According to Urban T. Holmes in his book “A History of Christian Spirituality” there are four models of spirituality. Every religion can be identified with at least one of these models.
Speculative Kataphatic – The primary goal of this model is to help people fulfill their purpose in this life. This is accomplished by perceiving the will of a higher power, perceiving the will of spirits, emulating the life of that higher power, and awareness of the higher power’s involvement and interaction with one’s life. It is also referred to as a rationalist spirituality.
Affective Kataphatic – The main goal of this model of spirituality is to obtain holiness. This is achieved through friendship with the “Holy One” and the outpouring of his spirit into one’s life. It is also referred to as a pietistic spirituality.
Affective Apophatic – The emphasis of this model is unity with a higher power and existing in this world. It is also called quietist spirituality.
Speculative Apophatic – This model represents obedience to a higher power and striving for justice and peace in life. It’s also called encratic spirituality.
Native American spirituality tends toward the speculative kataphatic and the affective kataphatic models. There are many variances of spirituality in the diverse Native American culture, but there are common overall beliefs which we will explore.
Native Americans view the world as a whole and they are taught from a young age to respect all life on this earth including humans, animals, trees, waters, and everything else. They are taught to live life well on the earth and thus maintain harmony and balance by respecting the beauty and the environment. They should listen to and understand the world in which they live. They must follow and revere the laws of nature. Failure to do so will cause unneeded pain for the living. Native Americans believe they are a necessary part of nature.
They regard the forest, mountains, lakes and all of nature as their home. Being one with nature is as natural to them as breathing, but they realize that they are only a small piece of the physical world and understand that they are of no greater importance than the trees, the wind, the mountains, the animals, the fish and all other living things. In the mind of a Native American this belief is common sense. It is rational thinking and therefore this portion of their belief system represents the speculative kataphatic model of spirituality.
Native Americans perceive themselves as spiritual warriors. True warriors never cry, complain, or feel sorry for them selves. They are well aware of their faults and they correct them. Dwelling on their faults and feeling sad about them is negative and will cause them to miss opportunities to help others and keep them from growing spiritually. Such things as crying and complaining are part of human nature. To suppress these emotions goes against the grain of normalcy and therefore is representative of the affective kataphatic model of spirituality.
Existence of a higher power is a belief of Native American’s as it is for many forms of spirituality. In Native American culture that higher power is often referred to as the “One.” They believe they should focus on the One rather than self and they should learn to live and act according to the example set by the One. They must abide by His rules and ask Him to reveal their mistakes and to help them change. First however, they must come to the realization that their own efforts will determine whether or not they are successful. Ridding themselves of negative thoughts and attitudes will allow them to grow spiritually. Their reverence for the One is a characteristic of the affective kataphatic model of spirituality.
Laughter is a large part of Native American spirituality. They tell stories about the laugh of Nagaul, a spiritual warrior. Nagual laughs at his own bad habits and in doing so he rids himself of his inflated ego and self importance. This is the first step in becoming one with the One. Laughter makes him strong, it calms him and clears his consciousness and gives him freedom.
Native Americans should follow the ways of Nagual in order to become spiritual warrior. A spiritual warrior only laughs at himself, but never at others. Laughter gives joy to their existence and grants them freedom and power. Laughter heals the soul, removes burdens and ends pain. Strong spiritual warriors are never bored, they are never depressed by the past or worried about the future. Spiritual warriors live life to the fullest and keep their eye on the goal. They live their lives with responsibility for their decisions and actions and in turn, the One fills their lives with blessings. These beliefs ring of both speculative kataphatic and affective kataphatic models of spirituality.
The One teaches about love. Until men learn about love, they don’t grow. The One doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the One. He is love. When men are freed from self they will unite with the One and become one. Then their desires and choices will be the same as the desires and choices of the One. Interaction with the One gives them a passion for life. Although learned wisdom is good, wisdom gained from interaction with the One is a higher wisdom. Words are inadequate to describe the power of the One. To know it is to experience it. This reverence describes the affective kataphatic model of spirituality.
The beliefs regarding living in harmony and balance with the earth make perfect sense in age with so many environmental issues. If everyone adhered to those beliefs and respected all living things and all creation then it’s likely we wouldn’t be facing so many environmental problems today. It’s definitely a positive way to live one’s life.
Freeman, N. (Director). (1991). The Moon’s Prayer [Motion Picture].
Path of Heart. (2008). Retrieved October 30, 2008, from Native American Spirituality: http://native-american-spirituality.info/genaro.html