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America, Land of the Feathered Serpent (2 of 6)
Part 2: The Homeland of Democracy
9. The Legacy of Democracy in the Americas
This article is Part 2 of a multi-part series on the “deep” history of America. In Part 1, we discussed the golden age of the ancient Mayan civilization of Central America. In a feat that is almost unbelievable, this great culture achieved 500 years of peace at a time when civilization across Eurasia was tearing itself apart from debt and war.
Manly Hall summarizes the staggering accomplishments of the Mayan peoples: “The great Mayan empire was at its height here in the Americas about the time the Roman Empire was declining in Europe. Bound together by a great highway, two hundred Mayan cities had a population of 150 million human beings living together in one great commonwealth of peace. This commonwealth was established and lived for 500 years without a war”, longer than any other nation we know of.
This society was able to prosper for such a long period because it lived by a religious code of life that incorporated, behind its outer appearance as a theocratic autocracy, key elements of Plato’s ideal for “philosophic democracy”.
As we explored in our earlier chapter on Plato, the Mystery Schools of world history have maintained as one of their key doctrines the dream of world democracy, which itself was part of their larger vision for a worldwide Philosophic Empire.
During its golden age, Mayan civilization existed in many ways as an early prototype for Plato’s ideal for the Philosophic Empire.
The institution responsible for molding Mayan civilization into a pattern fulfilling this ideal was its native lineage of Mystery Schools, termed the Cult of the Feathered Serpent. The initiates of this Mystery School were responsible bringing the Mayan Empire its greatness, with the influence this esoteric society extending into all aspects of Mayan society.
The Mystery School of the Mayans was named after its founder, the Adept Quetzalcoatl (who also went by other names), a title that translates to “Feathered Serpent”.
Through Quetzalcoatl’s Mystery School, the dream of democracy was installed, in an early form, amongst the native peoples of Central America.
While it appears that the Maya were ruled over by an emperor, actually this ruler did not inherit their position through hereditary means. Instead, the emperor was elected for life by common agreement of the people. Furthermore, the individual elected for this position “might be nominated from any strata of the people … if it was indicated that he was a man of extraordinary ability.”
Each of these rulers was an initiate of the state Mysteries, as was the entire ruling class that supported them. In this way, the workings of the state was integrated with religion and philosophy, with government bureaucrats interfacing intimately with the priesthood and their initiates from the Mystery School.
As Manly Hall further explains, the priesthood behind the state “was powerful but benevolent, given to learning, and a patron of the arts and sciences. … They seemed to have governed wisely and to have fulfilled the classical requirements of priest-kings.”
Through the leadership of this group, the Maya became, as Manly Hall puts it, “the first great democratic state on a continent curiously set aside for the perfection of the dream of democracy.”
Thus, as Hall reminds us, “the democracy established by the thirteen colonies in 1776 was not the first American democracy. At least two thousand years before the coming of the white man, the spirit of human equality, human cooperation, and freedom of worship flourished here.”
Hall believes that the spirit of democracy is somehow innate to the American continents - a mysterious inheritance from the gods.
As we’ll be covering further below, democratic institutions have been found in the Americas not only with Maya of Central America and southern Mexico, but also with North American Indians. More specifically: with the formation of the League of the Iroquois during the 14th and 15th centuries of the modern era.
Hall writes that whenever and wherever “nations or people came as colonizers to settle in this country, the colonizers were changed into the likeness of the things which this continent represented. … Every tribal people of this continent has been dominated by the same theory of life, that of collective cooperation.”
He continues: “Every group of people coming from Europe and other countries has rapidly developed the same psychology. It seems to be part of the chemical structure of the soil, with the dry earth beneath our feet releasing a combination of energy-vibrations which bring into manifestation, through the temperament of the people, the basic impulse toward social equality and human equity.”
Keeping this overarching theme in mind, we find that, across the American continents, the native Mystery Schools of the West - the Cult of the Feathered Serpent - have for centuries and millennia worked to design and implement, over the course of a series of successive waves, a number of different prototypes or models for how an elevated form of democratic society can function.
According to Manly Hall, America, from the beginning, was treated by the esoteric societies as a place of experimentation. Here, they sought to discover an ideal pattern for democratic society, one founded upon philosophical, religious, and socialistic principles.
