I finished James David Audlin's Circle of Life: Traditional Teachings of Native American Elders. I have three items.
1. On page 336, Audlin states:
generations to follow us will be unlike us, the Two-Minded
Generation...They will not say one religion or ancestry is better than
another. They will not blindly insist on one or another way of doing
things. Rather, they will live fully as traditional people, in complete
harmony with each other and all living beings."
On page 338, Audlin draws from a variety of religious traditions:
"The Talmud of Judaism teaches (in Yalkut Shim'oni): 'G-d formed Adam of dust from all over
the world: yellow clay and white sand, black loam and red soil, so that
the Earth can declare to no race or color of humanity that they do not
belong here, that this soil is not their home.' In the Acts of the
Apostles, Peter the disciple of Jesus declares, 'I truly know that G-d
pays no attention to your face [i.e., race], but in every nation those
who fear G-d and do what is right are acceptable to G-d.' The Prophet
Muhammad, on whom let there be peace, is remembered for standing in
respect one day as a funeral went by; according to the Hadith,
when his disciples asked if he realized the deceased was a Jew, he
replied, 'Was he not a living spirit?' Lord Krishna says to Arjuna in
the Bhagavad-[Gita], 'Many are the paths of humanity, but they all in
the end come to me.' The Creator created us all, and not only humans,
but all living things."
I know how a number of conservative
Christian apologists would respond to what Audlin is saying. "Audlin
says that one religion is not better than another, but does not he
presume that his beliefs and way of doing things are better than
others?" "Audlin is quoting selectively from the religious traditions
that he mentions, cherry-picking the parts that accord with his own
ideology. There are exclusivist elements of Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam, which Audlin ignores." I've never actually heard these words
being used to critique Audlin, but I have heard or read similar words
being used to critique religious pluralism.
I think that the critiques are fair, but I don't dismiss religious pluralism. The
reason is that I believe that a number of religions have wisdom and
appear to advocate similar principles of spirituality, or getting in
touch with the sacred. It's important to remember that the religions
have differences among each other, too, and so they're not always saying
the same thing. But there also seem to be commonalities, and I enjoyed
reading Audlin because he traveled between religious traditions in
seeking to communicate profound spiritual points.
reading this book, I absorbed some things and not others. At some
times, I was passively reading words and was not paying too much
attention to what I was reading. At other times, however, I was deeply
absorbing what I was reading, and the pages went by quickly. This book reminded me of Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals and Genesis Trilogy in that it had a lot of spiritual meanderings, and that's a big reason that I enjoyed it.
On some occasions, I needed to reread a section because I felt that I
had glossed over it and missed something profound. This was true of a
story that Audlin tells on pages 98-99.
In this story, there is a
hunter whom many women wanted to marry, and whom many grandmothers
wanted their granddaughters to marry, and yet the hunter was not
interested in marrying anyone. Rather, he was preoccupied with
hunting. One day, when he was out hunting in an unfamiliar area, he saw
a beautiful woman. He gave her some deer and they had a meal together,
and he also looked at what she was weaving. They spent the night
together. The next morning, however, the hunter looked beside him and
saw in the bed a dry and shrunken body, which seemed to have been dead
for a long time. The hunter took the weaving still and returned to his
tribe, wiser and sadder than he was before. He was now seeing in all
women the mystery of the woman whom he had met, and he was sensitized to
the transitory nature of life. He settled down with a woman and had a
family, but he still cried whenever he "took out a bit of old,
I liked this story because of its bittersweet ending, but also on account of the man encountering a woman who lived years ago. I enjoy time-travel stories. Moreover, this story reminded me of an episode of The Dead Zone
from Season 1, "Shaman", in which Johnny interacts with a Native
American from the past in an attempt to save his tribe from a meteor (I
draw from wikipedia's language here).
3. I talked yesterday about Audlin's discussion of Native American eschatology. I should note that Audlin has a series, Seven Novels of the Last Days, some of which are about eschatology. I may read them sometime.
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