COMRADE Ibe, like Darlington, barrister Okon from Mende and Oluwatosin from Ikorodu, are regular callers on Mofe Oyatogun’s early rush hour programme on FM 101.5 radio station in Lagos. They are all strung together by rebellious and rejectionist energy, hardly believing that a coin has a side other than the one we are seeing. But, surprisingly, Oluwatosin broke ranks with the predictable comrade Ibe on December 20 when Mofe interviewed the special adviser to governor Babajide Sanwoolu on tourism, arts and culture. The interview was on Christmas funfare carnivals sponsored by Lagos state government. Predictably, Ibe said the economy was still drab, life ever brutish and short, jobs were scarce like money, and there was no need for government sponsored merry making on empty stomachs when the money expendable on all these could have been spent on jobs creation, hospitals, roads and stuff like them.

The special adviser was on top of the game, and made Ibe sound and look like a one way man. He said the governor had a five-point agenda, which included all Mr Ibe raised concerns about and tourism, which was a money spinner and jobs provider any day everywhere worldwide. For this reason, said Sanwoolu, the government could not focus exclusively on jobs, hospitals etc to the exclusion of tourism which, in any case, would bring part of the money to be spent on roads, hospitals and the likes of them. And he was right. Oluwatosin was drawn into the net. So was Mofe, the host. Co host Joseph, always cynical and with a poisoned tongue, followed Mofe. An equally rejectionist mazi, a barrister presumably a pastoras well, was absent from the show, otherwise he would have tried to nail the coffin one way or the other, putting biblical authorities. The position of Mofe and Joseph holding the forte against Ibe this time was that at near breaking point, a wise society has to learn to not be rigid, to let off some steam.

What passed of in this programme on that day was the question this column always asks at this time of the year about the best way Christians should observe Christmas. Should the time be spent in spirit suffocating revelry in the wrong notion that Jesus has won the battle for salvation, and what should follow next is wild celebration? Or, should the time be spent in sober reflection by Jesus followers, christians, about how they stand today before their maker? Iam not a revelry person. I see important dates on the calendars of all religions as reminders that my shoe laces are still not well done, that I need, still, to roll up my sleeves and have myself jerked up by the shirt collar. So, I would rather be withdrawn in such seasons or be in gatherings which afford me opportunities to deepen my recognitions about many conceptions of existence and of LIFE, GOD.

While I have been behaving like this since the mid 1970s, I have recognised that Ceasar must still have his way wherever he remains Lord of the Manor. There’s nothing any one can do about that. Even the Lord Jesus taught us to be sensible as we fight our way towards salvation. I believe this is what the state wide carnival in Lagos state this Christmas season is all about. An adult who is walking a child who is learning to walk will be a bad teacher if he tries to make the child walk faster than his or her tensile strength. Is comrade Ibe listening? I can see Oluwatosin giggling. At the carnivals, the sale of liquor and soft drinks (soda)will go up. Ditto sales of snacks and food. Jobs will be kept. Governor Babajide Sanwoolu’s public image will arise and shine. Social tension will be doused, maybe for weeks, as young people, targets of this carnivals, recall their experiences. And the Arts and culture and tourism folks will be grateful to the government for another industy buoy. Back in high school economics class in the 1960s, we learned about the kinetic theory of money. This is the velocity or speed at which mobey travels between one person and another. If the velocity of money is suggish, everyone will be had up and try to zip up his or her purse or pocket. Most people in such an economy would be hard up and wear long faces, always angry and cursing, making the governmet their whipping boy. Even in highway traffic, who likes a jam or what we call go-slow. Everyone likes sweet flowing traffic. When the velocity of money is in top gear, money passes through the handsof everyone quicker with little or not hinderance. When the right seller whose previous daily net income was N500 earns four times that on a carnival night, she will remember to pay school fee or buy a new school bag for her child. The woman who previously sold no more than two bags of pure water can sell 10 bags, she will settle her rent arrears, her landlord will give his wife money for rice and turkey at Christmas Day, the rice seller will buy new cloth for Christmas and the tailor will smile.That day may not be distant, I always like to think , when the christmas season will be experienced differently, when we would all be waist deep in the SPIRITUAL AGE which James Redfield predicts in his CELESTINE PROPHESY will succeed the information age(the present age), which succeeded the industrial age which succeeded the agrarian age which succeeded the hunter/fruit gather age, which succeeded the glacial age…In the spiritual age, which Germans call THE THIRD REICH or third kingdom and christian theologists know as the AGE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT(after the age of the father and the age of the son), mankind will ultimately sense onrushing spiritual danger in the fast approaching end time or final judgement and, without much prodding, hunger for and live almost solely in search of true spiritual enlightenment and knowledge. It will not be like the agitated storming of the churches of today, or the endless vigils, dry fasts, shouting and screaming spells during prayer, or of prayers or petitions rather than thankgiving, in which man sees his God as his servant who must do his bidding, even wage war on his enemies, forgetting that other people see him, too, as their enemy and are praying for his liquidation as well.

