Native American Daily Life and Spirituality Inseparable

Inseparability of Native American Spirituality and Everyday Life

I’m updating my original article because it gives another viewpoint of spirituality that is quite different from how many Americans and Europeans think of it. I find these concepts to be thought-provoking and profound. The more knowledge you can gain about a subject, in this case the broad area of “spirituality,” the more understanding you can come to.

I learned about this aspect of Native American life through the writing of Ohiyesa (Charles Alexander Eastman), a part Santee Sioux who lived from 1858 to 1939.* He was raised in a traditional Native American home and was later educated as a medical doctor in American colleges. He wrote eloquently about Native American life. He wrote that daily life and spirituality, as lived purely by original peoples, were not really even two elements tightly interwoven. Rather, the people viewed their existence and lived their lives AS a manifestation of spirituality and spiritual creation. To them, there was no difference; they were inseparable.

As I understand it, and according to Ohiyesa, every activity and element of life was recognized as a participation in the spiritual world.  All aspects of living were felt to be a manifestation of the spiritual world, and all the objects in the natural world were viewed as having Spirit – humans, animals, plants, birds, even stones and other inanimate objects. All creations were recognized to come from, or BE extensions of the spirit world. In other words, there was no abrupt division between the living of daily life and the people’s practice of spirituality, because being alive and going about daily living in the way that their elders taught them was spiritual existence and expression.   

Even religious rituals and ceremonies at their root were always understood in their proper perspective as symbols of, and recognition and acknowledgment of, spiritual realities and the Great Spirit without being mistaken for the only, or most important part of spiritual practice or expression.  A symbol for something is not the thing itself. To the American Indian, it was just as much a spiritual observation to take a few moments to appreciate the majesty and beauty of the (natural) world, or a colorful sunset in the wilderness.

I find this idea of the inseparability of Native American life and spirituality to be remarkable and admirable.  Unlike our modern society and culture, to the original peoples, spirit was life, and alive, and very real. Many had an inner knowledge and conviction that spirit and the spiritual world were more real than “this dream called life” (in the physical universe). While that may be difficult for many to grasp or agree with, I feel that it shows that Native American peoples had a firm and deep grasp of existence – more so than many in the current age.

The original peoples had a tradition of wisdom about every aspect of life that had been passed down in oral traditions for eons. Young children were taught these truths and wisdom.  They were taught how to become competent members of the tribe, able to survive and defend their people, and how to make decisions about every aspect of living. 

Perhaps that knowledge passed down that has so often been branded as “primitive” by supposedly modern scientists was really “advanced” knowledge. I believe it was. This can partially be evidenced by the stories of advanced spiritual abilities demonstrated by shamans and spiritual initiates through the ages. These are not all just legend. Stories of shapeshifters and wise men who could instantly transport themselves from one place to another have their roots in actual spiritual ability.

This is where the past meets the future head-on – as in science fiction and fantasy. It is also probably the connection point between far Eastern religions and the Native American traditions.  In my life I have been privileged to meet people with advanced spiritual abilities and awareness. What they can do is truly amazing and awe-inspiring.

My own belief is that all people contain within themselves the potential for virtually all the advanced abilities that anyone can imagine. These abilities are Divine, meaning that they do not come from “demons” or the devil. Rather, they spring from the limitless potential within each of us.  And they do not originate in our brains, but in ourselves as knowing, sentient spiritual beings. A very wise man once observed that the evil, if they have such abilities, do not retain them for very long. But the good can, and may. 

My wish is that the wisdom and traditions of the various Native tribes who lived in North America for thousands of years before the Europeans came will not be lost, but will be preserved and will become more accessible to those who wish to learn.

Check out my short novel written about the Tongva, the original, almost forgotten people of Los Angeles – a story about one young Tongva brave’s own spiritual journey in the days before the Spanish came.

The Way of the Eagle: An Early California Journey of Awakening

Very best and all for now!
D.E. Lamont

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*Note that I refer to American original peoples in general, while acknowledging that there were certainly differences from one tribe and nation to another, and that what I say here may not be true for all American Indian tribes.

 

A Christmas Visit

Copyright 2012 D.E. Lamont

The prospect of death can be terrifying or depressing and for some can make living and life seem worthless. After all the greatness and creativity and pleasure that human beings can enjoy and invest into life, it seems the greatest bad joke of the universe that our awareness and our participation in life can simply be cut off forever.

Perhaps you, like many others, were taught that when your life stops, you stop – that you cease to exist and your awareness is gone. That is, after all, what our bodily senses and perceptions seem to indicate.

Others try to get you to accept it. “It’s a natural part of life,” they say. But the whole time you’re thinking that that really doesn’t help at all or make you feel any better.  Who wants to feel good about death?  For that matter, who wants to accept it, under any circumstances?

Well, maybe that really isn’t what happens. Maybe something entirely different occurs that has nothing to do with either ceasing to exist or going to heaven and floating on clouds and playing harps for eternity (no disrespect to religion intended).

Throughout the world, many religions and many people believe and have believed for uncounted ages that humans are really “composite” beings consisting of a soul, or spirit, and a body. Many also believe that the mind is not part of the brain, but part of the spirit. The spirit is immortal; it goes on existing through eternity, and so does the mind and the personality that is you.

A physical analogy for the spirit is electricity, which powers machines and electronics. It is obvious that when someone dies, something has left the body. Its source of power is gone. That something, many believe, is the life force – the spirit.

What the spirit does after the body dies may be somewhat different in each case, but it is not necessarily true that you are automatically sucked up into a dark tunnel with a bright light at its end.

I have personally had a few direct experiences with spirits. The most spectacular and wonderful such experience was a night shortly before Christmas back in the late 1980s.

