Jul/Aug 2006 Nonfiction

Before the Storm (My Experiences As An Atheist)

by Onyeka Nwelue

Art by Victor Ehikhamenor

I decided to commit suicide on a Sunday evening in 2005, when my mother came back from the church and indirectly blurted out to me that my mentor, Ikenna Egerue, had died. Actually, I didn't want to believe her, but my mother does not ever play pranks nor would play with the life of someone I valued so much. Looking into her eyes, I saw tears filling them. I understood it was true. I quickly ran out of the parlour and headed for the backyard. Thinking what I might do, she followed me and said, "I am here; your father is here; God is with you. This is not the end of your life. Your sister and brothers are all here. They want you to live and show your greatness." Those words struck me, but I knew that God wasn't with me. I thought to myself, "It is the third time He is disappointing me."

Three people had lost their lives while associating with me.

Moreover, I was reading Ikenna's novel, The Street Boy's Dream, that very evening when my mother came in and asked, "Have you heard the rumours?" I asked, "What rumours?" That was how I got to know about the death of someone I spoke to just two days before (Friday). I was told on Sunday that he had died. I could remember vividly the last mail he sent to me on the 12th of March 2005 in which he wrote, "My dear brother, I am certainly very proud of you and will do all within my reach to encourage you. Ride on and the sky will be your very beginning." I stood in stunned silence and visualised myself bidding farewell to him.

He was the third person associated with me to die.

It was from that moment everything about atheism clogged my heart which, I believe, almost ruined my life and indirectly raged my successes to an abrupt end. I was shattered. My life became a ridicule to live, everything I did had failed and people, including my friends, mocked me.

On the 31st of December 2004, around 5:47 am, one of my Uncles woke me up from the parlour where I slept alone because all the rooms were filled up as it was Christmas and everyone had just returned home. So, as he took me to his room, he showed me a silvered box and asked me to carry it to the backyard. I did. When I was there with the box, he asked me to burn it entirely without leaving anything behind except for the ashes. I demanded to know why should I do it and he said, "They said it is evil. They said I should burn it. But I don't see any evil in it." My heart bumped. Who were "they"? I soliloquized. It was at the long last I realized that they was my aunt in Lagos, who, apparently was revealed to a secret that he was a Rosicrucian, belonging to the largest fraternity in the world, the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC). From what I read from his Initiation Certificate, he was initiated around 1978... and to me, it was just a long story that I needed not to know and so, I decided to keep the box to myself and read the contents. As I read them, I fell sick... That was when my miserable life really began...

Although I sensed what was happening to me, that someone was trying to rumple my destiny, this was what my grandmother revealed to me in one of my strange encounters with her in my dreams. She told me that I had to disconnect from all the people I was associating with and that if I continued my relationship with them, then, all of them would die. I started early in 2005 to make sure that I disconnected from as many people as possible before I became a murderer, but before I knew it, Ikenna was gone. That was after my godfather died. But what flabbergasted me was that these people died in mysterious ways, if I am allowed to tell it this way. Again, I succeeded in disconnecting with them but only one person was adamant to disconnect: Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, the Sunday Editor of the Guardian. Though he was quiet for some time, he never did actually disconnect. So, I watched to see what would happen but nothing happened.

I felt happy.

I met him in July 2004 at the National Theatre, Lagos, during the Wole Soyinka Festival. As he was the one to facilitate my meeting and getting me photographed with the Nobel Laureate, I didn't want anything to happen to him. Moreover, every time I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw demons. My mother thought I was mad; my father confirmed it; my brothers said I was abnormal but my sister didn't say anything. I had troubles with my friends and told them to leave me alone. I became friendless and lonely. I had no one to talk to; I was never interested in going to church because I thought that God had deserted me; everything I did failed and my life was completely shattered. With my abnormality, I decided to stay indoors and by doing so, I got myself busy with the Rosicrucian Manual for Initiation. Still, I could feel that my father's care was more for me than for my siblings. He gave me everything I needed and wanted...

