“Freedom is not a constant attribute which we either “have” or “have not.” In fact, there is no such thing as “freedom” except as a word and an abstract concept. There is only one reality: the act of freeing ourselves in the process of making choices. In this process the degree of our capacity to make choices varies with each act, with our practice of life.”
— Erich Fromm (The Heart of Man, Its Genius for Good and Evil)
I got briefly embroiled in a Facebook status rant last night whose result was that mid-stream the person (whose status everyone was replying to) deleted the post (and I think their personal account) to close off the discussion.
A few hours later, I was roaming around and just double checking that when I found their more “business” account. They had reposted the status but on that page, the only “friends” were those part of her choir. She also posted a bit about that anyone negative needed to just get off her page or she would defriend them.
Now, here is what the discussion was about. The woman had posted a generic new agey type message about loving everything etc and so forth but had credited one of the current gurus, Keisha Crowther, with being the source and inspiration of it all.
At that time, I had never heard of Keisha Crowther. What caught my eye was that after the huggy-huggy-feel-good message there were numerous comments but you know how FB only shows the last two on your updates? The last two contained a very defensive post by the original woman about having studied with a Native American spiritual teacher and not understanding why such a message of compassion, which is from Native culture, would be offensive to Native peoples. This was followed by a response from a Native American absolutely slamming Crowther as a fraud that is denounced by the very tribes she claims authority from; they posted the official denouncement from the elders.
So, of course, my curiosity picked its head out of the trash it was examining and said “oooooooooooh” and off we went to google. To say that Crowther is a fraud is putting it lightly. Google her name and check it out, especially the Rick Ross forums. Rick Ross, by the way, is one of the foremost cult investigators around.
Back to the growing discussion on FB, I enter the fray with links et al to the investigations in to Crowther and her claims of being the reincarnation of the White Calf Woman and the recognized Shaman of all Native peoples in America. While I was investigating, the back and forth contained promises from the original poster to look into the information about Crowther being a fraud (tied to guilt producing – why does it matter, we all just need to love one another) and the Native American just railing that stealing their culture and spiritual heritage has got to stop.
The post and account were removed shortly after I posted the Rick Ross links. Or, maybe I was simply blocked, who knows? I don’t really care in this instance. There were several people who had been huggy-huggy responding until the fraud-line came out and it was like a wake up call to them, for which they expressed gratitude. Just to have been part of the trigger for that is reward enough.
The thing is, especially with the 2012 nonsense, there is a growing movement of white people who are being drawn in by other white people who have appropriated (and misunderstood) indigenous beliefs and use their spin (and made up names…aka Adam Yellowbird, now there is another interesting shamster to look up) in order to gain ego power and to make a hell of a lot of money.
Crowther charges $54 a ticket to hear her speak (on the average) and up to $3,000+ for special ceremonies.
The thing is, 2012 is like manna from heaven for these people as far as enticing people into the fold with promises of teaching them the only way to survive and successfully utilize the tremendous energy and pole shifts coming. Problem is, people like Crowther, are beginning to change the message of peace, love and universal hope to one of an “energy holocaust” of which only those “open to love” will survive. There is concern in the cult tracking community that it could spiral into another Heaven’s Gate or Jonestown.
Here is the link to the material on her at the Rick Ross site:
I should also mention that a part of Crowther’s claim is that the lamas and Buddhists of Tibet recognize her as a Shaman.
Now, a very brief course in Religion and Spirituality 101. Buddhists, as well as the spiritual leaders of indigenous people, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and so on (excluding fringe sects and cults) all agree on one thing. Teaching spirituality, teaching the religion is not something that is to be sold, ever. You do not sell the ceremony. In other words, if you pay to go take a class or retreat in a certain type of spirituality, guess what? You have been had. It is one thing to pay for your room and board but it is verboten in those religious cultures to sell the teaching. Advanced studies for priesthood and leadership sell courses that surround the religion but the actual spiritual teachings that are a part of those studies is not something that is paid for.
Now, a brief course in indigenous tribes. While some may occasional dub an outsider an honorary whatever, that doesn’t mean you are one of them. In the same way that taking a Lakota and calling them Bubba does not make them part of the Caucasian race with special insight and connection to the history and culture.
While you can learn a great deal about indigenous culture and belief, you can never leave yourself and your heritage completely behind.
Even in many Native tribes, having the blood is not enough to be considered part of the tribe; it requires a very serious commitment to the community and to being present – there. Not in your apartment with a buffalo skull hanging on the wall or out on a speaking tour to promote your book.
Indigenous people have been brutalized by Western Europeans for centuries. They used to be put on display at circuses for entertainment among other things.
They do have a very attractive concept of spirituality and connectedness to the universe but it is rooted in the kind of deep history and kinship that cannot be assumed. You can practice the same things, rituals and ceremonies – but you are still not a Native, no matter how deeply you feel connected to the culture, and your insights remain three steps divorced from Native culture because you are you.
I have spent a great deal of time among quite a few Native American tribes. I have good friends who are Native American. I have been to ceremonies, private and public. Eaten in their homes. Learned and been taught about their beliefs and culture. I have done dreaming ceremonies and more. I have even been given a title by one of them – but – I would never dream of identifying myself as in any way a “part of” their culture and heritage. The title I was given was something that, from within the context of their culture, gave me a place within it that was understandable. But, it is the title of an outsider and that I am content to remain.
As I said in the status run last night, it is easier to adopt the beliefs and trappings of something outside of yourself to soothe yourself into believing you have discovered part of your inner workings then to suffer through the process of actual finding the truth within you. Trappings that are foreign to one’s culture serve as proof of self-discovery, totally missing the fact that the self discovered requires no external proof.
The huggy-huggy-feel-good interpretation of indigenous spirituality is evidence of ignorance and naiveté about the hugely complex spiritual life and presence within Native culture.
Not to mention, it’s just another form of stealing from Native peoples and treating them with an incredible disrespect. If you feel it is not disrespectful, then I can say honestly that you have no sympathy, empathy or understanding of Native culture, spirituality, history and heritage.
The woman last night could not grasp why it was offensive to promote and communicate what she saw as a basic Native message. The problem is not in the message; the problem is in presenting oneself as having a unique understanding or placement in Native culture to give the message. If it is a message you want to give, stand up and say it in your own voice, no one will argue with that.
In addition, another thing, almost all indigenous tribes function as largely communal organisms. The idea of a solo Native teacher teaching or dubbing one with names or special roles or performing sacred ceremonies – does not happen.
There are a great many things that we, outsiders, can learn from indigenous culture and spirituality, but it is an education that is meant to illuminate our own placement within the universe. The main lesson is not to seek to become something you are not, but to seek to become who you are.
And, as I said last night before the status was whipped from view, despite all of this mess and disrespect and fraud, one cannot avoid recognizing that of all the teachers in the world, the coyote remains the best of them all.
c.2011 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.