89 Chapters
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3 The Path of Water

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I escaped the land of winding cliffs to the south.
And when I did so, I changed course from where
I initially had planned to go.

From that day, I no longer ran from my people
but merely persisted in staying away from them.

Days passed into months and months into years.

I grew into manhood without the companionship of
my father and without the worrying comfort of my mother.

The hills and the valleys raised me.

Then, as well as now, in my daily walking, I have sought
the answer to one question above all others:

Where will I find water?

Think about water for a moment.

Have you ever considered all it does for us?

I have learned to walk near water, for beside it the earth
springs forth to provide shade and refreshment.

I try to rest near water,
for I need it for nourishment and strength.

I bathe in water, for it cleanses and invigorates my skin.

My final destination at the end of each day has been
a pool of pure water.

And when traveling in dry places, each morning
I have set off with as much of that pool as I could carry.

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The Singular First Person

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

The first soapbox orator I ever saw was haranguing a crowd beside the Greyhound station in Providence, Rhode Island, about the evils of fluoridated water. What the man stood on was actually an up-turned milk crate, all the genuine soapboxes presumably having been snapped up by antique dealers. He wore an orange plaid sport coat and matching bow tie and held aloft a bottle filled with mossy green liquid. I don’t remember the details of his spiel, except his warning that fluoride was an invention of the Communists designed to weaken our bones and thereby make us pushovers for a Red invasion. What amazed me, as a tongue-tied kid of seventeen newly arrived in the city from the boondocks, was not his message but his courage in delivering it to a mob of strangers. I figured it would have been easier for me to jump straight over the Greyhound station than to stand there on that milk crate and utter my thoughts.

To this day, when I read or when I compose one of those curious monologues we call the personal essay, I often think of that soapbox orator. Nobody had asked him for his two cents’ worth, but there he was declaring it with all the eloquence he could muster. The essay, although enacted in private, is no less arrogant a performance. Unlike novelists and playwrights, who lurk behind the scenes while distracting our attention with the puppet show of imaginary characters; unlike scholars and journalists, who quote the opinions of others and shelter behind the hedges of neutrality, the essayist has nowhere to hide. While the poet can lean back on a several-thousand-year-old legacy of ecstatic speech, the essayist inherits a much briefer and skimpier tradition. The poet is allowed to quit after a few lines, but the essayist must hold our attention for pages and pages. It is a brash and foolhardy form, this one-man or one-woman circus, which relies on the tricks of anecdote, conjecture, memory, and wit to enthrall us.

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Beauty

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

In memory, I wait beside Eva in the vestibule of the church to play my bit part as father of the bride. She is supposed to remain hidden from the congregation until her queenly entrance, but in her eagerness to see what’s going on up front she leans forward to peek around the edge of the half-closed door. The satin roses appliquéd to her gown catch the light as she moves, and the toes of her pale silk shoes peep out from beneath the hem. The flower girls watch her every motion. Twins a few days shy of their third birthday, they flounce their unaccustomed frilly skirts, twirl their bouquets, and stare with wide eyes down the great length of carpet leading through the avenue of murmuring people.

Eva hooks a hand on my elbow while the three bridesmaids fuss over her, fixing the gauzy veil, spreading the long ivory train of her gown, tucking into her bun a loose strand of hair, which glows the color of honey filled with sunlight. Clumsy in my rented finery—patent leather shoes that are a size too small and starched shirt and stiff black tuxedo—I stand among these gorgeous women like a crow among doves. I realize they are gorgeous not because they carry bouquets or wear silk dresses, but because the festival of marriage has slowed time down until any fool can see their glory.

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Buckeye

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Years after my father’s heart quit, I keep in a wooden box on my desk the two buckeyes that were in his pocket when he died. Once the size of plums, the brown seeds are shriveled now, hollow, hard as pebbles, yet they still gleam from the polish of his hands. He used to reach for them in his overalls or suit pants and click them together, or he would draw them out, cupped in his palm, and twirl them with his blunt carpenter’s fingers, all the while humming snatches of old tunes.

“Do you really believe buckeyes keep off arthritis?” I asked him more than once.

He would flex his hands and say, “I do so far.”

