The Pueblo Indians
We always require an outside point to stand on, in order to apply the lever of criticism.
This is especially so in psychology, where by the nature of the material we are much more subjectively involved than in any other science.
How, for example, can we become conscious of national peculiarities if we have never had the opportunity to regard our own nation from outside?
Regarding it from outside means regarding it from the standpoint of another nation.
To do so, we must acquire sufficient knowledge of the foreign collective psyche, and in the course of this process of assimilation we encounter all those incompatibilities which constitute the national bias and the national peculiarity.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
I understand England only when I see where I, as a Swiss, do not fit in.
I understand Europe, our greatest problem, only when I see where I as a European do not fit into the world.
Through my acquaintance with many Americans, and my trips to and in America, I have obtained an enormous amount of insight into the European
character; it has always seemed to me that there can be nothing more useful for a European than some time or another to look out at Europe from the top of a skyscraper.
When I contemplated for the first time the European spectacle from the Sahara, surrounded by a civilization which has more or less the same
relationship to ours as Roman antiquity has to modern times, I became aware of how completely, even in America, I was still caught up and imprisoned in the cultural consciousness of the white man.
The desire then grew in me to carry the historical comparisons still farther by descending to a still lower cultural level.
On my next trip to the United States I went with a group of American friends to visit the Indians of New Mexico, the citybuilding Pueblos.
“City,” however, is too strong a word.
What they build are in reality only villages; but their crowded houses piled one atop the other suggest the word “city,” as do their language and their whole manner.
There for the first time I had the good fortune to talk with a non-European, that is, to a nonwhite.
He was a chief of the Taos pueblos, an intelligent man between the ages of forty and fifty.
His name was Ochwiay Biano (Mountain Lake).
I was able to talk with him as I have rarely been able to talk with a European.
To be sure, he was caught up in his world just as much as a European is in his, but what a world it was.
In talk with a European, one is constantly running up on the sand bars of things long known but never understood; with this Indian, the vessel floated freely on deep, alien seas.
At the same time, one never knows which is more enjoyable: catching sight of new shores, or discovering new approaches to age-old knowledge that has been almost forgotten.
“See,” how cruel the whites look. Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are mad.”
I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad.
“They say that they think with their heads/’ he replied.
“Why of course. What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.
“We think here,” he said, indicating his heart.
I fell into a long meditation.
For the first time in my life, so it seemed to me, someone had drawn for me a picture of the real white man.
It was as though until now I had seen nothing but sentimental, prettified color prints.
This Indian had struck our vulnerable spot, unveiled a truth to which we are blind.
I felt rising within me like a shapeless mist something unknown and yet deeply familiar.
And out of this mist, image upon image detached itself: first Roman legions smashing into the cities of Gaul, and the keenly incised features of Julius Caesar, Scipio Africanus, and Pompey.
I saw the Roman eagle on the North Sea and on the banks of the White Nile.
Then I saw St. Augustine transmitting the Christian creed to the Britons on the tips of Roman lances, and Charlemagne’s most glorious forced conversions of the heathen; then the pillaging and murdering bands of the Crusading armies.
With a secret stab I realized the hollowness of that old romanticism about the Crusades.
Then followed Columbus, Cortes, and the other conquistadors who with fire, sword, torture, and Christianity came down upon even these remote pueblos dreaming peacefully in the Sun, their Father.
I saw, too, the peoples of the Pacific islands decimated by firewater, syphilis, and scarlet fever carried in the clothes the missionaries forced on them.
It was enough.
What we from our point of view call colonization, missions to the heathen, spread of civilization, etc., has another face the face of a bird of prey seeking with cruel intentness for distant quarry a face worthy of a race of pirates and highwaymen.
All the eagles and other predatory creatures that adorn our coats of arms seem to me apt psychological representatives of our true nature.
Something else that Ochwiay Biano said to me stuck in my mind.
It seems to me so intimately connected with the peculiar atmosphere of our interview that my account would be incomplete if I failed to mention it.
Our conversation took place on the roof of the fifth story of the main building.
