Introduction to Cosmo-Semantics

This story was told by BALBO TONYE, a bard also known as KOP LIKAN'.

UM

The following folk story tells of the discovery of Um, the Bassa deity whose teachings Bassa people call MAUM--COSMOSEMANTICS for the modern Bassa/African mind.

A man called Makumbuk ma Nkan was sick. He had Njambe (leprosis lepromatosis). Leprosis gnawed his toes and fingers, his lips and nose. He did no longer know how to say, "salt". He would say "Nhan". Leprosis gnawed his entire body. He looked like a salamander. He lost weight. He was a bag of bones. One day, when cocks beat their wings on their tails, right before dawn, Makumbuk called his wife: "Kisasa, come here." Kisasa came at once. "I'm dying," he told her. "It's time for me to set my house straight. My strength is gone and my vitality is running away, so find yourself a lover. One thing, though, he must be of my kin."

The day grew.

The old man called Makumbuk ma Nkan had a younger brother called Nyenge Nkan. Kisasa came up with the latter. "This is my lover," she told her husband. Makumbuk nodded assent.

Kisasa left the two men.

"Nyenge, call my wife," Makumbuk ordered after a few minutes. Nyenge called Kisasa who came and sat down. Makumbuk called his brother Nyenge by his name: "I now want to give you my rules and regulations," he continued. "This is my home. Never should I spend a night here without a fire burning. If ever I spend a night up here without fire, your relationship with my wife will be over. This is my initiatic pot. It should never go all night without some meat inside. Once this pot goes all night without meat, your affair with Kisasa will have to come to an end. This is my jar. Always should there be palm wine in it. If ever this jar of mine goes all night without wine, your relation with Kisasa will stop."

Makumbuk gave his rules to Nyenge, then called his wife. "Kisasa!"

"Yes," answered the woman.

"These are my rules: my house does not like trash. The day this house goes dirty all night, your relation with Nyenge will stop. This is my calabash. There should always be water in it. The day this calabash goes all night without water, your relation with Nyenge will be over. Do you hear me?"

Kisasa answered "Yes."

Nyenge Nkan and Kisasa i Makumbuk ma Nkan stayed together nine years.

Nyenge Nkan was a great hunter who gave all the animals he killed during that period to Kisasa who ate them, but never, as the custom is, did Kisasa went fishing for him. Makumbuk witnessed this, and this angered him. So one morning, at dawn, he called his wife. "Kisasa, come here."

Kisasa came running.

"Since you started dating Nyenge," he said, "the man gives you all the animals he hunts but never have I seen you go fishing for him. Traditionally, a man hunts for his woman, the woman go fishing for her man. What is this? Who do you think you are?"

When the sun was high in the sky, Kisasa grabbed her fishing sieve, a machete and a hoe, and went to the river nearby. She walked in the river which reached her ankles at first. The woman advanced slowly into the river. Water reached her knees. She stepped forth. When the water reached her neck, she stopped. Trunks were floating around her. She dragged them and cut the current up and downstream. Then she started drying the space by throwing the water outside with the fishing sieve. Each time she threw the water outside, she said: "Bikete: Momi ni Momi; Bitan: Biwoga ni Biwoga!" which means "What's inside is dead and what's outside is alive!"

After a while, she heard: "Ummh...ummh..." She stood up, removed sweat from her forehead and looked around. She saw nothing. She bent over and went on throwing water outside. She could not believe her eyes. Fish were everywhere around. Crabs were swimming in squads. Shrimps, plentiful, were moving in lines, circling around her. She smiled and ran outside the water to get her fishing basket that laid on the bank. When she came back, surprise: Fish, crabs, prawns were nowhere to be seen. She spotted a hole by the bank and a flat stone in the middle of the river. All of the sudden, water started flowing out from the hole. Kisasa did not think twice. "The fish that were present here a minute ago, biting me all over my body, has moved into this hole," she said to herself. She grabbed a machete and began digging into the hole. At one point, while taking out the earth, her hands bumped into something sticky. She held itfirmly and, going backward, dragged it out and dropped it on the river bank. This creature had red teeth and bow legs. Kisasa looked at the creature and did not recognize it. She went back to the hole and started digging again. When she put her hands in the hole to take out the earth, she again bumped into something viscous. She held it firmly, dragged it out and dropped it on the bank. This creature also had red teeth and bow legs. She looked at both creatures and did not recognize them. Suddenly, blisters covered her entire body. She held the machete and began scratching and scraping herself with it. A minute later, she heard: "Ummh... ummh...". Scared, she took off, leaving everything behind her, and ran to her husband. What did she tell her husband?

"Since I went fishing this morning to the river called Lingen li Lep," she started breathlessly, "I've stepped into all the waterholes of that river. The one that swallowed me whole is the one I chose. A whirlpool settled upon my head. I cut the current up and downstream, and began to pull the water out. Fish were everywhere, along with shrimps and crabs. I went up the bank to take my fishing basket but when I came back, the fish have all disappeared. I spotted a hole by the bank and a flat rock in the middle of the river. Water started coming out of the hole. I thought that the fish and schrimps and crabs that were around a moment ago all hid in the hole. That's why I grabbed the cutlass and started digging into the hole. When I put in my hands to take the dirt out, I bumped into a viscous creature. I grabbed it and dragged it out. It has red teeth and bow legs. I have never seen this creature before. I went back to the river hole. I put in my hands again, and again I bumped into another viscous creature. I dragged it out also. It also had red teeth and bow legs. As I was going back to the hole, I heard 'Ummh... ummh...'. I did not wait a second more. I took off and ran to you. O my husband, look at my body. Blisters have covered it all. Please light a fire for me. I'm so feverish..."

Makumbuk nodded and began calling Nyenge. Nyenge came running. "Grab a gong and a torch," Makumbuk ordered him, "and let's go to Lingen li Lep."

A minute later, both headed to the river. When they arrived, they walked into the water, measuring the river holes. The creatures Kisasa had dragged on the bank had returned into the hole. "This is the hole Kisasa dug," Makumbuk told his kin. "Get some wood and dry grass. Make a fire right at the entrance, and blow."

