Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Jaime de Angulo, "The Achumawi Life-Force," trans. Annette Boushey

The entire creed of the Achumawi Indians is contained in these words, spoken to me by one of my friends: "All things have life in them. Trees have life, rocks have life, mountains, water, all these are full of life. You think a rock is something dead. Not at all. It is full of life. When I came here to visit you, I took care to speak to everything around here. That tree at the corner of your house — I spoke to the first night before going to bed. I went out on the balcony, and I smoked. I sent it the smoke from my tobacco. I spoke to it. I said: 'Tree, don't do me any harm. I'm not bad. I didn't come here to harm anyone. Tree, be my friend.' I also spoke to your house. Your house has life, it is someone. It is you who made it. All right, you made it for a certain purpose. But your house is a person. It knows very well that I am a stranger here. That's why I sent it tobacco smoke, to make friends with it. I spoke to it. I said: 'House, you are the house of my friend. You shouldn't do me any harm. Don't let me get sick and maybe die while I am visiting my friend. I want to go back to my own country without anything bad happening to me. I didn't come here to harm anyone. On the contrary, I want everyone to be happy. House, I want you to protect me.' That's how I did it. I went all the way around the house. I sent my smoke to everything. That was to make friends with all the things. No doubt there were many things that watched me in the night without my seeing them. What do I know? Maybe a toad. Maybe a bird. Maybe an earthworm. I am sure all those people were watching me. They must have been talking to each other. The stones talk to each other just as we do, and the trees too, the mountains talk to each other. You can hear them sometimes if you pay close attention, especially at night, outside. Well, I am sure all those people were watching me the other night, the first night I came here. They probably said: 'Who is that man? He is a stranger. We've never seen him before. But at least he is polite. He sends us his smoke. He greets us. That must be a good man. We should protect him so nothing bad happens to him.' That's how you should do it. I tell you this so will learn, because you are young. I myself am beginning to grow old. But I still have a long time to live, because I have many friends outside, in my country. I often talk to them outside at night. I send them smoke. I do not forget them. I take care of them, and they take care of me."

What should we call this? Animism? Or pre-animism? The word animism hardly satisfies me since it seems that animism, as it has been described among certain primitive peoples, carries the idea of souls, of immaterial spirits. These souls or spirits can live in trees, in rocks, in animals. But their material dwelling place is not their only residence. They are not the tree itself, nor the rock itself. They are not even the essence of these. Basically they are immaterial beings distinct from the tree or the rock where they live. And I believe that if you pushed the concept far enough you would find, among all these people, the concept of a personal soul for every living man. For these people, every living man contains two things within him, two things which blend to form his ego. One is his material body, which walks, which drinks, which eats, which talks, which dies. The other is something subtle and inaccessible, which never dies. He feels this thing within him, he is sure of its existence, and he calls it his soul, his spirit. I believe this concept will always be found among those people with whom one also finds animism, as it has generally been described. 

Now, among the Achumawi one finds the idea of the soul, but it is very undeveloped. It is barely even present. What we find is really only its embryo. They have the idea of a personal "shadow." They call it the delamdzi. But it is not a soul, as we understand it, nor as the ancients understood it. It has nothing to do with breathing. It is something that leaves you during sleep.

Son-of-eagle, an old shaman, said to me: "You can hear it sometimes in the morning, just before you wake up. It comes from over the mountains. It comes from the East. It comes singing: 'Dawn is rising. I come. I come. Dawn is rising. I come. I come.'" Some time, if you are unlucky, your shadow might leave you. Then you are no longer alive. A man who has lost his shadow is said to be alive, but that is only an appearance. He is really half dead. He can last like that for a few days, even one or two weeks. It is very curious that this soul-shadow is made of light rather than darkness. The real word for casting a shadow is tinala'ti, whereas the word for dawn is delalamdzi, which suggests the word for soul (delamdzi). I call it the shadow-soul because the Achumawi themselves translate delamdzi by "shadow." But we must remember that their own subjective interpretation of their sensations is evidently very different from ours. Thus, judging from their language, it is not so much the black mass that they consider the essential phenomenon of the shadow (even physical), as it is the stopping of the sun's path. But I can't go into a linguistic discussion here, for that would demand too long an explanation of certain details of their language. 

So we find the concept of the shadow-soul among the Achumawi. But the Achumawi never imagine that these beings, full of power and of life, that they speak to — the trees, the animals, the rocks — they never imagine that these beings contain their own shadow-soul. I am absolutely certain of that, as I have asked many questions on the subject of young and old alike. They haven't the slightest idea that these beings could also have their shadow-soul. When asked about it they reply: "I don't know. Maybe so, because they are like us. But I never heard that. I never thought about it." No, what the Achumawi speak to is the tree itself, the animal itself... 


  1. Ibid: It is perhaps interesting, while we are on this subject, to say that I know quite well, through conversations with my friend Katsumahtauta, that even though he speaks English very fluently and sometimes uses the world God, he has no idea of what this word means, and I have never been able to make him understand. But one day I happened to repeat these words to him, recently discovered, if I'm not mistaken, on a Grecian manuscript in Egypt, and attributed by some to Jesus Christ: "Lift up the rock, and there you will find me. Cut into the tree, and you will find me there." Katsumahtauta understood that immediately. He responded very tranquilly: "Well of course that's how it is. That's how we say it is, we Indians. There is life everywhere, even in the rocks and in the trees. How many times have I already told you that! Whoever said that, he knew what he was talking about. He must have been someone like the Indians."

