You’re listening to the only hour that ever was, or ever will be. You’re listening to the Hour of the Time, during which you will decide your future and, thus, our collective futures. I’m your host William Cooper.
(opening music: theme music from the movie Blade Runner, written by Vangelis)
Tonight’s program, ladies and gentlemen, comes from a book by Manly P. Hall, named America’s Assignment with Destiny. And last night, we had our young research assistant do the last half of the program. We understand that some of his narrative could not understood, as it was his first try at radio broadcasting. And we’re going to continue to work with him. And he’s going to get better and he’s going to do some more programs on the Hour of the Time, because we like to share everything around here and give everybody a chance to be the best that they can be.
So, I’m going to continue tonight where I left off at the halfway point in the program to make sure that nobody misses any portion of any of this series. And we continue now.
[reading from America’s Assignment with Destiny, written by Manly P. Hall]:
(start of quote)
It was written that the Cholulans deeply admired [Quetzalcoatl] the great priest because of the purity of his life, the kindliness of his manner, and his doctrines of peace and brotherhood. He remained with them for nearly twenty years, slowly sickening from the poison which was destroying his body. At last he realized that his ministry was coming to an end, so he continued his long journey toward the mysterious city of Tlapallan from which he had come. He turned toward the east and proceeded to the sea, which he reached at a point a few miles south of Veracruz. Here he blessed the four young men who had accompanied him and bade them return to their homes, with his promise that one day in the future he would return and restore his kingdom among them.
Then the old and weary man called to the sea, and out of the waters came a raft of serpents. He stepped upon this strange craft and was carried away into the land of the sun’s beginning. He left behind him a priesthood that perpetuated with esoteric rites the Mysteries of the Feathered Serpent. There is every indication[, folks] that the cult of Quetzalcoatl was kept secret, a precaution necessary in the face of the opposition of the primitive indigenous sects.
There are several accounts of the death or departure of Quetzalcoatl. The conflict is due in part to the legends being derived from different tribes, and in part to the Spanish methods of gathering the reports. [Now,] these invaders took slight interest in the native traditions, until they had destroyed most of the available sources of information. Later, even the converted Indians were uncertain of their tribal history. There is reason to believe, however, that some sacred records were intentionally suppressed and were never available to the missionaries. The people of Mexico claim to have sacred accounts of the mysteries of their religion and the origin of their race. There is mention of the Divine Book written by Tezcucan, a wise man or wizard, whose name means Lord of the Great Hand. This was supposed to contain the account of the migration of the Aztecs from Asia. Baron de Waldeck claimed that the book had once been in his possession. De Bourbourg thought it was the Dresden Codex, and Bustamante wrote that native historians had a copy in their possession at the time of the fall of Mexico. [Now,] there is good probability that manuscripts of great value survived the Spanish colonial period and are still available to certain qualified persons.
Augustus LePlongeon, known to the Yucatecans as Great Black Beard, was one of the few Americanists to be accepted into the confidence of the ever-reticent Indians. They told him enough to convince a thoughtful man of the existence of Esoteric Schools in the Mayan area. „That sacred mysteries,“ writes LePlongeon, „have existed in America from times immemorial, there can be no doubt. Even setting aside the proofs of their existence, that we gather from the monuments of Uxmal, and the descriptions of the trials of initiation related in the sacred book of the Quiches, we find vestiges of them in various other countries of the Western Continent.
„The rites and ceremonies of initiation were imported in Peru by the ancestors of Manco Capac, the founder of the Inca dynasty, who were colonists from Central America, as we learn from an unpublished [manuscript], written by a jesuit father, Red. Anello Oliva, at the beginning of the year 1631, in Lima; and now [it resides] in the library of the British Museum in London.“
A number of authors have tried to prove that Quetzalcoatl was a foreigner who, reaching the shores of the New World at an early time, attempted the civilization of the aboriginal tribes. Lord Kingsborough favored the possibility that this wanderer was the Apostle Thomas, and that the ancient Central American Indians came under Christian or Jewish influence.
