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What Does It Mean to be ‘Spiritual’? For the Multicultural Resource Center and Religious and Spiritual Life University of North Carolina, Charlotte March 22, 1010 Definitions of ‘spirituality’

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What Does It Mean to be ‘Spiritual’?

For the Multicultural Resource Center and

Religious and Spiritual Life

University of North Carolina, Charlotte

March 22, 1010

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Definitions of ‘spirituality’

Personal, inner, goal-directed (enlightenment, awareness, Godliness, subjective, otherworldly focus)

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Within a religious context (church, mosque, synagogue)

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Outside established religion(nature, dreams, sacred sites)

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  • On a sacred text or revealed teachings (the Bible, Koran, Torah, Baghavad Gita, Visuddhimagga )

Teresa de Avila,French mystic:

“It will be as well, I think, to explain these locutions of God, and to describe what the soul feels when it receives them.”

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Tree of Practices

  • Bearing witness

  • Movement

  • Creation process

  • Martial arts

  • Music

    Center for Contemplative Mind in Society


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Sacred Images and Icons

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Action in the world

M. K. Gandhi

“What is faith if it is not translated into action?”

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Physical and mental self-exploration

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Ritual for prayer, reflection and connection

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“Every image of every power was majestically danced with in their respective feasts. It was this dance, these words spoken with tears, these offerings ingeniously made and given, that renewed the spirits behind the images, bringing them back to consciousness, reanimating them out of their swoon of exhaustion after having worked so hard for us humans here in the Umbilicus of the World.”

  • Martin Prechtel, Long Life, Honey in the Heart: A Story of Initiation and Eloquence from the Shores of a Mayan Lake. London: Thorsons, 1999.

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“A mystic is someone who has direct cognition of God beyond thought or image. A mystic is one whose eyes have been opened through purification, discipline and grace to the living mystery and lives consciously in the divine presence. …All cultures at all times have had their mystics who have known the supreme secret that God is in us and we are in God as a part of God and who have owed their spiritual health to the reality of wisdom and love which the mystic directly awakens”


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Rachel Mann

“Shrine of Healing”

The Art of Surviving


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“In many ways disease and episodes of sickness remind people that meaning is an achievement. The notion that human beings live meaningful lives is both a problem and a promise. In the face of disease and other challenges that becloud meaning or disclose it in painful glimpses, you are impelled to try to discover, clarify, or achieve meaning through creative expression.”

Lawrence Sullivan, “Images of Wholeness: Interview with Lawrence Sullivan, Parabola, p. 13.

Lloyd, “Dawn”

The Art of Surviving


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“At first, we cannot see beyond the path that leads downward to dark and hateful things--but no light or beauty will ever come from the man who cannot bear this sight. Light is always born of darkness”Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

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“Ecstatic bliss arises when [the Bushmen] throw themselves into spirited shaking and dancing, which serves to open their hearts. Shamans help bring forth the spirited interactions that open the doors to circular absorptive relations with others.”


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Cave Paintings of Laas Gael, Swaziland

9,000-8,000 to 3,000 B.C.

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“The collective element is communitas, fellowship or friendship….arising in times of illness, danger, or change; when new and exciting things are going on; and during sacred events….In these circumstances, odd things

happen. People are somehow freed not to be simply the result of social norms and their childhood conditioning. In these circumstances, they know each other as full human beings. People recognize this feeling and like it.”

Edith Turner, Among the Healers Stories of Ritual and Spiritual Healing Around the World, Praeger, 2005.

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“The survivor is a scholar of his or her own experience.”

Roberta Culberton

Director, Center for Violence and Community


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Cold War Consciousness

The USSR and the US hold one another’s shadows

Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols

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We are the cause of our own suffering

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Christopher Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, New York: Public Affairs, 2002, 13.

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The American Holocaust

Understanding the Impact of First Contact

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The Major Players

Christopher Columbus lands on the shores of San Salvador in the Bahamas, 1492

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The Explorers

Norse, Newfoundland, 1000

John Cabot, Newfoundland, 1497

Amerigo Vespuci, South America, 15th century

Giovanni da Verrazzano, North America, 1524

Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, Mexico, the Aztecs, 16th century

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Delivering the Dark Ages

The Black (Bubonic) Plague spreads through Europe in the 15th c. and continues through the 17th:

Estimated 20,000,000 deaths or 2/3rds of the pop.

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“The Spain that Christopher Columbus and his crews left behind just before dawn on August 3, 1492 as they sailed forth from Palos and out into the Atlantic, was for most of its people a land of violence, squalor, treachery, and intolerance. In this respect Spain was no different from the rest of Europe.” --David Stannard, American Holocaust (1992). NY: Oxford Univ. Press, p. 57.

