Thursday, August 11, 2005

Native Spirituality

A California new age group has been spamming my Salt Lake Community Directory for the last sevreral months. An open directory allows anyone to add a site. I then have to delete those that don't fit the site.

I have nothing against new age, nor do I have anything against California. In many ways, California new age is a welcome bit of rationality compared to what goes on in Salt Lake. I have to delete the entries because I want to maintain the integrity of the regional directory.

Anyway, the entry that showed up today is David Stanley Bell who wrote a book called Foreplay to Afterglow for the Soul, which I guess is about some sort of orgasmic nature experience. Mr. Bell appears to be among the legions of baby boomers who've decided that they were really Native Americans because Native Americans have a superior spirituality. This is one of the quotes from the site.

Native Spirituality is close to nature, dominant culture seems to "rationalize" away truth in exerting its dominion over nature.

The idea that western culture lacks spirituality and that Native Americans lack rationality seems to be a very widespread belief. The basic idea seems to be that nature and science are somehow at odds, while nature and spirituality are in harmony. I love the little aacusation that the science of the dominant culture is a way to rationalize away truth. The impulse of science is to pursue truth by detailed examination of nature.

The actual history of science seems to be the exact opposite of this modern myth. In ancient times, we find man trying to make explanations for all their hardships in supernatural forces. The dominating theme of the spirituality is that this nature we see around us in an illusion, we should seek truth in myth.

It was the scientists who told us to start examining and learning from nature. For that matter, the idea of looking first at nature for answers is still the primary theme in science and analysis.

I think it is also possible to argue that the idea of dominating nature comes from the spiritual side of western culture. Churches and religions seem to have a strange preoccupation with the the way we organize society. It is generally through religion that we find the justification to dominate others and nature. Science does not provide the justification for human dominance.

This theme of a superior spirituality of Native Americans is extremely interesting. The "noble savage" was central to JJ Rousseau (1712-1778). The idea appears in many writers such as Wadsworth. There was even a popular myth in early American that the Native Americans were in fact a lost tribe of Isreal ... giving them great religious significance.

I believe that the early colonial experience with native cultures found the Native American tribes to be extremely diverse. The Cherokee and other tribes found great utily in European science. The French Indian wars found a certain Machiavellian streak in north eastern tribes. The plain Indians and western tribes showed great ingenuity in adopting the horse and rifles before the appearance of white men.

Different pioneer journals seem to indicate that white people were aware of a great amount of diversity among native tribes. They seemed to know that you could seek aid from certain tribes, but needed to avoid others.

I Will Fight No More Forever attributed to Chief Joseph shows a person receptive to Libertarian ideals.

The modern myth is that white man only became aware of the great spirituality of Native Americans in the spiritual awakening of the 60s.

Reading this site by David Stanley Bell, the different rantings of Ward Churchill and other white people who pretend to be indians, I can't help but think that our present new age myth of the super spiritual indian is as much a myth as Noble Savage and other images that white people have tried to impose on Native cultures.

It would be fun to pretend that I am an indian. I think the definition of who and what native americans are should be up to native americans.

As for my particular love of nature. I think I will stick with the love of nature that is inherent in analytic science.

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