Pope calls for a new Pentecost to launch renewal of American Church

Apr 19, 2008 – Six thousand people flocked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York this morning for a Mass that Pope Benedict celebrated for clergy and religious. In his homily, Benedict XVI called for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church in America so that it can overcome divisions and allow all of its gifts to be spent for the sake of spreading the Gospel.

After thanking Cardinal Egan for his welcome and recalling the examples of the pioneers of the Catholic Church in America, Pope Benedict turned to the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

“As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!” he exclaimed.

The Pontiff then pointed to the example of the late Cardinals Cooke and O’Connor whose “heroic witness to the Gospel of life” should inspire this kind of zeal. “The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization,” the Pope said.

“This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts,” the Holy Father encouraged.

Pope Benedict said that the challenge in some ways is to bring this message of life in abundance to “a society where the Church seems legalistic and ‘institutional’ to many people.” The Church’s “most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love”, he said.

He then turned the congregation’s attention to different aspects of the architecture of St. Patrick’s.

Noting how from the outside the stained glass windows appear dim but from the inside of the Church their true beauty is revealed, the Pope said, that communicating the joy and love of God “is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, ‘from the outside’”.

Besides a spiritual conversion, Benedict XVI explained that an “‘intellectual’ conversion” is necessary to be able to discern “the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church’s life and mission”.

“For all of us, I think, one of the great disappointments which followed the Second Vatican Council, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church’s mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family,” Benedict said.

The solution to these divisions, the way to move forward, Benedict explained, is “if we turn our gaze together to Christ!” Turning away from division and towards Christ, is the way that true spiritual renewal will occur, the Holy Father said.

Pope Benedict once again brought up the sexual abuse scandal in the context of striving for unity.

“I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents.”

Benedict drew attention back to the architectural structure to make his final point.

“The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church’s unity, which is the unity – as Saint Paul has told us – of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose. For the Spirit never ceases to pour out his abundant gifts, to awaken new vocations and missions, and to guide the Church, as our Lord promised in this morning’s Gospel, into the fullness of truth.”

“So let us lift our gaze upward!” the Pope called out.

Calling on the Holy Spirit to help the Church grow in holiness, he added, “If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance. Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention. Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles, let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!”

Pope Benedict closed by calling on American Catholics to “go forth as heralds of hope in the midst of this city, and all those places where God’s grace has placed us. In this way, the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit, and point the way to that other, greater city, the new Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb For there God is even now preparing for all people a banquet of unending joy and life. Amen.”

General Blog Religion & Philosophy

Some Characteristics of Medieval Thought


IN the earliest days of his upward evolution man was satisfied with
a very crude explanation of natural phenomena–that to which the name
"animism" has been given. In this stage of mental development all the
various forces of Nature are personified: the rushing torrent, the
devastating fire, the wind rustling the forest leaves–in the mind of
the animistic savage all these are personalities, spirits, like
himself, but animated by motives more or less antagonistic to him.

I suppose that no possible exception could be taken to the statement
that modern science renders animism impossible. But let us inquire in
exactly what sense this is true. It is not true that science robs
natural phenomena of their spiritual significance. The mistake is often
made of supposing that science explains, or endeavours to explain,
phenomena. But that is the business of philosophy. The task science
attempts is the simpler one of the correlation of natural phenomena,
and in this effort leaves the ultimate problems of metaphysics
untouched. A universe, however, whose phenomena are not only capable of
some degree of correlation, but present the extraordinary degree of
harmony and unity which science makes manifest in Nature, cannot be, as
in animism, the product of a vast number of incoordinated and
antagonistic wills, but must either be the product of one Will, or not
the product of will at all.

The latter alternative means that the Cosmos is inexplicable, which
not only man’s growing experience, but the fact that man and the
universe form essentially a unity, forbid us to believe. The term
"anthropomorphic" is too easily applied to philosophical systems, as if
it constituted a criticism of their validity. For if it be true, as all
must admit, that the unknown can only be explained in terms of the
known, then the universe must either be explained in terms of man–i.e.
in terms of will or desire–or remain incomprehensible. That is to say,
a philosophy must either be anthropomorphic, or no philosophy at all.

