Healing Practices

Native Philosophy of Peace

Title: Native Philosophy of Peace

Part I. An Introduction to Native Philosophy of Peace

Part II. Speaking Towards Peace: A Native American Way

Pamela Colorado

Lethbridge Extension

Faculty of Social Welfare

University of Calgary

Sam Kounosu

Physics Department

University of Lethbridge


From the time of the invasion by the European Civilization in the 15th century, the history of Native Americans has been a history of violence. The Natives have had to endure and subsist under the genocidal policy of colonial powers that overwhelmed them. And the struggle still continues. Yet, the Natives had a profound Philosophy of Peace and have lived and survived with it. We have a great deal to learn from the Philosophy of the Natives. It also gives us an opportunity to examine “violent” elements in our “Civilization” itself, as well as a way out of it. Since the Native Philosophy of Peace is not the academic kind that can be summarized in a set of propositions but rather is a way of life, we shall not attempt to “describe” it. Here, we shall endeavour to introduce the Philosophy in two ways. In Part I we make a descriptive introduction. In Part II, we narrate the Philosophy in the Native Oral Tradition, aiming at communication at a spiritual level.

Feb. 14, 1987.

An Introduction to the Native Philosophy of Peace

Since the invasion by Europeans in the 15th century, the history of Native eAmerica is a history of violence. Therefore, it may appear almost a contradiction to seek the message of Peace from the Natives. But, because of experiences of violence and facing their own extinction, Natives created urgent messages for Peace and have lived with them and survived by them in desperate situations. We have much to learn from their wisdom that is embedded in their way of life.

The violence which the Natives experienced was not the kind which we consider in the conttext of the “push button” Warfares that our science-technology has made possible nor the Nuclear Arms Race between two Super Powers that the huge bureaucratization of violence has lead us to. And if our concern for Peace is limited to the question of how to prevent Nuclear War from impending upon us, the Spiritual form of the Native message for Peace might appear only remotely relevant to us. However, the very difficulties which we have in reducing the scale of the Arms Race indicates that we have a need to examine if our way of life for itself is a part of the problem. And, in that we may find and gain great wisdom for Peace from Natives who have faced and survived the destructive forces of modern civilization.

To understand and to learn from the Natives, however, it is absolutely necessary that we look back to the history of violence. This is an exercise in dialectics We shall learn Peace by learning about our own violence.


[Vine Deloria, God Is Red, Laurel Book, 1973.

Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America, Univ. of N. Carolina Press, 1975.

Gary B. Nash, Red, White and Black, Prentice-Hall, 1974.

Merrill D. Beal, I Will Fight No More Forever, Univ. of Washington Press, 1963.

Dee Brown, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, Holt-Rinehart, 1970.]

2. The way Indians were treated in the North American continent was worse than the Apartheid of South Africa today. Outright massacres were carried on even after the Civil War which supposedly liberated Black slaves for humanitarian reasons. One might imagine that for economic growth, the liberated Blacks were useful, whereas “the only good Indians were dead Indians.” And since Natives resisted “Christianity”, the Christian compassion was not applicable to them. They were considered a part of the Wild Nature to be conquered by the Civilization.

The colonialization started with violence. The Spanish came with greed and atrocity in the name of Christian mission to the New World. That part of history is well known, so I shall not talk about that here.

[See Bartolome de las Casa: Brevisima Relacion De La Destruccion De Las Indias, 1552, for the earliest account. In Montaigne’s Essay (1580), the third book, chapter 6, there is a brief remark about the Spanish atrocity.]

The British flowed soon after, with no less violence. According to the few records that are left, British settlers came to the Virginia coast area and found the natives there to be friendly. One report said:

“We were entertained with all love and kindness, and with much bounties, after their manner, as they could possibly devise. We found the people most gentle, loving, and faithful, void of all guile, and treason.”

[David Quinn, The Voyagers, 1584-1590; quoted by Gary B. Nash Red, White, and Black.]

But the Britons did not come there simply to live with friendly natives. The competition among empires in Europe to establish and expand colonies had already started. Naturally, soon the initial friendly relation deteriorated and “incidents” were created for “Show of Force”, which became a universal pattern in most colonialization processes elsewhere. I cite only two examples here.

“No conflict occured until the English discovered a silver cup missing and dispatched a punitive expedition to the nearby Indian village. When Indians denied taking the cup, the English decided to make a show of force, burned the village to the ground and destroyed the Indian’s supply of corn.”

[Edmond S. Morgan, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox”, Journal of American History. Vol. 59, 1972, p. 16.]

“Many were burnt in the fort, both men, women and children. Others forced out…which our soldiers received and entertained with the sword. Down fell men, women, and children…Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. Sometimes the case alters; but we will not dispute it now. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.”

[John UnderHill, News from America, (1638), London. Quoted by Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence. Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1973.]

One notes here that burning villages and destroying crops were already practiced tactics when the British invaded Ireland centuries before that time. Both the Red Army and White Army in the Russian Revolution practiced the same. Hitler used it in W.W. II. Americans did that in Vietnam.

[As to the “metaphor” of Indian War repeated in Vietnam, see Richard Slotkin: The Fatal Environment — The Myth of Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800 – 1890. Atheneum, 1985.]

The idea of “show of force”, or equivalent phrases such as “show who is the boss” appears quite often in the records that were left from the period of colonial time. The British were there with the intent of conquering and domination from the beginning. They needed only slight provocations, if they did not create the excuses. Many stories of Native attacks may well have been fibs constructed, like “the Bay of Tonkin incident” in the Vietnam War.

To be sure, there was romanticizing of Natives as “Noble Savages.” We can read it in poetries of Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, et al.

(see White On Red, ed. N.B. Black. Kennikat Press, 1976.)]

Or see it in paintings by Benjamin West and others. But the romanticizing was in effect a beautifying cover for the colonial conquest. It did not stop physical and cultural genocide. Quite aware of such a sentiment, John Quincy Adams wrote in 1802:

“The Indian right of possession itself stands, with regard to the greatest part of the country, upon a questionable foundation. Their cultivated fields; their constructed habitations; a space of ample sufficiency for their subsistence, and whatever they had annexed to themselves by personal labour, was undoubtedly by the law of nature theirs. But what is the right of a huntsman to the forest of a thousand miles over which he accidentally ranges in quest of prey? Shall the liberal bounties of Providence to the race of man be monopolized by one of ten thousand for whom they were created? Shall the exuberant bosom of the common mother, amply adequate for the nourishment of millions, be claimed exclusively by a few hundreds of her offspring.”

[Quoted in I Will Fight No More Forever, p. 24.]

The answer to Adam’s rhetorical question was obvious, as we can see in history. The Natives were driven off the land, if not exterminated. They were confined in concentration camps, called “Indian Reserves.” And as the “Progress of Civilization” wanted more and more land, the Natives were forcefully moved again and again to smaller and smaller confinements each time. The metaphor of the “Mother Earth” was Native, not White, nor was it Christian, as we see in the environmental destructions that went on under what was called the “Manifest Destiny.” The rhetoric asked for sharing the gifts of Mother Nature, but the invader came to dominate and rape the Mother. Environmental concern did not emerge until late 1960’s, and collectively speaking, our actions with regard to Acid Rain, Nuclear Wastes, Deforestation, etc., regretably suggest that we have not yet stopped rationalizing our rapist practices.

[see “Metaphysics of Indian Hater” in Herman Melville’s Confidence of Man. 1857. As to hi Moby-Dick, critics pointed out that Melville was writing, in the metaphor of Whale Hunt, on the whole American assault on Nature in the name of Progress.]

We note here that as late as October of the last year, The United Church of Canada has come to Apologize to the Natives for its “policy of cultural genocide”. In an article “Of course we forgive you,” [The Observer, Oct. 1986], Rev. Wilf Dieter narrates:

“I grew up in residential schools…The second year, I remember going back to school. I was crying. My mother was wiping away the tears. Why were my parents sending me away. I guess one of the things I didn’t realize was the law. If she didn’t take me back, the police would come for me.”

This was taking place only a few decades ago in Canada which we think the most peaceful country in the world. What if some agents of a foreign country come in and pass a law to separate Canadian children from parents? Does white majority consider it less than atrocity? Of course, we as the majority “did not know” that we have been practicing the cultural genocide policy, just as the majority of Germans did not know of the infamous concentration camp during W.W. II. The point is that we did not care to know about them. While reading philosophy of Kant or Russell in books, we did not “read” our real philosophy that we practiced and lived in.

3. Today, we may be sufficiently “liberal minded” to say that the colonial practices of the historical past were “mistakes.” But read the rhetorical question of Adams again and see if we have changed our way of thinking. The Capitalists, the bourgeoisie, and the liberal thinkers would say that, “in the inevitable power struggles which bring the progress of the production power”, the “backward” way of the Native life had to be eradicated, although we might try to employ as “humane” means as possible. And socialists and Marxists would agree. The modern intellectuals, left, middle or right, are believers of “progress” in which some unfortunate “backward” portions of humanity will become extinct like Dodo birds.

[see also Ward Churchill, ed. Marxism and Native Americans. South End Press, 1983.]

Christians today would say that the atrocities condoned by the missionaries in the colonial conquest did not represent “True Christianity”, which is presumably based on Love. But, one wonders if the christians clearly distinguish the religion of Love and the religion of Power, and honestly live by the principle of Love, as the Natives have lived by their Spirituality. It appears that the Christians believe more in the Might of Nuclear Weapons and Laser Guns than Love. It is ironical that the presumed anti-christians in the Soviet Union do the same. They both are believers of the same Power.

[However, we pay attention to Liberation Theology.

Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation. Orbis Books, 1973.

Bishop Remi De Roo, Cries of Victims – Voice of God. Novals, 1986, etc.

As to links between Christianity and European Civilization, see:

Max Weber, Protestant Ethics and The Spirit of Capitalism.

Lynn White, “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis”, American Scientists. March 1967.

Lawrence R. Brown, The Might of the West. Joseph J. Binns Pub., 1963.]

Here I am not talking of the hypocritic morality, but doing purely pragmatic thinking about the consequences and the cost of the European World View. The “Intelligence” of the European tradition is centred around “Power” to dominate people. Our “science” stemmed from the desire to conquer and exploit Nature. Academic and theological knowledge claims are claims of authority and control of thinking. Our official languages are basically the languages of commanding others.

Of course, we know that our competition for power, authority in terms of knowledge claims, etc., is illusionary and for the most part of little significance. Nonetheless, we do use the stylism as a “proper ritual” in academic settings, if we wish to be taken seriously. And, perhaps, the effects/consequences of such a ritual may only be indirect in encouraging the notion of the Conquest of the Wild Nature with Barbaric primitives in it. Our higher Education, which produces elite classes of our society , may or may not be directly responsible for Pollution and Environmental Destruction. If someone argues that the Pollution and Destruction are necessary requirements for the existence of the Elitist System, there would be many objections from the Intellectual elites. They would demand “scientific” proof demonstrating causal mechanisms for the connection. But, in a noncausalistic sense, we are all implicated in the violent history. And if the Nuclear extinction falls upon us, it is we who made it possible, not by default, but by a determined will, a great organized drive and mobilization of intellectual efforts.

4. After all, we do believe in the hierarchical system of Power. In our ordinary language, “Powerless” does mean degradation. We have not reconciled with Love that is powerless. For the North American psyche, it is winning that tells them that they are on “God’s side.” Not fighting tantamounts surrender to the Devil. We say “all men are created equal”, but we are as “equal” as the degree by which we win the competitions. As long as it is legal, and does not offend one’s own “moral feelings”, Might is Right. The only thing that protects one’s safety is, therefore, military superiority. The modern nation-states followed that logic. If one follows the causal-mechanistic thinking which we consider “rational”, there is no other way.

We know SDI would not work, but we do have to keep the illusion of the Superior Power going even at the cost of Trillions of Dollars. Recently, some among us apparently started to worry that the “peace propaganda”, such as The Day After, made us “too soft” and so they produced a counter-propaganda series on T.V. called Amerika to remind people that the Power Principle has to be defended. That is because Power is our religion. If the Power Principle is undermined, the whole social structure of the Western society might collapse.

The only trouble is that the logic of Power has now reached its ultimate in that it can destroy the human race as a whole. That is why some of us are interested in searching for alternatives.

[see also Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point, Bantam Books, 1982.

Morris Bermann, The Reenchantment of the World, Cornell Univ. Press, 1982.]

But there is a problem. If we are to turn around on the way to ultimate power, what would be the alternative? Certainly, going back to the arbitrary dictatorship of the feudal system or the old slave-caste system would not likely secure Peace in any sense. At least, we think, we do have a “civic” sense of peace in the advanced industrial countries. “Democracy”, although perhaps imperfect, seems to correlate with the progress of civilization in the European style. We would say that we cannot go back to the Stone Age, in a metaphor of Indians as wild beasts who lived in inhuman indignity. The Noble Savage metaphor does not work here any more than the romantic metaphor of womanhood works for women’s dignity. But rather, it enforces our fear of going back to Feudalism or Barbarism which we think dictatorial authoritarian. Hence, we would normally not think of the Native Culture as possible instructive material for learning the way to Peace.

5. Surprisingly, however, the Native Americans were not authoritarian. Their communities were organized on the principle  of sharing. The Indians were capable of becoming fierce warriors, but they lived in their communities of Love. They had a strong sense of personal dignity, and honored their liberty, though they were not egocentric Individualists. Nash narrates:

“One aspect of child-rearing on which European and Iroquoian cultures differed was in the attitude toward authority. In Iroquois society the autonomous individual, loyal to the group but independent and aloof rather than submissive, was ideal…

They were trained early in life to think for themselves but act for others…

They were being prepared for an adult society which was not hierarchical, as in the European case, but where individuals lived on a more equalitarian basis, with power more evenly distributed among men and women…”

[Red, White and Black.

See also: Walter B. Miller “Two Concepts of Authority”. American Anthropologist. Vol. 57. 1955, p. 271-289.

What Max Weber described in his study of “Authority” may be peculiar to Europe. We also note that, phrases such as “Show who is the boss” appeared frequently in the expressions of British colonialist to justify atrocities committed against the Natives.

In the context of Peace Research, Wm. Eckhardt’s study showed that the “aggressive” and “authoritarian” personality are correlated.]

It is also known that the principle ideas of Democracy in the American Constitution were influenced by Iroquoian ideals.

[Carol L. Bagley and Jo Ann Ruckman, “Iroquois Contribution to Modern Democracy and Communism.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Vol. 7 #2, 1983. p. 53-72.]

6. Iroquois, before their contact with Europeans, had established a “United Nations”. The name “Iroquois” stands for a group of five nations established in the 14th century or earlier: the Mohawks, the Onondaga, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas. The philosophy that united these nations was known as “Dekanawideh”, and we can decipher that the basic principle fo the Native “United Nation” was a philosophy of Peace, not the European tradition of “domination by the strongest.”

[Anthony F.C. Wallace, “The Dekanawideh Myth analyzed as the record of a revitalization movement”. Ethnohistory, Vol. 5, 1958.

Wm. N. Fenton Parker On the Iroquois. Book III. Syracuse U. Press, 1968.]

It appears that to the Natives “to know” a philosophy can be nothing short of honestly living by it. Therefore, they left no written “expose” on their philosophy. Nonetheless, we can infer a few glimpses of their philosophy; for example, the Philosophy of “Tree of Peace” has been translated and documented. It is remarkable that the Natives, despite their experiences of violence, had a vision of Peace in which they embraced whiteman within the “Four Roots of the Tree of Peace” that holds the World in love.

The Natives narrated the philosophy of Peace in a form of “prophecy” using a metaphor of a huge tree that protects and provides for all people. Its four roots are said to interconnect and hold the entire World.. They did not see any other possible way to have Peace on Earth, but by love that embraces the whole.

Since Dr. Colorado is to communicate the Peace message in the proper Native way in the following presentation, I shall not elaborate on the Peace Philosophy.

[See also Pamela Colorado, “Inowediwin. Peace and Honor Going Back and Forth Between Us.” Toward Social and Economic Justice, Gil & Gil, Schenkman Publishing Co., 1985.]

I would like to discuss one thing however. In studying the Native Philosophy of Peace, I have come to think that this Philosophy was embedded in a distinct Epistemology from that of traditional Western culture. I shall try explaining, the best I can, the distinct Epistemology that the Natives had.

7. The Natives had an oral tradition and to them “to know” was “to live in” the philosophy, as I mentioned above. They did not have “philosophy” existing only in texts, as in the European case. As a consequence, there existed no written text for their philosophy. Therefore, from our European custom of scholarship being a “book knowledge”, there exists considerable difficulty in researching the Native philosophy. I cannot assert that what I say here is correct. The only thing I can do is to report what I have “guessed” so far in my groping of an hypothesis in hopes of stimulating interest.

We cannot understand “philosophy” here in the sense of technically analyzing written expressions — as lawyers do in technical arguments about the “letter of the law” —, but we have to address “the spirit of the law”, so to speak. and the philosophy has to be deciphered from practice, and inferred from the way of life in the contexts of concrete situations at hand. The western sense of “objective knowledge” alienated from the knower’s own life is absurdity, if not dishonesty to the Natives. That is, Native philosophy was “spiritual” in the sense that it was the inner most thinking of the sovereign soul. And at the same time, the philosophy was “pragmatic” and “existential” in that it did not allow alienation from actual living. It was also akin to the Marxian position, in that “knowing” was “changing the World”. They did not learn “philosophy” as a text, but learned it as “awakening to wisdom”, which is an experience of change in the way of life. “Truth” that does not change one’s way of life is not a Truth, in their philosophy.

Even the Greek work “Truth” (a-letheia) meant “uncover” or “revelation” , refering to the existential experience in learning processes. The authoritarian dogmatism of European religion and academia perverted the active sense to a static sense of “knowledge” that someone could have a “patent” on, stake a claim on, and even could sell on the market. This “objectification’ is a peculiar fetishistic characteristic of the Western Scholarship and Science. It is the Epistemology of Capitalism, although the Communists also believe the same; whereas the natives had a dynamic epistemology.

We talk, in particular in an academic context, in the posture of claiming knowledge, with an implicit assumption that the audiences are hostile and demanding proofs and demonstrations. We are competing in an intellectual market, on an assumption that the adversary system brings the best. This is the assumption of the Free Market and Social Darwinism. Although we have disproved them a long time ago, our stylism has not been changed.

The Natives would much rather think of their statements to be gifts from love. Their discourses are not “power struggles”. Their propositions are “proposals” offered with unilateral commitment by the speakers. They know “giving” is the way of making a community. If the negotiators of Western nations talked in the Native way, we would not have the Arms Race.

We have an intellectual pride in being able to articulate technically on “letters.” But we might look back to see why we have come to do that. Perhaps, we are thinking of our communication as if a battle with a hostile audience and the art of articulation is a defensive shield against expected attack. We also think by articulation that we assert our intellectual superiority, if not attack the other. Do we play such games so often that we come to value the skill? If so, we may be mentally sick in admiring the art of manipulating our letters. To the Natives, it is a puzzle that there can be differences between “letter of law” and “spirit of law.” And they would say it is incomprehensible absurdity, if they were told that the Western Philosophy thrives on technical analyses of “letters” and has little to do with “spirit” or practices in living. They would not understand why we have to be so aggressive even in intellectual games. We analyse violence in Alcoholism as someone else’s problem from an “objective” stance. But, perhaps, we might look at our own tendency to intoxicate in a Power sensation.

We do know that Nuclear War in its scale is not the same as aggression at a personal level. We do have concerns about social structures of violence, but it may be that Nuclear Aggression is a collective consequence of our aggressive drive which manifests even in academic contexts.

And in talking of aggressiveness, we might also pay attention to our attitude of contemptuously looking down at “subjective” experiences in the name of “objectivity” or “value neutrality” of “science”. It might very well have come from our alienated neurotic psyche. I might concede to some theory to an effect that the scientific sense of “knowledge” can only be generated from alienation, enigma or fear, and although the “knowledge” does sometimes “sublimate” the aggression, it leaves residues of fear or hostility which leads us to violence. If so, we have a serious task to change “science” as such for the sake of Peace. And on this point, Native Philosophy appears to be very instructive.

[As to “Science as a destructive element”, see Birgit Brock-Utne. Education For Peace. Pergamon, 1986. This is a feminist critique of science. ]

Philosophy of Peace Education

Philosophy of Peace Education

For 1986 CPREA Conference

S. Kounosu

University of Lethbridge

Title: On Philosophy of Peace Education

Abstract: Peace Education is gaining popularity among educational institutions. However, there are problems particularly in view of the traditional roles the educational systems played for nationalism and their implicit philosophical or even ideological biases which tended to help the making of wars rather than constructing peace. In this paper, some of the problems contained in the traditional philosophy of education are discussed, and a few suggestions are made for a paradigm shift in education. Taking cognizance of the Pedagogy for Oppressed, the Theology of Liberation, and Critical Sociology that emerged in response to the general crisis of the world today, Peace Education is considered as the transformation of intelligence toward the 21st century. The main basis of this paper is a philosophy of communication, intended t be distinct from the traditional philosophy of knowledge.


The World today is coming to an extraordinary phase of transformation, which contains both a possibility of Nuclear extinction and a possibility for a great social evolution comparable to Renaissance.

The challenge of Peace Education is to perceive the possibility of the great social evolution and to play the central role in actualizing it. That is, the possibility of Peace has to be perceived and the conditions for Peace have to be constructed. In this sense, Peace Education is evolutionary in aiming at the future which is not “reality” at the present moment. And it is distinct in its logic from that of the traditional sense of education which is concerned with the adaptation to a given set of conditions that exist at a time. Peace education proposes the possible future and intends to make what it proposes. In this, Peace Education has to be “prophetic”, and explicitly  “value loaded”, and it cannot stop at the level of transmitting knowledge of fact as unalterable conditions given. If our intelligence cherished in educational institutions so far is the kind that is fixated on “facts”, Peace Education needs reformulation of the intelligence itself. Peace Education is a learning by the humanity as a whole, and it is to transform the way of learning as well.

That we have come to this phase, however, is not an arbitrary intellectual accident, nor is a utopian imagination. The phase of industrialization and accompanying colonialization appears to have come to the final stage. Limits of the energy-material resources and environmental pollutions can no longer be ignored. The ideology of economy, based on a faith in ever increasing production power, is no longer viable. And the educational system, which has been effective in the industrialization phase, now faces the challenge of finding a new paradigm, even if there were no danger of Nuclear Holocaust.

And Peace Education, even if it is conceived as that which is concerned with preventing Nuclear Holocaust as the immediate task, is inseparable from the education for the social transformation. For the Nuclear War is industrialization of wars, and as such it is a necessary consequence of the powerful paradigm prevalent in the past several centuries. It was not a group of mad politicians and military men that made the Nuclear Bombs, but highly intelligent scientists, engineers, and managers of organizations, who were products of the higher education, that made the bombs and systems of the wars. In that sense the educational system is far from an innocent by-stander of the Nuclear crisis that our civilization faces today. Education was not neutral as to the value system that led the civilization to this stage. And if there can be any possibility of Peace on the Earth, the philosophy of Education itself must be changed, starting with the very pretence that it is value neutral.

Historically, it was industrialization and colonialization that made the school system of education both necessary and possible. The technology for the industrialization, or rather”technologization” required the emergence of educated managers and educated workers. It liberated people, to a degree, from the caste system based on inheritance and kinship. But it created a technical elite class which is more efficient and powerful in operating large-scale social organizations than the social hierarchy of the feudal castes. The school system of education played the major role in the creation of the technical elite class. The industrialization did succeed in expanding production of material goods and provide a bases for higher standards of living than what was possible under the feudal system. The production power made large-scale education possible, and the education made further expansion of the production power possible. It was in a “vicious circle” of positive feedback, just as wars are in the dynamics of escalation. In a Marxist term, that was the “reproduction” circuit of the technocracy. And education was a part of the positive feedback loop of the “reproduction” process.

And the modern nation-states with huge mechanisms of bureaucracy and military forces became possible by the emergence of technical elites. They were the governing mechanism of the modern society, the organizers and managers of productions, the officers of military forces, the inventers and maintenancemen of industrial technology. Educational institutions were organized to produce the elites and workers.

Interestingly, the expanded scale of market with heterogeneous population required a new basis of communication. The “scientific rationality”, newly emerged at the outset of the Industrial Revolution, assumed the role of unifying intellectual authority which religious institutions failed to maintain. Although educational institutions inherited many aspects in practices and philosophy of “teaching” from the religious institutions, they had to adapt to the “scientific rationality” which is the infrastructure of the technological mentality.

The historical process then can be viewed as a stage in development of communication, in addition to the development of production power. The socio-historical impacts of printing technology are well known. The machine itself is not, perhaps, impressive but it made the emergence of printed media possible and created professions associated with it. The technology of printing made standardization of language and hence imposition of uniform thinking possible. Without the technology of printing, the bureaucracy of national government, military organizations, and large business firms, would not have been possible. In turn printed media came as a technology of communication and its mastery became the main concern of the education.

The technology also opened a way to what we know as the Democracy, through its capacity of mass production and mass distribution. But we note that the mass media is also a means of propaganda controlled by technological elites. Although mass media does allow expression of the “people’s voice” and entertains a certain degree of “plurality”, it does require the skill of articulation which acts as a barrier to direct access by the majority of people. It also created separation of “the producer” and “the consumer”. If the media is to be a tool for peace, either the general population has to learn the art of communication or the format of the media has to be changed from that of “the superior in power and knowledge talking to the inferior” to that of “exchanges among the equals”.

That the technology of communication is developed in the form of mass production for mass consumption is also reflected in the way educational institutions conduct their business. the dominant format of communication in educational institutions today is that of issueing command. As A. J. Ayer in Language, Truth, and Logic (1946) argued, to the mentality of modern intellectuals, even a simple statement of fact is a political act of the speaker commanding the listeners to know the fact asserted. It presupposes ignorance of the listeners to whom the speaker is superior. “Speaking to” is an assertion of power over the listener. In schools, teachers are the ones who speak. And even in our conversations, we are observed to be playing the game of “one-up-manship”. Our negotiations are often in the form of “power struggle between adversaries”, not the form of “consultation” for arriving at cooperation. Our formal education and academic disciplines do not help us much in communication in the sense of “exchanges among equals”. And, it is not surprising then, our national governments are not competent in the communication that would lead to cooperation for eliminating the danger of Nuclear Ar. We are not educated to communicate efficiently, but rather educated to compete in power struggles.

The modern education that emerged in our technocratic age is “rational” to the degree which efficient production of material goods, and more importantly, transmission of commands in large social scales demand. But it is defective in not only its concealment of the implicit political bias, value choices, but also in not educating people to be competent for political and value choices. It failed to provide the skills and develop means of communicating on issues of social cooperation in political and value choices. Science education did provide the skills and means for large social scale agreements as to “objective facts”. I suppose, that is what is so called “Rationality”. But for setting out “purposes of actions” in a large social scale, we have not developed the necessary competence. We not that “purposes” are not “facts”, and as such , they require a different philosophy to deal with.

The traditional philosophies of Education paid little attention to the “philosophy of purpose” and the problems of how to communicate in such contexts. In the historical context, the neglectis understandable. It is the employer who sets the purpose. Workers and technical elites as hired hands are only expected to be competent in carrying on what is commanded by the employer who pays. In that sense, what the majority of the educated population does is “purposeless” and “value neutral”. Modern professionals and workers are slaves to whoever pays them. Only through indirect means, such as consumer market and civil elections, they come to be of some influence. Occasional references to ideals of Democracy and flairs of Revolutionary movements are not sufficient for motivating educational systems to consider problems of purose and value, let alone problems of communication in these regards. Rather, schools are preoccupied with job training. Academic training is thinly disguised professional training to which the “education for good citizen” is subservient. The practices of educational systems are “value nneutral” in that they effectively block developments of competence in the art of communication with respect to social scale purposes. Peace education is inconceivable within “value neutrality”. Peace Education, if there can be any, has to be “political” to the extent it concerns with choices of values in social scales.

Yet, to construct the competence in communication as such requires competent communication. Here we have a problem of a vicious circle in reverse. We have to start a positive feedback loop of an escalating dynamics for Peace Education from where there was only a negative feedback sense for Peace. This is difficult.

One of the difficulties is our rhetoric. For discussion of social scale communication, it is inevitable that we face the complexity of large interactive systems. Yet our usual rhetoric in intellectual discourses is basically that of simple Newtonian Mechanics of talking “an object in motion under a cause.” A linear sequence of such descriptions constitutes our narration, though linguists tell us that comprehensions require awareness of webbed relations. But the rhetoric of simple object mechanics is hardly adequate for talks of complex webs of interactions and inter-relations which make up systems. We note here that it is not so much because we are “ego-centric” that we have troubles transcending individualistic metaphors in our narrations. Rather, it is the simplicity of talking of one object at a time that bind us in the the individualistic metaphor such as saying “Mr. Reagan (or Mr. Kadafi) is the cause of terrorism.” For the effectiveness of communication in large social scales, the simplicity is an important requirement, particularly in relation to the general competence in communication that exists now. However, it is also possible that the competence in communication can be improved. We can see the history of civilization as an evolutionary process of competence in communication, in parallel to the Capitalist-Marxist view of history as a development in material production capacity.

