Practicing Excellence, Authentically and Soulfully
Brother Ishmael Tetteh is an African and a world treasure. A truly magnificent man, he exudes grace, wisdom, and joy that can only come from years of deep spiritual practice. His teachings on peace stand to change negative energies and unhealthy thought patterns around the world. Brother Ishmael has a deep concern for the ways in which we interact with each other, and offers specific and very practical strategies on how we can all participate to bring about peace in our planet during our lifetime.
Of Ghanaian descent, Bro. Ishmael refers to himself as a universal citizen. He founded the Etherean Mission in Accra, Ghana in 1975, and since then, has been developing a dynamic non-denominational ministry that is dedicated to self awareness and the study of natural sciences. His latest book, The Way Forward, outlines principles that can radically change our way of thinking, living and being to bring about a life of harmony, peace, and prosperity. Brother Ishmael and I talked in Los Angeles, California, where he was on a one month working visit to deliver a series of lectures and workshops.
RK: In your opinion, what are the main factors that hinder growth and development in Africa today?
BIT: We have been listening to outsiders a bit too much. They have made us feel that the African way is wrong, our skin color is something to be ashamed of, and that our culture is evil. It is ok to bow before a cross carved out of a tree, a dead tree. But if I kneel before a living tree, that is bad. And what is the difference between saints and ancestors? Aren’t they both the living spirits of the departed? In Africa, we do not revere every departed soul, only those who have lived a noble life are revered as ancestors. This does not mean that such people are totally blameless in every detail of their lives. What we evoke in an ancestor is the good we have known or noted that ancestor for.
They say we worship animals – snakes, lizards, etc. That’s because they don’t have a ‘nature’s sense.’ There is a healing practice we do in Ghana. When you go to our shrines you see symbols of a lizard. If you cut a lizard’s tail, it will regenerate itself. When you focus on the regenerating power of the lizard, you are connecting to the regenerative power of the Universe! We are not worshiping lizards. Through the symbolism of the lizard we activate in ourselves the regenerative power in the universe to heal our bodies and minds.
The problem is that we have accepted their misunderstanding of us. So the African today is working very hard to import something to replace who s/he is. That is dangerous. We cannot develop by replacing what we are. If we want true development, we have to identify who and what we are and grow from that to what we want to be. The philosophy in Africa today is “replace yourself.” When we have halted this belief, then we will put ourselves on a path that will lead us to our real growth and development.
RK: Your teachings emphasize the need to be in harmony with nature. Why is that important?
BIT: The world wants to conquer nature and overcome it. No, we are to learn how to work in harmony with nature. One of the errors in religiosity as it is practiced in the world today is that religion has divorced God from nature. If you want to know God, study nature. Today people believe that science and technology, i.e., human innovations, can rule nature. Nature, however, is too huge, too spontaneous to be circumscribed by humanity and its thinking. Nature starts from the electron, neutrons and protons of the atom and extends to the infinite galaxies. It is too complex to be circumscribed by the human mind and human efforts.
RK: How can we, humanity on earth today, benefit from the knowledge systems in African cultures and mystical traditions?
BIT: Africa is to lift the world from technological sense to common sense, and upgrade it from common sense to ‘nature’s sense’. What the world needs is nature’s sense. Every truth principle can be found in nature. Our ancestors say if you want to understand life, listen to a mother giving birth. When a mother is giving birth, she is crying, ajaae! She is struggling. What is happening? A child is being born. The birthing process of a baby is painful. But when the mother sees the child, she’s in joy. The pain disappears. So we don’t make noise about the pain. We make noise about the joy that comes out of the pain.
Life is about joy and pain. Those who understand this are never disturbed, anxious, or overwhelmed by either of these. Watch nature. It gave us no smooth road. There are mountains and valleys. No river goes to the ocean in a straight path. It’s faced with obstacles but manages to find its way. If you want to achieve something in life, you have to go through some barrier and transcend pain. Pain is for you; it comes to you so you can expand your soul and expand your possibilities. Pain knows the God glory you are and it comes to call it forth. It is your messenger and comes to do what it’s assigned to do. So when you’re faced with pain you embrace it and deal with it until it dissolves. You don’t run away from it. So stop telling me about your sad stories. Tell me what you’re becoming out of it. Tell me what you’re determined to be through it.
This is what I call ‘nature’s sense’. And this is what Africa is to contribute to the world. This is what gives us our inner strength. What we are as a spirit of joy and a spirit of love is what the West is craving for. Today, our culture is endangered. Various forces are seeking to destroy it. If we destroy it, we will destroy what will heal the world.
RK: You say peace treaties signed by fear-filled individuals create time bombs. Please explain.
BIT: Angry and fear-filled peacemakers. How can that work? Suppose two groups have been fighting one another, and at some point they come together to sign a peace treaty. You see, prayers are fulfilled not by the powerful words you speak but from the place of power where you speak them.
Who and what causes war? Is it not fear and anger? And yet nobody is doing anything about fear and anger. What makes a nation build ammunition and weapons of mass destruction when there is no threat of war? Suspicion, and suspicion is a shade of fear. So when two men sit together to sign a peace treaty and the energy behind it is that of suspicion, the wording itself will carry an energy of suspicion. And you will need legal practitioners to interpret the peace treaty. That is because there is no openness and no trust. As individuals work to dissolve their fear and anger and become more and more peaceful, there will be no need for peace treaties. People will simply say, oh sorry, we’ve been dreaming. But we are now waking up. Let’s work!
RK: What gives you hope that there will be peace in Africa in your lifetime?
BIT: You and people like you. I know that at the right time, we will meet the right people and make the right connections and bring the same message to the world, in the way that the world will listen. When the world wakes up to the truth that the peace that we’re praying for is right here and everywhere in nature, and when we start studying nature, then we will know our reason for living and that will give us joy.
When you were in your mother’s womb nature provided for you everything you required; the oxygen, liquids, and vitamins. Nature was at work supporting your incarnation. And in the moment you came out of the womb, you, who have lived all of your life receiving nourishment in the form of fluid, suddenly, found yourself in a new environment and you instantly knew that you needed to receive air and you shut your fluid portals and opened the air channels, and breathed out with a cry. Then in your wisdom, you turned your head to your mother’s breast and the first milk you received contained colostrum that had antibiotics in it to immunize your body. Nature knew what you needed before you even prayed for it. It was ahead of you providing what you need before you needed it. When you understand this you will trust naturally. If we meditate on this everyday, we will start to trust each other, and start to live a more and more peaceful life everyday.
Bro. Ishmael Tetteh is an author of twenty-two published books. His teachings are also available through online courses at his website as well as on tapes and CDs. For more information, please visit his websites at www.ethereanlife.com and www.conscioushumanity.com.