and particularly the Church in Africa.

Pope’s Pius idea that Christians do not relent in prayers for vocation has yielded a lot of fruits in the present era. The Church in Africa has been blessed with lots of genuine vocation. It is also pertinent to note that the African Church are now helping out in mission work in most Western nations. Though we still pray to God to send more labourers into his vineyard, we cannot fail to keep thanking God for blessing the Church with priests and religious who serve as labourers in his vineyard.

The Society of St. Peter the Apostle has till date remained a vital organ for the sustenance of most seminaries in poor mission territories. Most seminaries were in fact built from the funds of this society. Our Seminaries in Nigeria cannot boast of being sustainable without the grants (subsidies) coming from this society.

In spite of the fact that most mission schools were confiscated by the military government, one cannot cease appreciating the values mission schools brought to our country. Through mission education, sound moral virtues were inculcated on the future generation of our beloved country. Also, mission hospitals have not relented in taking the lead in the area of healthcare delivery. The mission has since then catered for both physical and spiritual needs of our local church. The Holy Father’s letter has thus kept yielding fruits for our local church.

The most salient area where the Holy Father depicted a high sense of foresight and inspiration was in his call for the indigenisation of mission. A good historian would recall that expatriate missionaries were expelled from the country at the end of the Biafran war. It were the native clergies who ensured that the mission was sustained. One wonders what the fate of the Church in Nigeria today would have been were it not for the timely advise of Pope Pius XI that the native clergy be allowed to partake in the management of the mission in their locality.


The work have so far reviewed the encyclical “Rerum Ecclesiae” of Pope Pius XI. It has also outlined some of the benefits of the encyclical in the modern day mission. The work wishes to state here that his encyclical is not in any way outdated. The ideas and principles that necessitated the writing of the Encyclical is manifesting in certain ways and to certain degrees. There is for instance an urgent need to re-evangelise the Church in the Western World today (The Church in the West lacks clerics, and most Christians there are either lapsed in faith, or have left the Faith). There is also the need to manage the standards schools recently handed over to The Church by the government after many years of moral and infrastructural decay. In our local Church today, we see certain individual playing gods in the task of mission.

The ideas Holy Father’s encyclical thus has more roles to play than it played in 1926 when it was written. It is thus recommended as a vade mecum to all who wish to imbibe the true spirit and mandate of mission which is making disciples of all nations.

The Book Of Apocalypse As The Book Of Martyrdom


Understanding the book of Revelation has been one of the difficult tasks facing Christians as long as understanding the bible is concerned. For this reason, many have attempted to interpret the book literally and they have seen it as an embodiment of several end-time predictions that provoke fear each time they are read. The essay is therefore, an attempt to examine the book of Revelation from the point of view of the Church’s understanding and interpretation of the Scriptural text with an eye on presenting the text as the book of martyrdom.


The book of Revelation is the last book of the New Testament in the Bible. It is otherwise known as the book of Apocalypse. Written about the year 95 A.D., the authorship is attributed to St. John the Evangelist even though this has been contested by several scholars. John was a Christian leader of Jewish origin who was in exile on the Roman prison island of Patmos from where he wrote down his prophecies.  The book of Revelation is an example of “apocalyptic” writing – a form that delivers a message using symbols, images and numbers. Apocalyptic writing is characteristic of times of persecution. Some of the symbols and images in Revelation equate the Roman emperor with Satan and depict the ancient Roman Empire as the ultimate evil. As a prisoner of the Romans, John could not communicate that message in plain language, but the apocalyptic form was ideal for recording John’s heavenly vision. John’s writing would have been just nonsense to his Roman captors. But the Christians of Asia Minor were familiar with the Old Testament and the apocalyptic writings and would have been able to understand it.


Revelation was written as a letter to be circulated among the Christian churches at seven important cities in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (cf. Revelation 1:9-11). Asia Minor was a region of the Roman Empire that is now the western part of the country of Turkey. Patmos is a small, rocky island off its coast. The map at right shows these sites at the time Revelation was written.

There had been several waves of persecutions of Christians by Roman authorities. The vision John received offered encouragement to persecuted Christians and assurance that God was still in control. The forces of evil, particularly the Roman Empire, would eventually be utterly destroyed by God.

The Book of Revelation as the Book of Martyrdom

There are ample references to persecution and martyrdom in the book of Revelation so much so that it could be referred to as the book of Martyrdom. Martyrdom involves one suffering even to the extent of dying on account of his faith. A review of the Book of Revelation reveals specific words, phrases, passages and images that point towards martyrdom. It is interesting to note that the Book of Revelation considers the words ‘persecution’ and ‘martyrdom’ to be synonymous. The author speaks of his participation in the great persecution which took him to the Island of Patmos (cf. Rev. 1:19). He also speaks of the violent death (thanatos) of some of the Christians (cf. Rev. 1:5, 18; 14:13) and of the great persecution the Church in Smyrna is undergoing (cf. Rev. 2:9-10). Speaking particularly about the martyrdom of several Christians, the author writes about the several killings (apokteino) in some places (cf. Rev. 2:13; 13:15). The author also mentions the executors (phoneus, also rendered as murderers) in Rev. 21:8; 22:15).

It is interesting to note that the early Christians were not only threatened with physical death like burning or stabbing to death. They were also made to suffer persecution economically by depriving them of means of livelihood so that they could be starved to death (cf. Rev. 13:17). The mark of the beast became the identity of those who could participate in the economic life of the state (cf. Rev. 13:16). The Christians were severally harassed by members of the devil’s synagogue (cf. Rev. 2:9; 3:9) including the dragon (cf. Rev. 12:17), the sea beast (cf. Rev. 13:7) and the beast from the earth (cf. Rev. 13:11-17). However, the book of Revelation does not only speak of martyrdom, it also talks about the glory of the saints and the victory of God over evil. Instances of this could be seen in the defeat of the ancient dragon desiring to consume the offspring of the Woman (cf. Rev. 12:4) and the exaltation of the great multitude who washed their robes in the blood of the lamb (cf. Rev. 7:9). The author points out that despite the sufferings and death the Christians were experiencing, they will receive the crown of glory on the last day.


The book of Revelation describes how the early Christians suffered and died for their faith. It was written during the time of the great persecution probably at the time of Emperor Domitian. The author believed to be John, brother of James admonished the Christians that being a Christian means being faithful to the faith and if need be, being a martyr. The book offers comfort and encouragement to Christians of all ages that God is firmly in control. When the time is right, the forces of evil that seem to dominate our world will be utterly destroyed, and God’s eternal kingdom will come into its fulfillment. In particular, John’s vision offered encouragement and comfort to the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor that their suffering was not in vain. For us today, the book is still relevant especially in an age where so many Christians are being persecuted and killed by Islamic extremists while many others suffer untold difficult situations on account of their faith. The book continues to offer us hope that God would surely triumph over evil and those who have remained steadfast in Him, will be saved.

Major World Religions: Their History, Beliefs, Practices And Relationship With Christianity

Major World Religions: Their History, Beliefs, Practices And Relationship With Christianity

INTRODUCTION: Man naturally, is a religious being, homo religiosus. At every epoch in history, he has not failed to fashion out a system of relationship with the divine. These systems of relationship with the divine have come to be known generally as various religions, each with its distinct founder, basic tenets and practices. By way of definition, the term ‘Religion’ is seen as the cumulative system of beliefs, sacred texts, rites, signs and symbols through which man relates with the divine. In this essay, our attempt is to examine some major world religions though not chronologically and highlight their history, basic tenets and practices as well as juxtapose them with Christianity in order to find out their similarities and dissimilarities.

CHRISTIANITY: Christianity is a monotheistic religion that has its foundations in Judaism.

History: This religion was founded by Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of humanity about 30 AD. The city it was founded is not very clearly stated in history because Jesus worked in several cities calling disciples and making friends who later became the pillars of the new religion. However, it was after his death that his followers were first called Christians in Anthioch. His disciples continued to preach the Good news of his Incarnation, Passion, Death on the Cross and Resurrection. At moments of persecutions, while his followers dispersed, they carried the Good news along and from there, it got to the whole world.

Beliefs and Practices: As a monotheistic religion, Christians profess faith in One God, in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, known as the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. They believe in the existence of Angels who are at the service of God and Saints who are human beings enjoying the beatific vision after their earthly life. Christians also believe in sacraments especially in baptism through which one becomes a member of the Christian folk. They hold the Bible containing the Old and New Testaments to be their Sacred book. They preach love for enemies and neigbour, forgiveness, repentance and also believe in death, judgment, heaven and hell (eschatology).

JUDAISM: Judaism is a monotheistic religion that can be traced back to Abraham

History: This religion traces its history back to Abraham in the ancient near eastern region of Canaan currently known as Israel and Palestinian territories about 1000 BC. The primary figures in the religion include Abraham (whom God made a covenant with and promised to fulfill it on his ancestors), Isaac, Jacob and Moses, through whom God liberated His people for bondage at Egypt and gave them religious orientation. Most of what is contained in Judaism today can be traced back to the time of Moses. God’s relationship with the people of Israel began through Judaism where he kept covenants with them and appointed Prophets who communicated His will to them and prepared the ground for the Incarnation of His Son, Jesus. Even though that the coming of Christ brought about a new religion, Christianity, Judaism still exists till date.

Beliefs and Practices: As a monotheistic religion, Judaism professes faith in one God, Yahweh who created the universe and called them out of Egypt through miraculous circumstances. They also believe in angels and spirits at the service of Yahweh. Their Sacred book Tanak is composed of the Law Torah, the Prophets Neb’iim and the writings ketub’im. Other Sacred writings include the Mishnah, Talmud and other rabbinic literatures. They worshiped at the Jerusalem Temple which is the center of the Jewish life but with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, they now worship in synagogues.

Relationship with Christianity: By way of similarities, both Jews and Christians believe in one Supreme God. Judaism provided the background to Christianity in its prayers, rituals and beliefs. They both believe in angels, the resurrection of the death and afterlife. By contrast, Jews do not believe in the Trinity neither do they hold Jesus Christ as God. For this reason, they do not believe in the Old Testament.

ISLAM: Islam is a monotheistic religion that was founded by Muhammad

History:  Islam was founded by Muhammad in Arabia around 632 AD. Born in Mecca around 570 AD, Muhammad claimed he received a vision from God through the Angel Gabriel asking him to found a new religion which will be opposed to the radical polytheism prevalent in his area. With the help of Khadija his business partner who later became his wife, Muhammad was encouraged to begin his religion. He preached peace, love of neighbour, charity and other virtues which made him to attract much followers. The natives of Mecca persecuted him and he fled to Medina from where the new religion spread across the globe.

Beliefs and Practices: Muslims believe only in Allah as the one true God and in Muhammad as his only prophet. They hold the Koran, their Sacred Book to be highly inspired by Allah who dictated them word to word to Muhammad. They also believe in the hadith which contains the saying and deeds of the prophet. Basic practices known as The Five Pillars, or primary duties, of Islam are profession of faith; prayer, to be performed five times a day; almsgiving to the poor and the mosque (house of worship); fasting during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan; and pilgrimage to Mecca (the hajj) at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime, if it is physically and financially possible. The pilgrimage includes homage to the ancient shrine of the Ka’aba, the most sacred site in Islam.

Relationship with Christianity:  By way of similarities, Islam and Christianity believe in one God. Both preach peace, almsgiving, condemn polytheism, encourage fasting and other religious observances such as pilgrimages. By contrast, Islam rejects the divinity of Jesus and recognizes him only as a prophet lower in hierarchy than Muhammad. While Christianity preaches love of neighbour and gradual conversion of unbelievers, Islam believes in radical Islamization of unbelievers and the killing of infidels.

HINDUISM: Hinduism is a Monotheistic religion that is more of an Ideology

History: Religious historians observe that the history of Hinduism is yet unknown to scholars as they consider it as the world’s oldest religion. It precedes recorded history and has no trace to any human founder. It is a mystical religion leading the individual to a personal experience of the Truth. It has four main denominations: Saivism, Shaktism,Vaishnavism and Smartism.

Beliefs and Practices: Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both creator and unmanifest reality. They also believe in the divinity of four Vedas and that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution. For them, the law of karma controls the universe bringing everybody to face the consequences of his/her actions. They hold the sacredness of human life to high esteem and believes that no one religion has the whole truth necessary for salvation.

Relationship with Christianity: Hinduism is an esoteric religion unlike Christianity that is a religion of book and organized rituals. By way of similarities, both have regards for human life.

BUDDHISM: Buddhism is an esoteric religion founded by Buddha

Origin: Buddhism was founded in the mid fourth century BC in northern India through the teachings of Budhha. Some scholars believe that he lived from 563 to 483 B.C., though his exact life span is uncertain. Troubled by the inevitability of suffering in human life, he left home and a pampered life at the age of 29 to wander as an ascetic, seeking religious insight and a solution to the struggles of human existence. He passed through many trials and practiced extreme self-denial. Finally, while meditating under the bodhi tree (“tree of perfect knowledge”), he reached enlightenment and taught his followers about his new spiritual understanding.

Beliefs and Practices: Budhha’s teachings differed from the Hindu faith prevalent in India at the time. At the core of his understanding were the Four Noble Truths: (1) all living beings suffer; (2) the origin of this suffering is desire—for material possessions, power, and so on; (3) desire can be overcome; and (4) there is a path that leads to release from desire. This way is called the Noble Eightfold Path: right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, and right ecstasy.

Relationship with Christianity:  Like Christianity, this religion believes in mortification/self-denial as means of uniting with the Supreme Being but by contrast, it is esoteric in nature.


History: A major religion of India and the fifth-largest faith in the world, Sikhism emerged in the Punjab under the guidance of the guru Nanak (1469–1539). This region had been influenced by the Hindu bhakti movement, which promoted both the idea that God comprises one reality alone as well as the practice of devotional singing and prayer. The Muslim mystical tradition of Sufism, with its emphasis on meditation, also had some prominence there. Drawing on these resources, Nanak forged a new spiritual path.

Beliefs and Practices: Sikhism rejected Hindu polytheism but accepted the Hindu concept of life as a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth; moksha, release from this cycle into unity with God, could be achieved only with the help of a guru, or spiritual teacher. Nanak believed that communion with God could be gained through devotional repetition of the divine name, singing of hymns and praises, and adherence to a demanding ethical code. He rejected idols and the Hindu caste system; it became a custom for Sikhs of all social ranks to take meals together. These beliefs are still central to modern Sikhism. Compiled hymns and other writings by earlier Sikh gurus, as well as medieval Hindu and Muslim saints, in the Adi Granth (First Book), or Guru Granth Sahib (the Granth Personified), became the sacred scripture of Sikhism.

Relationship with Christianity: The similarity here is on the emphasis on meditation but by way of contrast, Sikhism is more esoteric in nature.


History: Confucius (K’ung Fu-tzu), born in the state of Lu (northern China), lived from 551 to 479 B.C. He was a brilliant teacher, viewing education not merely as the accumulation of knowledge but as a means of self-transformation. His legacy was a system of thought emphasizing education, proper behavior, and loyalty. His effect on Chinese culture was immense.The teachings of Confucius are contained in the Analects, a collection of his sayings as remembered by his students. They were further developed by philosophers such as Mencius (Meng Tse, fl. 400 B.C.). Confucianism is little concerned with metaphysical discussion of religion or with spiritual attainments. It instead emphasizes moral conduct and right relationships in the human sphere.