I am proposing here that development of competence in communication to be the aim of Peace Education. And under the general theme of “competence in communication”, I am thinking of those in the following 4 contexts:

i International understanding and cooperation

ii Change of social structures towards more equality and accommodations, away from power relations.

iii Revolution in our sense of “knowing” (epistimology, science, intelligence) towards “learning” which is a form of mutual interactions and as such “communication”. It is dynamic and closer to “performing” — hence “competence”, not “possession of static knowledge”.

iv Managing of communication internal to “psyche” (mind) as a complex system similar to community.

These 4 contexts are distinguished for conceptual conveniences. They are integrated thruough complex dynamics. Peace Education has to deal with the problems of “Integrated understanding” of complex dynamics. “Communication” for itself is an aspect of the synamics of complex systems. Perhaps, “System Dynamics”, not necessarily as “physics”, but a “philosophy”, is included in the program of Peace Education. I do not have enough space in this paper to elaborate on this, but I think it is important that some attempts are made to elucidate “Peace as a Dynamical system”.

And from the complexity of systems, which defies determinism, we may learn that our assertions of “scientific certainty” are often arrogant illusions. As many accidents in systems demonstrate, we do not have the “knowledge” if it means to have a completeness. Rather, we do have to “perform” with an incomplete set of partial information. The operations in such situations, which happen to be the majority of the cases, are more akin to what existential philosophers talked about. Peace education, in my view, must stress this point that we are concerned with practical performances in less than perfect conditions. “Peace”, in that sense, is a verb, and it ought not be imagined as something perfect and static (a noun sense). Peace that we look for is the kind that can be practiced in imperfect conditions. And we are far from “perfect beings”. Rather, we have to “live with problems” and the degree of competence in the “Art of living with problems” is expressed by an adjective “Peace”.

There are certainly many problems if we are to do Peace Education. It is a big challenge. I shall not be able to discuss all the problems, let alone provide the “answers”. I shall touch upon onluy a few problems as starting points of discussion. Besides, I think Peace Education is not for “teaching the answers” to be memorized and recited by students. It is rather learning the way of dealing with problems. That is to say, Peace Education is “learning of ways of learning”. And the learning has to be done by the community as a whole. I approach Peace Education as if it is “Warmongers Anonymous” — in a pun with “Alcoholics Anonymous”. If that is acceptable to this conference, I would like to practice “conferring” here, rather than taking the academic posture of asserting a great truth (as if!).

II. Education and Communication

Faced with the threat of Nuclear Holocaust, and for that matter with many other socila problems, we come to talk of education as a way of solution. But the term “Education” has two distinct meanings. One is that of education of individuals in adapting to existing social conditions, such as professional training. It is for competitions in the job market, and this is what the practices of school systems are mainly concerned with. Another is that of education in the sense of leaning by a society as a whole to change itself. Einstein is often quoted as saying “The Atomic Bomb changed everything except the way of thinking.” He was suggesting that the human race as a whole must change the old way of thinking in order to survive. And for that we think of “education” in the second sense to perform the necessary transformation of the whole human community.

However, “The education for individualistic competition” and “the education as learning of a community to transform” are not necessarily contradictory. That is, provided an autonomous dynamics often referred to as “the Invisible Hand” of the market competition functions well, the individual competitions are expected to bring about learning of the community. The nominative aims of the two senses of education are dialectically related. And there is an intermediate sense of education as the means of nationalistic competition. But there lies a problem. We usually do not make clear distinctions between them, and when “the Invisible Hand” fails to funciton well, the first sense dominant in school systems becomes the opposition to the second sense.

In our history, we might acknowledge that competitions within each nation and among nations brought human race as a whole to closer inter-relations. Although the sacrifices and costswwer very high, even wars could be seen as opening intimate interactions and communication among people. Given the levels of competence in communication at those historical stages, colonial trades and even wars may be recognized as parts of the historical learning process. Taht i, after all empires fell, we are left with an enlarged scale of communication and hopefully we have learned the art of communication in that scale. Today, we have a “World Community” — or we ar about to make one, if we succeed in overcoming the problems of power struggles. We made our lives so interdependent that there is no escape from it, even if the interdependency is about to bring us a disaster. The only way out is to manage the system of interdependency well. And the way to manage the system is the “communication”.

Perhaps, when people come to talk of Education for Peace, they implicitly mean the learning of communication by the world community. I think that possibility is worth a serious exploration and I shall argue a case for it. In order to do so, however, a few explanations about “communication” are necessary.

The view of the world history as a process of learning to communicate — or rather of learning to construct a collective “intelligence” by competent communication, is just an alternative view, parallel with the dominant view of the classical economists (including Marx) who saw the history as an ever enlarging reproduction of material production power. The views need not be in conflict, though they are a pair of dialectical opposites. Only for the sake of making things explicit, I shall stress the opposing aspects, particularly in their implications to the philosophy of education and the issue of war/peace.

The role of communication is to make things explicit in the social scale. In this aspect, communication is concerned with “knowing”, or “discovering” in a social scale. But it is done so as to construct cooperation in that scale. Particularly, in the context of Peace Education, the most important aspect of communication is that of “proposing” actions by the community. As such, communication is “value loaded” and “political”. I suppose from this political naturee of communication, we come to regard “communication” to mean “transmission of commands”, as in such usages as “Communication-Command Centre”, etc. but I shall be talking of “communication” in the sense of mutual affairs, such as “interactions”, “exchanges”, “negotiations”, “consultations”, etc. I regard the communication in the sense of “transmitting commands” as a primitive form, although the most technological theory of communication appears to be preoccupied with communication at this level. The communication at the level of “mutual affair” requires competence in the art. It has to do with “performance” than “knowledge”. Peace education has to be of relevance to this “performance” , not just “knowing what peace is”, but becoming competent in “performing peace”.

The above summarizes my opinion, but there are a few notes to be added.

Needless to say, to make something “explicit” can be concealing what is not said, as in the case of propaganda and implicit censorship. The concealments come because a society cannot talk about and be aware of everything that goes on. There is “political hegemony”, so to speak, as to what is to be communicated to what extent. There exists a certain paradigm at a time in a society that a certain set of things are “of interest” to be talked about and others are not. And the

efficiency of communication favors a certain fixed pattern, often with metaphorical images and metaphysical assumptions, if not ritual symbolisms. Unfamiliar tacts are disadvantaged because they require a longer time and more effort than that along the established patterns, even if there was no prejudice. If there are prejudices, particularly implicit ones, communication would be blocked. In such occasions, we used to appeal to force-violence to break the blockage. In the Nuclear Age, we can no longer afford such an easy way out, but we have to try a highe art of communication. We note education as such has to do with “performance”, not “knowledge”. And in this, a paradigm shift in education is inevitable.

There are natural obstacles in communication and if a society is not competent in the art, it can easily fall into “prejudices”, “superstitions”, etc., by default. It may well be true that many Europeans under the Nazis did not “know” the systematic ethonocide was going on, just as many Americans did not “know” they were killing off Indians even after the Civile War.

I add here that if one view of “thinking” is to be a particular kind of “communication” inside a “brain as a community”, the above role of communication still holds. “To know” is to make explicit in the intellectual sense. We note that our “psyche” does conceal what is going on in our “mind”. Many functions of our brain are not “known” to ourselves. By our “vergaization”, we “know” and “knowledge” as such is very limited even as to what our brains are doing. Consequently, communication at the intellectual (verbalized) level is very limited in its scope and difficult. This is more reason why we need education in the art.

But we can regard knowing operations, such as “Discoveries” of laws of motion, etc. in physics, as “verbalization” of what were not expressed in human languages. The verbalized “laws of Nature” are important to the community, for they can be communicated and provide the basis on which cooperation in the community can be built. That is, intellectual “thinking” is social to taht degree and distinct by its communicability. And the ability of a community to respond to its needs and environment is critically dependent on its competence in communication — to verbalize problems and to allow efficient transmission within.

This is the reason whey we need the second sense of education cited previously. You may understand this by noting that the kind of societies depicted in The Brave New World by A. Huxley, for example, does not give a sense of being “educational” despite being “knoledgeable”, because they do not have efficient communication in the sense of “learning by community”. I suppose our world community at this moment is somewhere in between the ideal learning kind and the extreme non-learning kind.

I have contrasted “materialist view” to communicational (information theoretical) view in the above. This may require some explanations. The “materialist view” of either the right or the left, is the dominant view in our society in the past few centuries, and it constituted the metaphysical foundation for education. And, in the context of considering Peace Education, the “materialists” would think of teaching how many Nuclear Weapons are made of what materials and what material damages are expected from their use, etc. Warning camps are accounted in terms of how many men, tanks, guns, planes, battle ships and carriers. Something physical takes the centre of attention, perhaps simply because it is easier to imagine physical objucts. It does give a feeling of familiarity and concrete immediateness, as terms like “objective”metaphorically suggest.

Perhaps, it is natural for us to pay attention to “objects”. It is like watching “actors” on a theatrical stage. The actors are not the “play”, but we only come to comprehend the play as a whole by tracing what the actors do.

But such a strategy of thinking is too limited to be of help for comprehending complex systems and situations. The complex systems and situations contain “feedback loops” and the “tracing object” type narration-representations is useless for them, if not misleading. We do have to use “abstract” terms such as “force”, “energy”, “time”, etc. in physics for example. The advantage of “materialist” strategy of narration in giving the feeling of “concrete immediateness” and “familiarity” in metaphors, now acts against developments of the art of describing. Without cultivating abstract imaginations, we cannot even do simple physics of mechanical motions, let alone comprehending the dynamics of systems. Modern physics since Newton is not “objective” at all, if people mean “object-likeness” by the term “objective”. In fact, the notion of “objectivity” itself is a highly abstract one and very elusive at that. Nonetheless, the term was useful in the historical context by suggesting a certain “feeling” by the metaphor. It came tbe a mislieading one, only because people forgot that “objectivity” is an abstract metaphorical notion.

In the above, the point about “objective knowledge” is stressed, because there is a well observable trick in media manipulation. That is, government and military officials often come out with impressive sets of numbers — known as the “number game”, to say in effect that people who say something critical of them are “ignorant” but they know the “objective facts”. Tp an extent, ordinary citizens are disadvantaged in terms of “factual information”. Many things discussed in the context of the Arms Race are military secrets. And, even if some information is not secret, it is not easily accessible to ordinary citizens. What are so called “Weapon Experts” come out and try to intimidate and discredit critics.

But other than impressing someone by possessing “knowledge” , the cited numbers, etc. are not important at all. They are cited for “ritualistic effects”. The fact that a guy happens to know exactly what the explosive power of a certain specific type of warhead is, does not make his opinion trustworthy as to military value of the weapon system, strategy or political implications. But the problem is that we have a habit of being impressed by numbers that we have a fear about. We do not listen to people who do have wisdom in their plain talk that we can understand. It is as if we do not trust our own intelligence and we look down on someone whose talk is understandable to us. We respect what we do not understand, perhaps out of fear. In classroom teaching, it is a well known trick to exhibit a big word or a big equation to impress students. Unfortunately, students would not pay attention unless they are threatened a bit. So that such a practice goes on as “educational technique”. I wonder if Peace Education also employs such a trick.

Our ways of communication are multiply layered and we are affected by many factors which we may not be conscious of. Our modes of communication are highly “redundant”. That communication is multi-layered and redundant is actually advantageous in the sense we have several channels to override noises and judge reliability of signals. But that makes our communication very complicated. For example, it is very simple to instruct arithmeatics to a simple computer. But it is very hard to do the same to humans. Humans have advantages in performing complex tasks such as pattern perceptions, or anticipating motions of evading an enemy plane, etc., but not in simple tasks. I imagine, this is because our brain is a very complex system. And the way two or more brains interact through exchanges of symbolic signals, such as series of alphabets, is very fascinating dynamics which we understand very little.

In talking of “communication”, we are talking of very complex systems, situations, or dynamics. The kind of Communication we are concerned in peace education is at least “two way interaction” and it presupposes “loop structure” of feedback to begin with. We may have to learn about system dynamics as such. This would be one agenda in peace education. It is not so much the question of “knowledge”, but the question of “competence” in performing the art. This is another paradigm shift in education, if there is to be peace education. And the only way we can learn the art is to practice it. That is, the peace education has to be on a format which allows and fosters development of “communication”, not just “transmission of knowledge”.

III. From the Pedagogy of Authority to the Pedagogy of Liberation

We know how to teach ourselves to be “good soldiers”, “good inventors of weapons”, “good competitors”, “efficient destroyers of environment”, etc. That is evident in our history. But we have not developed “Education for Peace”. The educational system itself has to learn the way of peace. We do not have ready-made “peace education” but we have to construct one by learning without prior knowledge.

This is paradoxical. One might ask if Peace can be learned at all. However, this paradox is not new. Some 2000 years ago Aristotle heard and recorded the same paradox about learners. His version of the paradox was narrated like the following.

“the learners wish to learn only because they do not know the object of the learninig. But, without knowing what to learn, it is impossible to know how to learn. Hence, it is impossible to learn.”

I imagine the argument was invented by Sophists and they were waiting for people to step into the trap by saying, “Therefore, students should follow the master.” The sophists, although they might be game players, knew better. They would point out the problem of how th master had learned. The paradox is interesting in that the answers to the paradox set philosophy and operational modes of education. Let us see some of the responses to the paradox.

Religious teaching had a neat metaphysical escape from the paradox in that “God”, who is external to the ignorant humanity and knows everything, supposedly teaches. To that extent, a religious institution held a monolithic control over a population; it acted as the authority to arbitrate conflicts among people within the dominion and thereby reduced the frequency of violence. On that merit, religious institutions could have been “peace teachers” to the “ignorant and violent people”. This constitutes a philosophy of teaching.

I shall nickname the above “Pedagogy of Authority”. It is characterized by having some “superior being” teach someone inferior. And we notice in this context that “knowledge” to be taught must be justified as much as it is to be imposed on learners.

To be sure, our educational institutions are by and large “secular”. To the extent the religious institutions in the past were often instigators of “Holy Wars”, the secularization was an improvement. We have learned to live with religious tolerance. However, we have today “Nationalistic Wars” and “Ideological Wars” which resemble religious wars in many aspects. And in educational practices, we have inherited the “Pedagogy of Authority” from religions, despite the secularization.

The idea that an absolute authority act as the peace-teacher and peace-keeper on the basis of power to  suppress undesirables still has a strong influence in our society. In the the present context of the Superpower competition over Nuclear hegemony, the idea that one superior power can be the peace-keeper and hence the achieving of the superior status is desirable for the world peace is apparently popular and the idea is driving the world towards Nuclear Holocaust. Therefore, we need to analyse this philosophy in some more detail.

We note that the authoritarian philosophy of education persists even today, despite the secularization that took place in our history. The modern Nation-States are more efficient in organizing the population under its dominion to fight wars than religious institutions and Feudal kingdoms. In a sense, the Nation-State suppresses small-scale violences and moderate struggles within, but it has the monopoly of violence against people within and against other nations.

There, religious dogma was replaced by the “scientific-technological rationality” which is more competent in providing grounds for social scale consensus. Science-technology is liberating in that it allows a degree of “plurality”, while maintaining an effective control over population. iN that sense, science-technology is the replacement of religion as the authority for the social scale thinking. The philosophical discipline of “epistemology” emerged as an art of justifying the “knowledge” to be imposed by some power authority. Rules of Evidence, Logical Proof, etc., are needed to justify the power implied by “knowledge”. They are the means to subjugate “less intelligent people”. And the metaphorical image of knowledge transmitted from supperior to the inferior persists even in Information Theory in terms of Entropy Law.

In Handbook on Peace Education, edited by C. Wulf and published by International Peace Research Association, in 1974, Haken Wiberg pointed out a “caste distinction” between Peace Researchers and Peace Educators. He observed that Peace researchers as the producers of knowledge assumed a superior position to peace educators who were perceived to be merely the transmitters of the knowledge produced. The reason for this was division  of labours and the specialization strategy of “science”. But it does reflect the authoritarian tendency even in peace researchers to imagine human relations in a metaphor of “from superior to inferior”. Communication is recognized as being of a secondary importance, and the question of integration-synthesis is altogether forgotten. I think this is a manifestation of “technological elitism” that is prevalent in our age, and one obstacle to be overcome in the waty to peace. So let me elaborate on the point further.

In the modern age, the idea that an authority can impose peace upon a barbaric population by force came out in a form of colonialism , as one might read in the poem, “The Whitemen’s Burden”, by R. Kipling, composed 1899 when the U.S. took possession of the Philipines. The “Whitemen” wished peace and went out on a crusade to impose their idea of peace on other people. The method was wars and education.

We can also read the poem as an expression of a philosophy of education which missioned itself to impose “civilization” on the “barbaric” people within a society, as well as ones outside. IN that sense, it was also applied internally to the whitemen’s society. Population had to be pacified and domesticated for the production capacity to grow and commercial enterprises to go on unhampered. Education as such is admittedly more “peaceful” than repression by physical violence and perhaps more “cost effective.” But the psychology of fear was necessary in the maintenance of the ultimate authority which is a disguised violence.

Education as such did not eliminate physical violences but rather it stood on violence. We see even today that “teaching” is still accompanied with “corporal punishment” and it does stress “classroom control” as confinement and restriction of children. The notion that children are “ignorant barbarians” who have to be kept under strict control, if necessary by force, is fading gradually. And perhaps in higher education that is practically extinct. But nonetheless, the authoritarian sense of “teaching” is still prevalent event today. And recent reports from Japan talk of rampant violence in schools. Educators attribute the violence to be the results of stresses in the highly competitive society and the “authoritarian pedagogy” required for the competition. In terms of armaments, Japan is one of the most “peaceful” nations. But in terms of lifestyle and education, Japan is not “peaceful.”

Perhaps, however, the degree in which we dissociate the notion of authority from fear of violence is a measure of internalization and it is also a measure of success in “Education” as such. We no longer need to appeal to violence to get necessary accommodations in ordinary social relations. We know if we fail to be “reasonable” , whatever the level of “reason” we can practice, we would have to use physical forces which are very expensive in termssocial costs as well as in terms of personal safety and property damages. In that sense, we have achieved a degree of Pacification through Education. This has to be acknowledged. But, “pacification” is not “peace”.

We might say, in a large-scale historical view, that we have come a long way towards Peace. We might even congratulate ourselves by saying that only a few more steps to reach the point of no-return on the way to Peace. But a few remaining difficulties, if so perceived, are not the same kind that stem from the general population being ignorant and barbaric. Rather they come from the power structure of our domesticated life that depends on ultimate violence. The “education” which it practices for maintainance of the power structure as such, is then a part of the problem for itself.

If the efficiency of the modern nation-states is less, say not able to organize Nuclear War capacity, we may have had a longer time scale to solve the problem of wars. But, as it is, the efficiency or rather the technical “intelligence” of the Nation States is very hight and we are almost overwhelmed by it. Once triggered, our Nuclear Intelligence can destroy the life systems on the Earth in a matter of a few hours. We must credit our “education” for the achievement of high efficiency in that particular aspect. That is, the Pedagogy of Authority worked successfully in that respect.

Of course, the problem is our dismal failures in other aspects of our social organization. For Peace the authoritarian education would not do. For it was the authoritarian education that taught how to fight wars. Authoritarian posture is no different from the way a Baboon colony establishes who is the Boss, although it does replace small violences among members of the colony by a large one and thereby reduces frequency of violence. The theory that humans ar viciously aggressive “Naked Apes” is wrong in terms of anthropology and biology, but it is correct as a description of our social practices.

I view that the aggression of the scale we practice today is not an innate nature in us, but it is “education” into us. As human communities came to face problems of increasingly large scale social interactions and communication, they have “mis-developed” out of fear and by the appeal of power to secure the safety into the authoritarian direction. It was essentially a “defensive’ strategy, although it came out in “offensive postures”. In this sense, I have a doubt if the fear of Nuclear destruction and death is an adequate basis for peace education. “Defense” and “Offense” may be two faces of the same coin at the depth of psychology, beyond just being propagandist manipulations of the two words. That is, the “authoritarians” may be aggressive because of their paranoic fear. The way out may be found in courageous exploartions which transcend fear and even take risks.

And as to alternatives to the pedagogy of authority, there are interesting hints from “Liberation Theology”. Liberation Theology is interesting, because the religion that invented the “pedagogy of authority” contained in itself antidotes to it. The religion in each ancient community functioned as “the collective intelligence” of the community, and as such it had to contain some elements of practical wisdom for good life. Christianity talks of Love, and it has a particular preoccupation with the “oppressed”. We note that “love” was a practical necessity without whichh the community would have become extinct. Naturally, therefore, it contained Liberation Theology. It was the “establishment” of a power institution that inhibited developments in the domain of Love. That is, the dynamics of love relations in communities had to exist anyhow. It is only in intellectual recognitions that the dynamics was concealed and barred from intellectual communication and thereby being kept ineffective in social-political sense.

Interestingly, the rhetoric of the religious dogma asserting its institutional authority was basically that of “fear tactics” — such as the devils who would attack if one has no defense. Whereas, the stories for Love show no concern with safety nor preoccupation with defense. Love often involves courageous sacrifices of personal safety. If there is danger, then the strategy is to share the danger at one’s risk. I think this psychological dynamics is very important. For, we can compare the rhetoric with that of the Arms Race which requires existence of a “devil”. And, in a contrast, the advocacy of peace which involves risk taking — which thereby become vulnerale to labels like “unrealistic”, “irrational”, “utopian”.

Liberation Theology attempts to liberate itself from the power structure of the traditional religious dogma, in order to “liberate people from the oppression”. It attempts to liberate itslef from fear within as well as fear from outside. And the “liberation within” is educational. If we compare, at this point, Liberation Theology with Liberation Pedagogy —say in the form expressed by Paulo Freier in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Continuum Pub. Co. 1985), we see the messages are the same. The armed struggles by the oppressed people today are just as bloody as the ones in the history, but we note that they are no longer simple ones of “seizing power”. Every one of the struggles stresses the liberation within. And the practices of the revolution are marked by very high recognition of the importance of communication among people in learning. As much as armed struggles are there, somewhat “authoritarian” practices of “Revolutionary Leadership” is still visible. But we can observe that “vertical” metaphor of hierarchical power structure is considerably weakened in the rhetorics of the liberation, and increasingly more appeals for “horizontal” metaphor stressing communication are made in them now.

Peace Education can take hints from Liberation Theology. The philosophy of Peace Education has to liberate itself from the power structure that is leading the human race to ultimate destruction. But it cannot stand on the fear of Nuclear Death. We like to free ourselves from fear of Nuclear Holocaust. For that our philosophy must be free from the Fear, and be able to risk the defenseless position. Here, if we need a slogan, we could make up such as: “When all Defenses go, Peace will come!”

To be sure, within our present notion of “rationality” and “reasonableness”, one cannot ask, let alone compel anybody, to be “defenseless”. Even with the “authority” of being Professors of Peace Study or Peace Researchers, we cannot force the risk on anybody. Unlike theology, we do not teach articles of Faith. We can only suggest the “theology” and discuss it as a possibility among others. But then, not compelling peace on anybody may be consistent with the notion of Peace. We can propose, discuss, consult, and negotiate for practical agreements. That is, we are back to communication.

In reference to the Paradox of Learner cited before, we remind ourselves that we are the Learners. And we are searching the ways of learning peace. We do not have “the answer” in deterministic sense, nor can we start from “the answers” in deductionistic sense. Being liberated, that is being Free, is being vulnerable. We are not safe. We must accept the risk for the sake of peace. In practical terms, however, we are not absolutely Free. That gives us practical things to do, in struggles relative to the problems we have. In that sense, we can propose and try certain hypothesis and learn whether or not they work step by step relative to the problems. That is, the problems are our guides. I have criticized the present practices of education and of the intellectuality in general. But I ought to be thankful that there are problems and contradictions which guide my learning of peace. The “liberation” also comes from within.

Appendix to Chapter III.

It is instructive to reread Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden”, for it is not just an expression of colonialism, but also an expression of the dominant paradigm of education in the past and even today. We need to reflect upon the philosophy of education as such and consider if Peace Education  can be on the same philosophy. Therefore I cite the poem here.

The White Man’s Burden


The United States and the Philippine Islands

Take up the White Man’s burden —

Send forth the best ye breed —

Go bind your sons to exile

To serve your captives’ need;

To wait in heavy harness

On flutter fold and wild —

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man’s burden

In patience to abide,

To veil the threat of terror

And check the show of pride;

By open speech and simple,

An hundred times made plain,

To seek another’s profit,

And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden —

The savage wars of peace —

Fill full the mouth of Famine

And bid the sickness cease;

And when your goal is nearest

The end for others sought,

Watch Sloth and heathen Folly

Bring all your hope to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden —

No tawdry rule of kings,

But toil of serf and sweeper —

The tale of common things.

The ports ye shall not enter,

The roads ye shall not tread,

Go make them with your living,

And mark them with your dead!

Take up the White Man’s burden —

And reap his old reward:

The blame of those ye better,

The hate of those ye guard —

The cry of hosts ye humour

(Ah, slowly!) toward the light: —

‘Why brought ye us from bondage,’

‘Our loved Egyptian night?’

Take up the White Man’e burden —

Ye dare not stoop to less —

Nor call too loud on Freedom

To cloak your weariness;

By all ye cry or whisper,

By all ye leave or do,

The silent, sullen peoples

Shall weigh your Gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden —

Have done with childish days —

The lightly proffered laurel,

The easy, ungrudged praise.

Comes now, to search your manhood

Through all the thankless years,

Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom.

The judgement of your peers!

IV. The Problem of Cooperation in Diversity

There will be many problems in Peace Education. I shall discuss only one of them here, in hope that there are many discussions about other problems in this conference and elsewhere. The problem I would like to discuss here is rather “philosophical” in a derogatory sense that it is a somewhat abstract one of cooperation among people with diverse sets of values, ideals, and cultures. However, the problem shows up in various contexts and perhaps it is of some help to discuss it at an abstract level. And it is important because there is a moral-political notion that for a cooperation perfect agreements on everything are needed. And, there is a tendency in teaching practice to insist that there must be, or can be, only one right answer to any problem.

It is perhaps a residue from the monotheistic religions that we are monolithic in thinking. The rhetoric pretending the best tend to be simple and there appears to be popular demand for it. We think strong assertive posture is effective in mass communication. And we teachers tend to feel it necessary for intellectual coherence that one system of thought must be presented as the best, if not as the truth. Of course, we do know for example that theories in physics disagree with each other and they are not absolute truth, yet they are not entirely useless. Even mathematical routines, such as “differentiation” have many different “interpretations”. But we think it to be “pedagogical” necessity to pretend as if what we teach is the best, or the truth. We may be unnecessarily aggressive from our habit in academic competitions. WE may be free from egotism to think we know the best, but there are practical considerations as to avoiding confusions from too many “ifs” and “buts”. For passive audiences, too many competing ideas and theories may be burdensome in that they have to exercise their own thinking. Under the system of divisions of labour, we expect specialized experts to give us the best answer. Even for Peace, we might unconsciously slip into being the “consumers”, rather than being the “producer” of Peace. Being “user friendly” may be a good thing in many technological developments, but there are questions as to whether that is also applicable to peace education We may have to consider if easy consumability is the way of peace education, for that implies peace to be passive rather than active.

Any society, or any “Culture”, as much as it is recognized as a coherent system, it must have a certain set of fundamental agreements. Cooperation among the members of the Culture is necessary for the Culture to survive as a culture. And if the people involved are “thinking beings” at all, they have to share a certain set of “beliefs” or “metaphysical assumptions”. Particularly, if effective communication within a culture is to be carried at the level of linguistic symbols, sharing of a “philosophy” is the precondition for its practicality.

If a society cares at all about its survival, the society, as ones in our history, imposes a philosophy and controls thoughts, by coersion, by rituals, by education, or punishments and rewards. To learn a language is to learn the value system implicit in it. Without being competent in responding and manipulating the value symbolisms, one cannot be a respectable member of the society. Besides it is simple and economical, if we can reduce our thinkings into one uniformal system. Many philosophers apparently tried to construct a grand system of thinking for that purpose, though inevitably they failed. Scientists sought after “One Truth”, until the 19th century — many scientists apparently still believe in “Truth” even today, although it is denied at the formal theoretical level of their discipline. We do value “unity”, “solidarity”, “consensus”, etc. and feel pleasure being among agreeable friends. Those are essential conditions for communication.

However, we have another problem today. That is, we live in a “pluralistic world”. By the developments of world trades, or rather the colonial expansions we come to contact societies with different cultures. Just as it was not practical nor wise to insist one religion over everybody, it is not practical nor wise to insist one culture. technology appears to have unified the humanity in a certain world view, but it created complexity in the interdependency of the living in the modern age and breeded diversity in market activities. The size and extent of social domain absolved into technological controls exponentially multiplies complexities, diversities, and entropy costs.

