The Sunsum of Onyame: Akan Perspectives on an Ecological Pneumatology

in Journal of Reformed Theology
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  • 1 University of the Western Cape, Republic of South Africa


The Akan notion of sunsum may form the basis for an ecological pneumatology. Sunsum may be understood as the central, unifying vitality which integrates various elements in Akan thought. Amongst the Akan, God has Sunsum and anything which exists in its natural state has sunsum, a spark from God. The concept of sunsum expresses how the “one” (Onyame) and the “many” (nature including human beings) are related. It is the dynamic equivalent of the Holy Spirit in the Akan Twi Bible. Sunsum is energy, life, communicating itself and transcending itself. It is absolute spirit, who enlivens the whole universe. The Akan concept of sunsum suggests the possibility of a union of the concrete with the universal. The concept of sunsum may therefore enable one to speak of the Holy Spirit and its relation both to God and to nature. This proposal may also enable one to understand the Holy Spirit as cosmic in nature and as divine in being. This contribution offers theological reflection on the implications of the notion of sunsum for ecotheology.


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