Last week, Army Chief Lt.-General Tukur Buratai raised eyebrows when he advocated the use of prayers and “spiritual warfare” in the war against terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP. Interestingly enough, “spiritual warfare” was not on the curriculum of the Nigerian Defense Academy when cadet Tukur Buratai enrolled on the 29th Regular Combatant Course in 1981. And I doubt if it ever featured in the staff college and other prestigious training courses that he subsequently underwent.
I spent some of my formative years working on the economics and politics of defense and strategy at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru. I have studied the classics of military strategy from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz. From ancient to modern times, spiritual warfare has never been a part of military science. The fact that such things were never taught, however, does not mean they are unimportant.
I believe in the canonical supremacy of the scientific method while appreciating epistemology and the philosophy of mind. My intellectual interests cover cosmology and theoretical physics. But I am also aware that the human mind is powerful and infinitely complex. There are mysterious occult forces out there. Indeed, some of the greatest scientific minds like Isaac Newton, Emmanuel Swedenborg, Pierre and Marie Curie, Wolfgang Pauli, Carl Linnaeus, Nikola Tesla and Carl Jung were into occultism.
I have studied Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic metaphysics. And I know a thing or two about Kabbalah and Gnostic mysticism. I am not an occultist because my Christian faith forbids indulging in such things. But it would be foolish to deny that they exist.
History provides ample evidence of the existence and efficacy of spiritual warfare. In the Old Testament, the Red Sea parted for the children of Israel to escape from their Egyptian oppressors. This feat could only have been accomplished through spiritual warfare. In the war with the Amalekites, Aaron and Hur held up the hand of Moses, Each time they did so, the children of Israel made progress in war. But whenever they stopped, the tide changed against them. When the teenage David, later to become king of Israel, went up against the giant Goliath, he declared that he was coming against him in the Name of the mighty God of Israel. The defeat of the giant by a rustic shepherd boy is one of the most improbable victories in the history of human conflict.
The survival of the modern state of Israel since 1948 has been a miracle. Israel is a small country of nine million surrounded by 300 million hostile Arabs. And yet in all the wars that have been fought, the Jewish state not only prevailed, they gained more territory. Israel today has the greatest war-making machinery in the Middle East; with some of the most fearsome warlords since the ancient Greek city state of Sparta. They include such legendary names as Meir Har-Zion, Jonathan Yoni Netanyahu, Yigal Allon, Ariel Sharon, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin and Haim Bar-Lev.
When you read the their war memoirs you hear astonishing tales. According to one account, during the 1967 war, angels literally gathered in their millions over an overcast sky. One young Israeli paratrooper recounted an incident when their unit was about to be wiped out by the Arabs. He started reciting Psalms 91. He was the only one that came back to tell the tale.
There is no doubt that the Israeli military-intelligence establishment deploy spiritual resources in their existential conflict with the Arabs. I once met Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz when he came to address the Oxford Union. He is widely regarded as the greatest living genius on earth. A grandmaster of Kabbalah, his wisdom and counsel is sought by succeeding generations of Israeli leaders.
Delving back into history, the extraordinary teenager Joan of Arc (1412-1431) led the French army into several successful battles against their English enemies. She claimed to have received messages directly from angels who guided her in her military victories. She was later captured and burned at the stakes in Rouen, Normandy, on 30 May 1431. But she has been canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church. She goes down in history as one of the greatest legends of the French nation. Her compatriot Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the greatest warlords in modern history. What few realise is that he was also a master occultist who deployed the dark arts in his military campaigns. It is said that he was able to trans-locate his spirit into the position of the enemy where he received details about their position and how to defeat them.
It is a well known fact that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were occultists. In his famous memoirs, The Gathering Storm, Winston Churchill opined that Hitler had “conjured up the fearful idol of an all-devouring Moloch of which he was the priest and incarnation”.
The Russian state has been deeply implicated with spiritual powers since Rasputin. During the Siege of Leningrad (1941—1944) by the Germans, Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin brought back the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church from his near-banishment in Siberia. An avowed atheist, Stalin ordered the Patriarch and the church to pray fervently to save Russia. It apparently worked. The tide of war changed in Moscow’s favour. James Clapperton wrote a brilliant doctoral dissertation at the University of Edinburgh in 2006 on the religious aspects of that event, titled: “The Siege of Leningrad and the Ambivalence of the Sacred” .
Some of the most powerful intelligence services in the world today employ psychics as part of their arsenals. Israel’s Mossad used to employ the psychic Yuri Geller, a former paratrooper, in their secret operations. I suspect that their interest in having Prophet T. B. Joshua relocate to Israel was partly because they saw him as a potentially huge intelligence asset. In the United States, psychics are widely deployed not only for law-enforcement but also to solve complex intelligence conundrums. During the Cold War, the CIA working with defense intelligence, created “Project Star Gate” to research into spiritual and psychic warfare.
We in Africa have vast untapped naturalistic forces. A fortnight ago 36 cows were killed by a mysterious thunder in the sleepy village of Ijare in Ifedoro local government of Ondo State. The Fulani herdsmen had to flee for dear life. The traditional ruler, Oba Adebamigbe Oluwagbemigun, had warned that the herdsmen had crossed the boundaries of the forbidden. There are communities throughout our country that are custodians of potent spiritual warfare forces.
My paternal grandfather, for example, was a legend of his time. He gave the British a hard time, but no chains or prison gates could keep him. The wily British decided to make him a police officer. In 1914 they sent him to quench a riot in Lafia, capital of present day Nasarawa State. When news came that his wife had put to bed and he was now the father of a bouncing baby boy, he sent back a message: “His name shall be Mailafia”. That was my father.
We should encourage our military high command to undertake the scientific study of spiritual warfare; exploring potentials of our indigenous knowledge systems, including traditional hunters and practitioners of Ifa and the likes.
Former Beninois president Nicéphore Soglo declared recently that Boko Haram has been sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Our enemies are both domestic and foreign. Defeating them requires the highest wisdom and most sagacious statecraft we can muster. We must deploy science and technology and the time-tested principles of military strategy. Spiritual warfare can only be a complement to science. All is fair in love and war.