In addition we have Ideological differences in the Superpower Nuclear confrontation. There, we would say that attempt by one side to achieve “unity” of the world under its hegemony is that main reason of the conflict. And here I remind you that until recently, we thought that “science” transcends all cultural differences and therefore it can unify the world. We now pay some respect to “cultural” elements in science, thanks to writing of Popper, Kuhn, et al. And nowadays we find many books on “Sociology of knowledge” in our libraries which discuss dependancy of “knowledge” and even “reality”, on cultures. At least in practical contexts, we cannot ignore the diversity, even if it is considered to be undesirable. And if we consider diversity to be desirable — I do, but there appears to be people who do not, such as Americans who do not understand why Canadians insist a superficial cultural distinction from that of the U.S. in the face of obvious economic benefits in assimilation with them, — then the problem is more serious.

I shall not argue as to whether or not there can be one agreeable frame for knowledge transcending cultural and ideological differences. But, regardless of the super-metaphysical position as to the possibility of the “unification”, we face the “plurality” and “diversity” of the world community today and have to consider Peace in that context. We need not have perfect agreements on everything, particularly on metaphysical questions. But somehow we have to find a practical set of agreements to live together. And, here lies a problem for Peace Education.

We notice in religions, ideologies, scientific theories and even in geometries, that many controversies are about metaphysical assumptions — such as if two parallel lines meet at infinity or not. In practice, it probably makes little difference if two parallel lines meet at infinity. And it is humanly impossible to reach the “infinity” and actually see the differences. It may offend Christians, but it is very strange for outsiders why Christians insist that the “virgin birth” must be believed in order that the message of love is received. Nonetheless, the “axioms” are very important in the linguistic sense. If we are competent in talking and thinking in different language systems, we may not need to fight about such “ideal assumptions”. But at the moment, we do not have efficient ways of communicating without imposing implicit metaphysics as the common ground.

At any rate Peace Education has to deal with the problem of how to construct cooperations in the world with rich Diversity. Puritanic sentimentality would not do, even though we may be sympathetic to it. At least, we need to consider Tolerance as to the differences, if we fail to understand people who think differently from us. If we are to consider the problems of ideological differences in the context of the Superpower confrontation, we need some ground strong enough to sustain our discussion without going into a fatalistic “relativity” that gives up peace. We are required to be competent in elaborating both positions. We not here that this is not “value neutrality”. Rather, it is full explicit discussion of value systems in which we and others live. We must expose implicit assumptions and values that we stand on, as much as we expose other’s assumptions and values.

It would require critical examinations of out own frame of references on which our “knowledge’ stands. Peace Education cannot be the education that imposes our particular frame of references on our students. That is, the bases of “knowledge” themselves have to be made explicit. Perhaps disciplines such as “Sociology of Knowledge” might appear academic mumbo-jumbos and useless snobism to us. But we do need to know and understand our own “cultural biases”, before talking of others. If we are to teach about the self-imposed blindness in Cold War rhetoric, we need to know if our academic stands might not contain equally ridiculous biases.

And beyond that, Peace Education has to propose ways in which people can construct cooperations without subjugating one group under another. Unfortunately, we do not have “epistemology” to do that yet. Peace Education has to develop the “epistemology” of its own. If Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is of any guide, I imagine the creation of the new epistemology is equivalent to creating a new language, and that would change our mode of communication. We may have to be even poetical in that.

Interestingly, the difficulties with different cultures, ideologies, etc., repeats in smaller scales when we try to cross the boundaries between fragments of science. It was the grand strategy of science, or rather of the modern intellectualism, to fragment thinking into specialties. Presumably there will be integrations after the “Divide and Conquer”, and cross fertilization among specialized knowledge has been tried and even successful in some cases. But it is acknowledged that, by and large, we are not competent at integrations. The majority of practice in various “science” in professional senses is on the strategy of “Divide and Conquer”, and teaching practices follow the same pattern. Peace education, in this respect is exceptional. There is no way that peace education can be a fragmented science. Reports on peace education points out problems of integration — say for a political scientist to understand physics of weapons systems, genetic consequences of nuclear radiation, complexity problems in computer technology, as well as moral philosophies, for example. Peace education carries an extra burden of being a “generalized” intelligence. It is not the teaching of a specialty.

And there we face a problem of learning “second-hand”. It is unreasonable to expect any individual to know everything at the first-hand. We have to rely upon communication from other learners and by imagination we have to digest what is reported. Of course, in practice, people have been doing the second-hand learning. In fact, “science” would be impossible and meaningless, if we deny the second-hand knowledge. But it so happens that the prevalent philosophy of science (knowledge) concentrates its analysis and commentaries on the first-hand knowledge. Such a philosophy of knowledge (epistemology) is totally inadequate for our social practices, besides being dishonest. We depend on each other to know most anything. We do not have direct access to most information that we need to think of the World. Our practical daily life requires that we have to deal with information presented in highly abstract symbolisms at a high speed which hardly leaves chances of deep reflections. In a complex society, therefore, competence in communication if of critical importance.

And in addition, since it must be a communal effort by people of different cultural backgrounds and different ideologies to construct a way of peace, each of us as individual thinkers cannot and ought not attempt constructing the “philosophy of peace” as an individual enterprise. We are dependent on others to make peace. We can only do the construction in consultations and negotiations. If we consider peace learning to be the learning of the human community as a whole, then communication among us is analogous to communication among nerve cells in our brain.

We might think of it, in a metaphor, that peace has to be learned by the “collective intelligence” of the humanity as a whole. If such a metaphor is appropriate, then we partake in a collecive thinking for peace. But in order for us to start consulting and negotiating, we need a practical condition of peace for them to be possible. This is a “vicious circle” in reverse.

However, if people recognize the problems at all, people do have a motive to come to conferences with those involved in the same problems. We are somewhat like Alcoholic Anonymous in this respect. We might call ourselves “Warmongers Anonymous” ! We come to learn because we have problems and those who share the problems can help. The mutual helping is an important aspect of peace that we wish to learn. And the key element of the construction is communication.

In response to the Learners Paradox, we could say that we can learn from problems. To deal with problems is the learning. If any accumulative sense of effect is sought , we can point to the competence in learning. That is, we learn how to learn. Interestingly, one can look at the history of physics, which is a series of mistakes upon mistakes, as a “learning of how to learn”. And to deal with problems is to have “interactions with” them, and as such “learning” is a form of “communication”. I would imagine the same may be said about Peace Learning.

And there have been encouraging signs for emergence of new paradigms of learning. Recently, a Japanese journal published, under the title “Networking of the Youth”, reports of six cases where young people started their own ways of group learning. The reports are impressive in several senses. Firstly, the journal has been reputed as that for “intellectual snobs”, or at least it has traditionally kept “academic respectability”, and has never printed anything of the kind. Those six groups of young people are not “famous”. They are not “academic”, nor have any pretence of intellectual superiority. They are “experimenting” and having “fun” doing things. The journal itself is changing. Secondly, it is impressive in comparison with what radical students in Japan used to do in the 1960-70’s. They no longer maintain “elitist” attitudes and they are open to most anybody who wishes to join. Thirdly, their “networking” is international. They go to the Philippines, North and South Korea, etc. They look for direct contact with people. Fourthly, they are impressive in contrast to the highly competitive and high tech style of life that the majority of Japanese now have come to live. According to the same journal, Japanese school education is the most advanced one in the world technologically, but at the verge of moral bankruptcy aunder the stress of the high technology. The youth are trying to find the way out. They do not have “philosophy” of the academic sense, that is in technical sense, but they do have a philosophy in a practical sense, constructed and growing with experiments/experiences. Fifthly, they are different from the “hippy commune” type of the 1960-70’s in that they are articulate in communication with others, or at least try to be. And most impressive of all, one of the organizers of networks says of himself as being “Careperson” (in English). He apparently  understood what it means to “Care”. One can take pleasure in hearing emergences of new paradigms such as those. It may mean the beginning of the end of school education. But possibilities to Peace Education are visible. I imagine there are many such signs elsewhere, and I like to hear of such experiences.

Perhaps the description above may be confusing, but it is partly because of the nature of the problems. And I think it is very important for Peace Education to include considerations on the problems of learning. I acknowledge the above to be a sketchy outline for a philosophy of peace education. There are needs of discussing what we can do under the specific conditions that we have to operate now and in the foreseeable future. I would like to be apart of the struggles. And I hope, the suggestion of general direction is useful as an educational exercise.


On the Pedagogy of Liberation

P. Freire Pedagogy of the Oppressed Continuum, 1985

P. Freire The Politics of Education Bergin & Gravey Pub., 1985

H.A. Giroux “Educators as Transformative Intellectuals”, (Speech given at the Univ. of Lethbridge, 1982).

The pedagogy of liberation has a deep relation to the theology of liberation. See:

G. Guitierrez A Theology of Liberation Orbis Books, 1973

R. De Roo Cries of Victims Voice of God Novalis, 1986.

II. On Peace Education

C. Wulf Handbook on Peace Education International Peace Research Association, 1974.

S. Lee “A Course on the Morality of Nuclear Weapons” Teaching Philosophy, Vol. 7, No. 2, Apr. 1984.

L. M. Grob “Buberian Peace Education in the Mideast” Education Theory, Vol. 35, NO. 4, Fall, 1985.

III. On the Crisis of Technological Society

F. Capra The Turning Point Bantam Books, 1982.

J. Ellul The Technological Society Alfred A. Knopf, 1973.

C. Mitcham (Ed.)  Philosophy and Technology The Free Press, 1972.

IV. On Critical Sociology and Education

P. Connerton (Ed.) Critical Sociology Penguin Books, 1976

J.E. Curtis (Ed.) The Sociology of Knowledge Praeger Pub., 1970.

G. Gurvitch The Social Frameworks of Knowledge Oxford Univ. Press, 1971.

J. B. Thompson Critical Hermeneutics Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981.

M. Murphy “Affective Education: The Future” Toward Century 21st. C.S. Wallia (Ed.) Basic Books, 1970.

E. Hurwitz Jr. (Ed.) Criticism, Conflict, and Change. —Reading in American Education. Dodd, Mead & Co., 1972.

H. Esser (Ed.) Transformation of Knowledge Occasional Paper 44. Mar, 1984. Canadian Commission for UNESCO.

H. A. Giroux “Theories of Reproduction and Resistance in the New Sociology of Education” Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 53, p. 257, 1983.

J. Habermas Communication and the Evolution of Society Beacon Press, 1976.

J. Curran “communications, Power, and Social Order” Culture, Society, and the Media M. Gurevitch (Ed.), Methuen, 1982.

V. On Ethical Questions

H.T. Engelhardt, Jr. (Ed.) Morals, Science and Society The Hastings Centre, 1978.

M. Brown (Ed.) The Social Responsibility of the Science The Free Press, 1971.

These references were used, not as the sources of quotations, but as sources of inspiration. I owe to them a great deal as to the “ways of thinking”. This is an acknowledgement of intellectual heritages.

Shamanic Initiations and Their Loss–Decolonization as Initiation and Healing


Shamanic Initiations and Their Loss —

Decolonization as Initiation and Healing


Jürgen W. Kremer


3383 Princeton

Santa Rosa

CA 95405, USA



© 2000 by Jürgen W. Kremer


Published in:

Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, Band 9, Heft 1/2, 109 – 148

[Page numbers inserted below as P109 etc.]




to the students who

have shared this path with me –

in gratitude for the gifts

of learning they offered



[P109] I am a white man. White is short for “socialized into a Eurocentered frame of mind.” White is the name of forgetting. Forgetting so much of how we came to be where we are. I am a white man. Boxed into a box that likes to forget its name. I do not walk alone. Like other white men something walks with me. With me walks a shadow. Before me I project the shadow of forgetting where I came from. Behind me trails the shadow of the tears of native peoples. Below me I march on the shadow of the lands my peoples have raped. Above me looms the shadow of the spirits which I am blind to. All around me walks the shadow of domination, witchhunts, genocides, holocausts, sexism, racism. I do not walk alone.


When I walk into healing – how can I heal when these shadows walk with me? How can I heal when they obscure what lies beyond them? I hope to heal by remembering and seeing the shadows that walk with me so that I can become complete. So that I am not made of illusions. I hope to heal by purifying the shadow. So that I am not boxed in a box without names. So that I walk with the multitude, richness, and plurality that is me. Til árs ok til friðar – so that there may be fertility and peace. So that there may be friðr and heill before me – peace, wholeness, and health… may there be friðr and heill behind me… may there be friðr and heill below me… may there be friðr and heill above me… may there be friðr and heill all around me. So that, maybe, I can go on in beauty, friðr and heill. And so that, maybe, even we all can go on in beauty, friðr and heill. So that, maybe, I can walk with all my relations. So that, maybe, I get healed.



Who is the self that is getting healed?

So often people of the Eurocentered frame of mind are puzzled why indigenous people are upset when they see their healing approaches used in a context different from or alien to their traditional ways. Aboriginal people may then speak not only of abuse, misunderstanding, or appropriation, but also of the grave spiritual dangers ensuing as a consequence of healing done outside of what is defined as the proper practice according to indigenous beingknowing. This contribution attempts to address and clarify the significant [P110] differences in understanding the process of healing in the context of native (or indigenous) thinking vs. Eurocentered thinking.


Interest in Native American and other indigenous healing practices (and ceremonies in general) has increased quite dramatically in recent years. This surge in curiosity is fueled by the experience that the conventional western healing; paradigm frequently reaches its own limit and that the spiritual connections within one’s self, with community and with nature, have desiccated. While this yearning for holistic healing by way of indigenous healing practices stems from a valid desire and need, it raises not only ethical and political issues, but also epistemological questions: Is the Eurocentered way of knowing indigenous healing compatible with the native understanding and use of these practices?


Cosmologies are inevitably implicated in any healing activity, but our attempts to be aware of such cosmologies, and, even more so, our attempts to participate in them in an indigenous sense are a matter of choice, commitment, and presence. Two significant things follow from this: 1) If people engage with an indigenous paradigm in a non-indigenous fashion then they continue to act out the imperialistic nature of Eurocentered knowledge acquisition. 2) Healing endeavors offer a choice of the quality of conversation one wants to create for the future (indigenous vs. Eurocentered). This is true regardless whether one’s indigenous roots are present, recent, or have to be sought in the distant past amidst a crisscrossing entanglements of cultural, genetic, and other heritages.


A significant part of the unease and discomfort indigenous people have around the decontextualized use of native healing practices is the shadow material looming not just in the background of such endeavors, but becoming part of them. Using native healing approaches outside of an indigenous way of being means carrying the disease of the colonizing paradigm, in fact, perpetrating colonization. Removing the presence of these shadows means decolonizing for all of us ensconced in the Eurocentered paradigm (whatever the cultural roots). It means healing the diss-association from communal roots. It means recognizing the losses of our own cultures. It means recognizing the history of colonization, racism, and sexism. Only then arises the possibility of a knowledge exchange about indigenous healing practices that can be called equitable, instead of acquisitive, reifying, or appropriative. It may lead to the renewal of a more complete, holistic, and associative nurturing conversation.


My general framework is a discursive conversational stance of communal con-course, which resists the reification and ossification of what is usually described as “the other” (e.g., the Indian, the Sámi, the Aboriginal). It is an attempt to recover the traditional plurality of tribal or indigenous stories not only in the perception of other cultures, but particularly and foremost in the perception of one’s own roots. This means overcoming the denial of and separation from “the other” within one’s own self constructed in the [P111] Eurocentered fashion; it means discontinuing and healing the projective identification with indigenous peoples (the romantic colonization and containment of native life and history through Eurocentered sciences). The construction of indigenous peoples as “the other” is only possible as long as Eurocentered folk choose to forget their own indigenous roots, since out of this denial arises the legitimation of Eurocentered scientific dominance, progress thinking, and colonization. This approach is based on the recognition that the discontinuance of colonizing action is not just to cease outward acts of hostility, violence, and dominance, but just as much the internal abolition of the colonizer or the colonizing mind (the latter being a concept synonymous with the construction of the Eurocentered mind or consciousness).


I would like to be as clear as possible about the vantage point from which I am writing: The framework is a) decolonization and b) the healing of the masculinization of the phenomena of perceived reality. Any consideration regarding indigenous roots for people who are removed from them by more than a couple of generations needs to include such dimensions as politics, economics, law, cultural practices, ceremony, initiation, science, psychology. Healing the Eurocentered thought process from its dissociation or split from an embedded, nurturing, or holistic participation in the phenomena cannot be merely an individualistic process – it has to be a cultural, communal, and social process. I am writing as a man of Nordic-Germanic ancestry struggling with the depths of the scars of modern pathologies as they show themselves in individuals physically as such illnesses as cancer, addictions, chronic fatigue syndrome, and in social anomies (in Durckheim’s sense), ecological crises, continuing physical and cultural genocide of indigenous peoples, the crises of knowing, the persistence of sexism, institutionalized violence and racism, etc.


I am using the terms indigenous roots, indigenous consciousness, and the like not out of any presumption that this is something I have achieved for myself, or that I have reached closure to my personal process of decolonization (I do not believe that individual closure is possible without the healing of the communal, cultural contexts). These terms have been suggested directly and indirectly by Native American thinkers, Apela Colorado in particular (1994, 47):

The goal of the recovery of indigenous mind [is] to reunite people with their tribal minds. Each of the races of humankind was given a sacred circle or original instruction to live by. If our species is to survive, Euro-Americans must be supported in their effort to regain the Earth-based knowledge of their ancestors. Native Americans will help.

Churchill (1996, 386/7) spoke similarly when addressing an audience of Germans:

You must set yourselves to reclaiming your own indigenous past. You must come to know it in its own terms – the terms of its internal values and understandings, and the way these [P112]  were appplied to living in this world – not the terms imposed upon it by the order which set out to destroy it. You must learn to put your knowledge of this heritage to use as a lense through which you can clarify your present circumstance … You must begin with the decolonization of your own minds, with a restoration of your understanding of who you are, where you come from, what it is that has been done to you to take you to the place in which you now find yourselves.

Within the framework of his own indigenist approach he urges the expression of “German indigenism” (389). Mohawk (n.d., 17) speaks to the same issue when stating “I do not want people to adopt Indian rituals, because I want them to own their own rituals. I want them to come to ownership of experiences that are real for them. Then I’ll come and celebrate with them.”


According to all the native and indigenous people (shamans, medicine people and intellectuals) I have spoken to, the crucial point here is that indigenous roots are always recoverable. Indeed, indigenous leaders see such task as a historic necessity in our times. This is where their hope for the resolution of the current crises, particularly the ecological crisis, rests. For example, Bob Hazous, Chiricahua Apache, has stated: “Don’t come to Indian people and look for feathers and sweats and medicine men and stuff like that. Go back to your own history and find out who you are so that you can look at yourselves and see how beautiful you are” (1994). Implicit here is an assumption about “original instruction – words about purpose, words rooted in our creation, words that allow the human being an identity beyond the illusion of civilization,” as Native American writer Gabriel Horn puts it (1996, 49). Reconstructing indigenous consciousness is about the remembrance of these original instructions and the indigenous conversation with all beings they guide in a particular place at a particular time. While consciousness is a psychological term that has arisen from the individualism facilitated by the Eurocentered paradigm, it assumes quite a different meaning in an indigenous context: instead of being merely psychological it refers to a fluid and embedded awareness of and connection with all our relations – humans, ancestors, animals, plants, earth, stars, sun, and all others. And all this in the storied, imaginative, communal reflections of lived participation.


Even though the words “recovery of indigenous mind” have been suggested by Native American thinkers I have to admit to a certain degree of anxiety whenever I use words like these. So many concepts and terms have become superficial labels as they have entered mainstream or popular thinking that I am afraid a similar thing might happen with a romantic, nostalgic, or opportunistic appropriation of and identification with the word indigenous. This would be terrible and an outrageous misunderstanding of the process I am calling for. The remaining indigenous peoples continue to struggle for survival and recognition. Indigenous is a term with important political meaning. Any person of Eurocentered mind needs to assume (take it on!) this political meaning (together with all [P113] the other meanings the word indigenous connotes). Assuming it means a personal and social struggle for decolonization, it means fighting genocide, racism, sexism, and ecocide. Outside of that context the use of the word indigenous is abuse and devaluation of the struggle of aboriginal peoples and supports those who keep destroying indigenous cultures in conscious and unconscious ways.


The differences in healing paradigm between indigenous traditions and Eurocentered traditions can be understood as the result of different constructions of self (importantly, any self construction arises within a complex web of mutual causality; consequently, the perspective offered here should not be misread in a monocausal vein). There are multiple ways of identifying such differences; for the purposes of this contribution on healing I am using shamanic initiations as a marker to identify differences in self construction. This leads, in a sense, to the most fundamental questions:


Who are we healing? Which self are we healing when we attempt to relieve human suffering?


Are we attempting to heal the modern, Eurocentered, colonizing, or dissociated self? Or are we attempting to heal the indigenous self, the self embedded in community, land, and ancestry?


Are we attempting to heal the Eurocentered self, and make it more functional within the modern world of progress and dissociation? Or are we attempting to bring balance to the indigenous self by healing it from the source of creation as it is understood in the plurality of stories of traditions within which we are working?


The most succcinct way to describe my stance would be as follows: The exposure to Native American and other indigenous healing practices needs to be an occasion for people of Eurocentered mind to develop and remember their own indigenous healing practices. This process would include the integration of the western medical and psychological achievements from European indigenous perspectives – from the indigenous roots Eurocentered folk have recovered for a concursive construction of indigeneity for today and the future (not a folkloristic or retroromantic reènactment of things past).


In my attempt to clarify the issues I have just introduced I:

— describe and discuss what is usually seen as the classical shamanic initiation in Eurasia, the prequisite for the highest levels of healing in her indigenous traditions;

— discuss my understanding of indigenous healing;

— describe the historical loss of rites of passage and initiations leading to the construction of what can probably most accurately be called the Eurocentered self;

[P114] — contrast the modern paradigm of healing that arises from this self construction with indigenous understandings of healing;

— describe the process of decolonization as a rite of passage and initiation.

— I conclude with I poem and overview table “summarizing” the issues discussed in this article.


Shamanic Initiation

Most indigenous cultures seem to have a variety of specialists engaged in healing endeavors. Their native labels express their work succinctly, distinguishing between e.g., herbalists, bone setters, shamans, seers, diagnosticians. Given my background, my focus is on the Eurasian cultural areas which, amidst their rich diversity, have certain connecting strands. Here the jajan, saman, noaidi, völva, or seiðkarl embody the highest or deepest forms of seeing and healing; they are holders of the deep knowledge of their cultures and keep it alive through their ceremonial practices; they have been initiated by spirits into the lived knowledge of their cultures.


My Nordic-Germanic roots connect me with the vast Eurasian cultural complex that has certain common strands (Pentikäinen 1989). Within this rich area I begin my discussion with descriptions from cultures that are less impacted by Christian influences, and move subsequently to the Old Norse material that is much more fragmentary and influenced by Christian thought.


A feature on Tuvan shamanism filmed by Belgian Public Television (Dumon 1993) contains a brief moment where the interviewer asks the shaman whether he had to go through the shamanic illness in order to become a shaman. “Were you also sick?” The question leads us to expect a long explanation of such a significant event, however, the old man only answers matter of factly: “Of course, I was sick.” The brevity of the answer indicates how obvious, necessary, and inevitable the so-called shamanic illness or albystar (in Tuvinian). It is what makes and defines a shaman, whether woman or man or hermaphrodite. All other shamans shown in this movie have undergone similar trials as they were called to shamanize.[1][1]


The common language for the call to shamanize and the initiation is ‘initiatory illness’ or ‘shamanic illness.’ The following are excerpts from descriptions among the Evenki (Tungus) of Central Asia:

…He became tormented and timorous, especially at night when his head was filled with dream visions. On the day when he had to act as shaman, the visions stopped, he fell into a [P115] trance and stared for hours at an object. The pale and worried man, with his piercing look, made a peculiar impression. After his dream, the chosen man became uneasy and timid, began to meditate, did not answer when he was addressed and frquently heard ‘words whispered into his ears’ which he had to sing, žarižačan (literally: ‘to repeat’). That was the moment when, in shamanistic terminology, ‘the spirits entered his ears and brain’, telling him the words of the song. … [The Evenki] believed that the choice itself and the transfer of the assistant spirits to the novice were directed by the master spirit of the upper world. The first words heard by the chosen person were instructions, such as: … ‘do not commit evil things, only cure the sick. … I shall be above you, and take care of you, and give you strength.’ In his dream, the young shaman could see the shaman ancestors who also gave him instructions. Then other spirits came ‘whispering into his ears’. (Vasilevič 1968, 345)

The last sentence of this quote speaks most clearly to the difference between a psychologizing Eurocentered perspective and indigenous perspectives: the ancestors and other spirits speak to the initiand, self construction is fluid and open enough to have intercourse with such realities; this is different from an internalizing self construction comprehending and apprehending ancestors as various aspects of the monadic self (whatever psychological theory we might use). The process leads from the initial visitation by spirits to the acquisition of the necessary shamanic accoutrements, as described in the following statement from the Tuva (Soyot) of Central Asia:

A shaman is recognized by typical attacks of a special ‘disease’ called albystar. The person in question ‘goes off his head’, utters inarticulate sounds, breaks dishes, leaves the house and roams about the taiga, twitches in hysterical convulsions, is seized with nausea and rends his garments, etc. The ‘invalid’ repeats that the soul of a shaman ištig irgäk has moved into his body, that the spirit urges him to take a horse (by which the drum düŋür is meant) and clothes (ala xujaq) and to become a shaman. (Vajnštejn, 1968, 331)


Even in the Old Norse traditions, where shamanism fell prey to Christianity more than one thousand years ago, we find remnants in the records describing an indigenous self construction of the practitioners. For example, at the beginning of the Eddic poem reaching most deeply into the older layer of the culture we read how the seeress was raised by ancestral spirits:

Ek man iötna / ár um borna, / þá er forðum mik / fædda höfðu. / Níu man ek heima / – níu íviðiur, / miötvið mæran – / fyr mold neðan. (Völuspá, stanza 2)

I remember the Jötnar who were born at the beginning of time and reared me in former times. I remember nine worlds beneath the earth, nine giantesses, and also the glorious tree of fate. (Pálsson 1996, 47 & 58)

The völva is raised by giants, reared with primal spirits of old, one of them called Burr, the bear ancestor. Personal and collective or communal time are indistinguishable in this [P116] incantoatory account of earliest Norse history. The giants are primal spirits, presences from before human beings (If we accept Pálsson´s interpretation of iötna as Sámi we still end up with the same understanding: the seeress was raised in the presence of spirits or with spirits.)


The connection with one’s dream or vision or medicine power or personal gift is part of native life, manifesting in all the multitude of cultural ways. Reinforcing that connection is the function of rites of passage. Shamanic initiation, in the indigenous sense, is deepening or reinforcing one’s presence to the spiritual realities within a communal framework. While spirit(s) are part of all indigenous conversations, the awareness of and presence to spirit(s) becomes intensified and heightened for shamans. Thus the völva in Völuspá is raised with spirit(s) in such intensity and to such depths that she sees through time, that she remembers the beginnings of things, the center of her traditions (the tree of fate). As the descriptions above indicate, such shamanic initiations are not mere psychological processes. They are a process always also resulting in actions capable of manifesting healing. Paula Gunn Allen (1998, 47) aptly describes the difference between the psychologizing of spirit – a temptation to which many alternate Eurocentered approaches succumb in our current culture of psychology – and the indigenous conversation:

In tribal cultures, ecstatic, mystical states don’t so much convert into emotive personal experience as into physical experience or experience with direct effect in the physical (that is, as a consequence of entering an ecstatic state, a practitioner can do something actual). Visionary experiences, in themselves, are either a direct requirement for some ritual activity in which the individual is engaging or are a prelude to a life as a holy person.

The shamanic self is not so much constructed as affirmed and confirmed during initiations; it is the rigorous confirmation of something which has already been in the process of construction from early on. It is worthy of note that the ‘shamanic illness’ is not something an individual chooses as an endeavor during a sequence of workshops, but that the spirit(s) come to them. The shamanic self is initiated from the ‘outside’, to speak in Eurocentered terminology. We might say more accurately that other aspects of the weave that the fluid, participatory indigenous self is connected into impinge their awareness onto the individual mind. Or, more plainly:

The Indian has achieved a particularly effective alignment of [the physical and imaginative] planes of vision. … The appropriation of both images into one reality is what the Indian is concerned to do: to see what is really there, but also to see what is really there. (Momaday, from Blaeser 1998, 26)

So, this is a self which has easy concourse with spirits and spiritual dimensions, or rather: instead of being unconscious or in denial about such presences and concourse, it is present to it. This is the work of the völva, noaidi, and the various other shamanic practitioners.


