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Painted Rock, The Inner Connection to the Infinite, and Two Competing Visions of Human Existence

Painted Rock, The Inner Connection to the Infinite, and Two Competing Visions of Human Existence

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The visionary Lakota holy man Black Elk once articulated a distinction between two competing visions: the first, a vision of harmony and connection between people and animals and also with the invisible world, and the second a vision of division and scarcity and an all-consuming, gnawing greed that ultimately dirties and destroys everything good before finally destroying itself.

In his own account, which he allowed to be published in the book Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk associates these two visions with two paths he saw bisecting the great sacred hoop of life during a very powerful vision he received which had a profound impact on his entire life: the good red road (running from north to south on the great circle) associated with the preservation and renewal of all creatures, and the black road (running from west to east on the great circle) upon which "everybody walked for himself."  

The great vision of Black Elk, and his description of the difference between the two roads, is discussed in this previous post, and of course in his account of the vision, which after great deliberation he decided to tell to the world through a published narrative. 

The deciding factor that led him to tell his vision to the outside world was his realization that the people were mistakenly pursuing the bad vision and running down the wrong road -- he admits that even he himself had during a certain time thought that the way of the Wasichus (the Europeans) seemed to be working and that he himself had decided for a time that it might have been the better way -- and he felt that by telling his vision he could persuade others not to make this mistake, before it was too late.

Perhaps few surviving sacred sites in the world display the conflict between those two visions, those two roads described by Black Elk in his vision, more viscerally than the ancient space known today as "Painted Rock," located in North America in a high grassland plain -- in fact, a salt-lake basin with no real outlet, containing a large dry gypsum flat known as "Soda Lake" -- about forty-five or fifty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in modern-day California. 

This is the arid valley known today as the Carrizo Plain, a name thought to have been derived from the Spanish word carrizo, defined in the Follett Velasquez dictionary as a "common reed-grass, Arundo phragmites," although in previous generations the area was called the Carrisa Plain, possibly an attempt to pronounce the Spanish word.  

It is nearly 1,400 miles from the places that Black Elk and his people lived, but it contains an awe-inspiring natural rock temple which silently proclaims a very similar message and offers a clear view of both roads, both visions: one vision evincing profound connectedness to nature and to the invisible realm, and the other displaying either a conscious hatred for that first vision, or a wanton disregard for it, and arising from a culture that has been cut off from it.

This extensive description of the importance of Painted Rock (and the extensive ancient archaeological region of which Painted Rock is part), prepared and filed in 2011 in conjunction with a request to have the area declared a National Historic Landmark, points to newly-discovered evidence of human habitation stretching back 10,000 years before the present, describing (in addition to the well-known Painted Rock site) "recently discovered pictograph sites along with a remarkable concentration of villages, camps and other sites dating from about 10,000 to 200 BP (8050 BCE - 1750 CE)" (see top of page 4).

This anciently-inhabited region, that same paragraph notes, contains abundant pictographs of a very distinctive nature: for the most part, they are painted with bright colors, instead of carved or indented as is common in other pictographic sites in North America. These, the report notes, "are the impressive hallmark of this district." Some scholars have dated the creation of these particular painted pictographs to a period of about 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. 

These painted markings and significant and impressive in their own right, for their historical and cultural significance, for whatever concepts the ancient artists intended with their work (almost certainly related to the sacred and to the invisible world), and for the unworldly impression conveyed by their subject matter, their often intricate and artistically-beautiful design, and their use of bold colors (particularly red, black and white, often used together, with light blue, ochre yellow, and other colors added at times as well). 

In the massif known as the Painted Rock, shown in the aerial image above, the ancient artists who created these paintings selected one of the most impressive natural spaces possible, one possessed of tremendous inherent spiritual symbolism and power.

The annual report of the State Mineralogist to the California State Mining Bureau for the year 1890 described the actual rock formation, and the pictographs, in these words:

In the southwestern part of the plain stands THE PAINTED ROCK, an isolated butte covering an area of about five acres and rising to a height of one hundred and forty feet -- a conical formation, and hollow like the crater of a volcano, but having a narrow opening towards the east on a level with the surrounding plain [the opening is actually more north than east]. This opening is twenty-four feet in width and leads to a vast oval cavity two hundred and twenty-five feet in its greatest, and one hundred and twenty feet in its least diameter, the walls rising to a height of one hundred and thirty-two feet in the highest point. The rock is coarse sandstone, the walls irregular, and overhanging in places, making the inner space like a cave. In these recesses, covering a space of twelve feet in height, and sixty feet in length, are a great number of paintings, representing strange figures in rude forms of men, suns, birds, and others indescribable -- probably hieroglyphics or writings of meaning to the prehistoric people who made them. When and by whom these were made is unknown, as the oldest inhabitant says that when discovered by the pioneer Spanish missionaries, they found them as they are at the present time; the aborigines knowing nothing of their origin, but regarding them with mysterious awe. The paintings are in three lines of red, white, and black, the colors still bright and distinct. This grand temple of the ancient pagan is now utilized as a corral. Upon many rocks bordering the great plain are similar paintings of the same unknown origin. "Painted rocks" are also found in Santa Barbara and Kern Counties, with figures of the same character as those of the San Luis Obispo rocks, and would be a proper subject of study for the ethnologist. 569.

This account, dated from the end of 1890 and thus written by one who visited the area that year or slightly earlier, provides some valuable historical information, particularly regarding the condition of the rock paintings, as well as the fact that their original artists were shrouded in the mists of the ancient past, at least according to whatever sources the surveyors contacted and whatever answers they saw fit to give to him. 

Based on current historical paradigms and analysis of the art itself, most modern scholars ascribe the rock art to the Chumash and Yokuts peoples, each of which has their own distinctive artistic and thematic characteristics but which apparently also have many characteristics and themes in common as well. According to sources cited in page 18 of the National Register of Historic Places form linked previously, many scholars generally believe that the majority of the art comes from the "Middle Period" stretching from 4,000 years to 800 years before the present day, or from about 2050 BC - AD 1150 (and at one point, based on arguments from lake levels of the Soda Lake basin, the report narrows that down to a range of about 2050 BC to 50 BC).

What is fairly certain is that the stunning art of the awe-inspiring Painted Rock sacred site, and that found along certain outcroppings and formations dotting the hills and the edges of the plain in the surrounding region, survived intact and in a remarkable state of preservation for the better part of 4,000 years. 

Some early black-and-white photographs taken of the pictographic murals within Painted Rock itself are claimed in books published not long afterwards to have been taken as early as 1876, which may mean that they are the very first pictographs to have been photographed anywhere in the world. Photographs of the Painted Rock pictographs from the early 1890s were published in a 1910 article in West Coast magazine and in a subsequent 1910 book written by regional historian Myron Angel (you can read the text of that book online here, and order a copy of the original through various bookstores and online used-book channels). 

Other fascinating photos from the 1890s were included in a 1981 book called Curse of the Feathered Snake by Angus MacLean, who uses a story related by Myron Angel as a basis for some of his own proclamations about the history and significance of the sites and their pictographs.

In all of those photographs from the end of the 1800s, and in the descriptions in Mr. Angel's 1910 account, the pictographs are almost completely intact, looking very much as they had looked for the previous 2,000 to 4,000 years -- twenty to forty centuries.

But some vandalism had already begun to take place during the 1800s, with visitors descended from the western European cultures carving their names or initials right through these beautiful ancient pictographs into the soft sandstone, and not long after the turn of the century the real desecration of this ancient site accelerated. It is thought that it was in the decades leading up to World War II, particularly in the 1930s, that some of the most dramatic and intricate of these ancient paintings were hideously disfigured: great sections of paint was sacrilegiously and deliberately flaked off, and apparently some of these sacred figures were even shot with firearms and irretrievably damaged.

Ancient pictographic texts which had thus survived up to four thousand years in beautiful condition, preserving their message for perhaps forty centuries could not survive through what we know as the "twentieth century."

Below are links to two sites containing excellent photographs from recent years, by visitors who have made their way to this special monument and who have been appalled by the wanton destruction of the rock art. Each provides comparisons to some of the black-and-white images from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, to show their disfigured condition in the present day.

The first is a site containing the photography and writing of David Stillman, and an entry entitled "Then and Now: Painted Rock, Carrizo Plain" and dated August 13, 2014.

The second is a two-part trip report published by "Death Valley Jim" (Jim Mattern), a desert guide, wilderness scout, and advocate of low-impact and Leave No Trace outdoorsmanship -- he was so dismayed and angered by the damage done to these pictographs that he vows never to return to Painted Rock again: "Carrizo Plain National Monument and Painted Rock, part 1" and "Carrizo Plain National Monument and Painted Rock, part 2" (both from a very recent first visit, during the beginning of August 2015).

Both are of course right to be outraged and to express their outrage: the deliberate destruction of these ancient sacred sites is a criminal act, one that steals from the heritage of the entire human race and from all future generations, and one that defiles, disrespects, and denigrates sites that are still actively used and held holy by the Native American people whose people and whose ancestors have lived in this land for thousands of years.

Nor is it going too far to state that the message that this site has embodied for so many millennia -- in its own natural power and symbolism, and in the message of the pictographs (which is examined a bit further in the following paragraphs) -- exemplifies the vision of connection with the natural universe, connection with the spirit realm which infuses and indwells every single aspect of this seemingly material realm, and the elevation of that spirit in all people and in all animals and plants and rocks and trees, for the purpose of blessing and renewal.  

Blasting away at that vision with a shotgun at close range, or otherwise deliberately destroying the pictographs which proclaim our connection to the invisible world (such as by flaking off parts of the stone in order to try to take the images away from the site, or just to ruin them forever) clearly exemplifies the very worst aspects of the "bad road" which Black Elk spoke of -- the very worst aspects of that "gnawing flood, dirty with lies and greed" which he described as washing over everything and everyone that once were connected but which have now become isolated and divided and debased.

For more on the way that the sacred enclosure of Painted Rock points to another vision, please first have a look at the previous post entitled "Two Visions," which describes the remarkable analysis presented by Dr. Peter Kingsley, a philosopher and scholar of ancient philosophy (especially pre-Socratic philosophy), in his book In the Dark Places of Wisdom.

Any attempt to "sum up" that ground-breaking book will be incomplete, but one of its central themes involves another way of expressing the very same "two conflicting visions" that Black Elk was also describing. 

Dr. Kingsley provides evidence from archaeology and from the surviving fragmentary texts of ancient philosophers -- and in particular the important pre-Socratic Parmenides or Parmeneides -- showing the existence of a line of ancient wisdom, passed down through one-on-one discipleship, that involved going into dark, cave-like places which connected to "the Underworld." The connection to the Underworld, however, was actually internal -- and the Underworld was a realm of non-ordinary experience to which we all can have access at any time, if we know how to turn ourselves "inside out and find the sun and the moon and the stars inside," as In the Dark Places of Wisdom puts it on page 67.  

This ancient knowledge, Dr. Kingsley asserts, this understanding of the inner connection to the Infinite, was actually at the heart of ancient "western" philosophy -- until it was deliberately stamped out.

And, once it was stamped out, the heirs of that culture all the way down through the centuries in western Europe since those centuries, turned to the other vision (the other "road"): trying desperately to pursue, to grasp, to appropriate something that will fill an emptiness inside -- without realizing that the thing they need (but cannot even recognize) is actually already to be found within.

He writes:

Western culture is a past master at the art of substitution. It offers and never delivers because it can't. It has lost the power even to know what needs to be delivered. [. . .]. 35.
[But, we actually] already have everything we need to know, in the darkness inside ourselves. 67.

