African thought tends to define a person in terms of the group he belongs to. There is an ontological element in man linking him to his family and through the family to the clan. In many societies in Africa, it is believed that the ancestral spirit guardian incarnate in each newly born, maintains the unbroken ontological bond between a man and his family, his lineage and his Lana.
This essay discusses the extent to which a child can be an incarnation of the father and the grandfather. The approach is the analysis of the African thought regarding believe in incarnation and reincarnation. African Concept of Man The African concept of man is broad. Will only concern myself with only the view or beliefs that relate closely to the concept of incarnation. Mention needs to be made of the fact that Africans belief that a man (human) is a compound of material (body) and immaterial substances (spirit). Only the body or material substances die, the spirit lives or survives and links with the aerator.
Though separable at death, while a person is alive, the body and spirit are linked in such a way that what affects one affects the other. It is also important to mention the fact that, African defines a man in terms of community life or a group he belongs to. A man is what the community makes him. “A man is a man because of others”, proverb from Malawi states. Another proverb from Malawi states, “Life is when you are together, alone you are an animal. ” In the traditional African society, a person experiences life, first through his family, the lineage, the clan and the tribe.
Life for the traditional African man is complex and interwoven in the community life. An individual first encounters the family, then becomes a product of a complex relationship designed in community through the family, the lineage, the clan and the tribe. Belief in Incarnation To understand the African concept of incarnation and reincarnation, one has to understand the composition of a traditional African family. The family is made of three constituents, the living, the dead and the unborn. These three are linked ontologically, biologically, physically and spiritually.
The link teen these constituents is understandable as a result of how African conceive creation of man. Though the body perishes, the spirit lives on. A person who lived a worthy life becomes an ancestor and can be reborn to strengthen the family and his lineage. Using the Shanties conception of a person as a case study, a person is made of blood (magma) and a spirit-force (intro). These two links a person to his family, lineage, clan and tribe. Since the spirit does not die, it incarnates in every newly born so as to maintain an unbroken ontological bond between a man and his family, his lineage and his clan.
When a person dies, he does not break link with the living. The ancestral spirit guardian continues to incarnate in the family through births. A son’s life is the prolongation of the life of his father and his grandfather and the life of the whole lineage. As a result, every new born baby to the clan makes it possible for the ancestors to come back to participate and strengthen the lineage. The Gobo of Nigeria believe that a person may continue to improve his status from incarnation to incarnation, and the belief in reincarnation comforts dying person who that they have not eased their status sufficiently in the life that is ending. The Gobo believe that reincarnation occurs within the same immediate or extended family. A child is an incarnation of the father and grandfather because in the traditional African society it is believed that, it is spirit of the father or grandfather that is incarnated in the child. The child takes qualities of the father or grandfather through birthmarks, behavioral resemblances and actions the child exhibits as he begins to speak. The most importance aspect of this incarnation is that very child is believed to be a continuation of the family, lineage or clan.
In conclusion, it important to stress the fact that African thought tends to define a person in terms of the group he belongs to. There is an ontological element in man linking him to his family and through the family to the clan. In many societies in Africa, it is believed that the ancestral spirit guardian incarnate in each newly born, maintains the unbroken ontological bond between a man and his family, his lineage and his clan. This incarnation is linked metaphysically to the father and the grandfather.