The Indigenous Myth
By Rev. Guy Williams
I am continually struck with an idea that formulated in me since childhood regarding the idea of what it means to be an indigenous person. I first became aware of it when reading the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. The idea is that when we travel somewhere, and then, either eat the food of that area, or drink the water or see the sun rise and set, or even hear the songs from that specific place, we will in time become part of that place. In fact we become indigenous.
This is a very ancient motif that in many ways becomes the archetypal myths from which all myth grows. Whether it is the story of how the Hopi came to earth, or the Prodigal Son of the Christian Bible, or even Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, it is always saying the same thing; that all of us are from a gentle race from a land beyond, that none of us are really from “around here” and, we have all drunk from the River Lethe and experience the sense of amnesia as to who we are and whence we came.
Myths, as Joseph Campbell used to say are collective dreams just as dreams are individual myths. The challenge arises when we take the myth and try to instill an historic relevance to it. This then creates “us and them” societies where there naturally evolves the idea that because we are from a different heritage we are separate. One need only look at all of the trouble spots on our beloved planet to see that even today, people are killing and dying over myth.
Myths, like dreams are best understood as languages that speak to the soul, which exists in symbol, metaphor and allegory and is never literal.
Whether we are Native American or first-generation immigrants, what the myths of origin teach us is not so much that we are different but rather just the opposite. That because we are delusional by our forgetfulness, we don’t remember we are all of the same family, and as such are here to protect and support each other.
How do we do this? I believe it begins by allowing ourselves to see the other. Rev. Martin Luther King used to say Sunday morning at 11:00 was the most segregated hour in America. What an astonishing thought. To segregate is choosing not to see the other. It is to begin to see that each individual, each culture, has a distinct value and worth, that we are all uniquely part of a vast jigsaw puzzle, that when put together forms a perfect whole.
This is the essential teaching of not only the mystery teachings such as the Sufis and Kabbalist, but is the heart of all the worlds’ spiritual teachings. Huston Smith in his seminal book, The World’s Religions, states this wonderfully when he says the universe is more unified than we imagine, more mystical than we think, and more friendly than we believed.
Rev. Guy Williams is the Senior Minister at the Hilltop Center for Spiritual Living in Fallbrook CA.
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