Beliefs and Practices: Cultivation of virtue is a central tenet of Confucianism. Two important virtues are ‘jen’, a benevolent and humanitarian attitude, and ‘li’, maintaining proper relationships and rituals that enhance the life of the individual, the family, and the state. The “five relations,” between king and subject, father and son, man and wife, older and younger brother, and friend and friend, are of utmost importance. These relationships are reinforced by participation in rituals, including the formal procedures of court life and religious rituals such as ancestor worship. Confucius revolutionized educational thought in China. He believed that learning was not to be focused only on attaining the skills for a particular profession, but for growth in moral judgment and self-realization.

Relationship with Christianity:


Shintoism comprises the religious ideas and practices indigenous to Japan. Ancient Shinto focused on the worship of the kami, a host of supernatural beings that could be known through forms (objects of nature, remarkable people, abstract concepts such as justice) but were ultimately mysterious. Shinto has no formal dogma and no holy writ, though early collections of Japanese religious thought and practice (Kojiki, “Records of Ancient Matters,” A.D. 712, and Nihon shoki, “Chronicles of Japan,” A.D. 720) are highly regarded. Shinto has been influenced by Confucianism and by Buddhism, which was introduced in Japan in the 6th century. Syncretic schools (such as Ryobu Shinto) emerged, as did other sects that rejected Buddhism (such as Ise Shinto). Under the reign of the emperor Meiji (1868–1912), Shinto became the official state religion.

Beliefs and Practices: Traditional festivals celebrated at the shrines include purification rites, presentation of food offerings, prayer, sacred music and dance, and a feast. No particular day of the week is set aside for prayer. A person may visit a shrine at will, entering through the torii (gateway). It is believed that the kami can respond to prayer and can offer protection and guidance. A variety of Shinto sects and practices exist today. Ten-rikyo emphasizes faith healing. Folk Shinto is characterized by veneration of roadside shrines and rites related to agriculture. Buddhist priests serve at many Shinto shrines, and many families keep a small shrine, or god-shelf, at home. Veneration of ancestors and pilgrimage are also common practices.

Relationship with Christianity: The similarity here is on the cultivation of virtue, use of sacred music, veneration of ancestors, pilgrimages, etc but by way of contrast, Shintoism is esoteric.


History: Taoism, one of the major religions of China, is based on ancient philosophical works, primarily the Tao Te Ching, “Classic of Tao and Its Virtue.” Traditionally, this book was thought to be the work of Lao-tzu, a quasi-historical philosopher of the 6th century B.C.; scholars now believe that the book dates from about the 3rd century B.C. The philosopher Chuang Tzu (4th–3rd centuries B.C.) also contributed to the seminal ideas of Taoism. Tao, “the Way,” is the ultimate reality of the universe, according to Taoism. It is a creative process, and humans can live in harmony with it by clearing the self of obstacles. By cultivating wu-wei, a type of inaction characterized by humility and prudence, a person can participate in the simplicity and spontaneity of Tao. Striving to attain virtue or achievement is counterproductive and unnecessary.

Beliefs and Practices: Taoism values mystical contemplation and balance. The human being is viewed as a microcosm of the universe, and the Chinese principle of yin-yang, complementary duality, is a model of harmony. The religious practices of Taoism emerged from these ancient philosophies and from Chinese shamanistic tradition; by the 2nd century A.D., it constituted an organized religion. Longevity and immortality were sought through regulating the energies of the body through breathing exercises, meditation, and use of medicinal plants, talismans, and magical formulas. A cult of immortals, including the divinized Lao-tzu, also developed. Influenced by Buddhism, Taoists organized monastic orders. Temple worship and forms of divination, including the Iching, were practiced.

Relationship with Christianity: The similarity here is on the emphasis on mental prayer but by way of contrast, Taosim is more esoteric in nature.



Barrett David, World Christian Encyclopedia. PDF. 2001

Brodd Jeffrey, World Religions. Minnesota: Saint Mary’s Press. 2003

Burke Partick, The Major Religions.  Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers. 1996

Charles Adams, Classifications of Religions: Geographical in Encyclopedia Britannica. 2010.

Hinnels John, A New Handbook of Living Religions. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers. 1997

Matthew Warren, World Religions. Minnesota: West Publishing Companies. 1991

Faith Healing And Health Care Delivery: The Nigerian Situation


By Chibuike Uwakwe


The World Health Organization (WHO) in its “Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization” as adopted by the International Health Conference in 1946 defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. From this definition, it is clear that anything contrary to this is generally regarded as ill-health.

In Nigeria today, there are basically two ways of tackling the problem of ill-health. One is through faith healing and the other is health care delivery. While the former is unorthodox, the latter is orthodox. For some, faith healing is only an alternative when health care delivery fails, while others consider it as a normal practice for the restoration of sound health. It is, therefore, the intention of this writer to investigate into the relationship between faith healing and health care delivery towards proffering a better way of managing ill-health in the Nigerian situation.


The concept ‘faith healing’ is a conglomeration of two words, faith and healing. “Faith” in this context has to do with something beyond the natural while “healing” refers to a total restoration of health. Thus, faith healing refers to the healing that occurs supernaturally as a result of prayer or divine intervention rather than the use of medicines or the involvement of physicians.

Health care delivery is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, illnesses, injuries and other physical and mental impairments in humans, towards a holistic restoration of health. It includes all the services rendered in the primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems.


A pertinent question in this discourse is on the authenticity of faith healing, bearing in mind the various aberrations and abuses observed in our faith healing clinics. Yet, it is important to note that faith healing has biblical authenticity evident in the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT). In the OT we recall the story of Naaman the leper and his miraculous healing in the River Jordan (cf. 2 Kings 5). In the NT, we recall the healing of the woman who had suffered haemorrhage for 12 years (Mk. 5:26-27), the healing of the Blind Bartimaeus (Mk. 10:46-52), the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk. 1:29-31), etc. Jesus also gave his followers the authority to heal the sick (Mt. 10:8).

From this biblical perspective, faith healing became a characteristic of the Church Jesus founded. The healing was not limited to physical healing but extended to spiritual healing through the effective use of the Word and Sacraments. Thus; the Catholic Church recognizes faith healing among her faithful and this healing ministry must be exercised according to the examples of Christ in strict adherence to the Church’s Magisterium. For Catholics, faith healing is the result of intercessory prayer to God through the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Saints, some of whom are specially known for miraculous healing such as Saints Philomena, Jude, etc, or visit to a Holy shrine.


Unlike the Western world where health care delivery is advanced, Nigeria as a developing country is still struggling to provide adequate health care delivery to the privileged few. The situation of health care delivery in Nigeria is not just pitiable but regrettable and unfortunate.

Prof. Peter Nwagwu in an address at the Convention of Nigerian Professionals in Diaspora at Paris entitled “Health Care Delivery in Nigeria: Contributions of Nigerians in Diaspora” quickly pointed out two basic problems of health care delivery in Nigeria: “the problem of quality of health care delivery and the problem of accessibility”.

These two basic problems have contributed to the failed state of health care delivery in Nigeria. This failure is as a result of its inefficiency in handling some of its responsibilities. Some of the signs of this failure include: the inadequacy of health care facilities and personnel, bad policies and operating procedures, high cost of service, unavailability of essential drugs, lack of professional services, the location of the health care facilities, high rate of infant and maternal mortality, poor antenatal and post-natal care, incessant strike actions by medical personnel, poor remuneration, proliferation of quack medical personnel and centres, etc.


Having observed the failed state of health care delivery in Nigeria, one would possibly see the reason behind the mad rush for faith healing. Since the average Nigerian cannot easily get access to quality health care delivery, the tendency is to look for cheaper and available alternatives. Thus, faith healing becomes an alternative to health care delivery. Regrettably, sometimes it is sought and paid for.

It is sad to observe that in the quest for faith healing, many Nigerians have fallen into the wicked hands of some dubious people who take advantage of their plight to extort money and other valuables from them all in the name of praying for them. Some have been asked to pay heavily, others asked to do things they would not have ordinarily done all to no avail. Some fake pastors and prophets have emerged with their healing centres and clinics to increase the plight of the people. Worse still, our people are ignorant of all these and still fall prey. It is very paradoxical to note that many Nigerians loose faith while seeking for faith healing.


In order to control this ugly trend of indiscriminate search for faith healing, people should be enlightened on how to take good care of their health and how to make use of the available facilities in the hospitals. Some just look for faith healers once they have headache but will never go for diagnosis. The government should be faithful to her duty by providing at least primary health care. The government should also regulate the proliferation of faith clinics and healing centres because it is her duty to safeguard the lives of the people. When this is done, it will go a long way to remedy the situation.


In conclusion, the indispensability of faith healing and health care delivery cannot be over emphasized nor be relegated to the background. Both are necessary for an effective restoration of health but none should be abused. It is advised that patients visit health care centres at the suspicion of ill health and may only resort to faith healing where every orthodox means prove abortive or when the case is impossible for health care delivery to handle. They should also be very careful of the faith healers they visit to avoid falling into the hands of impostors and swindlers. However, this does not by any means denigrate the importance of prayer in every moment of our life.

A Comparative Analysis Of Destiny In Both Yoruba Cultural Group And The Western Thought

A Comparative Analysis Of Destiny In Both Yoruba Cultural Group And The Western Thought




















The concept of destiny is popularly discussed, not only in African societies, but also in the Western and Eastern societies as well. This concept is both a philosophical and religious belief with no monopoly in any of the societies. Among the Yoruba the belief in destiny revolves around the concept of ori which is believed to be the spiritual component of the human personality and the human physical head is its symbol. The concept of ori is an important part of the original thought system of the Yoruba people; which is as a result of the relationship between man and the higher powers that brought him into existence and also responsible for everything that happens to him. Man’s existence is therefore seen as something an individual has no control over but rather a fulfillment of what has been ordained for him by powers greater than his. A logical corollary of the fore going is that man cannot change or alter that which he has to fulfill. The Yoruba concept of ori is of great interest because it raises some crucial philosophical problems that require examination.

The focus of this paper is to see how coherent is the belief in ori with other beliefs and practices of Yoruba people, and be able to compare same with the western understanding of it. The paper shall also make a comparative analysis between Yoruba notion of destiny with that of the westerners. Having said this, we shall move forward to see what destiny is all about in Yoruba cultural group, knowing fully well that Yoruba is one of the three major ethnic groups found in Nigeria, a country in West Africa.


Destiny among the Yoruba is known to be always associated with Ori. It is the belief of the Yoruba that, before coming down to earth (Aye) from heaven (Orun), everyone must go and choose an Ori from a well-stocked store in Ajala’s house. Ajala is the one appointed by Olodumare (the Supreme being) to build or mould Ori. The quality of Ori cannot be determined by its physical appearance (whether size, shape, colour, etc.) alone. Ajala alone knows the good and the bad ones. Of those who go to select Ori in Ajala’s place some are kind to him, and they receive assistancefrom him in the selection of a well moulded Ori, but since it is not obligatory to be kind to Ajala,nothing is demanded from others who do not show any positive gesture or who are indifferent.They are left to make their choice on their own, at times they are lucky, they pick a good one and attimes they are not so lucky, they pick a bad one. The choice of ori made by an individualdetermines what sort of life he/she would lead and it is believed that the ultimate meaning ofimportant events in the individual’s life are to be understood in terms of ori’s choice[1].The following poem tells the story of how Ori is chosen in Orun- heaven and theconsequences of this irrevocable choice on every individual.

The story concerns three individualswho are friends- Oriseeku– the son of Ogun, Orileemere – the son of Ija and Afuwape – the son ofOrunmila; who were going to make a choice of their Ori in Ajala’s house. These three were warnednot to stop over at their fathers’ house but it was only Afuwape that did not take to this warninggetting to his father’s house, he made a stopover while the other two continued on their journey toAjala’s house.Oriseeku and Orileemere finally got to Ajala’s house after many problems on the way.However, they found that Ajala was not home, so they decided to go and make the choicethemselves but unfortunately, for them they picked bad “heads”.Afuwape on getting to the house of his father told the latter that he was going to choose a“head” in Ajala’s house to take to earth. His father consulted the oracle on his behalf and he wasasked to perform sacrifice with three small bags of salt and twenty-seven thousand cowries.

 WhenAfuwape got to the house of the gatekeeper and he asked for the way to Ajala’s house, theGatekeeper insisted that he had to finish cooking his soup before he could show him the way.Afuwape noticed that the gatekeeper was using ashes instead of salt to sweeten his soup. Hetherefore gave him part of the salt he was carrying and he liked it so much and this prompted him toshow him the way to Ajala’s house. On getting to Ajala’s house, he found some people waiting forhim, who claimed that Ajala owed them some money, Afuwape with the money he was carrying,paid off these people and they left. Ajala emerged from his hiding place because he was hidingfrom his creditors and he was so happy and grateful to Afuwape, for paying his debt and he helpedhim in choosing a good head and on getting to the earth, Afuwape became very prosperous, whilehis other two friends were not and they asked him where he chose his own Ori but he made themunderstand that the choice was made at the same place but their destinies are different. On hearingthis, they started crying, and they said-

“N omobiolorigbe yan Ori o,

Mba re yan temi,

N omobi Afuwape yan Ori o

Mba re yan temi, b’ olorunfe.

Afuwape naaasi da won lohun wipe.

‘O omobiolorigbe yan Ori o

O ba re yan tie

O omobi Afuwape yan Ori o

O ba re yan tie, b’ olorunfe

Ibikannaalatiigbe yan Ori o,

Kadara o paponi”[2]

I do not know where the lucky ones chose their Ori,

I would have gone there to choose mine.

I do not know where Afuwape chose his Ori,

I would have gone there to choose mine.

Afuwape replied them saying,

You don’t know where the lucky ones chose Ori,

You would have gone there to choose your own.

You do not know where Afuwape chose his Ori,

You would have gone there to choose your own.

We chose our Ori from the same place,

But our destinies are not identical.

From this narrative, it can be seen that there are three types of Ori that comes into this world.[3]They are, Orileemere- the Ori of a born-to-die- child, Oriseeku – the Ori that dies at ayoung age, and Afuwape- someone who will enjoy for a long time and live to a ripe old age. It issaid that, evil forces at times prevent those in the first two groups from choosing good destiny. TheAfuwape types are believed to be the most desirous. In this story, shows the importance of sacrificeas a means of leading one aright. It was the sacrifice, Afuwape made in his father’s house that ledhim to get assistance from Ajala who helped him to make the right choice of Ori. The importanceof salt as a ritual and civilizing commodity,[4]as seen in the narrative above cannot be overlooked.Afuwape’s introduction of salt to the gatekeeper can be regarded as a powerful civilizing influencefor which the gatekeeper was so grateful. In this story, salt can be seen as the commodity which onemust have in order to have the secret and important knowledge which can affect the choice of one’sdestiny in life.[5]Salt is synonymous with good, orderly and civilized life while lack of it representstastelessness. This probably is why salt is used during the christening ceremony of Yoruba children.

This narrative shows that, once the choice is made, it becomes final and irrevocable. When thechoice of Ori has been made in Ajala’s storehouse, the person then starts on his journey down toearth.The narrative above indicates the type of life that will be lived here on earth. It is believedthat one who makes good choice will live a good life and one who makes a bad choice will live abad life.