There is no denying the fact that the Painted Rock formation fits the description of the dark places where the ancient pre-Socratic wisdom teachers would seek to convey the truth that we already have what we need, and to teach the method of going into the "Underworld" that is actually located in a non-ordinary location: in the darkness inside ourselves.

In fact, in the book, Dr. Kingsley points out that the surviving fragments from the poems of Parmeneides describing this internal Underworld journey explain the descent as being led by a goddess, and attended by female immortal attendants -- and it is undeniable that descent into caves is symbolically associated with the divine feminine.

It can also be pointed out that nearly all the deities and beings human and nonhuman with whom Odysseus has to interact during his epic voyage and return home described in the Odyssey -- from the goddess Calypso to the monsters Scylla and Charybdis to the powerful witch and goddess Circe to the princess Nausicaa of Phaecaia, and of course ultimately to his own wife, Penelope -- are also female figures. And through these interactions Odysseus is also guided to the Underworld in order to gain knowledge that he could not obtain otherwise (and Circe is the one who tells him how to go there, a fact with direct connections to the ancient texts Peter Kingsley discusses as well).

The physical location of Painted Rock quite clearly evokes this same spiritual imagery of the divine feminine.

And now, briefly, to the figures themselves, which some western writers including scholars have chosen to try to interpret literally at some level -- whether seeing them as depicting specific types of turtles or seeing them as trying to depict the shaman who is undergoing a vision-journey.

Writers in earlier centuries (such as the Mineralogist report linked above) often use condescending terms: "rude forms of men, suns, birds, and others indescribable."

And Erich Von Daniken (and others from the same theoretical approach, to which I do not myself subscribe) takes a different kind of literalist approach, declaring that these and other pictographs are literal depictions of spacecraft and beings in spacesuits (whether ancient human astronauts, or ancient aliens). 

Von Daniken specifically points out a drawing of one of the (now largely destroyed) panels from Painted Rock in a 1972 book originally entitled Gods From Outer Space (and available in an online format here under the title Return to the Stars) in the fifth chapter, where he implies that the "different globular figures" might be sphere-shaped spacecraft, and that the humanoid figures in the Painted Rock and other ancient petroglyphs may represent the attempts to render space travelers (and he uses patronizing and condescending descriptions of the level of sophistication and understanding of the artists and ancient cultures that produced this art, comparing them at one point to children given a box of crayons)(see pages 48 - 50).

All of these interpretations, however, could be classified as making the same error as that which is made when ancient sacred written scriptures or ancient myths and sacred traditions are analyzed from a literalistic perspective. I and other authors have shown extensive evidence that the ancient texts and myths are allegorical in nature, based upon celestial metaphor.  I have presented several dozen analyses of various myths and scriptures from around the world in previous blog posts -- lists of those previous posts can be found in links on this page. I could demonstrate this principle with literally hundreds more examples than those found in those previous examinations.

I believe that one of the central purposes of creating these celestial allegories was to convey through metaphor the profound truths that Dr. Peter Kingsley and the great Black Elk are trying to explain to us: that we are in fact already connected to the invisible realm, that the invisible realm in fact permeates every aspect of this seemingly material universe, and that this fact connects us all to one another, and to all other creatures (plants and animals) and to the natural world. 

Literalizing these sacred texts and myths, on the other hand, tends to divide us from one another, and to externalize their message . . . and leads directly to the problem that Dr. Kingsley articulates (in which we run around endlessly searching for substitutes to that which we already have access within) and to the "dirty flood of greed and destruction" that Black Elk describes, a vision of the world in which we are all divided from one another because we are all running after those substitutes, grabbing and grasping and devouring and ultimately destroying.

But, as Dr. Kingsley said in a brilliant metaphor, the ancients taught us that we have to go inside and actually "turn ourselves inside out" to find the sun, moon, planets and stars within.

As I have explained in various previous posts, I believe the celestial metaphors are employed in the sacred myths and texts of the world as a sort of "physical metaphor" to illustrate invisible truths about the spiritual world (the unseen world), and about our condition as physical-spiritual beings inhabiting a physical-spiritual universe.

And that is why I very strongly suspect that the incredible Painted Rock pictographs are also a "celestial text" (or celestial texts, perhaps executed over a span of hundreds or even thousands of years).

As those who followed the links provided earlier, to the high-quality photographic blogs of David Stillman and Death Valley Jim Mattern, may have noticed, each included on their discussion an image of the original artwork which was painted by the talented Campbell Grant (1909 - 1992), who was an artist who did early work for Disney studios (including work on Fantasia, Snow White, and Pinocchio, as well as the voice of Angus MacBadger in The Wind in the Willows) and who was fascinated with Chumash rock art from an early age and became a serious student of this art, and helped try to preserve it.

In the 1960s, using some of the older black-and-white photographs, as well as visits to the site, he painted this re-creation of the Painted Rock panels as they may have looked before they were destroyed in the 1930s.

I believe we can see very clear evidence that at least some portions of these pictographs are specifically celestial in nature, depicting zodiac constellations, major nearby stars, and the great band of the Milky Way galaxy.

I will focus on just three areas (those that are perhaps the "easiest" to decipher -- if indeed this analysis is correct). I believe there are abundant clues in each of these areas which help make their celestial identity pretty evident. I have my suspicion about some of the other pairings not in these three areas, but I'm less certain of those.

Below, note three areas of the pictographic re-creation by Grant, indicated by a green box, a blue box, and a purple box:

I believe the "green box" constellations and celestial features are perhaps the most obvious -- in part because of the rising columns which could be described as resembling caterpillars or segmented centipedes, or maybe spinal columns (mythologically and spiritually connected to the Djed column of Osiris in its meaning, perhaps -- the raising of the spiritual component in ourselves and in the cosmos around us, in part through connection with the spirit world, through the calling forth of the hidden divine, the Infinite).

These segmented caterpillars or centipedes I believe are actually the rising column of the Milky Way. Below is a "screen shot" of a scene from the excellent open-source planetarium app, In it, the rising column of the Milky Way is clearly visible -- and the fact that it actually rises in "two sides" or "two pillars" (especially towards the bottom of the screen) is quite apparent: this is caused by the dark or empty area in between the sides of the Milky Way at this portion, which is known as the Great Rift (discussed here in conjunction with the Maya calendar).

If you are very familiar with the constellations of our night sky, you may be able to spot the zodiac constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpio) in the lower part of that rising Milky Way: the stinger-tail of the Scorpion reaches right into the center of the Milky Way at its base (just above the horizon in the planetarium image above, not far from the big red letter "S" that indicates the direction South on the horizon as we look at the sky).

I believe very strongly that the long reaching black "hand-and-arm-like" feature in the Painted Rock panel, which reaches right into the space between the two rising segmented centipede-like columns (which are the sides of the Milky Way, in my analysis) is in fact the stinger-tail of the Scorpion:

Let's just illustrate that on the star-map and then on the depiction of Painted Rock, so that everyone can see that (Scorpion outlined in green, below):

And below, just in case anyone was not sure what part I believe to be indicative of the part of the constellation we think of as the Scorpion's tail, it is shown on the Painted Rock illustration (and the Milky Way column is also labeled):

There are many other figures in the above section of the Painted Rock panel, which help to confirm this interpretation.

One of the most important of these, I think, is the "Turtle" figure that is shown just above the long "arm" that I identify as the "Tail of Scorpio" in the above image. 

Located right in the middle of the rising Milky Way, above the Scorpion's Tail, I believe this Turtle is in fact the same constellation that we usually refer to as Aquila, the Eagle. Note that the upper "head" of the Turtle can be interpreted as having three "stars" indicated (which Aquila has in its head as well), and then note the little white "tiny paddle-shaped" hands and feet of the Turtle: these are indicative of the locations of stars in the Aquila constellation as well. 

Aquila also has a bit of a dangling "tail," just as this Turtle does in the ancient rock art.

Just above the Aquila, and facing it, is the other great bird of the Milky Way galaxy: Cygnus the Swan. In the rock art above, we see a kind of insect-like "stick figure" which does not really look like a Swan, but which actually has a "double-triangle" shape at the end facing the Turtle. This shape is in fact most reminiscent of Cygnus, even though Cygnus in the sky is much larger than this stick-insect (the rock art depictions are not always exactly done to what we would call "scale"):

And below is the planetarium sky-image again, this time with Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan also drawn in:

This should be plenty of evidence to at least begin to strongly suspect the possibility that the Painted Rock imagery is celestial imagery. Don't forget that in addition to the three constellations just described, the Painted Rock art also depicts the Milky Way (complete with the Great Rift). In the image of the sky just below, the Milky Way is also indicated.

And, that's not all for this particular portion of the pictograph: there is also the "humanoid" figure just above the "reaching arm" identified as the Scorpion's Tail. 

This humanoid is located just above the head of the Scorpion, which means that it almost certainly represents Ophiucus, the Serpent-Handler -- an extremely important ancient constellation, and one with a very oblong body, just as the humanoid outline in the Painted Rock panel is decidedly oblong:

And then below the outline of Ophiucus in the Painted Rock panel is very much reminiscent of the actual constellation -- complete with the "upraised" portion that you can see on the right side of Ophiucus in the above illustration (the "head" of the serpent he is holding to the right of his body as we look at him):

This analysis should pretty much confirm to even the most skeptical observer that the ancient artists who created the Painted Rock pictographs may well have been depicting the awe-inspiring and spiritually-symbolic constellations of our night sky.

Note the "upraised hand" on the right side of the Ophiucus figure as we look at him (the arrow labeled "Ophiucus" is pointing to it). This corresponds to the "head of the snake" just described in the actual constellation as seen in the sky.

The other two sections of the "mural" that I've outlined with "boxes" are the "blue box" and the "purple box." 

We could do another detailed analysis of each of these similar to that done in the "green box" analysis just above. However, the reader is invited to try to see the connections in these for himself or herself. I believe they add powerful additional evidence which helps confirm that we are dealing with celestial imagery in these ancient "pictographic texts" from the plains of Carrizo.

Below is a detailed close-up of the imagery found in the "blue box":

This one should be fairly obvious. I have placed the correspondences (as I see them) in a "footnote" at the end of this post. Can you guess what the little "dog-bone" shaped item is on the left of the above image, as well as the two "bulls-eye" circles below the main portion of this painting? I believe the two large "bulls-eye" circles are large stars -- which ones might they be?  (My interpretations are below).

And here is the "purple box" section:

This one is a little trickier.

Look to the far lower-left portion of the selection above: you will see a figure who is kind of "tipped forward" as if running, and some "wavy lines" are kind of "spilling out" of its gut-region (this may in fact remind you of a certain New Testament incident concerning the demise of someone important). The wavy lines are emanating just behind an outstretched arm on this figure.

It is running "the opposite direction" as the direction I would have drawn it, based on the outline of the constellation in the night sky.  

If you want to know my interpretation, see the second footnote at the end of this post. (Hint: It's a zodiac constellation).

Further to the right of that "pitched forward" figure whose "guts" are coming out is a large "lizard-figure" with "crossed legs" and a kind of "painted-in" area inside his crossed lower legs.

Can you think of any constellations in the zodiac which feature two things (the "feet" of this Lizard) that are kind of "tied together" in the way that the "lower legs" of this rock-art Lizard are tied together (or at least crossed)?

If so, what is in between those two items that are tied together or connected in a "v-shape" in the same way that the Lizard's legs are connected in a "V"?

Could that celestial figure between two Lizard legs be a celestial figure whose name is a geometric shape?

I believe that it could. 

In fact, I believe that the figures in the two panels above can be shown to be constellations, just as the first panel we examined in detail contains constellation-art.

