Ivory Tower

I recently had another wave of anonymous non-profit directors coming to look at my Linked-in profile. Since this is usually an indication of interest on the part of the Cuyemungue Institute (click here), I went to take a look at their latest newsletter. Sure enough there is a rebuttal to my blogs on my experiences there (click here).

In this brief article (click here) are some profound misrepresentations of the area, its animals, and the activities of the indigenous peoples.

• First, referring to the shrine of the Stone Lions in the Jemez Mountains in past tense is inaccurate. Bandelier National Monument no longer advertises the location of the actual site to the general public at the request of the indigenous peoples for whom it is very much a vibrant active part of their lives and ceremonies. Also, Bandelier National Monument is and was far from a true wilderness, with carefully maintained trails and an active Park Ranger presence while the Cuyemungue Institute lies just off the main road between Santa Fe and Espanola.
• Second,both physical and visionary Lions are master predators. When they are serious about hunting, their prey is unaware of them until they strike. Since the visionary lions in question made themselves known, asked why they had been called, and hung around waiting for an answer until their visitors left, they clearly were not hunting. Cowering in fear and refusing to respond was an incredibly rude and infantile response to an ancient and powerful being’s efforts to reach across the cultural gap and communicate. This admitted degree of unfounded fear also gives the lie to any claims by those of Institute that they are working out of goodwill, as fleeing in fear is very much the opposite of tolerance, never mind love and acceptance.
• Third, in general, advising an ignorant outsider to stay away from something they do not understand in the visionary realms is as widespread among indigenous peoples as parents cautioning a child to stay away from the burning fire or the swift running water for their own safety. Adults, on the other hand, must learn to handle fire and water to survive. Assuming that the pueblo ‘wise-woman’ who told Felicitas to leave the Stone Lions alone actually knew or passed on anything about the inner sanctum and secrets of the hunter/warrior societies of the Stone Lions is as presumptuous as assuming that one could get accurate information about the inner workings of the Pythagorean school of mystery, music, and mathematics by asking around at an ancient Greek agora. Any one actually experienced in and involved with the real thing is not going to be idly gossiping about it to outsiders. This is, of course, partly due to vows of secrecy, but those vows are held to in a large degree because talking to those who have no direct initiatory experience is so futile.
•Fourth, Indigenous peoples of the American Southwest are very much aware of the transient nature of the landscape. Since one translation of the indigenous word Cuyemungue is ‘the place of the slipping rocks’, it is clear that the sacredness of a site is not dependent on the appearance or disappearance of any particular fleeting physical manifestation. The sacredness of the land is timeless, and like the Tao, its principles are what endure. It is clearly apparent that those who come to the Cuyemungue Institute seeking a return to their indigenous roots do need to make a journey from the hierarchical power structures they are raised in to a more humane heart centered state, and then to a realization of our common being with all creation. Projecting that process onto a sandstone pillar eroding away on the Institute land may be a helpful metaphor to them. Projecting that process onto the indigenous peoples of the area and erasing them in the name of perpetuating a copyrighted “Cuyemungue Method@ “, a sanitized proprietary global spiritual technology, is an act of astoundingly blind arrogant cultural appropriation eerily reminiscent of the actions of millennia of Christian missionaries that would thoroughly appall Felicitas Goodman.

I wonder what Susan Goodman’s immediate experience at the time of her 1973 vision and her life afterwards would have been like if she had had the courage and open-mindedness of her mother, and had been willing to converse with the spirits who answered her call. She herself writes that Felicitas did experience the true nature of the Stone Lions, joining those who see beyond the individual egoic existence into the turning of the wheel of life:

“It was then that the Stone Lion spirits finally appeared to her. They were rushing towards her from across the canyon. She was the intruder and they wanted her dead. They showed her their teeth and roared. They blew sand in her face. She was very afraid. She closed her eyes and prepared to die. She saw her own death, discovered her true name, and met her spirit guide, Brother Buffalo. She understood that she was a buffalo spirit. She understood what she was here to do – show people ways to contact the spirit world.

When she awoke from her vision, the lion spirits were gone. She found her energy and Brother Buffalo helped her find her way out of the wilderness. The students had also not succeeded in finding the shrines and Felix never tried summoning the Stone Lion spirits again. She had her miracle. She now knew spirits were real. She had experienced them herself and through their force she had faced her death and discovered her destiny.”

I accompanied Felicitas Goodman on her hike in Bandelier, I speak from my own direct experiences, and while I respect Susan Goodman’s memories of her relationship with her mother, and her choice to turn away from her own destiny in fear, I do have to ask the Doctor of Philosophy just how many living elephants must die before western civilization’s insular idealistic self-protective intellectual Ivory Tower collapses of its own weight?

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2 thoughts on “Ivory Tower

  1. Sara, life, and vision, as you have so well explicated, are so immensely complex. I certainly understand fear and turning away. Yet, in a world where so much is being lost, turning away has terrible costs. Such a human conundrum.

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