Nyenge did as ordered. He blew, blew, and blew. That's when he heard a voice calling him: "O Nyenge!" He kept himself from answering. "O Nyenge!" The man stayed quiet again.

"Blow!" urged Makumbuk. "What's calling you from inside the hole will show its face today."

Nyenge blew and blew. Then he heard a third call. "O Nyenge!"

"Answer," Makumbuk told him.

Nyenge answered and was asked the following: "Who ever found a raffia outfit, picked it up, made a fire and starting blowing?"

Nyenge scattered the embers and immediately Dingonda di Um (the twin daughters of Um) jumped outside, turned their backs to each other, and began dancing.

"Poke up the fire!" ordered Makumbuk.

Nyenge put the embers together and started blowing. He blew and blew and heard a call: "O Nyenge!" He stayed quiet and heard another call. "O Nyenge!" He stayed quiet again.

"Blow,"stammered Makumbuk, very excited. "We'll see what is calling you from the hole today."

Nyenge blew and blew again. When he heard a third call, Makumbuk said: "Answer!"

Nyenge answered the call and was asked: "Who ever found an outfit, had picked it up and stirred up a fire?" Nyenge scattered his fire and heard: "Ummh... ummh...". Immediately after, Ngena Um jumped under the sun. Makumbuk placed him next to Dingonda di Ma'Um and walked back to Nyenge. "Poke your fire!" he ordered again. "Um is still in the hole!"

Nyenge put the embers together and started blowing again. He blew and blew. Then he heard another call. "O Nyenge!" He ignored the call. He heard another call. "O Nyenge!" which he ignored again. "Blow, O Nyenge, blow," Makumbuk told him. "We'll see what is calling you in this water hole today." Nyenge blew and blew. When he heard the third call, Makumbuk told him: "Answer!" Nyenge answered. A voice asked him: "Who ever found an outfit, picked it up, made a fire and started blowing? Scatter your charcoal, O Nyenge."

Nyenge scattered his embers and heard "waaarrr umh..." Immediately, Mbam Um jumped in the light. Makumbuk smiled. "There are no Um left in the hole," he said to his brother. "Let's go home. You'll stay behind, carrying Um while I walk ahead, hitting the gong, and making it known to women and children to run for cover, for Um is on his way."

Nyenge Nkan carried Um and stayed behind. Makumbuk ma Nkan walked ahead with the gong. "Hide, women, and take your children with you. Um is coming. Um is on his way."

This is how Um entered the village and came to live with human beings.

THE SANCTUARY OF UM

In Bassaland, Um lives (or is supposed to live) in every village. Ask the elders where Um is. In every village, the Um-Um (initiates of Um) keep the knowledge of Um alive. Ask the elders where the sanctuary of Um is in your village. Help rebuild it. It's not only appropriate that this generation, and those to come, learn to know Um, it is their duty to develop the knowledge transmitted to human beings by Um.

Remember, we do not have many reasons to help humanity fight the Polluter, but we shall do battle against him ANYWAY, so that human beings may live and live well.

EXERCISES

Exercise 1: Why does Makumbuk react at once? Could it be that he knew beforehand that Um was in the river? He asked his brother Nyenge to grab a gong. Did he know beforehand that he would be beating the gong and asking women to hide?

Exercise 2: One minute, Kisasa sees fish, crabs and prawns; the next minute, she sees nothing. Illusion? Self-delusion? What do you think?

INTRODUCTION TO COSMOSEMANTICS

Do not approach the above tale with naivete. Believe that Makumbuk knew not only that Um was in the river hole, but also that Um wanted to come out of the river hole and go live with human beings. Um is a dangerous creature. To touch him without preparation may result in your own malaise, your body turning into something that resembles the body of a salamander. Be careful. Learn to know Um and you will hold Um's power in your hand and have a clear understanding of (what is) power (for Africans).

Cosmo-Semantics introduces to a knowledge and an understanding of power, true power, the African way of understanding, mastering and using power. What is power? When in traditional Africa we say power, what are we talking about? In the above story, one minute, Kisasa sees lots of fish, crabs and praws, the next, she sees nothing. What sort of power makes that possible?

Before we begin, I'd like to anchor our discussion more and help you, reader, better grab what we'll be talking about by giving you five other anecdotes.

EXAMPLE 1: In the region of Bikok, in Bassaland, during Kamerun's independence war, a platoon headed by a French captain (let's call him "Armand") surprised a man called "Bikoy" on a palm tree and summoned him to climb down the tree and be arrested. Bikoy paid the captain no mind and continued his work. He wanted to cut down a palmnut bunch and bring palm nuts to his wife.

"If you don't come down, we'll shoot!" the captain warned Bikoy. But Bikoy continued calmly to do his work. Tired of waiting, the captain ordered his soldiers to shoot. But instead of a man, what the captain and the soldiers saw fall was a bunch of palmnuts. The captain looked at this mystery, shooked his head, and left.

Five years later, after the war had ended and the process of national reconciliation begun, the government promised armistice to the maquisards who would surrender their weapons. The day Bikoy came to the precinct to surrender his rifle, he bumped into Armand. "Where did you go that day when we shot you up a palm tree?" Armand asked Bikoy. "You can tell me. Nothing will happen to you now."

"After you shot me, did you see anything fall?" Bikoy asked Armand back.

"Yes, a palmnut bunch."

"If you had picked up the palmnut bunch, you'd have arrested me," Bikoy said and left.

EXAMPLE 2: In the region of Ndom, during the same period, a warrior called Balep was incircled by a platoon led by Commander Marguin. The order was to arrest Balep alive for the much-needed information the colonialist wanted to get from him. Balep tried to escape but when he realized that he could not, trapped as he was like a hunted hare, he did two things: 1) he invoked Gwek, his ancestor princeps, and 2) he screamed.

What happened next terrified everyone present. A lighting flashed in the perfectly sunny sky and was followed by a tremendous thunder blast. When the soldiers opened their eyes, Balep was nowhere to be seen.