[P117] Eliade, in his classic book Shamanism – Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1951/1964, 42), complains that not enough “care had been taken to collect the confessions (sic!) of … Siberian shamans” so that they are “reduced to the meager common formula: the candidate remained unconscious for a certain number of days, dreamed that he was cut to pieces by spirits and carried into the sky, and so on.” He sees the following detailed description as a relief from such reductions. This example may be the one most frequently quoted in the literature (see Popov in Dioszegi 1968, 137-146;  Elidade 1951/1964, 38-42; Halifax 1979, 37-49; Vitebky 1995, 60-61), and it can also be found on the internet (see below). Repeating this report one more time may thus contribute to a reification and ossification of what shamanic initiation is. The ones who escaped the care of the anthropological collectors may be the lucky ones, since they have escaped the grasp of anthropology, “the natural enemy of natives” (88), or more elaborately: “Natives are forever studied, invented as abstruse cultures, and then embodied in motion pictues as the simulated burdens of civilization. … These adversities became more grievous and caused a turn in the notions, courses, and literary canons at universities, but the treacheries and dominance of anthropologism, the obsessive, unmerciful studies of natives by social scientists, have not been overturned…” (Vizenor 1997, 86). With the opening of the East Bloc, anthropological attention has turned more intensely on her aboriginal traditions previously more difficult to access. Here is an abbreviated version of the account:

At first he was descending somewhere, then he grasped that there was a sea beneath him. While walking by the sea, he listened to the voice of upper disease who told that he would acquire the shaman’s gift from the Mistress of water and his shaman name would be Hotarie. After that he reached the shore. A naked woman, who was lying there, suckled him. She was the Mistress of water. Her husband Frosty God gave an ermine and a mouse to guide him.  They led him to the hill in the lower world where he saw seven tents. Dyukhade entered the second tent. The Smallpox people were living there. They cut out Dyukhade’s heart and put it in the cauldron to boil. Afterwards Dyukhade visited other tents and got familiar with the spirits of diseases who lived there. Still preceeded by his guides, Dyukhade came to that place of the Shaman’s Land where his throat and his voice were strengthened.  Then he was carried to the shores of the nine lakes. In the middle of one lake was an island and on the island there was a tree, quite similar to the larch, only its top rose to the sky. It was the tree of the Mistress of the earth. Beside it grew seven herbs, the ancestors of all the plants on the earth. In each of the lakes swam a species of bird with its young. There were several kinds of ducks, a swan and a sparrow-hawk. While singing songs and telling incantations, Dyukhade walked round all of the lakes. Some of them were very hot, some were terribly salty. Thereafter Dyukhade raised his head and saw men of various nations in the top of the high tree. There were Nganasans, Russians, Dolgans, Nenetses and Tunguses. He heard voices: “It has been decided that you shall have a drum from the branches of this tree.”  Then he grasped that he was flying with the birds of the lakes. As he left the shore, the Lord of the Tree called to him: “My branch has just fallen. [P118] Take it and make a drum of it that will serve you all your life!” The branch had three forks and the Lord of the Tree bade him make three drums from it. “I let you have three wives, who will watch over your drums,” he said. “The first drum you have got to use for shamanising women in childbirth, the second for curing the sick and the third for finding men lost in the snowstorm.”  Dyukhade took the branch and flew away with the birds. On his way he met a demiman-demitree creature who told: ” If you will be asked to shamanise in the case of serious illness and your heart will not be strong enough, then you will take this,” and he gave him seven herbs. “Each of them has its lords. If you will meet an orphan girl or a widow, you will help them.”   Then Dyukhade reached the large sea. He saw seven cliffs on the shore. When he got close, one of them opened. There were teeth like from the bear inside the cliff. The cliff said: “I am the Heavy Stone. By the use of my weight I hold the fertile soil in its place. The wind would carry it away without me.” The second cliff opened and said: “Let all men melt iron from me.” So Dyukhade studied seven days near the cliffs.  Afterwards the ermine and the mouse led him to the marshland. They reached the hill with swampy slopes. There was an open doorway on the closest slope, and they went in. The interior, except for the ice around it, looked like the one of the conical tent’s. There was a hearth in the middle of the room. On the left side two naked women were sitting. Their bodies were furry and they both had antlers (one of them had green ones). Both of them bore him two reindeer calves destined for sacrifice and nourishment. They gave him some reindeer fur for the shaman costume and for good luck with reindeer.  Then Dyukhade came to a desert and saw a distant mountain. After three days’ travel he reached it and entered an opening. There was a naked man working a bellows inside the mountain. On the fire was a cauldron as big as half the earth. The naked man saw Dyukhade and caught him with a huge pair of tongs. Dyukhade had only time to think: “I am dead!” The man cut off his head, chopped up his body and put them in the cauldron. There he boiled them for three years. There were three anvils on the tundra side of this mountain. The naked man forged Dyukhade’s head on the third anvil, which was the one on which the best shamans were forged. Then he chilled his head in the cauldron, in which the water was the coldest (there were three cauldrons with water). He said: “When you will be called to cure someone, you will remember – if the soul of your patient will be warmer then water in the first cauldron, it will be useless to shamanize, for the man is already lost. If the soul will be as warm as water in the second cauldron, your patient is not very seriously ill and you will shamanize to cure him. Water in the third cauldron has the temperature of the healthy body.” Then the blacksmith poured Dyukhade’s bones and muscles out of the cauldron and separated flesh from bones. He said: “As you have three of them too many, you will have three shaman costumes too.” Afterwards he said: “Your spinal cord is a river now, look at your bones floating away!” He fished Dyukhade’s bones out of the river and put them together. The bones were covered with flesh again. Only the skull was still separated. Then the blacksmith told Dyukhade to read the letters inside the skull. And Dyukhade read. Then the blacksmith covered the skull with flesh and put it to its original place again. He changed his eyes and pierced his ears, making him able to understand the language of [P119] plants. Then Dyukhade found himself on the summit of a mountain. He entered a tent and awakened – in his own tent.   Afterwards he behaved like an insane person: daily he sung incantations and frequently swooned away, nightly suffered torments caused by spirits. During the seventh year of his illness he went far into the tundra and met there a man who gave him back his heart, cut out at the very beginning of his shaman’s sickness. (A. Popov “Tavgitsy” – Trudy Instituta antropologii i etnografii, t. 1. vyp. 5. Moskva-Leningrad 1936, pp 85 – 93. Abbreviated translation by A. Lintrop at http://haldjas.folklore.ee/~aado/vis.htm)


As all these descriptions should make obvious: the call to become a shaman is not a light matter; the initiation is a journey where the person’s life is on the line, where not getting something right can easily mean death (see Eliade 1951/1964, 38-42 in particular). The patterns of call, initiation and instruction vary from culture to culture in accordance with the form the nurturing conversation takes in a particular place (local knowledge), time, ancestry, and ceremonial tradition (See Vitebsky 1995 for a brief, comprehensive overview). However, common to all is pressure from spirits resulting in a heightened presence to them, and the imparting of healing knowledge in a way that makes it available to the personal repertoire of the initiand – the person is getting initiated into the deep knowledge of his or her culture. This is the crucial point: while this process certainly has a psychological dimension it functions, when comprehended as a whole, entirely outside of not just a psychological paradigm, but outside of the boundaries of the Eurocentered paradigmata in general. Psychologizing spirit amounts to the appropriation and containment of Eurasian ancestries. Especially since Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949) Eurocentered individuals are prone to interpret initiation in psychological terms, particularly in Jungian archetypal terms (initiation into Self). While such process has psychological validity (there is, of course, such a process as the psychological initiation into the Self archetype), it is a partial interpretation of the Eurasian indigenous process of shamanic initiation (the call from and invasion of spirits) as is, hopefully, apparent from the above statements.


An illustration of such contact with spirits can be seen in the story of Óðinn being initiated by fasting and hanging on the tree of life for nine days. While fragmentary, it clearly contains some of the elements described above for Siberian shamanism. We reasonably have to assume that Óðinn started out as the village master shaman, who later became hypostasized and patricarchalized in the course of the emergence of Eurocentered social constructions. In the following quotation Óðinn undergoes shamanic initiation, what is really there and what is really there, come together, the physical and imaginative, spiritual planes get aligned. He is wounded and sacrifices himself for nine long nights on the tree of life, at the center whence the female spirits Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld renew life continuously from the sources of creation. The giant spirit of Bölthorn’s son (ancestral spirit of his uncle) teaches him the shamanic song for spirit calling, he drinks the mead, the [P120] herbal drink of ecstasy and in-spiration, thus becoming full of spirit and being present to spirits he learns from various spirits, ginnregin, the mighty gods,[2][2] the tools of his shamanic trade (runes, not merely letters or symbols, but images to make spirit present for shamanic work, invocations; carving runes means creating spiritual presences).

  1. Veit ek, at ek hekk 137. I know that I hung in the windtorn tree

vindga meiði á

nætr allar níu                                 Nine whole nights, spear-pierced,

geiri undaðr Óðni,

sjálfr sjálfum mér,                        Consecrated to Odin, myself to my Self above me in the tree,

á þeim meiði

er manngi veit                               Whose roots no one knows whence it sprang.

hvers hann af rótum renn.


  1. Við hleifi mik sældu 138. None brought me bread, none served me drink;

né við hornigi,

nýsta ek niðr                                 I searched the depths, spied runes of wisdom;

nam ek upp rúnar

Ïpandi nam,                                   Raised them with song, and fell once more thence.

fell ek aptr þaðan.


  1. Fimbulljóð níu 139. Nine powerful chants I learned

nam ek af inum frægja syni

Bölþórs, Bestlu föður,                   From the wise son of Bölthorn, Bestla’s father;

ok ek drykk of gat                        A draught I drank of precious mead

ins dýra mjaðar

ausinn Óðreri.                               Ladled from Odraerir.


  1. Þá nam ek frævask 140. I began to thrive, to grow wise,

ok fróðr vera

ok vaxa ok vel hafask;                                   To grow greater, and enjoy;

orð mér af orði                             For me words led from words to new words;

orðs leitaði,

verk mér af verki                         For me deeds led from deeds to new deeds.

verks leitði.


  1. Rúnar munt þú finna 141. Runes shall you know and right read staves,

ok ráðna stafi,

mjök stóra stafi,                            Very great staves, powerful staves,

mjök stinna stafi,

er fáði fimbulþulr                         Drawn by the mighty one who speaks,

ok gørðu ginnregin                       Made by wise Vaner,

ok reist Hroptr rjögna.                  carved by the hightest rulers.

(Evans 1986, 68-69)                     (Titchenell 1985, 126-127)

This is one of Óðinn’s shamanic journeys recorded in the Old Norse literature, where he learns what he needs for his craft. While this description seems to contain but remnants of a complete cultural practice, these ciphers direct our attention to a quality of indigenous conversation present beneath the layer of Christianized descriptions and patriarchal conceptualizations. In this nurturing shamanic conversations Óðinn consorts with spirits and feminine sources of creation, renewal, and healing. Hanging from the tree of life he has accessed the deep knowledge of his culture.



Indigenous Healing

Healing is intimately connected with seeing: the perception of spirits and spirits is an integral part of any healing endeavor. Without seeing spirit there is no healing. Understanding spiritually what is out of balance and how healing needs to happen requires seeing. We find this form of seeing described in Eiríks Saga Rauða:

Slógu þá konur hring um hjalling, en Þorbjörg sat á uppi. Kvað Guðriður flá kvæðið svá fagrt ok vel… Spákonan þakkar henni kvæðit, ok kvað margar þær náttúrur nú til hafa sótt ok þykkja fagrt at heyra, er kvæðit var svá vel flutt.

The women then cast a circle round the ritual platform on which Thorbjörg seated herself. Then Gudrid sang the songs so well and beautifully… The völva gives thanks for the song to her and said many spirits have come to us and are charmed by what they hear as the song was sung so beautifully. (Jones 1961, 136)

The calling of the spirits is done by means of varðlokkur, the spirit song, which has a similar function to the drumming and inspired singing or chanting in other Eurasian shamanic traditions (varðlokkur is oftentimes translated as magic song, Zaubergesang; warlock is a related word; vörðr is soul, fylgja, the familiar spirit who follows, the spirit of the home and hearth, guardian spirit; lúka is what encloses the spirits, binds them). It is the power and beauty of the song that brings the spirits. The völva cannot do her seeing and prophecying without the spirits being present.


[P122] The various techniques of spirit calling have led many to interpret indigenous spirituality in terms of the dichotomous pair immanence – transcendence used in religious discussions of “major religions,” for example. However, this represents, I believe, a fundamental misunderstanding of native beingknowing, where even the term “spirituality” creates a division reflecting more the impact of Eurocentered thinking and splitting than the practice of native realities: spirit is everywhere, spirituality is everywhere, everything is spiritual. Everything is immanent, spirit is immanent, not separate or transcendant (immanence and transcendence are more like poles on a scale with many thick and thin places of connection inbetween). While there are all kinds of aspects and levels to this, and while our awareness of these various presences and aspects may be clear or clouded, all these aspects and beings are nonetheless present to indigenous beingknowing. By contrast, the dissociated mind needs to transcend in order to conceptualize or even reach any of these aspects that are immanently present to the indigenous or primal or natural mind, when in balance.


Such immanent worldview can be found even at the roots of the Eurocentered traditions. (Historically, they first turned against their own indigenous roots, and subsequently projected this shadow material out; this led to all the colonial and genocidal violence against indigenous people.) We can trace it clearly in someof the central concepts: Within the oldest layers of the Indo-European traditions we find healing, holy, and wholeness all as aspects of such an immanent world view.

IE*kai-lo-, which occurs in Goth hailjan, OE hælan, OHG heilen, and OBulg celjo, all of which mean “to heal.” What is expressed most directly through these terms, however, is not just the establishment of a vague state of “health” or “well-being” but more precisely a state of “wholeness, totality, completion,” as shown in the nominal and adjectival formations from this root, such as Goth hails, ON heill, OHG heil, and OBulg cel, all of which mean both “healthy” and “whole”… So desirable was this state of wholeness thought to be that two common IE formulaic greetings and toasts express the wish that the one addressed may be “whole.” Such a state of well-being and wholeness might be lost through injury or disease, whereupon the healer’s task was to restore it. (Lincoln 1986, 100)

The centrality of this concept of healing is apparent. Hitler turned this very understanding of heil through his evil genius on to the dark side; from an indigenous perspective one could venture to say that the constant everyday use of a formula in older times spoken for the sake of healing, blessing, and greeting, but now spoken millions of times every day for the sake of destruction and genocide, gave the fascism of the Third Reich a particular power and created the mass of bystanders and willing executioners so much in the public debates since Goldhagen’s book. Ever since the word denoting the process of healing carries the shadows of history, and is thus collectively in need of purification and healing. Lincoln’s analysis of the old Indo-European understanding of healing and wholeness identifies magic not as idle superstition, but rather as a

[P123] system of non-Aristotelian, homologic causality, whereby items connected to one another in a relation of underlying constubstantiality are considered capable of acting on one another. And what is more, the precise terms of these homologies are drawn from cosmogonic and anthropogonic myth. (1986, 110)

Within this worldview healing by acts of magical speech is the highest form of healing (ibid. 101). Magical speech, sacred poetry, singing, chanting are part of this evocative context, in which physical accoutrements and interventions form adjuncts which would be less effective if not accompanied by the spiritual presences created through sacred sound. Many words in the Old Norse and other Eurasian indigenous traditions use terms for ceremonial endeavors that are etymologically connected to chanting (Old Norse blót, seiðr, Evenki jajan, etc.), and many words for chanting are connected with seeing (even the English ‘singing’ is). (Another important complex consists of the words for knowing, the-one-who-knows, and seeing.)


Lincoln concludes his discussion of “magical healing” by saying

In considering the IE (Indo-European, JWK) vocabulary for the act of healing I noted that one term commonly used in this context, *kai-lo-, signified “wholeness, integrity.” It now becomes apparent just how awesome a task the production or restoration of such integrity must be, for it is not just a damaged body that one restores to wholeness and health, but the very universe itself. I also noted that the verb used to denote “healing,” *med-, stressed the knowledge and authority that enabled a healer to create proper order in an ailing patient. The full extent of such knowledge is now revealed in all its grandeur: the healer must understand and be prepared to manipulate nothing less than the full structure of the cosmos. (Lincoln 1986, 117/8)

Kailo and heill are terms that need to be understood in a communal frame of mind which includes humans, ancestors, animals, plants, and others. To conceive of them or of friðr (peace or Great Peace) as individualistic pursuits (analogous to the “pursuit of happiness”) means not seeing the obligations which weave the individual’s contribution into the communal fabric. Such weaving has its origins in the place from which the possibility of healing and balance emanate: creation and creation story. Óðinnfasting on the tree of life puts him at the center of anthropogenesis where he receives crucial instructions for his way as a shaman or seiðmenn. The following story from Snorri’s Prose Edda (Sturluson 1987) speaks to the centrality of healing and in-spiration emanating from the oldest layers of the story of the people. The literature commonly talks about the mead of inspiration or the mead of poetry, however, as we have seen previously, to be in-spired by poetic song is making the spirits present, is becoming present to them. Such poetic inspiration is not just seeing, but also the foundation of healing, of manipulating the structure of the universe through the power of the magic words chanted. Of course, the power of such tremendous [P124] manipulation is not the shaman’s, but that of the spirits; the power of the shaman is the capacity of varðlokkur, spirit calling, and then the skill of his spirits traveling to where they must go for seeing and healing (the intensification of indigenous presence); the rest is the grace of spirit(s).


The story of Óðinn’s recovery of the mead that is given below, illustrates a variety of things important in shamanic work: we read about shapeshifting, wrestling with spirits, the recovery of medicine, and a spirit which has been held by illegitimate owners, spirit journey. Remembering that magical speech is the highest form of healing the significance of the rescue of the source of such magic from thieves and murderers becomes evident. It is important to notice how the nature of the medicine of the mead changes as the story unfolds from creation: from the power of truce between two groups of spirits (the Vanir and the Æsir) to poetic in-spiration from one group of spirits only (the Æsir; Indo-Europeanization is thus strengthened).


The mead Óðinn recovers by means of his shamanic work is spiritually of eminent importance: Its origins lie with the truce between the Æsir and Vanir groups of gods/goddesses or spirits. They had spat into a vat to seal the agreement, and then decided to create the wisest of humans, Kvasir,[3][3] out of it. Kvasir travelled through the world teaching his wisdom. He was killed by dwarves who preserved his blood, mixed with honey in three containers. The mead was passed on as recompense for the drowning of a giant. His son kept the mead putting his daughter in charge of it. This medicine, which was ceremonially created by the Æsir and Vanir spirits, and which became manifest in the wandering wise person Kvasir, then gets rescued by Óðinn during a shamanic recovery process, but changes its character significantly in the process – instead of being medicine mediating and balancing between the Æsir and Vanir spirits it now ends up in the possession of the Æsir as the mead of poetry (poetry is also known as Kvasir’s blood), from the seal of truce making between two aspects of spirits it turns into the in-spiration from [P125] and for one group of gods and goddesses; the magic of healing words and inspired song is now in the hand of the Æsir, spirits of Indo-European cultural context:

Óðinn told him his name was Bölverkr (“worker of trickery or evil”); he offered to take over the work of nine men for Baugi (“the bent one”), and stipulated as his payment one drink of Suttungr’s mead (Suttungr is probably “heavy with drink”). Baugi said he had no say in the disposal of the mead, said that Suttungr wanted to have it all to himself, but he said that he would go with Bölverkr and try whether they could get the mead. Bölverkr did the work of nine men for Baugi during the summer, and when winter came he asked Baugi for his hire. Then they both set off. Baugi told his brother Suttungr of his agreement with Bölverkr, but Suttung flatly refused a single drop of the mead. Then Bölverkr told Baugi that they would have to try some stratagems to see if they could get hold of the mead, and Baugi said that was a good idea. Then Bölverkr got out an augur called Rati (“drill, augur”) and instructed Baugi to bore a hole in the mountain, if the augur would cut. He did so. Then Baugi said that the montain was bored through, but Bölverkr blew into the auger-hole and the bits flew back up at him. Then he realized that Baugi was trying to cheat him, and told him to bore through the mountain. Baugi bored again. And when Bölverkr blew a second time, the bits flew inwards. Then Bolverk turned himself into the form of a snake and crawled into the auger-hole, and Baugi stabbed after him  with the auger and missed him. Bölverkr went to where Gunnlöð (“invitation to fight”, giant spirit) was and lay with her for three nights and then she let him drink three drafts of the mead. In the first draught he drank everything out of Óðrærir (“the one stimulating ecstasy”; originally the mead itself, but also the vessel containing it), and in the second out of Boðn (“vessel”), in the third out of Són (probably “blood, reconciliation, atonement”), and then he had all the mead. The he turned himself into the form of an eagle and flew as hard as he could. And when Suttungr saw the eagle’s flight he got his own eagle shape and flew after him. And when the Æsir saw Óðinnflying they put their containers out in the courtyard, and when Óðinncame in over Ásgarðr (the home of the Æsir) he spat out the mead into the containers, but it was such a close thing for him that Suttungr might have caught him that he sent some of the mead out backwards, and this was disregarded. Anyone took it that wanted it, and it is what we call the rhymester’s share. But Óðinngave Suttungr’s mead to the Æsir and to those people who are skilled at composing poetry. Thus we call poetry Óðinn’s booty and find, and his drink and his gift and the Æsir’s drink. (Sturluson 1987, Skaldskaparmal, 63-64)

This seems to be a very old shamanic story that finds clear resonances within the Eurasian complex, for example, in the Rig Veda of 1200-900 BCE: Here Indra, in the form of an eagle or with the eagle as helper spirit, steals the elixir of immortality, soma (which Wasson [1968] identifies with the fly agaric mushroom), the plant spirit of in-spiration and seeing. Verse 4.27.5 offers an interesting conjunction between “overflowing cow’s milk, the finest honey, the clear juice” (all presumably words connoting soma; see Wasson for [P126] extensive discussions), which, by bold Indo-European generalization, brings Óðr, the drink of in-spiration, to the milk the primal cow Auðumla offers as nourishment. Modern Icelandic óður (adj.) means not just “furious,” but also crazy and mad, which originally presumably would have been the “madness” of spirit possession or religious trance of in-spiration. Doniger O´Flaherty (1981, 128) comments that “Soma is the ‘fiery juice’, simultaneously fire and water”, and Auðumla feeds the primal giant spirit Ymir who was born at the place from which the world arises, Ginnungagap, the conjunction of fire and ice (cf. Gylfaginning, Sturluson 1987). Óðrærir is commonly translated as mead (German Met), considered the oldest spiritual drink; it is the drink of fermented honey (but also berries[4][4]), and a word which points to an old connection between Indo-European and Finno-Ugric cultures: Saami miehta (originating from Proto-Finno-Ugric of ca. 4000BCE; Sammallahti, 1998, 119), Finnish mete, etc. are related to the Pre-Aryan Indo-European language layer. In the words soma, mead, and óðrærir we find a constellation of the primal forces of creation, spiritual seeing, renewal, mantic poetry, nourishment from the center of creation and spirit(s), as well as atonement and peacekeeping.


The discussions of varðlokkur, kailo, and the mead of in-spiration serve to show that what so many of Euro-centered mind are looking for in Native American and other indigenous traditions can truly be found in their own roots, e.g. the Germanic-Nordic traditions. Healing is not a mere technology, but a spiritual activity which, while using certain pragmatic interventions such as herbs, is embedded in the deep structure of cultural beingknowing and the prerequisite initiations and lifeways. In my case healing can and needs to arise from the place where the Old Norse ancestors were created into their precise cultural identity. Just as it does for Native American tribes and other indigenous peoples. LaPena (1999, 18) comments beautifully: The elders “learn the earth’s secrets by quietly observing. It is a secret language called knowledge that releases the spirit from stone and heals by tone of voice and by changing sickness into elements that flow instead of blocking life.” This is what it means to follow our original instructions in a particular place and time. “Sacred names, dreams, and visions are images that connect the bearer to the earth; shamans and other tribal healers and visionaries speak the various languages of plants and animals and feel the special dream power to travel backward from familiar times and places” (Vizenor 1981, XVII). This is what the völvas, the seeresses, and the seers of the Nordic Germanic traditions did and do. The importance of the connection between language and place is described by Pinkson (1995, 127) based on his initiations into the Huichol tradition:

The original language of the people indigenous to a specific area on Mother Earth’s body grows directly out of the land itself. The vibratory essence of the natural forces in a given area grow upward from the bowels of the land and surrounding elements to form the plant life and vegetation of that area. The indigenous people live, eat, and breathe these natural elements. They die back into them and new generations birth back out again in the passage [P127] of generations. The land literally teaches them how to live in harmony with it through this ingestion process. They take it into their bodies. It “speaks” to them. Then it comes out of their mouths as language. They speak the vibrations of that land. Their language and creation myths are embodied vehicles for for the wisdom of that place. I could now understand why maintaining the original language of indigenous people is important not just to their survival but to all of humanity. Original languages contain within their vibratory sturcture the operating rules for how to live in their home territory in a harmonious manner. The indigenous language is a nierica [gateway, JWK] by which to access the intelligence of place. Lose the language and you lose its vital instructions about right relationship.

This visionary insight finds its reflections in the Nordic Germanic indigenous traditions where the power of the word arising from the lands is used in spells and runes, where the language of the Poetic Edda speaks an ancient wisdom from creation. But this statement does something else also: It clearly identifies the initiatory challenges for those who no longer live in the place of their ancestors, who have forgotten their language, and who may now live in places where the indigenous language has disappeared eating food that predominantly is not indigenous to their area of residence.



The Loss of Initiations

A dramatic and succinct description from Leslie Marmon Silko’s book Ceremony (1977, 132ff.) captures the rise of the Eurocentric story out of its Indo-European origins. Her use of the words “witch” and “witchery” is clear: it refers to the working of evil and imbalance. In its origins (Indo-European root weik-) it had religious connotations, the working of magic. These and similar words originally seem to have been rather neutral, although always holding the potential not just of good, but also of abuse of magical powers; however, the predominant identification of such words with evil and the devil clearly seems to be a consequence of the rise of Christianity. Before awareness of the medieval European witchhunts had a chance to infuse Native American use of the English language, workers of excess and evil were frequently called “witches” in Indian vernacular, thus assuming the Christian, pejorative use of the term. The word evil is connected to the Indo-European root upo and upelo-, meaning: exceeding the proper limit. And it is this that Silko talks about: It is the story of imbalance, the story of certain aspects of being exceeding their proper limit. It is in this sense that the sustained, thus pathological, dissociation of the Euro-centered endeavors from their balancing aspects can be understood as evil. (During the more than 20 years since the publication of Ceremony the word “witch” has re-established in pagan discourse as a positive and affirmative term.)



Long time ago

in the beginning

there were no white people in this world

[P128] there was nothing European.

And this world might have gone on like that

except for one thing:


This world was already complete

even without white people.

There was everything

including witchery.


Then it happened.

These witch people got together. (…)

They all got together for a contest

the way people have baseball tournaments nowadays

except this was a contest

in dark things. (…)


Finally there was only one

who hadn’t shown off charms or powers.

The witch stood in the shadows beyond the fire

and no one ever knew where this witch came from

which tribe

or if it was a woman or a man.

But the important thing was

this witch didn’t show off any dark thunder charcoals

or red ant-hill beads.

This one just told them to listen:

“What I have is a story.”


At first they all laughed

but this witch said


go ahead

laugh if you want to

but as I tell the story

it will begin to happen.


Set in motion now

set in motion by our witchery

to work for us.


Caves across the ocean

in caves of dark hills

white skin people

like the belly of a fish

covered with hair.


Then they grow away from the earth

then they grow away from the sun

then they grow away from the plants and animals.

They see no life

When they look

they see only objects.

The world is a dead thing for them

the trees and rivers are not alive

the mountains and stones are not alive.

The deer and bear are objects

They see no life.


They fear

They fear the world.

They destroy what they fear.

They fear themselves.


The wind will blow them across the ocean

thousands of them in giant boats

swarming like larva

out of a crushed ant hill. (…)


Set in motion now

set in motion

To destroy

To kill

objects to work for us

Performing the witchery

for suffering

for torment

[P129] for the still-born

the deformed

the sterile

the dead.





set in motion now

set in motion.


So the other witches said

“Okay you win; you take the prize,

but what you said just now –

it isn’t so funny

It doesn’t sound so good.

We are doing okay without it

we can get along without that kind of thing.

Take it back.

Call that story back.”


But the witch just shook its head

at the others in their stinking animal skins, fur and feathers.

It’s already turned loose.

It’s already coming.

It can’t be called back.



It is important to underscore that this process of the creation of imbalance is effected not with the help of shamanic paraphernalia, but by means of words, the power of words, the abuse of words, the imbalance or evil of the story – a story that inexorably grinds along, leaving many dead in its wake. The socialization of millions of people in conformity with this story of imbalance and its daily performance and reènactment as individual and cultural injunction constitute its power. As a story which pervades cultures, tribes, civilizations, and societies it cannot just be called back or counteracted with some medicine item as antidote. This requires words of balance, stories respecting proper limits, narratives healing the excessive dissociation from a self construction that acknowledges ourselves as whole and indigenous – the recovery of indigenous consciousness.


This story of the development of Eurocentrism from its Indo-European origins can be told in an alternate form using the information from scholarship which continues to be marginalized because it refuses to be part of the creation of imbalance (Silko’s “witchery”). The story is, of course, a complex one with many twists and turns, multiple currents and many voices to be heard. What I present in the following paragraphs is a mere outline of some of the major shifts that are relevant for the discussion of healing and cosmology.