Always deeply concerned with the possibilities of linking the worship in the Americas with the religions of the Near East, his lordship writes: „The Messiah is shadowed in the Old Testament under many types; such as those of a lion, a lamb, a roe, the morning star (or the planet Venus, otherwise called Lucifer), the sun, light, a rock, a stone, the branch, the vine, wine, bread, water, life, the way, and he is there recognized in the triple character of a king, a priest, and a prophet. It is very extraordinary that Quetzalcoatl, whom the Mexicans believed equally to have been a king, a prophet, and a pontiff, should also have been named by them Ceyacatl, or the morning star; Tlavizcalpantecutli, or light; Mexitli, or the vine (for Torquemada said that the core of the aloe, from which the Mexicans obtained wine, was so called); Votan, or the heart, metaphorically signifying life; and Toyliatlaquatl, ‚manjar de nuestra veda,‘ bread (for his body made of dough was eaten by the Mexicans).“
Las Casas, quoting Padre Francisco Hernandez, says that an old Yucatecan described the ancient religion of his people thus: „That [they] recognized and believed in God who dwells in heaven, and that this God was Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and that the Father was called Icona, who had created men and all things, that the Son was called Bacab, and that he was born of a virgin called Chibirias, who is in heaven with God; the Holy Spirit they termed Echuac.“ The son Bacab was scourged and crowned with thorns, was tied upon a cross with extended arms, where he died; but after three days he arose and ascended into heaven to be with his father. Dr. Alexander, who reports this story in his book, is inclined to feel that it is confused and probably distorted by the Spanish recorder. On the other hand, the universal distribution of the basic theme may be explained another way.
Among the Lacandones, Quetzalcoatl is still represented as a snake with many heads. There is an account that this snake was killed and eaten at times of great national peril, especially at eclipses, which were regarded as portents of disaster. It was believed by the Mayas that Kulkulkan descended invisibly from the sky and personally received the offerings during certain great feasts held in his honor. (For details [of this,] consult The Mythology of All Ages, Vol. XI, Latin American, by Hartley Burr Alexander.)
[Now,] Daniel Brinton, in his Essays of an Americanist, devoted some thought to the magical powers attributed to the priests of Central America. He mentioned Father Baeza and an English priest, Thomas Gage, who reported cases of sorcerers transforming themselves into animals, and performing [other] miracles. De Bourbourg was not entirely convinced that ventriloquism, animal magnetism, or the tricks familiarly employed by conjurers explained the mysteries of nagualism, as the black art of these Indians is called. Brinton quotes from the Popul Vuh: „Truly this Gucumatz [Quetzalcoatl] became a wonderful king. Every seven days he ascended to the sky, and every seven days he followed the path to the abode of the dead; every seven days he put on the nature of a serpent and he became truly a serpent; every seven days he put on the nature of an eagle and again of a tiger, and he became truly an eagle and a tiger;…“ It is evident from available authorities that the Mayas and Aztecs had an extensive body of legendary and lore, which originated in the mysteries of their religions and proves the existence of an elaborate system of secret rites and ceremonies.
In the form of a feathered snake, Quetzalcoatl overshadowed a dynasty of rulers and priests, some of whom later assumed his name and even his mask-symbol. These later Quetzalcoatls have been confused, like the several Zoroasters of Persia, into one person, with the resulting conflict in dates. Recent excavations would indicate that the cult of the feathered serpent was established before the beginning of the Christian Era and did not arise in the tenth or eleventh century A.D. as held by some modern archaeologists. [In fact,] it is more likely that the ancient hero was said to have been reborn or to have overshadowed a later leader of the nation.