I would submit that the presence of a celestial "text" inside of a sacred space (associated with the divine feminine, and with contact with the Underworld realm of the spirit world) indicates that the artists who produced this incredible ancient monument were extremely sophisticated, and that they were possibly preserving and passing on important knowledge about contact with that unseen realm.

It is knowledge that is associated with the first of the two visions offered by Black Elk and by the analysis of Peter Kingsley: the positive vision, the vision of connectedness, the vision of elevating and bringing forth the spiritual aspect in ourselves and in others and in the cosmos around us. 

And this ancient sacred textual repository in this ancient sacred site was literally blasted by desecrators who were either so ignorant of that ancient wisdom that they disregarded it altogether and saw it as having no value at all, or so divisive in their thinking (dividing up humanity into "my group" and "everyone else") that they disrespected the culture that produced it as "primitive" or otherwise unworthy of respect, or else they were (and this is probably the worst possibility) sworn enemies of that vision and that ancient knowledge, and dedicated to suppressing it and keeping it from humanity (to whom it actually belongs as a treasured inheritance given to all people in ancient times, all around the world, in many different forms).

The fact that these descriptions took place in the 1930s is quite disturbing, given the other horrible events that were being unleashed elsewhere around the globe during those years and the following decades.

In a sense, the deliberate destruction of the ancient wisdom in the sacred site of Painted Rock is a visible echo of the deliberate obscuration of the celestial metaphors found in other ancient texts from around the world (including the texts known today as the Old and New Testaments of the Bible). All those ancient texts also employ celestial metaphors -- and I would argue that all of them also deal with the inner connection to the Infinite, and that they indeed can be viewed as "manuals" for connecting with the Invisible Realm.

The fact that Painted Rock is in the condition that it is in today, after surviving intact for perhaps as many as 4,000 years, shows just how relevant this struggle between the two competing "visions" still remains, right up to this very day.


Below is an image of the area where the panels of rock art depicted by Campbell Grant are located:

The section with the "reaching arm" (which I believe is the Tail of Scorpio) can be seen at the top left portion of the above image, just above the long horizontal crack-line.  The panels to the right of that, where the "blue box" is located for example, is now almost completely obliterated.

My interpretations of the images in the blue box and purple box:

1.  Blue box: The main figures, with the stars above their heads, are almost certainly the Twins of Gemini. The two stars are the stars we call Castor and Pollux. The "linked arms" of the Twins in the rock art is extremely reminiscent of the constellations in the sky.

To the left of the Twins in the sky (for viewers in the northern hemisphere) is the "Little Dog" or Canis Minor, with a bright star Procyon. This may be the little "Y-shaped" dog-bone figure to the left of the image in the blue box of the rock art.

The two big circles that I believe to be two bright stars below Gemini are probably Betelgeuse (on the left in the image) and Aldebaran (darker and not as big). The other possibility is Sirius (instead of Betelgeuse) and Aldebaran.

2.  The "running forward" and falling or tipping-forward figure, with wavy water-lines coming out of his gut-region, is almost certainly Aquarius.  You can even see something like his "Water Jug" in the image, not far from his outstretched arm.  In the night sky, he seems to be running the other direction, but the ancient artist obviously chose to have Aquarius running towards the right in this image.

The "crossed legs" at the lower part of the Lizard are probably the Fishes of Pisces (the feet themselves might be the two Fishes themselves, which in the sky are actually shaped like ovals and not really much like fish). The space between the knees of the Lizard, colored-in in white by the ancient artist (or at least by Campbell Grant in this painting, which he based upon old photographs), is almost certainly meant to indicate the Great Square of Pegasus.

These additional celestial identifications help confirm that what we are looking at in the Painted Rock is a sophisticated ancient site using celestial metaphor, probably as symbolic of the realm of spirit (as is common for celestial allegory literally around the globe, from ancient Egypt to other parts of Africa and China and Japan and Siberia and to ancient Greece and to the Norse people of Scandinavia and as far south as Australia).

A visit to Grimerica

A visit to Grimerica

Big thank you to Grimericans Graham Dunlop and Darren Grimes for inviting me over to "The Igloo" to discuss ancient myth, celestial mechanics, world mysteries, and the shamanic-holographic nature of the universe and human existence (here's a link to the page where you can listen or download -- the guys are doing great work there so please support their "value-for-value" model if and when you are able to do so -- and tell a friend about it).

Welcome to new visitors from the unique land of Grimerica, as well as to all returning friends here to this blog -- really hope you enjoy the conversation Darren and Graham had with me as much as I did.

Below are a series of links to help you find your way to places with more info about some of the subjects we touched on in our chat -- and below that I've added a few more thoughts about the show:

  • Star Myth Index: start here! a list of links to over fifty previous blog posts discussing the evidence for the celestial foundations of different myths from around the world -- including the stories in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
  • "Wax on, wax off" -- how the original Karate Kid movie can help explain why the ancient myths would be constructed according to this system of celestial allegory.
  • "Like a finger, pointing a way to the moon . . . " another discussion of the idea of "the esoteric," this time using a scene from Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon.
  • Shamanic Holographic: discussion of some evidence that part of the message these ancient myths were intended to convey to us was that our universe -- and human experience in this incarnate material existence -- is both holographic and shamanic in nature. And, here is discussion of the direct quotation from the very important Lakota holy man Black Elk who said that it is the spirit world "behind this one" that is the real world, and that actually is the source of this one.
  • Shamanic foundation of the world's ancient wisdom: connecting the message of the world's ancient myths to the worldview that is broadly termed "shamanic" in nature, and how this worldview connects to other concepts including journeys to the unseen world.
  • The Old Man and his Daughter: this is the story from a First Nations people living on what is today called Vancouver Island which can be very clearly shown to connect to the outlines of the constellations Virgo and Bootes -- which is an example of the fact that, even if different people around the world group the stars into different constellations, it is also true that they may have myths which very clearly relate to the constellations as they are "grouped" in the system we still use today, and which suggests that there was some kind of worldwide system operating in the ancient past.
  • How many ways are there to contact the hidden realm: evidence from around the world that we may be naturally designed to be able to access the invisible realm (also known by many other names, a useful one being "non-ordinary reality") and that there are almost unlimited ways to actually do it.
  • Mushrooms: a couple posts discussing their importance, and their connection to myth and to the ancient wisdom -- see also "Buddha, Odin, Mushrooms" and "Graham Hancock identifies war on consciousness: TED confirms that he's right." 
  • The Chinese ideogram for "boat" which is composed of the symbols for "vessel," for the number "eight," and for "mouths" (or passengers): eight passengers on a vessel = a boat. This is a link to the website of (and online book by) Dr. Walt Brown, the originator of the hydroplate theory which discusses the overwhelming evidence that our planet has experienced a catastrophic flood in its past.
  • The Eleusinian mysteries: what they were, and why they were so important. And, related to that, the priestess at the Temple at Delphi, who was known as the Pythia, and why she and Delphi are so important (see also the opinion of Plato and Socrates on Delphi). 
  • The Roman emperor who shut down both Eleusis and Delphi, and how he may well be an important clue in the mystery of what happened to this ancient wisdom in a certain part of the world, and how the suppression of the ancient wisdom became official policy in what Graham Hancock and others have described as "the war on consciousness." 
  • The Princess Bride: I almost forgot that we briefly alluded to the beloved Princess Bride film during the show! Here is a link to a discussion of the near-death experience that takes place in the movie (he's only "mostly dead"). This post actually connects to the concept of the "ideology of materialism" which seeks to suppress and marginalize all the evidence pointing to the existence of the non-ordinary realm, including NDEs, other types of out-of-body experiences, shamanic journeying, and even accounts of ghosts and apparitions.
  • Celestial foundations of the Samson story: during the show, we discuss just how important the Samson story was in my own personal journey of discovering that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible were not intended to be understood literally. Also, here's an amateur video I made that discusses some of the celestial aspects of the Samson story, for those who are interested.
  • Celestial foundations of the Odyssey: also mentioned during the show, right at the beginning.
  • Celestial foundations of the Three Kings and Star episode: this is one of the examples Graham wanted to discuss for connections to the motions in the celestial realms. In addition to the discussion linked here, I also made a video discussing the celestial aspects of this well-known Christmas story (the video also discusses the celestial origins of the Adam and Eve story).
  • Celestial aspects of the Epiphany and related traditions: this came up once during our talk, in reference to the fact that this interview was actually recorded on January 06, 2015.
  • Precession = The Key: here's an old video that I made to try to illustrate the concepts of the solstices and equinoxes, the sun's progress through the zodiac throughout the year (which is really caused by the earth's progress), the concept of precession, and how important all of this is to the ancient myths.
  • One degree in 72 years: what that actually means, when people tell you that precession delays the background stars by one degree every seventy-two years (actually it appears to be closer to 71.6 years, but for encoding precession in myth, 72 is much nicer than 71.6). Seventy-two is an important precessional number -- for more on the concept of precessional numbers, see this postthis post,this post, and this post.
  • The "earth-ship metaphor" and the solstices and equinoxes: a post from way back in 2011, which describes the earth as an old sailing ship that is always "pointed in the same direction," even as it circles the sun. Also mentioned in the interview is how the solstice "pause" is kind of like the pause at the top that you see when a surfer is carving down and then back up a wave and then back down: I didn't fully explain what I was trying to say, so here is a post that shows the "surfing" concept and talks about it.
  • Cross-quarter days: those important stations on the solar year located in between the solstices and equinoxes, which are still recognized in celebrations such as Ground Hog Day and most importantly in Halloween and All Soul's Day. Here's another discussion of the importance of cross-quarter days.
  • Leap year: the guys wanted to spend a little time kicking around the concept of leap years -- crazy!
  • Great circles, ancient sites: links to amazing research done by Jim Alison showing that ancient sites around the world are positioned on great circles, which indicates extremely sophisticated ancient knowledge of the size and shape of our spherical earth.
  • Easter Island and currents from the coasts of Canada and South America: why there may be a connection between the place that is today called Canada and the place that is today called Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui -- and the people of Rapa Nui also called it Te-Pito-o-te-Henua or "the Navel of the World"). This post discusses some of the arguments of Thor Heyerdahl, which have largely been rejected by conventional academia but which continue to receive additional support as more evidence comes to light.
  • How the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film demonstrates the importance of ancient history: at least one of the orangutans in that film clearly knew that ancient history was very different than the story the orangutans were putting out to their society -- and how suppressing the truth of ancient history can be a tool for controlling and suppressing others. Here is another discussion of the importance of that 1968 Planet of the Apes film, and yet another.
  • How the violent and criminal genocide inflicted on the peoples of the Americas may be connected to the suppression of ancient history -- and the suppression of the esoteric shamanic and holographic message of the ancient myths and sacred stories -- which has been going on since at least the fourth century AD. See also this post and this post.
  • Additional posts discussing the massacre at Wounded Knee, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the murder of Tatanka Iyotanke -- Sitting Bull.
  • The celestial foundations of the story of Noah and his three sons: we discussed this story a little bit on the show as well -- I think this one is so important on so many levels.
  • Answers from the land of dreams: how the celestial connections of the story of the three sons of Noah literally "came to me" overnight, without any real effort. Written before I ever heard the Grimerica show with Robert Waggoner, which is an excellent show and very thought-provoking (also seems to fit very well with the shamanic-holographic model of the universe and human experience, which I believe the ancients were trying to convey to us in the celestial system of myth).

During the show, we also briefly mentioned the work of Robert W. Sullivan IV in uncovering the esoteric symbolism present in many Hollywood movies, and I'd like to just state for the record how important I think this kind of research and analysis is, in case I didn't make that clear in the interview. Robert Sullivan demonstrates some terrific connections in his most-recent Grimerica interview -- I especially enjoyed the connection he makes between the name of Luke Skywalker of Star Wars and the sun itself, which is a "Sky Walker" and which gives us lux, or light!

