Indigenous Mind

Water

(Excerpt from my master’s thesis titled “Remembering Our Future: The Search For The Salmon ! of Wisdom”, Naropa University – May 2006)

! WATER
!Water. Myfavoriteplacetobe. “She’sinhernaturalhabitat”,mymomwouldsayaboutme

!The Stanislaus River is the first river I fell in love with. When I was a kid, my family would go rafting down the Stanislaus River on overnight rafting/camping trips, along with my mom’s brother Tom and his family, the McCarthy clan. Those were some of our two families most memorable times, with many enchanting stories shared.

!Atafamilyreunionrecently,myUncleTominsistedweshareouroldstories. “Rememberour rafting trips down the Stanislaus River before they dammed it? Remember the cliffs we dove off of into the warm water pools at Rose Creek? Remember how young Mikey was the first to jump off the cliff? Remember Widow Maker rapids? Remember when Mark Dubois chained himself to the rock to protest the building of the New Melones dam? Those were such amazing times!

!Everyone then began recalling and retelling their stories which at one point in time had been part of our family connectivity, our own river that united our families. But, like a lot of American families, we had built many dams in our own family river system, and the stories stopped flowing. That day at our family reunion, we removed some of the dams, and stories flowed freely. Together we had painted a picture of the river, our river, and our hearts were opening, family restoration was taking place. When we had finished talking story about the Stanislaus, I said “This is the work that I want to do. I want to remember the spirit of the river.”

!Today the Stanislaus River is blocked thirteen times by dams on its way from the Sonora Pass in the Sierras to the San Francisco Bay. After a ten-year battle, the last long whitewater stretch was dammed with the New Melones Dam, which was built to supply the agricultural interests in the San Joaquin Valley by the Army Corps of Engineers, and then eventually taken over by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

!My experiences and memories of the Stanislaus River, and my own personal grief as well as my family’s grief when they dammed the river, has had a profound effect on my wanting to become an environmentalist. It was the actual experience with the river that made a difference. The connectivity dug deep into the core of my soul.

!

War Dance

Teresa Rae MacColl

(Excerpt from my master’s thesis titled “Remembering Our Future: The Search For The Salmon of Wisdom”, Naropa University – May 2006)

WAR DANCE

 

“What gives the white people the right to come here and kill my people, take our homes away and treat us so badly? Our blood is the same as other human beings. We are people, too. Just because the color of my skin is brown that doesn’t give them more rights than the Creator put down for all people. I’m trying to make the white man see that the sacred spring on Mt Shasta, the herbal medicines, and the spiritual doctoring we use to heal our people are all connected. It is not something that can be separated out. Don’t they know that the Wintu have had religion to stay well all these years before they came to our land? Our children will need our religious ways, our language and sacred places to call themselves Wintu Indians in the future.”     

  • Florence Jones (Pui-lu-le-met),
  • Winnemem’s spiritual and tribal leader61

 

 

When the Shasta Dam was built in 1945, the Shasta Reservoir drowned more than 90% of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s ancestral land. The Winnemem (McCloud River) come from Mount Shasta. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is today proposing to raise the dam again by 19 feet, which would flood many of the remaining Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s sacred sites. On September 8th, 2004, the Tribe performed a War Dance, “Hu’p Chonas”, at Shasta Dam to declare the Tribe’s opposition to the Shasta Dam raise. It was the first war dance performed in over 100 years.62

 

 

We sing to water. The sacred places must be protected. We cannot survive the flooding of our people a second time.

–        Caleen Sisk-Franco

Spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu

 

A mural was created in San Francisco to honor the struggle of the Winnemem Wintu tribe against the raising of Shasta Dam. The unveiling of the mural was in November of 2005. The wall mural depicts Winnemem members at the four-day “War Dance” ceremony that was held at          Shasta Dam in September 2004. The mural is titled “We sing to Water”. Members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe danced in full regalia at the event and talked about their opposition to expanding Lake Shasta. The ceremony was a dedication for the mural and a memorial to Florence Jones, the Winnemem’s spiritual and tribal leader, who died just more than two years ago, Nov. 22, 2003. Her successor is her great-niece, spiritual and tribal leader Caleen Sisk-Franco.

 

We sing to water. We have to give the river a voice. We have to give the fish a voice.”

–        Caleen Sisk-Franco

 

I was blessed with the great fortune of being present for this ceremony, which took place in a narrow alley in the Mission in San Francisco. I almost did not make it because I was hurrying and scurrying to finish the last pieces of my thesis. After attending the dance, I saw that this was what I needed to experience, this was part of the completion of my thesis writing.

Tears came to my eyes immediately, even before the dancers danced, and before the singers sang. I knew that my experience was different than it would have been had I not spent the last two years working with Apela and all the Elders in ritual and ceremony. I was there at Shasta Dam, at Shasta Lake, and in the water with the salmon and the sturgeon. I could “feel” the water, as they sang for water. I was swimming with the salmon, when they sang for the salmon. And I too was a warrior when they danced their War Dance, one who has been called to fight for the waters of the world. My story, in its completion, is now just beginning.

Dreaming with the Ancestors

Dreaming with the Ancestors

by Teresa MacColl, MA

International Association for the Study of Dreams

Psiber-Dreaming Conference

September 5, 2008

Dreaming with the Ancestors

by Teresa MacColl, MA

In Irish myth, the Salmon is the oldest and wisest of all the animals, and it was said that any person who ate the Salmon of Wisdom would gain the gift of prophecy… they would be able to see their future. By seeking and working with the Salmon of Wisdom, we can gain an understanding that is rooted deep in the collective awareness of all humanity. By remembering the dreams and stories of our ancestors, we can remember our ancestor’s future, and reclaim a more balanced, holistic, and ecologically sustainable world.

My name is Teresa Rae MacColl, and my tribes are Celtic from Ireland and Scotland, Teutonic, and Anglo-Saxon. I am a graduate of Dr. Apela Colorado’s Indigenous Mind (IM) Master’s Program at Naropa University, where I chose to research my Celtic Indigenous roots or rather my roots chose me that’s how the ancestors work.

When I first met Apela, she called me “Fish Girl” , and she said to me “I’ve waited years for a Fish Person to come along!” I had been working with white sturgeon in the fisheries department at UC Davis at the time, designing fish ladders for the sturgeon. Apela is from Wisconsin and her tribe, the Oneida, have a deep reverential connection to the sturgeon. So Apela too is a “Fish Person”.

After working in the sciences most of my adult life, where one is trained to not talk about or have feelings or emotions connected to the animals they work with, I had finally found a teacher and mentor who I knew loved and cared about fish and ecology in a very deep spiritual, ancestral, and traditional way, and I knew I was on the right path. So began my training as an indigenous scientist.

Indigenous science is a holistic discipline that considers nature to be alive and intelligent. Unlike western science, the data collected from indigenous science are not used to control the forces of nature. Instead, the data shows ways and means of accommodating nature.

Students conduct research using the critical distinctions that indigenous scientists rely upon (please see list below). This research offers a unique opportunity for students to encounter their ancestors and their whole self with the support of mind, body and spirit.

The indigenous scientist is an integral part of the research process and there is a defined process for insuring this integrity.

All of nature is considered to be intelligent and alive, thus and active research partner.

The purpose of indigenous science is to maintain balance

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.

Indigenous science is concerned with relationships, we try to understand and complete our relationships with all living things.

Indigenous science is holistic, drawing on all the senses including the spiritual and psychic.

The end point of an indigenous scientific process is a known and 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.

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.

Humor is a critical ingredient of all truth seeking, even in the most powerful rituals. This is true because humor balances gravity.1

Indigenous Mind is a masters program where students study and research their own indigenous tribal ancestors earth-based spiritual traditions within a Western Academic framework.

1Colorado

Students individually and collectively go through a deep decolonization and ancestral remembrance process. This is especially important for those of us who are of European ancestry, who are more removed and disconnected from our indigenous roots, or even having awareness that we have indigenous ancestors. Students spend time with traditional native elders and learn what it means to remember who they are in an indigenous tradition, and make an ancestral journey to the land of their ancestors. The quest is to access earth-based spirituality, remember the traditional ways of ones own genealogical ancestors without appropriating from other cultures, healing both wounded masculine and feminine, maintaining balance, and promoting inter-tribal healing and understanding.

In 1855 Chief Seattle warned the white settlers of America that “when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men”, it would signal “the end of living and the beginning of survival.” Those American settlers had forgotten their own native tradition in favor of a religion that taught man he must “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish in the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen.I.26). This view of the natural environment denied there is any spirit in nature.

Most people of European ancestry believe their culture is rooted in Christianity, and are unaware of the tens of thousands of years of pre-Christian heritage and spirituality preceding the last two millennia of Christian experience. Christianity is relatively recent, and before it was the pre-dominant religion in Western Europe, most people practiced a spirituality that wasn’t expressed in sacred texts, but which arose out of the experience of being sensitive to the land and sky — to the changing seasons, to the power of the hills and rivers, to the mystery of the stars, and the movements of the sun and moon.2

To the ancient Celts, the realms of the Otherworld were in full view all the time, which included the ancestors, the deities, and the sidhe or faeries. In the Scottish Highlands, you find the “two sights” or an da shealladh in Gaelic, also known as the “second sight”, which denotes the capacity to see both the normal waking world (ordinary reality) and the world of spirit and energy that is intertwined and connected to this one. We find the two sights among certain individuals, who are the dream-seers and the vision-seers.3

When St. Patrick came to Ireland in AD 432, he spent nearly 30 years traveling throughout the countryside bringing Christianity to the local people and establishing churches and monastic foundations upon many Druidic sacred sites. He was not the first one to bring Christianity to Ireland, but he was the one to abolish the pagan rites of the Druids at Tara. Supposedly, first he got rid of the snakes, and then he got rid of the dragons. There were no snakes in Ireland. The Celts used the serpent imagery as a symbol of the universal life energy, a positive symbol of the goddess. So this legend of St. Patrick ridding the land of snakes and dragons was about the conversion of the pagan priests and the killing of the goddess, the feminine. St. Patrick also banned different forms of divination as “giving offerings to the demons”, which included the dream-seers and the vision seers.4

2 Carr-Gomm, 4-11.

3 MacEowen, 253

4 Concannon, 150-151.

“Your dreams are your doorways” —

Auntie Poepoe, Hawaiian elder

Much of our post-modern world does not have elders or intact cultures to link the modern and dissociative way of studying our dreams, with the ancient integrated ways of our ancestors. So in the IM program, we are attempting to reclaim what our indigenous ancestors did, and that is to use our dreams as guides, and to connect with our ancestors, and dream tribally.

Students learn how to understand and interpret dream messages from the ancestors and the spiritual world, and are taught by elders how dreams work on multiple levels to impart messages and understandings for today, and simultaneously reconstitute tribal ways. Tools for understanding dreams as guides in the waking world, particularly in their propensity for cross-cultural understanding and healing, are also provided. Dreams are one way the ancestors “speak” to us.

Our ancestors used to dream together as a tribal group, and they would share their collective dreams with the community. As we re-create a tribal dream community, we are able to gather up and perceive patterns and large writ ancestral communications that may come only to a group, and may be too much for a single person, or perhaps the dream is unifying people towards something that involves a group. We can perceive a collective Gestalt.5 In our IM tribal dream community, we collect and record our dreams together in a “dream database”, where we can look at our dreams collectively and track different patterns and themes in relation to the phases and signs of the moon. Working with dreams using indigenous protocol has enabled us to bring back the sacred art of tribal dreaming

5. A structure, configuration, or a pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gestalt).

“It’s time to make your dreams come true.”

-Mr. Hale Makua, Hawaiian elder

IM Dream Data:

Those of us that are the “Dreamers” started dreaming with and for each other or what I like to call “dream weaving”, and the collective dreams give a more informed story of what the dream messages were communicating to us. Ancestral information would come through the dreams of others as well our own individual dreams. Working with the community, one let’s go of their attachment to the dreams, because sometimes we are being “dreamed through”. The other message that comes through is that Mother Earth needs healing, and through our collective dream research we find that our ancestors used this dream information such as this to help maintain balance and harmony.

Below are some examples of storytelling through the dreams, and “dream weaving” with other students, connected to the ancestors and the land of the ancestors. The first dream I had is an example of one of many dreams I had that was connected to someone else, their ancestors, and the land of their ancestors. I was being “dreamed through”, and “seeing” ancestral information for someone else (this is how my Celtic ancestors dreamed, they had dreams of prophecy or the “second sight”) but also there was a message and work for me in the dream. What we are also finding is that we are becoming a global tribal dram community, and that ultimately the dreams and the “work” transcends space and time. For me personally, I know the dreams I have are connected to healing Mother Earth, which is not separate from healing and finding balance in the masculine and feminine within ourselves.

Journey into my Polish Indigenous Mind

Journey into my Polish Indigenous Mind

by

Atava Garcia Sweicicki

Thesis

Submitted in Partial Satisfaction of the Requirements

for the Degree of

Master of Liberal Arts in Creation Spirituality

in the

Graduate Division

of

Naropa University

December 2003

Approved: Dr. Apela Colorado

Project Advisor (Signature)

Approved Marlene De Nardo

Reader (Signature)

In memory of Barbara Kay Dean

September 29, 1942 – October 25, 2003

Dedicated to my family, to Polish ally Nancy Connor, and to the traditional farmers of Poland who fed us and loved us.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Writing in Alignment with My Ancestors 1

Chapter I: Origins and Maps 4

Opening Prayer 5

Discovering Creation Spirituality and Indigenous Mind 8

Indigenous Science 10

Remembrance 12

A Map for Polish Slavic Remembrance: The Story of Baba Yaga 13

Feeding the Doll 18

Listening to the Doll: Intuition and Navigation 19

Cleaning the House: Feng Shui as an Initiatory Rite 20

The Doll Works Magic at Night: Dreamwork and the IM Recovery Process 21

Seeking the Sacred Fire: The Forgotten Medicine of the White Hoop 22

Following Jezi Baba’s Trail: Heeding the Call of my Polish Ancestors 24

Chapter II: Stories from the Polish Land 29

The Dragon and the Lizard 30

Discovering the Polish Dragon 31

The Divine Feminine in Poland: Matka Ziemia, Matka Boze, and Mary Magdalene 35

Matka Ziemia: Moist Mother Earth 35

Marian Pilgrimage 38

Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel 40

The Teachings of the Forest 44

Recovering What Has Been Lost: Finding My Polish Family 49

Chapter III: Synthesis, Antithesis, and Thesis 53

Weaving 54

Lessons in Antithesis 56

The Historical Shadow 57

The Story Repeats Itself 60

Reenactment 63

Dreamtime: Excavating for What Has Been Lost 65

In the Arms of Jezi Baba: In Honor of My Polish Sister Barbara Dean 69

Notes from the Road: The Un-Conclusion 74

Bibliography 80

Introduction: Writing in alignment with my ancestors

“Knowledge in the traditional world is not a dead collection of facts. It is alive, has spirit, and dwells in specific places. Traditional knowledge comes about through watching and listening, not in the passive way that schools demand, but through direct experience of songs and ceremonies, through the activities of hunting and daily life, from trees and animals, and in dreams and visions. Coming-to-knowing means entering into relationship with the spirits of knowledge, with plants and animals, with beings that animated dreams and visions, and with the spirit of the people.” 1

This thesis is my own personal account of coming-to-knowing in a traditional way. I am telling the story about how I, a woman of Polish descent, came into relationship with the indigenous wisdom of my Polish ancestors. The path I walked in this process was the Master’s of Liberal Arts in Creation Spirituality with a concentration in Indigenous Mind. Creation Spirituality honors the original blessing, or sacred nature, of all of creation. Creation Spirituality weaves together the wisdom of western spirituality, indigenous wisdom and post-modern science.

The Indigenous Mind Concentration is a natural extension of the philosophy of Creation Spirituality. In the Indigenous Mind concentration, each student reconnects with their own ancestral culture or cultures. Guided by world-class indigenous elders, the students in Indigenous Mind gain an understanding of indigenous knowledge that is firmly rooted within their own cultural background.

Like many traditional people worldwide, my Polish ancestors have a rich tradition of stories, legends and folk tales. Many of these stories are encoded with cultural, historical and spiritual information. Rooted in this storytelling tradition, my thesis has emerged as a story that weaves together personal narrative, history, folk traditions, mythology, dreams, and indigenous wisdom. Two short videos from my ancestral journey to Poland accompany my written thesis: “Thank You Mother Poland” is a video collage of scenes from the Polish countryside, set to the music of Polish composer Frederick Chopin. “Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel” documents my and Barbara Dean’s adventure in which we discovered Saint Mary Magdalene’s abandoned and looted chapel at Kalwaria, Poland.

1.F. David Peat, Lighting the Seventh Fire, The Spiritual Ways, Healing, and Science of the Native American (New York, NY: Birch Lane Press, 1994), 64

Telling one’s personal story has power/relevance in the realm of traditional knowledge, the power of specificity. Kim Johnson, whose doctoral research explored the path of a European American woman recovering her traditional mind, writes:

“Elders and teachers from living traditional cultures have taught me that recovery of the good mind, the mind that is healthy and whole, begins in the specificity of each person’s story,. Generalities only point in the direction of healing, while specificity is the place where healing occurs. I can speak in truth from my own experience.”2

As the stories from my thesis developed, I discovered they naturally grouped themselves into three chapters. The first chapter, “Origins and Maps” gives background information and introduces indigenous science and the ancestral remembrance process. In this chapter, I explore a map of the Polish Slavic remembrance process: the fairy tale story of the fearsome witch Baba Yaga. I explain how BabaYaga’s trail led me to follow the path of my Slavic ancestors and make an ancestral journey to Poland.

The second chapter, “Stories from the Polish Land,” the heart of my thesis, arose from my ancestral journey to Poland. These stories reflect my direct experience with Polish people, Polish land and Polish spirits. I tell the story of my encounter with Smok, the Polish dragon in Krakow. In the section titled “The Divine Feminine in Poland,” I relate my encounters with three of the faces of the Divine feminine in Poland: Matka Ziemia (Moist Mother Earth), Matka Boze (Mother of God), and Saint Mary Magdalene.

2 Kimmy Karen Johnson, “On the Path of the Ancestors: Kinship with Place as a Path or Recovery,” (Doctoral dissertation, The California Institute of Integral Studies, 2001) 31.

The video “Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel” corresponds to the story I tell here about our pilgrimage to Magdalene’s chapel. In “Teaching of the Forest” I tell the story about an encounter with a Polish elder and forest crone. In the final section of Chapter II, I relate the experience of meeting my own flesh and blood relatives in Poland.

The third and final chapter of my thesis, “Synthesis, Antithesis and Thesis”, includes the stories and reflections about my process of integration and coming-to-knowing. In this chapter I delve into the lessons taught to me by the historical shadow o my Polish ancestors/ and discuss how this shadow continues to play out in my own life. “Reenactment” relates my encounter with my first Polish traditional ceremony. In “Dreamtime” I talk about the ways my dreams have supplied valuable information in the remembrance process. At the end of Chapter III, I give tribute to my dear Polish friend and companion, Barbara Dean, who joined the world of the ancestors on October 25, 2003.

Three is a sacred number to my Polish Slavic ancestors. The number three appears any times in Slavic fairy tales, mythology, folklore, and rituals. By structuring my thesis into three interconnected parts, I am symbolically aligning myself with the wisdom of my ancestors. As I do this, I am weaving together these three parts into one complete story. As Lakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr writes:

“Since, in the Indian system, all data must be considered, the task is to find the proper pattern of interpretation for the great variety of ordinary and extraordinary experiences we have. Ordinary and extraordinary must come together in one coherent comprehensive storyline.”3

3Vine Deloria, Jr, “If You Think About It, You Will See That It Is True,” Revision, A Journal of Consciousness and Transformation: Indigenous Science (Washington D.C.: Heldref Publications, 1996), 39.

Successful Teaching of Ancestral Tribal Knowledge

Apela Colorado PhD, Elder

272-2 Pualai St.

Lahaina, Maui, HI.

96761

17 Feb. ’00

Greetings return to you, Apela, and to the Elders (grandmothers) present, and especially to the loyal members of the TKN, in the love and in the light of the ancestors, The Source of Life.

Aloha Kakou!

I am in awe from yesterdays moving performance of sharing, by your humble, reverent, and loyal students of life; good work Apela! I was especially moved by Martina’s ancestral song of honor and all of the beautiful giveaways and story telling

. Thank you Apela for another beautiful day in paradise. I am greatly honored.

Each of those students in this group is striving to use, digest, and diversify the information into the channels of their mind, body, spirit, complex without distortion. The few whom they will illuminate by sharing their light, are far more than enough reason for the greatest possible effort. To serve one is to serve all.

Therefore to teach/learn or learn/teach, there is nothing else which is of aid in demonstrating the original thought (love) except their very being, and the distortions that come from the un-explained, inarticulate, or mystery-clad being are many.

Thus, to attempt to discern and weave their way through as many group mind/body/spirit distortions as possible among their peoples in the course of their teaching is a very good effort to make. I can speak no more valiantly of their desire to serve.

Again, Mahalo nui loa to the Elders (grandmothers) present, to all the students resonating and radiating to the light of the ancestors, and to those who came to observe the clarity of your teachings of the ancestral Tribal Knowledge.

With the permission of the ancestors, I leave all of you in the love and in the light of the ancestors; rejoicing in the power and the peace braided with the cords of patience revealing the tapestry of:

LOVE ALL THAT YOU SEE,

LIVE ALL THAT YOU FEEL,

KNOW ALL THAT YOU POSSESS.

Respectfully, in Service

Hale Makua

Hono Ele Makua

(Council of Elders)

Shamanic Inquiry as Recovery of Indigenous Mind

 

 

 

SHAMANIC INQUIRY

 

AS

 

RECOVERY OF INDIGENOUS MIND

 

 

 

Toward an egalitarian

exchange of knowledge

 

Published in:

Schenk & Ch. Rätsch (Eds.), 1999, What is a shaman?,

Journal for Ethnomedicine, special volume 13, 125 – 140.

Berlin: VWB – Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung

[Page numbers inserted below as P125 etc.]

 

 

Jürgen W. Kremer

3383 Princeton Drive

Santa Rosa, CA 95405

jkremer@sonic.net

 

 

[P125] Abstract

 

 

 

 [P126] Dreaming

A few years ago I had a dream which pertains to the issues at hand:

The location of the dream is Hamburg, the town where I grew up in Northern Germany. Sitting on the threshold in the doorway of a pre-war brick house beside my partner I overlook the river Elbe from on high. We are atop the ancient ice age rim of the river, the border of its once miles wide flow, thousands of years ago when reindeer roamed these latitudes. The reindeer now live much farther north, and the river moves in a much more narrow bed; yet it still spreads to considerable widths three hundred or so feet below us, where ferries criss-cross its course and ocean liners enter and leave the harbor. We are not just sitting atop an ancient river bed, but also very close to the old building where I went for Kindergarten shortly after the Second World War. At that time it was a place with a comforting huge tile stove and a garden with plants and trees inviting the imagination of children at play. I realize that there are achaeological excavations in process behind the old Kindergarten. Signs are put up all around it: No trespassing! Stay out! Not to be deterred, I leave my body at the moment of seeing these signs and enter the forbidden grounds. I hover over the ancient ruins which are uncovered thanks to the work of the archaeological team. A round, towerlike structure emerging from the depths of the ground is clearly visible. It appears to extend a good ways into the earth. I understand that this is an ancestral ceremonial structure, as are other similar ones right next to it. The name of the place where this dig into ancient cultural history occurs is Altona[P127] meaning “all-too-near.” Legend has it that an orphan was blindfolded when the burghers of Hamburg wanted to expand their overpopulated city. The idea was to place the new town where the orphan would stumble and fall. But what happened was unexpected. The boy had barely left the city gates, when he stumbled and fell. The attendant burghers exclaimed in surprise that this was all too near, in the local vernacular:  “All to nah!”  – thence the name for this part of the city – Altona. The place where I gain access to the layers below the contemporary city and old ancestral cultural memories is all too close in this dream, right there with my childhood, and fenced in by signs forbidding entry.

 

I wake up bringing with me not only the memory of the dream images, but its self-interpretation at the end. This dream contained an answer to the curiosity and spiritual hunger which I had tried to satisfy since adolescence through the study of native peoples and shamanism in particular.

 

This dream and the image of the abstract at the beginning define my approach to shamanic inquiry. They also point to the cultural struggle of “the west.” The key to shamanic inquiry in the eurocentered context is the remembrance in itself of what it seeks in other peoples – recovering indigenous mind. Cultural history and the prevailing definitions of scientific inquiry make such a project difficult, to say the least. Native American intellectual John Mohawk has put it thus: “I do not want people to adopt Indian rituals because I want people to own their own rituals. I want them to come to ownership out of experiences that are real to them. Then I’ll come and celebrate it with them.”

 

Let me circumlocute this dream by responding to the editors’ request to present my personal interpretation of shamanism. The following statements are purposefully succinct and provocative; they are presented in no particular order or hierarchy. A theorem is the result of something seen (Greek qewrew), whether as mental speculation or at a spectacle or performance. I offer what I have speculated and seen of proceedings shamanic as “conversation pieces” arranged around the dream and the image initially given. This is what I have learned from my work with Native Elders, shamans, medicine people, and noaidis. As such they are my personal contribution to an ancient immanent conversation. This particular conversation disallows artificial splits between the concrete and abstract, between the personal-biographical and the impersonal-general, between transcendent and immanent, etc. It is integral in the profoundest sense of the word. I have presented arguments for my approach elsewhere, references to these publications are inserted behind technical terms or statements warranting explication. Here I am describing my perspective in a personal way. I am doing this with awareness of my maleness, and my mixed Germanic ancestry. I am also quite conscious of my current location in the U.S., and the impact Native American intellectuals and spiritual leaders have had on me. I write for Europeans and people of European descent; others engaged in a eurocentered consciousness process need to see what useful things they may or may not glean from this. I paint black and white, what truly isn’t black and white at all – but all this may be a good starting point for a conversation.

 

 

[P128]

Conversation Piece #1

Shamanism is a construct which mirrors eurocentric thinking.

The Ism of shamanism is the part “made up” or constructed by the early ethnographers and anthropologists serving the abstracting and universalizing pursuit of truth as defined in the western sciences. This definition of science is inherently imperialistic, as it relinquishes its participation in the phenomena in order to grasp and control what is left to be seen after the act of dissociation (1992b). Thus, as shamanism attempts to grasp the desired knowledge it may reflect more of itself in the mirror, than of the native peoples it is interacting with. In this sense the Ism of shamanism is all made up by eurocentric thinking. At this historical juncture I feel an obligation for specific cultural healing to the Tungus ªaman whose exposure to Russian visitors in the 17th century presumably led to the terminology of shamanism (see Voigt, 1984, for a discussions of the etymology and history of the word shaman); had ethnographers written in a similar vein about the yomtas of the Pomo-Miwok people, or the noaidis of the Sámi people, or the volvas of the Norse people, or the hataalis of the Diné people, we now might have the Ism of Yomtism, Noaidism, Volvism, or Hataalism. My interest is in the specificity of the immanent conversation, not just in order to pay hommage to cultural diversity, but to continue and affirm the specific indigenous knowledge (whether ecological, medical, astronomical, or otherwise) which can help us in our times of crisis. The most important questions to ask for any inquirer into matters shamanic is: What is the construction, what is the conversation I am participating in, if I am to inquire into what I am interested in? The Ism is the part where the labors of eurocentric social constructions are most visible, and where the loss of specific understanding of people, places, times, stories, and ceremonies needs to be recovered; the ªaman (or noaidi or yomta) is where the power of individual, cultural, and ecological healing rests through the specificity of the conversation.

 

Conversation Piece #2

Reflection upon and awareness of one’s own cultural viewpoint is a mandatory prerequisite for participation in the conversation.

I view shamanism as a particular aspect of an ancient, immanent conversation which indigenous people all over are continuing to this day (1996b, g, 1997e). This conversation is summarized in the graphic of the abstract. It is defined by its conscious participation in the phenomena (rather than a distancing view of the phenomena; 1992b). People of European descent or people who have entered the eurocentered process of consciousness have split themselves off from this ongoing interaction with place, ancestry, animals, plants, spirit(s), community, story, ceremony, cycles of life, and cycles of the seasons and ages. This dissociation has created a conceptualization of social evolution, in which a major shift has occurred from prehistory to history, from oral traditions to writing civilizations, from the immanent presence of spirit(s) to the transcendence of god(s). In my [P129] analysis, we engage in acts of imperialism – however subtle they may be – as long as we don’t understand our own shamanic and indigenous roots. I find it only legitimate to write about shamanism if what I write is true to my own shamanic tradition (even when and especially when writing about others). We can only be proper participants in shamanic exchange and dialogue if we know who we are as indigenous people. Otherwise we should take our hands off of other cultures. (1996a, 1994a, e).

 

Conversation Piece #3

The inquirer as partner in dialogue.

So, why do inquiry – even shamanic inquiry as recovery of indigenous mind? I can only think of one good reason: To resume an ancient conversation, which has balance as a goal (rather than control and progress), in order to be able to redress the ill effects wrought by an obsession with technological progress, an increase in population, etc. For me to become a partner in dialogue I need to recover my own indigenous roots, not to recreate a past long gone, but to move into the future in a complete, holistic conversation. If this is the context for dialogical inquiry, then there is no privileged access to knowledge nor a privileged preservation of knowledge; “Truth” has become truths or “temporary resolutions” to the issues at hand. As part of such conversation and dialogue it may become apparent that there are certain things to be said, and certain things which we need to be silent about (in our own tradition or in traditions we are exchanging with). (1997e, 1996a, f, 1994d)

 

Conversation Piece #4

If I don’t know who I am as an indigenous person, I should not write about other indigenous people.