Thus a metaphysical scrutiny of the results of modern science leads
us to a belief in God. But man felt the need of unity, and crude
animism, though a step in the right direction, failed to satisfy his
thought, long before the days of modern science. The spirits of
animism, however, were not discarded, but were modified, co-ordinated,
and worked into a system as servants of the Most High. Polytheism may
mark a stage in this process; or, perhaps, it was a result of mental

What I may term systematised as distinguished from crude animism
persisted throughout the Middle Ages. The work of systematisation had
already been accomplished, to a large extent, by the Neo-Platonists and
whoever were responsible for the Kabala. It is true that these main
sources of magical or animistic philosophy remained hidden during the
greater part of the Middle Ages; but at about their close the youthful
and enthusiastic CORNELIUS AGRIPPA (1486-1535)  slaked his thirst
thereat and produced his own attempt at the systematisation of magical
belief in the famous Three Books of Occult Philosophy. But the waters
of magical philosophy reached the mediaeval mind through various
devious channels, traditional on the one hand and literary on the
other. And of the latter, the works of pseudo-DIONYSIUS,  whose
immense influence upon mediaeval thought has sometimes been neglected,
must certainly be noted.

The most obvious example of a mediaeval animistic belief is that in
"elementals" –the spirits which personify the primordial forces of
Nature, and are symbolised by the four elements, immanent in which they
were supposed to exist, and through which they were held to manifest
their powers. And astrology, it must be remembered, is essentially a
systematised Animism. The stars, to the ancients, were not material bodies like
the earth, but spiritual beings. PLATO (427-347 B.C.) speaks of them as
"gods". Mediaeval thought did not regard them in quite this way. But
for those who believed in astrology, and few, I think, did not, the
stars were still symbols of spiritual forces operative on man.
Evidences of the wide extent of astrological belief in those days are
abundant, many instances of which we shall doubtless encounter in our

It has been said that the theological and philosophical atmosphere
of the Middle Ages was "scholastic," not mystical. No doubt
"mysticism," as a mode of life aiming at the realisation of the
presence of God, is as distinct from scholasticism as empiricism is
from rationalism, or "tough-minded" philosophy (to use JAMES’ happy
phrase) is from "tender-minded". But no philosophy can be absolutely
and purely deductive. It must start from certain empirically determined
facts. A man might be an extreme empiricist in religion (i.e. a
mystic), and yet might attempt to deduce all other forms of knowledge
from the results of his religious experiences, never caring to gather
experience in any other realm. Hence the breach between mysticism and
scholasticism is not really so wide as may appear at first sight.
Indeed, scholasticism officially recognised three branches of theology,
of which the mystical was one. I think that mysticism and scholasticism
both had a profound influence on the mediaeval mind, sometimes acting
as opposing forces, sometimes operating harmoniously with one another.
As Professor WINDEL-BAND puts it: "We no longer onesidedly characterise
the philosophy of the middle ages as scholasticism, but rather place
mysticism beside it as of equal rank, and even as being the more
fruitful and promising movement."

Alchemy, with its four Aristotelian or scholastic elements and its
three mystical principles–sulphur, mercury, salt,–must be cited as
the outstanding product of the combined influence of mysticism and
scholasticism: of mysticism, which postulated the unity of the Cosmos,
and hence taught that evervthing natural is the expressive image and
type of some supernatural reality; of scholasticism, which taught men
to rely upon deduction and to restrict expermentation to the smallest
possible limits.

The mind naturally proceeds from the known, or from what is supposed
to be known, to the unknown. Indeed, as I have already indicated, it
must so proceed if truth is to be gained. Now what did the men of the
Middle Ages regard as filling into the category of the known? Why,
surely, the truths of revealed religion, whether accepted upon
authority or upon the evidence of their own experience. The realm of
spiritual and moral reality: there, they felt, they were on firm
ground. Nature was a realm unknown; but they had analogy to guide, or,
rather, misguide them. Nevertheless if, as we know, it misguided, this
was not, I think, because the mystical doctrine of the correspondence
between the spiritual and the natural is unsound, but because these
ancient seekers into Nature’s secrets knew so little, and so frequently
misapplied what they did know. So alchemical philosophy arose and became systematised, with its wonderful
endeavour to perfect the base metals by the Philosopher’s Stone–the
concentrated Essence of Nature,–as man’s soul is perfected through the
life-giving power Of JESUS CHRIST.

