Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Seven Sacred Things

I practice seership, and perform the rituals of an ancestral faith, but at heart, I'm really a seeker of stories and songs- and a person who seeks respectful, harmonious relationships with the many powers in this world. I seek for simpler things, too- but things no less important; the safety and happiness of my family, and my own peace of mind.

That might sound lackluster to some people, but I've come to find that a great and holy power dwells in such simplicity, almost as if this world itself orients us towards those sorts of ends, and sanctions a sacred path to them. When we're living right, living on the heart, we know it, we just know it, though many people have learned to doubt such thinking.

If life is a power-story, then here is what I bring to the story- the bare bones of a personal epistemology. I have seven basic beliefs: a belief in the natural goodness of humankind; a belief in a lasting spirit for each person and an unbroken communion with other powers who are also lasting spirits; a belief in the interconnectedness of things and the need for respect; a belief in the sacred powers, the three worlds and their ongoing contact between one another, a belief in the importance of dreams and visions, and in the purifying power of certain plants and other powers which are helpful to man.

I've been a part of many spiritual traditions, and what I always found, at the end of my days with them, is that life is water- not stone. Ideas and perspectives came and went, had their seasons with me, but eventually faded. But these seven beliefs of mine never left me; they became refined over time, and remain with me now, hovering about, healthy in their power but always ready to undergo a revision here or there. Still they are always with me, my seven primary beliefs.

I don't even "call" myself anything anymore; everyone loves those names and titles, but I'm just a guy looking for stories, looking to hear stories from the land itself. I sometimes do healing, and sometimes look for visions, and I sometimes get visits from my helping spirit, but that's it. I don't know what that makes me; just a guy who focuses on strange places and things, I guess. There's help there, power there, and it's what I have to do to be on my heart's road, and so off I trot.

I give details on each of my seven primary beliefs here, now- and I say pretty much all I have to say about them. The rest you'd have to be me to know, or experience as I do, and well, that can never happen. No one can live another's life. So here is more clarification, for myself (for I like to spell things out for "me" every now and then) and for you, if you're interested.

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1. I have a belief that humankind is not a foreign power to the world, not a temporary visitor, nor an exiled, accursed species, suffering from the spiritual transgressions of mythical ancestors, nor in need of some redemptive grace from spiritual powers. Humankind is a natural and normal part of this world, and of the cosmological schema of nature as a whole. It bears no innate flaws or unavoidable wickedness.

2. I have a belief that humanity, like the other animals who share our common world, are not beings that vanish utterly into oblivion at death; the idea of "non-being" is refuted due to the impossibility of "being" arising from "non-being". "Being", whether in the general sense, or in the "embodied" sense of a human or animal life, is seen as perpetual, and continues on through many times, phases, and worlds, as marked by transitions like birth or death.

Each person, like every other part of nature, has a "non-ordinary" aspect, a "non-ordinary body" which is similar to the idea of "soul" in mainstream religions, but different in other ways- my concept of "personal identity" is more fluid ("life is water, not rock") and I believe that this "non-ordinary aspect" of a human being is at the core of what we call the "mind".

Neither mind nor personality has a "fixed" state which never changes, though I believe that the wholeness of things- the wholeness of sacred reality- is at heart unchanging, despite the paradoxical appearance of change. For me, this "sacred stillness" is also part of the mystery of silence, encountered by indigenous spiritual workers in many cultures, and used by them as a route to spiritual insight. This "sacred silence" ties into both the experience of isolation and quests through night or darkness.

Just as a person is conditioned by many occasions and experiences in life to "be" one way or another, to develop personality in one way or another, or believe one way or another, this process of personality is always changing and in motion, and even in death, there is no firm or fixed "identity" for the fluid power that resides with each human person. I also believe that human beings communicate with and interact constantly with sacred powers- seen and unseen- via the "non-ordinary" aspect of themselves. I believe that the results of these ongoing communions- most of which are normally unconscious- arise in terms of intuition and dreams.

