I am to know God directly, I must become completely He
and He I,
so that this He and this I become and are one I"
Meister Eckhart, German mystic
"I and I"
The ultimate expression of the uniquely Rastafarian
concept of 'Inity' (unity) is the phrase
'I and I', which effectively replaces
personal pronouns (I, you, he, she, etc), which are
As Bunny Wailer sings (in the song 'Armageddon'),
There was but one concept
And that's the concept of I.
Then arose Apollyon the Devil
Claiming that it's you and I.
Rastafarians seek to avoid any form of division,
segregation, or disunity, including all 'isms and
schisms' - hence, Rastas generally dislike the
term 'Rastafarianism', preferring simply 'Rastafari'. Harmony and communion among fellow
Idren (brethren and sistren) and between humankind and
God are the ideals to be striven for. This is reflected
in the Jamaican greeting and parting phrase 'One
'I and I' is an interesting part-contradiction of Freud's
concept of the 'I' (ego). Normally, the name 'I' can only
be used by the speaker to refer to him or herself.
Moreover, the ability to consciously recognise oneself as
an 'I', distinguishable from one's surroundings, seems to
be a distinctively human characteristic, not shared by
the animal, plant or mineral kingdoms. In contrast, 'I
and I' can refer to any number of individuals, often
being extended ad infinitum: I and I and I and I and
I... and hence implying an 'endless circle of Inity'.
Needless to say, such abolition of personal pronouns can
lead to confusion! Hence one may hear also phrases such
as 'the-I' ('you'), or 'I-man' ('I').
The syllable 'I' is one of the most frequently recurring
in reggae songs, and it is perhaps no coincidence that
the name 'Rastafari' itself ends with this same
sound (at least in its English pronunciation; in Amharic,
it is pronounced 'ras ta-fa-ree'). 'I' may replace an
existing initial syllable of a word, or it may be
suffixed, as in 'Zion-I'. This often lends a more sacred
quality to words. Not surprisingly, the Roman numeral 'I'
(one) appended to the name of the Emperor Haile Selassie I (implying 'the first') has come
to be pronounced almost exclusively in the same way.
The distinctively Rastafarian phenomenon of incorporating
the sound 'I' into words has become so widespread and
well recognised as to be given its own term: 'I-word
forming'. Naturally, it produces some obvious
rhyme schemes in reggae lyrics, since the words Rastafari,
Selassie I, I and I, Most I (High), Zion-I, and so
on all end in the same sound. Other I-words you may meet
include Idren (brethren and sistren), I-didate
(meditate), Iley (highly), Imanity (humanity),
Iration (creation), I-shence (incense, or
herb), Ises (praises), I-story (history),
Ital, Iternity (eternity), Itinually
(continually), Itiopia (Ethiopia), Iwa (hour, time), Iyant
the I be iley blessed in Iternity, and Ises to the Most I!
The phrase 'I and I' also suggests the oneness
of God (Jah) and humankind. Along these lines, the
ancient German mystic Meister Eckhart said:
I am to know God directly,
I must become completely He and He I,
so that this He and this I become and are one I".
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