I want, in conclusion to these brief introductory remarks, to say a
few words concerning phallicism in connection with my topic. For some
"tender-minded " [1] and, to my thought, obscure, reason the subject is
tabooed. Even the British Museum does not include works on phallicism
in its catalogue, and special permission has to be obtained to consult
them. Yet the subject is of vast importance as concerns the origin and
development of religion and philosophy, and the extent of phallic
worship may be gathered from the widespread occurrence of obelisks and
similar objects amongst ancient relics. Our own maypole dances may be
instanced as one survival of the ancient worship of the male generative

What could be more easy to understand than that, when man first
questioned as to the creation of the earth, he should suppose it to
have been generated by some process analogous to that which he saw held
in the case of man? How else could he account for its origin, if
knowledge must proceed from the known to the unknown? No one questions
at all that the worship of the human generative organs as symbols of
the dual generative principle of Nature degenerated into orgies of the
most frightful character, but the view of Nature which thus degenerated is not, I think, an altogether unsound one, and very interesting remnants of it are to be found in mediaeval philosophy.

These remnants are very marked in alchemy. The metals, as I have
suggested, are there regarded as types of man; hence they are produced
from seed, through the combination of male and female
principles–mercury and sulphur, which on the spiritual plane are
intelligence and love. The same is true of that Stone which is perfect
Man. As BERNARD Of TREVISAN (1406-1490) wrote in the fifteenth century:
"This Stone then is compounded of a Body and Spirit, or of a volatile
and fixed Substance, and that is therefore done, because nothing in the
World can be generated and brought to light without these two
Substances, to wit, a Male and Female: From whence it appeareth, that
although these two Substances are not of one and the same species, yet
one Stone doth thence arise, and although they appear and are said to
be two Substances, yet in truth it is but one, to wit, Argent-vive."[1]
No doubt this sounds fantastic; but with all their seeming intellectual
follies these old thinkers were no fools. The fact of sex is the most
fundamental fact of the universe, and is a spiritual and physical as
well as a physiological fact. I shall deal with the subject as concerns
the speculations of the alchemists in some detail in a later excursion. Ideas expressed by Stanley Redgrove

General Blog Religion & Philosophy

Einstein on a Personal God

Einstein on a Personal God

On 22 March 1954 a self-made man sent Einstein in Princeton a long
handwritten letter-four closely packed pages in English. The correspondent
despaired that there were so few people like Einstein who had the courage
to speak out, and he wondered if it would not be best to return the world
to the animals. Saying "I presume you would like to know who I am,"
he went on to tell in detail how he had come from Italy to the United States
at the age of nine, arriving in bitter cold weather, as a result of which
his sisters died while he barely survived; how after six months of schooling
he went to work at age ten; how at age seventeen he went to Evening School;
and so on, so that now he had a regular job as an experimental machinist,
had a spare-time business of his own, and had some patents to his credit.
He declared himself an atheist. He said that real education came from reading
books. He cited an article about Einstein’s religious beliefs and expressed
doubts as to the article’s accuracy. He was irreverent about various aspects
of formal religion, speaking about the millions of people who prayed to
God in many languages, and remarking that God must have an enormous clerical
staff to keep track of all their sins. And he ended with a long discussion
of the social and political systems of Italy and the United States that
it would take too long to describe here. He also enclosed a check for Einstein
to give to charity.

On 24 March 1954 Einstein answered in English as follows:

I get hundreds and hundreds of letters but seldom one so interesting
as yours. I believe that your opinions about our society are quite reasonable.

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions,
a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal
God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something
is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration
for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

I have no possibility to bring the money you sent me to the appropriate
receiver. I return it therefore in recognition of your good heart and intention.
Your letter shows me also that wisdom is not a product of schooling but
of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.

There is in the Einstein Archives a letter dated 5 August 1927 from
a banker in Colorado to Einstein in Berlin. Since it begins "Several
months ago I wrote you as follows," one may assume that Einstein had
not yet answered. The banker remarked that most scientists and the like
had given up the idea of God as a bearded, benevolent father figure surrounded
by angels, although many sincere people worship and revere such a God.
The question of God had arisen in the course of a discussion in a literary
group, and some of the members decided to ask eminent men to send their
views in a form that would be suitable for publication. He added that some
twenty-four Nobel Prize winners had already responded, and he hoped that
Einstein would too. On the letter, Einstein wrote the following in German.
It may or may not have been sent:

I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the
actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures
of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic
causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science.

My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior
spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory
understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance-but
for us, not for God.

