VIVIAN DELGADO COLUMN: Spiritual knowledge is the highest knowledge
As we continue to contemplate, teach, learn and apply environmental knowledge, wisdom and socio-political activism, we must remember that spiritual knowledge is the highest knowledge one can gain.
This knowledge comes from original teachings that were shown to the human being via natural law. All cultures around the world had/have original teachings, although many fathers and grandfathers have lost their teachings and thus have lost their way.
It was common knowledge at one time that one would secure permission to travel away from their home to someone else's territory, typically spiritual permission and prayer came first followed by permission from the original inhabitants. Preparation for travel came long before one set out so that every consideration regarding prayer, food and gifts are offered and given for the purpose of one's travel. Spiritually intact communities knew when visitors were coming and what to expect long before the use of technology. Spiritual sharing and spiritual knowledge continue to be very diverse because those teachings come from one's natural environment and land base. As we know, there are numerous regions and numerous natural environments.
Developing spiritual knowledge can and should be a fundamental process. For example, have you ever wondered why a significant land base is sacred? Why women are considered sacred? If you take the time to think things through, you will be able to see the power naturally endowed in a mountain, lake, river or stream; the same is true for women because in Indigenous cultures we tend to view women/feminine with the earth qualities. All human beings are both female and male so we should always view ourselves as sacred.
When we think of balance, peace and harmony, we must look closer at what this really means and apply the depth of its meaning. Indigenous people are taught to not displace the natural environment with materials and resources from another environment. The practice of taking rocks, stones, trees and plants and locating them out of their natural environment will eventually cause disharmony and thus the peace found in the natural environment is disrupted. Maintaining balance requires us to the leave each environment in its natural state. In our modern societies, this is very difficult because science is convinced it can do a better job than the creation itself.
Take for example the way we use scientific discoveries and interpreting those discoveries by analyzing it into data and statistical form, then based on data, science is able to remove the current problem and place it into a future time. Most people are aware that drinking water will be more and more endangered in the future, giving us perhaps more time to do something about it. However, if we apply spiritual teachings the time for prayer and giving back to our creation is now. The time for applying original teachings to the longevity and purification of all water is now. We can do this by just thinking, or imaging in one's mind the beauty of a natural environment or speaking a word of thanksgiving for the water, land, air and all earth elements. Remember that we are living in a spiritually depleted culture in a moral universe and the distance between the two gets greater and greater.
Being in the moment requires one to be aware of their body, their mind, and feelings and to recognize where they are at that moment. It means to be aware of your presence in your immediate environment in every moment. This may seem like a difficult task at first but if you do this often enough throughout the day it will come natural thus you are invoking the first natural teachings of the original teachings that were/are given to us to become truly human.
As we move forward in our efforts to protect our natural environments and become a sustainable culture in all aspects of the natural world, we must remember we already have within ourselves the ability to change what has been destroyed. Just think that every day you have the opportunity to present yourself to our creation in a way that promotes a spiritual identity, beauty and love including the ability to give thanks. What else is there?
Vivian Delgado is a professor of Native American studies at Bemidji State University.