Consequently, the various iterations of high civilization that have emerged in the Americas, from Peru to Guatemala to North America, have done so as evolving prototypes of Plato’s ideal for a philosophic commonwealth.
While the Mayan peoples were able to achieve several hundred years of lasting peace and prosperity, they, along with their other American counterparts, did not ultimately survive. But though their civilizations declined, the dream of democracy did not die with them.
Democracy, the great dream of the Arya, is an ideal that will not and cannot find its ultimate fulfillment until the nations of the world are connected together to form the World Nation.
This grand mission of the esoteric schools - to establish a worldwide philosophic democracy - is one that was seeded into the United States by Francis Bacon and the Founding Fathers at the point of its first founding.
Consequently, from the outset, the US has been given a secret, occult mission: to become the New Atlantis; the nation that is to build a global empire only to sacrifice it so that a World Nation may be reborn from its ashes.
This World Nation is the entity that is to become the ultimate vehicle of the Philosophic Empire.
Bacon’s dream for a New Atlantis describes the final evolutionary state for human civilization that is to come into existence during this current epoch of human history. It is to be born in time, but, once established, will never die.
Through it, the ancient dream of the secret societies will finally be brought into being: a interconnected world civilization democratically governed by the Philosophic Elect and the global Mystery School they represent.
The student body of this Mystery School is one day to encompass all of humanity, with the Philosophic Elect forming the teaching faculty of this esoteric college. Achieving this end has always been the dream of the occult philosophers; it is America’s destiny to transform this lofty vision into a concrete reality.
10. The North American Indians and the Brood Family
In our previous article on this series on American history, we discussed how the Americas were originally populated by Atlantean migrants coming from two directions: one wave came into the Central and South America region from the Atlantean island chain to the East; another moved into North America from the West over the Bearing Strait.
This second migratory motion was originated by wandering, nomadic tribes of North Asian, Mongolian-derived peoples. They moved across the Bearing Strait, down through Alaska and Canada, and into California and northern Mexico. This migration also moved eastward across the continent, extending its reach to down to Florida and up to New York.
These North Asian migrants would in time become the various tribes of North American Indians. While their neighbors in Central and South America came to adopt an Atlantis-inspired agrarian and city-dwelling way of life, the North Americans Indians maintained a nomadic, hunter gatherer, brood family pattern of existence, one that had been traditionally practiced by their ancestors in North Asia back before the time of the original Bering Strait migrations.
Hall notes that an important inner transformation took place within these migrating tribes once they landed in America: they began to evolve toward a democratic theory of communal living.
He writes that “the American Indian is an Atlantean, basically of Mongolian extraction. But because he was brought into a new environment, he evolved to a type in marked change from the older Atlantean. … When the Atlanteans touched this soil, its vibration, whatever it was, it immediately modified their nature and structure.”
As we’ll explore further below, this evolution toward democratic governance culminated in the formation of the League of the Iroquois in present day New York during the 14th and 15th centuries AD. But before going into further detail about that, let’s first consider something of the core tribal pattern the North Americans followed: the brood family.
The brood family is the primordial tribal unit of humanity. Its simple governance system is centered around a concept that is foreign to us today: the existence of a matriarchy.
In the brood family, as with most traditional social patterns, the men were the ones who held the core leadership positions. But in the brood family model of governance, we discover that it was the women who were responsible for electing them.
Hall explains that women “sat in the councils and frequently were consulted in matters requiring unusual wisdom or experience.” Further, “the chiefs were selected, elected, and maintained in office only with the consent of the matrons of the group.”
Hall also notes that, in the brood family pattern, “all lands and houses belonged solely to the women”. Further, the descent of familial lineage was traced through the woman’s side of the family and not the man’s.
Hall tells us that, among the native tribes of North America, a typical clan consisted of several brood families.
Among the more advanced Indian tribes, nations were formed which were made up of from three to fourteen clans, each comprised of numerous brood families, all bound together into one political unity, with each voluntary relinquishing its separate sovereignty for the sake of collective security.
In the famed League of the Iroquois, five such nations were ultimately linked together to form one grand political entity, one that was based upon democratic institutions far in advance of anything then exiting in Europe.