My father never paid much heed to pain. Near the end, when his worn knee often slipped out of joint, he would pound it back in place with a rubber mallet. If a splinter worked into his flesh beyond the reach of tweezers, he would heat the blade of his knife over a cigarette lighter and slice through the skin. He sought to ward off arthritis not because he feared pain but because he lived through his hands, and he dreaded the swelling of knuckles, the stiffening of fingers. What use would he be if he could no longer hold a hammer or guide a plow? When he was a boy he had known farmers not yet forty years old whose hands had curled into claws, men so crippled up they could not tie their own shoes, could not sign their names.

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Chapter 7. The Agriculturalists

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

The Agriculturalists as State Societies

The agriculturalist has assured subsistence. All good things come to him, as we read in the Popol Vub, as a blessing from the “House on the Pyramids,” from agencies “on high.” But in order to have them, he has to work hard, earning his daily bread “by the sweat of his brow.” To pay for those good things, all members of the group have to be drafted into a continued and sustained effort. There is no room anymore, as the Popol Vuh tells it, for the venturesome and the proud. What the tillers need to inculcate in their young is conscientiousness, compliance, humility, and obedience.

With permanent settlements, agriculturalists can no longer avoid the problems of conflict by picking up and leaving: Conflict resolution, in other words, cannot be brought about by fissioning. Chiefly, authority comes into being as one avenue of solution. There is more personal property, and the concept also intrudes into the position of women. A man wants exclusive rights to his spouse, and his elevated status leads not only to her eventual disenfranchisement, but also to her ritual inferiority.

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Chapter 5. The Hunter-Gatherers

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

The bands, hordes, or groups of the hunter-gatherer type of society are usually small.1 Each one is associated with a particular geographic area, but they do not claim exclusive rights to it. The institution of chiefly power is minimal to nonexistent, and personal property is of modest proportions. Despite the geographic distance between bands, there is communication between them for the exchange of resources and women, and for passing on new religious material, such as songs or stories. Women are equal partners. There is sexual freedom and sexual variety, in addition to permanent marriages. A man is allowed to have several wives. He also has access to potential wives, that is, women whom he would be allowed to marry without violating incest rules, as well as to his brothers’ wives. Women in polygenous households may choose lovers among “permissible” men, as well as from among the husband’s brothers. In addition, a woman can expect to live with a series of husbands during her lifetime, for the marriage rules usually provide that the first husband be considerably older than his wife. Most adult men and also the women are “medicine” people, that is, religious specialists. Older women are especially valued for their knowledge of ritual and may function as advisers during important rites.

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Five: The Way of the Spirits

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

The first workshop that Franz organized in the Buddhist Center in Scheibbs (Austria) took place in 1982. He published the announcement in the schedule of the center, and a few of the regulars became interested. Others had seen the television show. Kurt, also of the television workshop, told friends in Vienna about his experiences, and they came to Scheibbs to find out more. Yolanda of a later Scheibbs workshop was from Switzerland. The next spring, she got some friends together, they rented suitable quarters in a mountain resort, and we did a workshop there. A stop in Switzerland has become an institution since then, part of my yearly spring tour, which at this writing covers five European countries.

In this country, the development of the workshops took off slowly. For several summers in a row, I taught anthropology courses at Cuyamungue Institute. However, with the connection to Denison University, my home institution, weakening with the years, recruiting undergraduates became more and more difficult. Increasingly also, that was really no longer what I wanted to do. It was at this juncture that summer workshops comfortably fitted into the premises already available there.

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Looking at Women

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

On that sizzling July afternoon, the girl who crossed at the stoplight in front of our car looked, as my mother would say, as though she had been poured into her pink shorts. The girl’s matching pink halter bared her stomach and clung to her nubbin breasts, leaving little to the imagination, as my mother would also say. Until that moment, it had never made any difference to me how much or little a girl’s clothing revealed, for my imagination had been entirely devoted to other mysteries. I was eleven. The girl was about fourteen, the age of my buddy Norman who lounged in the back seat with me. Staring after her, Norman elbowed me in the ribs and murmured, “Check out that chassis.”

His mother glared around from the driver’s seat. “Hush your mouth.”

“I was talking about that sweet Chevy,” said Norman, pointing out a souped-up jalopy at the curb.

“I know what you were talking about,” his mother snapped.