All the accounts imply that the religious Order which served the Mysteries of Quetzalcoatl was long established. Those who followed in the way which he had prescribed lived most severe lives. Children were consecrated to his temples from their birth and were marked by a special collar. At the end of the second year the child was scarified in the breast. When it was seven years old it entered a seminary where it took vows covering personal conduct and public duties, including prayers for the preservation of its family and its nation. There were many of these priestly Brotherhoods, and the Spanish missionaries, in spite of their theological prejudices and intolerances, were forced to admit that the Aztecan priests were excellent scholars and lived austere and pure lives. It was said of these missionaries that „in Quetzalcoatl, who taught charity, gentleness, and peace, they thought they saw a disciple of Jesus Christ.“
The kings of the Mexican nations, like those of ancient Egypt, were also initiates of the State Mysteries. Torquemada described the attainments of Nazahualpilli, the king of Texcuco. This learned man gathered about him masters of the sciences and arts, and gained a wide reputation as an astrologer and seer. When Montezuma was elected to rule over the complex of Nahuatlan nations, King Nazahualpilli stood before the young man and congratulated the entire nation for having selected such a ruler: „Whose deep knowledge of heavenly things insured to his subjects his comprehension of those of an earthly nature.“ The interpreter of the Collection of Mendoza described Montezuma as: „By nature wise, an astrologer and philosopher, and skilled and generally versed in all the arts, both in those of the military, as well as those of a civil nature, and from his extreme gravity and state, the monarchy under his sway began to verge towards empire.“
The great serpent clothed in quetzal plumes certainly belonged to another race and came from an unknown country. Lucien Biart says: „It is an incontestable fact that Quetzalcoatl created a new religion, based upon fasting, penitence, and virtue.“ In skillful trades and in metalworking, this Amerindian savior reminds one of the craftsman of Tyre who cast the ornaments for Solomon’s Temple. As a benefactor of his people, as a liberator of men’s minds and hearts, this Nahuatlan demigod certainly revealed the attributes of the „Master Builder.“
[William Cooper: Folks, are you beginning to hear the implications that this may be connected to the Ancient Mysteries and directly to Freemasonry? For that is exactly what Manly Hall is putting across.]
Scattered through the jungle of Yucatan and extending northward into Chiapas and southward into Honduras and Guatemala are the remains of ancient cities and the ruins of old cultural centers, religious or educational, dedicated to scientific research and the investigation of the spiritual mysteries of human life. These shrines and temples are adorned with numerous religious emblems and figures, and closely resemble the temples and schools of the esoteric tradition which were scattered through the Mediterranean countries, North Africa, and the Near East.
The Aztecs inhabiting the valley of Mexico certainly derived much of their cultural impetus from the more highly civilized Mayas. These Nahuas practiced elaborate rites and ceremonies, and recognized a large pantheon of divinities. It seems unlikely that the Aztecs patterned their religious concepts from some inferior cultural tradition. There are positive indications that the tribes of Central Mexico had received an important intellectual stimulus from the Mayas, and even found it expedient to acknowledge this indebtedness.
The physical remains of the Mayan civilization are sufficiently impressive to indicate a highly advanced people, whose religious institutions and rites had reached a considerable degree of refinement. Most early writers, in an attempt to estimate the cultural attainments of these nations, have been overinfluenced [sic] by the early theologians and scientific enthusiasts who invaded the field with a variety of concepts and [of course] preconceptions.
The empires of the Mayas and Aztecs were resplendent with edifices dedicated to their faiths. There were magnificent shrines, temples, and altars, some to sanguinary deities, and others to benign and kindly gods. The State Mysteries, however, were seldom performed in the sanctuaries of popular worship. Neophytes traveled to remote places, and if they went uninvited, seldom[, if ever,] returned. Throughout the jungles are the ruins of extraordinary buildings constructed for unknown purposes. The Mysteries of Xibalba, as recorded in the Popul Vuh, and traditionally associated with the culture-hero Votan, were given in such an architectural complex, which served as an entrance to a mysterious world beyond the dimensions of the material mind.
Such „gateways“ existed in all the old countries where the Mystery religion originally flourished. Obviously, archaeologists cannot discover the secret rites merely by grubbing among the overturned and broken stones. As the priesthoods were not considerate enough to label their monuments, there is little left today even to excite curiosity. Fortunately, however, the esoteric tradition survives in the racial subconscious [whatever that is], and its violated schools and colleges need not be physically restored. When such restoration is attempted, the buildings usually reveal that they were designed as symbols of the cosmos.
