- By Jeff Baggaley
There are a number of fundamental spiritual truths which we may learn from aboriginal American spiritual life. We were witness to this as embodied in Meta Williams' gracious presence at the Conference. The way she spoke, how she listened, her sense of humor, how she addressed the body of anthroposophists during her presentation, rooted in her people, speaking out of that Voice, and how her talk in all areas kept cycling around healing.
We can learn from all of this as we seek to deepen our lives.
When we enter the sweat lodge, we get down close to the ground and enter into the lodge on all fours, humbling ourselves before we enter into the world of Spirit. That is what we do when we go into a sweat lodge: we are crossing the threshold into the world of Spirit. It is a simple matter of recognizing this. The first thing we do is be humble. We are human beings, in a fallen state, filled with pride and arrogance.
Once in the lodge, we cultivate of mood of reverence. How? By keeping quiet, by being silent. We need to be very careful with our Word in the lodge, how we use words. Because in the lodge, where the Spirits are invited in, our word is our bond. You will get what you pray for, what you speak in there, so be careful what you say.
This honoring of the Word and the use of words is fundamental to understanding traditional aboriginal American spirituality, and was evident during Meta’s talk. It seemed that more of her talk was silence than words. This very silence deepens the words as they are spoken, measures them within the listeners with the inner touchstone of truth. It is the space of spirit between the sounds, and so enables the whole to be permeated with Truth. (That is why your shyster huckster will speak a mile a minute: There is no space for the truth of the matter to be heard.)
In the sweat lodge, as in all American spirituality, ceremony is conducted in and within a Circle. To my mind when we gathered together at the Conference within a Circle, the spirit generated therein was authentic as well as authentically American. All life goes in a circle, which then cycles in a spiral as Spirit infuses. This is a basic truth in America.
In the Lodge, we are all brothers and sisters, we are all relations, we are all related in a fundamental way to all Creation. That is what we say when we enter into the Lodge, into the spiritual world: “All My Relations.” We continue to affirm this relationship at all significant points in the Ceremony, much in the way ‘Amen’ is used during Mass. We are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of Grandfather Creator. That is why we help each other, and do not hurt one another. That is why we endeavor to be kind, to develop understanding. We do all this because of these basic and fundamental relationships of spiritual kinship.
When we speak of Creation, of the spiritual Beings of the Hierarchies, we speak of Grandfathers and Grandmothers. That is the nature of our relationship to these spiritual beings: they are family. It may be difficult to see a Throne as a Grandfather, but that is the aboriginal American understanding of these matters. As we grow older, in our human way and manner, we try to reflect these divine spiritual qualities within ourselves: understanding, kindness, compassion, love.
These are matters of the Heart and are native to traditional American ways.
As with all matters of the Heart, when we get wounded, hurt, ground down, pulverized by Life and karma, the only way back to right relations is through healing those wounds and pains and hurts, as deep and raw as these woundings may sometimes go.
Reconciliation. Learning. Healing. This is at the very core of American spirituality. It is why Ceremony is performed at the Individual-Community level of Sweat Lodge Ceremony, or Community Level of Sun Dance or Individual level of Fasting, also called Vision Questing. It is always about healing, for a loved one or for your community, someone sick in your community, for yourself. It is about getting back into into right relations with your brothers and sisters, with yourself, with spiritual world.
At times the road back to these right relations is filled with extraordinary suffering and pain, and this too must be acknowledged in a good way, so that we may move forward and not be a hindrance. All this comes from the Grandfathers, all our pains and sufferings are part of the Gift we have each been given that is our Life. Wopila! we learn to say, even under the most adverse and painful of circumstances. Thank you Granfather, thank you for this Day. Much of this process involves a humble acceptance of our humanity, that we have goofed up in major ways. We are all human beings, and we all without exception mess up. Acceptance and quiet acknowledgement of our humanity as well as the other’s humanity is traditional to American spiritual pathways, a traditional value, however much conflict there may be in the process of reconciliation, healing and learning. It is not a matter of being right or wrong, but of healing, an ongoing process, so that right relations between us may be reestablished.
This is why we need a good sense of humor, so that we can laugh at ourselves when we blunder and goof up, can forgive ourselves for the mess that is our lives and get it in perspective. In American spiritual pathways, there is the Clown, the Heyoka, blundering through situations, smashing through all boundaries and rules and regulations, doing everything backwards, upside down, topsy turvy, to the general merriment of all. This Heyoka, this Clown, is a vitally important part of understanding any aspect of American spirituality. We can see in Dawn (Stratton) our Anthroposophical Clown why Steiner carved the Spirit of Humor in his Representative of Humanity statue.
So much of this understanding of American spirituality applies to us as anthroposophists, in my view, not least when you look at our history as a Society since Steiner’s death. Part of this history has been well recorded in so far as it is reflected in the history of the First Class in a recent book by Johannes Kiersch called A History of the School of Spiritual Science. The divisions, dissensions and expulsions within the Society point to nothing but our common humanity. How could it be otherwise?
This history, however, seen from an American point of view, is a wonderful opportunity for us to learn, to heal, to grow, and to move forward as a Society strengthened by this suffering.
As we continue our headlong and precipitous rush into subnature and witness the extraordinary devolution of humanity this transformation is bringing about, the Whitehorse Conference, fired by an aboriginal American spiritual presence, signals a healing within our Society, wonderful to behold.
May this Spirit of Healing continue to signal from the Periphery to the Center, and from the Center radiate forth to the Whole.
Mitakuye Oyasin! All My Relations!
Jeff was adopted into a Lakota tiospaye, a family, many years ago, and practices a Lakota spiritual pathway. He is a traditional Pipe Keeper and a Sun Dancer, completing his seventh Dance cycle this summer. He is also a member of the First Class.
Jeff has recently completed a graduate medical program, and is currently in the process of setting up his practice and business in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
Jeff Baggaley BA DipFCT
Biofield Medicine International
Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Anthroposophical Society in Canada