Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

James Spiceland, Robert Johnston, Ronald Nash

Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


“The fundamental reality in the ontology of African people” is an effort to alert the reader to a crucial omission in most contemporary studies on the religion or culture of African people. The majority of the current anthropologists (scholars in the field of contemporary religions) only make a passing reference to the spirit beings that infest the world of traditional Africa.

Apart from inadequate attempts to psychologize the religions of pre-literary man, investigators of pre-scientific cultures have for the most part been unable to account for the unflinching loyalty and meticulous devotion of traditional man to spirit beings. The reason was found to be two-fold, namely: ethnocentrism on the part of the western scholar, and his bias against supernaturalism in favor of empiricism and evolution.

The present investigation further showed that affirming or rejecting the reality of supernatural beings does not belong to the field of science because by definition supernatural beings are incorporeal. Therefore, there can be no scientific (set up) or apparatus that can verify such propositions. The appropriate fields were found to be those of metaphysics and epistemology. Further investigation showed that there is no metaphysical or epistemological ground for rejecting the reality of supernatural beings (spirit beings). Belief in spirit beings was shown to be quite consistent with reason and logic.

In the ontology of traditional Africa, the highest being is God (the supreme being). He is the same as the Christian God. He created all living things in both the spirit world of lesser “deities” and the physical world of mortal man. He also created both the spirit world and the physical world. The lesser spirits or deities exercise control over man in his physical environment. At death, man becomes an ancestral spirit who then gravitates into the spirit world. As an ancestor, he is worshipped by the living. In return he offers them protection, guidance and care. That is why priests and witch doctors play a dominant role in such societies. They possess special knowledge about the spirit world. They have the power to contact and to manipulate spirit beings. These specialists provide the ordinary man with varying degrees of charms, amulets, magic, and several such devices that enable the latter to ward off the influence of malevolent spirit beings, mischievous humans, and to guarantee success in life. Such is the set up that controls the nerve center of traditional Africa from the cradle to the grave. Herein lies reality to which the physical world of man must remain subservient.


African Languages and Societies | Arts and Humanities | Comparative Philosophy | Other Religion | Philosophy | Religion