The Supreme Being in Igbo Thought: A Reappraisal (2023)

Evaristus Chukwudi Ezeugwu, PhD

Philosophy Department, General Studies Department, ESUT

PMB 01660 Enugu,, 08059270974

Gregory Emeka Chinweuba, PhD

Philosophy Department, General Studies Department, ESUT

PMB 01660 Enugu,, 08037949566

Abstract.The greatest challenge to the notion of supreme being in Igbo thought is the lack of a religious document such as the Christian Bible or the Muslim Quran. However, Christian missionaries, anthropologists and philosophers have done much research. This paper examines this early research into supreme being in Igbo thought. It fills the gap created by the competing scholars and states the fact. The paper also raises other questions surrounding the Supreme Being in Igbo thought, showing that analyzing the Igbo idea of ​​the Supreme Being based on Western parameters leads to irreconcilable arguments that cannot advance Igbo ontological thinking. However, the paper notes that Igbos have a well-developed concept of the Supreme Being before and after Western influence, and dismisses the position that the idea of ​​the Supreme Being is alien to Igbo thought. The paper then concludes that the Igbo are highly religious, but this religiosity is more ephemeral than entrenched in recent times as contemporary Western influence is evident in contemporary globalization, modernity and secularization, diverting the Igbo from their autochthonous ontological trajectory .

The Supreme Being in Igbo Thought: A Reappraisal (1) PdfKeywords:Supreme Being, Igbo, Thought, Reassessment

1 Introduction

Striking in the Igbo philosophical tradition is the science of things through ultimate causes. Igbo metaphysics, the epicenter of Igbo philosophy, deals with critical, orderly, systematic, logical, rational and comprehensive investigation of the ultimate principles of reality, the study of being and the universe (Ogugua, 2003:1). Igbo metaphysics therefore recognizes the phenomenon of causality in nature, based on the principle of sufficient reason, that everything that exists must have justification for its existence and must have a cause (Nwigwe & Emedolu, 2004:153). Therefore, based on their experience, the Igbos believe that the supreme being who is the first cause of all things exists, but due to his great distance in the sky, he created several lower deities to oversee different parts of the universe. Equiano records this divine detachment in 1789 when he states that the Igbo believe in a Creator of all things who lives in heaven; who does not eat but smokes a pipe (1967: 10). The Supreme Being in the Igbo context is actually perceived and explained as the highest in the hierarchy of beings.

Even in Igbo understanding of man, metaphysics and philosophy of life, the Supreme Being is "always at its peak, pouring out vitality upon existences and sustaining those existences" (Ogugua, 2003:8). In short, Igbo ontological thought reveals as a truism that the Supreme Being holds the chain of relationships between beings in the Igbo world and beyond. After him come other existing realities such as the gods, ancestors, spirits, humans, animals, inanimate, etc. through which he replicates his power. In fact, the Igbos have known and believed in the Supreme Being from the very beginning of their existence, hence the existence of God is monotonously recorded even in their names and titles (Ukaegbu, 2005:54).

In traditional Igbo thinking and religion, the supreme being "Chukwu" is not only paramount in the spiritual realm, but also in the physical realm. The Igbo concept of 'Chukwu', denoting the high, great or great god by many other names such as 'Chineke' and 'Osebuluwa', is widely accepted in various Igbo communities (Agbedo, 2010:107). However, the concept is a combination of the Igbo words; "Chi" (spirit) and "ukwu" (big, tall, or tall). When the Supreme Being is called "Chineke," it is a combination of the Igbo words "chi" (mind), "na" (that or who), and "eke" (to create), denoting the spirit that creates everything or brings into being. When Igbos call him "Osebuluwa" or "Olisebuluwa", it is a combination of the words "olisa" (god), "bulu" (to carry) and "uwa" (world), meaning the supreme being who sustains the world and receives . However, these names manifest various functions of the Supreme Being and its place in human existence as perceived by indigenous Igbo peoples.

Within the hierarchical beings in the Igbo philosophical worldview, in which the Supreme Being “Chukwu” is at the top, there exists a web of ontological interrelationships that are reverently recognized by the indigenous people. For this reason, researchers of Igbo thought generally agree that Igbo people are very religious. Metuh alludes to this religiosity when he notes that one will not be in Igbo country too long to know the detailed position of the Supreme Being in Igbo consciousness and how frequently this being features in their daily speech. Furthermore, one will not look far to discover how meticulously and tenaciously the Igbos bind themselves to the Supreme Being. This inclination allows the Supreme Being to emerge prominently and frequently in the consciousness of Igbo people's daily and existential engagements (Onuigbo, 2004: 22). It is therefore an aberration in Igbo ontological thinking to speak of a community without the Supreme Being. He is always at the peak of human thought, expression, action and action. One of the early Britons who visited the Igbo hinterland in 1869, before the advent of Christianity, even noted this religious awareness, noting that the Igbo people never speak of the future without acknowledging "ahinze tsukwu", i.e. when it is the highest creatures pleases (Metuh, 1985: 48).

