LAWS OF WISDOM by Ralph Losey
The larger philosophy of the whole planet and rediscovered the eighth, ninth and tenth chakras.
Wilhelmine Keyserling discovered the natural Laws which provide an underlying order between two great, but very different spiritual traditions: the Indians of India and the “Indians” of America. The laws and procedures of both systems are very different. The two traditions appear to contradict each other, or at best have nothing to do with each other, like two ships passing in the night. It was her genius to see how the laws of the seven “chakras” of India and the laws of the four, eight and ten “sacred directions” of the Native Americans in fact support and complement each other. She figured out how to apply the basic constitutional principles worked out by Arnold Keyserling to translate these two systems. She was able to bridge the gap between the “two Indias”. In the process she fit both systems into the larger philosophy of the whole planet and rediscovered the eighth, ninth and tenth chakras. She thereby connected the spiritual traditions and Laws of East and West, Europe and China. She fit the Spatial Directions into the Wheel. This chapter is largely a result of her work.
THE TEN DIRECTIONS OF COSMIC ECOLOGY
The whole of the earth has become our home, all humans our neighbors. More than that, the whole of the cosmos is our home and all conscious beings our friends. This was discovered by all of the first cultures which sprang up around the world at the start of the neolithical revolution. This understanding of the quality of cosmic space is alive in most of the Native American traditions. They still know how to tune into nature.
The Space-numbers now shown on the outside of the Wheel as East =1, West =2, South=3, etc. are called the “Sacred Count”, because they define a quality of our material world: Fire, Mineral, Plant… The Sacred Count links our world to the infinite and immense non-materialized powers behind the East, the West and other directions. All of the Native American medicine men and women hold the directions sacred and call forth their powers. However, the mathematical component – the Sacred Count – which made integration with the Wheel possible, seems to have been lost to most tribes and is now known to only a few. Only recently have the few medicine men who know the sacred count come out into the open to share this knowledge and reveal some of its practical applications, such as for healing. The Native American author Hyemeyohsts Storm calls these people the “Zero Chiefs”.
The Directions and the Count are held “sacred” by the Native Americans because they use them to gain contact with profound Awareness, the ineffable mystical experience of union with the infinite, the divine Zero. In their terms, it is contact with the “Great Spirit”. It is also held sacred because the medicine men and women who work with the Powers of the Directions are themselves considered to be “holy”. The Zero Chief Medicine Men and Women are more like priests than doctors. The tribe considers them to be holy, not only because they commune with the Great Spirit – all of the people have access to that – but because they can call the Powers, the lesser Spirits, and put them to use. The Powers are not considered to be God like the Great Spirit, but are still considered to have awesome, indeed miraculous abilities, well beyond our present understanding. For that reason they are respected, even feared. Not everyone can approach these Powers. Only those who are specially prepared, purified, may do so. In western psychological terms, only those well along on the process of individuation can invoke the Powers, and only then if they have good intentions to help others.
THE DIRECTIONS AND SACRED COUNT ON THE WHEEL
The Sacred Count is shown on the very outside of the Wheel with the numbers 1,2,3,4,6,7,8, and 9. The numbers 5 and 10 are shown in the center of the Wheel. This is different from the temporal count shown on the inside of the Wheel with the numbers 0, 1,2,3,4,5,6, &7. In the temporal alignment you begin with Zero which signifies Awareness, next One is Sensing, Two is Thinking, Three is Feeling, Four is Willing, Five is Body, Six is Soul and Seven is Spirit. These are the seven chakras and basic states of consciousness which we have previously examined.
The spatial count shown on the outside of the Wheel – the Sacred Count – is something different, so be careful not to confuse the two. Here there is a fractal variation, a realignment to match the difference in the quality of space as opposed to time. Now you begin in the East, where the Sun rises. The count begins with One. The East and One are now aligned with Awareness, not with Sensing as before. The East and One as a spatial count invoke the Power of Fire. Next you go to the opposite direction, to the West, with the number Two and the Power of Minerals. Then turn back to the South, Three and the Power of Trees. Then to the North,Four and the Power of Animals. Next you go to the center, down, to the Power of Earth where Man resides with the number Five. Then you turn to the higher Powers, beginning in the South-East with the Ancestors and number Six. Then you go to the South-West, number seven and the Nature Spirits. Next you turn your back to the North-West, number Eight and the Angels. Then you move to put your back to the North-East, number Nine and the Muses. Finally you end in the center, up, number Ten with the Power of the Being in the Universe.
