By Nze Chukwuka Omenigbo Nwafor
“For man, everything he needed, he needs and or he shall need has been provided. With leaves and the like we can perform any action which modern science (western) cannot anticipate of even in the next ten thousand years or more”—Nwankwo Nnabuchi (In Defence of Igbo Belief System, 1987)
Áfá/Ává/Áhá (pronounced differently from the Āfà for “name”) is an Igbo term that denotes all oracular, divinatory, predictive and clairvoyance practices; only seconded by the much more conversant practice of Amuma or Ibu Amuma – Prophecy. Among the virtually listless variety of divination systems found in Igbo culture, which run well into their hundreds, the primordial Akpụkpala system of divination has surfaced as the most sophisticated, versatile, accurate, enduring and encompassing system thereof; employed successfully since time immemorial in determining and addressing all phenomena.
Rightly so, various questions have been raised by both dedicated scholars and keen enthusiasts of Igbo culture around the world as to the underlying mystery behind the prominently ancient Afa Akpụkpala divination system. Many have attempted to explain and even compare it with the far more recent binary computing system of Western epistemological tradition; an approach that is highly flawed in itself but somewhat aids in lifting the heavy veil of mystery in which the Akpụkpala divination system has been much shrouded in. Indeed, as concerns the profound mystical science undergirding the Akpụkpala divination practice, Prof. Onwuejeogwu (1997) and Prof J. A. Umeh (1999) has in their respective ways, invested great efforts in bringing some of the primary mysteries undergirding the Akpụkpala oracle to academic light. Umeh for instance elucidated that, “this form of divination has its own language which the Igbo people believe to be not only the oldest Igbo language but also indeed the oldest language in the whole world” (Umeh 1999). Quoting Nwankwo Nnabuchi, he maintained that,
“The language of Ikpakpala [Akpụkpala] was based on the original Igbo language which was later modified in the time Amuta [Uga Chi] to accommodate the known innovations. Subsequent to that, there were other modification which gave rise to the loss of a higher percentage of the original concept. This development notwithstanding, its language is still the oldest language in Igbo history. Some people call it the language of Dibias. It is correct because it is the Dibias who still retain some of the earlier culture, practices and religious rites….the study of Ikpukpala shall to an extent reveal a lot about the origins of Igbos (Umeh 1999: 84; emphasis mine).”
However, as one would agree, at the time of the penning of Umeh and Onwuejeogwu’s individual monumental works, the likes of Ron Eglash (2005) and Gabriel Oyibo (2002) whose much welcome research revelations are gradually revolutionizing the world of contemporary mathematics and physics were yet to significantly emerge. And even now that they’re here, one still recognizes how incredibly difficult a task it is to initiate a full-fledged scientific exegesis on the Akpụkpala oracle, talk more of fully accomplishing such a project.
Agreeably, perseverance in the face of mounting obstacles is a must, if such colossal tasks are to be accomplished by Africans in this day and time. However, frankly speaking, asides all the ritualized ethics of “discreet practice” embedded in Igbo sacred traditions which even Prof. J. A. Umeh himself confessedly had to override to write his book, asides all that, attempts of elucidating the under-girding mystical principles animating the Akpụkpala oracle naturally embodies a herculean task for anybody since contemporary science is yet to develop any meaningful and somewhat analogous scientific cum epistemic system that can mirror the great mysteries of the Akpụkpala oracle.
Infact, as it appears, the algebraically contrived binary computing system and more recently, quantum computing system is as far as the Western mind can attempt of this feat. But one should be aware that the binary encoding threshold system (Akwu na Obi) as confessedly extracted from the ancient Akpụkpala system by Western seekers merely embodies one of the preliminary, Akashic gateways that an Afa adept (Dibia Afa) has to “pass through” (Ịkwu Afa – literally, jumping into Afa/shifting into the Afa mode of consciousness) before arriving the 5th dimension from where the herculean task of Afa-seeking (Igba Afa) actually takes off and well-extends into an infinity of dimensions or universes.
As such, considering the highly sophisticated methodologies, ritualized speech and mystical knowledge that under-girds the utilization, sustenance and successful application of the Afa Akpụkpala oracle, it becomes highly apparent that the binary computing system as “formulated” by Westerners is but a helpless recourse to mathematical theorization in an attempt to engage a phenomenon that clearly transcends this four dimensional plane of existence (ahịa n’anọ, ụbọchị n’anọ i.e. 4 market holdings = space and 4 diurnal cycles = time). Indeed, what these early Western seekers of African sacred knowledge concocted up as the “binary computing system” is honestly atrocious and pale in comparison to the profound essence embodied in the Akpụkpala oracle.
As such, one can rightly assert that, any attempts by African scholars and researchers to utilize such tentative, Western-concocted “information systems” to explain the profound principles and procedures of the great Akpụkpala oracle will merely amount to an innovative boost for the Western epistemological tradition and nothing else; since these are actually plagiarized systems in essence. It is the author’s candid suggestion, that such interested scholars and researchers should engage these original, African mystical systems of knowing from their indigenously conceived and understood perspectives. Secondly, the problem with attempting to utilize even the recently concocted “quantum computing system” in explaining Akpụkpala oracle (QCS was imperfectly plagiarized almost word-for-word from the Dogon “fox-sand-seed-fingerprint” divination system – again the mystical number “4″ is key here) lies in the narrowness of its cosmological scope.