The lack of documented religious beliefs in traditional Igbo society due to the non-existence of a developed system of documentation among people has led to gross misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Igbo thought about the Supreme Being by various thinkers. Thus, these thinkers created ontological gaps when reconstructing Igbo religious experience and thought several years after their contact with other cultures. Despite the philosophical debate about Igbo thought regarding the Supreme Being, it has always been taken for granted that the traditional Igbo had a firm belief not only in the deities, but specifically in the Supreme Being, whom they considered invincible, sovereign, and benevolent regard. Therefore, while sub-Igbo groups may have popularized their deities as the Supreme Being "Chukwu", it does not remove the fact that Igbo thought these deities already existed, appearing at some point in Igbo history.

2. Explanation of concepts

Unexplained concepts are largely misnomers that impede understanding and knowledge. Nonetheless, defined terms set boundaries and indicate meanings inherent in a term. As philosophy thrives on discernment, clarity, distinctness, and creating better insights into the meaning of words, there is a need to define salient concepts within this discourse. These concepts include; Supreme Being, Igbo, Thoughts and Reassessment. In traditional Igbo thought, the Supreme Being is synonymous with God, referred to as "Chineke", "Obasi", "Osebuluwa" or "Chukwu". These nomenclatures, according to Omoregbe, are analyzable names that reflect Igbo beliefs and circumstances in which the Supreme Being is experienced (2012:64). However, "being" in this context philosophically means an entity and an existence, or the chain of processes that entity goes through as it tends to reach an end. The "Supreme" attached to this "Being" represents the entity in question as the highest in the hierarchy. The word "Supreme" also connotes the idea of ​​supremacy and indicates the ability of this "Being" to control the existence of other realities, to shape and level.

Also, Igbo is one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. This tribe is predominantly native to south-eastern Nigeria in the states of Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and parts of Delta, Rivers and Kogi (Ezinwa, 2014: 74). "The Igbos (sic) have a landmass of about 16,000 square miles, bounded on the west by the Bini and Warri, on the east by the Ibibio, on the south by the Ogoni, and on the north by the Idomas" (Ogugua, 2000:22) . One becomes an Igbo by being born into an Igbo family and by fully participating in and living Igbo beliefs, ceremonies and activities (Chinweuba & Ezeugwu, 2017:17). This condition confirms Mbiti's claim that being human in Africa means belonging to a particular community and taking an active part in that community's beliefs, ceremonies, rituals, and festivals (1969:2). This fellowship, however, consists of the unseen realities, the unborn and the living, bound together by a mutual love and harmony made stable by the Supreme Being. However, thinking is a form created in the mind through interactive thinking. It can be viewed as something that people are constantly thinking about, remembering, or realizing; a topic that occupies her and is reflected in her existential life. Thought can thus be described as a way of thinking, an idea, or a feeling associated with a group, nation, or tribe. The revaluation, on the other hand, gives indications of an earlier but unsatisfactory valuation. Hence it is a second formal critical examination of something or a discourse in order to establish a more correct position.

3. Researchers on the Supreme Being in Igbo thought

Outstanding contributions to the Supreme Being in Igbo thought are visible in the philosophical discourses of Ike, Edoziem, Meek, Okere, Ezekwugo, Oguejiofor, Nwoga, Metuh, Nze, Agbakoba and Aja. For Ike and Edoziem, the Supreme Being in Igbo thought is "Chukwu". He is omnipotent and surpasses all organic, inorganic or transcendent beings. Ike and Edoziem claim that "Chukwu" is addressed as "Chineke", "Oseburuwa", "Chukwuoke" or "Chi Okike" because of his creative abilities (2001:23). They further claim:

It is Chukwu who ordered and created the universe as we know it, but after creation he withdrew into solitude so that man had little direct dealings with him. This perhaps explains why, in addition to the existence of God as the supreme absolute being, the Igbo believe in the existence of a number of deities and spirits that live on the supernatural plane and relate to man and his environment on the natural plane (23).

Alluding to this view, Meek claims that "Chukwu" is the creator and father of other worshiped spirits such as "Igwe" (the sky), "Amadi oha" (the lightning) and "Ala" (the earth deity) (1934:209) . He adds that "Chukwu" is not normally offered sacrifices, but he is seen as the ultimate recipient of all sacrifices. Okere echoes this thought, arguing that the name of the Supreme Being in Igbo thought is "Chukwu" or "Chiukwu" (the great god) or "Chineke" (the creator), to whom other gods are subordinate (2014:11). In line with these thinkers, Oguejiofor argues that the Supreme Being "Chukwu" or "Chineke" already existed in Igbo thought but was popularized by the Anglican Church through the use of the concept in the first translation of the Igbo Bible. He then reveals that later in history the Aro people located the Supreme Being in their oracle and then God began to speak and act (Oguejofor, 1996:60).

Despite these accounts, Ezekwugo maintains that prior to Western influence, Igbos were ignorant of the Supreme Being as understood today. According to him, the only Supreme Being they knew was the Aro Oracle. Ezekwugo posits that before the advent of the missionaries; Representing the Supreme Being, most Igbo communities have adopted the name of the Aro oracle, Chukwu. He claims that this was accomplished due to the presence of Aro people throughout Igbo land, their awareness and the impressive appearance of the "Chukwu" grotto in the Aro community (1987:72). Consistent with this argument, Nwoga claims that the concept of the Supreme Being is entirely foreign to Igbo thought. He states that the influence of the Aro oracle and the Aro people's hegemony over the Igbo nation were responsible for the popularity of "Chukwu" over other deities (1984:36). He further holds that most Igbo names containing "Chukwu" actually refer to the Aro Oracle and not to the universal Supreme Being as understood today (37). Nwoga adds that the idea of ​​creating from nothing that characterizes the Supreme Being does not even exist in the Igbo language. Metuh supports this view by arguing that the idea of ​​creation is foreign to the Igbos since creation from nothing does not exist in Igbo vocabulary and thought. Thus the notion of Creator or Supreme Being as understood today was new to traditional Igbos.