Fundamentally, in my book there is no legitimate inquiry about shamanism unless I know who I am as an indigenous person. Of course, as a consequence of knowing that (or parts of that)  the need for inquiry and the nature of inquiry change entirely. If I know who I am as an indigenous or cultural person (however fragmented that understanding may be), then I may be able to relate to other native peoples (peoples still practicing shamanism) as an equal partner in dialogue, rather than arrive as an outsider intent on finding “Truth” (the implicit assumption of the eurocentered paradigm is that this “Truth” then ultimately should also become the tribe’s “Truth” as evolution continues, and the tribe investigated advances on the evolutionary ladder, thus presumably incorporating the “Truth” of self-defined more advanced civilizations). Of course, my guiding interests in shamanic inquiry are bound to change as I understand and remember myself as a person with indigenous roots. As long as we think writing about shamanism is about “them,” we remain unconscious of shamanism in us. (1996a, 1994h)

[P130]

 

Conversation Piece #5

Shamanism is just one aspect of the immanent conversation of native peoples.

For me it is important to keep in mind that what is commonly understood as shamanism is just one aspect of a complex set of cultural practices. (It should be noted that the terms “shaman” and “shamanism” are problematic for many indigenous peoples, Native Americans in particular.) To split the indigenous conversation in such a way that healing endeavors become highlighted serves eurocentered research approaches and their knowledge construction, but distorts what is known by virtue of decontextualization. What appears as unusual, inexplicable or even bizarre through this lense may have entirely different connotations if seen as part of the holistic indigenous conversation. Thus we exaggerate the unusualness of phenomena, ultimately only trivializing it because it is denuded of what it is a natural part of. It splits individual healing from communal or cultural healing, it neglects that individual illness is situated in the context of a process of cultural balancing – history, place, story, ceremony, etc. For me this means that my shamanic inquiry requires that I participate in the entire conversation, and understand healing from that perspectve. “To heal” is etymologically connected with the German heilen, and the indo-european root *kailo-, referring to a state and process of wholeness (“whole” also being related to this root). But “to heal” is also connectect to “holy” (as is heilen to heilig), which gives an ancient root to the reemergent wholistic and transpersonal perspectives on healing. Lincoln (1986, 118) concludes his analysis of “healing” in the indo-european context by stating “that 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.” For what is stated here regarding the older layers of indo-european thinking we can find analogies in contemporary indigenous traditions, such as the Navajo chantways. (1997h, 1996a, b, g).

 

Conversation Piece #6

Recovery of indigenous mind is the appropriate contemporary definition of shamanism for people of eurocentered consciousness.

Shamanism is commonly defined as the practice of some form of “technology” (including intentional alterations of consciousness) for the benefit of individuals or a community, conducted by practitioners who have been endorsed by this community. It is my contention that the appropriate contemporary practice of shamanism for people ensconced in the eurocentered paradigm is the recovery of their indigenous roots (and this way their own “shamanic” traditions, “shamanic” being a word probably more appropriate for people of Eurasian descent than anybody else). This is the starting point from which all manners of shamanic healing may arise. This then is a healing process on behalf of the individual, family history, history, community; in short, it is the healing of the [P131] dissociative split and the recovery of participation in the phenomena. Physical and psychological healing are a particular aspects of this. Shamanic inquiry becomes recovery of indigenous mind, which becomes the resumption of the ancient, immanent conversation. Ecologist Wolfgang Sachs talks about the necessity to develop the social imagination for sustainability; it is my contention that we can develop such imagination through the restitution of the indigenous consciousness process, where we can inquire about and understand the needs of all participants in a particular place and time. Balance may thus be regained. To presume that any such project of recovery work can arrive within one lifetime at the level of immanent conversation still practiced by contemporary native peoples (even in the face of colonization) would by hubris – recovering the indigenous consciousness process after a prolonged history of dissociation is a multigenerational project.

 

Conversation Piece #7

We need to travel in a way which does not touch “the other” with the virus of progress.

How then are we to travel to other places and do inquiry about shamanic traditions? Maybe we are not to travel there. The minute we cease and desist the “othering” of shamanic cultures we have to question deeply why we are traveling and where we are going. If we aspire to be partners in dialogue, then any conversation requires mutual consent. Additionally, it requires the consent of all participants in the conversation. This means, for example, that I cannot travel without my ancestors. It also means that I need a welcome from the ancestors of where I want to go. Thus it takes an invitation from the partners in dialogue, but it also takes permission from ones own indigenous culture. Dreams are important here. Offerings and conversation with spirit(s) are mandatory. And more. I know that as long as I don’t travel within the framework of this immanent conversation I am bound to infect wherever I go with the virus of dissociation and progress. I can only travel once the other has ceased to be other for me. (See McGrane, 1989 for relevant discussions; Kremer, 1994a).

 

 

Conversation Piece #8

The hunger for shamanism is the denial of the indigenous roots from which eurocentered thinking originated.

The current interest in shamanism reflects more than just a “legitimate research field” (in the scientific view), which is finally receiving some acknowledgement (of course, the legitimacy of this interest is tautologically defined and justified by the scientific paradigm itself). With it comes a cultural hunger created by the loss of indigenous conversations in eurocentered societies. The fascination with exotic other cultures, the nostalgic yearning [P132] for something ideal in the past, or the romantic images of Native Americans riding the plains or retreating into kivas on remote mesas – all this originates from cultural starvation. Of course, there is an incredible amount we can learn from indigenous peoples in general, and shamanism specifically, which may benefit our modernist pathologies, provided this learning occurs in an appropriate context. And, of course, indigenous peoples have never lived in a perfect world, the ideal of balance is always and at best a fleeting achievement. Traditional Hopi stories describing situations where things are out of balance (koyaanisqatsi) are very educational in this regard; see the Hopi Ruin Legends (Lomatuway’ma et al., 1993). Our idealizations are the flip side of evolutionary thinking, and an expression of its shadow. The projection of our hunger onto other cultural traditions is not going to satisfy the emptiness in ourselves. In a sense it is junk food. Being nurtured by our own indigenous traditions and nurturing them in return is what will satisfy and stop idealizations, romanticism, and nostalgia. The research of other cultures and the incorporation of their practices without consent is only legitimate, as long as we act within a dissociative paradigm. Once we regain our own immanent conversation, inquiry and exchange of ceremonial practices need to await guidance from the conversation of all parties involved – ancestors, communities, plants, animals, stars, and all. Or, in the words of Jung: “Shall we be able to put on, like a new suit of clothes, ready-made symbols grown on foreign soil, saturated with foreign blood, spoken in a foreign tongue, nourished by a foreign culture, interwoven with foreign history, and so resemble a beggar who wraps himself in kingly raiment, a king who disguises himself as beggar? No doubt this is possible. Or is there something in ourselves that commands us to go in for no mummeries, but perhaps to sew our garment ourselves?” (1970, 49)

 

 

Converation Piece #9

The cross-cultural differences between indigenous and eurocentered peoples is qualitative, rather than quantitative.

Another way of saying this is: Cross-cultural differences between eurocentered peoples are of the same order, and cross-cultural differences between indigenous peoples are of the same order, but the differences between these two groups are of a different order or quality. I have defined the evolutionary trajectory of the so-called civilizing process as dissociative schismogenesis (1992b, c). This is a run-away pathological process, where the split from one’s origin increases in an addictive dynamic governed by progress ideologies, and where the loss of awareness of one’s root has tremendous power. Phenomena are seen as entirely external, and one’s participation in the phenomena is unconscious. – On the other hand, the immanent conversation of native peoples is aware of its active participation in the creation of the phenomena. The (explicit or implicit) goal of the conversation is not some transcendent state or some evolutionary goal set in the future; the goal is balance within each individual, between individuals, and among all participants of the conversation, balance within the cycles of the different world ages, balance as hunters, [P133] horticulturalists, gatherers or pastoralists, balance as sedentary people or nomads. – This qualitative difference between these two groups of cultures leads to tremendous interactive problems, which remain largely veiled for eurocentric folk. They are the proverbial apples and oranges. The dissociative inquirer can only approach the participative conversation qua dissociative means – resulting in an imperialistic acquisition of knowledge. The participative conversation, because of its values, usually welcomes dissociative inquirers, even when their pathology is apparent (the traditional worldview usually makes such open door policy practically mandatory, and frequently disregards the significant qualitative difference in paradigm, a difference which is also politically highly relevant). The truth generated by this approach (whether in one of the sciences or as new age spiritual practice) is, in final analysis, a validation for the conversation of the dominant paradigm. The indigenous conversation has no need for research other than the ceremonial and spiritual inquiry into what is needed for balancing in a particular place at a specific time in history. To my mind that is more research than most of us can handle. Exchanges with other indigenous cultures are guided by the contents of this conversation. – Wislawa Szymborska’s poem Conversation with a stone describes the distinction I am talking about aptly: ” “You shall not enter,” says the stone. // “You lack the sense of taking part. // No other sense can make up for your missing sense of taking part. // Even sight heightened to become all-seeing // will do you no good without a sense of taking part. // You shall not enter, you have only a sense of what that sense should be, // only its seed, imagination.” ” – These differences in paradigm can easily be illustrated in the area of physical healing, say with herbs: Within the eurocentered 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 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.

 

Conversation Piece #10

Dialog partners have the historic task of healing the history of projective identification in relation to indigenous peoples.

In relation to indigenous peoples colonialism is always an essential ingredient in the context of exchange, dialogue or research. The euro-centered, well-bounded ego frequently cannot see this deep structure of such encounters, which is present whether talked about or left unspoken or unconscious. It is this ego, which is likely to project from its personality make-up whatever it has dissociated from into its own past or onto indigenous peoples. In fact, projective identification may be the most apt clinical term to point to the [P134] psycho-emotional process eurocentered cultures are engaged in with contemporary indigenous peoples (this term also acknowledges that history is carried and handed down specifically in the process of socialization within each individual). Projective identification means that other people are made to feel the highly conflicted and split off material dominant cultures unconsciously injected into them – so that they feel and experience it as if it is their own. Natives feel the eurocentered dissociation from prehistory, ancestry, nature, etc. as self-hatred (“primitives”) which is destructive to their cultures. Of course, self-hatred as an effect of internalized colonization warrants a much longer statement than I can offer here. Notably, in individual psychotherapy projective identification is known to be a pathological process oftentimes quite resistant to change because of its strongly self-reinforcing nature; this would seem to imply that we can assume strong resistance to the healing of the history of colonialism in the relationship between indigenous and eurocentered cultures. I would think that the retraction of these projections is the first order of business; for this we need a different metaphor than “regression in the service of the ego”, which is appropriate for individual psychotherapy. I suggest that the integration of history and prehistory qua connection with indigenous roots (recovering indigenous mind) is an appropriate terminology. The reintegration of cultural shadow material presupposes the possibility of an ego – the indigenous ego in communal conversation, if you wish – which would be differently constructed than our contemporary ego can easily imagine. The revival of shamanic practices can be an aspect of the resolution of historically determined shadow material – or it may perpetrate the denial further.

 

Conversation Piece #11

Psychologizing spirit(s) misses the mark.

For Europeans and Euroamericans the easiest way – other than by anthropological means – to approach native peoples and their shamanism is probably via psychology, particularly transpersonal pyschology. This seems to be the current moving force within eurocentered societies, where the influence of psychological thinking has increased steadily over the years. Joseph Campbell’s approach to mythology and Jung’s archetypal psychology offer attractive avenues in this regard. While these and others can be extremely helpful for people of euro-centered consciousness, they easily become problematic projections when applied to native peoples. Jung himself had actually quite a good understanding of this when he looked toward alchemy as an earlier tradition in his own background or when he stated: “A spiritual need has produced in our time the “discovery” of psychology.” While various forms of psychology may open the door to the remembrance of an indigenous mind process for people of European descent, even transpersonal psychology is hardly identical with it. It is important to be aware that an archetype is not a spirit. Psychologizing spirit is a way of preserving and affirming eurocentered thinking. Faris (1990, 12) has summarized this succinctly in his discussion of the Jungian interpretations of Navajo traditions: ” Such motions … are still popular and [P135] 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.” To my mind the prerequisite for writing about shamanism is that spirits are or have been present to the author. Otherwise it seems more appropriate to be silent about a universe only partly seen.

 

Conversation Piece #12

Remembering indigenous roots is medicine.

It seems so much easier to see the “medicine” in a plant, a feather or a stone people lodge (sweat) – and it is so much harder to see the medicine offered by the confrontation with history. The land I live on now is not my ancestral land – it is the ancestral land of the Ramaytush-speaking people of the San Francisco peninsula, the first people of this particular land with a name we still remember, the original keepers of this land. The beauty of the land I live on has suffered from the devastating consequences of technological progress. I live in a society where the destruction of its aboriginal cultures is scarcely acknowledged and is not mourned by the majority of people; living in this society I am in a certain way complicit in the ongoing perpetration of racism and cultural genocide. Yet, I also live in a city which seems to be among the most comfortably and richly multicultural places in the U.S., with less pollution than in many other metropolitan areas. My Germanic ancestry puts me in the gateway of the Shoah. I recall Hitler’s perversions of mythology in the service of genocide; I will never forget the image of the Germanic goddess Nerthus cattle-drawn past Hitler, which I saw in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. I recall the aberrations of the Vikings, their vicious slaughters and conquering – another guardian at the threshold. Passing these and more guardians, witnessing what they hold, is to heal old collective wounds as they have been passed down to me as an individual, passed down consciously and unconsciously. These guardians don’t stand at the threshold simply to propagate guilt. The guardians are medicine for the collective shadow of the Western world. They are the medicine of remembrance with all that it entails, be it fear, pain, guilt, anger. Ancestry and stories of origins and homeland have been abused for various ideological purposes, usually right-wing and fascistic. The story of our cultural self-understanding is open-ended, necessarily. The exposure to the medicine of the guardians is mandatory in order to counter chauvinistic or nationalistic abuses. The healing power – for individual as well as collective healing – of the witnessing of history with all its perversions, twists, and contradictions, is a) a prerequisite for anybody of European descent as part of shamanic work, and b) in a profound sense more powerful than any animal bone or feather that one might want to pick up.

[P136]

Boring Things

I am bored with the shifting fashions of shamanic inquiry and New Age appropriations – yesterday the Australian aborigines, now the Siberian tribes. I am bored with the fashions of charismatic figures and the disempowerment of seekers.

 

Exciting Things

I am excited about the possibility of the disappearance of the white man (‘white man’ in the sense of the masculinization of the phenomena through eurocentric consciousness). I am excited about the possibility of resuming ancient forms of knowledge exchange, where we all might mirror each other through the original instructions we all received (while taking care of the teaching circles or instructions from the tree of life). I am excited about developing evolutionary thinking which gets us off the linear trajectory through the remembrance of all of our traditional stories (the cycles of history as evolution). I am excited about the possibility to see the history of our planet spoken in multivocality, which respects not only different traditions, but takes care of each place and time to the best of our ancient understandings for today. I am excited about the possibility of universal connection through specificity of knowledge trade rather than dissociation and abstraction. I am excited about the possibility that the oppositions between cultural relativism and scientism may resolve itself into the universalism of the knowledge exchange among immanent conversations.

 

Shamanic Career

The outline of my “shamanic career” can be given briefly: During adolescence I developed a benign form of cancer, a bone tumor. The surgery and subsequent healing process prevented me from undertaking a journey which I had dreamed of since childhood: I had won a scholarship at my school to visit the northernmost part of Scandinavia – Sápmi – and to go to a place which lived most vividly in my imagination: Girkonjárga (which I knew then only as the Kirkenes of the Norwegian language). Many years later I had an unexpected experience which jolted me out of the life course I was on (the practice of clinical psychology), and – finally – led me to that very place in Sápmi: During an experience – commonly labelled “out of body experience” – I appeared as an agent in what seemed a healing for another person. This embarked me on an exploration of various alternate forms of healing, primarily those called ‘shamanic.’ I spent time with shamans and medicine people from various cultures, including Navajo, Cherokee, Pomo-Miwok, Japanese, Cambodian; I travelled incessantly to the tribes and archaeological sites of the Southwestern U.S. In addition to studying these various traditions I fasted, danced, and sweated. I also explored what various proponents of New Age shamanism had to offer – [P137] some of these people were native, some of them not so native or fake native, all of them were decontextualized in one form or another. As I listened to them and researched their claims the meaning of their decontextualization became increasingly apparent to me. After years of study with and of traditional, non-traditional, and anti-traditional people I realized that I could not be a participant in indigenous endeavors unless I knew who I was as an indigenous person. The work with my Oneida colleague, Dr. Pamela Colorado, was instrumental for this process; her conceptualization of “indigenous science” has impacted much of my work. The realization regarding my own indigenous roots led me to review my relationships with people who had taught me and who I had researched, and resulted in a deep exploration of my Germanic ancestry. I worked through some of the shame and embarassment which had prevented me in the past from looking at the older layers of Nordic history. I finally began taking trips not just back to Germany, but to the last remaining people in Europe living in an indigenous frame of mind, the Saami people of the far north of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula, the land they call Sápmi or Saami Eatnan. The meetings with the members of PRATEC from Lima, Peru – facilitated by Frederique Apffel-Marglin – were influential in my own conceptualizations of immanent conversation (particularly thanks to conversations with the late Eduardo Grillo). Out of the many Saami people who met with me during my travels the ongoing work with Biret-Máret Kallio is of particular significance for my recovery work and its conceptualizations. […] (See 1997a, c, 1996e for extensive autobiographical material.)

 

Influences

It seems customary to think about influences in terms of books and teachers. For me other storehouses, “libraries”, or “universities” for ancient knowledge have been at least equally significant, namely rock art and archaeological and sacred sites. On the continent where I live the rock knowledge of the Southwestern U.S. (Horse Shoe Canyon, and innumerable other sites), and sacred places like Chaco Canyon, White House Ruin, Spider Rock, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and others have been of tremendous importance for me. In Europe the rock knowledge of sacred sites in Bohuslän, Nämforsen, and Jiebmaluokta in particular, and places like Čeavceageađge have been of particular significance. Early on the work of Stanley Krippner and the contacts he provided were influential. Other than Colorado, Wilkinson, Kallio, and PRATEC the works by Pentekäinen, Valkeapää, Mohawk, Deloria, Churchill, McGrane, Faris deserve particular mention. The many native teachers who have generously shared their knowledge and ceremonies are gratefully acknowledged.

[…]

[P138-140]

References

Churchill, W. (1992). Fantasies of the master race. Monroe, ME: Common Courage.

Churchill, W. (1995). Since predator came. Littleton, CO: Aigis.

Colorado, P. (1988). Bridging native and western science. Convergence, XXI, 2/3, 49-67.

Colorado, P. (1989). “Indian science” from fire and ice. In J. Bruchac (ed.), New voices from the longhouse. New York: Greenfield Review Press.

Colorado, P. (1991). A meeting between brothers. Beshara, 13, Summer 1991, 20-27.

Colorado, P. (1994). Indigenous science and western science – a healing convergence. Presentation at the World Sciences Dialog I. New York City, April 25-27.

Colorado, P. (1996). Indigenous science. ReVision, Vol. 18 (3), 6-10.

Deloria, V. (1993). If you think about it you will see that it is true. Noetic Sciences Review, 27, 62-71.

Deloria, V. (1995). Red earth, white lies. NY: Scribner

Deloria, V. (1996). If you think about it, you will see that it is true. ReVision, 18(3), 37-44.

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

Faris, J.C. (1990). The nightway. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Jung, C.G. (1970). Psychological reflections. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Quote from collected works 10, 26f.)

Kallio, B.-M. (1996). Noaidi – jemand, der sieht. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(1), 59-77.

Krippner, S. & A. Villoldo. (1976). The realms of healing. Millbrae, CA: Celestial Arts.

Krippner, S. & P. Welch (1992). Spiritual dimensions of healing New York: Irvington.

Krippner, S. (1986). Dreams and the development of a personal mythology. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 7(2-3), 449 – 461.

Krippner, S. (1995). The use of altered conscious states in North and South American Indian shamanic healing rituals. In R. van Quekelberghe & D. Eigner (Eds.), Jahrbuch für transkulturelle Medizin und Psychotherapie. Trance, Besessenheit, Heilrituale und Psychotherapie. Berlin:VWB.

Lincoln, B. (1986). Myth, cosmos, and society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lomatuway’ma, M., L. Lomatuway’ma, S. Namingha & E. Malotki (1993). Kiqötutuwutsi – Hopi ruin legends. Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University.

McGrane, B. (1989). Beyond anthropology. NY: Columbia.

Pentkäinen, J. (1984). The Sámi shaman. In M. Hoppál (ed.), Shamanism in Eurasia. Göttingen, Germany: edition herodot.

Szymborska, W. (1995). view with a grain of sand. NY: Harcourt Brace.

Valkeapää, N.-A. (1985). Trekways of the wind. Guovdageaidnu, Norway: DAT.

Valkeapää, N.-A. (1991). Beaivi, Áh_á_an. Guovdageaidnu, Norway: DAT.

Valkeapää, N.-A. (1996). Poems from Trekways of the wind. ReVision, 18(3), 45-48.

Voigt, V. (1984). Shaman – Person or word? In M. Hoppál (ed.), Shamanism in Eurasia (part 1) (13-20). Göttingen, Germany: edition herodot.

Wilkinson, T. (1996). Persephone returns. Berkeley, CA: Pagemill.

 

Publications pertaining to my summary of shamanic inquiry

(1997a) Recovering indigenous mind. ReVision, 19(4).

(1997b). Transforming learning transforming. ReVision, 20(1); see also (1994k).

(1997c). BeFORe Gimbutas. ReVision, 20(1)

(1997d). Introduction to special issue on transformative learning. ReVision, 20(1)

(1997e). Editor of a ReVision issue (vol. 20, #1) on Transformative Learning

(1997f). Editor (with Joseph Prabhu) of a ReVision issue (vol. 19, #4) on Alternative Perspectives on Development

(1997g). Editor of a ReVision issue (vol. 19, #3) on Indigenous Science – Further Contributions.

(1997h) Die Schattenseiten evolutionären Denkens – Ken Wilber als Beispiel (Teil II). Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(2).

(1997i). Übersetzung des Artikels Noaidi von Biret-Máret Kallio. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(1), 59-77.

(1996a) The Possibility Of Recovering Indigenous European Perspectives On Native Healing Practices. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen , 5(2),149-164.

(1996b) The shadow of evolutionary thinking. ReVision, 19(1), 41-48.

(1996c) Lingering shadows. ReVision, 19(2), 43-44.

(1996d) The shadow of evolutionary thinking (enlarged article). In submission for reader edited by Rothberg and Kelly on Ken Wilber and the future of transpersonal inquiry – A spectrum of views.

(1996e) Mind on fire. ReVision, 19(3); at press

(1996f) Introduction to special issue on indigenous science. ReVision, 19(3); at press

(1996g) Die Schattenseiten evolutionären Denkens – Ken Wilber als Beispiel (Teil I). Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(1), 41-58.

(1996h). Editor of a ReVision issue (Vol. 18, #3) on Indigenous Science.

(1995a) Evolving into what and for whose purpose?. ReVision, Winter 1996, 18(3),27-36.

(1995b) Introduction: Indigenous science. ReVision, Winter 1996, 18(3), 2-5.

(1994a). Seidr or trance? ReVision, Spring 1994, 16(4), 183-191

(1994b). Trance postures (with Stanley Krippner). ReVision, Spring 1994, 16(4), 173-182.

(1994c). Foreword (with Jean Achterberg). ReVision, Spring 1994, 16(4), 147

(1994d). Shamanic tales of power. In: van Quekelberghe (ed.), Trance, Possession, Healing Rituals, and Psychotherapy / Yearbook of Cross-Cultural Medicine and Psychotherapy 1994(pp. 153-180). Mainz, Germany: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung.

(1994e). Perspectives on indigenous healing. Noetic Sciences Review, Spring 1995, 13-18.

(1994f). Indigenous science for euro-americans, In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing. Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1994g).Traditional Knowledge Leads to a Ph.D. [Interview with Pamela Colorado and Jürgen Kremer, by Richard Simonelli] Winds of Change 9(4), 43-48.

(1994h). Euro-americans, retribalize! Printed in 1994k

(1994i). On understanding indigenous healing practices. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 4(1), 3-36. (1995)

(1994j). Practices for the postmodern shaman? In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing. Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1994k). Looking for Dame Yggdrasil. Red Bluff, CA: Falkenflug Press.

(1993a) The past and future process of mythology, In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing. Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia. [In press]

(1993b). Co-guest editor (with Jean Achterberg) of a ReVision issue (Vol. 16, #4) on Trance and Healing – Psychology Biology and Culture.

(1992a) Culture and ways of knowing. ReVision, Spring 1992, 14(4), 167. [Foreword]

(1992b). The dark night of the scholar. ReVision, Spring 1992, 14(4), 169-178.

(1992c). Culture and ways of knowing – Part II. ReVision, Summer 1992, 15(1),3. [Foreword]

(1992d). Whither dark night of the scholar? ReVisions, Summer 1992, 15(1), 4-12.

(1992e). Prolegomena shamanica. Red Bluff, CA: Falkenflug Press.

(1992g). Guest editor of two ReVision issues (Vol. 14, #4 and Vol. 15, #1) on Culture and Ways of Knowing

(1992h). Memory Lightning Memory. ReVision, 1992, 15(1), backcover. [Story.]

(1991a). Contemporary shamanism and the evolution of consciousness – Reflections on Owen Barfield’s Saving the Appearances. Open Eye, 8(3), 4-5,9.

(1990a) Vincent Van Gogh: “Great artist and failure in initiation?”. In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing (pp. 151-161). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1990b) Sacred crafts (with Debra White). In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing (pp. 176-185). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1989a) The shaman’s body. In R. I. Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Models of Healing (pp. 375-384). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1989b) Authentic traditions and their confrontations with Western knowledge. Journal of Navajo Education, Winter 1989, VI, 3-12.

(1988a). Tales of Power. In R. I. Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Models of Healing (pp. 31-49). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1988b). Shamanic tales as ways of personal empowerment. In G. Doore (Ed.), Shaman’s Path: Healing, Personal Growth, and Empowerment (pp. 189-199). Boston, MA: Shambala.

(1988c) Metanoia – Tales of power and epistemological learning. Journal of Learning, 1(1), 28-43.

(1987). The shaman and the epistemologer. In R. I. Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Models of Healing (pp. 7 – 21). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1986). The human science approach as discourse. Saybrook Review, 6,65-105.

 

 

The Shadow of Evolutionary Thinking

The Shadow of Evolutionary Thinking

Jürgen W. Kremer

 

This version is a slightly edited compilation of the following publications:

(1998). The shadow of evolutionary thinking. In D. Rothberg & S. Kelly, Ken Wilber in Dialogue (pp. 237-258). Wheaton, Illinois: Quest. (Reprint of 1996)

(1998). Lingering Shadows. In D. Rothberg and S. Kelly, Ken Wilber in Dialogue (391-393). Wheaton, IL: Quest. (Reprint of 1996)

(1997). Probleme mit Ken Wilber’s evolutionären kognitionspsychologischen Annahmen. Teil II. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(2), 132-158.

(1996). Probleme mit Ken Wilber’s evolutionären kognitionspsychologischen Annahmen. Teil I. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(1), 41-58.

(1996). The shadow of evolutionary thinking. ReVision, 19(1), 41-48.

(1996). Lingering shadows. ReVision, 19(2), 43-44.

To all my ancestors!

To all my ancestral relations!

To all my relations!

When I try to fathom what it means to be alive these days in 1996, what my obligation as an individual may be, then I have to be present in a variety of ways. Let me first speak more personally before I explicate my major points in a more theoretical way. I have made an attempt in the style of this paper to reflect my understanding of the indigenous mind process as I am recovering it (see Kremer 1994, 1995a, b, c, 2002). This is why I begin with an honoring, continue with a personal story as an evocation of the recovery of the indigenous mind process identifying the specific place from which I speak, and proceed to a description of indigenous consciousness in a contemporary society. I finish the article with yet more descriptions of the indigenous mind process. In this sense the paper is a compromise between the more common academic writing style (of the middle part of the paper) and indigenous presentations, including my own attempt to speak from a recovered indigenous perspective.

I. RECOVERING MY INDIGENOUS CONSCIOUSNESS PROCESS

At the threshold of this coming-to-be-present I encounter a variety of guardians: The land I live on is not my ancestral land – it is the ancestral land of the Ramaytush-speaking people of the San Francisco peninsula, the first people of this particular land with a name we still remember; for the purposes of dealing with the shadow of evolutionary thinking the original keepers of this land. The beauty of the land I live on has suffered from the devastating consequences of technological progress – overpopulation, overbuilding, pollution of the waters, pollution of the air… I live in a society where the destruction of its aboriginal cultures is scarcely acknowledged and is not mourned by the majority of people; living in this society I am in a certain way complicit in the ongoing perpetration of racism and cultural genocide. Yet, I also live in a city which seems to be among the most comfortably and richly multicultural places in the U.S., with less pollution than in many other metropolitan areas.

My Germanic ancestry puts me in the gateway of the Holocaust. I recall Hitler’s perversions of mythology in the service of genocide; I will never forget the image of the Germanic goddess Nerthus cattle-drawn past Hitler, which I saw in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. I recall the aberrations of the Vikings, their vicious slaughters and conquering – another guardian at the threshold. Passing these and more guardians, witnessing what they hold, is to heal old collective wounds as they have been passed down to me as an individual, passed down consciously and unconsciously. These guardians don’t stand at the threshold simply to propagate guilt. The guardians are medicine for the collective shadow of the Western world. They are the medicine of remembrance with all that it entails, be it fear, pain, guilt, anger….

Having taken this medicine I see the outlines of an old tree, the tree of the Nordic and Eurasian traditions that is spoken about in a language simultaneously poetic and scientifically precise: At this tree stories are told of the Great Return, the great round of the precession of the equinoxes, the ragnarökir of the past (footnote 1); these stories contain the native scientific star knowledge of my traditions. The spakona and the spamaðr, the women and men seers and healers, travel along this tree across the rainbow bridge, across the milky way – bifrost – to the ancestral souls of the past and future. These seers place those in need of healing at this center of the universe, one of many known to them, to see if they can help the sick find their place of balance. Stories are told at the tree, of ancestors, trade, and migrations. Ceremonies are held to honor the great and the small cycles of the season, to honor the law of balance, of friðr. Community gathers at the tree. I hold ceremony to honor the protective spirits, the dísir, and the máttr og megin or gift which they hold for me; I hold ceremony to find balance and to honor balance. I look at the stars and see the image of a deerlike animal and I look at the rock carvings by the tree and see images of various deer. And I see boats, boats filled with ancestors travelling the skies and travelling the seas. Across the stream three spirits appear. In the rock I see the deer carrying the sun. My conversation which is also a prayer or chant is with all these relations within friðr. I offer amber as I am held by by all these beings and by the guardians.

