Panpsychism in Indigenous Cultures

What is he trying to say? (Photo credit Robert C, Pixabay)

Panpsychism.

That’s a big word, isn’t it? I’d bet dollars to donuts most of you have never heard of it before, much less know what it means.

Okay, here’s a hint:

Indigenous people consider panpsychism to be intuitively obvious.

This is something that’s inherent to their culture. It’s a form of spirituality and reverence for life too many in today’s modern world lack.

If you’re still lost, here’s another hint.

If you’re a pet owner, you might know more about this than you realize. Do you believe your fur baby, or even fish or turtle, has a personality? Does that mean it has a soul? Okay, skip the dualism, do you believe it’s conscious? A sentient being?

My little suitcase stowaway is no doubt saying, “I want to go with you.”

What about your houseplants and garden, the trees that shade your home? Do you ever talk to them? Provided they’re not made of plastic, there’s no doubt they’re alive. But are they conscious? Some research in recent years suggests they are, even if they’re a bit snobbish about it and only talk to their own kind.

Anyone who’s had their car, computer, cell phone, or some other electronic device go wonky right when they need it most has seen this. Maybe it’s only Google spying on you, in which case you can hope they hear the unpleasant things you’re expressing in your frustration.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, panpsychism is the belief that all things, animate and otherwise, have consciousness. Here’s a quote from an article by Berit Brogaard, D.M.Sci., Ph.D. and graduate student, Kristian Marlow, published in Psychology Today a few years back:

“According to the traditional version of panpsychism, everything around you is conscious: the chair your are sitting on, the rock you use as a doorstopper at home and the thick hurricane-safe windows in your office. Panpsychism literally means that particular kinds of psychological states are embedded in everything…. Consciousness may be a force akin to electromagnetism or gravity that exists in some form on the fundamental level of reality.” (Read the entire article here. )

Indigenous people have known this to be true for thousands of years.

By now Native American readers are rolling on the floor at the stupidity of the white man. No wonder he makes so many bad decisions, he’s out of touch with his world in the most pathetic of ways. Now, at long last, the white man is starting to catch on. Spirit animals are becoming popular as well as sensitivities to other energies as well. The question is whether or not it’s too late.

One of my favorite stories is told by Russell Foureagles when he states, “This may sound crazy, but rocks–especially artifacts manufactured by our ancestors–have occasionally spoken to me and sent me pictures, sometimes even movies, when I picked them up. With the aid of a rock, I have not only seen the past but, in a sense, lived it.” (The Making of a Healer: Teachings of my Oneida Grandmother, p. 195) He goes on to tell a delightful story of a rock calling to him and telling him its amazing story of being part of a hide scraping tool thousands of years before.

Think what you want, but you cannot make this stuff up.

As a writer, I let my characters lead, and they often teach me many things I never could have imagined. I don’t believe as a writer I create their essence, then channel them. One of my favorite parts of “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits” is Chapter 6, “The Aspen,” where Charlie Littlewolf connects with an quaking aspen tree that helps him solve his white brother’s murder. (You can read that excerpt here.) In my science fiction story, “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51,” the main character is a telepathic walking plant. I’ve never seen plants quite the same way since.

Okay, you don’t have to be crazy to be an author but it helps.

My point is if we but learn to listen, there are messages all around us. What wisdom might a mighty oak convey? Meditate on a tree sometime and see what you learn. I’ve obtained amazing insights just watching my birdfeeder.

One of the problems of modern life is that we so rarely take time to listen.

What are you missing?

How Much Do You Know About the Medicine Wheel?

Photo Credit: U.S. Forestry Service

1. What is the medicine wheel?

a. A circle divided into four parts, each of a different color representing Earth’s four races.

b. A large circular structure oriented with the four cardinal directions defined by stones that was used anciently as a calendar.

c. A complex philosophy that promotes self-reflection, personal growth, and spiritual progression.

d. All of the above.

2. Where can you find ancient medicine wheels?

a. Lovell, Wyoming

b. South Dakota and Wyoming

c. Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

d. All of the above

3. How old is the medicine wheel?

a. 20,000 years

b. 7,000 years

c. 300 – 800 years

d. Unknown

4. What are medicine wheels used for?

a. A calendar.

b. Institute peace and understanding.

c. Personal introspection, meditation, and personal growth.

d. All of the above.


