The Bushman Way of Tracking God: The Original Spirituality of the Kalahari People
The Kalahari Bushmen are the keepers of the world's oldest living culture. In spite of colossal challenges and never-ending crises, they have survived for over 60,000 years with joy and peace, yet their spiritual teachings, the source of their enduring wisdom, have never been fully presented.
For the first time, these ancient oral traditions have been put down onto paper by a researcher so unique, he was featured in American Shaman: an Odyssey of Global Healing Traditions, which won a Best Spiritual Book award from Spirituality & Health magazine. Bradford Keeney takes the reader through the veil of original spirituality, connecting the fragments of world religions to a source that is unlike any other. Through this wisdom, readers can find the deepest meaning, fullest purpose, and highest joy in life.
The Bushman's Way to Tracking God is articulated through twelve original mysteries, including: activating the non-subtle universal life force (what the Bushmen call n/om), heightening emotional experience, vibratory interaction, direct downloading and absorption of sacred knowledge, extraordinary healing, activation of the ecstatic “pump,” spontaneous ways of rejuvenation, attending the spiritual classrooms, so-called telepathy, an uncommon range of mystical experiences, and last but not least, total bliss.
Bradford Keeny’s exhuberant presence roars through the pages like a force of nature. He combines the verbal passion of an evangelical preacher with the visceral language patterns of a rap artist to grab readers by the ears and shake them to their core. By emulating the vigorous shaking practices of the Kalahari Bushmen, the oldest continuous spiritual tradition on the planet, Keeney wants us to lose our reserve and connect with our emotions in order to experience the deep joy of connection to all and “climb the ropes to God. “
This book is based on Bradford Keeny’s experiences while living with the Bushman of the Kalahari in Botswana and Namibia. You may know the Bushmen from the film The Gods Must Be Crazy released in 1980. Bushmen otherwise referred to in anthropological literature as the San, Ju/'hoansi or !Kung peoples have lived by collecting wild plants and hunting southern Africa for tens of thousands of years making the Bushmen one of the most continuous cultures on the planet. The Bushmen speak what is known as a African “Click” language. The “!” in !Kung is pronounced as a click of the tongue like you might use to encourage a horse to move. This “click” will become important later.
The Bushmen are known as the original affluent society. Until their recent placement by national governments on reserves, adults spent less than half their time searching for food. As mobile people Bushmen lack the more elaborate material culture of their more sedentary neighbors, but have over the millennia have developed an amazing intellectual and spiritual culture that has been seldom documented. Over two decades Bradford Keeney has learned the Bushmen’s language and in the volume describes their spiritual practices as lived experience. Two appendices are provided in the book as guides to pronunciation and definition of terms from the Bushman language.
“Religion” for the Kalahari Bushmen comes through direct emotional connection with the Divine. Access is gained through n|om. N|om (the | is used by Keeney to designate the same sound as !) is the non-subtle universal life-force. To receive n|om one must be softened or cooked. Being cooked or softened is the process of becoming receptive to direct connection with divinity. Softening also opens one up to accessability to n|om. Softening can come through ecstatic dance, humor or anything that pulls your mind out of the world of the mundane. N|om can also come through ecstatic dance or being “shot” with an arrow or nail of n|om by another person. For Bushmen spiritual elders or healers called n|om-kxaos (owners of n|om), humans are blind and sensory-deprived until they wake up their deepest emotions with infusions of n|om. In other spiritual traditions n|om would be called kundalini, chi, or possession by the Holy Spirit.
When filled with n|om Bushman and the author connect to the divine, heal sickness, communicate with ancestors and even find game. N|om allows for a sense of connectedness between humans and with all other beings called ropes. Under n|om Bushmen can climb these ropes to connect with God, the ancestors or to obtain knowledge. Although unstated, rather than something that can be obtained on one’s own access and sharing to n|om is very much about a community-based spiritual practice.
Keeney frequently references his fieldwork with the “Shakers” on the Carribean island of St. Vincent and members of Afro-American Pentecostal communities near his home in New Orleans as spiritually kindred peoples who understand the power and transmission of n|om. In these communities terms like being filled with God’s love, or the Holy Spirit or Soul substitute for n|om. Watching the videos and seeing the images of members in the author’s web site (www.shakingmedicine.com) of the Kalahari Bushmen filled with n|om, with images of worshipers in Pentecostal churches in the American south or St. Vincent amply shows that these traditions share a common experience.
The Bushman Way of Tracking God can be read in two ways. As the description of the authors experience in absorption into the spiritual life and power of the Bushmen of the Kalahari the book is absolutely riveting. The authors accounts of all-night dancing and being drunk with n|om are the kind of tales that only someone who has really experienced spiritual ecstacy can describe. As a guide for reaching the states of consciousness and spiritual ecstacy, something that the author tries to do, the book misses the mark. As the book was written by someone who has been “cooked” and drunk with n|om to try to communicate how to reach that state using words alone is perhaps an impossible task. It is rather like describing the colors of a sunset to someone who has been blind since birth or reconstructing the sound of Renaissance music without knowing the notation. What the author does covey is that spiritual ecstasy can best be obtained through group settings using dance and music. So have friends over, have them bring musical instruments, get loud and keep doing it. Shake your bootie for God!