Balep was subsequently arrested and spent years in prison. "They surprised me. I was not prepared when they came," he told me. One day, Marguin asked him what happened to him after the thunder blast. "I moved into a riverhole," Balep replied.

EXAMPLE 3: We suspect that Thomas Mongo was made (first Bassa and first Kamerunian) bishop of the Diocese of Douala for two reasons: 1) to get Um Nyobe to surrender to the French colonial authority and 2) to help the French pierce the secret of Ngock Lituba, the sacred Alesed Rock, symbol of the Mbog Bassa, and most important sanctuary of the Bassa people. Many times, he asked the elders' permission to enter the Rock with one or another French person, which they always refused, warning Mgr. Mongo that Judas may have received thirty coins for Jesus but neither Um Nyobe nor the Alesed Rock would be betrayed. Period. And that if they, the elders, had to choose, it's him, Mongo, that would be discarded.

One day, despite all the warnings, Mongo took Bonneau, the bishop he was to replace as pastor of the diocese, to the Alesed Rock. As the tale has it,

"Bonneau entered the Rock on two feet,
And came out on a stretcher.
He entered the Rock healthy,
And came out dying, one side of his body totally numb,
Moaning: 'Les Bassa, les Bassa, instruisez-les!" (the Bassa, the Bassa, educate them!?

Bonneau died two days later. And Mongo never knew one more healthy day for the rest of his life.

EXAMPLE 4: In the region of Eseka, a group of French soldiers entered the forest one day and wandered for a long time looking for the rebels. When the sun began to set, they met an old woman who stopped them, claimed that she was lost and that she was looking for a way out of the bush. But the regiment commander found it best to ask the woman to join them, for it was late, and that he himself will take her to safety the next day. He and his men were planning to spend the night in the forest. When he asked her name, she said: "Wenugwe."

They all ate, then built a camp for the night. A few hours later, they were all asleep. But that night appeared endless. We all have a sense of night and day, a sort of built-in clock which tells us that it's supposed to be morning. First these French armymen who had been in Kamerun for years began wondering how long nights lasted in Equatorial Africa. They looked at their wrist watches often. It was still night at four o'clock the next day.

They soon realized that something was wrong and that they were powerless in bringing back the day. So they called Wenugwe who had kept her composure all that time. "What's going on here?" the commander asked her.

"You are the one holding up the night," she replied.

"How is that?"

"I am your bride and we have yet to consommate our wedding."

The story has it that the commander began to cry, like a child, right there in front of his men. This fellow who prided himself for never having touched a native after twenty years of service in Africa, knew that his moment had arrived. What happened next between the commander and Wenugwe, the tale does not say. What it does relate to us is that the commander let go of the night and the country called Kamerun the very next day.

These stories have many elements in common. The first thing they have in common is that it's the same story. Whether it's Um, Bikoy, Balep or Wenugwe, they all seem to have the power to enchant and create illusion.

The second thing they have in common is that all these stories are accounts of situations of exception such as liberation struggles (even Um wants to free himself and get out of the riverhole), wars (freedom fighters against colonialists), heroisms, survival, and application of initiatic secrets. WHEN CORNERED, AFRICANS LOOK TO TRADITIONAL POWERS TO SAVE THEMSELVES. That's the African way.

My father who was in the medical profession, used to tell me that what people do when they are sick to get well (more rest, better diet, eating more fruit and drinking more milk), they should do when healthy (not to fall sick). If we apply the same wisdom, WHAT WE, AFRICANS, DO WHEN CORNERED (IN TIME OF WAR OR ELSE), WE SHOULD DO IN TIME OF PEACE SO THAT WAR DOES NOT COME. We have got to know our power--Um power is simply one of the many ingredients of AFRICAN POWER], master it, and use it to develop ourselves, TO FEED OUR CHILDREN, to protect ourselves and the integrity of our lands.

We must go in depth to investigate the secret and power of Um. How does Um use his power? What are the earlier circumstances which made Kisasa see fish and crabs and prawns one minute and not see them next? How do human beings apply the same secret and power to get themselves out of tricky situations?

I could share the steps that it takes to create Um's illusion (a formidable sense of impermanence) in people, the same way women exchange kitchen recipes. But it would be just that: a recipe, a trick. There is much more to this secret and power to reduce it to a trick. The Mbon Um (neophyte of Um) must understand what is at play, the meaning of this secret, knowledge and power, then learn how to apply it, become a Um-Um. They first learn that the cosmos is an artifact, a tool put at our disposal for us to use, then they learn how it functions, and finally how to use it. That's what we are going to do.

The anthropology of liberation we will be doing in this chapter explores and investigates power. Is there such a thing as African power? or power-the-African-way? What is power for the African people? What is our understanding of power? Can we use African power to develop our countries? to compete in world markets? What will that require?

COSMO-SEMANTICS: DEFINITION

Cosmo-semantics is the power arm of Engaged Anthropology.

Cosmo-semantics means "meaning of meaning of the cosmos". Cosmo-semantics captures the very meaning of the cosmos (or what African tradition says the very meaning of the cosmos is), its organization and the operations of the metaphysical laws which govern the universe, and its order.

Cosmo-semantics teaches how to use the cosmos as a tool, how to drain power from it and use it for our own protection and growth. Cosmo-semantics tries to take what is most useful in African understanding of power out of its traditional path and empirism and turn it into a power the modern can use.

THE LAWS OF NATURE

Seneca the Elder once wrote: "Quaedam iura non scripta sed omnibus scriptis certiora sunt" (Some laws are not written but they are better established than all written ones). What was he talking about? Which laws was he referring to?

Um teaches that nine natural laws govern our planet, each one of the nine planets of the solar system, the solar system itself, every planet of the cosmos, whether life is there or not, and the cosmos itself. These nine laws are the metaphysical tools which make up HINEA. In the Bassa cosmology, the nine laws which rule the universe are: 1) LIJO (complementary contradictions), 2) NYINGHA (motion), 3) NJOM (causality), 4) MAHOL (evolution), 5) PUN, or MAPUN, or MAPUNA (compensations), 6) OT (natural attractions), 7) NON, MANON, or TOLAMANON (cycles), 8) NYONGEN (hierarchy) and 9) NGWEY (symbolic correspondences).