In this League, five nations came together, each comprised of numerous clans. Each clan was comprised of numerous brood families, and the structure of the brood family was ruled, as noted earlier, by its council of matrons. Thus, in the Native American model of democracy, one created on this continent hundreds of years before the coming of the white man, women served as the foundation for the whole system.
11. The Shaman Tradition in North America
Describing the native shamanistic traditions of the North American Indians, Manly Hall writes that “all aboriginal tribes of North America practiced mystical and magical rites, which were vestiges of an ancient esoteric tradition and served by a priestly class distinguished for their sagacity and personal integrity.”
At the time of the European colonization of America, the American Indian tribes had already developed and were practicing a native Mystery School tradition, one maintained by an elite secret society of shamans.
As Manly Hall further explains, these shamans maintained “an elaborate series of esoteric doctrines and practices, which were known to only a small portion of the tribe, with the mass of the people being familiar only with the outer part of the ritual and with its exoteric features.”
All tribes appear to have been controlled, at their innermost levels, by this esoteric shamanistic order. The Mystery tradition they upheld shared numerous points of commonality with the Mystery Schools found in other times and places, including the Cult of the Feathered Serpent prospering in Central and South America.
More generally, secret societies and guild-like fraternal associations were operative throughout many of the Native American tribal societies.
Hall explains that, “among the Amerindians, secret societies existed for the perpetuation and enlargement of the choicest knowledge of the tribe. There were war associations, herding cults, and fraternities concerned with the religious Mysteries, the keeping of records, and the dramatization of myths. There were also ethical societies, as well as orders of myth-makers, fire-walkers, and hunters. Each was presided over by elders who had distinguishing regalia.”
Hall also informs us that “women frequently became leaders of these groups,” with a balance between masculine and feminine or patriarchal and matriarchal elements always ensured.
Keeping in mind that the North American Indians likely originated from prehistoric Asiatic tribes of nomadic wanderers, we can infer that the traditions they upheld are ones that date back to the most ancient eras of man’s developmental history.
Originally, before mankind moved into a pattern of sedentary, urban, agriculture-based community life, we existed as nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers.
Unlike their sedentary, city-building counterparts in Central and South America, the North American Indians tribes maintained this traditional mode of existence, carrying it forward from their peoples’ ancient past in North Asia.
Consequently, by investigating the mystical occult traditions of the Native Americans, we gain valuable insight into how the Mystery Schools might have originally emerged during the dawn of the species, back before the great city-building empires of Atlantis first emerged.
To begin with, we should understand that the Mystery Schools are an archetypal institution: human society requires them and cannot live without their guiding influence. By implication, even at a tribal level, one is sure to find somewhere in the midst a mystical or shamanistic tradition.
As Manly Hall emphasizes, “the esoteric tradition originates in the spiritual needs of the human being, appearing regardless of race or place of habitation.”
Originally, members of the tribe were called to the priesthood through internal visions and mystical experiences, which would emerge out of their own subconscious during their early adolescent years. In this way, mankind’s innate “search for reality gradually brought into being specialized groups of intensive truth seekers.”
Over time, “these groups produced their own leaders, and such wise men and women were acknowledged as divinely inspired. They received special admiration and devotion, were obeyed for their superior endowments, and gradually became a priestly caste.”
In this manner, the American Indian “priests formed societies of different grades of illumination, only to be entered by those willing to undergo initiatic rites in the form of trying ordeals, whose secrets were not to be revealed” to those who were not initiates.
The process by which the Native American Shaman was called to his life’s work reveals something about how the esoteric tradition originally must have come into being at the dawn of our species:
First, it impresses itself upon the psyche of certain chosen persons; these become the Medicine Men. Then, over time, these Medicine Men or Shamans gradually form a society between themselves; this becomes the first priesthood of the Mysteries.
Note that the whole system was based out of the personal dedication of the shaman and the mystical experiences he was able to cultivate within himself.
The mystical life of the Native American shaman - a reflection of the oldest traditions of the human race - was based on a solitary approach, with the individual going out alone to commune with the spiritual powers of the cosmos.
Hall explains that the shaman’s “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.”
