Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974 by Marxist revolutionaries and died the following year on 27 August 1975 in suspicious circumstances. His ignominious fall from power and death undermined the idea that he was a living God, although the circumstances left enough doubt to allow other accounts of his fate to spread. There were three main responses to the death of Haile Selassie: that he is still alive and reports of his death were a lie spread by the agents of Babylon; that his spirit assumed a different physical form and therefore continues to live; that it was irrelevant because Haile Selassie the man was only a personification of Jah. Haile Selassie remains a spiritual presence for Rastafari and for some a supreme being. However, he did not accept Rastafari belief himself while he was alive, remaining a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. He visited Jamaica once in 1966, when he met with Rastafari elders and discouraged them from attempting physical repatriation to Ethiopia, urging them instead to focus on redeeming Jamaica for themselves. He did not publicly repudiate their beliefs, however, as the Jamaican government of the time was hoping.

Rastas have no overall leader. Everyone is considered equal because each person is equally Jah. However, only those that follow the ways and beliefs of Rastafari realise this divine status. Becoming Rastafari is a spiritual birth in ‘sonship’, a personal divinity based on a relationship to Haile Selassie; the believer becomes a son of ‘Jah Rastafari who is god’ and shares his divinity. However, how this works out in practice is open to individual interpretation based on experience. No one member can lay down orthodoxy or tell any other member what to believe or how to behave. Elders and those who speak persuasively in ‘reasonings’ hold some authority; however, this authority is up to each individual to acknowledge, based on their own experience with that person. Authority ultimately rests individually in each Rastafari as an incarnation of Jah.

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