No doubt she did know, since mothers could read minds, but at first I myself did not have a clue. Chassis? I knew what it meant for a car, an airplane, a radio, or even a cannon to have a chassis. But could a girl have one as well? I glanced after the retreating figure, and suddenly noticed with a sympathetic twitching in my belly the way her long raven ponytail swayed in rhythm to her walk and the way her fanny jostled in those pink shorts. In July’s dazzle of sun, her swinging legs and arms beamed at me a semaphore I could almost read.

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The Spirits and the Wounded Tree of Life

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Mystery in the Museum In addition to books on native art, museums often yield tantalizing representations of postures. This presupposes, of course, that what you think you see on that rack or shelf is actually there. In this business, you cannot always be sure.

The story I should like to tell next started in a museum. The School of American Research in Santa Fe had asked me for a luncheon lecture. Afterward one of the associates of the institution took some of the guests and me on a guided tour of its private museum, which possesses an outstanding collection of Amerindian art. The first spacious hall contained a great number of the most magnificent ollas, large clay vessels no longer made today. This hall had a door that opened to the right. The other members of the party had already walked through, when my attention was caught by still another shelf to the left of the exit. Instead of ollas, this one contained an exhibit of figured pieces, the likes of which I had never seen on the Indian markets. Always on the lookout for new postures, I immediately noticed a male statuette in an unfamiliar stance. It was only about five inches high, made of yellowish clay with red-brick markings, and it stood on a small pedestal which carried the inscription “Calling the Spirits.” I carefully noted the posture, how the hands were positioned on the groin with fingers spread, and how the head was tilted back slightly and the mouth was open. I wanted to sketch it, but the young woman who acted as our guide came to close the door, so I quickly jotted down a brief description and did not even check if the figurine had a number or some other identifying code.

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Appendix: Some Practical Points

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

—If you would like to try any of the postures I have described, you will need rhythmic stimulation. With some practice, you can record a tape for yourself, using either a drum or a rattle. The beat should be even and rather fast. Mine is timed at 200–210 beats per minute, and one session should last about fifteen minutes.

—Familiarize yourself with the posture first, then do a breathing exercise. It consists of fifty light, normal, complete breaths, with inhaling, exhaling, and pause constituting one breath unit. At the conclusion of this exercise, assume the posture once more, close your eyes, and start listening to the beat of the instrument. After a while, you may no longer hear the soundtrack. Do not worry about it. Your nervous system registers it anyway, although out of awareness. If you try to get back to the sound, you may interrupt your vision.

—As soon as the soundtrack stops, and provided you are clinically healthy, you will return to ordinary consciousness. Once in a great while a person does not manage this transition well. For this reason, a beginner should always have a companion. If the companion notices that the trancer does not come to right away, the first thing to do is to call his/her name. Gently releasing the trancer’s posture is also a good strategy, and providing a glass of water will help, too. As the group leader, you will occasionally go into a light trance yourself. One of my participants told that as she was rattling, her Indian spirit friend appeared before her and rattled along with her.

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In the Land of Centaurs and Mermaids

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In scanning a book recently about archeological finds in Europe,10 I noticed the picture of a figurine dug up in Thessaly (present-day Greece), about eight thousand years old (pl. 68). It represents a nude, rather full-breasted woman, sitting with both her legs turned toward the right side, her hands resting on her knees. Examining the figure shown a bit more closely, I realized that what at first glance seemed merely an oddly shaped face was really a mask, possibly that of a bird. That was exciting, for wearing a mask among hunter-gardeners or horticulturalists, as we know from their modern counterparts, is always a sign of a religious occasion, involving a trance experience as a matter of course. But what was even more intriguing was that in this case, the mask was combined with a totally unfamiliar posture. Ordinarily, the postures that come to light from such early horizons in Europe are those that are encountered in many other areas of the world as well, of birthing, of the Bear Spirit, of metamorphosis, and so forth. But here was one that was completely unknown in the later record. We had planned a workshop anyway for experienced participants only, to be held in a camp in rural Ohio, so this was an opportunity to try and see what the lady from Neolithic Thessaly had to teach us.

