Whether it happened or not I do not know; but if you think about it, you can see that it is true. —Black Elk
I will bring this series to a close with excerpts from Richard Heinberg’s MEMORIES AND VISIONS OF PARADISE, including his Epilogue .
This haunting memory is found among the myths of the Omaha Indians, who, along with the entire Native American Nation, have held the sacredness of their Mother Earth in their hearts and in their culture:
HOLDING THE EARTH SACRED
The Omaha Indians of the North American plains also believed in the heavenly or spiritual preexistence of human beings prior to their appearance on Earth in physical form. “At the beginning,” they say, “all things were in the mind of Wakonda.” All creatures, including man, were spirits. They moved about in space between earth and the stars (the heavens). They were seeking a place where they could come into bodily existence …. Then they descended to the earth. They saw that it was covered with water. They floated through the air to the north, the east, the south and the west, and found no dry land …. Suddenly from the midst of the water uprose a great rock. It burst into flames and the waters floated into the air in clouds. The hosts of the spirits descended and became flesh and blood. They fed on the seeds of the grasses and the fruits of the trees, and the land vibrated with their expressions of joy and gratitude to Wakonda, the maker of all things.”
A Native American vision from chapter 6 — Prophecy: The Once and Future Paradise
One of the most eloquent modern enunciations of the Native American vision is contained in these words of Hopi elder Dan Katchongva:
Hopi is the bloodline of this continent as others are the bloodline of other continents. So if Hopi is doomed, the whole world will be destroyed. This we know, because the same thing happened in the other world. So if we want to survive we should go back to the way we lived in the beginning, the peaceful way, and accept everything the Creator has provided for us to follow ….
My father, Yukiuma, used to tell me that I would be the one to take over as leader at this time, because I belong to the [Clan of the] Sun, the father of all the people on the Earth. I was told that I must not give in, because I am the first. The Sun is the father of all living things from the first creation. And if I am done, the Sun Clan, then there will be no living thing left on the Earth. So I have stood fast. I hope you will understand what I am trying to tell you.
I am the Sun, the father. With my warmth all things are created. You are my children, and I am very concerned about you. I hold you to protect you from harm, but my heart is sad to see you leaving my protecting arms and destroying yourselves. From the breast of your mother, the Earth, you receive your nourishment, but she is too dangerously ill to give you pure food. What will it be? Will you lift your father’s heart? Will you cure your mother’s ills? Or will you forsake us and leave us with sadness, to be weathered away? I don’t want this world to be destroyed. If this world is saved, you all will be saved, and whoever has stood fast will complete this plan with us, so that we will all be happy in the Peaceful Way.
And finally, our renown author’s vision and rationale from his EPILOGUE:
DID AN EARTHLY PARADISE ONCE REALLY EXIST, or is it the product of human imagination? Even now, at the end of our investigation, we must acknowledge that this is a problem that may never be settled by archaeologists or anthropologists. On one hand, it is impossible to prove the historical reality of a Golden Age by physical evidence alone; on the other hand, the material evidence by no means rules out the possibility, and the less tangible evidences of myth and culture simply will not allow us to dismiss it. Of course, the answer we settle on depends largely on our definition of what Paradise was, is, or should be.
The myths and traditions of the ancients do not portray Eden as the sort of technological Paradise that our present civilization tends to project into the future. If the Golden Age really existed, it must instead have been, as the Chinese describe it, an Age of Perfect Virtue — an age in which
they were upright and correct, without knowing that to be so was righteousness; they loved one another, without knowing that to do so was benevolence; they were honest and leal-hearted without knowing that it was loyalty; they fulfilled their engagements, without knowing that to do so was good faith; in their simple movements they employed the services of one another, without thinking that they were conferring or receiving any gift. Therefore their actions left no trace, and there was no record of their affairs. . . .
Of course, there may be some trace of the First People’s actions in Mysterious ancient megaliths, and some record of their affairs may be preserved in myth and legend. Nevertheless, these are fragmentary and ephemeral clues. And yet the vision of Paradise—be it distorted, misunderstood, or even imaginary—has somehow insinuated itself into the vital core of every religious movement and every culture’s literature and social ideals. Whatever the myth’s origin—historical reality or mass delusion—it now has a life of its own in the collective unconscious.