The only way to reach the tree for somebody like me is to pass the guardians at the threshold and to take the medicine they offer. They offer their painful medicine kindly.

All this helps me understand what my obligation is as I recover ancient memory for the future, today. (For background information on this section see for example: Bonnefoy 1993a & b; Coles, 1990; Crichton, 1976; Davidson 1964, 1988, 1993; Graham-Campbell, Batey, Clarke, Page & Price, 1994; Metzner, 1994; Tacitus, 1967; Titchenell, 1985)

II. NURTURING AND BEING NURTURED – A CONTEMPORARY INDIGENOUS CONSCIOUSNESS PROCESS

The contemporary Andean peoples of Peru have their own way of talking about their obligation. This is how it has been described:

The ayllu is a group of related persons living in a particular place. The ayllu consists not only of a group of related humans but of other beings of that place: the animals, the mountains, streams and rocks and the local deities. The ayllu should therefore not be considered simply a sphere of kinship. Rather one could say that kinship in the Andes extends to the non-human realm.

The conversations held between persons and the other inhabitants of the world are not primarily engaged in for the purpose of “knowing reality.” They are engaged in it as part of the activity of criar y dejarse criar, of nurturing (raising) and letting oneself be nurtured (raised). The verb criar is used to speak of raising children, animals, plants, relationships, etc. It is the activity that fosters the growth and development of any potentiality or generativity. It is a fundamentally mutual or reciprocal activity: as one nurtures one is simultaneously nurtured. The action in the world does not leave the actor untransformed; acting in the world is being in relationship with that world, so the language of conversation is more appropriate than the language of knowledge. There is here no knower and known, no subject and object. Rather there are actors in relationships of mutuality. By acting one transforms not only the world but oneself as well. Therefore it is a fundamentally dynamic world, always moving, always changing, always in flux. There is, as it were, no simple act of knowing as we moderns understand the term for such knowledge-acquiring activity presupposes that there is something to be known, irrespective of who knows it.

This is not to say that conversing with the world does not involve cognitive faculties, it of course does, but that the activity is not primarily and certainly not exclusively a cognitive one. Criar demands not only understanding but love, tenderness, patience. But it is to say that the point of conversation is not the attainment of knowledge through the interrogation of nature, it is rather to generate and regenerate the world and be generated and regenerated by it in the process. (Apffel-Marglin, 1994, p. 9)

III. WILBER´S EVOLUTIONARY THINKING IN THE LIGHT OF AVAILABLE EVIDENCE

The above descriptions of friðr and the knowing and nurturing conversation in the ayllu are illustrations of what can be called rather inadequately ‘the indigenous mind process’ (the reader may consult Valkeapää, 1985 & 1996, for a Saami description of siida life or Colorado, 1988, for an Iroquois description of skanagoah); they are descriptions of an integral way of knowing and being which is difficult to capture in its richness and subleties. They circumscribe my place of analysis and point of departure for dialogue with Ken Wilber’s books.

I am writing this article as somebody who is remembering his indigenous roots without any claim to being native or having shared native experiences of discrimination and colonialism; I grew up as part of the dominant culture in Germany (see Kremer, 1994, 1995a for further discussions of my stance). The endeavor which I call “recovery of indigenous mind” is a process which does not invite romanticism or nostalgia – it is a painful process of remembering back in order to go forward. There is no going back. My way into the future moves through the integration of historical wounds, painful memories and seemingly senseless events in order to work out a future based on ayllu or friðr, based on an ecologically specific notion of balance.

The indigenous mind or consciousness process I am referring to is not based on an essentialist understanding of tribalism or indigenism (footnote 2), but a discourse view in which individuals understand themselves in an ongoing conversation with the surrounding community, in which the local animals, plants, ancestors, and other spirits take as much part as the humans (cf. Apffel Marglin, 1994; Rengifo, 1993; Valladolid, 1995); this conversation is carried on as a part of unfolding one’s own gifts while paying attention to the ceremonial and seasonal cycles as well as the larger astronomical cycles. This is a worldview of total immanence. It is acknowledged that the social construction or conversation in one place is different from other conversations in other places, yet seeing this is to stay grounded in the detailed observations of and conversations with the community and the cycles of the specific place one is in. This is not a mind process where egoic consciousness and transcendence stand in some form of opposition or tension to each other, but where individuals of the permeable, participatory consciousness live with spirits as much part of their community as other human beings or plants. “El mundo es inmanente – the world is immanent” (PRATEC, 1996, 10).

Since the 1977 publication of The Spectrum of ConsciousnessKen Wilber has emerged as one of the most significant and productive transpersonal thinkers. Walsh (1998, p. 33) regards Wilber view as “unique in not only providing a far-reaching vision but also in grounding that vision in contemporary research in fields such as cosmology, biology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and ecology.” In 1996 three issues of the journal ReVision, edited by Donald Rothberg and Sean Kelly, critically reviewed Wilber’s work and attempted to engage him in dialogue; the articles were subsequently, together with additional material published in book form as Ken Wilber in Dialogue(1998). The current compilation is based on my contributions to these publications. My primary focus in this article is on Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995a), and Up from Eden (1981). My central question in looking at social evolutionary theories such as Wilber’s is: How do evolutionary theorists deal with contemporary indigenous peoples? Or, to return to my initial descriptions: How would Wilber conceptualize the conversational process of the ayllu in the Andes?

My discussion of Wilber’s more recent work focuses on two major aspects of this broad issue:
1) What is the nature of the indigenous mind process and are Wilber’s descriptions consistent with the available data? My point below is that closer attention to the indigenous consciousness process suggests a different model of history than the eurocentered conceptualizations and cannot be subsumed under stage models without being made invisible. (Discussed below in this section.)
2) If Wilber’s conceptualizations of evolutionary stages imply “losers” (meaning: the so-called ‘lower’ stages and their contemporary “remnants”), then how does his theory deal with this shadow of evolutionary theorizing? The stance which I take is that we can no longer afford to think about evolution of consciousness and so-called civilizations without explicitly addressing the shadow of purported advances. (Discussed below in section IV.)
In addition, I address the following topics:
3) If it is indeed reasonalbe to assume qualitative differences between eurocentered and indigenous discourses, then what are the requirements for the facilitation of dialogues between these two types of discourse? My basic argument is as follows: Dialogues between cultures steeped in a eurocentered worldview and cultures engaged in indigenous consciousness processes have to be conducted in such a fashion as to insure that the voices of both groups have a chance to be heard directly and without intermediaries. (Section V below.)
4) I discuss Wilber’s critical commentary on sections I through IV and VII of this article. (Section VI below.)
5) I conclude this article with a continuation of the indigenous mind process descriptions given at the beginning of this article which suggest alternate conceptualizations of universality, evolution, and knowledge exchange. It is beyond the scope of this article to explicate these alternate conceptualizations fully; all I can do is give the rough outlines and some general parameters. (Section VII below.)

At the root of my concerns is the question of cultural ownership of evolutionary thinking which I have raised in a recent ReVision article (Kremer, 1996), and the call for theorists of human evolution to reflect consciously and explicitly on the cultural biases inherent in their thinking.

Wilber’s model of social evolution is in the tradition of 19th century evolutionary conceptualizations (cf. Winkelman, 1993, 5). Julian Huxley gives a good example of this thinking in the field of biology:
If we accept the doctrine of evolution, we are bound to believe that man has arisen from mammals, terrestrial from aquatic forms, vertebrates from invertebrates, multicellular from unicellular, and in general the larger and the more complex from the smaller and simpler. To the average man it will be indisputable that a man is higher than a worm or a polyp, an insect is higher than a protozoan, even if he cannot exactly define in what resides this highness or lowness of organic types. (Huxley, 1923, 10; quoted from Barlow, 1994)
Of course, if this type of evolutionary thinking is extrapolated into the field of evolution of consciousness and societies, then we can see how the prehistoric peoples of all continents and the contemporary remaining indigenous peoples can be classed as “lower” and the euro-centered as “higher” (even if there are yet higher stages to come). In E.B.Tylor’s words:
Human life may be roughly classified into three great stages, Savage, Barbaric, Civilized, which may be defined as follows. The lowest or savage state is that in which man subsists on wild plants and animals, neither tilling the soil nor domesticating creatures for his food. … Men may be considered to have risen into the next or barbaric state when they take to agriculture. … Lastly, civilized life may be taken as beginning with the art of writing, which, by recording history, law, knowledge, and religion for the service of ages to come, binds together the past and the future in an unbroken chain of intellectual and moral progress. (1881, quoted from Wenke, 1980, 32-33)
Evolutionary thinking concerns itself with the development according to inherent tendencies of anything that may be compared to a living organism (OED). Theories of evolution, whether in the fields of biology, consciousness or culture fundamentally have a mono-causal structure, where things unfold from some point of origin basically in a linear fashion (however complex and multi-dimensional the descriptions of this causal line may be) toward some future or utopian stage which represents the unfoldment of the inherent tendencies, particularly of human beings and their cultures.

Let me give a very brief summary overview of Wilber’s model as it appears to pertain to contemporary indigenous peoples. In Up from Eden (1981), Wilber has delineated dates for stages of the evolution of human consciousness, and he has provided us with updated descriptions since.

— Hominids appear during the uroboric stage which lasted roughly from 3 to 6 million years ago to 200,000 years ago (Wilber, 1981, 28). “Simple sensorimotor intelligence and emotional-sexual drives” are seen as characteristic for the early hominids of this epoch (Wilber, 1983, 240; see also Wilber, 1987, 239 for descriptions of the “archaic”, and 1995a, 153ff.).

— The subsequent typhonic stage lasted roughly from 200,000 years ago to 10,000 B.C.E. (Wilber, 1981, 39 & 87). Here we find “the first symbolic cognitive mode, the primary process, which confuses inside and outside, whole and part, subject and predicate, image and reality” (Wilber, 1983, 240). “Magical thinking” is an important characteristic of the mental process of the typhonic epoch which Wilber describes as follows: “This includes simple images, symbols, and the first rudimentary concepts, or the first and lowest mental productions, which are “magical” in the sense that they display condensation, displacement, “omnipotence of thought,” etc. … The magic realm is the beginning of mind” (1987, 239). He further elaborates that “the mind and the body are still relatively undifferentiated, and thus mental images and symbols are often confused or even identified with the physical events they represent, and consequently mental intentions are believed to be able to ‘magically’ alter the physical world, as in voodoo, exoteric mantra, the fetish, magical ritual, ‘sympathetic magic,’ or magic in general” (1995a, 165).

— The more recent mythic-membership stage lasted from about 12,000 B.C.E. to 2,500 B.C.E., with the high membership period dating from about 4,500 to 1,500 B.C.E. (1981, 87). According to Wilber, “this stage is more advanced than magic, but not yet capable of clear rationality or hypthetico-decuctive reasoning” (1987, 239).

— And the current solar ego stage began about 2,500 B.C.E. (with the low ego period dating from 2,500-500 B.C.E., the middle ego period dating from 500 B.C.E. to 1,500 C.E., and the high ego period dating from 1,500 C.E. to the present; Wilber, 1981, 179-180). Wilber more recently has set the incipient egoic-rational phase at about 500 B.C.E. (1995a, 179). “Egoic rationality and formal-operational logic” (1983, 240) are some of its central characteristics in the individuals of this epoch.

Wilber clarifies (1995a, 172-173) the meaning of his stage descriptions by stating that
these various ‘epochs’ … refer only to the average mode of consciousness achieved at that particular time in evolution – a certain ‘center of gravity’ around which the society as a whole orbited. In any given epoch, some individuals will fall below the norm in their own development, and others will reach quite beyond it. … Thus, in the magical, as I just mentioned, the most advanced mode seems to have been the psychic (embodied in a few genuine shamans or pioneers of yogic awareness); in mythological times the most advanced mode seems to have reached into what is known as the subtle level (embodied in a few genuine saints); and in mental-egoic times the most advanced modes reached into the causal level (embodied in a few genuine sages).
Plotinous and Plato may serve as illustrations for this: They
were situated in an average-mode mythological background worldview (mythic-rational), against which they had to fight (while delicately and unavoidably embracing aspects of it). They spoke from the center of a mythic worldview, even as their own substantive Reason transcended it, and even as their own contemplation transcended Reason; but mythically situated they could not avoid (Wilber, 1995a, 637).

Wilber comments in regard to the contemporary situation that
the majority of individuals in rational societies still settle in somewhere around the mythic-rational, using all the formidable powers of rationality to prop up a particular, divisive, imperialistic mythology and an aggressively fundamentalistic program of systematic intolerance (1995a, 252). The statement “the majority of individuals in rational societies still settle somewhere around the mythic-rational” is somewhat inconsistent with the definition that this is the epoch where “the average mode of consciousness achieved” is the rational mode; this implies that at least fifty per cent of the population is functioning in that mode, particularly if the “high egoic period” is dated to the present. “The majority of individuals in rational societies still settle somewhere around the mythic-rational” suggests more the “low ego period” rather than the time when the next epoch is beginning to emerge, even if only as the low vision-logic period. In any event, Wilber appears to put contemporary eurocentered societies (the modern state) at the rational stage, and he places “the rough beginning of this new emergence (egoic-rational) in the middle of the first millennium BCE … it reaches its fruition with the rise of the modern state, roughly the sixteenth century in Europe” (1995a, 179; similarly on p. 396). All this “brings us up to the present, and the new integration that is struggling to emerge” (1995a, 184), namely “vision-logic.”

Wilber never concerns himself explicitly with the indigenous peoples who remain. He primarily discusses the anthropological construct “shamanism” and “shaman” when elaborating the earlier evolutionary stages. This isolation of shamans and the “shamanic state of consciousness” inappropriately focuses only on certain aspects of the holistic and integral process of indigenous conversation described at the beginning of this article. How this particular lense may be related to some of the problems which I identify in Wilber’s theory should become apparent below. Since contemporary indigenous peoples continue to use ceremonies, for example, in which, according to anthropologists and in Wilber’s valueladen words from above, “mental intentions are believed to be able to ‘magically’ alter the physical world, as in voodoo, exoteric mantra, the fetish, magical ritual, ‘sympathetic magic,’ or magic in general,” (1995a, 165) they could be considered contemporary remnants of the typhonic stage, or at best the mythic stage. In any event, contemporary indigenous peoples still engaged in their traditional cultural practices would not fit Wilber’s various descriptions of the mythic-rational stage or more recent epochs. Nevertheless, as previously quoted, he would concede that some of their authentic spiritual practitioners may be able to reach the psychic or subtle levels.

Wilber is reluctant (1995a, 571) to use anthropological material about contemporary indigenous peoples in order to discuss past evolutionary stages (such as the magic or mythological stages), yet much of the understanding of the past evolutionary stages is based on projection of the anthropological literature of this century into the past (see e.g., Cazeneuve, 1972; or McGrane, 1989). He also does not include the direct voice of indigenous peoples in his discussions of the contemporary situation. (In scanning his approximately 640 references listed in 1995a I found two – Lake and McGaa – where indigenous peoples speak with a voice of their own (problematic as they are to some traditional natives); I was unable to determine during my reading or with the help of the index how these references actually have been used.) I am assuming that this is either because he does not see them as significant for or part of the cutting edge of the evolutionary arc he describes, or that they don’t offer descriptions which illuminate this evolutionary arc. Whatever his reasoning, contemporary indigenous peoples end up de facto as a negligible quantity in his writings. The terms “mythos,” “mythic,” and “tribe” are frequently used in a negative or even cntemptuous sense – indeed, no different from everyday usage in dominant eurocentered discourse; this suggests that racialist thinking is at work (e.g. in 1995a on p. 572 or 582).

The following two illustrations demonstrate graphically the need to question Wilber’s model.

 

The practices of voladores (the flyers) from the Totonac, Nahua, and Huastec natives of the Mexican Gulf Coast [right illustration] is said to be at least 1500 years old. It is sacred to Quetsalcoatl, the Morning Star. It spread from the Gulf Coast to the Aztec Capital Tenochtitlan. It is a ceremonial celebration of a calendrical count that can be traced back to the Olmec culture (1500 to 400 BCE; cf. Hancock, 1995; Markman & Markman, 1992). The rock carving from Bohuslän [left illustration] presently is dated to 1000 to 850 BCE (Coles, 1990) and can be viewed in the context of various descriptions of the Norse tree of life (Yggdrasill) and the contemporary May pole (Brodzky, Danesewich & Johnson, 1977; Gimbutas, 1958; Grimm, 1966). The calendrical and navigational cognitive capacities implied in these images go far beyond what evolutionary theories commonly attribute to humans of these time periods. For example: Wilber sees the “Mexico of the Aztecs and Mayas” at the stage of “mythic membership” (1981, 92). Since the Olmecs preceded these cultures they would have to be regarded either at the stage of mythic membership or the earlier typhonic stage. During the typhonic period “subject and object are undifferentiated, … image and entity are confused, symbol and object are conflated, and thus subject and predicate, whole and part, class and member, are all ‘magically one'”(Wilber, 1981, 49). At the subsequent mythic membership stage “mind is tentatively starting to emerge” (Wilber, 1981, 93, italics in original). In subsequent publications Wilber characterizes this stages as capable of “higher representational thought, but still incapable of formal-operational insight; still anthropomorphic; mixture of logic with previous magic” (Wilber, 1983, 240).

It is somewhat difficult to imagine how people would be capable of crossing the Atlantic one way or the other without having at least mythic-rational consciousness, to stay in Wilber’s frame (unless we invalidate the potential significance of the implied event by calling it chance or accident). Navigational capacities, the art and science of identifying one’s own position and tracking a ship’s course (determination of latitude and longitude), require formal-operational cognitive capacities (cf. Kyselka, 1987, 38-45; Graham-Campbell, Batey, Clarke, Page & Price, 1994, 180/1; or Aveni, 1993, 149ff. for sample descriptions). Formal operational awareness “introduces a new and more abstract understanding of mathematics, logic, and philosophy, but those are all quite secondary to the primary and defining mark of reason: reason is a space of possibilities (italics in original), possibilities not tied to the obvious, the given, the mundane, the profane” (Wilber, 1995a, 231). This description would subsume the possibility to navigate oceans with the help of these capacities. If the Olmec culture is indeed accurately described as “typhonic” or “mythic” in character, then its members should be incapable of the complex mathematics, astromical observations and calendrical calculations the Aztecs and Mayans based their developments on (cf. Hancock, 1995; Aveni, 1980; Closs, 1986). And they should not have possessed the nautical and navigational capacities for the long sea journey from Mexico to Sweden (or Bronze Age people in Southern Sweden should not have been capable of navigating toward what is now called Mexico). Of curse, we could argue that these early navigators were individuals of the typhonic or mythic epochs with a level of personal development that reached significantly beyond the majority of the times. Such an argument would only hold if we do not find too many exceptions to the claims made by Wilber’s theory.

My review of the literature indicates that it is at least questionable to use the “special case argument” (i.e., in these cases especially gifted, highly developed individuals with capacities far beyond the general level of development accomplished these significant achievements). The numerous exceptions to Wilber’s theory deserve at least explicit discussion. The following sampling may serve as illustration for numerous cases in archaeology, anthropology, and mythology that do not seem to fit dominant evolutionary conceptions, including Wilber’s. Winkelman (1990) offered significant objections against the literature used in Up from Eden (1981), yet Wilber has only provided incomplete responses (he claims that his new descriptions and new timelines resolve all these issues and that Winkelman’s relativistic approach is “simplistic and hypocritical;” 1995a, 575).

The following is a brief listing of some examples from past and continuing indigenous cultures, which by all appearances not only require, if they are to be integrated, a fine tuning of Wilber’s theory, but, if taken seriously, a rethinking of the entire model (see Winkelman [1990] for a first extensive list of objections). All these brief descriptions highlight the cognitive aspects of the indigenous mind process in order to show limitations in Wilber’s descriptions and interpretations; the integral nature of this process is implied in each of the examples, but not explicated here. Readers may use their own imagination to see how the various sacred sites mentioned below, for example, represent the indigenous conversation I have described at the beginning of this paper using the examples of friðr and ayllu.

— The first example is the Aztec and Mayan calendars (which can be dated back to the Olmec times) with the calendar of the great pyramid in Chichen Itza as an elaborate example of the thinking and architectural skills of these peoples; we can add to this example Mayan mathematics in general (these civilizations are according to Wilber part of the mythic stage; 1981, 92). All of these instances presuppose cognitive skills which do not fit his descriptions of any of the stages before the rational (Aveni, 1980; Closs, 1986, Men, 1990; Vergara & Güemez, n.d.). How these feats could have been achieved without, for example, hypothetico-deductive cognitive skills is not clear to me.

— The alignments of the pyramids in Teotihuacan (just outside of Mexico City) and the knowledge of the number pi are other examples which do not fit Wilber’s scheme (Aveni, 1980; Hancock, 1995; Stierlin, 1963; Tompkins, 1976); again, according to Wilber, these buildings were erected by a mythic culture, yet the architecture, astronomy, and mathematics embodied in these pyramids require cognitive skills at odds with Wilber’s descriptions of “magical oneness.”

— The Egyptian pyramids, their alignments and architecture, are yet another example of similar feats on a different continent (see, e.g., Bauval & Gilbert, 1994 or Hancock, 1995; see also the recent unpublished research by Hawas, Verner and Dreyer, reported in Anonymous, 1995/6, which pushes the dates for certain accomplishments in the early Egyptian cultures farther back). Wilber considers these Egyptian cultures also at the mythic-membership stage (1981, 92).

— The architecture and alignments of Tiahuanaco in Bolivia (at Lake Titicaca) also don’t fit Wilber’s outline by a long shot; according to persuasive evidence the building of this sacred site can be dated to at least 15,000 B.C.E. (Hancock, 1995).

— The architecture and alignments of Stonehenge, dating to about 3,000 B.C. E., and Newgrange, dating to about 3,200 B.C.E. are European examples which are out of sync with Wilber’s descriptions (Aveni, 1993; Biaggi, 1994; Brennan, 1980, 1983; Burenhult, 1993; Mohen, 1990) in terms of the skills required for the building of these sacred sites.

— Finch (1996, 25) points out that
the Dogon have known (probably for seven hundred years) that Sirius B was a mostly invisible white dwarf that periodically underwent nova explosions which spewed matter (“grains”) into space that ultimately became the stuff from which other heavenly bodies – including our solar system – were made.
This traditional knowledge of an ancient African tribe, which is consistent with the findings of contemporary astronomy, questions definitions of “primitive” and Wilber’s descriptions of the stages prior to the rational (see also Finch, 1991 & 1995; Griaule & Dieterlen, 1986; de Santillana & v. Dechend, 1969).

— We have evidence of very early global travel across the oceans, which again requires cognitive skills not ascribed to peoples of these early stages by Wilber. Examples of such evidence are: (a) the Piri Reis map dating to 1513 which includes an image of the eastern promontory of South America and is
comparable to the most detailed and accurate of nineteenth century maps. It proves that the ancient cartographers who constructed it possessed precise knowledge of the dimensions and shape of the earth, its lands, and its seas (Finch, 1996, 21);
(b) accurately mapped images (Piri Reis, Oronteus Finaeus, Mercator, Buache) of Antarctica before it was covered with the current ice cap (which began to occur beginning around 13,000 B.C.E. and was complete by 4,000 B.C.E.; Hapgood, 1966; Hancock, 1995); (c) the chalice which Hostetter (1991) acquired in Saudi Arabia which led him to the re-discovery of ancient astronomical and navigational knowledge; (d) Mayan, Olmec, and Zapotec (Monte Alban) sculptures and reliefs of individuals found in Mexico which are clearly not Native American, but obviously Chinese, African or European; we have similar evidence from the Moche culture of Peru.

— Gimbutas’ description of early European writing from the 6th millenium on (Gimbutas, 1991, 308ff.; Haarmann, 1990, 70ff.) is also not easily reconciled with the cognitive skills Wilber ascribes to those times in Europe.

— And most recently the rock art of Chauvet thought to be about 30,000 years old (Chauvet, Dechamps & Hillaire, 1995) points to cognitive skills akin to our own.

We could argue in each single instance given in my list above that these feats were accomplished by the most advanced individuals of those times, but this argument to my mind is increasingly difficult to sustain with all the examples given (and this list is not complete). And this argument could hardly be made for the following instances, which represent widespread skills, rather than skills conceivably attributable solely to an elite:

— The cognitive skills required for flintknapping provide an example for the mentations of early hominids. Gowlett (1993, 54/5) gives a detailed analysis of the sophisticated cognitive skills the making of the stone tools of the Oldowan people (in Wilber’s scheme of uroboric times) imply.
The stone-workers knew what was possible, and this implies that they had the whole routine for the tool-making process stored in their heads, somewhat like a computer programme. … Many activities of early man [sic!] which have left traces were co-operative, social ones. Does this then imply the use of language from the time of early tool-making? There is no direct evidence for this, but the sequences of operations involved in toolmaking have parallels in structure with those of producing sentences. (p. 55)
Lewin (1988) suggests that the behavior of early hominids increasingly was governed by complex rules, and that these abstractions seem impossible in the absence of language. “The creation of paintings, carvings, and engravings is surely unthinkable in the absence of language, because such activities represent true abstraction of the mind” (p. 186). These descriptions are a far cry from Wilber’s discussions of the uroboric stage to which this type of tool making is assigned.

— Additionally, Wilber has yet to answer the various points Winkelman (1990) makes regarding evidence for language use among the earliest hominids, the similarities in cognitive capabilities in humans of today and 40,000 – 100,000 years ago, the non-existence of the uroboric stage, and astronomical observations as early as 30-32,000 years ago (see also Aveni, 1993, 23). Marshak (1991) provides extensive discussions and illustrations of the complexity of cognitive processes of paleolithic hominids from 35,000 to 10,000 B.C.E.

All of these examples presuppose complex cognitive processes supposedly unavailable to humans during those time periods. They suggest that a stage model may not be the most appropriate way to take these data into account. Gowlett (1992, 345) suggests
that through the past 30,000 to 40,000 years the brains of modern homo sapiens were similar to our own. Physical and cultural evidence points to lower levels of mental ability and craft skill in the earlier periods. Nevertheless, we may have to concede that the foundations of many basic human skills were laid 1 or even 2 million years ago, rather than at the origins of our own species.
Even Lévy-Bruhl, who wrote extensively about ‘primitive mentality’ stated in his last works that he no longer assumed a structural difference between contemporary Europeans and indigenous humans:
Let us expressly rectify what I believed correct in 1910: there is not a primitive mentality distinguishable from the other by two characteristics which are peculiar to it (mystical and prelogical). There is a mystical mentality which is more marked and more easily observable among ‘primitive peoples’ than in our societies, but is present in every human mind. (Les carnets, 1949, 131-2, quoted from Cazeneuve, 1972, 87)

This seems to lead to what appears like a paradox on the surface: Peoples of these earlier mythic or even typhonic times may indeed have participated in the phenomena, yet they may simultaneously have been capable of cognitive feats requiring skills commonly associated with the much later times of the egoic-rational processes. Mayan architecture, glyphs, mathematics and calendrics may serve as a surviving and continuing illustration (see recently Freidel, Schele & Parker, 1993) that participation in the phenomena and cognitive skills like formal-operational logic are a contradiction in the eyes of the solar ego only.

The pieces of evidence which don’t fit easily with Wilber’s timelines and descriptions lead me to doubt that his model adequately represents contemporary and past indigenous peoples and their mind process. His abstract descriptions and the available data don’t match sufficiently, and if Wilber continues to think that they do, then he is under an obligation to explicate this much more than he has done in response to Winkelman. His descriptions of the”earlier evolutionary stages” render the integral mind and being process of past and present indigenous people invisible in his model and devalue it in these distorted representations.

The rapid developments in the fields of prehistorical research indicate a general trend to date certain cognitive capacities earlier and earlier. This should lead us to be cautious. This trend can be explained not only through previously unavailable evidence but it may also point to research assumptions that hindered the field of prehistorical research: It is possible that a goodly portion of our reconstruction of prehistory is projective in nature. Recent anthropological and archaeological research examples investigating human sacrifice and cannibalism indicate how past evidence had been tainted by its Zeitgeist. Hassler (1992), for example, has concluded that evidence for ritualistic human sacrifice or sacred ritualistic killing among the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples is lacking; he asserts that past discussions are based on eurocentric assumptions, prejudices, and misunderstandings in the communication with indigenous people or that they were based on their deceptive maneuvers. Peter-Röcher (summarized in Anonymous, 1996) developed a similar argument regarding cannibalism in prehistoric Germany. These are two out of a number of examples that should induce utmost caution in our use of descriptions of so-called primitive peoples, past cultures and contemporary indigenous peoples. Wilber, however, believes that “what we call civilization, and what we call human sacrifice, came into being together” (Wilber, 1981, 127). Evidence for cannibalism and human sacrifice, whether among the Hisastsunon (Anasazi), Aztecs, or early Germanic peoples, require complex interpretive maneuvers and special self-reflective awareness of presuppositions (whether idealizing or discriminatory).

IV. THE SHADOW AND PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION

From a native perspective, evolutionary thinking in general has always been problematic because of its (at least implicit) notion of progress toward some better, more complete or more actualized way of being, some outopos (Greek: utopia) or nonexistent place to be realized in the future.
European utopian visions have been used to rationalize a range of criminal behaviors including the enslavement of millions of Africans and the annihilation of entire American Indian peoples as the (sometimes) regrettable but necessary consequence of the construction of some kind of future state of human perfection (Dion-Buffalo & Mohawk, 1994, p. 33).
This statement cannot be taken seriously enough and should be a clear warning signal to pay attention to the shadow of evolutionary thinking. Unless we do so evolutionary thinking will remain misguided and dangerous because there is no reason to assume that it is outside of its history which – at least implicitly – justified cultural and physical genocides. In order to step outside of this intellectual history it is necessary to address explicitly shadow material issues such as the ones Dion-Buffalo and Mohawk mention in their quote. Otherwise whatever is written is at least an unconscious continuation of eurocentered dominance and (cultural) genocide. McGrane (1989) in his critical analysis of the history of “the Other” and anthropology comments that
when the ‘sun’ of civilization dawns on the virgin forest of the Other, instead of nourishing him, it chars and blackens him. … At the very instant they (primitive societies) become known to us they are doomed (108, last sentence quoted from Bastian).
This would mean that one of the most important current historic tasks of eurocentered cultures is to retract its attention and periodic obsession with other cultures and to focus on its own history, including the shadow of its own history.

