In our continuing discourse concerning ancient Egyptian ontological, philosophical and theological conceptualizations and correspondences with cultures found in modern Kongo, I’d like to take a brief moment to add to this ever expanding corpus of associations. Our concern in this brief note is with the Kikongo concept and lexeme ndoki.
Dr. Kimbwadende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau of the Kongo, in his seminal work African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo: Principles of Life & Living (2001), introduces us to this concept of ndoki. In the text, the word is introduced in passing, but from what we can gather, it is a word dealing with a certain kind of knowledge as it pertains to the laws of the universe, and how to manipulate the forces of nature.
In discussing the Bantu cosmology and the different stages of development as expressed in the Kongo cosmological wheel (diKenga), Fu-Kiau (2001: 33) informs us that during the transformative stage of Musoni, located at the bottom of the cosmogram, one is “marked” with a certain knowledge that will be utilized in the world of the living once one is born and has matured in the ku nseke (the upper/living world). The word musoni derives from sona “to mark on, to symbol, to engrave.” At this stage, one becomes a true knower of what is marked in one’s own mind and body.
The position of musoni is associated with the notion of ndoki, the knower of man’s principles and systems of n’kingu ye bimpa higher levels; that is to say, the kindoki or “science of higher knowledge.” The Kikongo prefix ki- is a noun classifier that signifies “the art of, science” or “the tongue, doctrine or philosophy of” a thing. Therefore,kindoki deals with the “art” of “higher knowledge.” This type of knowledge is “marked” (sona) or embedded in a person before birth. This is why in the modern Kikongo dictionaries, due to ignorance, the entry of ndoki is defined as “witch” or “sorcerer.” Thus, by this train of thought, kindoki would be “witchcraft.”
The Bandoki, higher science specialists, see the ability to survive in the universe as a function of the play of power. This power is given directly or indirectly from the other or spiritual world. The people who have access to this power are relatively successful: i.e., they allegedly live longer, have more children and wealth. This power from the other world can be used for personal or public benefit. The Mukongo, general community, obtains their power indirectly from the min’kisi (medicines). The nganga(Egyptian anx) determines how much power each n’kisi has and the methods of its employment.
The word ndoki is a variant of the word nduka in Kikongo, which means "caution, precaution, foresight, sharpness, craftiness, slyness, cunning, craft, and artfulness." A variant of this root is found in the word nluengi "a clever person." These terms derive from the word -luka “to be aware.” The sound-rule involved is [n+l>nd]. Thus, the nasalization of the /l/ sound changed it into /d/.
This l-k root is found in ancient Egyptian as the word rx “to be aware.” The /x/ sound represents a proposed guttural aspirated [kh] sound, and there is an interchange between the liquids /r/ and /l/. We can observe the following reflexes in ciKam (Egyptian):
rx “wisdom, experience, opinion, find out”
rx “know, be aware of, inquire, learn, diagnose”
rx “copulate, to know a woman sexually”
rx “wise man, scholar”
rx “to be able”
As we can see through Egyptian, we get a more down to earth definition of this term as compared to the modern Kikongo dictionaries, which are often tainted with Christian missionary biases and misunderstandings. An ndoki is simply a rx “wise man, scholar.” He/She is someone who is an adept of the higher sciences used for the healing and maintaining of kinenga (balance) in the body and corporate community. This word can also be found in ciLuba-Bantu with the following reflexes:
langa "meditate, reflect, project"
lungènyi "intelligence, mind, because, ability, mindset, apply to, contrive to, carefully, with skill, meaning, mental, mentally"
meeji ≋ menji "intelligence, think, reflect, give advice"
dyeji "idea, intelligence"
lweji "reason" (-à/-a lweji "rational")
landa "reflect, meditate"
With a bit of prefixation, we get the following reflexes in ciLuba: -pilùke(a) "scientist"; -piluka "exceed"; "be competent"; mupilùke(a) "scholar, expert." As I noted in my work Aaluja: Rescue Reinterpretation and the Restoration of Major Ancient Egyptian Themes, Vol. I (2013), in summarizing Dr. Mubabinge Bilolo’s detailed analysis in Les cosmo-theologies philosophiques de l’Egypt antique: problematiques-Premisses hermeneutques-et-problems majeurs (2003), the l-k root is also reversed in ciLuba to give us the word nkondi. As discussed in my work:
In this category ofshushukulu, there is a singular class, namely, that ofNkindi. To the question: what is Nkindi? The Luba answer:udi Nkindi shushukulu ngelelu wa mu ngenyi, "Nkindi is a specialist or a scholar in the art / way of thinking" (Bilolo, 2003: 77). By combining the different variants of "thinking" or "to think", we get the following definition: "nkindi udi shu-shukulu mu diela, diluka, dilunga, dinana ne difuka dia Ngenyi," that is to say "The Nkindi is a Shushukulu in the art or manner of ‘making, building, developing, weaving, stretching, extending, expanding, creating and inventing’ thoughts or ideas.” And insofar as the mastery of the art of building, to develop and create thoughts are revealed in language, the wordnkindican also have a very pejorative sense.[i]
The wordNkindirefers to bothsubject andobject. Applied to the subject, it meansshushukuluor specialist in the creation and development of deeplungenyi, "thought" or "idea". The ciLuba wordlungenyiI equate with Egyptian rx "to copulate, to know a woman sexually, wise man, scholar, to learn, to find out, to know, be aware of, diagnose, inquire, wisdom, experience, opinion, to be able, to list").[ii] TheNkindiis characterized by its perspicacity and depth in the approach of major problems that mortals face during their earthly pilgrimage. Applied to the object, it denotes the art of getting to the bottom of things, to penetrate into the abysmal depth of the problems relating to man, the world and God; and also profound ideas or answers obtained during this investigation. These responses are often concise, brief, but of great perspicacity.