A Chicago Rabbi, preparing a lecture on "The Religious Implications
of the Theory of Relativity," wrote to Einstein in Princeton on zo
December 1939 to ask some questions on the topic. Einstein replied as follows:

I do not believe that the basic ideas of the theory of relativity can
lay claim to a relationship with the religious sphere that is different
from that of scientific knowledge in general. I see this connection in
the fact that profound interrelationships in the objective world can Ije
comprehended through simple logical concepts. To be sure, in the theory
of relativity this is the case in particularly full measure.

The religious feeling engendered by experiencing the logical comprehensibility
of profound interrelations is of a somewhat different sort from the feeling
that one usually calls religious. It is more a feeling of awe at the scheme
that is manifested in the material universe. It does not lead us to take
the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image-a personage who
makes demands of us and who takes an interest in us as individuals. There
is in this neither a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only sheer being.
For this reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter,
albeit the most important in the human sphere.

General Blog Religion & Philosophy

African Religions- The Bantu


No one seems to know
when the South African Bantu first came into the country now occupied
by them. It is certain that the Bushmen, and in some places the
Hottentots, were there before them. One proof of this is found in the
names of places, and especially of rivers, which in the Cape Province
often contain clicks (the Iqora, called by Europeans Bushman’s River;
the Inxuba, which is the Fish river; and many others); while in Natal
and Zululand most of the river-names have a decided Bantu sound-Umgeni,
Tugela, and so on. The Bantu came from the north-east, and reached the
Kei river about the end of the seventeenth century, when they first
came in contact with the Dutch colonists. But they must have been in
Natal and the regions to the north-east long before that, for in 1498,
when Vasco da Gama’s fleet touched somewhere near the mouth of the
Limpopo, one of his crew, Martin Affonso, found he could understand the
talk of the natives, because it was very much like what he had picked
up on the West Coast, probably in Angola or on the Congo. It is also
known that the Makaranga, who are still living in Southern Rhodesia,
were there in 1505, when the Portuguese first heard of them, and they
must have settled there long before, as they had something like an
organized kingdom, under a paramount chief, whom the Portuguese called

Zulu Clan Tradition

These Makaranga are by some thought to be the ancestors of the
Amalala, the first of the Bantu to take up their abode in the countries
we know as Natal and Zululand. One of their tribes has a quaint story
of the way in which their first ancestor brought his family to their
new home. This was Malandela, son of Gumede, who came into the
Umhlatuze valley, Father Bryant thinks, about 1670. It is said that
when they had marched, day after day, for many weary miles, and the old
man found his strength failing, he made his wives and children get into
an isilulu-" one of the huge globular baskets still used for
storing grain."[1] He then, with one last effort, launched the basket
on its way with one mighty kick, and fell back dead. It rolled on "over
hill and dale, river and forest, till at last it stopped and steadied;
and when those within ventured to look out they found themselves in
this country where we now live," so some of their descendants, "who are
still nicknamed ‘those belonging to the basket,’" told Miss Colenso.[2]
But Father Bryant, who has made very careful inquiries into Zulu
traditions, has unkindly spoilt this story. He says that the real
meaning of "those belonging to the basket" is that Malandela’s family,
when driven by famine from their old homes, brought with them these
grain-baskets, which were then a novelty to the people among whom they

However that may be, Malandela was the father of Ntombela, the
father of Zulu, and so the ancestor of the great Zulu kings. Solomon,
son of Dinuzulu, who has recently died, was the twelfth in descent from
him. The graves of these kings, from Malandela to Senzangakona, father
of Tshaka, are pointed out near Babanango, in the valley of the White
Imfolozi river. Dinuzulu too is buried near them, but his father lies
in the Inkandhla forest, in Zululand, and his grandfather, Mpande, at

Tribal Migrations

Zulus and Xosas alike trace their descent from a tribe called Nguni
(Abenguni, a name still preserved by the Angoni of Nyasaland), who,
after coming from the north, as well as the Basuto, Bechuana, and
Hereros, settled somewhere in the Upper Limpopo valley. Father Bryant
thinks that they must have made a long circuit to the west,

[1. Alas, the degenerate izilulu (plural) of the present day are not more than three or four feet across!