Ori is a spiritual entity which is believed to have been in existence prior to the creation ofthe body and at creation of the body, it is implanted in the body to animate it and enable it fulfill itslot in life. The Yoruba see ori as a guardian angel/spirit which guides and protects an individualthrough life. Ori is also seen as a physical entity which is moulded and chosen by the individualbefore coming to the world. It is probably from this conception that the physical head is seen to bethe symbolization of ori-the spiritual head.[6]Ori is seen both as an entity that inhabits the body and also acts as a guardian angel (whichmeans ori might not necessarily inhabits the body). To buttress this point, when a newly weddedbride is going to her husband’s house, she is told: ki ori sine lo-may ori go with you. Here ori isseen as the guardian spirit, which is entreated to accompany her and make her matrimonial home ahappy one.Ori is strongly believed to influence the outcome of one’s life. It is believed that, that whichis chosen is unalterable. The content of ori is not known to man on getting here on earth. Butwhoever desires to know the content goes to find out from Orunmila known as eleri-ipin-thewitness of man’s destiny.[7]

He is able to tell each individual what choice he/she has made, eithergood or bad. This knowledge about the choice of an individual has made, helps him/her in his/herjourney here on earth.The Yoruba believe that, Ori have the wholistic knowledge of the person before birth untilafter death. For the human destiny to come to fruition, that is the choice that has been made-good orbad; the person needs the assistance of his Ori, for success in life and to contribute his quota to thedevelopment of the society as a responsible person does.[8]


It is believed that, the Yoruba belief in Orí is paradoxical, contradictory and inconsistent.It is believed that whatever happens to a person is destined to have happened and could not havebeen otherwise. On the other hand, the Yoruba also believe that, not only is Orí alterable, butalso that, the individual is in fact responsible for his acts. This assertion is quite clear from thefact that people are blamed and punished for misdeeds, and praised and rewarded for goodconduct.

The Yoruba conception of human destiny portrays a fatalistic feature that can easily makea man become resigned to fate, particularly in the face of the odds of life. It makes it impossiblefor him to be free in actions and therefore might not be morally responsible for them. TheYoruba however agree to the fact that in certain situations, a man’s destiny can be changed as aresult; an unalterable human destiny is not entirely supported in the practical experience of thepeople. There are various beliefs and practices, which indicate that a man’sOri can be altered.Idowu listed five ways by which a man’s destiny can be altered or modified.[9]

 It could bemodified through the assistance of Òrúnmìlà – the oracle divinity who is also referred to as eleriipin.The supplicant takes steps through the agency of Òrúnmìlà to influence his destiny, so thata good portion may be ensured. Secondly, an individual’s Enikeji – the heavenly counterpart,could modify it. The Enikeji must be kept in a state of peaceful contentment through regularofferings. Thirdly, a man’s destiny can negatively be affected by wicked people generally knownas Omo-ra’aire – literally, children of the world, but also known by the following names – Elesu– devilish, Eni-ibi – evil person, Ika-enia – wicked person, Onikupani – traitor, betrayer. Thesepeople are believed to be responsible for the ills in the society today; they have permeated almostevery aspect of the society. Fourthly, a person’s destiny can be affected by his character. The Yoruba believe that a good destiny unsupported by good character is worthless. It is for thisreason that they say:enil’orírere ti koniiwa,iwal’o ma b’oríreje (the person with good destiny but without a good character,it is bad character that will ruin his good destiny).To be able to enjoy his good fortune, the person must also be patient, kind, and generous;must respect elders and tradition, etc. Fifthly, a man’s destiny can be altered through appropriatesacrifices to one’s Orí and his tutelary divinity in order to maintain a good destiny or change abad one.According to Omolafe,[10] these five ways could be viewed from two broad levels –conceptual and practical levels. The first three ways of altering one’s destiny as listed above,belongs to the conceptual level. It is believed that certain spiritual forces are in operation in theindividual’s life; while the last two belong to the practical level. In this case, man’s efforts atcoping with the various changes in life are brought to the fore. When the Yoruba concept of Oríis viewed from a purely conceptual level, it is inescapable and irrevocable once chosen, but froma practical level, there are customary practices which assist the individual in coping with thedifficulties of earthly life.

In an attempt to clarify this issue of paradox in the Yoruba concept of Orí we would wantto examine the trimorphous conception of destiny. A-kunle-yan – that which is chosen kneeling,A-kunle-gba – that which is received kneeling and Ayanmo – that which is affixed to one. Despitethe fact that these three ways conflict in some ways, the Yoruba seems to take the three as if theywere completely compatible and they are also used interchangeably as if they meant the samething. A-kunle-yan – that which is chosen kneeling would mean self-choice, that is, self-predestination,while A-kunle-gba and Ayanmo signifies divine predestination. The personkneeling to receive is definitely receiving from Olódùmarè and the one that has his affixed tohim, is done by Olódùmarè. The trimorphous account of destiny is a problem, in that, which ofthese conceptions is to be accepted? It should however be pointed out here that the Yoruba donot see it as a problem, but since this is an attempt to clarify the issue of paradox; this criticalanalysis has to be carried out so that scholars and researchers might understand the position ofthe Yoruba.

From the previously mentioned, could it be said that destiny is freely chosen or imposedon the individual? That is, is the Yoruba concept of Orí self-predestination or divinepredestination or both? The attempt to see the Yoruba concept of Orí in terms of choice raises aproblem. To make a responsible choice, the person making the choice must be able to distinguishbetween right and wrong, good and bad and must have a level of maturity and intelligence, sothat he will be able to reason about the effect of his choice. The person making the choice isbelieved to be a mature person, an adult who can comprehend and knows the consequence of hischoice. However, it is a baby that is born into the world, who is incapable of speech, differentfrom the matured person who is believed to have made the choice, but if we want to assert that itis the baby that made the choice, we cannot say that a responsible choice was made. It is for thisreason that we have to drop the idea that Orí is chosen.

Another form of choice, which we do not agree with, is that, the individual makes thechoice and actually narrates what he wants in life in the presence of Olódùmarèand Onibode(gatekeeper),[11]who puts his seal on it, that it is irrevocable. Though this might indicate anelement of choice, this type of individualistic choice would however breed many inconsistencies,because some people’s destinies would be imposed on others. It is for this reason that we wouldaccept divine predestination whereby the individuals are given their destiny by Olódùmarè, inwhich case, they have no choice than to accept it and bring it to fruition. If the choice of divine predestinationis accepted, inconsistencies, as we have seen above will not arise, because eachindividual will be assigned specific roles, duties, and ways of life which will not contradict thoseof others, but rather., complement them.

The question we would now ask is, if the notion of divine predestination is accepted,which means it is unalterable, what implications would this have on the people’s way of life? Anappraisal of the people’s way of life, indicate that, they agree that the concept of Orí is divinepredestination, but they believe that it can be altered. According to Olowu,[12] he claims that, Orí can be altered; if it is unalterable, then therewill be no need for Ajo – solicitude and Awure – charm for good luck. He then went further tonarrate his own story, how he was told that he was destined to build only one house and must nothave more than three wives, and that if he tries to do otherwise, misfortune will befall him.However, through offering the necessary sacrifices he has been able to alter his destiny. He hasmore than three houses in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. He also has more than three wives, andnothing bad has happened to him. He said he changed his destiny himself to what he wants it tobe. He believes that it is when we get here on earth that we chose what we want throughsolicitude, good luck, hard work, struggle, good character, being responsible, etc.

From the experience of the man mentioned above, it can be said that most Yoruba do notreadily accept an unalterable destiny, because if they do, offering of sacrifice to rectify bad ori orto maintain a good one, praising or blaming, having a good character etc., would not be doneand even doing it would be worthless, and it would be inconsistent with the belief in an imposedand unalterable destiny.The Yoruba people do have some sayings that imply that they do believe in thealterability of orí. For instance, they say:Ise 1’oogun ise (Hard work is the medicine for poverty). What this statement means is that, even if one has chosen a good orí but refuses to work; such aperson would be poor. So, we can say that hard work is one of the criteria needed for a good oríto come to fruition. It also means that laziness can change a good orí to a bad one.Another one says:Iwarerelesoenia(Good character is the good ornament of a person).

This statement means that, without good character, a good orí cannot come to fruition.Therefore, if one has a good orí but does not have good character, his bad character will alter thegood orí. Without good character, destiny cannot be actualized, it is for this reason, and the followingstatements are made:Ki orí inuma ba to de je (May the inner headnot spoil the outer one).A very common statement among the Yoruba to show that Orí can be altered is:Ifa a sorodayoa tun orí omo ti o sunwon se (Ifa that turns word into joy,one that changes the orí of a bad child).The statement above shows that through Ifa divination, a bad head could be changed to agood one. For instance, a woman called lyan’diagba[13]13 strongly believes that orí, once chosencannot be altered. Even those that are believed to have been altered at certain times are destinedto be like that. She made the following statements to buttress her point:Ayanmo o la bu ye (Destiny cannot be changed after it is chosen).This statement means that once orí has been chosen, it cannot be changed. She also made thefollowing statements:Abiku so ologun deke (The born-to-die child turns the Ifa priest into a liar)What this statement literally means is that, one who is an Abiku – a child born-to-die,taken to the Ifa priest for divination so that such a person would not die again, eventually dies.This would portray the Ifa priest as a liar, who does not know about Ifa. Whatlyan’diagba istrying to say here is that once ori is chosen, it cannot be changed.

However, she mentioned that, if one has chosen a good orí and on getting here on earth, itwas changed by the evil ones popularly known as Aye, in such a case, there are sacrifices thatcould be done for such a person and the orí chosen would be restored back to him. She also saidthat if a person made a bad choice but has a good character, such a person should not say he hasnothing, because as a result of his good character, all the good things he desires would be his.Iwa 1’oba awure (Character is the king of solicitude).


Destiny in western thought is sometimes confused with predestination and fatalism, but as such it asserts neither that human affairs have been prearranged by a being outside the causal order nor that a person has an unavoidable fate. But to avoid this confusion, we are going to give a brief definition of these concepts that characterizes the notion of destiny in western thoughts.

  1. i) Determinism

The view that every event has a cause and that everything in the universe is absolutely dependent on and governed by causal laws. Since determinists believe that all events, including human actions, are predetermined, determinism is typically thought to be incompatible with free will.

  1. ii) Fatalism

The belief that “what will be will be,” since all past, present, and future events have already been predetermined by God or another all-powerful force. In religion, this view may be called predestination; it holds that whether our souls go to Heaven or Hell is determined before we are born and is independent of our good deeds.

iii)     Free will

The theory that human beings have freedom of choice or self-determination; that is, that given a situation, a person could have done other than what he did. Philosophers have argued that free will is incompatible with determinism. See also indeterminism.


The view that there are events that do not have any cause; many proponents of free will believe that acts of choice are capable of not being determined by any physiological or psychological cause.





Fate, personified by the Greeks under the name of Moira, signified in the ancient world the unseen power that rules over human destiny. In classical thought fate was believed to be superior to the gods, since even they were unable to defy it’s all – encompassing power. Fate is not chance, which may be defined as the absence of laws, but instead a cosmic determinism that has no ultimate meaning or purpose. In classical thought as well as in Oriental religion fate is a dark, sinister power related to the tragic vision of life. It connotes not the absence of freedom but the subjection of freedom. It is the transcendent necessity in which freedom is entangled (Tillich). Fate is blind, inscrutable, and inescapable.

Christianity substituted for the Hellenistic concept of fate the doctrine of divine providence. Whereas fate is the portentous, impersonal power that thwarts and overrules human freedom, providence liberates man to fulfill the destiny for which he was created. Fate means the abrogation of freedom; providence means the realization of authentic freedom through submission to divine guidance. Providence is the direction and support of a loving God, which makes life ultimately bearable; fate is the rule of contingency that casts a pall over all human striving. Whereas fate makes the future precarious and uncertain, providence fills the future with hope. Fate is impersonal and irrational; providence is supremely personal and supra-rational.

Fatalism was present among the ancient Stoics, and it pervades much of the thought of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Modern philosophers who have entertained ideas akin to fate are Oswald Spengler, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and Arthur Schopenhauer.


Fatalism is in general the view which holds that all events in the history of the world, and, in particular, the actions and incidents which make up the story of each individual life are determined by fate.

The theory takes many forms, or, rather, its essential feature of an antecedent force rigidly predetermining all occurrences enters in one shape or another into many theories of the universe. Sometimes in the ancient world, fate was conceived as an iron necessity in the nature of things, overruling and controlling the will and power of the gods themselves. Sometimes it was explained as the inexorable decree of the gods directing the course of the universe; sometimes it was personified as a particular divinity, the goddess or goddesses of destiny. Their function was to secure that each man’s lot, “share”, or part should infallibly come to him.


The Greek tragedians frequently depict man as a helpless creature borne along by destiny. At times this destiny is a Nemesis which pursues him on account of some crime committed by his ancestors or himself; at other times it is to compensate for his excessive good fortune in order to educate and humble him. With Æschylus, it is of the nature of an unpitying destiny; with Sophocles, that of an overruling personal will. Still, the most important feature is that the future life of each individual is so rigorously predetermined in all its details by an antecedent external agency that his own volitions or desires have no power to alter the course of events. The action of fate is blind, arbitrary and relentless. It moves inexorably onwards, effecting the most terrible catastrophes, impressing us with a feeling of helpless consternation, and harrowing our moral sense, if we venture upon a moral judgment at all. Fatalism in general has been inclined to overlook immediate antecedents and to dwell rather upon remote and external causes as the agency which somehow moulds the course of events.

Socrates and Plato held that the human will was necessarily determined by the intellect. Though this view seems incompatible with the doctrine of free will, it is not necessarily fatalism. The mechanical theory of Democritus, which explains the universe as the outcome of the collision of material atoms, logically imposes fatalism upon human volition. The clinamen or aptitude for fortuitous deviation which Epicurus introduced into the atomic theory, though essentially a chance factor, seems to have been conceived by some as acting not unlike a form of fate. The Stoics, who were both pantheists and materialists, present us with a very thorough-going form of fatalism. For them the course of the universe is an iron-bound necessity. There is no room anywhere for chance or contingency. All changes are but the expression of unchanging law. There is an eternally established providence overruling the world, but it is in every respect immutable. Nature is an unbreakable chain of cause and effect.

Providence is the hidden reason contained in the chain. Destiny or fate is the external expression of this providence, or the instrumentality by which it is carried out. It is owing to this that the prevision of the future is possible to the gods. Cicero, who had written at length on the art of divining the future, insists that if there are gods there must be beings who can foresee the future. Therefore the future must be certain, and, if certain, necessary. But the difficulty then presents itself: what is the use of divination if expiatory sacrifices and prayers cannot prevent the predestined evils? The full force of the logical difficulty was felt by Cicero, and although he observes that the prayers and sacrifices might also have been foreseen by the gods and included as essential conditions of their decrees, he is not quite decided as to the true solution. The importance ascribed to this problem of fatalism in the ancient world is evinced by the large number of authors who wrote treatises “De Fato”, e.g. Chrysippus, Cicero, Plutarch, Alexander of Aphrodisias, and sundry Christian writers down to the middle Ages.