  2. Stephan A. Hoeller, "Introduction" to Jung's Seven Sermons to the Dead (cf later [1949] Nag Hammadi finds):

    The Gnostics were prolific writers of sacred lore. Their enemies noted with disapproval that the followers of the Gnostic teacher Valentinus were wont to write a new gospel every day and that none among them were esteemed much unless they wrote a new contribution to their literature. Yet, of all this profusion of texts, very few survived, due to the relentless suppression and destruction of Gnostic literature by the book-burners and heresy hunters of the Church, which with imperial support attained ascendancy over its rivals.

    What was Jung's true view of Gnosticism? Unlike most scholars until quite recently, Jung never believed Gnosticism to have been a Christian heresy of the second and third centuries. Neither did he pay attention to the endless disputes of experts about the possible Indian, Iranian, Greek and other origins of Gnosticism. Earlier than any authority in the field of Gnostic studies, Jung recognized the Gnostics for what they were: seers who brought forth original, primal creations from the mystery which he called the unconscious. When in 1940 he was asked Is Gnosticism philosophy or mythology? he gravely replied that the Gnostics dealt in real, original images and that they were not syncretistic philosophers as so many assumed.

  3. Jung, "Confrontation with the Unconscious," from Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

    Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, "If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them." It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought. He confronted me in an objective manner, and I understood that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be directed against me.

    Psychologically, Philemon represented superior insight. He was a mysterious figure to me. At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. I went up and down the garden with him, and to me he was what the Indians call a guru.

  4. Jung, "Lectori Benevolo" from Answer to Job:

    I would go a step further and say that the statements made in the Holy Scriptures are also utterances of the soul--even at the risk of being suspected of psychologism. The statements of the conscious mind may easily be snares and delusions, lies, or arbitrary opinions, but this is certainly not true of the statements of the soul: to begin with they always go over our heads because they point to realities that transcend consciousness. These entia are the archetypes of the collective unconscious, and they precipitate complexes of ideas in the form of mythological motifs. Ideas of this kind are never invented, but enter the field of inner perception as finished products, for instance in dreams. They are spontaneous phenomena which are not subject to our will, and we are therefore justified in ascribing to them a certain autonomy. They are to be regarded not only as objects but as subjects with laws of their own. From the point of view of consciousness, we can, of course, describe them as objects and even explain them up to a point, in the same measure as we can describe and explain a living human being. But then we have to disregard their autonomy. If that is considered, we are compelled to treat them as subjects; in other words, we have to admit that they possess spontaneity and purposiveness, or a kind of consciousness and free will. We observe their behaviour and consider their statements. This dual standpoint, which we are forced to adpot towards every relatively independent organism, naturally has a dual result. On the one hand it tells me what I do to the object, and on the other hand what it does (possibly to me). It is obvious that this unavoidable dualism will create a certain amount of confusion in the minds of my readers, particularly as in what follows we shall have to do with the archetype of Deity...

  5. Ibid., continued:

    Should any of my readers feel tempted to add an apologetic "only" to the God-images as we perceive them, he would immediately fall foul of experience, which demonstrates beyond any shadow of doubt the extraordinary numinosity of these images. The tremendous effectiveness (mana) of these images is such that they not only give one the feeling of pointing to the Ens realissimum, but make one convinced that they actually express it and establish it as a fact. This makes discussion uncommonly difficult, if not impossible. It is, in fact, impossible to demonstrate God's reality to oneself except by using images which have arisen spontaneously or are sanctified by tradition, and whose psychic nature and effects the naïve-minded person has never separated from their unknowable metaphysical background. He instantly equates the effective image with the transcendental x to which it points. The seeming justification for this procedure appears self-evident and is not considered a problem so long as the statements of religion are not seriously questioned. But if there is occasion for criticism, then it must be remembered that the image and the statement are psychic processes which are different from their transcendental object; they do not posit it, they merely point to it. In the realm of psychic processes criticism and discussion are not only permissible but are unavoidable.

  6. Jaime de Angulo, transcript for Indian Tales:

    Start: The world had been destroyed 10.44
    Creation Myth 10.29
    told by Henry Wohl, of the Adzumawi group. 15

    1. There was no land. 2. There was only water. 3. Fox lived alone in the a boat. 4. Coyote was looking for him. 5. He was flying around. 6. Three days he hunted. 7. He found him Silver Fox somewhere. 8. And Then Fox said, "Who are you"? 9. Coyote answered, "Icame flying". 10. Then he asked, "What are we going to do?" 11. "Let's live in this boat". 12. I don't want to wander around in a boat" said Coyote. 13. Fox then said, "If you listen to my words I will find land for you". 14. Allright! I will mind your words. 15. Fox then said "Go to sleep and I will be looking around for land, and when I have found it I will wake you up". 16. Then Coyote went to sleep in the bottom of the boat. 17. Fox then took down his hair 18. and combed it. 19. Then he took the greasy dirt sticking to the comb, 20. and he started singing, 21, all the while rolling the dirt into a ball. 22. He kept on singing, 23. and the ball started to grow bigger. 24. He then put it in the bottom of the boat, 25. and rolled it with his foot, singing all the while, 26. and it grew bigger and bigger. 27. Then he stretched it and laid it on the water. 28. Then he said, "It will be a good country". 29. Then he made the trees and the brush, 30, and the mountains and the valles. 31. At last he finished the work. 32. Meanwhile the Coyote He had been asleep for five years in that boat, the Coyote 33. and now all the fruits were ripe 34. and that's the time when Silver Fox woke him up up the Coyote 35. Then the Coyote was glad 36 Then he grew hungry 37 then he ate plenty and filled himself of the fruits of the fruits [???] 38 Then Fox Spoke: "Go out and take a look at the world. See Ho you like it? tsééwa masúla'áígúdzi? ...