ank-fism) was founded around 1,000 BC in Africa around present day Sudan. A man named Engf had preached radical new ideas to all who would listen. His philosophy had four basic tenets:
- Don't take any God or prophet too seriously.
- Don't hurt anyone if you can help it.
- Mind your own business.
- Avoid crowds.
The leaders of the local religion felt threatened and decided to kill Engf. They managed to convince the people that Engf was responsible for every disaster that had come their way for the past millennium. The people then captured Engf and, after building a gigantic slingshot, put the prophet into this and fired him into a stand of trees. He was splintered to death.
Before he was killed, Engf gave his followers some final instructions. The first three are called the Broken Threefold Ancillary Tenets. They are:
- To follow his four tenets.
- To add no new tenets or embellishments.
- And positively, without a doubt, not to form any religion based on his philosophy.
He went on to say that if they did insist on forming a religion based on his teachings, they should create no icons in memory of him and, by no means should they use his name. These are called the Twin Ancillary Broken Tenets.
After Engf's death his followers started a religion called Engfism. Because they felt guilty about forming a religion and using their founders name in spite of his wishes, they introduced a fifth tenet stating that any time a follower says the name Engf they must hit themselves solidly on the forehead with the flat of their hand. They also built a tremendous wooden slingshot with a red painted line slashing diagonally across it. This became their official icon. The purpose of the slashing line was to negate the icon itself, by which the followers hoped to keep in line with Engf's teaching against icons.
In addition, Engfists declared that if more than five people came together in one place and an Engf was present, the sixth person must be driven away. This was achieved by the use of a small gold slingshot hanging from a chain around the disciples neck. These slingshots fired tiny pellets at the offending sixth member. The purpose, of course, was to avoid crowds. Through the years, Engfism has wallowed in obscurity. Small pockets of the faithful are scattered here and there around the world. By their very tenets they are unable to spread the word of their faith. Their faith restrains them. But they are still trying to be true to their founder to this very day.
Because Engfs are not allowed to discuss their religion with anyone else (not even other Engfs) facts about Engfs are hard to come by. It's hard to disseminate between facts, rumors and hearsay but below are some of what is known about this obscure religion.
How many Engfs are there today?
No one knows. The only sure fire way to know if someone is a practicing Engf is to have them say the name "Engf" out loud. If they then hit them selves on the forehead with the flat of their hand they are probably Engfs. To this date no comprehensive census has been done but guesses range from the thousands down to only a handful.
Engf, God and the Higher Power
Not much is known about Engfs philosophy concerning God. A statement widely attributed to Engf by his faithful is that when asked about his belief in the existence of God Engf is supposed to have answered "To believe in God is to close one's mind to the possibility of the non existence of God. To not believe in the existence of God is to close one's mind to the possibility of the existence of God. Therefore it is best a subject left alone." Most Engf historians believe that this was Engfs way of saying that God cannot be "realized" by the conscious mind. On the other hand, critics and doubters think that this was just Engf's way of opting out of having to actually do any deep thinking.
When asked another time about the existence of God Engf answered "Out of fear of being alone Man invented "God" and domesticated the dog".
Another time Engf was asked about
the nature of the Higher Power. He replied,
The Higher Power has no regard or even awareness of Man's religions, beliefs, prayers or holy books.
Faith and Belief
Engf once said "Do not have faith in belief but believe in faith." This has been widely acknowledge by Engf scholars to mean that "Belief" is holding on whereas "Faith" is letting go... that "faith" is a state of openness whereas "belief" is a closing of the mind. Suspected Engfist, Alan Watts, explained it this way "... the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging, and holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be." Critics of Engf claim that Engf constantly talked in antimetabolites and he just lucked out with this one.
If you meet Engf on the road...
There is a Buddhist statement attributed to Zen master Linji that says "If you meet Buddha on the road kill him." Engfs believe that the statement was actually stolen from one made by Engf. Engf is supposed to have said to his followers that.."If you meet Engf on the road, kill him." This is believed by Engf historians to mean that if you find yourself having any preconceived ideas of truth, God or enlightenment you must rid your mind of these beliefs. However, another side of this story is that what Engf actually said was "If you see Engf on the road kill him a big fat lamb." as he was reputed to be a rabid roast lamb lover. But when Engf made the statement the last part got drowned out by "the wind of camels" and all his followers heard was the part about killing him. To make the story even stranger it is rumored that when Engf was killed it was actually by his own followers whom, having met him on the road and misunderstanding the meaning of what he had earlier said, trussed him up and slingshot him into a stand of trees.
Did Engf have any theory on what happens after death?
Not really. when asked about death he usually managed to change the subject. However once he did answer "If I told you it would spoil the surprise." This, of course has led to a flurry of thoughts as to what he really meant by that. Believers think that it was Engf's way of saying that death is a part of life and is meant to be a mystery not to be answered until met. Critics think it was just one more way for Engf to answer without really thinking.
How does one learn about Engfism? Is there a book?
No, there is no written literature about Engfism. That is forbidden.The lessons of Engfism are passed on orally. The only way to learn more about Engfism would be to ask an Engf. Of course Engfs are not allowed to discuss their religion so if he or she tells you about Engfism he or she is probably not really an Engf.
What did Engf look like?
Engfs like to describe their founder as a buff, bearded, muscular tall man with long golden hair. In fact, from what few descriptions that can be pulled from ancient texts he appears to have been short, bald and stout. He did have a beard though.
If Life Were a Piece of Cake
Engf supposedly said many wise things but most have been lost to posterity because, frankly, no one was allowed to write them down. One little bit of wisdom that has been passed down orally from generation to generation is something Enfg supposedly said to a particularly complaining friend. He said "If life were a piece of cake we would all want pie." Again, there being always a few sides to every story about Engf, it is also said that one day Engf and his followers were sitting around the table and when it was dessert time the waitress said that there was only one piece of cake available. Engf really loved cake. So he said in a very wise manner to all of his disciples "If life were a piece of cake we would all want pie." The followers, not understanding his meaning, all assumed they should therefore order pie which of course left the piece of cake for Engf.
As Engf refused to answer any direct questions concerning God or the secrets of the universe we are left with many sayings but nothing really concrete. Apparently traveling mystics would often stop in to visit Engf and engage him in conversations in hopes of bringing to light his theory as to why we are here. As one story goes, one day a rather self endulging, full of himself, holy man stopped by to ask questions but to mostly try to impress Engf with his own theories. Engf, as always, listened politely as the man rambled on and on. When finally the holy man stopped he politely asked Engf for his own theory on the meaning of existence. Engf calmly looked the man in the eye and said…”Nothing moves, where would it go?” He then to the total shock of the holy man, stood up, did a little pirouette and sat back down with a laugh and a smile on his face. This simple obscure statement has left Engf scholars knowingly smiling. Many years later the statement was used by Zen masters as a meditation koan. As is the case with any koan it cannot be explained but must be experienced but most Engf scholars agree that it has to do with “all being one.” As usually seems to be the case with almost any story concerning Engf there is another side. Apparently, according to the cynics, it was not exactly what Engf said. As the story goes it is a known fact that Engf had a particular coat that he wore all the time. This coat happened to have many buttons all up the front. It has been said that Engf was constantly mending this threadbare garment and would often do it while listening to visitors talk. According to this other side of the story, just as the visiting holy man asked that final question of “What is the meaning of Existence” Engf dropped the button he was sewing and it rolled away. He yelled “No one move, where did it go?” and then jumped up and tried to find it. Engf historians of course find this story preposterous but it is necessary to mention it here.