Monday, April 18, 2005


Moving On

In his 1981 book The Primal Mind, author Jamake Highwater quotes Edward F. Edinger who claims, "Western society no longer has a viable, functioning myth. It therefore has no basis to affirm life." Taking heart from what he calls today's deeply felt and daringly facilitated humanism, though, Highwater himself asserts the first shockwaves of a "cultural earthquake" are awakening Western humankind to the dizzying realization that it is not alone.

Quoting from Daniel G. Freedman's Human Sociobiology, he observes that, "striking differences in temperament and behavior among ethnic groups show up in babies only a few days old." Indeed, Highwater writes that according to Paul Radin, To the Indian...everything that is perceived by the senses, thought of, felt, and dreamed of, truly exists for inseparable aspects of the real. An image is a visual counterpart of that reality. There are many ways of making and expressing fact, instances [occur] in which the fundamental mentality of peoples is so dissimilar that they cannot understand the means (let alone the messages) by which experience becomes transformed into expression in an alien culture. As Highwater puts it, "For Indians, images are a means of celebrating mystery and not a manner of explaining it."

To illustrate his observation that a culture's mode of thought is both illustrated and limited by the manner of its speech and writing, Highwater quotes Black Elk:
While I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw: for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.

Dorothy Lee in Freedom and Culture says, "His experience is that of a reality shaped by his perception and conceptualization. Beyond it is the timeless design to which his experience has given temporality. He believes in it and he taps it through his ritual acts and his magic, seeking luck to reinforce and validate his experiential skills and knowledge, to endow his acts with effectiveness." As Highwater describes it, the teller's or writer's story is a means of raising one's self to a higher level of achieved power.

Looking at the post-colonial conflicts between nations and states, Highwater asserts that, "Never has the interpretation of cultures been so worldwide, or disintegration so universal." F.S.C. Northrop clarifies: Unless we are protected by poetry...the mind of man becomes overstimulated while his spirit dies.

Cautioning against the false isolation of individualism, Highwater proposes that "Freedom is not the right to express yourself, but the far more fundamental right to be yourself...The abiding principle of tribalism is the vision of both nature and a society which provides a place for absolutely everything and everyone."

Addressing the UN in 1977, the Six Nations spoke of native peoples being among the world's surviving proprietors of that kind of consciousness. "The great hope," as Epes Brown states, "is that a true and open dialogue may be established through which...each [society] may ultimately regain and reaffirm the sacred dimensions of their own respective traditions."

As Highwater concludes, in the past it has been the resources of the world of primal peoples which have given impetus to the rise of human cultures and the many social cycles that evolved. Now, from the brief rise of primal peoples, he predicts, comes a new culture that replaces the exhausted one. "That is the ultimate irony of our era," he notes. "Those who have been most utterly defeated have become most influential. Another that the most linear and material minds are not aware that history has relentlessly moved past them, putting their values in a new perspective which they cannot yet see."


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?