"When man waits and waits for God to act
and God does not act, he takes on the role of God and acts.
That's why He made us in his own image."
ESIABA IROBI AS ANCESTOR
In understanding Esiaba Irobi as an
ancestor I am not using the concept of ancestor in a purely
historical sense. My use of this concept is an effort to
explore the ontological significance of the understanding of
ancestors in various cultures, from the ethnic cultures of
Esiaba’s Igbo and other ethnicities in Nigeria, Africa and
beyond to trans-ethnic religious cultures like the Catholic
church and Buddhism and more recent spiritual cultures, as
in contemporary Western magic.
All these cultures are unified on one point in relation to
people whose bodies have ceased functioning, and are
therefore no longer visible in that body among other
embodied beings. This is the notion that they have
experienced a transformation but are still alive. These
cultures also claim that these figures are at times active
in human life, while remaining invisible to most humans. The
means of communication between humans and these beings is
described as being through dreams, through thoughts, among
other possibilities. Accounts of ghosts also suggest that
these departed people could make their presence felt through
a palpable sense of presence while remaining invisible,
along with being able to affect physical objects.
I won’t pretend to know whether or not these conceptions
accurately describe reality. They represent one explanation
of people’s experiences that suggest the survival of life
after death. My own dreams of my departed father have been
so meaningful I seem to experience his presence in dreams
with the palpable force of the unique sense of presence
communicated by an individual.
One can attempt contact with an immaterial entity, also
known as an NPE, a Non-Physical Entity, in a variety of
ways. The method I would suggest is that of sustained
concentration on the individual and asking them to
communicate themselves. Doing it just before sleep can be
particularly helpful since it could influence one’s dreams,
perhaps creating an opening for the non-physical entity
while the mind is at rest and receptive.
In many cultures, such efforts are conducted through a
shrine where objects evocative of the departed person are
kept. Since the interaction of many of us with Esiaba was
largely virtual, it could be useful to create a virtual
shrine. This shrine could act as the point of focus of the
efforts to communicate with him. The shrine could contain
images and other forms that evoke his memory. Examples of
these could be pictures of him and quotes from him. These
quotes could be examples of his formal and informal
communication. Examples of these can be found in his
academic articles, one at least of which is publicly
accessible online “The Problem with Post-Colonial Theory”.
Such quotes could also come from interviews of him, from his
own comments reproduced in recollections of him as well
through his own interactions evident at the online archives
on Yahoo Groups of a group he belonged to, the Wole Soyinka
Society as well as the Facebook group formed by his former
students; Dr Esiaba Irobi Changed My Life. One can read
people’s views of him in the Facebook group as well as
critical works on his poetry and plays.
This shrine can be virtual in terms of a structure of
images, words and ideas that exists only in the virtual
space of the computer or of the mind. It can also be
constructed in concrete form if one is so inclined.
The core issue is to concentrate on him, wish him well and
request communication with him and perhaps help from him, a
help he might be more readily able to render on account of
his freedom from the limitations of the body.
One could need some research to understand Esiaba’s ruling
passions, but I am particularly interested in his passion
for creating hermeneutic frameworks - ideas and practices
that guide interpretation of phenomena - that derive from
classical African thought.
If Yoruba Orisa are at times described as deified ancestors,
called upon in terms of the contexts in which they
distinguished themselves while on earth, and Catholic saints
are called upon in terms of such specialisations, why can’t
one try to relate with Esiaba in terms of those qualities he
was most associated with, those visions that burned most
brightly within him?
To read more on relating with ancestors one could see
African Wisdom by Owen Burnham.