Smudge takes another stab at religion. (Ramble warning)Submitted by Smudge Pot on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 14:59
So my last post on the subject, well, not so good right? More like free-flow consciousness than nailing it. I was somewhat embarrassed at any rate but eventually I'll get over it.
I think part of my problem was trying to cover too much and maybe if I just explain a bit about contemporary Native American Spirituality maybe it can be the middle ground that my elders envisioned. I was once told "we are all seated in a circle and we are all facing towards the center, towards The Light and none of us is capable of knowing what the person seated on the other side of The Light sees". So God might appear very different to you than to me.
The Light. In Dineh (Navajo) language the word is Sadin. The Light. God. In Lakota He is referred to as an actual being, often called the Wakan Tunka (sacred being) but this word also used to be used for "horse". Or a horse might be called a "shunka wakan" which means either "very big dog" or "sacred dog" because when the plains people got horses and learned how to ride them, that rush felt like coming closer to God. If you were ever 19 years old and had a motorcycle you know that same exact feeling. In Algonquinn lands you hear of the Great Manitou or Wichimanitou and that makes me wonder what commonality exists between peoples of the oceans. And among the many small tribes my people used to dwell among the names are such deep secrets that most of the time I literally can't remember them until in ceremony. And that's a common thing. The term is "no pockets". For certain names and certain songs, "I have no pockets to put this in" which means certain things we are given of in a moment but we can't take it away for keeps.
So I think people tend to assume indians know everything about spirituality and the ways of the cosmos but well...no. I mean not only does my people not know everything but neither does any tribe for like 1000 miles around. Hey over time and with increased communication a lot of indians are starting to think of Hopi as the indian's indians cause if they don't know, nobody does. And any traditionalist Hopi will tell you that IT TAKES 3 LIFETIMES TO LEARN THEIR LANGUAGE AND NO SINGLE LIVING PERSON KNOWS IT ALL.
On top of that, Hopi have to be the world's ultimate secret keepers because the whole society is broken down into various sub groups (phratries) and each has it's own secret mission and imperative to contribute to the annual cycle of ceremony which they believe PRESERVES COSMIC BALANCE FOR ALL MATERIALITY, ALL TIME, ALL SPACE FOR ALL BEINGS.
I think their principle construct for "God" is Ma'asau, the Sun. That little hunched over dude with the dreadlocks and playing a flute you see in Southwestern art, all up and down Central and South America, that's Kokapelli. He follows the sun. The flute he plays is actually his...uh...member, his male junk and he's a fertility and fortune aspect of Godhead. But he's playing the flute to invoke the female aspects of rain. And his back is old and hunched over in the Hopi ideal of living a hard, short and painful life, growing old fast, toothless, weak and then dying. And it's all about corn and the harvest. Corn culture. Suffering is a value system for them.
But my traditions were on the periphery and as I grow and learn more the more I see how very little we knew and what we did know, like 4-Directions Teaching and cosmology and agriculture and medicine and pottery and even metalurgy (yes they had it in the Meso-American cultures but it sure didn't reach where were at), well, basically we were totally lost. What we had for religion was so...freaking absorbed with nature and symbolism that it was impossible to get anything done on a schedule. Wanna go fishing two days from now? Great idea! Ok everybody get together we're all going....oh crap. Cardinal. Two of them flew across the path. Bad omen. OK EVERYBODY, FISHING TRIP IS CANCELLED DUE TO CARDINALS. And our language was more of a burden than anything else it seems. There's only about 12 base words but they all have to resolve to fire, water, air, earth, birds, animals and every one had it's own "potency" and basically we had no way to adapt the language to changing reality. There can't be new words so to describe a new thing like "gun" meant you are repeating and stacking and doubling words and we have these words are literally like 175 characters long. And still it was CONTEXTUAL so it's impossible to write that language, you have to be literally standing next to the speaker and commenting about something you both observe for it to make any sense at all.
hey that's nothing. All of the few drawings I have seen of LLennape, we were supposedly renown fishermen but we had these silly little round boats and I am still trying to figure out how you paddle a round boat and get anyplace. Doesn't it seem like you would just end up going in circles? And it's not like we didn't know people that had canoes. You'd think somebody would have noticed that everybody else was getting places faster than we were.