Wilber talks about the emergence of global market economy and acknowledges that it is “tinged, initially, by remnants of imperialism, which indicated not an excess of reason but a lack of it” (1995a, 178, emphasis added) – an acknowledgment which is far from sufficient given the ways in which the rise of what he considers evolutionarily positive is entwined with rather lethal shadow material. The words genocide, colonialism, imperialism do not show up in the index of the book, and they do not seem to warrant special analysis within his evolutionary scheme. The phrase “tinged, initially, by remnants of imperialism” implies that this is in the past – a denial of the ongoing destruction of native cultures (Bodley, 1982; Berger, 1990); it is also a denial of such continuing imperialism (biocolonialism) as is exemplified by the hunt for certain nutritional plants and plant medicine among native people, which then get patented and resold to the indigenous peoples they were taken from (Abya Yala News, 1994; Mies & Shiva, 1993; Shiva, 1993). Imperialism and colonialism have taken on the mantle of economic development thinking, under which they continue their contemporary expression and continue to have a destructive effect on indigenous peoples (cf. Sachs, 1995 for a history of the term and a critical discussion in terms of sustainability; see also: Pratec, 1993; Parajuli, 1996 for analyses). All of these destructive events are, of course, a result of the increasingly global market economy and the expansiveness of eurocentered ways. While Wilber may label these events pathological within his system, their effect on new emergent and purportedly desirable qualities still needs to be critically reviewed.

Looking at the historical shadow material created by what the dominant discourse of eurocentered cultures calls “evolutionary advances” or “achievements” (Wilber’s rational societies) is not just a question of intellectual honesty or integrity; it is much more a question of doing one’s best to avoid inflation, ethnocentricity, and prejudice. If eurocentered societies are to step out of the continuing history of colonialism, then evolutionary thinking produced by the intellectuals of these societies needs to grapple with the fact that the so-called evolutionary advances have come at a price, and that this price is even now being paid by peoples which can be identified as the “primitive,” “archaic,” “mythic” peoples of contemporary “backward” societies. As Wilber and others would say: these peoples have had their chance, and “they all failed – each in their own special and wonderful and spectacular fashion” (1995a, 243). In evolutionary models, “losers” are inevitable if there is to be evolution, and the winners of today may be the losers of tomorrow. The aura of inevitability is part of the justificatory function of evolutionary thinking. It creates a context in which cultural and physical genocide can easily be understood as a given, ‘unfortunate as that may be.’ The continuation of economic development thinking in relation to so-called Third World countries is part of this genocidal context: The dominant, primarily materialistic, euro-centered standards identify them as inferior societies and cultures, and they are consequently in need of help so that they may join the fold of “developed” countries. This development thinking devalues their own cultural roots and richness destroying communities and killing people in the name of progress.

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. 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). Wilber’s model, of course, draws on just this anthropological literature. MacGrane’s discussions are also helpful in contextualizing historically the aspects of indigenous lives on which Wilber primarily focuses, i.e. shamanism.

In the Renaissance 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 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. 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. For example, 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,” a 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 superceded by the emergent medical and other sciences. The 19th century saw the height of colonialism and imperialism. It was also the time of in which evolutionary theories were first proposed. MacGrane shows how this notion of the “primitive” is entwined with the idea of progress:
The very identification of and naming of the non-European Other as “primitive,” as “primitive mentality,” as “primitive culture,” presupposed a theory (language) of rational progress, of progress in and by reason (Enlightenment) and/or progress in and by history (nineteenth century). The very possibility of the conception of “primitive” presupposed the prior commitment to a conception of progress. (McGrane, 99)
The notion of progress implies that there is something at least insufficient or even bad in the past and that the good lies in the future.

When we talk about the lamentable and unfortunate price of evolution paid by certain peoples of past and present, but without simultaneously confronting the presumed advances with their own shadow, then we act arrogantly, coldly, and, ultimately, dishonestly. The historical connection between the arising of enlightenment philosophy and colonialism is not just accidental.
Anthropology has been an extremely subtle and spiritual kind of cognitive imperialism, a power-based monologue about alien cultures rather than, and in active avoidance of, a dialogue with them in terms of sovereignty, i.e., the untranslatability and irreducibility of one ‘culture’ to the being and language of the other (McGrane, 1989, 127).
Until we understand the impact of this connection the cultural shadow material will determine what eurocentered cultures are as “rational societies” – to an extent difficult to fathom. Adorno and Horkheimer (1944) have noted how what is suppressed in society inevitably returns through the backdoor – now with increased power.

The U.S. constitution was paid for with the genocide of the Native Americans. The social and economic stability of the colonies rested on the success of pushing the Native Americans out; the possession of the land was necessary for the development of the ideas and allowed the appropriation of native ideas, e.g. during the development of the constitution. What does it mean that the freedom of the early immigrants was achieved at the price of tremendous destruction? What does it say about the civil society that was put in place of the autochthonous cultures which also had elaborate “legal codes”? The best known example is probably the Iroquois confederacy, and its significant impact on the U.S. constitution is largely unacknowledged by the dominant culture (Barreiro, 1992).

In keeping with one brand of rather conventional wisdom, Wilber describes the process of Hawaii becoming a state of the United States of America – its annexation – as follows: “all the basic structures and functions are preserved and taken up in a larger identity, but all the exclusivity structures and functions that existed because of isolation, set-apartness, partialness, exclusiveness, separative agency – these are simply dropped and replaced with a deeper agency that reaches a wider communion” (1995a, 52 [italics in original]; see also p. 245). I doubt that traditionally spiritual Hawaiians (let alone political activists) would agree with this statement as an appropriate abstract principle derived from this specific historical example. Not only is his theoretical statement racist and colonialist when applied to the analysis of actual historical events by virtue of discounting native notions of interconnectedness, history and science (“isolation,” “partialness,” “separative agency”), it also lends itself to the justification of genocide in the the service of the emergence of higher order holons. After all, “each emergent holon transcends but includes its predecessor(s)” (1995a, 51). Wilber may consider such use of his theories abuse. However, his model adds to a justificatory context which facilitates this kind of thinking in contemporary euro-centered cultures. Such justification happens culturally, when “progress” is accepted as a framework, which then inevitably entails the notion of losers in the service of progress. To my mind the Hawaii illustration of his eighth’s tenet does not hold, and his model would be invalidated if it is based on other examples of a similar nature.

When I analyze other instances which his tenet should cover (and the above quote of his principle) then his model becomes increasingly questionable in the form stated. If we look, for example, at the reality of the relationship between Native American tribes and the dominant society, and apply his abstract statement to the specifics of an ongoing history, then his statement is simply ludicrous. The history of invasion and colonization has destroyed native ceremonies, instituted boarding schools, and used missionary activity as a major avenue to genocide (all these are things which are still happening in the present in one form or another); in the process the reservation system was created. I don’t think it is an adequate theoretical precept to subsume this under “the exclusivity structures and functions that existed because of isolation, set-apartness, partialness, exclusiveness, separative agency – these are simply dropped and replaced with a deeper agency that reaches a wider communion.” Wilber’s statement has a certain compelling logic in its abstractness (and if we agree with the implicit assumptions of progress and universalization as he defines it), but this generality obfuscates the inflated stance hidden in it. This inflation is based on the culturally narcissistic assumption that we have truly understood peoples who live in an entirely different consciousness.

Our current challenge appears to be to develop a quality of thinking that is no longer based on fundamentally mono-causal and linear models (models with roots in 19th century thinking and to which I am referring with the lable “evolutionary thinking”). Nitecki summarizes the current scientific Zeitgeist as follows: “The concept of progress has been all but banned from evolutionary biology as being anthropocentric or at best of limited and ambiguous usefulness” (1988, quoted from Barlow, 1994, 49). It seems necessary to remove notions of progress from our descriptions of the evolution of consciousness and civilizations (indigenous civilizations and others), since it is entirely eurocentered. McGrane states pointedly that “if the rather deeply sedimented, institutionalized belief in ‘progress’ disappeared, the ‘primitive’ would vanish” (1989, 99). The notion of progress is an essential ingredient of Wilber’s system and “the primitives” are alive in his model, even if they are not doing so well.

Alternative models of conceptualizing socio-historical changes in structure and process of consciousness would address directly and with specificity such difficult issues as genocide, colonialism, and imperialism; they would address the ancient spiritual foundations of the European peoples, their ancestries, and their ceremonial practices. Such models would self-consciously restrict themselves to self-reflective acts by people of European heritage in order to understand their history of increasing dissociation, the dominance of the masterful, bounded modern self, and the possibilities to remember and recover integral beingknowing (Kremer, 1994). These would be inquiries aimed at resuming the European conversations analogous to those of the Andean ayllu. Other culture would be invited to dialogues dedicated to the mutual exploration of historical and evolutionary meanings. This would break the pattern of colonial thinking assigning non-Eurocentered cultures their status from the domineering vantage point of Eurocentric discourses.

The assumptions we hold about ourselves as modern, scientific and rational people are at times rather self-righteous – if we take the time to look in the mirror. For example, Wilber states: “The modern solution to this developmental nightmare [that the majority of individuals haven’t made it to the rational stage yet, J. W. K.] is that the rationality structure of the democratic state tolerates magic and mythic subholons…” (1995a, 252) While this statement makes sense on the face of it – the sad fact is that it hasn’t and still isn’t working out this way. I don’t think the traditional hill tribe peoples of Thailand or the Saami people in Sweden or the Wintu people of Northern California (to give just a few examples) have an experience of tolerance. Yes, maybe the rational stage theoretically should afford this tolerance, yet it doesn’t in so many cases and development thinking (“help for the Third World”) is inherently intolerant and destructive of indigenous cultures (Berger, 1990; Bodley, 1982). Is this because there is an inherent problem with the rational stage that makes it so difficult for its members to embody this tolerance or is it just the fact that “the majority of individuals in rational societies will settle in somewhere around the mythic-rational” (Wilber, 1995a, 252), that there isn’t enough rationality? From a native perspective the inherent problem of the so-called rational stage is the notion of progress and the “primitive”.

Wilber recommends “regression in service of higher integration – a regression that allows evolution to move forward more harmoniously by healing and wholing a previously alienated holon.” (1995a, 105) This is a somewhat unfortunate analogy to individual psychological theory, since it presupposes the ego constructed by modernity, an ego – as I have pointed out elsewhere (see Kremer, 1995a) – which is constructed dissociatively (from nature, community, ancestry, – from what I have described as the conversation in the ayllu above). Consequently, this ego is likely to project from its personality make-up into the past whatever it has dissociated from. In fact, projective identification may be the most apt clinical term to point to the psycho-emotional process eurocentered cultures are engaged in with contemporary indigenous peoples (this term also acknowledges that history is carried and handed down specifically in the process of socialization in each individual). Projective identification means that other people are made to feel the highly conflicted and split off material dominant cultures unconsciously injected into them – so that they feel and experience it as if it is their own. Natives feel the eurocentered dissociation from prehistory, ancestry, nature, etc. as self-hatred (“primitives”) which is so destructive to their cultures. Of course, self-hatred as an effect of internalized colonization warrants a much longer statement than I can offer here. Notably, in individual psychotherapy projective identification is known to be a pathological process oftentimes quite resistant to change because of its strongly self-reinforcing nature; this would seem to imply that we can assume strong resistance to the healing of the history of colonialism in the relationship between indigenous and eurocentered cultures. I would think that the retraction of these projections is the first order of business; for this we need a different metaphor than “regression in the service of the ego” (an adequate statement in the psychotherapeutic context, of course). The reintegration of cultural shadow material presupposes the possibility of an ego – the indigenous ego in communal conversation, if you wish – which would be differently constructed than our contemporary ego can easily imagine (see Kremer 1994 for descriptions). (Footnote 3)

We know from individual psychology that the shadow, the aspect of the self that is most troublesome and inimical to the ego-ideal, has a significant impact on the conscious awareness of the individual. Individual psychotherapy is in many ways the process of integration of this shadow material. Just as denial of the personal shadow distorts development of self, denial of the cultural shadow – indigenous peoples past and present – distorts the development of our understanding of history and consciousness. My point is that the evolutionary thinking needs to grapple with the fact that there are not only parts of history which have been denied (that we are or can easily be conscious of), but that there may be parts of history, just as with the individual shadow, which we are not aware of and which we need to struggle to become aware of and integrate. The fundamental question is this one: Is somebody who publishes A brief history of everything (Wilber, 1995b) under an obligation to struggle with the non-mediated voices of contemporary indigenous peoples? Since the Rio Earth Summit, if we venture to take that as a watershed event, this seems to be more necessary than ever (cf. Rogers, 1993). Can Wilber legitimately write A brief history of everything without delving into cultural shadow material? My answer would be that any contemporary author writing on social evolution does have this obligation – unless he wants to continue perpetrating an unfortunate history which created the cultural shadows I am referring to.

V. MINDFUL DECOLONIZATION – RECOVERY OF INDIGENOUS MIND PROCESS

Yvonne Dion-Buffalo and John Mohawk (1994) outline three choices which colonized peoples have in response to cultural colonization.
They can become “good subjects” of the discourse, accepting the rules of law and morals without much question, they can be “bad subjects” arguing that they have been subjected to alien rules but always revolting within the precepts of those rules, or they can be “non-subjects”, acting and thinking around discourses far removed from and unintellegible to the West [EMPHASIS ADDED, J.W.K.]… In a world composed of fewer than a dozen distinct civilizations (including the metropolitan West) plus 3,000 to 5,000 distinct indigenous societies, the range of possible experiences is very great indeed. These are the autochthonous peoples whom such luminaries as Arnold Toynbee wrote entirely out of history. Much of what remains of the range of human potential for creating versions of reality exists in the framework of the arts, stories, oral traditions, music and other cultural manifestations of these peoples. Their lived and dreamed experiences are the world’s richest sources of exploration of the human potential. – Gaining access to these experiences will not be easy. Not only are the voices of these distinct “others” remote, the channels of communication are practically non-existent. Few individuals from tribal societies write novels or history texts (p. 35).

“Non-subject” is a double-edged term: It refers not only to the choice native peoples may make not to be in reaction to their dominant societies, but it also signifies how the non-subjects do not show up in the prevailing discourses, because these don’t have the capacity to make them present (traditionally indigenous peoples are present to each other through the appropriate “legwork”, meaning knowledge exchanges set up in an equitable way). The words “acting and thinking around discourses far removed from and unintellegible to the West ” are of great significance. I have explored the qualitative differences between indigenous consciousness and eurocentered consciousness in my other publications (Kremer, 1995b). To put it simply: the cross-cultural differences between Germans and Italians are not of the same order as those between Italians and Navajos. Cross-cultural differences between cultures engaged in the participatory conversation with the phenomena are of one order, while cross-cultural differences between cultures representing a dissociative mind process are of a different order. Within each of these orders comparisons are easier, while they are very difficult between these two broad classes of cultural consciousness processes. The integral consciousness of indigenous minds and their cognitive capacities fall through the cracks of the eurocentered, anthropological lenses; what they allow us to see ends up as earlier developmental stages in models of the evolution of consciousnes (in models á la Piaget, Wilber, Kohlberg, etc.). As such they are a reflection of the eurocentered minds and their dissociation from their own origins and not an appropriate model to capture the worlds of native peoples. Advocates of stage models claim to be able to capture indigenous consciousness as archaic, typhonic or mythic. As I have tried to illustrate above, this type of conceptualization is a categorical error, inappropriately conflating two worlds: the eurocentered conceptualizations of non-subjects make them appear as “primitives” thus making them part of the dissociative eurocentered universe – a continuation of colonial thinking. Until such time when we as eurocentered people begin to pay attention to this error, our impact on native peoples will continue to be lethal.

Wilber doesn’t do any better than Toynbee. The indigenous peoples and individuals have no voice of their own in his writing. Whatever is said about them is written through the lense of received anthropology – a lense which is part and parcel of colonial history (more recent critical deviations within the field of anthropology notwithstanding). The literature by native people may not be extensive, for the reasons that Dion-Buffalo and Mohawk point out, but it is extensive enough to help us question quite clearly the prevailing discourses on legal, transpersonal, scientific and many other issues (see for example Lyons et al., 1992; Wa & Uukw, 1989; Wub-E-Ke-Niew, 1995).

Wilber quotes Roszak affirmatively (1995a, 571) as saying that “it is always risky to infer from contemporary to prehistory tribal groups.” Of course, this needs to be done thoughtfully. All this is contrary to the stance that other scholars such as Martin have arrived at when he imagines “that the speech and artisanry of modern (i.e., sixteeenth- to twentieth-century) hunting peoples is a close approximation of that mesolithic ancestral model” (1992, 35). Nevertheless, one of the examples from contemporary literature which Wilber gives shows clearly the process how native peoples become non-subject. He uses the “Hopi Rain Dance” (1995a, 128) as an example to discuss the distinction between hermeneutics and structural-functionalism. This discussion, interestingly enough, clearly ends up on the functionalist side: “Whether it is really going to make rain or not, or trying to make rain or not, is quite secondary to our concerns; because what it is really doing is providing an occasion that binds individuals together into the social fabric of the tribe” (1995a, 128/9; emphasis added). Wilber later clarifies that the “really” in this quote is indeed his position, and not just a disinterested discussion of functionalism: “Complex systems of mythology, whatever other functions they might have performed, began to serve first and foremost as a way to unify peoples beyond mere blood lineage” (1995a, 169, emphasis deleted). As other examples in his text show, his interpretation of tribal cultures, here even a contemporary one specifically mentioned by name, gets reduced to the “real meaning” which functionalism provides for him and which fits his general evolutionary scheme. The rest of the Hopi cultural practices, which presumably fall under the category of “magic,” are not considered as real and are relegated to the shadowlands. As long as members of the dominant discourse assume that they can intelligently talk about everything (with the implicit assumption that non-subjects are non-existent and with the corollary assumption that the possibility of non-subjects as defined above is a figment of “retro-romantics” or likeminded folk – as long as this is the case it continues to prepetrate colonialism and imperialism. The direct, unmediated Hopi voice is required in these discussions.

The question of how a non-subject might engage in dialogue with Ken Wilber is a tricky one. The fundamental problem is, of course, that a non-subject does not really have any place within the scheme which Wilber outlines except in the historical past as an evolutionarily earlier occurrence. Non-subjects thus only show up as the projections of the civilized eurocentered mind appearing at the earlier evolutionary stages – rather than as past and contemporary subjects in their own right with a fundamentally different way of knowing and being. The only way to gain or claim a place is to engage in a dialogue on the stage which has been prepared by the grand scheme he and others in the 19th century evolutionary thinking lineage. This means leaving non-subjecthood in order to gain or maintain credibility as an academically honorable conversational partner. This is the trap of colonialism and internalized colonialism. When I am striving to be seen through the eyes of the dominant paradigm – and Wilber is a part of that, different as he may appear on the surface – I am losing my otherness as I am trying to communicate using the forms and conventions which are not mine. Obviously, the style of my paper is an attempt to be respectful of the tremendous amount of work which he has put into his writing, while at the same time engaging in a way that is respectful of who I am. If I were to engage on the stage which he has prepared, then I would violate who I am; and if I don’t then my credibility is questionable in the eyes of the conventional discourse. Given this predicament I am trying to frame the dialogue in a way that more than just a meeting of minds may become possible. If Wilber is interested in dealing with his own indigenous cultures of origin and with contemporary native peoples in a way which is not dismissive, then he needs to seek an avenue of conversation and knowledge sharing which is different from standard academic discourse.

I have described the notion of participatory or shamanic “concourse” as a way of having knowledge exchange based on equity in a framework in which all participants are free to choose participation (Kremer, 1992a & b, 2002). The change from discourse to concourse is intentionally somewhat provocative. In reviewing the etymology of both words it becomes apparent that the embodied running of the Latin currere has become the disembodied movement of the mind in current academic discourse. Currere also connotes the running of waters or the circular movement of wheels. Instead of the antagonistic dis of the critical review of reality models (or truth claims), where scholars and others dispute conclusions reached in relative isolation by moving from premises to consequences, I am suggesting the con of communal, social reality creation (this is based on the presupposition that there is no genuine community without conflict and agonistic moves). Participatory concourse would be a circle where the communal reality creation is reviewed through talking as well as ritualistic embodiment; this circle would have space for silence, stories, humor, theater, dancing and other arts.

If scholars were to engage in participatory concourse, then this would mean that they are resuming an ancient conversation (where in ayllu, friðr, or elsewhere). They would understand that consensus about a particular truth claim is not something which can be achieved by means of the rational mind alone. The knowing of the body, the knowing of the heart, the knowing which comes from states of shifted awareness (including the dialogue with the ancestors) are all valuable processes. Even though every consensus will have to withstand the challenges posed in verbal, rational discourse, the words of resolution will have to withstand the challenges from all other human dimensions of experience – somatic, sexual, emotional and spiritual. Such an embodiment of knowing can heal the various splits, such as between body and mind. Any resolution has to include the explicit, verbal expression of agreement as well as the felt sense of common understanding. Any resolution needs to be open not just to be questioned through the pragmatics of testing propositional truths; it also needs to be open to moral and aesthetic (in the Batesonian sense [1991]) investigations. Somatic knowing and intuition need to see the light of the rational mind, while the mind needs to see the light which is in the body. While it is true that we are always challenged to reflect our resolutions in language, this does not mean that language is the sole arbiter of truth. It is in the open and fluid interaction of the different dimensions of the participatory concourse that we can discover how our resolutions of truth address the alignment issues we are faced with. To deny science is foolish; not to acknowledge its participation in the phenomena (in the Barfieldian sense) is equally dangerous. Participatory concourse allows us to appreciate scientific achievements without denying the body, the heart, sexuality, gender differences and the divine.

I have given this rudimentary description to indicate that there are ways in which qualitatively different paradigms could be with each other and explore each other’s knowledge (which takes more than the written word). All the issues which Wilber discusses are of tremendous consequence for eurocentered cultures and those peoples who are at the butt of their paradigm. I wish there were an occasion to engage about these issues in a setting which is respectful to all sides willing to participate. I hope that such a forum will be created and that discussions, such as in ReVision and Ken Wilber in Dialogue (discussed in the next section) may be the beginning of such participatory concourse (See Edwards, 2002, for a contribution to this debate). This would also allow eurocentered people to focus on our own history, the tribal perversions which we know about in our own past, and come to terms with the dissociation from our own prehistory.

VI. LINGERING SHADOWS

In 1996 a number of authors appreciatively and critically engaged with Wilber’s work in the journal ReVision. Editors Donald Rothberg and Sean Kelly developed a generative format for the discussions they intended to facilitate. After an overview by Donald Rothberg, Roger Walsh, Sean Kelly, Peggy Wright, Michael Zimmerman, Michael Washburn, Stanislav Grof, Jeanne Achterberg, Robert McDermott, and I discussed various aspects of Wilber’s publications; in addition, Rothberg interviewed Jospeh Goldstein, Jack Kornfield and Michel McDonald-Smith. Wilber wrote an extensive reply to these contributions. All authors then briefly replied to Wilber. The final words were written by Wilber and the editors. All these articles were published in ReVision (1996), Vol. 18 #4, Vol. 19#1 and #2. In 1998 this dialogue, together with additional contributions, was published by Quest.

Wilber responded to the critique voiced above in this article in three ways (1996, 31 & 46): 1) Future publications will address my concerns in detail and discussion the shadow of evolutionary thinking; 2) he repeated positions previously published without additional explanations; 3) Wilber assumed that my critical points represent a stance that he himself had taken in his earlier publications. Beyond that I did not find any specific responses to my remarks. Indeed, this appears to be the case in his responses to almost all appraisals of his works in these ReVision issues. In that sense the debate does not resemble particpatory concourse, however, the discussion can be seen as solid preparation for such process.

Gregory Bateson pointed out that lack of response is a significant piece of information (rather than no information). I find Wilber’s responses in this discussion disappointing, primarily because they fall short on engagement with the current writings of the contributors, while they are long on restatements of published positions and engagement with previous publications of some of the contributors. The stance that author X “tends to misrepresent my [Wilber’s] overall model” seems to be the stimulus for extensive restatements instead of a detailed dialogue with the thoughtful reflections offered by the various authors. Of course, a perceived misrepresentation can mean at least three things: a) an actual misrepresentation and distortion of something clearly stated; b) a misrepresentation of something open to interpretation or unclearly or insufficiently stated; c) something perceived or framed as a mispresentation, which is acutally a disagreement based on a correct or at least possible reading of an author’s statements. While I can deeply appreciate an author’s concern with the desire to be represented as accurately as possible in the secondary literature, the experience of misrepresentation could at the same time also occasion an introspective exploration of the possible causes that might contribute to such misunderstandings from the author’s side. The small amount of space dedicated by Wilber to dialogue about significant issues as they are described and identified by the present discussants results in less of a conversation and much more of a series of monologues than I had hoped for. But then: Wilber’s vision-logic, and certainly the indigenous mind process I am talking, about calls in part for a different setting and a different kind of interpersonal exchange than a journal can offer.

It is interesting to notice how Wilber reads McDermott and fails to distinguish between critical disagreements, outspokeness and level confrontation on the one hand and put downs, dismissive commentary and demeaning caricatures on the other hand. (And no response to Zimmerman on this topic.) I heartily agree with Wilber’s advocacy for honest disagreements and outspokeness. Yet: Wilber writes about my article that “I find his [Kremer’s] actual argument rather confused” without either saying what his reading of the argument is or why the argument is confused. An equivalent statement would be “I find Wilber’s actual writing rather dissociated.” Either of these remarks may be true, but they may be stated dismissively or in engaged level dialogue; the latter requires different wording and the creation of context through argument and explication.

One of the central issues around Wilber’s conceptualization of our evolutionary past is his image of peoples of previous historical stages. Stephen Jay Gould, who can hardly be called a “retroromantic,”discusses the nature of many of these assumptions commonly held about prehistoric peoples in a recent article about the Chauvet Cave art: “Old should mean rudimentary – either primitive by greater evolutionary regress toward an apish past or infantile by closer approach to the first steps on our path toward modernity. (…) This equation of the older with more rudimentary both violates the expectations of evolutionary theory when properly construed and has now also been empirically disproved by discoveries at Chauvet Cave and elsewhere. (…) The hypothesis of progressivism in paleolithic art cannot hold” (1996, 17, 72). Gould, of course, also advocates that the notion of progress be removed from evolutionary thinking.

Let me address some more of the specifics in Wilber’s reply to my article: Wilber points to my lack of his discussion of Winkelman’s reviews of his work. However, Wilber’s critique of Winkelman’s approach is quite beside the points which I am trying to make – no need for me to respond to his criticism. To use Wilber’s words: “Alas, you have misread my model.” My model is not one of cultural relativism and Wilber fails to explain how the performative contradiction identified in Winkelman’s work applies to my article. And Wilber has yet to answer to the detailed objections by Winkelman and myself regarding available archaeological and anthropological evidence which challenge his model as a whole (a discussion of cultural relativism, even if valid, is no response to these specific points).

Wilber’s statement about a society’s center of gravity is a restatement of his own published wordings and not a response to the inherent contradictions and unclarity related to Wilber’s work I point out in my article, especially in regards to his contradictory statements about rational societies and the present stage of the majority of its members.

Wilber finds my discussions of the indigenous mind process neither “fair, balanced, [n]or anthropologically representative.” This reminds me of debates around racism where one of the defensive responses to discussions of the Middle Passage is: “Well, African peoples had slaves, too.” Indeed – but it misses the point of engagement with the complicity in racism and colonialism. Naturally, within the euro-centered place where Wilber stands he has to find my discussion unbalanced – which is exactly what my critique addresses.

I find nothing in Wilber’s responses that persuades me that his model is not complicit with the continuation of racism and colonialism, I am sorry to say. The shadow of modernity continues to loom.

No author can be expected to address all the critical issues raised in the ReVision issues, yet Wilber’s selection of topics for his responses is disappointingly non-dialogical. – Wilber’s contributions to the field of transpersonal theory are impressive, yet, vision-logic, to my mind, requires a quality of dialogue about these issues which I have yet to see manifested in his response. The groundwork for the emergence of that possibility may have been laid with these ReVision issues. I am eager to be engaged in a quality of discourse (which I have called participatory concourse) which would do justice to the stage which Wilber sees emerging. His perspective and provocative engagement will be desirable in a context of shared assumptions about the nature of such a critical dialogue.