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European Famine

  • While the rich and aristocrats lived high, tens of thousands lived “on the margins of perpetual hunger”

  • An average increase in the price of wheat or millet killed a proportion of the French population equal to nearly twice the percentage of Americans killed in the Civil War

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European Filth

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European Filth

  • No bathing

  • Rotting offal of butchered animals in the streets

  • Roadside ditches w/stagnatn water used as public latrines

  • Open pits of the deceased

  • Skin diseases

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Witchcraft Accusations

  • In many towns on the Continent, as many as 1/3rd were accused of witchcraft

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Malnutrition, Disease, and Slavery

  • Homeless poor sold themselves as slaves

  • Most children died by the age of 15

  • Abandonment of children and babies

  • Children sold into slavery by parents

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  • Robberies, murder and revenge

  • Among earldoms, republics, duchies and noble families there was kidnapping, torture, mutilation, fratricide, patricide, assassination

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The Holy War

  • Christianity seeks world domination from the 11th through the 13th centuries

  • Other wars wage between nations and feudal states

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Pre-Conquest America

  • Estimated population 145,000,000

  • Beautiful, clean, disease-free, gold-encrusted cities

  • Lack of emphasis on warfare in most areas

  • Children encouraged to be independent, yet responsible to the community

  • Egalitarian political structures (Iroquois Confederacy)

  • Elaborate social and cultural characteristics

  • “Affectionate and fearless cordiality towards strangers”

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The Figures

  • By the time the 16th century had ended, 200,000 Spaniards had moved to the Indies, Mexico and Central America

  • By the same time, 60,000,000 to 80,000,000 were dead

  • By the middle of the 19th century, 1/3rd of one percent of America’s population—250,000 out of 77,000,0000—were natives

  • By the end of the 19th century, 100,000,000 natives dead

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Death Marches

Cherokee Trail of Tears, 8000 died

Seminoles, Chikasaw and Chocktaw

By the end of these forced marches, as many Natives had lost their lives as the deaths of Jews in Germany, Hungary and Rumania between 1939 and 1945

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Policies of genocide in the 20th century

  • Forced removal of children into white boarding schools until the 80s and early 90s

  • A federal program resulting in the involuntary sterilization of 40% of all native women of childbearing age in the U.S. in the 1970s

  • Native Americans forced out of their reservations into the city in California in the 70s

  • Imprisonment of Native Americans due to racism, such as Leonard Peltier

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“European thinkers were certain, there lived creatures who may have seemed bestial, but who were humans, with souls, and who even might become the holiest of saints if treated with Christian care. However, in that indistinct, borderline, substratum of life, there also existed human-like creatures whose function in God’s scheme of things was to be nothing more than what Aquinas called ‘animated instruments of service to civilized Christian humanity. That is, slaves.”

David Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 173.

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The Legacy Lingers

1490s to the 1890s: An unbroken string of genocidal campaign against the Native peoples of the Americas

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Environmental and Human Destruction

  • One and a half acres of rainforest are lost everyday

  • 137 species of animals, plants, and insects lost everyday due to rainforest destruction (50,000/year)

  • 10,000,000 Indians lived in the rainforest 5 centuries ago

  • Today, only 200,000 remain

Rainforest Facts: http://www.rain-tree.com/facts.htm

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“The Spain that Christopher Columbus and his crews left behind just before dawn on August 3, 1492 as they sailed forth from Palos and out into the Atlantic, was for most of its people a land of violence, squalor, treachery, and intolerance. In this respect Spain was no different from the rest of Europe.”David Stannard, American Holocaust (1992). NY: Oxford Univ. Press, p. 57.

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“Healing always points toward a renewal of creative powers, toward a condition that is vital, stirring, strong and whole, as befits a creative beginning….One reason why people are so creative in relation to disease is because it is there that they face elementary forces that both constitute and decompose them.”

”Interview with Lawrence Sullivan”, Parabola Magazine

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Shamanism and Neo (new)-Shamanism

“[Shaman] refers to communal leaders and religious practitioners who might otherwise be called by very different, more local names, such as bornoh, yadgan, mudang, angakoq, or referred to only adjectively as, for instance, paye people…Last but not least, shaman also refers to practitioners within various therapeutic, spiritual and cultural movements in ‘the West’.”

Harvey, Graham. Shamanism: A Reader. London: Routledge, 2000.

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Putting Practice onto Paper:

The Literary and Spiritual Legacy of

Black Elk Speaks

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Black Elk Speaks

“ Grandfather, Great Spirit, you have been always, and before you no one has been. You yourself, everything that you see, everything has been made by you. The star nations all over the universe you have finished. The four quarters of the earth you have finished. The day, and in that day, you have finished. Grandfather, Great Spirit, lean close to the earth that you may hear the voice I send.”

A prayer by Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks (first printing, 1932; second printing, 1959.)

