My Sip from the “African Deep Well”: A Cultural, Spiritual and Historical Journey
By Yvonne R. Jones
Presented by Omni-University
On my first trip to Africa, I was uncertain what to expect. However, I knew it would be a 21-day study tour titled “African 77” featuring Dakar, Senegal; Khartoum, Sudan; and several cities in Egypt (ancient name Kemet). The itinerary also included a stop in London, England on the return trip to the United States. [Ancestor] Dr. Anderson Thompson, a professor at the Center for Inner City Studies (CICS), Northeastern Illinois University, led one group and [Ancestor].Dr. Jacob and Dr.Iva Carruthers led another group with a similar itinerary. My matriculation in the NEIU Inner City Studies Education graduate program preceded the life-changing trip to Africa. In Dr. Carruthers’ ICSE class, Graduate Study in the Inner City Community, we were introduced to the concept of "worldview". He posited a critique that a Western worldview -rooted in a Greco-Roman foundation-was not an exclusive- i.e., the only- view of the world. An African worldview was foundational to the ICSE program. This binary approach informed the course’s exploration of the implications of a Western worldview on the political, social, economic, cultural, and intellectual experiences of Africans in America. These ideas about worldview shaped the perspectives of many of the participants in the 1977 tour who were also graduates of the ICSE graduate program. It was inevitable that all who embarked on that journey to Africa would have greater appreciation for the antiquity of African history and culture as well as for the devastation of European hegemony, colonialism, and "slavery" on people of African descent.. After the "Africa 77" tour, it became apparent that my life and my cultural consciousness would be forever changed. One of the most profound experiences was the understanding that an African worldview is a profoundly different orientation from the Greco-Roman Western perspective. What came later was a time of reflection on the experience. However, ten years later -in 1987- I returned to the Nile Valley for the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization’s groundbreaking “Back to the Blackland'' conference in Aswan, Egypt. Approximately, 1000 people- mostly African Americans- gathered for an unprecedented intellectual, historical, cultural, and spiritual experience. The interactions with local Nubians, who called us Nubian- Americans, the Conference and the extraordinary moments of new experiences, in ancient spaces, enhanced everyone’s understanding of Kemetic history, culture, and ancient African spirituality. Touring ancient temples near Aswan evoked the spirits of the nTrw (the divine principles). The Temple of Aset (Isis) was one. Another was the awe-inspiring Temple of Ramses the Second in Abu Simbel. After the 1987 journey, I joined the Kemetic Institute and took the introductory class in "mdw nTr" ( Hieroglyphs), the language of Ancient Kemet (Egypt), and participated in Dr.Carruthers’ class on Ancient Egyptian history and culture where we read translations of Ancient Egyptian texts and read "Egypt of the Pharaohs" by Sir Alan Gardiner. Also, I joined the Temple of the African Community of Chicago. It was my desire to understand Ancient Egyptian texts in Kemetic Institute classes as well as to expand my understanding of an ancient African Worldview and its implications for people of African descent. Over the decades, my continuing development in history, culture and spirituality has been a "sip" from what Dr.Carruthers called the “Deep Well of African Thought." His trope of the “sip” is a profound way to imagine what happens when you receive a bit of the mythology, history, and culture of Kemet. Though a "sip" is small, the meaning contained in it is profound. The ancient Kemetic worldview is revealed in the cosmogony which is a mythic description of how the African world came into existence. It continues to advance my understanding and appreciation for the Southern orientation of Kemetic civilization. A “sip” of this sacred story turns back the hands of time to the Sp Tpy, the “First Occasion” when Re (the sun) rose on the Eastern horizon. At the fundamental level are the nTrwt (netcherwet) female spiritual principles and nTrw (netcherew) male spiritual principles called the “Pesdjet” by the Ancient Egyptians, The Greek word “Ennead”, is simply translated as the “group of nine” (Allen, Middle Egyptian, Essay 12, p. 144 ), or more precisely the “Nine Divine Ones” (Carruthers, “Essays in Ancient Egyptian Studies”). They emerged from the Infinite Eight, the forces of water-ness, darkness, hiddenness, and infinite possibility. These