The sacred count is based on an understanding of dimensions and directions of space. This has been lost to most modern cultures where religious festivals are based on time, not space. Certain times are considered holy. Rituals are observed at particular times of the year, Christmas for instance. Space as an expression of the Yin has been neglected in favor of the Yang, the time aspect of life. According to Wilhelmine Keyserling, this lost knowledge of the sacred dimensions of space must be regained because our new historical era – the Aquarian Age – requires equality between Yin and Yang, between Man and Woman. This equality of space and time, the feminine and masculine powers, is confirmed by the scientific understanding of the necessary relationship between space and time. One cannot exist without the other. The dominance of “Father Time” over “Mother Earth” must now end. The long-lost rituals of sacred space must be renewed. To regain the sacred dimension of space in our time we must look beyond the religious festivals and rituals of our culture into the earliest cultures of the earth, best known to us now from the Native Americans.
The spatial rituals can still be found in the Native American tribes. In their cosmogony we find a non-dual AWARENESS beyond name and form: The Great Spirit, (“Wakan” in Lakota) that divides into the Infinite and the Eternal. This is the Zero and, according to Hyemeyohsts Storm and others, the shamans who knew in Native American culture were called the Zero Chiefs.
THE GREAT SPIRIT
|THE INFINITE||THE ETERNAL|
|The Great Mother||The Great Father|
Both the Infinite and the Eternal are creators. Both are beyond numeric order in the formless realm of the Zero. They are originators of number and form. Their Yin or Yang quality prevails in the whole of creation. Their duality maintains the created world through the eight directions that connect us to the infinite.
1 E In the East, at Dawn the sun shines – heaven rises. It is the direction of renewal, of revelation and enlightenment by the spirit of creation. The Power of the East is Fire. In the I Ching it is the trigram of Awareness, the sign of heaven.
2 W In the West at dusk the earth rises. Eventually you will lie down for sleep in a horizontal position. The whole body is in touch with the earth. You relinquish all worries and thoughts of the day. Letting go and becoming empty makes you receptive. In deep sleep you receive and integrate the germs of light from all suns in the Universe, the stars. Integrate here means affirming. The Power of the West is the Minerals and Stones, epitomized by the Crystals. It means to let go and to affirm. The correspondence is with the I Ching trigram Willing, which is also the sign of the earth. The West Powers help clarify your life’s work.
3 S South is midday. You need to shine as the sun at midday, to trust in yourself and others – to trust in Soul. You need the innocence of a child, forgetting the failures of the past. The spirit of the South bestows innocence and trust, attributes of plant-like trust in growth. In the course of the year the Southpoint is the winter equinox, the festival of the innocent child. The Power of the South is in plants, in Trees. It is a little different in Africa where this Power is exemplified by Water, not Trees. In the I Ching the South is the trigram of Soul.
4 N The North – thinking – relates us to the animal world, our teachers in strategy. The spirit of the North bestows wisdom and clarity, if our thinking surges from the polar star – right brain inspiration – to merge again with its center. It is the wisdom in doing. Animals are the Power of the North. In Africa it is called the Power of Nature, including the animals and more. In the I Ching it is the trigram of Thinking.
5 C Center/Down. If you direct your attention to the four directions, and also to front-back-left-right, you will necessarily center yourself. Five signifies your centered self and that of all others who are centered. In the esoteric traditions humanity is always identified with the number five. Its Power is the Sacred Earth. There is no I Ching correspondence. Centered also means to be an axis between heaven and earth. But to become a co-creator of evolution you need the support of the spirits 6, 7, 8 and 9.