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The Story of Black Elk

  • Born 1863 into a band headed by his father, a medicine man related to Crazy Horse

  • Civil War ended and the US drove westward building roads and railway lines

  • The original inhabitants of the lands were forcibly removed into a reservation under the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868

  • The official religion of the reservation was Christianity and all Lakota religious ceremonies were illegal

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Joseph Epes Brown

“ I am fortunate in having met at least some of those men of the old days who possessed great human and spiritual qualities. But Black Elk had a special quality of power and kindliness and a sense of mission that was unique, and I am sure it was recognized by all who had the opportunity of knowing him.”

Joseph Epes Brown, Preface to the The Sacred Pipe, 1953.

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The Sacred Pipe

“ Most people call it a ‘peace pipe,’ yet now there is not peace on earth or even between neighbors, and I have been told that it has been a long time since there has been peace in the world. There is much talk of peace among Christians, yet this is just talk. Perhaps it may be, and this is my prayer that, through our sacred pipe, and through this book in which I shall explain what our pipe really is, peace may come to those peoples who can understand, and understanding which must be of the heart and not of the head alone. Then they will realize that we Indians know the One true God and that we pray to him continually.”

Black Elk in his introduction to The Sacred Pipe, 1953.

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Sun Bear

“This book is not written by an anthropologist. It is not about one tribe, but a composite of many. It is knowledge I have learned about my people. It belongs to them, and credits are to the American Indians.”

–Sun Bear in the Introduction to Buffalo Hearts (1970)

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Sun Bear published 8 books between 1969 and 1994

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Lame Deer Seeker of Visions

“For us Indians there is just the pipe, the earth we sit on and the open sky. The spirit is everywhere. Sometimes it shows itself through an animal, a bird or some trees and hills. Sometimes it speaks from the Badlands, a stone or even from the water. That smoke from the peace pipe, it goes straight up to the spirit world. But this is a two way thing. Power flows down to us through that smoke, through the pipe stem.”

–Lame Deer from Chapter 1, Lame Deer Seeker of Visions (1972)

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Fools Crowby Thomas Mails

“ Dallas and I were astonished when [Fools Crow] suddenly changed the conversation and said that in his last vision quest at Bear Butte in 1965, his god, Wakan-Tanka had told him that although he was a humble man with little to offer, the time had come for him to tell certain things about himself and his Teton people to a person who would be made known to him. This way the record would be kept and the world would know about it.”

Thomas Mails, in Chapter 1 from Fools Crow, 1979

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Voices of Our Ancestors: Cherokee Teachings from the Wisdom Fire

“ This book is written with the hope of bringing to fruition peace and harmonious relationships for all beings….In 1969, after generations of secrecy, it was decided to share the teachings of the Tsalagi tradition with non-native people, so that our children would have water to drink and a place to walk. The intention is to strengthen individuals’ relationships with their families, communities, nations and the land, the Earth itself. We do not invite people to become Indians. We invite people to be in good fellowship and to respect the teachings of the their family of origin. Thus may we all cooperate in manifesting a vision of peace.”

Dhyani Ywahoo, from the Preface to Voices of Our Ancestors (1987).

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Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power

“ At first, Wakan-Tanka had all of the spiritual power inside Himself. But He loves to share things so He gave some power to Grandmother Earth and some to each of the Persons He placed in the Cardinal Directions…Then He told them that when faithful human beings or other creatures called upon them for help they must send them their powers and save the people…Wakan-Tanka taught each tribe to believe in ways that work best for them. It depended on where they lived nad the way they thought about spiritual things.”

Fools Crow as said to Thomas Mails, in Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power (1991)

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The Way of the ShamanMichael Harner

Anthropologist Michael Harner publishes The Way of the Shaman about his experiences with the Jivaro people of the Amazon and creates “the shamanic method” in 1980

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Island of the Sun

Anthropologist Alberto Villoldo publishes Island of the Sun in 1994 about his experiences as a student of a Peruvian shaman named Don Manuel and founds the Four Winds Society

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Bushman Shaman

Psychologist Bradford Keeney publishes Bushman Shaman in 2005 about meeting the Bushmen of the Kalahari and finding the ancient traditions of “shaking medicine”

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Secrets of the Talking Jaguar

Half-Indian, half-white Martin Prechtel publishes Secrets of the Talking Jaguar and two other books in a triptych about his training as a Mayan shaman and village leader in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala (1999-2002)

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Shamanism in a New Age

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Exploring Suffering

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The Four Noble Truths

  • There will be suffering in life.

  • Suffering arises due to attachment.

  • Freedom from suffering is attainable.

  • There is a path the end suffering.

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Community Building

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Spontaneity and play!

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The Path of the Wounded Healer

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We Heal and are Reborn in Every Moment

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To contact me:

[email protected]



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