The Early Bwiti
Misconceptions, Clarifications, and Powerful Teachings of the Bwiti before they used Iboga as a Sacrament.
Thousands of years ago in the earliest days of man, a tradition was formed. That spiritual tradition is called Bwiti and is still practiced to this day. Bwiti was/is a spiritual tradition passed down from breath to breath (verbally by stories etc) and was never written down. For this reason, the history of the Bwiti is hardly known around the world. During the time that the French came to Gabon, most of the Bwiti hid away in the jungle and avoided them in order to protect Bwiti and Iboga. Bwiti was intentionally hidden and protected from the Christian colonialists.
More recently, the French did come into contact with some of the Bwiti. Those Bwiti were influenced by the Christians and formed what is known as the “Fang” today. Since they were interacting more with the western world, the Fang are much more represented in literature and online. Anthropologists and researchers stayed with the Fang and wrote about them as though they represented all the Bwiti. Some report that the Bwiti tradition is only a few hundred years old, but that’s patently false. There are a few sects of Bwiti (discussed later) that have stayed true to the original traditions to this day. They have ZERO Christian influence. The distinction between these groups is important.
We now know that some of the most ancient human DNA belongs to the Babongo. The Babongo are the people more commonly known as the Pygmies, which was a name given to them by the French and is seen by them and the Bwiti as a derogatory term. They have been in Southern Gabon, the center of Pangea since the birth of man. It was the Babongo who originally created Bwiti. Today, Bwiti is more commonly known as the tradition built around the sacrament Iboga, yet it actually began before Iboga was discovered. The Bwiti tradition is the study of life itself. It began when the Babongo were trying to figure out where all these blessings in life were coming from. Anyone who has ever been to Gabon can vouch for the abundance of the jungle. It has everything. This led to the Bwiti seeking to understand why Nature provided for them.
The Babongo were traditionally hunter-gatherers who used fishing and traps to catch their meat and simply collected the fruits and vegetables from the jungle. They understood how lucky they were to have everything they needed provided by nature. They were incredibly grateful and wanted to know how and why things came to be this way. They searched everywhere. They went into the water. They contemplated the sky, stars, sun, and moon. They explored the jungle. The Babongo became students of the natural world and life itself and developed their own system for determining the truth. The Bwiti have always rejected “beliefs” and instead seek to know. If they do not know, they don’t assume.
Understanding that direct experience was the only thing that is real and that everything else is just an added distortion of that, they turned to the 6 senses to “know.” Yes, I know that we are trained in the west to believe that there are only 5 senses. But, this is one of the first harms towards a child – when the 6th sense is ignored. The 6th sense to the Bwiti is what we call the 3rd eye, but to the Bwiti, it is the 1st eye. This 1st eye is an intuitive tool that also connects us to the spiritual world. It is a powerful tool and is beyond scientific explanation – an ineffable expression of the power we hold.
The Bwiti teach that in order for something to be considered true or be ‘known,” it must be confirmable by at least 3 of these senses. It is a way of interacting with the world that is very simple and direct. For example, in order to know that a river is flowing, someone could go to see the river, stick their hand in the river to feel it, and drink the water. This simplistic way of living is an efficient use of mental energies. If one were to look at that same river and make assumptions about it, they would be moving away from the truth and reality. If they were to go to the river and say that it was cursed and undrinkable, without testing it within the senses, they would begin the common human mistake of creating concepts that will lead to misery.
One of my favorite lessons of the early Bwiti, was when they determined that Nature was there for them to use and benefit from. However, if they were to abuse nature or become attached to it, they would suffer misery. So in other words, to the Bwiti, when it comes to Nature, they say that one should use and not abuse it as a means to avoid misery and be happy. This created a culture of only taking what one needs without excess and material hoarding, which is a polar opposite of how we are in the West. We can see the differences in approach to life with most of the world dedicated to dominion over nature, the accumulation of material things, and the deep harm that comes from this abusive behavior. Most of the world is deeply unhappy and disconnected, whereas the Bwiti are probably the happiest people alive.
I will share more about the rest of the Bwiti history, particularly when they began using Iboga as a sacrament, in a later post. But, as you can see, the Bwiti have a rich and mysterious history that has been hidden for quite some time. Their quick disregard for beliefs ensures a direct connection to reality. This promotes a happy life. The Bwiti’s relationship to nature is the most connected in the world. We would all deeply benefit by abandoning our abusive modern approach and adopting theirs. I hope that one day the entire world will be as happy as the Bwiti, which is why it is soo important that we take in their ancient teachings.