6 SE Six are the teachers of humanity, the Ancestors who paved the spiritual path up to the present. They make for a continuity in spiritual evolution of human history. In the South East everyone can discover and establish contact with his or her ancestors. This may mean more that your personal relations To a musician it might be the spirit of Bach, to a mathematician the ancestral link might be to Pythagoras, to others it might be Albert Schweitzer, Jesus Christ, Moses, or whoever gives you strength and understanding to follow your own path. The ancestor you find will include you in the spiritual family and link you to the “Golden Chain”. They paved the way for your special work on earth. They do not give you directions, you Create your own, but they give you strength to pioneer your new link in the chain. The Power of the South East is the Ancestors and its trigram is Spirit.
7 SW Seven are the spirits of our physical world of incarnated existence: the Elementals. Here the elements – Earth, Air, Water and Fire – are part of our survival, our health, our daily activities and success. As with the seven chakras they represent our agents operating in three realms – Body, Soul and Spirit. On the dream level in the West in fairytales they are called Trolls – spirits of the soil (sensing) who maintain our existence; Dwarfs – spirits of the air (thinking) who help us to surmount obstacles; Fairies – spirits of the waters (feeling) who stimulate our power of wish and endeavor; Elves – spirits of fire (willing), of serenity and joy, who help us to celebrate life as a luminous dream. In Africa and South America they are called the Kontomble. These Nature Spirits can give you courage to go forward into the unknown. The Power of the South West is thus the Natural Spirits and the trigram is Body.
8 NW Eight embodies the principle of underlying consistency in the midst of change. Like the Wheel it is the grid or underlying structure in which change takes place. This is the structure which remains constant while all else changes. We feel this as a deep desire for harmony, for participation in a kind of infinite stability. The spirits of the North West have been defined as angels or cosmic helpers who bridge the finite and the infinite. We contact them to base our transitory actions on the underlying eternal laws. In this way we generate harmony in ourselves and our surroundings. It is the Power of Angels and the trigram of Feeling.
9 NE Nine are the inspirers, the agents of change in the microcosm, the macrocosm, as well as in the human world of speech, action and experience. The combination of nine faculties generates all possible action and mutation. As Gurdjieff said, “whoever understands the nine can do”. The North East, which lies between the enlightening inspiration of the East and the wisdom of the North, conveys the ninefold actualizing inspiration by which we become co-creators in evolution. These inspirers were called the “Muses”. They empower our ninefold faculty of actualization. It is the Power of the Muses and the I Ching trigram of Sensing.
10 C Center/Up. With the Ten we anchor our mind in the center. We are in communion with above and below, heaven and earth. We invoke the spirit of the “Being in the Universe”. He/She is the archetype of the possible human, of humanity. She/He is the aspect of the divine in whose image we are fashioned, the mold. In the center we invoke the sacred unifying power. There is no trigram correspondence.
THE SPACEY SIDE OF THE CHAKRAS
The laws of human energies discussed in the previous chapter also have a spatial component. With this introduction to the spatial laws and Powers, we are now prepared to grasp the spacey aide of chakras. Then we can learn of the three higher chakras, the eight, ninth and tenth, that originate in space and the higher powers.
The spatial aspect of the chakras allows them to act as organs of reception. They receive the ten powers. These powers are felt as coming through us from the back. Each of the directions of space has a different quality aligned with the energies. Remember there is the fractal variation in the count in space as opposed to time. The result is a complication of the energies. The first seven chakras have a dual nature, temporal and spatial. The temporal quality of the chakras is shown in the chart below on the left, with the spatial quality on the right. The eight, ninth and tenth chakras have only a spatial quality, and, as will be discussed, are rarely developed.
