|29 Jun 2003 @ 15:11, by Max Sandor|
One of the most unnoticed and underestimated human capacities is the ability to ask. To continually increase this fundamental ability is of great relevance for every person.
(Here is the full article, originally written for the "Odidere" Journal, plus links to German, Spanish, and Portuguese translations!)
It becomes of crucial importance for everyone who is asking the Orisha directly. And to master this ability is mandatory for everyone who is asking the Orisha on behalf of others. Without being able to find the right question to ask, any act of divination becomes unfeasable or will degrade to idle and pointless fortune-telling.
The importance of the ability to ask properly is going so deep that one could even state that it is reflecting the state of personal development as a whole. Its overall improvement then becomes a measure of individual progress.
Asking the right questions cannot be learned overnight. It cannot be taught easily through books or seminars even though they can serve as stepping stones by providing incentives and directions for future progress.
In the following we will look at the most important aspects of 'asking the right question':
The first and most obvious problem that one can observe with most people is the failure to ask at all. Whether it is in relationships, during work, or in spiritual matters, if no questions are asked, no condition that needs to be changed can evolve or resolve.
Example: someone wanted Dàfá because she never received a payraise in her job since she started it ten years ago. Questioned when she asked for a raise the last time, she said 'never'. I told her to ask her boss for a payraise before coming to have Dàfá for just this purpose. She was promoted and received a substantial payraise the very same day.
The reasons for the failure to ask are generally lack of courage and general unawareness. They are typically based on painful events in the past and only a comprehensive empowerment of the person can lead to a persistent improvement.
The next most important step after resolving to ask is to find out what to ask for. This may sound trivial but it is a frequent downfall.
Example: a young woman wasn't happy in her relationship but she didn't know why. Apparently she had everything she could imagine. During Dàfá it turned out that she was a daughter of Oya! and she felt too controlled by her partner. This subsconscious pressure made her unhappy. Equipped with the knowledge of what to ask for and with the help of Òrúnmìlà, it was quite easy to find a durable solution.
When it is already known what one wants to ask for, one should carefully examine if there are any underlying premises or wrong assumptions. If the question is based on an incorrect assumption, the question will be unintelligent and so will be any answer.
Example: someone wanted Dàfá because he wanted to date a lady that he knew since several months. He was sure she liked him but couldn’t explain why she always found an excuse to avoid dating. Ifá said she was already married and didn’t want to betray her husband. At the time of Dàfá it seemed a puzzling situation. But a month later my client told the husband arrived out of the blue. It turned out that he had spent time in prison and the woman was just too embarrassed to talk about him to anybody until he was back.
Underlying premises and wrong assumptions are the archenemies of the diviner. More than any other facet, they can throw off the unaware and lead the questioner into the wrong directions.
Some questions, even without underlying assumptions, do not make sense because they have no correlation to reality/
Example: “Has a tiger more money than a house?”
Note: when I present this example in my workshops, I often hear the notion that ‘nobody’ would ask such a silly question only to observe that the same mistake is done by the participants ten minutes later and nobody notices it until I point it out. While this example is certainly simplistic, there are many variations are some are often difficult to detect.
One particular example of a nonsensical questions, is to ask a question to which one already knows the answer:
Example: (asking a woman) “Are you a woman?”
In Ifá such questions are taboo, of course, and some backlash can be expected in everyday’s life as well. One should think that nobody would ask such questions. But, in less obvious variations, this happens again and again.
Once it is known what exactly it is that should be asked for and it appears that the question makes sense, the best formulation needs to be worked out. There are many books written on this subject. Entire philosophies are based on this or they rely heavily on the formulation issue. It seems impossible to cover all angles in less than few hundred pages.
Here are some basic rules as a guideline:
- avoid negative formulations (“Please don’t... Never...”). They will not communicate the way they are intended and often produce the oppposite effect - use subject descriptors such as “I” , “our family”, etc to indicate for whom the question is meant to be solved - specify what you want but don’t overspecify it - put your question into a reasonable time frame, according to the question.
The correct formulation of statements and questions is a profound and vast linguistical and philosophical task. It is a good idea to study its aspects as thoroughly as possible.
Carefully reflecting about the question at hand will also help to minimize the effects of “tunnel vision” to a certain degree. Since it is nearly impossible to eliminate tunnel vision altogether, an Awo often goes to another Awo for Dàfá in important issues.
The proverbial 'right question at the right time' points to the importance of optimal timing for posing a question. Many jokes are based on this and usually (but not always!) people handle this aspect intuitively correctly.
Finally the delivery has an important part in the interplay of question and answer. Every part of speech has an underlying emotion or mood level, ultimately based on an Odù. Delivering a question (and likewise a command) with an inappropriate energy can result in unexpected results.
For example: asking “What do you want?” in a friendly, inviting tone will encourage a positive, cooperative response. Asking it in a harsh way will induce bad feelings.
The most problematic aspect of the art of asking the right question is the tendency to pose ‘Yes/No’ questions. While it should be acknowledged that there are situations where asking for ‘Yes/No’ is appropriate, in the vast majority of all cases they are NOT. The Universe is not based on yes/no decisions. It is multi-faceted, based on the depth of the Odù. In itself, there are no Yes nor No in the Universe. These are clearly abstractions of the human mind. Relying on ‘Yes/No’ questions and answers are a sure recipe for disaster.
It may come as no surprise that reliance on Yes/No answers most often correlate with a tendency to ask someone else what one should decide for oneself. Giving away decisions to someone else is putting the responsibility onto the shoulders of whoever was asked.
An example for such an improper question is: “Should I buy a car or not?”
Typically, if the endeavor fails, the person will put the blame on whoever was asked: “But he told me to buy a car, didn’t he, and now...”
The word ‘responsibility’ often has a negative connation in our times. Many view it as a burden instead of the of the opportunity to achieve fulfillment in life. Without having responsibility one would be just a puppet, controlled by others, following orders. One cannot honestly enjoy the benefits of one’s endeavors without knowing that one was responsible for their creation and fruition. In all of this, Ifá provides the most profound help one can possibly imagine. And it does so for all aspects of life.
(Originally printed in the Odidere Journal, an English/Spanish/Yoruba Quarterly Gazette. To order, go to ILE ORUNMILA AFRICAN IMPORTS This article is downloadable in German, in Spanish, and in Portuguese