By Prof. Nathan Uzorma
I wish to appeal to my readers not to be in a hurry to crucify me as they read my articles particularly this very one as the point that shall be raised here may not go down well with those that are in the abode of religious cum mundane ignorance. Those whose nature of spiritual consciousness is bewildered and cocooned by creed alone as they know nothing except what they are told by their earthly priests.
This is an article designed to throw deeper insight into the behavioral pattern of symbolism upon the beneficiaries. The language of symbolism is coded and can be understood through deeper insight into higher realities. Buried in self-description and veiled in allegory symbolism is illuminated by secret reflection of its meaning.
I have once informed my readers at one point that symbolism is the major tool used by the divine to communicate to humanity. In literal terms, symbolism simply means that what you see is not what it is. It is a practical representation of something that has a deeper meaning or representation of things that have profound cosmic hidden meanings. This is the age of science and advanced technology as a result of same, knowledge shall increase in different dimensions but it is obvious that science and technology cannot explain everything and may not be able to create a well ordered society hence the need to search further.
Deeper spiritual studies in symbolism, shows how the psychology and emotions of people are affected by it. A sound society is realizable if symbols and Christian spiritual ritual symbolism are handled with reverence. So when we are referring to psychology of spiritual symbolism, we are looking at the use of certain special figures or marks of identification to signify a religious message or divine being, as the cross for the Christ and the Christian faith.
In the Christian setting, existentialism is an accepted principle, and for this to be anything, there must be touchable things which the eyes can see and appreciate whether at worship , sacrifice or even ceremonies hence the phenomenological perspective of Christian religion. Having ascertained the value and inevitability of existentialism and phenomenology in the Christian religion, one crucial issue seems to be imperative here.
As one wonders if symbolism is truly part of the Christian Religion as it is in other religion; if it is, what are the importances of such symbols and what do one need to experience? What are their imparts on the Christian who desires to worship God in spirit and in truth?
Like we have them in African Traditional Religion, one may want to know if the use of such symbols in a Traditional Religious environment could lead to idolatry. This is a serious question that calls for answer. Before the advent of Christianity in this part of the globe, our ancestors were engulfed by the use of different kinds of Traditional Spiritual Symbols (TSS). They used same to decorate their communities and by so achieved a sane, secured and better traditional society.
It is evident however, that most of such symbols have to do with shrines and spirits, but do they portray and convey same significances in the pantheon? Or are they mere crew of images of real or imaginary objects that invoke feelings or are invoked by feelings? With the raid of modernity and Christianity on the symbols particularly the traditional religious types, does the present day Christian still believe and uphold these symbols in their traditional sacredness?
Different people would answer these questions differently. The people of the South East certainly would have a different answer while the people of South- South and South west definitely would have a different view in line with their cultural values, orientation and tradition irrespective of Christian faith. The point here is that one needs to understand the reality in these symbols. The search to further find out if such symbols are still venerated by modern Christians is very necessary and shall further assist us in verifying the psychology behind such conviction.
It is not all traditional symbols that are associated with demonism or Satanism. I am very sure of what I am saying here. I recall my discussion with a Professor of Religious Symbolism who is also an ordained reverend in a well known Pentecostal Church who consequently frowned at the illogical cum derogatory expression of his General Superintendent who at a get together of all the men of God in a seminar or National Council meeting, averred that anyone going to study Traditional Religion in the University as a man of God, would end up a native doctor or being contaminated by evil spirits.
The Religious leader who is also a Research Fellow (PhD student) in Political Science, in line with his thought may end up becoming a politician in Nigerian context-you know what I mean. Following his ignoble ideology, of becoming contaminated by undertaking a particular academic discipline, he may end up becoming worst than one of the South East APC governors by virtue of studying Political Science at PhD level.
Such ignoble expression shows how psychologically perplexed, academically disoriented and spiritually bemused some people could be. I know some well educated servants of God in the field of African Traditional Religion (ATR) that are completely free from such ignoble thought of contamination as proposed by the naïve cum misinformed General Superintendent . The academically sound and spiritually filled Professor deeply regretted having such a leader to superintend over him.
An acclaimed preacher of the gospel, whose knowledge is bereft of proper meanings of spiritual symbolism, needs a second touch. The Prof. wept for his deficiency and prayed the academic God to open his eyes and guide him rightly. You may wish to ruminate or cogitate on this briefly; if one atomically becomes what one either studies or teaches, it means those who teach criminology are criminals. This is not very correct; I know some Reverend Fathers and good Pentecostal Preachers that studied African Traditional Religion and Culture just for knowledge sake. In fact, a particular deliverance minister once told me that he studied ATR in order to know how to deal with some ancestral demons during deliverance section.
I decided to do a Doctorate Degree (PhD) programme in ATR with reference to symbolism in Igbo Traditional Religion after obtaining my first Doctorate Degree (PhD) in Philosophy of Religion because I needed to understand certain religious symbols and anthropological realities in my Traditional Religion. It has not and will never make me a native doctor (witch doctor). The misguided religious leader should know this and consequently refrain from giving ill advice to those who desire to have proper knowledge.
I remember when a particular course (History of Modern Cults) was assigned to me in one of the Seminaries where I do adjunct lectures, I enjoyed it and it finally aided my search for proper knowledge which snowballed into producing a book on “Comparative Philosophy of the New Age…” The knowledge did not make me a cultist. I must at this point emphasize that one’s ability to receive any manner of teaching with the capacity of deciphering falsehood from truth, makes such a person a matured Christian nurtured and worthy of being fed with bones and not milk. Well, that is by the way for now, back to the main issue on symbolism.
Signs and symbols have inner spiritual cum cosmic values and meanings. Symbol is the language of the soul. Signs and symbols are the language of the dreaming ego. They are armed with supernatural powers to educate humanity with mysteries. The psychology of spiritual symbolism is therefore the nature of symbols and how same affect and relate with us.