"You're going to take me to the United Nations."
Those were the first words Hopi elder David Monongye ever said to me. Until that moment, my Navajo traveling companion/guide Wolf and I, sat in silence for quite a while opposite David at the kitchen table in his tiny but amazingly adequate two room pueblo home, in the village of Hotevilla on the Third Mesa of the Hopi Reservation; which is located in an area that history books tell us was acquired by the United States from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848. There is no record of when Mexico claimed that area as theirs.
In 1882, somebody in Washington D.C. drew some lines around a portion of that land, and the Hopi Indian Reservation was established by executive order of President Chester A. Arthur. In 1912, that same area became part of the United States' 48th State called Arizona. In 1935, the Hopi Tribal Council and Government was organized, and its constitution was approved by the Secretary of the Interior in 1936. Hopis are now federally recognized as "the Hopi Tribe."
David Monongye was born two decades before Arizona became a state. He passed away in 1986. Throughout all those years, he and his cohorts denied that any Hopi ever relinquished the ownership - or rather the guardianship - of their land to anyone. That included the federally organized Hopi Tribal Council. And they most certainly did not perceive themselves as a "tribe". As for the lines drawn by President Chester Arthur's Executive Order, one day, as we stood on the edge of the Mesa behind David's home and gazed out at the vast Painted Desert below us, I asked him how far Hopi Land extended. David answered, "As far as my prayers will go."
One difference between what is now known as The Hopi Indian Reservation and many of the other Reservations, is that nobody - including the US Government - moved them there. Traditional Hopi people say they have lived on the land since their escape from a prior world - the Third One - after it had been destroyed by flood. As they emerged into this Fourth World through an opening in the depths of the Grand Canyon, they were met by the original Caretaker Spirit of this land - Massau'u, with whom they made a covenant. If any Hopi did not follow the instructions that defined the covenant, then he or she became "Kahopi" and their fate would be melded in with the fate of the other Kahopi.
David explained that most people defined the word "Kahopi" as "bad Hopi". "That's not what it means." said David. "Kahopi means 'not Hopi'. You are either Hopi or not Hopi."
David was almost completely blind. He could, however, distinguish between light and darkness - in the environment, and in people. And perhaps that's why, when he was still quite young, he was chosen by one of the Hopi elders who was the "Keeper of the Hopi Prophecies" as the next one in line to fulfill that role. David told me that the Prophecies took seven days to relate, but they contained within them the entire story of the Hopi, from the beginning - to the possible ends. The use of the plural "possible ends" is intentional - and essential to the understanding of what follows. Especially since being Hopi also means one has an unbreakable spiritual bond with all living things and the land and waters upon and within which they live. Consequently the Hopi Prophecies pertain to the entire world.
Regarding the first words he spoke to me, seven years later - 1n 1980 - I did take the man called Grandfather - or "Grampa" David Monongye to the United Nations on the occasion of the UN's 35th Anniversary. He told me it was in fulfillment of part of a Hopi prophecy. Perhaps it was.
Umwelt is a century-old concept introduced to ethology, the study of animal behavior, by Jakob von Uexküll. It's the recognition that every animal exists in a unique perceptual universe that's closed to human beings other than through inference: Much of a bee's world is ultraviolet; a dog's nose does a lot of what we use our eyes to accomplish. Then there are the electric fish which perceive their world through a sense we lack entirely.
Umwelt can also be used to explain the inherent conflicts among business executives, engineers and project managers who have entirely different "umwelts;" optimistic, realistic and pessimistic.
Like some other Wikipedia entries, this one goes a bit off the deep end in its second paragraph. Professor von Uexkull was more inclined to identify 'umwelts" as biological, rather than cultural developments. Nevertheless, as our (hard to believe, but) apparently socially-oriented species has developed what we call civilizations, the cultural aspects of those civilizations - i.e., their "shared meanings" - have so imposed themselves on that development, that ( those mentioned in the Wikipedia's second paragraph notwithstanding) some of the more complex ones appear to have become embedded in our genetic makeup. Nowhere is this more evident than in the interaction of Western man's "umwelt" with that of the original inhabitants of the North and South American Continents – and specifically, the Hopi people.
As with the Chumash, the Conquistadors and the missionaries who accompanied them were the first to lay eyes on the people, whose name - Hopi or Hopitu - they translated to mean "Peaceful". (It means much more than that!) In this case, it was Coronado in the mid-1500's, during his famous search for the legendary "Seven Cities of Gold". Unfortunately, he and his missionaries, and those who came after them, were anything but peaceful toward the heathen Hopi, when they tried to force them into believing in their God; or when they beat them into providing the wood that was made into beams to support the missionaries' houses of worship, which they were also forced to build. The trails left by the wood that was dragged from 40 miles away, and the charred remnants of a church that was built with them and later destroyed by lightning, can still be seen on the edge of a cliff outside of the village of Old Oraibi - the oldest continuously inhabited village within what is now known as the United States. They remain mute vestigial reminders of those times.