Nkindi is a lifestyle; a way of being that reveals itself even in the most trivial of acts. Nkindi is a title equivalent to a Nobel Prize of Philosophy. To have it, one must have demonstrated a certain amount of intellectual and moral qualities, an extraordinary acumen in the approach of facts and problems and the promotion of human values: i.e., goodness, the spirit of unity, love of truth, justice, peace and humanity. In this sense, the Nkindi person is worthy of the name. (Imhotep, 2013: 160-161)
The ndoki association with “witchcraft” is somewhat based on the ability of the ndoki to use their knowledge of higher science to bless or curse someone. This concept is present in ancient Egypt and is reflected in the following terms: rk "a magic word"; rk/rkA "to enchant, to spellbind, bewitch."[iii] These terms are reflected in Proto-Bantu (PB) as *-dòg- "to bewitch, to curse"; PB *-dͻng- “speak”; and is found in Kikongo as: nloko "an imprecation, a curse, a bewitching, sorcery." It should be noted that PB /l/ was realized as a /d/ sound.
The same l-k root, dealing with “knowledge,” is also the same root that gives us words for “teacher” in Kikongo. Therefore, we have Kikongonlongi"teacher, instructor"; ntangi "reader, learner, student"; ntanga "a reading, a counting"; Yoruba olùkọ́ "a teacher, an instructor, a trainer." This may be reflected in Egyptian as Sd “teacher, guardian” [metathesis?]. The sound transliterated with the capital /S/ represents the [sh] sound as in “shame.” This /S/ sound interchanges in Egyptian with /x/ [kh]. This same interchange exists in ciLuba as well (Cf. Imhotep, 2013).
The Kikongo concept of kindoki, mentioned earlier, may be reflected in the following Egyptian terms:
arq “to know, to be wise”
arq “to be versed, to be adept”
arq “know, perceive, gain full knowledge of, be wise, skilled (in)”
As noted in Imhotep (2012, 2013a, 2013b), the grapheme transliterated in Manuel de Codage as /a/, historically, was actually a [k] sound. Thus, arq should be renderedkrq. As it regards this root, I cannot find an example where r>d in Egyptian for this word, but it is still the same lexeme without the sound change: krq = kindoki “the doctrine, science of higher knowledge.”
In summary, an ndoki is someone who has knowledge of the deeper laws governing our solar system and they know how to utilize these laws to serve them in a matter they see fit. This ability is mislabeled witchcraft due to Christian and Muslim influence on the interpretation of African phenomena. In the African world in general, and the Bantu-Kongo specifically, the concept of witchcraft is a misnomer. Witchcraft is connected to the idea that it is possible to do something outside the laws of nature. This is virtually impossible in the African world because nature is simply existence, and this existence is infinite. Nothing can exist outside of infinity: all concepts exist within the infinity. Therefore, it is impossible for something to be “super natural” because nothing exists beyond nature: “reality, the infinity, Uqobo (isiZulu), Nwnw (ciKam).”
We must then reorient our thinking to the African way which sees all things as interconnected and abiding by universal laws. This higher knowledge is simply the knowledge of the laws of the universe that the average person is not aware of. It is no different than the knowledge of thrust, drag, lift and weight (all components necessary for flight (i.e., planes, birds, gliders, etc.)), as well as Newton’s first, second and third laws of motion and The Bernoulli Principle. Knowing these principles allow for flight. To call a flying plane witchcraft would be a gross misrepresentation of the science behind it. Calling kindoki witchcraft is just a way to demonize African science. Therefore, a rx “a wise man” in ancient Egypt was not only associated with having knowledge in general, but also a deep knowledge about the laws of the universe in general.
As noted by Plato, in his Timaeus (24-c), an old Egyptian priest told the Greek philosopher Solon, concerning aspects of Egyptian knowledge (rx), that:
As for the intellectual life, you observe, no doubt what care the law, among us (Egyptians) devotes to it. Beginning with the first principles touching upon the Universe, our law has organized all discoveries down to divination and medicine, whose concern is health. From speculation about divinities, it has derived human applications and supervised the acquisition of all other knowledge generated therefrom.
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The Beinlich Egyptian-German Wordlist
[i] Among the Bakongo people, the ciLubankindiconcept is personified in the spiritual object callednkondiin the KiKongo language. The Nkondi object is like a diploma given to annganga, a specialist who deals with social issues. He can be seen as a therapist who is invited in a village, in the community circle to deal with any issue that is a problem. Before the Nganga starts discussing the matter at hand, he has to show his nkondi to assure the villagers that he is qualified to discuss themambu (the matter, problem). The wordmambuis what became "mumbo jumbo" in the United States. Without this object, the community will not accept him as trained or qualified. See Fu-Kiau (2007) for more information. Also Robert F. Thompson “Faces of the Gods: the Artists and their Altars” inAfrican Arts, Vol. 28, No. 1, (Winter, 1995), pp. 50-61.
[ii] A case can be made that the wordrxis the reverse of nkindi by way of metathesis.
[iii] Egyptian ng "screech, squawk" may be related: rk > ng; r>n, g > k.