forces are known as the “Hmnyw” (Allen, Middle Egyptian Essay 11) or the Greek word “Ogdoad” for eight. Dr. Carruthers identifies them as the “Eight Infinite Ones”. The Nine Divine Ones came into being on the “Sp Tpy”, the First Occasion, at the “Happening” (Khprt) when Re rose on the horizon from the primeval waters. When “Happening” happened, all came into being in Maat, the Divine sister with the symbolic feather, imbuing the universe with order, harmony, balance, truth, justice, right-doing, and reciprocity.. From the ordered universe came Amunet and Amun, the hidden ones- the source of all life, power, and health; Tefnut, moisture and Shu, the air, were present too. Nut, the sky, the Divine mother who gives birth to Re and her complement Geb, the earth, brought creation to the moment that the Divine Family came into being. The Divine family included Aset, the embodiment of motherhood, sisterhood, love and right governance; Asir, her brother, the embodiment of eternal life; Nbt Hut, the loyal sister; and Set(h), their brother, the challenger to divine succession. After much strife within the Divine family, Hr, the son of Aset and Asir, became the symbolic king to govern Tawi, the united two lands, Upper and Lower Kemet. This cosmogony of the nTrw occurred at the Sp Tpy, the First Occasion when Re rose. Also present on the occasion were Jehewty, Divine Intelligence, who recorded the occasion and Maat, the Divine principle of Order, Harmony, Balance and Reciprocity. There are numerous opportunities to tap into the story of the SpTpy recounting ancient African Kemetic spirituality. Reading texts such as the “Memphite Theology” (“The Shabaka Text”), “Coffin Text 76,” “Hymn to Amun,” the “Book of the Happenings of Re," passages in the “Book of Coming Forth By Day,” and other Kemetic texts for variations on this creation story. Applications of this myth (sacred story) to the contemporary African world abound. The purpose of the nTrwt (female principles) and nTrw (male principles) is to give and sustain life as water, air, sunlight - all essential to human survival. Humanity can become empowered by wisdom instruction (Sebayet) that promotes right-doing, by embracing spiritual ideals to live fully, richly, and harmoniously with family, friends, and the African community. Humankind can imagine a world where our families and communities thrive. We can become purposeful, creative, consistent, compassionate, loyal, loving, nurturing, and steadfast in the principles of Maat. We can engage in practices that empower us, promote unity, and strengthen our families and communities worldwide. A "sip" from the "Deep Well" of African knowledge gives life, power and health like Re, Maat, Jehewty, Amun and Amunet, Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Aset and Asir, and Nbt Hüt for eternity. Though the beginning of my journey was several decades ago, it is never-ending as I continue to go to the “Deep Well” of African thought for cultural and spiritual renewal.
We hope that you enjoyed today's blog by Yvonne R Jones. We now invite you to watch "The Temple of the African Community of Chicago," an episode of The H3O Art of Life Show, Featuring: Dr. Josef Ben Levi. We are grateful for your attention and support. Please share with others whom you feel would benefit from our offerings. Your comments are welcomed.
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BlogNote Content about the Sp Tpy is based on Kemetic texts mentioned in this essay, the Kemetic creation story as explained by Jacob H. Carruthers in Essays in Ancient Egyptian Studies, 1984, and Essays 11 and 12 in James P. Allen, Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Ancient Egypt (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Highly recommended are the following works by scholars of African descent: Dr. Theophile Obenga, "First Basic Textbook on Ancient Egyptian Civilization,” (African Pillars Edition: San Francisco, CA, 2004). Dr. Rkhty Wimby Amen, “The Philosophy of Kemetic Spirituality,” in Reconstructing Kemetic Culture: Papers, Perspectives, Projects (Maulana Karenga, Editor, University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles, CA, 1990), pp. 115-131. Dr. Anthony T. Browder, "Exploding The Myths, Volume 1, Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization". [Ancestor] Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, "The African Origin of Civilization". [Ancestor] Dr. Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannon, "Africa: Mother of Western Civilization". Wosene Yefru, "African-Centered Critical Thinking:A Historiographical Commentary on the Nile Valley Civilization: a Thematic College Handbook for Africana Studies".