Consequently, the shaman was forced to become “a thoughtful observer of Nature about him.” Nature provided him his scripture, and “the Indian lived constantly in the presence of mysteries.”
Because the shamans of North America did not have access to grand temples of initiation or to a system of writing through which to pass on their knowledge to future generations, they had to rely on mankind’s primordial mystic tradition, one that required each priest or medicine man to discover the ancient religion within themselves during fasting, vigil, and the repetition of the sacred chants.
Alone, in vigil, he earnestly prayed to the Great Ones for guidance. And these Great Ones responded, bestowing to him the knowledge he required in order to heal, lead, and inspire the people of his tribe.
Thus, it was in their solitary communion with Nature that the Indian mystic or medicine priest would receive their esoteric training and instruction. Often, as Manly Hall informs us, the Medicine Priest's “entire spiritual education came from within and was induced by fasting and vigil.”
Here, “the Indian 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’. These ‘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.”
As tribes combined into brood families, and brood families combined into clans, and clans into nations, gradually groups of shamans banded together to form assemblages, which became a priestly caste of societal “elders” who ruled over the affairs of the people.
In this way, the Mystery tradition gradually scaled upward, moving from the shamans of the tribe to the priesthoods of the state.
It is likely that, had the Europeans not moved into colonize the North American tribes when they did, the Iroquois peoples would have consolidated themselves into the formation of a nation, with their shamans banding together form a North American branch of the Cult of the Feathered Serpent.
They never quite got there, but we can trace through their lineage how the early Mystery School priesthood of Atlantis likely first originated during the prehistoric dawn of time.
12. The Great Medicine Lodge in the Sky
Hall writes that usually “the medicine priests were … called to their life’s work by some miraculous incident.” For example, “the little Indian boy who early in life showed a tendency to dreams and visions was encouraged to select this career.”
The archetypal image or symbol that would come in visions or dreams to those called to the shamanistic life was that of the “Thunderbird”: the Native American version of the “Phoenix”.
Hall informs us that the Thunderbird was closely associated with the religious Mysteries of Native American society. “Those who saw this creature in their vigils usually considered themselves as intended for a religious life.”
Like the Phoenix of Eurasia and Quetzalcoatl of Central and South America, the Thunderbird personifies the esoteric tradition, for the reason that “these creatures were said to inhabit a sky-world above the clouds”, where they served as “messengers between mortals and heavenly beings”.
In the religious mythology of the Native Americans, the symbol of the Thunderbird represents a hierarchy of spiritual beings. This heavenly hierarchy was termed “the Great Medicine Lodge in the Sky;” like the Invisible College of the Rosicrucians, they believed it to be the secret government of the world.
On Earth, the Native American shamans banded together to form an institution serving as the terrestrial extension of this Sky Lodge. This Earth Lodge was associated with the use of serpent symbolism and the worship of the Mother Goddess.
It was the job of this Earth Lodge to convene with the Earth Mother below and the Sky Father above. The Earth Mother was host to the nature spirits, while the Sky Father was the master of the transcendental Great Medicine Lodge in the Sky.
By serving both the celestial and terrestrial aspects of divinity, the shamans of North America sought to attain the knowledge and wisdom necessary to lead the seasonal migrations of their peoples. Manly Hall offers one particular example of a tribe in which this esoteric cult flourished: the Ojibway peoples of North Dakota and southern Canada.
Ojibway society was centered around an esoteric lodge: The Great Medicine Society. As Hall informs us, the purpose of this society “was to enlighten the human mind and soul and to bind the initiates to the service of their people.”
The esoteric doctrines taught to initiates of this society, which included both men and women, incorporated a secret art of healing based on a method for controlling the vital currents coursing through the nerve centers of the human body.
It also included a method for stimulating extrasensory perceptions and magical abilities. This explains the curious stories of early settlers and missionaries, who gave reports about medicine priests “learning to leave their bodies at will and journeying into the shadowland to guide the dying to the home of ghosts.”
Manly Hall notes that the miraculous powers of the old Indian medicine priests were recorded on numerous occasions in the early historical records of the European colonizers.
