THE BLACK-AFRICAN MONOTHEISM
By Kiatezua Lubanzadio Luyaluka Ph.D. Hon.
Let’s suppose that the Besikôngo, people from of the former Kingdom of Kongo and its vassal states, were no longer in existence; in the absence of written documents, Africanist anthropologists studying their extinct civilization could have only archaeological evidences to judge the nature of the religion of these black African ethnic. Their conclusion would clearly be: the religion of Besikongo was polytheistic.
This conclusion will be supported by the fact that archaeologists would have found sanctuaries of the different Kongo Gods:
- Bunzi to the Atlantic Ocean among the Bavili and Bawoyo,
- Wamba among the Batandu, up of the Congo river,
- Nkuembale amoung the Teke people in the east.
in addition to this list, they would have found the different stones of alliance (matadi ma lusunsi and matadi ma tomi) serving as shrines for the invocation of ancestors of extended families.
Besides these sanctuaries, the existence of all kinds of statues symbolizing the minkisi (which term does not necessarily mean fetish) would reinforce the thesis of polytheism. And so much more than no representation of the God Most High, NZAMBI Ampûngu Tulêndo, exists among the Besikôngo; God, the Most High, is not a being who can be represented physically, affirm the descendants of the ancestor Ngunu.
If Kongo religion escapes the epithet polytheistic, it is because, despite the archaeological evidences supporting this option, Besikôngo are adamant: they recognize only one Supreme Being: NZAMBI Ampûngu Tulêndo; their religion is monotheistic; notwithstanding the reluctance of anthropologists like Bittremieux (les Sociétés secrètes de Bakhimba dans le Mayombe) and Van Wing (Etudes Bakongo) to support this thesis, even when they clearly show that this religion is not polytheistic.
The reason for the refusal of the Africanists missionaries to recognize to the Besikôngo the exercise of monotheistic traditional faith is that the theism of the Kongo traditional religion does not agree with the scholastic understanding of this notion: the existence of a supreme single male God creator of the universe.
Traditional Kongo religion has a hierarchical monotheism; a theism where the Most High God is enthroned above lower Gods. The Akan of Ghana calls the Gods: Sons of God. The prophet Kimbangu shows us that the universe is the work of Mbumba Lowa, the solar Creator God (called Bumba by the Bakuba DRC). Creation is therefore not ex nihilo, but the result of a pre-existing order coexisting with the Most High God.
The Bakongo brought this monotheistic religion from Ancient Egypt from where their ancestors emigrated south to tanuter, the holy land of the Egyptians, the basin of the source of the Nile. The Besikôngo may be the only Africans who have maintained the Egyptian initiatory system with its three mysteries:
- The priestly mystery (in Kimpasi),
- The martial mystery (in Kinkimba),
- And the civil mystery (which was taught in the Lemba).
A comparative study of the religion of ancient Egypt with the Kongo initiatory system would have allowed Egyptologists to easily conclude that, despite the lack of unanimity in the doctrines of the various provinces, the Osirian religion was a hierarchical monotheism.
Unlike the Besikôngo, the ancient Egyptians did not give a name to the Most High God. The Pyramid Text for instance, merely states that He is « the one whose name is unknown » and « the sole Lord. » And just as in the Kongo Kingdom, the Egyptians were careful to not represent Him. The existence in ancient Egypt of the notion of the Most High God is reflected in the fact that Creator God is a Demiurge. He is designated in the Egyptian Book of the Dead as a self-created God and sometimes as the son of heaven.
The apparent contradiction of these names of the Creator in the Egyptian Book of the Dead disappears if we understand that in the hierarchical monotheism the Most High God has directly nothing to do with the creation, the manifestation in the light and in the form in a temporary plan. Therefore in this plan the Creator is self-made. But seen in the preexisting order which is coeternal with God, the Most High, the creator is a son of heaven. We must therefore distinguish the eternal order from the temporal order.
As the one creator God of our temporal universe, the God Ra was designated in different ways by the different provinces of Egypt. The name Ra was not the indigenous name of a province of Egypt. Even Akhenaten in his heresy did not have to get rid of this common name for the sole name of Aten.
The existence of hierarchical monotheism in ancient Egypt is justified by the following facts:
- The Egyptians did not care about the differences that exist between their different religious schools, seeing them rather as complementary.
- Proselytism and religious conflicts are absent in the annals of the life of this ancient people. The only conflict of this kind is the one which allowed the Egyptians to get rid of contempt of Akhenaten who wanted to unify the nomenclature related to God the Creator.
- Every nation conquered by the Egyptians saw its Gods integrated in the Egyptian pantheon. Only the hierarchical monotheism allows this behavior, conversely to the intolerant scholastic monotheism which in this case fought the religions of the conquered nations.
The hierarchical nature of the monotheism of ancient Egypt implies the existence of an essential unity of the Negro-African religions, despite the doctrinal and ritual differences. Like in ancient Egypt, this unity involves the following concepts:
- The unity of the world of the living of this plan and those of the beyond, the visible and invisible worlds.
- Mutual reinforcement between men and the ancestors.
- Resurrection in the afterlife, which involves the continuity of life after death.
- Prayer of the intercession of the illuminated ancestors, falsely called “ancestors worship” by those who do not understand the black African religion.
- Demiurgic creation.
- The presence of the divinity in man, the Word; which implies salvation by grace, through the Word and by sanctification.
It is this religion that Moses, an initiate of the Osirian religion, taught the Israelites, Africans who fled Egypt after the debacle of Akhenaten, as demonstrated admirably by Nillon Pierre in his book MoÏse, l’Africain. The Jews, like the Arabs their cousins, are Semites, while the real Israelites (who were deported by the Assyrians forever) and the Canaanites were Egyptians, that is to say black Africans who had the same religion!
The intolerance of the Jews and the Arabs, reinforced by the negative influence of the materialistic epistemology of the West, the lunar epistemology, they have adopted at the expense of the solar epistemology, led them to turn away from hierarchical monotheism they were taught by the Egyptian and the Babylonian solar civilizations. Thus they embraced an intolerant monotheism which is the main cause of the disasters that the history teaches us: slavery, colonialism, the extermination of American Indians and Aboriginal in Australia, because most of the wars in the world often have their roots in religious intolerance.
It is time for the black African theologian of the third millennium to do a rereading of the Bible and the Koran in the light of the civilizations which were at the base of these teachings: solar civilizations of ancient Egypt and Babylon. Traditions established on the bases of the presuppositions of Western philosophy by Jews, Arabs, Romans and their descendants should not guide such enterprise, as it is unfortunately the case today. Their basic presuppositions in the new interpretation of Sacred Scriptures, Christian and Muslim, should be the essential postulates of black African traditional religion.
History shows that in ancient Egypt hierarchical monotheism was a factor of peace and cohesion of peoples; it is this system which made the superiority of the civilization of the Pharaohs. Hierarchical monotheism is a value that should enable Africans not only to reconstruct its spiritual unity, but also to assist in the establishment of a new era of peace in the world.