Monday, 27 September 2010

Gye Nyame : To Transcend

I love this image.

This is the Adinkra symbol Gye Nyame.It belongs to the Adinkra corpus  developed by the Gyaman of Cote d'Ivoire and the Akan of Ghana.

Rather than state its meaning as it  is conventionally understood I prefer to describe why I find it so compelling.This might be stimulating to curiosity to find out that meaning,and perhaps my response to the power of the image might prove helpful to an appreciation of that meaning.

It suggests something inscrutable.

It strikes me this way because it resembles no form I have ever come across.It has no similarity to other symbols I am acquainted with,whether from Africa,the Arab world,Asia,the West and the indigenous peoples of the Americas,of Australia and New Zealand.It stands alone  within its own design universe.

It suggests to me my understanding that there are aspects of the universe and possibilities of understanding that cannot be accommodated by conventional cognitive processes.Like the design of this symbol  bulges and twists in unusual contortions the mind might need to be reshaped to acclimatise itself to such possibilities.

The master of Konigsberg,who spent ten years in reflecting  on the possibilities of human reason before writing the following words,has this  to say about the struggle to know:

Human reason,in one sphere of its cognition,is called upon to consider questions,which it cannot decline,as they are presented by its own nature,but which it cannot answer,as they transcend every faculty of the mind.

It falls into this difficulty without any fault of its own.It begins with principles, which cannot be dispensed with in the field of experience,and the truth and sufficiency of which are,at the same time,insured by experience.With these principles it rises,in obedience to the laws of its own  nature,to ever higher and more remote conditions.

But it quickly discovers that,in  this way,its labors most remain  ever incomplete, because new questions never cease to present themselves; and thus it finds itself compelled to to have recourse to principles which transcend the region of experience,while they  are regarded by common sense without distrust.

It thus falls into confusion and contradictions,from which it conjectures the presence of latent errors,which,however,it is unable to discover, because the principles it employs,transcending the limits of experience,cannot bes tested by that criterion.The arena of these endless contests  is called Metaphysics.

Immanuel Kant,Preface to first edition,1781,of The Critique of Pure Reason.trans.J.M.D Meiklejohn.New York:Dover Publications.vii.

Image from J.B.Danquah,The Akan Doctrine  of God.

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