Let us not forget that the Western epistemological tradition whose global hegemony continues to stifle other richer, epistemological traditions from enlightening humanity is still in denial of Ala Mmụọ (the other inter-existing worlds/universes/dimensions). Besides, as with BCS, any careful analysis of QCS (Quantum Computing System) will readily reveal that it is simply the result of Western seekers, once again, extrapolating about 10-15% of the embedded principles found in the mystical “fox-seed-sand-fingerprint” divination system of the generous Dogon people and transforming the same into a mere, quantum-mathematical “information system”. Whereas the original Dogon system is actually post-quantum oriented! And even at that, QCS is virtually still in its theorization stage!
Quite simply, the point being made here is that the original parent, mystical systems of these concocted forms of “information systems” clearly transcends the “quantifiable” or empirical mode of consciousness which the Western epistemic tradition appears to be trapped in. Infact, as attested by Umeh on this issue, “in a situation where one has to select one meaning out of 823,543 meanings per each Afa seed words the task clearly defies quantification or description” (Umeh 1999). Thus, as the likes of Umeh, Oyibo, Eglash, Afigbo etc. have respectively pointed out, African epistemological systems are mystical in principle and as such are post-empirical, pot-literate and post analytic in nature.
Their profound solution systems, operative bearings, determinative and harmonizing capabilities encompasses but ultimately transcends the empirical scientific system of today’s world. This truth in itself, embodies an insurmountable proof that humanity has known far more advanced civilizations in the past. One is only left in wonder as to how Africans allowed and continue to allow themselves to be convinced by anyone to abandon such a profoundly advanced resource and constitutive element of their super civilization.
Hence, after considering such deep-seated epistemic and academic flaws encountered in candid attempts of elucidating the undergirding mysteries of the Afa Akpụkpala oracle, one is left no choice but to recourse to the original Igbo epistemological system for reference (as Indian scholars still do today). And likewise, since most of the hardcore sacred knowledge embedded in Igbo culture are seldom couched in demotic Igbo, one also has no choice but to recourse to the ritualized oracular tongue of Afa (a sonically distinct, highfrequency meta-language essential for oracular programming, slightly distinct from the original Afa mother-tongue itself known as Ofu Ora) for any precise and articulate presentation of this mystical, Igbo divination system.
Speaking to this, Umeh has specified that “Afa is a mystery tongue of the Dibia, unknown to all save those admitted to the requisite Afa Mysteries that require the Afa language…It is the very language which the Igbos believe the Gods, Goddesses and other Spirits speak” (Umeh 1999). Infact, he went ahead and defined the Akpụkpala oracle as “a mystic super-computer of limitless capacity as well as limitless retrieval abilities” (Umeh 1999). Further still, he specified that, It is the most scientific of all divination methods as afar as the state of scientific knowledge stands in the world today, and so, those who are obsessed with having scientific explanation even for metaphysical complexities, issues and realities which our present day sciences have not yet developed fully into understanding, can more easily learn and appreciate his form of divination (Umeh 1999: 84).
In conclusion, it should be noted that since one can thus far demonstrate a sense of what the Afa Akpụkpala oracle conceptually and operatively entails, in both the mystical and modern scientific sense, the cogent question for Igbo thinkers, scientists, policy makers, scholars, researchers et. al. is as thus: how will this profound system of inquiry, learning and harmonization once again advance the Igbo civilization of this day and time? Indeed, the oracle itself is as ever vibrant, competent and productive as always, as aptly captured in one of its mystical appellations as “agadi nwanyi osi asili” literally, “the ever gossiping [informing] old woman”.
The problem is when will the Igbo mind fully awaken to its matchless, God-given genius abilities and take up their Akpụkpala seeds and divine another wondrous civilization into reality as they were highly renowned of in the past. Indeed, whether they will realize this soon enough, or later on with much disappointment and whether they will ever be able to undress their acquired western “intellectual costumes of the mind” and humbly approach the wise, mystical oracular systems of their ancestors for guidance, profound knowledge, wisdom and understanding is entirely up to them.
1. Umeh, J. A. 1999. After God Is Dibia, Vol. II. London: Karnak House
2. Afigbo, A. E. 2001. Time and Its Measurement in Igbo Culture. Nigerian Heritage: Journal of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments. 10, 2001, pages 11-21.
3. Onwuejeogwu, M. A. 1997. Afa Symbolism & Phenomenology in Nri Kingdom and Hegemony. Nigeria: Ethiope Publishing Corporation
4. Eglash, Ron. 2005. African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press
5. Oyibo, G. A. 2002. Grand Unified Theorem: Representation of the Unified Theory or The Theory of Everything. New York: Nova Science Pub. Inc.
6. Griaule, M. and Dieterlen, G. 1986. The Pale Fox. Continuum Foundation.
7. Nielsen, Michael A. and Chuang, Isaac L. 2010. Quantum Computation and Quantum Information: 10th Anniversary Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
8. Nnabuchi, Nwankwo. 1987. In Defence of Igbo Belief System: A Dialectical Approach. Nigeria: Life Paths Print. Press
9. Chimakonam, Jonathan O. 2012. Introducing African Science: Systematic and Philosophical Approach (Studies in African Philosophy, Science, Logic and Mathematics). Indiana: AuthorHouse