Finally, I also want to say that I personally think that Graham and Darren work really well together in their interviews, and come up with a well-coordinated crossfire of laser-quality questions, each from his own perspective. Everyone should be listening to these podcasts!

One of the most significant and singular aspects of the show is the focus Darren and Graham give to synchronicities, which they have made something of a trademark specialty of Grimerica. The fact that they often discuss synchronicities with their guests has led to the important revelation that many of the visiting researchers, authors, or inventors on their show seem to have been "propelled" or at least assisted in the direction they ended up pursuing by unexpected synchronicities of some sort. 

This is a very important and significant observation, and Graham and Darren deserve credit for bringing it to the forefront and making it a subject of examination. I suspect that such synchronicities are at work, not only in the lives of those who do a lot of research or writing or inventing, but in all of our lives at some point or another -- and by having different guests share their own stories about this phenomenon, it helps us all to realize how common, and how important, synchronicities can be in our lives.

I personally think it also tends to add further support to the idea that this universe, and our human experience in it, is fundamentally shamanic and holographic in nature -- which is just what I believe the ancients were trying to tell us.



here's the YouTube version of the interview, for those who prefer that format (and feel free to share it!):

"Vision A" or "Vision B"

"Vision A" or "Vision B"

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

When Black Elk, a holy man of the Lakota people, expressed the difference between the life before the arrival of the European invasion and after, he said:

Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us. But the Wasichus came, and they have made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds, and always these islands are becoming smaller, for around them surges the gnawing flood of the Wasichus, and it is dirty with lies and greed. Black Elk Speaks, 8.

There is a lot to notice in these two sentences. Black Elk chooses to characterize the difference between the two cultures by saying that his culture saw humanity as part of nature: they lived together with the earth's other creatures like relatives. In contrast, the bringers of the new culture clearly saw themselves as divided from nature, and created what Black Elk describes as "little islands" to physically separate people from the earth's other creatures.

This short passage also implies that directly related to these two opposite views of humanity's place in nature are two opposite views of nature itself: in the first, a vision of abundance, that "there is plenty for them and for us," and in the second, a vision of scarcity and a "gnawing flood [. . .] dirty with lies and greed."

I would argue that in these two sentences, Black Elk has pinpointed the most important negative consequence of the literalist twist that was imposed upon ancient scriptures in Europe (in the time of the Roman Empire) that actually changed their teaching from a message that is closer to the first position Black Elk articulates (we could call this "vision A" for ease of discussion) to the horrific vision of the "gnawing flood" and the ever-shrinking "little islands" described in the second half (we could call this "vision B").

In other words, the ancient scriptures actually articulate "vision A," but at a certain point in history they were twisted into "vision B." 

For example, this previous post discusses the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, as well as the Genesis account of Noah's three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth, and argues that if they are understood allegorically, or esoterically, they clearly convey a message that applies to all men and women equally, and a message that our physical form is only a "coat of skin" and that our common spiritual origin unites us all. Understood this way, they also convey a message that unites humanity with all of nature,  including the infinite starry heavens -- often expressed in the teaching "as above, so below."

However, the same stories when interpreted as describing literal and historic men and women named Adam and Eve, or Noah and his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth, have historically led to all kinds of racist ideologies, and have been used to divide men and women, to elevate one group and devalue another, and even to divide humanity from the other creatures (based on literalistic misinterpretations of the enmity with the serpent, the teachings that man has "dominion" over all the earth and its animals, and the teachings given to Noah about domesticating animals, for example).

In other words, the scriptures that became central to western European culture, and which should be seen as teaching "vision A," were given a literalistic twist at a specific point in history, which led to a culture that was largely guided by "vision B."

In fact, the Biblical scriptures when understood esoterically can be seen as teaching a vision of the natural world, and humanity's place in it, which can be accurately characterized as shamanic. This is because they actually can be shown to be clearly built upon the same foundation as the sacred stories and traditions found around the world, all of which contain clear shamanic elements and teachings.

The literalist takeover of these scriptures, and the campaign to deliberately eliminate texts and teachers who taught an approach which challenged this literalistic "vision B" view of the scriptures, can be demonstrated to have taken place during the years that western historians call the first four centuries AD.

It is very important to understand that, whatever good things western European civilization and culture produced in the centuries that followed (and it cannot be denied that it did produce many good things), this fundamental "vision B" understanding guided much of its development, and that it in fact continues to inform "western civilization" in very powerful and sometimes very destructive ways.

Because, as Black Elk so incisively explains in just two sentences, the vision that shaped "western" thought contains a powerful tendency towards self-imposed division of humanity from nature, as well as antagonistic division between humanity itself. Connected to this division, in Black Elk's view, is a vision of scarcity rather than plenty.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the ongoing influence of this "vision B" attitude better than the rush to create and release genetically-engineered plants and animals into nature. Previous posts have cited ancient philosophers, who wrote prior to the triumph of the literalist takeover, admonishing those whose vision of scarcity led them to horrible treatment of animals and mistrust of nature's bounty -- see for example the arguments of Plutarch and Ovid, both of whom articulate a vision of humanity as related to the animals and to the rest of nature.

Since those posts were written, a new and even more horrific example of what we might call a "runaway vision B" has emerged, with the deliberate creation of genetically-engineered mosquitos, which have already been released en masse in at least two parts of the globe, and which are slated for release in Florida in either January or February of this year (no word yet on whether that has actually taken place already, or if it is set to occur within the next couple weeks).

If there is a better symbol of the terribly misguided decisions that the self-imposed division from nature that "vision B" produces than the decision to genetically alter an insect that regularly feeds on human blood, I don't know what it is -- unless it is the decision to start releasing clouds of them into the wild in an act that can never be un-done.

But just wait a few months and there will probably be a new example even more ominous and un-natural than this one.

It should be starting to become clear to even the most unthinking adherent of the "vision B mindset" that something has gone terribly wrong. Black Elk saw the problem with crystal clarity more than a hundred years ago.

But, the good news is that "vision A" is actually the vision that is at the heart of the shared ancient heritage of all of humanity. It was treacherously supplanted by and replaced with "vision B" in a certain part of the world, in a single culture, many centuries ago -- and the results have been catastrophic for many other cultures around the world in the intervening centuries since that takeover. But if "vision B" could replace "vision A," then that means that there is hope that the process could be reversed -- perhaps even more rapidly than the original switch. 

People can and do change their entire outlook on the world, without violence and sometimes quite rapidly. I know this personally, as I have changed my own vision quite radically within the course of my own life.

The division from nature and from one another described above and in the quotation from Black Elk is clearly a self-imposed separation -- which means that it can also be "self-un-imposed."

We can still listen to the vision that Black Elk shared with the world -- before the gnawing dirty flood of lies and greed covers over the shrinking little islands altogether.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The massacre at Wounded Knee: December 29, 1890 -- and today

The massacre at Wounded Knee: December 29, 1890 -- and today

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

December 29 is the anniversary of the massacre of the Lakota at Wounded Knee by elements of the US Army, which took place in 1890. As painful as it is to read the details of this massacre, it is vitally important to know them. 

It is vitally important so that those whose lives were taken are not forgotten.

It is also vitally important because, as Lakota Holy Man Black Elk explains, a people's dream died there at Wounded Knee.

It is also vitally important because the mass murder that resulted in the crushing of this dream at Wounded Knee is also an example of mass mind control, in that an entire society was needed to support the army that did the killing in gross violation of natural law. It is vitally important that we understand how this could happen, and understand the illusions that were at work to enable members of that society to support those criminal actions, and to enable the soldiers and officers to perpetrate those actions, in gross violation of natural law.

It is also vitally important because the events which led up to the massacre fit into the pattern of centuries-long enmity by the descendants of the western Roman Empire and its literalistic religious and political systems against direct unmediated contact with the spirit realm.

We who are alive today should all consider the details of this massacre, as painful as it is to do so.

Lakota holy man Black Elk (1863 - 1950) describes the massacre at Wounded Knee:

It was now near the end of the Moon of Popping Trees, and I was twenty-seven years old (December, 1890). We heard that Big Foot was coming down from the Badlands with nearly four hundred people. Some of these were from Sitting Bull's band. They had run away when Sitting Bull was killed, and joined Big Foot on Good River. There were only about a hundred warriors in this band, and all the others were women and children and some old men. They were all starving and freezing, and Big Foot was so sick they had to bring him along in a pony drag. They had all run away to hide in the Badlands, and they were coming in now because they were starving and freezing. When they crossed Smoky Earth River, they followed up Medicine Root Creek to its head. Soldiers were over there looking for them. The soldiers had everything and were not freezing and starving. Near Porcupine Butte the soldiers came up to the Big Foots, and they surrendered and went along with the soldiers to Wounded Knee Creek where the Brennan store is now.
It was in the evening when we heard that the Big Foots were camped over there with the soldiers, about fifteen miles by the old road from where we were. It was the next morning (December 29, 1890) that something terrible happened.
[. . .]
I heard from my friend, Dog Chief, how the troubled started, and he was right there by Yellow Bird when it happened. This is the way it was:
In the morning the soldiers began to take all the guns away from the Big Foots, who were camped in the flat below the little hill where the monument and burying ground are now. The people had stacked most of their guns, and even their knives, by the tepee where Big Foot was lying sick. Soldiers were on the little hill and all around, and there were soldiers across the dry gulch to the south and over east along Wounded Knee Creek too. The people were nearly surrounded, and the wagon-guns were pointing at them.
Some had not yet given up their guns, and so the soldiers were searching all the tepees, throwing things around and poking into everything. There was a man called Yellow Bird, and he and another man were standing in front of the tepee where Big Foot was lying sick. They had white sheets around and over them, and eyeholes to look through, and they had guns under these. An officer came to search them. He took the other man's gun, and the started to take Yellow Bird's. But Yellow Bird would not let go. He wrestled with the officer, and while they were wrestling, the gun went off and killed the officer. Wasichus and some others have said he meant to do this, but Dog Chief was standing right there, and he told me it was not so. As soon as the gun went off, Dog Chief told me, an officer shot and killed Big Foot who was lying sick inside the tepee. 
Then suddenly nobody knew what was happening, except that the soldiers were all shooting and the wagon-guns began going off right in among the people.
Many were shot down right there. The women and children ran into the gulch and up west, dropping all the time, for the soldiers shot them as they ran. There were only about a hundred warriors and there were nearly five hundred soldiers. The warriors rushed to where they had piled their guns and knives. They fought the soldiers with only their hands until they got their guns. 
Dog Chief saw Yellow Bird run into a tepee with his gun, and from there he killed soldiers until the tepee caught fire. Then he died full of bullets.
It was a good winter day when all this happened. The sun was shining. But after the soldiers marched away from their dirty work, a heavy snow began to fall. The wind came up in the night. There was a big blizzard, and it grew very cold. The snow drifted deep in the crooked gulch, and it was one long grave of butchered women and children and babies, who had never done any harm and were only trying to run away. Black Elk Speaks, 194 - 201.