At frequent intervals figures of other Indians could be seen on the roofs, wrapped in their woolen blankets, sunk in contemplation of the wandering sun that daily rose into a clear sky.
Around us were grouped the low-built square buildings of air-dried brick (adobe), with the characteristic ladders that reach from the ground to the roof, or from roof to roof of the higher stories.
(In earlier, dangerous times the entrance used to be through the roof.)
Before us the rolling plateau of Taos (about seven thousand feet above sea level) stretched to the horizon, where several conical peaks (ancient volcanoes) rose to over twelve thousand feet.
Behind us a clear stream purled past the houses, and on its opposite bank stood a second pueblo of reddish adobe houses, built one atop the other toward the center of the settlement, thus strangely anticipating the perspective of an American metropolis with its skyscrapers in the center.
Perhaps half an hour’s journey upriver rose a mighty isolated mountain, the mountain, which has no name.
The story goes that on days when the mountain is wrapped in clouds the men vanish in that direction to perform mysterious rites.
The Pueblo Indians are unusually closemouthed, and in matters of their religion absolutely inaccessible.
They make it a policy to keep their religious practices a secret, and this secret is so strictly guarded that I abandoned as hopeless any attempt at direct questioning.
Never before had I run into such an atmosphere of secrecy; the religions of civilized nations today are all accessible; their sacraments have long ago ceased to be mysteries.
Here, however, the air was filled with a secret known to all the communicants, but to which whites could gain no access.
This strange situation gave me an inkling of Eleusis, whose secret was known to one nation and yet never betrayed.
I understood what Pausanias or Herodotus felt when he wrote:
“I am not permitted to name the name of that god.”
This was not, I felt, mystification, but a vital mystery whose betrayal might bring about the downfall of the community as well as of the individual.
Preservation of the secret gives the Pueblo Indian pride and the power to resist the dominant whites.
It gives him cohesion and unity; and I feel sure that the Pueblos as an individual community will continue to exist as long as their mysteries are not desecrated.
It was astonishing to me to see how the Indian’s emotions change when he speaks of his religious ideas.
In ordinary life he shows a degree of self-control and dignity that borders on fatalistic equanimity.
But when he speaks of things that pertain to his mysteries, he is in the grip of a surprising emotion which he cannot conceal a fact which greatly helped to satisfy my curiosity.
As I have said, direct questioning led to nothing.
When, therefore, I wanted to know about essential matters, I made tentative remarks and observed my interlocutor’s expression for those affective movements which are so very familiar to me.
If I had hit on something essential, he remained silent or gave an evasive reply, but with all the signs of profound emotion; frequently tears would fill his eyes.
Their religious conceptions are not theories to them (which, indeed, would have to be very curious theories to evoke tears from a man), but facts, as important and moving as the corresponding external realities.
As I sat with Ochwiay Biano on the roof, the blazing sun rising higher and higher, he said, pointing to the sun, “Is not he who moves there our father? How can anyone say differently? How can there be another god? Nothing can be without the sun.”
His excitement, which was already perceptible, mounted still higher; he struggled for words, and exclaimed at last, “What would a man do alone in the mountains? He cannot even build his fire without him.”
I asked him whether he did not think the sun might be a fiery ball shaped by an invisible god.
My question did not even arouse astonishment, let alone anger.
Obviously it touched nothing within him; he did not even think my question stupid.
It merely left him cold, I had the feeling that I had come upon an
insurmountable wall. His only reply was, “The sun is God. Everyone can see that.”
Although no one can help feeling the tremendous impress of the sun, it was a novel and deeply affecting experience for me to see these mature, dignified men in the grip of an overmastering emotion when they spoke of it.
Another time I stood by the river and looked up at the mountains, which rise almost another six thousand feet above the plateau.
I was just thinking that this was the roof of the American continent, and that people lived here in the face of the sun like the Indians who stood wrapped in blankets on the highest roofs of the pueblo, mute and absorbed in the sight of the sun.
Suddenly a deep voice, vibrant with suppressed emotion, spoke from behind me into my left ear: “Do you not think that all life comes from the mountain?”