2 Josiah Gumede, who came to England in 1919 to petition the
Imperial Government for justice to the Zulus, claims to be a descendant
of this family.]

crossing the Zambezi near its source, or even going round its
head-waters, as it would have been impassable to them "by any eastern
or even central crossing."[1] Be that as it may, while some of the
Nguni remained in the Limpopo valley part of the tribe set off about
the year 1300 to the eastward, and these, again, two hundred years
later, broke up into two sections, one of which continued its southward
march, and ultimately gave rise to the Xosa and Tembu tribes. Zulu and
Xosa may now be considered as dialects of the same language: they do
not differ much more, if at all, than Lowland Scots and standard
English, and originally, of course, they were one.

As centuries progressed, old words and forms fell out here and new
came in there, each section developing its speech along different
lines, till to-day Ntungwa and Xosa are separated by a quite
considerable extent of dialectical difference in speech. The Xosa
language, it may be noted, has preserved for us the old-time term ebu Nguni (Nguniland-there whence they came) as signifying " in the West." [2]

The differences in vocabulary are considerable, just as we find that
in different English counties the same things are not always called by
the same names; the grammar is almost identical; but the Xosa
intonation, rather than the pronunciation of individual sounds, is
decidedly strange to an ear accustomed to Zulu. This being so, it is
only to be expected that both sections of the South-eastern Bantu
should have many tales and legends in common, and I shall not always
try to distinguish between them.

The Reed and the Reed-bed

The Bantu, as a rule, do not try to account for the origin of the
human race as a whole, or, rather, their legends seem to assume that
the particular tribe in question is the human race; though, as we have
seen, there are some who con-

[1. Yet we know that Zwangendaba’s host crossed in 1835 near Zumbo in the height of the dry season, when the river was very low.

2 Bryant, Olden Times, p. 9.]

descend to recognize the Bushmen. They also frequently fail
to distinguish between a non-human creator and the first human
ancestor, which has led to a good deal of discussion as to the real
meaning of the Zulu Unkulunkulu, who ‘broke off’ mankind from Uhlanga. Uhlanga
means a reed, and there seems no reason to doubt that this at first was
intended quite literally, for, as one native told Dr Callaway, " it was
said that two people came out of a reed. There came out a man and a
woman." Some have refused to believe that this was really meant, and
take Callaway’s view that uhlanga is a metaphorical expression
for "a source of being." It certainly has come to be used in this
sense, but I should be inclined to look on this as a later development
and the reed as the original idea. The Baronga of Delagoa Bay[1] told
M. Junod that "one man and one woman suddenly came out from a reed,
which exploded, and there they were!" Some native authorities say that
the first pair came out of a reed-bed (umhlanga), but one is
inclined to think that the cruder version is the more primitive, and is
reminded of the Hereros and their Omumborombonga tree.

The Chameleon

Most) if not all, of the Bantu have the legend of the
chameleon-everywhere much the same, though differing in some not
unimportant details-explaining how death came into the world, or,
rather, how it was not prevented from coming. I will give it first as
it was told to Dr Callaway by Fulatela Sitole, and afterwards mention
some of the variations.

It is said he (Unkulunkulu) sent a chameleon; he said to it, "Go, chameleon (lunwaba),
go and say, ‘Let not men die!’" The chameleon set out; it went slowly,
it loitered in the way; and as it went it ate of the fruit of a bush
which is called

[1. The Baronga are a branch of
the great Thonga nation (Amatonga). Father Bryant says that "the
relationship between the Nguni (Zulu-Xosa), Sutu (Basuto), and Thonga
Bantu families may be likened to that existing in Europe between the
English, Germans, and Scandinavians of the Nordic race."]

Ubukwebezane. At length Uhkulunkulu sent a lizard [intulo,
the blue-headed gecko] after the chameleon, when it had already set out
for some time. The lizard went; it ran and made great haste, for
Unkulunkulu had said, "Lizard, when you have arrived say, ‘Let men
die!’" So the lizard went, and said, "I tell you, it is said, ‘Let men
die!’" The lizard came back again to Unkulunkulu before the chameleon
had reached his destination, the chameleon, which was sent first-which
was sent and told to go and say, "Let not men die!" At length it
arrived and shouted, saying, "It is said, ‘Let not men die!’" But men
answered, "Oh, we have accepted the word of the lizard; it has told us
the word, ‘It is said "Let men die!’" We cannot hear your word. Through
the word of the lizard men will die." [1]

Here no reason is given for Unkulunkulu’s sending the second
messenger. I do not think any genuine native version suggests that he
changed his mind on account of men’s wickedness. Where this is said one
suspects it to be a moralizing afterthought, due perhaps to European

