by Susan Josephson Ph.D
Editors Note: Being the daughter of Dr. Felicitas Goodman, Susan Josephson shares a unique perspective of the land of the Cuyamungue Institute and her mothers insights. The family of Dr. Goodman simply refers to her as Felix which will be reflected in this article.
I remember the summer of 1973 when my sister and her boyfriend and my husband and I visited my mother’s property, Cuyamungue. My sister wanted to show her boyfriend the land so we decided to camp out over night by the ancient pueblo ruins. At that time the Cuyamungue property was all wilderness. There was a well but no electricity or phones or toilets. The landscape was huge and untamed.
We hiked out to the pueblo ruins. Our campsite was surrounded by a vast arid landscape. We could see a highway in the distance, but on the other side of the highway was more wilderness and distant mountains. That night we built a fire in front of a massive sandstone pillar with an animal face carved into it by the wind. The pillar had a powerful presence. As the campfire made shadows flicker on the sandstone pillar, its animal face seemed to come to life. It was scary and surreal, perfect for a night around the fire in the wilderness. We were running out of wood, so the two men walked into the darkness to find more. I was cold, so I left my sister at the fire and climbed into the tent to get my jacket.
Then I heard my sister scream! Two large animals were in the fire. They looked like living flame and they asked her, “Why did you call us?” Then the animals left the flames and like living shadows they glided along the ground towards the tent. In the tent I saw their shadows move across the wall. At the open tent flap, one of them turned its face towards me and suddenly a big mask-like animal face with sharp teeth and deep black holes for eyes was huge beside me. I feared that it wanted to possess me. Then it was gone.
That encounter was so scary that we wanted to leave the land right away. But the men pointed out that it was dark and there was no way we could negotiate the rugged landscape in the dark, so we huddled in the tent all night waking at every sound, terrified because we knew that the tent’s thin canvas walls could not keep out spirits. We felt them following us when we hiked back to our car the next morning. And when we drove away, they were riding the wind beside our car. It was not until we crossed the mountains that we felt safe.
When we told my mother, Felix, about this encounter, she said she knew the pillar we were talking about and it was called “Stone Lion.” Offerings were left in front of it. The main Stone Lion shrines were in the mountains across from the Stone Lion on her land.
Hearing her daughters tell about their spirit encounter made Felix focus on the Stone Lion spirits. Felix believed in spirits but had never actually experienced any herself and she needed that experience to prove to herself that spirits and alternate realities really exist. The Stone Lion was on her property and hearing her daughters’ stories made her think that these spirits might be the real thing. Others had seen them and she set her mind to figuring out how she could call them herself.
When Felix visited my brother Nick, they tried calling the Stone Lion spirits and a big black cat leaped on the screen door in front of their altar, hanging by its claws, banging, snarling, and hissing. Nick thought the spirit that animated the cat was clearly hostile and dangerous so he warned Felix to stop trying to contact those spirits. But Felix did not listen. Instead she took the black cat’s appearance as encouragement. She was getting closer.
Felix thought the Stone Lion spirits were healing spirits. But when she asked, a pueblo wise-woman told her, “No, they are hunting spirits and the only healing they give is the healing of death. They are dangerous. Leave them alone.”
But again Felix did not listen. Clearly the wise-woman believed in these spirits. They were real to the Pueblo people, but Felix still had not had personal contact. She worked harder on finding a way to contact spirits and it was with that project in mind that she discovered the ritual-body-postures technique that the Institute teaches.
But even with these postures, the Stone Lion was out of her reach. She tried everything but even in trance, they did not come to her. Six years after my sister and I encountered the spirits, Felix had still not experienced them herself so she decided to give it one more try. She decided to try hiking into the mountains with some students to the main Stone Lion shrines. But after many hours of strenuous hiking, she and the students could not find the shrines and Felix felt too tired to go on. So she left the students to hike back alone.
She thought it would be easy but she became hopelessly lost. Dehydrated and exhausted, she collapsed under the shade of an old twisted Pinyon tree on the ridge of a great canyon. It was getting dark and the winds howled.
