Essays on Ghanaian Philosophy – EA Ammah – Essay4 – Summing Up



Summing Up
To sum up: morality or ethics means custom or customary.  It is interesting to note that our tradition and culture have indicated all the ethics involved.

About kple hymns, the main course which constitute the gist of this thesis, Dr. M. J. Field comments, “Some songs are in Ga, some in Obutu, some in a mixture of both.  Many of the songs are in the extinct Obutu language.  It is the Obutu songs which betray the greatest number of the dead gods, and it is the Obutu songs which show the greatest interest in nature—lagoons, rivers, trees, rain, and win.  The songs which are in Ga are hardly interesting or worth recording” (The Religion and Medicine of the Ga People, [1937] pp.16, 18, 19).

The excerpts above [by Dr. Field] represent the accepted views of many Europeans.  But from what we have demonstrated in the preceding times, it can be realized that those views are not factually and wholly right or true or not applicable to Ghanaian thought.

Dr. Field’s invective view or comment on [the] Ga form of Kple songs is unfounded—based on hasty and wrong estimation—or lack of proper information.  She, like those who had maliciously spoken against the Ga people and the language and are still spitefully doing so, has done a great disservice to the Ga people.

This is nothing less than ‘persecution.’  But as the ideal of the Ga people is towards peace and unity, they by nature “take pleasure in persecution” (2 Corinthians, 12.10); “and being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it” (1 Corinthians 4.12).  And the satisfying and concrete point is that most of the hymns which expound Ghanaian thought are in the Ga language.

It is a source of pride and satisfaction and a great credit to our thinkers that their thought is reflected or mirrored in the view that “the unity of all life, the mysterious harmony of the least and the nearest with the greatest and most remote, the conviction that life of the Universe pulsated in all its parts were so familiar to that ancient cosmic consciousness as to modern biology and psychology” (Samuel Angus, The Mystery Religions and Christianity, p. x).

Metaphysics is defined as the science of the first cause, of a cause which has no other causes behind it, or the science of the ultimate principles independent of other principles.” (The British Ency. Vol. 7, p. 161) or “The one unlimited substance” (Spinoza).  This reminds us of the Ghanaian notion of the sea.  A yearly recital on the feast of the god Blafo in honour, praise, and eternal bountifulness of the sea (Bosrobo) is:  The year has come round, “the sea is not dried up (Bosrobo nke ye da).”  

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Essays on Ghanaian Philosophy EA Ammah – Essay3 – More Beyond


More Beyond
They knew that there is more beyond.  Those who were inclined to dispute about things beyond human capacity were admonished to “go slowly and not to doubt” (naa bleoo kaadze wane).

Those who persisted in doubting or disputing in vain were sharply reminded of the destructiveness of doubt as “Old doubt is killing us entirely (blema wanedzee, no nonn gbeowo kworaa).”

About the incomplete knowledge of the beginning of God, our thinkers were unanimous.  As to the origin of the earth they attempt at equaling God with the earth or in the words of the Yoga system, “He stands in an eternal connection with the most refined constituent of matter and is endowed with supreme power wisdom and goodness” (Ency. Brit. Vol. 12, p.25).  But on further reflection, they affirmed that “God speaks, Earth has no lip.”  In connection with the origin of the gods they were conceived to be guardian angels, messengers and sons of God.

But the process of the creation was to all the various schools of thought an eternal enigma, a seated mystery; no human reason could grasp or piece it; all that is known is that, the universe was created by God through his Son (the word or wisdom), Awi Tete.  When, where and how man with all his scientific knowledge is ignorant and shall ever be ignorant of these.

The process is known to God alone (see Job 38, 4-6), “who enters into the course of history and communicates the knowledge of Himself in a special way to a peculiar people” (Essays Catholic and Critical, 3rd. edition, p. 123).

The second part of the sceptic hymn refers to man and his environment or way of living as a social being.  The “no one teaches” dictum involves two suppositions.  Either there was unsettled condition of things generally or there were no teachers available to transmit the accumulated knowledge to the people in their generation.

In all probability it is the former, for this was an age of critical philosophy—of doubting even the existence of God, the unshakable belief which formed the strong hold of their philosophy of life, was raised.  The apprehension and fear which gripped the teachers deepened into indifference and suspicion, knowing full well that “old doubt has killed us, and is killing us.”  In all probability there were teachers available.

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Essays on Ghanaian Philosophy – EA Ammah Essay2 – The 3 Schools of Thought: God’s, Son of God, and Sceptics


God’s school of thought
The God’s School of thought has various hymns which expound [a] synoptic view of the universe as a whole; but we have selected three for the purpose of this thesis.  An interesting and satisfying point   which is held and enriched in each stage of advance in thought is that our thinkers steadily maintained and vigorously defended the Sovereignty of God—each recital mentions the name God—Nyonmo.  The words of the first hymn are:

Earth life man life God,
And earth life.

Asase nkwa lomo nkwa Nyonmo,
Ni asase nkwa.

This hymn which forms the twilight of Ghanaian thought covers four important themes: earth, life, man and God.  It could be realized that the four themes mentioned, or the hymns as a whole have passed the age of speculative concept into the concrete stage of coherent, stable thought.  Earth is, life is, man is, and God hath life in Himself (John 5.26).