If the Mystery system existed in the Western Hemisphere, as the landmarks indicate, it must have produced its initiates and adepts. These, in turn, became the leaders and saviors of their peoples. The wonder-working hero, whose deeds enriched all tribal traditions, always and everywhere performed the same miracles, possessed the same powers, and made the same personal sacrifices.
The Mystery School required not only a hierarchy for its maintenance and perpetuation, but also appropriate places of initiation partly underground or adjacent to grottoes and caverns. It required also a body of lore peculiarly significant, participation in which conferred special rights and privileges. A people which had reached the mental platform of the Mayas would not have accepted a philosophy of life that was without profound and significant values. Pagan priesthoods did not initiate those of feeble mind, but selected for spiritual advancement persons of high attainment and mature judgment.
Albert Reville, in the Hibbard Lectures, 1894, notes of the religion of the plumed serpent: „There was something mysterious and occult about the priesthood of this deity, as though it were possessed of divine secrets or promises, the importance of which it would be dangerous to undervalue.“
It is fortunate, indeed, that at least one manuscript relating to the religious Mysteries formerly practiced in the Mayan area has been recovered. The Popul Vuh, or The Senate Book of the Quiches, the Record of the Community, has survived the numerous vicissitudes which have conspired to prevent the perpetuation of the literary monuments of Central America. It was tolerated by the early missionaries who, observing certain similarities to their own Scriptures, preserved the work as a means of persuading the Indians to a more speedy baptism. In the seventeenth century, it was rescued from a fate worse than oblivion by the Dominican monk, Don Ramon de Ordonez y Aguiar, dean and chancellor of the archbishopric of Ciudad Real. The work was deposited in the library of the convent at Chichicastenango by its scholiast, Ximenes, where it remained until 1830.
The manuscript of the Popul Vuh was rediscovered about 1855 by Dr. Scherzer in the library of the University of San Carlos, Guatemala City. Through the industry and scholarship of that ardent antiquarian, the Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg, this mysterious book of the Quiches came at last to the French language, where it lingered for years awaiting English translation. Dr. Scherzer was responsible for a Spanish version published in Vienna in 1856. The first English translation has remained practically unknown to students of Central American archeology, as it appeared serially in The Word, a magazine devoted to Theosophical and related subjects. The translation was made by Kenneth S. Guthrie, M.A., Ph.D., M.D., and was based upon the French text. A new English translation from the Spanish of Adrian Recinos has just been issued by the University of Oklahoma Press [and, folks, that was in 1951]. This version is by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus G. Morley, and includes important introductory and commentary material.
Writing under the pseudonym Aretas, James Pryse issued part of the Popul Vuh with learned commentaries under the title The Book of the Azure Veil. This ran in Lucifer, a theosophical magazine, between September 1894 and February 1895. It concluded with a note that circumstances made it impossible for the translator to finish the work.
Pryse suggests that the god Quetzalcoatl was known in Peru under the name of Amaru. He writes: „From the latter name comes our word America. Amaruca is, literally translated, ‚Land of the Plumed Serpent.‘ The priests of this God of Peace, from their chief centre in the Cordilleras, once ruled both Americas. All the Red men who have remained true to the ancient religion are still under their sway. One of their strong centres was in Guatemala, and of their Order was the author of the book called Popul Vuh.“
Although Dr. Scherzer published his copy under the title Las Historias del origen de los Indios de Guatemala, par el R. P. F. Francisco Ximenes, this is misleading. Ximenes was not the author, but acted in the capacity of scribe, translator, and commentator. The work is said to have been compiled originally in the seventeenth century by a Guatemalan who had been converted to Christianity. Most American Indians are unsatisfactory converts, for they accept new beliefs without discarding old convictions. This is a most fortunate state of affairs, as there is little indication that the indigenous mythology has been compromised. The source of the material compiled by this convert is completely unknown, but it could well have been derived from a secret book or from oral tradition guarded in the sanctuaries of the Mysteries. [Now,] to have secured it, the compiler must himself have been a priest or initiate. Certainly, the Popul Vuh is by far the outstanding available text on pre-Columbian mythology and cosmogony [existing].
