Occasionally I find an extraordinary book that clearly reiterates ideas that have occupied my thoughts for as long as I can remember. Such a book is Of Water and the Spirit by Malidoma Patrice Some, Ph.D. Dr. Some, originally from the Dagara tribe of Upper Volta (now the West African country of Burkina Faso) was forcibly taken to a Jesuit mission school when he was a small child and educated for fifteen years by Europeans. Returning to his village, "he had to undergo an initiation so rigorous that it might have killed him." Remarkably he not only survived but was instructed to bring the wisdom he acquired to the West. Indeed, his tribal name Malidoma means he who makes friends with the stranger/enemy.
In a era of increasing alienation, especially in the West, the stringent demands, yet gentle wisdom, of the Dagara Tribe offer to the people of the world psychically well known but physically little traveled paths of survival. According to Some, "respect and love for children was universal in the tribe."
To the Dagara, children are the most important member of society, the community's most precious treasures. Homes have doorless entrances to allow children to go in and out whenever they want and it is common for mother to not see (Sic) her child for days and nights because he or she is enjoying the care and love of other people. When the mother really needs to be with her child, she will go from home to home searching for it. (1995, Some p. 23)
Many other statements in the book are equally reflective of the ideals of transpersonal psychology movement. Some maintains that "the Dagara believe it is terrible to suppress one's grief. Only by passionate expression can loss be tamed and assimilated into a form one can live with. An adult who can not weep is a dangerous person who has forgotten the place emotion holds in a person's life" (1995, Some p. 5).
The culture which Some describes clearly delineates the need for self actualization. "Protection" he says, "is toxic to the person being safeguarded. This is because no one can effectively protect anyone. When you protect some thing, the thing you are keeping safe decays. People come into this life with a purpose that enables them to protect themselves" (1995, Some p. 180).
In the wonderful paradox of oneness, he understands, "that what makes a village a village is the underlying presence of the unfathomable joy of being connected to everyone and everything" (1995, Some p. 310).
It was all in me
I was the room and the door
It was all in me
I just had to remember (1995, Some p. 296)
Clearly, I recommend this book and Some's other work Ritual: Power Healing and Community for the elegance of mind and thoughtfulness of purpose with which he offers his personal guidelines for transformation.
This edition of the Journal contains two more presentations from the September conference on Birth and Violence. The first paper The Vulnerable Prenate is by APPPAH Board member William Emerson, Ph.D. and the second is by James W. Prescott, Ph.D. of the Institute of Humanistic Science entitled The Origins of Human Love and Violence. Also in this issue is a synopsis of a book (recommended by APPPAH founder Dr. Thomas Verny) Time Will Tell by Australian psychiatrist Dr. Averil Earnshaw and, in the sharing space, a provocative commentary Two Views on the Dignity of Life by Moshe Amon, Ph.D. founder of the National Institute of Applied Philosophy.
Somé, Malidoma Patrice. (1995). Of Water and the Spirit. Arkana/Penguin, New York.
Somé, Malidoma Patrice. (1993). Ritual: Power, Healing and the Community. Swan Raven & Co.
Ruth J. Carter, Ph.D.
JOURNAL OF PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH publishes research and clinical articles from the cutting edge of the science of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. The journal, published quarterly since 1986, is dedicated to the in-depth exploration human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and newborn child.