As these early records tell us, the medicine priests of the more advanced Indian tribes “healed the sick, protected their tribes, directed the migrations of their peoples, and sought by extrasensory means the location of food, water, and other necessities. They predicted the future, 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 impression of the star-spirits. They also gained considerable proficiency in the mesmeric and hypnotic arts.”
In Hall’s writings, he discusses the records of one early American scholar of the Indians, who spent many years among them and described in his journals his observations of numerous miracles their shamans performed. For example, this author “mentioned how Indians seated in their medicine lodge created miniature thunderstorms within the room. … He was also impressed by the ability of the priests to change themselves into animals in the presence of spectators."
Hall also informs us that, during the performance of their sacred chants, some priests could create an artificial sun inside the lodge. In addition, “other writes have reported that, in some of the medicine lodges, the Indians were able to levitate large stones and to cause their own bodies to float in the air.”
The great spiritual beings in the Sky Lodge above, the transcendent entities who served as the teachers and guides of the shamanistic priesthood, were called the Manitos.
As Manly Hall further explains, “the secret of healing, prophecy, and magic came to the Indian from an order of beings called the Manitos.”
“The Manitos were not actually gods, but superhuman man-like creatures possessing extraordinary attributes.” These governing spirits were thought of as “a divine invisible tribe - masters of magic - to whom human beings could turn for help and guidance whenever necessity arose.”
Hall writes that “when the medicine man journeyed to the spirit land, he might be invited to attend a council of the Manitos.”
"When he came to the Great Lodge in the sky (where the Manitos assembled), it resembled an earthly council place, except that it was larger, more elegant, and usually filled with a strange light.”
Overall, “the Lodge was a kind of super-physical 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.”
Here we find a concept similar to that of the Buddhist “Western Paradise” or the Rosicrucian “Invisible College”, where a fraternity of enlightened human souls residing in a rarified spiritual plane of existence is indicated as the secret government behind human affairs.
Like the Mahatmas of Theosophy, the Manitos were not gods but superhuman sages or “ascended masters”.
Like their eastern counterparts, these masters or “Manitos” had detached the “Rose from the Cross” and discovered how to function consciously in a “light body" that is unrestrained by the typical limits of the physical human form. It was in the Light Body that one attended the council of the Manitos.
As Hall further describes, above the Earth is a heaven region extending upward from the place of clouds into the infinite expanses of light and air. This is the heavenly abode of the great Manitos, “the creator and preserver gods whose bodies were composed of light. The stars were camp-fires in the sky, and the path of the Milky Way was a road leading to the Medicine Lodge of those guardian spirits which control and direct the world.
The same was said to be true of the Rosicrucian Society that Francis Bacon was a member of: it was an esoteric fraternity whose true temple resided in the metaphysical auric fields surrounding the physical globe of the Earth. From this lofty abode, this invisible institution ruled over the affairs of men.
To commune with the spiritual masters of this invisible institution, the individual had to first learn how to consciously function in the metaphysical fields of their own aura. It was here and only here, in the metaphysical planes of earthly existence, that the Invisible Government of the World could be reached.
13. Deganawida and the Iroquois League of Nations
As Manly Hall describes it, the Manitos were the spiritual inspirers of a great democratic project that took place several hundred years ago, during the 15th and 16th centuries AD, within the Iroquois tribes of present-day New York state.
This democratic project, which initially formed a century or two before the arrival of the Europeans, was initially established as a union of five tribal nations, who together united to establish the League of the Iroquois.
This “nation of nations” was formed for the triple purpose of mutual protection, economic advancement, and cultural union. Its peoples called themselves “the People of the Long House”, by which they implied they were one family sheltered by one roof.
This great League was brought forth under the vision, guidance, and spiritual leadership of a great Native American initiate, Deganawida.
Hall writes that Deganawida “fulfilled all the requirements of the Adept tradition. He was born of an immaculate conception, possessed the power to work miracles, prayed and fasted, practiced the vigils, was confirmed in his mission by the Great Father, and passed through numerous trials and persecutions.”
Delving further, Hall writes that “it was while dwelling among the Onondaga tribe that the prophet resolved to formulate the laws of the Great Confederation of the People of the Long House. He retired to a secret place and gave himself over to prayer, fasting, and meditation.” When the “voices” at last spoke to him, “the Sky Father revealed to his son the three double rules of wise government.”