The Quichean scribe, in his introduction to the Popul Vuh, writes: „The following is what we shall write, and we place it in writing because, since the ‚Word of God‘ has been promulgated, and hereafter during the cycle of Christianity, the Book of the Azure-green-veil is no longer to be seen, in which it could be clearly perceived that it had come from the further shore of the Sea; which Book has been called ‚The Record of our existence in the Overshadowing World, and how we there beheld Light and Life.'“ ([Now] note [that] this translation by Pryse is somewhat fuller than that given by Guthrie, and seems to be more in the spirit of the Quiche tradition.) [And] the implication[, folks] is that the work originated behind the Azure Veil. This can have two meanings: either the veil which divides the spiritual universe from the material world, or the veil in the temple of initiation, behind which are the Seven Lords of the Great Heart.
The Popul Vuh consists of a mythology gradually mingling in its descent with the beginnings of history. The early part deals almost entirely with superhuman beings, and the latter part with the heroic deeds of authentic personages. It opens with a description of the creation. All was calm and silent, and the face of the earth was not yet to be seen. In the eternal darkness and quietude was the Creator — the Lord and Maker — and Gucumatz, the plumed serpent. They were surrounded with green and azure, and they were those who engendered. Then „The Word“ came and spake with them, and they joined their counsels. Those who engender then said: „Let it be done. Let the waters retire and cease to obstruct, to the end that it be sown, and that the light of day shine in the heavens and upon the earth; for we shall receive neither glory nor honor from all that we have created and formed until human beings exist, endowed with sentience.“ Thus the Creator said: „Earth,“ and immediately it was formed.
The book proceeds much in the spirit of the Scriptures of other nations. It is divided generally into four parts: cosmogony, theogony, anthropology, and regeneration through initiation. It is presented in semihistorical form and includes the initiation of its heroes into the Mysteries of Xibalba.
The heroes of the Popul Vuh are subjected to several ordeals or tests of courage, fortitude, and skill. The seventh test took place in the House of the Bat. This was a subterranean labyrinth inhabited by weird monsters and ruled over by Camazotz, a fearful creature with the body of a man and the wings and head of a bat.
Naturally, the account is clothed in the culture symbolism of the Mayas, but it is certainly to be compared with such productions as the Finnish Kalavala and the Icelandic Eddas. Guthrie presents a number of important parallelisms to the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Greeks. According to him, the twelve trials or tests through which the neophytes pass are analogous with the signs of the zodiac. He goes so far as to hazard the speculation that the twelve princes of Xibalba were the rulers of the Atlantean empire, and their final destruction referred to the tragic end of Atlantis.
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Well, folks, it’s time to take our break. Don’t go away. I’ll be right back after this very short pause.
(William Cooper does a commercial for Swiss America Trading Corporation)
(break music: theme music from the movie Blade Runner, written by Vangelis)
[reading from America’s Assignment with Destiny, written by Manly P. Hall]:
(start of quote)
The Popul Vuh follows the traditional form by involving its principle characters in a series of superhuman and supernatural adventures. The work is certainly an account of the „perilous journey,“ which is the usual means employed to veil thinly the story of initiation. By comparison with the oral traditions of the Northern Amerindian tribes, the legend unfolds what Dr. Paul Radin beautifully calls „the road of light.“ Medicine priests have freely acknowledged that in dreams and trances they could leave their bodies and travel to the abodes of the gods and the dead. To make this journey while still living is initiation, for it is conscious participation in the fact of immortality.
In some cults the neophyte was given sacred drugs to intensify his psychic faculties, as in the case of the notorious Peyote sect, or was subjected to hypnotic influence, like the followers of the ghost-shirt religion. By some means a condition of death was simulated and the consciousness or superior self passed through certain internal experiences, of which at least a partial memory was preserved.
The entire process of creation took place within the green and azure coils of the plumed serpent. On several continents the serpent was among the important symbols of the initiate-priest. Sometimes the serpent stands erect and is crowned, as in Egypt, or it may be winged as among the Mongolians, or feathered and plumed as throughout the Americas. Obviously, the natives did not intend to imply that they believed in the actual existence of winged snakes, for no such creatures ever existed among them. The serpent was a wisdom symbol, and when plumed it meant that wisdom had been given wings and had become spirit-wisdom, or illumination.