The spatial side of the first chakras allows the Power of Fire to come through — the East. This side of Muladhara pertains to Awareness, not sensing. Thus the holistic comprehension of the first chakra, both time and space, shows it to be a complex interaction of Awareness and Sensing. The same applies to the other seven. The second chakra, Svadhisthana, receives the Power of Mineral – the West – and aligns with Willing. It combines Thinking and Willing. The third, Manipura, channels the Power of Trees – the South – aligned with Soul. Its holistic value is Feeling-Soul. The fourth, Anahata, receives the Power of the Animals – the North – aligned with Thinking. Its holistic value is Willing-Thinking. The fifth chakra, Vishuddha, receives the Earth power – the Center down – aligned with essence. Its holistic value is Body-Essence. The sixth chakra, Ajana, receives the Power of the Ancestors – the South-East – aligned with Spirit. Its holistic value is Soul-Spirit. The seventh chakra, Sahasara, channels the Power of the Nature Spirits – the South-West – aligned with Body. Its holistic value is Spirit-Body. This is summarized in the chart below.
THE THREE HIGHER ENERGIES
In space there are three more centers of spiritual energy beyond the seven that exist in time. It is as if they are outside of our time, in a higher scale of intelligence. Still, in certain circumstances we can tap into them like inaudible undertones. Unlike the first seven energies, the higher three are not inherent to our personal systems. There are some kind of controls placed on these energies. It appears that we can only tap into them in order to act in history for the benefit of all mankind. Otherwise they are not available. These higher energies – 8 9 10 – are not personal energies or potentialities. They are not of our world, but are of the macrocosm – the legendary “Music of the Spheres”. Still, these centers, and the Powers which come with them, are the key to effective historical action on Earth in harmony with the rest of the Universe.
The three appear to us as sub-harmonics of an expanded consciousness. They are links to chains higher up on the evolutionary ladder. The combination of the three trans-personal energies, with the seven personal ones to make ten, in effect completes the doubling of the pentatonic octave. It also explains why some spiritual systems speak of five or ten chakras instead of seven. We call the three additional energies by the names: Motivation – Intention – Attentiveness. They bear some similarity to the states we normally refer to by these names, but have a much more intense, historical and transpersonal quality.
Unlike the seven chakras which each have a link to a physical system, the three higher energies are not tied to the body and are not created internally. They do however have a spatial location relative to the body: the eighth chakra localizes near the knees, the ninth by the feet, and the tenth above your head. Like the first seven chakras the upper three are energy fields which can be thought of as doors to spiritual energy. Usually these doors can only be tuned into and opened after the first seven have been opened and balanced. The forces of the Strange Attractor lead to them.
The last three energies flow in the currents of history with the spirit of the times. When you tune into them you are hurled into social-historical whirlpools. Do not wish for them, or envy others who have them. It is a hard burden, and one that is not necessary for a joyous and fulfilled life. Still, be forewarned as to their existence. You never know when you may be called upon to serve them.
The eighth energy, Motivation, relates to the body of the earth as a whole. Its direction is the Northwest and it is associated with the “Power of Angels” described in the next chapter. Unlike the lower seven chakras, the upper three do not have a basic potential to be realized in time. They are spatial only. The Motivation chakra pertains to deep-seated drives to help humanity, to serve the Earth. The motivation energy is harnessed by taking responsibility for your understanding and the understanding of others. It involves the creation of general structures and explanations of the processes of becoming aware of Being. It provides the energy to Respond to things far beyond your own personal concerns. With this energy you will have the capability to respond to, and understand, newly-emerging social and historical forces. It is said that the eighth energy has an intense feeling of whole bodies in interchange with the world around you.
The ninth energy, Intention, relates to Light and the Sun. Its direction is the Northeast and relates to the “Power of the Muses”. Motivation can lead to Intention. With Intention your Motivation energy focuses into particular Intentions, particular projects and undertakings. The understanding you gain from historical motivations can lead to a particular destiny and mission for humanity. The historical Intention energy opens you to inventiveness on a large scale. With transpersonal Intentions you find and implement a new vision and communion for all Mankind. This energy provides the ability to create entirely new technologies, new plans for living, and to communicate them to the world. A new sacred vision of the Universe can be invented which serves as a guide and inspiration for all who are open to change. The projects and vision bring a new communion between peoples and levels of being. It is said that the ninth energy has an intense feeling of the aura and force of effectiveness.