Nze agrees with this view, noting that the Igbo are pragmatists and maintain such a relationship with their gods. These gods arose naturally and to fulfill specific needs. As such, Igbo people have nothing to do with a god over which they have no control; who is transcendent, absolute, and sublime in the Christian sense (1981:21). Therefore, they do not have a god who is universally superior, but gods who are powerful in relation to their own dominions. This notion, he adds, is also consistent with Igbo egalitarianism and individualism (21). Regarding the relationship between the gods, Nze asserts that the supreme deities have equal power and their relation to man is like a tripod comprising the supreme gods, the supreme ancestral gods, and the supreme personal gods (25). Each of the gods has their own sphere of influence and action and possesses supreme authority and power in this area.

In this debate, Agbakoba took a more logical approach, contrasting the current attributes of the Supreme Being with the beliefs of traditional Igbos before Western influence. He states that the idea of ​​Supreme Being implies the highest, the greatest, and the most powerful (2014:131). He adds that supremacy, in turn, involves the ability to subdue others or exercise absolute, unrestricted control over events and powers. Agbakoba therefore states that supremacy in the monotheistic sense means holding the highest position of authority, power and influence (131). These imply that the logical character of the Absolute Supreme Being is that He possesses and exercises universal, eternal, infinite power and influence over Himself and all other beings. It would possess all the elements of universality: universal applicability or validity (since it is universally effective); infinite reach, eternal presence, total objectivity or impartiality (132). These qualities are not felt in many aspects of Igbo existence, according to Agbakoba. Exemplifying Igbo ethical thought and moral philosophy, Agbakoba notes that "Ani" (earth goddess), seen as the guardian or guardian of morality, rather than "Chukwu" predominates. Therefore, atrocities are "nso ani" offenses against the Earth Goddess. This position, as held by the Igbos, Agbakoba argues, refutes the idea of ​​a general supreme being "Chukwu" among the Igbos prior to Western influence.

Agbakoba further asserts that neither "Ani" nor her dispositions are at all universal among Igbos, but belong to an individual Igbo community. Such arrangements, therefore, do not exhibit the universal character expected of a fully universal being. Agbakoba therefore claims that Igbo thought conceives of divine realities as individually particularistic and devoid of logical qualities of total universality. Since “Chukwu” does not consist of universal quality based on his analysis, Agbakoba posits that “Chukwu” cannot be the Supreme Being either in the sense of an absolute Supreme Being or in the sense of a decentralized Supreme Being, since it lacks the necessary qualities that such a make out beings (142).

Aja agrees with the above views and posits that in Igbo thought the word "Chukwu" does not refer to the Supreme Being but to "Ibiniukpabi", the god of the Aro; a subsection of the Igbo people (2001:61). He observes that as the Aro spread into Igbo country to trade in slaves, they took with them the reputation of their "chi-ukwu" both for protection and for additional business. He notes that "Ibiniukpabi" has been elevated to the status of final arbiter, supreme, and god, beyond which there might be safer answers to problems.

4. The re-evaluation of the supreme being in Igbo thought

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Since there was no documented evidence in traditional Igbo society due to the non-existence of a developed system of documentation among the people, thinkers in context attempt to reconstruct Igbo thought several years after its contact with other cultures. However, their arguments agree that the Igbo are religious. Can the same Igbo people in their religiosity still ignore the universal Supreme Being? The claims of the competing philosophers are assessed in the critical appraisal of the Aro influence, Nri influence related to Aro and Western influences of the concept “Chukwu”, the idea of ​​creation and the supreme being in Igbo thought.

4.1. Aro influence of the term "Chukwu"

One of the issues raised by Nwoga and others was the use of the word "Chukwu" to denote the Supreme Being in Igbo thought (1984:36). It has been claimed that this was a mistranslation by the Anglican Church in translating the Igbo Bible and in its effort to inculcate the Western concept of the Supreme God in the natives. At the time, the Portuguese priest Alves Correia was reputedly the first to speculate that the idea of ​​the Supreme Being was imported into Igbo thought, concluding that the Igbos previously viewed the Aro Oracle as the Supreme Being. This, he believed, was because Aro was a small but influential Igbo sub-group. Consistent with this theological position, Nwoga and others claim that the name "Chukwu" actually refers to the Aro oracle "ibiniukpabi" and not to the true Supreme Being taught by the missionaries. Historically, the Aro Kingdom had a tremendous impact on almost all communities in traditional Igbo society (Okon, 2010:116). According to Mcfarlan Calabar, by the 19th century this influence was paramount, known and feared as far south as Niger, and it extends for a hundred miles up the right bank of the Cross River and south beyond the River Enyong, where thousands passed in chains for the great slave market in Itu (1846:105). Because of this dominant influence, the Aro localized the name "Chukwu" in their oracle "Ibiniukpabi" and popularized it in Igbo country. Onwu notes that it is widely believed that the Aro imported "Ibiniukpabi" from Ibibio country and the oracle's influence spread like harmattan fire in Igbo country.