The principal thesis presented here—which is really only a restatement in modern terms of what spiritual teachers have been saying for millennia—is that the memory of Paradise represents an innate IPO and universal longing for a state of being that is natural and utterly fulfilling, but from which we have somehow excluded ourselves. Perhaps our most useful new clue to this lost state of being is contained in he modern study of altered states of consciousness and, in particular, of the near-death experience. The essence of Paradise is, as we have seen, equivalent to what various traditions have termed nirvana, ecstasy, divine union, and cosmic consciousness. It is the condition of the absence of the separate human ego with all its defenses, aggressions, and categories of judgment.
This interpretation may seem like an obvious one, but it has been only recently that developments in several disciplines have made it so. In the field of psychology, for example, the systematic study of alternate states of consciousness did not really begin until this century, and the greatest advances have taken place only within the last twenty years. In anthropology, it has also been only in recent decades that we have come to respect the wisdom of tribal peoples and to take seriously their beliefs about the nature of reality. The field of comparative religion—which has opened a view to the fundamental similarities of the core teachings of all spiritual traditions—has likewise only begun to come of age. All of these developments converge, enabling us to leave behind both the dogmatic religious ideas of the Middle Ages and the simplistic evolutionary assumptions of the last century. We are thus free to attain a new vision not only of the mythic past, but also of our own miraculous potentialities in the present and future.
One of my purposes in writing this book has been to bring together the principle myths of Paradise, Fall, catastrophe, and purification. But another was to recall the texture and nuance of the spiritual worldview of ancient and tribal peoples. Their perspective, so at odds with our modern way of looking at things, may contain some of the very elements that we in postindustrial civilization need if we are to build a sustainable, regenerative culture.
We are living not in a static world that affords us endless time for leisurely academic discussion, but in one that is busily undermining its own biological viability. We have lost our sense of proportion, our sense of the fitness of things, and our sense of being contained within a greater Knowing that provides our lives with meaningful context, and to which we are responsible not only for our actions but for our motives and values as well. We have lost, in short, the sense of the sacred. The Paradise myth is the account of this loss of the sacred dimension, this loss of innocence. And if it contains clues to help us understand why we have come to this precarious juncture in history and how we may go about regaining what we have left behind, then a retelling of the story may now be a worthy undertaking.
Somehow the timing of this retelling seems to have an almost apocalyptic significance of its own. Many generations have felt that they were seeing the culmination of history, but never has any generation had better reasons for feeling this way. Perhaps we are indeed living in the time prophesied in every tradition, when the profane world of human history and the miraculous world of myth are to be somehow reunited.
We seem to have come very far indeed from the state of innocence and communion with Nature described in the Paradise myths. Depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer, pollution of water and air, loss of topsoil and forest cover, the greenhouse effect, and mass extinctions of species all bespeak a way of existence tragically out of touch with the pulse of the planet on which we live. And burgeoning crime, mental illness, and drug abuse seem to signal some deep estrangement of society from the nourishing aspirations of the human spirit.
Our world is filled with complex political, economic, social, and environmental problems. Yet we cannot expect to solve these problems without first addressing the values and motives that produced them. And how are we to approach the clarification of human values and motives? Surely, we must look to the human psyche itself–that mysterious realm whose suprarational powers and dynamics find first expression in myths, dreams and visions. We are presented therefore with the apparently paradoxical likelihood that the examination of ancient and seemingly irrational stories may be one of the most practical pursuits available to us in the modern world.
Perhaps, if we are willing to become partners once again with Heaven and Nature in the realization of an already existing design that transcends self-centered human purposes, then memory and vision may converge in a realized Paradise in which the tensions that presently bedevil us—tensions between humanity and Nature, heart and mind—may be dissolved in a universal spirit of accord. If we can hear and obey a voice from the timeless source of myths and dreams, there may open before us an age not of technologically engineered comfort and prosperity, but of miraculous beginnings—a new Creation-Time. And perhaps it is only the mysterious power of Creation itself that will permit us to survive, and at last to fully live.♥ Fin
I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have enjoyed creating and presenting it. By some of the comments I received, I know that Richard Heinberg’s thoughts and visions found resonance with several. MEMORIES AND VISIONS OF PARADISE, along with his several other books, are available at Amazon.com. For a more current Heinberg vision and perspective, view the video clip below.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments by email. Until my next post, already in the hopper,