In the five examples given above, what is at play is simply the heroes manipulating these nine metaphysical laws. If you master cosmosemantics, you can do the same thing. The interactions of alchemical laws and the manipulations of the cosmic forces and their reactions in the body cells are one essential part of cosmosemantics.

EXPLANATION OF THE METAPHYSICAL LAWS

1) COMPLEMENTARY CONTRADICTIONS: Contradiction is the capacity to state the contrary of what is, here and now; and a complement is a quantity needed to make a thing complete. Complementary contradictions will therefore be those contradictions (like light and darkness, hot and cold, man and woman) which, when they come together, are able to create or/and sustain life. Remember that for a fight to take place, both parties must be willing to fight. Each time you indulge yourself in a fight, you enact the law of complementary contradictions.

2) MOTION: Anything that changes a place is set in motion. Leaves moved by the wind, a dog running... yourself walking apply the law of motion.

There are nine known motions: 1) Vertical motion with acceleration equals gravity equals 9.8 meter per square second downward, 2) Horizontal motion with acceleration equals zero when velocity is constant, 3) Rotational motion, 4) Parabolic motion, 5) Oscillatory
motion, 6) Vibratory motion, 7) Torsion motion, 8) Sinusoidal motion, and 9) Wave motion.

3) CAUSALITY or CAUSATION: Relationship between the agent of bringing something about and the effects caused by this agent. For example, if the land is wet, it is because it has rained.

4) EVOLUTION: Series of movements (process of change) in a particular direction. When you hear that man evolved from ONE monkey, a process of change had occurred.

5) COMPENSATIONS: Reparative equivalence between effects and causes. For instance, the tremendous strength of a crippled person's arms compensate for the loss of his legs.

6) NATURAL ATTRACTIONS: The natural power to draw toward oneself by emotional and/or aesthetic appeal. It's no secret that women attract men, which says that women have a natural power to draw men toward them by aesthetic appeal.

7) CYCLES: Period of time occupied by a series of events that repeat themselves regularly and in the same order, a recurring round of events, the seasons for example.

8) HIERARCHY: Things arranged in ranks, or graded series. Teachers like to apply this law in classrooms when they give grades and rank their students.

Hierarchy is the central law because it's the chemistry law. The periodic chart of the elements is a ranked series.

9) SYMBOLIC CORRESPONDANCES: Agreement between these first eight metaphysical laws at particular moments. When someone beats gravity and say, walks on water, he is applying the law of symbolic correspondences.

These laws work individually (diachrone) and, at the same time, interact with one another (synchrone). Picture the cosmos as a gigantic computer which collects information from each law and as a result of these interactions, re-injects all the information processed back into the system and the cycle begins anew. The unity of the cosmos is a functional unity from which every planet benefits. The cosmos benefits from the birth or death of each star. The cosmos benefits from the birth or death of every human being. The cosmos benefits from the birth and death of every creature.

THE COSMO-SEMANTIC TABLE

Now draw a double entry table with these laws in ordonnees and coordonnees). You get a table with 81 boxes. Box 27 for example is (causality)(symbolic correspondences), which can also be written (c)(sc). We have here the first view of the interaction of the natural laws the way they come together in nature, contradictions reacting to motion, hierarchy interweaving with attractions. Because of the law of complementary contradictions which brings things in two, the positive and the negative, each box of the cosmo-semantic table must be studied accordingly, having its positive as well as its negative aspect.

THE COSMO-SEMANTIC TABLE AS AN INFORMATION STRUCTURE

The cosmo-semantic table is the first peep into what, in the Bassa nation, the elders call "Nguy Minton mibi yek", literally "The power the demiurges left behind." Before anything, this power is an information structure capable of considering billions and billions of pieces of information at megabitic speed, a rate a billion time faster than the fastest electronic network.

When Um's brain taps into that structure, it can create fish, crabs, and prawns, and make them disappear at will. When a human brain taps into that structure, it can transforms man into a palmnut bunch, blasts thunder in broad daylight, or uphold the night.

EXPLANATORY COSMO-SEMANTICS

To better understand cosmo-semantics and better make use of it later, we must of course conceive each law as attaining an end in itself. Its very existence is the presentation and representation of its many components unto itself, for the sake of its own ends. But the whole system is a complex unity, which can be analyzed as a process of agreeing with its own components.

Satisfactory cosmo-semantics must explain the interweaving of efficient and final causation.
One tendancy is exemplified in the slow decay of physical nature; the other tendancy is exemplified by the early renewal of nature in the spring (cycles) and by the upward course of biological evolution.

THE COSMOSEMANTIC STUTTERINGS OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY

Every culture, every human being has an understanding of the metaphysical laws that rule our planet. Some thinkers have put them down on paper. Let's see what European philosophers, especially since the time of the presocratics, have said about these laws.

Western philosophy came in contact with cosmosemantics. Thales is said to have traveled to Khemit (ancient Egypt) and to have thence brought back to Greece the science of geometry. He seems to have discovered how to calculate the distance of a ship at sea from observations taken at two points on land, and how to estimate the height of a pyramid from the length of its shadow. According to Aristotle, he thought that water is the original substance, out of which all is formed, that the magnet has a soul because it moves the iron (ATTRACTION); further, that all things are full of gods.

Anaximander held that all things come from a single primal substance, infinite, eternal, neutral in the cosmic strife, ageless, and "it encompasses all the worlds." He made this remarkable statement: "Into that from which things take their rise they pass away once more, as is ordained, for they make reparation and satisfaction to one another for their injustice according to the ordering time." Doesn't that sound like he is talking about PROPORTIONAL COMPENSATIONS, an idea of justice, both cosmic and human?

He spoke of an eternal MOTION, in the course of which was brought about the origin of the worlds. According to him, the worlds were not created, as in the judeo-christian theology, but evolved (EVOLUTION).