Nevertheless, I was not deterred from writing my works, even when I knew that my destiny was in the hands of some men who read The Seven Books of Moses and glared like cats. Not only that. All the dreams I had during those periods were mysterious. My late grandmother visited me continuously. Sometimes it seemed that she came physically and continued telling me to be careful because as I know, she loved me so much that even before her death, she never stopped urging me to become great, which I still dream of. She and God made me whatever I am today and beyond our mysterious discussions, I could hear my mother's voice. She prayed daily and those prayers troubled me very much. As everything went on, my mother guessed that I had turned into something strange and she tried everything she could do to bring me back but I didn't want to because I had the belief that there was no happiness believing in God. Those prayers were like stones pelted on my head. I decided to run away from home to Lagos...

I did.

I thought I was going to be okay in Lagos but my aunt was there. We all know her as Big Aunty, mild and gentle. She was the one that pointed my Uncle as a Rosicrucian. I didn't know that. But when I realized, I was afraid she was going to see mine. She might have seen it but never told me. But still, I was not at ease. Though I was no wizard, I never believed in a single word from the Bible. I saw them as lies, as fabrications and as words written by my fellow writers. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, my aunt travelled to the US in August but her husband was there. I decided that I was going to let the sleeping dog lie. I had left my home to see if I could find some rest in Lagos but everything seemed like lies to me. They prayed each morning and I also prayed with them; I never believed in those words... and I continued to see demons living in the same building with me as though we were foes. They fought with me and I retaliated. At the long last, I won.

I never knew that atheism was like being anti-Christianity. I thought it was not just believing in God because I started hating everything about God (I know He has forgiven me), I criticized the Bible so boldly and anyone who crossed my path, shuddered and watched me in shock. I lived a miserable life, full of fantasies and mysticisms. There was something again that struck me. When I had a hair cut, I fell sick. That really thwarted my mind and so; I decided not to barb my hair, no matter what the people said.

If anyone tells you he has talked with the dead and seen demons, never think he is joking because I had conversations with those I didn't know. My life was demolished by some spirits that I didn't know. My aunt's maid had once said that I am mad because of my conversations. That never really bothered me.

My grandmother came back to me on a Sunday morning (that day I didn't go to church because we talked throughout the day and I didn't bother to tell anyone what happened) while I was in Lagos and she told me that if I didn't abstain from not believing in God, then my parents were going to die. Each night I had a dream; it was either my mother or my father who would die and on the next morning, I would telephone my father to hear their voices. So I vowed that I wasn't going to lose my parents for some lofty things and decided to persuade myself into worshipping God. But it was not at all easy for me. I still tried and God manifested gently in my life. That was the first day, since 2003, I had a First Thought about God. Though I was a Senior Prefect in a seminary school, I preached the Gospel because I had to. I prayed heavily but I never believed in a single word from the Bible.

My entire trouble came to an abrupt halt one day when I decided to go back to the Rosicrucian book, The Mystical Life of Jesus, written by Harvey Spencer Lewis, the founder of the Rosicrucian Order AMORC. I read about Jesus who was born of "Gentile" parents of Aryan descent but "Jews by forced adoption" (p.55). The book goes on to say that there was Mary, the daughter of a high priest of the Temple of the Sun outside Jerusalem (p.97); there was Joseph, who was a widower at that time (p.104) and they have given birth to a child in an Essene cave on the highway outside Bethlehem (p.199). So I guessed that was the same period Jesus Christ was born. As the story continues, the boy was named Jesus and after His education by the Essenes, he traveled with two Magi to the East. While in India, He took a short course in Hindu religious practices and also investigated Buddhism (pp.182, 185). Again, this Jesus was a Reincarnation of Zarathrushta. So reading it gave me another point that this Jesus lived and died in India, with his tomb still in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu & Kashmir...

Moreover, I had started a novel which was a part autobiography; I decided that I would go to India and research thoughtfully and deeply on it. I didn't want to tell anyone about my plan but my aunt's husband was very concerned about me. I can say we made this secretive. I applied for an Indian visa and within a week, I was out of Lagos...


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