VII. ALTERNATE FRAMES

Let me return to the beginning of this paper and add some descriptions, which point to alternate frames for history, evolution, and universality through grounding conversations in the astronomical cycles and facilitating universality through equitable knowledge exchange within a consciousness of the same indigenous quality. The constraints of this article don’t allow for the elaboration of these practices of being and knowing, but I will briefly sketch some of the fundamental assumptions. The knowledge exchange between peoples in a dissociated consciousness process and peoples in an integral, non-dissociated consciousness process is likely to be governed by a paradigm of domination (driven by the dissociative process), while knowledge exchanges among peoples in an integral, non-dissociated consciousness process have a greater chance of being equitable. Universality is created in the latter exchanges through the specific understanding of relatedness and the sharing of the specific conversations engaging each other – the ceremonial context of such exchanges supports equity and reaches for global connections and universality in a different way than the process of abstraction. Deloria gives a succinct description of such an indigenous perspective from one of the Native American traditions:
The Plains Indians arranged their knowledge in a circular format – which is to say, there were no ultimate terms or constituents of their universe, only sets of relationships which sought to describe phenomena. No concept could stand alone in the way that time, space, and matter once stood as absolute entities in Western science. All concepts not only had content but were themselves composed of the elements of other ideas to which they were related. Thus it was possible to begin with one idea, thoroughly examine it by relating it to other concepts and arrive back at the starting point with the assurance that a person could properly interpret what constituted the idea and how it might manifest itself in concrete physical experiences. … A list of the most important components of the Indian universe:… The universe is alive … Everything is related …All relationships are historical … Space determines the nature of relationships … Time determines the meaning of relationships. (Deloria, 1996, 40ff.)
Returning to the Andean peoples of Peru we find the following descriptions of the indigenous mind process:
The chacra is the piece of land where the peasant lovingly and respectfully nurtures plants, soil, water, micro-climates and animals. In a broad sense chacra is all that is nurtured, thus the peasants say that the llama is their chacra that walks and whereof wool is harvested. We ourselves are the chacra of the wakas or deities that care for, teach and accompany us. …[There is a] continuous conversation and reciprocation between the relatives with the Andean ayllu, forming an organicity that facilitates the nurturing of the chacra, through practices of mutual help… This help takes place in an atmosphere of fiesta, with joy and always asking permission of the wakas or Andean deities. (Valladolid, 1995, 23 &46)
What happens between the Andean communities of humans, deities and nature is reciprocal dialogue, a relationship which does not assume any distancing and objectification between those dialoguing, but rather an attitude of tenderness and understanding towards the life of the other. Such dialogue does not lead one to a knowledge about the other, but rather to empathize and attune oneself with its mode of being, and in company with that other, to generate and regenerate life. It is a dialogue … that leads [not to knowledge but] to wisdom. (Rengifo, 1993, 168, translation by Apffel-Marglin)

These are descriptions of a process of an immanently present visionary socially constructed being, which is sustained without a need to progress or overcome some insufficient state – conversations are held for balance’ sake. These descriptions are different from Wilber’s definition of vision-logic. Given the space limitations let me just briefly sketch some coordinates. The two quotes and my initial sections above describe the immanent, ongoing conversation with everything, including spirits, which constitutes the community for human beings. Within this framework, if individuals do not know their ancestry, place in the community, the cultural stories, the land they live on, the cycles of the seasons, the stars, etc. – then these persons are lost to who they are, and pathology ensues – these individuals are in need of healing or balancing. These indigenous models, which to my mind require cognitive skills akin to Wilber’s vision-logic, allow for an alternate understanding of time, history, and the variety of cultures; they also allow people to be in participation or conversation while exercising high level rational skills. Part of this conversation is the observation of the precession of the equinoxes and other larger historical cycles. This indigenous conceptualization allows each culture to understand its historic spiritual mission in its own ecological niche, so to speak. It is not just that this type of model is preferable, I would suggest that it has greater accuracy because it is more complete and integral. It facilitates cultural exchange because it establishes equality among prospective partners of knowledge trade and avoids implicit or explicit imperialistic thinking. From this particular perspective Wilber’s evolutionary story is a sad one, because it seems so desperately to seek that place of balance and healing of dissociation – but, sadly, continues to speak from a place of dissociation from parts of the self which indigenous consciousness considers essential for well-being; it continues to perpetrate the splits from participatory or conversational self, shadow and historical roots. As long as there is a trajectory of progress and as long as vision-logic is described without full attention to all aspects of the conversation in the ayllu (Wilber, 1995a, 185), we further the dissociation from the ancient conversation of balance, and Wilber’s grand scheme remains additive holism still in need of further integration.

Much of the current interest in native peoples – especially among New Age folk – is permeated with nostalgia and romanticism. The Hopi Indians of Arizona have been the object of such inappropriate and insufficient understanding. Yet, their history and stories show a complex struggle for balance, which all too frequently ends in kooyanisqatsi or social disarray – with all the gore of killed fellow tribal members, burnt villages, etc. (see M. Lomatuway’ma, L. Lomatuway’ma, Namingha & Malotki [1993] for illustrative stories narrated by Hopi people). I am giving this reminder so that the reader may resist temptations to see my descriptions as amounting to some form of ideal or perfect image of native peoples which can be – maybe nostalgically or romantically – projected into the past. There is nothing ideal about these descriptions in the contemporary sense of the word. The present dialectic of the ideal and the flawed are machinations of contemporary discourse fueled by the shadows of its past; the creation of these figments support its addictive hunger for power and domination. Life is never ideal, it never has been. Human follies and fallacies have always been there. Trading in ideals is the narcissism of the dominant culture. Good-bad, ideal-flawed have always been contextualized, relative, historical. Romanticism and nostalgia are the the reaction to the denial of the presence of indigenous mind and non-subjects in contemporary life; neither know who they are in terms of the indigenous framework which I have just described. Both are lost to the sacred obligation which humans have to all their relations on this planet.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Eduardo Grillo, one of the founding members of PRATEC and their primus inter pares, who unexpectedly passed away on April 23, 1996.

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Footnote 1: The precession of the equinoxes (the westward drift of the vernal equinox through the zodiac) is caused by the wobble of the earth; as a result her axis points to different parts ofo the sky at different times (e.g., while Polaris is the current North Star, Vega will have that position 13,000 years from now). See Kyselka & Lanterman (1976) for a basic overview discussion of this astronomical phenomenon. De Santillana & v. Dechend (1969) have written the fundamental work – from the European perspective – for an interpretation of myths in astronomical terms, demonstrating how the language of ancient stories can be simultaneously poetic and scientifically precise (especially in regards to the example just given in my text).

Footnote 2: Cf. Warrior, 1995 for a discussion of these positions; cf. Vizenor, 1989, 1994a, 1994b for an example of Native American discourse stance.

Footnote 3: Thanks to Betty Bastien for our conversations about internalized colonization which led me to conceptualize the dynamic in terms of projective identification.

 

Reconstructing indigenous consciousness: Preliminary considerations

Reconstructing indigenous consciousness –

Preliminary considerations

 

Jürgen W. Kremer, PhD

3383 Princeton Drive

Santa Rosa, CA 95405

jkremer@sonic.net

 

1999

Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 8(1), 32-56.

[Page numbers inserted below as P32 etc.]

 

[P32] Introduction

This article addresses issues which do not have a clear domain in eurocentered thinking: they are neither psychology nor anthropology nor philosophy – while touching upon all these domains and using the discourses they offer. These prelimary remarks are intended to lay the groundwork for an indigenous discourse or conversation originating from eurocentered traditions and designed for eurocentered traditions; as such they use the tools offered by these discourses in a self-reflective and critical fashion. This point is crucial: No attempt is made to speak on behalf of indigenous peoples or to interpret their situation or needs or perceived historical trajectory. This contribution focuses on the indigenous roots of eurocentered traditions by way of a self-reflective look at their histories and the contemporary eurocentered situation.

 

My discussion is in contrast to concerns indigenous peoples might have. Issues of indigenous consciousness are quite different for people(s) who either have a living tradition or who have lost connection with their indigenous roots only during very recent times. The common genocidal threat to native peoples is a factor absent from the eurocentered traditions, who represent the colonizing forces. The significantly greater availability of oral traditions, ceremonies, indigenous healing practices, etc. is another difference. The latter point means that issues of indigenous consciousness within eurocentered traditions have to be largely reconstructive because of the multigenerational interruption of any practices resembling a native lifeway (this applies despite the fact that isolated remnants are surviving in various forms).

 

If we reject the option of imitating indigenous practices from other cultures, then we are left with the challenge of working our way through our own historical trajectory in reconstructive efforts to discover what it might mean for eurocentered folk to be present in their indigenous minds. Such endeavor certainly does not and should not preclude the learning from contemporary indigenous peoples – in fact, it is only wise to seek their help. But it means that the alternative to the imitation of existing indigenous traditions is the Wiederaufarbeitung of the historical development which brought us to where we are now – a critical Vergangenheitsbewältigung which also integrates, appreciates, and validates as it attempts to heal that which constitutes pathology from an indigenous perspective.

 

All traditions, whether indigenous or eurocentered, have always changed. However, the nature of change is different in either paradigm: the maintenance of an intact or somewhat intact indigenous discourse or conversation follows the course of a spiral as the circles of greater and lesser completeness move through time. The change in the eurocentered [P33] traditions has been an increasing distance from, denial of, and devaluation of their indigenous roots – the line of progress. Consequently, the critical review of the changes looks different in the latter case and has to confront whatever problems and advancement eurocentered history has wrought. We cannot leap out of our historical situation, we have to work our way through it, embracing the light and embracing the shadow material and the creative energies released in this fashion.

 

The crucial point here is, according to all the native and indigenous people (shamans, medicine people and intellectuals) I have spoken to, 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, particular the ecological crisis, rests. For example, Bob Haozous, 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). Reconstructing indigenous consciousness is, in a sense, about the remembrance of these original instructions and the indigenous conversation with all beings they guide in a particular place at a particular time. The concern of many of my past publications – as in this one – has been the demonstration that this process can be argued for within the eurocentered framework, not just from an indigenous perspective. While the current piece is an exercise in abstraction, I have also offered a more concrete application discussing the available material in the Old Norse traditions about the Vanir gods or spirits (Bjarnadóttir & Kremer, 1998).

 

Dion-Buffalo and Mohawk (1994) outline three choices which colonized peoples have in response to cultural colonization.

They can become “good subjects” of the discourse, accepting the rules of law and morals without much question, they can be “bad subjects” arguing that they have been subjected to alien rules but always revolting within the precepts of those rules, or they can be “non-subjects”, acting and thinking around discourses far removed from and unintellegible to the West [emphasis added, J.W.K.]… In a world composed of fewer than a dozen distinct civilizations (including the metropolitan West) plus 3,000 to 5,000 distinct indigenous societies, the range of possible experiences is very great indeed. These are the autochthonous peoples whom such luminaries as Arnold Toynbee wrote entirely out of history. Much of what remains of the range of human potential for creating versions of reality exists in the framework of the arts, stories, oral traditions, music and other cultural manifestations of these peoples. Their lived and dreamed experiences are the world’s richest sources of exploration of the human potential. – Gaining access to these experiences will not be easy. Not only are the voices of these distinct “others” remote, the channels of communication are practically non-existent. Few individuals from tribal societies write novels or history texts (p. 35).

[P34] If there are three choices for indigenous peoples, what are the equivalent choices for participants in the eurocentered discourses? The analogous choices would be to be good subjects accepting the given rules, to be bad subjects revolting against the precepts of the given rules (as critics within postmodern philosophy, transpersonal psychology, the new age movement, etc. are doing), or they could become non-subjects and recover a conversation that is not just removed from the current dominant discourses, but that questions their dissociative precepts. The latter choice is, as should be apparent, a difficult one, since it implies the radical deconstruction of the eurocentered individual who we are accustomed to be.

 

The choice of the good or bad subject are choices within eurocentered discourses, choices for the continuity of some form of dissociation from participation in the phenomena. The choice of the non-subject is the choice of the continuation of some form of original participation among indigenous peoples or the choice of recovery of indigenous mind and participation for the eurocentered discourses and for others who have lost connection to their native roots. The non-subject choice is the choice for participation in the phenomena, for a dialogical, nurturing knowledge creation. The current article endeavors to develop some basis for the latter choice.

 

I will present my considerations regarding the reconstructive efforts of indigenous consciousness in eurocentered context in the following fashion:

  • First I will establish a context for my approach in a fashion which is appropriate for indigenous presence.
  • Then I will discuss the nature of participatory consciousness.
  • Thirdly I will describe the historical process of the loss of or dissociation from particpatory consciousness.
  • Then I will highlight the differences between the worlds of participatory presence and the worlds of dissociative presence.
  • And, finally, I will discuss the epistemologies of recovering participation.

 

 

  1. Context

A few years ago I had a dream which pertains to the issues at hand:

The location of the dream is Hamburg, the town where I grew up in Northern Germany. Sitting on the threshold in the doorway of a pre-war brick house beside my partner I overlook the river Elbe from on high. We are atop the ancient ice age rim of the river, the border of its once miles wide flow, thousands of years ago when reindeer roamed these latitudes. The reindeer now live much farther north, and the river moves in a much more narrow bed; yet it still spreads to considerable widths three hundred or so feet below us, where ferries criss-cross its course and ocean liners enter and leave the harbor. We are not just sitting atop an ancient river bed, but also very close to the old building where I went for Kindergarten shortly after the Second World War. At that time it was a place with a [P35] comforting huge tile stove and a garden with plants and trees inviting the imagination of children at play. I realize that there are achaeological excavations in process behind the old Kindergarten. Signs are put up all around it: No trespassing! Stay out! Not to be deterred, I leave my body at the moment of seeing these signs and enter the forbidden grounds. I hover over the ancient ruins which are uncovered thanks to the work of the archaeological team. A round, towerlike structure emerging from the depths of the ground is clearly visible. It appears to extend a good ways into the earth. I understand that this is an ancestral ceremonial structure, as are other similar ones right next to it. The name of the place where this dig into ancient cultural history occurs is Altona – meaning “all-too-near.” Legend has it that an orphan was blindfolded when the burghers of Hamburg wanted to expand their overpopulated city. The idea was to place the new town where the orphan would stumble and fall. But what happened was unexpected. The boy had barely left the city gates, when he stumbled and fell. The attendant burghers exclaimed in surprise that this was all too near, in the local vernacular:  “All to nah!”  – thence the name for this part of the city – Altona. The place where I gain access to the layers below the contemporary city and old ancestral cultural memories is all too close in this dream, right there with my childhood, and fenced in by signs forbidding entry.

 

I wake up bringing with me not only the memory of the dream images, but its self-interpretation at the end. This dream contained an answer to the curiosity and spiritual hunger which I had tried to satisfy since adolescence through the study of native peoples and shamanism in particular.

 

This dream (and its implicit epistemology of recovery) can be seen as a description of my approach to inquiry of matters indigenous or tribal and my reconstructive efforts described below. It also points to the cultural struggle of “the west.” The key to such inquiry in the eurocentered context is the remembrance in itself of what it seeks in other peoples – recovering indigenous mind. Cultural history and the prevailing definitions of scientific inquiry make such a project difficult, to say the least. Native American intellectual Mohawk has stated: “I do not want people to adopt Indian rituals because I want people to own their own rituals. I want them to come to ownership out of experiences that are real to them. Then I’ll come and celebrate it with them” (quoted in Spretnak, 1991) When we extrapolate this statement to the area of ways of knowing (of which ritual is one) then we could say that participants in the eurocentered discourses need to recover and own their shamanic inquiry before natives will engage in and celebrate their ways of knowing with them.

 

 

  1. The epistemology of indigenous conversation or participatory concourse

If reality is not a simple given (since it cannot be accessed directly ) but emerges out of the subject – object interactions of specific, encultured human beings, then we have to conclude that the world we live in is created by us in some fashion. In representing the as-yet-[P36]unrepresented we create what we call reality. This should not lead to the superficial and voluntaristic conclusion that we can create any reality we want as our consensual reality. There are at least two major constraints bearing upon what we can create as reality: 1) There is something ‘out there’ – there is an external reality with which we engage. 2) What we can create and perceive is limited by what our embodiment provides (our sense organs, brain, gender, etc.). The reality we live in is created in interaction with what is ‘out there’, it is a co-creation with the external reality we engage in or are engaged by. We have constraints as specifically embodied-knowledge-seeking beings and these are limited and modified by an external reality. But within these constraints there are many different solutions to the problem of creating a world of phenomena to live in. These solutions are represented in the consensual practices of different cultures, with the embeddedness of knowing in culture and history constituting yet another stratum of constraints.

 

One helpful exposition of this epistemological view has been made by Barfield (1965) in his book Saving the appearances. He criticizes the Enlightenment project by tracing the different ways in which we are engaging in the phenomena throughout different stages of the evolution of consciousness. The term ‘phenomenon’ refers to the sensational and mental construction of the “unrepresented”, Kant’s noumena or Dinge an sich (Reilly, 1971). We always participate in the phenomena, but this participation may be conscious or unconscious, it may be directed by strict or loose ego boundaries, it can be reflected or unreflected. He argues that in the subject – object interaction between human beings and the ‘out there’ (external reality, the unrepresented), we may participate in what we consider phenomena in radically different ways.

 

Barfield distinguishes three major types of participation which are of epistemological relevance: original participation, the loss of or the unconscious participation of modernity, and final participation. The latter term is problematic (how do we know it is final?), and I prefer to call this process of regaining participation in the phenomena “recovery of indigenous mind.”

 

In short, Barfield 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 (cf. Detienne, 1996, for a discussion regarding these changes in archaic Greece). 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 participation can be regained – not as return to the previous process state, but changed by the historical experiences of the dissociation from the phenomena; this is the recovery of participatory indigenous consciousness. Let me add more detail to these three processes, however, before doing so I would like to clarify that I see this succession of processes as a valid perspective on the history of eurocentered consciousness and its future; but: I do not [P37] assume that these are necessary or inevitable stages or even that these are stages (rather than processes of a different quality); I also do not assume that they do or should apply similarly to peoples not of eurocentered consciousness.

 

In what Barfield calls ‘original participation’ (the interaction with the phenomena in past and present indigenous societies, for example), the embeddedness of human consciousness in nature is experienced and lived in a direct way with very permeable boundaries between self and phenomena. This synthetic type of consciousness allows an experience of our systemic connection with nature. “Original participation is … the sense that there stands behind the phenomena, and on the other side of them from [the human being], a represented, which is of the same nature as [the human being]” (1965, 111, Barfield’s emphasis). Barfield further assumes – mistakenly – that in original participation perception is undifferentiated from the whole, that the participation in the phenomena is unconscious, that there is little reflectiveness, and that thinking occurrs in images rather than concepts; as we will see below, there are many examples of cognitive feats by peoples who were arguably engaged in the process of original participation which contradict these assumptions (which stem from the unfortunate racist assumptions of early anthropological and evolutionary thinkers).

 

Oftentimes this process of original participation is discussed with racist implications which puts it in the pre-historic past of the European peoples and defines contemporary native peoples still engaged in this particpatory process – despite the history of colonialism – as backward and a prehistoric remnant. Let me give some contemporary descriptions of this process and de-mystify it by mentioning some of the accomplishments of peoples who – by all accounts – must have been in a process of original participation at the time.

 

The contemporary Andean peoples of Peru talk about participation in the phenomena as follows:

The ayllu is a group of related persons living in a particular place. The ayllu consists not only of a group of related humans but of other beings of that place: the animals, the mountains, streams and rocks and the local deities. The ayllu should therefore not be considered simply a sphere of kinship. Rather one could say that kinship in the Andes extends to the non-human realm. (Valladolid, 1995)

The conversations held between persons and the other inhabitants of the world are not primarily engaged in for the purpose of “knowing reality”. They are engaged in as part of the activity of criar y dejarse criar, of nurturing (raising) and letting oneself be nurtured (raised). The verb criar is used to speak of raising children, animals, plants, relationships, etc. It is the activity that fosters the growth and development of any potentiality or generativity. It is a fundamentally mutual or reciprocal activity: as one nurtures one is simultaneously nurtured. The action in the world does not leave the actor untransformed; acting in the world is being in relationship with that world, so the language of conversation is more appropriate than the language of knowledge. There is here no knower and known, no subject and object. Rather there are actors in relationships of mutuality. By acting one [P38] transforms not only the world but oneself as well. Therefore it is a fundamentally dynamic world, always moving, always changing, always in flux. There is, as it were, no simple act of knowing as we moderns understand the term, for such knowledge-acquiring activity presupposes that there is something to be known, irrespective of who knows it.

This is not to say that conversing with the world does not involve cognitive faculties, it of course does, but that the activity is not primarily and certainly not exclusively a cognitive one. Criar demands not only understanding but love, tenderness, patience. But it is to say that the point of conversation is not the attainment of knowledge through the interrogation of nature, it is rather to generate and regenerate the world and be generated and regenerated by it in the process. (Apffel-Marglin, 1994, p. 9)

 

These descriptions of the knowing and nurturing conversation in the ayllu are illustrations of the indigenous mind process or original participation. Valkeapää (1985, 1996, no p. #) has given a poetic description of Saami siida life and participation:

How I respect

the old Sámi life

That was true love of nature

where nothing was wasted

where humans were part of nature

 

Not until now have they realized

that the people who lived here

ten thousand years ago

melted to become the Sámi (…)

 

I see our fjells

the places we live

and hear my heart beat

all this is my home

and I carry it

within me

in my heart

I can hear it

when I close my eyes

I can hear it

 

I hear somewhere

deep within me

I hear the ground thunder

from thousands of hooves

I hear the reindeer herd running

or is it the noaidi drum

[P39] and the sacrificial stone

 

Of course, our modern eurocentered mind leads us to looki for words – stories, myths, descriptions, definitions – which evoke participatory conciousness. From an indigenous vantage point such profound “libraries” or records as Stonehenge, Newgrange, the rock carvings of Northern Europe and elsewhere, the Gundestrup cauldron are, in a sense, more accurate and more complete. Creation stories, as the Sámi Mjandasj story, may do something similar. (See also Colorado, 1988, for an Iroquois description of skanagoah, the great peace, the center of the indigenous conversation). This indigenous mind or consciousness process I am referring to here is not an essentialist understanding of tribalism or indigenism, but a discourse view in which individuals understand themselves in an ongoing conversation with the surrounding community, in which the local animals, plants, ancestors, and other spirits are a part (cf. Apffel Marglin, 1994; Rengifo, 1993; Valladolid, 1995); this conversation is carried on as a part of unfolding one’s own gifts while paying attention to the ceremonial and seasonal cycles as well as the larger astronomical cycles. (See Warrior, 1995 for a discussion of these positions; cf. Vizenor, 1989, 1994a, 1994b for an example of Native American discourse stance.) This is a worldview of total immanence which acknowledges that the social construction or conversation in one place is different from other conversations in other places, yet seeing this it stays grounded in the detailed observations of and conversations with animal, plants, and the various cycles of the specific place of conversation. This is not a mind process where egoic consciousness and transcendence stand in some form of opposition or tension to each other, but where individuals of the permeable, participatory consciousness live with spirits as much as part of their community as other human beings or plants. “El mundo es inmanente – the world is immanent” (PRATEC, 1996, 10).

 

These are descriptions of a process of an immanently present visionary socially constructed being, which is sustained without a need to progress to transcendence. They describe the immanent, ongoing conversation with everything, including spirits, which constitutes the community for human beings. Within this framework, if individuals do not know their ancestry, place in the community, the cultural stories, the land they live on, the cycles of the seasons, the stars, etc. – then these persons are lost to who they are, and pathology ensues – these individuals are in need of healing or balancing. These indigenous models allow for an alternate understanding of time, history, and the variety of cultures; they also allow to be in participation or conversation while exercising high level rational skills. Part of this conversation is the observation of the precession of the equinoxes and other larger historical cycles. This indigenous conceptualization allows each culture to understand its historic spiritual mission in its ecology, so to speak. It is not just that this type of model is preferable, I would suggest that it has greater accuracy because it is more complete and integral. It facilitates cultural exchange because it establishes equality among prospective partners of knowledge trade and avoids implicit or explicit imperialistic thinking.

 

[DP40] It is important to remember that the peoples active in participatory consciousness have done things which we can only regard as incredible and major acknowledgements. Whether this is star knowledge, travel, navigation, metallurgy or many other things – the range and depth of cognitive feats is frequently astonishing and difficult to deny despite the force of the continuing prejudices regarding the “primitivism” of early peoples. (I have discussed this issue at greater length in Kremer, 1998a, b; 1997c; 1996b, c, d) All this makes clear that some of Barfield’s assumptions regarding original participation (lack of reflection, unconsciousness, lack of differentiation from whole) are not tenable.

 

Gowlett (1992, 345) suggests

that through the past 30,000 to 40,000 years the brains of modern homo sapiens were similar to our own. Physical and cultural evidence points to lower levels of mental ability and craft skill in the earlier periods. Nevertheless, we may have to concede that the foundations of many basic human skills were laid 1 or even 2 million years ago, rather than at the origins of our own species.

Even Lévy-Bruhl, who wrote extensively about ‘primitive mentality’ stated in his last works that he no longer assumed a structural difference between contemporary Europeans and indigenous humans:

Let us expressly rectify what I believed correct in 1910: there is not a primitive mentality distinguishable from the other by two characteristics which are peculiar to it (mystical and prelogical). There is a mystical mentality which is more marked and more easily observable among ‘primitive peoples’ than in our societies, but is present in every human mind. (Les carnets, 1949, 131-2, quoted from Cazeneuve, 1972, 87)

 

All these points lead to a suggestion of what appears like a paradox on the surface: Peoples engaged in original participation may indeed have participated and continue to participate in the phenomena, yet they may simultaneously have been capable of cognitive feats requiring skills commonly associated in evolutionary thinking with the much later times of the egoic-rational processes. Mayan architecture, glyphs, mathematics and calendrics may serve as a surviving and continuing illustration (see recently Freidel, Schele & Parker, 1993) that participation in the phenomena and cognitive skills like formal-operational logic are a contradiction in the eyes of the dissociated, modernist ego only.

 

 

  1. The loss of participation and the pathology of dissociation

According to Barfield, by the seventeenth century the center of perception and thinking had changed 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 [P41] 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). I have termed this process dissociative schismogenesis (Kremer, 1992b) – the progressively and addictively increasing split from participation and one’s origins. give more definition

 

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 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 as follows:

 

  • In the Renaissance 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 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. While epistemological questions were certainly part of the philosophical discourse (we can trace them in eurocentered thinking to Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Empedocles), epistemology as a separate discipline had yet to arise.

 

  • 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”, a 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 superceded by the emergent medical and other sciences. The 19th century saw the height of colonialism and imperialism. It is during this time period (in 1856) that the word epistemology was first recorded to label “the theory or science of the method or grounds of knowledge” (OED). In Germany the word Erkenntnistheorie began emerging among the Kantians beginning in 1808, to be firmly established by Zeller in 1862 with his Über die Aufgabe und Bedeutung [P42] der Erkenntnistheorie (Klaus & Buhr, 1970). 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. Habermas (1997) makes this point clearly when he discusses the benefits and limitations of Cassirers Theorie der symbolischen Formen (a theory I could have used instead of Barfield’s to discuss the present issues): It is the logic of progress and the process of civilization – Aufklärung – which destroys and needs to destroy the impact of participation in the phenomena. (See Wilber articles for details, Kremer 1998 a, b)

 

Most models of social evolution (such as recently Wilber’s, 1995; cf. Winkelman, 1993, 5) are in the tradition of 19th century evolutionary conceptualizations. Julian Huxley is a good example for this thinking in the field of biology:

If we accept the doctrine of evolution, we are bound to believe that man has arisen from mammals, terrestrial from aquatic forms, vertebrates from invertebrates, multicellular from unicellular, and in general the larger and the more complex from the smaller and simpler. To the average man it will be indisputable that a man is higher than a worm or a polyp, an insect is higher than a protozoan, even if he cannot exactly define in what resides this highness or lowness of organic types. (Huxley, 1923, 10; quoted from Barlow, 1994)

Of course, if this type of evolutionist thinking is extrapolated into the field of evolution of consciousness and societies, then we can see how the prehistoric peoples of all continents and the contemporary remaining indigenous peoples – as McGrane has illustrated – can be classed as “lower” and the euro-centered as “higher” (even if there are yet higher stages to come).

The very identification of and naming of the non-European Other as “primitive,” as “primitive mentality,” as “primitive culture,” presupposed a theory (language) of rational progress, of progress in and by reason (Enlightenment) and/or progress in and by history (nineteenth century). The very possibility of the conception of “primitive” presupposed the prior commitment to a conception of progress. (McGrane, 1989, 99)

The notion of progress implies that there is something at least insufficient or even bad in the past and that the good lies in the future. It is the

powerful ideology of progress that proposes human history as a story of mankind’s inexorable advance toward a more perfect society and projects all changes with few [P43] exceptions as part of this process. The tradition of historical presentation in the West has had a strong tendency to select events in a way that constructs a story supportive of this largely unspoken thesis” (Lyons, in Lyons et al., 1992, 17).

 

From a native perspective, evolutionary thinking has always been problematic:

European utopian visions have been used to rationalize a range of criminal behaviors including the enslavement of millions of Africans and the annihilation of entire American Indian peoples as the (sometimes) regrettable but necessary consequence of the construction of some kind of future state of human perfection (Dion-Buffalo & Mohawk, 1994, p. 33).

This statement cannot be taken seriously enough and should be a clear warning signal to pay attention to the shadow of evolutionary thinking. (I have discussed some of this more extensively in Kremer, 1996b.) Unless we do so evolutionary thinking will remain misguided and dangerous because there is no reason to assume that it is outside of its history which – at least implicitly – justified (cultural) genocides. In order to step outside of that intellectual history it is necessary to address explicitly shadow material issues such as the ones Dion-Buffalo and Mohawk mention in their quote. Otherwise whatever is written is at least an unconscious continuation of eurocentered dominance and (cultural) genocide. McGrane (1989) in his critical analysis of the history of “the Other” and anthropology comments that

when the ‘sun’ of civilization dawns on the virgin forest of the Other, instead of nourishing him, it chars and blackens him. … at the very instant they (primitive societies) become known to us they are doomed (108, last sentence quoted from Bastian).

Or in the word of Lyons (Lyons et al., 1992, 17): “At the moment of contact and conflict peoples are spotlighted briefly and their images are frozen forever in time.” The historical connection between the arising of enlightenment philosophy and colonialism is not just accidental. Using Barfield’s terminology: The appearances had to become idols before Kant could call out Sapere aude! and before the colonisation of native peoples could be “scientifically” justified.

Anthropology has been an extremely subtle and spiritual kind of cognitive imperialism, a power-based monologue about alien cultures rather than, and in active avoidance of, a dialogue with them in terms of sovereignty, i.e., the untranslatability and irreducibility of one ‘culture’ to the being and language of the other (McGrane, 1989, 127).

Until we understand the impact of this connection the cultural shadow material will determine what eurocentered cultures are – to an extent difficult to fathom. As Adorno and Horkheimer have pointed out: that which is repressed inevitably returns through the backdoor – with increased power (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1944).  This would mean that one of the most important current historic tasks of eurocentered cultures is to retract its [P44] attention and periodic obsession with other cultures and to focus on its own history, including the shadow of its own history.

 

Postmodernity helps us to think about issues like “tribal” or “indigenous” or “participation” differently, yet it is still “us” thinking “them.” Despite the increasing breakdown of the grand narratives and the increasing multivocality in discourses, postmodernity is but yet another advance within the game of dissociative epistemologies. Even though postmodern epistemologies have split Truth into truths and we can conceive of an increasing number of epistemologies, the politics remain the same: it is eurocentered thinking as the game master, even as the margins increasingly encroach. Postmodernity can easily be interpreted as the yearning to regain participation in the phenomena. The concern with tribal epistemologies is part of this yearning. And historical need.