The basic details of the massacre described above are supported by the account of contemporary James Mooney, in his report published in 1896:

On the morning of December 29, 1890, preparations were made to disarm the Indians preparatory to taking them to the agency and thence to the railroad. In obedience to instructions the Indians had pitched their tipis on the open plain a short distance west of the creek and surrounded on all sides by the soldiers. In the center of the camp the Indians had hoisted a white flag as a sign of peace and a guarantee of safety. Behind them was a dry ravine running into the creek, and on a slight rise in the front was posted the battery of four Hotchkiss machine guns, trained directly on the Indian camp. In front, behind, and on both flanks of the camp were posted the various troops of cavalry, a portion of the two troops, together with the Indian scouts, being dismounted and drawn up in front of the Indians at the distance of only a few yards from them. Big Foot himself was ill of pneumonia in his tipi, and Colonel Forsyth, who had taken command as senior officer, had provided a tent warmed with a camp stove for his reception.
Shortly after 8 oclock in the morning the warriors were ordered to come out from the tipis and deliver their arms. They came forward and seated themselves on the ground in front of the troops. [. . .] It is said one of the searchers now attempted to raise the blanket of a warrior. Suddenly Yellow Bird stooped down and threw a handful of dust into the air, when, as if this were the signal, a young Indian, said to have been Black Fox from Cheyenne river, drew a rifle from under his blanket and fired at the soldiers, who instantly replied with a volley directly into the crowd of warriors and so near that their guns were almost touching. From the number of sticks set up by the Indians to mark where the dead fell, as seen by the author a year later, this one volley must have killed nearly half the warriors. [. . .]
At the first volley the Hotchkiss guns trained on the camp opened fire and sent a storm of shells and bullets among the women and children, who had gathered in front of the tipis to watch the unusual spectacle of military display. The guns poured in 2-pound explosive shells at the rate of nearly fifty per minute, mowing down everything alive. The terrible effect may be judged from the fact that one woman survivor, Blue Whirlwind, with whom the author conversed, received fourteen wounds, while each of her two little boys was also wounded by her side. In a few minutes 200 Indian men, women, and children, with 60 soldiers, were lying dead and wounded on the ground, the tipis had been torn down by the shells and some of them were burning above the helpless wounded, and the surviving Indians were flying in wild panic to the shelter of the ravine, pursued by hundreds of maddened soldiers and followed up by a raking fire from the Hotchkiss guns, which had been moved into position to sweep the ravine.
There can be no question that the pursuit was simply a massacre, where fleeing women, with infants in their arms, were shot down after resistance had ceased and when almost every warrior was stretched dead or dying on the ground. On this point such a careful writer as Herbert Welsh says: "From the fact that so many women and children were killed, and that their bodies were found far from the scene of action, and as though they were shot down while flying, it would look as though blind rage had been at work, in striking contrast to the moderation of the Indian police at the Sitting Bull fight when they were assailed by women" (Welsh, 3). The testimony of American Horse and other friendlies is strong in the same direction (see page 839). Commissioner Morgan in his official report says that "Most of the men, including Big Foot, were killed around his tent, where he lay sick. The bodies of the women and children were scattered along a distance of two miles from the scene of the encounter" (Comr., 35). The Ghost-Dance Religion and Wounded Knee, 869 - 870.

The diagram below from Mooney's report (unnumbered pages between 868 and 869) shows the gulch and the position of the Sioux and the soldiers, as well as the Hotchkiss guns upon a commanding rise. The flight along the gulley continued to the west, off of the page to the left.

From the descriptions above, one from Black Elk and one from Mooney and both based upon conversations with those present, it is fairly clear that one of the Lakota fired first, but then that noncombatants were brutally slaughtered, and that the slaughter went to undeniably criminal lengths, to the point of chasing down women and children to distances of up to two miles -- women and children who were trying to escape the massacre and were mercilessly tracked down and butchered.

While some might point to the fact of one of the Lakota firing first and argue that this situation was a "complicated" one, and one which is difficult to judge from this remove of over 100 years, there is more to the story which effectively removes such arguments. 

The band of Lakota who were "surrendering" consisted of a group that had fled from the reservations, where they had been rounded up and imprisoned, into the Badlands. It was one of many such groups who had fled into the Badlands that winter. The situation is described in this previous post, regarding the death of Lakota holy man Tatanka Iyotanke, Sitting Bull. That post also includes a map showing the various agencies, with the Badlands in between the agencies in the north and in the south. 

The reason that so many Lakota were fleeing the reservations into the Badlands, despite the bitter cold of the winter, was the sudden arrival of thousands of federal troops -- at least 3,000 in number -- a development that was understandably terrifying to the Sioux who had been rounded up and forced onto the reservations. Even before they fled into the Badlands, they had good reason to be afraid of the possible consequences of the arrival of so many soldiers. The massacre at Wounded Knee shows that their fears were well-founded.

And what precipitated the deployment of so many soldiers? 

As that previous post regarding the killing of Sitting Bull explains, the soldiers were called in to prevent the Lakota from participating in the Ghost Dance too frequently. Mooney provides plenty of detail regarding the escalation in tension that eventually led to the massive influx of federal troops, which caused hundreds to flee into the Badlands. He notes that the agents in charge of the individual reservations were nearly unanimous in their opinion that the Ghost Dance was not in any way violent, nor was it seen as a prelude to violence. There are plenty of written accounts demonstrating that its precepts, in fact, called for an end to making war against the whites (see for example Mooney, 780 - 783). But the US government wanted it curtailed.

Black Elk recalls:

While these things were happening, the summer (1890) was getting old. I did not then know all that was going on at other places, but some things I heard, and much more I heard later.
When Good Thunder and Kicking Bear came back in the spring from seeing the Wanekia, the Wasichus at Pine Ridge put them in prison awhile, and then let them go. This showed the Wasichus were afraid of something. In the Moon of Black Cherries (August) many people were dancing at No Water's Camp on Clay Creek, and the agent came and told them to stop dancing. They would not stop, and they said they would fight for their religion if they had to do it. The agent went away, and they kept on dancing. They called him Young-Man-Afraid-of-Lakotas.
Later, I heard that the Brules were dancing over east of us; and then I heard that Big Foot's people were dancing on the Good River reservation; also that Kicking Bear had gone to Sitting Bull's camp on Grand River, and that the people were dancing there too. Word came to us that the Indians were beginning to dance everywhere.
The people were hungry and in despair, and many believed in the good new world that was coming. The Wasichus gave us less than half the beef cattle they promised us in the treaty, and these cattle were very poor. For a while our people would not take the cattle, because there were so few of them and they were so poor. But afterwhile they had to take them or starve to death. So we got more lies than cattle, and we could not eat lies. When the agent told the people to quit dancing, their hearts were bad.
[. . .]
When I cam back from the Brules, the weather was getting cold. Many of the Brules came along when I came back, and joined the Ogalalas in the dancing on Wounded Knee. We heard that there were soldiers at Pine Ridge and that others were coming all the time. Then one morning we heard that the soldiers were marching toward us, so we broke camp and moved west to Grass Creek. From there we went to White Clay and camped awhile and danced. 
There came to us Fire Thunder, Red Wound and Young American Horse with a message from the soldiers that this matter of the ghost dance must be looked into, and that there should be rulings over it; and that they did not mean to take the dance away from us. But could we believe anything the Wasichus ever said to us? They spoke with forked tongues.
We moved in closer to Pine Ridge and camped. Many soldiers were there now, and what were they there for?
There was a big meeting with the agent, but I did not go to hear. He made a ruling that we could dance three days every moon, and the rest of the time we should go and make a living for ourselves somehow. He did not say how we could do that. But the people agreed to this. 191 - 193.

It should be noted that it was not alleged that the Ghost Dance was violent, or a precursor to violence. So, did the agents of the US government have a right to prohibit other men and women from participating in it?  What gives anyone legitimate permission to stop another person from dancing if he or she wishes to do so? The principles of natural law explain that people do not suddenly obtain legitimate permission to stop others from doing things simply by virtue of being called  an agent of a government. People have a right (and a duty) at all times to stop violence -- this is true whether or not they are acting in a position as an agent of government. But they do not have a right to stop behavior of others which is not violent, simply because they do not like it or think that it is unproductive. This becomes even more obvious if that behavior is part of the religious expression of another person, although there is no right to stop it either way.

The Constitution of the United States as originally enacted and ratified contains a clear statement acknowledging this inherent right of men and women, and denying the legitimacy of the government to infringe upon that inherent right. It is called the First Amendment and it declares: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The agents of the US government, in seeking to prohibit the right of peaceable assembly and the free exercise of religion of the men and women whom the government had forced onto the agencies, were clearly acting in all violation of natural law, and of the Constitution's recognition of the rights of individuals under natural law. The decision to deploy federal troops to back up these unconstitutional and unlawful and hence tyrannical efforts led directly to the flight of the Sioux into the Badlands despite the freezing conditions, and ultimately to the massacre at Wounded Knee as well.

It should be clear from the foregoing discussion that this opposition to the Ghost Dance, which involved the inducement of trance-conditions in large numbers of the participants, who afterwards would almost universally report visions of contact with the spirit world (see discussion in this previous post) fits into the pattern of opposition to direct contact with the spirit world that has characterized "the west" since the days of the western Roman Empire, when the Emperor Theodosius shut down the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Temple and Oracle at Delphi.

This raises the question of whether or not someone in western culture secretly believes that activities such as the Ghost Dance actually have an impact upon the spirit world, as those who participated in the Ghost Dance believed it to have. Note that Black Elk concluded from the opposition the US government demonstrated against the Ghost Dance: "This showed the Wasichus were afraid of something."

This opposition can be demonstrated to continue to this day. It can also be demonstrated to have frequently employed violence in its opposition to this direct contact with the spirit world (this direct contact with the spirit world being a hallmark of the shamanic worldview and of shamanic cultures). In addition to violence, the enemies of the shamanic can be shown to use a full spectrum assault on the shamanic culture that they wish to eradicate. This full-spectrum assault was employed against the Native peoples of the Americas with devastating effect.

After describing the events at Wounded Knee, Black Elk ends his narrative with these words:

And so it was all over.
I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.
And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, -- you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead. 207.

But Black Elk has not "done nothing." He has articulated his great vision, and shared it with the world. And he has testified to the criminal acts that were perpetrated against the men and women and children of his people, and by extension against the men and women and children of many other peoples around the world, not only in the Americas but also in Europe, in Africa, India, Asia, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific by those under the spell of the same illusions that enabled entire societies to support and even cheer for the destruction of the Native American cultures.

The question individuals living today must ask is: How can anyone look at such criminal actions and argue that they are excusable? 

What are the illusions that fool people into supporting criminal behavior on such a scale?

And to what extent are men and women today -- even men and women who might look back on the criminal acts perpetrated against the Lakota and the other peoples of the Americas in past decades or centuries -- buying into new illusions which hypnotize them into supporting other crimes that fall into this same hideous pattern, and which proclaim that the Massacre at Wounded Knee is not just an event from the distant past, but a terrible sign which speaks as loudly today as it did so many moons ago?

Direct unmediated access to the sacred realm

Direct unmediated access to the sacred realm

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The previous two posts have examined the assertion of Alvin Boyd Kuhn that the sacred scriptures and traditions of humanity cannot be fully grasped without the understanding that they do not describe the "experiences of people not ourselves" but rather that they are meant to convey "that which is our living experience at all times." They do not describe "incidents of a remote epoch" or time of legends, but rather they describe "the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth" (see here and here).

This understanding leads directly to the conclusion that, if the sacred stories are meant to describe "our living experience at all times," then we as individuals actually have access to the reality of the super-material world at all times, and we have access to it immediately: that is to say, without the mediation of any other human being. 

Note that this conclusion is quite the opposite conclusion of that taught by the literalist approach taken by the west for the past seventeen hundred years, which teaches that the stories are meant to be understood as literally describing the experience of someone else living in some other time. If the myths are about someone else, then it stands to reason that we might require a go-between to intercede between us and them. If the stories are actually about us, about our experience of taking on flesh to experience this material realm without losing our inherent nativity in that realm of spirit from which we came and to which we will return, then we have as much right to direct access to our native realm as any alleged mediator can claim.