The tenth energy, Attentiveness, relates to the prototype sacred God of all religions. It is the direction of the center going up. Its Power is the “Being In The Universe”. The vocation is that of the historical “Announcer”. Attentiveness has to do with shining, the pure expression of Awareness. It has to do with the manifestation of the brilliant godlike core of your being. The careful reader will recall that the fourth chakra has attention as an aspect of its temporal Quality. This is a similar quality, yet quite different by what we mean by Attentiveness in the tenth chakra. The variance is both in degree of intensity and quality.
Just as Intention is based on Motivation, so too is Attentiveness based on fulfillment of your transpersonal Intent. There is a kind of linear progression to the realization of the last three social energies. After Intent you can have a real capacity to announce with credibility, to proclaim new meaning for all to see and hear. This highest energy allows you to set a shining example as a living embodiment of the ideals of Truth, Beauty, Goodness and Justice. It is said that the tenth energy has an intense feeling like your Higher Self.
As shown in the following chart the three higher energies that exist in space, like the first seven chakras which exist in time, relate to a particular direction, I Ching trigram, and level of being or scale of evolutionary consciousness. This relationship was developed by Wilhelmine and Arnold Keyserling. Arnold Keyserling’s book NEW AGE VISIONS (Volume 1 of the School of Wisdom Series) contains an essential message or vision from each of the ten powers: Fire, Mineral, Plant, Animal, Sacred Earth, Ancestors, Natural Spirits, Angels, Muses and the Being in the Universe. Study of NEW AGE VISIONS will make this material much easier to understand.
The Keyserlings found that the ten chakras also relate to the nine basic principles, symbolized by the nine planets and our moon, to make up the tenfold macrocosmic relationship. In esoteric traditions this macrocosmic link is called the “Ladder to Heaven”. Here the planets symbolize a kind of spheric circuitry between the worlds and levels of evolution. The esoteric meaning of the planets as symbols on the Wheel is explained in Chance and Choice (Volume 2 of the School of Wisdom Series). The last chart depicts each of these spheres and the Power that goes with them. The different Powers along the “Ladder of Heaven” are all interrelated and form a kind of “Golden Chain” of evolution with Man in the middle located on Earth.
We appear to be part of a much larger Cosmic reality, a community of beings from all over the Universe, many much more evolved. Many great works of inspired poetry and other forms of “sacred revelations” strongly suggest that communication with these Powers is possible. The natural Laws governing this area are, however, not well understood. Much more exploration and investigation into this area is required. Any more discussion at this time of the Laws in this area would be too speculative. We do not yet have enough reliable information about the “beyond”, about death, channeling and communication with the “gods or other superhuman or mythological beings”. Some day the Laws behind these phenomena will be better understood, but for now, this largely remains the realm of revelation and poetry. It is truly the final frontier of inner space exploration.
THE CASE OF: BLACK ELKv. THE DEATH OF A CULTURE
Nicholas Black Elk is the best known, and in many respects the most important of the Native American spiritual leaders. He was born of the Ogalala band of the Lakota tribe (Sioux) in 1863. His father was a holy man, a “Medicine Man”, also called Black Elk. So was his father’s father, and his father before that. Many of this Black Elk’s Uncles were also Medicine Men. His second cousin was the famous warrior and leader, Crazy Horse. His story comes to us through John G. Neihardt, the poet laureate of Nebraska, in his famous and important book Black Elk Speaks. Neihardt first met Black Elk in 1930. Black Elk immediately knew that Neihardt was the man he should tell his story to. He knew if he did that his story would not be lost and the great culture of his people would not die. In 1931 Neihardt, through an interpreter, interviewed Black Elk for months. Neihardt’s daughter was a stenographer and she recorded it all. From these volummes of notes Neihardt prepared the book of Black Elk’s visions and life.