 

 

  1. The world of participation and the world of dissociation

Before discussing the epistemologies of reconstructing indigenous consciousness it is important to highlight the differences not just in world views, but in worlds between participatory and dissociative consciousness.

 

Barfield’s most important point is that the worlds of participation (whether ‘original’ or recovered) and the worlds of unconscious participation or dissociation are different. It is not just that we see things differently in each of these worlds – but the worlds are  different. We can apply this thinking not just to the different stages of evolution which he presupposes, but also to differences between cultures in general. At times our conversational language even admits that much:”The Navajos live in a totally different world.” Indeed, they do. It is not just that they see the world differently – their world is not ours! The Mt. Taylor we see is not the same as the Tsoodzil  the Navajos see. When we see this mountain while driving along the interstate toward Albuquerque, then we see all its beautiful physicality and sheer massiveness; we may see the snow on the mountaintop and gaze in wonder at the way the mountain rises rapidly from the valley floor. Its size and beauty might inspire awe in us. Traditional Navajos actively participating in their way of life (and not in contact with the Western paradigm) would see the physical mountain also, of course, but they would also be aware of the turquoise color and the blue wind which dwell in this mountain. They would participate in it as the South Mountain which helps to contain the sacred land which provides for them. First Man and First Woman

fastened [the South Mountain] to the earth with a great stone knife, … they adorned it with turquoise, with dark mist, she-rain, and all different kinds of wild animals. On its summit they placed a dish of turquoise; in this they put two eggs of the Bluebird, which they covered with sacred buckskin. … The Boy who Carries One Turquoise and the Girl who Carries One Grain of Corn were put into the mountain to dwell. (Wyman, 1967, unpaginated)

[P45] Seeing the mountain is seeing part of what it means to live in hózhó,  in beauty and balance. This is why soil from this mountain is present in the bundle for their foundational ceremony, the Blessingway. Participating in Tsoodzil is participating in part of the creation story. While our experience of seeing Mt. Taylor is that of seeing something out there, Navajos would participate in Tsoodzil (or Dootl’shii Dziil, meaning turquoise mountain) as a part of themselves necessary for walking in old age on a trail of beauty (sa’a naghái bik’e hózhó).  If we were to imagine a successful recovery of indigenous consciousness, then we could surmise that we would also experience the spirit of the mountain, and that we would enter its beingness in a way which makes it no longer ‘out there’, and we would do this in a way which allows us to be conscious of our movement of boundaries.

 

But what about the concrete, the things we can touch and presumably all agree on? I would argue that the pragmatic, ‘real’ stuff which for which the Western enlightenment paradigm would like to provide agreements is nothing but the least common denominator (arrived at and agreeed to by dissociative perception and conceptual language). In holding a bead of turquoise in our hand we will probably be able to agree with any Navajo on its shape, color, the beauty of its veins, how we might polish it further, how it could be embedded in silver jewelry, how heavy it is, etc. (We would presumably be unable to agree, for exmple, on the question whether this is a semi-precious stone, since it is the most highly prized stone within the Navajo culture.) But what is meeting in such a conversation are two tips of icebergs, overlapping to a minimal degree. Of course, the tips of two icebergs cannot physically overlap — we can only make them overlap by way of lining them up in our perceptual field; the overlap thus created is the least common denominator which the Western enlightenment paradigm pursues. Below the eurocentered tip of the iceberg is the monstrous denial of our participation in the phenomenon ‘turquoise bead’ (which only imagination can recover). Below the Navajo tip of the iceberg is “the grand cosmic scheme of ‘hózhó’ ” and how turquoise ” functions as a lubricant to enhance this scheme or to restore it when it is disrupted… It is special because it is a means of harmonious communion with the other[s] … in the universe” (Witherspoon, 1987, 73-74). Thus we find that the tip of the Navajo iceberg is, in fact, the tip of a mountain, and that this mountain is only submerged for participants in the epistemology of modernity. We could say it is the tip of Tsoodzil. It is also the tip of all the chantways which maintain and restore beauty, happiness, health and harmony. We arrive at our supposed concrete, realistic view of the world at the expense of dissociation. For the Navajo a turquoise bead is a piece of art and as such “not divorced from subsistence, science, philosophy or theology, but is an integral part of both common activities and cosmic schemes” (Witherspoon, 1987, 60). While the tips of icebergs and mountains cannot physically touch at the top, they can touch at the bottom. Below the tips of the least common denominator we find the conscious or unconscious cultural practices which lead to differing participation in the phenomena. Yet  even further below we may enter unitive states of consciousness and find, among the silent spaces, realities where cultures and their peoples touch in ways which are yet to be fully explored (cf. Forman, 1990).

 

 

[P46] 5. Epistemologies of reconstructing indigenous consciousness

Barfield termed third epistemologically relevant process of ‘final participation,’ however, I prefer to talk about it as recovery of indigenous mind or consciousness. It allows us to regain participation and to participate intentionally in the world of phenomena. Barfield looks to Rudolf Steiner, Goethe and the romantic poets for guidance toward the synthesizing process of future participation in the phenomena among eurocentered peoples. He saw them as consciously and actively participating in the construction of the very world itself. Since Barfield overlooks contemporary indigenous peoples, he disregards the help they might have to offer for the recovery of participation. He suggests that the tension between the original participation of our ancestors and the modern Western consciousness can be resolved in the conscious experience of participation through our imaginative and creative faculties. I would add that it can also be resolved through the integration of those aspects of living and knowing from which the eurocentered discourses split themselves off: Ancestry, prehistory, nature, the feminine, etc. “Some say that evolution has now reached a stage at which [the human being] is becoming increasingly responsible for it. … I think the same; but I do not see that responsibility at all as others see it. … I am certain that our responsibility will only be discharged, if at all, not by tinkering with the outside of the world but by changing it, slowly enough no doubt, from the inside” (Barfield, 1979, 92). This internal work is the integration of all those processes which have followed the eurocentered discourse as its shadow.

 

This brings me to the viewpoint from which I am writing this article as somebody who is remembering his indigenous roots without any claim to being native or having shared native experiences of discrimination and colonialism; I grew up as part of the dominant culture in Germany (see Kremer, 1994, 1995 for further discussion of my stance). The endeavor which I call ‘recovery of indigenous mind’ is nothing nostalgic or romantic – it is a painful process of remembering back in order to go forward. There is no going back. There is no innocent or naïve recovery of participation. My way into the future moves through the integration of historical wounds, painful memories and apparently senseless events in order to work out a future based on the conversational model of the Andean ayllu and its European equivalents, based on an ecologically specific notion of balance.

 

At this point it is important to review specifically the epistemological issues relevant for a recovered participatory conversation within eurocentered discourses. I will do so by discussing notions of truth, participatory discourse, and the relationship between the recovered aspects of participatory knowing and being.

 

So what happens to the notion of truth when we allow for the validity of different worlds? If truth is no longer capitalized – does that mean anything is as good as anything else? Is there any way left to speak about things being true, any means of evaluation? Are we thrown into a groundless abyss of endless relativism? If truth is no longer the eternal verity [P47] that science purports to achieve, then it assumes the status of narrative. Then, how do we evaluate narratives of truth, different stories about the phenomena?

 

Instead of talking about truth, a term associated with the certainty and absoluteness as defined by the logocentric worldview, I prefer to talk about the resolution which different worlds provide in their interactions with the phenomena. Von Frantz (1970), in discussing psychological interpretation as a way of telling a story, asserts that we should never presume to have arrived at the truth. In assuming finality in our interpretation we cheat ourselves. Once we have an interpretation which “clicks”, we nevertheless still “crave the renewal that comes from understanding archetypal images” (p. 32). Resolution is never permanent, it is always temporary. The eurocentered notions of truth try to shirk their mantle of impermanence by dissociating from the participation which is its foundation. However, no dissociative state is ever safe from the play, the trickery and the chaotic invasion which ‘the other’ is prone to stage. The subcultures of Western technological societies, wilderness or nature, the feminine, the arts, dreams, the body are among the domains through which ‘the other’ continues to make itself known. Resolution aims at healing breaches, while truth needs anthropocentric dissociation from the phenomena.

 

Habermas (1984) has described five forms of rationality, five ways in which validity claims and their concomitant form of argumentation can be made:

  • The propositional truth or efficacy of teleological actions can be argued in theoretical discourses about cognitive-instrumental expressions; this is the domain with which the scientific, positivistic paradigm concerns itself to the exclusion of the other four dimensions; the positivistic research paradigm can be seen as the examplary mode to dispute propositional truths.
  • The normative rightness of statements can be argued in practical discourses about moral-practical expressions. This is the realm of ethical debates.
  • The comprehensibility or well-formedness of symbolic constructs can be argued in explicative discourses (this would include the ability to engage fellow scholars in dialogue). From this perspective we can dispute how clear, compelling and even evocative the different expressions of our relationship to the phenomena are.
  • The truthfulness or sincerity of expressions can be argued in therapeutic discourses. (Habermas uses the Freudian psychoanalytic discourse as the exemplar.)
  • The adequacy of value standards can be argued in aesthetic discourses.

 

While the positivistic approach to knowledge would like to make us believe that it is only the propositional truth of claims which matters, Habermas’ model implies that each utterance, considered in context, lays claim to acceptability in all the above five ways (Kremer, 1986; Wood, 1985). The five forms of rationality integrated constitute reason. What began with the Western enlightenment movement allowed us to distinguish these five forms of rationality; these distinctions are differences in the knowing process which Kant and others helped us make. Yet, as these distinctions become more significant and absolute, they also become more problematic.

 

[P48] The postmodern condition is the fragmentation and reification of these shimmering facets of reason into separate domains which are only minimally engaged with each other. While the rationality of the propositional truth is cherished throughout scientific inquiry, the other four dimenions of reason are relegated to ‘the other’, to the shadow. In the ordeal of the postmodern dark night the scholar is challenged to integrate what has been thought asunder. We are unresolved in our relationships to wilderness, the feminine, the body, the spiritual – ‘the other’ is what we cannot resolve.

 

Most theories of truth are concerned with the correspondence between what is asserted in scholarly discourse and what is considered ‘out there’, the phenomena. What is the goodness of fit? Habermas (1971) proposes a discourse model of truth to transcend the problems other models have encountered. Here the knower engages in dialogues with the community of knowing subjects in order to determine whether the truth ascertained can be defended in discourse and critique; this would be a dialogue in which we are challenged to engage in all five dimensions of reason. I would ascertain that this consensus model of truth is the only one appropriate for the epistemological approach I am describing and allows us to develop a eurocentered analogue to the Andean conversation in the ayllu. If worlds or realities are understood as intended, then it is no longer meaningful to look at the correspondence between the world described and the phenomena (die Dinge an sich). However, it is meaningful to dispute whether the facts described in the consensual narrative are consistent with the descriptions. Do we actually succeed in making the world which we are purportedly creating qua our narratives? The dark night experience of the scholar is the realization that the world which the epistemology of modernity claims to create is falling apart in the process.

 

It now becomes apparent that the truths consensually agreed upon by an integral use of rationalities can only be temporary and historically grounded resolutions. As cultures and knowledge change, so does truth. What reason accepts as truth is, in fact, the best resolution to a question or problem we can provide at the time. The limits of today’s resolution may only  become apparent tomorrow. Feyerabend (1984) has presented many critical discussions which affirm this point. Gregory (1988) describes at length how physicists invent a physical world. If these arguments are valid, then it will indeed be useful to think about reality in terms of the conversational model suggested by Andean people like Rengifo (1993), Valladolid (1995, 1997), Grillo (PRATEC, 1996), and others.

 

Resolutions which are – at least temporarily – satisfying because what they propose is efficacious, morally defensible, an expression of shared values and comprehensive aesthetics, sincere and beautifully expressed are what make up intentional worlds. We can see the Andean world of the ayllu as just such an intentional world. Or the recovered fridhr community of the Vanir times. Or the siida groups of the Sámi people. These resolutions are not subjectivistic or voluntaristic as long as they engage a community in discourse. (This is not to claim that resolutions which are experienced as satisfying cannot contain distortions related to power structures ). And as long as ancestry, place, history, and ecology are part of the discourse. The Truth with a capital T is the death threat to [P49] resolution. Truth does not allow for the conscious participation in renewal of intentional worlds, because it has to be dissociated from important aspects of reason. In renewing worlds we may strive for better and better resolutions or we may find that the resolutions which constitute our intentional world are quite satisfying and successful (on their own terms!).

 

Obviously, within the model of intentional worlds or community conversation which I have presented the evaluation of truth claims does become problematic. This is a crucial issue for the change in the quality of the eurocentered discourses. Is there any way to look at claims to resolution and to compare them? Is there a way of saying that one intentional world is better, more resolved than another? That the present is better or worse than the past? If we move from the evaluative stance which gives grades for worldviews, then we can begin to look at ways in which we might compare worldviews without consciously or unconsciously annexing them. Such comparison can reasonably only happen within the discourse model of resolutions previously discussed. Comparisons then become dialogical encounters and are then part of an effort to make cultures speak to each other, rather than a quest for a singular model containing all (at the expense of diversity).

 

Conversations about different resolutions or intentional worlds address what I have called alignment issues. When aspects of the participatory conversation are not aligned it means that the participants have dissociated from parts of the conversation. Alignment means that there is an open dialectic or exchange possible between all the different dimensions which make up participatory or indigenous conversations. Resolutions which involve splitting or dissociation are out of alignment, so to speak, and lead to anti-thetical results (with the dissociated parts floating about in the individual and social unconscious); resolutions which avoid splitting and dissociation lead to greater alignment and synthetical resolutions. Obviously, alignment is not a static or mechanical issue, but an issue of the openness of various processes toward each other. The questions of alignment can  be asked within the following domains which pertain to the openness of the participatory conversation:

  • How does a resolution affect the alignment of the different aspects within the human being (i.e., the state of the dialectic between cognition, emotion, the body, the numinous and the sexual, and between the individual understanding of ancestry, history, place, and cycles)? How are these aspects boundaried, how are they valued and how are they made to speak to each other?
  • How does a resolution affect the alignment between human beings? How is the relationship between genders defined? Does it facilitate the establishment of constraint-free and sincere interactions? Does it facilitate interactions which include all aspects of the human being? Do our socio-cultural creations support sincere, mature, and open communications? Does it facilitate the discussion of shadow or deviant aspects of society, history, economy, ancestry, etc.?
  • How does a resolution affect the alignment between human beings and wilderness or nature? In this domain we would raise all the issues which ecologists have begun to address.

[P50] • How does a resolution affect the alignment between different elements of nature (which has become a critical issue only since the the human intervention in our wilderness has proved to be severely destructive)? (cf. Kremer, 1987)

 

It is easy to jump to conclusions about a certain normativeness inherent in the way I am asking these questions about alignments and their domains. However, even the questions, boundaries of domains, terminologies (such as ‘mature’) need to be potentially part of any alignment conversation. Whatever implicit normativeness is or seems to be present can always be raised as an issue for conversation and exploration.

 

I have described the notion of participatory or shamanic “concourse” as a way of having knowledge exchange based on equity in a framework in which all participants are free to choose participation (Kremer, 1992a &b). The change from discourse to concourse is intentionally somewhat provocative. In reviewing the etymology of both words it becomes apparent that the embodied running of the Latin currere has become the disembodied movement of the mind in current academic discourse. Currere also connotes the running of waters or the circular movement of wheels. Instead of the antagonistic dis of the critical review of reality models (or truth claims), where scholars and others dispute conclusions reached in relative isolation by moving from premises to consequences, I am suggesting the con of communal, social reality creation (this is based on the presupposition that there is no genuine community without conflict and agonistic moves). Participatory concourse would be a circle where the communal reality creation is reviewed through talking as well as ritualistic embodiment; this circle would have space for silence, stories, humor, theater, dancing and other arts.

 

The shamanic coming together in a circle is the idealized prototype to which the term ‘shamanic concourse’ alludes. This would be a circle where the communal reality creation is reviewed through talking as well as ritualistic embodiment; this circle would have space for silence, stories, humour, theatre, dancing and other arts. The name ‘shamanic concourse’ seems appropriate as an acknowledgement of the fact that shamans appear to be the primary model of practitioners actively engaged in world creation and world maintainance; these are people who appear to be conscious (although not in the Western sense) of the relationship between knowing and creating and who are constantly engaged in dealing with issues of alignment; they are, frequently, aware of other cultural worlds, respect them and find ways to engage with them without abandoning the world which they are intent on maintaining. For them knowing is a practice of living. Living is the practice of knowing. They seem to have tools which can help us to be more conscious of the knowing process. Bean and Vane point out that “shamans, having control of ‘altered states of consiousness,’ were religious specialists in charge of the relationship between [human beings] and the supernatural…, in effect philosophers” (1978, 662, emphasis added). They can serve as models on how to participate in the phenomena while remaining conscious (in a new way) of that participation.

 

[P51] If scholars were to engage in participatory concourse, then this would mean that they are resuming an ancient conversation – the recovery of their indigenous roots and participatory consciousness. They would understand that consensus about a particular truth claim is not something which can be achieved by means of the rational mind alone. The knowing of the body, the knowing of the heart, the knowing which comes from states of shifted awareness (including the dialogue with the ancestors) are all valuable processes. Storytelling, star observation, conversations with plants, animals and ancestors are equally valuable. Even though every consensus will have to withstand the challenges posed in verbal, rational discourse, the words and stories of resolution will have to withstand the challenges from all other human dimensions of experience – somatic, sexual, emotional and spiritual as well as ancestral, historical and ecological. Such an embodiment of knowing can heal the various splits, such as between body and mind. Any resolution has to include the explicit, verbal expression of agreement as well as the felt sense of common understanding. Any resolution needs to be open not just to be questioned through the pragmatics of testing propositional truths; it also needs to be open to moral and aesthetic (in the Batesonian sense [1991]) investigations. Somatic knowing and intuition need to see the light of the rational mind, while the mind needs to see the light which is in the body. While it is true that we are always challenged to reflect our resolutions in language, this does not mean that language is the sole arbiter of truth. It is in the open and fluid interaction of the different dimensions of the participatory concourse that we can discover how our resolutions of truth address the alignment issues we are faced with. To deny science is foolish; not to acknowledge its participation in the is dangerous (as our current crises illustrate all too vividly). Participatory concourse allows us to appreciate scientific achievements without denying the body, the heart, sexuality, gender differences and the divine, without denying ancestry, place, history, and astronomical cycles.

 

In the Native American ceremony of the rock people lodge (sweat lodge) the medicine person evokes and invokes a world which is different from our consensual Western world. We are specifically engaged on levels which include the feminine, which invoke all aspects of nature, which shift our awareness of the body, and which open and invoke a spiritual dimension normally not present for those initiated in the Western technological worldview. In this process of ritual knowing we participate in the phenomena as they arise in a way different from those of the masculinized Western scholar. The way we are aligned within ourselves, with others and with nature is part of this process of knowing. It is also something we can engage with in participatory concourse to understand and explain its claims to resolution.

 

The model Western enlightenment ceremonial of experimental verification of propositional truth engages the masculinized scholar with the phenomena in a different way. Here the scholar is trained to focus attention on just one aspect of experience and rationality: the mind and truth as defined by a positivistic criterion. It is these operations which define the ground of ordinary reality as seen in societies invested in the Western technological worldview. The resolutions which these operations of knowing provide as a world to live in can be discussed in a participatory concourse engaging all domains of alignment.

 

[P52] Once the Western scholar has been defined as a ritualistic practitioner of world renewal, we can begin to regain consciousness about our participation in the phenomena. The dissociation between the ‘out there’ and the knowing act can be synthetically resolved into the conscious participation in the phenomena. Here scholars are the Western analogue of the shaman. As such they have responsibilities which exceed by far what the positivistic paradigm calls for. The inclusion of the different domains of knowing and alignment might engage the academy consciously with the practice of world renewal. Education then becomes transformative learning and the continuous practice of world renewal. The boundaries between cosmos and psyche are redrawn and redefined. The conscious experience of the world as intentional allows us to participate in change and renewal. The participatory concourse can save us from the aridness of Habermas’ discourse model without throwing us into the postmodern abyss of fragmentation, irresponsibility and cynicism. The epistemological framework I have presented uses participatory concourse in order to review claims to truth and resolution. Such process includes silence, shifts in awareness, the body and the remaining dimensions of ‘the other’, thus modulating language as words and grammar intend worlds.

 

Thus we may reconstruct what indigenous consciousness might be for eurocentered peoples today.

 

Zusammenfassung

Die Dialektik von Bejahung und kritischer Negation eurozentrierter Zugänge zum Wissen wird in diesem Aufsatz in der Möglichkeit einer Affirmation des rekonstruierten indigenen Bewußtseins aufgelöst. Dieser Ansatz wird anfangs mittels eines Traumes vorgestellt, der die im Nachfolgenden dargestellte rekonstruktive Epistemologie enthält – eine indigene Darstellung dieses Wissensansatzes. Partizipatorisches, teilnehmendes Bewußtsein – der Geistesprozeß vergangener und gegenwärtiger indigener Völker – wird dann anhand von Barfields Begriff der ursprünglichen Teilnahme (original participation) diskutiert. Eine kritische Untersuchung seiner Definitionen erlaubt ursprüngliche Teilnahme als wechselseitig ernährendes und bereicherndes Gespräch zwischen allen Gesprächsteilnehmern gegenwärtig zu verstehen. Die Trennung oder Dissoziation von dieser Qualität des teilnehmenden Bewußtseins wird dann in historischer Sicht beschrieben. Der Verfasser betont, daß die Unterschiede zwischen teilnehmendem und dissoziativem Bewußtsein nicht nur einen Unterschied in der Weltsicht darstellen, sondern in deutlich unterschiedlichen Welten oder Realitäten resultieren in denen die Gesprächsteilnehmer leben. Die Schlußabschnitt diskutiert einige Problematiken der Rekonstruktion indigenen Bewußtseins unter Zuhilfenahme einer kritischen Benutzung des Diskursmodells der Wahrheit, das Habermas beschrieben hat; vorgeschlagen wird das Konzept des participatory concourse (teilnehmender oder schamanistischer CONkurs). Verschiedene Dimensionen des alignments, der synthetischen oder nicht-synthetischen, integrierenden oder nicht-integralen Aufeinanderausrichtung, werden als [P53] vielversprechender Ansatz zur Einschätzung von Projekten der Wiedererinnerung und Wiederherstellung indigenen Bewußtseins angesehen. Damit wird die Möglichkeit der Integration und Beibehaltung der Beiträge der Moderne und Postmoderne geschaffen – bei gleichzeitiger Praxis des indigenen, nährenden und bereichernden Gesprächs. Repräsentanten indigener Kulturen betonen die Notwendigkeit, daß sich eurozentrierte Menschen an ihre eigenen indigenen Wurzeln erinnern; der vorliegende Artikel unterstützt diese Vorstellung mit Argumenten, die sich aus den eurozentrierten Diskursen der Moderne und Postmoderne ergeben.

 

Summary

Transcending the dialectic between an affirmation of eurocentered approaches to knowing and their critical denial, this article suggests the affirmation of reconstructing indigenous consciousness as a third way – the indigenous path for eurocentered peoples. This approach is first introduced in an indigenous way by recounting a dream which contains the reconstructive epistemology outlined in the subsequent sections. The nature of participatory consciousness – the mind process of past and present indigenous peoples – is then discussed using Barfield’s term original participation. A critical review of his definitions allows the reframing of original participation as mutually nurturing conversation among all participants. The split or dissociation from this quality of participatory consciousness is then traced in a historical outline. The author subsequently emphasizes that the difference between participatory and dissociative consciousness is not just one of world view or epistemology, but leads conversation partners to live in distinctly different worlds or realities. The final section discusses some of the problematics of reconstructing indigenous consciousness by reviewing Habermas discourse model of truth and suggesting the notion of participatory or shamanic concourse. Various dimensions of alignments are seen as a promising way to assess projects of recovery of indigenous mind thus allowing the retention and integration of the contributions of modernity and postmodernity while engaging in a nurturing indigenous conversation. Native Elders have emphasized the necessity for eurocentered peoples to remember their indigenous roots, and this article supports this notion by using arguments available from eurocentered modern and postmodern discourses.

 

 

 

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Lyons, Oren, John Mohawk, Vine Deloria, Laurance Hauptman, Howard Berman, Donald Grinde Jr., Curtis Berkey, & Robert Venables (1992), Exiled in the land of the free, Clear Light Publishers: Santa Fe, NM.

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

PRATEC (1993), ¿Desarrollo o descolonizacion en los Andes? Pratec: Lima.

Reilly, R. J. (1971), Romantic religion, University of Georgia Press: Athens, GA.

Rengifo Vasquez, Grimaldo (1993), ‘Educacion en Occidente Moderno y en la Cultur Andina,’ in ¿Desarrollo o descolonizacion en los Andes? , pp. 163-187, Pratec: Lima.

Spretnak, Charlene (1991), States of grace, Harper: San Francisco.

Valkeapää, Nils-Aslak (1985), Trekways of the wind, DAT: Guovdageaidnu, Norway.

Valkeapää, Nils-Aslak (1996), Poems from Trekways of the wind. ReVision, 18(3), pp. 45-48.

Valladolid Rivera, Julio (1995), ‘Andean peasant agriculture: Nurturing diversity of life in the chacra,’ Interculture, # 126, pp. 18-56.

Valladolid Rivera, Julio (1997), ‘Andean agrostronomy,’ ReVision, 19(3), pp. 4-21

Vizenor, Gerald (1989) (Ed.), Narrative chance, University of New Mexico Press: Albuquerque, NM.

Vizenor, Gerald (1994a), Manifest manners, Wesleyan UP: London.

Vizenor, Gerald (1994b), Shadow distance, Wesleyan UP: London.

Von Frantz, Marie-Luise (1970), Interpretation of fairytales, Spring Publications: Dallas, TX.

Warrior, Robert Allen (1995), Tribal Secrets, U of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Wilber, Ken (1995), Sex, ecology, spirituality, Shambhala: Boston.

Winkelman, Michael (1993), ‘Evolution of consciousness?’ Anthropology of Consciousness, 4(3), pp. 3-9.

Witherspoon, Gary (1987), ‘Art in the Navajo universe,’ Diné Be’iina’, 1(1), pp. 59-88.

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Millennial Twins: An Essay into Time and Place

Millennial Twins

An Essay into Time and Place

Jürgen W. Kremer

© 2000

3383 Princeton Drive

 

Santa Rosa, CA 95405

 

jkremer@sonic.net

[Published in a slightly different version in ReVision, vol. 22, number 3, pp.29-43.
Use section numbers 1 through 48 for reference.]

1

2

As storyteller I wonder at times what it would be like to be handed a story that has been taken care of across the generations. And now, during these days tinged with millennianism, to take care of it myself, and then to pass it on to the next generations using the best of my memory abilities, and the most beautiful words I have been taught; thus telling a story which has emerged over the generations from a particular place, from observing the beings that live there, from feeding on them and making offerings in exchange; thus taking care of a story that has a certain wholeness, even though it undoubtedly has changed with each storyteller giving his or her best; and even though such wholeness can at best be transitory only – in the telling at the right moment on the right occasion.

I have not been given such a story.

I have been given storysherds. That is all I have been given to take care of. Storysherds.

The broken pot in the museum becomes “false” when curators add to what they have found during the excavation. Adding the missing pieces would mean dishonoring its maker; but more importantly, it would be dishonoring the history of its breakage. Yet, it is possible to imagine that remaking the pot might not result in such dishonor. For it to be honorable it would have to be done right. Pueblo Indians recycle potsherds by grinding them to powder, making them part of the matrix for a new pot. Or the missing pieces would have to be found, one way or the other. Maybe then the entire pot can be made new. (1)

As caretaker of storysherds I am obliged to honor the sherds at hand, not to add to them willfully by giving in to my desire for wholeness. Wholeness cannot be willed. It takes the kind of imagination that arises from time and place. I will need all my skills. I need the patience of listening and seeing whether wholeness will emerge.

The millennium is not my story, yet I am part of it. My ancestors, for reasons only partly apparent to me, came to deal with their understanding of reality primarily in linear segments and fragments. The count that defines the millennium reflects this. And it is truly but a storysherd. Or a confrontation with the uneven edges of the pot’s breakage lines.

I am not of the land where I am writing this, yet I live on it and I am becoming part of it. This is where I have settled. My ancestors are of the European lands; there they and I grew up, yet nothing but storysherds have been passed on to me from those centuries of being in particular places. Taking care of my storysherds may make it possible to re-imagine the stories from which they broke away. In order to do so in a sacred way means caring for the sherds first and foremost; taking the risk of picking up the sherds. In renewing a vessel I not only need to visualize its pattern as whole and complete, but I need to give particular attention to the points of breakage, the patterns of the broken lines. This is my obligation as storyteller. Maybe then, later, I can make one story new. And, to be sure, it won’t be the story my ancestors handed down to me. But it will.

3

[P30] To make stories of sherds is pre-eminently a modern endeavor, in a sense. Modernity has created so many sherds. The sherds gathered here are largely from twin stories.

So, this is a twin story, in a way.

It is the story of twin pines: The Native American tuwa, and its twin, the “digger” pine, pinus sabiniana of European perception. It is the story of particular movements in our galaxy, and the twin story of the end of the second millennium, and the beginning of the third. It is the story of a pair of twins – one afflicted by blindness, the other paralyzed – in search of their healing ceremony. It is the story of two brothers, one following instructions he has been given while the other one has yet to remember how he was and is to be. There are more twins, more pairings, masculine and feminine, male and female, that appear as I sort the sherds. The twins on the poles, one on each. And then there is Odysseus, and Odysseus Redux, for example. Sherds for a story.

This is also a story about two ways to make words, and to be made by words. Two stories colliding – one aware of the collision, the other barely noticing. One twin out of balance, split off, masculinized. Thus the balance of the other twin is affected. The balance between things is disturbed. Their internal balance is disturbed. For there to be balance the story needs to be made whole. This is a story of imbalance and imposition, and a story of healing imbalance.

