I have to stop thinking, I said to myself, and every thought was like a sting inside my ears. I was living inside a huge loudspeaker blasting to full capacity. My survival depended upon my ability to find the wires that transmitted these sounds and cut them. But if I myself were the wires, how could I do that?

The speech of silence is achieved when words, and their potential ability to hurt meaning, are done away with. Words entrap meaning, torture it, slice it into pieces the way a butcher cuts the meat of a slaughtered animal and serves it to us. The speech of silence has profound respect for the integrity of meaning as an entity separate from language. In silence, meaning is no longer heard, but felt; and feeling is the best hearing, the best instrument for recording m eaning. Meaning is made welcome as it is and treated with respect.

Humans become meaning when they get as close to it as this. The way I felt when I had finally reached this stage cannot be described. The un resolvable conflicts that had tortured my being when I entered the realm of the underworld had been deleted, uncovering another layer of myself that collaborated better with my ability to receive meaning. That layer saved me from killing myself with the murderous knife of inner noisiness.

Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, scribed by Malidoma (“Friend of the Enemy/Stranger”) Patrice Somé, may be the most important book I have read since Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. The profundity of its remarkability can hardly be encapsulated into words: it is simultaneously a story of corruption, of metaphysical truth and beauty, of faith. Yet these adjectives are mere categorical footnotes.

Malidoma was born into traditional Dagara community, one predicated on a daily spiritual foundation. At the age of four, shortly after the death of his Grandfather — a great boburo, or medicine man — he was kidnapped by Jesuit priests and spent the next 15 years of his life in a French-ruled seminary.

Malidoma is a  gifted writer, with a knack for clear prose enriched with multi-faceted detail. He manuevers marvelously between the Western world and the supernatural world, delineating the insecure, aggressive oppression of the white man’s indoctrination. One witnesses the ruthless coercion of contemporary “civilization.” It’s deeper than your typical “slave days,” Jim Crow-era racism; it’s something that occurs to this very day, one that has snatched the imagination and integrity from countless of humans, including myself and all of my peers.

Yet the first half of the book is only a preface of what is to come. The heart and soul of the book lies in the lengthy initiation recounted by Malidoma, made all the more astonishing by the fact that he only communicates five or six days of the six-week trial.

This book was more than just words on a paper: it is an experience come to life. Speaking personally, the experience comes to me at a peculiarly divine time of my life. Just when I was having doubts and fears about the veracity of my insight over the prior months and years, Malidoma comes along, pulling at my soul, communicating directly within in the fiber of my being as he compels me to jump head-first into an initiation of my own.

My resolve to rid myself of the white man’s cultural modernity has reached critical mass. It must be done. There is no way around it. I must dig deep to find myself and come up with a way.

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