The Luyi Legend

Some other versions assume that the creator had not made up his
mind, and decided to let the issue depend on which messenger arrived
first. The Luyi tribe of the Zambezi call the creator Nyambe, and give
him a wife, Nasilele.[2] She wanted men to die for ever, but Nyambe
wished them to live again. Nyambe had a dog of whom he was very fond.
The dog died, and Nyambe wished to restore him to life, but Nasilele
objected. " He is a thief, and I do not like him." Some time after this
Nasilele’s mother died. (Nyambe and his wife are stated to have been
the first human couple; but the student of mythology must learn not to
be surprised at contradictions of this sort.) She asked Nyambe to
revive her mother, but he refused, because she had wanted his dog to
stay dead. Some versions add that he gave in after a time, and set to

[1. Callaway, Amazulu, p. 3.

2. Told in full by Jacottet, "Textes Louyi," No. XLV.]

but when the process was nearly complete Nasilele ruined
everything by her curiosity. Then came the question whether mankind in
general should die for ever or live again, and they agreed to settle it
by sending the chameleon andnot the lizard, but the hare, who, as might
be expected, arrived first.

Elsewhere the lizard overhears the message, and, out of mere
spiteful mischief, hastens to get in first with the (alleged)
counter-order. It is not surprising that both these creatures should be
held unlucky. No unsophisticated African will touch a chameleon if he
can help it, or likes to see a European handling one; while for an
intulo to enter a Zulu hut is the worst of evil omens. In some parts,
indeed, the herd-boys, whenever they find a chameleon, will poison it
by squirting tobacco-juice or sprinkling snuff into its open mouth.

The chameleon is the creature usually associated with this legend
among Bantu-speaking peoples; the Hottentots, in a similar story, make
the messenger the hare, who is sent out by the Moon to tell people, "As
I die and, dying, live, so shall ye die and, dying, live." In some
versions he reverses the message out of forgetfulness or stupidity; in
one he does it wilfully, having taken the place of the insect who was
to have carried the message.’ It is to be noticed that the idea
throughout is not that man should be exempt from death, but that he
should return to life after it.

Legends current in Uganda

The Bantu must have brought this legend with them when they came
from the north, for it is also known to the people of Uganda, as well
as to others in between. But the Baganda have another story telling how
Death came-Death, who, in this tale, is thought of as a person, and
called Walumbe. This one belongs to the Bahima (or Batusi) cowherds,
who came in from the north with their long-horned cattle, and made
themselves chiefs in Uganda and Unyoro

[1. Bleek, Reynard the Fox in South in South Africa, pp. 69-73; Schulte, Namaland und Kalahari, p. 448.]

and Ankole.[1] But it is the peasants, the original Bantu
living in the country before the Bahima came, who have the chameleon
story. The tale of Kintu, the first man, who married the daughter of
Heaven (Gulu), has been told so often that it need not be repeated
here. It may be read in Dr Roscoe’s The Baganda, and in a charming little book by Mrs Baskerville, The King of the Snakes.
There, too, can be found the story of Mpobe, the hunter, who wandered
into the presence of Death, but was allowed to depart with a warning
never to speak of what he had seen. He was able to resist all
persuasion to do so, till at last his mother overcame his reluctance,
and Death immediately came to claim him.

Such personifications of Death do not seem to be very common in
Bantu mythology; but the Basumbwa of North-western Unyamwezi, in a
somewhat similar legend, call him Lirufu, and one occasionally hears of
a "chief of the ghosts," who may be identical with him.

Kalunga of the Ambundu

The Ambundu of Angola speak of Kalunga, a word which may mean either
Death, the King of the Netherworld (usually called, why I do not know,
Kalunga-ngombe, "Kalunga of the cattle"), or the sea. This is not
strange when one remembers that, though living, many of them, on the
coast, they are a seagoing people, and to the sense of dread and
mystery with which the ocean would naturally affect them would be added
the memory of the thousands carried away on slave-ships, never to
return. The Ndonga and Kwanyama, to the south of Angola, use this name
for their High God, whom the Hereros too call Njambi Karunga.

Some Mbundu stories give us a glimpse of Kalunga and his kingdom. Here are two of them.[2]

[1. They are no longer a separate people in Uganda
itself, as they are in Ankole and Ruanda, since even their kings and
great chiefs married women of the country.

