Primal and Indigenous Spirituality: Weekly Summary

Primal and Indigenous Spirituality

Summary: Sunday, August 5-Friday, August 10, 2018

I want to emphasize contemplative insights and practices that help us heal our sense of separation and isolation, experience connection and community, and awaken a sense of responsibility for all beings. (Sunday)

Even in early, primal religion, we can see the idea of this world as “image and likeness” of Ultimate Reality, and how the perennial idea of our connectedness with everything calls us to be respectful and compassionate toward all. (Monday)

One of the nondual gifts of Native traditions is their openness to inspiration and wisdom from community, ancestors, dance, drumming, nature, beauty, and signs and symbols that speak deeply to the unconscious. Because they are not tied to one sacred text, they are freer to discover and honor the sacred everywhere. (Tuesday)

When Pope John Paul II met with Native Americans in Phoenix, Arizona, he told them that they knew something that is taking most Catholics a long time to learn: that the Creator has always been giving and is encountered in the natural world. (Wednesday)

True initiation marks you indelibly and gives you your sacred name, but only when it is accompanied by an interior sacred wounding that reminds you that life is hard and that you are, indeed, wounded and powerless before the Mystery of Full Life. (Thursday)

Looking for beauty all around us is a contemplative practice, an exercise in opening our hearts, minds, and bodies to the divine image. In indigenous traditions, such opening practices often take the form of dance, drumming, song, and trance, embodied forms that Western, and particularly Euro-centric, Christianity has neglected. (Friday)

 

Practice: Intimacy with Creation

In every religion we find the need to consecrate our participation in the natural world. This is especially evident in the tribal religions of native peoples. Their songs and prayers express a great courtesy toward the natural world. For example, the refrain “We return thanks” in the thanksgiving ritual of the Iroquois Indians—first to our mother, the Earth which sustains us, then to the rivers and streams, to the bushes and trees, to the elements, and finally to the Great Spirit who directs all things—reveals the intimacy of their relation with the entire Earth community. —Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon [1]

A Navajo chant expresses the depth of this intimacy with, and participation in, nature:

The mountains,
I become part of it . . .
The herbs, the fir tree,
I become part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters,
I become part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen . . .
I become part of it. [2]

We also are able to “become part of it” when we are aware that we share the Spirit of God with all creation, as the following passage inspired by Celtic theologian Pelagius (360-418) affirms:

Look at the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insects crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the fish in the river and sea: God’s spirit dwells within them. There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent. . . . When God pronounced that his creation was good, it was not only that his hand had fashioned every creature; it was that his breath had brought every creature to life. Look too at the great trees of the forest; look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly. [3]

Go out into the natural world and look with God’s eyes; listen with God’s ears; know your place within God’s good creation.

References:
[1] Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, ed., Earth Prayers: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations from Around the World (HarperOne: 1991), xxi.

[2] Ibid., 5.

[3] The Letters of Pelagius: Celtic Soul Friend, ed. Robert Van de Weyer (Arthur James Ltd.: 1995) as quoted by J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (Paulist Press: 1997), 10-11.

For Further Study:
Karen Armstrong, The Case for God (Alfred A. Knopf: 2009)

Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, ed., Earth Prayers: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations from Around the World (HarperOne: 1991)

Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2004)

Rami Shapiro, ed., The World Wisdom Bible: A New Testament for a Global Spirituality, (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2017)

Huston Smith, The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (Harper Collins: 1986)

Image Credit: National Powwow Grass Dancers (detail), 2007, Smithsonian Institute creator, photographer Cynthia Frankenburg, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:Looking for beauty all around us is a contemplative practice, an exercise in opening our hearts, minds, and bodies to the divine image. In indigenous traditions, such opening practices often take the form of dance, drumming, song, and trance, embodied forms that Western, and particularly Euro-centric, Christianity has neglected. —Richard Rohr

The work of the Center for Action and Contemplation is possible only because of friends and supporters like you!

Learn more about making a donation to the CAC.

FacebookTwitterEmailPrint