— I postulate that the various Indo-European peoples had, at one point in their histories, an understanding or ideal of balanced living, a detailed understanding of their place in the cosmos and its cycles based on detailed ecological understanding, and reflected in their stories and communal ceremonies. The remnants of such understanding are reflected in etymological and other analyses, such as the ones provided from Lincoln above. We can possibly see them most clearly in the images of the tree of life, the anthropogenesis beginning with the nurturing cow Auðumla, and the presence of the feminine in the oldest [P130] stories preserved.[5][5] How and why these peoples changed from a cultural practice of balancing themselves with each other and their environment to a cultural practice of invasion and patriarchy (ultimately linear progress) remains mysterious, as Gimbutas achnowledges when she states that “this is a very serious question archaeologists cannot answer yet, but we can see that the patriarchy was already there around 5,000 B.C.” (n.d., 17). It is reasonable to assume that these oldest Indo-European layers had cultural practices similar in ideology and practice to those who have retained their indigenous ways to this day, although the specifics of their socio-cultural practices were, of course, unique in accordance with their location, specific histories, and local indigenous science inquiries.


— According to Gimbutas, beginning at about 4300 BCE the earliest inhabitants of Europe, the “civilizations of Old Europe” become Indo-Europeanized as three waves of Kurgan invasions effect a blending between the indigenous and indo-europen populations. The matristic, matrifocal or matriarchal cultural practices become obliterated in the process as the indigenous peoples are destroyed or assimilated. (In the Nordic-Germanic stories this is reflected in the conflict between the Vanir and Æsir resulting in partial cultural assimilation, the increasing importance of Óðinn and the lessening importance of Freyja and other Vanir goddesses and gods.) We observe the rise of patriarchy, hierarchy, abstraction, dissociation, as well as increasingly larger scale violence and invasions. Healing now becomes an endeavor increasingly shifts into masculine, priestly contexts, with rigidly ritualized forms eclipsing shamanic seeing and inspiration; some of the original healing interventions become marginalized as woman’s work as patriarchal forms of dominance gain strength. The Eurocentered medical sciences find their origin in Greece during the 5th century BCE with Hippokrates.


— The rise of monotheistic Christianity through its appropriation of the shamanic Jesus figure and the alliance between Christianity and the Roman Empire in 390-391 by Constantine constitute a major turning point toward increased patriarchal power and the rise of Eurocentrism. The descriptions in Tacitus’ Germania (ca. 98; 1967) reflect the relationship between the “barbarous,” indigenous Germanic (and other) tribes north and east of the Roman Empire from the viewpoint of “civilized” Rome. “They even think that there is a prophetic quality in women, and so they neither reject their advice nor scorn their forecasts” (67). With the end of the East Germanic and Slavic migrations, and the formation [P131] of various royal empires (Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Francs, etc.) anything resembling communal tribal or indigenous practices disappears rapidly in most of Europe as Eurocentrism progresses in the form of Christian missionization and colonization. The reign of Charlemagne (crowned as emporer in 800) represents a major shift, most apparently with the felling of the world tree Irminsul and the massacre of 30,000 Saxons refusing conversion to Christianity in 772 CE (Gimbutas 1999, 190).


— The oldest Nordic-Germanic knowledge about indigenous balanced living is recorded in sacred places, rock carvings, monuments, and artefacts accessible to the practice of indigenous science (cf. Kremer 1996). Most of what we know verbally is written down by Christians after Iceland’s voluntary conversion to Christianity in the year 1000 (with Snorri Sturlusson, 1178/9-1241, as central recorder and interpreter). Other written sources can be found in poetry, inscriptions, place names, folk customs, fairy and folk tales, as well as language etymology (the work of the Grimm brothers is seminal in this regard). Just as indigenous peoples have been identified as the Other, their practices getting reified in the process, so have the pre-Christian traditions been reified and safely othered under the gaze of the various Eurocentered human sciences (creating a textual and artefactual museum of Nordic-Germanic self-otherness equals to the dissociation from its origins, thus obscuring the potential of balanced cultural practices within an indigenous Nordic-Germanic worldview). In the oldest writings, healing practices are usually merely alluded to, either because the recorder was no longer initiated or because initiation prohibited the dissemination of such information to the uninitiated. We find much focus on spells and the power of runic knowledge, again with an increasing tendency toward rigid ritualization under the sway of men, increasingly eclipsing women.


Beginning with the Renaissance this story becomes the story of the rise of eurocentric sciences. Anthropology can serve as a particularly good illustration for the increase in Eurocentered dissociations and splits from indigenous origins. McGrane (1989) has done an admirably lucid job of tracing the history of the relationship between euro-centered cultures and the Other, the alien, the different – an “archaeology of anthropology”, so to speak. His analysis is helpful for understanding the loss of participation and presence to spirit(s) in greater detail. One of his fundamental premises is that “a culture that discovers what is alien to itself simultaneously manifests what it is in itself” (McGrane 1989, 1). He sees anthropology as an endeavor which is “fundamentally involved in the reproduction of Western society… It manifests and highlights that egocentric tendency of our Western mind to identify itself as separate from what it perceives as external to itself” (1989, 5). Using McGrane’s conceptualization we can break down the process of loss of participation or loss of initiation as follows:


— In the Renaissance (14th to 16th century) Christianity came between the European and the non-European; demonology determined that the Other, the fallen, was in need of naming, christening. Trances (and the concomitant healing practices) were seen as a practice which [P132] maintained the contact with demons and christianization meant the termination of such evil proceedings; killing or arrests of tribal members during ceremonies, the destruction or confiscation of artifacts (even during recent history, such as potlatch masks in Canada) are a result of this paradigm. The remaining old knowledge and practice are severely reduced during the three centuries of witchhunts, beginning around 1500. Much of the old knowledge is restricted to midwifery and herbalists. Indigenous cultural practices remain vital along “the margins” of Eurocentrism, particularly in the north and northeast (with the Baltic peoples and the Sámi people of the Arctic North the last be christianized).


— During the Enlightenment ignorance was the fundamental coordinate around which the understanding of the Other was constituted: indigenous peoples were living with the errors of superstitution. Trances and alternate modes of healing were seen as superstitious practices which could not provide any true help or serve a healthful function. The 17th and 18th century saw the beginning of colonization.


— The evolutionary thinking of the nineteenth century used the coordinate of time to understand natives as “primitives”, or as “fossilized developmental stage” from the prehistory of European civilizations. Thus trances were conceptualized as contemporary remnants of an outmoded, primitive human potential; their usefulness was seen as superceded by medical and other sciences. The 19th century saw the height of colonialism and imperialism. Dion-Buffalo and Mohawk (1994, 33) comment that “the psychological and social foundation of this period of conquest and colonization is found in the ability to coerce the peoples of the world to accept the rules by which European politics and ideologies claimed the power to determine what is legitimate about the human experience.” It is no coincidence that this was also the time in which evolutionary theories were first proposed. Epistemological and evolutionary thinking emerged out of the increasing split from the participation in the phenomena in order to understand and legitimize this dissociative logic of progress: Peoples participating in the phenomena become uncivilized with no possibility to discern truth because of insufficient dissociation. For example, Habermas (1997) makes this point clearly when he discusses the benefits and limitations of Cassirers The Theory of Symbolic Forms: It is the logic of progress and the process of civilization – Aufklärung, enlightenment – which destroys and needs to destroy the impact of participation in the phenomena, the presence to spirits, and the desire for a balanced, meaningful existence. Indigenous healing practices have been relegated to the realm of anecdotes, folklore, fairy tale, to be marginally investigated by Euro-Centered sciences outside of the major trajectory of Eurocentrism (see Kremer 1998 for details).


The process of Eurocentered progess and domination seems to impact indigenous peoples at this historical moment most significantly through a process which takes its analogy from the individual psychological process of projective identification (somebody is made to feel the shadow material of somebody else as if it were his or her own). The intra-Eurocentric denial of their own indigenous roots, the persecution of the Other in themselves (witchhunts, etc.), [P133] transforms the bloody and murderous colonizing forces into equally effective, albeit less physically lethal weapons: instead of killing people indigenous cultures get eradicated as natives begin to feel the bad feelings individuals constructed in Eurocentered fashion have about themselves; the devaluation of who they are pressures them to re-create themselves in the likeness of Eurocentered ideals. The ill feelings they have about themselves – expressed in the negligence of traditional ceremonies, pervasive alcoholism and violence, etc. – originated not from within themselves, but have their roots in the denial and projection of what Eurocentered minds have constructed as their “primitive,” “ignorant,” and “filthy” roots from which they have dissociated through the construction of so-called civilization, in contrast to the presumed savagery of their origins. Indigenous peoples carry the burden of the dissociative relationship of Eurocentered peoples to their own ancestries. They take on the such shadow material, as the following quote indicates:

Our stories help us to deal with shadow material individually and collectively; they connect the dark and the light sides of life. The predominant Eurocentered idea of goodness implies suppression and control of what is regarded as not good; this seems to be a behavioral pattern that can lead to genocide when taken to the extreme (when an extreme valuation of certain “good” traits is used as a way to scapegoat and then kill people who are seen as not sharing these traits). People of European descent are frequently surprised when their niceness is not experienced as such by Indians.  I feel this particular collective delusion of what a good human being is in the European sense has become part of our collective Native American delusions leading us to participate in our own genocide. It is an individualistic and profit-centered view of humans. By taking on this image that focuses so strongly on the light side we are led to the denial of genocide, since the Native American genocide is relegated to the shadow side of the good Western person. Consequently, we do not allow sufficient knowledge that genocide is still occurring, and that perhaps we are participating in it ourselves. This reminds me of our tribal children who have been attending Western schools since contact. There they are taught inferiority, linearity, and the objectification of the universe. They internalize this today, just as I did as a child. Growing up, the racism and the notion of humanity from the perspective of Western imperialism became a part of me. I took on the identity of a victim and lost my power. This is how I have taken on the collective shadow by identifying with the self-construction of the dominant culture. How can anyone really grieve when there is the delusion that genocide is not really occurring today? (Bastien 1999)

This process of internalized colonization continues to perpetrate cultural and even physical genocide. Another aspect of this process is captured in the following words by Silko (1977, 132):

They want us to believe all evil resides with white people. Then we will look no further to see what is really happening. They want us to separate ourselves from white people, to be ignorant and helpless as we watch our own destruction. But white people are only tools that the witchery manipulates.

[P134] It attempts to contain ossified, categorically identified remains of indigenous cultures in museums, universities, books, conferences – all endeavors that Vizenor identifies with the end of imagination or what has been called the nurturing conversation with all relations:

Traditional people imagine their social patterns and places on the earth, whereas anthropologists and historians invent tribal cultures and end mythic time. The differences between tribal imagination and social scientific invention are determined in world views: imagination is a state of being, a measure of personal courage; the invention of cultures is a material achievement through objective methodologies. To imagine the world is to be in the world; to invent the world with academic predicaments is to separate human experiences from the world, a secular transcendence and denial of chance and mortalities. (Vizenor 1984, 27)

Internalized colonization manifests also in ways other than alcoholism or violence:

They think the ceremonies must be performed exactly as they have always been done… That much is true… That much can be true also. But long ago when the people were given these ceremonies, the changing began, if only in the aging of the yellow gourd rattle or the shrinking of the skin around the eagle’s claw, if only in the different voices from generation to generation, singing the chants. You see, in many ways, the  ceremonies have always been changing. … At one time, the ceremonies as they had been performed were enough for the way the world was then. But after the white  people came, elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create  new ceremonies. … Things which don’t shift and grow are dead things. They are things the witchery people want. … That’s what the witchery is counting on: that we will cling to the ceremonies the way they were, and then their power will triumph, and the  people will be no more. (Silko 1977, 126)

It is only under the pressures of continuing genocide that ceremonial renewal finally may disappear, and that the definitions of what is traditional or indigenous may be remade in the images developed by anthropologists or the desperate rigid repetition of what are considered the final live aspects of a culture. However, whatever the temporary victories of genocide may be, renewal remains always possible as the land, even if abused, and the ancestors, even if neglected, continue to be present.



Contrasts in Healing Paradigms

The contrasts between indigenous healing paradigms and Eurocentered approaches can be made visible by looking at how each attempts to explain how healing happens. Within indigenous worldviews healing occurs within the narrative weave of the lived culture as it unfolds imaginatively from creation. Within the Eurocentered worldview healing is researched and understood within a paradigm of Truth, of cause and effect, singularity of [P135] story, and the objective records of experimental observations. This leads to two forms of inquiry which are qualitatively distinct.


The skeptical Eurocentered researcher would be primarily interested in the efficacy of Native American healing and would try to isolated the elements considered efficaceous or a necessary condition in healing ceremonies. Maybe the rattle or the drum or a particular herb or the temperature in the sweat lodge. The sympathetic researcher would also, in addition to this analytical approach, pay attention to the “set and setting” as it were, and would attempt to validate native approaches or find similarities, for example via psychotherapeutic approaches such as NLP (neurolinguistic programming) or Rogerian counseling, or via biochemical research of curative agents in herbs. The Eurocentered scientific approach commonly entails a stripping away of what is considered extraneous and the isolation of what is considered effective. Through this process it makes Other what is essential for native understandings.


Inquiry into native healing practices by way of what has been termed indigenous science, on the other hand, would begin with the culturally specific, ecologically and historically grounded indigenous understanding of friður or the “the good mind” (Colorado 1988), the balanced way of living in community on a particular land. Healing is needed when the “good mind” is out of balance, when the proper limits are exceeded; the cultural stories and myths then provide explanations. Indigenous healing practices then are based in a synthetic, integral approach to what is out of balance. Native science guides the healer to the point in the fabric where it is rent and where wholeness needs to be reèstablished. The ceremonies done are the precise knowledge and practice designed to create balance on all levels and from all levels (within the person on the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual levels, and by doing so on the level of spirits, community and nature which hold the individual); they are indigenous science. Their efficacy is established through the integrity and the wholeness of the healing ceremony.


The different motivations for understanding healing in the case of Eurocentered and indigenous sciences are of note: The researches of the native healer are done to increase the integrity and wholeness of the communal fabric and to benefit the individuals that are part of it. Eurocentered researches of native healing practices rarely seem to benefit the peoples researched directly, but they are a way to address the limitations of the western healing paradigm and to come to terms with events which Eurocentered scientists commonly consider anomalous, inexplicable or nonexistent; they are attempts to better an individualistic paradigm without fundamentally leaving or changing it.


Whether an image in a rock carving is perceived as symbol or as spirit marks the difference between indigenous knowing and Eurocentered knowing. The rock carvings in Bohuslän, South Sweden, for example contain extraordinary images from the Bronze Age northern European times. The Eurocentered mind understands them as an assemblage of symbols [P136] which represent certain beings which are significant in the world of the Old Norse and their ancestors; they are commonly seen as ‘symbols of healing’, or ‘symbols of initiation,’ where each piece of the rock carving stands for something else. This interpretation reflects the split in the dissociative Eurocentered mind: the different parts of the rock carving point to something which is elsewhere, outside of the representation. The participatory tribal mind relates entirely differently to the rock carving: The spirits are in the rock carvings, they are the rock carving. The making of the rock carving is the creation of the presence of these beings. The beings are not at all separate from what the carving looks like. Once the rock carving is there, they are there. And then they can be ceremonially honored and renewed by tracing the carving with red ochre or other pigments, by making offerings of amber, axes, etc. Blót, the Old Norse ceremonies of offering, bring rock carving spirits and the people present to each other. This simple distinction marks worlds of differences: Whether a rock carving is a symbol for something or whether it is a certain being indicates the consciousness process we are engaged in. In one case we have symbolic healing, in the other spirit heals. There is no simple technique which can bridge this difference. Each understanding reflects a different way of being in the world. There is no such thing as a simple switch from one to the other. Whether we use trances for symbolic work or to seek healing with and from spirit(s) is an indication of the consciousness and reality in which we are participating.


Jungian interpretations of rock carvings (or sandpaintings and other images), myths or healings do not reflect tribal mind. They reflect the process of the Eurocentered mind. Jungian psychology and related transpersonal approaches are certainly the closest to indigenous ways of being in that they validate the seminal importance of participation mystique and spiritual experiences. However, they are only accurate as long as they deal with the Eurocentered mind. There they can be very helpful. If such a psychology gets projected onto indigenous peoples, then grave misunderstandings result. What may be a good starting point for the Eurocentered mind means engaging the indigenous mind in a process of splitting and dissociation.


Within the western paradigm we pick an herb for its curative properties known to relieve a certain ailment. Herb collection is an entirely different event within an indigenous context. Here it is a ceremonial event which involves spirit and, especially the spirits of the plant to be collected. It is a participatory event with the plant relations which presupposes detailed knowledge, including knowledge of their language; it requires knowledge of cycles and the preparations necessary for gathering. It means understanding plants like any other intelligent people.

Prayer accompanies all plant use on the Navajo Reservation. … Plants are not picked randomly or wastefully. Rather, they are picked as needed, and then, no more than are necessary. An herbalist finds two of a particular species that she wishes to pick. To the largest and healthiest plant, she says a prayer and explains why she must pick its neighbor. [P137] An offering of shell, pollen, or other sacred material is deposited with the first plant. Then she picks what she needs. Afterward, the plant remains are buried with a final prayer. (Mayes & Lacy 1989, 2-3)

This is no longer the collection of an herb, but an engagement and appointment with spirit to help heal. What heals is more than the beneficial chemical ingredient in the herb.


Knowing the medical benefits of a sweat lodge purification or the effective chemical agents in an healing herb is certainly useful. But if this knowledge is not integrated into an indigenous science framework, then we fail to understand indigenous approaches to healing. If what we are doing is healing our Euro-centrically minded selves within the existing paradigm, then iatrogenic diseases which are an expression of the continuing dissociation; are the result (which is one of the reasons why natives are disturbed about the decontextualized use of their healing approaches). The correct technique used in a dissociated way is dangerous because it allows the appearance of a deeper healing that did not occur (individual benefits notwithstanding). Combining indigenous approaches with modern techniques on the basis of the story of excess and imbalance is not the same as integrating the knowledge from psychology and other sciences on the basis of indigenous beingknowing. If we are healing our indigenous selves through the remembrance of indigenous healing ways, then individual healing is also the healing of community and paradigm.



Decolonization as Initiation

Silko’s poetic evocation of the colonial process of Euro-centered thinking contains a crucial point: the most powerful creatrix of imbalance is not using shamanic accroutrements to wield her power, she uses words, a story. Her imbalancing is the story made of words that splits people more and more from participation, words developing a dissociative world view, where the fluid, participatory process of verbal descriptions turns into the categorical grasp of nouns attempting to wield control via reality definitions they create. This story has many names: we can call it the loss of participation; or the loss of the nurturing conversation with all our relations; or the shift from oral to written traditions; or the loss of sacred writing (rock carvings, runes, hieroglyphs, ideographic, etc.) to the linearity of alphabetical writing; or the change from sacred (cyclical, linear-cyclical, spiral) to linear secular time; or the rise of colonialism and imperialism; or the split of story into its aspects of history, personal story, scientific stories, and others; or the rise of patriarchy from its Indo-European roots to Euro-centrism; or the rise of Christianity; or the rise of the masculinized version of the evolutionary story. These and other vantage points provide ways of coming to terms with the story Silko tells so powerfully: creating imbalance by exceeding the proper limits, by focusing on certain elements at the expense of others (i.e., pathological dissociation).


[P138] When the competing workers of imbalance ask her to call the story back she shakes her head and answers: “It’s already turned loose. It’s already coming. It can’t be called back.” The story continues to be told the world over, and impacts every aspect of our lives, from the increasing dominance of the noun-oriented English language (most lately via the internet) to economic globalization. It is clear that the story has not been called back, and continues to dominate the majority of educational systems: more and more young citizens are unconsciously made willing participants and co-narrators in this story. If the story can’t be called back – what to do?


As we have seen in the brief discussions above, the story of imbalance and excess of proper limits was not told all of a sudden, but became more powerful over time as its addictive nature exerted a centrifugal force. The increasing literature on early human history and story attests to the various layers through which the telling has shapeshifted. Healing the story would mean peeling back through these layers, not merely for the advancement of the sciences, but to recover a quality of storytelling that is communal and participatory. Euro-centered thinking frequently misconstrues such endeavor as search of some sort of Eden or other paradisical original state of being (it is worthy of note that paradise has its roots in Greek paradeisos, a walled in garden or park, and related terms). Instead of linearly conceptualizing recovery as the reconstitution of a particular state or point of origin, I suggest that it is the reconstitution of a particular process or quality: the recovery of the indigenous quality of storytelling. Healing the imbalancing story of Euro-centrism means beginning to tell the story differently. The evocative power of the word is clearly understood by contemporary indigenous peoples, and it was just as clearly understood by the early Indo-European traditions (most obviously, perhaps, in the use of the Sanskrit mantras). Óðinn’s quest for the mead of mantic poetry, the search for the words of seeing, and his initiation into the sacred, healing use of runic letter carving share this understanding. The word story finds its root in Indo-European weid-, to see; here we find story connected with the wisdom of the prophet(ess) and seer(ess) (an element that, of course, continues to be present in the creativity of contemporary novels and their best authors).[6][6] The story cannot be called back, but it can be changed and told differently if we make ourselves whole again.


Telling a story in a participatory frame of mind instead of dissociated consciousness may sound simple enough. But just as the Indo-European healers of old needed to be able to be with spirit(s) in such a way that the entire cosmos was impacted, so does a different telling of the story change the cosmos we are living in. Changing the story is impacting the cosmos (as the cosmos impacts it). Instead of evoking and maintaining dissociation and splitting from an indigenous nurturing conversation, such telling would evoke participatory being. This is no small matter: it is the healing ceremony of the Euro-centered self, the [P139] reconstruction of who we are. Such an endeavor finds its parallel not in “a bandaid on a cut, but in heart surgery.” It is not a mere change in identity, but a foundational, qualitative shift in the process of how we construct our identities. This means we need to deconstruct ourselves as the beings we are so that there can be renewal from the creative source of our origins. While such healing clearly means the return, to use the language of the Old Norse, to the well of memory, Urðr, such remembrance is not for the indulgence of nostalgic or retro-romantic splits (dissociative endeavors indeed), but for the righting of the story for the future. Indeed, just like Óðinn, and other women and men before him, we need to be capable of transforming our selves so that we can drink oðrærir, the mead of in-spiration.The dissociated self commonly gets but very diluted sips from such powerful substance. Aspiring to drinking a higher percentage of mead means having our language fall apart so that the words of seeing can re-emerge, so that words can become in-spirited and healed, so that word, chant, and seeing are part of our lifeworld. And our language inevitably comes apart when we of Euro-centered mind confront the shadows that walk with us.


Placing ourselves (those of Eurocentered or Nordic-Germanic mind) at the creative source Ginnungagap is not possible as a direct, unmediated act, since we have divested ourselves from the self capable of getting there with immediacy. Recovering the self that can enter Ginnungagap, the maw of Miðgarðsormr, the world snake, means purifying ourselves from the self construction that is incapable of entering such a place, because dissociation disallows it to be present to the continuing reality of Urðr, Ginnungagap, Miðgarðsormr, oðrærir, and the other spiritual powers of the Norse universe of old. How this universe is to appear today will only become apparent to the self which has initiated itself into participating in its continuing creative, regenerative, and imaginative story. Putting ourselves into the presence of such powers of creation is only possible through the cathartic mediation of the grieving shudder over the story of imbalancing (“witchery”), the confrontation and ownership of the shadow material. As a consequence, what our story evokes may become different. Instead of the story of exceeding the proper limits, we create the possibility the contemporary celebration of indigenous healing stories even among peoples who like to contain their indigenous roots at a safe distance by putting them in museums, and various other reifying and distancing places.



Recovery of Indigenous Mind and Healing

The following poetic statement is modeled on Eddic poetry, particularly the rhetoric of the völva in Völuspá. It is an attempt to capture the change of the ages about that so many indigenous peoples talk about in a language appropriate to my own cultural background and ancestry. It also serves as an appropriate summary and evocation to what I have said about healing and cosmology. It is the voice of the seeress, the völva, speaking as she looks through the ages, from the past into the future.

[P140] I.

Heilir æsir!

Heilir ásynjur!

Heil sjá in fjölnyta fold!

Hail to the gods,

hail to the goddesses,

hail to the allgiving earth!

Mál ok mannvit

gefið okkr mærum tveim

ok læknishendr, meðan lifum!

Wisdom and lore,

as long as we live,

grant us, and healing hands! (from Sigrdrífumál)


I remember the giants who were born

at the beginning of time and

who reared me in former times.

I remember the Sámis who were born

at the beginning of time and

who reared me in former times.

I remember nine worlds beneath the earth,

nine giantesses,

and also the glorious tree of fate.


I remember towards the beginning of time

at the place where the giant Ymir lived,

there was neither sand nor sea, and no cool waves.

The earth did not exist at all,

nor heaven above:

only a yawning gap

and grass nowhere.


I remember when the sons of

grandfather and grandmother Bear

raised the lands,

they who made the great Middle World. (Free after Völuspá)


I remember the world of spirits,

I remember the world of giants,


the world of dwarves,


I remember the time when humankind was created.


I remember the three spirits

who found ash and elm

fragile and fateless.


I know an ash tree call Yggdrasill;

it is a tall tree

sprayed with white clay.

From there comes the dew

that dabbles the dales.

The evergreen tree towers above Urðr´s Well.


From the same place

come three knowledgeable maidens,

who emerge from the lake

that lies at the foot of the tree.

People call one Urðr,

the second Verðandi,

and the third Skuld;

they carved sacred markings

on pieces of wood.

They laid down the laws,

the fates of the people,

and chose life

for the children of humankind. (Free after Völuspá)



And I remember

the beginning of a new world age,

when the stars changed places,

and I remember

when the tree of life

[P141] was fastened to the new pole star.


Yes, I remember

the world of spirits of the previous world age,

but I also remember the new age

when spirits turned into symbols,

and humankind thus became more lonesome.

And I remember

that even spirits and ancestors

felt more lonesome.

I remember the age

when language was sacred,

when words brought spirits,

when language was filled with spiritual energy.

And then I saw

how language,

how words

lost their powers,

and how the husks remaining

helped humankind to forget

how they are woven

into the world.

And then I saw

how language and writing

helped humankind to forget

how they are


participants in everything

that surrounds them.

And then I saw them

looking at reality

from the outside.

And I saw how

language became poorer

and poorer,

and reality moved farther

and farther away.

And I saw humankind

greedily grabbing

what remained as reality,

and how they forgot to

evoke the world, and

to chant it into being.


And I remember how

human beings slowly forgot

what their medicine gifts were,

how they forgot their totems,

how they forgot their clans,

and how they forgot that

they all were related

as red, black, white, yellow and people of mixed color.

And I remember how they

struggled to reconstruct their

relationship and similarities

through abstract models,

because they had forgotten

the specificity of their relationships.

And I remember how they sought their

universal connections through more and more

abstract thoughts

in order to find each other again.


And I remember the age when Óðinn

was a shaman still, seiðkarl,

when he was called Óðr,

when he used the drum on Sámseyja and elsewhere, and

honored women.

Two ravens sat on his shoulders

helping his seeing.

And I remember the new age when Óðinn

took knowledge away from women

and began to reign as patriarch.


And I remember the new age

when human beings were reared

[P142] separated from their ancestors,

separated from their stories and histories,

separated from their places of power and spirit,

separated from the healing arts.

And I have seen how they forgot

that happiness depends

on initiations into the higher self

and the world of spirit.


I remember seeing lonely humans

in search of completion and wholeness,

even though their ancestors

stood right by them.

I remember seeing lonely humans

blinded by symbols

so that the spirits remained hidden.


And I remember human souls

roaming the collective unconscious without bearings,

unable to see their own guardian spirits.


And I remember human beings

delving deeply into psychology,

getting trapped on the personal side

of the gateway to spirit,

and when they would chance to encounter

a spirit

they would feel nothing but fear.



And I remember the times when the bridges

to spirit went up in flames and collapsed,

and the ancestor boats ceased

to shuttle across the milky way.


And I see now

how this world age

is coming to an end,

and that yet another

new age is about to begin.


And I see now

souls making the journey home

seeking the roots of their creation.

And I see how these souls

sit in ancestor boats

crossing the spirit bridges

purifying the abuses of the word “heil!”,

seeking healing for the innermost

of their cultures.

And I see humans

once again courageous enough

to sit at the center of their creation

for the sake of healing.


root meanings



healing holy



to the root


source of wholing

clay of healing


root memories

reaching into riches



returning home

returning from home




[P143] the good omen

from creation



from the fingers

of the woman of memory

white clay


over the body

wholesome clay



the human tree


at the root of healing

is the remembrance

of the center

is the celebration

of the center of our world


at the root of healing

is placing ourselves

at the center of our world

the place of balance


at the root of healing

is the celebration

of the original instructions

are the prayers

for our courage

to step into the maw of the snake


the abyss of creation

is the open mouth of the world snake


the snake holding our world

the snake creating our world

through the fire and ice of ginnungagap

created from her mouth


healing is the courage

to step into the simplicity

of creation

the simplicity

of the original instructions

instructions for balance


purifying the abuses of the word “heil!”,

seeking healing for the innermost

of their cultures.


