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Down through time, tribal human beings (two-leggeds) lived in environmental tranquillity, but now, in only a few Industrial Age centuries, we have come to an ecological chasm of perilous pollution and exponential overpopulation. When rationally gifted beings became separated from the spiritual connection bonding them to the Natural Way, environmental destruction began.
While reaping a rich life-style, Native Americans preserved this portion of the planet for centuries upon centuries. I believe this high plane of living, which bore great gifts to the world, was a result of their deeply spiritual relationship with nature. In an age of unchecked industrial growth and the ecological disaster it has fostered, we had better start studying the first Americans' life-styles, values, and knowledge immediately. We could also well use a spiritual base that does not advocate "dominion over nature," but rather brings us to an intrinsic relationship with nature as dependent servants- -- not polluting, self-destructing masters. After we have observed and studied, we can approach some of the nature-based ceremonies to find values that will significantly advance us toward our goal of planetary preservation. Getting back to nature will be the key to saving the planet. Our day-to-day social and governmental endeavors will be ethically enhanced as well.
Most Native Americans do not attempt to describe the Great Spirit. We believe that it is rather foolish to attempt description of the Creator of space and time -- things our two-legged minds cannot totallycomprehend. How far out is space? Where does it end? Our minds cannot conceive of a total answer. When did time begin? What is time? How can we attempt description of the Creator of such mystery when we honestly realize that "It" is too vast to describe? We are truthful people. We cannot be liars to ourselves and to those around us! The term Great Mystery leaves adequate latitude to avoid an argument.
Many two-leggeds (human beings) share the belief that there is one beginning in this universe. It is called by many names: Great Spirit, God, Allah, and other tides. All animate and inanimate entities are usually accepted as created by this one essence. All occurrences are influenced by this one Creator.
Growth comes with an increasing awareness of and respect for Great Mystery in all people and things, with an awareness that this force of mystery is at work in all events. Growth comes through tolerance for the infinite variety of ways in which Great Spirit, the Infinite, may express itself in this universe.
Natural people throughout the planet are exploring revelation from created nature, exploring that extension made directly by the Creator, the Higher Power, the Prime Mover, the Ultimate Force, or the Great Mystery. They are learning from what is directly revealed and from what they can taste, touch, feel, observe, and study. Now, modern seekers (some of them call themselves the Rainbow Tribe) are beginning to recognize the visible powers of the universe. They are addressing, cultivating, and nourishing the heart of the spirituality that has been with their unbroken gene link, their beginning, down through the circles of time. Like the native tribal ones of old, they too are sensing that we, and all the life forces that surround us, are extensions of that Great Mystery force itself and have a great purpose for being here -- especially at this time.
One tribe, in particular, is only a century removed from their natural life-style. The Sioux were the last major tribe to come in from their unencumbered freedom on the Great Plains. Maybe this explains why the Sioux have preserved much of their nature-respecting culture, more so than many of the other tribes who have had to endure a much longer diluting contact with the dominant society. Upon the plains, the Sioux heeded the visible six powers of the universe and related to these entities in balance, acknowledgment, and kinship. Their culture managed to survive despite the relentless assault perpetrated upon the Lakota/Dakota (Sioux) descendants, who were corralled into captivity by a biased and materialistic society.
The earliest Americans considered every day a spiritual association with nature. The culmination of this association was ceremony. Ceremony is beseechment, thanksgiving, or acknowledgment to a higher power, a higher force, or, if you are a traditional Sioux Indian, ceremony is directed toward the Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, the Great Mystery, the Great Unending Circle, through the six powers of the universe, the six powers that Black Elk's powerful vision speaks of.
Bill Moyers's interview of Joseph Campbell was shown on a national television series. One of Moyers's questions reflected on spiritual imagery.
Campbell replied: "The best example I know which might help to answer that is the experience of Black Elk" (referring to Black Elk of Black Elk Speaks).
After Campbell explained a portion of Black Elk's vision to Moyers, Moyers interpreted. "This Indian boy [Black Elk as a youth] was saying there is a shining point where all lines intersect."
Campbell: "That's exactly what he was saying."
Moyers: "And he was saying God has no circumference?"
Campbell replied: 'There is a definition of God which has been repeated by many philosophers. God is an intelligible sphere -- a sphere known to the mind, not to the senses -- whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. And the center, Bill, is right where you're sitting. And the other one is right where I'm sitting. And each of us is a manifestation of that mystery. That's a nice mythological realization that sort of gives you a sense of who and what you are."
In the chapter "Where People Lived Legends" in Transformation of Myth Through Time, the spiritual philosopher goes on to say, after speaking again of Black Elk, "The function of the ritual and the myth is to let you experience it here, not somewhere else long ago."Rainbow Tribe. Copyright © by Ed McGaa. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.