I am currently in a time of deep crisis. With this journal entry, I am choosing to immerse myself in my faith, rather than questioning and doubting the path and the journey it has led me on. I choose to take comfort in my beliefs, as I feel I should. I choose not to let the dark times consume me. Writing out the core of my spirit will help it to draw breath though I feel I may be dying.
Part of the problem in explaining "what I am" is that there is no real name for my religion, and no holy book of rules, regulations, or doctrine with which to define it by. My only tribal friend refers to me as a "native traditionalist," which refers to following the traditions of our Native American ancestors. That doesn't quite sum it all up exactly, but it's a good place to start.
I believe, as my ancestors did, in the Great Mystery. This is a term that was frequently mis-translated into English as Great Spirit, and it's generally assumed by mainstream society that this is just the tribal way of saying God. Definitely yes. Also, at the same time, absolutely not. This conundrum obviously deserves some in-depth contemplation. I have never had the good fortune to study under those raised with these beliefs, never had a mentor to whom I could address questions of a spiritual nature. I've had to rely solely on the Great Mystery itself, which makes me far more intuitive than other traditionalists. So I can only tell you what the Great Mystery means to me, and I really can't offer any information about what it means to the rest of the people who follow tribal paths.
The Great Mystery is God in the sense that it is a higher power from which all creation can trace its source. But I also say that it is not God, because the concept is VERY different from that of God as He is portrayed in the Bible. The God of the Bible is male, sets out rules to be strictly followed, has desires for us, a specific will for our lives, possesses a sentience beyond that of mortality, created Mankind in His image, and sits in judgement over us. And then there's all that stuff about Jesus, too. But that's not anything like the concept of the Great Mystery. It's a lot more open than that. It might be either gender, or both, or something else entirely. It might be self-aware, intelligent, have thoughts and feelings...or it might not. It might be no more self-aware than a magnetic field, might possibly have no more will than a bolt of lightning. It might love us, but it might be something incapable of love.
I'm sure that, to a lot of people, that type of god-concept could seem pretty cold and impersonal. It's not denying God's love, but it's not certain either. It's more a reminder to be in awe, to humble one's self before the knowledge that God can't truly be comprehended by the mind of man, that nothing can ever be certain of such a force which could, can, and does create the world over again day by day, and we will never understand the why or the wherefore in this lifetime. It is a reminder to let go of mortal pettiness. To relinquish all the "why is this happening" drama (after all, would having that answer change anything or make any kind of difference?) and dig deeper for the peace of "what can I learn from this" and "how can this be used for good" kinds of questions. And there's much more, but that comes later.
So how do I, as one who believes in the Great Mystery, reconcile the differences between my beliefs and those of others? How do I find tolerance? Because the Great Mystery is indeed greater than all those things. I think of it like the story of the blind men who discovered an elephant. The guy that found a leg thought it was a tree. The guy that found the trunk thought it was a snake. The guy that found the ear thought it was something else, I really don't remember what, and so on with the tail as well. And they spent a whole lot of time arguing about who was right. And not one of them could recognize that they had all actually found the same thing, and it wasn't any of the things they thought it was. That's God to me. That's the Great Mystery. Humans will continue to kill each other in the "my God is better than your God" debate until the end of time (and maybe even beyond), and the tragedy is that it's all pointless, they're all wrong, it's all the same God.
So where does all the peace and love and faith come into the picture, if not from God's commandments and teachings and so forth? Do you, maybe, think that mine is a faith without those things? It's not. This is where it gets deeper, where the tribal idea of walking with God becomes much more personal and intimate of anything that could come from mere words. But you have to back up a little bit to grasp one important concept of tribal culture. I could just say "it's a native thing, you wouldn't understand," but that would hardly be an attitude of openness on my part. What it comes down to, really, is that you have to understand what's the deal with the blankets.
Most folks know natives make blankets, and some folks know that such blankets are highly prized gifts, but not many outsiders know or understand why. And without understanding this one key point, nothing about our faith will ever make sense to anyone. Now we're back to the part that I know is true of even the rest of the followers of my path, and not just myself personally. We all believe that each creation holds within it the essence of its creator. When we make a blanket, we do so with deliberate mental and spiritual intent, weaving bits of our own spirit into the fibers, weaving our prayers between the threads. We call it Medicine. Outsiders most often call it superstition, a few understand enough to call it magic. And just as any blanket that I make carries within it the part of myself that I wove into it, so do each of us contain within us the part of the Great Mystery, the Creator, God that was woven into us. The part that's in me may be completely different from the part that's in anyone else, and the same is true of us all. But we all recognize that bit of God within us, when we hear perhaps a bit of scripture that rings loudly true on a level that has nothing to do with hearing a thing, or when we suddenly recognize any of the hundreds of thousands of miracles that are happening every day all around us.
God isn't just in you or in me, it's in all of creation, from every germ and bug and blade of grass and beam of light, from every part of every atom to the very planet upon which we tread to the immensity of the universe and beyond. And all of those things have something to teach us, incredible lessons hidden just beyond the obvious, like the spirit of the blanket. Learning to find those lessons, to listen quietly in the silence until some wordless nudging gives a tiny little clue. What nudges me may not be what nudges you, but I believe there is something to be learned from both.
I'll move on to other concepts in later posts. The nature of God is more than enough for one post;)