Three books by Na’im Akbar
THE COMMUNITY OF SELF
2. NATURAL PSYCHOLOGY and HUMAN TRANSFORMATION
(Foreword by Nathan McCall)
3. VISIONS FOR BLACK MEN
All Published by Mind Productions & Associates, Inc.
Na’im Akbar is a Clinical Psychologist in the Department of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He has been described by ESSENCE magazine as “one of the world’s preeminent African-American psychologists and a pioneer in the development of an African-centered approach to modern psychology.” A graduate of the University of Michigan, he has authored several books related to the personality development of African-American people. He is a past president of the National Association of Black Psychologists.
Dr. Akbar has made numerous appearances in the national media including, The Oprah Winfrey Show, BET’s Our Voices, Tony Brown’s Journal, The Phil Donahue Show and The Geraldo Show. He has been lauded for his outstanding lectures at over 300 colleges, community settings and conferences throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Not only have I attended several of Brother Dr. Akbar’s lectures, I think I have purchased every one of his offerings on tape. As Dr Akbar says, “Psychology represents an extremely important field of knowledge because it is the model for understanding the human being and the human potential.” Dr. Akbar, a Muslim, says that none of the concepts in his works are limited to any particular cultural group. Of course, we at Cultural Expressions embrace the healing wisdom of Ifa to facilitate our human transformation process. Like Dr. Na’im Akbar, however, our “primary commitment is to heal and restore the historically oppressed African people.”
According to Dr. Na’im Akbar, “The Community of Self was never intended to be a scholarly production addressed to only experts in the field of psychology.” It was written for the uninitiated and it can and should be used as a tool to help us understand ourselves and grow ourselves. The first chapter, also the title chapter, lays the groundwork for Dr. Akbar’s powerful little book (80 pages). In this chapter, Dr. Akbar explains how the Community of Self has specialists within it just like one would find in any other community.
The earliest citizens in the self community, says Akbar, are the drives or instincts which are the movers of the self. There are two types/classes of drives. One is movement towards what gives pleasure and the other is the reverse in that it moves one away from what causes pain or dissatisfaction. In a word, we humans have an affinity for pleasure and an aversion to pain. “If the drives are given free rein, they will drive the entire community to seek only pleasure.” And concludes Akbar, “If man is defined as mind, the person ruled by demands of the body is not a man.” Senses are defined as the windows of the community into the outside world. “The senses are to the community of self what communication is to communities of people.” They give only incomplete information about things and are therefore not capable of making judgments. “We must conclude, says Akbar, “that the senses are an important part of the community, but they make a poor ruler over the self.”
Another prominent citizen of the self community is the ego. The ego uses the tool of emotion to speak up for the rights of the individual and is therefore vital for the life of the community. And when it is not properly developed, the community fails to support itself. An overdeveloped ego, however is a detriment to the community. Yoruba priestess Iyanla Vanzant says ego is an acronym for Easing God Out and Dr. Akbar does not disagree with her assessment. He warns us that the ego fails to concern itself with things which it cannot see and can therefore be a tyrannical ruler over the community. Akbar therefore concludes that ego is a necessary citizen but “not an appropriate ruler over the self.”
Memory is another important member of the community of self. Like a library, it “stores the many records of experience that have gone into the building of the person.” “Without memory, there would be little continuity in the community,” says Akbar, “But, we can also see that if memory rules the community, the community lives in the past.”
Reason is another important member of selfhood. “Reason brings order and organization to the information brought in by the senses.” It lets know that our senses give us incomplete information and works throughout the community keeping order and organization. Reason judges only on the basis of facts and if it tried to rule the community, the self becomes like a machine because unfeeling order destroys peace and happiness within the self.
As the conscience begins to develop, the element of justice is introduced into the community. Conscience gives upward direction to the community of self, but Akbar warns us that, “An unchecked conscience, however, can be as disruptive to the self community as the other parts previously discussed. The over-developed conscience can demand nothing short of perfection and its self-sacrificing tendency can become greedy for punishment.” Conscience doesn’t have the restraint to rule the community.
Dr. Akbar tells us the ruler over the self community is the Will. He says man’s Will has the ability to pull the mind and flesh in the direction of Truth. Akbar defines the Will as “the Divine representative within the person when working with the higher parts of conscience and guided by the proper direction.” And “when the Will achieves rulership over the self community, the self grows to be the proper ruler over the earth.” In a word, if we are to restore our communities, we must first understand and develop our communities of self.
Chapter One is the foundation for the stimulating discussions found in the remaining chapters. Dr. Akbar discusses principles of human development such as Developing Responsibility For Self, The Power of Self Knowledge, Self and Society Working Together, Diet For The Mind and Education Of The African-American Child.
The Community Of Self is written to assist us in correcting some serious problems in our psychology, our education our economics, our families and our religious thinking.
Read, enjoy, study, and inculcate.
