An Article About Malidoma Some by Jan Engels-Smith

Malidoma Some

There’s a great book by Malidoma Some’ called Of Water and the Spirit.

When Melidoma was four, he was kidnapped by French Jesuit missionaries The missionaries sequestered him into the monastery, raised him and literally beat the African culture out of him.  He was not allowed to speak the language, or practice any tribal activities… He was completely westernized into this French culture. When he was 20, he escaped and got back to his village. Malidoma experienced a very deep-rooted anger that took him a long time to repair. He was upset that his family didn’t rescue him. He aspired to be reunited with the people and live their traditional ways but the Elders disputed  “you can’t see anymore”. “How can you live this way with us? You are blind?” Malidoma said, what are you talking about I’m blind? They asked, Can you see what is occurring around you? Malidoma described his surroundings in a literal way as we would describe a setting in which we found ourselves.  According to the Elders this description was very inaccurate and very limited.  Malidoma finally convinced the Elders to accept him back into the culture and he began the process of re-initiation.  Malidoma was put on a vision quest. He had to sit in front of a tree, in the 120-degree sun and tell the Elders what the tree was doing. The Elders were sitting behind Malidoma as a group. We see trees as stationary. But the Africans in their “right sided dominate brains” see the trees as social beings, all over the place, communicating…

Malidoma was told to sit in front of a tree until he sees its motions and communication. Almost delirious with heat, exhaustion, and absence of water, Malidoma had an idea – I’m just going to fake it. They don’t really see anything. I’m just going to make it up. Malidoma began telling the Elders his made up imagery of what he saw. The Elders were disgusted called him a liar and threw rocks at him. The tree is not doing that. You liar, you liar.   He failed this initiation.  The ability to “see again” is a right brain function, which had been lost to Malidoma in his westernization.

I asked the spirits last summer, how much do we actually see? Can you give me a percentage? I thought it would be 20%. I don’t know why I thought it was that percentage, it was a guess that ran through my mind.  The spirits said you see less than 1% of what is actually around you!  I said, it’s like we’re blind and they said YES.  OMG!