3. I have a belief in the necessary interconnectedness of all beings- human or otherwise- and of all ecological systems, and powers, whether seen or unseen, all acting together as a sacred and natural whole. We rely on so many others, and so many others rely on us; the implications of this belief necessitates for us human beings a sense of respect, first and foremost, as the central guideline for our interaction with any other part or parts of the whole. I believe that those who disrespect others enough to needlessly hurt or kill, or disrespect the world enough to damage it cannot rest in death. Living in harmony is living respectfully, and harmony follows a person in death.

If life were to have a "purpose", it would be (to my way of thinking) to find a state of lasting harmony, through a lifelong negotiation of power between those things we experience as "self", "other", and "world". One quick road to the proper state of mind needed to successfully make that life-long negotiation is to overcome our idea that we are ultimately "divided" away from those "other things", accept our full sacred participation in the unity of things- and accept it without reservation of any kind. You don't get to be even a bit "separate" from this world and this universe. It's home; its our natural environment, our source, our origin, and our eternal stage of activity. It always was and always will be.

4. I have a belief in "sacred powers"- some of whom are experienced directly as natural phenomenon or creatures, or as the non-ordinary aspect of those same phenomenon or creatures, and some which are experienced only in terms of non-ordinary reality, but who are just as real as those who are more immediate to human perceptions.

These powers are, like humankind, natural and necessary to the world; all of these powers are non-human persons, with will, volition, memory, and reason; some are benevolent to human beings and other creatures; some are not. Some played a large role in the shaping of the world as we see it or in the early development of humanity and other beings in our world; some did not. All are worthy of respect and have a lot of wisdom to share. The dangerous powers should be avoided, but not hated.

All sacred powers can be approached, or conceived of as a "collective" of great spiritual presence/totality, further conceptualized as a "Great Power", though without the usual limited associations given to such an idea by monotheistic religions in the west.

5. I have a belief in a "three layered" cosmological schema- that this "middle world" is below an "upper world" which is populated by spiritual powers, and above an "underworld" which is also populated by spiritual powers, as well as the spirits of departed human beings and animals.

There is a webwork of power-transactions between all three "layers" of this basic cosmological schema, including places and events that can be conceptualized as "connecting points" between the worlds- tunnels, holes, and caves in the earth giving access to the Underworld, or rainbows and the rising smoke of fires giving access to the Upper World. The "power transactions" between the three worlds also include communications like prayer. Power-transactions also occur within each world (of course), making a horizontal and vertical web-work of communication, which is ongoing.

6. I have a belief that human beings can have visionary experiences of a sacred character- including experiences of the other worlds above or below this one- under the influence of certain things like repetitive drum beats, rattle shaking, certain vision-inducing natural substances, or extremes of pain, hunger, or exposure.

The idea of a "mere hallucination" is not valid to my worldview; all non-ordinary states of consciousness or subjective experiences falling outside of the range of what is called "normal" are still experiences of some aspect of this sacred reality and can be taken within a sacred context of understanding. Dreams are likewise important as conduits of non-ordinary experience.

Guidance can be sought for a people or a group of people through such experiences. It can come from the synchronicities of natural phenomenon (whether experienced normally, when walking and "seeing" in a sacred manner or in a non-ordinary way, in dreams or visions) or from interactions with sacred powers or spiritual beings who act as tutelary powers, protectors, guides, or helpers to human beings.

7. I have a belief that fire, sunlight, and water are three sacred powers that are also sacred gifts to human beings, and that they can do more than just slake thirst, cook food, or drive away cold- they can also purify a person if they are approached with the proper respect. The sacred powers of sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and other aromatic plants and woods can purify a place when burned, keeping away dangerous powers. Living respectfully is the best way to keep dangerous powers away. Acceptance of wholeness, perpetual life, and all-around sacredness is the greatest healing power there is.

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