Before the beginning of the making-anew, only the Maker and Container of All, the All-father Father, had being. Nothing else whatsoever was, through the great spaces of ages. Then this Awonawilona conceived within itself, thinking outward into space. Mists and steams potent with growth-power evolved and appeared. So, by its innate knowledge the All-container became the central Sun; with the brightening of the spaces, the great mist-clouds thickened together and evolved into the great manifest waters of space.
Drawing out its own substance, the Sun-father formed the seedstuff of the fourfold containing Mother-earth and the All-covering Father-sky. Lying together, these two conceived all the men and creatures of the earth. Then Earth-mother repulsed Sky-father, separating far apart to make room for her brood, forming scum and foam which Sky-father hardened with his cold breath so that all their creatures should have living space. Doing his part, Sky-father spread forth his hand containing seven golden corn-grains into all the regions of the world-dawn, saying
When the Sun-father is not nigh, and thy terraces are as the dark itself, being all hidden therein, then shall our children be guided by lights — like to these lights of all the six regions turning around the midmost one — as in and around the midmost place, where these our children abide, lie all the other regions of space!
Thus according to the Zuni account Man and all his younger and older brothers came forth again into a new pilgrimage of manifestation along and through the worlds of being that had reappeared as the thought in the mind of Awonawilona, the All-container. It can stand broadly for the whole native American conception of our human kingdom: born of divinity, clothed in matter, at first misty but later physical. Spirit separates from substance to give scope for evolution. But always a six-point rainbow bridge links the two, as Sun-father's lights for the children now living and acting in dark terraces of earth-matter, to guide them back to divinity. In their former pilgrimage Grandmother moon had been their mother. For this one, Earth is mother. But Grandmother still helps Mother-earth with her children, still exerts an influence on them.
Now, in the nethermost of four cave-wombs of the world the seedmen and seed-creatures, unfinished and thickly crowded together, must work out their escape to a higher place by becoming wiser and more manlike. All is in darkness here. Then comes the oldest, foremost and wisest of the wise men, the all-sacred master, "warrior of the Rainbow," Poshaiyanka, the oldest brother who, pitying men and all creatures, wins upward, gaining by virtue of his innate wisdom-knowledge a way of issuance from that place. It is so dark and narrow that not all can follow, but he fares forth dayward, seeking Sun-father and entreating him to deliver mankind and all creatures below.
Sun-father responds by sending the Beloved Twins from a Foam-cap world down to the earth, where Earth-mother gives them birth. Having Sun-father's own wisdom-knowledge, the Twins instruct men and all creatures. They fashion a vine and urge the men and beings up it, following them into the second world, still dark as a stormy night but larger of space. Many fall back and cannot sustain the climb, remaining in the underworld. Later the Twins led those who could follow to the third great cave-world which was lighter, like a valley in starlight, named the Place of Sex-Generation or Gestation. Together with the gods and lesser creatures, in time six bands of the fathers of the six kinds of men reached this world. Generations of their nations were then led out successively into the next, the fourth, the Ultimate-uncoverable or Parturition world-cave. Here it was light like dawning; but many were lost as before and unable to reach or live in this world.
With the dawn-light men began to perceive and to learn, so the Twins taught them to seek first the Sun-father who would give them wisdom and knowledge of life. Finally, at intervals, the Divine Two led forth the nations and all manner of beings into this fifth, great upper world, fully lit, which is called the World of Disseminated Light and Knowledge or Seeing. But it took a long time before men could stand such fullness of light without being blinded. Those who could not were unable to keep so much as a small part of one foot in the fifth world, which is where we all are now. The full experience of the fifth world is still far ahead of men and other creatures. It is where the elder brothers dwell who, like Poshaiyanka, have fared farther onward toward Sun-father. Two other worlds are beyond it; for Sky-father cast seven golden corn-grains into the bowl of the world-dawn. Perhaps Poshaiyanka himself, the oldest, the all-sacred master, has already won upward to one of these, carving the paths for those who can follow.
In the first cave-womb of the world, the seed-men were like minerals; in the second, like vegetables consuming the minerals. In the third, they were like animals consuming vegetables and minerals. And in the fourth they were born as now, complete men, containing likewise animal, vegetable and mineral. In that fifth world whose fullness is yet to come, they shall be born as elder brothers, containing mineral, vegetable, animal and also man; because everything is the result of something and the cause of something else, like a chain, or a scroll that first unrolls and then rolls up again back into itself. That being so, all lessons must be learned and all debts paid before passing from one world to the next; for this is the law of balance. Not all will have strength to reach future worlds, but there will be other chances.