Black Elk’s story is primarily of a great spiritual vision he had as a boy, a vision he needed to share with future generations and the world. The biographical details of his life are interesting, sad and tragic, but secondary to his vision. He lived through the great massacre of Wounded Knee and witnessed the infliction of many unbelievable cruelties on his people by the misguided white men of the day, the new American’s who invaded and stole his sacred land. Some of the historical events showing the genocide of his people are recounted in the book, but Black Elk was a deeply spiritual being, and the book does not focus on this. He harbored no resentment to the new Americans who killed most of his family, made promises and agreements they didn’tkeep, and eventually imprisoned his whole tribe in the badlands, in prejudice and poverty.
Although many Native Americans understandably succumbed to despair in these cruel circumstances, Black Elk and other medicine men did not. They were able to transcend the misery and hopelessness of this world because, as they would tell you, they had help from beyond, help from the Powers of the ten directions. Black Elk received from these Powers a magnificent vision of hope for the future, a vision for all Americans, native and new. Indeed it is a vision for the whole world. He and Neihardt both knew that the real significance of his life lay in his vision and that is what the book Black Elk Speaks is really all about.
According to the spiritual traditions of the Native Americans all boys must go on a vision quest to come of age and become men. Girls had their own separate rites of initiation. In the vision quest the boys go out into nature alone to seek a message from the Ancestors. The message will provide guidance on who the person really is, and why they were born. The vision has the practical effect of allowing a person to answer the big questions of life for themselves. The message/vision received may lead to a new initiation name which signifies their vision and meaning in life. This is similar to the African naming tradition as described by Malidoma Somé in his book Of Water and the Spirit where the name a person is given summarizes their purpose in life. The vision quest itself usually lasts for several days. Sometimes it may take years of striving to finally receive a vision. Sometimes it is necessary to go back for a series of visions.
Black Elk’s vision came way before the time of transition to manhood, quite unexpectedly and with no warning. As a boy of only nine years he became very ill, eventually falling into a deep coma. His vision was invoked by what we would today call a “near death experience”. It began in a way typical of such experiences. In our modern reports the person dies, then goes to the light, and then returns back to life in a few minutes, or at most a few hours. Incredibly, Black Elk’s near death experience went on for twelve days!
The experience would have been overwhelming for anyone, but particularly so for a boy of nine. But Black Elk, the fourth generation Medicine Man’s son, was somehow prepared. His society appreciated visions and gave him the time and privacy he needed to absorb it all. He waited seven years before he spoke about it with anyone. Then he spent the rest of his life reflecting upon the many things he saw and learned during that long vision.
The experience began when young Black Elk left his body in classic near-neath fashion and looked at his parents and family below grieving his near dead body. Then a guide came and escorted Black Elk to the land of his Grandfathers in a world of clouds. The vision proper begins, as noted before, by his experience of the awesome Powers of the four basic directions. He saw twelve black horses standing in the west, twelve white horses in the north, twelve bays (reddish-brown) in the east and twelve grays in the south.
The horse as a symbol in his vision may have had a double meaning. Horses are always a symbol of Power, but for the Lakota Indians, the warriors of the Great Plains, the horses allowed their buffalo-hunting culture to flourish as never before. Although the Lakota had hunted the buffalo before they had ever seen a horse, it was not until the white men invaded North America that horses returned to the American continents. Horses had become extinct in the America’s tens of thousands of years before. It was the white man who brought the Indians horses which later allowed the culture of the Great Plains Indians to reach its pinnacle. But it was the same white man who was about to destroy this culture at the time of Black Elk’s vision. The blessing and curse of European civilization to the Native American may be the double meaning of the horse as a basic symbol of Black Elk’s vision.
Black Elk’s vision was not a personal vision, it was a vision for his entire tribe, the entire world. Among other things, his vision foretold the total destruction which lay just ahead for the red man in the Americas. It predicted how the Lakota’s would be defeated in battle, killed and starved, their culture crushed. Defeated, but not destroyed or assimilated, for ultimately this was a vision of hope after despair. It foretold of a time when the spirit of the Native Americans would again rise to protect their sacred land and commune with the great Powers of the beyond for the benefit of all mankind. The vision assured Black Elk that their wisdom would not be lost, that there would be many more generations of Medicine Men after him.
