Since 1995, I have served well over 50 thousand individuals – as a teacher, a counselor, a professional consultant and a trusted advisor. For the most part, the people I have served have expressed satisfaction in my presence and performance. In short, people tend to feel that I have helped them in some integral way. Until recently, I had also felt quite confident that I was making a meaningful contribution to the lives of the people I serve. But an unexpected thing happened on the journey. In 2005 I travelled to Veracruz, Mexico, where I broadened my Ifa practice considerably. And while I was able to translate the stories and the text, my vocabulary was stiff and a bit academic. It lacked the concise potency that I was able to deliver in English. So, in an effort to communicate the meaning of Ifa’s wisdom in ways that the “Jarochos” (as the people of Veracruz are called) would understand, I took interest in local proverbs and sayings. There was one saying that stuck in my mind, like a pebble in the mouth; It was easy to put in but difficult to chew. It says “Abuelo arriero, hijo caballero, nieto mendiguero.” In English we would say “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations,” which means that a family will rise from poverty and fall back into it within three generations.
This saying – Abuelo arriero, hijo caballero, nieto mendiguero – was recited to me by a young man, no more than 35 years old. When I recited it to others, I discovered that it was very well-known and widely accepted as truth. In the wake of that little saying, I have been mulling over the fact that, while I have helped a considerable number of people solve all kinds of personal problems, I was not doing much to protect them from the inescapable cycle of shirtsleeve to shirtsleeves in three short generations. To that end, I have dedicated myself to acquiring more ritual knowledge, developing more psychological skills and creating more resources that would enable more people to learn and develop a more sustainable lifestyle, which is more comprehensive than ritual and ceremony. Consequently, I have identified five organizing principles of Yoruba civilization: