Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Pan African Metaphysical Epistemology: A Pentagonal Introduction

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Pan African Metaphysical Epistemology: A Pentagonal Introduction

Article excerpt


This paper was presented at the 19th Annual Cheikh Anta Diop Conference premised by the observation that the millions of people who read historical novels and attend recent theatre productions based on ancient Egypt, particularly the 18th dynasty, are being misinformed under the guise of being entertained. (i) The novels, while historically accurate in the sense of names, dates, and places, omit key cultural values of Egypt such as Maat, in favor of drama and intrigue. Furthermore, those who consume these works include the literate, active book-buying and theatre-attending segment of the world's population, and most likely include people who teach. The consequences are that a subtle misconstrued image of Ancient Egypt can indirectly be perpetuated within the academic setting. (ii)

Hence, the proliferation of themes in the popular media concerning ancient mysteries, quantum physics, ghosts, death (near, after, and during), time travel, secret societies, UFOs, aliens, etc, could lead one to conclude that the only cultures that have secret societies are Euro-American, the only psychics in the world are white; and the only technology regarding remote viewing (iii) comes from the declassified CIA Project Stargate.

What is rarely discussed is the fact that the shaman of the San of South Africa are able to go into an altered mental state and "go to far-off camps where their families and friends are living; [because] they want to know if they have food and that they are safe" (Lewis-Williams and Pearce 2004: 91). Is this not comparable to remote viewing? Other practices such as a Dagara elder peering into a clay pot containing virgin water to view activities occurring at a distance (Some 1994: 25) called forming by Mbiti (1990); or enslaved Africans in the Americas using a pot filled with virgin water to "catch sound" or ensure privacy during secret meetings (Raboteau, 1980), echoes the concept of remote viewing. Embedded in these cultural practices are technologies that have distinct epistemologies which have implications beyond ritual and tradition.

The mode of this work is reactionary in the sense that it is responding directly to trends identifiable in Western popular cultural spheres mentioned previously, as well as in the academy: frontier science or vibrational medicine in biomedicine (Gerber 2001), quantum mechanics in physics, and so-called "new age" or metaphysical studies in religion (Alabanese 2007). Equally intriguing is the apparent parallel or perhaps double helix relationship between this scholarly activity and the popularity of works such as The Secret, The Matrix, What the Bleep Do We Know?, the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series and the growing list of media programming with "metaphysical or "new age" themes. (iv) As the lines between cutting-edge ideas and mainstream media outlets--witness PBS' series NOVA Science NOW--get blurred, the default perspective and context and therefore perception of this phenomenon will be based on a Western epistemology with its language and conceptual frameworks.

African epistemology is already equipped to discuss these views of reality because it contains four basic ways of knowing: divination, revelation, intuition, and reason which can be separated into the categories of supernatural, natural, and paranormal (N'Sengha 2005). In addition, the humans' relationship to the supernatural is one of three fundamental Afrocentric themes of transcendent discourse along with human relations and human relations to their own being (Asante 1987: 168). Thus, a synthesis of knowledge, spirit, and cosmos is acknowledged (Holmes 2002; Livingston 2004).

Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop commenting on the advances of Western knowledge observes, "Man is a metaphysical being and it would be catastrophic if a genetic or chemical manipulation were to take away his innate anxiety. …

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