A high point of Black Elk’s vision was his entry into a tepee made of clouds with a rainbow for a door. In the tepee he saw six old men sitting in a row. In Black Elk’s words,
The oldest of the Grandfathers spoke with a kind voice and said: “Come right in and do not fear”. And as hespoke, all the horses of the four quarters neighed to cheer me. So I went in and stood before the six, and theylooked older than men can ever be – old like hills, like stars. The oldest spoke again: “Your Grandfathers all over the world are having a council, and they have called you here to teach you”. His voice was very kind, but I shook all over with fear now, for I knew that these were not old men, but the Powers of the World.
The Powers then went on to teach Black Elk many incredible things, only some of which he was ever able to put into words. For instance the Power of the North told him to “Take courage, younger brother, on earth a nation you shall make live, for yours shall be the power of the white giant’s wing, the cleansing wind.” The nation is the new nation of America, both old and new living in peace and mutual respect. Thanks in large part to Black Elk’s book, Native American philosophy is now beginning to be appreciated by the world. We are also now starting to see a renaissance of environmental awareness in America. The “white giant’s wing” is starting to cleanse the land as a “greening of America” takes hold. After centuries of thoughtless pollution of the land by Europeans, a cleansing wind is starting to blow. This is based in large part on the influence of the Native American philosophy of unity with the environment.
Black Elk was also given a “peace pipe” and told that “with this pipe you shall walk upon the earth, and whatever sickens there you shall make well.” The Native American tradition of the sacred pipe used for healing was thus reaffirmed, and Black Elk was told it would survive the holocaust. In fact this tradition of healing does survive. As a man, Nicholas Black Elk later used the sacred pipe to invoke the Powers who would then heal through him. This practice continues today with Black Elk’s spiritual (but not biological) grandson, Wallace Black Elk, and many other “pipe carriers”.
Black Elk’s vision culminated with a vision of future world unity, where his people’s wisdom would eventually take its rightful place of importance in world culture:
Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and all round beneath me was the whole hoop of theworld. And 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 likeone being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide asdaylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of onemother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.
Later as a young man Black Elk had the power to heal others as he assumed his family position as the tribe’s medicine man. In Black Elk’s words,
…I had the power to practice as a medicine man, curing sick people; and many I cured with the power that came through me. Of course it was not I who cured. It was the power from the outer world, and the visions and ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds. If I thought I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish.
Many of the ceremonies and rites he refers to here as opening him up to the Powers are described in another book edited by Joseph Brown based on tape-recorded interviews he made with Black Elk near the end of his life. Black Elk died in 1950 at the age of 88. The book is called The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux. Black Elk had led a long and interesting life which at times took him far from the reservation. His life as a young man included joining Buffalo Bill’s wild west show as it toured all over the United States and Europe. During this adventure he, among other things, met the Queen of England whom he, and the other Indians with him, all liked very much. In the end he returned and lived with his people on the reservation as a healer and Medicine Man. He handed down the traditional spiritual ways of the Native Americans to the next generations, while at the same time, investigated, honored and even practiced the religion of the white man.
THE WORK OF BLACK ELK CONTINUES
Black Elk has many spiritual grandchildren today who continue his work. One who has received prominence and recognition throughout the world as a spiritual leader is Wallace Howard Black Elk. With the help of William Lyon in 1990 Wallace Black Elk wrote Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota. It tells the story of his life and how he uses the sacred pipe as did his “grandfather” before him. He uses it to speak with the Powers and receive their help. The story of Wallace’s life is almost as interesting as the original Black Elk. After a stint as a rodeo cowboy, and then joining the army for four years to fight in World War Two, he returned to the reservation to fulfill his destiny as a Lakota medicine man.
Wallace Black Elk’s role was chosen for him in 1926 when, at the tender age of five, he was chosen for initiation. His training began then into the secret lore of the few remaining tribal shamans – the medicine men. At the time the medicine men were severely persecuted by the white authorities and Christian evangelists who worked the reservations. Many in their own tribe also turned against them in favor of what seemed to be the greater power of the white man and their religion. In the 1920s it looked as if the spiritual wisdom and culture of the Native Americans would die.
