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The Ways of Character



“Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passions. Who is rich? He that is content.”
- Benjamin Franklin

Character is from the Greek kharakter meaning "engraved mark" in the sense of being an engraved imprint on the soul. The engraving give unto the form marks it with a particular quality. Character was for the Greek philosophers conceived as a stellar mark made upon the soul. The soul was understood to be similar to sulphuric wood that at the celestial touch took fire in the engraving given. This means that the particular conditions celestial, stellar and natural at the moment of birth gave a unique engraving of the soul. The soul was by Plato seen as the restless mediator between the world of Ideas and the world of manifestation. The soul in its unique birth constitutes an equally unique landscape with its challenges, blessings, strengths and debilities.

Ifá sees character, Iwa, as a young restless woman that need to mature whilst she experiences life and reaches maturity, which is designated by a clear vision of what ones is destined to do to achieve happiness, joy and all good things of life. There is an Ifá proverb telling:

ÌMÚ ERIN LÓ FUN ERIN NÌ ÈNÚ NLÁ

It means,

‘because of its nose the elephant was also given a large mouth’

Baba Falokun comments on this that the potential that each person brings into manifestation is a result of personal choice. And indeed it is the free will that motivates us to make use of our potential or not. In the proverb above it speaks of a condition that might appear as unfortunate – but in the end it is all about realizing the given purpose and believe that nothing in manifestation is without purpose. The problem enters when one is not realizing ones purpose or exalts or underestimates ones purpose. In these entire instances one is failing to embrace destiny and falls prey for the immature and whimsical ways of the immature soul. The tendency is to absorb oneself in matter and sentiments. Instead of joy one embraces self pity, instead of abundances one accepts failure. These are results of choice and erroneous perception. It is a failure to recognize ones purpose, no matter its dimensions.

That particular celestial engraving, the character that is of your essence is manifesting divine virtue upon earth. We might be confused, lost and in despair, but we must see these as signposts. Signs announcing that we are not seeing our purpose. For the sages in Antiquity confusion was solved by tempting the soul to turn its gaze upwards, to the stars and the soothing winds in the divine mind. The stars and planets spoke of your life and your destiny – and by understanding them you would become the master and maker of your own destiny. Ifá insists that the purpose is the same for every single individual born, to reach a state of joyful blessed abundance of all good things. What fails us is the restless immaturity of the soul to make choices that forfeits our destiny. We make choices based on passion, anger, distorted ideas of self importance, justice and revenge. The soul in a state of immaturity only reacts – it lacks somehow the ability of truthful self referral and instead engages the passions to make its choices.

If we believe that everything is essentially Good, that we are engraved by goodness the world will appear to us as a wonderful promised land of possibility where failures and conquests will be approached with interest. We will learn from our failures, as signposts of warnings and we will count our blessings and radiate this goodness out on the world for our benefit and all others. I believe that if your life gets better my life gets better. I believe that good deeds breed’s goodness. Of course it also breeds provocations because talking about goodness tends to make bad people feel inadequate and they fall in the trap of projection. I believe character, Iwa, is always good – its restless nature is never evil – but the wrong choices can at times unleash bad things and even evil manifestations. It is our free will that determines if we want to manifest our happy potential or forfeiting it. It is always about us and our choices, never about the others’. So, be content, be slow to anger and try to turn passion towards reason. Look at the world with interest, as a magical journey of self discovery – be always in a state of joy and know that in this way you will maintain a good character – and this will provide a vision of destiny!

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