THE EARTH MYSTICISM OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBAL PEOPLES WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE CIRCLE SYMBOL AND THE SIOUX SUN DANCE RITE

ROSALYN MARIE AMENTA, Fordham University

Abstract

Mysticism defies precise and static definition, for every religious system offers a type of mystical consciousness peculiar to its own conceptual framework. In monotheism, for example, the transcendent nature of God distinguishes the created world from the Creator such that the mystical experience of the Divine requires a transcendence or departure from the phenomenal order.^ In a monistic context such as the Upanishads, the mystical experience consists in the merger of one's individual soul, the atman, with the universal soul, the Brahman. It requires the withdrawal of all senses and consciousness from the empirical world to attain an identity with a trans-phenomenal, trans-temporal universal Consciousness.^ But the mystical experience indigenous to the native North American tribal peoples stands out uniquely in the history of religions in that it is grounded in the vision of a Sacred World which underlies, envelops and is manifestly present within the entire empirical order.^ The sacred dimension, although being qualitatively different from the phenomenal realm is not regarded as "otherworldly" or "transcendently beyond" in the same way as it is meant in a monotheistic or monistic apprehension of the Divine. In this sense, the Native American does not "transcend" the world in the Christian or Vedantic or Neo-Platonic manner; rather, he "plunges into" the world and experiences himself and the earth with all its myriad phenomena as being totally immersed in and revelatory of the Divine Reality.^ To bring to light this heretofore unexamined type of mystical experience, this study analyzes historical data collected by late eighteenth to early twentieth century missionaries, ethnographers, anthropologists and others. Most of these materials contain verbatim interviews with spiritually and philosophically gifted Native American leaders which form the foundation of this thesis.^ These source materials while serving the limited interests of the various disciplines responsible for their acquisition have never been systematically analyzed for their mystical and philosophical content as such, by the methodology of the History of Religions and Depth Psychology. Consequently, those scholars most heavily influencing the reinterpretation of the factual materials are Eliade, Hultkrantz, Campbell, Guenon, and Jung.^ The second objective is to analyze the metaphysical and moral philosophy of the Great Plains tribal peoples, the Teton Sioux, insofar as it derives from their understanding of the earth as the primary revelation of the Sacred Reality, and furthermore, to apply these insights toward the reinterpretation of the most misunderstood yet greatest mystical rite of the Great Plains peoples, the Sun Dance Ceremony. ^

Subject Area

Religious history|Cultural anthropology|Spirituality|Native American studies

Recommended Citation

AMENTA, ROSALYN MARIE, "THE EARTH MYSTICISM OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBAL PEOPLES WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE CIRCLE SYMBOL AND THE SIOUX SUN DANCE RITE" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8714570.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8714570

Share

COinS