ANSWERS

1. What is the medicine wheel?

Answer: d – All of the above.

a. Many tribes define it as a circle equally divided into four sections of different colors, i.e. black, white, yellow, and red, which represent the four races of man.

b. Pictured above, the most famous physical medicine wheel and type site for such configurations in North America is at an elevation of 9,642 feet in the Bighorn Mountains in Lovell, Wyoming. It’s 75 feet in diameter and comprises a roughly circular alignment of rocks and cairns. Within the primary circle lie 28 rows of stones that extend out radially from a central cairn.

c. The medicine wheel is both an archaeo-astronomical entity with ancient roots supported by archeological evidence and a philosophical one for personal growth and spirituality intended to strengthen a community, one individual at a time.

2. Where can you find ancient medicine wheels?

Answer: d – All of the above.

Between 70 – 150 ancient medicine wheels have been identified in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

3.  How old is the Medicine Wheel?

Answer: d – Unknown

Some sources indicate that the Lovell Medicine Wheel is part of a much larger complex of archeological sites and traditional use areas that indicate 7000 years of Native American occupation. Others estimate it was built between 300 – 800 years ago.

The modern medicine wheel philosophy proclaimed by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind (see references below) originated in the early 1970s.

4. What is the Medicine Wheel used for?

Answer: d – All of the above.

a. Calendar

There are 28 “spokes” in the Medicine Wheel, which coincide with the Moon’s cycle of approximately 28 days. Some stones align with the Sun’s rising and setting on the equinoxes and solstices, marking the seasons.

At different times in the 20th Century archaeoastronomer, Jack Eddy and astronomer, Jack Robinson, independently determined that some of the stones aligned with the heliacal rise of certain stars. These served to divide the seasons into months.

The dawn or heliacal rising of a specific star pinpoints a date exactly. This is the day a star is first seen, just before its extinguished by dawn, after it has been hidden by the Sun’s light for an entire season. If you’re familiar with astronomy, you know that certain stars are only visible specific times of the years. Others never set, such as Polaris, a.k.a. the North Star, and the constellations such as Ursa Major and Minor which include the Big and Little Dipper, that surround it. They are always visible, but they rotate around Polaris and thus change positions during the year.

b. Institute peace and understanding.

The estimate of the medicine wheels’ age of between 300 – 800 years old coincides with the 15th Century AD when Native American nations were in a state of constant war with each other.

At that time a great Iroquois Chief later known as Hiawatha urged the tribes to cease killing their brothers and formed a great alliance known as the Confederation of Nations, which proclaimed Indian peoples were more alike than different, in spite of speaking different dialects. Their basic belief systems and traditions were similar.

The Medicine Wheel became part of this commonality and was decorated in special symbols, colors, and stones, to let people entering the tribe know about its tribal members. The wheel instructed individuals on their strengths and weaknesses as well as what they needed to learn and share with others. Each was expected to work on themselves, or leave the tribe. Within a few generations, people lost the concept of blame and anger which resulted in the longest peace in modern history of 150 – 200 years.

c. Personal introspection, meditation, and personal growth.

The medicine wheel has interpretations that are similar to those espoused by Western Astrology. Sun Bear (Ojibwa), whose visions revitalized the medicine wheel for this purpose, claimed, “We attribute any similarities between the Medicine Wheel and astrology or any other way of self-knowledge to the fact that all truths come from the same source.” (The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, p. xix).

Similar to an astrological natal chart, a person’s birth date determines their location within the medicine wheel. That placement is associated with a special moon, power animal, healing plant, color and mineral. As a person progresses through life and experiences challenges, answers and inspiration can come from “visiting” other locations on the wheel and meditating upon the qualities they need to learn and grow.

Sources

http://www.native-americans-online.com/native-american-medicine-wheel.html

http://solar-center.stanford.edu/AO/bighorn.html

http://solar-center.stanford.edu/AO/dawn-rising.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine_wheel

Sun Bear and Wabun, “The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology,” Simon & Schuster, © 1980.

Sun Bear, Wabun, and Crysalis Mulligan, “Dancing with the Wheel: Medicine Wheel Workbook,” Simon & Schuster, ©1991.