When I first arrived in Hopiland, four hundred years after Coronado, I found that, although a number of the inhabitants had since converted to various forms of Christianity, including Mormonism - and even more had adopted the dominant culture's ways to one degree or another - some still held tenaciously onto their original spiritual perceptions, which included Massau'u's specific instructions. For example, they were to avoid contact with any overt aspects of non-Hopi culture - which in present day terms meant the aforementioned Hopi Tribal Council and things like telephone and power lines and the building of Federally funded homes. Those who maintained strict adherence to all the instructions, were known as "Traditionals" as opposed to "Progressives."
NOTE: The "Hopi/Kahopi" distinction Hopi elder David told me about, was more than most contemporary Hopi people could deal with - since they now lived in a time when even the Hopi language was threatened by extinction. But the Traditional/Progressive delineation was very evident during my years of involvement, and had taken on political implications that reverberated all the way to Washington D.C. - and even around the world. It's been more than 25 years since I was last there, so I have no idea what things are like today. Although I have heard that one of the most important Hopi Ceremonies - The Snake Dance - is no longer practiced in Hotevilla. I hope I'm wrong. But this is is about then, not now.
Once, upon arriving at the outskirts of Hotevilla, I saw two trucks from the nearby Telephone Company being prevented from entering the village by Hotevilla women who were lying in the road, in their path. The women would not speak to the truck drivers. So I did, and explained that the women had religious reasons for not allowing their entry, since no telephone or power lines were allowed in Hotevilla. When the telephone men said they were asked by some of the villagers and the Hopi Tribal Council to come and install the equipment, I explained that the religious leaders of Hotevilla called the shots in Hotevilla, not the Hopi Tribal Council. The men turned their trucks around and left. A few days later some of those women came to David's home where I was staying and presented me with a beautiful hand made Eagle plaque. It still hangs on a wall behind a display of memorabilia -- next to, and somewhat higher than, my CAROL BURNETT SHOW Emmy Award.
Eagle Plaque presented by the women of Hotevilla
The women lying in the road were a contemporary manifestation of a very important Hopi religious instruction. The Traditional Hopi people I knew insisted that they had never been conquered by any of those who had attempted to do so, for the simple reason that they did not believe in war, and therefore had never engaged in armed conflict with any of the invaders of the land that had been given to them by Massau' u. -- which is why Grampa David often said to me, he could never understand how the Mexican Government could have possibly claimed they owned the land that they ceded to the United States in that Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. That particular topic was one that still made him angry - or as angry as he ever got. You could tell when David was over-the-top angry because at that point he would say: "They're not supposed to do that!"
Regarding the emotion of anger, it appeared to just not exist in David and some of the other Hopi elders. And if one of them ever did show a flash of it, it would be immediately mitigated by some inherent capacity to go beyond it. The depth of that capacity - which was perhaps the most basic precept of their spiritual perspective - and the one that identified who the true Hopi were - was made very clear to me one day, when David said:
"They can come here to kill us and our wives and even our children, but we will do nothing -- or we will become them."
NOTE: Before you read further, I suggest you re-read the previous sentence. It contains within it, the essence of what "being Hopi" really means.
What made Grampa David and the other Hopi Traditionals capable of sustaining those spiritual perceptions was their extraordinary "umwelt" –which was (is?) so deeply ingrained, that in its purest form, it denied (denies?) the existence of Time as we know it.
To fully understand what this means, I turn to my friends Krishnamurti and David Bohm again. In their Dialogues, they made a clear distinction between Time by the clock, and Psychological Time. The Western world doesn't see - or rather is generally not capable of perceiving - the difference between the two. The operative word in that sentence is "generally". We've all experienced the difference ourselves when we get "lost" in a book we're reading, or a job we're doing, and we wonder where the time went. Now imagine, if you can, what it would be like to constantly live in a timeless state, where there is no "yesterday", no "tomorrow" ... where there is only "Now!"
Keeping that distinction in mind, lest you think that this denial of Time as we know it is unique to the true Hopi people, it isn’t. Back in ancient Greek times, a man named Heraclitus viewed the perceived world as flow, rather than its being comprised of incremental periods of time - or what we call "moments". Science tells us that the smallest such increment we can perceive, is 1/24 of a second. It's also the measure used in creating basic motion pictures - 24 frames per second. The historically documented example Heraclitus used for this "flow", which he claimed was how things really are, is that it's impossible to step in the same stream of water twice.
