II. Earth Learn: A Planetary Prodigy Comes to Her/His Own Knowledge
1. Indigenous Intimation: Mythic Animism
For the Maya, the Universe was an exuberant celebration of fractals. Everything repeated itself in an endless variety of forms and sizes and all things were mirror-image transformations of the same underlying life force. Douglas Gillette
Akomolafe, Adebayo. The Trees Still Speak: The Collective Intelligence of the Natural World. Spanda Journal. Volume 2, 2014. Bayo, as he is known, is a Nigerian clinical psychologist with a 2006 degree from Covenant University, where he now teaches. He is also an international speaker and poet-activist for a radical advance in collective human experience to a once and future indigenous, spiritual, feminine, organic, life-affirming wisdom and world. From the global South (and East), here is a salutary vision to leaven and enliven the sterile, mechanist, violent, terminal North and West.
According to many indigenous people around the world, the cosmos is anything but a dead, mute and silent place. Everything is alive: stones, mountains, the nightly tunes of a croaking army of frogs, the dancing fog that blinds and confuses, the clouds that weep the purging rain. Everything sings, swirling in and out of reckoning and usefulness, having seasons of wakefulness and dormancy, but possessing an irrefutable vitality, potency and agency that is not metaphorical or derived from human activity. (115)
Assmann, Jan. The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs. New York: Henry Holt, 2002. The “new kingdom” of ancient Egypt, c. 1500 – 1000, is often seen to exemplify the belief that human life has a cosmic dimension and purpose. The world was knowable to that time because cosmogony is “indefinitely repeated” in nature and person. But with a life-span under thirty years, the human abide and social hierarchy of those Egyptians was wholly oriented to preparation for the afterlife.
A cosmological society lives by a model of cosmic forms of order, which it transforms into political and social order by means of meticulous observation and performance of rituals. The ritual reenactment of this process was designed not only to adapt the order of the human world to that of the cosmos but also, indeed primarily, to keep the cosmic process itself in good working order. (205) The world thus maintained is a world of meaning, of language, of knowledge, of relations and reflections, an anthropomorphic reading of the universe with a correspondingly cosmomorphic image of human order. (211)
Barfod, Gry, et al. Revealing Text in a Complexly Rolled Silver Scroll from Jerash with Computed Tomography and Advanced Imaging Software. Nature Scientific Reports. 5/17765, 2015. As the Abstract describes, Aarhus University, Denmark and Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany researchers apply 21st century techniques to preserve and transcribe ancient runes. Our interest is then to wonder whomever is achieving this worldwide faculty that can retrospectively recover such vital talismans.
As the Abstract describes, Aarhus University, Denmark and Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany researchers apply 21st century techniques to preserve and transcribe ancient runes. Our interest is then to wonder whomever is achieving this worldwide faculty that can retrospectively recover such vital talismans.
Barnard, Alan. Mythology and the Evolution of Language. Smith, Andrew, et al, eds. The Evolution of Language. Singapore: World Scientific, 2010. The University of Edinburgh social anthropologist proposes that early homo sapiens’ deep propensity to spin narrative stories about the fantastic world in which they stirred to find themselves in played a key role in the hominid advance of complex linguistic abilities.
Myths occur in a larger inter-societal or cross-cultural mythological context, as well as in the context of specific speech communities. I mean by this that the same themes, and virtually identical beings, occur through the world. (16)
Bastian, Betty. The Cultural Practice of Participatory Transpersonal Visions. ReVision. 26/2, 2003. A Blackfoot Native American on the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary recounts the traditional indigenous wisdom of her people in contrast to the dominant, destructive Eurocentric view. Knowing ones participant place in the cosmos was a basis to act responsibly within a natural order, so as to foster its overall “well-being.” Of course the Western male paradigm denies any such source, from which results our violent, unsustainable state. Bastian states there is an obvious need to reconnect human and universe in their indispensable rapport.
Bird-David, Nurit. “Animism” Revisited. Current Anthropology. 40/Supplement, 1999. An effort to rehabilitate the "primitive" animist belief that the world and everything in it is magically alive. In present academic terms, this would be known asa “relational epistemology.”
Burkhart, Brian Yazzie. The Physics of Spirit: The Indigenous Continuity of Science and Religion. Haag, James, et al, eds. Routledge Companion to Religion and Science. New York: Routledge, 2011. In a volume reviewed in Religion and Science, from our late global vantage, a Native American, Arizona State University, philosopher is able to trace and enhance a grand historical spiral and synthesis. As if an initial right brain, an aboriginal mind and vision can be evoked as it perceived an innately living, spiritual cosmic presence. Human beings, along with flora and fauna, spring from, abide in, and return to an animate, mystical, personified milieu. Astride the millennia, Burkhart can presently avail the physical theories of David Bohm, David Peat, and others, seen as akin to Lakota lore, to discern this heritage to be distinguished by a doubleness of “implicate” life force, by many names, and its “explicate” creativity unto a dynamically manifest nature. The long span of Western science, with its mechanical bent, appears as a later left brain (similar to each person), often cited as Newton’s “single sleep.” In our 21st century, history’s convergent rise to a bicameral humankind allows us to again witness an organic cosmos with such a genotype and phenotype. And from his website the author is also known for a communal (African) version of Rene Descartes: “We are therefore I am.”
Cajete, Gregory. Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishing, 1999. The University of New Mexico Chair and Professor of Native American Studies provides an engaging, insightful entry to the sustaining essential heritage of original animate wisdom. A balance of theory and practice is well versed by chapters on the Ecology of Native American Community, Plants, Food, Medicine, and Gardening, Animals in Native Myth and Reality, A Sense of Place, Native Astronomy, and Creating New Minds and Worlds. Similar to Brian Burkhart above, a crossing to 21st century frontiers is achieved by an affinity to complex systems science as the once and future cosmologies both advise a dynamically creative, albeit chaotic, emergence of worlds and beings. Further qualities are shown to be a “participation mystique,” and a narrative “metaphoric mind.”
Native science is a metaphor for a wide range of tribal processes of perceiving, thinking, acting, and “coming to know” that have evolved through human experience with the natural world. Native science is born of a lived and storied participation with the natural landscape. To understand the foundations of Native science one must become open to the roles of sensation, perception, imagination, emotion, symbols, and spirit as well as that of concept, logic, and rational empiricism. (2)
Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988. An illustrated entry into Campbell’s lush constellation of mythological insights. The hero/ine myth in its multitudinous versions appears in every culture and epoch to tell the constant story of the individuation of each person and on a larger scale of humankind.
Choi, Yeon-Mu and Hyun-Joo Kim. A Directed Network of Greek and Roman Mythology. Physica A. 382/665, 2007. Entry listings in a dictionary of mythic provenance can be seen as nodes in a scale-free, power-law array similar to complex systems found throughout biological, social, economic, and internet domains. Whatever universality might human inquiry and narrative lately be able to realize?
Daniel, Stephen. Myth and Modern Philosophy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990. An historical survey of the linguistic, semiotic and figural dimensions of mythic narratives.
Doniger, Wendy. The Implied Spider. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. In this study of mythologies, the University of Chicago theologian sets aside the postmodern denial of common themes. Rather it is obvious that just as all languages can be translated one into another, so the mythic versions and testimonies should equally be comparable and commensurable. Microscope, telescope and our human kaleidoscope necessarily reflect the same story.
Translation requires a leap of faith very much like the leap that, I will soon argue, is required by comparison. We are always moving between worlds, trying to make sense of and orient our lives, and the trick of comparison is the trick of translating between these worlds. (4)