And I see how the past

becomes hotter and hotter,

and how humans find the courage

to warm themselves

at the fires of their ancestors.

And I see how humankind

remembers the conversation

with all relations.


And I see how woman and man

are willing to be taken apart

and ask the fire to consume

their addictions to civilisation

and progress.

And I see how woman and man

deconstruct their modern identities

to become aware that they are still

interwoven with their fellow humans,

the plants, the animals, and the rocks.


And I see spirits

once again

stepping out

of symbols.


And I see humans


that not only they need nourishment,

but that their relations

need nourishment also.


[P144] And I see how humans

find their balance

in the great cycle

of nurturing

and being nurtured.


Heilir æsir!

Heilir ásynjur!

Heil sjá in fjölnyta fold!

Hail to the gods,

hail to the goddesses,

hail to the allgiving earth!

Mál ok mannvit

gefið okkr mærum tveim

ok læknishendr, meðan lifum!

Wisdom and lore,

as long as we live,

grant us, and healing hands! (from Sigrdrífumál)




Summarizing Table

The following table gives a visual display of the major distinctions I have talked about throughout this article. The terminology used below is defined in its narrative context above. It may help to recall the broad outlines that underlie the detailed discussions.




OPPOSING PAIR                                        THIRD PROCESS

good subject


bad subject


  developing non-subject non-subject
unconscious participation breakdown of un-conscious participation   regaining conscious participation conscious participation
singular Truth



multiple truths



  re-contextualizing truths and Truth locally & historically locally & narratively contextualized truths and Truth
[P145] his-story






Story revealed as his-stories



  recovering female aspects of stories; remembering multiformous gender identities multiply engendered stories: Freyja-Freyr, Nerthus-Njörðr, twins, metamorphoses, spirit marriages
objective reality



narrative realities



  recovering ancestral narrative realities & anchoring them in present ecology & historical moment communally & locally anchored narrative realities
rationality recovery of reasonableness   reasonableness reasonableness
imperial self non-imperial self   re-connecting self connected self




  intentional communities natural communities
progress progress (albeit  questioned in appearance)   linearity struggling for balance balance
linearity variegated linearity   cyclical linearity cyclical linearity
dissociation suffering from dissociation   recovering participation participation




  decolonization beside, outside & inside of colonization

[Chart by Jűrgen W. Kremer, inspired by Mohawk & Dion-Buffalo. From Kremer 1999, Bearing Obligations.]



[P146-148] References

Bastien, Betty. “The genocide of Native Americans: Denial, Shadow, and Recovery” (with Kremer, Norton, Rivers-Norton, and Vickers). In ReVisionI, Vol. 22, #1, 13-20 1999

Campbell, Joseph The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Bollingen. 1949.

Churchill, Ward. From a native son. Boston: South End. 1996.

Colorado, Apela. “Traditional knowledge leads to Ph.D. “ (Interview with Pamela Colorado and Jürgen Kremer, by Richard Simonelli). Winds of Change, 9, #4, 43-48. 1994.

Colorado, P. “Indigenous science.” In ReVision, 18(3): 6-10, 1996.

Colorado, P. “Bridging native and western science.” In Convergence, XXI, 2/3: 49-67, 1988.

De Vries, Jan. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Leiden: Brill. 1977.

Dion-Buffalo, Y. & J. Mohawk. ‘Throughts from an autochtonous center.’ Cultural Survival, Winter, 33-35. 1994.

Dumon, Dirk. 1993. Shamans of Tuva. Feature of BRT, Belgian Public Television. 1993.

Eiríks Saga Rauða In Íslendinga Sögur (CD-ROM). Reykjavík: Mál og menning. (Transl. by Gwyn Jones as Eirik the Red. Oxford: Oxford. 1961)

Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism. Princeton: Bollingen. 1951/1964

Evans, David (Ed.). Hávamál. London: Viking Society. 1986

Gimbutas, Marija. The living goddesses. Berkeley: University of California. 1999

Gimbutas, Marija. “An interview with Marija Gimbutas.” (With David Jay Brown & Rebecca McClen Novick). In Magical Blend, 13-20. No year given.

Gunn, Allen, Paula. Off the reservation. Boston: Beacon. 1998.

Habermas, Jürgen (1997),  Vom sinnlichen Eindruck zum symbolischen Ausdruck, Suhrkamp: Frankfurt/M, Germany

Haozous, B. (1994). Interviewed in The Native Americans, pt. 4, TBS.

Horn, Gabriel. Contemplations of a Primal Mind. Novato, CA: New World. 1996.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner. “Introduction.” In ReVision, Vol 18, #3, 2-5.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner. ‘The shadow of evolutionary thinking.’ In Ken Wilber in Dialogue, edited by

Donald Rothberg and Sean Kelly, 237-258. Wheaton, IL: Quest. 1998.

Lapena, Frank. ‘In Vision We Can Balance the World.’ In News from Native California, vol. 12, #2, 18-19. 1998.

Lincoln, Bruce. Myth, Cosmos, and Society. Boston, MA: Harvard. 1986.

Mayes, Vernon & Barbara Lacy. Nanise’. Tsaile: Navajo Community College. 1989.

McGrane, Bernard. Beyond anthropology. NY: Columbia. 1989.

Mohawk, John. ‘Indigenous Creation-Centered Spirituality’ (interview with Charlene Spretnak). In Creation, 16-18. September/October. No year given.

Pálsson, Hermann. Völuspá. Edinburgh: Lockharton. 1996.

Pentikäinen, Juha Y. Kalevala mythology (trans. R. Poom). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1989.

Pinkson, Tom Soloway. Flowers of Wiricuta. Mill Valley: Wakan. 1995.

Rig Veda (Transl. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty). NY: Penguin. 1981.

Sammallahti, Pekka. The Saami Languages. Karašjohka, Sápmi: Davvi Girji. 1998.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. NY: Penguin. 1977.

Sturluson, Snorri. Edda (trans. Faulkes). London: Everyman. 1987.

Tacitus. Germania (Transl. Herbert Benario). London:University of Oklahoma. 1967.

Terry, P. 1990. Poem of the Elder Edda. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Titchenell, Elsa-Brita. The masks of Odin. Pasadena, California: The Theosophical UP. 1985

Vajnštejn, S. I. “The Tuvan (Soyot) shaman’s drum and the ceremony of its ‘enlivening’.” InPopular beliefs and folklore tradition in Siberia (Ed. Dioszegi). Bloomington: Indiana University. 1968.

Vasilevič, G. M. “The acquisition of shamanistic ability among the Evenki (Tungus).” InPopular beliefs and folklore tradition in Siberia (Ed. Dioszegi). Bloomington: Indiana University. 1968.

Vitebsky, Piers. The shaman. NY: Little, Brown, and Co. 1995.

Vizenor, Gerald. Earthdivers: tribal narratives on mixed descent. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 1981.

Vizenor, Gerald. The people named the Chippewa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 1984.

Wasson, R. Gordon. Soma. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1968.


[1][1] The available sources on Siberian shamanism are not without serious problems, and need to be discussed in the context of the history of Soviet ethnography, etc.

[2][2] Titchenell translates ginnregin as Vaner, the older layer of Norse gods or spirits, relating Óðinn’s wisdom thus to the deepest and more clearly woman-centered base of Norse mythology (with Freyja as the great goddess and primal shamanic spirit).

[3][3] ‘Kvasir’ is an interesting word: It is connected to Norwegian kvase and Russian kvas, denoting the fermented berry drink created through the communal chewing of the berries which were then spat into a vat. The mead of the skalds, the Old Norse poets, is also known as kvasis dreyra, Kvasir’s blood (De Vries 1977). English ‘quash’ and German (dialectical) quatschen are related. The latter word leads me to surmise an interesting etymology for this word, which can also mean ‘to talk nonsense, to babble’: talk in-spirited by the mead, by kvase, was increasingly considered nonsense, as it became unintelligible as people lost their ongoing and ceremonial presence to the world of spirit(s) – what people claimed to come from that world was increasingly considered Quatsch or nonsense, while before it had been the wisdom of Kvasir. (Just as the seeresses of the Delphic oracle increasingly appeared to babble nonsense, thus “necessitating” the interpretation by men, and resulting in the patriarchal control of intercourse with spirits.)


[4][4] It is beyond the scope of this article to display the rich web of connections in its entirety. However, it is worth mentioning that the berry, especially in its form as elderberry (Hollunder) is also the sacred blood from the female spirit or goddess (Frau Holle), and that we find lines leading us back into the Nordic culture at the times of Old Europe (cf. Gimbutas 1999).

[5][5] Within the Euro-centered frame of mind exists a strong tendency to read words like “traditional” or “indigenous” in a reifying fashion, postulating some stable, Edenic original state. While such projections of unfullfilled needs and desires may be momentarily satisfying, they reinforce the dissociative movements of progress thinking and the projective identification with indigenous peoples (making them feel our own shadow material as if it was theirs). We have to understand that whatever we are capable of identifying as beginning, original, traditional, indigenous, etc. immediately is always already imbued with history, and, whatever we manage to recover of it, we have to understand as the imaginative stories of communal truths, and not categorical statements of absolute truths.

[6][6] The Indo-European root weid- is connected to story and wisdom, while the root skei- (to cut, split) is connected to the word conscious; knowledge is connected to the root gno-, which has narration and normal in its wake.

On Understanding Indigenous Healing Practices



On Understanding Indigenous Healing Practices


Published in:

Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen,1995, Vol. 4, #1, 3-36

[Page numbers inserted below as P3 etc.]



Jürgen W. Kremer

3383 Princeton Drive

Santa Rosa, CA 95405



[P3] Introduction

Interest in the healing practices and ceremonies of Native American and other indigenous peoples has increased quite dramatically in recent years. This surge in curiosity seems to be fueled by the experience that the conventional western healing paradigm frequently hits its own limit and that the spiritual connections within one’s self, with community and with nature have desiccated. While this yearning for holistic healing by way of indigenous healing practices is valid and important, it raises not only ethical and political issues, but also epistemological questions: Is the euro-american way of knowing indigenous healing compatible with the native understanding and use of these practices? What are the implications if it is not? And if the euro-american way of approaching indigenous healing practices is incompatible with their ways of knowing, what is the possibility of developing a compatible approach?

I am raising these questions to promote a self-reflective look for euro-americans from an indigenous perspective. Born in Germany, I have been trained as a clinical psychologist in the western paradigm of research and scholarship. My experiences with Native American people have not only been humbling as to the extent of their indigenous scientific knowledge, but they have also taught me the limitations of euro-american epistemologies when it comes to the understanding of native ways of knowing, ceremonies and healing practices (Kremer, 1992a & b). As a consequence, I am trying to write this paper as an “indigenous Teuton” about the healing practices of peoples working within a related native paradigm, rather than as a Western researcher interested in what is Other.The provocative term “indigenous Teuton” signifies the problem (from the political to the very personal dimensions) as well as the potential.[1][1] I hope to be able to explain how I have arrived at this stance, which satifies my standards for intellectual consistency and, secondly, provides a credible way for me to be engaged with as well as to research indigenous healing practices, and, finally, allows for the personal, emotional resolution of historical issues (stemming from German and European history and the history of colonization [P4] and imperialism in particular). All this makes it possible for me to teach in a graduate program entitled “Traditional Knowledge” which gathers native peoples for academic study based on their own ways of knowing (interfacing with western knowledge from that perspective).

The most succinct way to describe my stance would be as follows: The exposure to indigenous healing practices should be an occasion for euro-americans to develop and remember their own indigenous healing approaches. This would lead to an exchange of knowledge about native healing practices within the same paradigm and based on equality. This process would include the integration of the western medical and psychological achievements from indigenous euro-american perspectives. While this approach may seem provocative, it is necessitated by the profound paradigmatic differences between indigenous and western sciences. Looking at my  personal experience I would have to say that I was forced to take this stance as I have moved into a deep exploration of my own indigenous consciousness;, rather than that I am electing to take this viewpoint.

Increasingly, scientists are stressing the importance of indigenous knowledge for the resolution of the various crises or limitations of the conventional western paradigm (for examples see Durning [1992] and Inglis [1993] for ecology; Achterberg [1985] for the healing arts, Bohm [1993] and Bohm & Edwards [1991] for social issues). This new valuation is reflected in decisions at the Earth Summit Rio Declaration (Principle 22; see Rogers [1993: 196) as well as articles 8 and 10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and statements by the Canadian Polar Commission (Polaris Papers [1993]). Almost all of these and similar declarations are somewhat problematic from the perspective of traditional indigenous peoples (meaning: those who are not assimilated into the eurocentric world view). They commonly disregard what I have termed a deep structure of cross-cultural differences, meaning differences between all the various (sub)cultures who are or are trying to become part of the eurocentered paradigm on the one hand, and all the (sub)cultures who are struggling to maintain ancient indigenous practices on the other hand. This difference in world view seems particularly significant when native healing ways and their use of traditional ecological knowledge (including traditional medicines) are concerned. Berkes (1993: 4) has summarized the paradigmatic differences between scientific ecological knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge (including herbal knowledge) as follows:

  1. TEK (traditional ecological knowledge, J.W.K.) is mainly qualitative (as opposed to quantitative;
  2. TEK has an intuitive component (as opposed to being purely rational);
  3. TEK is holistic (as opposed to rationalistic);
  4. In TEK, mind and matter are considered together (as opposed to a separation of mind and matter);

[P5] 5. TEK is moral (as opposed to supposedly value-free);

  1. TEK is spiritual (as opposed to mechanistic);
  2. TEK is based on empirical observations and accumulations of facts by trial-and-error (as opposed to experimentation and systematic, deliberate accumulation of fact);
  3. TEK is based on data generated by resource users themselves (as opposed to that by a specialized cadre of researchers);
  4. TEK is based on diachronic data, i.e., long time-series on information on one locality (as opposed to synchronic data, i.e., short time-series over a large area).

This quote adequately summarizes (exceptions notwithstanding) central paradigmatic differences which, to my mind, need to be resolved if there is to be a clean break with the history of colonialism; this history, from the perspective of indigenous peoples, is continuing to this day with unrelenting force. Traditional peoples see the research of the various sciences (including anthropology and psychology) as an expression of a colonial desire, unconscious or submerged and implicit as it may be. Native peoples increasingly talk about the “extraction” of their healing and spiritual knowledge (e.g., Churchill; [1992: 215-228]). “‘Today,’ says Adrian Esquina Lisco, spiritual chief of the National Association of Indigenous Peoples of El Salvador, ‘the white world wants to understand the native cultures and extract those fragments of wisdom which extends its own dominion'” (Durning, 1992: 36). Medicine people and elders from Amazonian tribes have made equivalent statements in regards to the recent surge of interest in their traditional medicines and the swell of shamanic and eco-tourism in their lands (Dobkin de Rios, 1994). Shiva (1993) has presented a thorough critique of prevalent approaches to biodiversity and biotechnology from an ecofeminist perspective (a perspective which is in many aspects related to indigenous approaches).

If we take Lisco’s statement and similar comments by other indigenous persons seriously, then – if we are sympathetic to their situation and well intentioned – what are we to do? This article attempts to address this complex issue using the following basic argument:

  • If we take the resolutions from the Earth Summit (and other similar statements) about the validity and importance of indigenous knowledge seriously, then we have to reflect on the appropriate and respectful ways of doing so.
  • Part of taking indigenous knowledge (including knowledge about healing and medicines) seriously is taking its ways of knowing seriously and attempting to understand them on their own terms (empathically, so to speak).

[P6] • If such an analysis shows that indigenous ways of knowing are qualitatively different, then we have to look critically at our own ways of knowing and their inherent qualities and values (provided we want to pay attention to statements by Lisco and other elders).

  • If we find that the eurocentric qualities and values are inherently problematic and not or not entirely respectful of indigenous ways of knowing, then we need to find an alternate stance from which to conduct scientific inquiries.
  • It is my suggestion that this alternate stance should be the recovery of indigenous roots for peoples inquiring within the framework of eurocentric paradigm(s).
  • This allows the critical review and integration of past scientific accomplishments (in the broadest sense), and to approach indigenous (healing) knowledge of other peoples within a comparable epistemology and value perspective. The result would be a relationship between inquirers of a recovered indigenous framework and inquirers living now in indigenous cultures, where knowledge is explored and exchanged based on equality (rather than some (post)modern form of inherent colonialism).

This argument contains more complexities and intricacies than this paper will allow me to explore. However, I will attempt to explain it first by presenting an extensive conventional discussion based on my reading of the literature as well as exchanges with traditional people on this topic. In a second move I will try to engage the reader in a thought process which is someplace between a scholarly explication and genuine indigenous explications.



Part I: Two Perspectives on Indigenous Healing Practices

Using the language and terminology of the eurocentric paradigm, I am trying first to explain the paradigmatic differences between indigenous and western sciences and the differences between indigenous and (post)modern consciousness. I will subsequently apply these distinctions to examples from the Diné culture, the Native American sweatlodge and native ways of gathering medicinal herbs. The final sections of this part are dedicated to paradigmatic differences in the understanding of health and the position of the inquirer.


[P7] Indigenous and Western Science[2][2]

The term ‘indigenous science’ has been coined by Colorado (1988, 1989) to validate the detailed and intricate knowledge which the indigenous peoples of this planet have accumulated over the millenia (see Kidwell [1991] for a summary for Native American tribes). We find extraordinary examples in Pacific navigation (Hostetter 1991; Kyselka 1987; cf. also Vebæk & Thirslund, 1992 for Viking navigation), archaeoastronomy (Williamson & Farrer 1992), agriculture and herbal knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge (Inglis, 1993). The construction of Stonehenge and Newgrange (Burenhult 1993, 96-97; Wernick 1973, 114-115) or the markings on Fajada Butte or the alignments of the kiva Casa Rinconada in Chaco Canyon are exquisite examples of ancient knowledge (Sofaer & Sinclair 1983; Carlson 1983; Williamson 1983). Hopi dryfarming or the survival of Australian Aborigines in areas generally consider uninhabitable are others. Canoe journeying between Tahiti and Hawaii requiring detailed navigational knowledge is another astonishing example (Kyselka 1987) which indicates why ancient indigenous knowledge should be considered on par with the scientific knowledge of the modern era; additionally, this approach avoids the continuing euro-american denigration and takes it seriously. However, the paradigmatic differences between these two forms of science are not only significant, but they are highly relevant for our topic. Let me explain the differences between indigenous science and western science, primarily with reference to the healing arts (Colorado 1988; Deloria 1993).

The skeptical euro-american researcher would be foremost interested in the efficacy of Native American healing and would try to isolated the elements considered efficacious or a necessary condition in healing ceremonies. The sympathetic researcher would also, in addition to this analytical approach, pay attention to the “set and setting” as it were, and would attempt to validate native approaches or find similarities, for example via psychotherapeutic approaches such as NLP (neurolinguistic programming) or Rogerian counseling, or via biochemical research of curative agents in herbs. The western scientific approach commonly entails a stripping away of what is considered extraneous and the isolation of what is considered effective. It is through this process that western science makes other what is essential for native understandings. (While these statements apply particularly for conventional understandings of western science, they are also applicable to alternate approaches which are on the verge of bridging to native ways of knowing. Chaos theory (Gleick, 1987), various human sciences approaches (e.g., Polkinghorne, 1983; [P 8] Giorgi, 1970), and narrative psychology (e.g., Polkinghorne, 1985; Deslauriers, 1992) are among the examples of approaches which expand the conventional paradigm without leaving it.)

Indigenous science, on the other hand, would begin with the culturally specific, ecologically and historically grounded indigenous understanding of “the good mind” (Colorado 1988: 52), a balanced way of living in community on a particular land (“balanced mind” would be an alternative term); the Iroquois people call this skanagoah, literally “the great peace.” Healing is needed when the “good mind” is out of balance for reasons which the cultural stories and myths can provide. Indigenous healing practices then are a synthetic, integral approach to what is out of balance. Native science guides the healer to the point in the fabric where it is rent and where wholeness needs to be reestablished. Indigenous ceremonies are the precise knowledge and practice designed to create balance on all levels and from all levels (within the person on the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual levels, and by doing so on the level of spirits, community and nature which hold the individual); they are indigenous science. Their efficacy comes through the integrity and the wholeness of the healing ceremony.

Colorado gives some coordinates for indigenous science:

Just like western science, indigenous science relies upon direct observation; there are tests to insure validity and data are used for forecasting and generating predictions. Individuals are trained in various specializations, for example, herbalism, weather observation, mental health and time keeping. Unlike western science, the data from indigenous science are not used to control the forces of nature, instead, the data tell us ways and means of accommodating nature. Other critical distinctions include the following:

  1. The indigenous scientist is an integral part of the research process and there is a defined process for insuring this integrity.
  2. All of nature is considered to be intelligent and alive, thus an active research partner.
  3. The purpose of indigenous science is to maintain balance.
  4. Compared to western time/space notions, indigenous science collapses time and space with the result that our fields of inquiry and participation extend into and overlap with past and present.
  5. Indigenous science is concerned with relationships, we try to understand and complete our relationships with all living things.
  6. Indigenous science is holistic, drawing on all the senses including the spiritual and psychic.
  7. The end point of an indigenous scientific process is a known an recognized place. This point of balance, referred to by my own tribe as the Great Peace, is both peaceful and electrifyingly alive. In the joy of exact balance, creativity occurs, which is why we can think of our way of knowing as a life science.
  8. When we reach the moment/place of balance we do not believe that we have transcended – we say that we are normal! Always we remain embodied in the natural world.
  9. Humor is a critical ingredient of all truth seeking, even in the most powerful rituals. This is true because humor balances gravity. (Colorado, 1994: 1-2)

[P9] The different motivations for inquiry in the case of western and indigenous sciences are of note: The researches of the native healer are done to increase the integrity and wholeness of the communal fabric and to benefit the individuals that are part of it. Western researches of native healing practices rarely seem to benefit the peoples researched directly, but they are a way to address the limitations of the western healing paradigm and to come to terms with events which western scientists commonly considered anomalous, inexplicable or nonexistent.

As the voice of the indigenous other emerges within industrialized nations – however limited and distorted – through neo-shamanic techniques and the alternative interpretations which transpersonal psychologies and holistic medical approaches have to offer, a profound question arises: Are (post)modern people trying to heal their western, euro-american selves or are they trying to heal their indigenous selves? This question is of utmost importance to indigenous peoples. If what they are doing is healing their euro-american selves within the existing paradigm, then iatrogenic diseases which are an expression of the continuing dissociation from holism and indigenous roots are the result (this is one of the reasons why natives are disturbed about the decontextualized use of their healing approaches). The correct technique used in a dissociated way is dangerous because it allows the appearance of a deeper healing which did not occur (individual benefits notwithstanding); natives would also talk about spiritual dangers which imperil any attempts of healing (as opposed to curing). From an indigenous perspective, if western people are healing their indigenous selves through the remembrance of native healing ways, then individual healing is also the healing of community and paradigm.[3][3]


Indigenous And Modern Consciousness

The discussion of differences between indigenous and western sciences is an indicator of the significant differences between indigenous and modern (or postmodern) consciousness. Without understanding these differences we cannot adequately explore the use of trance narratives. Barfield (1965) offers distinctions which are helpful for our purposes (Kremer, 1992a, b). He argues that in the subject – object interaction between human beings and the ‘out there’ (external reality, the unrepresented), they may participate in what they consider phenomena in radically different ways.[4][4]

Barfield distinguishes three major types of participation which are of epistemological relevance for euro-american traditions: 1) original participation, 2) the loss of or the unconscious [P10] participation of modernity, and 3) final participation. I call these three types of participation 1) indigenous consciousness; or mind, 2) modern / postmodern consciousness, and 3) recovered, remembered or retribalized indigenous mind. I am using these distinctions outside of the evolutionary scheme which Barfield represents (his linear, monocausal approach to evolution is quite contrary to indigenous perspectives).

Indigenous consciousness;: In what Barfield calls ‘original participation’ (the interaction with the phenomena in shamanic hunter-gatherer societies, in particular) , the embeddedness of human consciousness in nature is experienced and lived in a direct with very permeable boundaries between self and phenomena, and with a language structure and narrative reflectiveness which expresses this engagement with reality (Müller, 1981: 241ff.[5][5]). Precise observation and accurate visual descriptions are usually of utmost importance. This synthetic type of consciousness allows an experience of a systemic connection with nature and here perception is integrated into the whole. Thinking occurs more in images than concepts.

Barfield’s descriptions are not free from the prejudices which his inspirateurs Lévy-Bruhl and Durkheim espoused. The archaeoastronomical, navigational, agricultural and healing knowledge of native peoples indicates the level of cognitive functioning they have been capable of for millenia. Spirit is part of the considerations of indigenous science. Indigenous consciousness; or original participation defines itself at the intersection of the seasonal and astronomical cycles, the ecology, the ancestral heritage, the community and the gifts or medicine of the individual (these are necessary conditions for the presence of indigenous mind). Trance narratives are particularly relevant in this cultural context for the understanding of personal medicine or gifts and healing. The individual narratives are contextualized within tribal stories, ceremonial structures and communal interpretations (with the guidance of elders and shamans). Prime examples of such oral cultures could and can be found among the egalitarian hunter-gatherers (Lerner1986: 15-53; Mason 1993: 50-90). Napaljarri, a clan elder of the Australian Warlpiri, describes this consciousness as follows: “Each person is related to other people, to their jukurrpa [dreamtime, J.W.K.] ancestors, to the places they own and are responsible for, to the narratives and songs concerning the places and ancestors, and to the gestures, dances and designs that belong to the places” (Napaljarri & Cataldi 1994, xix).

While it is true that individuals are (or are not) in their indigenous minds, it is also true that the indigenous mind is not individual. Individuals are in their indigenous minds if they [P11] understand how they stand in the weave of their ancestry, community, nature, spirit(s) and cycles. The individual gift from spirit(s) (medicine, endowment) of a person comes to life if, and only if s/he recognizes where s/he stands in this weave. Individuals embody the indigenous mind, which encompasses more than their individual self. Indigenous consciousness; is participatory in reality. Reality is not out there and opposed to the individual, they are part of each other and each individual is challenged to maintain balance and harmony in this weave. It is important to emphasize that the indigenous mind is thus grounded both in spirit and matter. While it is a potential for every human being, this potential can only be realized if it is specifically grounded in the necessary conditions just mentioned (which means that it, ultimately, cannot be realized in an individualistic paradigm).

My previous descriptions and quotes have focused on describing indigenous science using euro-american coordinates. From an indigenous or native perspective it is

often understood through the imagery of the tree, is holistic. Through spiritual processes, it synthesizes information from the mental, physical, social and cultural/historical realms. Like a tree, the roots of Native science go deep into the history, body and blood of the land. The tree collects, stores and exchanges energy. It breathes with the winds, which tumble and churn through greenery exquisitely fashioned to purify, codify and imprint life in successive concentric rings – the generations. Why and how the tree does this is a mystery, but the Indian observes the tree emulate, complement and understand his or her relationship to this beautiful life-enhancing process (Colorado 1988, 50).

The language of this quote reflects indigenous mind more accurately than the descriptions which may be more accessible and palatable for western scientists.

Let me emphasize two presuppositions about original participation or indigenous consciousness; which are of tantamount importance for our contemporary situation:

1) The indigenous mind is a human potential which can be actualized by anybody and everybody – past, present and future.

2) The indigenous mind is not something of the past, but a consciousness present among various contemporary indigenous peoples.

Indigenous mind is thus understood as a human potential for all and everybody, and it is also understood as a world view, or rather a particular way to participate in the world and to experience reality. The indigenous mind as a world view does not so much signify a particular set of beliefs as it refers to a pragmatically, experientially grounded and validated way of being in the world. While this mind appears to rest in individuals (and needs their intentionality to be present), [P12] it only emerges when the individual rests in the weave of the ancestral heritage, the community, nature and spirit(s).

Modern and postmodern consciousness;: According to Barfield, by the seventeenth century the center of perception and thinking had changed in Europe from the phenomena to the self, with the mind moving outward toward the unrepresented and the phenomena (rather than from the phenomena inward) — thus the mind had severed itself from its connection with nature. This second epistemologically relevant process internalizes meaning and treats the phenomena as existing independently. “… A representation, which is collectively mistaken for an ultimate — ought not to be called a representation. It is an idol. Thus the phenomena themselves are idols, when they are imagined as enjoying independence of human perception, which can in fact only pertain to the unrepresented” (Barfield, 1965, 62). This is why his book title calls out to save the appearances from the idolatry of modernity during the next process.