The recital makes it abundantly and factually plain that the earth is charged or pulsated with life inert and magnifies or elevates and designates man as Lumo,  Lord, ruler or duke, and as it were, attributes life to God, while man is designated Lumo, lord of creation.  The earth and God are in [a] qualitative sense equal—all possess life—and are therefore co-eternal, but the mere mentioning of God makes a very big distinction in cosmic meaning, more than Professor Alexander’s notion of ‘towards Deity.’

The thinkers of the second stage made a far-reaching contribution to knowledge—scientific and theological.

The hymn is:
Earth life God life man
Earth energy which sustains us,
But God is Elder.

Asase nkwa Nyonmo nkwa lumo
Okremedu amo ni kuraa wo
Ei Nyonmo dzi Onukpa.

Earth Sustains
The first line balances what was not stressed in the first hymn; namely, life is man.  God in this present hymn—the first line seems to have no ‘life,’ the strange thing is, earth is still charged with life.  The second verse of the second hymn contains a new term—Okremedu amo—for earth, this word raises scientific thought or knowledge. Du is a short form of Adu, God, and amo is also a short form of Lumo, heat; so the earth is now thought to be energy or energetic or life force, dynamic.

The thinkers (philosophers, scientists and theologians of highest level) did not stop there, but added that it was the energetic earth that sustains us.  We are told that ‘all the substance of earth, and all the eternal energy are derived from the sun.’ (Great Design, p.95)

These great thinkers imputed divinity to matter, therefore, theological.  In the domain of theology, Okremedu amo is nothing less than God’s immanence in nature.  Herein lies the depth and value of what was earlier postulated as ‘one in three and three in one.’
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Essays on Ghanaian Philosophy – EA Ammah Essay1 Ghanaian Thought and Philosophy

E. A. Ammah, “Ghanaian Philosophy,” The Ghanaian (October 1961, November 1961, December 1961, January 1962, February 1962, March 1962, April/May 1962, June 1962)

NOTE: Beginning in the October 1961 issue of The Ghanaian and continuing in monthly installments through June 1962, E. A. Ammah published  a lengthy essay, “Ghanaian Philosophy.”   The essay is remarkable not only for its analysis of Ghanaian thought but for its comparative discussion of other religious traditions throughout the world.  Although E. A. Ammah titles his essay “Ghanaian Philosophy,” his exposition is an exploration of Ga philosophy as revealed primarily in kpele hymns.   He identifies and discusses three Ga schools of thought: (1) God’s School of Thought, (2) the Son of God (Awi Tete) or the Wisdom School, and (3) the Sceptic School of Thought.   In comparing Ga thought with other traditions, E. A. Ammah draws upon a variety of sources including The Bible, articles in The Hibbert Journal (a liberal Christian periodical published in Britain 1902-1968), notable scholarly monographs of the 1920s and 1930s,  various encyclopedias, as well as Islamic, Indian, and Buddhist teachings. Marion Kilson

The essay is reproduced on this blog in 4 parts – Ade Sawyerr


Ghanaian thought
Why go to ancient Greece,
And other far off lands,
In search of golden fleece,
‘Tis here, these Ghana stands.

October 1, 1961, the date on which the University of Accra was born, marked a great turning point in the intellectual and cultural history of Ghana and also of Africa as a whole—a renaissance or revival of knowledge.

To borrow the words of Henri Bergson, “it is the customs, institutions, even in language, that the intellectual and cultural acquisitions are deposited; they are then transmitted by unceasing education from generation to generation, from mouth to mouth.”  It is by this way that Ghana was able to build up its cultural heritage of which we are very proud.  An aspect of our intellectual culture is philosophy or “notion of the universe,” nature, man, and God.

Three in One
Ghanaian thought unlike Greek, but like Hindus, is three in one, and one in three, namely, philosophy, religion and science.  It must be remarked in passing that Indian “religion and philosophy are one”, and that, “For India, then, there can be no real conflict between science and religion, between religion and thought” (J. H. Tuckwell, Indian philosophy, an appreciation. Hibbert Journal, October, p. 10).  This is exactly the content of Ghanaian thought; the sole difference is that, India stresses pantheism, while Ghana upholds theism, God’s transcendence or revelation.

These pages discuss what Ghanaian philosophy is about.  But to start, it is deemed important to know the present situation as to the place of philosophy in the West.  We are told that, “there is no agreement among philosophers, and no one who can speak with authority on its behalf,” that something should be “done to galvanise philosophy into some sort of meaningful activity and to bring it into relation with the problem of life,” then professional expounders of philosophy…may see it would [be] to the advantage alike to themselves and of the world to make philosophy socially useful.”  Having examined the role of science, Dr. Schiller says, there is “the need for something more than science, namely for a comprehensive or synoptic treatment that will combine the partial views of the various sciences and will instruct us how to think of reality as a whole, and how we can read a single coherent sense into the whole of our experience.”  Showing the relevant sphere of philosophy, the learned Doctor writes, “here then is an important task, an indisputable domain, to which philosophy might devote itself.  It has always claimed to be concerned with the whole” (see Has Philosophy a Message, Hibbert Journal, July 1938, pp.595 and 597).  This is exactly the concrete and coherent  “message” Ghanaian thought is to deliver “to a world wearied of constant change” (Percy Dearmer, Christianity and the Crisis, 1933, p. 65).

The time is opportune that Ghana should speak for herself and also for Africa as a whole.

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