2 Chatelain, Folk-tales of Angola, pp. 223 and 249.]

The first is called "King Kitamba kia Shiba." Kitamba was a
chief who lived at Kasanji. He lost his head-wife, Queen Muhongo, and
mourned for her many days. Not only did he mourn himself, but he
insisted on his people sharing his grief. "My village, too, no man
shall do anything therein. The young people shall not shout; the women
shall not pound; no one shall speak in the village." His headmen
remonstrated with him, but Kitamba was obdurate, and declared that he
would neither speak nor eat nor allow anyone else to do so till his
queen was restored to him. The headmen consulted together, and called
in a ‘doctor’ (kimbanda). Having received his fee (first a gun,
and then a cow) and heard their statement of the case, he said, "All
right," and set off to gather herbs. These he pounded in a
‘medicine-mortar,’ and, having prepared some sort of decoction, ordered
the king and all the people to wash themselves with it. He next
directed some men to "dig a grave in my guest-hut at the fireplace,"
which they did, and he entered it with his little boy, giving two last
instructions to his wife: to leave off her girdle (i.e., to
dress negligently, as if in mourning) and to pour water every day on
the fireplace. Then the men filled in the grave. The doctor saw a road
open before him; he walked along it with his boy till he came to a
village, where he found Queen Muhongo sitting, sewing a basket, She saw
him approaching, and asked, "Whence comest thou? " He answered, in the
usual form demanded by native politeness, "Thou thyself, I have sought
thee. Since thou art dead King Kitamba will not eat, will not drink,
will not speak. In the village they pound not; they speak not; he says,
‘If I shall talk, if I eat, go ye and fetch my head-wife.’ That is what
brought me here. I have spoken." [1]

The queen then pointed out a man seated a little way off, and asked
the doctor who he was. As he could not say, she told him, "He is Lord
Kalunga-ngombe; he is always consuming us, us all." Directing his
attention to another man", who was chained, she asked if he knew him,
and he

[1. Chatelain’s literal translation of his speech.]

answered, "He looks like King Kitamba, whom I left where I
came from." It was indeed Kitamba, and the queen further informed the
messenger that her husband had not many years to live,[1] and also that
"Here in Kalunga never comes one here to return again. She gave him the
armlet which had been buried with her, to show to Kitamba as a proof
that he had really visited the abode of the dead, but enjoined on him
not to tell the king that he had seen him there. And he must not eat
anything. in Kalunga; otherwise he would never be permitted to return
to earth.

One is reminded of Persephone and the pomegranate seed, but the idea
is one which frequently recurs in Bantu legends of the Underworld,
there is no reason to suppose that it was borrowed, directly or
indirectly, from the Greeks. It seems quite natural to think that the
food of the dead would be fatal to the living.

Meanwhile the doctor’s wife had kept pouring water on the grave. One
day she saw the earth beginning to crack; the cracks opened wider, and,
finally, her husband’s head appeared. He gradually made his way out,
and pulled his small-son up after him. The child fainted when he came
out into the sunlight, but his father washed him with some
‘herb-medicine,’ and soon brought him to.

Next day the doctor went to the headmen, presented his report, was
repaid with two slaves,[3] and returned to his home. The headmen told
Kitamba what he had said, and produced the token. The only comment he
is recorded to have made, on looking at the armlet, is "Truth, it is
the same." We do not hear whether he countermanded the official
mourning, but it is to be presumed he did so, for he made no further
difficulty about eating or drinking. Then, after a few years, he died,
and the story concludes, "They wailed the funeral; they scattered."

[1. This seems to be shown by the appearance of his wraith in the Underworld, but the point is not further explained.

2. Kalunga therefore denotes the place, as well as its ruler.

3. Chatelain’s informants in the eighteen-eighties treat this sort of thing quite as a matter of course.]

How Ngunza defied Death

The other story is about two brothers. Ngunza Kilundu was away from
home when a dream warned- him that his younger brother Maka was dead.
On his return he asked his mother, "What death was it that killed
Maka?" She could only say that it was Lord Kalunga-ngombe who had
killed him. "Then," said Ngunza, "I will go out and fight
Kalunga-ngombe." He went at once to a blacksmith and ordered a strong
iron trap. When it was ready he took it out into the bush and set it,
hiding near by with his gun. Soon he heard a cry, as of some creature
in distress, and, listening, made out words of human speech: "I am
dying, dying." It was Kalunga-ngombe who was caught in the trap, and
Ngunza took his gun and prepared to shoot. The voice cried out, "Do not
shoot me! Come to free me! Ngunza asked, "Who are you, that I should
set you free?" The answer came: "I am Kalunga-ngombe." "Oh, you are
Kalunga-ngombe, who killed my younger brother Maka!" Kalunga-ngombe
understood the threat which was left unspoken, and went on to explain
himself. "You accuse me of killing people. I do not do it wantonly, or
for my own satisfaction; people are brought to me by their fellow-men,
or through their own fault. You shall see this for yourself. Go away
now and wait four days: on the fifth you may go and fetch your brother
in my country."

