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Mind in the Forest

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

I touch trees, as others might stroke the fenders of automobiles or finger silk I fabrics or fondle cats. Trees do not purr, do not flatter, do not inspire a craving for ownership or power. They stand their ground, immune to merely human urges. Saplings yield under the weight of a hand and then spring back when the hand lifts away, but mature trees accept one’s touch without so much as a shiver. While I am drawn to all ages and kinds, from maple sprouts barely tall enough to hold their leaves off the ground to towering sequoias with their crowns wreathed in fog, I am especially drawn to the ancient, battered ones, the survivors.

Recently I spent a week in the company of ancient trees. The season was October and the site was the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a 15,800-acre research area defined by the drainage basin of Lookout Creek, within Willamette National Forest, on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. It’s a wet place. At higher elevations, annual precipitation averages 140 inches, and even the lower elevations receive 90 inches, twice the amount that falls on my well-watered home region of southern Indiana. Back in Indiana the trees are hardwoods—maples and beeches and oaks, hickories and sycamores—and few are allowed to grow for as long as a century without being felled by ax or saw. Here in Andrews Forest, the ruling trees are Douglas firs, western hemlocks, western red cedars, and Pacific yews, the oldest of them ranging in age from five hundred to eight hundred years, veterans of countless fires, windstorms, landslides, insect infestations, and floods.

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The Singular First Person

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

The first soapbox orator I ever saw was haranguing a crowd beside the Greyhound station in Providence, Rhode Island, about the evils of fluoridated water. What the man stood on was actually an up-turned milk crate, all the genuine soapboxes presumably having been snapped up by antique dealers. He wore an orange plaid sport coat and matching bow tie and held aloft a bottle filled with mossy green liquid. I don’t remember the details of his spiel, except his warning that fluoride was an invention of the Communists designed to weaken our bones and thereby make us pushovers for a Red invasion. What amazed me, as a tongue-tied kid of seventeen newly arrived in the city from the boondocks, was not his message but his courage in delivering it to a mob of strangers. I figured it would have been easier for me to jump straight over the Greyhound station than to stand there on that milk crate and utter my thoughts.

To this day, when I read or when I compose one of those curious monologues we call the personal essay, I often think of that soapbox orator. Nobody had asked him for his two cents’ worth, but there he was declaring it with all the eloquence he could muster. The essay, although enacted in private, is no less arrogant a performance. Unlike novelists and playwrights, who lurk behind the scenes while distracting our attention with the puppet show of imaginary characters; unlike scholars and journalists, who quote the opinions of others and shelter behind the hedges of neutrality, the essayist has nowhere to hide. While the poet can lean back on a several-thousand-year-old legacy of ecstatic speech, the essayist inherits a much briefer and skimpier tradition. The poet is allowed to quit after a few lines, but the essayist must hold our attention for pages and pages. It is a brash and foolhardy form, this one-man or one-woman circus, which relies on the tricks of anecdote, conjecture, memory, and wit to enthrall us.

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Chapter 8. The Nomadic Pastoralists

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

The adaptation of nomadic pastoralism arose so gradually within a number of different ecological conditions that it is difficult to make any general statements concerning its time of origin. Some forms antedate agriculture; others arose as an adjunct to it. At any rate, once an adaptation developed, it remained impressively stable. Take, for instance, the Evenk (Tungus), to be discussed later in this chapter. Archeologists have found traces of their way of life going back as far as the Neolithic, about 8000–9000 B.C., not too far from where they make their home today in eastern Siberia, in the region of Lake Baikal.

Comparing the subsistence activity of nomadic pastoralists, we can distinguish three subtypes:

1) those who combine pastoralism with hunting and gathering;

2) those who have ties to and obtain part of their subsistence in trade relations with agriculturalists; and

3) those who by virtue of a sexual division of labor are partially horticulturalists, a task that has fallen to the women, and partially pastoralists, the lifeway of the men.

