Indigenous Wisdom, Otto Rank, & a Search for the “Deeper Sources”

In a recent DM I shared Dr. Kramer’s and my appreciation for Otto Rank’s teachings and invoked Kramer’s recent article that utilized Rank’s teachings on the quest for immortality to better understand the forces behind the violence Putin is waging on Ukraine and democracy itself. 

Drone footage of the beseiged city of Mariupol, under continuous shelling as residents hide in basements without food, water, or medical care. One convoy of refugees has been allowed to leave, but humanitarian aid remains blocked.

Several years ago, in a major article about Rank, I brought forth some of his profound teachings that can lend us some wisdom at this critical time in human and planetary history.  I wish to share some of these in today’s and upcoming meditations.

One of the prophetic contributions of Rank is his high regard for the wisdom of the ancients of whom he declares: “Primitives disclose to us the deeper sources.” If we are looking for depth (which I consider as good a definition of ‘spiritual’ as we can find), Rank says we ought to consider the pre-modern peoples because they reveal the “deeper sources.” 

“Rain Must Fall,” a brief ritual dance by Kitty Phetla of the Joburg Ballet, petitioning for rain to end a 2-year drought at CapeTown. Two weeks later, rains came.

Pre-modern and ancient peoples, like Rank himself, saw physics (i.e. nature and macrocosm) and psychology (human nature and microcosm) as one.  All of life was a celebration of this union of psyche and cosmos.  (Remember Aquinas: “The greatness of the human person consists in this: that we are capable of the universe.”)  This interest in the cosmos was a source of great wonder and admiration for Rank who speaks of “an identity with the cosmic process.”

Today’s cosmology and reach for our origins as in Hubble and Webb telescopes are all about this very rediscovery of cosmology will provide the surest healing for our deepest woes which stem from our separation from the cosmos.  Rank calls this the unio mystica, our “being one with the All” and our being “in tune with” the cosmos, whichthe earliest humans knew intimately. 

“Shaman With Animal Spirits.” Painting by David Paladin, on DavidPaladin.com. Published with permission.

Says Rank: This identification is the echo of an original identity, not merely of child and mother, but of everything living—witness the reverence of the primitive for animals.  In man, identification aims at re-establishing a lost identity with the cosmic process, which has to be surrendered and continuously re-established in the course of self-development

Rank instructs us to look to the indigenous for the wisdom of animal relationships, indeed the “reverence” that indigenous have for animals. 

Are we capable of recovering reverence?  How far as modern warfare and culture wandered from reverence to creation and to creatures?


Adapted from: Matthew Fox, “Otto Rank on the Artistic Journey as a Spiritual Journey, the Spiritual Journey as an Artistic Journey,” in Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 199-214 and on MatthewFox.org

And Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 21-24.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Garden of Eden” Detail of a painting by David Paladin, on DavidPaladin.com. Published with permission.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you seek an “identity with the cosmic process?”  What assists you to find that?  Why is that important to you?  To our survival as a species?


Recommended Reading

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit


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11 thoughts on “Indigenous Wisdom, Otto Rank, & a Search for the “Deeper Sources””

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you ask us a number of questions:
    1. “Do you seek an ‘identity with the cosmic process?'” I do, every since I took the class in “The New Cosmology” at the University of Creation Spirituality. I am fascinated by the stories of creation in the Bible, as well as the new creation story, which involves the whole 13.8 billion years of cosmic history–of which I’m a part.
    2. “What assists you to find that?” The school and the class assisted me in finding that.
    3. “Why is that important to you?” It is important to me because I am not an island. I am a part of the whole “Universe Story” (Berry & Swimme)–a part of the whole cosmic unfolding!
    4. “To our survival as a species?” It is important for us to be thinking in terms of what is best for the earth ecologically–for its survival and ours as a species.

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    Either our ignorance or awareness of truth influences our perception of things. Few see the world clear and steady. One’s world and worldview is an out-picturing of their consciousness, either illumined or darkened, enlightened or eclipsed. The ultimate in wholeness, seeing things in wholes and as they are (not as we are) is to attain spiritual realization, or Christ consciousness. Mystics and indigenous folk have known, practiced and preserved those spiritual practices and traditions toward attaining spiritual awareness (unitive consciousness) for millennia. Such overcomes the splits and divisions in dualistic thinking (separation consciousness) that besets most of the world, and is the primary root of its evils. In the absence of light, darkness claims presence, dims consciousness, and colors perceptions, which manifest as ignorance, lies, discords, false beliefs, appearances, and group think. So that things are not what they appear to be, especially when it comes to geo-political events and world governments, including our own. As but one small example of how a shadow government operates to create lies and deception in the minds of its citizenry, google the fact based documentary, ‘The Zapruder Film Mystery, YouTube.’ To this day, the powers of darkness rule historical events to govern and control the earth for dark purposes. So study, pray and wisely discern. “In that day . . . and out of their doom and darkness the eyes of the blind may see” (Isa. 29:18). In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Walk in the light. Again I say to you, things are not as they appear to be.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Joe, That was a very interesting comment you shared with us today–I just had a hard time seeing how it related to todays questions, which were:
      1. Do you seek an “identity with the cosmic process?”
      2. What assists you to find that?
      3. Why is that important to you?
      4. To our survival as a species?
      Let us hear what you have to say in answer to these questions.