There is abundant evidence that, prior to the dawn of literalist Christianity, the fundamental importance of the individual's capacity for direct communication with the realm of the gods was well understood. For instance, in the Mysteries of Eleusis, where men and women experienced direct contact with the realm of the gods and of which we have numerous ancient accounts by participants who reported that it changed their life, there is no evidence that any mediator tried to "explain" the meaning of what the participant experienced directly, and every evidence that whatever happened during the life-altering experience was between the gods and each individual man or woman who went through the ritual.

There is further abundant evidence that, in the lands where literalist Christianity did not stamp out the traditions of direct contact with the realm of the gods, the idea that each and every individual has the capacity for direct and unmediated access to the other world was almost universal.

In his extended examination of the subject in his landmark book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1951), Mircea Eliade explains that, "A shaman is a man who has immediate, concrete experiences with gods and spirits; he sees them face to face, he talks with them, prays to them, implores them [ . . .]" (88). Note that this translation may sound to us today as though Eliade was only talking about "men," but this is almost certainly a function of the way this passage was translated from the original French: it is quite clear from Eliade's text that he would include both men and women in this description, and that shamanism has been and continues to be practiced around the world by both men and women. 

Further, it is quite clear that, while Eliade would certainly assert that the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that in shamanic cultures there are specific individuals who are marked out and distinguished as shamans by calling, in shamanic cultures there is a universal understanding that direct contact with the spirit world is available to everyone. He cites extensive evidence to support the conclusion that "nowhere does the shaman monopolize" the access to such direct contact (297). "Every individual" can seek contact with "certain tutelary or helping 'spirits'" (297). In other words, each and every man and woman has access to teaching (or tutelage) which comes, not from other human beings, but directly from the realm of the spirits or gods. Elsewhere, he writes that "Besides the shamans, any Eskimo can consult the spirits" (296). 

This conclusion is borne out by other testimony, such as the extremely important record of the wisdom of the Lakota holy man Black Elk, who describes the power of vision which Crazy Horse received from the spirit realm, a vision which gave him power throughout his life at important times, even though by all accounts Crazy Horse himself was not technically a "shaman" as his primary calling (see previous discussions here and here). 

Those shamanic practitioners today who have decades of personal experience communicating with the spirit world often express the importance of the direct and unmediated contact with the spirit world available to each and every individual. 

In Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation (2010), shamanic teacher Sandra Ingerman says:  

[. . .] first and foremost, shamanism has always been a practice in which each practitioner gets unique directions and guidance from their helping spirits -- those same transpersonal beings that are often referred to as spirit guides and angels. [. . .]
There is [. . .] a pervasive tendency for people to give their power away to others. Such seekers often desire to find a teacher who will act as an intermediary between themselves and their helping spirits --  a trait that is more characteristic of our organized religions in which bureaucratized priesthoods stand between us and the sacred realms. This is not typical of the path of shamanism and it is not a path of direct revelation. x - xi.

In the same book, shamanic teacher Hank Wesselman relates a similar emphasis on direct revelation from his own decades of experience:

Perhaps the most fundamental shamanic principle from which everyone may benefit is that in the shaman's practice, there is no hierarchy or set of dogmas handed down to supplicants from some higher religious authority complex. Shamanism is the path of immediate and direct personal contact with Spirit, deeply intuitive, and not subject to definition, censorship, or judgment by others. On this path, each seeker has access to this transcendent connection and all that this provides. xix.

And again, shamanic teacher Michael Drake writes in the beginning of his book The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming (2009):

No intermediary such as the church or priesthood is needed to access personal revelation and spiritual experience. All dimensions of reality and the mystical knowledge and powers they contain are available to one who practices shamanism. Every shamanic practitioner becomes his or her own teacher, priest, and prophet. Shamanic practice brings one ultimate power over one's own life and the power to help others do the same. 9.

From the above discussion, it should be evident that this tradition of direct revelation is directly empowering to each individual man and woman -- and that this empowerment is completely in line with the assertion that the sacred traditions of the human race are in fact meant to describe the living experience of each individual soul. It would not be too great a stretch to assert that this understanding of the availability of direct and unmediated access to the transcendent is profoundly antithetical to the concept of "mind control" -- while the opposite teaching that we must be dependent upon others who will act as our intermediaries tends to lend itself to mind control and the "giving away of our power to others."

In fact, the previous post entitled "Crazy Horse against mind control" discussed the high regard for  human dignity and freedom exemplified by individuals such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, who each clearly had a strong personal understanding of direct access to the spirit world.

Over a hundred years ago, self-taught scholar Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907) articulated the contrast between direct revelation and mediated revelation, and the threat that direct revelation posed to those who wish to proclaim their own monopoly on revelation, and to those who wish to use that self-proclaimed monopoly to inflict violence upon other men and women. In an essay entitled "Man in search of his soul during fifty thousand years, and how he found it!"

Massey writes that in ancient times, before the literalist doctrine took over the west, the immortality of the soul was not believed as an article of faith, but rather it was known from the actual experience of personal contact with and travel to the spirit world -- what Eliade carefully defined as the distinguishing feature of the shamanic. Massey writes:

So Nirvana becomes a present possession to the Esoteric Buddhist, because in trance he can enter the eternal state. 
This Gnosis included that mystery of transformation which was the change spoken of by Paul, when he exclaimed -- "Behold, I tell you a mystery," "We shall not entirely sleep, we shall be transformed!" according to the mystery that was revealed to him in the state of trance. This was the transformation which finally established the existence of a spiritual entity that could be detached, more or less, from the bodily conditions for the time being in life, and, as was finally held, for evermore in death. [. . .]
What do you think is the use of telling the adept, whether the Hindu Buddhist, the African Seer, or the Finnic Magician, who experiences his "Tulla-intoon," or supra-human ecstasy, that he must live by faith, or be saved by belief? He will reply that he lives by knowledge, and walks by the open sight; and that another life is thus demonstrated to him in this. As for death, the practical Gnostic will tell you, he sees through it, and death itself is no more for him! Such have no doubt, because they know. The Mosaic and other sacred writings contain no annunciation of a mere doctrine of immortality, and the fact has excited constant wonder amongst the uninstructed. But the subject was not told of old, as matter of written precepts, but as matter of fact; it was a natural reality, not a manufactured idealism. It was not the promise of immortality that was set forth, or needed, when a demonstration was considered attainable in the mysteries of the abnormal human conditions, which were once common enough to be considered a known part of nature!

Massey makes it quite clear that this direct access to the spirit world, and to direct personal knowledge (as opposed to "faith" or "belief") came from what today we typically indicate by the practice of the shamanic: "by those who could enter the abnormal conditions, and be as spirits among spirits." 

He then makes clear that the teachings of literalist Christianity, which he asserts to be built upon a misinterpretation of ancient Egyptian teachings, stand in direct opposition to this universal possession of the pre-Christian understanding:

What has the Christian Church done with the human soul, which was an assured possession of the pre-Christian religions? It was handed over to their keeping and they have lost it! They have acted exactly like the dog in Aesop's fable -- who, seeing the likeness of the shoulder of mutton reflected in the water, dropped the substance which he held in his mouth, and plunged in to try and seize its shadow! They substituted a phantom of faith for the knowledge of phenomena! Hence their deadly enmity against the Gnostics, the men who knew. [. . .] They parted company with nature, and cut themselves adrift from the ground of phenomenal fact. They became the murderous enemies of the ancient spiritism which had demonstrated the existence and continuity of the soul and [which had] offered evidence of another life on the sole ground of fact to be found in nature. And ever since they have waged a ceaseless warfare against the phenomena and the agents -- which are as live and active to-day as they were in any time past.

But note that Massey in the passage quoted above clearly argues that the ancient scriptures -- including those he calls "the Mosaic and other sacred writings" -- were all originally shamanic in nature: they all actually teach the direct access of the soul to the spirit-world, the direct unmediated experience by the individual in this life to the transcendent (rather than the description of the transcendent and the requirement to accept it on faith). And note that he asserts at the end of the passages quoted that the phenomena of direct contact, and the practice of such direct contact by shamanic personages or "agents," is as alive today as ever in the past.

In fact, I believe that it can be convincingly demonstrated that all the world's ancient sacred scriptures and traditions, from dynastic Egypt to the Lakota or the Inuit, and from the Norse myths to the "Mosaic scriptures," can be seen as being shamanic in nature, and that direct access to the divine is taught by all of them. 

I also believe that this conclusion directly flows from an understanding that the world's ancient myths and sacred stories are telling the story of each and every human soul, and were not originally intended to be understood in a primarily literalistic way. I believe that as we again begin to understand them in this light, we will become more aware of the birthright of each and every individual to direct and unmediated access to the transcendent, and that this in turn cannot but help to be a powerful antidote to mind control, violence, and an artificial and disastrous disconnection from nature. 

The death of Sitting Bull

The death of Sitting Bull

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

On this day, December 15th, in the year 1890, the Lakota holy man Tatanka Iyotanke -- Sitting Bull -- was killed.

He was killed during a surprise pre-dawn arrest at the Standing Rock Agency, where he had been allowed to live after two years of imprisonment following his surrender. 

Sitting Bull had been one of the last leaders to hold out against being forced to abandon the traditional ways of his people and consent to being forced to live on an agency by the representatives of the government of the US, after the shameful and deceptive violation of treaty after treaty by the same government of the US. 

The most important of the treaties which the US government blatantly reneged upon was the treaty of 1868, described in this previous post, which was inked before a military expedition led by George Custer in 1874 confirmed the reports of gold in the sacred Black Hills region -- after which the US government completely changed its tune and basically sought to remove any opposition to their seizure of the lands that had been granted in the treaty of 1868. 

That objective led to the ultimatum signed by President Grant ordering all Indians onto agencies prior to a stated deadline of January 31, 1876. When runners carrying this message came to Sitting Bull's camp, he politely said he didn't feel like it just then, perhaps he would consider the idea sometime in the future. He also returned the similar demands sent to him by General Custer, along with the message that he did not want to fight but to be left alone. 

During the spring and early summer of 1876, more and more Lakota and members of allied nations left the reservations to join Sitting Bull and the other leaders who had not come in. In the big Sun Dance held along the Rosebud in early June of 1876, Sitting Bull danced for eighteen hours straight -- into the night and all through the next morning -- and ultimately went into a trance or unconscious state in which he was granted a vision of US army soldiers falling into his camp "like grasshoppers," with their heads down and their hats falling off, and a voice declaring "I give you these because they have no ears." 

This vision electrified the gathered warriors, who subsequently defeated Custer's attack in late June and annihilated most of his forces, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

After that battle, Sitting Bull continued to lead a band who refused to go in to the agencies for five years, through bitter winters and diminishing access to buffalo and the means of survival, and finally hunger and cold forced him to give up his dream of continuing the old way of life and surrender to agents of the US.

In Crazy Horse and Custer (1975), Stephen A. Ambrose describes the shameful treatment that he received after his surrender in 1881:

He was held prisoner at Fort Randall, South Dakota, for two years; in 1883 he was allowed to join the Hunkpapas at Standing Rock Agency in North Dakota. There he and his people began to starve because of government neglect. Sitting Bull rose to address one set of stuffed-shirt commissioners from Washington and said, "It is your own doing that I am here; you sent me here and advised me to live as you do, and it is not right for me to live in poverty." Senator John A. Logan of Illinois told him to sit down, that he had no right to speak, because he had "no following, no power, no control, and no right to control." 480.