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Chapter 4: Pentecostalism: A New Force in Christendom

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Pentecostalism is another important possession religion in the modern world characterized by the experience of a positive possession by an otherworldly being or force. Compared to Umbanda or Spiritualism, the spread of the Pentecostal movement is overwhelming. Figures on Spiritualist membership nationally are not available, but a glance at the telephone book of a medium-size city such as Columbus, Ohio, my hometown, which has about 600,000 inhabitants, is certainly instructive: there are nine Spiritualist churches listed, as against fifty-two Pentecostal and sixty Apostolic congregations. And that is counting only the two principal Pentecostal denominations and not all the many smaller ones, such as Assemblies of God and others. John Thomas Nichol, an American historian, is obviously justified in calling Pentecostalism the third large force in Christendom, next to Catholicism and Protestantism.1

The start of the Pentecostal movement is usually attributed to Charles Fox Parham, although experiences similar to his appeared in the English-speaking world on both sides of the Atlantic at about the same time, and many events and personalities played a part. In this country, speaking in tongues is reported sporadically at least since the middle of the nineteenth century, later especially in the American Holiness movement, an outgrowth of revivals after the Civil War. Parham was born in Iowa in 1873. As a young man he was a lay preacher in the Congregational church. Later he joined the Methodists, and then the rapidly expanding Holiness movement. In 1900, he founded his Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. From scriptural studies he and his students became convinced that in Apostolic times a baptism by the Holy Spirit was always accompanied by the outward manifestation of speaking in tongues, and they wondered whether the same should not also be true in the modern age.

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Contents

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781609949198

6 The Path of Animals

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Animals sense our walking.

I don’t mean merely that they know our presence. I mean
that, in moments, they sense the intentions of our hearts—
whether our hearts are walking forward or backward.

You may wonder at my saying this. There was a time
when I wouldn’t have believed it myself.

But then I met a badger with a stone.

It happened not long after I escaped
the land of winding cliffs.

My moccasins had disintegrated from my feet, and with
them some of my confidence among the hills. Red ants
and stickers bade me turn around at each step. Finally,
I collapsed to rest in the pungent shade of a sagebrush.

After a few minutes, I heard from the other side
of the brush a muffled growl and spitting noise.
I turned my head to look.

Less than five feet away was a freshly dug hole.
From the hole a furry rump emerged—the rump of
a massive badger backing its way up the dirt ramp.
He held loosely in his front claws a fist-sized stone,
dragging and rolling it along up the ramp.

I forgot my troubles as I watched the scene.
As the badger’s body topped the ramp, he pitched
awkwardly down the other side and lost hold of the stone.
He growled and went back after it. Time and time again
he attempted the same, only to lose hold at the top.
When finally he succeeded and was about to go back—
perhaps for another rock or for a rest—he saw me.

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Ten: Changing Shape—The Shimmering Game

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In a tale of Rabelaisian abandon related by Indian fishermen of the Northwest Coast,1 their culture hero, the Raven, changes himself into a fisherman in order to make merry with the latter’s wife. When the fisherman unexpectedly returns and begins beating the intruder into a pulp, the Raven is constrained to revert to his original shape. The incensed husband ties him up and throws him into the pit of the outhouse. But the Raven, being immortal, eventually frees himself of his bonds and lives to see another day and more adventures of a similar nature.

Traces of such “softness,” as one anthropologist calls it,2 of the boundaries between humans and animals, when matters were in a state of flux between the species, are all about. Egyptian and Celtic and Hindu gods have animal heads or shapes. Echoes of the same tradition abound in the myths of every society of the world. They are known among the Australian aborigines and on the other end of the spectrum among the nineteenth-century Germans who were the consultants of the Grimm Brothers. And they are, of course, equally familiar to the Indian societies of our continent. There is a story current among the same Indian fishermen of the Northwest Coast, according to which a hunter once heard laughter coming from a cave. When he sneaked up to the entrance and peeked in, there were the animals hilariously playing at turning into people. In fact, the Haida Indians of the region recount that in those early times animals used to have both human and animal forms. As the Navajo singers put it, “In those times all the animals were like people. The four-footed beasts, the flying birds, the coiling snakes, and the crawling insects behaved the way that earth-surface people who occupy the world today behave” (Zolbrod 1984:98).

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The Mystique of Money

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Anyone who pays attention to the state of the planet realizes that all natural systems on which human life depends are deteriorating, and they are doing so largely because of human actions. By natural systems I mean the topsoil, forests, grasslands, wetlands, rivers, lakes, oceans, atmosphere, the host of other species, and the cycles that bind them together into a living whole. By human life I mean not merely the survival of our species, although in the long run that will surely be in question; rather I mean the quality of our existence, the prospects for adequate food, shelter, work, education, health care, conviviality, intellectual endeavor, and spiritual growth for our kind far into the future.