So, I will spend this Christmas season as usual contemplating interesting spiritual questions, the answers of some which are clearly evident in the bible, the trusted book of christians, but which many christians, though seeing do not comprehend. What aresome of these questions?

Do people who depart the earth in death stay or live in their graves until the judgement Day when righteous ones float heavenwards with the Lord Jesus and unrighteous ones are swept into hell fire?

This question played on my mind for more than a decade after I saw the live specimens of a human skeleton in high school labouratory in 1965. The skulls, thigh bones and arm bones belonged to different people in different parts of the country. How will these dismembered parts congregate on resurrection morn and rejoin the human soul who owned them as we still sing at funerals that they would?, I never ceased to wonder. Over the years, deeper and deeper recognitions came of the truth of the matter. After our earthly demise, we do not remain in the graves unless, perhaps , we are earth bound. We are not our bodies. Our bodies, to us, are like the office clothes we cast off at bed time. They are derived from the earth and remain there. We come from a higher sphere of existence in the world and there we would return “dead” or “alive’ after the end time on earth. Moses and Elijah taught us this lesson when they appeared with Jesus at his transfiguration. Were they in their graves? No. They were working in the service of the Lord. That ought to be the goal or dream of every christian …to awaken to joyful activity in the service of the Lord wherever they would be an after life on earth. Our Lord taught us the same lesson as Moses and Elijah taught us when he said whatever He would do, we, too, could. Did he not present himself to the disciples in the upper chamber? Do African tradition and culture not teach us that the soul, nay spirit, and the flesh are different entities? Are earth- bound people sometimes not encountered in haunted houses or places or sensed to visit families and homes they left behind?

Thanatology, the science of dying, is urging us to abandon teachings outside the teachings of our Lord Jesus which suggest that life is all over for us at physical death until Judgement Day. Anyone who has read Raymond Moody’s Life after Life or experienced what some of the people he mentioned there went through would recognise that life is beyond what is taught by many christian priests today. In that book, people who have been confirmed dead in hospitals but who returned to earthly life spoke about their experiences in another world. Albert Steinpach confirms this in his book, HOW IS IT THAT WE LIVE AFTER DEATH AND THE MEANING OF LIFE. Steven Lampe takes us through many possibilities of a second life on earth reported in the bible in his THE CHRISTIAN AND REINCARNATION. Lampe tries to show that emperor Justinian who manipulated the episcopical council of Constantinople in AD 553 did not quite succeed in his efforts to erase christian belief in reincarnation from the literature on the mission of Jesus Christ on earth which were compiled into the book known today as the bible. Many teachings of early christian fathers which confirmed the reality of reincarnation were rejected by these manipulated council. Many Christians who today reject reincarnation and are illiterate when it comes to church history do not know that pope Nero opposed the emperor’s attempt to change this christian belief, that the emperor placed him under house arrest and threatened to depose him if he did not toe the line, that, the pope, unfortunately, threw in the towel to save his high office and that church leaders from the eastern world walked out of that conference. Steven Lampe’sTHE CHRISTIAN AND REINCARNATION beautifully answers the question I asked earlier…Upon death of the physical body, is the soul of man a prisoner in the grave in which his or her earthly remains are buried, or is it free to go on experiencing life, joyfully or otherwise, in other spheres of existence?

