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Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 23:10:01 -0600 (CST)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: A Native American Worldview
Organization: PACH
Article: 82227
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.14773.19991118121605@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Hawk and Eagle: Both are Singing

By Paula Underwood, Noetic Sciences Review, Summer 1990

A Comparison Between Western and Indigenous Science—in which the author attempts to share the relevance of her shamanic training to Western science.

As a part of the Native American training I received from my father, one of the aspects of perception that I was asked to understand was the distinction between Hawk and Eagle, between the way Hawk perceives and the way Eagle perceives. In this shamanic tradition, you gain the appreciation by what is considered to be direct experience. However, the distinction—once learned—is easily translated into Western logical sequential language structure.

Dictionary definition of science: Originally, state . . . of knowing

When hunting, Hawk sees Mouse . . . and dives directly for it.

When hunting, Eagle sees the whole pattern . . . sees movement in the general pattern . . . and dives for the movement, learning only later that it is Mouse. What we are talking about here is Specificity and Wholeness.

Western science deals from the specific to generalities about the whole.

Indigenous science begins with an apprehension of the Whole, only very carefully and on close inspection reaching tentative conclusions about any Specificity.

Indigenous science is based on a profound immersion in and awareness of the whole circumstance. Rather than mistrusting personal experience, Indigenous science has learned to thrive on it. The standards for personal honesty are excruciatingly exact and taught from earliest childhood. Educational structures like the Vision Quest have as one goal coming to terms with accuracy outside of or devoid of your own assumptions or the assumptions of your society. The idea is that you are always—if you are wise—moving toward enhanced accuracy. You will never entirely arrive at complete accuracy, but you are constantly trying to move in that direction.

As to the efficacy of Indigenous science, let me give you one example.

Since universe is Energy, part of the process of understanding, at least as I experienced it, is to learn to see flows of energy and specificities of energy. Both are necessary. Because, you see, Universe is both Whole and Specific. Western science is beginning to understand this through explorations of theories about particle and wave. Both the particle/particularity/specificity of Universe and the wave/flow of Universe were aspects I was encouraged as a child to apprehend and understand. I was asked to see the dancing points of lights and then to apprehend the shift from location to flow. Much of shamanic practice has to do with developing the ability to enter and use this shift.

So when I read that the Western science of physics was looking at particle/wave theories, I had no trouble with that at all. Instead of being startled or surprised, I was given a wonderful gift—the ability to communicate more easily some of the things I learned in the shamanic process of understanding Universe.

To the extent that Universe is Whole, location/time is irrelevant. To the extent that it's Specific, relationship is a better construct than either time or location for purposes of accurate understanding.

The process of Indigenous science allows you to learn about and to experience the flow of Energy through Universe. You quickly come to understand (well, maybe it takes a while) that Universe has a kind of binary on/off structure, which can certainly be stated as particle/wave. In the particle state, particles can be understood in terms of location. But location requires a point of reference which is more or less fixed in relation to that particle.

Tell me now, where is that point of reference? Are you not also moving?

The Indigenous scientific approach understands Universe—or All Things—as constantly in motion. Even the particles are dancing, already moving toward the flow state. Since everything is in motion all the time (oops, time is irrelevant!)—since everything is constantly in motion, any location is in constant flux in relation to everything else.

Ah . . . in relation to!

All Things, All Things are Related is not just a charming chant, designed to put you in touch with all your relations, it is a profound evaluation of the nature of Universe.

Language predicts the conclusions that we reach therein.

There is great contrast between Native American languages in general and that logical, sequential construct called English. In general, it can and has been explained that Indian languages are much more verbal—that is, verb oriented—than English. English uses an extensive noun/category structure which requires you to constantly decide which category whatever you are describing belongs in. Thus, in English, we constantly divide a whole Universe into semi-relevant parts. Indian languages generally don't do this.

Language predicts the conclusions we reach therein. Understanding this, my ancestors consistently examined new words the way the commerce department examines applications for new patents, except that their usefulness was also explored, as was their impact on the culture as a whole. The Academie Francaise limits itself to examining the accuracy of French. My ancestors required a detailed cultural Environmental Impact Report!