So the crucial question is, Why? Why are those of us in the richest countries acting in such a way, individually and collectively, as to undermine the conditions on which our own lives, the lives of other species, and the lives of future generations depend? And why are we so intent on coaxing or coercing the poorer countries to follow our example? There are many possible answers, of course. It may be that on average we humans are too short-sighted and dim-witted to take stock of our situation and change our behavior. It may be that evolution has ill-fitted us to restrain our appetites. It may be that selfish genes and tribal instincts prompt us to define our interests too narrowly, excluding regard for people whom we perceive as different from ourselves, not to mention other species and unborn generations. It may be that the otherworldly religion preached so fervently across our land has convinced many believers that Earth, indeed the whole universe, is merely a backdrop for the drama of human salvation, destined to evaporate once the rapture comes. It may be that we have been so stupefied by consumerism and around-the-clock entertainment that we have lost the ability to think clearly and take sensible actions. It may be that global corporations have achieved such a stranglehold over the mass media and the political system as to thwart all efforts at reforming our way of life. It may be that the logic of capitalism, based on perpetual growth, is incompatible with a finite planet. It may be that preachers, pundits, pitchmen, and politicians have deluded us into thinking that financial wealth represents real wealth.

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Chapter 2: Spiritualism

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

To many people, the idea of possession by an alien entity is a frightening one, because the word conjures up stories of malevolent, demonic intrusion. Actually, though, the experience does not always involve evil spirits. Quite often, instead, the beings in question are kindly, helpful, or, at most, dangerous. As to the reasons why there should be such a variety of traditions about this experience, we have to turn briefly to the history of human cultural evolution.1

The whole complex of possession and the rituals concerning it must be quite old, judging from the fact that the tradition is so widely distributed. It is known, for example, to horticulturalists, as we saw with the Ynomamö (see chap. 1), where the medicine men invited the spirits into their chests. The horticulture of the Ynomamö Indians is a very ancient form of cultivation, arising directly from the original style of subsistence of all humankind, that of hunting and gathering. It survives to this day as a sophisticated adaptation to tropical rain forests, for instance in South America. Its name derives from the Latin word hortus, “garden,” because instead of open fields these societies work small, gardenlike plots. The area for the gardens is burned over and yields a harvest only for about three years. That forces horticulturalist societies to be on the move all the time, and their villages are not permanent. Such mobility necessitates a constant close interaction with their surroundings, their natural habitat, which demands flexibility and adaptiveness. Quite logically, their ethical system is also based on appropriateness, for they cannot afford the rigidity of a world view that is based on the cleavage between good and evil. It follows that their spirits are adaptable, too; they are neither good nor evil, they are simply powerful. In Japan, the only large modern state with strong ties to horticulturalist tradition, spirits of this nature tend to predominate in possession, as we shall see in chapter 5.

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Chapter 6: The Multiple Personality Experience and Demonic Possession

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

The multiple personality experience or “disorder” is not usually covered in discussions of demonic possession. That is regrettable, for as we saw in chapter 1, there is a lot that it can teach us about possession, and it also offers some insights into its demonic variant. Perhaps because the multiple personality syndrome is relatively rare, authors of texts on comparative religion are usually not even aware of its existence and would disregard it anyhow, because of the prevailing view that it is exclusively a psychiatric problem.1

Briefly, as will be remembered from chapter 1 and the case of Eve White, patients suffering from this condition experience themselves as having several discrete personalities called alternates that do not share consciousness or memories with their host. That means that the host does not know or is not able to recall what the various alternate personalities do, and extended periods of amnesia, often starting during childhood, are characteristically reported by these patients. Each one of the alternates has its own complex social patterns and behavior. When a given personality is dominant, it will control the individual’s behavior. As should be obvious by now, this description could just as well be cited in any discussion of the experience of possession. There are, however, in the main two differences between this disorder and possession as a religious experience. One of these concerns how the phenomenon is located culturally, that is, what society, especially those charged with treating the patient, thinks is going on. The other is the nature of the beings involved in the possession.

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The Force of Spirit

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

My wife’s father is dying, and I can think of little else, because I love him and I love my wife. Once or twice a week, Ruth and I drive the forty miles of winding roads to visit him in the nursing home. Along the way we pass fields bursting with new corn, stands of trees heavy with fresh leaves, pastures deep in grass. In that long grass the lambs and calves and colts hunt for tender shoots to nibble and for the wet nipples of their mothers to suck. The meadows are thick with flowers, and butterflies waft over the blossoms like petals torn loose by wind. The spring this year was lavish, free of late frosts, well soaked with rain, and now in early June the Indiana countryside is all juiced up.