That perception of Time as undifferentiated flow is still very much alive in our contemporary world - but only in certain parts of it. Some examples: There was the 90's bestseller by a well-known University of Chicago psychologist entitled "FLOW -The Psychology of Optimal Experience". Numerous accounts of the phenomenon have also been reported by top athletes, including the LA Lakers Kobe Bryant who has been quoted as saying that, more than once, he's suddenly found himself in a Time-altered bubble in which "Everything slowed down" -- thereby allowing him to score at will. Minnesota Vikings football star Adrian Petersen has spoken of similar instances of suddenly finding himself in that same Time-altered bubble, seeing a hole in the defending line, and moving through it without a hand being laid on him. That experience has been called "being in The Zone"-- and is often experienced by tennis players, runners, and other athletes.
But, there was another Greek around at about the same time of Heraclitus, whose name was Democritus. If Aristophanes, the original Comedy writer who invented everything from high-cerebral to low- slapstick forms of comedy, and who was also around during those times, was to tell the story of the two contradictory world views these men introduced, it might go something like this:
Two Greeks walk into a temple, order a couple of flasks of ouzo and proceed to discuss the nature of the Universe.
“All is flux” says Heraclitus, “There is nothing permanent except change, and what we see as materially fixed objects - like this temple we're in - are in actuality, changing before our eyes ... only the change is happening so slowly, that we can't see that they're changing.”
“Nonsense”, says Democritus."Everything in the world including this flask I'm holding, and the ouzo in it, is made up of little things we can’t see that I call 'atoms'. And these "atoms" are actual things! And when these atoms stick together they make bigger things, like this temple we're in, which is definitely permanent.”
“Until it’s no longer a temple.” says Heraclitus.
“Then what happens to it?”, asks Democritus.
“Sorry guys... " says the bartender "... closing time.”
I wish I could say that the argument has been raging since the temple closed that night. One need only recall the development of something originally called "the Atom Bomb" to gather who seems to have won. Moreover, back in the '20's, a Catholic priest named Georges Lemaître proposed what has become the prevailing theory of how the Universe began -- what is now called " The Big Bang Theory". But when LeMaitre proposed it, he merely called it his "hypothesis of the primeval atom".
The notion of there being such a thing as a "primeval atom" has religious connotations not unlike those of the "Intelligent Design" school of thought, and some have suggested it was this that moved LeMaitre to develop his scientifically questionable, yet brilliant hypothesis. Concepts like his, be they hypotheses or theories, have strengthened the position of the development of one particular scientific field called "Particle Physics" - which in itself still contains Newtonian concepts that supposedly were abandoned when the New Physics (Quantum and Relativity Theories) appeared.
But physicists who've fallen in love with the equations they can derive from this form of mind-play have elevated it to the highest form of adulation, especially since the equations can lead to "results" - whatever those results may be - like blowing up the world. Even this morning's headlines told of the millions that were recently poured into the repair of an ultra-high-tech "super-collider" that has once again started sending some kind of particle on its way to smashing into another particle in search of that ultimate "smallest particle which appeared at the moment of that 'Big Bang' ".
And yet, the other "flow" perspective - although not exactly center stage - is still alive in the world of contemporary physics. David Bohm often reminded us that all universal matter is contained within an invisible "plenum" of energy. That space between you and your computer and you and the person in the other room is actually not empty. It's filled with energy. Which means that when all that energy in all that presumably empty space is included in the picture, the "Big Bang" that may have occurred, was really just "a little bang". Furthermore, Bohm also suggests that this presently prevailing "fragmented world view" that is advocated by scientific perspectives like "Particle Physics", may be the source of the ever-increasing havoc in the world -- or what Hopi Prophecy describes as "Koyaanisqatsi"*:
"The title of this Chapter <One> is 'Fragmentation and Wholeness'. It is especially important to consider this question today, for fragmentation is now very widespread, not only throughout society, but also in every individual; and this is leading to a kind of general confusion of the mind, which creates an endless series of problems and interferes with our clarity of perception so seriously as to prevent us from being able to solve most of them." David Bohm--WHOLENESS AND THE IMPLICATE ORDER.
So, difficult as it may be for some of us to comprehend, there are some cultures that still maintain that “all is flux”. The Hopi spiritual perspective is based on that perception. It is even evident in their language – which prompted noted linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf who studied the Hopi language for years, to publish an essay he called "An American Indian Model of The Universe". In his essay, he suggested that it would be possible to explain Quantum Physics more readily in a language like Hopi than in English because of its unique view, or non-view, of Time .
