On Emperor Haile Sellassie I as the Living God

The doctrine that Ras Tafari known to the world as the Emperor Haile Sellassie I of Ethiopia, is the Living God, was developed by several persons independently.

Of these Mr. Leonard P. Howell is genuinely regarded as being the first to preach the divinity of Ras Tafari in Kingston. Howell is said to have fought against King Prempeh of Ashanti (1896), and claimed to speak an African language.

‘The Promised Key’, a basic Ras Tafari text, published in Accra, Ghana around 1930, shows clear evidence of Jamaican authorship. (Jamaica Times 28th May 1938).

Howell also spent several years in the north-eastern U.S., where he came into contact with black and white racism.

Another early preacher was Mr. Joseph Nathaniel Hibbert. Mr. Hibbert was born in Jamaica in 1894, but went with his adopted father to Costa Rica in 1911, returning to Jamaica in 1931. In Costa Rica Mr. Hibbert had leased 28 acres, which he put in bananas. In 1924 he had joined the Ancient Mystic Order of Ethiopia, a Masonic society the constitution of which was revised in 1888, and which became incorporated in 1928 in Panama. Mr. Hibbert became a Master Mason of this Order, and, returning to Jamaica, began to preach Haile Sellassie as the King of Kings, the returned Messiah and the Redeemer of Israel.

This was at Benoah District, St. Andrew, from whence he moved to Kingston to find Howell already preaching Ras Tafari as God at the Redemption Market.  Mr. H. Archibald Dunkley is another man who may claim to have brought the doctrine to Jamaica. Mr. Dunkley was a Jamaican seaman on the Atlantic Fruit Company’s boats, and finally quit the sea on the 8th December 1930, when he landed at Port Antonio off the s.S. St. Mary. Coining to Kingston, Dunkley studied the Bible for two-and-a half years on his own, to determine whether Haile Sellassie was the Messiah whom Garvey had prophesied. Ezekiel 30, I Timothy 6, Revelation 17 and 19 and Isaiah 43 finally convinced him.

In 1933 Dunkley opened his Mission, preaching Ras Tafari as the King of Kings, the Root of David, the Son of the Living God, but not the Father Himself. Other early preachers include Robert Hinds, who joined Howell, and Altamont Read who turned his following over to one Mr. Johnson when he became Mr. N. W. Manley’s bodyguard about 1940.

The Rastafari Movement In Kingston, Jamaica. PART 1
Source: Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3 (September 1967)

Image source: Colin Edward Murray Art

On Haile Selassie as God and King

“I know that the Jamaicans are here because of our king,” Daniel Wogu, an eighteen-year-old student and Shashemene inhabitant working toward acceptance in a medical program, told me. “They believe that he is sent from God to save them or make the black people free from slavery. They have their own history,” he continued. “As I have learned
from Ethiopian history, they say that our king went to their country to visit and there were some unexpected happenings. There was rainfall or something. They say then that this proves that Haile Selassie is not actually a man, but is God.”

Henock Mahari, an Ethiopian reggae musician born and raised in Addis Ababa, the city where he still lives and works, said something similar: “He was once in Jamaica and it hadn’t rained, and then it did rain. They accepted him as a God because of this miracle. They see him as a messiah and call Ethiopia their Promised Land and leave their home to come here and finish their life here.”

In a general discussion with my hundred-strong English language class at the Afrika Beza College, a female student told me that “Jamaican people live in Shashemene and they like Ethiopian people very much because Haile Selassie went to their town and at that time there is no rain. When Haile Selassie got there, there was rain. So, after that day, Jamaican people like Ethiopia very much.”

Shemelis Safa, a high school teacher in the town, had a similar explanation for why Rastafari move to Shashemene:
As I know, Haile Selassie went to Jamaica. It was very dry and they needed rain. Unfortunately, when this king arrived in Jamaica, the rain came. There started a superstition, a belief—“oh this is a good person,” they said. Their famous singer Bob Marley and other leaders told the people that the King is a very nice king and Ethiopia is very nice, so they associate the king with their religion. . . . Haile Selassie is from the Solomonic dynasty and they consider Haile Selassie God, so they respect him more than the people in Ethiopia.
We Ethiopians saw Haile Selassie as a king—a man who made many mistakes and did some good things.

Found in The Miracle Story, from Chapter:
Christianity and the King, Marriage and Marijuana.
Book Title: Visions of Zion: Ethiopians and Rastafari in the Search for the Promised Land
by Erin C. MacLeod. NYU Press. (2014)
Image source: African Kings and Queens and world Kings and Queens in forum Deshret at EgyptSearch Forums.


I’m rational, irrational. I can create and
un-create. My mind, it has no… I have built my mind to
have no horizons. My mind is horizonless. So anarchy is my
friend. And I see in that anarchy… (anarchy, when it is
practiced, it is called ‘anarchy’, when it is realized it
is called ‘Infinity’) and that’s what God is. And you don’t
know anything about
God. And this thing I always found out: five million people
do not know what God is. It is such a ridiculous thing!
What we have done is taken a genie, put him in bottle, and
said, “This is a genie. This is a genie.”, and we hang it
around and collect the money and build churches. Thanks to
the acid rain they are all falling apart. But what I am
trying to tell you is: tomorrow you will build the
gurdwaras also, the same thing happens.

What we have done is, God is an Infinity. Infinity, when
realized, is a wonderful asset. But when not realized, it
is anarchy. So my mental anarchy is great and I don’t mind
it. But under the circumstances, I want to assure you of
something, that within that anarchy there is a polarity.
You want to stretch out thin. That’s anarchy. You want to
do things beyond practical. You have to have a dream that’s
wonderful, but you have to have a practical reality to it.
That is you. That’s what you are.
So God has created you out of His own anarchy to find out,
to realize His own Infinity. So I mean, God is fine. Keep
Him in a box. That’s okay. Make a pedestal, put Him on it.
That’s okay. God can enjoy Himself. God created us, that’s
one mistake. Secondly, He’s maintaining us, that’s another
mistake. Thirdly He has to finish us. That’s the third
mistake. But after He finishes with us and we are finished
with Him, we have got to go to Him. And that’s our problem.
It’s not God’s problem. For God’s sake, realize it! God is
very clever. He’s everywhere, He knows what we are doing,
and He doesn’t know what we are NOT doing. We know what we
are doing, and He knows what He’s doing. But after a while
you have got to go back to God. And that is all what is
called “maya.”


Transcript by Tej Kaur Khalsa