With the rise of Christianity the question of fatalism necessarily adopted a new form. The pagan view of an external, inevitable force coercing and controlling all action, whether human or divine, found itself in conflict with the conception of a free, personal, infinite God. Consequently several of the early Christian writers were concerned to oppose and refute the theory of fate. But, on the other hand, the doctrine of a personal God possessing an infallible foreknowledge of the future and an omnipotence regulating all events of the universe intensified some phases of the difficulty. A main feature, moreover, of the new religion was the importance of the principle of man’s moral freedom and responsibility. Morality is no longer presented to us merely as a desirable good to be sought. It comes to us in an imperative form as a code of laws proceeding from the Sovereign of the universe and exacting obedience under the most serious sanctions. Sin is the gravest of all evils. Man is bound to obey the moral law; and he will receive merited punishment or reward according as he violates or observes that law. But if so, man must have it in his power to break or keep the law. Moreover, sin cannot be ascribed to an all-holy God. Consequently, free will is a central fact in the Christian conception of human life; and whatever seems to conflict with this must be somehow reconciled to it. The pagan problem of fatalism thus becomes in Christian theology the problem of Divine predestination and the harmonizing of Divine prescience and providence with human liberty.


The Moslem conception of God and His government of the world, the insistence on His unity and the absoluteness of the method of this rule as well as the Oriental tendency to belittle the individuality of man, were all favorable to the development of a theory of predestination approximating towards fatalism. Consequently, though there have been defenders of free will among Moslem teachers, yet the orthodox view which has prevailed most widely among the followers of the Prophet has been that all good and evil actions and events take place by the eternal decrees of God, which have been written from all eternity on the prescribed table. The faith of the believer and all his good actions have all been decreed and approved, whilst the bad actions of the wicked though similarly decreed have not been approved. Some of the Moslem doctors sought to harmonize this fatalistic theory with man’s responsibility, but the Oriental temper generally accepted with facility the fatalistic presentation of the creed; and some of their writers have appealed to this long past predestination and privation of free choice as a justification for the denial of personal responsibility. Whilst the belief in predestined lot has tended to make the Moslem nations lethargic and indolent in respect to the ordinary industries of life, it has developed a reckless danger which has proved a valuable element in the military character of the people.


The reformers of the sixteenth century taught a doctrine of predestination little, if at all, less rigid than the Moslem fatalism. With the new departure in philosophy and its separation from theology since the time of Descartes, the ancient pagan notion of an external fate, which had grown obsolete, was succeeded by or transformed into the theory of Necessarianism. The study of physics, the increasing knowledge of the reign of uniform law in the world, as well as the reversion to naturalism initiated by the extreme representatives of the Renaissance, stimulated the growth of rationalism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and resulted in the popularization of the old objections to free will. Certain elements in the mechanical philosophy of Descartes and in the occasionalism of his system, which his followers Malebranche and Geulinex developed, confining all real action to God obviously tend towards a fatalistic view of the universe.


Spinoza’s pantheistic necessarianism is, perhaps, the frankest and most rigid form of fatalism advocated by any leading modern philosopher. Starting from the idea of substance, which he so defines that there can be but one, he deduces in geometrical fashion all forms of being in the universe from this notion. This substance must be infinite. It evolves necessarily through an infinite number of attributes into an infinite of modes. The seemingly individual and independent beings of the world, minds and bodies, are merely these modes of the infinite substance. The whole world-process of actions and events is rigidly necessary in every detail; the notions of contingence, of possible beings other than those which exist, are purely illusory. Nothing is possible except what actually is. There is free will in neither God nor man. Human volitions and decisions flow with the same inexorable necessity from man’s nature as geometrical properties from the concept of a triangle. Spinoza’s critics were quick to point out that in this view man is no longer responsible if he does not commit a crime nor deserving of praise in recompense for his good deeds, and that God is the author of sin. Spinoza’s only answer was that rewards and punishments still have their use as motives, that evil is merely limitation and therefore not real, and that whatever is real is good. Vice, however, he holds, is as objectionable as pain or physical corruption. The same fatalistic consequences to morality are logically involved in the various forms of recent pantheistic monism.


Modern materialism, starting from the notion of matter as the sole original cause of all things, endeavors to elaborate a purely mechanical theory of the universe, in which its contents and the course of its evolution are all the necessary outcome of the original collocation of the material particles together with their chemical and physical properties and the laws of their action. The more thoroughgoing advocates of the mechanical theory, such as Clifford and Huxley, frankly accept the logical consequences of this doctrine that mind cannot act upon matter, and teach that man is “a conscious automaton”, and that thoughts and volitions exercise no real influence on the movements of material objects in the present world. Mental states are merely by-products of material changes, but in no way modify the latter. They are also described as subjective aspects of nervous processes, and as epiphenomena, but however conceived they are necessarily held by the disciples of the materialistic school to be incapable of interfering with the movements of matter or of entering in any way as efficient causes into the chain of events which constitute the physical history of the world.

However, the position is in some ways more extreme than the ancient pagan fatalism. For, while the earlier writers taught that the incidents of man’s life and fortune were inexorably regulated by an overwhelming power against which it was useless as well as impossible to strive, they generally held the common-sense view that our volitions do direct our immediate actions, though our destiny would in any case be realized. But the materialistic scientist is logically committed to the conclusion that while the whole series of our mental states are rigidly bound up with the nervous changes of the organism, which were all inexorably predetermined in the original collocation of the material particles of the universe, these mental states themselves can in no way alter the course of events or affect the movements of a single molecule of matter.


The Refutations of Western Fatalism of all types lies in the absurd and incredible consequences which they all entail.

(1) Ancient fatalism implied that events were determined independently of their immediate causes. It denied free will, or that free will could affect the course of our lives. Logically it destroyed the basis of morality.

(2) The fatalism resting on the Divine decrees (a) made man irresponsible for his acts, and (b) made God the author of sin.

(3) The fatalism of materialistic science not only annihilates morality but, logically reasoned out, it demands belief in the incredible proposition that the thoughts and feelings of mankind have had no real influence on human history Mill distinguished: (a) Pure or Oriental fatalism which, he says, holds that our actions are not dependent on our desires, but are overruled by a superior power; (b) modified fatalism, which teaches that our actions are determined by our will, and our will by our character and the motives acting on us–our character, however, having been given to us, (c) finally determinism, which, according to him, maintains that not only our conduct, but our character, is amenable to our will: and that we can improve our character. In both forms of fatalism, he concludes, man is not responsible for his actions. But logically, in the determinist theory, if we reason the matter out, we are driven to precisely the same conclusion. For the volition to improve, our character cannot arise unless as the necessary outcome of previous character and present motives. Practically there may be a difference between the conduct of the professed fatalist who will be inclined to say that as his future is always inflexibly predetermined there is no use in trying to alter it, and the determinist, who may advocate the strengthening of good motives. In strict consistency, however, since determinism denies real initiative causality to the individual human mind, the consistent view of life and morality should be precisely the same for the determinist and the most extreme fatalist.


Since the aim of this work is not to find out which one of the two cultures is preferable, but simply to set them into dialogue. And when we talk about comparism between two thoughts, is all about knowing what both thoughts have in common and the mere differences they may have based on their ideologies. That notwithstanding, in a simple or formal statement, it is good to know that the fundamental similarity between their various conception of destiny is that it has to do with ones fate in life. The future one is to encounter, whether he/she would be successful or not. Whereas, the westerners believe that what one is destined to be in life, he/she must surely be that and nothing could be done to change that. Even though the Yoruba(s) believes that one’s destiny in life must be attended, they also created room for changes, which would be possible through offering of sacrifice to the author of destiny (That is, their God). With this, they created room for a change in destiny for those whose destiny is bad or people destined to doom in life. So that such persons can change their fate in life. This forms their major difference.

The westerners believe that before one is born, he had already been destined in life to be either successful or to be a failure. This position can be seen in the bible, which belongs to Christians, a religion born out of western culture. But the Yoruba(s) have a separate view. However, we are going to express the separate views upheld by the Yoruba(s) as against, and also in support of western views. Taking a critical look at Yoruba, from all the afore said, it could be said that, at one time or the other, a kind of change oralteration does occur. Is there then confusion in the belief system? If we accept the fact thatdestiny is unalterable, it would be logical for us to conclude that people should not be heldresponsible for most of their actions, since it is believed that he is destined to behave the way hedid. The Yoruba believe that man should be held responsible for his actions, good or bad, hence,their acceptance of the institutions of punishment, reward, praise and blame. The seemingparadox sets in when it is believed that orí is changeable, either for better or for worse throughsacrifice or through the powers of the evil ones or through the possession of a bad character, andit is further compounded by the acceptance of the notion of freewill and responsibility.

The Yoruba belief in orí is not inconsistent or contradictory as it appears to be, because itis not an encompassing kind of belief. This means that, it is not every detail of a man’s life thathis destiny features. If every detail of a person’s life were to be preordained, there would be noroom for human freedom, choice and responsibility as it is seen among the Yoruba. However, ifit is just certain aspect that is mapped out, we might attempt to accommodate the freedom of thewill and human responsibility.In the people’s way of life, inalterability of orí is not depicted in their way of life. Theyalways attempt to alter a bad one and maintain a good one through their practical activities andsome of their other beliefs. Despite having an almost unshakable belief in the rigidity of destiny,they also accept that under certain conditions, a man’s destiny can be changed either for good orfor bad, but that it is within his power to influence his own choice of Orí.

As we have already mentioned above, Oríis not an encompassing concept, the Yorubapeople only resort to it while explaining certain occurrences in their life. For instance, KwasiWiredu gives an apt illustration of this with the story of an imaginary traveler who dies in a buscrash.When he (the traveler) originally tried to get on the bus, it was already filled tocapacity with passengers, but just as he decides to postpone his journey and as heis turning to go, a seat is vacated, one passenger, for one reason or the other, hasto get off in a hurry. So he gets on. His destination is the very first stop on the bus,and he is, in fact, the passenger traveling the shortest distance. But just one milefrom his destination the calamity occurs; a puncture and the bus crashes.Unbelievably, everyone on board escapes with minor bruises except one. Alone,of fifty passengers our traveler dies.[14]

In the case stated above, orí is resorted to as a metaphysical construct for explainingstrange occurrences, which otherwise defy explanation. Co-passengers would say things like,”and to imagine he was going to postpone the trip”, some other would say, “bo se yan ti e ni yen– that is how he has chosen his own”. A situation like this might imply that, the Yoruba conceptof orí is fatalistic. From the explanations given above, we would rather suggest, that the Yorubaposition is deterministic, at least going by their various practical activities and some of theirother beliefs. In which case, they only accept the fact that every human act has some antecedentcause or causes. The fatalistic assertion is that, “what will be, will be, regardless of any otherfactor”. In other words, once an event has been fated to happen, nothing can stop it –fromhappening. Judging from what we have seen of the Yoruba belief in orí and their practicalactivities, we cannot accept the fact that they are fatalists. However, we can readily accept thatmost of them are determinists, in which case, they do have a choice to do something about theirsituation; they just do not resign to fate. Makinde seems to sum up the situation when he saysthat “there seems to be an implied belief that it is within one’s power to make a good orísuccessful as it was not destined to be.”[15]

We are able to come to the conclusion that most Yoruba people are not fatalist by takinga number of things into consideration, some of which we have examined above:Orunmila the oracle divinity is referred to as:Ifa a s’oro da yoa tun On omoti o sun won se.Ifa, that turns words into joy, one that changes the ori of a bad child.Orunmila is able to intervene in an event where individual has been affixed with a bad orunhappy orí; it is for this reason that he is also known as Eleri-Ipin – the witness. He is also ableto help preserve a good orí forestall any evil that might want to prevent its coming to fruition.This can be successfully done provided adequate appeal and sacrifice are made to him.[16]Theefficacy of sacrifice is also believed to be necessary from time to time to keep one in harmonywith the power that be. Orí is also regularly appeased and sacrifice offered to it in order tocontinue guiding its owner.[17]

 The Yoruba do accept the fact that they have to make certainefforts to maintain or change that which has already been fated.Other practices and beliefs which show that they are more determinist than fatalistinclude hardwork, struggle and good character. They believe that without good character, a goodOrí cannot come to fruition. One must also cultivate the practice of good behavior and must be morally responsible. Certain traits such as disrespect to elders, envy, jealousy, greed, dishonesty,etc., could ruin a good orí. An initial good lot in life is not a sufficient condition for humansuccess, which ought not to be the case if indeed the Yoruba believe that, “what will be, will be,and regardless of what happens”.The people also have various taboos and systems of law according to which offenders arepunished. They also give praises and blame, and advice as well as strict moral upbringing ofchildren. All these various activities do not conform to the fatalist position.


Having seen the various views of these cultural groups or thoughts, one could only but say that they complement each other. This is possible in the sense that one cannot say that either this culture or the other should be preferable, once the notion of destiny is mentioned. The gains of such comparism is all about reaching out to other culture from where we are situated, in order to gain more knowledge about others. Since it is said that knowledge is power, and it is with this form of knowledge that one can be able to function effectively where ever he/she finds himself.

Finally, as a group, we really appreciate Yoruba culture which we used as a scope for our writing. We came to understand that they are wonderful and rich in their culture, and also cultural heritage. From our encounter with most of them, we observedthat most of the Yoruba(s) are determinist;  in the sense that they recognize that their acts, or whatever happens tothem have antecedent causes, and they still attempt to influence future events. However, we can thenconclude that the Yoruba philosophy does not allow for extreme position, their views are mostlycomplimentary and it is also for this reason the Yoruba say – “Owoomode o topepe, ti agbalagbakowo ‘kengbe” – “The hand of the child cannot reach the shelf, neither can that of the adult enterthe calabash”.


  • Publication information Written by Michael Maher. Transcribed by Rick McCarty. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York
  • Fatalism – – is at http://mb soft.com/believe/txn/fatalism.htm
  • The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at: BELIEVE Religious Information Source – By Alphabet http://mb-soft.com/believe/indexaz.html
  • W C Greene, Moira: Fate, Good and Evil in Greek Thought; R Guardini, Freedom, Grace, and Destiny; P Tillich, “Philosophy and Fate,” in The Protestant Era, and The Courage to Be; H Ringgren, ed., Fatalistic Beliefs in Religion, Folklore, and Literature; J Den Boeft, Calcidius on Fate.
  • Abogunrin, S.O. 1972. “Man in Yoruba Thought” B.A. Dissertation, Department of ReligiousStudies, University of Ibadan. Unpublished Work.
  • Abimbola, W. 1978. Sixteen Great Poems of Ifa. UNESCO.
  • Adedeji, J.A, 1989. A Philosophical Analysis of the Yoruba Belief in Destiny. B.A. dissertation,Department of Philosophy. Unpublished work.
  • Ali, S.A. 1995. “The Yoruba Conception of destiny: A Critical Analysis” in Journal of Philosophyand Development. Ogun State University. Ago-Iwoye. No. 1, Vols. 1&2.
  • Idowu, E.B. 1996. Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief. London: Longman.

10)Makinde, M.A. 1985. “A Philosophical Analysis of the Yoruba Concepts of ORI and HumanDestiny”, International Studies in Philosophy, No. 1, Vol. XVII.

     11) Omolafe, J.A.1997. Yoruba Conception of a Person: Functional Implications, Ph.D. Thesis, TheInstitute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.

     12) Wiredu Kwasi, Philosophy and an African Culture, Cambridge University Press, 1980.

[1]Idowu, E.B. 1996. Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief. London: Longman. p.170

[2]Abimbola, W. 1978. Sixteen Great Poems of Ifa. UNESCO, p. 205.