The underlying drive of modernity (with the beginning of the Enlightenment) is the creation of a tight mindweave (shrinkwrap) of control over all which is not considered part of the rationalistic aspects of mind. I have termed this dis-ease process in the knowing of Eurocentric cultures ‘dissociative schismogenesis’ (Kremer, 1994d); this process is the abstract core of the empiricist and rationalistic world view, which is an attempt to align the world to man’s will (needless to say, an imperialistic endeavor on all counts) and an increasing split from its origins. The consciousness process of the modern mind is thus labeled as an escalating process, which not only will lead to intolerable stress, but because it has continued relatively unchecked, to the possibility of cultural breakdown (cf. Bateson, 1958/1972, 171ff.). This whole process of dissociation could also be interpreted as the eradication of indigenous consciousness; in people subscribing to the modernist paradigm of progress. Dissociative schismogenesis is the stilling and killing of those aspects of being human which an indigenous person would consider necessary in order to be whole or in balance. The modern scientist frames healing primarily in terms of disease control (rather than the maintenance of balance) while trances and other altered states are likely to find themselves in the company of psychopathological descriptions. Dissociative schismogenesis is the increasing unconsciousness of human participation in the perceived phenomena. The search for universal, abstract concepts (even when used in the context of cultural relativism) is part of this external (other cultures and nature) and internal (the body, the unconscious, the feminine, etc.) scientific colonization. All this indicates how the history of colonialism and the history of modernity and science are intertwined not only on the obvious, crude and cruel levels, but also on [P13] subtle levels which affect our understandings to this day. (Cf. Ani, 1994 for a comprehensive indigenous African discussion of these issues.)

Postmodernism can be seen as the chaotic breakup of this shrinkwrap or net of control (unsuccessful as it may have been). The emergence of an increasing interest in trance experiences and narratives, indigenous modes of healing, mythology, goddess cultures, archetypes and symbols appear to be a part of this epistemological crisis as the euro-american cultures are searching for what Spretnak has called ecological postmodernism (1991) or what Swimme and Berry (1992) have described as the emergence of ecozoic consciousness. Postmodernity and deconstructionism establish the possibility of ending the idolatry of representations.

Recovery of indigenous consciousness; is what Barfield terms ‘final participation’ (and what I have called also ‘future participation’, Kremer 1991, 4). I view neo-shamanism as an indication of the desire for the recovery of indigenous ways of knowing within (post)modern societies. Such recovery would reconnect modern consciousness; to the seasonal and astronomical cycles, specific ecologies, the remembered ancestral heritage, community and the individual’s medicine. Then spirit would be, once again, part of science (see especially Spretnak, 1991, 196ff.). (See Kremer (1993 & 1995) for important distinctions between tribal shamanism and neoshamanism.)

Even this very brief discussion should make the answer to the following question obvious: “If the indigenous mind is lost – can it be recovered?” From an indigenous perspective the answer to this question is an emphatic “yes!” The reasons for the possibility of the recovery of the indigenous mind can be grouped in five major dimensions of 1) the continued presence of cycles, 2) the continued presence of ancestral spirit(s), 3) the presence of artefacts and spiritually significant places, 4) the continued presence of nature, and 5) the psychological capabilities of the individual human mind:

Barfield thus describes the rise of Western consciousness as the rise of human consciousness from nature leading to high levels of conceptual reasoning and reflections without conscious participation in the phenomena, even with the denial of the involvement in them. This is also the masculinization of the phenomena. This process can be seen as an explanation why it is so easy to deny nature in human consciousness. This antithetical, dissociative process between human beings and the phenomena has found its acme in the Western enlightenment movement. It is out of the dark night of the masculinized scholar that a future and new type of participation may arise through the use of trance narratives in modernist societies. For indigenous peoples this would be the end of the Dark Sun era (according to Mexican prophecies; Colorado, 1991, 22), or [P14] the time when, according to the Kogi prophecies, younger brother has remembered who he is (Ereira, 1992, 113-114).

Barfield’s most important point is that the worlds of the indigenous mind (original participation), the loss of participation of the modern Western mind and future participation (recovery of indigenous origins) are different. It is not just that humans see things differently in each of these worlds – but the worlds are different.

The Sami people of Norway, Sweden and Finland are a good example for the changes from indigenous to modern consciousness;. The follow quote gives a clear illustration of the perils of linear progress thinking. The hunting and fishing Sami of old clearly fit the descriptions for indigenous mind.

The traditional Sami order makes clear the culturally provisional nature of an active self in the contextually shifting references of the crucial term siida. In every situation, from the most “everyday” organizations of domestic life and productive activities to the most “extradordinary” occasions of ritual sacrifice, the term siida refers to a diffuse unity of humans, animals, and the land. Traditional Sami believed that at the birth of a child, a new siida was created. This unit consisted of the human child, its particular “animal guardian spirit,” and a particular “land spirit” (represented by the “birth stick” that marked the spot where the placenta was buried). A higher-level siida unit, foregrounded in the summer months of intense productive acitivity, included the separate domestic household (usually all those living in one tent), its summer territory, and the animals within that territory. Still more generalized was the winter siida assembly, including the entire human community, the total band territory, and all the animals. … The most general siida unit – operative only in the most important and carefully controlled ritual contexts – consisted of both this world and the other world of the gods, the dead, and the generalized animal guardians. At this level, the siida was identical to the all-encompassing female earth god, the Stem-Mother (Maddarakka, J.W.K.) (Stephens, 1986, 212-213).

This world was reflected on the traditional Sami drum of these times, which allowed the shaman or noaidi to shift their attention to the higher level siida. However, “the drum’s cosmic map was not simply a picture of the universe as it existed at any given time. Rather, drumming could effect transformations in siida levels and corresponding changes in siida actors and their objects” (Stephens, 1986, 217; cf. Pentikäinen, 1984, 144-145, 147). Growing older meant acquiring the capacity through transformative learning to stay at the center of increasingly generalized siida units.

All this changed significantly with the advent of pastoralism and the migrations with the herds of domesticated reindeer (after about 1600C.E.): Maddarakka becomes a minor deity and the male gods are seen as “controlling the powers and actions of their female consorts in order to [P15] prevent any far-reaching female transformations of the existing order” (Stephens, 1986, 219). The siida units are given a more restrictive and more clearly boundaried meaning, and linearity enters the migration pattern (substituting for the clover leaf like traditional four-directional pattern). The drum now shows a linearly layered world instead of the ovoid world outlined around the central goddess Maddarakka (Ahlbäck & Bergman, 1991; Kjellström & Rydving, 1993 for clear illustrations; also Lommel, 1965). Previously the drum had been an instrument by means of which the Sami participated in the ongoing creation of the universe, now it has become a picture of a certain cosmic order. The journey to the more generalized siida units becomes increasingly a matter of specialists and the boundaries between siida units become more impermeable. The relationship to the divine is now defined by sacrifices governing the symmetrical exchanges between male gods and men (cf. Bäckman & Hultkrantz, 1985). A process of dissociative schismogenesis from the loom of life has set in with the consequences of a threatening ecological catastrophe. What once was a concern with a continuing balance becomes part of a linear model of progress. The Warlpiri people of Australia talk about this same shift, which came with the arrival of the Europeans, as “the end of the Jukurrpa” (Napaljarri & Cataldi, 1994, xx), the end of the dreamtime.


Understanding Native American Healing Ways (Examples)

Let me explain the differences in paradigm a little further through the use of an example from the Diné people (Navajo).[6][6] I am choosing this example not because they may be the most popularized native tribe of this continent or because of the beautiful drypaintings which have drawn attention to their healing ceremonies (such as ma’iijí hatáál or Coyoteway, Luckert 1979) have been widely heard of because of the drypaintings. I am using this example because the Diné people seem to have exchanged knowledge with nordic tribes during ancient migrations west (Ashley, 1993). It is in this context of relationship that I as an indigenous Teuton have sought to learn from Diné traditions.

Whether an image in a sandpainting is perceived as symbol or as spirit marks the difference between Diné knowing and euro-american knowing.[7][7] The drypaintings show beings which are significant in the world of the Diné people. The western mind understands them as an assemblage of symbols which represent certain beings [P16] which are significant in the Diné world; they are commonly seen as ‘symbols of healing’, where each piece of the sandpainting stands for something else. This interpretation reflects the split in the dissociative western mind: the different parts of the sandpainting point to something which is elsewhere, outside of the representation. The participatory tribal mind relates entirely differently to the sandpainting: The deities and other beings (ye’ii) are in the sandpainting. The making of the sandpainting is the creation of the presence of the beings. The beings are not at all separate from what the sand looks like. Once the sandpainting is there, they are there. This simple distinction marks worlds of differences: Whether a sandpainting is a symbol for something or whether it is a certain being indicates the consciousness process we are engaged in. In one case we have symbolic healing, in the other spirit heals. There is no simple technique which can bridge this difference. Each understanding reflects a different way of being in the world. There is no such thing as a simple switch from one to the other. Whether we use trances for symbolic work or to seek healing with and from spirit(s) is an indication of the consciousness and reality in which we are participating.

Jungian interpretations of tribal sandpaintings, myths or healings (see Sandner [1979] for an example) do not reflect tribal mind . They reflect the process of the western mind. Jungian psychology and related transpersonal approaches are certainly the closest to indigenous ways of being in that they validate the seminal importance of participation mystique and spiritual experiences. However, they are only accurate as long as they deal with the western mind. There they can be very helpful. If such a psychology gets projected onto indigenous peoples, then grave misunderstandings result. What may be a good starting point for the western mind means engaging the indigenous mind in a process of splitting and dissociation (amounting to psychologizing spirit, McNeill 1993). Faris (1990: 12) has made a pertinent summarizing statement about Jungian interpretations of Navajo traditions:

Such motions … are still popular and continue to be attractive to both romantics and humanists who seem interested in fitting Navajo belief into some variety of universal schema – reducing its own rich logic to but variation and fodder for a truth derived from Western arrogances – even if their motivations are to elevate it. And thus, while often paraphrased in terms of a challenge to Western scientific tradition (Sandner, 1979), these motions nevertheless maintain the “classic ratio” (Foucault, 1973) with such traditions by its interpretation rather than acceptance of Navajo truths at face value.

Now we can make further distinctions not only in the research of, but also the use of Native American healing approaches in a euro-american framework. Sweatlodges are a well-[P17]known healing approach also used by non-indigenous people. The western mind can easily grasp the benefits of the sweat experience via the knowledge about saunas, for example (the effects of the heat on the immune system, etc.). Achterberg (1985) summarizes as follows:

The sweat lodge or saunalike structure is a commonly used vehicle for inducing an altered state of consciousness. … A sweat lodge without ritual is just hot; but even with ritual, it can induce a masive systemic effect that includes rapidly increased pulse rate, nausea, dizziness, and syncope (fainting) – in short, the warning signs of the impending medical condition we call heat stroke. … From a physical standpoint, there is a biochemical component of high body temperatures during fevers that reflects the natural reactions to toxins, and is correlated to the immune system in action. The artificially induced high temperatures of the sauna may mimic or induce this activity (as does sustained aerobic exercise). Furthermore, the sweat or sauna may act as a sterilization procedure, killing bacteria, viruses and other organisms that thrive at body temperature, but are susceptible to heat. The growth of tumors may also be inhibited when core body temperature is significantly elevated. (pp. 33-34)

However, the name ‘sweatlodge’ was coined by euro-americans; each tribe has its own specific name for this ceremony which embeds it in the deep structure of the specific culture (such as inipi among the Lakota). It is certainly true that many westerners have received tremendous benefits from sweatlodge experiences. And it is also true that their healing is not the same as a sweat lodge healing for a tribal person. The healing which the symbolic journey into the womb of the Mother Earth affords (as many euro-americans have described it) is different from the healing which a native person might receive through the encounter with spirit during these ceremonies. Decontextualized healing continues our cultural malaise of dissociation from interconnectedness and spirit; if we begin to remember our own indigenous minds, then we can understand the indigenous science which went into making of these exquisite healing ceremonies. The usefulness of the sweating technique is different from the integral balancing within self, community, nature and spirit which a traditional native person would expect.

The rite of the onikare (sweat lodge) utilizes all the Powers of the universe: earth, and the things which grow from the earth, water, fire and air. The water represents the Thunder-beings who come fearfully but bring goodness, for the steam which comes from the rocks, within which is the fire, is frightening, but it purifies us so that we may live as Wakan-Tanka wills, and He may even send to us a vision if we become very pure. (…)

When we leave the sweat lodge we are as the souls which are kept, as I have described, and which return to Wakan-Tanka after they have been purified; for we, too, leave behin in the Inipi lodge all that is impure, that we may live as the Great Spirit wishes, and that we may know something [P18] of that real world of the Spirit, which is behind this one. (Black Elk, 1971, 31 & 43)

The contrast between Achterberg’s summary and Black Elk’s descriptions is instructive and illustrates the paradigmatic differences. Most recently, Kripppner (1995) has advocated to take indigenous narratives about their ceremonial endeavors  more seriously. The depth of native descriptions of sweat lodge and other experiences is commonly at least partially obscured by the filter which (post)modern consciousness represents; it is also, most obviously, obscured by the understandable native distrust of researchers who are approaching them from within a different paradigm (this affects the type and quality of information communicated). The recovery of indigenous consciousness (plural) among eurocentric peoples would create a different relationship between current scientific knowledge (as represented by the Achterberg quote) and native narratives from other cultures.

Within the western paradigm we pick an herb for its curative properties known to relieve a certain ailment. Herb collection is an entirely different event within a native context. Here it is a ceremonial event which involves spirit and, especially the spirits of the plant to be collected. It is a participatory event with the plant relations which presupposes detailed knowledge, including knowledge of their language; it requires knowledge of cycles and the preparations necessary for gathering. It means understanding plants like any other intelligent people. This is no longer the collection of an herb, but an engagement and appointment with spirit to help heal. What heals is more than the beneficial chemical ingredient in the herb. But in order for such healing to occur a certain protocol (which is expressive of the traditional ecological knowledge of a particular healer and tribal tradition) needs to be observed:

Prayer accompanies all plant use on the Navajo Reservation. Prayers are said when Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata) is gathered for stew, when yarrow (Achillea lanulosa) is picked to cure skin disease, when a sacred plant is gthered to treat a horse’s sore leg, when a variety of plants are picked to make a rainbow of soft, long-lasting wool dyes.

Plants are not picked randomly or wastefully. Rather, they are picked as needed, and then, no more than are necessary.

An herbalist finds two of a particular species that she wishes to pick. To the largest and healthiest plant, she says a prayer and explains why she must pick its neighbor. An offering of shell, pollen, or other sacred material is deposited with the first plant. Then she picks what she needs. Afterward, the plant remains are buried with a final prayer. (Mayes & Lacy, 1989: 2-3)

Lake, a northwest California native expresses the indigenous relationship between healer and healing plants as follows:

Plants are “people” in the same ways we are people. They are born into certain families; they have extended families, tribes, and nations; they also [P19] have friends and even enemies. Some work individually, but most prefer to work cooperatively. They have individual personalities which are influeced by physical chemistry and mental-spirituall thinking. A happy plant is a healthy plant. A plant in its indigenous source of power is more potent and “powerful” than a domesticated species that has been cultivated. A natural plant gathered from its natural environment is more powerful in healing, especially if it is gathered in the right and proper way and at the right and proper time. Harvesting plants with prayer, ritual, and knowledge (communication formulas) will insure that the spirit of the plant stays with the body of the plant, and the plant will also be more effective in treatment for an illness. (Lake, 1991: 147)

The detailed herbal knowledge of Native American tribes has been collected in various publications of differing quality (e.g., Balls [1962], Chesnut [1902], Densmore [1928], Jones [1972], Mayes & Lacy [1989], Weiner [1972], Stammel [1986], Hutchens [1969]). Of course, related publications, some of them more reliable and less fanciful than others, about old plant knowledge can also be found in Europe (examples are: Grimm [1966/1888], vol.III; Golowin [1973]; Thiselton-Dyer [1889]).

Knowing the medical benefits of a sweat lodge purification or the effective chemical agents in an healing herb is certainly useful. But if this knowledge is not integrated into an indigenous science framework, then we fail to understand indigenous approaches to healing.



Healing Means “Nothing Less Than Manipulating the Full Structure of the Cosmos”

Within the conventional western medical paradigm, as indicated earlier, the therapeutic focus is on a clear identification of the symptom and the monocausal, linear analysis of its cause. Holistic medical approaches have expanded this approach to include a systemic understanding of causes as well as spiritual dimensions (beyond the emotional dimensions added by health psychology approaches). The conventional paradigm focuses on pathology, while the holistic medical approaches begin to focus more around notions of health (Kremer, 1982), thus putting themselves closer to indigenous sciences (on the far end of modern approaches, so to speak, but without truly bridging the deep structure of cross-cultural differences defined above). From my survey of the literature it seems accurate – albeit dangerous in this generalizing language – to say that indigenous peoples understand illness and healing in a cultural context which calls for a balancing of afflicted persons within their own cultural universe. Different indigenous cultures use different valid stories to explain the incident of illness; they address all aspects of the ill person (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual as well as communal), and they use a multifaceted approach in order to re-balance the sick within the indigenous cosmos. Indigenous approaches to [P20] healing imply a quality of control (i.e., balancing) different from the western monocausal, linear model of control. Let me use the Diné chantways as an exemplar for what I am talking about (without making the case why chantways are appropriate as exemplars).

The various chantways (Water Way, Coyote Way, Great Star Chant, Night Way, Mountaintop Way, Wind Way, Flint Way, etc.; cf. Wyman 1983a, b) use singing, praying, sweating, herbs, impersonation, bathing, sandpainting, etc. among their components (the ceremonies last up to nine days). Each of the chantways connect the healee to the Diné creation story, also commonly giving the origin of the chantway in use (Spencer, 1957). Thus the healees can be balanced within the Navajo world by being put, literally (not metaphorically or symbolically) at that point in the universe where balancing (healing) becomes possible. This place of balance is defined by an intricate system of diagnosis, the understanding of the creation story, and various detailed procedures. Accomplishing all this requires extensive ceremonial knowledge. The complexity of these chantways and their use is such that their learning can easily be compared to the acquisition of one PhD per chantway. They reflect a very detailed understanding of the world the Diné live in. Much of what is recorded in anthropological texts has little to do with Navajo practice and philosophy; when Diné practitioners share with other indigenous people facets of their world emerge which anthropology, in particular, has misrepresented or failed to fathom. Faris (1990: 13) criticizes anthropological understandings of “how Navajo belief works: that it reflects and symbolizes rather than constitutes, that actions “express,” that illness is cured “through symbolic manipulation.” Anthropologists are still “interpreting ritual.”” Faris (not a Navajo himself) describes his understanding of Diné causality in relation to illness as follows:

From my conversations with Nightway medicine men there has emerged a distinct concept of Navajo command over their universe – a personal and individual responsibility which, certainly in Nightway causality in any case, is not explained by the productions of the ‘natural world’ or events external to human agencies. Indeed, all ‘natural’ phenomena (lightning, fire, snakes, and so on) are only dangerous if there is a sacrilegious attitude toward them, or mistreatment of them, or in failing to observe the proper relationship toward them. (…)

Thus, Holy People do not themselves ’cause’ illness.[The Holy People are no more ‘supernatural’ than rocks or trees – they are simply invisible to humans. {p. 23}] It is violation by humans of prescribed order and proper ceremonial observances and attitudes, conditions of balance, beauty, harmony, and peace that brings about illnes. This order, these ceremonial observances, these proper social relations have been set down by the Holy People in Navajo history. Illness is disorder, unbalance, uglines. Violations may, of course, sometimes be unintentional or committed through ignorance; re-balance and re-order come through appropriate and proper [P21] appeal to the Holy People. In the attempts to re-order, there are supplicating features addressed to Holy People, of course, but their attendance at the healing ceremonies is, it such ceremonies are done properly, very compelling – indeed, they cannot resist attending. And if all is done properly, this attendance and this healing and this blessing and these offerings and these expressions of rigid propriety, beauty, and order bring about and restore a condition of hózhó, literally, holiness that is the harmony sought – a beauty, a balance in an order set out in navajo history and recapitulated in ceremony. (…)

This detailed command, so overwhelmingly impressive in its intricacies, say, of a nine-night Nightway, is what attracts holiness, what commands the attendance of the Holy People, and what balances. Indeed, it is only in observing such details, that one comes to see how sketchy, in fact, are the very best of accounts…(Faris, 1990: 14-15)


The reader may think that this perspective is entirely alien to the eurocentric cultural worlds. But this is only the case as long as we restrict our glance to contemporary medical practices. Once we go back only one hundred years, we find traces and tracks of a very similar cultural understanding of healing, health and illness in the older indo-european cultures (the very cultures which developed later on a dissociative approach to these issues). A review of the pertinent literature (which I began just recently) yields data, which quickly guide us toward the older indo-european and even pre-indoeuropean understanding of health and balance (see below for a number of references). Additionally, the continued existence of indigenous people culturally relevant for the indigenous roots of German and Scandinavian peoples, for example, easily adds to the possibility of recovery indigenous roots (the Saami people in the northern Scandinavian countries and the Kola Peninsula, and the various Siberian cultures, so far as they have survived Soviet oppression).

The following quote is an indication of the richness of information which can guide the development of a new relationship to indigenous peoples – neither based on the dominant eurocentric paradigm nor New Age or other fantasies, but based on a thorough personal and scholarly examination of what already is and what can be known. The Diné still practice an extraordinary healing system. But their practices and understandings are not alien to an older indo-european understanding of healing:

The nature of the order a healer established is also spelled out in the semantics of another verb applied to the art of healing, particularly within the Germanic languages: IE *kai-lo-, which occurs in Goth hailjan, OE hælan, OHG heilen, and OBulg celjo, all of which mean “to heal.” What is expressed most directly through these terms, however, is not just the [P22] establishment of a vague state of “health” or “well-being” but more precisely a state of “wholeness, totality, completion,” …

It now become apparent just how awesome a task the production or restoration of such integrity must be, for it is not just a damaged body that one restores to wholeness and health, but the very universe itself. … The full extent of such knowledge is now revealed in all its grandeur: the healer must understand and be prepared to manipulate nothing less than the full structure of the cosmos. (Lincoln, 1986: 100, 117-118)

Some of the parallels with Diné culture should be all too apparent. Pieces of knowledge like this represent a spark of hope for traditional indigenous peoples who live in continuing fear of genocide and the total loss of their culture. They represent the possibility of recovery of indigenous roots for people living in the eurocentric paradigm.


Who are you?

To traditional people western researchers commonly look very lost, “they don’t know who they are.” When indigenous peoples ask the question, “Who are you?”, then they are seeking to understanding a person’s place in the weave of blood relationships, ancestry, traditions, place, etc. The significance of this question is difficult to overestimate. If there is to be a relationship of equality between inquirers and indigenous peoples, then it needs be answered in depth and to the satisfaction of the traditionalists. The challenge is that a satisfactory answer has indigenous consciousness as a prerequisite. Seeking the answer leads back to indigenous mind. One of the requirements during this process is a deep look at the history of imperialism.

If indigenous healing occurs in the context of a complex cultural weave, then we need to know where we stand in our own weave and in relation to the other weave we are approaching – provided we want to do so with respect. Answering the question “who are you?” in all its depth opens the possibility to step out of colonial relationships. Until such time, colonialism is the frame for the knowledge given and the knowledge received; this means that the western sciences commonly define for indigenous peoples what is reality and which aspects of their “purported reality” are valid and significant. Of course, it is by now well known that many inquirers have taken answers seriously which were, in fact, given to distract and protect knowledge from the intrusive eye of western science (joking, teasing, and entertaining stories are part of this). Colonialism, of course, is a context of utter inequality, where internalized colonialism plays as much a significant part as the contemporary cultural threats: Indigenous knowledge (if it is shared) is commonly given based on the assumption of cultural and personal inferiority, a consequence of the relentless onslaught of the dominant paradigm. Because of all this the quality [P23] of eurocentric knowledge is seriously questioned (not to speak of the ethics and politics of all this).

When indigenous peoples meet they commonly introduce themselves by stating their kinship affiliations (in the broadest sense) in one form or another. The Australian aboriginal Warlpiri social arrangement may illustrate this:

This kinship system relates the people to each other, but its central importance for the Warlpiri world view is that is also relates the people to the Jukurrpa (the Dreaming, J. W. K.) and the land. That is, for Warlpiri people the relationship between each person and the world is mediated by their kinship subsection. Each jukurrpa, and each place, belongs to one (or possibly two) of four pairs, Jupurrurla-Jakamarra, Jungarryi-Japaljarri, Jangala-Jampijinpa, Japangardi-Japanangka, and the female counterparts. These pairs also mark the relationship of father and son. That is, through their particular subsection, each person is related to other people, to their jukurrpa ancestors, to the places they own and are responsible for, to the narratives and songe concerning the places and ancestors, and to the gestures and designs that belong to the places. (Napaljarri & Cataldi, 1994: xix)

Understanding indigenous healing sufficiently can only occur in this context. In order to enter this context, the inquirers need to know who they are, which then puts them in relation to the indigenous culture they are visiting; the context of the visit now is not colonialism, but a shared way of knowing. The following, more personal statement gives a tiny slice of my own process of addressing the question “who are you?”


Part II: Struggling to recover indigenous roots

Although the format of this part II reflects indigenous thinking to the extent that it emphasizes a process orientation and has a certain circularity, it nevertheless presents a compromise: Euro-american scholarly discourse shapes the way thinking and writing are framed. The hearing of the indigenous voice depends on finding a way to speak through the dominant discourse – and in spite of it. Thus it is most important to remember that this paper is not written in an indigenous language.

The best approach to reading the following paragraphs may be that of an initiation: I am asking the reader to engage with patterns of thought which are contrary to habit. The intention is, literally, to boggle the mind. This may lead to confusion and dark night experiences along the way. However, it is hoped that this initiatory journey ends in a place where all the threads may come together in a new weave, maybe a new approach to native healing ways.

[P24] Writing about indigenous healing practices is always situated in a specific socio-cultural, ecological, historical, gendered and autobiographical context. This is asserted in the face of those euro-american schools of thought which give us ways to think otherwise; from an indigenous perspective these need to be understood as routes of denial. I am voicing what is commonly considered “OTHER” – outside the shrinkwrapping strictures of the dominant euro-american conversations and discourses. OTHER is defined by the rationalistic discourse. OTHER is what the splitting from our indigenous origins is continuing to colonize and control in a rationalistic paradigm of dissociation: the beingknowing of the body; creative, artistic, crafting beingknowing; emotional beingknowing; spirit and spiritual beingknowing; nature, wilderness, environmental, ecological beingknowing; the beingknowing of all that which is commonly labelled feminine or female or woman; cyclical beingknowing; narrative, storied, integral beingknowing; the beingknowing of community. OTHER has always been systemic and understood itself as systemic in nature. Speaking, writing from OTHER (and as OTHER) I voice my beingknowing not in any of these categories, but I am trying to weave myself being woven into a fabric which is refusing such seductive categories as epistemology or ontology.

In the indigenous voice it is illegitimate to split knowing from being – thus ‘beingknowing’. I OTHER am playing with the language in order to create a fluid fuzziness which is illuminating about transforming learning transforming processes of indigenous minds. By twisting conventions of grammar and vocabulary I allow myself to say things more precisely and genuinely than I could otherwise (hoping that the reader will gradually relax into the flow of consciousness of indigenous beingknowing). I am running words together, weaving them into a process which should not be thought asunder.

Odin’s sacrifice on the tree (as described in the Elder Edda) was a fast for words and deeds, beingknowing, for chants which would put him at the center of beingknowing, becoming the tree of life himself, drinking from the Source (Urd, Wyrd), knowing the fateful runes of his life, thus he became empowered. “I know that I hung in the windtorn tree // Nine whole nights, spear-pierced, // Consecrated to Odin, myself to my Self above me in the tree, // Whose root no one knows whence it sprang. // None brought me bread, none served me drink; // I searched the depths, spied runes of wisdom; // Raised them with song, and fell once more thence” (Tichtenell, 1985: 126). It is not easy to quote these powerful stanzas, since they so clearly represent the Nordic worldview after the invasions of the indo-europeans. Odin is the grand patriarch who sees himself as the center who contains everything. But the Eddic poetry can be used to discover older layers hidden in them. It has been said that “most egalitarian societies are to be found among [P25] hunting/gathering tribes, which are characterized by economic interdependency. … Most evidence for female equality in societies derives from matrilineal, matrilocal societies” (Lerner, 1986, 29 & 30). Understanding the indigenous mind and its relationship to transformative learning and healing in a context of equality thus requires that we look through what Odin is trying to make us believe. The tree of life was female before the Kurgan invasions (Gimbutas, 1991). But even in the later Eddic texts we find the female spirits, the norns, by the names Origin, Becoming and Debt spinning fates with their waters under the tree. These waters nourish the tree of life, which is also the human being. Its guardians are feminine spirits, dísir. Indigenous peoples know how words create worlds, words are a weave. They often have clear guidelines on when to say and when not to say certain things (Witherspoon, 1977, 1987). They are unhappy with the language pollution the dominant cultures foist upon them; for them the indo-european languages create careless worlds which are out of balance.