These three “double rules of wise government” follow somewhat of a Yin-Yang polarity, with each pair oscillating around a central theme:
I. The double rule of private affairs:
1a. Maintain health of mind and body.
1b. Maintain peace among men and women, both as individuals and among organized groups of persons.
II. The double rule of public affairs:
2a. Preserve righteousness of conduct and its advocacy in thought and speech.
2b. Preserve equity or justice in law.
III. The double rules of foreign affairs:
3a. Maintain both physical strength and military/state power.
3b. Preserve Orenda, the etheric magic power of the gods, which binds the nation together and keeps its institutions strong.
In order to fulfill his mission to unite the Iroquois tribes, Deganawida, along with his distinguished disciple Hiawatha, traveled from clan to clan, preaching the vision of political unity that the Sky Father had initially bestowed to him.
As Manly Hall describes him, “Deganawida was a prophet and statesman of rare insight and power - the Master Mind of the Stone Age. The legends (about him) reveal the tireless struggle of an inspired leader opposed on every hand by the isolationists of his day. He realized the importance of united action in the face of common problems and framed a constitution of laws and rules which would guarantee the security of the Iroquois.”
As he pursued his mission, Deganawida told his people that “he was sent by the Great Spirit, the Sky Father who created all things, to establish the Good Law among his children.” His message to them was simple: “the nations must unite in a League of Peace and live together in brotherhood and friendship.”
In the Iroquois legends, Deganawida encountered a formidable adversary during his quest to unite the tribes and create peace: the old war chief Atotarho, who personifies the psychology of “isolationism” mentioned earlier.
Hall writes that, at the time Deganawida formulated his plan,” the wizard chieftain Atotarho was ruler over the Onondaga tribe. He was feared by all the people, and it is said that, because of the evil thoughts that filled his mind, writhing serpents grew from his head in the place of hair.”
“Deganawida went to the wizard, and, unmoved by his terrible appearance, explained to him the plan for the League of the Five Nations and besought his help. But Atotarho, because of the wickedness in his heart, reviled the prophet and worked spells against him, refusing to obey the will of the Great Spirit.”
His spirit undaunted, Deganawida went one by one to the other Iroquois tribes, gradually converting each. “After journeying, gaining allies and disciples, and uniting the four other tribes, Deganawida then traveled back to the lodge of Atotarho.”
Instead of waging war on the chieftain, they sought to convert him to their cause through peaceful and loving means. They “sang songs of power to bring comfort and peace to the heart of the old war chief. They sang outside the door of his lodge, and so powerful was the Orenda or spiritual magic of the chants, that Atotarho felt a new goodness emerge from within himself. His face took on a gentle expression, the serpents fell from his head, and all his crooked parts were straightened.”
“In this way, the evil magician was brought back to the love of the Great Spirit, and all the wickedness departed from him. He came forth from his lodge and stood among the people, restored to the full nobility of his manhood. Subsequently, he was elected to the highest place in the Grand Council. And thus, the League of the Five Nations came to be formed among the Iroquois.”
14. Orenda: The Sacred Energy of the Shaman
As described above, Deganawida’s grand mission to bring political union to the Iroquois nation was initially inspired by his mystical communion with the Sky Father and the great Manitos in heaven.
There was a clear social mission behind Deganawida’s vision to “abolish war altogether, establish forms of civil government among the people, and secure universal peace and welfare among men.” But, as Manly Hall also notes, “the League was not simply a political structure. In the mystical philosophy of the Five Nations,” the League was seen as “a living creature conjured into existence by the spiritual will of the people.”
“Though in itself formless, (this League Spirit) had parts and members; though invisible, it had character, disposition, and temperament. It was the collective, heroic Over-Self within which each individual lived, moved, and had his being.”
“This gigantic Androgyne was nourished by the virtues of the men and women who composed its body. It had one mind made up of all the minds of the tribes; one heart, the sum of all hearts; and one strength, the strength of all who toiled together for the common good.”
The spiritual Light of this great divine being or “Over-Self” comes down into manifestation through the life of the tribe by means of an etheric force termed “Orenda”.