The influence and popularity of the Aro oracle in Igbo thought was enhanced by Aro participation in the transatlantic slave trade (Okon, 117). In this epoch, the Aro civilization generated trade in which the Igbo and their neighbors were commodities. The story goes that in the Nsukka Axis, ten slaves were sold for one horse, and in the Uburu slave market, one horse was exchanged for six adult slaves. In fact, the Aro Oracle was used to exploit the Igbos economically, politically, and humanly. Ironically, those allegedly swallowed up by the Aro Oracle turned up somewhere, only to be sold as slaves or used in some form of sacrifice (Onuigbo, 2004:20). This heinous act lasted until the British military destroyed the long juju, as it was also called, in 1910, putting an end to the terror of the Aro (20). However, does this mean that the supreme Igbo being "Chukwu" was destroyed with the destruction of the Aro Oracle in 1910? If this notion is accepted, it contradicts the universal Igbo thought of God as a supreme spiritual being, immaterial and indestructible by any material force.

It is important to note that the nature and power of the Aro Oracle as the Supreme Being were exaggerations invented for economic and political purposes. With this deception, the proponents exploited the deep religiosity of the Igbo people to enslave them and dominate economic and political activities within the Igbo nation. Hence the idea of ​​the Supreme Being that emerged from the Aro ontology was a religious cult dominated and controlled by select businessmen who chose to earn their wealth by controlling the slave market in Igbo country. As such, the Aro Oracle had little religious content and cannot be regarded as the supreme Igbo being "Chukwu" that existed before it.

4. 2. Nri influence of the concept “Chukwu” in Igbo thought related to Aro and Christian influences

Although the philosophers of the Igbo ontology on the Supreme Being focused heavily on the influence of the Aro, the Nri origin myth also used the word "Chukwu" to represent the Supreme Being sending the ancestor and the Igbo ancestors;Andersand his wifemy nameinto the world (Onwuejogu, 1978:22). Obviously the Supreme Being that Nri meant was not the 'Ibiniukpabi' of the Aro, but the Supreme Being (God) living in heaven and understood in Western thought (Aniamalu, 2010:5). Just as the Aro were famous for the slave trade, the Nri were famous as custodians of the Igbo culture before this epoch; customs and traditions. The basic questions now are; which of the two Igbo subgroups; Nri or Aro popularized the concept of the Supreme Being "Chukwu" among the Igbos? Or did the word "Chukwu" exist in the Igbo vocabulary before the Aro, Nri, and Western influences? If the Nri myth predates Western influence and the rise of the Aro, then the Supreme Being "Chukwu" cannot have been introduced into Igbo thought by the missionaries or the Aro people.

If the supposed Igbo thought about the Supreme Being revolves around the Aro Oracle or derives from Western influences, then that came first; the Igbo as a society, the Aro and their oracle, or the emergence of western influences? If Igbo society came first, it means that Aro and her oracle "Ibinukpabi" as well as western influences among the Igbos are not as old as Igbo country. What supreme being, then, did the Igbo generally cling to before Aro existed and her oracle and westerners emerged? Or does it mean that the original Igbos do not share the basic human trait of being a religious being? It would be absurd to assume so. On the other hand, if the alleged Aro and the Western origin of the supreme being "Chukwu" are correct, it does mean that Aro, her oracle, and Western influences existed in Nigeria as early as Igbo people. If so, Arochukwu and other European influences other than Nri would have been reflected in Igbo history, myth, folklore and proverbs, where and how the Igbo ancestors began their existence. Moreover, if the traditional Igbo understanding of the Supreme Being is the Aro oracle, then "Ibiniukpabi" or Long Juju, which are other names for this oracle, would have been common among Igbos of other communities. It would have been at least one of the names of praise to the Supreme Being then and in this modern era constantly used in worship and adoration.

Historically, the influence of the Aro in the 17ththCentury during the transatlantic slave trade and that of the West around the 12ththCentury. Consequently, the claim that the Supreme Being "Chukwu" among the Igbos refers to the "Ibiniukpabi" of the Aro people, or that the idea of ​​the Supreme Being was introduced into Igbo thought by the Europeans, is not really correct for the Nri -Influence (origin myth). has always belonged to the Igbos. To this day, this myth teaches that Igbo ancestors began their existence in Nri before their descendants spread to other parts of Igbo land. It may therefore be that the Aro called their oracle the Supreme Being "Chukwu", mistakenly assuming that it was the Supreme Being they had thought so much about. It may just as well be that the Aro Oracle was seen as the supreme deity that the Igbos already believe exists somewhere. In that case, the Supreme Being cannot have been entirely alien to the Igbo, as has been suggested by some thinkers.

