Ancient African knowledge holds key to trusting ourselves and others



CulturalWellnessThe Black man/woman is the temple that absorbs the planetary influences of the cosmos. The Black man/woman is not a helpless creature in this drama of life, nor is he/she held helpless by circumstances around him or her. The planets are within man/woman; they may initiate reaction and inner impulses from within, but freedom from such planetary influences could be ours if we were masters of ourselves.


An Elder of an ancient African spiritual tradition 

The lack of self-mastery for the Black man/woman is a phenomenon that affects every aspect of existence, one that has caused a disengaged state and a broken will to fully participate in life. However, this state was not produced in a vacuum, but instead begins with the African’s separation from his intellectual and spiritual heritage, his homeland, and a rootedness in culturally authentic concepts of community living.

Within the African’s original intellectual heritage, the Black man/woman experiences a spiritual connectedness in which the psychological and mental activity can be grounded in a way that produces deep and insightful explanatory power.

The ancient African, our ancestors, blended together in integral wholeness the physical, the moral, and the sociopolitical activities in life. The physical/material world was viewed as a manifestation of the spiritual and was guided by the unseen forces that flow through the universe. In this way of thinking and knowing, the physical and spiritual each has its own intelligence that, through divine marriage, become harmonious.

Referring to the sacred literature of ancient Kemet, our Ancestors produced the concept of MA’AT. This ordering, harmonizing principle exists in three dimensions: 1) within the individual, 2) within the community, and 3) within the cosmos.

Within the individual, MA’AT is manifested through moral deeds and intentional decision making that produces harmony. Within the community, MA’AT finds expressions in the culture’s ability to reinforce its system of accountability and spirituality within the principle itself. Implicit is cultural harmonization and the reciprocal processes of giving between the seen and unseen. The current Elder views this as further evidence of the ancient African’s complete dedication to mastery of self in accordance with the Divine forces in Creation.


Valuing culture

Culture refers to the patterns of behavior and beliefs common to members of a society. This includes the ways rituals for pregnancy, childbirth and death are performed; how the body is clothed and esteemed; how the elderly are respected; how men and women behave; how customs are generated; and how rules and values are reinforced.

Culture is the lens through which a people understand the essence of living and life and their relationship to the whole universe. It is the framework upon which its members organize and structure their lives and interpret life’s meaning.

Most importantly, Culture is carried by the women of a people. It is learned. It is adaptable to the environment. It is a dynamic system, but it is not without a fixed, unchangeable core.


Spirit building

Many adults, youth and children of African heritage are in an unacknowledged spiritual crisis and hunger for spiritual recovery. In the state of spiritual crisis, we are not and cannot be aware of our fullest potential.

We do not trust, yet we yearn for support and affirmation. Generations of spiritual crises have resulted in the loss of the natural infrastructure contained by community that could sustain our spiritual being through deep turbulence and trauma. Our Spirit has been snuffed out and suffocated by repeated disappointment and lack of guidance by the elders.

The curriculum at the Cultural Wellness Center provides training for students of culture to identify, nurture, and facilitate the Spirit-building process. This training is necessary for people of African heritage to begin trusting themselves, each other, and believing in their future once again.


African centered decision making and authority

“African Centered Decision Making and Authority” means that the elders are influential at every stage of decision making, and there must be representation of people from each age stage within every household participating in the continuity of the community.

The value of Culture for people of African heritage lies with the resources it provides, moving us beyond race and the immediacy of having been enslaved for a period of time in our existence.

African Centered Cultural Thinking is:

Social — connected to family, friends and neighbors by blood and by spirit. One is no more that than the other.

Political — connected to other people in the world for the betterment of humankind. You must be kind and generous to all. It will return to you.

Spiritual — interconnected with all living things visible and invisible because Spirit is real, and life and death represent a continuum of the same creative process.

These thoughts are from the CWC curriculum. Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.


Elder Atum Azzahir is executive director and elder consultant in African ways of knowing of the Cultural Wellness Center. She welcomes reader responses to