In my last blog, I used the term “mystic warrior.” The term is used in connection with our awareness of the duality of our human nature, and the discovery that a battle is waging between our higher self and our lower self. As we turn our will towards entering the battle we symbolically become a mystic warrior. I first head that term while I was listening to Ed McGaa, the narrator of a tape on Black Elk’s power-vision. For those of you who have never heard of Black Elk, there is a famous book written by John G. Neihardt, called “Black Elk Speaks” dictated from the Ogalala Indian’s narrative of his life. Black Elk was the forth generation Holy Man of his band.
In his power-vision, he describes a place, …”where three streams make one big one-a source of mighty waters-and something terrible was there. Flames were rising from the waters and in the flames a blue man lived. The dust was floating all about him in the air, the grass was short and withered, the trees were wilting, two legged and four legged beings lay there thin and panting, and wings were too weak to fly.”
This part of Black Elk’s vision expresses a universal, mythological theme rooted in the essential composition and collective experience of all human beings. The theme represented is the duality of our human composition; our shadow side/material side in opposition to our light side/spiritual side. We have seen this theme repeated over and over through out all human cultures: in the bible, by the allegory of Cain and Able; in India’s epic, The Mahabharata; in European Literature, with King Arthur and the search for the Holy Grail; in the U.S.A., Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter.
The blue man symbolizes our shadow side with its negative expressions of selfishness, greed, deceit, untruth, corruption. Black Elk symbolizes (not the physical Black Elk, but spirit Black Elk which the Grandfather named Eagle Wing Stretches) our spiritual side.
In Black Elk’s vision, the blue man is defeated. …”Then the black horse riders shouted, “Hoka Hey!” and charged down upon the blue man, but were driven back. And the white troop shouted charging and was beaten; then the red troop and yellow. And when each had failed, they all cried together, “Eagle Wing Stretches! Hurry!” And the world was filled with voices of all kinds that cheered me, so I charged. I had a cup of water in one hand and in the other a bow (gifts given to Eagle Wing Stretches by the West Power) that turned into a spear as the bay (the horse Eagle Wing Stretches was riding) and I swooped down, and on the spear’s head was sharp lightening. It stabbed the blue man’s heart, and as it struck I could hear the thunder rolling and many voices that cried “Un-hee!” meaning I had killed. The flames died”… “then the four troops of horsemen charged down and struck the dead body of the blue man, counting coup, (the act of striking an enemy, dead or alive, with a stick conferring distinction) and suddenly it was only a harmless turtle.”
Eagle Wings Stretches, successfully defeats the blue man, not by using brute force, but by using the spear of knowledge. The troops of horsemen that first attacked the blue man relied on their physical might and their material weapons, and were quickly beaten and driven back. The gift of the cup of water and the bow given by the West Power represented, respectively, the power to make live and and to destroy.
Taking the symbolism of this part of Black Elk’s vision and applying it correspondingly to the actual history of Black Elk, it is clear that his spear of knowledge is his book, “Black Elk Speaks.” That book is the light of knowledge which has, and continues to attack and defeat the ignorance of our ego side. The moment we decide to enter upon the path of spiritual actualization, we are enlisting in the great war of knowing thy self. Of all wars, this is the most fearsome and terrible. It has great men like Goethe to say, “Know thy self? If I knew myself, I’d run away” or C.G. Jung to say, “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” What is so terrifying is that we do battle with kindred aspects of ourselves-the light side and the dark side; and conflict not only comes from outside sources, but also from habits of mind, laden with deep and powerful emotions, caused by experiences from both this life and past lives. All these aggregate, kindred aspects of ourselves confront and vie for conscious domination in rapid and continuous succession.
As warriors of the mystic realm, we are granted access to the symbols of the power of the Soul: the sword of power, the spear of will, the helmet of knowledge, and a coat of mail, the links of which are made of all of our past experiences. These symbols provide us with a crystal clear vision of the means of which we are to do battle.
The many spirit voices are calling you, saying, “Hurry!” You reply, “Hoka-Hay!” and charge until final liberation. Fair well, my brothers, my sisters.