Perhaps the Aro used the oracle 'Ibiniukpabi' to deceive other Igbo communities into believing that the Supreme Being 'Chukwu', whom they also thought resided far away in heaven, actually resides and has his priests in the Aro community. Also, some scholars have observed that Aro's assumption was fabricated to encourage and justify her trading and dominance over other humans, as advocated by Divine. However, all of this points to the existence of the ancient consciousness of the Supreme Being in Igbo thought before Aro and Western influences. Witnessing to this ancient awareness, Father Mellett writes that even when making offerings to the spirits and ancestors, Igbo natives invariably invoke the Supreme Being (God) at the outset (Onuigbo, 2004:21). Nwigwe and Emedolu reiterate this religious experience and assert that the Supreme Being is not alien to Igbo cosmology, as evident in Igbo proverbs, wise sayings, parables and prayer patterns (2004:155). These oral documentations may not be scientific and logical, but they remain the only clue to the basic thought expression of the Igbo people.

4. 3. Creation in Igbo thought

Among the characteristics of the Supreme Being in Igbo thought is the character of creation. Based on linguistic analysis of the Igbo language, Nwoga argues that Igbos are unaware of the Supreme Creator because the idea of ​​creation concerned with making something out of nothing does not exist in Igbo thought (1984:37) . Mbaegbu disagrees with this teaching, claiming that the Igbo vocabulary "chi-na-eke" universally represents the Supreme Being who creates and divides (2015:137), although Igbo thought used that at creation material has not been established (2015: 137). Among the created realities contained in Igbo myths, proverbs and similes is "Chi". This refers to the spiritual form of the individual, which resides in the metaphysical realm. This entity resembles Plato's form of physical realities in the immaterial world (Stumpf, 1994: 58). So "Chi" is the spiritual double or aspect of an individual, the life force or spiritual companion of a living human being. Arinze acknowledges this created spiritual entity when he writes that in Igbo thought each individual was created with a spirit, a genius, or a double spirit; his "Chi" residing in the spirit world before the Supreme Being "Chineke" and beseeching good things for the individual (1970:15). As such, for the Igbo mortals, the Supreme Being expresses Itself through the 'chi' that belongs to individuals (Ogugua, 2003:19). Igbo thought reveals that this ontological entity 'chi' was always created by the Supreme Being before its physical copy, and it determines with the Supreme Being where, when and how one is born, existent, destiny and death (Dukor, 2010: 14 ).

The notion of creation is indeed a recurring idea in Igbo thought. Therefore, Igbos constantly refer to the Supreme Being "Chukwu" as "Chineke" and "Ezechitoke" to represent his ability to create. In fact, African causal theory leaves no room for random events. The question of "coincidence" or "luck" as an "uncaused event" is also unknown or alien to Africans (Aja, 2001: 61). Consequently, Igbos generally believe that nothing simply happens, for every event depends on causality, which is strictly controlled by the Supreme Being. This means that even their existence and the origin of things are rooted in their belief in a Supreme Cause, which prevails despite the activities of other deities on earth. This seriously challenges the contention of some philosophers that the word creation or creator is foreign to the Igbos simply because Igbo ontology lacks a developed logical explanation of creation. “However, Chineke in Igbo thought also points to the Supreme Being who shares, it is understandable that sharing is about what exists. Therefore, people cannot be passionate about sharing without knowing how what is being shared was made or produced. It is therefore evident that the idea of ​​creation and the Supreme Creator existed in Igbo thought and this Supreme Being predates the existence of man and other realities.

4. 4. Basis of Aro, Nri and Western influences of the concept of Supreme Being in Igbo thought

The basic question now is; Why did the Igbo Aro and Nri, as well as the early missionaries, popularize the Supreme Being “Chukwu” in Igbo land? A critical examination of these developments shows that the influence of the Aro depended on socio-economic, political, and religious reasons. Their intention and aim was to dominate the entire Igbo country and its environs economically, politically and religiously. Flaunting their "Ibiniukpabi" as the Supreme Being was therefore a way to justify their economic, political, and religious supremacy. All in all, they wanted people to think they were acting on a divine mandate. Okon shares this view and suggests that the Aros, who were the main slave recruiters in the hinterland, must manipulate Igbo thought by projecting their deity "Ibiniukpabi" as the supreme being "Chukwu" in real form (2010 : 117). The National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Calabar also reiterates similar view records that:

Many Igbos and Ibibios sold in Calabar were recruited by the Aros through a combination of means, including raids, kidnappings, direct purchases at slave markets and fairs, and most notably through the manipulation of their god, "ibiniukpabi", also known as the "long juju" in the European records" (2010:5).

Thus, around Biafra Bay and throughout their settlements in Igbo country and beyond, the Aros described their deity as the Supreme Being. This action was similar to what St. Paul did among the Athenians in the Areopagus, filled with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, as he delivered to them the unknown god whose altar he claimed they already had (Acts 17:16-34) . Therefore, within the scale of time and power, precisely over a hundred year period, the Aro deity "Ibiniukpabi" attained immense power and became the supreme court of appeal and the greatest deity among the Igbos (Thorp, 1986:203). As such, their priests lived in most of the main places and exercised the most pernicious influence (203). In reality, Aro Deity was just a tool used to improve trade and gain economic gain and political dominance. This manipulation paid off, so there is no mention of the transatlantic slave trade without the prominent role of the Aro people, whom historians refer to as "the godmen of the slave trade" (Okon, 2010:117).

