Written by Paul Easterling
The question of the symbolic nature of language and how culture informs language, forces an examination of the dynamic nature of language. Moreover, one of the more dynamic aspects of African culture is the double-voiced (or multi-voiced) aspects of its various forms. To explain, Vernon Dixon in the essay, “African-Oriented and Euro-American-Oriented World Views: Research Methodologies and Economics” provides perspective on meaning making and its connection to language. According to Dixon, “logic or the mode of organizing knowledge implicitly shapes the form of these assumptions and models.” For him, African culture is not linear but spherical and multi-faceted where symbols, language, meaning, life and experience all intertwine in a complex tapestry of epistemological definition and meaning to inform a people whom they are as well as keep their minds open to unseen possibilities. Furthermore, according to Dixon, the cultural differences between peoples are based on the nature and process of gaining and organizing knowledge. He argues African logic is "diunital," meaning two or more ways to understanding one whole. In other words, for African logic, something can be a thing and something else at the same time (and in the same way) without contradicting itself. This point speaks to the vibrant nature of African language (and African symbolic language) which is paramount to understanding the dynamics of African spirituality and philosophy.
Symbolic expression is not unique to African philosophy and spirituality but there are unique ways in which symbolic phenomena is expressed for African people. Further, certain symbolic phenomena that may cross ethnic lines can be read in very different ways. For instance, Christianity as a symbolic phenomenon may represent salvation through obedience for European Americans; however, for African Americans salvation is accessed through freedom. The source of that difference, or what makes that difference important, is experience. That is to say, experience itself is a source that can be used by African Americans (or any persons or people) to help form an analysis that can help to navigate through this dangerous and often hostile world. Simply put, experience informs culture. European Americans interpreted the meaning of salvation to be obedience because their experience informed them that was the best way to control their captive population of Africans. African Americans interpreted salvation through the lens of freedom because that is what they yearned for most in the world.
Not only does experience help to provide different definitions of the purpose and philosophy of the Christian religion, it does the same with respect to the religion of Islam. Al-Islam, like Christianity, took on a different understanding and posture once in the hands of African Americans because of the resource of experience. Similar to Christianity, it became consumed not only by the experience of African Americans, but as well by African American modes of expression and rhythm. By this, I am referring to how a phenomenon is consumed and digested by a people. To explain further, African people ate Christianity and what came out the other end was the Black church. This is in no way a jibe at the Black Church, as this was the fertilizer that allowed Dr. King to grow. Just as the al-Islam that was consumed and digested by African Americans became the fertilizer that would eventually allow Malcolm Little to blossom into Malcolm X.
To go back to Dixon’s argument, diunital logic, to be a thing and not that thing at the same time, African American experience as a source for understanding and examining African American religion and philosophy will prove to be a fruitful endeavor. It is experience which creates the line of difference between the white and Black church as well as the difference between al-Islam (Arab Islam) and African American Islam. Therefore, experience is the critical variable for different (and many times divergent) modes of spiritual expression. Examination of Christianity in the hands of Latin Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans supports this claim. In each instance, the culture of the people who practice the tradition is what defines the differences between the traditions. Again, this is the case because experience defines culture.
This is why there is little cohesion between the white church and the Black church because both traditions are not grounded in Christ consciousness but the consciousness of experience. So the answer to the riddle of why the hour of worship is the most segregated timeframe for most Americans is because experience defines the parameters of worship, not just a sense of faith. Experience informs why and how a people worship. Without understanding the dynamic nature of experience, it is impossible to understand the why and how of religious worship. James Cone argues, “there is no truth for and about black people that does not emerge out of the context of their experience.” By extension, I argue that experience is the most critical phenomena with regard to any human religious and/or philosophical departure.
Dixon’s argument of African-oriented thinking is not an argument for the innate nature of African people but instead an argument of how experience informs culture and the ways in which people form logical connections and understandings. Culture is not something that is innate; it is taught and learned, culminating into both personal and collective experience. And it is that experience that shapes people, again, both personally and collectively. Further, it is experience that invariably becomes the source(s) that will shape our thoughts and beliefs about the world we live in and our place in that world. Simply put, our experience will become the source that shapes human spirituality and philosophy.
 Vernon J. Dixon, “African-Oriented and Euro-American-Oriented World Views: Research Methodologies and Economics.” The Review of Black Political Economy 7 (1977): 119-156.
 Ibid., 139.
 Ibid., 122.
 Ibid., 139. “In contrast, overseas and homeland Africans predominantly organize what they know according to Diunital logic. I constructed the neologism Diunital in the following manner: Webster tells us that Di means ‘akin to two’ and ‘apart.’ Unital, that adjectival form of the word unit, means a ‘single that that constitutes an undivided whole.’ Diunital, therefore, is literally something apart and united at the same time.”
 This method of understanding logic as described by Dixon is also dissected in the article by Lerone Bennett, The Challenge of Blackness (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Co., 1972). He states, “the either/or question of integration or separation does not speak to that proposition; for if our goal is liberation it may be necessary to do both or neither.”
 By expression and rhythm, I am referring to the differences in African American and European American methods of worship, styles of preaching as well as interpretation of scripture.
 To Readers: Please do not take my scatological reference to mean anything disrespectful about the two religions. They are proud traditions deserving much space and respect in this author’s opinion. The analogy was the most effective way to express my point.
 Miguel A. De La Torre and Edwin David Aponte. Introducing Latino/a American Theology. (New York: Orbis Books, 2001). George E. Tinker. American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty. (New York: Orbis Books: 2008). Jonathan Y. Tan. Introducing Asian American Theologies. (New York: Orbis Book, 2008).
 James Cone. God of the Oppressed. (Orbis Books: New York, 2013), 16.
 Cheikh Anta Diop. Civilization and Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology. (Brooklyn: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991). Cheikh Anta Diop dealt with this problem with the two cradle theory. Essentially, Diop argued that the differing approaches Africans and Europeans have towards the world are informed by different experiences with the world. The African cradle, the environment where Africans found themselves in the world, abundant and favorable to human life; the European cradle, where there is scarcity and a hostile and cold environment that is seemingly hostile to human life, provide very different approaches to the world and its inhabitants.