In case you missed my first attempt at a powerpoint presentation last week, it was suggesting that the best way to protect ourselves from negative energy is to send love out to others, rather than just surrounding ourselves in white or blue light. This reminded me of a big difference between the way our society has been heading, and the societies of traditional indigenous peoples, like the Native Americans I have been learning about in the course I have been doing.
Native Americans honour individual strength and power, both in the physical and the spiritual sense, but their individual strength and power is used in the benefit of the community, and by extension, the world at large.
When I was learning about the way that Native American spirituality has changed since European invasion, I learned that the Jesuit priests, who first encountered them, saw in individual Native Americans a sense of personal empowerment. Each Native American derived this sense of empowerment from their complete faith in a benevolent creator, their spiritual helpers, and their sense of belonging to a supportive community. However, the Jesuits, and other missionaries at the time, set about “reducing the Indians”, as they considered they were prideful, as they thought they considered themselves equal to God.
Native Americans, on the other hand, considered the white invaders as egotistical, as they considered themselves above the rest of creation. These whites claimed to have all of the answers about the Creator, which the Native Americans knew as the Great Mystery, impossible to completely know and understand.
If a sense of personal empowerment was considered a failing in our European Christian culture, perhaps it is not surprising that our societies have focused more and more on the individual and less and less on the community, such that in many places, it is impossible to find a community at all. Perhaps we have all been rebelling against that early Catholic directive, to conform or face the inquisition and burning at the stake.
In a world where we have no supportive community, where we have no faith in a benevolent creator, and no belief in the spiritual helpers, it truly is every man for himself. We have to think about how we will survive; we may consider the survival of our family, or perhaps our extended family, but rarely do we consider the plight of others who we have to stand on to reach our goals. We vote for those politicians who will help us as individuals. We never consider those who might suffer as a consequence. We make war on those others who get in the way of us achieving our goals.
As we have grown into our spirituality in such a world, it is an automatic reaction to want to protect ourselves from those negative outside forces, by keeping our individual selves safe. We learn to surround ourselves in white light, or blue light, to keep out the negativity, because we feel we need protection from this outside threatening world.
Perhaps if we had grown up in a traditional Native American community, we would never feel the need for protection. Perhaps we would always know that we would always be blessed by a benevolent creator; we would always have the help of helpful spirits; and we would always be part of a supportive community. Perhaps if we had that same sense of personal empowerment, which the Jesuits encountered in Native Americans, we would know that there is nothing to fear in this world or the next.
Traditional Native Americans considered themselves related to all of life – the four winds, the earth, the sky, every living thing, the rocks, the mountains, the rivers – all of creation, including their enemies. They knew that in the physical world, their ancestors’ bodies have been recycled back into the earth, to become rocks, rivers, air, plants and every living thing. They knew that in the spiritual world, their ancestors were close by and available to offer help.
If we think of ourselves as all related, it is much easier to reach the way of looking at things which the Dalai Lama espouses. When faced with people who carry out actions which we find deplorable, we can deplore the actions, whilst still finding compassion for the person carrying out those actions. If we find ourselves under attack, we can defend ourselves against the actions of someone, but still offer them compassion.
Some time ago, I had the opportunity to do a couple of past life regressions. Whilst I learned about aspects of one of my past lives which were still having an effect in my present life, I was shown another past life for no other reason than to make me aware that we are one.
In my present life, I have sometimes said that, whilst I am no axe murderer, I certainly am no saint. In my past life, however, I was shown myself as an axe murderer.
I was a man in 17th century England. I had lain in wait for someone and slain him with an axe blow to the head – for money, I think. I was shown that I never truly recovered from the guilt of it in that life, finding myself unworthy of any love, and therefore unable to love others.
Since seeing myself as an axe murderer, I have never judged others quite as harshly.
I still judge others. I know that in a physical world, our physical bodies with their physical senses, along with our ego minds are designed to judge – to find differences and similarities, to compare, to look at pros and cons, and find something or someone better, and something or someone worse.
Yet, A Course In Miracles (ACIM) reminds us of the Bible’s suggestion to “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” For as we judge others, we are really judging ourselves and finding ourselves guilty. ACIM points out that “The world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt”, and that “it is guilt that has obscured the Father to you, and it is guilt that has driven you insane.”
It is easy to understand that “the mind that judges, perceives itself as separate from the mind being judged”. If we can look at others as relatives, perhaps we can understand that “the choice to judge rather than to know is the cause of the loss of peace.” ACIM tells us: “You have no idea of the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgement.”
Knowing that I was once an axe murderer, and that I have, in this life, done some things which I would not do today, I know that we are all evolving. Can I hold myself as guiltless and forgive myself, as I would a small child who I know is just learning how to be? Can I look at others in the same light?
Can I look at everyone and everything as my relatives and send love out to them all? Can I walk through life with a sense of personal empowerment, knowing there is a benevolent creator, knowing I have much spiritual help, knowing that I am part of a supportive community that includes all of creation?