Differences between Western man's and most of this Continent's indigenous people's "umwelts" are indicated in other native languages as well, and can be physically traced all the way back to their initially identified difference regarding the so-called "ownership" of a piece of the Earth. That kind of ownership was incomprehensible to people like David. We may have turned the term "Mother Earth" into a joke character we see in commercials, but to David, the Earth was his "Mother who gives us milk from her breast". Therefore, what made David Monongye so unique, was his ability to psychologically venture into the dominant culture's "umwelt" and communicate what was primarily perceived from within the Hopi "umwelt", while he was still a living example of what being Hopi meant. As the "Keeper" of the Hopi Prophecies, he also felt it was his responsibility to talk about them, because of the warnings they contained. Moreover, David had actually lived in a time when he saw certain elements of those Prophecies come to pass -- which created in him an even deeper sense of urgency in the fulfillment of his mission.
While I'm throwing that German word "umwelt" around so freely ( I'm sure I'll hear from my friend Marie B. in Munich about it) here's another one: "Weltanschauung".
In his examination of the Hopi language, Whorf specifically refers to the "Hopi Weltanschauung". But "Weltanschauung" means a "philosophy of life", and philosophies are usually cognitively expressed through a spoken language - that is, they give intellectually-based
meaning to what we perceive through our senses. But, there is another kind
of meaning that is directly perceived through the senses and needs no
intellectual interpretation through words, because "It is so!". J.
Krishnamurti and Cornell University Psychologist James. J. Gibson - neither of whom knew
of the other's existence - both identified this manner of perceiving -
and both called it "Direct Perception".
Most indigenous people's "umwelts" are derived from that form of Direct Perception, which is more like an "existence view" because it has its biological roots in one's very being. And as David Bohm often pointed out, in this context, the words "being" and "meaning" are deeply intertwined -- What life means to someone defines their being. Since it is that view of existence that is foundational to "being Hopi" -- the original Hopi people may be the first of a certain advanced form of our species that was prophecied by the Bible, who would "beat their swords into plowshares". Except that the original Hopi people may have preceded the time when the Bible was written, and not one of them - by definition - ever owned a sword.
For those who are unfamiliar with the specific source of that "swords into plowshares" phrase, it is a) from Isaiah 2:4 and b) the name of the statue that stands in front of the United Nations .
UN "Swords into Plowshares" Statue
When I first came across Whorf's essay, I mentioned it to David Bohm because his "Implicate Order" approach to Quantum Physics is based on such a timeless flowing model of all that is -- which he described as "Undivided wholeness in flowing movement". Bohm said he was aware of Whorf's work and thought it would be interesting to meet a Hopi and discuss that aspect of their language. So, I arranged for a meeting between my two friends named "David" - Bohm and Monongye. But by then, the Hopi elder was in his mid-90's and when we arrived in Ojai, California for the meeting, the area was being deluged by a relentless rain storm, which weakened the old man's capacities to engage in any kind of dialogue. So, the meeting was brief and nothing of consequence came of it.
The man who actually did give me another insight into the relationship of Hopi prophecy to Quantum Physics was neither Hopi, nor a physicist, nor a linguist - but one of the American Indian elders whom I met through Semu Huaute.
Rolling Thunder - or RT - was a colorful gentleman who experienced his Andy Warhol "15-minutes of fame" by way of Tom Laughlin's classic cult movie hit of the '60's "BILLY JACK". In one sequence, Laughlin is instructed by a Native American shaman played by RT, on how to to confront his fears by dealing with a bunch of deadly snakes that he's trapped in an exitless enclosure with.
RT, whose shamanistic practices apparently included a real life ability to interact with snakes without being harmed by them, was also said to be psychic. I'm not sure if he was or not - but he did teach me my first lesson about prophecy, when he said to me: "All prophecies are subject to change." That sentence appealed to my comedy writer's sensibilities, while at the same time relating to one text book explanation of Quantum Theory which concludes that there is no such thing as "Certainty" in the phenomenal world.
As we shall see in the next entry, what RT said also proved to be of value when I was introduced to the pictogroph that is a visual representation of the Hopi Prophecies and can be seen on what is known as "Prophecy Rock" in Hopiland. That's Prophecy Rock that is sort of visible behind Grampa David and me in the picture at the top of this entry.
One final point: The fact that the Hopi spiritual perspective is tied to their perception of Time, and the most well-known and longest series of J. Krishnamurti/David Bohm Dialogues is called "The Ending of Time", is by no means a coincidence. The implications inferred by the possibility of each of us ending Time as we experience it, within our own selves, was also at the heart of what their Dialogues were about.
* Click on the arrow below to view the Trailer from the landmark 1978 film "KOYAANISQATSI : Life Out of Balance", that visually introduced a new way of perceiving the relativity of Time. Make sure you pump up your computer Volume, the Philip Glass score is a treat in itself. BTW - David Monongye is listed in the closing credits as the Hopi adviser.
TO BE CONTINUED