Why do high profile blacks and black leaders avoid blackness, focusing instead upon more generalized constituencies, like people of color, minorities, women, gays , the poor, and Hispanics? What enables a constant stream of immigrant groups to politically, economically and socially leapfrog over and eventually dominate blacks? How is it possible that blacks are monolithic and loyal supporters of the Democratic party, yet our support does not translate to greater political influence?
All of these questions and more are directly tied to the ways in which African Americans have been conditioned to manage money. More specifically, we tend to experience the world of money and finance as problematic to the point of being an evil menace. The Agbole message seeks to transform that narrative, from fear and paralysis to hope and empowerment. We at the Agbole maintain that money is essential to our ability to realize our highest intentions and ideals, both personally and collectively.
THE SPIRIT OF GIVING
There are several different types of money transactions:
For the purposes of this Blog post, let's give special attention to the gift transaction. Here, the giver selflessly offers money so that something good can come into the world, usually something of cultural and spiritual value. The actual value of this kind of gift —for example, money to build a school—cannot be computed since it benefits all humanity for many years to come, even into the limitless future. In this regard, the Agbole conclusion about giving is completely in alignment with the traditional Yoruba philosophy of giving, which posits that the individual or institution accepting a gift is not the true receiver. The real receivers of any gift are those who benefit: namely, the whole of humanity for eternity. This is summarized in a portion of sacred text, taken from the Ifa corpus:
...Lo, the maker of this perfect order, Alasuwada, I beseech you
Please send a conglomerate of good essences
And bring abundant blessings to me
If one destiny is good
It will extend to 200 others
The destiny of Origun, the creator is blessed
And it affects me positively
If one destiny is blessed
It extends to 200 others
My destiny that is blessed
Has affected you positively
Your destiny that is blessed
Has equally affected me positively
If one destiny is blessed
It will affect 200 others.
- Holy Odu OsaOgunda
Human destiny is encoded with an innate generosity that seeks to protect the welfare of others and the world. The inspiration and actual motivation to give a gift, regardless of personal nuances, usually makes the donor a party to something that has deep spiritual significance. Thus, with respect to the fourth type of transaction—giving and receiving—the Agbole suggests that “whenever the spirit moves us” to make a gift we should donate money so that something that lives in the imagination, something that benefits and ennobles human life, will be brought into the physical world.
Our motto, "Making Money Work for the Good Condition", stretches and expands the ways we understand money and financial transactions. It provides each of us an opportunity to start to work with money in a way that is consistent with our truest ideals and with our concern for society and for the planet.
A man’s worth is not measured by how much he acquires, but how much he gives.
But in the wake of world wide financial collapse – with foreclosures on the prowl, investment plans ruined and tens of thousands of jobs lost – who is really in a position to give? Individuals, corporations and entire state economies are at a standstill. In these hard economic times, it’s not about giving, it’s about surviving. The rising tide of financial hardship is lifting all emotional boats to a higher level of uncertainty and fear. It’s what Bob Marley sang 20 years ago: “Cost of living get so high/Rich and poor they start to cry!” In times like these, when we barely feel capable of taking care of ourselves, the idea that one’s worth is measured by how much he gives is borderline offensive.
But there is an even deeper reason for our reluctance to give during financial hardship. As our material resources dwindle, we not only feel incapable of giving, but also unworthy of being a giver. In a society that counts everything, the fewer things you have to count, the less worthy you feel. After all, the truth of the matter is, we express our identities through the things we buy. Each pair of shoes, trip abroad, electronic device and piece of clothing represents an expression of our individuality: I shop, therefore I am. No money equals lowered self worth.
Once upon a time, Orunmila was so destitute that the only food he could afford was peanuts. In spite of his knowledge of the beginning and the end of all things, Orunmila was unable to see the end of his own suffering. Imagine how unfit he must have felt to bear the title, Eleri ipin (custodian of destiny). If you have ever gone hungry, you can imagine his despair, making a meal out of peanuts for the 3rd day in a row. So great was his depression that he was even considering suicide. Just then, three doves flew overhead, cooing loudly. They drew his attention to the bottom of the hill, where he had been throwing the peanut shells. There, he saw a small group huddled together, gathering up the shells to boil in a soup. The message was clear, “there is no one to whom God has not been generous, only those who will say he has not been generous enough.” Everyone has something for which to be thankful.
Yorùbá traditional wisdom teaches us that “despite the multitude of holes punched in it, the sieve still manages to sift flour.”
Today, make time to look inside yourself. How do you define yourself? To what extent is your self worth externally defined? When you look down and see the holes in your life, where do you find strength and direction? Recall a time in your life when you were stripped of your material resources. Maybe you were robbed or lost your luggage. When have you felt absolutely defeated or driven beyond reason in the face of a material loss?
According to Yoruba thought, money is a deity. Her name is Aje, the daughter of Olokun. Aje is kose e mani, the indispensible one, the key to physical as well as spiritual progress. The importance of understanding the divine essence of money cannot be overstated. Money is known by many more attributes, which collectively explain the complexity of human activity in relation to earning, spending and investing it:
Owo ni koko: Money is the key
Sure lere: Patience is profitable
Ibanuje ni ojo ori, owo l’agba: knowing your age is sad, money is the eldest (Age without money is sad)
Olowo n soro… talika loun ni “idea”: The rich man speaks and is obeyed… the poor man on says “I have an idea”
Owo ni keke ihinrere: Money is the engine (bicyle) of the gospel
Oogun ti a o f’owo se, ehin aaro ni gbe: A spiritual medicine bought cheaply has little value
Owo eru kii gb’oro: Money should acquired in a clean way
Ise l’oogun ise: Hard work is the antidote for poverty
All the divinities of orisa lifestyle have their own ojubo (shrine). The ojubo not only represents the divinity, it is also the place you go to invoke the divinity for guidance and protection. In this light, you learn that, instead of praying FOR money – or even worse, praying TO money – it is best to invoke the spirit of Aje to activate prosperity in your life, according to divine principles. In this way, you develop a relationship with money that is in alignment with the spiritual laws that govern the universe. Ifa teaches us that people are called eniyan, the chosen ones. We are all selected by Olodumare – God Almighty- to bring about the Good Condition. In the holy odu IrosunIwori, Ifa teaches us this way:
Let us do things with joy
Those who wish to go may go
Those who wish to return may return
Definitely, human beings were chosen to bring good fortune to the world…
The pinnacle of human excellence, according to Ifa, is to create a world in which there will be full knowledge if all things, joy everywhere, life without anxiety or fear of enemies, attack from snakes or other dangerous animals, without fear of death, disease, litigation, losses, wizards, witches, misery or poverty.
How is this possible?
Ifa goes on to tell us that it is because of your inner power, good character and wisdom that you will achieve this, which is known as the Good Condition. In this regard, in orisa lifestyle, we aspire to make money work for the Good Condition. Money has historically been a problem where there are no clearly defined values. For this reason, there are rituals specially organized around six core values:
– Giga | Elevation: Money is meant to serve the highest intentions of the human spirit.
– Otito | Trust: People are best served when the use of money is based on long-term relationships.
– Afarabale | Discipline: Economic success will be defined by balancing social, spiritual and ecological impact, not by financial results alone.
– Egbe | Networks: The strategic integration of social networks will be increasingly important in the circulation of money.
– Aseyori | Innovation: A deeply entrepreneurial culture is required to generate breakthrough ideas at the intersection of social change and finance.
– Idogba | Equality: All who seek to align their values with their money will be granted access to opportunities for investing, lending, and giving.