Ritual Postures, Ritual body Postures, Ancient Ritual Postures

Cuyamungue’s Place under the Sun

by Nick Brink, Ph.D

I just finished reading Frank Waters 1950 book, MASKED GODS: Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism. This provocative book provoked this paper. After providing a contemporary history of the Four Corners and describing the power that Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism has over the indigenous people of the area, he concludes with two powerful points.

The first point described by Waters is the difference between the rational consciousness of our Western/European culture and the intuitive consciousness of these indigenous people and many other peoples of the world. He then notes that many of us of the dominant White culture are experiencing an emptiness in life because of our rational way of thinking, and we are racing to the Four Corners to find greater fulfillment in “Intuitive Way of Knowing.” From his perspective, this race began even before 1950 when this book was written. Waters, who also wrote The Book of Hopi, recognizes that most of us who are racing to the Four Corners, who collect the fetishes, Katchinas, and other art, and who go to Taos to experience pueblo ceremonies are not fully comprehending the intuitive way of knowing. These tourists miss real power of the ceremonies they see, but they are not totally to blame because the indigenous people seek to keep the meaning of these ceremonies a secret.

The second point is that even though the Navaho and Pueblo people go to the Western doctors for their medical problem, they continue to also depend upon the ceremonies of their own medicine-men/singers, ceremonies that are performed for healing. Waters points out that this indigenous healing is to heal the person, while the medicine of the Western doctors is to heal the illness. The Western doctors are not treating the underlying causes. The Navaho sings aim to restore the patient physically and psychologically, righting within him or her the disharmony that causes the illness. Many, if not all of the ceremonies are metaphoric stories that bring about balance between the opposing forces or attitudes that cause the disharmony. “The White doctor’s shiny machines, his good medicines, remedy the effect” (p. 387) of the disharmony, but not the disharmony itself.

A whole other race to this intuitive way of knowing is seen in another phenomenon of our culture, the great expansion of the Apostolic and Evangelical Churches and of speaking in tongues, and the slow demise of the more conventional Protestant Churches. In June, in my flight to Cuyamungue, I read Felicitas Goodman’s monograph, Speaking in Tongues: A cross-Cultural Study of Glossolalia. This monograph was not just about Glossolalia, but about the way in which the preachers of the apostolic churches brought their congregations to the altered state of ecstatic trance or of being possessed by the Holy Spirit, about individual members of the congregations who were brought to seek this altered state and what it was like for them. I was impressed with three described experiences, the experience of euphoria and the experience of healing, but also the meaninglessness of the experience of glossolalia. In that these churches are attracting people who are finding emptiness in our culture of rational thinking, the fulfillment found in their ecstatic experiences seem somewhat lacking in the broader since of the intuitive way of knowing because of the meaninglessness of glossolalia, though the experience provides feelings of euphoria of being possessed by the Holy Spirit and sometimes heals. This race to the Apostolic Churches is not a whole lot different from the tourist who races to Taos, who recognizes that something special happens there, who thinks it can be found in the fetishes and watching the celebrations, but who does not truly understanding the intuitive way of knowing.

Felicitas, in bringing what she learned to Cuyamungue, added greatly to the ecstatic experience by taking the experience beyond glossolalia and opening the door to the narratives from the unconscious and the universal mind, of the extraordinary experiences of the ecstatic trance journeys. These experiences are of euphoria and of healing, but also of going beyond in extrasensory perception to learn of that which we have not experienced before, of experiencing what I imagine are the intuitive experiences of the dancing Katchinas and the others who participate in the Navaho and Pueblo ceremonies.

Cuyamungue brings something new to these experiences as discovered by Felicitas in her rational/scientific exploration of the nature of this intuitive way of knowing. Cuyamungue is teaching the deeper nature of this intuitive way of knowing. We are not racing blindly to Taos, trying to find fulfillment in this empty world of rationality. Both worlds are important to bring together rationality and intuition, the goal of Cuyamungue.