One of the recognitions I have gained along the way is that we cannot rise beyond our thoughts. They are like anchors which hold us down and fast or the lifelines which pull us up and away from dross. People who cannot free themselves from the notion that they wold remain in the grave until resurrection day would inevitably remain in their graves. They may even be sighted there, earth-bound, by sensitive people or clairvoyants, who, unless they are inwardly mature, may misunderstand or misinterprete what they are seeing. Sometimes what is cited is not the departed soul. It is the astral body which interfaced between the soul and the physical body. And interfacing is necessary to step down the energy of the soul which wold burn up the body were they to connect directly. When the soul is going away it pulls the astral body out of the discarded physical body. As the soul distances itself from the astral body, the latter withers and dissolves because, like the physical body, it has no life of its own. So, if the astral body, also known as ghost, is cited near the physical body, it means the soul is not too far departed. Where the soul cannot extricate itself from the physical bodyit can no longer use, the astral body is also stuck and the physical body may decay slowly or not decay for a long while. This is a great punishment for a soul that is meant to be free…experiencing the decay of a body it once cherished. It is like the experience, though not quite the same, of a woman challenged with a putrifying cancerous breast, a part of her body which is decaying right on her while she is still physically alive. One such case was cited a few years ago in Nigeria. Knowing people saw in it the possibility of a departed soul earthbound in its physical vessel, whereas spiritually illiterate people believed the departed soul must have been a pious man.

We make our environment here as elsewhere. Our environment doesn’t make us. Our thoughts, like our other activities determine the weight of our souls. We may, therefore, sink, become earth-bound, or soar homewards, depending on the density of our souls. The same law, issued by an unchanging God, which makes the cork to float over matter and a piece of rock to sink, governs what becomes of our souls as well as after earthly demise.

Should a husband and his wife have sex when the wife is pregnant?

Even christian doctors support the view that sex during pregnancies relaxes muscles which would help a pregnant woman easily and safely expel the baby during the birthing process. African tradition discourages this, as we know. In this tradition, a pregnant woman does not share the same bed with her husband. She retires to the women’s section of their house. The herbalist knows what herbs to give at every stage of a pregnancy. One of them is named EWE ABIWERE, the leaf for easy birthing.

Again, the bible offers the christian an answer to this question. Christians will remember that Mary the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, mother of John the baptist, forerunner of Jesus in his mission on earth, were cousins. While Mary was pregnant, she paid a visit to Elizabeth who, like her, was pregnant. When both women met, the bible reports, the babies in their wombs leapt with joy. My understanding of this is that both babies recognised each other and were happy that the mission they had come for was in progress. John the baptist is a leader of the human specie in a region of paradise which is the CREATED paradise. In this part of paradise are to be found the spirit beings created in the image of God. Turn or twist as those of us human spirits on earth may be, we are not the ones created in his image. Our own realm in paradise is a much lower one where inhabitants developed to maturity in the LIKENESS of CREATED BEINGS. We are here on earth like seeds sown in the soil(remember the parable of the sower by Jesus.) From the earth soil we are to sprout, flower and fruit…and return home in the lower regions of paradise . Created beings, like John the baptist, only come here to help us out of those beliefs and actions which delay our ascent homewards. Do we as christians ever wonder why Jesus said no man born of a woman on earth can be as great as John the Baptist?

Back to our question. The knowledge of Baby Jesus and Baby John the baptist greeting each other across the wombs of their respective mothers-to-be has been expanded for us by science. Now, we know that babies in the wombs respond to music and to incantations. In experiments, babies have been shown to respond differently to particular music. Traditional attendants educate us in their work that babies with irregular presentations in the womb can be “spoken” to, to properly engage the birth passage . With this knowledge that the unborn baby can literally see us and know what we are doing in the “other room”, should these things happen even if the doctor says we can go ahead? We deceived ourselves if we think there are no third parties in the room with us. When these babies are born and begin to indulge in adult activities too early in their lives, sometime with consequent permanent emotional or physical damage, are we not spiritually culpable and bound to them until they can resolve their discomfitures sometimes in another or more earth lives?

So, ladies and gentlemen, this Christmas season, like any other, should be a season of spiritual retreat for us all, and not a time for revelry, during which we focus exclusively on the High salvage Mission of the Love of God, JESUS, to the earth, examine ourselves to see if we truly are following His teachings, pinch ourselves on the skin if we are not, revisit all old teachings in THE LIGHT OF TRUTH that He brought, cast off wrong notions and deepen our recognition of the grains of Truth we still can salvage from the Chaff. Thus shall we grow in spirit every Christmas and minimise the risk of being counted among the chaff in the end of days. May we have a beautiful FESTIVAL OF THE RADIANT STAR. AMEN.