An elderly Indian had come up to me, inaudible in his moccasins, and had asked me this heaven knows how far-reaching question.
A glance at the river pouring down from the mountain showed me the outward image that had engendered this conclusion.
Obviously all life came from the mountain, for where there is water, there is life.
Nothing could be more obvious.
In his question I felt a swelling emotion connected with the word “mountain,” and thought of the tale of secret rites celebrated on the mountain. I replied, “Everyone can see that you speak the truth.”
Unfortunately, the conversation was soon interrupted, and so I did not succeed in attaining any deeper insight into the symbolism of water and mountain.
I observed that the Pueblo Indians, reluctant as they were to speak about anything concerning their religion, talked with great readiness and intensity about their relations with the Americans.
“Why,” Mountain Lake said, “do the Americans not let us alone? Why do they want to forbid our dances? Why do they make difficulties when we want to take our young people from school in order to lead them to the kiva (site of the rituals) , and instruct them in our religion? We do nothing to harm the Americans!”
After a prolonged silence he continued, “The Americans want to stamp out our religion. Why can they not let us alone? What we do, we do not only for ourselves but for the Americans also. Yes, we do it for the whole world. Everyone benefits by it.”
I could observe from his excitement that he was alluding to some extremely important element of his religion.
I therefore asked him: “You think, then, that what you do in your religion benefits the whole world?”
He replied with great animation, “Of course. If we did not do it, what would become of the world?’
And with a significant gesture he pointed to the sun.
I felt that we were approaching extremely delicate ground here, verging on the mysteries of the tribe.
“After all,” he said, “we are a people who live on the roof of the world; we are the sons of Father Sun, and with our religion we daily help our
father to go across the sky. We do this not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. If we were to cease practicing our religion, in ten years the sun would no longer rise. Then it would be night forever/’
I then realized on what the “dignity,” the tranquil composure of the individual Indian, was founded.
It springs from his being a son of the sun; his life is cosmologically meaningful, for he helps the father and preserver of all life in his daily rise and
If we set against this our own self-justifications, the meaning of our own lives as it is formulated by our reason, we cannot help but see our poverty.
Out of sheer envy we are obliged to smile at the Indians naivete and to plume ourselves on our cleverness; for otherwise we would discover how impoverished and down at the heels we are.
Knowledge does not enrich us; it removes us more and more from the mythic world in which we were once at home by right of birth.
If for a moment we put away all European rationalism and transport ourselves into the clear mountain air of that solitary plateau, which drops off on one side into the broad continental prairies and on the other into the Pacific Ocean; if we also set aside our intimate knowledge of the world and exchange it for a horizon that seems immeasurable, and an ignorance of what lies beyond it, we will begin to achieve an inner comprehension
of the Pueblo Indian’s point of view.
“All life comes from the mountain*’ is immediately convincing to him, and he is equally certain that he lives upon the roof of an immeasurable world, closest to God. He above all others has the Divinity’s ear, and his ritual act will reach the distant sun soonest of all.
The holiness of mountains, the revelation of Yahweh upon Sinai, the inspiration that Nietzsche was vouchsafed in the Engadine all speak the same language.
The idea, absurd to us, that a ritual act can magically affect the sun is, upon closer examination, no less irrational but far more familiar to us than might at first be assumed.
Our Christian religion like every other, incidentally is permeated by the idea that special acts or a special kind of action can influence God for example, through certain rites or by prayer, or by a morality pleasing to the Divinity.
The ritual acts of man are an answer and reaction to the action of God upon man; and perhaps they are not only that, but are also intended to be “activating,” a form of magic coercion.
That man feels capable of formulating valid replies to the overpowering influence of God, and that he can render back something which is essential even to God, induces pride, for it raises the human individual to the dignity of a metaphysical factor.
“God and us” even if it is only an unconscious sous-entendu this equation no doubt underlies that enviable serenity of the Pueblo Indian.
Such a man is in the fullest sense of the word in his proper place. ~Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Pages 247-253