Pryse suggests that Matthew 10:16 explains the symbolism of the snake-bird: „Behold, I send you as sheep…into the midst of wolves…: be ye therefore wise as serpents…, guileless as doves….“
[William Cooper: Now, let me read the same passage from Matthew 10:16 again with the Mystery Religion meaning:]
„Behold, I send you as…[neophytes] into the midst of…[the profane]: be ye therefore wise as…[magicians], guileless as…[mystics].“ Mr. Pryse was a Greek scholar and his translation differed slightly from the King James Version [(laughs) as you can see]. He felt that the quetzal had the same meaning as dove, and that the creature combining the serpent-wisdom and the bird-intuition or -inspiration represented the adept, in whom the mind and heart doctrine were completely reconciled.
The conflict between the initiate and the adversary, or the paths of white and black magic, is always present. In the story of Deganawida, the power of evil was personified by Atotarho, an old war chieftain, who had a cluster of venomous serpents on his head in place of hair. The Mexican Quetzalcoatl was attacked by the red god of war. The adversary personified either older cults which opposed the establishment of the benevolent Mysteries or later cults responsible for the destruction of these institutions. In either case an inferior state of spiritual enlightenment was implied. The Mysteries were institutions of liberation and were naturally opposed by groups seeking to keep their people in bondage through ignorance. The struggle was, therefore, between religion as temporal authority and the Mystery faith-the internal „road of light.“ The ruins of the past explain why it was the common belief that the men of good spirit, the initiates, were sacrificed to the material ambitions of temporal rulers.
[William Cooper: Now, folks, you can apply this same logic to the Mystery Religion of today, where they refer to the adversary. They are talking about the same religious institutions, governments and groups of people that Mr. Hall refers to in discussing the ancient Mystery Religions of the Aztecs and Mayans. Only in their modern writings, they will never disclose that.]
All the aboriginal tribes of North America practiced mystical and magical rites, and vestiges of an esoteric tradition, served by a priestly class distinguished for sagacity and personal integrity, are still to be found among surviving groups. Scattered over a vast area and divided further by lack of a common language, these nomadic bands were approaching the horizon of national existence when the European colonists conquered their lands, decimated their tribes, and destroyed their cultural patterns. So diversified were the traditions of these peoples that it is difficult to summarize their beliefs and doctrines, especially after their legends, histories, and religious institutions were corrupted by outside influences.
The European colonists were of no mind to search for the mystical secrets of the Indian „life-way.“ These settlers brought their own religious beliefs, which they were resolved to force upon the natives. There were no ethnologists or anthropologists among the Puritans, and many important landmarks of Indian philosophy were destroyed before the had been honestly investigated or appraised. Most of the tribal lore was in the keeping of priests and elders, and if these were killed or died without finding suitable successors the traditions ended. Even today older Indians find it difficult to select younger men to perpetuate the sacred institutions. Thus it is unwise to assume that from available fragments a complete picture of Indian mysticism can [ever] be reconstructed.
The Indian has always been an individualist, and neither circumstance nor inclination induced him to form extensive intertribal organizations. His way of life and the vast silences of his homeland caused him to turn within himself for courage, wisdom, and faith. He could not visit distant shrines of learning or sit at the feet of famous teachers. There were no books to ponder and no ancient sages to guide his religious convictions. Few strangers visited his camp with news or opinions from places. He was part of a small family, and the tribal life, with its simple lore, was his only source of cultural tradition.
A thoughtful observer of Nature about him, the Indian lived constantly in the presence of mysteries, with no reference frame other than his own imagination. Though stoical in appearance, he was highly emotional, as indicated by his songs, dances, and festivals. His sensory perceptions were acute, and his legends indicate strong dramatic instincts.
Among advanced tribes, according to Dr. Franz Boas: „…an elaborate series of esoteric doctrines and practices exists, which are known to only a small portion of the tribe, while the mass of the people are familiar only with part of the ritual and with its exoteric features. For this reason we often find the religious beliefs and practices of the mass of a tribe rather heterogeneous as compared with the beliefs held by the priests.
