Arga-Dhagetti over Inexorable

May 18, 2008

In a March 2008 issue, The Economist Magazine published an article titled "The science of religion," with a subtitle "Where angels no longer fear to tread." The article notes that according to a study by Dr. David Sloan Wilson of Binghamton University in New York about the relationship between social insecurity and religious fervor, "regardless of the religion in question, it is the least secure societies that tend to be most fundamentalists."

The root word for religion is noted in the dictionary to be religare, which means to tie, fasten. One of the dictionary definitions of religion is "ritual observance of faith." Although some people have used faith and religion interchangeably, the contrast between the two terms appears to be discernible among different quarters. The term religion appears to have a more superstitious overtone whereas the term faith has a real presence in our daily way of life.

The name Waaqeffannaa appears to be a recent coinage for Amanti Oromo, Oromo belief. According to Dr. Tilahun Gamta's Comprehensive Oromo-English Dictionary, the root word for amanti is amanu. According to the definition of this dictionary, amanu is to have faith in somebody or something, to trust. Nowhere in this dictionary is the root word amanu associated with religion but the derivative word amanti is readily defined as religion. But, the equivalent meaning of the word amanti may well be belief.

Therefore, a careful analysis of the conceptions in the Oromo words amanu and amanti and the English words faith, belief, and religion suggests that there is a discernible gap between the meaning of these Oromo words and their interpretation in the English language, as far as religion goes. This gap may not be arbitrary.

In The Economist's article mentioned earlier, "... belief in an afterlife is not equally well developed in all religions," according to Dr. Wilson. The article goes on to say that Dr. Wilson suspects that "the differences may be illuminating." As a matter of fact, this insight by close observers, including this writer, may be one of the most important illuminations that may unlock some of humanity's unknown past.

It has been argued in the past that Cubbu, not hell, is in Oromo consciousness. This observation resonates with Dr. Wilson's interest "in what some religions hold out as the ultimate reward for good behavior—life after death." According to Waaqeffannaa, it is to commit Cubbu for anyone to say he or she knows where the soul goes after death, for it is only to Waaqa that it is known.

The above line of argument is what some admit as what distinguishes one of the Christian denominations, Jehovah's Witness, from the rest. Ecclesiastes 3:21 asks the following question: "Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" That is after asserting the following in 3:20 "... all come from dust and to dust all return."

Waaqeffannaa as a faith tradition is emerging with this background. The number of its followers among the Oromo society seems to be rising at a very quick pace. It was reported that more than one and a half million people attended the Irrecha celebration in 2007 at Bushoftu in Ethiopia and there is no reason to believe that this growth will slow down or stop in Biyya Oromo, Oromo country.

In fact, in a recent commentary, titled "The Inexorable Radiation of Waaqeffannaa, the Oromo Religion," Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis, suggests that what was written in an article by Getachew Chamada Nadhabasa in 2004 is a turning point in the "History of Waaqeffannaa." It is not clear if changing his religion to Waaqeffannaa has crossed Dr. Megalommatis' mind lately, but knowing that he has done that once before when he changed from a Christian to a Muslim, it wouldn't be far fetched to imagine if that has happened. What is for sure is that just a few years back, he did not believe that Waaqeffannaa is a religion. In an interview he gave to Voice Finfinne in 2004, he had the following to say: "... I cannot at the present state of related research and knowledge call it [Waaqeffannaa] 'religion.'"

One very important tenet of Waaqeffannaa is arga-dhagetti, which roughly means seeing and hearing. According to this tenet, we are to believe what we see and hear, in that order of importance. This is an important set of concepts that enable Waaqeffannaa to enrich itself, as opposed to being entangled in dogmatic doctrines that can be characterized as inexorable. To the extent that inexorable means unalterable or unchangeable, Waaqeffannaa is not inexorable but grows based on the concept of arga-dhagetti. That is why we say arga-dhagetti over inexorable.

At this stage of Waaqeffannaa's development, it is very important that those who are skilled in it's tenets bring to the public its world outlook in a concise manner. This will help minimize confusions by the public and interested scholars because of writings here and there about Waaqeffannaa that may lack consistency and the necessary depth of understanding. It is also important that because what it embodies does not seem to have been fully explored in the past, it is likely to reveal its own specific world outlook that may give answers to questions that have already been raised in various circles, including theological, historical, and archeological.

The above prognosis is not without a reason. In his bestselling novels The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, Dan Brown touches on the historical and physics based explanations of religion. In the Da Vinci Code, he talks about the Balanced Universe concept, which is well established in Waaqeffannaa. He made the case by explaining how the ancient Egyptians believed in this concept. In Angels and Demons, he presented CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, as a center where a fictional scientist tried to scientifically prove religion. It is in this fictional book that Dan Brown tried to present the fictional scientist as having tried to explain religion through energy. Waaqni humna malee bifa hin qabu, goes one of Waaqeffannaa's tenets, which roughly means Waaqa has no form but power.

In his book titled Breaking the Da Vinci Code, Darrell L. Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, points out the importance of what Dan Brown presented in his Da Vinci Code book based on the Gnostic Gospels. Professor Bock wrote: "The significance of the topic can hardly be exaggerated. I hope that the journey has been worth it. Perhaps the discussion of the roots of faith can proceed with a fresh awareness of where the lines have been and are being drawn."

In his book titled Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud argued that Moses was an Egyptian Pharaoh who fled to Israel and introduced some of the early religious tenets to the Israeli society. In his book titled Moses and Akhenaten, Ahmed Osman, an Egyptian Egyptologist, agreed with Freud's argument and named that Pharaoh as Akhenaten. In another book titled Christianity an Ancient Egyptian Religion, Ahmed Osman argued that Christianity came out of Egypt.

Historians have abundantly documented that some of the old Egyptian dynasties were in fact Oromo dynasties. What all these pieces of information show is that there are enough clues as to encourage us to probe this topic further and deeper to understand the relationships and possible misinterpretations in our world outlook. One of such misinterpretations may well be the difference between worshipping the creator as compared to trying to keep the balance of the created.

A recent newswire reported that Archaeologists from Germany found a 10th century BC palace of the Queen of Sheba at Axum in Ethiopia. The research is reportedly aimed at documenting the origins of the Ethiopian state and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It goes without saying that any faith tradition that would be the closest to the predecessor of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church nearly 3000 years ago is very likely to be a local faith tradition of that time, which may well be preserved in Waaqeffannaa. As a matter of fact, one evidence the German scientists found is reportedly the realignment of the Queen of Sheba's palace to the path of the star Sirius by tearing down an earlier palace. The star Sirius is called Sorsa in Afaan Oromo and it has a special significance in Oromo faith tradition up to the present day. "The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago" is a title of Robert Temple's book that was published in 1998.

By way of summary, as new evidences emerge and the existing stories converge regarding this subject, the best thing we ought to be doing at this time is to put them in perspective to minimize confusions and misinterpretations. The concept of arga-dhagetti overrides that of inexorability in this perspective.