It was then that the Stone Lion spirits finally appeared to her. They were rushing towards her from across the canyon. She was the intruder and they wanted her dead. They showed her their teeth and roared. They blew sand in her face. She was very afraid. She closed her eyes and prepared to die. She saw her own death, discovered her true name, and met her spirit guide, Brother Buffalo. She understood that she was a buffalo spirit. She understood what she was here to do – show people ways to contact the spirit world.
When she awoke from her vision, the lion spirits were gone. She found her energy and Brother Buffalo helped her find her way out of the wilderness. The students had also not succeeded in finding the shrines and Felix never tried summoning the Stone Lion spirits again. She had her miracle. She now knew spirits were real. She had experienced them herself and through their force she had faced her death and discovered her destiny.
When Felix told me this and I wrote it up as part of her story in the graphic novel Pueblo Spirits, she insisted that the location of the Stone Lion shrine on her property be kept hidden and that its face not be shown. These things were Native American sacred knowledge not to be shared. I honored her request. I respected the spirits and kept their secret. But since then things have changed. Even if I told you exactly where the Stone Lion was and what it looked like, you could not go there.
First the Stone Lion lost its face and only the roundness of its ears remained. This happened before 1996. People did not know what it had been before and named it “heart-rock.” The two lobes that were the ears of the Stone Lion were now the lobs of a heart. Where the animal face had been was rough and irregular and near the base there was a cavity in which people placed small heart-shaped stones. The sandstone pillar was not Native American any more. It was not sacred any more. There was no face to animate in the fire. There was no longer something dangerous to be hidden.
A heart-shape is not sacred knowledge. It is friendly, welcoming. There is nothing dangerous about it. We’ve all seen it before. That it appeared naturally on a big sandstone pillar is unusual, but the image itself is conventional as a symbol for love. As heart-rock the sandstone pillar was no longer sacred or dangerous and did not have to be hidden. It was there for everyone to see.
Then in 2014, storms destroyed heart-rock. The sandstone pillar is now completely gone even in its heart-rock form.
As metaphor what does this transformation from Stone Lion to Heart-Rock to no pillar tell us? When Felix first began thinking about her trance postures and her own attitudes towards spirituality were forming, it was important that she be in New Mexico and experience its pueblo peoples and that her land have an active sacred pillar on it. But once her trance technology was fully developed that technology freed people from needing to be in a deeply spiritual landscape like Cuyamungue to have a spiritual experience. The institute could now be anywhere. With that technology people can contact spirits even in cities far from any wilderness.
That the Stone Lion turned into Heart-rock is the change from a representation to a symbol. It is a change from something that could be animated to something that cannot. The Stone Lion was there for the Pueblo peoples and needed to be hidden from everyone else. It was about power. But the heart-rock erased that power with love. As people felt love and gathered hearts to leave at heart-rock, the Stone Lion doorway was closed. The institute does not strive for power over spirits as its goal. And the trances that are done at Cuyamungue are done out of a desire for harmony and love and good will towards all creatures.
With the ritual body postures, doorways have been opened to many alternate realities and spirits. The focus has changed from local Cuyamungue Pueblo spirits, like the Stone Lion, to alternate realities from many cultures. The trance technique Felix discovered does not require a deeply spiritual landscape like Cuyamungue. People do not need to hike out into a wilderness with offerings to a lion-shaped rock; they can contact spirits even in cities far from any wilderness. This is what the most recent change represents. The Native American Stone Lion changed into Anglo heart-rock and then heart-rock disappeared into global consciousness. Felix’s doorways are for everyone. The ritual trance postures take us to the alternate realities of many different cultures. The Institute is promoting a global technology and so the stone pillar that only gave access to a local spirit has completely disappeared.
About the Author
Susan Goodman Josephson is Felicitas D. Goodman’s daughter. She has a Ph.D. in philosophy from The Ohio State University and was a professor of philosophy at Columbus College of Art and Design until she retired in 2011. She has written books and articles on artificial intelligence and on art.
Susan has illustrated several books, including My Last Forty Days, A Visionary Journey among the Pueblo Spirits, by Felicitas D. Goodman, Indiana University Press, The Ecstatic Experience, Healing Postures for Spirit Journeys by Belinda Gore, Bear and Company press, and Flowering Bruno by Charlene Fix, XOXOX press.