Among many of the tribes in which priests are found, we find distinct esoteric societies, and it is not by any means rare that the doctrines of one society are not in accord with those of another…Esoteric forms of religion in charge of priests are found among the tribes of the arid region of the Southwest, the tribes of the southern Mississippi basin, and to a less extent among the more northerly tribes on the Plains. It would seem that, on the whole, the import of the esoteric teachings decreases among the more northerly and northeasterly tribes of the continent.“
The medicine priests were trained by their predecessors or were called to their life work by some miraculous incident. The little Indian boy who early in life showed a tendency to dreams and visions was encouraged to select this career. In a highly organized tribal system, he was initiated into the religious institutions of his nation, receiving the lore of the old priests and fragments of tribal history. If he belonged to some small, wandering band, his entire spiritual education had come from within and was induced by fasting and vigil. The vigil was the most widely practiced religious discipline of the Amerinds. In all matters of emergency or great decision the Indian sought solitude. He went alone to some high place, built a small campfire, planted about him a circle of prayer plumes, smoked the ceremonial pipe, and waited through the long hours of the night for the „voices.“
The „voices“ instructed him in the herbs of healing, taught him the songs and dances, and brought him news of what was transpiring in distant places. There are many stories about medicine priests learning to leave their bodies at will and journeying into the shadowland to guide the dying to the home of ghosts. Many of these grand old mystics were wise in the ways of the spirit, and should be regarded as duly initiated members of Esoteric Orders.
The miraculous powers of the medicine priests extended over a wide variety of phenomena. They healed the sick, protected their tribes, [they] directed the migrations of their peoples, and sought by extrasensory means the location of food, water, and other necessities. They predicted the future, [they] induced rain and storms, projected themselves to distant places, and read the hearts and minds of their fellow men. It was in their power to induce visions and trances, and to receive the impressions of the star-spirits. They also gained considerable proficiency in the mesmeric and hypnotic arts.
[One] Charles F. Lummis, who spent many years among the Southwest Indians of the United States, described the miracles performed by the medicine priests. Although naturally skeptical, his experiences among the Navajo and Pueblo Indians impressed him deeply. Mr. Lummis mentioned how Indians seated in their medicine lodge created miniature thunderstorms within the room, accompanied by flashes of forked lightning, while the outside sky was entirely clear. He says: „How the effects are produced I am utterly unable to explain, but they are startlingly real.“ He was also impressed by the ability of the priests to change themselves into animals in the presence of spectators. Some priests could create an artificial sun inside the lodge. This miniature luminary rose in the eastern side of the room, crossed overhead, and set in the west during the performance of the sacred chants.
[Now,] Amerindian priests grow the sacred corn in exactly the same way that the East Indian mendicant grows his mango tree. The magician plants the seed which grows immediately, and about three hours later the stalk is laden with fully developed ears of corn.
Other writers have reported that in some of the medicine lodges the Indians are able to levitate large stones and to cause their own bodies to float in the air. Unprejudiced observers have been forced to conclude that among most tribes of Amerinds magical rituals are performed involving the use of natural forces beyond the normal experience of human beings.
The Amerindic concept of cosmogony paralleled, in a general way, that of the Chaldeans and other peoples who dwelt in the valley of the Euphrates. The world consisted of three regions, with human beings inhabiting the surface of the central zone. Above this middle land was an airy expanse extending to the abode of the Sky-Father. Below the surface were subterranean levels extending downward to the place of the earth-mother. This cavernous region was like the dark and shadowy underworld of the pre-Homeric Greeks.
In the Southwest legends, human beings originated beneath the earth in a kind of paradisaical land. There, also, were mountains, valleys, and beautiful plains, and a sun and moon that lighted the region. In the beginning everyone was happy, but later an evil deed brought upon them the wrath of the gods. In most accounts this lovely shadowland was destroyed by a flood. In some miraculous manner a few righteous persons were preserved and took refuge on a tall plant, which, growing rapidly, finally broke through the surface of the middle land, bringing the survivors to safety.
