The Tender Side of Spiritual Colonialism
So back on the very sensitive subject of Spiritual Colonialism. Thank you for all the e-mails, comments and courageous contributions to the dialogue. In deep thought and meditation on Spiritual Colonialism, I surprisingly discovered its Tender Side. I thought “why would someone want to basically take knowledge and pass it as their own with no regard to their source and in complete denial of it” Why is this often done with indigenous knowledge and peoples (Those of African descent, Asian, Native American etc.)? Then when I thought of all the times it has been done to me, to someone and people that I know and I think of those who have done it, I realized they all had something in common – a need for validation, attention and bigging up in a society that does not validate their spiritual worth.
I know, about the pain of those who engage in Spiritual Colonialism, not because I have ever lifted anyone’s knowledge without honoring my sources just so that I can look good and exotic before my audience – but because I live in this Western society too. I have never really had the desire to be a spiritual teacher or leader and have resisted it all the way. Those who know me and read my book will know this to be true. But, I have felt the pain of being marginalized by a society that does not recognize my spiritual self and where I have had to hide who and what I am. It is painful living in the West, which is often devoid of spirit. It is painful when you feel this calling in a place like this.
So there are those who feel this pain of having no spiritual place and who find that in the exoticness and admired knowledge of Indigenous people and persons they can find a niche for themselves – they can “be someone”. So if we take a long sideways spiritual look at this person, we come to realize this person is suffering too. They mirror the suffering of our society which has lost a connection to the sacred and its soul. We all suffer somehow from living in spiritless societies. It feels like our soul is dying.
Then once you have decided to follow the spiritual path, then of course many times there is no way to make a living from it, and the societies we live in often demand we pay big bills etc. . We also live in very materialistic societies, and this collective pressure of having to pay those big bills and the collective dialogue of materialism invades our every senses and so “lifting” indigenous knowledge and also taking from someone who is indigenous, who had who to do the walk of courage and initiations to gain what they had to share with others, becomes somewhat like mining gold – it gives us a future but it is very dirty dishonorable business.
So Spiritual Colonialism is really a collective playing out of pain, isolation, loneliness and materialism. Instead of being a society that just allows you to be spiritual, we live in a society that tests levels of integrity everyday. For just to follow our spiritual path and to teach and share in a way that is honorable for many of us is not the fastest path to recognition that is so desired or to the wealth. For those who choose to climb the rocky mountain of Spiritual Colonialism – it becomes your spiritual journey and mirror to look at the tender place of pain within. Then this story becomes one of healing for all of us – as we let go of the collective narrative of the shadow that rules us and all dialogue on how to really walk the sacred path of respect for all our ancestors and relations. This way of walking had a name in traditional socieites, it was the path of Walking in Beauty as the Navajo called it, Iwa Pele of the Yoruba and is the Dharma of the East.