“Several years ago while serving time in prison, I began the long and awkward struggle to understand the behaviors that had led me to such a tragic point. At that time, I knew I desperately needed to change my life which had been filled with crime, violence, and disregard for the lives of others. What I didn’t know was how much change I was capable of bringing about.
During my incarceration, another inmate gave me a book that he said might shed some light on what I was attempting to accomplish. It was Na’im Akbar’s Natural Psychology and Human Transformation.”
Nathan McCall, Author and Journalist
Natural Psychology and Human Transformation is based on the existence of specific and predictable patterns in the created physical world that serve as an image for the structure of the natural world. “Probably the most basic idea that is acquired from the observation of nature,” says Dr. Akbar, “is an appreciation for order and the presence of a plan.” And concludes Dr. Akbar, “The obvious implication from the presence of such a precise plan is the recognition of a Planner.” He makes a distinction between the natural psychology of the ancients and the grafted psychology of the Western world. The “root knowledge” of the ancients was based on the assumption “that human beings are fundamentally spiritual entities whose physical forms are only reflections or a material expression of their true spiritual nature.”
Grafted psychology is based on the assumption that the essence of human life is its physical manifestation. In a word, “what you see is what you get.” Grafted psychology therefore gives a distorted and retarded image of the human being and our human capabilities. Natural Psychology offers several examples of this despiritualized school of thought including the “Freudian psychoanalytic types.”
The dominant essay in this work is taken from the book of Nature which Akbar describes as humanity’s very first Divine book. He develops the spiritual implications in the process of transformation as seen in the metamorphosis of the butterfly and shows the reader its applicability to human and societal growth.
Nathan McCall, author of Makes Me Wanna Holler, sums it up when he says, “Natural Psychology revealed to me a truth that was so simple that it had been so easy to overlook: That you can’t reach your human potential if you don’t know—fully—how much potential you have.”
Visions For Black Men specifically applies this ‘worm to butterfly’ conversion to the potential transformation process inherent in the African-American male. We are reminded that the caterpillar has to become a butterfly or it will die while we humans have choices to make. Akbar says;
“One of the interesting things about the human being is that he can stay a worm forever and appear to be a thriving form of life.” We never have to become human butterflies to appear alive in this world. One of the things that is unique about the human being is that he has an option that either he will be or not be. If he chooses not to be he can die proudly as a slimy, hairy worm……The point of our discussion is that we need to understand that we all have the potential to be butterflies.”
The title of the first section of Visions is From Maleness to Manhood. Dr. Akbar defines a male as a biological entity whose essence is described by no more or no less than his biology. Maleness says Akbar is a mentality dictated by appetite and guided by instincts, urges, desires or feelings. It is also driven by passion. Dr. Akbar eloquently develops these arguments and asks and answers the question, “What is the nature of an entire group whose minds are stuck in the “male” stage?”
“These observations, he says, “are hopefully disturbing to our many chronologically mature brothers who can find images of themselves characterized in these descriptions of the “male mentality.” Our implication is quite clear:, he continues, If these qualities represent your predominant mode of interaction, you are almost quite literally stuck in your worm stage of development.”
Visions for Black Men walks the reader through the stages of development that eventually result in Black Manhood. Section 2, Transcending Images of Black Manhood, focuses on the relevance of Scriptural metaphors. He compares the admonitions of Pharaoh’s and Herod’s advisors that “You must kill off the male children who are born in the land of the captives” with the actions of the CIA, FBI and the “other planners of the Trilateral Commission. “What we see in America today,” he concludes, “is not a replication but the actualization of the symbolic prophecy of what would happen in this time.” A decree has gone out that every African male must die. And one form of “death” is the “death” that removes you from productive opportunities to operate in the society. “The vast majority of the creative black minds in America who are males are locked up in prisons during their most productive years,” says Akbar. Section 3, Exodus into Manhood and Section 4, Defining Black Manhood are equally challenging and engaging and also provide instructions on how to restore African manhood to those of us whom our society has not viewed as the chosen people. Through Visions For Black Men, we “discover the startling prediction of the mystical tradition of Ancient Africa—that the descendants of a once-great nation will rise again.”
I’ve often go to my bookshelf and pull out, The Community of Self, Natural Psychology and Human Transformation and Visions For Black Men and with each new reading, I invariably discover some new insight and my inner voice hears a message it hadn’t heard before. I have developed an intimate relationship with the works of Dr. Na’im Akbar and I recommend you do the same. You will grow each time you embrace them.
Babalawo Omobowale Adubiifa is an associate priest in the Temples/Shrines of Chief Bolu Fatunmise of Ile Ife, Nigeria and Atlanta, Ga. He is also Langston X. Thomas, J.D., freelance journalist, a past president of Huntsville Alabama’s NAACP and a current member of the Huntsville Human Relations Commission. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
The Natural Psychology