• Jah in the Flesh: An Examination of Spirit, Power, and Divine Envesselment in Rastafari

      Rey, Terry; Levitt, Laura, 1960-; Johnson, Amari; Neptune, Harvey R., 1970- (Temple University. Libraries, 2020)
      This dissertation examines one of the most significant theological shifts in the Rastafari movement: the transformation of the Rastafari deity, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, from Jah in the flesh to the spirit that dwells within the body of each Rasta. Although the belief that Rastas are participants in the divinity of Jah emerged early in Rastafari, it was not until Selassie’s death in 1975 that the theological assertion of Jah dwelling within their bodies as the spirit emerged. Despite the initial claim made by some of the early Rastas that their bodies are the dwelling place of Jah, the notion of Jah as indwelling the spirit remains undertheorized, thus leading to an inadequate view that Rastafari is tenuously an African-derived religion. The aim of this dissertation, therefore, is to make visible the notion of Jah as spirit by focusing on how Rastas conceptualize and ritualize the process of Jah becoming a part of their bodies. The dissertation proposes divine envesselment as a central theoretical and conceptual framework to understand the Rastafari belief that their deity Jah becomes a permanent part of their bodies, thereby imbuing them with divine power, authority, and identity to resist the oppressive state Babylon. By formulating a theory of divine envesselment to account for the indwelling of Jah within the body, this study highlights the social, cultural, and theological factors that enabled Rastas to deify Selassie, continue to proclaim him as God after his death, and distinguish themselves from the oppressive neocolonial state through their ritualization of Jah spirit and power. The study uses an African-centered epistemological approach to argue that the Rastafari belief that Jah dwells within them is not only an embrace of the spirit but an ethos rooted in the history of contestation and creative friction within the Afro-Caribbean religious field. Furthermore, an African-centered epistemology locates the process of divine envesselment (Jah becoming the spirit that dwells in flesh) within the social, material, intellectual, and symbolic world of African people on the continent and in the diaspora. The study asserts that the logic, structure, and nature of Rastafari as an African-derived religion with a conception of spirit become evident when examined through an African-centered epistemological lens.
    • Remembering Asar: An Argument to Authenticate RastafarI's Conceptualization(s) of Haile Selassie I

      Norment, Nathaniel; Abarry, Abu Shardow, 1947-; Carr, Greg (Greg E.); Jenkins, Wilbert L., 1953- (Temple University. Libraries, 2009)
      Since the emergence of RastafarI communities within 1930's Jamaica following the coronation of Ras Tafari Makonnen as Haile Selassie I, Negus (king) of Ethiopia, RastafarI continuously articulate his divinity within their discourse. While the specific nomenclature for and significance of Haile Selassie I may vary in accordance to time and affiliation, it is unquestionable that Selassie I remains central to the RastafarI way of life for more than 70 years. What scholars and thinkers on RastafarI question, and very fervently so during the past 10 years, is the authenticity of the divinity of Selassie I within RastafarI thought. The few scholars who attempt to solve what for them is the "problem of authenticity," claim, through christological and apologistic approaches, that RastafarI need to reconsider the possibility of his status, as it is conjecture and blasphemy. Adhering to African epistemological assumptions that everything in existence comprises the whole of existence, we rely on an African symbolic approach to examine RastafarI conceptualizations of Selassie I within pre-coronation, coronation and post-coronation RastafarI writings. Given that the material reality seemingly degenerates the collective body and consciousness in accordance with the cycles of time as expressed within the most ancient of Kemetic cosmologies, our aim is to suggest that Haile Selassie I emerges as a ba, the soul template, of Asar, a force manifesting as the human ability and potential to exist within the material realm in accordance with the unseen realm of existence. We conclude, unlike previous academic thinkers who examine RastafarI thought, that RastafarI thinking about Haile Selassie I is therefore an authentic perspective, one that undoubtedly occurs in accordance with the structure and origin of the universe and the cyclical journey of Africana reclamation of a primordial consciousness.