On our trip to the nursing home this morning, I drive while Ruth sits beside me knitting. Strand by strand, a sweater grows under her hands. We don’t talk much, because she must keep count of her stitches. To shape the silence, we play a tape of Mozart’s Requiem from a recent concert in which Ruth sang, and I try to detect her clear soprano in the weave of voices. The car fills with the music of sorrow. The sound rouses aches in me from earlier losses, the way cold rouses pain from old bone breaks.

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The Emergence Story

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Two Indian friends, Rosemary from Taos and Joseph from Picuris, were participants in the first workshop I ever did in Cuyamungue, in the summer of 1982. We had done the postures together that I had worked through for the German television program, and then the question came up whether there were also others that I had not tried yet. So I got out the few examples that I had collected at the time, and we decided on the posture of a man squatting on a carved red sandstone pipe, an exquisite piece of art created about A.D. 1300 and discovered during excavations in Hale County, Alabama (pl. 63). The man is naked except for a cap, perhaps made from strips of hide. He has his tongue between his lips. His left hand grabs his lower left leg at an angle, his right hand is on his right knee, but stretching upward on the side of the leg, and his buttocks rest on the ground, a posture extremely demanding physically.

Both Joseph and Rosemary were shaken by what they had seen in the trance using that posture. It was dark, said Joseph, and the earth had burst open, as if an enormous volcanic eruption was about to take place, and the sky was lit up by exploding stars. Rosemary had heard people screaming, sighing, and moaning as if they were about to die. They both said that they would not try that posture again.

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5 The Path of Plants

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

For all who have a desire to change their walking,
nature displays in abundance the way to do it.

The answer grows all around you.

Pardon me if it seems I speak in riddles.
For I do not mean to. Riddles are obscure,
while the path to forward walking is clear—
as clear as the flowers before you.

For plants, my young friend, know a secret—
the secret to forward walking.

It seems odd to say that plants walk forward, but they do.

And it is a shame that their knowledge of
forward walking remains a secret,
for they have been speaking of it to all
who would listen, from the beginning of time.

Listen to them, my young friend,
and they will show you the way.

You can hear the secret most plainly
when you are listening from a great distance.

For the secret of plants is most obvious in plants’ absence.

This is not another riddle
but simply recognition of what is sadly true:
man sees lack much more readily than abundance.

It is when plants are absent that we learn to see them.

My learning from plants began
as I wandered across a stark desert plain.

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Eleven: Celebrations

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

For the 1985 spring workshop at the Buddhist Center in Scheibbs, our friend Franz announced that we were going to have a masked dance. “Dear Friends,” he wrote in his flyer,

you have all taken part in an introductory course on trance and the religious altered state of consciousness with Felicitas Goodman. For this year, we are planning a more intensive project with Felicitas, to deepen our knowledge about trance and ecstasy and to practice integrating it into our daily lives. This project is not to be as serious as it sounds, however. We want to make it a celebration as it used to be in ancient cultures, a celebration of joy. It is to be a game between the dimensions of the world, a sacred event demonstrating our connectedness with everything that surrounds us.

I arrived late on the first day from another assignment. I had not seen the flyer; we had discussed the matter only in the most general terms, but in no detail, and I knew only that Franz had engaged Rudl, a trained Viennese maskmaker, as an instructor for our project. So I was understandably startled when after greeting the fourteen participants in the upstairs meditation room of the center, Franz turned to me with a confident smile, saying, “All right, Felicitas, so why don’t you just describe some native ritual to us, and we’ll proceed from there.”

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Chapter 4. Dependent Variables

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

A ritual is a social encounter in which each participant has a well-rehearsed role to act out. It takes place within a set time span and in a limited space, and involves a predetermined set of events. Once initiated, it has to run its course to completion. In interaction with others, humans perform many rituals in everyday life. In our present context, however, we will concern ourselves only with those rituals that touch on the nonordinary, the religious aspect of human existence.

The number of religious rituals is legion, and social scientists have tried to categorize them in a number of different ways. The most successful attempt to date was made by the Dutch social scientist Arnold van Gennep. His slender volume, first published in 1909, went through many editions. His popularity resulted from the fact that he put forth a scheme that made a complex task appear deceptively simple. He proposed that the multitude of rituals reported from around the world notwithstanding, they all could be ranged into three types: those of separation, of transition, and of incorporation. Rituals, he pointed out, accompanied people throughout their lives. They marked situations of crisis, such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death, with proper solemnity, functioning to facilitate the passage from one social condition to the next. He coined the term rites of passage, without which hardly a writer could authoritatively discuss Johnny’s Bar Mitzvah or the president’s inauguration.

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