Original Research - Special Collection: Christian Leadership

African leadership and the kind of reality of the spirit world

Hermen Kroesbergen
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 2 | a5846 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i2.5846 | © 2020 Hermen Kroesbergen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 October 2019 | Published: 30 July 2020

About the author(s)

Hermen Kroesbergen, Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Leadership in Africa is inextricably connected to the spirit world. Leaders may be chosen through elections or other human processes, but ultimately, they are seen as appointed by God. Leaders may base their decisions upon science or intuition, but ultimately, they let themselves be inspired by revelations from the spiritual realm. Yet, what is meant by the spirit world in this respect? In this article, a new way is explored for investigating what references to the spirit world mean. Instead of discussing which theoretical concept applies to the kind of reality spirits have, or what analogy fits spirits, I demonstrate that we can discover what it means to speak of the spirit world by investigating what we already know about it before theoretical labels and comparisons. Such a Wittgensteinian approach in line with the re-emerging brand of ethnographically informed philosophy of religion enhances our understanding of what kind of reality the spirit world has. If you see leadership as being empowered by the spirit world, this is not a choice, option or interpretation, but you cannot see it any other way.

Contribution: This article contributes to a better understanding of the kind of reality that the spirit world has, in particular in an African context. The topic of leadership in Africa is used here to illustrate how this kind of reality is often misunderstood. A clear understanding of the kind of reality of the spirit world is indispensable for a proper investigation of Christianity in Africa and religion in general.


Spirit world; Ludwig Wittgenstein; African leadership; Ethnographically informed philosophy; Reality


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