These are the storysherds I have found as the millennium ends. I have gathered them in the place where I have settled in order to make sense of time and place. I am seeking for an integrity that can only exist when I am fully present to the movements of time and history as they arise where I sit. When I am fully present to all the beings around me.

4

5

Words are what make us distinctly human. But more than that: in words lie our greatest power; we are most powerful through words. Words describe, they can invoke, deny, remember, identify, disidentify. Words help us see, they guide us in what we rely on as our reality. Not having words is forgetting. When we forget a word or name then the peril of that moment may translate into annoyance or fear.

To tell a story in the proper way, to hear a story told in the proper way – this is very old and sacred business, and it is very good. At that moment when we are drawn into the element of language, we are as intensely alive as we can be; we create and we are created. … Our stories explain us, justify us, sustain us, humble us, and forgive us. And sometimes they injure and destroy us. Make no mistake, we are at risk in the presence of words. (Momaday 1997. 169)

Words originate from a matrix of place and time, from landscape, myth, and history. Even our distance from such sources places us and times us. Imagination and creativity thus have ancient ties to realms so much contested in our contemporary understandings. This is a quality of imagination alien to most of the narcissistic and willful acts that are taken for creativity in contemporary dominant culture.

We are at risk in the presence of words. Getting a story wrong can be very dangerous. Getting it right requires all our imagination and creativity. And presence to whence words arise: place and time, landscape and history. Sacred business. Even, and maybe especially, as far as the millennium is concerned. It requires the precision of sacred work as personal imagination is held by the awareness of its sources. Will is in the discipline, the intention of presence, not the willfulness of individual acts.

What I take from this is that making millenarian words without being present to their origins in land and time puts me at risk. I have no intention to do so. This is why I am telling the story in the way I do. This is why the sherds are gathered in this pattern.

6

The millennium is a precisely arbitrary moment, as Gould (1997) extensively and delightfully reminds us. Whichever way we look at it, arbitrariness remains as its most striking feature. As possible celebratory event of the Christian church it should already have been celebrated, given that Jesus was born 4BCE or earlier. Numerically the second millennium concludes only at the end of the year 2000, putting the beginning of the third millennium CE at 2001; this is how past turns of centuries, and even, predominantly, the one millennium of the current count have been celebrated. As arbitrary count, mostly disconnected from Christian eschatological thinking, it seems to deserve the same level of observance and excitement as the odometer of my trusty old car turning from 99,999 to 100,000 miles. Albeit rather brief, it was an exciting moment. And then, of course, this is a very European count. The Hebrew, Moslem, Mayan, Persian, Chinese, and other calendars give numbers for the same date that clearly do not suggest any millennianism.

The associated concept of Y2K, resulting from the same arbitrary count, gives rise to concerns that are, to a certain degree, clearly identifiable as technological and electronic problems. Y2K has become, at least in some circles, associated with apocalyptic thoughts arising from the ever more visible ecocide, relentless economic globalization, and other pathologies of modernity. And it has also given rise to hopes of ending these destructive trends through crisis, collapse. Hopes for the beginning of a phase of balancing and healing.

Interestingly, the millennium (of whichever actual date) and Y2K, are very close to an event that is highly observable and far from arbitrary: Many ancient and indigenous cultures have observed the precession of the equinoxes, maybe for as long as 39,000 years (2). According to various traditions, notably the Mayan, one segment in this cycle is coming to an end (in their case a whole calendar, the so-called Long Count). Of course, popular culture has already celebrated this event well in advance through the musical Hair which hailed the coming of the age of Aquarius.

The phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes occurs because of the wobble of the spinning earth. Every 2,200 years or so a new constellation rises heliacally – right before sunrise – at the vernal equinox. It is an observable astronomical event, and it is also interpreted within the zodiacal system of Western astrology. The observability of the precession should have given it clear scientific appeal, and thus great preference over an arbitrary count based on the mistakenly calculated birth of a religious prophet. Not so. Maybe it is the association with astrology that made it suspicious, maybe it was the vastness of scale.

The reasons for this can be found, so it seems, in the unfolding of a story during this past millennium, a story that has increasingly used words separate from landscape, and separate from natural, observable time. This makes it a dangerous story, especially as it is perpetrated across the threshold of the year 2000, and as it is relentlessly enforced through economic globalization at a time that many indigenous traditions regard as particularly charged with potential.

As indigenous traditions have it, how this charge is used will be determined by how the story is told, for ill or for good. Sacred places, such as the ones aboriginally belonging to the people of Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico can be used for heightened pursuits and celebrations of balance; but they can also be used for the development of nuclear power, as was done on these very lands in Los Alamos. The power is there for use. Good or evil.

Standing in line at the post office I watch the red figures frenetically turning on the digital countdown toward the year 2000. The legend above it reads:

TIME IS

RUNNING OUT

TO THE YEAR 2000

This apparent build-up toward some cataclysmic paroxysm, however, is reassuringly resolved by the means available to philately: “Collect the century in stamps” is the punch line under the frenzied counter.

7

8

There are other punch lines to descriptions of time running out. (3)

The sun turns black, the earth sinks below the sea;
no bright star now shines from the heavens;
flames leap the length of the World Tree
fire strikes against the very sky.

This is one of the potent moments of time change my own Nordic-Germanic traditions have described as ragnarökur in the Eddic texts. It is a fateful time for those who reign. Rök means fate, line of events; ragna from regin, to reign. It is conceived of as moment of renewal; it is a transition during which the outcome is experienced as far from certain – even the gods and goddesses lack reassurances and are filled with anxiety. The poetic language of the seeresses in the Eddic texts captures this transition of the turning of an age with no lack of drama as the next description of the same moment shows:

Then wanes the power.
Hands grow numb.
A swoon assails
the white sword-Áse;[guardian spirit Heimdal]
Unconsciousness reigns
on the midnight breath;
Thought fails
in tired beings.

During Ragnarök we have fimbulvetur, the great winter, the world is set on fire by Surtr, the earth sinks into the ocean because of the violent movements of the Miðgarðr snake, the sun darkens and is eaten by Fenrir, the wolf, the earth shakes, the bridge Bilröst collapses, and the world tree Yggdrasill trembles – yet does not fall.

The words are just as dramatic in the descriptions of the subsequent renewal, as the seeress continues to prophecy:

She sees the earth rising again
out of the waters, green once more;
an eagle flies over rushing waterfalls,
hunting for fish from the craggy heights.

Hrafnagaldr Óðins or Óðin’s Prophetic Ravenchant describes how the new earth Jórunn (the previous earth Iðunn reborn) sits at the root of the tree, not yet awakened at this momentous time. There is a new sun, dóttir sólar, the daughter of the sun (which can also mean a new star, after the old constellation has disappeared at the vernal equinox).

Up rose the gods.
Forth shone the sun.
Northward to Niflheim
night drew away;
Heimdal once more sprang
up upon Bäfrast, [spirit or rainbow bridge]
Mighty clarion-blower
on the mountains of heaven.

The tree, the axis mundi, does not fall during Ragnarök. With the nornir at its roots, the Norse fateful spirits, women, it continues to stand as the measurer of time and fates.

These descriptors from the Old Norse tradition for the time of great change are not unique in tone or imagery. Presumably this is when a new constellation rises at spring equinox. We can find similar language in the Hopi prophecies or the words the Wintu seeress Flora Jones utters below buli phuyuq or way wan buli, a mountain so important that it is at times just referred to as bulit – that particular peak, meaning: Mt. Shasta (in Northern California). For the Native Americans living around Mt. Shasta it is the central balancing spirit in the universe, not a potential ski resort.

9

10

I glance across my writing table and scan the surrounding hills. They were aboriginally peopled by one of the Wintun tribes, the Nomlaki. The pine trees rising individually, mostly, above the rest of the chaparral growth intrigue me. Each is a character of its own, each has apparent personality. Different, visibly unique. The perception of such individuality in the plant world commonly takes greater visual skills than I have acquired. Not so with these pines. Some pines have singular trunks, some have multiple trunks arising from one place like a bunch of flowers held together by raffia. At times a secondary trunk emerges midway to the top. Some trees are grouped in small and very loose stands. Their needle foliage allows me to look through them in many places. Oftentimes they don´t grow straight up, but lean downhill, with the top part on occasion appearing parallel to an imaginary level ground. But level ground does not exist amidst these steep hills.

One twin of these stately twin pines is called “digger” pine in much of the literature, since “Digger Indians” utilized their nuts. (3) In the middle of the last century, first the Indians of the Great Basin, then Native Californians were referred to in such manner, since they did not farm, but subsisted on roots, hunted, and collected seeds. They did not seem to measure up, in the eyes of the explorers, to their perceptions of the Plains and Mississippi Valley Indians. This represents one of the multitude of curious denials of the settlers’ own practices and history, since they regularly dug for roots along their routes. “What is good for an Indian is beneath notice for a white man,” is what many people in the mid-nineteenth century thought. All this notwithstanding the fact that the nut had saved the life of one of the members of the Donner party, for example. There are many ways to write the story of genocide and colonization, plant names seems to be one.

The other twin of these stately pines has many names, for examply towáni and sakky. It comes right behind the acorn in culinary importance, and, among the conifers, it was the most important food-giving plant for the Indians. Where this pine tree grows the Native Californians have their own names for them. Oftentimes the nut has a separate name from the tree, as in Patwin tuwa, the tree, and sanak, the pinenut. Wintu differentiates the unripe (xisi) and ripe pinenut (chati) in this fashion. Other Native Californian names are gapga (Klamath), towáni (Maidu), sakky (South Sierra Miwok), and náyo (Wappo). Hinton suggests that the “digger” pine could be renamed Towani pine or Nayo pine. Names of remembrance, acknowledgment, and presence. Rather than racism.

I manage to crack some of the pinenuts from the hills where I write. They are delicious. I don’t know the Nomlaki name for the nut or the tree. They are no longer around to be asked. Yet, they are present, and maybe one day I can hear their answers.

11

Twins are regarded with awe in many cultures. Their special significance has oftentimes the double valence of being potentially dangerous (especially if not treated properly) or beneficial; they were feared and worshipped. The notion that twins come from the union between a mortal and a spirit or god seems widespread. In the Indo-European mythologies they oftentimes seem to be benefactors, healing mortals, protecting people from harm, rescuing seamen, and so on. Some are hero twins, saviors.

Among the Old Norse we find pairs that are not only part of a culture allowing sibling marriage, but that have also a twin air about them. Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn, Nerthus and Njörður, Freyja and Freyr. They also reflect their taste for androgynous qualities, at least in these ancient, Vanir layers of Norse mythology. Even in traditions where both twins are of male gender – as in the Diné, the Mayan, the Hopi, the Aztec traditions – each twin seems to be balanced by the other in terms of qualities; at times they can be meaningfully listed under the heading of feminine and masculine qualities (one tending heavenward, the other earthward; one dark, the other light; one may be good, the other wicked). They need each other for balance and completeness; if one is not present for the task imbalance ensues.

According to Hopi understanding there are serpent brothers or twins – Pöqanghoya and Palöngawhoya – on each of the poles sending vibrations to each other along the earth’s axis. The Twins are instrumental for the rotation and balance of the world.

12

13

The past millennium is rich in historical events. The story is notable for what it tells and doesn’t tell, what is relegated to its margins or subjected to denial and forgetting. So many events recorded are truly remarkable. As are those that have not become part of the story as it is told. But even more than the history actually recorded by European consciousness it is notable for the ways in which it has forged its own story. As the count leading to the upcoming millennium has been shaped by Eurocentered thinking it is fitting to look at the inner workings of this story.

By the year one thousand Christianity dominates Europe. Even the people of such a remote place as Iceland finally convert to Christianity in order to avoid internal and external strife: A goði or chieftain in the north of the island conducts one of the traditional ceremonies, an útiseta, the Old Norse “sitting out” equivalent of the Native American vision fast or “going on the hill.” He comes to the realization that bloodshed would ensue if all of Iceland doesn’t convert to Christianity. He offers the carved spirit images of his tradition to the nearby waterfall, subsequently named Goðafoss, and becomes a Christian.

Since the middle of the millennium we find an increasing prevalence of what we now would call ethnic cleansing. The murderous forces, for large parts Christian church dominated, perpetrated genocide not just on indigenous peoples in other countries, but with oftentimes similar vehemence on the holders of indigenous knowledge within their own boundaries, particular through the persecution of women in the form of witchhunts. Genocide in service of the Eurocentered story is continuing relentlessly planetwide, primarily through the various forms of economic globalization a.k.a. Americanization (the destruction of sustainable economies and the creation of dependency in the name of progress and civilization). While we may be tempted to soften the shock of this process by calling it cultural genocide, it remains genocide as far as the termination of particular cultures and cultural identities are concerned – people are murdered as the indigenous persons they are, even though they may resurrect themselves as persons of Eurocentered minds. Pervasive ecocide and sexism are corollaries to this story.

The dynamics of the story have been discussed in a variety of forms. Marx tried put his finger on these acts of splitting and dissociation through his much criticized theory of commodity exchange. The Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko evokes it in ruthless poetry, describing the relentless death march of excess and imbalance.

14

Above me in the night sky Venus in the west is almost straight across from Mars, who is a little south of the east. Last night Venus was right above the waxing crescent moon. Tonight she is straight to the right of the moon, west of it. Across these two nights the bright Venus and the growing moon form a beautiful equilateral sky triangle.

15

It is May, 1999, and as I write this essay NATO continues to bomb Kosovo. Ethnic cleansing seems to continue unabated despite all the bombs. Relief for Kosovo seems far away. I nostalgically remember a drive along the Albanian border, and the poverty stricken, albeit unbombed Priština. There is upset in the U.S. about the Serbs’ continuing ethnic cleansing. I read an article. The words “… a grand experiment in ethnic cleansing …” jump out at me.

I am struck by these words.

The paragraph started out as follows:
As a boy Plenty Horses had been sent to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, the boarding school founded in 1879 by Richard Henry Pratt, whose obsession was to “kill the Indian and save the man.” Carlisle was the model upon which an extensive system of boarding schools for Indians was based. The schools were prisons in effect, where Indian children were exposed to brutalities, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, in the interest of converting them to the white man’s way of life. It was a grand experiment in ethnic cleansing and psychological warfare, and it failed. (Momaday 1997, 101-102)

The book does not tell me when the piece was first published; I assume it was probably at least a few years before 1997.

Ethnic cleansing characterizes half the past millennium.

It is so much easier to be righteous about ethnic cleansing elsewhere than to face the continuing history of ethnic cleansing in one’s own country.

16

17

Excess or imbalance could also be used as words to indicate the unfolding trends of the past millennium. Some indigenous cultures would call that evil. Traditional people with special spiritual powers are known to be able not just to work for good, but also to work for evil and imbalance. 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. Silko uses the words witch and witchery in this sense, not as dishonor to the large number of European women practicing their indigenous knowledge, but to signify excess and imbalance. In her words: “Witches crawl into skins of dead animals, but they can do nothing but play around with objects and bodies. Living animals are terrified of witches. They smell the death” (1977, 131). The book Ceremony, the healing story of a mixed blood Native American, was written before their was any significant reassertion of the positive meaning of the word.

Long time agoin the beginning
there were no white people in this world
there was nothing European.
And this world might have gone on like that
except for one thing:
witchery
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
Okay
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 larvae
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
for the still-born
the deformed
the sterile
the dead.
Whirling
whirling
whirling
whirling
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.

(Silko 1977, 132-138)

I find hope in this story. Paradoxically, maybe. Recognizing the deadly smell which I also carry makes healing possible. I am part of a culture of death. Deadly as the prize winning story has been, knowing of it as story gives me the opportunity and challenge to tell it differently, to get it right. To heal my self. To heal myself culturally. To turn the story back on itself.

18

A coopers hawk circles uttering a singular scream upon completion of each revolution. Gradually ascending it finally disappears westward and upmountain.

19

20

Driving toward my place of writing retreat I parallel the Sacramento River northward. To the right and left of the interstate are rice paddies; the air is filled with insects and numerous low flying airplanes dispense toxic insecticides. I sneeze frequently as my body reacts to the noxious pollutants entering the car. Before the history of the agricultural abuse of this former vernal lake was possible, something else had to occur. It was the prize winning story making its way across what is now called California.

The banks of the Sacramento river, in its whole course through the valley, were studded with Indian villages, the houses of which in the spring, during the day time were red with the salmon the aborigines were curing…. On our return, late in the summer of 1833, we found the valleys depopulated. From the head of the Sacramento to the great bend and Slough of the San Joaquin, we did not see more than six or eight live Indians, while large numbers of their skulls and dead bodies were to be seen under almost every shade tree, near the water, where the uninhabited village had been converted into graveyards. (E.G.Lewis 1880, 49, quoted from Goldschmidt 1978, 342)

Where I go has aboriginal names that are not recorded on any of the AAA maps I have in my car. Sunsunu, Noykewel, Nomlaka, Waltoykewel, Waykewel, Memwaylaka. Tehemet and Paskenti seem to be the only Nomlaki names that have survived in the forms of the county name Tehama and the town name Paskenta. Where I go is aboriginal Nomlaki territory. Here is how the prize winning story played itself out among them:
The malaria epidemic of 1833 was the first serious blow Western civilization struck against the Nomlaki. … There is no evidence of direct contact between Whites and Indians until mid-century … By 1851 settlers began to request that the Indians be segregated from the White population on a reservation. … In 1854 … Thomas J. Henley, established the Nome Lackee Reservation on a tract of 25,000 acres in the foothills of western Tehama County between Elder and Thomes creeks. .. By 1856, with the threat of Indian retaliation dissipated, the settlers became covetous of the “magnificent farm of 25,000 acres” and brought pressure for its abandonment. The Nomlakis and other Sacramento valley Indians were literally herded over the mountain to Round Valley in 1863, the Nome Lackee Reservation having already been taken over by Whites. … After several years a number of Nomlakis returned to settle in the foothills of their old territory. …By this time [1930s] there were but three rancherias left … , with probably no more than a score of households identifying themselves as Nomlaki. (Goldschmidt 1978, 342)

I recap to grasp what I have just read:
1833 Unknown number of Nomlakis killed by malaria epidemic brought in by White settlers.
1850 First direct contact between Nomlaki Indians and Whites.
1851 Segregation of Nomlaki Indians from Whites.
1854 Nome Lackee Reservation established.
1856 Pressures for the termination of Nome Lackee Reservation.
1863 Nomlaki Indians and others herded to Round Valley.
1870s Return of some Nomlaki Indians to their old territory.
1930s Three rancherias with half a dozen Nomlaki households each.
1970s Only scattered descendants are said to survive.

One of the Nomlaki Indians has described the trail of tears to Round Valley, the Nome Cult Reserve, in these words:
They drove them like stock. Indians had to carry their own food. Some of the old people began to give out when they got to the hills. They shot the old people who couldn’t make the trip. They would shoot children who were getting tired. (Margolin 1993, 165)

Before any direct contact the 2,000 plus Nomlaki Indians are severely decimated by disease brought in by White settlers. Within fifteen years of direct contact their indigenous culture is effectively destroyed. Eighty years after direct contact and one hundred years after indirect lethal contact only a few households identify themselves as Nomlaki in their traditional territory. This all began to happen a mere century and a half ago. It continues to be the prize winning story.

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Down from where I sit and write I watch the seasonal creek waxing and waning. Every morning the rill flows, ripples, and glitters in the sun. By afternoon I see nothing but a little wet sand and pebbles in the stream bed across which the tracks of my car tires deepen as I come and go. Butterflies still gather for the remaining moisture.

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Maybe it is impossible to think of the past millennium without interference of the recency effect. But maybe what has happened during this century is a crystallization of what has built over the previous 900 years, and not merely a perceptual distortion. Summarizing the current century Habermas (1998, 73) has pointed to the
horrifying traits of an age that ‘invented’ the gas chamber and total war, governmentally administrated genocide and extermination camps, brain washing, the system of government surveillance and panoptic observation of entire populations. This century ‘produced’ more victims, and resulted in more soldiers killed, more citizens murdered, civilians killed, and minorities expelled, more people tortured, maltreated, starved, and frozen, more political prisoners and refugees than was even imaginable until now. (Transl. J.W.K.)

I notice how I find it increasingly difficult to think about the purported advances Eurocentrism has offered the world. As long as I look at history or the sciences within this story, advances and advantages are visible, despite all the horrors. When I leave the framework of the Eurocentric story even the seemingly most obvious ways in which it has improved on people’s lives end up with a question mark. I notice how many advances have come about in order to address ills wrought by the prize winning story itself; to discern what advantages remain when I don’t take the story for granted is challenging. The story was not inevitable. Its continuation is not inevitable.

Human rights, such an obvious and persuasive example resulting from European intellectual traditions. Yet: to what extent were they drafted in order to address human catastrophes precipitated and perpetrated by the Eurocentric traditions themselves? Historically they were developed in response to atrocities perpetrated as a consequence of actions stemming from Eurocentric thinking. Not as result of enlightened thinking or of debates about cultural ethics. Yet, one could not think about the rights of indigenous peoples or genocide as legal concepts without the idea of human rights. And surely they also address imbalances, evil, and excess created by other cultures than those esconced in the European intellectual milieu.

Or the European enlightenment tradition, and so many scientific discoveries. Surely I don’t want to toss all of it out as I confront the horrors Eurocentrism has wrought; but just as surely the purported and celebrated advantages seem increasingly relative and questionable.

Is it possible to think about their value from a viewpoint outside of or before the prize winning story? How could I do that? Where and how is a healing standpoint possible that allows me to keep its totalizing tendencies at bay?

24

Raven flies by many times this morning. I am reading stories by a bear. Over the last few days I have begun reading and re-reading all of N. Scott Momaday’s works. House Made of Dawn. The Ancient Child. So often, as in the following quote, he beautifully speaks something I feel, like in this case about the place where I am sitting and writing. Reading the quote I react to his male language. I assume that he uses the male gender because he speaks primarily of himself.

Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk. (Momaday 1969, 83)

Momaday’s Kiowa name is Tsoai-ta-lee, Rock Tree Boy. This is in reference to Devil’s Tower in South Dakota, a place sacred to the Kiowas, made famous in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. According to the Kiowa tale it is a tree stump, scarred by bear claws, tsoai-ta. Momaday is a bear. Much of his writing centers upon bear medicine, including the aspects which are difficult and unmanageable. After reading I drive the thirty-odd miles to town, on my way to the San Francisco Bay Area. After driving for a short while I surprise a bear as I turn around a bend on the dirt road. The bear seems young with beautiful brown fur. It turns and races toward the next bend and plunges down the steep hill. I get out of the car and hear it crashing through the brush. I find the tracks of its galloping and leave offerings in them. A redtail hawk circles above.

25

An old story brings my ancestors and the ancestors from peoples of this land together in a way I would not have dared imagine until more recent years. Diné medicine person Hanson Ashley once told me how his ancestral people went on to a migration west in the long ago, crossing the Bering Strait west, and finally meeting up with the people of the European North. They traded knowledge. Maybe this is why I have always been fascinated by the Diné (Navajo) chantway ceremonies, the Nightway in particular. Maybe it is just the beautiful sandpaintings. A number of Diné friends and colleagues have helped me out many times, and I have been privileged to be invited to parts of their ceremonies. One of the stories describing the origin of the Nightway ceremony and the reasons for its use as remedy against neurological sufferings of various kinds is given in the story of the stricken twins (Matthews 1902). As in most of their ceremonies, sandpaintings form an integral part of the proceedings, helping to place the afflicted person at the place of balance, so that they can be re-created with beauty for a long life.

It begins with a statement that I passed by on many of my readings, until its significance finally struck me: This is a story about song. This is not the place to recount the intricacies of this story, which cover almost one hundred pages. The plot pertains to the imbalanced use of our brains, or so it seems to me. Briefly: The twins are born as a result of a relationship between a Diné woman and Talking God. On one of their excursions they enter a cave which collapses on them, presumably because of bad medicine or a curse administered by another one of the holy people. As a result, one is paralyzed and the other blinded. Their human relatives reject them after several attempts at healing, and they wander the lands in search of wholeness. Each time they encounter spirits they have to tell the story of their mishap. And each time the holy people claim they cannot help them. It is an arduous story to read, but also a story of perseverance and final success.

I read the story of the stricken twins not as my own, but as a story that may help me understand the healing my own culture and cultural roots need. And maybe I can even find help for the healing of the genocidal wounds inflicted upon Native American peoples.

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Many people regard the Hopi Indians as the keepers of teachings and prophecies that are of particular significance at these times. Traditional Hopi Elders seem to have become more vocal as their original instructions are increasingly in peril of being forgotten by the Hopi people themselves. Notably, the traditionalists staunchly refusing to join the march of European progress on Indian lands are commonly labeled “the hostiles.”

Their prophetic stories are recorded in sacred tablets and rock carvings retold and reinterpreted by each generation of keepers and Elders. They give testimony to various migrations and the instructions originally given to the people by their creator. While the Hopi prophecies do not give a particular time and outcome for the purification and changes they describe, they do contain markers leading many to believe that the time talked about is now.

Central to the prophecies is the return of Pahana, the Elder White Brother. This return will begin a time of purification and judgment, Nuntungk Talöngvaka, and those who survive will be part of the next world. Survival depends on faithfulness to the original instructions. Pahana will be identified by the return of the missing piece of the sacred tablet that this group of migrants took with them on their journey toward the east. The true White Brother has yet to return.

I cannot help but compare the millennial story to those of the Edda, the stricken twins, and the Hopi story of Pahana. Thoughts about original instructions, song, seeing, and balancing float through my head. I focus on the root of my annoyance with the millennial frenzy: it is the realization that it is an imperial story, or the continuation and celebration of an imperial story. It is a violent imposition of humans not just upon observable time cycles, but just as much upon peoples not of Eurocentric minds, upon lands and waters, upon the air. It is thought gone wild, out of control. Time is reduced to a thin line carrying all kinds of claims to universality. Reduced to a singular line claiming to account for everything. It is the masculinized twin gone haywire, in dire need of its feminine counterpart. Inventing the millennium is a truly postmodern event. It reflects the cynical and disconnected side of its thinking in crystallized form. It is a frivolous story. The count reflects the imposition, it is not a natural count.

The official millennial celebrations are intended to show how far we have come, while, indeed, it is a quantitative measure of the unbounded pathology of the Eurocentric mind. We are tainted by a ghost, the ghost of dissociation and alienation; the other half needs to be reconstituted. The return of the twin. Brother. Sister. The honoring of the feminine. Inner balance.

In the Diné traditions a person tainted by an enemy, by alien presence is said to be sa’a naghái, in a masculine and aggressive mode of being (associated with long life). This is a state of incompleteness, because bik’e hózhó, femaleness and happiness, are missing. Maleness unmediated by femaleness. Masculinization. Both poles are required for harmony and balance (Farella 1984, 170). Internal balance is missing. Rational thought predominates unmediated by other human faculties.

Celebrating the millennium is a reinforcement of linearity, of dissociated thought, of masculinization, of disconnection from natural and observable cycles. Healing the story means balancing ourselves in the holistic stories of place and time. Making whole. Healing the story means engaging in the proper exchanges, those that create balance rather than rapaciously take. Placing ourselves at the center of creation where we are. Remembering. Making ourselves present.

28

Returning from the San Francisco Bay Area I drive again on the interstate through rice paddies, orchards, and olive groves. Interspersed are several wildlife refuges. I daydream of Native American names on the signposts. In some bi- or multilingual countries I have found bilingual signs, at least in areas where the minorities are the majority. I remember the Gaelic and English signs in Eire; and the Sámegiella and Norwegian signs in Finnmarku in the European Arctic North. I imagine not just seeing the town name Winters on the green sign, but also Liwai. Not just Yolo, but also Churup. Grimes together with Palo. Colusa together with Til-til. Paskenta and Paskenti. Bilingual signs have probably been a contentious issue in most places where they exist. They seem impossible in California or elsewhere in the U.S. where the memory of residential schools is largely suppressed, and where bilingualism is quickly experienced as a threat to the “white” ideal of what makes an American. So I imagine for the sake of remembrance, for the sake of a different story, for the sake of completion and balance.

29
I return into the hills of Waltoykewel. Easing the car down the hill and across the seasonal creek I notice that my dome tent doesn’t quite look the same. In fact, it is rather flat. On the way up I had noticed a tall Towani pine that had fallen across the road, and an entire roof that had been blown off a house. I wonder whether there had been high winds during my absence.

I walk around the pancake tent and notice scratch marks. Even some of the cement bags that I had used to secure the tent had been torn open. Nearbey I now notice bags of steer manure ripped open. I walk toward the building and notice clearly visible bear tracks. Parts of the provisional plastic covering have been torn from its sides, with claws marks and muddy swipes identifying the inspector clearly. I take the tent apart to find two flattened mice. The surviving deer mouse scoots downhill.

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At night I sit outside and listen to the wind. It is because of the pine trees that I can follow the movements of the wind spirit. At times nothing stirs where I am, yet I hear the wind rushing through a pine tree 20 yards away, rustling its needles.

Now I hear the wind way far in the distance on top of the next hill; I follow its course as it descends downhill through the individual pines, touching trees spaced wide apart, stirring a pine over here into a whisper, then one to the right. The wind’s breath moves, fingering the needle bunches, brushing them, prompting them to talk, then moves upward toward me, whispering, now moving more toward the left, then toward the right, snaking uphill. Wind brushes my face, and throws my hair into disarray. Wind teaches me about the lay of the land, its movements. Wind spirit.

32

A member of the neighboring Wintu tribe has given beautiful words to the process of learning through intimate relationship with place. 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” (LaPena 1999, 18). 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 seers, seeresses, healers, shamans, medicine people, and Indian doctors did and do. We are at risk in the presence of words. We are in the presence of awesome power. Getting it right is healing, getting it wrong creates imbalance and excess. To be sure, there isn’t a singular way of getting it right. There are many ways of balance. Getting it right means being and acting from time, place, and history, roots. All relations. Being present.

Words are sacred. Always. Spirit breath. They have power. Always. They create even when we forget their power. Forgetting it often means creating imbalance, since forgetting the sacred breath and wind in words is imbalance.

