Max G. Beauvoir, Patrick Delices, and James Small in Haiti (Photo courtesy of Patrick Delices).
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On September 12, 2015 as I rested on my couch contemplating the myriad problems that bedevil Black people, in which no Black politician, preacher, academic, lawyer, accountant, CEO, etc., has yet to solve; I received a telephone call from my intellectual and spiritual preceptor, Professor James Small. Prof. Small informed me that Papa Legba opened the door to the immaterial world for Max Gesner Beauvoir as Papa Ghede waited patiently at the crossroad to guide Beauvoir’s soul to the Ginen (Guinea), the ancestral-spiritual realm known as Africa.

In Haitian Vodou, the ancestral-spiritual realm is understood to be Africa, the place where humanity was born and the life-force abode where our souls, ancestral-spirits return to live. Prof. Small expressed that the goal of Haitian Vodou “is to be reborn by releasing the soul from the body to bring out the God within you for the greater good of humanity.” Thereby, for Prof. Small, “Max Beauvoir, for the greater good of humanity, brought out the God within all of us.”

“If Vodou is the soul of the Haitian people, Max was its eyes and heart,” asserted Prof. Small. Thus, Vodou, as Beauvoir would often remind us, is “the soul of the Haitian people” and it answers the philosophical and scientific questions of what is life and what is death? Although western society teaches us that life and death are separate entities where death is to be feared; Haitian Vodou teaches us that life and death are complimentary forces that are synthesize into one entity where death is simply an extension of life and should not be feared.

Last year in Haiti, with Prof. Small, I was fortunate to have spent some time with Max G. Beauvoir, one of Vodou's most venerated supreme servant (Supreme Servitur) and chief supreme, high priest (Ati Houngan). Ironically and prophetically, my visit to Haiti in addition to meeting with Beauvoir last year was providential as it took place during the same time of his transition this month to the afterlife. My meeting with Beauvoir was also providential because he taught me something that I have not learned in school - the secret of life, which is not to fear death.

Thus, with over 150 graduate credits and four graduate degrees, my time with Beauvoir in Haiti surpassed any graduate course that I have ever taken at any university. His wisdom was supreme as his humility along with his humanity was sublime. No trickery, no games, no pettiness or foolishness, Beauvoir was humble and honest as he took a sincere interest in my intellectual and spiritual development.

Similarly to Manning Marable at the scholarly level, Beauvoir at the spiritual level was ready and willing to take me under his guided wings to learn the sacred science and mystical craft of Haitian Vodou. Incidentally and undoubtedly, if properly embraced, Vodou would ensure the solutions to our problems as evident in the Haitian Revolutionary War of Independence of 1804 which created the first Black sovereign republic in the western hemisphere by eradicating the problem of slavery, colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and non-citizenship status for Blacks. Under the constitution of JanJak Desalin, the founding father of Haiti, every Black person was considered a citizen of the Republic of Haiti.

In Vodou, we learn the lessons of life along with its purpose, which is not to fear death because death does not exist - it is simply a continuation of life as we travel from the material world to the immaterial world. For practitioners of Vodou (vodouists), not fearing death along with serving the ancestors/spirits and understanding the universe is the only way to live life to its fullest.

Equally as important, it is also the only way to live forever as we are reborn during our transition from the material world to the immaterial world. Beauvoir would often state that “we are no longer afraid of dying” because Vodou teaches us that “nobody ever dies”- “we are the same essence with God” as manifested in nature, the ancestors, and the universe. Thus, for Beauvoir, “God is manifested to humans in sprits” and “cannot die!” Accordingly, Prof. Small stated that the power of Haitian Vodou teaches us that “we are gods having a human experience,” and “this powerful philosophical reality was Max Beauvoir greatest contribution to not only scholarship and service, but to our spiritual manifestation as gods on earth.”

For vodouists, the philosophical science of Vodou is the highest level of being liberated from those individuals who think that they can control our minds, bodies, and souls. Vodou, unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, never financed nor sanctioned the enslavement, colonization, dehumanization, and genocide of millions of human beings. Vodou actually liberated people from slavery, colonization, dehumanization, and cultural genocide.

Vodou unifies the mind and body with the soul as it creates a synergy between two worlds: that of the material with that of the immaterial. Moreover, Vodou establishes the necessary synergy between the living and the dead. Therefore, Vodou respects life and death, and it is more than merely a religion.

Vodou is indeed a sacred philosophical science and as a sacerdotal scientist, Beauvoir was Vodou's highest priest and most supreme servant. Beauvoir provided us with a spiritual synthesis by cementing scholarship with service and by connecting the living with the dead and the dead with the living. Beauvoir also championed for the rights of vodouists as he advocated for an accurate portrayal of Vodou at a global scale.