Mathematics, in the sense of demonstrative and deductive argument, begins in Europe with Pythagoras. Pythagoras is believed to have taught "first, that the soul is an immortal thing, and that it is transformed into other kinds of living things (EVOLUTION); further, that whatever comes into existence is born again in the revolutions of a certain CYCLE, nothing being absolutely new."

Heraclites regarded fire as the fundamental substance. Everything, like flame in a fire, is born by the death of something else. "Mortals are immortals, and immortals are mortals, the one's living the other's death and dying the other's life," he wrote. There is UNITY in the world, but it is a unity formed by the combination of opposites (COMPLEMENTARY CONTRADICTIONS). All things come out of the one, and the one out of all things. But the many have less reality than the one, which is God (COMPLEMENTARY CONTRADICTIONS BETWEEN THE ONE AND THE MANY). He talked of the world as the mingling of opposites. "Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and the lyre." His belief in strife is connected with this theory, for in strife opposites combined to produce a MOTION which is a harmony. There is UNITY in the world, but it is a unity resulting from DIVERSITY.

He said: "Couples are things whole and things not whole.
What is drawn together and what is drawn asunder;
The harmonious and the discordant.
The one is made of all things,
And all things issue from the one."

Sometimes he spoke as if the unity were more fundamental than the diversity:

"Good and ill are one.
To God all things are fair and good and right,
but men hold some things wrong and some right.
The way up and the way down is one and the same.
God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace,
surfeit and hunger; but He takes various shapes,
just as fire, when it is mingled with spices,
is named according to the savour of each.
Nevertheless, there would be no unity
if there were no opposites to combine:
It is the opposite which is good for us."

This exploration of Khemitic wisdom (where Umics really began) contains the germ of Hegel's philosophy which proceeds by a synthesis of opposites.

For Parmenides, the only true being is "THE ONE", the plenum, which is infinite and indivisible. It is not, as in Heraclitus, a union of opposites, since there are no opposites: "cold" means only "not hot" and "dark" means only "no light" or "not bright".

Empedocles is the one who established earth, air, fire and water as the four elements for Western doctrine. Each of these was everlasting, but they could be mixed in different proportions, and thus produce the changing complex substances that we find in the world (CHEMISTRY, HIERARCHY). They were combined by Love and separated by Strife. There were periods when Love was in the ascendant and others when Strife was the stronger. This introduced the CYCLE: when the elements have been thoroughly mixed by Love, Strife gradually sorts them out again; when Strife has separated, Love gradually reunites them. Thus every compound substance is temporary; only the elements, together with Love and Strife, are everlasting. - There is a similarity to Heraclitus, but a softening, since it is not Strife alone, but Strife and Love together, that produce change. The doctrine of Empedocles, outside science, consists in the theory of the four elements and in the use of the two principles of Love and Strife to explain change.

Anaxagoras held that everything is infinitely divisible, and that even the smallest portion of matter contains some of each element. He taught that mind is the source of all MOTION. It causes a rotation (MOTION, CYCLE) which is gradually spreading throughout the world.

The founders of atomism were Leucippus and Democritus. The latter, a much more definite figure, spent a considerable time in Egypt in search of knowledge. Leucippus, if not Democritus, was led to atomism in the attempt to mediate between MONISM and PLURALISM, as represented by Parmenides and Empedocles respectively. They believed that everything is composed of atoms which are physically, not geometrically, indivisible; that between the atoms, there is empty space, that atoms are indestructible, that they always have been, and always will be, in MOTION.

The atomists, unlike Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, sought to explain the world without introducing the notion of purpose (or final cause). The "final cause" of an occurence is an event in the future for the sake of which the occurence takes place. Why does the baker make bread? Because people will be hungry. Things are explained by the purpose they serve. When we ask "why?" concerning an event, we may mean either of two things: "What purpose did this event serve?" or "What earlier circumstances caused this event?" The answer to the former question is a teleological explanation (explanation by the final cause) and the answer to the latter question is a mechanistic explanation. Experience has shown that the mechanistic question leads to scientific knowledge, while the teleological question does not. The atomists asked mechanistic questions and gave mechanistic answers.

If you have been reading this discourse closely, you may have noticed that each of these presocratic characters bumped into one metaphysical law or another, and sought to explain the world by it. It has always been so in Western philosophy. Hegel believed that complementary contradictions, dialectics, could alone explain everything and lead man to the knowing. Darwin came and made much noise with evolution. All he did was to masterfully prove that evolution exists and is a true law of nature. For those who already knew, Darwin was a complete waste of time.

The existence or not of God is important in Western philosophy. It's vital in the world of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. With the advent and growth of Christianity, God became central. Until Nietzsche killed Him. And Karl Marx buried Him. Western philosophy these past 50 years is a discussion with Nietzsche. Western politics these past century is a debate with Karl Marx.

Personally I see in both the discussion with Nietzsche and the debate with Karl Marx the angst of a people begging for God to provide guidance by performing a miracle. They like the idea of God's death (or God's murder) and His replacement by Man but when they, and we all, see Man's (polluting) work in only two centuries of industrial revolution, they, and we all, shiver.

THE MIND ACCORDING TO UM

The universe, our galaxy, the solar system, our planet Earth, every creature, including MAN, each has an intelligence, an entity were decision making, perception, awareness, and sense of self reside. The MIND is the interconnection of the minds of the universe, our galaxy, our solar system, our planet Earth, and every individual's own mind. Needless to say that the phenomenon of mind and consciousness is complex. It cannot be a physical object and may not have a particular location. Science has proven that the destruction of one or other part of the brain may severely impair the working of the mind, but not destroy it. Even for modern science, the mind appears as an interplay of things (perception, intelligence, stored and unstored knowledge) much as the rainbow is the interplay of light and raindrops. In-put from the senses play a part, so do body chemicals whose ebb and flow we experience as language, emotions, and so on, the way we translate 1) the main interplay and the subsequent underlays of interplays, 2) concepts into symbolic forms, and 3) the way we acquire, store new data and are able to retrieve them later on.