Verily it is with all things that are contained in the earth that they retransform or exchange their bodies. All things which sprout and grow, all things that produce themselves and grow, and the man-beings also, transform and retransform themselves without cessation: the divinity within them is ever full, undiminished, and all-sufficient. At each death the souls of men go upwards unconsciously through the worlds to their home in the sun, and then into the Milky Way, from where they return again descending to life on this one. Here they must again struggle sunward, learn wisdom, always within the great law of balance. For the sacredness of relationship is of the greatest importance: since the whole of creation is essentially One, all parts within the whole are related. All relationships on earth are symbolic of the true and great relationship which always exists between man and the Great Spirit, Sun-father, or between man and Earth, understood in its principle. The Indian is attached to the form only for the sake of the principle which is contained within it. So say the Onondaga and the Oglala Sioux.
But death and again-birth bring a forgetting, when Sun-father is not nigh and only Earth-mother's dark terraces are once more seen and felt. The illusion of separateness has to be shattered afresh, so that the newly-young man or woman can receive illumination or wisdom from the Divine Twins, called by anthropologists the culture hero and maid. For the Twins have Sun-father's own wisdom-knowledge, and the descendants of their first offspring are the newly-young person's "others," his "elder brothers," or Kachinas (kachi = life, na = father of) who live in higher worlds. So say the Hopis.
At puberty, on the threshold of full incarnation, the youth must seek his elder brothers' aid in crying for a spiritual vision that will restore his memory of past-life experience and tell him what Sun-father wishes that he be and do in this lifetime. For at the center of both his soul and his gross entity is the presence of the Great Spirit. Whatever form this ceremonial rite takes among Indian peoples, it is the new man's first important initiation into the great clan of awakened humans who see principle within form and know the Oneness of all things. If the youth's vision-quest is successful, he knows who he is and what he is to do to resume his proper tasks in the march forward along the Road of Life and Death. If he perseveres, successive initiations will follow through the whole cycle of his lifetimes and ultimately bring liberation from his own ego and from the cosmos.
Because the eagle flies the highest of all creatures and sees everything, it is regarded by the Indian as a symbol of that Great Spirit and is a solar bird. Its feathers, worn or carried, represent the "Real Presence." In Siouan sacred thought the Spotted Eagle, wanbli galeshka, corresponds exactly to the buddhi of Oriental tradition: the formless and transcendent principle of all manifestation, and a ray directly emanating from the atma, the divine-spiritual sun. The eagle seizes its prey from the earth and carries it upward, just as the buddhi of Hindu thought lifts the individual's soul-consciousness up to divine illumination. From this it should be clear what the Indian's words from the Ghost Dance song meant: "The Spotted Eagle is coming to carry me away." So reported Joseph Epes Brown after many talks with Black Elk, the Sioux holy man and seer.
The initiant so expands his consciousness through the six directions of space that he ceases to be a part, a fragment, and becomes whole or holy: Sun-father, the Infinite. Ultimately many will achieve this. For the traditional man everything in the cosmos has its counterpart in the microcosm, so one day just as the world will end, so there may also be an end to the individual's ego-world or ignorance of reality. For whenever he receives illumination or wisdom from the Great Spirit, he then lives continually in the All-father's consciousness, an elder brother, a "Warrior of the Rainbow." Andean peoples, the Quechuas, call such a being a Viracocha, "walker of the sea of foam," a Lord of Life and Death.
Having gained full knowledge of all the seven regions, the seven golden corn-grains spread in space by Sky-father, such a Viracocha finds himself in the highest among them. He has a choice. He can mount further into even higher regions of mystery; or he can remain to help bring to birth a new seven-tiered living space of seven worlds to be filled with families of creatures seeking to rejoin Sun-father. Moved by pity and compassion for all behind him, he can be a "Warrior of the Rainbow" to them. However some Viracochas, say the Quechuas, choose not to stay behind, but disappear into higher regions. Then the new birth is delayed and must await the appearance of a truly compassionate Viracocha who, out of his great sacrifice, will cause that making-anew to become possible and so open the way for myriads of lesser lives to seek the liberation he has won but forfeited for their sakes.
In this medley of thought taken from a number of native American traditions as preserved by their elders, we see how the Amerindian regards man's awesome pilgrimage through the ages from the nethermost womb of being to the pinnacle of human perfection, after which comes godhood.
(From Sunrise magazine, November 1977. Copyright © 1977 by Theosophical University Press)