By Anote Ajeluorou
Man has always been swayed one way or the other in search of what of the divine light and universal truth should be. But on the path of this search is strewn many thorns that have pierced him deeply to his own ruin. Religion that purports to hold the truth has not helped matters as man has variously interpreted it to fit his own selfish means thus subverting the very truth that ought to set man free from errors. The result is a world mired in chaos, as men set up different standards of behaviour at variance with the divine order.
How can man be brought back to his senses to see that all religions urge the way to the same ideal: Truth? How can man ensure harmony in a world made chaotic by his own actions or inactions? What is man’s true source of wisdom and how can he acquire it? These are some of the concerns of a new, inspirational book written by Charles Ayodeji Dada, The SAGE: Unto Thee Is Granted (Pyramid Unit Publishers, Lagos; 2013).
Indeed, Dada’s The SAGE points the way for erring mankind, who has irretrievably gone astray in pursuit of self. Dada avoids the usual path of being preachy, but charts a seemingly poetic means to call man’s attention to that which he desires most but seeks wrongly. Man’s ultimate quest for life after life is self-affirming in his religious zeal to please a Higher Being. But how has man gone about this quest and what harm hasn’t he contracted for himself and his fellow man in the process? How then can man avoid the pitfalls that readily dodge his footsteps in his quest?
Using the evocative, poetic rendition, Dada approaches his subject by asking for divine inspiration, not unlike the biblical prophets or poetic muse, so he could tell his truth infallibly, ‘To point the way towards The Light’ for his fellow man. And, as he remarks before Book One, ‘Before the beginning was the Truth’, which the poetic persona, the Sage is made to experience the depths of suffering and torment before arriving at the seat of wisdom from which he draws to teach and guide those around him to the Light or divine gardens,
‘To write of pain/You will experience pain!.../To write of hunger/You must know hunger!/Deeply, you will experience its ache!/To write of poverty/You will languish within it!’
The SAGE is couched in most part in devotee/teacher relationship, with the teacher dishing out nuggets of wisdom to the pupils or devotees. And so when a devotee asks, ‘…in what measures should we give of the TRUTH?’ in ‘A Useful Admonition’, The Sage responds, ‘Without compromise! Unsparing, undiluted and pungent!/Naked and plain./In other words-/In its most concentrated form!’
‘Footprints’ also paints a vivid picture of how the world now works in relation to religious practices and other customs by men in which the world goes one way because it is hip to do so whereas it is actually on the wrong spiritual path, with the conclusion, ‘…hundreds of years of history have irrefutably proven…/that the majority have always gone stray!’
No other piece than ‘Of the conflict’ perhaps better illustrates the central theme of The SAGE, where religious conflict, as currently ongoing in most part of the world, is causing schisms among people who ought to live in harmony. But the perceived differences among the world’s religions have pitched neighbor against neighbor so much so that everyone wants to go their separate ways with his followers. But when the people and even their leaders are required to choose between religion and truth, they quickly settle for truth irrespective of their religious affiliations. This prompts the Sage to say to the hypocritical religious leaders, ‘You leaders recognise the Truth as One in time and space, yet decide to confine yourselves to rigid pockets of religion!’
Also for the author, it’s the inability of man to develop his spiritual self and preferring instead to concentrate on developing the intellect that have caused man the greatest grief; it’s what has distanced man from recognising the Truth. This intellectual development, the author argues, has negatively interfered with man’s spiritual quest, as he sees everything in the prism of intellect, which is usually in direct conflict with the spiritual.
The Sage laments in response to a question, “It’s the same fruit that man still eats today which separates him from the Light!/...Developing only the intellect whilst ignoring the intuition and the promptings of the spirit!’ Even a professor, stuffed full with intellectualizing, mocks the existence of God!
Book Two of The SAGE is rendered in more prosaic language than Book One, but continues on the same strain of illuminating the mind of man on the need to seek after divine Truth. In this section also, the author is more direct in urging man to devote himself to godly service, as there is yet a life after this earthly one, where man is required to perfect his ways before he breathes his last. The first piece, ‘Noah’s Ark’ of a young man ringing the bell of the kingdom of God and asking people to repent sums up the urgency of the end times and the need for man to mind his ways so he would be on the same wave-length with his Creator. The Sage sums it up thus, ‘So was Noah considered a lunatic… until the rains came pouring down!’
A more vivid example is where a man’s earthly sojourn and his actions are played back to him in a video in what the author considers the last judgment in the piece titled ‘The great beyond and the playback’: ‘There were several instances in which many, who had been considered pious by their fellow men on earth, flung themselves unto the screen in a bid to hide their activities from the onlookers.’ He says, ‘There was absolutely no human spirit that had a suitable defence. This was self testifying against self! This in fact was the judgment! The many spirits watched the replay of their lives could intuitively perceive whether or not they were worthy… to enter the luminous gardens!’
Doubtless, Dada’s The SAGE is a fascinating book to read; it forces the reader to reflect on his own life and examine where he is in relation to big spiritual questions of the day. Although it’s a book that deals in the realm of religion, it’s done with a philosophic touch that looks at the man’s life through a mirror the Sage holds up for him. While not being preachy, Dada makes salient statements about the condition of man, especially these days of religious strife and untruths raging all over the world. It’s only by knowing what the truth is that man can ultimately be set free, as the Nazarene once admonished. Too often, religion has been used as a tool in the hands of ‘intellectualizing’ man to cause woes to his fellow man. But the truth religion has so easily spun, according to the author, will eventually be the healing balm to man.
The SAGE is an urgent call to man to come to his senses in these times of grave religious intolerance and chaos.