In October of 1890, Sitting Bull joined the Ghost Dance movement, which was spreading through the western Sioux and which taught that by performing a five-day ritual dance which involved inducing trance-conditions, spirits of the departed would be moved to return from the west, driving the whites from the Native American lands, and initiating a time of peace and plenty and a return to the old ways. The dancing and the fervor that the Ghost Dance religion incited greatly worried the government agents in charge of the agencies, who generally opposed it and in some cases tried to limit it or suppress it as much as they could.

As James Mooney (1861 - 1921) explains in his detailed contemporary examination of the Ghost Dance religion and the subsequent massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 (which was connected to the US government's suppression of the Ghost Dance), the Ghost Dance leader Mato Wanatake -- Kicking Bear -- came to the Standing Rock agency on October 09, 1890 at the invitation of Sitting Bull to inaugurate the dance there. 

Mooney states that although the agents in charge of the various reservations were against the Ghost Dance itself, they did not see it as a precursor to violence. In fact, in May of 1890, a settler living in Pierre, South Daktoa had sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior John Willock Noble saying that he had information that the Sioux were secretly planning a violent outbreak, but when this letter was forwarded to the agents on the various agencies, "They promptly and unanimously replied that there was no ground for apprehension, that the Indians were peaceably disposed, and that there was no undue excitement beyond that occasioned by the rumors of a messiah in the west" (813).

Describing Agent James McCloughlin of the Standing Rock agency, where Sitting Bull was living in 1890, Mooney says:

McLaughlin, the veteran agent of Standing Rock, who probably knew the Sioux better than any other white man having official relations with them, states that among his people there was nothing in word or action to justify such a suspicion, and that he did not believe such an imprudent step was seriously contemplated by any of the tribe, and concludes by saying that he has every confidence in the good intentions of the Sioux as a people, that they would not be the aggressors in any hostile act, and that if justice were only done them no uneasiness need be entertained. He complains, however, of the evil influence exercised by Sitting Bull and a few other malcontents attached to his agency and advises their removal from among the Indians. 843 - 844.

However, in the same year (1890), official records indicate that the beef ration issued to the American Indians on the reservation, who were now dependent on the US government for their food having been denied their previous way of life, was cut by more than 50% of the levels that were stipulated in the treaties and that had been issued in the previous years (Mooney 845). At the Pine Ridge agency, Mooney reports that after repeated requests brought no change, "at last in the summer of 1890 the Indians at Pine Ridge made the first actual demonstration by refusing to accept the deficient issue and making threats against the agent" (845). 

At the same time, the Ghost Dance was spreading amidst these conditions of hopelessness and frustration, first among the agencies located to the south of the Standing Rock agency where Sitting Bull and the Hunkpapa were located, and the agents began to become alarmed and order it to stop. While they obeyed at first, one of the Lakota Ghost Dance leaders, Tatanka Ptecela (Short Bull) of the Sicangu or Brule said that, due to the interference with what they saw as their proper affairs, the time of the arrival of the spirit host would be moved forward, that the dancers from the various agencies should meet at a single location to assist the process by dancing all together, and that the dancing should continue even if soldiers were brought in to stop it (849). 

The arrival in October of the Ghost Dance leader Kicking Bear at the Standing Rock agency where he joined with Sitting Bull in initiating the dance there alarmed some of the agents still further. In response, Agent McCloughlin went in person to Sitting Bull, and in the words of Mooney "attempted to reason with the Indians on the absurdity of their beliefs. In reply, Sitting Bull proposed that they should both go with competent attendants to the country of the messiah and see and question him for themselves" (849). Mooney tersely explains, "The proposition was not accepted" (849).

Feeling that the situation was getting out of control, some of the less experienced agents began petitioning the War Department for federal troops, and in November of 1890 troops were dispatched from western forts to each of the agencies. Alarmed and in fear of an impending massacre, Kicking Bear, Short Bull, and others departed at the first appearance of the troops for the Badlands region located between the Pine Ridge and Rose Bud agencies and the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock agencies:

Mooney states that: "From the concurrent testimony of all the witnesses, including Indian Commissioner Morgan and the Indians themselves, this flight to the Bad Lands was not properly a hostile movement, but was a stampede caused by panic at the appearance of troops" (851 - 852). Commissioner Morgan notes that they took with them their women and children, and that during the flight to the Badlands, "no warlike demonstrations were made, no violence was done to any white settlers, nor was there any cohesion or organization among the Indians themselves" (cited in Mooney, 852).

Sitting Bull was still at his cabin home within the bounds of the Standing Rock agency. Mooney reports that Agent McLaughlin of the Standing Rock agency, "within whose jurisdiction he was," stated in writing as of November 22 that Sitting Bull did not need to be arrested at that time, but that they could afford to wait to see what would happen and arrest him later if necessary (852), but the federal military authorities had now preempted his authority and on December 12 the military order was given to Colonel William Drum to personally supervise the arrest, and to act in coordination with Agent McLaughlin (855). 

Mooney relates what happened next:

On consultation between the commandant and the agent, who were in full accord, it was decided to make the arrest on the 20th, when most of the Indians would be down at the agency for rations, and there would consequently be less danger of a conflict at the camp. On the 14th, however, late Sunday afternoon, a courier came from Grand river with a message from Mr. Carignan, the teacher of the Indian school, sating, on information given by the police, that an invitation had just come from Pine Ridge to Sitting Bull asking him to go there, as God was about to appear. Sitting Bull was determined to go, and sent a request to the agent for permission, but in the meantime had completed preparations to go anyhow in case permission was refused. With this intention it was further stated that he had his horses already selected for a long and hard ride, and the police urgently asked to be allowed to arrest him at once, as it would be a difficult matter to overtake him after he had once started. 
It was necessary to act immediately, and arrangements were made between Colonel Drum and Agent McLaughlin to attempt the arrest at daylight the next morning, December 15. The arrest was to be made by the Indian police, assisted, if necessary, by a detachment of troops, who were to follow within supporting distance. 855.

Forty-three agency policemen (Native Americans) and about 100 troops of the 8th Cavalry along with a Hotchkiss gun arrived at Sitting Bull's camp just before daybreak. Mooney narrates:

At daybreak on Monday morning, December 15, 1890, the police and volunteers, 43 in number, under command of Lieutenant Bull Head, a cool and reliable man, surrounded Sitting Bull's house. He had two log cabins, a few rods apart, and to make sure of their man, eight of the police entered one house and ten went into the other, while the rest remained on guard outside. They found him asleep on the floor in the larger house. He was aroused and told he was a prisoner and must go to the agency. He made no objection, but said "All right; I will dress and go with you." He then sent one of his wives to the other house for some clothes he desired to wear, and asked to have his favorite horse saddled for him to ride, which was done by one of the police. On looking about the room two rifles and several knives were found and taken by the police. While dressing, he apparently changed his mind and began abusing the police for disturbing him, to which they made no reply. While this was going on inside, his followers, to the number of perhaps 150, were congregating about the house outside and by the time he was dressed an excited crowd of Indians had the police entirely surrounded and were pressing them to the wall. On being brought out, Sitting Bull became greatly excited and refused to go, and called on his followers to rescue him. Lieutenant Bull Head and Sergeant Shave Head were standing on each side of him, with Second Sergeant Red Tomahawk guarding behind, while the rest of the police were trying to clear the way in front, when one of Sitting Bull's followers, Catch-the-Bear, fired and shot Lieutenant Bull Head in the side. Bull Head at once turned and sent a bullet into the body of Sitting Bull, who was also shot through the head at the same moment by Red Tomahawk. 857.

Thus ended the earthly sojourn of Tatanka Iyotanke.

He was shot during an arrest made to prevent him from making a visit to the Pine Ridge agency, a visit he had asked official permission through proper channels to be allowed to make, ostensibly for religious purposes.  

Mooney reflects upon the significance of his life:

Thus died Tata'nke I'yota'nke, Sitting Bull, the great medicine-man of the Sioux, on the morning of December 15, 1890, aged about 56 years. He belonged to the Uncpapa division of the Teton Sioux. Although a priest rather than a chief, he had gained a reputation in his early years by organizing and leading war parties, and became prominent by his participation in the battle of the Little Bighorn, in Montana, on June 25, 1876, by which Custer's command was wiped out of existence. Being pursued by General Terry, Sitting Bull and his band made their escape northward into Canada, where they remained until 1881, when he surrendered, through the mediation of the Canadian authorities, on a promise of pardon. To obtain subsistence while in Canada, his people had been obliged to sell almost all they possessed, including their firearms, so that they returned to their old homes in an impoverished condition. After confinement as a prisoner of war until 1883, Sitting Bull took up his residence on Grand river, where he remained until he met his death. Here he continued to be the leader of the opposition to civilization and the white man, and his camp became the rallying point for the dissatisfied conservative element that clung to the old order of things, and felt that innovation meant the destruction of their race. For seven years he had steadily opposed the treaty by which the great Sioux reservation was at last broken up in 1889. After the treaty had been signed by the requisite number to make it a law, he was asked by a white man what the Indians thought about it. With a burst of passionate indignation he replied, "Indians! There are no Indians left now but me." However misguided he may have been in thus continuing a losing fight against the inevitable, it is possible that from the Indian point of view he may have been their patriot as he was their high priest. He has been mercilessly denounced as a bad man and a liar; but there can be no doubt that he was honest in his hatred of the withes, and his breaking of the peace pipe, saying that he "wanted to fight and wanted to die," showed that he was no coward. But he represented the past. His influence was incompatible with progress, and his death marks an era in the civilization of the Sioux. In the language of General Miles, "His tragic fate was but the ending of a tragic life. Since the days of Pontiac, Tecumseh, and Red Jacket no Indian has had the power of drawing to him so large a following of his race and molding and wielding it against the authority of the United States, or of inspiring it with greater animosity against the white race and civilization." 860 - 861.

Mooney's defense of Sitting Bull was, as he says in the passage above, unusual at the time that he was writing (1895 or 1896 -- it was published in 1896), at a time when Sitting Bull was often being "mercilessly denounced." 

Nevertheless, while seeing very clearly the tragedy of Sitting Bull's life and its mirroring of the tragedy of the destruction of his people's way of life, the above passage does indicate some of the ways that Mooney himself may have rationalized to himself the clearly criminal actions that were employed against the Lakota and the other American Indians whom Mooney himself clearly respected and whose way of life Mooney shows clear appreciation for throughout his writings. Mooney explicitly states that the destruction of the Native American way of life was "inevitable" and that their way of life was basically "incompatible with progress." 

Both of these excuses can be seen as a way of attempting to rationalize or soften or veil the raw injustice of the genocide that was inflicted upon the Native American culture during this period of history. An atrocity cannot be excused by an appeal to fictional fabrications such as "inevitability" or "progress." This is a revealing example of what I believe can be broadly labeled "mind control," using an ideology to mask violation of what would normally be recognized as criminal violations or atrocities, and even getting people to condone these violations and atrocities and say that they are actually excusable or even commendable.

General Miles reveals another example which he apparently used himself, to help him to rationalize these crimes: "civilization." According to this concept, the rights of the Native Americans apparently had to be trampled upon because their rights were getting in the way of "civilization."

While Agent McLaughlin, who comes across in Mooney's account as a fairly sympathetic individual, one who did not believe in the need for federal troops to be deployed nor for the arrest of Sitting Bull during the time that others were fleeing to the Badlands, described Sitting Bull as a "malcontent" who had an "evil influence" over "other malcontents," it is not apparent that Sitting Bull actually violated natural universal law in any of the main outlines of his life. The actual resistance by the Lakota and other nations to the incursions of the army which culminated in the annihilation of Custer and his forces at the Little Bighorn can and should be seen as a justifiable resistance to an armed invasion, by troops who had perpetrated numerous massacres of women and children in surprise attacks on villages throughout their campaigns to drive the Native Americans onto reservations. What is more, the invasions were in clear violation of actual treaties and promises made by the US government to the Sioux.