Max Gesner Beauvoir was born in Haiti on August 25, 1936, two years after the U.S. Marines vacated Haiti and a day before Haitians celebrate the Kingdom of the Kongo by way of the Petro rites as manifested at Lakou Soukri. In celebrating the Kingdom of the Kongo, Haitians honor their ancestral homeland and the Congolese warriors, who during the Haitian Revolution played a prominent role in defeating the Napoleonic forces of France in 1804.

In 1958, Beauvoir earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at the City College of New York. From 1959 to 1962, Beauvoir studied at the Sorbonne where he earned a graduate degree in biochemistry. By 1965, he had a bright career with Cornell Medical Center as a leading biochemist/chemical engineer. However, in 1973, as his grandfather was meeting Papa Ghede at the crossroad; he summoned Beauvoir to a more promising career and higher calling – that of a Vodou priest.

A year later, in Mariani at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Beauvoir founded Le Péristyle de Mariani which served as a local Haitian Vodou temple and healing center. It is at around this time that a young Bill and Hillary Clinton met Beauvoir during their honeymoon in Haiti. Impressed and fascinated by Beauvoir and Vodou, Clinton in his autobiography, My Life, stated “I describe my brief foray into the world of voodoo because I’ve always been fascinated by the way different cultures try to make sense of life, nature, and the virtually universal belief that there is a nonphysical spirit force at work in the world that existed before humanity and will be here when we all are long gone.”

That nonphysical force that existed before humanity is the spirit. In Dahomey, the Fon word for spirit is Vodun. In Haiti, the word Vodou means in the company, family or house of gods or spirits. Furthermore, Vodou explains the scientific observations and explanations of the unknown, the invisible, or nothingness (spirits) which existed before humanity and will exist after humanity.

In understanding the above truism of Vodou, Beauvoir merged his scholarship and service with his spirituality by establishing vital spiritual, socio-political, and scholarly institutions, such as Groupe d'Etudes et de Recherches Traditionnelles (GERT), Bòde Nasyonal, the Temple of Yehwe, the KOSANBA group at the University of California in Santa Barbara, and Federasyon Nasyonal Vodou Ayisyen which was renamed Konfederasyon Nasyonal Vodou Ayisyen.

In addition to his institutional building, Beauvoir retained the patent for extracting hecogenin from plants in Haiti which led Harvard trained ethno-botanist Wade Davis to seek out Beauvoir for advice and intel regarding the living dead. Beauvoir’s advice and information helped Davis obtain his PhD at Harvard and it also led to a lucrative book deal and movie production known as the Serpent and the Rainbow.

Even though the Serpent and the Rainbow added to the unwarranted racial stereotypes of Haitians and Vodou, Beauvoir’s work as a scholar, scientist, and spiritual servant was rewarded on March 7, 2008 when he became the first person to be appointed to the National Ati of Haitian Vodou. Beauvoir often stated that “my position as supreme chief in Vodou was born out of a controversy.”

As such, Haitian Vodou priestess, Manbo Dòwòti Désir expressed that “we did not all agree with how or why his Eminence Ati Nasyonal Beauvoir became the official head of the Haitian Vodou community, but I found myself shaken by his passing as I planned on sitting with him in another month to let him know more about my plans as the appointed Gwètòdé Outre Mer, of his administration. Gwètòdé Outre Mer is the foreign or overseas representative of Haitian Vodou.

Désir also asserted that “Ati Beauvoir’s legacy shall be what we make of it. If we do not choose or embrace our leaders, history shall do so for us. I hope we in the AfroAtlantic world will come together, to honor and respect his passage to Ginen, as we would any venerable, spiritual leader of our time. As Catholics and non-Christians do the Pope, or Buddhist and others, would of the Dali Lama, let us gather in a great circle, to pay homage to Max G. Beauvoir, the path he has forged for us, and the shade he provided each of us on our Gran Chemin — the Great Road of Life.”

In Vodou, to understand what life is, one would need to travel the Gran Chemi; however, to understand what death is, one would need to consult with Beauvoir, not at Mariani in Haiti, but at the crossroad in Ginen.

On September 12, 2005, Ati Hougan Max Gesner Beauvoir lost his battle against cancer at the tender age of 79 while residing at his home in Mariani. Beauvoir is survived by his daughter Rachel. His other daughter Estelle is with him at the crossroad in Ginen.

Homage was rendered to Beauvoir at his home-going which took place on September 15, 2015 in Haiti. On September 16, 2015, Haitians around the world gathered for a national tribute and traditional Vodou ceremony which commenced at his Hounfour (Vodou temple or peristyle) in Mariani.

May Ati Hougan Beauvoir have a peaceful transition and eternal life as Papa Ghede guides him to Ginen.

Patrick Delices is a political analyst/commentator for the Black Star News and the author of “The Digital Economy” in the Journal of International Affairs. For nearly a decade, Delices has taught Africana Studies at Hunter College and served as a research fellow for the late Pulitzer Prize recipient, Dr. Manning Marable at Columbia University. Patrick Delices can be contacted at [email protected]. Please visit his website at

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