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Gordon, R. (1963). Gods and the Deintegrates. J. Anal. Psychol., 8(1):25-43.

(1963). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 8(1):25-43

Gods and the Deintegrates

Rosemary Gordon


WHEN I first came across descriptions of some African religions, I was struck by the strangely close parallel with the model of the psyche as constructed in analytical psychology. I was tempted to explore these parallels, to follow them up, and to see where they would lead me and how they might be understood. This paper gives an account of these explorations.

In the first part of the paper I shall describe the religions of some West African and East African peoples, and after that discuss the ideas and hypotheses that suggested themselves to me when I compared these cosmological systems with what we know about psychic structures and processes.

Description of Five African Religious Systems

The Ashanti

The Ashanti of Ghana are an agricultural people, with matrilineal descent, organized as a confederation of kingdoms under a paramount ruler. Each king is elected from a royal lineage by the heads of the other lineages. There has been much contact with the different tribes of the Gold Coast (as Ghana was formerly called) as a result of the many wars and conquests that brought them in the past as slaves, captives, and also immigrants.

As described by Rattray (1927), Busia (1954), Field (1960), and others, the Ashanti believe in the existence of a Supreme God, Onyame, who lives in the sky and who is the ultimate giver and destroyer of life. He is, however, aloof, and the Ashanti offer him no communal worship. “Onyame has no priests”, the people say. As Supreme Being he has many appellations: he is called “the Great One”, “the Dependable One”, “the Creator of all things”, “the Eternal One”, “the Great Spider”, which in their symbology means “the Wise One” (Busia, 1954). To him are attributed omnipresence, omniscience, and invisibility; and, say the Ashanti, because he is invisible, it would be absurd to make any corporeal representation of him. But Onyame sends forth a great many deputies or “sons”, the abosom, through whom he manifests his power. It is with these sons that the Ashanti commune.

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