Monday, January 8, 2018

~ Interpretation Of Odu Ifa Verses ~

The following © information is courtesy of Awo Falokun and shared with his permission

Agbo ato,

For those who study Odu Ifa in order to interpret divination as part of their participation in the Ifa prayer cycle, the question of how to interpret the verses becomes a fundamental question. Each of the verses has it’s own internal metaphysical logic. However, the metaphysics is useless unless it is viewed from the lens of the development of good character. In western culture good character is vague and rarely clearly defined. In traditional Yoruba culture the word for good character is iwa pele from the elision iwa ope ile meaning I come to greet the earth or I come to live in harmony with the earth. The Ifa guidelines for how we do this are very specific. In the Holy Odu Iwori Ogbe one of the verses symbolically refers to iwa pele as the wife of Orunmila. This is a metaphorical reference to the idea that good character is rooted in the spiritual tradition of creating right brain, left brain balance. 

This balance occurs when there is no conflict between head and heart. The balance between head and heart only occurs when we are in alignment with destiny and Odu Ifa says ayanmo ni iwa pele, iwa pele ni ayanmo meaning destiny is good character, good character is destiny.
The issue of embracing good character as a spiritual discipline can only be discussed after there is a clear understanding of what good character looks. The same thing can be said about divination. No diviner can use the verses of Ifa sacred scripture to give guidance on how to develop good character unless they understand what that looks like. I believe that if a diviner is a sexual predator, who is addicted and abusive, who cons his or her clients out of money and who creates dysfunction in the community has no ability to interpret Odu.

None, not even a little bit. Notice I am not judging specific diviners; I am presenting an opinion about what I believe to be an ineffective point of view. I not challenging anyone, I am not denigrating anyone, I am having a conversation about an idea.  So this begs the question what is iwa pele. If we look at the verse that defines iwa pele the story told in the verse says Orunmila is critical of his wife, she leaves him and he misses her. That is a fairly straight forward and simple story. The point of the story is do not make judgements. If you are an awo or a diviner it is taboo to make judgements, we are prohibited from making judgements ever, there is no exception the taboo is absolute. Think about it. Making judgements is God’s job and God does not like it when humans try and do God's job. 

This taboo does not mean we cannot express opinions and it does not mean we cannot create boundaries. The issue is semantics, meaning the issue is how we express our self. The question of how we express our self is at the core of the concept of spiritual dialogue. To make a judgement is to say you are wrong. As an awo saying this to anyone about anything is taboo. When you say to person they are wrong, you create resistance and resentment leading to an argument. There is a difference between dialogue and argument. When an awo has a disagreement they say I have a different opinion. That places responsibility for the difference on our own shoulders without blaming anyone. This many seem like an insignificant distinction. In my experience it makes all the difference in the world. 

Several years ago I experienced what could be describe as an avalanche of judgment from people who needed to tell the world that I was wrong about everything and that I was very possibly a spawn of Satan. I did not respond to any of it. Many of my friends encouraged me to respond. As difficult as it was, and I am not saying it was easy, I refused to respond in an effort to honor the taboo against making judgments. People disagree with me. That happens, it’s called life on earth. My friends disagree with me by saying here is my opinion what do you think? My enemies disagree by saying you are wrong which proves that God thinks you are an evil person. Once you condemn a person by claiming they are evil in the eyes of God, there is no ground for resolution of a conflict.

An interesting thing happened when the avalanche of criticism came my way. I ignored it and it went away. That is my point, making judgments and responding with a judgment creates endless arguments with no resolution. Taking responsibility for your own ideas does not lead to arguments.
In Ifa not arguing is called suuru or inner peace.   You could say the people who attacked me disrespected me. You could say that, it also happens to be ill relevant. Ifa says respect yourself and the question of how others feel about you is of no value. If their perception of you is incorrect that is their problem not yours. Everyone who I have ever known who justifies racism, sexism and homophobia assures me that these attitudes are an expression of God’s Will.

That may or may not be true. I don’t know. What I do know is that claiming to know God’s Will is taboo in the spiritual discipline we call Ifa.

The oral scripture of Ifa says we call God Olorun. The word olorun from the elision olo orun means owner of the unknowable realm. Olorun is not God’s name it is a description of Gods place in the Universe. Ifa scripture says specifically we do not define Olorun, we do not invoke Olorun, we do not build shrines for Olorun and we do make statements describing the Will of Olorun, nothing none of it. Olorun is transcendent, humans are finite. To understand God is to be God and Ifa scriptures says the illusion we can know Olorun is the source of arrogance in the world and arrogance is the source of ibi or illusion leading to misfortune.

Ifa diviners who claim to be the Word of God are in violation of Ifa taboo. In my opinion any Ifa diviner who claims to be the Voice of God has absolutely no understanding of the spiritual message of the Prophet Orunmila. Notice I said in my opinion.  If my interpretation of Ifa scripture is remotely accurate that means every single conversation about so and so did not do your initiation incorrectly and for $20,000 I will re initiate you and do it write, absolutely every one of those conversations is taboo. I can say that I do initiations this way. I can say that I believe the point of initiations is to put the initiate into an altered state called possession with spirit. I can say that when I do initiations sometimes the format changes based on the challenges that present themselves in the moment as it relates to resistance form the initiate to go into possession and I can tell you whether or not the initiate went into possession. I never, never, never say I do initiations correctly. There is no such thing as a correct initiation. Hear me, no such thing. There are only effective initiations based on a shared agreement regarding the purpose of initiation. 

The massive violation of the taboo against making judgments that occurs in the pointless discussions about doing initiations correctly not only threatens to destroy our faith, it is in my opinion a failure to recognize a fundamental concept in the process of spiritual development.
One I pray that elders of Ifa in the Diaspora can come together and create dialogue on how to do effective initiations. That day will bring a huge blessing of healing to our communities.

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