Native American Eschatology

In my latest reading of Circle of Life: Traditional Teachings of Native American Elders, James David Audlin talks about eschatology.  In reading Audlin’s discussion of this, I thought about Rosemary Ruether’s critique of environmental apocalyptism in her book, Gaia and God.  In my post here, I say that Ruether “criticizes ‘militant environmentalists’ who expect ‘Mother Earth’ to rise up ‘like a chthonic Jehovah to topple the human empires and return the earth to precivilized simplicity when humans, in small hunter-gatherer tribes, lived lightly off the land’, apparently unconcerned that ‘most human beings would die in the process’ (page 84).”  I don’t know if Audlin agrees with all of what Ruether criticizes here, but he did talk about a Native American eschatology that presumes that nature and the spirits are upset with what humans are doing to the earth.

On page 332, Audlin refers to Hopi prophecies.  He says: “The end is near, the prophecies say, when the House of Mica in the Lands to the East where world leaders meet to resolve issues and settle disputes ignore three times the message of peace and harmony with Nature (as the United Nations has done) and a ‘gourd of ashes’ is dropped upon the earth (nuclear war).  Soon after that, all land and life could be destroyed…unless human beings remember first how to live in peace with each other and in harmony with Nature.”  This intrigued me because Audlin’s interpretation of the Hopi prophecies actually wants for the United Nations to take an active role, a sentiment that you will not see in Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind series (which holds that the UN will set the stage for the Antichrist one world government).  But are the Hopi prophecies about the UN?  I doubt this somewhat, for the prophecy says that the world leaders meet in the Lands to the East, whereas the UN is located in the west, in New York City.

I’d like to quote something that Audlin says on pages 332-333:

“Elders have told me that this future is all but unavoidable—-but that that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  And that, in fact, it might be a bad idea (or at the least wasted effort) to try to stop it from happening.  Just as we are taught not to try to heal someone whose time to die has come but only use palliative medicines to make their passing as comfortable as possible, we should do what we can to provide comfort and safety for all nations.  We may need to let the washichu descend into nuclear war.  It will be devastating and many people will unfortunately die (though remember there is no death, only a change of worlds, so they will yet live), but, as in homeopathic medicine, the [debacle] will cleanse the Earth of all chemical, mental and spiritual pollution.  Mainstream modern culture may already be terminally ill; it may already be impossible to change the direction of this juggernaut enough to avoid annihilation, but its worst effects might yet be blunted somewhat.  We can prepare for the time that will follow this nuclear winter, so that the teachings of the traditional ways, the descriptive law of how humans properly live, will still be remembered and taught and followed.  That is why I must write this book.”

That is a very disturbing passage, and it reminds me of the environmental apocalypticism that Rosemary Ruether was criticizing.  I’d say that Audlin is a little more generous towards humanity than are the environmental apocalypticists, however, for he supports ways to blunt the effects of the catastrophe.  But he does appear to envision a new beginning: after the earth is cleansed of pollution, people can follow the traditional ways of harmony with nature.  Personally, I’d like to think that we can avoid the catastrophe altogether.  Of course, the Christian apocalypticism with which I was raised would probably be skeptical that humans can effect any significant good at this stage, and so it looks for Christ to return to cleanse the earth and renew it.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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