[3]Abogunrin, S.O. 1972. “Man in Yoruba Thought” B.A. Dissertation, Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan. Unpublished work. p.39.

[4]Idowu, E.B. Op. Cit., 179

[5]Opefeyitimi, Personal discussion, 1st January, 2013

[6]Adedeji, J.A, 1989. “A Philosophical Analysis of the Yoruba Belief in Destiny”. B.A. dissertation, Department of Philosophy. Unpublished work. p.22.

[7]Idowu, E.B, op.cit.p.171

[8]Ali, S.A. 1995. “The Yoruba Conception of destiny: A Critical Analysis” in Journal of Philosophy and Development. Ogun State University. Ago-Iwoye. No. 1 Vols. 1&2. p. 102.

[9]Idowu, E.B. op.cit.p.171

[10]Omolafe, J.A. 1997. Yoruba Conception of a Person: Functional Implications, Ph.D. Thesis, The Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, p.185.

[11]Idowu, E.B. op.cit. p.174.

[12]Personal Interview with Pa Olowu 18 December, 2012.

[13]Personal interview with Iya n’diagba, 23 December, 2012

[14]Kwasi Wiredu, Philosophy and an African Culture, Cambridge University Press 1980. p.19.

[15]Makinde, M.A. 1985. “A Philosophical Analysis of the Yoruba Concepts of ORI and Human Destiny”, International Studies in Philosophy, No. 1, Vol. XVII, p.62.

[16]Idowu, E.B. op.cit. p. 176

[17]Ibid. p.172


PHILOSOPHY OF MAN by Prof. M. Saeed Sheikh

“Man” seems to have been quite a neglected subject in the history of Western philosophy; more attention has been paid to God and universe than to man. Though there are many reputable histories of the specific branches of philosophy; and even of some of its special subjects such as logic ethics, aesthetics, politics, law and history, a “history of the philosophy of man” has yet to be written and even vet to be conceived. True “man” has sometimes been discussed as a part of this or that theory or system in ethics, politics or education, but such subsidiary discussions by their very nature remain controlled by the requirements and presuppositions of a particular theory or system.

All this strikes rather ironical in view of the fact that, to the great Socrates; first of the founders of Western philosophy, the central theme of philosophy was not the world, but man. Socrates’ deep concern for the well-being of man makes him look like a prophet moving amongst the Greeks. In the celebrated Platonic Dialogue; the Apology, Socrates is reported to have gone to God, only to be graced with a special message for his fellow men. This Divine message exhorted the Athenians to “ take the greatest possible care of their souls and not to ruin their lives by letting the care of the body and of the “possessions” take precedence over the good of the soul. Nay, they must make their souls as good as possible, making them like God”.

Socrates is, however, better known to us for his detailed and meticulous analyses of the moral qualities of man; such as justice, goodness, courage, temperance and so on. But what is more important for us to note here is the woeful fact that nowhere in ‘all the twenty-eight platonic Dialogues, we find Socrates giving as a definition of man. Perhaps even for Socrates, man was too much of a mystery, and a veritable riddle to be comprehended through a philosophical definition.

Both Plato and Aristotle, after Socrates, ventured to give us definitions of man; but these definitions, with due deference to these two great masters, unfortunately, are no longer tenable on empirical grounds. Plato’s definition of man as a political animal, perhaps, reflects only the intensely political atmosphere of the city-states of his days. We in our own days know fully well that man in the pre-literate and primitive societies has neither state nor politics. Aristotle’s definition of man as a social animal, very sadly, casts a slur on his otherwise well-established reputation as “the founder of a systematic and comparative Zoology”. Sociability cannot be said to be the real hallmark of man to distinguish him from the animals. Some of the animals, at quite a lower rung of the evolutionary ladder, manifest as much sociability in their behaviour as man. The social insects like termites, ants, bees and wasps live in colonies and give clear evidence of group-integration and division of lab our; they have their kings and queens and workers and soldiers much as the human beings have.

The definition of man as a rational animal not only carries the formidable authority of Aristotle but also the weight of a long tradition running throughout the ages. This definition of man, to my mind, is more prescriptive than descriptive. It exhorts man to think rationally rather than describe the fact of man’s actually thinking rationally. But it is an imperative or a command, and a good command indeed but for that very reason not a definition. It may be insisted that Aristotle, in his definition has made an empirical statement of the kind that man by virtue of the quality of rationality (differentia) inherent in him, always thinks rationally. In that case this definition is not satisfactory, because it is an incomplete definition which has taken “rationality” as the sole distinctive quality of man as it differentiates him from the animals. There are, however, other similar unique qualities of man differentiating him from the animals, which have been completely by-passed in Aristotle’s definition–qualities, for example, of artistic imagination and numinous sense of the presence of the Divine to all things. Aristotle’s- definition could give us only a fragmented man as if a featherless biped.

Aristotle’s definition of man in terms of genus and differentia, Plato’s in terms of the tripartite division of the soul, and the great scholastic philosophers’ in terms of the indivisible soul-substance which does nothing to us nor we do anything to it; all of them seem to be some of the blind alleys in the history of philosophy. These definitions, however, are not altogether meaningless; in any case they are better than Cartesians’ definition of man as an assembled organic machine ready to run, or behaviourists’ definition of him as a toy in the Watsonian box mercilessly caught between the stimulii and the responses. Classical philosophers’ definitions or conceptions of man are to be construed not through the detailed analyses of their philosophical terms but through a close and deep understanding of their whole philosophical perspective. In case their definitions continue to remain unacceptable to us, even then we are to change not the definitions but the philosophical perspective from which these definitions have emerged. This is much like moving from the geocentric perspective to the heliocentric perspective in astronomy. But the change of a perspective in philosophy, as in other domains of human knowledge, usually entails a change in the methods of its study, like, for instance, studying the moon, through a telescope and studying it by landing on its surface, or more precisely, as Max Weber puts it, like studying the cultural phenomena through the usual methods of scientific explanation and studying them through the method of “interpretative understanding”.

Quite a few new perspectives in philosophy and even the new methods of their study came to be keenly discussed and elaborated in some of the major universities in Germany such as Munich, Hamburg and Berlin, somewhere in the 1020’s. Some of these new perspectives or branches of philosophy and their methods may be roughly translated in English as: “Philosophy of Life”, “Study of the Human Sciences”, “Study of the Cultural Sciences”, “Method of Spiritual Interpretation”, Method of understanding (verstehn) in Human Sciences”, and “Method of Phenomenology”.

From the very titles of. these new branches of philosophy, it becomes clear that they especially focus their attention on man. The method, that the proponents of the new sciences of philosophy employ in the study of man is a highly technical affair; broadly speaking, it may be characterized as an empirical method of the highest order. From the new undertakings and preoccupations of some of the distinguished German philosophers in the new philosophy, there emerged quite a few new disciplines such as a “Philosophy of Culture”, “Philosophy of Symbolism”, “Biographical Studies” and “Philosophy of the Human Sciences”. Among them was also the philosophy of man as a very specialized and independent discipline; named as Philosophical Anthropology or Anthropological Philosophy. By 1940 there were quite a few chairs for philosophy of man in some of, the renowned universities in Germany. After World War II interest in this discipline spread to Holland and France. Soon after it had its impact felt in the United States; possibly through the influence of the most distinguished German philosopher, Ernest Cassirer, who after having left Germany in 1933 had taught at Oxford and later chaired the Departments of Philosophy, at the universities of Yale and Columbia. He is perhaps the only German Philosopher to have been admitted to the distinction of the library of living philosophers.

Without any pretentions to originality the philosophers of man have acknowledged their great indebtedness to many of the philosophers of the past; notably to Blaise Pascal, Goethe, Kant, Herder, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Feuerbach, Nietzsche. They have drawn their greatest inspiration, however, from the works of Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911); one of the greatest philosophers of history and culture. Dilthey is noted for his thoroughgoing empiricism and for the encyclopedic range of his academic interests. The most singular of his contributions to philosophy, however, is his construction of a new methodology for philosophy, and a Dew science of interpretation (Hermenutics) for the study of human sciences (Geisteswisseneschaften). He is reported to have worked on these major preoccupations of his for forty years. Dilthey’s works, prepared by a team of editors, have appeared in eighteen volumes with more to follow. A six-volume English translation of his selected works is being published by Princton University since 1984.

Among the writers; specifically on the “philosophy of man” in Germany, by far the most active of its exponents, is Max Scheler whose work Man’s Place in Nature (Die Stellung des Mensehen in Kosmos. 1928) is perhaps the first ice-breaker. Scheler was also the first to employ an independent method of phenomenology to the study of religion. He, however, is better known in the Anglo-Saxon world for his pioneer work on Sociology of Knowledge, the great merit of which has been recognized by th Max Weber and Karl Mannheim.

Ernest Cassirer, generally known to us for being one of the earliest writers on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (1921), is in fact the most distinguished philosopher of symbolism. His very original theory of symbolism as exhibited variously in science, art, religion, myth and language, is elaborately expounded in his three-volume work: Philosophy of Symbolic Forms: (Philosophie der Symbolischen Formen, 1923-1929). This theory has given the new philosophy of man a firm empirical base; it has also given to it a definitive starting point. Man, according to Ernest Cassirer, is essentially a symbolizing animal. It is man’s unique ability to use symbols, or in the language of the Quran, the ability to name things that differentiates man from the pre-human animals.

It is through this unique ability to use symbols that man learnt to assign to objects, persons and advents certain meanings such as could not at all be grasped through the sensations. So long as man did not become aware of symbols, he remained at a level of mental existence in which the world was dark and opaque and meant nothing. But the moment man started using symbols he was, as if through a magic wand, awakened to a new mode of consciousness; the consciousness of meanings. Man’s awareness of, so to say, capturing the things by assigning meanings to them through the use of symbols, lifted him literally to a new dimension of human existence. This exaltation of man to a new level of existence, verily because of his ability to use symbols; is referred to in the Quran i.e. verse: when Adam exhibited the ability to name things– and this was beyond the angel’s spiritual dimension–angels prostrated themselves before him. It is interpreted sometimes to mean that it is verily through his ability to use words that man came to have a mysterious sway over everything that he touched or looked at.

In the symbolic’ comprehension of meanings, the words dog, rat, rabbit, are not merely sounds but meaningful sounds. The meanings, however, are not inherent in the sounds (or in the shapes or the configurations of the letters in case of written words) as such, but are arbitrarily or conventionally assigned to them by human beings. The point to be noted here is that, in an articulate speech, the sensory sounds of the words have no intrinsic relations to the meanings intended by the speaker; sounds or patterns of sounds are used merely as symbolic instruments or vehicles for the meanings. This explains very largely that though the anthropoid apes, in the so-called great-ape-language-experiments, usually succeed in picking up short series of single words, they utterly fail to develop a sense of “contextual” relevance of words as also to acquire the ability to link the words syntactically or as the experimenters put it: “Apes are complete blank in grammar.”

How and when did man learn to use symbols or words continues to remain an open question. Plato was perhaps the first to broach the subject of the origin of language in his Dialogue The Cratylos. His discussion of the matter, however, was inconclusive as also were the speculative theories of many classical philosophers who ventured into unravelling the mystery of language. Inquiries into the origin of language are now quite out of fashion with the modern philosophers and linguists.

We must, however, note here the position on this issue taken by Edward Burnett Tylor. He was, admittedly, one of the most distinguished of the British anthropologists. He tells us that “at some point in the evolution of primates, a threshold was reached in some line, or lines, when the ability to use symbols was suddenly realized and made explicit in overt behaviour. There is no intermediate stage, logical or neurological, between symbol ling and non-symbolling: an individual or a species is either capable of symbolling or he or it is not. “ All that Tylor means to tell us here is that the ability to use symbols emerged through a kind of mysterious leap and is not the product of gradual and continuous process of evolution. This is clearly indicated by the, expression “suddenly realized” in the above passage. Instead of openly confessing his ignorance on the issue of the origin of symbolling, i.e., language, Tylor seems here to cloak this ignorance by using the doubtful and debatable doctrine of leaps or jumps so popular with the Emergent and Creative Evolutionists. If both philosophy and science fail us in this matter, why not then accept the view given in the Scriptures that man learnt the names of things from God Himself and call it the divine theory of language. Even as scientists we are not to say that there are only perceptual symbols and completely ignore a whole class of symbols called the religious symbols. The religious symbols constitute a peculiar language of their own which is quite as meaningful as scientific language; only like the language of art, it has its own unique method of interpretation or in Dilthey’s words a unique Hermenutics.

Having acquired the capacity to use symbols a bit more freely and having built up a sizable working lexicon of these symbols, man started his journey away from the physical world (merely a sensory world of the animals), created by the Lord, to a non-physical world, created by man himself as the Deputy of the Lord. Very briefly this new world of the Deputy is the world of, meanings and values; giving a broad classificatory description of it, it is the world of language, myth, art, religion, philosophy, and science. It is however more convenient to call it the world of culture. It is to be noted here that animals cannot possibly be admitted to man’s world of culture as earlier they could not be admitted to man’s world of symbols. Culture and symbols indeed are like soul and body to each other. Hence it would not be inappropriate to say that culture, born of the inmost passions of man’s psyche or spirit (Geist), always manifests itself in and through the dress of symbols. Much more important, however, is the fact that it is only through its symbolic dress that culture receives a tangible form so that it can be safely stored in libraries, galleries, museums, and places of worship. Soon, culture assumes a personality of its own, independent of man, its creator. It then begins to move from generation to generation, and from epoch to epoch and manages to stalk in man’s history as a power by itself. Culture thus comes to change its position with man and claims to be creator of man.

The way culture is transmitted from one generation to another is the most wondrous of all the cultural phenomena. Nietzsche observed in his usual inclisive way that culture could be possessed by man alone for man alone is born as an unfinished animal. The human infant as compared to the infants of other animals is biologically much less formed as if it were born premature and certainly it is too much of a weakling to face the slightest blows of nature. Moreover this creature has to go a long way before it can lay claims to be on its own – if ever it would! On the other hand the parents of this weakling are irresistibly attracted to it and extend to it the most affectionate care and love. The weakling’s helplessness for a long – stretched period of its infancy and the corresponding intense attachment of the parents (particularly of the mother) are some of the important constituents of a new phase of the human weakling’s life. This phase has been termed as the second gestation or the extra-uterine gestation. It seems as if the infant at the time of its birth was released from the biological confines of the mother only to be thrown into the socio-cultural confines of the world. It has sometimes been said that most human animals move from the confines of one shell into those of another and never really are born, unless, of course, if they are helped through some kind of cultural maiuetics or spiritual midwifery.

It is a well-known fact that a child learns his native language in the shortest possible span of time. By the age of six and even five most children would have learnt not only more than 90% of the basic vocabulary of their language but also its grammar, the correct form of its a lot of idioms, the right pronunciation, the proper accent or intonation, the appropriate choice of words to be addressed variously to parents, a sibling, a playmate, or a servant. This is amazing! How does the child learn all this? ‘I he simple and perhaps correct answer is: The child learns all this through its skin. The child starts being sensitized right from the early days of its birth by a deeply emotionalized inter-personal involvement with a number of persons around it. The most important of these persons, of course, is the mother who starts teaching the child a new scheme of conditioned reflexes, soon to be developed into an elaborate system of symbols, not merely through the words of mouth but also through the soft and warm touches of her body, her hugs, her fondlings, her caresses, and her one and hundred kisses. The language as if it were, was being injected into the child. As the child grows up through boyhood and adolescence right into adulthood this language stays with him and becomes the veritable part of his personality. It would not be for wrong to assert that the child gets enclosed for ever within the shell of its native language which it cannot possibly break through – unless it chances to be a Ghalib or an Iqbal.