Orenda is the sacred magic energy of the Shamans. Hall describes its as a “sidereal vitality which descends from the stars and the remote parts of space. It impregnates the Earth and is released through the growth of all living things.”
The Indian shamans called this all-pervading spirit energy “Orenda”; the Chinese called it “chi” and the Brahmans “prana”. In esoteric Christianity, one might think of it as the “blood of Christ”. In alchemical literature, it is the elusive “ether” or quintessence.
Manly Hall explains that “Orenda is a power or energy universally present in animate and inanimate creatures. It manifests through the vital processes which cause things to exist and function.”
As the universal life force, it is ever-present and ever-available as an energetic resource. But to be utilized it has to be “tapped into”. This was the task of the shamanic priesthood, which they accomplished by means of occult rituals such as sacred dances and chants.
Before it was brought down to Earth from its source, the Sky Father in Heaven, this sacred life energy, Orenda, was first specialized into a spectrum of functions by the Manitos or sky gods.
From their Sky Lodge, the Manitos received into themselves the pure light of the Sky Father and specialized it before then reflecting it downward into the Earth sphere, for it to be absorbed and utilized by the evolving life forms of Earth.
Streaming out from from the auras of the great Ascended Masters or Manitos, the vital life-energy of the Sky Father works to enliven, vivify, and illuminate all life on the planet. As Hall further explains, “the soft murmur of the running stream, the glory of the sunset, the flickering flame of the council fire, the song of the bird, the strength of the bear, the swiftness of the deer, the love of man and woman, the first cry of the newborn babe, the good words spoken from the heart, and the courage of the human being to find a better way of life - all these are Orenda.”
The esoteric doctrine of the shamans’ Medicine Society was centered around instructing disciples on how to control and channel the subtle life-giving energy of Orenda, bringing it into the tribe so as to ensure the health, prosperity, and spiritual well-being of the people.
Hall describes how the sacred rituals of the shamans were utilized to harness the vital life-giving powers of Orenda. This was accomplished by means of a secret science of resonance and sympathy, with ”specially composed images, geometrical temple designs, and ritual formulas” all serving to attract this spiritual force from the heavens and bring it down to Earth.
In their way of thinking, “if a thoughtful man constructed a design, composed a song, or in any way fashioned a symbol embodying the attributes of a particular force, he became bound to that force to the symbol magic of sympathy.” Leveraging this idea, the shamans, in the performance of their magical rituals, were able to utilize Orenda, drawing it down from the Sky Father in order to supply it to the people of the tribe.
Through this method of drawing spiritual energies down from the heavens, “divine beings lent their presence to the forms and ceremonies set up by men of good faith.” The songs, images, and dances dedicated to the Manitos became actually “ensouled by a power from the gods, and this magical tie was strengthened by the faith of the worshipers.” In this way, the life of the tribe was fed by the spirit-energies of heaven.
Manly Hall teaches that Orenda demonstrates an innate morality in how it functions. It is therefore a “moral energy” and is available only to those who are worthy and capable of calling upon it and drawing it down.
“When the Indian went out alone to practice his vigils and sought his god through fasting and meditation, he never asked for any particular favor. He simply waited for the spirits to point the way and bestow such gifts as he deserved.” When they moved upon him, the voices and the visions came to him through Orenda.
Thus, as Hall writes, “Orenda was believed to emanate and flow from sacred words, chants, and songs.” It was also “related directly to the laws formulated and enacted by the sachems of the League”.
Because this “moral energy” responded to those of pure heart and intention, “it must be assumed that this power was intelligent, with a tender regard for the needs of its numerous children.”
Hall writes that “the World Soul binds all souls together through the mystery of soul power or Orenda, which causes a common circulation of energy among them.” Orenda is thus a “life principle derived from God”, with its common spirit pervading the members of a group, inspiring camaraderie between them and binding them together into the formation of a larger community wholeness.
“The familiar example of this was the gathering of the sachems, or senators, of the Great Iroquois League. These men, venerable and sincere, sat together for the good of their people. Because they came to serve others, for a common good beyond their own as individuals, they generated an energy among them.” This energy was Orenda; it “bound them together as one, and in their hearts they had the will to be true, just, thoughtful, and virtuous.”