Healing is transforming, and the learning of transforming healing is an aspect of transforming learning transforming. If I were to write about healing solely within the common discourse of modernity, then I would leave parts of my indigenous mind behind in order to join the dominant discourse (an easy and safe move, given my academic training). In writing about healing from an indigenous perspective I am struggling to be true to a process of consciousness, a process of community and a process of beingknowing which is a potential for all humans. It is not just that the surviving indigenous peoples have access to this process, but all euro-americans have potential access to this. While I am struggling to keep communicative doorways to the dominant discourse open, my primary concern is voicing my indigenous mind. As I am standing in a communal circle of people who are fighting to live, know, and speak the indigenous minds of their endangered traditions, the only honorable thing I can do is living, knowing, and speaking my ancestral indigenous mind – a mindprocess rejected, “for good”, a very long time ago. “Indigenous Teuton” seems a surefire provocative term, since it posits the possibility of indigenous beingknowing for a contemporary German living in the United States, and since it evokes a mythological realm which is part of the history of genocide and continues to be used for anti-indigenous ends. In choosing between dissociating from what is a living history and my ancestral roots or living in and acknowledging an indigenous mind which weaves me into the spirits of my ancestral lands, the spirits of the place where I am living now (California), the large cycles of the earth, my current community and family – in choosing between these two alternatives I am left with no real choice. In seeing the alternatives the choice is made. In seeing the alternative my fate becomes transparent and the only honor I have is to be true to that fate.

[P26] For every German the gateway to the indigenous mindprocess is a concentration camp. Hitler’s barbaric abuses of Teutonic mythology have made this entry to the old indigenous mind of Northern Europe unavoidable. Without taking this painful walk understanding my fate is relegated to shadow material and my indigenous mind would contain wishful fantasy and perpetrate an unhealthy split. Fate was a central coordinate for the Nordic peoples (Bonnefoy, 1993b). They dedicated their children to the dísir, the female guardian spirits connected with the land, the powers of fate which determined their individual máttr ok megin, their personal capacity and possibility of success. Thus they dedicated to the source and the Yggdrasils – springs and trees being so important for them. Rites of passage later on allowed for a conscious dedication and commitment to this destiny. It was the work of the mature adult. It is my work as I speak my indigenous mind. Walking through the gateway of the German holocaust is one of my rites of passage. I was born German, I grew up in Germany shortly after the Second World War and I left – or fled – the Federal Republic of Germany to live in the United States of America. Contained in this is, no doubt, my destiny, my máttr ok megin. My torment has been the realization that I personally could only recover by delving into my feelings of shame and by walking through Auschwitz past Hitler, past Neonazis, past Wotan, past Heidegger, past Jung, past Christianization to whatever lies beyond. My feminine dísir has helped me many times in my transforming learning transforming. Máttr ok megin is not an abstract category, it is my story weaving amidst the stories from the past into the German story of the present into the genocide on this land into the stories of different indigenous minds. For the old Nordic peoples sacredness was experienced in the certainty of their destined endowment; this notion has since been thoroughly perverted by the Nazis. Part of my fateful challenge has been to build an internal (if not external) bridge from Northern Germany to the United States, especially California, and to its native cultures. Part of my fate and challenge has been to be in my indigenous mind when with people who are commonly called ‘tribal.’

‘Honor’ is a word that is almost inextricably tied to the masculine. The German Ehre is etymologically connected to grace and gift (Mitzka, 1960). The old Norse folks called their feeling of connectedness to the sacred and the certainty of their endowment honor. They took pride in justifying their destiny, made it known, and wished to be recognized by it. This meant that they had to know and accept themselves with their destiny and that they would work to manifest the nature of what they understood their fate to be. (Self-acceptance, when not balanced, may result in femininized or masculinized narcissistic inflations, with the Vikings representing a masculinized heroic inflation.) Thus they would commune with the sacred. The rite of passage [P27] during adolescence would strengthen the commitment to their fateful endowments (German Schicksal, a late Christian word; the old words are wurd, wyrd, weird and urdr). The fates of the tribe would be the weave of the individual fates. One would honor one’s tribe by honoring one’s individual destiny. I cannot but write as a German. As such I am also writing for Germany. In order to reestablish my personal honor I need to recover my feeling of sacred connectedness and destiny. To live on this land honorably means beingknowing my indigenous mind. Honor and integrity means struggling not to create OTHER inside and outside.

Germany and the Nordic heritage lost its honor during the Third Reich. The understanding of fate and destiny was perverted. The honor of Germany can only be reestablished through a profound connection with the sacred weave of its ecology. This is not a grandiose act; it is a humbling confrontation with the ashes of burnt people. I have an obligation to honor my personal destiny in order to reestablish my personal connection with the sacred. In so doing I am also confronted with a tribal obligation, “the honor of Germany.” This is as disgusting a thought as it is inevitable. Honor has been masculinized – men are concerned with their honor. This is alien for most women who view life fundamentally from a relational perspective. The honor of old may have been just like that: I honor the land because I understand my relationship to her; I honor my community because I see how I am part of its weave and story; I honor my friends because I affirm their destiny; I honor my destiny, and thus I affirm my relationship with the sacred. Maybe honor was never this; but maybe it was at one time affirmative, relational and connected to love and self-love. Willy Brandt was in his woman when he fell to his knees in Warsaw; he honored relationship. The female side of honor would mean that it is honorable to cherish the feminine and nature. My honor is my connectedness. I have no honor without wholeness. Honor is in walking in Dachau and Neuengamme. Dishonor is walking around these places of pain, grief and shame. The ancient ones can only speak again once we have listened to them there. Honor is in facing the torture of the Jewish, gay and gypsy spirit. Honor is in transforming learning transforming in the indigenous mind.

Over the painful process of the recovery of my indigenous roots circles the raven; it goes by the name of Munin, memory. In one of the Eddic poems Odin, oftentimes pictured with two ravens on his shoulders, remarks how he fears more for Munin than for Hugin, the raven of intentionality and consciousness. Maybe this reflects an old, prescient knowing about the diffulties indigenous minds would have in the future, our contemporary struggle. But then, recovery of indigenous roots and the validation of this knowledge works in curious ways: I recently received an article by Kenin-Lopsan (1995) from the Republic of Tuva for a journal [P28] issue I am editing. In it he wrote about kuskun, the raven: “The raven was the shaman’s faithful and favorite informant. The raven was always attributed with a magical quality. Wooden figures were often carved of the black raven. As a rule, shamans wore two figures of ravens on their shoulders, due to the bird’s vigilance, keenness, and wisdom” (p. 2). (An initial survey of the literature on Siberian shamanism has yielded many surprising, and oftentimes very specific parallels with the Nordic literature, an article waiting to be written.)

My personal need for transforming learning transforming is constellated by the necessity for further rites of passage and ceremonies of healing my indigenous mind; the destructions of the San Francisco Bay Area ecosystem and the near extinction of its first peoples; my grieving remembering of the Nordic fabric before herding patriarchs, Vikings, Christianity, witchhunts and Nazi perversions; my confrontations with the genocidal histories of this and other continents.

Indigenous consciousness is specifically grounded in a story of pastpresentfuture which aligns the people in the seasonal and larger cycles while grounded in a particular environment and spiritual life. For me it is grounded in the source of the shamanic tree Yggdrasil. If this is indeed a story woven in balance, then it affords the possibility of comprehending not just the deep story of the particular community, but consciousness of other communities, Mother Earth consciousness and questions of origin and indigenous science way beyond what the euro-american dissociative narrative would acknowledge. There are many examples of this. Among the popularized ones are the Hopi prophecies (Kaiser 1991) and the Kogi prophecies (Ereira, 1992), which represent an uncanny knowledge of the dymanics of European history.

‘To heal’ is etymologically connected, as mentioned earlier, with the German heilen and the indo-european root *kailo-, referring to a state and process of wholeness. But to heal is also connected to holy (as is heilen to heilig), which gives an ancient root to the reemergent wholistic and transpersonal perspective on healing (needless to say, ‘whole’ is also related to *kailo-). In order to stay healthy (whole, holy) we need to learn how to transform ourselves continuously so that we renew our place in the weave (Mitzka, 1960; Shipley, 1984).

‘To learn’ is connected with the German lernen, and, further back, with the Sanskrit root leis, meaning track, footprint or furrow (Shipley, 1984). ‘Track’ and ‘footprint’ would seem to be the older meaning given that ‘furrow’ would require the existence of agriculture and domesticated farm animals (thus the root leis could thus be seen to hold both, the older connections with foraging gatherer and hunting communities as well as the new agricultural societies). Learning is tracking – the wild animal, the stars, the cycles of the seasons, etc. In order to track we have to [P29] know our natural environment. If we can’t track natural events, then we don’t learn. If we can’t track, then we don’t stay whole and fail to honor what is holy – we loose our health.

‘Transforming’ is connected to the Sanskrit root merbh, to shine, appear or take shape (which becomes the Latin forma and the Greek morfh, ‘morph’); the water emerges from the source and takes shape as it moves from stream to creek to river. Morfh implies not just any form, but a form which is free from the accidental and incomplete; it alludes to beauty and grace, to harmony and balance. By changing form we presumably change toward something which reflects a process of greater balance (although the direction of transformation is never assured).

The Kogi Indians of Colombia have an understanding of their craft of the loom which pertains. As the Kogi Indian works on his loom, he works the loom of life; spinning is thinking and thoughts are threads, and by weaving he interlaces individual thoughts with the social web. When the heart thinks, it weaves. Thoughts make a blanket. The fabric of life is a garment, a web of knowledge made of thoughts. It is life’s wisdom that envelops us like a cloth. The earth is a loom on which the sun weaves the fabric of life. The loom is the person, with different parts of it corresponding to human anatomy. The loom is also the ecology in which the Kogi live as well as the different ceremonial centers as well as different spirits. A garment woven on such a loom is more than the garment which meets the euro-american eye (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1978). In the northern European countries, it is the fabric which the norns weave from Urd under the tree of life, which contains the destiny of people. Knowing the weaving is knowing the thought of spirit. The craft (die Kraft, power) of weaving is a spiritual practice which requires a particular moral stance (Kremer & White, 1989). Odin fasts for nine days and becomes the tree of life; through this act he looks deeply into the mystery of Source where his roots lead. If I fast and honor the tree which I am, then I see the pattern into which the women at the Source are weaving me (Bauschatz, 1982). In indigenous consciousness these correspondences are neither just metaphorical nor idle word play: They reflect the awareness of us weaving being woven on earth as our individually and communally destined lives.

If we are to ask what is being healed or transformed, then the answer is: It is the transforming of a smaller or larger part of the weaving; what is transforming is relationship. The weave is always changing. We are always changing. Where we are in the weave is always changing. Transforming learning transforming is how we live and experience ourselves in the changing weave as part of the weave being woven. It is knowing where we stand so that we can be properly woven – which is the illusion of weaving. It means tracking the weaving of the system and knowing when transforming is needed. I have the option of dropping out of the [P30] ongoing process of staying healthy (or transforming learning), in which case I will become increasingly out of balance with the possible consequences of ill health, misguided ratiocinations, dysfunctional emotional patterns, denial of the spirit of the weave and various other dissociative pathologies. If I remain true to the capacities for tracking then my form of balance will continuously transform itself into new forms of weaving being woven in the fabric.

As an indigenous Teuton I can understand the healing ceremonies of indigenous peoples from the perspective of the tree of life Yggdrasil which is so central not only in the nordic traditions, but also in many Asian shamanic traditions (Davidson, 1993; Bonnefoy 1993a, b). Knowing the trunk, the roots, the branches and the leaves of this tree teaches me about balance. The descriptions are precise in that they reflect a way of balance which the indigenous peoples of northern Europe had come to. Yggdrasil teaches about relations and healing. Using my indigenous science I can approach the indigenous science which, say, the Native Americans of this continent have developed in their healing practices. What I learn now is different from what I learn when I do western science. (It also gives me a way to review and integrate the results of the western sciences in a new way.) What I try to heal now is not my euro-american self, but my indigenous self.

This perspective is the result of 25 years of personal and academic work (Kremer, 1994b)[8][8]. One way of labeling this would be to call it a re-socialization. The shift in consciousness and paradigm which I have alluded to in this paper consists not in the use of various tribal or shamanic techniques, but in the labor to make the world appear differently before my eyes – a process far from closure.



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[1][1] I have explored some of the political issues of this stance in Kremer (1994b).

[2][2] This and the following section have been taken primarily from Kremer (1995).

[3][3] I have discussed the historical changes in the relationship between the western paradigm and indigenous consciousness in Kremer (1995) based on McGrane (1989).

[4][4] I am amending Barfield’s descriptions by deleting eurocentered prejudices in my summaries of his work.

[5][5] Halifax, Lomax and Arensburg came to similar conclusions about thirty years ago at Columbia University, NY; Halifax (1994: n.p.).

[6][6] A more extensive discussion of differences between the Diné and euro-centric worldview can be found in Kremer (1995).

[7][7] I would like to acknowledge the helpful discussions with Hanson Ashley, David Begay, Avery Denny, Jim Faris, Nancy Marybody and others on these issues. I have tried to represent the Diné perspective as accurately as I can, any misrepresentations should be attributed to me.

[8][8] Intense grief work is part and parcel of undergoing such a process; see Kremer (1995) for a discussion.

20 August 1988 Personal Correspondence on Community Culture Healing, Spirit and Science

Aug. 20, ’88.

Dear Pam

I write to you again. For your laugh, I quote a joke.

“A famous physicist worried about Library space projected

that, at the present rate of increase in the number of articles

published in Physical Review, they will soon reach a rate which

will have to fill library shelves with the Speed exceeding that

of Light. However, this does not violate the Principle of

Relativity, for the journals contain no Information.

[Physics Today Aug. ’88. P. 9.]

– – – – – – – – –

I have a proposal to make, and I would like to discuss the

matter. How about writing a paper on European and Native

Community/Culture Healing as a Therapy/Medicine? I know I am

trying to push you to do an Academic thing. But, now that you

moved, there is nothing much I can do anyway. So perhaps it is

safe to make a proposal. Besides, I do not know how “Community/

Culture Healing” would fit with what you do on the job. Please

let me know the situation.

The idea came from reading an article by William K. Powers

“Alternatives To Western Psychotherapy: Modern-Day Medicine Man”

mentioned before [In Beyond The Vision U. of Oklahoma Press 1987.

Psychotherapy has Psychoanalysis as a theoretical part, though

the relation of “Theory” and “Practice” contains problems.

Likewise, Native Medicine has Native Science, though the relation

between them may be different from that in European system. But

the Science ought to be relevant and helpful to practice of the

Medicine. In fact, we have been deciphering Native Science from

the Medicine in the traditional culture, as the Science existed

there to deal with problems in life.

The comparison of the complex of science-therapy in Western

Culture to one in another Culture is interesting enough. But I am

not just proposing to make a comparison. Something new is added.

Native Community/Culture is facing new problems stemming from its

encounter with Western Ideology and Technology. The new problems

require new responses. It means more trouble, but that also means

a new development in Science for both sides. As a “Wisdom”,

Native Science needs not to change, but its expressions have to

reflect the changed environment in order to be helpful to the

people. You have been on that task. But if you wish to elaborate

on Native Science at higher and deeper level of

Native Science, working out “practical applications” is one of

the ways to do that. Comparison is a mere entry device.

As “Spirit” is revealed through manifestations, the Science

is learnable through “working it out” (praxis). Writing a paper

is a way of helping people who face up to the problems and

looking for ways of healing. The paper may look “theoretical”,

but it is (i) a report on experiences, and/or (ii) elaboration of

“strategy”. It is not “Wisdom” itself, but it is an intermediate

“translation” in a sense of being an “approach to”, or a “way

to”. Just as we cannot prescribe “Vision”, we cannot describe

“Wisdom”. We can, however, talk about experiences or the

procedure leading up to it.

And, to the extent the problems are brought by “European”

things, what we write have to contain “European” things. That is

the necessity of the circumstance, and also from the work being

“translation”, “interface”, and “praxis in the present world”.

There is an element of “Beating European Intellect at its

own Game”. We might say “If Europeans brought Guns to Natives,

Native Science can shoot the same guns better”, or “If Christians

talk of Love, Native Science does it better”. It is not that

competition is the aim, but the pains and suffering of the people

under “European Power Science” is real — unfortunately we in

bourgeoisie academy do not immediately experience them — and a

way of Medicine/Therapy must be proposed now.

Actually, for this, it probably matters little if it is

called “Native Science”, “Marxism”, or “Born-Again Christianity”.

There are “Natives” colonized all over the World, even in Europe.

In some degree, I have a special interest in Japanese affairs

which do contain “Native Problems”, and you have “Native

Americans’ in the center of your heart, and in that we are

“Racists”. But I do have something beyond that, which has to do

with “People”, “Humans,”, not “Race”. I am not helping Native

Americans as a Race. It makes me feel sad to think, but I stand

outside “Native American Science” — She is your baby. I adore

her, but that is all I can —. At least, I try to avoid becoming

a “Fake Indian”. [I saw an NFB film on Long Lance: “Chief Buffalo


It does give me a pain of being an “Outsider”, forever

segregated and cast away from the happy community of people whom

I care, but I hope I have a spiritual strength to withstand the

alienation. The danger of the alienation becoming a bitterness

and then intellectua1 arrogance is great. But that is where

devices, strategies such as Participatory Research come in. It is

an intellectual thing to do, and as such, it perhaps is not quite


satisfying. If Alcoholism is a problem, Intellectualism is also a


However, I think that there is a “meaning” in both

Alcoholism and Intellectualism. Rejecting or rather pretending

that one is staying clear out of the problems, with righteous

contempt, is not an answer. I would much rather have you drinking

and suffering than being like an angel. For the pain can also be

source of creative energy. The period of Colonialism is not yet

over, and if we are comfortable in the World as it is today,

there is no reason for us to do anything about it. At least, in

that way I can talk with you.

I said the above, because if you are “Perfect Indian”,

“Noble Savage Philosopher”, you would not play with an academic

game like writing intellectual paper. A Japanese proverb has it

that “Great Man is a Useless Man” — nobody can use him, nor

does he use anybody —. But, I would like to drag you down to a

lesser being who suffers pain like “ordinary” people do and

could, at the best, be “useful” to people as such. If there is no

problem, pain, malaise, there can be no Science. Both

Intellectualism and Alcoholism are product/expression of

suffering. I would dare further to say that Spiritualizing is a

“moral equivalent” of Alcoholism.

Now, that has been my excuse to you to make a proposal. For

you to judge whether it is helpful or not, you would ask what it

involves. So I shall explain.

One important thing Powers missed in the article is that

Native Medicine is done as “Communal Affair”, if not “Ceremony”,

whereas Western Psychotherapy is highly individualistic ritual.

That stems from Psychoanalysis being an analysis (theoretical

construct) about the Individual. Freud’s paradigm is to “adjust”

deviant individuals to the given Civilization (*1). C.G. Jung saw

this defect/limitation in Freud’s works. He went to “Collective

Unconscious” etc. to correct the ignorance/ignoring, and made

“Psychoanalysis” useful in “Social Psychology”, “Anthropology”

and “Linguistics”. Jung’s works were closer to Hegelian Field

Dynamics, as a contrast to Newton-Kantian Mechanics of Freud. And

it opened a way to “Cultural Analysis”, supplementing “Social

Analysis/Criticism” of Marx et al. You might say it is

“Environmental Science” in contrast to Individualistic/Atomistic

Science of a single Tree.

(*1) [To be sure, Freud did write Der Zukunft einer Illusion

1927, Das Unbehagen in der Kultur 1930. It is interesting

to note that the English translation of the second book is

“Civilization and Its Discontents”. Freud knew better than


Civilization with Culture. But the title was approved by

Freud. The reason become clear if one reads the book. The

“culture” of Europe in the 20th century is nothing but a

“Civilization” — i.e. Technopolis —. Freud, in his zeal

to establish his science to be an Eternal Truth, totally

ignored History of European Social Technology. (Jung failed

in this respect as well.) It is surprising to see this in

an intellectual circle in which Hegel and Marx were well

known. Perhaps, it was Newton-Kantian blindness to History.

Or, it is because European chemistry (Atomism) was A-
Historical (Non-Dynamical).

It is also interesting to note that, the term “Unbehagen”

is equivalent of French “malaise”, that is more like

“disease”. “Discontent” came from the first title Freud

gave, which was “Das Ungluck”. The translation of the title

is not quite right, but from the content of the book the

English title is just right. That is, Freud failed to treat

the “Disease” of the modern European Civilization in which

he was a part. European Science has had this peculiar

posture of as if God was looking at problems from outside.

Scholars talked as if they themselves had no problem of

their own. A.A. made one progress in this respect in that

they talk of “My problem”. What I like to see is a Science

of “Our problem”.]

However, even Jung did not come to think of “Therapy on

Community”. Social Psychology, Anthropology, or for that matter,

Sociology, Economics, did not think of practice of “Therapy” in

relation to them as “Science”. Marx, Keynes were exceptions. It

was not that Social Scientists did not attempt to influence

Social Policies, or Psychologists did not interfere with

Educational Policies. The relation between these Sciences and

Practices were not only obscured by pretended “Scientific

Objectivity”, or “Value Neutrality”, but also ignored, perhaps,

from their “Static-ism” (inactivism), if not incompetence. They

did not have the degree of relation that physics had with

Industrial applications, and Medical Science had with Clinical


I imagine “Social Work/Welfare” uses existing Social

Sciences as its theoretical grounds (metaphysical axioms and

Rhetoric-Jargons). Yet, I wonder if the relation is clear at all.

Suppose an Economist proved that in a pluralistic society, “the

Value Maximum does not exist”, what change then social

work/welfare as a discipline of practice would undergo? In fact

the proof was given by Arrow in 1940’s (*2), but I am afraid

Scholars in Social Work/Welfare behave as if they are totally

ignorant of implications of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, just

as the

most Natural Scientists are oblivious to Godel’s Incompleteness

Proof. If the Science means anything, one would expect certain

effects from changes in the science to changes in the practice,

at least something comparable to that from Medical Science to

Clinical Practice.

I am not saying every “theory” has to have direct and

immediate effects on practices in therapy/healing. For the case

of Native Communities, even the identification of problems is a

problem for itself , let alone talking of Healing. But then, I

would expect that Native Science is relevant and useful in the

identification (diagnosis/analysis). I also expect the Science to

provide a “Language” by which the problems can be described,

communicated, and efficiently understood, so that people can make

an effective co-operation.

Now, I am quite aware that there are difficulties, say in

the relation between Western Sciences and their therapeutic

practices. There exists no such thing as “Sociotherapy”, so that

I cannot comment on what Social Science does. Incidentally,

Gellner mentioned before [The Psychoanalytic Movement. Paldin

1985.] discussed the problems in Psychoanalysis/therapy.

Gellner, however, took a rhetorical posture of comparing

“Psychoanalysis” to other Sciences, and pretended that other

Sciences, particularly Natural Science, have no such problem. It

is false. There is no “Science” that is free from troubles. Every

one of them has one degree of trouble or another. In fact,

Natural Science escapes the trouble by ignoring — only deals

with simple linearized models —. Even our “Logic” has troubles

when it tries to deal with “dynamics”, beyond its traditional

“static” and “atomistic” territory. [Russell’s Paradox, etc. see

The Mathematical Experience. P.J. Davis, R. Hersh. Penguin 1984

for example.] It appears that Gellner is ignorant about these

problems in Western Science. Unfortunately, this ignorance, or

rather ignoring, about Logical foundation is rather universal

among English speaking “philosophers of science”.

[I picked up from the New book section of our library a

book; Philosophy, Science And Social Inquiry, by D.C.

Philips. It is a neat summary of “British-American

Philosophy Of Science”. There is no mention of the problems

in Logic. It has a chapter on “Neo-Hegelian Critique”, but

there is no discussion of Hegel’s “Logic of Science”.

On the other hand, if we read, say, Paul Ricoeur’s Lectures

On Ideology And Utopia, the whole 19th century German

Philosophy, covered by Marx’s German Ideology, was a

struggle on “Science”. But it is

not recognized by British-American Academia. It appears

that there was an implicit censorship by those who were in

the academic “Empire Building”. They appear to be no

different from Racists and Colonialists.]

What is interesting, however, in Gellner’s book is that

despite his implicit rhetorical assumption, the troubles of

Natural Science come out. His criticisms against Psychoanalysis

being not a science are applicable to Natural Science just as

well. That is why it is worth reading

Of course, Freud failed to achieve his ambitious goal.

Rather, he went back to the level of Newtonian Mechanics, and

treated “Civilization” to be a “State of Technology” in a

society. His therapy was a technology of adapting individuals to

the society dominated by the Technology. It did not come to

Therapy on the Technology itself. Besides, he was a self-centered

S.O.B., of which many books had been written. That was very

common, Ego-Inflating effect of the Competitive Intellectualism

that we are under. I hope efforts such as Participatory Research

would take care of the problem of Intellectual imperialism (or

rather Judeo-Christian Superiority-Persecution Complex) in


In this respect, it is interesting to note that Powers

reports on “Abdication” (p.137 point 7). European way of seeing

this is “Loss of Power”. But, I suspect rather it means “retiring

from responsibility obligation”. “Power” in Native lingo probably

means “Function”. One who “has” a Power is obliged to perform the

function. I wonder, in this sense, what “power” university

professors have.

I ought to mention here that Marx also failed in reaching a

“Science” — Marx had never come to elaborate what he meant by

his “Science”, though he was very proud of saying “Scientific

Socialism”, “Proletariat shall have Science to Liberate

themselves”, etc. —. Marx failed to do “Philosophy of

Technology”, but did only “Mechanics of Power”, and consequently

failed to help the construction of the “Science” that was

expected for the Oppressed to develop.

What you want to do in the name of Native Science is what

Marx, Freud, Jung et al. failed to achieve. Therefore, if you

make mistakes here and there, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Mistakes will hurt you, but that is all. The important thing is

that you pointed the direction, a Vision/Dream/Prophecy.

[You might think I am unduly hard on you, but

actually it is you who picked such a difficult task. It is

as if you are saying you like to jump into a volcano. I

push you over the cliff, because you are standing at the

edge. Afterwards, I and friends of yours will erect a

gravestone there, inscribed as “Here once stood a brave


I would go on further to say Native Science is a way to

“Wisdom”, not the “science” of the European sense. And if it is

“Wisdom”, it has to be in a Community/Culture, not property of

one individual, however genius you are. It can only be developed

by “History”. All we can do is the task of Midwife. And you need

co-operation of many people, and communities (Participatory

Research?). What I am proposing you to write is not Native

Science itself , but merely one among many “about Native Science

— something like “Comparison of What Native and European

Sciences would say about Community Healing/Therapy.” —.

Richard Gwyn, writing on the crushed “Prague Spring” 20

years ago, says: “The real cost of that smashing of a mailed fist

into a gentle smiling face has been an intangible one. The

Czechoslovak sickness of today is neither economic nor political

but is psychological; it can only be described as

institutionalized immorality”. [Leth. Herald. Aug 23.] If one

says this about Czechoslovakia, what must one say about The First

Nations of America? Is it Institutionalized Immorality? And if

so, how does one go about Healing it?


Sam K.

(*2) As to K.J. Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, see Social Choice

And Individual Value. John Wiley 1951. Cowles Foundation

Monographs vol. 12.

My Economist friend referred me to Q. James, Saposnik, and

Ruben. General Equilibrium And Welfare Economics but I have

not read this.

The main point of Arrow’s Theorem is that “Values” cannot

be ordered in a linear hierarchy (in Boolean Lattice). If a

set of propositions does not form a Boolean Lattice, the

Classical Logic cannot be applied. For Non-Boolean set, the

Probability Calculus becomes unworkable, Quantum Logic is

Non-Boolean. It creates linguistic situations where The

Principle of Exclusion of the Middle breaks down


Principle). A Dutch mathematician E. Brouwer talked about

this problem in 1920-30s.

But, as far as I know of, there has been no Social Science

built upon explicit basis of Non-Boolean Logic. There have

been suggestions that Zen philosophy is non-Boolean, but I

have not seen any serious writing about this. There is also

such a thing as “Fuzzy Logic”. But I see no sign of it

applied to Socia1 Sciences.

I would like to ask you, or to Woody, if Quantum Logic

(Non-Boolean Linguistic Structure) can be found in Native

narrations. I am looking for cases where “Either/Or”

propositions get into clear trouble.

As to Quantum Logic, I enclosed some references. But they

perhaps require some more explanations and elaborations to

make it relevant to Cultural talks.


Traditional Healing and Western Health Care: A Case Against Formal Integration

Traditional healingand westerns health care: a case against formal integration

V. Edward Bates

The holistic health movement has the potential for improving health care for all Americans. It also has the potential for descending upon Indian people with unexpected consequences. Traditional healing practices may become imperiled when, under the guise of holistic health, public health officials and health care workers (HCW)1, who dominate the services and bureaucratic processes, underwrite third-party payments and training for medicine persons. These processes potentially can subvert individualized spiritual services into a standard item of health care. None of the changes or preceding movements impacting Indian health over the past 30 years has presented such a risky challenge to Native American culture.

A review of major societal changes during the past three decades may help to explain why holistic health practices, affecting Indians in particular, are becoming popularized today. Recent history that has altered public attitudes towar Indians might begin with the clinical awareness of ethnic diversity and prejudicial attitudes that were significantly heightened by Adorno (1950) and Allport (1954). Certainly health concerns were highlighted when the Indian Health Service was legislated into existence at about the same time (1955). Remedial programs to address mental health problems, however, would not come into being within IHS for another 15 years.