The elders were seriously concerned that they would not be able to pass on what they knew to future generations. This caused them to start off much younger than usual with this Zero-Chief candidate, little Wallace Black Elk. Eleven shamans, all “grandfathers” like Nicholas Black Elk, took part in his training. He had many vision quests, at first with the guidance of his elders, and then on his own with the help of the Powers. By the time Wallace Black Elk was 69 he had completed over 30 vision quests, and had plans for more.
Now he tours the world sharing what he has learned by putting on sacred rituals open to all sincere seekers. In these procedures he demonstrates the Powers by calling them and using them to heal people, find missing people or provide other help. During the rituals he communicates with various Powers or spirits from all of the directions, all of the levels of being, including entities he calls the “stone people,” various animal spirits and “star people”. Like shamans the world over, he acts as a kind of medium or vehicle for them to communicate with our reality. When they do so the Powers can be sensed by others present at the ceremony.
Many hardened skeptics have been convinced by these demonstrations, including hostile government authorities. For instance Wallace Black Elk tells of the time he was committed into an insane asylum for his “insane delusions” of communing with the Powers. After a miraculous escape from the high security asylum (the Powers simply unlocked all of the doors for him and he walked out), he was allowed to put on his ritual and call the Powers. The doctors in attendance witnessed things they could not understand. Then they released him from the psychiatric hospital.
A few of these incredible demonstrations are described in his book. His book, along with the series of books by the anthropologist, Carlos Castenada, on the Yaqui Indian, Don Juan, provide the true flavor of working with these Powers. Scientific research into the area of Shamanism is just beginning, but should bear great fruit in the future. When we have more information we should be able to understand more of the laws behind the seemingly-miraculous phenomena that surround such men as Black Elk, Don Juan, and others.
Although the natural Laws behind these phenomena are not well understood, procedures in this area are fairly-well defined. The Native Americans maintained their methods in secrecy until the 1980s, but now a few Shamans like Black Elk have broken with tradition and are freely sharing the information. Wilhelmine Keyserling has devised several procedures based on what she learned from the Native Americans. Some of these are described in my online book with Keyserling, Chance and Choice. These procedures, like most, cannot be taught effectively or even adequately conveyed in a book alone. You have to participate in them and learn by doing in the context of a School of Wisdom or the like. Until then you may try reading other books in this area such as Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm; Medicine Cards by Sams and Carson; Voices of Our Ancestors by Dhyani Ywahoo; Fools Crow: Wisdom & Power by Thomas Mails; The Way of the Animal Powers by Joseph Campbell and The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner.
Today, in 1999, the cutting edge in this area is from Africa. The ways of the African shamanic cultures are just becoming known in the west. This is primarily due to the efforts of one tribe in West Central Africa called the Dagara. They are the first in Africa to break secrecy and share some their knowledge. They authorized one of their leaders, Malidoma Somé, to bring their wisdom to the west.
To accomplish his mission Malidoma acquired a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne, and a second Ph.D. from Brandies University in Boston. Now that he is well versed in both cultures, he is quite effective in transmitting this knowledge in his books and workshops. His three books, Of Water and the Spirit, Ritual, and The Healing Wisdom of Africa are all highly recommended. His wife, Sobonfu Somé has also written several helpful books on the application of Dagara wisdom in the west. The School of Wisdom works closely with them and has dedicated a web site with more information concerning the Dagara.
My third CD of PrimaSounds music GateKeeper (Volume 7 of the School of Wisdom Series) was inspired by the Dagara and my friendship with the Somés. The booklet which comes with the CD, and the chapter on GateKeeper contained in my online book, Chakra Music, contain a first attempt to integrate the wisdom of the Dagara into the Wheel. The Dagara have their own Medicine Wheel comprised on five elements which, as mentioned, has much in common with the five Chinese elements. The new information from out of Africa on these five elements, ritual and community represents a hopeful new direction for the future.