The Nri people only popularized the Supreme Being "Chukwu" for socio-cultural, religious and political reasons. From a socio-cultural point of view, the Nri intended to remain their custodians of Igbo worldview, culture and origin myth. As such, their consistent reference to the Supreme Being "Chukwu" confirms their ancient position. As the custodian of the Igbo worldview and assumed pristine abode of the Igbo ancestors, Nri remains the custodian and leader of traditional Igbo religion and philosophy. Because of this trait, Nri is contacted when an ontological explanation is sought in Igbo society. When serious sins such as murder, suicide, incest etc. are committed in any section of Igbo society, “Akakpo Nri” (Nri Dwarves) and ritual agents are hired to atone, cleanse or bury the victim (Anyanwu, 2004:10). Be that as it may, the early Westerners to Igbo land came for religious reasons but displayed a high degree of superiority and bias. For this reason, they approached the natives by putting every thought through Western parameters. With their blatant bias, pre-existing Igbo thought and approaches to the same Supreme Being they came to preach were condemned as paganism. Thus, the early missionaries sought to inculcate Western thought to reject the Igbo thought of the same Supreme Being. Also, the Nri people's influence aimed to uphold the Supreme Being already present in Igbo thought, while the Aro influence aimed to reverse the Igbo thought already present by claiming that their deity was the Supreme Being, um to improve their trade and domination over others.

5. Supreme being in Igbo thought

Of what essence is this Supreme Being in Igbo thought? A critical look at Equiano's narrative reveals that one of the things he could remember about his Igbo ontology was that they believed in the Supreme Being residing in heaven. This Supreme Being, according to him, does not eat food but smokes a pipe (1967:10). This is a graphic description of the perception of the Supreme Being in the Igbo worldview at a time before the mentioned influences. Looking up you can see a graphic image of smoke moving in the sky. The obvious explanation among the pristine Igbos was that it must be the abode of the Supreme Being of the whole earth, and the cloud is the smoke rising from the pipe he is smoking. Thus, even in this modern era, Igbos address the Supreme Being as "Obinigwe" (sky dwellers). This obviously explains why there is no shrine or sacrifice to the Supreme Being among traditional Igbo people (Parrinder, 1977:14).

In Igbo existence, the Supreme Being "Chukwu" is in constant universal recognition. He is recognized as the source of all successes and misfortunes. With every success, Igbo people subconsciously or consciously exclaim:God bless you(God thanks)God bless you(thank goodness) orGood stock(God is great, great or amazing). The same essence of the supreme being also appears in the Igbo art of naming, from time immemorial before Aro, Nri or European influences. Hence we have traditional Igbo names that indicate the knowledge and essence of the supreme being "Chukwu" and its activities, such as: “Chukwuemeka” (God has done good), “Chukwunweike” (God possesses power and strength), “Chukwuma” (God knows everything), “Chukwudi” (the Supreme God exists) to name a few. Some of the names even serve as prayers to the Supreme Being, such as "Chukwulota" (God remember us), while others acknowledge His benevolence, such as "Arinzechukwu" (Praise God), "Kenechukwu" (Thank God), etc. Arinze points this out that these names, representing the nature of the supreme being in Igbo ontology, were inherited from great-grandparents who died in Igbo land long before the influence of Nri, Aro, and Europeans (Arinze, 1970:10). Therefore these names cannot derive from Aro, Nri or Christian influences. Rather, they are indications that Igbo are world and mindfrom the beginningimbued with the essence of the Supreme Being.

6. Basis of the ontological conception of the Supreme Being "Chukwu" in Igbo thought

Humans are naturally hylemorphic. This position stems from the Igbo concept of "mmadu" (man), which is neither the body nor the mind alone, but a synthesis of both; an expression of the totality or wholeness of the human person (Anih, 1991:76). This is what Plato meant when he postulated that man is made up of matter and form. As such, man is not a purely material being. He is able to think, reflect, and will what are activities involved in being at a higher level of existence (Arua, 2007:6). On this basis, the human mind is always looking for and trying to unite with metaphysical realities. This character naturally makes man a rational and metaphysical being, constantly in search of an ultimate cause of realities.

Yet asking how the idea of ​​the Supreme Being "Chukwu" arose among the Igbos is similar to asking what things are made of or are the cause of realities that formed the basis of philosophy (O'Donohue, 1994:28). . In fact, the early Greek philosophers were driven by such a search for reason, posing fundamental questions and hypotheses about the ultimate cause of cosmic realities, the answers to which formed early philosophy (Russell, 2004:32-37). However, these questions are the product of the “miracle” in which Plato and Aristotle also found the origin of all philosophy (Mbaegbu, 2009:1). human experience of the nature of the universe; its complexity and order amazed people. Ruch and Anyanwu sum it up when they observe that the Igbo "African sees that there is a divine force manifesting in everyone and everything in the universe" (1984:163). This miracle led to the search for the ultimate giver of her experiences of birth, existence, difficulties, breakthroughs and death in her world.

These experiences are indeed universal among human beings and are not limited or confined to any particular geographical location. Hence, according to Schillebeeckx, experience in general is a way of knowing and believing (1967:104). Man as a finite being constantly strives to grasp the infinite (Oguejiofor, 1996:6). Thus man's tendency towards wholeness is an indication of his restless finitude, which is constantly trying to grasp infinity (6). This quest, for many thinkers, is an expression of the natural phenomenon of openness that characterizes people everywhere. For Scheller it is openness to the world, for Buber and Levinas it is openness to others, for Pannenberg it is openness to the supreme being, God.