I lived in a dramatic 2-story-tall apartment in West Los Angeles with a spiral staircase leading up to a small bedroom loft.  I had decided to decorate the apartment for Christmas by wiring faux pine garlands to the railings bordering the loft area and also down the spiral railings for the staircase. I began fairly late in the evening, and cut off pieces of green wire twist-tie from a big roll I had, to fasten the pine garlands to the rails. (Twist-ties are wire wrapped with plastic, used as fasteners around loaves of bread in the U.S.)

As I worked, I had the wistful thought that it was too bad that nobody but me would see my decorations, since they were looking so pretty!  I didn’t have plans for anyone to come over that Christmas – but I wanted to decorate anyway!

After I was done with the garlands, I used more twist-tie to put little clusters of bright red holly berries along the garlands.  I was upstairs when I finished, so I surveyed my work from above, then dropped the by-then largely undone spool of green twist-tie – which then looked like a big spiral spring – down to the floor through the spiral staircase. It fell on the carpet under the stair case.

I then busied myself straightening up in the loft. At one point I heard a noise downstairs – a definite medium-soft “thunk” of something hitting something. It gave me a start, because nobody was in the house. I instantly discounted it, because it wasn’t something that should have been possible, and kept working.

A little while later, I went downstairs to clean up, intending to pick up the loose roll of twist-tie I had dropped onto the carpet.  But it wasn’t there!  I very clearly recalled having dropped it through to the carpet and noticing how it unwound, looking much like a big green spring.  I was bewildered, to say the least.

I looked around, and then I spotted it. The roll of green twist-tie wire was sitting in the middle of my old wood eating table. And no longer was it a large disarrayed spiral resembling a spring. No! Instead it was rolled up tightly and neatly in a little spool and secured with a clever tie that I didn’t even know how to do!  It reminded me of something a seaman would know how to do. 

I became pretty creeped-out then, because I KNEW I hadn’t done that.  I nervously searched all through the apartment, checking everywhere to make sure nobody was there. There was nobody there and all the windows and the door were locked tight. The only possibility was one which I was
not entirely ready or able to accept, and it took me some time to buck up my courage and get used to the idea. And that was that I had had a disembodied visitor with remarkable capabilities, able to manipulate physical objects. 

While still somewhat nervous about it, I also felt shy, because I wasn’t sure whether he might still be there. I decided to address him (I felt that he had once been male), in case he was still there, and thanked him/her for wrapping my twist-ties back up and for coming to visit me and show me that he had been there.

This experience was so amazing and hard to believe, yet impossible not to believe, that it changed my overall view of things. It confirmed for me utterly, once and for all, the existence of the spiritual plane. I had seen for myself (and heard for myself) that a spiritual being was real – a personality that could indeed act and make himself or herself known to us. And could move objects without the need of a body!  It was a confirmation on a different level of what I had already believed, and it meant the world to me that my visitor had come to visit me and show me this truth in a whimsical and instructive way.

A postscript to this story:  As I was standing there thinking about what had occurred, I remembered that earlier in the evening, when I was downstairs and before I had started decorating, I had been walking toward my office area when I suddenly felt an overwhelming rush of love and loyalty for a certain very wonderful friend who had passed away a few years earlier.  My emotion was very powerful, and I felt just like I had walked right into a pool of intense love.

Standing there, as I recalled that event, my eyes misted over and I thought that perhaps, just maybe, my beloved old friend had been my unseen visitor that night. And that indeed, someone very, very special had come, after all, to see my Christmas decorations.

So, I would ask you, is dying the end of us?

I think not.  

D.E. Lamont

Are the Worlds of Magic and Spirituality Related?

"Rainy River" copyright 2012 by Doug Fairchild

“Rainy River” by Doug Fairchild. Used with permission.

When I was about five, the dramatized story of Peter Pan came on television. I loved everything about the story. I fell in love with Peter Pan (not realizing he was played by a woman, Mary Martin). Tinkerbell was a bright sparkling little light who darted about during the show, working magic. I loved the idea of Tinkerbell having magic fairy dust she could sprinkle around to create wondrous effects.

Best of all, at the very end of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell sprinkled fairydust toward the audience and told them that if they really, truly believed, they would be able to fly – just like Wendy and her brothers. I KNEW that I knew how to fly – I could feel it in the very core of my being – and after the movie ended, I got up on our raised brick hearth and jumped down over and over again, trying to take flight. I never could, but I never gave up hoping. And my love for magic and capabilities that exceeded our everyday reality never abated.

As an adult I searched among various philosophies, religions and the paranormal, interested in finding out what humanity’s true nature was – and if there was any part of us that transcended everyday reality and was greater than the apparent solidity of the material world around us. That part of us I was seeking was the spiritual. I wasn’t so much interested in ghosts, although I believed they probably existed. I was interested in finding out what the potential capabilities of living human beings were.

I came to believe that, somewhat like the X-Men and Superman, we have the potential to overcome our physical limitations and affect ourselves and our world through the power of the spirit – even to the extent of eventually being able to develop wondrous abilities. I also began to find out that many of us, perhaps even most of us, have untapped “paranormal” abilities that simply have not been exercised or developed.

I experienced some of these abilities myself on a minor level – such as “seeing” or getting a visual impression of a place far away from my physical location, or being able to know that someone was trying to reach me. I have also had firsthand experience of being in the presence of a loved and capable individual who was outside a body, yet could communicate to me and manipulate physical objects via direct spiritual means.

So to me, such abilities would not only make life much more interesting, but they would enable us to do good on a broader scale. The knowledge and certainty of one’s spiritual side could make us braver, calmer, and more powerful in a good way.

I finally realized that someday I would truly be able to make my dreams come true and fly – not perhaps with my body, but certainly as a free spiritual being.

All the best,
D.E. Lamont