It is exceedingly important to note here that the child imbibes its native culture through the same emotionally sensitized, subjectivized, internalized way as becomes available to it in learning the native language. Culture and language (scheme of symbols) are so closely tied to each other that it is well-nigh impossible to imagine a culture without its peculiar language; nor is it possible to think of a language without its culture. To have a language without a culture is tantamount to having words without meanings, which makes no sense. Thus child’s learning its native culture, and its learning the native language are not two processes but one in which the two are interwined with each other for their very existence. Some leading modern psychologists, however, are of the view that the child learns the whole value and belief-system embodied in its culture much quicker than he learns the language. The process of imbibing the culture they hold is comparatively more sensitized, more subjectivized and more internalized; than that learning the language. Language on the other hand, is a bit more of a cognitive and schematic affair. Language further has more of an instrumental value to serve as a symbolic medium, while culture carries all the intrinsic meanings and values which are closest to the child’s heart. The child internalizes all the cultural meanings and values of his milieu and they become real powerful ingredients of his personality. In other words the child gets snugly enclosed in a fully fortified, double-walled shell of language and culture for the rest of his life. The notion of the second, i.e., the socio-cultural gestation of man is, thus, not to be labelled a mere speculation of the philosophical anthropologists but a doctrine well-rooted in the empirically grounded evidence.

The above process of acculturation through which every human child has to pass has led some American psychologist, notably Benedict Ruth and Margaret Mead, to advance their doctrine of cultural determinism. According to this doctrine, even though individuals think that they make personal choices, at least, in such trivial matters as buying an article of clothing or eating or not eating a particular food in the restaurant, their choices are, in fact, fully determined by the socio-cultural milieu in which they have . been brought up. However bleak, gloomy or disheartening by this view of stark determinism might be, It is not easy to refute it. It carries weight in so far as it explains some important socio-cultural phenomena. Take, for instance, the strifes and conflicts between socio-cultural groups, small or big, belonging to this or that piece ,of land, in the south or the north, in the east or the west, subscribing to this or that religious view or ideological shiboleths. These social psychologists and culturologists tell us, are very largely due to the fact that the socio-political behaviour of the individuals and more particularly of their leaders is dertermined in the final analysis by the forces residing within their respective socio-cultural shells.

Cultural determinism as viewed by Ruth and Mead and even as conceived earlier by the behaviourists, the psycho-analysts and the historical materialists poses a real serious challenge to any philosophy of man. Philosophers like Dilthey and Scheler, however, insist that the solution to this apparently impossible problem is not theoretical but entirely practical and experiential. Culture, according to them, owes its origin, essentially to the extraordinary experiences and arduous creative work of the great prophets, the great artists, and the great philosophers and other great geniuses who have given new meanings and new dimensions to human life. These torch-bearers of life cannot be said to be passive product of socio-cultural forces of their milieu. The very fact that they have the capacity to take these socio-cultural forces into their own hand and direct them into new channels in the light of their Geist falsifies any such view. Dilthey, however, goes farther and urges us to absorb and internalize the extraordinary experiences of these lumanaries of humanity to the best of our abilities; so that these may be re-lived to the maximum possible extent in our own humble souls, Thus alone shall we be born again and be released from the bondage of cultural determinism. This is, however, by no means, an easy, affair. Nevertheless, it is a real uphill task. It may be recalled that Dilthey worked for full forty years on the sciences of human spirit (Geisteswissenscha ften ); then he could arrive at their methodology.

This is a methodology, primarily, about transferring or transmitting the experiences of the great founders of human culture to the generality of mankind. Among other things, Dilthey has insisted on the experiential rather than the barely intellectual or academical interpretations (Hermeunities) of the great texts. It is through the former type of interpretation alone that we are enabled to have true intuitive comprehension (Verstchn) of the inner import of these texts. It is heartening to note that Allama Iqbal has advocated a method for the comprehension of the text. of the Quran which is almost identical with that of Dilthey. The Allama says in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam : “No understanding of the Holy Book is possible until it is revealed to the believer just as it was revealed to the Prophet”.

This most remarkable statement, unique in the history of Islamic thought, is to be found in the opening’ passage of Lecture VII of the Reconstruction, a, lecture addressed originally to the very learned audience of the Aristotelian Society in London (on the 5th of December, 1932). Though the Allama has ascribed this statement to an unnamed Muslim Sufi (sic), I, on the basis of my study of the Reconstruction and experience of expounding its text to a few generations of students for the last more than 20 years, beg to differ with him and aver that the said statement is positively his own. The Allama has ascribed it to an unknown Sufi, to my mind, only because he had great misgivings about the way it might be received by the traditional scholars of Islam.

Let me add that the statement is purely prescriptive and not descriptive in the usual sense; it does not refer to a fact, here a credal fact, i.e., a belief; it only exhorts us to do something in a certain way if we want to have a desired end. So, as a prescriptive statement, it strongly recommends to us a method for the true comprehension of the meanings of the Quran. It tells us that a true believer must so deeply interiorize the meanings of the Holy Book that he starts almost re-living certain “experiences” on account of which, these meanings were comprehended by or revealed to the Prophet. Thus, the reference here is essentially to a spiritual process or method through which alone (and the true believers have no choice in this matter) a true believer would comprehend the meanings of the Quranic text closest possible to the comprehension of the Prophet. This perhaps is the only, though very arduous, way of deepening or intensifying our Islamic consciousness. The statement, however, is open to the misinterpretation that in so far as it recommends the believer to do something which is very close to Prophet’s very unique way of doing it, it implies or suggests that the believer is raised to the status of the Prophet – and this is sacrilegeous. It is to be noted that the true believer’s being raised in his status is purely and entirely epistemic or experiential which is a blessing, not ontic, real, or actual which is impossible, or, as James Wards puts it, the most impossible of all things in the world. We cannot be a Plato or a Shakespeare, how can we be an Abraham, a Moses or a Muhammad? May God forgive us for any such thoughts.

At the time of writing Lecture VII which embodies the above statement, i.e., September 1932, the Allama was very busy and much preoccupied in so many things – Javid Nama was to come soon in December; in October he was to leave for Third Round Table Conference and so on. He did not want to be disturbed just because the great traditional scholars would not renderstand him on an important academic statement of his; so in haste he foisted it on a Muslim Sufi. Please note the rather unusual expression “the Muslim Sufi”, most unexpected of Iqbal, as perfect a master of English diction- as that of Persian. “The Muslim Sufi’, as if there could be also Christian or Hindu Sufis, betrays the very divided feelings or moments of hesitation at the time of thinking of this expression and tacitly nodding to it: “Let it go!” He was keenly aware of the profound religious meanings embodied in the above statement but also painfully aware of the spiritual opacity of his co-religionists who might be displeased with it. He was divided between pleasing his eo-religionists and pleasing himself. So he chose to father the statement on a “Muslim Sufi” he would not name, and thus please both himself and his brethren in faith – nobody would know that the “Muslim Sufi” was he himself.

It is generally narrated that somewhere in early November, 1933, on way back from Afghanistan Iqbal told Syed Sulaiman Nadvi that the Sufi referred to in the above statement was no other than his own father. The very fact that the name of the author of the statement “popped up” signifies that the statement must have struck the Syed extraordinary. More notable, however, is the fact that the great Syed accepted Iqbal’s assertion as it was and did not comment on it nor added anything to it – not even later. He did not say, for example: “I am so pleased to know this”. But my dear friend, it is nothing very original, it may as well be found in Ghazali, Rumi, Ibn Arabi, Jili, Mujaddid Alit Thani, or any name like them. It looks rather odd that the Iqbal scholars have quietly agreed to foist such an important and methodologically most significant statement on a Sufi, who never had any pretensions whatsoever in the Sufi-lore nor in the subtle and profound ways of the Sufis.

The fact that Iqbal himself was the author of the statement given in the Reconstruction gets fully corroborated by the following verse from the Bal-i-Jibril:

تیرے ظمیر پہ جب تک نہ ہو نزول کتاب
گرہ کشا ہے نہ رازی نہ صاحب کشاف

Unless the Book’s each verse and part

Be revealed unto your heart

Interpreters, though much profound

Its subtle points cannot expound.

Not only is the Allama the only Muslim thinker to have clearly enunciated the above Diltheyian method but also the first to have practiced it in his expositions of the many passages of the Qur’an. I have the privilege of having paid special attention to this aspect of Allama’s Islamic ,thought in my annotated edition of the Reconstruction; the matter however needs the very special attention of the experts in the Quranic exegesis.

In the conclusion I would like to say that Philosophy of man is highly disciplined endeavour aimed at the discovery of man in the manifestations of his spirit at its peaks as these are embodied in the celebrated texts of the great prophets, the great poets and the great philosophers which texts are to be re-lived anew in every age through an interpretative method as recommended by philosophers like Dithery and Iqbal.


An Epistemological Nightmare by Raymond M. Smullyan

Scene 1

Frank is in the office of an eye doctor. The doctor holds up a book and asks “What color is it?” Frank answers, “Red.” The doctor says, “Aha, just as I thought! Your whole color mechanism has gone out of kilter. But fortunately your condition is curable, and I will have you in perfect shape in a couple of weeks.”

Scene 2

(A few weeks later.) Frank is in a laboratory in the home of an experimental epistemologist. (You will soon find out what that means!) The epistemologist holds up a book and also asks, “What color is this book?” Now, Frank has been earlier dismissed by the eye doctor as “cured.” However, he is now of a very analytical and cautious temperament, and will not make any statement that can possibly be refuted. So Frank answers, “It seems red to me.”


I don’t think you heard what I said. I merely said that it seems red to me.

I heard you, and you were wrong.

Let me get this clear; did you mean that I was wrong that this book is red, or that I was wrong that it seems red to me?

I obviously couldn’t have meant that you were wrong in that it is red, since you did not say that it is red. All you said was that it seems red to you, and it is this statement which is wrong.

But you can’t say that the statement “It seems red to me” is wrong.

If I can’t say it, how come I did?

I mean you can’t mean it.

Why not?

But surely I know what color the book seems to me!

Again you are wrong.

But nobody knows better than I how things seem to me.

I am sorry, but again you are wrong.

But who knows better than I?

I do.

But how could you have access to my private mental states?

Private mental states! Metaphysical hogwash! Look, I am a practical epistemologist. Metaphysical problems about “mind” versus “matter” arise only from epistemological confusions. Epistemology is the true foundation of philosophy. But the trouble with all past epistemologists is that they have been using wholly theoretical methods, and much of their discussion degenerates into mere word games. While other epistemologists have been solemnly arguing such questions as whether a man can be wrong when he asserts that he believes such and such, I have discovered how to settle such questions experimentally.

How could you possibly decide such things empirically?

By reading a person’s thoughts directly.

You mean you are telepathic?

Of course not. I simply did the one obvious thing which should be done, viz. I have constructed a brain-reading machine–known technically as a cerebroscope–that is operative right now in this room and is scanning every nerve cell in your brain. I thus can read your every sensation and thought, and it is a simple objective truth that this book does not seem red to you.

Frank (thoroughly subdued):
Goodness gracious, I really could have sworn that the book seemed red to me; it sure seems that it seems read to me!

I’m sorry, but you are wrong again.

Really? It doesn’t even seem that it seems red to me? It sure seems like it seems like it seems red to me!

Wrong again! And no matter how many times you reiterate the phrase “it seems like” and follow it by “the book is red” you will be wrong.

This is fantastic! Suppose instead of the phrase “it seems like” I would say “I believe that.” So let us start again at ground level. I retract the statement “It seems red to me” and instead I assert “I believe that this book is red.” Is this statement true or false?

Just a moment while I scan the dials of the brain-reading machine–no, the statement is false.

And what about “I believe that I believe that the book is red”?

Epistemologist (consulting his dials):
Also false. And again, no matter how many times you iterate “I believe,” all these belief sentences are false.

Well, this has been a most enlightening experience. However, you must admit that it is a little hard on me to realize that I am entertaining infinitely many erroneous beliefs!

Why do you say that your beliefs are erroneous?

But you have been telling me this all the while!

I most certainly have not!

Good God, I was prepared to admit all my errors, and now you tell me that my beliefs are not errors; what are you trying to do, drive me crazy?

Hey, take it easy! Please try to recall: When did I say or imply that any of your beliefs are erroneous?

Just simply recall the infinite sequence of sentences: (1) I believe this book is red; (2) I believe that I believe this book is red; and so forth. You told me that every one of those statements is false.


Then how can you consistently maintain that my beliefs in all these false statements are not erroneous?

Because, as I told you, you don’t believe any of them.

I think I see, yet I am not absolutely sure.

Look, let me put it another way. Don’t you see that the very falsity of each of the statements that you assert saves you from an erroneous belief in the preceding one? The first statement is, as I told you, false. Very well! Now the second statement is simply to the effect that you believe the first statement. If the second statement were true, then you would believe the first statement, and hence your belief about the first statement would indeed be in error. But fortunately the second statement is false, hence you don’t really believe the first statement, so your belief in the first statement is not in error. Thus the falsity of the second statement implies you do not have an erroneous belief about the first; the falsity of the third likewise saves you from an erroneous belief about the second, etc.

Now I see perfectly! So none of my beliefs were erroneous, only the statements were erroneous.


Most remarkable! Incidentally, what color is the book really?

It is red.


Exactly! Of course the book is red. What’s the matter with you, don’t you have eyes?

But didn’t I in effect keep saying that the book is red all along?

Of course not! You kept saying it seems red to you, it seems like it seems red to you, you believe it is red, you believe that you believe it is red, and so forth. Not once did you say that it is red. When I originally asked you “What color is the book?” if you had simply answered “red,” this whole painful discussion would have been avoided.

Scene 3

Frank comes back several months later to the home of the epistemologist.

How delightful to see you! Please sit down.

Frank (seated):
I have been thinking of our last discussion, and there is much I wish to clear up. To begin with, I discovered an inconsistency in some of the things you said.

Delightful! I love inconsistencies. Pray tell!

Well, you claimed that although my belief sentences were false, I did not have any actual beliefs that are false. If you had not admitted that the book actually is red, you would have been consistent. But your very admission that the book is red, leads to an inconsistency.

How so?

Look, as you correctly pointed out, in each of my belief sentences “I believe it is red,” “I believe that I believe it is red,” the falsity of each one other than the first saves me from an erroneous belief in the proceeding one. However, you neglected to take into consideration the first sentence itself. The falsity of the first sentence “I believe it is red,” in conjunction with the fact that it is red, does imply that I do have a false belief.

I don’t see why.

It is obvious! Since the sentence “I believe it is red” is false, then I in fact believe it is not red, and since it really is red, then I do have a false belief. So there!

Epistemologist (disappointed):
I am sorry, but your proof obviously fails. Of course the falsity of the fact that you believe it is red implies that you don’t believe it is red. But this does not mean that you believe it is not red!

But obviously I know that it either is red or it isn’t, so if I don’t believe it is, then I must believe that it isn’t.

Not at all. I believe that either Jupiter has life or it doesn’t. But I neither believe that it does, nor do I believe that it doesn’t. I have no evidence one way or the other.