The people in the plains will tell you everything they know about the "Ones Who Came Before" and built the mounds. That will take about 20 minutes. Hey what do you guys know about these ancient people who raised these mounds and disappeared? Well we know there were these ancient people who raised these mounds and disappeared for starts. We think they are still under there, sleeping. Waiting for their time. And not a whole lot more. Again if anybody really knows it's the Hopi and they aren't exactly volunteering more info.
Somebody recently asked me if I or we are polytheists. I really don't know how to answer that question. My teaching is the Sacred 4-Directions have powers, specific powers for our benefit and we pray to them by name. But it's sort of in the CONTEXT of praying to the Great One, The One Above and...well to call the 4-Directions deities isn't quite right. It's not like they have PERSONALITIES so much as they have CHARACTER or CHARACTARISTICS. And "Wakan Tunka" is often interpreted as "Divine Mystery".
Of all people Lakota and associated tribes like Hunkpapa and Minnecounjou and on and on kinda have the whole thing nailed down into 7 ceremonies that a person (man, sorry) can try to work through to attain a state that other religions call divine realization of manifestation of the holy spirit of a fully realized state of consciousness. And I'll put this blunt and simple, in this tradition it's every person's job to try and figure out YOUR OWN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOURSELF AND THIS OTHER, THIS ENTITY OR THIS WAVE PATTERN OR RESONANCE OR WHATEVER AND IT'S ABOUT EVOLVING SELF-KNOWLEDGE.
It's about discovering your own capacity for holiness or understanding or relationship with all things. Your little corner of the universe. And we also keep secrets. Secret places where only you visit to commune and contemplate. Secret objects that we bundle up and hide and never tell anybody about. Sometimes when we lost a loved one we pick a spot where we go just to think about them and we don't tell anybody else where that spot is. There's some things we keep to ourselves because it's between us and God and it's nobody else's business. And some things people can try to tell you but you just say "I have to pockets to put this in". In other words I heard you and now I am gonna forget you. Seeya, bye. There's fruit in the fridge, help yourself on the way out.
So there's this PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP aspect that even further defines your personal space, your point of view on The Light. How do I think of the 4-Directions? Like the Great One put these powers in place just like gravity and this is the fabric of this material construct. We interpret the 4-Directions as benign if you understand them and utilize them or you can just end up dead, take your pick. Why are they sacred? Because they would be perforce established by a being or an entity or a power that we call holy. Or interesting and intriguing and compelling as a topic. We must admit that religion has been a popular human topic for all of known history.
If we can accept that along with gravity as a fact we might be getting someplace. If at least party of this mystery involves quantifiable and measurable and palpable results (like spilling a beer indicates gravity at the least and you've had one two many in potentiality) well, we just opened the door to those who call themselves "atheists". perhaps the magic there is to date, nobody, atheists and physicists and medical doctors can claim to fully understand. Perhaps Lakota have it right to understand the word "God" as "divine mystery". None of us have all the answers. And my answer might not be yours. In fact in The Light Teaching, it's practically guaranteed you will see something different from me.
Perhaps the most honest and beneficial words I have every got was from one of the greatest warriors ever known. Conceptually your English name for him is "Death From Above". One of his childhood names was Goyanthley which means "one who yawns" or "sleepyhead". Along the way as he distinguished himself as a holy man and warrior he picked up the name Geh-Hron-Im-Aho.
Geronimo. GERONIMO! as you leap to attack your enemies. Death From Above. The great Chiricahua Apache who ran the forces of the United States military around in circles for like...a couple decades. He had visions of the medicines he needed to become immune to bullets. Nobody could kill this guy and if you tried he would kill you right back. And so many times this guy, Geronimo tired of the fight and laid down his weapons under peace treaty but when the USA broke treaty (which they did every single time) that was all it took to light that torch and Geronimo was off killing pretty much everybody he could find to blame.