Any mind acts that way, whether it is the mind of the universe or the mind of a rat. The difference is simply of degree and capacity of data storage. In the animal brain (including man), storage takes place as a pattern of connections among neurons, the nerve cell which serves as the brain's basic building blocks. The first element is the EYE through which information enters the brain, arriving in the form of electric impulses streaming from the retina up the optic nerve and into the cerebral cortex, the gray matter which houses the brain's higher functions. The impulses die away within milli-seconds. It is their passage which reinforces the particular set of connections between this particular set of neutrons, giving them the ability to recreate the image. The more often a pattern (short-term memory) is reinforced, the more likely the pattern becomes a pathway (long-term memory).

Um also stresses that human beings use only about 9% of their brain capacity because of a poor wiring. A boy who grows up among the Um-Um cannot help it but develop extraordinary capabilities. The Um-Um do the re-wiring for him.

Another thing to know is that the brain (whether it is the brain of the universe or the brain of a dog) craves new information, for, as said above, the mind is an information system. When the mind does not have new information, it creates it. The "it" here is something we won't often like and will call "evil". But the knowledgeable knows that without evil, nothing new appears in the world, the village, or in our individual lives.

Also, every brain has a convergence zone, and the mind has many convergence zones (cosmosemantic space/time), and billion of secondary ones spread throughout the universe. They coordinate the minutest information the universe's brain needs to be fully functional. Every brain, at its level, merge disparate pieces of information into a whole in order to create its consciousness, its sense of self, of being in the right here, right now. All these convergence zones are inter-related, providing access to new information and dispaching relevant data to each other.

This sense of self is one thing each brain reconstructs endlessly, moment after moment, on the basis of its own physical reality, that is, what it was or what it knows of its past, its present reality, and what it wants its future to be.

Emotion, not simply love, is, according to Um, a key element of learning and decision making, and is central to the process of rational thought. Severe stress is the only thing that can change the way a brain functions.


COSMO-SEMANTIC COMPUTING or HOW THE COSMO-SEMANTIC MIND WORKS

Suppose you have nine computers at your disposal. The first one computes DIACHRONICALLY everything that relates to the law of Contradictions, the second one does the same with everything that relates to Motion, the third one with Causation, the fourth one with Evolution, the fifth with Compensations, the sixth with Natural Attractions, the seventh with Cycles, the eighth with Hierarchy, and the ninth computer stores only information about Symbolic Correspondances. Then you have another computer at the center of this system which computes SYNCHRONICALLY all information emanating from each of the above-mentioned computers. This is how the universe works; this is how the solar system works, this is how our planet Earth works. This is also how our brain works, whether we are conscious of it or not. Being conscious of this, and being conscious that we are conscious of this, is the first step to cosmosemantics. Focus on this, meditate upon it, and you benefit from the structural energy of everything that is, from medicinal plants (trees, roots, plants,flowers, roots, barks) to the energy of shapes (pyramids, triangles, squares, and obelisks).

When one law meets another, for instance when Evolution (E) meets Hierarchy (H), what happens next is fourthfold, in virtue of the law of contradictions, which can be contradictory as well as complementary:
(+E)(+H) here both are positive, thus complementary;
(-E)(+H) the first one is negative (contradictory) and the second one positive, i.e complementary;
(+E)(-H) the first is positive (complementary) and the second one negative, contradictory.
(-E)(-H) here both are negative, thus contradictory.

This second exercise (just having the mental image of the positive and negative aspects of things acting individually, with one another, and synchronically) helps you gain the energy of the non-polarized force such as the energystate which is created between birth, life-state, and death.

The actions and interactions of the eight first laws create the ninth, the law of symbolic correspondences (SC).(SC) crossing paths with (SC) and you have a system where sounds, tastes, colors really respond to one another.

Connect all these "computers" together and you have a N'UMI. In doing so, you turn them into a system which, when you change the smallest element in one computer, you change the whole system altogather. Their connection point IS the cosmosemantic space/time. Again this is how Nature works. This is how the African mind works. The minds of most members of all societies close to Nature work the same. When a mind takes distance from Nature, like the Western mind did, it's a matter of time before it starts to pollute or, as African elders would put it, "commit incest with the Mother."

THE GREATEST POLLUTION

The Western mind stops at dialectics, the first computer. The Western mind seems incapable of going beyond the law of contradictions. As a result, the dialectic tradition is greatest in the West (Westerners seem to see the world as ONLY dialectical), not as an entity set in motion, effect and causes responding to one another, evolving, where events repeat themselves in cycles, elements being naturally ranked, and where all these laws often agree to disagree with the natural order, thus creating a space where all laws are suspended. Those who cater to it, Hegel and his cohorts, the Hegelians, even Karl Marx and his followers, the Marxists, have become great among human beings. This is also the reason why the Western mind does not seem to really have a problem with pollution. When I say this word, "pollution", I do not simply mean oil or fumes or other chemical dumps in the ocean and the atmosphere. I also mean slavery, colonization, The Jewish Holocaust, apartheid, neocolonization, racism. Go see what alcohol (the white man's water of fire) has done to the Native Americans. The Western mind created all those ignominies which corrupt the mind and instill doubt and uncertainty in us about our own humanity. They lead us to ask ourselves: When we say "human beings", are we all talking about the same thing? If the a human mind conceived and carried out such activities as Slavery (the African holocaust) and the Final Solution (the Jewish holocaust), am I too a human being?

THE COSMOSEMANTIC WEB

At this level, the cosmosemantic student is able to master the inherent laws of plants, rocks and crystals, metals and manets. He knows why colors, sounds, taste and smells respond to one another.

Nature is a cosmosemantic system. So is the African mind. A cosmosemantic web. So also is the Indian and Asian(?) mind, as evidenced in the story of Indra's Net. Indra was a mythical king whose people made him a net which, wherever the strands crossed, had a jewel reflecting every other jewel in the net. This is cosmosemantics at its best.

THE COSMOSEMANTIC SPACE/TIME

The cosmosemantic space/time is the riverhole, where the laws of nature do not exist. It's what the medecine man creates materially when he builds a sanctuary or an altar. In other words, an altar is the cosmosemantic space/time materialized. There, the metaphysical laws that rule our planet are suspended. They work no more. There, Nature puts itself in the juridic position of an obedient one. It's as though Nature says to Man: "Command, I'll obey."

