By Dalian Adofo
This is not a sci-fi article, nor is it about any concepts found in any sci-fi movie, be it Star Wars or Star Trek or the plethora of similar movies out there. It is an article exploring ancient spiritual knowledge about a component of the human being- beyond the physicality of the body. Knowledge that has been passed down for eons and subjugated with the rise of organised religions and often (mis)appropriated by Hollywood films that confine them to a realm of fantasy, usually with very little to reference to their source(s) of origin.
So what is this life force then? Essentially, it refers to the animating spark within the human body, that which gives it life, the spirit or soul within. In African Spiritual Cosmology the Life Force is not separate from the Creator, it is an aspect of it imbued with the same essence as well as the imprint for that individualised spirit’s Destiny in the physical world.
For the spirit that attains its purpose and reaches its state of enlightenment, it reunites back with the Source after leaving the body. The realised Life Force is then remembered as an Ancestor, for their exemplary lives lived and the people they impacted.
Amongst the Yorubas of West Africa it is known as Ase, the Igbos call it Chi, the Dogon, Nyama and the Bantus of Central, East and South Africa call it Mana, the Zulus Ithongo and for the Akans it is the Sunsum. For more information on the various spiritual conceptions across Africa and its legacy in the Diaspora, download the free book snippet here:
It is an understanding consistent across all African Spiritual traditions. This indwelling intelligence is the seat of our thoughts, emotional states and character, will, personality, abilities and talents amongst other things. It is held that the cultivation of it is said to bring blessings and an improvement in the conditions of one’s life.
In other words, the Life Force represents human potential and thus its cultivation results in the realisation of the complete person. As the Roman Catholic father Rev P. Tempels noted of his studies of the Bantu peoples in the Kongo, published in the book, Bantu Philosophy in 1945, “These various aspects of Bantu behaviour already enable us to see that the key to Bantu thought is the idea od vital force, of which the source is God. Vital force is the reality which, though invisible, is supreme in man. Man can renew his vital force by tapping the strength of other creatures.”
It is held to be a constituent of our life blood and is transmitted from generation to generation. As such, we also carry aspects of the Life Force of our transitioned ancestors within our own. Hence why Ancestral Veneration is an accepted practice in African Spirituality because the ancients understood that death was not a finality and that they remain a constituent of us. Modern Science now confirms this understanding by proving that our DNA contains aspects of our ancestors’ and their behaviour, traits and phobias are transmitted via particular genetic markers.
An aspect to the Life Force is also our consciousness; that which makes decisions and is responsible for the faculties of reasoning and knowing. It is also connected to the Universal Mind and all other individualised Life Forces and being energy in nature, there is a dynamic interplay between all. Ever wondered how it is that sometimes you have an idea you tell no one and next minute a friend either tells you the same or similar idea or a complete stranger sets up a business based on the same exact idea? Well, should be clear now how this dynamic works…
By cultivating it we raise our awareness, knowledge of self and ultimately become conscious of how to attain our destiny or reasons for materialising in this physical realm in the first place. We can work to attune our Life Force by going deep within ourselves, spending quiet time meditating and focussing at our personal altars, calling the names of our ancestors and invoking their essence so we can learn from their experiences on how to handle a situation at hand.
Keeping consistent rituals for our familial and other ancestors and divinities is a key element of feeding our Life Force. Also acts of beneficence to others, frequent libations, prayers and offerings placed outside or on altars or shrines, are all essential to maintaining and keeping our spirits high and in tune with our purpose.
For more information on various African and Diasporic rituals you can utilise in your day to day, watch here:
If you have personal rituals that you have found effective and would like to share, please add to the comments section below this article.
So until the next time, do remember to ‘keep your spirits up’!! Isn’t it interesting how we still have such colloquialisms existing in present day languages? The Force is ever present and may you cultivate it wisely!