That which enables, disables also.

From an Indian perspective, the priesthood nature of Western science is anathema. My own tradition disbelieves in experts. That which enables, disables also means that a physicist will fail in understanding in many other areas, precisely because of the amount of time she/he spends on physics and therefore not on other things. Such people are not considered experts, but those extensively informed on part of the whole. They are listened to not on a priesthood basis, but on the basis of their having information others may not yet have—just as vice versa.

The search for greater wholeness—which has no room for expertise—is unending!

Any highly trained person will of course have a particular view—and therefore has a special responsibility to listen before speaking in any discussion of what the people may choose to do. Any person in a group who gets out of touch with his, with her community, is separated therefrom. Although I don't think there is the same negative connotation as there is in English, a shaman out of touch with her, with his community takes on aspects of the wizard—an isolated person who can inadvertently or on purpose do things that are harmful to the community. The process of Western expertise would be seen as a process of encouraging people to be isolated from the rest of their community in some way.

If Universe is Whole, what causes what?

As I have said, Universe in its particle state has the quality of relatedness. Universe in its wave state partakes of flow. The particle state can be said, then, to have the quality of location. The wave state can be said to have the quality of direction. It is this movingness of Energy that of its nature produces Change.

But look, if everything is in motion, what causes what? How can we say that this drop of ocean water pushes that drop of ocean - and that's why it moves! Rather, direction, flow, the movingness of Energy of its nature produces Change.

And here we have a problem with English. Produces means causes. It doesn't mean that in my tradition. There is more a sense of evolution, a sense of cooperative evolvingness, of the Universal Reality acting through you and with you and with everything else—all at once. Perhaps engenders is a better term. Perhaps a better term has yet to be invented. In any event, in any shift from one language to another, much is lost in translation.

It seems to me that there are two aspects here that make Western science's preoccupation with causality sometimes counterproductive. (Remember, that which enables, disables also.) One is the probability of multiple causation. Laboratory experiments obsessively select out causative factors for experimental demonstration. This clarifies and obscures, both at once. It leads to situations in which, for example, a blood test run to determine causation of some dis-ease may not reveal the culprit, as we weren't screening for that condition.

It also leads to situations in which the results of isolated experiments are applied to the broader community with disastrous or semi-disastrous results. Mistakes are not ruled out by any discipline. But this kind of mistake (Love Canal, nuclear waste disposal) would be less likely in any Indigenous, Whole way of understanding the Universe in which we exist.

The other aspect I see that seems to me to question the relevance of Western science's preoccupation with causality, is: In a sea of constant movement/change—which the wave aspect of Universe certainly seems to imply—is causation really a viable way of understanding?

So Hawk—the tendency to look at the Specific—and Eagle—the tendency to look at the Whole—have something to say to one another. And if they both listen, what is engendered is what is called in my tradition an Interactive Circle. Like Yin-and-Yang, each encourages the other toward heightened acuity.

In cultural terms, this has been going on for a long time. Renaissance Europe was preceded by the Crusades, during which Europeans developed a taste for foreign knowledge/science and technology—and they just kept it up! Much of Western science is truly based on earlier exploration by other peoples—Chinese, Muslim, Native American. According to my own oral history, for instance, Benjamin Franklin's famous key-and-kite experiment was his effort to try to demonstrate and understand better what he was hearing from some of his Iroquois friends—which was that Universe is energy . . . and so on.

To learn to demonstrate through replicable, quantitative experiments to those unwilling to spend the time to acquire shamanic skills—or whose culture has chosen to forego these skills—some of the thing that can be learned through this Whole approach to Life . . . is no small thing. It is an invaluable contribution to human understanding . . . a second eye opened on the Universe to help give us some greater depth perception.

For me, Western science is that second eye.

Perhaps Indigenous science can provide that second eye for the West, to the greater benefit of one and all.

Hawk and Eagle—both are singing.
Let us hope they are listening to one another.

Kind thoughts come . . . .