ANOTHER ASPECT OF THE UNIVERSE'S WORK

I like the following examples because they happened in the Western world, not in Africa. Cosmosemantic phenomena happen everywhere:

Three extraordinary things happened on Holy Thursday of 1996 while we were in the street retreat led by Roshi Glassman, a Zen Buddhist monk who organizes street retreats all over the world, including Nazi concentration camps in Poland and Germany, to raise consciousness about suffering, homelessness, AIDS, and violence. His ambition is to get participants to ask themselves: "What is my personal role in these ills? And what is my own next step toward healing these wounds of society?"

That morning,, Daigu wanted to read the paper and set off to buy one--Daigu is the Zen Buddhist name of Michael O'Keefe, a Hollywood actor who is a fixation in the tv series: Roseanne.

"That's exactly the mindset I'm trying to change," Glassman said, trying to stop him, and added: "You want something, you buy it. Isn't there any other alternative?"

Daigu did not want to hear that. "I need to read the news," he said.

Fifteen minutes later, a guy came to us with a stack of newspapers under his arm. He wished to sell them for a quarter each but nobody wanted them, so he trotted away. He came back five minutes later and just dropped them on the bench, saying: "What the heck! You can have them all."

Around noon, as we were ready to go to the soup kitchen, Sarah who had been sitting with us, said that she had cooked for us. We forgot about the soup kitchen and ate her food instead right there in the park. A few minutes later, I heard Rabbi Don Singer say that he was dying for a cup of coffee and wanted to buy one across the street. Todd and Ahmed Munir followed him. "Isn't there any other alternative?" Roshi Glassman asked again. But nobody replied. Singer, Todd, and Munir had not crossed the street before a nun appeared, inviting us and the homeless people of Tompkins Park (New York City) to lunch at a nearby church. "There's coffee and afterwards you'll get your feet washed, just like Christ did after the Last Supper, and a new pair of socks," I heard her say. We followed her. The caffe con leche was delicious, made exactly as in Cuba or Puerto Rico. Walking back to Tompkins Park, I heard another participant to the retreat, Arnie, say: "I have never eaten this much and this good in my own home," then he asked me: "Is it always like this on the streets?"

"This is holy week and the middle class is atoning," I said. "Just imagine when there's no penitence in the air."

These anecdotes in themselves offer nothing remarkable (to a non-initiate). But these are the sort of things an elder asks 13-year-old boys to pay attention to when he takes them to a three-month-bush retreat before they are allowed to enter adult society.

There are three reactions possible when you call the universe to the rescue. In the above anecdotes, the newspaper guy's wish to sell his newspapers is a call to the universe. So is Daigu's desire to read the news. The nun's plan to get people to come to her church and share a meal with her society is a call to the universe, so is Don Singer's desire for a cup of coffee. See how they meet and how the concerned miss out.

Any want, desire, or even prayer is a call to the universe. We send messages in all directions and believe it or not, they are heard by a lot of creatures, people included. Some run away from us, some stay put, some move toward us to offer assistance and comfort. Isn't there any other alternative? There always is. Every call to the universe brings millions of alternatives. The Western mind is simply too one-tracked, and as Herbert Marcuse wrote, "too unidimensional", to see them.

Pay attention to the cosmosemantic space/time. There things happen ahead of their normal or natural schedule.

PLAYING GOD

What happens when want, desire, and even prayer have not worked and man steps up to actually manipulates the metaphysical laws that rule our planet to get them to be effective for his sake? IS MAN PLAYING GOD OR IS MAN GOD? Is Um God? Are the Um-Um gods? If man simply plays God (when for instance a Western biochemist tries genetic engineering out), then questionning the limits of Reason, Freedom and Necessity is relevant. But if man is God, then he IS Freedom itself, that is, freedom, and liberty, and free will, and free arbiter. What a scary thought!


THE COSMO-SEMANTIC GOD

Of course the notion of God is important in cosmosemantics. Who is God for cosmosemanticians? How to best approach Him, talk to Him, receive blessings from Him?

Before we begin, let me ask you this: Would you one day want to be transported instantly to work without having to take your car, or the bus, or commute by train? How about being transported in an instant to another destination in another continent, say from Africa to America and back without ever facing the challenge of delayed jets, packed planes, lost luggage? Have you realized that that's what we have been talking about here? Have you realized that that's what cosmosemantics may one day offer?

I am sure that you all have experienced weird things like you think of someone and a minute later, he calls or appears or you receive a letter from him. MINEM MI N'LENLA, the elders would say, as if hearts afire paid visits to one another. You are sure you have placed your purse on a table. You look and look and do not see it, and when you are no longer looking for it, here it is right there on the table. Now think hard and ask yourself a teleological question to get a teleological answer: "Why did I think of my brother a couple of minutes before he called me?" Then ask yourself a mechanical question in order to get a mechanical answer: "What earlier circumstances made me think of my brother?" or better yet "What earlier circumstances made my brother call me?"

In the beginning of our discussion on cosmosemantics, I gave you a few examples about three people who used special powers to fight the invader in Africa. Let's ask a mechanical question about one of them, say, Bikoy. What earlier circumstances caused him to transmute into a palmnut bunch? You may think about all the possible and probable initiatic manipulations he went through to master his powers but let me suggest this answer: the most important earlier circumstances that caused him to transmute into a palmnut bunch was 1) the KNOWLEDGE that his people, the Bassa, had a weapon that could topple the colonizer and get him to leave the country, and 2) the WILL to use that weapon. That WEAPON, which is simply a KNOWLEDGE, is cosmosemantics.

IDENTITY TRANSFER AND TELEPORTATION

Have you realized that this transmutation of Bikoy into a palmnut bunch is what modern physicists refer to as IDENTITY TRANSFER? And have you realized that in one of the other examples, Balep (the man who manipulates lightning and thunder to escape the soldiers who had incircled him) used the equivalent of what quantum physicists call TELEPORTATION: disappearing here and appearing somewhere else? Destroying matter in one place and reproducing it instantly somewhere else, on the other side of the room, the other side of the forest or the other side of the galaxy?