Oh well, I guess you are right. But let us come to more important matters. I honestly find it impossible that I can be in error concerning my own beliefs.

Must we go through this again? I have already patiently explained to you that you (in the sense of your beliefs, not your statements) are not in error.

Oh, all right then, I simply do not believe that even the statements are in error. Yes, according to the machine they are in error, but why should I trust the machine?

Whoever said you should trust the machine?

Well, should I trust the machine?

That question involving the word “should” is out of my domain. However, if you like, I can refer you to a colleague who is an excellent moralist–he may be able to answer this for you.

Oh come on now, I obviously didn’t mean “should” in a moralistic sense. I simply meant “Do I have any evidence that this machine is reliable?”

Well, do you?

Don’t ask me! What I mean is should you trust the machine?

Should I trust it? I have no idea, and I couldn’t care less what I should do.

Oh, your moralistic hangup again. I mean, do you have evidence that the machine is reliable?

Well of course!

Then let’s get down to brass tacks. What is your evidence?

You hardly can expect that I can answer this for you in an hour, a day, or a week. If you wish to study this machine with me, we can do so, but I assure you this is a matter of several years. At the end of that time, however, you would certainly not have the slightest doubts about the reliability of the machine.

Well, possibly I could believe that it is reliable in the sense that its measurements are accurate, but then I would doubt that what it actually measures is very significant. It seems that all it measures is one’s physiological states and activities.

But of course, what else would you expect it to measure?

I doubt that it measures my psychological states, my actual beliefs.

Are we back to that again? The machine does measure those physiological states and processes that you call psychological states, beliefs, sensations, and so forth.

At this point I am becoming convinced that our entire difference is purely semantical. All right, I will grant that your machine does correctly measure beliefs in your sense of the word “belief,” but I don’t believe that it has any possibility of measuring beliefs in my sense of the word “believe.” In other words I claim that our entire deadlock is simply due to the fact that you and I mean different things by the word “belief.”

Fortunately, the correctness of your claim can be decided experimentally. It so happens that I now have two brain-reading machines in my office, so I now direct one to your brain to find out what you mean by “believe” and now I direct the other to my own brain to find out what I mean by “believe,” and now I shall compare the two readings. Nope, I’m sorry, but it turns out that we mean exactly the same thing by the word “believe.”

Oh, hang your machine! Do you believe we mean the same thing by the word “believe”?

Do I believe it? Just a moment while I check with the machine. Yes, it turns out I do believe it.

My goodness, do you mean to say that you can’t even tell me what you believe without consulting the machine?

Of course not.

But most people when asked what they believe simply tell you. Why do you, in order to find out your beliefs, go through the fantastically roundabout process of directing a thought-reading machine to your own brain and then finding out what you believe on the basis of the machine readings?

What other scientific, objective way is there of finding out what I believe?

Oh, come now, why don’t you just ask yourself?

Epistemologist (sadly):
It doesn’t work. Whenever I ask myself what I believe, I never get any answer!

Well, why don’t you just state what you believe?

How can I state what I believe before I know what I believe?

Oh, to hell with your knowledge of what you believe; surely you have some idea or belief as to what you believe, don’t you?

Of course I have such a belief. But how do I find out what this belief is?

I am afraid we are getting into another infinite regress. Look, at this point I am honestly beginning to wonder whether you may be going crazy.

Let me consult the machine. Yes, it turns out that I may be going crazy.

Good God, man, doesn’t this frighten you?

Let me check! Yes, it turns out that it does frighten me.

Oh please, can’t you forget this damned machine and just tell me whether you are frightened or not?

I just told you that I am. However, I only learned of this from the machine.

I can see that it is utterly hopeless to wean you away from the machine. Very well, then, let us play along with the machine some more. Why don’t you ask the machine whether your sanity can be saved?

Good idea! Yes, it turns out that it can be saved.

And how can it be saved?

I don’t know, I haven’t asked the machine.

Well, for God’s sake, ask it!

Good idea. It turns out that…

It turns out what?

It turns out that…

Come on now, it turns out what?

This is the most fantastic thing I have ever come across! According to the machine the best thing I can do is to cease to trust the machine!

Good! What will you do about it?

How do I know what I will do about it, I can’t read the future?

I mean, what do you presently intend to do about it?

Good question, let me consult the machine. According to the machine, my current intentions are in complete conflict. And I can see why! I am caught in a terrible paradox! If the machine is trustworthy, then I had better accept its suggestion to distrust it. But if I distrust it, then I also distrust its suggestion to distrust it, so I am really in a total quandary.

Look, I know of someone who I think might be really of help in this problem. I’ll leave you for a while to consult him. Au revoir!

Scene 4.

(Later in the day at a psychiatrist’s office.)

Doctor, I am terribly worried about a friend of mine. He calls himself an “experimental epistemologist.”

Oh, the experimental epistemologist. There is only one in the world. I know him well!

That is a relief. But do you realize that he has constructed a mind-reading device that he now directs to his own brain, and whenever one asks him what he thinks, believes, feels, is afraid of, and so on, he has to consult the machine first before answering? Don’t you think this is pretty serious?

Not as serious as it might seem. My prognosis for him is actually quite good.

Well, if you are a friend of his, couldn’t you sort of keep an eye on him?

I do see him quite frequently, and I do observe him much. However, I don’t think he can be helped by so-called “psychiatric treatment.” His problem is an unusual one, the sort that has to work itself out. And I believe it will.

Well, I hope your optimism is justified. At any rate I sure think I need some help at this point!

How so?

My experiences with the epistemologist have been thoroughly unnerving! At this point I wonder if I may be going crazy; I can’t even have confidence in how things appear to me. I think maybe you could be helpful here.

I would be happy to but cannot for a while. For the next three months I am unbelievably overloaded with work. After that, unfortunately, I must go on a three-month vacation. So in six months come back and we can talk this over.

Scene 5.

(Same office, six months later.)

Before we go into your problems, you will be happy to hear that your friend the epistemologist is now completely recovered.

Marvelous, how did it happen?

Almost, as it were, by a stroke of fate–and yet his very mental activities were, so to speak, part of the “fate.” What happened was this: For months after you last saw him, he went around worrying “should I trust the machine, shouldn’t I trust the machine, should I, shouldn’t I, should I, shouldn’t I.” (He decided to use the word “should” in your empirical sense.) He got nowhere! So he then decided to “formalize” the whole argument. He reviewed his study of symbolic logic, took the axioms of first-order logic, and added as nonlogical axioms certain relevant facts about the machine. Of course the resulting system was inconsistent–he formally proved that he should trust the machine if and only if he shouldn’t, and hence that he both should and should not trust the machine. Now, as you may know, in a system based on classical logic (which is the logic he used), if one can prove so much as a single contradictory proposition, then one can prove any proposition, hence the whole system breaks down. So he decided to use a logic weaker than classical logic–a logic close to what is known as “minimal logic”–in which the proof of one contradiction does not necessarily entail the proof of every proposition. However, this system turned out too weak to decide the question of whether or not he should trust the machine. Then he had the following bright idea. Why not use classical logic in his system even though the resulting system is inconsistent? Is an inconsistent system necessarily useless? Not at all! Even though given any proposition, there exists a proof that it is true and another proof that it is false, it may be the case that for any such pair of proofs, one of them is simply more psychologically convincing than the other, so simply pick the proof you actually believe! Theoretically the idea turned out very well–the actual system he obtained really did have the property that given any such pair of proofs, one of them was always psychologically far more convincing than the other. Better yet, given any pair of contradictory propositions, all proofs of one were more convincing than any proof of the other. Indeed, anyone except the epistemologist could have used the system to decide whether the machine could be trusted. But with the epistemologist, what happened was this: He obtained one proof that he should trust the machine and another proof that he should not. Which proof was more convincing to him, which proof did he really “believe”? The only way he could find out was to consult the machine! But he realized that this would be begging the question, since his consulting the machine would be a tacit admission that he did in fact trust the machine. So he still remained in a quandary.

So how did he get out of it?

Well, here is where fate kindly interceded. Due to his absolute absorption in the theory of this problem, which consumed about his every waking hour, he became for the first time in his life experimentally negligent. As a result, quite unknown to him, a few minor units of his machine blew out! Then, for the first time, the machine started giving contradictory information–not merely subtle paradoxes, but blatant contradictions. In particular, the machine one day claimed that the epistemologist believed a certain proposition and a few days later claimed he did not believe that proposition. And to add insult to injury, the machine claimed that he had not changed his belief in the last few days. This was enough to simply make him totally distrust the machine. Now he is fit as a fiddle.

This is certainly the most amazing thing I have ever heard! I guess the machine was really dangerous and unreliable all along.

Oh, not at all; the machine used to be excellent before the epistemologist’s experimental carelessness put it out of whack.

Well, surely when I knew it, it couldn’t have been very reliable.

Not so, Frank, and this brings us to your problem. I know about your entire conversation with the epistemologist–it was all tape-recorded.

Then surely you realize the machine could not have been right when it denied that I believed the book was red.

Why not?

Good God, do I have to go through all this nightmare again? I can understand that a person can be wrong if he claims that a certain physical object has a certain property, but have you ever known a single case when a person can be mistaken when he claims to have or not have a certain sensation?

Why, certainly! I once knew a Christian Scientist who had a raging toothache; he was frantically groaning and moaning all over the place. When asked whether a dentist might not cure him, he replied that there was nothing to be cured. Then he was asked, “But do you not feel pain?” He replied, “No, I do not feel pain; nobody feels pain, there is no such thing as pain, pain is only an illusion.” So here is a case of a man who claimed not to feel pain, yet everyone present knew perfectly well that he did feel pain. I certainly don’t believe he was lying, he was just simply mistaken.

Well, all right, in a case like that. But how can one be mistaken if one asserts his belief about the color of a book?

I can assure you that without access to any machine, if I asked someone what color is this book, and he answered, “I believe it is red,” I would be very doubtful that he really believed it. It seems to me that if he really believed it, he would answer, “It is red” and not “I believe it is red” or “It seems red to me.” The very timidity of his response would be indicative of his doubts.

But why on earth should I have doubted that it was red?

You should know that better than I. Let us see now, have you ever in the past had reason to doubt the accuracy of your sense perception?

Why, yes. A few weeks before visiting the epistemologist, I suffered from an eye disease, which did make me see colors falsely. But I was cured before my visit.

Oh, so no wonder you doubted it was red! True enough, your eyes perceived the correct color of the book, but your earlier experience lingered in your mind and made it impossible for you to really believe it was red. So the machine was right!

Well, all right, but then why did I doubt that I believed it was true?

Because you didn’t believe it was true, and unconsciously you were smart enough to realize the fact. Besides, when one starts doubting one’s own sense perceptions, the doubt spreads like an infection to higher and higher levels of abstraction until finally the whole belief system becomes one doubting mass of insecurity. I bet that if you went to the epistemologist’s office now, and if the machine were repaired, and you now claimed that you believe the book is red, the machine would concur.

No, Frank, the machine is–or, rather, was–a good one. The epistemologist learned much from it, but misused it when he applied it to his own brain. He really should have known better than to create such an unstable situation. The combination of his brain and the machine each scrutinizing and influencing the behavior of the other led to serious problems in feedback. Finally the whole system went into a cybernetic wobble. Something was bound to give sooner or later. Fortunately, it was the machine.

I see. One last question, though. How could the machine be trustworthy when it claimed to be untrustworthy?

The machine never claimed to be untrustworthy, it only claimed that the epistemologist would be better off not trusting it. And the machine was right.

The Nature of the Relationship between God and the World


Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) was one of the metaphysicians of the 18th-19th century, he was the author of the work Process and Realityin which his metaphysics is mainly found. According to him “reality is that which become”. Thus, reality is in continuous process, as such, until a thing has become, it is not real. However, for him, Western Philosophy since Plato has been nothing other than series of footnotes on Plato.

Whitehead’s View of God

For Whitehead, God is the primordial principle of concretion. Thus, God is an Actual Entity. An Actual Entity, according to him, is concrete and it is an individual entity existing being. This Actual Entity is real by its living process as such if God is real it then means that he is living in process, though by this he is making reference to the second nature of God. He classified God as an Actual Entity because if God is not an Actual Entity, it means he does not exist, he is not real, thus, he is nothing, for according to him, not to be an Actual Entity is to be nothing. Hence God for him is that actual entity from which temporal concrescence receives that initial aim from which its self-causation starts.

However, having established his point on God’s existence as an Actual Entity, he went ahead to explain the nature of God. According to him, God has two natures; the primordial nature of God and the consequent nature of God.

The primordial nature of God, according to him, is that aspect of God by which God is the source of other Actual Entities. Here, he is eternal, complete and unchanging, he does not create eternal objects for he requires them n the same degree that they require him. This is the state in which most philosophers of the medieval era states that God by nature is transcendent, unchanging etc. thus, for them God possesses only one nature by which he is superior overall he had created. Whitehead did not disagree with them, and argued that this is not the only nature of God for if it is, it means that God would be static, and wholly apart from the world, thus, will be unable to value and love the world and as well be unable to interact with the changing world. This brought him into the notion of the second nature of God which is the consequent nature.

The consequent nature of God, according to him, is the aspect of God in which God relates with the world, thus, it is by this nature if God that God maintains continuous contact with the world. It is in this nature of God that he saves the world, in the words of Lawhead in describing Whitehead’s conception of the consequent nature of God said that it is his judgment on the world.

For Whitehead the consequent nature of God is enriched by his prehension which is an act of feeling, thus, by this feeling, there exist a reciprocal relationship between God and the world, and that it is by this consequent nature of God that God becomes part of the world, thus, it is in this aspect, that Whitehead would say that the world conditions God’s consequent nature, whereas his primordial nature is free from contact of the world, it is eternal. Thus, for Whitehead, God is a being with two natures; the primordial which is his nature that is eternal and free from the influence of the world, and the consequential nature is the opposite of the primordial nature because it is influence by the world, and that it is in this nature that God is concern with what is going on in this the world.

Whitehead’s View of the World

Alfred defined Actual Entity as the entity which has significance in itself. Thus, for him, an actual entity combines self-identity with self-diversity. According to Whitehead, the world is an actual entity, thus it is an actual occasion for every actual entity is an actual occasion except God who is a non-temporal being.The natural world, according to him, is dynamic, and reality, for him, is being in continual process, in which actual entities are constantly becoming, hence, the world being a reality is for Whitehead an actual entity which is in continual process, thus, the world is constantly becoming.The world is an actual occasion because it existed within time, but God is not an actual occasion since he did not exist within time.

However, since the world, for Whitehead, is an actual entity, it then means that it has self-significance, thus, as the word “actual” means “existence in full” for Whitehead, it entails that the world which is an actual entity exists fully. But since an actual entity is in continual process which for Whitehead means becoming, it then means that for Whitehead, even though the world is an actual entity by which it is said to exist fully, it is also in the continual process since actual entities are in continual process. Thus he views the world as an entity yet to become, which thus means that the world has not arrive to what it actually is, that is, it is still undergoing changes, for that which is on a continual process to becoming is also undergoing changes, thus, Whitehead’s view corresponds with Heraclitus’ doctrine of ‘Omnia Mutantur’ which is Heraclitus’ doctrine about the constant change in reality where he aired his view that everything is in Omnia Flux. Henry Bergson’s view of the world is also similar to Whitehead’s for according to Bergson “the world can be known in two ways; by intellect and by intuition”. He saw reality as mobility, which means that the world which is a reality is in a changing state.