Would you believe we think he died a Christian? We know his heart was full of sorrow and conflict and misgiving, heck the guy went through a half dozen wives and twice as many children who were all slain by the US military. He'd seen his nation destroyed and his people rendered to slavery. Bitter? yeah, a little. But check this out, this is very nearly work for work, I might get a small part wrong but he said:
In the old ways we hoped that tribal and familial relationships would be restored in the Next Place BUT WE HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING FOR SURE. So it seems to me that Christianity is a more direct path to God.
I'm still amazed that this man who gave it all to save his culture adopted, in a fairly "rational" way, the religion of the dominant culture that vanquished his. I'm amazed by both the frank humility of this and the strength it took to forge this. And he might have died angry at God but he affirmed His existence to the last. I can kinda relate.
I'm mostly white but I tell people that little bit of red in me? If you started cutting it out with a knife there would be nothing left of me but a mess on the floor. To you atheists I will tell you frankly, I can't not believe. It's hard-wired into me at a genetic and cellular level. I literally can't make myself stop, I tried once. Ended up even more miserable than when I started. Because I was fighting myself.
Now you atheists, go ahead and throw everything out of that sentence but the part about HAVING NO WAY OF KNOWING FOR SURE. Look, if one of the greatest warrior-priests of all time with an indomitable record says he ain't sure, well you can bet there's some stuff we just ain't sure about. We have no way of knowing. That's the faith part. For most of us. Some guys like Geronimo and Black Elk and others had literal visions of divinity and direct control of these powers (Black Elk could make it rain, there are one or two who still can) but hey, there's still a bunch, a ton of stuff we not only don't know, we know we don't know.
And we know yer basic or common, garden variety fundie or bible thumper will tell you that every question is answered with absolute truth but know what we think of that?
God is not a herd animal. You can't box him or define him or put him in pens. If Christians truly had every answer to every problem, what's taking them so long? Are they holding out on us? Come on we don't want the sizzle, we want the steak!
But no, most of them are trying their best to...help or whatever. But has anybody really heard a Christian saying "I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior for the sole purpose of making your life a living hell just for the fun of it"?
Ok and no matter how much we think they should in the interests of full disclosure?
Anyways as we have opened up the whole ugly closet on what God is or isn't, well, I already introduced wavelengths or observable reality and the fact that nobody has all the answers so isn't that enough room for you atheists to kind of shrug it off as "The Divine Mystery"?
And I have to say that DP and libertarian atheists I have known are like FLAWLESS IN ETHICS, personal models of integrity. Upright and honest in all dealings with the world. I'm just like how would God have a problem with that? I totally have this feeling that our vociferous atheists are doing and acting according to righteous principles, in other words, many of you seem to be walking with God already. Maybe without even noticing.
And one thing us religionists notice about God? If He always answers prayers sometimes the answer is no or even sometimes we just happened to call at the moment God is on the crapper or maybe just maybe God has more important things in His mind than if I get laid or the new Suzuki motorcycle I been eyeballign with great envy. I dunno.
The one thing I can tell you for sure is any indian that tells you they know everything is LYING TO YOU. Any traditionalist Hopi will tell you they don't even know their whole language and not only that, they never will and they are INCAPABLE OF DOING SO IN THIS LIFETIME.
So maybe it's incumbent upon me to light this fire. Done. Now we have a fire and all are welcome to join in this circle. And atheists, I would be doing us all such a dis-service if I didn't warmly welcome you in, please pick a chair, can I offer you a cup of iced tea or some nice spring water?
Freedom has made you my people. Anybody stars beating you on the head with a bible you just let me know. Cause they just volunteered themselves to do the dishes. When they get done with that some foot washing might be nice.
Us religionists are supposed to be servants of one master. Use it for your benefit. Get yourself a free tootsie-scrubbing. It won't kill you.