There is much in the news these days—as well there should be—not only about slavery and atrocities committed against black humans and on the response of Black Lives Matter and its effort to wake people up to the suffering in history.
But also there is much news these days about the horrors of the indigenous stories and boarding schools in particular into which native children were thrown with the intention of cutting them off from their families and culture and religion and language.
In this context of truth-telling—which is the only way to healing and new beginnings—it seems appropriate to meditate on the gifts of the indigenous wisdom (as we considered previously some of the spiritual gifts of the African and African American culture). What did the slave master miss out on—what damage was done his or her soul in carrying on the work of slavery? How much was religion distorted and abused in the process and even up to today?
So too we can ask: What have the conquerors of indigenous cultures lost out on by replacing an earth-based and creation-based religion with one that leads with human redemption instead of cosmic wonder and gratitude at existence?
One result, as we noted yesterday, is a deep sadness and a deep loneliness. Empty souls need filling with drugs, drink, bad religion, power trips, addictions, it would seem if we take a good look around us.
Let us turn to more wisdom from indigenous peoples therefore. Their story is not just about suffering; it is also about wisdom. The healing medicine for all of us may be found in the “return of the repressed” and oppressed in our midst.
Let us consider teachings of Black Elk who was a shaman in his own right and a cousin to Crazy Horse. He fought against white soldiers in the battles of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee.
Black Elk talks often about the “sacred hoop,” which is the universe, but which is also found everywhere in nature as well as in the human community itself. He says:
I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle. . . . But anywhere is the center of the world.
There can be no power in a square. You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. . . . The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle.*
*John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks (NY: Washington Square Press, 1959), pp. 43, 164f.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, chapter 11, “Indigenous Wisdom and Shamanism,” pp. 214f.
Banner Image: Protest message for indigenous rights added to a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) installation marking the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. As the 155th anniversary passed on July 1, 2021, indigenous nations and allies urge Canadians to make Canada Day an occasion of reflection and remembrance rather than celebration. Photo by Can Pac Swire on Flickr.
“The birds’ religion is the same religion as ours”—how surprising a statement is that? How important is the circle in your religion, in your view of the world?
Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time
While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward
Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.
Join us for a Virtual Teach-in with Isa Gucciardi and Matthew Fox, hosted by Rev. Cameron Trimble.
August 13-14, 2021 (Fri-Sat)
Shamanism in Buddhism and Christianity
Session 1: Friday, August 13 at 4pm-6pm PT
Session 2: Saturday, August 14 at 9am-12pm PT
Session 3: Saturday, August 14 at 12:30pm-2:30pm PT