The Apostle John and the Black African initiation

One of the things that fascinated the Black African initiates at the introduction of biblical teachings in the Kongo Kingdom in the 15th century was the convergence they noticed between the Bible and the teachings of their initiatory schools.

Alluding to this convergence Fukiau reported the following remark of an initiate of Lemba, one of the Kongo mystery academies: “It’s amazing to see that what I was taught about God in the Lemba is also seen in the church.”[1]

From this convergence, the initiates of Kimpasi, another Kongo mystery academy, advised their followers to read the writings of the apostle John; they argued that the Apostle has summarized the Bible in his first epistle.

To those who penetrate the mystery of Kongo initiatory schools, this convergence between the early Christianity and the Black-African divine initiation is undeniable.

The first revelation made ​​to the one being initiated is the perfection of the divine nature, His supremacy and His transcendent nature. The Creator is the Sun of suns, before this infinite perfection, the Mystic felt obliged to recognize his sinful nature and to work for his perfection.

This first phase of the Black-African initiation corresponds to the thought of John exposed in the first chapter of the Epistle being considered. Jean raises us to the celestial height and tells us that “God is light, and there is no darkness in him.”

What can man do before this ultimate perfection, if not to become aware of his sinfulness? John invites man to recognize his sin and recognize his need of salvation. Thus we read in verse 9 of the first chapter: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

But if man stops at the recognition of the fallibility of his mortal living, he will be stuck and without any progress toward the celestial heights where the initiation leads. The purpose of the initiation is not to condemn man, but to kill the “old man with his corrupt deeds”, to be born again as a Child of God. On this point, the two initiations (the Christian and the Kongo)invite man to separate himself from sin, to kill the old man. This is implied by the ritual of initiatory death in old Black African academies. This ritual is similar to the request of John to mortal man to quit sinning, for he says: “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isin him.” (I John2:4).

In Africa, death is not the cessation of life, but the beginning of a new life with a higher individuality for those who die in truth. Did not Paul say: “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (I Corinthians 15. 42-44). The pious called “dead” is for the initiates a being who lives in the hereafter resurrected in the company of saints ancestors. The disciple who is symbolically “dead” is now in the presence of holy ancestors.

At this stage, after having acknowledged and abandoned his sins the Black African Mystic learns that in reality he was never a “mortal sinner” because the divine nature, the divine completeness of being, the Word ,has never been separated from him. Here, the Bantu Mystic understands why even in his language he calls his left part female and the right part male. The male-female nature symbolizes the presence in him of the divine perfection, the Word, a nature which is alluded to in Genesis 1: 26, 27. The Mystic learns that he has always been a Child of God, but he did not know it. He has always had the Word, the eternal imprint of the divinity.

However this divinity requires to be lived, not as a dogmatic theory, but as a life force, a power of domination over mortal nature which must be seen in the victory over sin, for “he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous”. (I John 3: 7). The Word also needs to be lived in love, because: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. Whoever does not love remains in death.” (I John3:14). It is here that the golden rule demands of the initiation of Kimpasi to “Love his next divinely as he loves his own body”. But love is not without sincere humility, the impetus of the heart that invites us to rise and see others with the same elevation.

The supreme test indicating that the disciple has managed this step is the efficiency of his prayer, as Jean says: “Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep his commandments, and do what pleases him.” (John 3: 22). Like in the Black African initiation, the Hebrew initiation was a demonstration of power of prayer of healing sin, sickness and death.

Being now a Child of God, the initiate was ready to return into the community of the “living of this plan” with a new nature, this is the final resurrection. The Black African initiation is characterized by the double resurrection: resurrection among the saint ancestors and resurrection back into the community, because the purpose of initiation is to lead to the spiritual elevation thereof. John addresses this final phase of the initiation by asking the disciple who is now a Child of God, to abide in the Word that was revealed to him, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (I John 5: 4).

[1] Fukiau, A., le Mukongo et le monde qui l’entourait, Kinshasa, 1969.

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