Thus, since the world is an actual entity, and as an actual entity it is on the process, and reality according to Whitehead is on constant process, it then means that for him, the world is a reality in its own which though exists fully yet is on the process of becoming, and that which becomes, becomes what it is depending on how it becomes, thus, the becoming of the world depends on how it becomes and it is here that God plays a role which will be subsequently explained.

The Nature of the Relationship between God and the World

As already established that for Whitehead God has two natures; the primordial nature and consequent nature, these two natures of God according to Whitehead do not deal with the world that is to say that God does not relate with the world base on these his two natures rather he relates with the world through his second nature which is his consequent nature, thus, God’s relationship with the world is not based on his primordial nature which according to Whitehead is pure and eternal thus outside the world, as such, by his primordial nature, God has nothing to do with the world. Whitehead having said this went on to explain how God relates with the world through his consequent nature.

God, according to Whitehead, relates or rather influences the World through his consequent nature, it is through this consequent nature that he becomes aware of the activities of the world and is able to direct it. It is by this consequent nature of God that God controls and rules over the world.

For Whitehead, by God’s consequent nature, God interacts with the world, that is, God includes the world in his being, and makes it part of him and he part of the world, thus, William Lawhead would say in reference to this view of Whitehead, we can consider the world as “God’s body”. This then, implies that by his primordial nature, God is supreme over the world, by this his nature he is outside the world and has nothing to do with the world, but by his consequent nature the world becomes part of God, thus God relates with the world base on his consequent nature, according to Whitehead, by this his consequent nature God gets himself involves with the movement and activities of the world, and directs it. Hence, in this view of Whitehead, we can see similarities in African’s view of God as an absolute controller and sustainer of the world as Fr. Dr. Ogbozo stated.

However, following Whitehead’s explanation of God’s influence on or relationship with the world, one will realize that for white head the relationship is a kind that would refer to as Patient Persuasive Relationship. I used this term based on Whitehead’s argument that God influences the world but does so with patience and persuasively directs the world by his vision of truth, this then implies that though God influences the world, yet he respects the freedom of his creatures, as such, he does not force his will on his creatures rather he leads them to his will through persuasion, and this he patiently do, thus, in patient persuasion he leads the world by his vision of truth, beauty and goodness to perfection.


In his argument, one can see that Whitehead is of the view that though the world is an actual entity which exists fully but still on the process, it cannot become without being directed by God. Thus, for him, the world is part of God since God through his second nature; the consequent nature does not transcend the world rather is involved with the activities of the world, though by his primordial nature he (God) is not part of the world. Whitehead is of the opinion that God did not totally removed himself from the world rather by his consequent nature relates with the world. For Whitehead, God is not transcendent since by his second nature he is not away from all creation rather he is with all creation. Thus, he considered the world “God’s body”. Hence, the nature of the relationship between God and the world in Whitehead’s Process and Reality is that of God relating with the world not as away from the world but as part of the world, thus, he involves with the changes, development or activities going on in the world.

Happiness is not a Passing Feeling or Emotion but a Lasting State of Being


Happiness! One may ask, ‘’what does it mean to say that one is Happy?’’ This and many others are the fundamental questions about Happiness. Happiness in the world of philosophy has posited itself as a sort of mysterious term not theoretically but practically. Many philosophers over the centuries have wondered much on what exactly Happiness is all about yet they have no common description of a state of life of a person when he/she could be said to be happy. Some said that one could be said to be happy only after the person’s life here on earth, others are the opinion that it is only when the person in question is satisfied with the fulfillment of his/her desire. Man is a being with limited freedom as such that his imperfect nature prevents him from reaching his basic goal which is Happiness because Happiness is not an emotional feeling but a lasting state.


Etymologically, the term Happiness came from the Greek word ‘Makarios’ it is a word in Greek that is associated with the gods because it signifies a state of life in which one experiences no suffering. This term is not only use for the gods only, it is also use on the living man but here it means a state in which one experiences inner tranquility, also when it is being used on the living man, it means that it does not last, also it means according to Fr. Ekwutosi “being favored by fortune in other words, a Happy person is one to whom good things happen.”(135).

Fr. Fagothey would say of Happiness to be as it is commonly defined, “as the desire satisfied by the conscious possession of the good (44). For him, Happiness would best be defined as “the conscious state of satisfaction which a person feels on the fulfillment of his desire by the possession of the good (44). From his definition of Happiness, one can say that Happiness is not a possessed state of man but a state of life which man thrives to gain.

This presents Happiness as a state of life that is obtainable and which can be obtained through the satisfaction we have from the fulfillment of our desires and through the satisfaction we had from our deeds, thus we discuss the types of Happiness.


Happiness is of two types; Perfect Happiness and Imperfect Happiness.

Perfect Happiness; For Boethuis, one is said to be Perfectly Happy when he has the possession of all that is good which makes the desires of anything else impossible (Stumpf 143). Thus Perfect Happiness which can also be referred as True Happiness comes from complete possession of, participation in and communion with the Perfect Good. If we should go by Boethius’ thought then the Perfect Good according to Augustine of Hippo is God who satisfies all our desires (Stumpf 133). According to Fr Ekwutosi on quoting Cicero ‘’it is that state in which all troubles have finally disappeared and the person enjoys the harmonious abundance of all that is good’’. It is a permanent state of being with unlimited satisfaction. In this kind of Happiness, one can possibly be said to be surrounded with and is living in fortunes.

Imperfect Happiness; it is opposite of the former, Perfect Happiness. In a nutshell, it is the Happiness one experiences to the extent of the fulfillment of his/her desires. This is the type of Happiness associated with man. It is a limited kind of Happiness and man being a Being with limit finds himself from time to time in this type of Happiness. Also, man as an Imperfect Being experiences this kind of Happiness. It is called Imperfect because of its limitedness that is to say it is not complete but can be thwarted by either a slight unpleasant event that can lead to sadness or even anger. Fortune is also associated with this kind Happiness but here unlike in the former fortune can change to misfortune, it does not last.

We also have Absolute and Relative Happiness. These can be found under the Perfect Happiness. Absolute Happiness: is attributed to God only. It is Absolute because it is unlimited and cannot be thwarted. It is attributed to God because He alone is the Absolute Being. This Happiness is eternal thus it can only be enjoyed by God who is also eternal.

Relative Happiness: is attributed to other lower Beings such as the angels, saints etc. Relative Happiness is the opposite of Absolute Happiness. It is limited because although it is a Perfect Happiness it does not last eternally it can only be thwarted by the Absolute Being who is its source.


Happiness is the basic desired state of life every man seeks to attain. Man sees himself always seeking for Happiness. Naturally all men seek for Happiness and that’s the fundamental reason according to Socrates why they indulge themselves in certain actions good or bad (Stumpf 43). Happiness is seen by many as that state of life in which one experiences no suffering of any kind that is why from its Greek meaning it is a state of life attributed to the gods who they believe to be above man, the world and its sufferings. The saints for instance are held by the Church as those who are now living in Perfect Happiness in the presence of God having successfully overcome the world and its sufferings.

What is the nature of Happiness? What does it actually means to be Happy? These and many others are the fundamental questions one should try to answer in other to understand what Happiness is all about. This led many philosophers to project their subjective views on the nature of Happiness, this they tried individually to theoretically explain. Aristotle for instance would say that one should not be called happy until after his/her life here in this world since misfortune may befall him/her at old age. Many philosophers rejected his ideology on the nature of Happiness thus they went further to opined their own individual opinions thus by this it became a difficult task to exactly state or explain what Happiness is all about.

As stated earlier, Happiness is a state of life, one can gain Happiness but the confusion comes in only when one misunderstands it with other emotional feelings such as; joy, pleasure, contentment, tranquility etc. Here I’m going to differentiate Happiness from these emotional feelings.

Happiness and Joy: Joy is normally mistaken to be Happiness. Yes, for one to be Joyful means that the person is Happy, this does not mean that one can get joy by being happy and vice versa rather when one is joyful he/she could be said to be happy at that moment but this Happiness is not the one being emphasize here and because it is not, it implies that there is a difference between them, the difference is that, joy comes as a result of satisfaction over what that happened to the person in question, it does not last since the next event may call for sorrow, for example; a man whose wife after 5yrs of barrenness became pregnant and delivers twins, the man rejoices at the birth of the children and is ‘happy’ but after two weeks of the birth of the children the wife die, oh what a pitiable state. In this short story one will see that the joy of the man has by the death of his wife turned into sorrow. The man was said to be happy because at the birth of the children the man felt released from the pitiable state of barrenness, his peace of mind could be said be have been restored but this Happiness is thwarted by the death of his wife. Thus, he could be said to be joyful but since he can encounter an unwanted misfortune he can’t be said to be in a state of Happiness, thus Joy is not a lasting state whereas Happiness is.

Happiness and Pleasure: Pleasure is a kind of feeling one gets when he/she engages in one form of activity or the other. One can be happy due to the satisfaction he/she gains by doing certain things whether the act is good or bad. According to Socrates, one does something that would give him pleasure but his basic goal is to gain Happiness, it’s not that he does not know that what he is doing is right or wrong but his desire is gaining Happiness (Stumpf 43). One can be happy as a result of the pleasure he gets from one action or the other but this does not last, for instance the man who was enjoying his actions with the football in the football field suddenly gets a serious painful injury. One can see also that pleasure cannot give man the Happiness he is seriously seeking.

Happiness and Contentment: Contentment is simply a natural feeling of being happy as a result of satisfaction over what one has or situation or condition in which he finds himself. One may be contented with what he has or situation he finds himself yet because one cannot always be contented with what he has he cannot be completely be happy thus being contented is not the Happiness man seeks nor can it give man the Happiness he desires and seeks for instance a very wealthy man with no issue, he could be contented with what he has but because he has no issue who would succeed him he is not happy. Also a man may be wealthy and have issues yet misfortune may befall him any time in his life thus bringing in sorrows into his life. This shows that contentment does not last like Happiness and that man cannot be fully contented with everything around and about him.

Happiness and Tranquility: Some argued that Happiness is all about tranquility. Tranquility is a state of feeling peaceful and calm. The peace one experiences in this state is both at the inner and outer part of his/her being. This peace comes as a result of some kind of satisfaction one gained from the fulfillment of his/her most needed desire or after gaining what he/she is pursuing. Why I said that tranquility is not Happiness is because the desires of man are unlimited and they are not generally granted once and for all. If this should be the case then the satisfaction from in tranquility does not yield the Happiness which man seeks rather it gives a flexible kind of Happiness which a new situation can comfortably thwart. We have also true tranquility which I can comfortably say is not the Happiness which man seeks.

Having succeeded in differentiating these emotional feelings from Happiness, we are going to look into the philosopher’s views on the nature of Happiness and how it could be attained.


Happiness has been a food for thought to many philosophers especially those of them who treated morality. One thing was common among them which is, they recognized the fact that Happiness is an internal quest for man, this simply means that man sees in himself an urge to seek for Happiness.


Socrates in his moral thought presented Happiness as the final goal, that is to say, it is the basic desire of man which he searches thus he said ‘’…every human being has the inescapable desire for Happiness or the well being of his/her soul’’(Stumpf 43). For him this is why we choose the acts we do in order to gain Happiness, in other words, for Socrates, man do those things which he thought to give him Happiness whether good or bad but he finally subscribe to saying that ‘’ by those acts we choose and do we cannot have that desired Happiness which we internally desire to have’’ (Stumpf 43).



Plato also recognized the fact that Happiness is the basic goal of man but in his own opinion this Happiness is being sought in this life and also for him, to attain this Happiness the soul which for him is imprisoned in the body must be released and that the only way to achieve this is by living a virtuous life thus for him, a virtuous man is a Happy person (Stumpf 63-64). He also agreed with his predecessor Socrates that one does something to gain Happiness but conclusively one would say that Plato’s view of the source of Happiness is virtuous life in other words he who does not live a virtuous life will gain no Happiness.


Aristotle also agreed that Happiness is the basic goal of man and that man always seek for a way to satisfy this quest in him but in his own view, he presented it as an end. For him one can only be said to be happy after his death thus he said ‘’… one has to wait till the end of the life of a man before he would be considered to be Happy or not since suffering can befall him at his old age’’ (Stumpf 92). He thought Happiness as an end because for we choose pleasure, honor, wealth etc in order to gain Happiness through them (Stumpf 92). He also thought the soul to be in a better position to be able to attain this Happiness by saying that ‘’ Happiness… is a working of the soul in a way of excellence and virtue ’’ (Stumpf 92). This is to say conclusively that Aristotle also recognized virtue as a means to achieve Happiness which is an end itself.


Augustine like others also views Happiness as the basic goal of man’s quest but one can say that he views so because of his thought of how we were made thus he said ’’ our human moral quest was is an outcome of a specific and concrete condition, the is that we were made in such a way that we seek for Happiness’’ (Stumpf 136). For him also ‘’it is not by accident that we seek Happiness but is a consequence of our incompleteness and finitude, it is no accident that we can find Happiness in God, since we are made by God’’ (Stumpf 136), thus he said in his book Confessions of Saint Augustine ‘’you have made for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you’’ (19), he further said in another chapter ‘’this is the Happy Life, to rejoice to you, in you and for you; this is it, for there is no other’’ (293). Thus for Augustine of Hippo, God is the source of our Happiness and that in him alone can we find Happiness.


Thomas like others held also that there is one ultimate goal of man which is to seek Happiness. For him, Happiness can be attain only in the infinite good and that this infinite good is God, so for him man’s Happiness consists in none other than the vision of the Divine Essence (ed. Ewelu 21). He unlike Aristotle and Plato projects God to be the source of Happiness for man and in Him is the Final and Perfect Happiness of man is fully embedded. Thus, God is one’s ultimate objective Happiness while possessing God one’s ultimate subjective Happiness (Ekwutosi 141).


Subjectively speaking, man can only gain the Happiness he seeks in this world only when he becomes a perfect being, he can only become one only when the world in which he lives has been perfected if not he can’t achieve Happiness. The world is imperfect due to the clashes of opposite taking place in it and man living in it will find no Happiness. This gives us an insight that there is a Perfect World where the Perfect Being exists and this Perfect Being is God, thus man thrives to go and live there but to succeed he has to live his life in this imperfect world in concord with the will of his creator who is the Perfect Being.

Having said this, for me, Happiness can best be defined as a state of being satisfied and comfortable with yourself and things around you in other words it is that state of life in which one experiences a lasting tranquility resulting from the satisfaction of his desire and his deeds. I say so because Happiness should be a lasting feeling and because what man wants naturally is that which last he is compelled by an inner desire to search for Happiness


Happiness is not a passing feeling but a state of being because if one should say that it is a passing feeling it implies that it can be easily obtain and if it should be so it means that it can also be easily loose and when it becomes so, Happiness then will no longer be a treasure which everyone longs to have since it can be easily gain and loose. Man is an imperfect being that exists in an imperfect world, man by nature seeks to gain perfection and until he gets it he will not a Happy Being. Man can gain Happiness only if he by thriving to gain perfection finally becomes perfect and live in a perfect world. Thus Happiness comprises in its nature the following, contentment, joy, pleasure, tranquility etc. The Happiness gotten from other means of satisfaction can be said to be a temporal one but the Happiness man seeks to be is a lasting one.

Written by Okemiri Barnabas


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