Ngunza did as he was told, and went to Kalunga. It is not said how
he got there-probably by some such means as the doctor in the other
story. There he was received by Kalunga-ngombe, who invited him to take
his place beside him. The new arrivals began to come in. Kalunga-ngombe
asked the first man, "What killed you?" The man answered that on earth
he had been very rich; his neighbours were envious and bewitched him,
so that he died.[1] The next to arrive was a woman, who admitted that
‘vanity’ had been the cause of her death-that is, she had been

[1. A more likely occurrence-and one that has been
known to take place-would have been that an accusation of witchcraft
was trumped up, which led to his execution.]

greedy of finery and admiration, had coquetted with men, and
had in the end been killed by a jealous husband. So it went on: one
after another came with more or less the same story, and at last
Kalunga-Ngombe said, "You see how it is-I do not kill people; they are
brought to me for one cause or another. It is very unfair to blame me.
Now you may go to Milunga " and fetch your brother Maka."

Ngunza went as directed, and was overjoyed at finding Maka just as
he had left him at their home, and, apparently, leading much the same
sort of life as he had on earth. They greeted each other warmly, and
then Ngunza said, "Now let us be off, for I have come to fetch you
home." But, to his surprise, Maka did not want to go. "I won’t go back;
I am much better off here than I ever was while I lived. If I come with
you, shall I have as good a time?" Ngunza did not know how to answer
this, and, very unwillingly, had to leave his brother where he was. He
turned away sadly, and went to take leave of Kalunga, who gave him, as
a parting present, the seeds of all the useful plants now cultivated in
Angola, and ended by saying, "In eight I days I shall come to visit you
at your home."

This part of the story grows very puzzling, as no reason is given
for the visit, and it would almost seem, from what follows, as if some
condition had been imposed which Ngunza did not keep.[2] Kalunga came
to Ngunza’s home on the eighth day, and found that he had fled eastward
that is, inland. He pursued him from place to place, and finally came
up with him. Ngunza asked why Kalunga should have followed him, adding,
"You cannot kill me, for I have done you no wrong. You have been
insisting that you do not kill anyone-that people are brought to you
through some fault of theirs." Kalunga, for all answer, threw his
hatchet at Ngunza, and Ngunza "turned into a kituta spirit." This is not further explained, but we

[1. It is not clear what this place was. Chatelain could not even make out the word in the original manuscript.

2 Chatelain seems to have had some difficulty in getting a connected
narrative out of the "poorly written notes" left by a native helper who

find elsewhere that a kituta (or kianda) is "a
spirit or demon . . . who rules over the water and is fond of great
trees and of hill-tops." Such river-spirits figure in several other
stories from Angola.

In the story from Uganda already referred to Mpobe had to die
because he had, in spite of the warning received, spoken about his
visit to the kingdom of the dead. Something of the sort may have been
said in the correct version of the Mbundu story. Then, again, Ngunza is
not said to have been killed, but to have become a kituta-one
does not see why. In the ordinary course of things, one gathers, those
who depart this life go on living for an indefinite time in Kalunga;
but after that they die again, and this time cease, to exist. We shall
have to consider this point more fully, when speaking of the ancestral

It seems quite clear from all these legends that the African does
not, when he thinks about the matter at all, look upon death as an
essential fact in nature. It appears to be accepted that, but for some
unforeseen accident, or perhaps some piece of carelessness or wilful
disobedience, people need never have died at all. To the same set of
ideas belongs the prevalent belief that any death whose cause is not
understood (and the number of such deaths is now steadily decreasing)
must be due to witchcraft. Kalunga, if we are to think of him as the
High God, is exceptional for living underground. Leza, Mulungu, Iruwa,
and so on, if they have a local habitation at all, are placed in the
sky. As seen by Alice Werner

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