From a philosophic standpoint, Orenda is understood as the magic ingredient which allowed the democratic union of Iroquois tribes to take root and prosper.
The vision for the Iroquois nation was originally inspired by the Sky Father and communicated to Deganawida by means of Orenda. When he brought this vision to the tribal leaders of the five nations, he communicated and passed this Orenda on to them. Then, as the League of Five Nations was organized, this Orenda moved out into the community leaders of its various tribes, flowing now out also through them.
The lesson here is that the Sky Spirit incarnates through human conduct: it lives on through the character qualities of those who maintain its honor, legacy, and vision. “These character qualities, held internally as a code of conduct and practiced in daily living, were the Orenda that sustained the Confederation.”
The League of the Iroquois was therefore sustained by the life of a common Spirit. This common Spirit was a divine being created by men, preserved by men, and doomed to die if men failed.
As the League grew, the kingdom of this Spirit also grew. This entity “grew in stature as new tribes joined the confederation. They were all its children, and it could include the whole world within its protecting consciousness.”
This Spirit was kept strong in the community through the performance of sacred ceremonies, chants and songs. Hall elaborates, noting that “traditions must go on from generation to generation: the old rites must never be forgotten; the old dreams must never fade. Whoever receives the stories and legends into his heart shares in the mysterious life of the Oversoul.”
Orenda represents connection with vital life energy. When a civilization or person loses their Orenda - the magic of their own unity - they inevitably experience decay.
Hall suggests that Orenda “is the priceless and missing ingredient in the white man’s formula for world peace.”
He emphasizes that “democracy is not merely a more generous concept of government imposed upon an unbelieving humanity. Democracy is a way of life, demanding for its perfection the generous enlargement of human character.” In other words, it requires Orenda; and to be fed this Orenda, individuals must act in a way worthy of receiving it.
As Hall further explains, “the code begins with the individual - the primary unit of society. No nation can be better than its people, and it is the duty of the citizen to preserve the health of his mind and body. Selfishness, pride, envy, greed, hate, and anger are forms of sickness and if permitted to spread these evils finally will corrupt the whole nation. The bonds that hold tribes and states together are therefore no stronger than the personal ties of home, friendship, and faith by which private citizens are united.”
As the Iroquois understood, “democracy cannot be legislated into being; it must be experienced as a better standard of human relationship."
“Brotherhood cannot be taught by words alone, nor can legislators decree that men shall know this blessed state.” Instead, “the union of the nations must first be discovered as an inner experience of the soul. One should go out into the night and, like Deganawida, listen to the voices that reveal the ways of the Great Spirit.”
The spirit of brotherhood must also be reinforced in the education of the young and in community rituals. “When men gather about the fire in the long evening, let them tell of the great peacemakers, so that the young will come to love and admire nobility of character. Let there be reference to the prophets, and the sages, and those who were men of vision, so that the children will know that wisdom is something much to be desired. In this way, the life of good things grows strong, and the Tree of Peace will spread its branches over all the world.”
Here we discover the Iroquois’ belief that “the principle strongholds of their Confederation was not in their fortified villages, but rather with the sachems of their tribes,” who preserved the sacred wisdom of Orenda and taught how to use it for the achievement of collective peace, security, and prosperity.
Hall writes that the perhaps greatest lesson that the story of the Iroquois Nation offers us today is to emphasize the point that “man must be educated before he can be free. He must become a greater individual before he can administer his own life with integrity and skill.”
This was the conviction shared by the European and Mesopotamian secret societies, those dedicated to achieving Plato’s grand vision for the philosophic commonwealth. This was also the conviction that the Sky Father bestowed to Deganawida, the great inspirer of the Iroquois League in America.
The simple lesson is that democracy begins in the hearts and minds of men. It is a way of life that must be brought forth through the development of internal maturity, strength, wisdom, and discipline among all individuals within a community. Only by first cultivating these character traits within ourselves will we11 be able successfully draw down the Orenda needed to sustain the democratic way of life.
As Manly Hall concludes, it is only when philosophy comes into the life of the people and “the Code of Righteousness is firmly established in the thoughts of men” that justice will not fail in the world and democracy can be brought forth. It is then and only then that democracy can be permanently sustained; until then, it is an ideal toward which we must continue to strive.
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