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    Jeanette Metler

    What rises to the surface with regards to your questions of inquirey within today’s DM, are the many teachings you have shared of the mystics, whom understood the living presence and essence of God embodied within the all and the everything of creation… not simply incarnate within humanity only. These mystics, along with Indigenious people’s learnt to live in relationship with this mystery, in reverence and respect for the interrelationships, the interconnections, the inter-reliance and interdependence within the wholeness and oneness of this great webb of life. In doing so, they learnt not only how to live in right relationship with the all and the everything, they also learnt the wisdom ways of being and living in harmony and alignment with the movements of birth, life, change, death, transformation and new life. They also discovered the blessings, the medicine gifts that each had to give of itself to the whole… hence discovering this about themselves as well. They celebrated all of this through sacred rituals, ceremonies, art, music, stories and the way they lived. This is the Original Blessing that the mystics discovered and the indigenous people lived… and it is this that today we must return to.

    Personally, I was awakened to this first, through my 10 year apprenticeship within Indigenious Spirituality. It was much harder to discover this same mystery within Christian Spirituality… however after having discovered the long hidden sacred writings of some of the mystics… whom were often deemed heretics, often excumuinicated, and whose mystical and prophetic voices were oppressed and suppressed… did I find the universal truths of this Original Blessing within my own traditional pathway of faith.

    The all and the everything of creation itself… is also crying out to be seen and heard as a gift of Original Blessing… in need of humanities reverence and respect… for Her existence that gives all of humanity life is on the brink of death… and Her death is our death. For far to long, humanity has destroyed all that is good and beautiful within this Original Blessing… we must repent, turn away from this horror that we have inflicted upon the all and the everything of creation, which includes humanity. The seriousness of this crisis, which humanity itself has created was powerfully, visually, dramatically and prophetically reflected in President Zelensky’s video message delivered to not only the United States but the whole world today. It’s time now… to turn away from all of our waring ways that we have been inflicting upon the Original Blessing of the all and the everything of creation, which includes humanity… and begin to focus on learning to be and live in right relationship with… with reverence… respecting the sacredness, the blessed gifts that each has to give and offer of itself to the whole of life… that reconciliation and healing may begin to unfold, evolve and emerge… not only within the all and the everything of creation… but within our relationships with this great webb of life that holds all existence together.

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    Patricia+Ferrari

    I read the responses as well as Matthew’s meditations. I want to say thank you to them, for they give additional insight and that blesses me. I am grateful. Pat Ferrari

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    If one takes humanity out of the equation, creation has always been and continues to be an integrated whole. The natural kingdom operating under the laws of nature, is held in a fine balance. Humanity has always been the outlier in this kingdom of natural laws, taking but never giving. On reflection, man does not seem part of creation. I am reminded of the introduction of rabbits to Australia by men. Having no natural predators, they brought real damage to the environment. Perhaps also mankind was introduced into the earth and is now wreaking the same sort of damage that the rabbits of Australia caused.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Peter, Thank you so much for your comment not only do I agree with the comparison between rabbits and humans, I also think I will do some meditation on your idea of: ” Perhaps mankind was introduced into the earth and is now wreaking the same sort of damage that the rabbits of Australia caused.”

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    For some time now I’ve been on the Journey that leads to an understanding of the All. I’ve read Berry (both of them), Aldo Leopold, of course, Matthew Fox, and many others. Around the world I see organizations swirling like tea leaves in a fragile cup in an orbit that will eventually bring them all together: The Transition Movement, Stop Ecocide, OSE, the Feminist Foreign Policy organization, and others. I have sensed the organizing current that people used to know and understand but which has today been driven from us by the toxic patriarchy.
    I believe there is hope, but I’m anxious because I don’t know how much time is left.
    I send relevant books to the young parents in my family and plan to open a dialogue with them when I can develop a coherent method—it seems like trying to communicate with beings from another planet to teach this to the young whose only world has been superficially demanding goals that involve their achieving the highest level of capitalist intent—that of being consumers. How can we teach their children? These are young children between 2 and 8 years old. How do we teach them about something we barely sense ourselves?
    The rain dance ballet is beautiful and the chanting voices visceral and urgent—can we disengage from Cartesian jadedness and chant with abandon? What will we be capable of?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Olive, Thank you for your comment, and we’re glad that you have “been on the Journey that leads to an understanding of the All” and have bumped into Matthew Fox and Thomas and Wendell Berry, as well as the various groups you point out. All of these are signs of hope. We’re also glad that you found us !!!

  7. Avatar

    Matthew, thank you again in your DM about mystical/indigenous spirituality and vision of the Loving Oneness of our Mother Father Creator in All of ongoing Evolutionary Creation in the Universe/Cosmos and how we are co-Creators as human divine beings with our evolutionary Soul Consciousness…. Modern science quantum physics development is confirming these traditional mystical spiritual visions of our interconnectedness/interdependence of our Universal Cosmic Oneness….

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    All that my comment points out ARE the consequences of a general lack or loss of a soul’s and nation’s deeper identity with the cosmic process, Richard. That its importance not just to me, but the survival of the entire planet is also underscored in my comments, further referring readers to an national example of same when said process is neglected. What should also obvious is that the devotional basics have “helped assist me” in getting and remaining there, or I couldn’t have formulated same. Regret that u can’t see or understand same in my the earlier comments.

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