To be true to a word means being true to its place and time. This is what integrity comes down to. Severing the connection between language and place signifies a lack of integrity. Forgetting or denying or destroying the language of a place is not just murder of people, but it is just as much violence to the plants and animals. Pinkson (1995, 127), based on his initiations into the Huichol tradition, captures this beautifully and accurately:
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 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 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 structure 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.

It helps to know the language of the people of a place, whether human or animal or plant. I strain to listen to the beings in Waltoykewel. I do not know the Nomlaki language. I don’t have access to its vibratory structure which would tell me how to live in balance in these hills. I yearn to learn the language to honor the ancestors of this place. I don’t even know the name for the pine trees around me. All I know is that they were of great importance. Indeed, gathering them was so central, it seems, that there were different terms for the people gathering them, probably in the month of April: I read that dehke is an ordinary tree climber, lala an expert climber. And then there is olhehit, the man, a type of clown it seems, who yells underneath the tree where somebody is loosening the cones on top. But he doesn’t just yell, “he chants a long moaning heeee-e-e-e-e, which starts loud and gradually dies out, then starts afresh” (Goldschmidt 1951, 410). I want to call them hee pines.

Cati, as the neighboring Wintu say, are the obvious and natural trees of life in this area. Eating more pine nuts and studying the Nomlaki language may help me be in greater balance in this place. Bear was important for the Nomlaki. Grizzly bears used to be abundant here, before the 1850’s. It was common to see forty or more in a single day. They wrapped the deceased in a bear hide. Wemal is their name for bear.

The Wintu have a rich vocabulary related to these grand pine trees (Pitkin 1985); their language is closely related to Nomlaki. There are words not just for the green and the ripe nuts, but there is a specific verb for the removal of the pine nuts. I read mimiton hudes pel yewca – they gathered pitch from tree to tree. Then there are terms for pine needles, sugar, pine nuts with beading holes…

And cati nawus or kamilis – the pine nut skirt worn during dances in the ceremonial lodge.

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The Diné stricken twins continue their wanderings, and they continue to experience nothing but rejection of their requests for healing. Finally the spirits or holy people realize that they have been fathered by one out of the midst of the holy people. So they decide to give them a break, and begin to conduct a healing ceremony for the blind and paralyzed twins. As they are sitting in the sweat lodge they notice how the healing is starting to take effect. They exclaim with joy: “Oh! younger brother, cried one, I see. Oh! elder brother, cried the other, I move my limbs” (Matthews 1902, 244). At this moment of disregard for the instructions given the twins by the holy people the ceremony abruptly ends. Healing does not occur. They are forced to wander again, because now healing is preconditioned on the right offerings, no longer just their blood relationship to the holy people.

It is this moment of breakage that is repeated many times over. Breaking away from sacred origin, spirit kinship. This disastrous moment in the twins’ quest strikes me as analogous to what seems to happen so much within the spiritual New Age movement: In search of physical, emotional, and spiritual wholeness seekers wander this planet. And when they find something they publicly exclaim “Eureka!” and publish a book. Oftentimes forgetting about the obligations stories and ceremonies carry, disregarding the instructions for when to speak. Oftentimes forgetting the necessary offerings and exchanges. Indeed, there is a time and place to speak about all this. It needs to be spoken. But it needs to be spoken in wholeness, in balance. With all that has passed in a particular place. With compassionate ruthlessness. Without it beauty so easily turns to nostalgia and kitsch. Wholeness cannot be made up. Elders cannot be made up. Wholeness arises from following all the lines that come together in each of us. No exceptions to be made. No shortcuts.

35

A lizard is stuck in a cut open one gallon plastic container used for nail storage. I hear the scraping noise of its feet. I come to its rescue and take a close look at its very dark markings. Around one of its eyes it has striking pink blotches. The scales shine light turquoise in some places. The lizard disappears across the threshold, to the outside.

Half an hour later I walk to my writing table in the shaded area I have created. It is about thirty paces away from the building. I recognize the lizard with the pink blotches. It moves toward some chamise bushes. Just as I turn toward my chair I notice something moving very fast across the flat area. I freeze and see a garter snake darting along at lightning speed. The snake grabs the lizard. It bites the snake’s cheek to save its life.

Over the next twenty minutes I observe the snake devouring the pink blotched lizard, head first. Slowly the bulge moves further down the snake’s body.

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Jenkyns (1998, 4) comments on the difficulty of celebrating the beginning of a new millennium:
The scale of the anniversary, if we are to take it seriously, is of such magnitude that we do not know how to rise to the occasion. Newspapers and magazines may run surveys of the past year, or the past decade, even of the past century. But the past millennium? The idea is somehow absurd. Similarly, hundreds and thousands of people celebrate the arrival of a new year by getting drunk. How do you mark the arrival of a new millennium? Get very very drunk? As an event the millennium is either too large for us to cope with, or too trivial.
Misguided as the scheduled celebrations appear once we leave the precisely arbitrary count and the story from which it arises, I nonetheless like to think that human beings, past and present, were and are capable of thinking in, contemplating, or grasping time intervals of millennial length and even longer. After all, in terms of the 26,000 years long Great Year it is but about half a small year. Rather short in the big picture. Taking such long views seems to be urgently necessary. Grounding them in observable events rather than the runaway of Eurocentric counting seems equally necessary. As Native Americans would put it, we need to enable ourselves to think and vision seven generations forward and backward. And take responsibility within that scheme. Only then will we be able to discuss and discern which of the advantages and purported advances wrought by the European traditions hold up in the light of some larger view.

All stories have a tendency to be self-affirming, but addictive stories have this tendency to a pathological degree. The Eurocentric story of progress and civilization continues to be told. Whatever the adjustments, the structure remains fundamentally the same. It is the story of addiction to progress. Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous may not be able to help, but they can inspire us to become Eurocentrics or Progressivists Anonymous, or, in the words of Glendinning (1994), we can go into recovery from Western civilization. Understanding the figment of the millennium for what it is can be a first step.

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Some days have passed now since I began writing this essay. At sunset the moon is no longer toward the west, but much closer to the south. And she is no longer a crescent, but rapidly approaching fullness. Yesterday at dusk the moon was straight above Mars. Tonight she is straight to the left or east of Mars. Another equilateral triangle in the sky. Now toward the southeast. 90 degrees.

Bright Venus and bright Mars continue to face each other across the night sky for some hours after sunset. Their relationship is catalyzed by moon, the waxing process of the nornir, the lines laid out by the spirits of fate. Venus – Mars, Freyja, the great goddess and shaman of the north, and Týr, god of assembly and war, sky god.

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I reflect upon the various twinnings that inspired this millennial essay. The “digger” pine and its Indian twin by many names. The blind and the crippled twin. The Hopi and their Elder Brother, the White Man in possession of one of their prophecy tablets. Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn, Nerthus and Njörður, Freyja and Freyr. The Hopi warrior serpent twins on the poles. The precession of the equinoxes and the millenial count. This count, originally, had everything to do with Jesus as appropriated by the churches, by Christianity. In this understanding it is not a digital countdown, and has nothing to do with anticipated Y2K computer problems. Instead, it has everything to do with prophecy as given in the dramatic millenial descriptions of purification in the book of Revelation 20: 1-15. This prophecy was then interpreted within a particular count that had come afterwards.

So much of what makes us think about the millennium has to do with the Christian Church. Since Christianity was essential for the development of contemporary European thinking there is a rightfulness about this. Christian monotheism transcended the wildly varying local spiritual and religious traditions. This abstracting process resulting in universal claims can be seen as an instrumental step in the subsequent development of Eurocentric sciences. From this process originated a prosylotizing, missionizing agenda, as well as a potent relationship with the imperialistic ideology of the Roman Empire through Constantine’s conversion. All this prefigured and prepared the abstracting and universalizing claims of the sciences, put to practical use during colonization, and, now, globalization. Jesus as revolutionary Jew fighting for egalitarian politics, practicing open commensality (nondiscriminating food sharing as model for society), and healing (that can be interpreted in terms of shamanic traditions), seems to have been forgotten.

On my drives back and forth to Waltoykewel I listen to Homer´s Odyssey. Horkeimer and Adorno (1944) consider it the foundational text of European civilization, a testament to the dialectics of enlightenment, the rise of one-dimensional rationality. Odysseus is a figure central to the story of European cultures. He embodies the ideals of the male European hero. Strength. Beauty. Cunning. A man of exploits who claims credit for the Trojan horse stratagem while, in fact, others had been so inspired (Graves 1955, 330/1). The citizens of the doomed city are tempted to pull the wooden horse inside through the gates, with their own strength. They do this despite what prophecy had told them. I can think of so many Trojan horses: The horse of the Indo-Europeans; the coke; the refrigerator.; the VCR; video cassettes bringing images of middle class life into remote regions of Mother Earth. European and American culture is spreading everywhere, the progress virus is highly contagious and creates addictions. I think of the Trojan horses of economic development, Americanization as globalization. But I think also of the rise of human rights, the spread of feminism and education. Of course, this is primarily European style education.

And still, 4,000 or so children die every day. 80% of the wealth in the hands of 20% of the world population. Odysseus in the Trojan horse. The coke bottle is the Trojan horse of Americanization. I think about Odysseus’ wandering. He sets sail at the millennium, embarks on a journey home at the end of his colonial exploits. Departs from the trophies installed as Hollywood images. I imagine Odysseus Redux traveling to all the places of White Man’s conquests. A different journey home. Now it is the end of the colonial enterprise. He gets stranded in various places. Has to collect what he has left behind, the virus. The projections of his own “primitive mentality” onto native peoples. Gathers all the stuff he has left behind. He collects the images of progress. Images of primitivism. Images disparaging others as he disparages his own ancestral roots. Indigenous roots. Odysseus Redux. Odysseus healing.

41

The seasonal creek has now dried up. It only runs underground. No more rill resurfacing periodically during the night. The butterflies still alight on the places holding residual moisture. I read in a German news magazine that corn plants have been genetically altered to carry poison in order to kill insects eating them. The poison is also spread through corn pollen. Thus it is killing monarch butterflies and other insects not eating corn, but living near corn fields. Scientists warn against overreactions to this situation.

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The beginning date of the Mayan Long Count calendar is August 11, 3114BCE. It ends on December 21, 2012CE. (5) A crucial date within the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes. The beginning of a new Great Year. On that day the winter solstice sun conjuncts the crossing point of the galactic equator and the ecliptic. The Mayans called this area the Sacred Tree. This is a very rare event occurring once in several thousands of years. The Mayan calendar takes the precession of the equinoxes into account. It is able to predict this particular astronomical event. This is the moment of creation as described in the Popul Vuh. The hero twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque have to travel down the road of Xibalba for the sake of balance and renewal. This dark road is located at that place in the milky way where it has been obscured by interstellar dusk.

This particular area of the sky seems to have similar significance in Old Norse mythology. (6) It is associated with Urðarbrunnur, the well of memory, the fount from which the female spirits of fate lift the clay of renewal and fertility. It is located at the root of the tree of life. It is the place where the earth spirit to be reborn, Jórunn, appears. The beginning of a new Great Year, the beginning of a new cycle.

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The story of the stricken twins begins by informing us that “this is a story about song.” Singing and visionary seeing are closely related processes. In order for the Norse völvas of old to see and speak prophecy, varðlokkur, spirit songs, had to be chanted. Song and chant seem important in most every ceremony I know of. Chanted words, syllables, phonemes are the most important ones as they arise most directly from the spirit of place and time. Thus we are at greatest risk in the presence of words thus uttered.

The stricken twin story is about song. The twins are rejected twenty-one times. Each time they have to tell their story. After a number of rejections they are given a healing. And they utter words when silence was called for. They had disregarded the danger they were in. Oblivious to the risk they speak the miracle that is occurring. Through their folly they break the charm. They get sent away while being told that healing now can only occur if they make the appropriate offerings, bring the right gifts. The stricken twins leave. They weep and express their sorrow first in meaningless syllables, then in words. The spirits take note as they hear the words:

From meadows green where ponds are scattered
From there we come.
Bereft of limbs, one bears another.
From there we come.
Bereft of eyes, one bears another.
From there we come.
By ponds where healing herbs are growing,
From there we come.
With these your limbs you shall recover.
From there we come.
With these your eyes you shall recover.
From there we come.
(Matthews 1902, 245)

The ye’i, the spirits or holy people of the Diné, take pity on them, and help them to acquire the necessary offerings. This then, finally, leads to their healing. Twenty-one times the twins have told their stories, wandering all over their native lands.

The Nomlaki olhehit chants under the pine tree a moaning heeee-e-e-e-e as the important nuts are gathered for life. The pine nuts are not simply to be gathered, they are to be spoken to in a sacred manner. Not only because the sizable cones might hit the person underneath. The person underneath is not hurt because the tree’s need for conversation is honored. The olhehit knows the chant that nurtures the tree.

The twins told their story twenty-one times before receiving healing. They roamed their native lands from one spirit place to the next, back and forth. How many times will we have to tell the European story until there is healing? Until it is not a “witchery” story? Until we can turn the story back?

From the perspective of the pine tree and the ye’i and the dísir, the guardian spirits of the Old Norse people, we are traveling as paralyzed and blind people; we no longer know how to move with place, we no longer know how to see time. We have yet to make the right offerings.

I imagine the story of the relationship between the Diné and the European settlers being told, and retold, and retold. Until it is complete, until it has wholeness. I imagine then the sharing of ancestral stories. And I imagine European settlers making offerings to the Diné. It is not that we don’t know what to do. It is that we don’t do it.

Indigenous Elders have provided us with instructions that, at least, constitute a beginning point. Identifying the place of beginning is simple:
And so it is that when one doesn’t know the traditions one has nothing to light one’s way. It is as though one lived with a covering on one’s eyes, as if one lived being deaf and blind. Yet when one knows the traditions, one has vision to see…all the way to where the land meets the ocean. It’s as though one’s vision becomes as good as that. (Grey Mustache in Farella 1984, 24)
However, following the instructions arising from this beginning place is not simple.

We need to go through the arduous process of telling the story until we get it right. Gathering the storysherds. The story of the millennium is one of imbalance. It is not even right on its own Eurocentric terms. It is a precisely arbitrary moment. To give it power through words is to fuel imbalance and excess. It is getting it wrong. It means putting ourselves at risk. It means furthering the imbalance of masculinization, paying attention to one twin only. Inside and outside.

Healing comes on the wind brushing through those twin pines by multiple names – tuwa, gapga, towáni, sakky, náyo… Listening carefully we may be able to make the stories whole again. Turn the story around. Maybe then, one day, we can chant about excess and imbalance:

Whirling darkness
started its journey
with its witchery
and
its witchery
has returned upon it.

Its witchery
has returned
into its belly.

Its own witchery
has returned
all around it.

Whirling darkness
has come back on itself.
It keeps all its witchery
to itself.

It doesn’t open its eyes
with its witchery.

It has stiffened
with the effects of its own witchery.

Its is dead for now.
Its is dead for now.
Its is dead for now.
Its is dead for now.
(Silko 1977, 260-261)

It is not time yet. It is not dead. Excess and imbalance are continuing. There is much healing work to be done.

45

46

The dictum that we need to remember history in order to avoid reproducing it proves insufficient in these millennial times. We need to remember ourselves as natural history, we need to remember ourselves as land, as stars, we need to remember our stories, we need to remember ourselves as plants and as rocks. Such memory can heal us from participation in an arbitrary count foisted upon ourselves and others. It may heal us all the way to the roots of our origins.

And then we may see, then we may hear, and all our relations may assist us. Our grievous sounds may turn to song, and song may help see and heal.

It just may help us pay attention.

After the fighting, Black Kettle’s sister, Mah-wis-sa, implored Custer to leave the Cheyennes in peace. Custer reports that she approached him with a young woman, perhaps seventeen years old, and placed the girl’s hands in his. Then she proceeded to speak solemnly in her own language, words which Custer took to be a kind of benediction, with appropriate manners and gestures. When the formalities seemed to come to a close, Mah-wis-sa looked reverently to the skies and at the same time drew her hands slowly down over the faces of Custer and the girl. At this point Custer was moved to ask Romeo, his interpreter, what was going on. Romeo replied that Custer and the young woman had just been married to each other.

It is said that Mah-wis-sa told Custer that if he ever again made war on the Cheyennes, he would die. When he was killed at the Little Bighorn, Cheyenne women pierced his eardrums with awls, so that he might hear in the afterlife; he had failed to hear the warning given him at the Washita. (Momaday 1997, 93)

47

I walk into the computer store. On the shelf I see rows of CD-Rom packages entitled Civilization. The subtitle reads: The Will to Power. It is a strategic game.

48

The major portions of this essay were written during the month of May, 1999.

Footnotes

(1) The inspiration for the use of the word “storysherd” came from Scarberry-Garcia’s (1990) book on N. Scott Momaday; her text also provided some useful contextual information.
(2) As Finch (1991), following Massey (1907), suggests for the ancient Kemites.
(3) The four Eddic quotes in this section 8 are from: The first stanza from Terry (1990, 7), the second from Titchenell (1985, 267/8); the third from Terry op. cit., the fourth from Titchenell op. cit.
(4) Many of the descriptions as well as the quote in section 10 are from Hinton (1994); additional information is based on Heizer (1974) and Pitkin (1985).
(5) This discussion is based on Freidel, Schele & Parker (1993), Jenkins (1994), and Tedlock (1985).
(6) The following is based on Jonsson’s (1990) interpretation of the Eddic texts.

References

Farella, J. R. 1984. The main stalk. Tuscon: The University of Arizona Press.
Finch, C. S. 1991. Echoes of the Old Darkland. Decatur, GA: Khenti.
Freidel, D., L. Schele, and J Parker. 1993. Maya Cosmos. NY: Morrow.
Glendinning, C. 1994. My name is Chellis & I’m in recovery from Western civilization. Boston: Shambhala.
Gould, S. J. 1997. Questioning the millennium. NY: Harmony.
Graves, R. 1955. The Greek Myths: 2. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Habermas, J. 1998. Die postnationale Konstellation. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.
Heizer, R. F. 1974. They were only diggers. Ramona: Ballena.
Hinton, L. 1994. Flutes of fire. Berkeley: Heyday.
Horkheimer, M., and T. W. Adorno. 1944. Dialektik der Aufklärung [Dialectic of enlightenment]. NY: Social Studies Association.
Jenkins, J. M. 1994. The how and why of the Mayan end date in 2012 A.D. Dec94-Jan95, Mountain Astrologer, read on website.
Jenkyns, R. 1998. Review of Questioning the millennium. The New York Review of Books, vol. xlv, #9, 4-7.
Jonsson, B. 1990. Star myths of the Vikings. Swan River, Manitoba: Jonsson.
Margolin, M. 1993. The way we lived. Berkeley: Heyday.
Massey, G. 1907. Ancient Egypt in the light of the world. Baltimore: Black Classic.
Matthew, W. 1902. The Night Chant, a Navaho ceremony. NY: Knickerbocker.
Momaday, N. S. 1997. The man made of words. NY: St. Martin’s.
Pinkson, T. 1995. Flowers of Wiricuta. Mill Valley: Wakan.
Pitkin, H. 1985. Wintu dictionary. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Silko, L. M. 1977. Ceremony. NY: Penguin.
Tedlock, D. 1985. Popol Vuh. NY: Touchstone.
Terry, P. 1990. Poem of the Elder Edda. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Tichtenell, E.-B. 1985. The masks of Odin. Pasadena: Theosophical University Press.
Vizenor, G. 1981. Earthdivers: tribal narratives on mixed descent. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

 

Remembrance: An Intercultural Mental Health Process

Remembrance, An Intercultural Mental Health Process

by Pam Colorado

Mental Health is a European, western derived construct which, in the context of colonialism, has been imposed upon Native peoples. thus one could question the health of “mental Helth”. I propose that it is possible and timely to create processes and models of mental health which are intercultural and have, as their first order of business, the healing of mental health practitioners…myself included!

Issues of mental health and culture are central to my life. I am a traditional Oneida woman, married to a Hawaiian, Kuhuna Kalai Wa’a and Kii, that is, a man who has the Huna or secret knowledge of how to carve traditional ocean going canoes and images. We live on the island of Maui where I commute to California to teach in the Traditional Knowledge Program—a doctoral program for tribal people worldwide. I am also of French ancestry and travelled to France during my early twenties to make peace with the conflict I felt as a mixed blood person.

In twenty years of activism my model of mental health practice evolved from a largely clinical social work/community organizing focus (with a few cultural touches) to an almost completely cultural, spiritual practice that drew on western psychology when necessary. Although reluctant to draw on extra cultural approaches,I found psychology and its terminology to be helpful in dealing with deadly colonial wounds, notably alcoholism. Counselling methods also became a bridge to the western and professional world and to assimilated parts of my personality. In fact, western counselling helped me to decolonize and to embrace my true cultural identity.

But joining Native and western approaches to mental health has always made me uncomfortable. First of all, there are no guidelines or mutually established ethics to govern the linking. Second, the concept of mental health is inextricably bound up in relationships of domination and power. Prior to the invasion of North America there wasn’t even a concept of mental health! Native cultures sought and were an expression of grounded lives lived in balance and intimate communication with all living beings. third, western practitioners’ denial of the power dynamics between Natives and westerners emotionally charge the counselling process. Fourth, whether we like it or not, there is no part of Native life that has not been violated or desecrated. As a result, we carry enormous and undifferentiated anxieties and pain; often we swing back and forth between western and Native behavior without conscious choice. Finally, as my genetics suggest, there is no escaping the obvious fact that American Indians and Euramericans (with their mental health practices) share a land and a reality. We must address the intercultural mental health conundrum and transform it into something good.

Recently, I worked with a French American person whose wife had suffered with terminal cancer for ore than two years. I began the work in my usual way, as a cultural person who used western concepts to communicate and engage. Four months later, when the work was complete, I had been taught a way of doing Native mental health in the western world; moreover, a westerner had entered my Native paradigm and healed aspects of my life. I refer to the process as remembrance and share some of it with you now.

A stormy twilight sky holds the ocean in an indigo embrace. Moving smoothly through the cold spring ocean, I hesitate for a moment, questioning the wisdom of a swim so late in the day. Hawaiian elders warn against this. As I realise I am alone in the water, a sense of vulnerability rises; I do not recall how I got here. I want to return to shore but am powerless to move. The growing density of the night time sky is matched by a sense of growing danger in the water. Suddenly, I am aware of an enormous and awesome presence—Mano! The shark1

My reaction is instantaneous. Rolling over on my back I lie suspended in the water and I wait. Mano is one of the most powerful animal spirits in Hawaiian cosmology. The shark empowers priests, healers and intellectuals; it is an Aumakua, the head of a major clan system and it is Mano that accompanied and protected the first Polynesian voyagers to settle the Hawaiian islands. Lying motionless is the only act of reverence available to me. I can feel him approaching from my right; swift and smooth. He transverses the length of my body, as if appraising me. Death may be imminent. I am afraid. I am hopeful. The shark turns and heads directly towards me. Bright blue lines of electricity stream from either side of his head. Reaching my still body, he races beneath me, around me, wrapping me in blue lines of vivifying intelligence and power. Then he is gone.

I awake, shaking and weeping with joy. Gathering up my medicine bag, I pull on some clothes and head to Launiopoko Beach to make an offering of thanks. Pulling Indian tobacco from its pouch, I call to Mano. Laying a gift of tobacco in the water, I wait. Was it a true dream? A few moments pass, doubt begins to enter my mind. Just then a movement about fifty feet off to the left catches my eye. It is a shark fin, standing nearly one foot out of the water. This must be a great animal. As quickly as it moves towards me, it turns and disappears from sight.

As I drive home, I wonder at the beauty and power of Native ways. The feelings that went through me when I saw the shark acknowledge the offering! I wonder what the meaning of this experience is and what is expected of me. A few days later, a stranger stops by our house to look at Hawaiian art work. It is Mr. Robert Requin (Mr. R), an elderly gentleman of enormous wealth and great political repute.

It is not usual to greet someone of Mr. R’s standing, so I paid attention to what happened. As he entered our house, he went almost directly to the scale model canoe, “Lele O Ke Kolea”, the canoe that brought the first Hawaiians here. As I approached Mr. R to welcome him a spiritual presence, nearly palpable, filled the room. My traditional training enabled me to see it my western mind interpreted it as a crucial bonding. I was shocked because I had never had such a moment with a non Native person.

Any traditional Native person will tell you that ordinary reality is not real at all. This world is spiritual and beings of great power, like Mano, move through the veil of our conscious minds. Like Creator, Mano touches us. It is only an instant but in that moment we experience something timeless and real—our own truth. Truth, according to Native thought is meant to be lived. When a dream comes, work of transformative nature is sure to follow. Because the work is spiritual and difficult, it is important to interpret the direction of the dream accurately.

In the weeks that followed, I struggled for understanding and direction. I spoke to another traditional person who responded, “A strange thought just came to me—your visitor is Mano!” The truth of the message was so strong, it took my breath.

Identifying the Mano as the spiritual protector and power of my visitor, gave me a beginning point for determining how we were related. For a few days, I struggled trying to remember anything I heard or knew of the relationship between Mano and the Thunderers—my clan. The answer came in the middle of the night when I awoke thinking of a petroglyph from the Northwest Coast (where I learned the process of deciphering the ancient language).

On a large rock, located in the tideline, is a carving of the Shark and Thunderbird, held together by a huge lizard—the protector of water and change of consciousness. This 15,000-year-old carving is predictive of transformative learning—of movement into a higher integration of knowledge which will be sensory or predictive. The Lizard also implies genealogy or ancestral communication. In a western sense we might say I had determined an archetypal relationship. I understood that this was a powerful connection but I lacked a course, or even a next step of action.

One day, during a phone conversation with Mr. R, we discussed our French family histories. Realising that our ancestors had arrived in the New World about the same time, I decided to check my family tree, a lengthy document. Turning to a random page, I glanced down and discovered that a man from my family and a woman from his had married in 1560; furthermore, this couple moved to the New World and became the progenitors of both his family line and mine! This confused me. If I had found a mutual Indian ancestor, I would know what to do or who to contact. I was in for a surprise.

Mr. R had purchased a number of traditional Hawaiian art pieces of my husband’s and had asked me to bless them. I readily agreed, until I turned to do it and discovered the purchases included Lei o Mano—weapons of war constructed of sharks teeth and a wood that women do not touch! How do I, as a woman, pray over weapons of death? Is this proper? Do I have the authority? These questions took several days and the pieces were to be delivered the next day. Finally, I understood the next step.

Moving the weapons into the sunshine, I made my prayer but something didn’t feel complete. So, I meditated some more and realized that I needed to do a night ceremony as well.

That night on the lanai, the spirits spoke in unmistakable messages. Mr. R’s wife had survived because two, vainglorious physicians, eager to win the respect and approval of her wealthy husband, had used extraordinary means to keep the woman alive. She had been tortured. I knew it because for a brief moment the spirits made me feel what she had suffered; it was agony. I was told that her end would come soon and I was given several other pieces of information for Mr. R.

When I came in from my prayers, I was shaking with fear. I knew I had to tell Mr. R but I doubted myself. What if I was wrong? What if I had misinterpreted something? And I questioned my right to even tell someone such news. Nevertheless, the following morning while burning sage, I called Mr. R and shared, as gently as I could, all of what had transpired. To my amazement, he nearly wept with relief. In the next few weeks, everything happened just as I had been told. I was stunned at my self doubts and with the power of these old ways.

I was also pleased that ancient Native ways could help Mr. R—in fact, even seeming to complement his devout Catholicism. But two weeks after his wife’s death I learned that my sister was alcoholic and suicidal. Thee generations of family addiction came crashing down on me. All my work in healing did not seem to stop the destruction and death in my own family. I was terrified.

Another dream came to me. This dream revealed the origins of the family addiction problem. It rested in an event that happened in France nearly 700 years ago—an event that Mr. R’s family shared. I awoke from the dream, it was near midnight. Heading directly for the closet, I rummaged around until I found my baptism candle (although raised traditionally, I had also been baptised Catholic, perhaps to cover all the bases!) I took the candle out to my rock altar and then stopped. I didn’t know where to put it. How could I respect these two ways and still bring them together? Desperate for my sisters life, I finally placed it on the lower right hand corner. Then I began my prayer, in my Indian way, explaining what I was trying to do and why. I asked permission to proceed. It seemed okay, so I picked up the candle, stuck it in the damp tropical earth, and lit it. I wasn’t sure how to pray. I tried all the Latin prayers I could remember but nothing felt genuine. Then I tried it the Indian way, by calling to the ancestors. Suddenly, the sultry, leeward night was hit with a cold wind from the North. It came down on me so hard and fast, I had to cup the flame to keep it from going out. I was scared. I knew I had pinpointed the cause and I knew I needed help.

The next morning, I called Mr. R and asked him to help in the tradition of his French Catholic religion. He agreed and for the next three days he prayed for us.

About a week later, Mr. R and I spoke. I thanked him and told him the astonishing news. My huge French-Indian family had finally acknowledged the problem of addiction in our family and was preparing for a family intervention for my sister. He was not surprised because he had felt a peace come over him the first night of his prayers. We both wept and laughed on the phone. Who would ever have guessed the combined power of a Pagan and a Catholic!

I used to think that darkness was evil but an Elder once told me, that darkness is safety, security, like the womb. In the darkness we are all one; separations cannot be seen. Perhaps this is the Huna, or inner secret Hawaiians know. For Mr. R and I to heal required great risks and trust. We both stepped into our shadow many times but we were not alone. At night, in a dream, the shark spirit came to give me the power to do the healing work. Although I doubted myself, I still went to the beach and made a thanksgiving offer. A real shark came proving the truth of the dream as well as the value of facing self doubt.

Mr. R knew of the terrible things his culture has done and continues to do to Native people, but he stepped through that history when he asked for my help.

I entered the shadow again when I turned to my French genealogy; used my candle and asked Mr. R for his help. It was difficult to do. Yet, the evil visited on my family—the multigenerational alcoholism derived from and depended upon the continuing hatred and divisiveness of Catholic and tribal people.

Most likely I will never see Mr. R again, but in the dark moment we shared, a beautiful healing emanated. Two people—from vastly different political, socioeconomic backgrounds, one traditional Indian, the other Catholic—joined using western psychological language and simple loving prayers particular to our own cultures. We healed. Nothing happened, yet everything changed.

First Reading, Vol. 13, No. 3, Sept 95 ESPC