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Chapter 5: The Dangerous Spirits of Japan

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

From the benevolent spirits experienced in possession by Spiritualists, Umbandists, and Pentecostals, we now pass on to another class of spirit beings, namely, the dangerous ones. Powerful, but neither absolutely good nor absolutely evil, they represent humanity’s horticulturalist heritage (see chap. 2). They can and most of the time do act in a friendly manner, and thus on the face of it there seems to be little to distinguish them from the kindly entities we have come to know. But if crossed, they may become threatening, and it is this potential for mischief, this perceived underlying threat, that marks them as qualitatively different. They may even start out causing harm, but then turn around and come to be helpful friends. To us Westerners, whose thinking is schooled by a pervasive good/bad categorization, it is sometimes disconcerting how in a particular story a spirit who to our way of perceiving the world is clearly up to no good can still be classed as benevolent. The ancient exu spirits of Umbanda retain some of this peculiar scintillation, but they are mainly known to anthropologists from their study of surviving small horticulturalist societies, for instance in South America. Of the large modern industrial societies, Japan is the only one where they still play an important role, appearing in many of the modern sects called in the literature the New Religions.

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At Play in the Paradise of Bombs

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Twice a man’s height and topped by strands of barbed wire, a chain-link fence stretched for miles along the highway leading up to the main gate of the Arsenal. Beside the gate were tanks, hulking dinosaurs of steel, one on each side, their long muzzles slanting down to catch trespassers in a cross-fire. A soldier emerged from the gatehouse, gun on hip, silvered sunglasses blanking his eyes.

My father stopped our car. He leaned out the window and handed the guard some papers which my mother had been nervously clutching.

“With that license plate, I had you pegged for visitors,” said the guard. “But I see you’ve come to stay.”

His flat voice ricocheted against the rolled-up windows of the back seat where I huddled beside my sister. I hid my face in the upholstery, to erase the barbed wire and tanks and mirror-eyed soldier, and tried to wind myself into a ball as tight as the fist of fear in my stomach. By and by, our car eased forward into the Arsenal, the paradise of bombs.

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Chapter 1: Possession’s Many Faces

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In order to understand possession, we need first of all to come to terms with the concept of the soul. The behavioral sciences, such as psychology or anthropology, consider human beings to be biopsychological systems. According to this view, all experience results from the interaction of the various parts within this integrated unit. Obviously, there is no room for the soul in a theory of this sort. As Virchow, a famous German surgeon of the nineteenth century, used to say, “I never found a soul with my scalpel.” We may ask, of course, whether the scalpel is the most useful tool for finding the soul. Ancient sages as well as religious specialists active in societies today the world over, including our own, certainly never used it for that purpose. They simply took the existence of the soul for granted, building their entire belief system on the conviction that indeed humans do have at least one or possibly even several souls.

The two opinions are clearly at loggerheads with each other, and although as Westerners, we are inclined to opt against the soul theory, we should at least be fair and ask the following question: If you disagree with the idea that humans are integrated systems, a heap of cells having unimaginably complex interconnections as well as psychological dimensions, but nothing else, then what are you going to propose as a countertheory? The answer we will get from those cleaving to the “soul hypothesis” is that in their view, humans consist of a shell, something like a box, namely, the body, and an ephemeral substance or essence residing within, usually termed the soul. All the various religious faiths and systems we are going to become acquainted with in these pages take the soul theory for granted, as a given, as their unshakable foundation.

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Medium 9781609947972

Eight: The Seventh Limb: Meditation (Dhyana)

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If we know the divine art of concentration,
if we know the divine art of meditation,
if we know the divine art of contemplation,
easily and consciously we can unite the inner world
and the outer world
.

Sri Chinmoy

 

Before meeting with potential donors, Steve spends a few minutes in meditation, concluding with an intention that helps him connect to purpose:

May [this person] be happy and peaceful
May she be free from all inner and outer harm
May her mind and body be healthy
May she be happy with things as they are
May she live with the ease of well-being

Steve, the physician/fundraiser at a major west coast university medical center, is charged with raising money to support the goals of the institution—at least on paper. But he likes to turn that description on its head. He considers himself an advocate for donors and in service to connecting the donors’ passions and motivations to the needs of the institution.

One of the things meditation practice does for him is remind him that the focus of his work is not the transaction, but building relationships. “When I am able to quiet myself and turn my focus toward understanding and advocating for the donor, I know I am not going to take actions that are coercive or manipulative. The meditation has been a way to bring the potential donor to the front of my mind. I can think about their needs instead of ‘How do I get them to do something I want them to do?’ Using manipulative selling techniques may get you something in the moment, but it won’t get you a lasting relationship.”

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