THERE IS NO QUANTUM WEIRDNESS OF NATURE

If you think that a purse which disappears and reappears, thinking about someone who calls you a couple of minutes later are random occurrences, you are dead wrong. They are neither "eccentricities of nature", "nature weirdness", nor the "quantum weirdness of nature". They are what I call UMICS, works of a cosmosemantic nature which follows a real pattern, a precise order that the elders have been able to explain thousands of years ago, and which they can even repeat at will. They explain that, in the case of a person calling you a minute or two after you thought of him, at that very moment, the laws of nature met at the space/time you were at and created a cosmosemantic space/time. When that occurs, a vacuum is created and whatever thought you had at that particular moment is read by the universe as an order to obey without discussion.

This is heavy stuff, I know. Um's power is too much power for one person to have. I know that too. But a man's got to do what a man's got to do. Eccentricities of nature or the quantum weirdness of nature is the cosmosemantic nature of things. Quantum physics cannot explain it; cosmosemantics can. Just read on. You are not wasting your time, for if cosmosemantics can make teleportation a reality, airplanes, buses, cars, motorcycles will be obsolete. And if motorized transportation is obsolete, just think about the pollution we are going to cut off.

Remember what dialectics had proven: Not only does everything have a contrary, but everthing carries within its own contradiction. In other words, if there is a metaphysical law and a natural force called gravity (a force that pulls everything inward, to the middle of our planet), there must be a law and force that is the contrary of gravity, and there must be within gravity a law and force that contradicts gravity, an antigravity force, an energy in the vacuum of space and time that negates (attenuates?) the effect of mass gravity.

There's no quantum weirdness of nature. The universe has no eccentricities. Actually, what Western scientists call quantum weirdness of nature is Nature at its best, the finest tool Creation has put at our disposal to help us live and live well.

THE CREATOR AND HIS CREATION

Did I say Creation? If there is Creation, then there must be a Creator. If there is a Creator, then according to cosmosemantics, there must be not only the contrary of the Creator but the negation of the Creator within Himself, that is, pure energy in the vacuum of space and time that negates the causes, actions, effects and influences of the Creator. Put these three together and you begin to have an idea of the cosmosemantic God. A God who did not create uncertainty or indetermination, a God so powerful that He could afford to create His own contrary and His own negation. Put these three realms together again: 1) The Creator (Pure Energy in the vacuum of space and time which creates, 2)The NoCreator (Pure Energy in the vacuum of space and time which contradicts the Creator) and 3) The AntiCreator (Pure Energy in the vacuum of space and time which negates all influences of the Creator) and you have the best part of Nature's intelligence and actions: the power to enchant. Cosmosemantic computing will show
this sooner or later. Ngambi (the Oracle) even predicts that cosmosemantics will revolutionize the way we human beings approach knowledge more than anything we human beings have ever created.

In a way, the cosmosemantic God is your everyday God, the One you pray in the churches the polluter brought to Africa. In another way, He is not. This is the God Nietzsche slaughtered because He is crippling and this is the God whose worship Marx said was the opium of the people, for this God is lethargic. I have to tell you, one gets the most from cosmosemantics if he believes in a Supreme Intelligence, a God who manipulates the metaphysical laws to enchant and create more enchantment in the universe. As most African traditions stress, this God used to live among human beings like a shop-owning Father among His sons, but He moved away with His shop the day He granted us Reason, Freedom, and Necessity. But He made sure we know the Way to His compound and when we go to His shop to buy merchandise, He accepts counterfeit coins from us.

This God is an aesthetic God, this is the reason why before anything, you should thoroughly investigate your people's idea of beauty. No one would be thirsty or hungry if there were no such things as drinking water or food. Likewise our desire for beauty and our sense of awe make sense if there exists Beauty and an embodiment of Beauty.

Each one of us is this Father's son or daughter. Each one of us is the manifestation of pure humanity, which is a manifestation of pure divinity, for anyone of us, human beings, has all authority to play with the metaphysical laws that govern our planet and the whole universe. When one of us decides to play this game, he is a Um-Um, a cosmosemantician. And the Father delights himself when He sees us trying to create enchantment and more enchantment. Tradition has it that those are the only moments he smiles and amuses Himself.

IS THE COSMOSEMANTIC GOD INTELLIGIBLE?

I am describing nothing but the African idea of the Supreme Being, the Bassa Hilolombi, the Bamileke Tshiepo, the Pahuings Zamba or Zambe, the Bakwedi Nyame, the Father who distanced Himself from His children to allow them to take His place. The cosmosemantic God is intelligible to Westerners as well, as Pure Energy. Actually, and this is an irony, Westerners have dismissed the Judeo-Christian God they brought to Africa a long time ago. Figure that in an essay titled 'Comment" which appeared in New Black Friars, 1984, page 3, J.O. Mills stresses that "while every day in the West roughly 7,500 people stop being Christians, every day in Africa, roughly double that number become Christians."

The December 7, 1997 edition of the New York Times Magazine published a survey, "Belief by the Numbers", compiled by Russell Shorto, which places Nigeria first among the most actively religious countries (89%) against Canada (38%), Spain (25%), France, which used to call itself "La fille ainee de l'Eglise" (21%) and Australia (16%). Which religion appears to be the fastest-growing Eastern religion in the West? Buddhism.

If religion is the opium of the people, surely our Nigerian brothers must be sleeping a lot. And if religion is said to be the balm of the oppressed, then our brothers, Nigerians, must be suffering a lot under these successive military regimes. We must do something here to help them stay awake and find freedom.

But what I am not sure of is Westerners being capable to be (or become) cosmosemanticians. Western science demands that everything be carefully measured. In cosmosemantics, you measure nothing, for every space/time, every single particle, and every single particle in the space/time continuum in essence carries so much information that measurement is simply impossible. Let's say for a moment, for the sake of this discussion, that we begin to measure things, by the end we finish measuring a simple particle in the space/time continuum, the measurements we recorded first would have changed. Measuring is the enemy of cosmosemantics.


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