The secrets of healing, prophecy, and magic came to the Indian from an order of beings called manitos. This Algonquian word is now applied to the concept of powerful governing spirits. The manitos were not actually gods, but superhuman manlike creatures, possessing extraordinary attributes and frequently considered as giants. The size factor, however, is figurative rather than literal. The manitos were a divine invisible tribe — masters of magic — to whom human beings could turn for help and guidance whenever necessity arose.
The effort to explain the term manito as only signifying a „wonderful power“ and synonymous with the Iroquois orenda is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Indian religious philosophy. Orenda conveys more precisely a power or energy universally present in animate and inanimate creatures, and manifesting through the vital processes which cause things to exist, to function, and to affect other existing and functioning things. It might be safer[, folks,] to assume that the manitos represented the intelligence controlling and directing the „wonderful power.“ The Indian, therefore, was confronted with the same basic question which disturbs even the most advanced physicist, namely: Is there a supreme intelligence governing universal procedure?
„The religious concepts of the Indians,“ writes Dr. Boas, „may be described in two groups — those that concern the individual, and those that concern the social group, such as tribe and clan. The fundamental concept bearing on the religious life of the individual is the belief in the existence of magic power, which may influence the life of man, and which in turn may be influenced by human activity. In this sense magic power must be understood as the wonderful qualities which are believed to exist in objects, animals, men, spirits, or deities, and which are superior to the natural qualities of man.“
Most religions and metaphysical philosophies include hierarchies of divine creatures, or tutelary spirits, as mediators between the Supreme Being and mortals. The manitos acted as wise distributors of the orenda. The Indian fashioned these demigods in his own likeness, but bestowed upon them superior powers. The manitos were aware of the most secret human thoughts and the most pressing human needs, and were capable of responding immediately to the rituals of the priests and elders. When the medicine man journeyed to the spirit land, he might be invited to attend a council of manitos. When he came to the Great Lodge in the sky, it resembled an earthly council place, except that it was larger, more elegant, and usually filled with a strange light. The manitos were venerable sachems, usually handsome old men, their faces full of kindness. There was a council fire, the smoking of the calumet, and the usual speeches and discussions. The Lodge was a kind of superphysical senate where all matters of grave import were decided. When the session was concluded, the priest returned to his people along the „sky road“ and reported the decisions of the Great Lodge.
Between the manitos and mankind were the souls of the illustrious dead. These were the Olds and the Trues, the sages of long ago, the great chieftains, warriors, and statesmen. They had led their people in life, so they continued to guard them from the other land, speaking through the medicine men. It seemed natural to the Amerinds that the heroes who had gone before should continue to serve the tribes they had guided in the long ago.
Totemism was a kind of heraldry among the Indians. The totem was the clan symbol; but [even] more than that, it was a channel for the distribution of orenda through the social and political structure of the clan. The totemic animal or bird was a spirit guardian, helpful because the creature possessed attributes superior in some particular to those of man. The attribute might be swiftness, strength, cunningness, or resourcefulness, and these qualities the totem creature shared with those under its guardianship. Each Indian also had his own totem, and while it took a familiar form it was identical in principle with the guardian daemon described in works on the Egyptian and Chaldean Mysteries. It was considered a good omen to see one’s totem while practicing vigil, or in dreams or trances. It proved the proximity of a protecting power.
The Abbé Phavenet, a missionary to the Algonquians, identifies the totem (from ote, the ototeman of the Chippewas) with the manito concept in these words: „It is to be presumed that in uniting into a tribe, each clan preserves its manitou, the animal which in the country whence the clan came was the most beautiful or the most friendly to man, or the most feared, or the most common; the animal which was ordinarily hunted there and which was the ordinary subsistence of the clan, etc.; and this animal became the symbol of each family and that each family transmitted it to its posterity to be the perpetual symbol of each tribe [[or] clan].“ Modern ethnologists have emphasized that the popular usage of the term totem is incorrect. The symbol is not strictly religious, but involves a social and family concept with emphasis upon the importance of kinship.
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