His refusal to be forced onto a reservation after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and his flight with others who felt the same way (including large numbers of women and children, who suffered terribly in the severe winters as they fled north to Canada to escape the pursuing US forces), was also not in violation of natural law: those who were trying to basically imprison him on an agency and reduce his status to that of a dependent were actually the ones in violation of natural law. His imprisonment for two years after his surrender, in which part of the terms of his surrender included a "pardon," can also be seen as a violation of his natural law rights.

Finally, his surprise arrest in the predawn hours on the morning of December 15th, to prevent him from leaving on a journey for which he had already submitted a permission request, on suspicion that he would "go anyhow in case permission was refused" and on the grounds that "it would be a difficult matter to overtake him after he had once started" can also be seen as fairly questionable.

And, while the tenets of the Ghost Dance movement did include the arrival of supernatural events which would remove the invading settlers and government forces from the lands they had taken from the American Indian, and to restore the conditions they had enjoyed before that invasion and all its horrible consequences, there is no indication that the Ghost Dance practitioners were preparing to assist the spirits by their own use of force -- and in fact every indication that they were not in any way preparing to do so, including the written account of contemporary observers at the time.

The sending in of the federal troops which so alarmed the Lakota who had been forcibly confined to the reservations (and who had every reason to be very uncomfortable at such a development and to fear for their lives when the troops arrived) can be seen as a "solution" to a problem caused by unjust actions by the US government itself: their ordering of the dancing to stop, and, even more of a problem, the government's sudden and severe reduction of the rations they were issuing to the Indians whom they had turned into their dependents -- all clear violations of natural law.

The bigger picture is clear: the tragic end of the life of Tatanke Iyotanke reflected the tragic fate of his people, a tragedy he declared to be wrong, and which he faced with dignified resistance.

Long before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, when the Oregon Trail which ran through Lakota territory began to be more heavily traveled in the years following the discovery of gold in California in 1848-1849 and some of the Sioux began to crave whiskey, coffee, sugar, baked goods, metal implements, and guns and to settle along the Oregon Trail in order to trade pelts or other items for these products of western civilization, Sitting Bull already saw the danger. In Crazy Horse and Custer, Stephen Ambrose relates:

When Crazy Horse was still a small boy, the not-yet-famous Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Sioux, urged his people to leave the Oregon Trail and withdraw to the ways of their ancestors. "I don't want to have anything to do with people who make one carry water on the shoulders and haul manure," Sitting Bull declared. "The whites may get me at last, but I will have good times till then. You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hardtack, and a little sugar and coffee." 17.


The Heart of Everything That Is

The Heart of Everything That Is

Now is an outstanding time of year to view what is sometimes referred to as the "Winter Circle" of dazzling stars, which includes Sirius (in Canis Major), Procyon (in Canis Minor), Menkalinan and Capella (in Auriga), and the Twins of Castor and Pollux (in Gemini). 

The Winter Circle was previously discussed in a post from 2011, which you can find here.

Now that the moon is declining towards the New Moon of December 22, it will be less and less of a factor in the night sky (it will rise later and later in the "wee hours" of the morning, or closer and closer to dawn, and as it does so it will also grow thinner and thinner), enabling you to really observe the starry sky in all its glory -- and the glorious constellations of winter are at center stage, featuring mighty Orion and the surrounding arc of bright stars mentioned above.

Below is an image from showing Orion and the stars of the Winter Circle, as they appear to an observer in the northern hemisphere around thirty-five degrees north latitude:

You can clearly make out the silvery band of the Milky Way, running up and to the right in the above image, almost through the center of the screen. Nearly half-way up the Milky Way band, look for the three distinctive stars of Orion's belt, in a tight line angled up and to the right. Following the line of these three stars and extending that line down and to the left you will find Sirius, which is labeled, and which is depicted as the largest star on the above chart, because it is the brightest star in our sky (other than the sun, of course). 

From Sirius, you can then trace the arc of stars named above, beginning at Sirius and moving clockwise up to Procyon (also labeled), Pollux and Castor (only Pollux is labeled but Castor is very close, up and to the right from Pollux in the screen above), then Menkalinan and Capella (only Capella is labeled, but Menkalinan is the star you come to first as you arc from Pollux and Castor towards Capella in a clockwise direction). From Capella, you can also cross the Milky Way again and find the gorgeous cluster of the Pleiades (not labeled on the above chart, but more on them in a moment).

This circle of brilliant stars is sacred to the Lakota, and are part of the area of the sky known as "The Heart of Everything That Is." The circle just described was also connected to the concept of the Sacred Hoop, discussed in this previous post. The celestial component of this sacred concept is discussed at length in a book entitled Lakota Star Knowledge, written by Ronald Goodman with help from many Lakota wisdom keepers, and with appendices which quote teachings preserved by Charlotte A. Black Elk.

The book is published by Sinte Gleska University which strives to perpetuate the values associated with the four Lakota virtues of the Lakota medicine wheel and Sacred Hoop, as explained on the back cover of the book. It is a book which those interested in this subject will want to have in hardcopy. 

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

As described in the vision of Black Elk, the Sacred Hoop consists of a sacred circle which contains the horizontal road and the vertical road (see discussion in this previous post and this previous post), a pattern which is also very reminiscent of the zodiac wheel crossed by the horizontal line between the equinoxes and the vertical line between the solstices:

Ronald Goodman's book explains that the circle of stars now visible in the night sky make this same Sacred Hoop pattern of a circle divided by two perpendicular lines. The two lines are envisioned as being generated by the line created by the belt of Orion (these stars are known as Tayamni by the Lakota) which can be seen as extending to Sirius in one direction and to the Pleiades in the other direction, and by the line perpendicular to that line which is created by extending the imagined line running between the two bright stars Betelgeuse (in Orion's shoulder) and Rigel (in his foot):

Above, I have sketched in the outline of a rough circle which connects the circle of stars: Sirius to Procyon to Pollux and Castor to Menkalinan and Capella to the Pleiades to Rigel and then back to Sirius. Within it, I have created dashed-lines which cross perpendicular to one another: one line along the line suggested by the belt stars and extending all the way to Sirius in the lower-left and to the Pleiades in the upper-right, and another running from Rigel to Betegeuse (and which can be imagined as continuing through all the way to the other side of the hoop from there).

This diagram is based on those drawn in the Ronald Goodman book in numerous places: I have just chosen to draw it on the stars as seen in the night sky using the image from It is hoped that this will help readers to go outside and actually locate this important set of stars.

Perhaps the most remarkable information expressed by Ronald Goodman and the Lakota wisdom keepers he quotes in the book is the fact that this celestial Sacred Hoop has a corresponding reflection on the earth, which the Lakota have recognized since time immemorial -- from before the horse arrived -- and that they would move to specific points on the terrestrial Sacred Hoop at specific times during the year, to reflect on earth the patterns of the stars in heaven, the motion of those stars through the year, and especially the rising of the sun in the different points along its ecliptic path as the earth progresses through its own annual cycle.

The reflection of the celestial Sacred Hoop was found on earth in the region of the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa in the language of the Lakota (I believe that this means "Black Hills").

Below is a diagram based on some of the terrestrial points in this Sacred Hoop, as explained in the book and drawn in some diagrams in the book -- I have chosen to use Google Maps with the "terrain" overlay, to show some of these points in a way that will enable us to visualize these sacred sites as we look at the map:

The first point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "1." and a small black arrow pointing to the right (difficult to see clearly at this resolution, but it is pointing to the right) is Inyan Kaga, also called Harney Peak, a very sacred site to the Lakota and one which is central to the vision of Black Elk and to the story of his life which he relates in Black Elk Speaks. The book by Ronald Goodman seems to indicate that Harney Peak is also called Opaha Ta I. This sacred mountain corresponds to the Pleiades, or Wicincala Sakowin.

The second point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "2." and a black rectangular outline, contains three peaks in a near-perfect line, pointing towards Harney Peak -- just as the three stars of Orion's Belt (Tamanyi) point to the Pleiades (Wicincala Sakowin). Below, some "zoomed-in" maps will show this in greater detail.

The third point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "3." and an small black arrow pointing down, corresponds to Pe Sla, the center of the Black Hills -- an area now labeled as Reynolds Valley on maps.

The fourth point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "4." and a small black arrow pointing down, corresponds to Mato Paha, or Bear Butte. This site appears to have been considered the terrestrial reflection of the point marked by the star Capella in the celestial Sacred Hoop.

The fifth and final point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "5." and a small black arrow pointing down, is Mato Tipila Paha, or Devil's Tower. This majestic geological formation was considered to be associated with the constellation of Gemini, and the summer solstice. Note that on the zodiac wheel diagram above which I believe can be seen to correspond in many ways to the Sacred Hoop, the sign of Gemini is located immediately before the point of summer solstice. Lakota Star Knowledge explains that prior to summer solstice, all the Lakota would converge on Devil's Tower, for an important gathering which included the most important Sun Dance of the year.

It should be noted that the Sacred Hoop in the sky as shown in my Stellarium diagram must be rotated in order to correspond to the sacred terrain of the Black Hills: the line running from the rectangle at "2." to the Inyan Kaga (Harney Peak) at "1." corresponds to the dashed-line running up and to the right in the star chart, from Orion's belt to the Pleiades.

Below is a closer "zoom" into the area containing Tayamni (Orion's belt) on the terrain:

In this map, we are still "far enough out" that you can see Inyan Kaga (Harney Peak), indicated by the small black arrow to the lower-right of the larger rectangle. If you imagine three peaks within that rectangle, aligned in such a way that they create a mental line pointing to Harney Peak, then you can see that Orion's belt in this map will point "down and to the right" to get to the Pleiades (represented by Harney Peak).

Below, we zoom-in on the area in the black rectangle from the map above:

You should be able to plainly see the three stars of "Orion's belt" -- they are marked with the "hourglass" symbol of a "cone inverted over a cone," which Ronald Goodman explains in his book should be thought of as a vortex over a vortex: the upper vortex being the star and the reflected vortex below representing "the related earth site" (page 2 of the book). I have placed the double-vortex star symbols just below and slightly to the left of each mountain on the terrain map: hopefully you can make out the three peaks, pointing in a line towards Harney Peak (which is not visible in this map, but would be located off the map, down and to the right -- see map immediately above this one).

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the sacred Black Hills to the Lakota. Their movement throughout the year to the various sites were seen as participation in the renewal of the world. Appendix D of the book contains words from Charlotte A. Black Elk, in which she says that the pattern of movement through the sites in the Black Hills is "traces the renewal of creation and the spiritual regeneration of the Lakota" (50).

Later, she says:

We say that Wakan Tanka created the Heart of Everything That Is to show us that we have a special relationship with our first and real mother, the earth, and that there are responsibilities tied to this relationship. Wakan Tanka placed the stars in a manner so what is in the heavens is on earth, what is on earth is in the heavens, in the same way. When we pray in this manner, what is done in the skies is done on earth, in the same way. Together, all of creation participates in the ceremonies each year.
[. . .]
So, tonight, walk outside and look up. See the Black Hills Sacred Ceremonies of Spring, and you will understand and know why this place is special and stands first among all places of Maka. And return, in the manner the Lakota have done for thousands of years, to the Heart of Everything That Is, to the heart of our home and the home of our heart. 52.

There is much to contemplate deeply in these things. I hope that if you are able to do so you can go outside at this time of year, and observe the stars, and as you do so you can reflect upon the Sacred Hoop and the Heart of Everything That Is.