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7104: Response from Houngan Max Beauvoir (fwd)
From: P D Bellegarde-Smith <email@example.com>
Bob: Max does not belong to the list but has had wind of the recent
debate. He wishes to have this sent to the <corbett> Thanks in advance,
First, I like to start by thanking Dr. Desmangles, a scholar of quality and
also a strong member of the Congress of Santa Barbara, for his contribution
on the Corbett list in the E-mail he sent on 17/02 with regard to Vodou and
its practices in Haiti. As a specialist indeed, he cautions about the
utilization and about the limitations of the word Religion. His point is well
taken. In his judgment, as he said, "... In Haiti one is born in that culture
which is imbued with Vodou's spiritual consciousness" and he concludes with a
certain notion of "I-am-ness" which translates a state of mind. This also is
However, a state of mind determines only a mood, the situation of a certain
mode of existence as shaped by undefined circumstances, external or internal.
It doesn't define that thing. That is why I want to intervene in order to
offer the following definition of Vodou which, in my opinion is, all at the
same time, a Religious Tradition, a cosmogony, a cosmology, a mythology, an
art-of-living and a corpus of knowledge that expresses itself and its
philosophy by oral means. Its purely religious aspect serves not only as a
hinge for all that are spiritual in their essence, but also for all that
pertains to the many other aspects of life. That is where I agree with
Desmangles' state of "I-am-ness".
Insufficient though, one should also add that the various ceremonies,
different from a "banboshes," implicitly and explicitly, tend to praise a
Grand Mèt, a unique Principle perceived as the Source of all lives and Who is
responsible for the Creation of the Universe.
Vodouists, in their proverbial humility, generally understand that no human
mind could ever define God by His or Her content and enclose the knowledge
obtained in a book such as a Bible or a Koran. As the Inaccessible, He or She
could never be apprehended totally, being the Ideal of all the many ideals of
the individuals and of all societies. He or She, meaning God, flies high and
way over anything that could be expressed by words.
That is why, spiritual entities named Lwa have been developed as many
aspects, or detailed and active images, of that single God or Gran Mèt. Each
one of them represents concept(s) or very general and abstract ideas and
notions that are considered vital for the very existence of that Universe. As
concepts, they transform the information from what is usually considered
purely sensible to what has become intelligible, allowing thus everyone to
organize their thoughts and knowledge.
So, the Lwa must always be understood as the many expressions of a doctrine
which has chosen to state itself by a very particular intellectual and
spiritual construct that could be termed, by lack of a more suitable
expression, exemplarism. By that is meant, by the exposition of archetypes or
exemplary models of Entities who are naturally Transcendental and generally
only perceived by the senses. The sum of the Lwa, put together is precisely
what could be called "the Haitian collective unconscious."
Should that unique and sacred experience of the Haitian people be recognized
by the government of their country?
Absolutely, and there I thoroughly agree with B.B. Pierre Louis. Vodou has
always evolved in Haiti as an underdog. It did so in a country where the
political climate has always been dominated by violence, brutality,
intolerance and Christian absolutism. In spite of that, the moral force and
the superior strength of the Vodou teachings have allowed it to be all the
time determinant in the mind of the population this, to the point where alone
it has engendered and shaped the mental attitudes of the people. By so doing,
it has determined what is the typical behaviors of the Haitians and it has
consequently colored what has been well recognized in Haiti and elsewhere as
being the social atmosphere of the Nation.