A dear friend gave me a photocopied appendix to the book Returning to the Teachings, by Rupert Ross. I was so taken by this that I felt the urge to share it in extenso here. The teachings are summarised in the book The Sacred Tree, which presents ethical concepts and teachings of Native societies throughout North America concerning the nature and possibilities of human existence.
The twelve teachings are as follows.
- Wholeness. All things are interrelated. Everything in the universe is part of a single whole. Everything is connective in some way to everything else. It is therefore possible to understand something only if we can understand how it is connected to everything else.
- Change. All of creation is in a state of constant change. Nothing stays the same except the presence of cycle upon cycle of change. One season falls upon the other. Human beings are born, live their lives, die and enter the spirit world. All things change. There are two kinds of change. The coming together of things (development) and the coming apart of things (disintegration). Both of these kinds of change are necessary and are always connected to each other.
- Change occurs in cycles or patterns. They are not random or accidental. Sometimes it is difficult to see how a particular change is connected to everything else. This usually means that our standpoint (the situation from which we are viewing the change) is limiting our ability to see clearly.
- The seen and the unseen. The physical world is real. The spiritual world is real. These two are aspects of one reality. Yet, there are separate laws which govern each of them. Violation of spiritual laws can affect the spiritual world. A balanced life is one that honours the laws of both of these dimensions of reality.
- Human beings are spiritual as well as physical.
- Human beings can always acquire new gifts, but they must struggle to do so. The timid may become courageous, the weak may become bold and strong, the insensitive may learn to care for the feelings of others and the materialistic person can acquire the capacity to look within and to listen to her inner voice. The process human beings use to develop new qualities may be called “true learning”.
- There are four dimensions of “true learning”. These four aspects of every person’s nature are reflected in the four cardinal points of the medicine wheel.
These four aspects of our being are developed through the use of our volition It cannot be said that a person has totally learned in a whole and balanced manner unless all four dimensions of her being have been involved in the process.
- The spiritual dimension of human development may be understood in terms of four related capacities – (a) the capacity to have and to respond to realities that exist in a non-material way such as dreams, visions, ideals, spiritual teachings, goals and theories; (b) the capacity to accept those realities as a reflection (in the form of symbolic represenation) of unknown or unrealised potential to do or be something more or different than we are now; (c) the capacity to express these non-material realties using symbols such as speech, art or mathematics; (d) the capacity to use this symbolic expression to guide future action – action directed towards making what was only seen as a possibility into a living reality.
- Human beings must be active participants in the unfolding of their own potentialities.
- The doorway through which all must pass if they wish to become more or different than they are now is the doorway of the will (volition). A person must decide to take the journey. The path has infinite patience. It will always be there for those who decide to travel it.
- Anyone who sets out (i.e. makes a commitment and then acts on that commitment) on a journey of self-development will be aided. There will be guides and teachers who will appear, and spiritual protectors to watch over the traveller. No test will be given that the traveler does not already have the strength to meet.
- The only source of failure on a journey will be the traveler’s own failure to follow the teachings of the Sacred Tree.
I was totally struck on reading this that point 8 – the four capacities of spiritual development – are a sequential description of the steps of manifestation as I have been experiencing them, increasingly strongly, in the past few years. It is also what we have been doing – instinctively rather than deliberately – in our explorations with Women Moving the Edge: sensing, capturing in image, sound and movement, articulating with words, before bringing action into the world.