New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans PostMy gramma says it was meant to be. It's a part of a bigger mystery that's happening. Most of the older people I speak to say the same thing.
Last night I went out to the rez to visit with a T.O. elder I've recently become friendly with. It was so hot, we were standing outside waiting for the strawberry moon to rise and I brought up the subject of twinkies. I told him about other deaths I knew about and he got the same expression on his face that my gramma gets when we speak of such things. He's closer to the city and a lot more aware of what's going on in the dead world. That's prolly why he had a little more to say on the topic.
He said that biggest problem with these sweats is that the whiteman is obsessed with putting his ideas of ritual death and re-birth on the sweat lodge. (New Age slang for the sweat lodge is "Death Fire") A lot of New Agers see the sweat lodge though Christian symbolism. They've revised its true meaning into a powerful symbol of death and re-birth because it goes better with their Christian upbringings. This ignorance and arrogance that leads them to think they can change the true symbolism into something they feel more comfortable with and not suffer any consequences.
He said that everything the whiteman does, he does to extremes. The problem with New Age ceremonies is that they always cut corners. They think they can throw out things they don't like or they don't understand. Once the integrity of a ceremony is lost, it can't function the way it was intended to. It becomes something else.
He said that when you don't have wise and experienced people in charge who have been trained for a lifetime on how to keep everything in balance, the participants will be always be harmed in some way. He explained that a death can happen when something of great force and power like a ceremony is allowed to fall very far out of balance. He said that sometimes, when someone who is foolish or inexperienced tries to lead a sweat, this is the only thing that CAN happen. If a person doesn't know how to show respect for the powerful symbols and objects that he is trying to use, he has invited trouble.
He said that there is danger associated with these New Age sweats because the participants are being asked to endure without any understanding the purpose. If don't come from indigenous cultures they can't possibly correctly understand all they symbolism involved in the ceremony. They tend to ignore the symbolism of the water and some even go so far as to deny it to participants. They disregard all the life-giving and strength giving symbolism and they go overboard with the notion that the sweat lodge is a "ritual death". They get so out of balance promoting this death/rebirth stuff (and this really comes from pop psychology) that they loose sight of the true purpose of the sweat. Anything done without understanding has the potential to harm. (The consequences start to make more sense when you look at it this way)
He explained that if a person descended from the colonizers, it is part of their fate to be disconnected from other human beings. There ancestors chose this for them years before they were born. (There are things that they can do to "drop tobacco" and make amends, but there aren't any short cuts) So what happens is that these people go into the ceremony defenseless. They can't draw on the other participants for strength because they don't understand human connectedness. They live in a competitive, suspicious world and they learn all the wrong things about what human relationships should be. They have no experience of community to draw from. They don't have the proper songs to give them strength and they don't speak a Native language so they don't have the correct words for the prayers. He said that it's incorrect to put a weak spirit into a sweat lodge and expect endurance from him. This is a reckless, selfish act.
So what happens is, a person who's not receiving anything because he hasn't been prepared properly for the sweat will stay in there until the buffalo return. This is how people put themselves in danger. The New Agers set up such great expectations for a vision or for some kind of fantastic experience that's when it's not meant to happen the followers stay in too long - waiting for this great experience that he was promised. Participants are never encouraged to ask themselves "Is this meant to be?" Plus, there's all the peer pressure to be really cool and spiritual. Who's going to admit that nothing is happening to them?
Ndns are taught that a vision is a rare thing, and not to expect to be entitled to everything. NDNs are told that is all right to leave the lodge if they need to. There is no loss of face as long as this is done respectfully. A lot of the gurus turn into real authoritarian types and tell their followers they can't leave the sweat. That's about how he looks to his followers, not what's good for his community. He doesn't understand what community is.
I always thought the New Age attitude toward death that they incorporated into these phony sweats was bizarre, but I never made many of these connections.
It was good talking with him.
While we were watching that dark red moon rise through the smoke from all the forest fires around here, he said, "the mountains are on fire, but the white man never stops to think about what that means." A lot of people have been saying this. I'm hearing so much talk about signs and something bigger coming. There was a poetry crawl here a few weeks ago and Simon Ortiz read a new poem about the sacred significance of the mountains being on fire. There were a lot of ndn poets there and everybody was talking about what this means. Somebody told me that there is a rancher in the east of town who's selling water for $50.00 a gallon to people who are trying to save their homes. Someone said, when we're in an environmental crisis, they try to sell overpriced water, when we're in a spiritual crisis, they try to sell over priced ceremonies. Everybody agreed these things are all inter-connected.
It was a good discussion.