Kant recognized these human religious and philosophical tendencies that characterize the Igbos even in his Critique of Metaphysics, where he calls the inclination a natural dialectic of pure reason ... inseparable from human reason (1976:300). This tendency leads to a search for a full, exhaustive, or comprehensive explanation in all cases (Wilkerson, 1976:103). The quest for the Supreme Being, which marks the confluence of philosophy and theology, is therefore rooted in human nature and not confined to any one place or particular culture. Therefore, the idea of ​​the supreme being will by no means be alien to the Igbos. Again, there is no way of conveying such a notion to the Igbos of the West, or to a specific part of Igbo country such as the Aro or Nri people. Therefore, Basden testifies that there has always been a limited belief in the Supreme Being and future life of the Igbos (1966:36). Isichei agrees with this view, stating that the Igbo worldview is predominantly religious (1973:80). In fact, the belief in the Supreme Being "Chukwu" in Igbo ontology stems from their worldview, culminating in the innate search for meaning in their world. Furthermore, worldview is understood in this context as a people's comprehensive empirical, mental and metaphysical picture of realities, which shapes their conceptions of life and underlies their cultural, religious, political, economic and social activities. Ogugua calls it the central control box of a people that shapes and governs its existence (2005: 64). Kalu articulates it as "a unified picture of the cosmos explained by a conceptual system that orders the natural and social rhythms and the place of individuals therein" (1983:38).

In general, a people's worldview can be identified through their religious beliefs, rituals, festivals, folklore and myths (Oguejiofor, 2009:2). For these contain the visible expression of the corpus of people's belief systems (Ejizu, 1986:15). Hence, Igbos have no written ancient documents, but they have retained their belief in myths, rituals, symbols, folklore, philosophy and proverbs (Ekei, 2007:49). And these are sufficient rational and philosophical explanations for her thoughts about her world.

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7. The Present Igbo Ontological State about the Supreme Being "Chukwu"

Igbo belief in the metaphysical world runs deep and is reflected in all aspects of their lives (Onuigbo, 2004: 3). This belief culminated not in any of the contested influences in this discourse, but rather in the original worldview and religious experiences. The Igbos believe that the Supreme Being is always present and practically predetermines human existence. As such, human beings depend in large part on the benevolent Supreme God for success and for solving their fears, worries and mysteries of life. Indeed, the Igbo seek to decipher the mind of the Supreme Being, especially in chaotic events when they stand at the crossroads of life and are gripped by life's vicissitudes. In fact, everything that happens to the Igbos is given a religious interpretation. For them, therefore, natural disasters, failures, epidemics, infant mortality, deaths and accidents do not just happen, the Supreme Being wills them. Consequently, steps are taken to forestall or suppress such problems through prayer and sacrifice. Thus, Igbo life is peppered with religious leanings, with notions of the supreme being; his holiness and reverence. These religious thoughts and observances point to the being that is beyond time and space, a being who is omnipotent and rules over all other minds (Basden, 1966: 36). In accordance with this thought, Onuigbo adds that among the Igbos, the consciousness of the supreme being; Respect and reverence for him even spawned the idea of ​​good and evil, right and wrong, culminating in their religious morality (2004:4).

However, the current Igbos are not exclusively on this philosophical-religious path due to the incursion of foreign religions and influences into Igbo land. Consequently, the Igbos are quick to embrace Western cultural values ​​and jettison what is ontologically African. This has cut off both the communal order of things and the existential cohesion that stabilizes the community, as well as the interiority of Igbo individuals. As such, Odimegwu observes that the shift is occurring in Igbo thought and cultural patterndevelopsor schizophrenic and crisis-ridden personalities from Igbos (2008: 63). This disease stems from the fact that the Igbo thought by which people define and actualize themselves is derided and distorted and most Igbos no longer find in it the stable and ideal basis of an integral personality.

The situation is even more pitiful as the Igbos, on the other hand, have not been able to identify effectively in, by and with the strange and mongrel Western thought, elements of which are at odds with and in conflict with the basic components of their autochthonous thinking about the Supreme Being, deities and stand the spiritual world. So what is fundamentally affected is not just the communal, but the personal (Chinweuba and Ezeugwu, 2018:8). The Igbo thought involved is not just what connects an Igbo individual to other members of the community, but what constitutes the intrinsic nature of individuals in the community. It is essentially the inner balance of the Igbo personality that derives from their worldview and shapes their socio-political, economic and cultural pattern and their stable and collectively cherished values. Consequently, the Igbos are currently living through a constant crisis of being and personality, reflected in their current socio-political, cultural, economic and technological decay in modern Nigeria. Faced with this condition, Obierika moaned that things had fallen apart among the Igbos (Achebe, 124–125). Ogugua articulates this current Igbo ontology shift and its consequences thus:

The Igbos today are swimming in the ocean of confusion, abandoning their basic metaphysical values ​​and embracing Western metaphysics with its attendant afflictions – materialism, nihilism, negativism etc. By doing so they clouded their minds with denial, imitation and their souls again have none Success. Now the Europeanized Igbo people, in Frantz Fanon's parlance "Black skin, white man", who have already deculturated, feel that they have not met the spiritual needs of the time. They have lost their ontological and metaphysical meaning (2003:1).

Benjamin also captures this current ontological state of the Igbo, writing:

Deep within the consciousness of the vast majority of human beings is a feeling of despair, a feeling that is getting sharper and sharper because of man's inability to understand the power of the divine forces at work in creation by the ultimate reality (1969:2).

Apparently, therefore, most Igbos profess their belief in the Christian God, which is the same as the supreme god "Chukwu" who already exists in their traditional thinking. But when they are at a crossroads in their lives, or when the situation becomes bizarre, they revert to traditional thinking and understanding of the Supreme Being (Chinweuba and Ezeugwu, 2018:122). In other words, they are following the traditional orthodox way of approaching and deciphering the mind of the Supreme Being, leaving behind the Western-acquired approach. They practice this way of existence syncretically within the foreign religions. Hence, Western ontological knowledge of the Supreme Being is often considered to be scholarly by many Igbos; a supplement rather than a substitute for the original worldview (Hin-Huag, 2002: 52)

From the foregoing it is evident that the Igbo concept of the Supreme Being "Chukwu" possesses a sulphurous odor of race and heredity, a complex tinge of mutability and immutability. In other words, it reflects Heraclitus' "state of being or permanence and a state of motion or flux" (Odimegwu, 2008:24). Cultural diffusion, mutual penetration and the resulting cultural pluralism merely point to a meaningful, often fleeting perspective on this reality (Berger, 2008: 5). Because the extrinsic way of life does not dig itself completely into the essence of the traditional inhabitants. Hence, one cannot shed one's black skin, eradicate one's black soul, or completely change one's Igbo nature and root (Knor, 2008:90). Yet the pitiful ontological condition of the Igbos is an indication that when a people abandons their religious and philosophical thoughts, which are the linchpin of their culture; tradition, customs and values, and the seed of their life, the further they will move away from the fundamental ontological and metaphysical principles that ground and express their culture and thought. As a result, such people become vulnerable and lose aspects of their identity and value. This paves the way for the neglect of their spiritual, physical, ontological and metaphysical needs.

8. The philosophical implication of the Supreme Being in Igbo thought

The argument touches deeply on the rich cosmic and metaphysical thoughts of the Igbo people. However, these thoughts are interwoven with the Igbo philosophy. Therefore, the key to understanding Igbo philosophy lies in understanding its sense of the Supreme Being and other deities. The study also shows that Igbo behavior is tied to their religious beliefs. In other words, the idea of ​​the Supreme Being has a moderating effect on people's general behavior. For this reason, Leonard claims that Igbo people "eat religiously, bathe religiously, dress religiously and sin religiously"..In this study, however, the reasoning behind the Igbo expression of the feeling of the Supreme Being is presented in an anthropological way. Thus the Igbo art of naming and everyday expressions underscores their supernatural beliefs. This art points to Aristotle's postulate that "as men conceive the gods in human form, so they also suppose their way of life to be like their own" (Umezinwa, 2014:64).

Again, there is historical significance in the study, as the controversial issue concerns the discovery of the state of Igbo thought in a being pre-dating the advent of Christianity. The study therefore reconstructs the actual metaphysical thinking of the Igbo people before Western influence. This makes the knowledge encapsulated in Igbo thought available to the world. In general, the paper reveals the linchpin of Igbo functioning and existence.This hints at their interest and why they behave the way they do, as well as their present, metaphysical sense that is felt throughout. For the Igbos, the spiritual determines the physical and the physical shapes the spiritual. Since the idea of ​​the Supreme Being is the basis of the stable interiority of the Igbo people, the rest of humanity must possess the knowledge that is present in the Igbo minds about the Supreme Being and approach Igbos from that correct position. This will tremendously create a harmonious socio-political and economic relationship between Igbos and the rest of humanity. Overall, the study is a revelation of Igbo history and social order; an order resulting from their attachment to the Supreme Being.

9. Conclusion

The Igbos may not have developed a unified socio-political administration and economic structure; their thinking and their theology of the Supreme Being are the same. For primitive experience, religion or belief could only be tribal, not personal (Russell, 2004:21). This theology is evidently present in its myths, parables and proverbs. Igbo life is therefore very theocentric. It is clear from Igbo myth and tradition that the Supreme Being resides in heaven and is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipotent.

However, the Igbo essence of the Supreme Being lacks the necessary ingredients that meet the Western mind's standard of the nature and character of a Supreme Being. This is because when colonialism met the Igbo nation, the development of the idea of ​​a Supreme Being was still in a rudimentary stage. Again, the social and intellectual development of people at that time could not articulate any logical explanation of the attributes surrounding the Supreme Being. Notwithstanding, the present study paints a clearer picture of pre-Western Igbo ontology and theosophy. The Supreme Being could not have been alien to the Igbos because the matter of creation is a natural intuitive thought common to all peoples. It arises when people ask basic questions about their existence, origins, vicissitudes of life and the author behind it. To deny the Igbo this level of basic human ingenuity is a gross underestimate of the humanity and intellectual abilities of traditional Igbo people.


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