Every now and then an event happens in our world that captures my imagination, touching something really deep within me. The Native American protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock, North Dakota is just such an event. This has the feeling of a truly seminal, historic event in which we are all invited to participate. The peaceful protests by what are known as the “water protectors” against a multi-billion dollar corporation putting an oil pipeline through what the Native Americans consider sacred land, endangering the source of their water—i.e., of life itself—is a deeply symbolic event with real life consequences. In a very real sense, the protest is itself a sacred ceremony being performed on the world stage, being done on behalf of all of humanity – which is to say, all of us.
As if a formless archetypal process is taking on form and materializing in front of our eyes, a deeper universal conflict that exists within the unconscious psyche of humanity is becoming visible at Standing Rock. At these protests there is a meeting—a confrontation—of two opposite edges of the universe, an encounter of two completely polarized world-views and ways of life. On the one hand, there is the indigenous perspective that honors all life, living in conscious relationship with the earth. On the other hand is industrial civilization, which sees the earth as some “thing”—an inanimate object—to be used for profit, a perspective which is actually destroying the biosphere, the very life support system of the planet. Two more opposed world-views are hard to imagine.
At Standing Rock, a dissociation and fragmentation that exists deep within the soul of humanity is, both literally and symbolically, playing out on the world stage. Seen symbolically, the image of this primordial conflict is quite striking: The “weapons” of the indigenous perspective are love, compassion, prayer, ceremony and truth. The weapons of industrial civilization are guns, clubs, pepper spray, mace, tear gas, tasers, attack dogs and the like. By viewing what is taking place in this conflict symbolically, something profoundly important is being revealed to us that has to do with all of us. Symbols are the language of dreams, which is to say that symbols reflect something within the dreamer, which in this case is us. Once we recognize—as if looking in a mirror—the reflective nature of what is symbolically playing out, a potential doorway opens in our minds. What is playing out at Standing Rock is all of our business.
The conflict at Standing Rock is an iteration of a seemingly endless fractal that is happening in different guises not only all over the world, but all throughout history as well. It is the current re-creation of the countless scenarios where those in power abuse their power over the less powerful (often taking their land and resources).The pipeline was originally going to be close to the city of Bismarck, until there was pushback from the city’s (mostly white) population, who were understandably scared of the inevitable leakage from the pipeline contaminating their water; it was then re-routed to its present location.For the Native American people, it is a modern-day repetition of the original trauma of when the Europeans came over and not only forcibly took over their land, but committed racial and cultural genocide.
In bulldozing the Native American’s sacred burial grounds, it is as if the indigenous blood that was spilled across this continent by the US Cavalry—cloaked under the charade of “discovery”—is awakening the spirits of the native ancestors, who were slaughtered mercilessly in the name of “Manifest Destiny.” Animated by this sacred spirit, at Standing Rock the Native Americans are courageously fighting the same demonic force that has for centuries ravaged their people, lands, and sacred heritage.
How we look at things determines what we see. How we view the conflict at Standing Rock depends upon how far back we go in time, i.e., where we start in the story. The argument of Big Oil is that the protesters are trespassing on private property, i.e., breaking the law. But way back when, this land was the Native Americans’ land (it didn’t “belong” to them, any more than the sun and the sky belonged to them – they simply lived there). Their land was then forcibly—violently—taken from them by our European ancestors. At a certain point the US Government gave back to the Native Americans the very land that’s in question in a treaty. Later, whenever many of these treaties became “inconvenient” (i.e., stood in the way of private profiteering), the government broke their promises (illegally, I might add) by simply ignoring them, pretending as if they never existed. And now Big Oil, backed by a militarized response from both our government and private contractors, is fabricating a false collective narrative that the Native Americans—who, let us not forget, are living on land stolen from them—are the ones who are breaking the law. This is totally upside-down crazy – a reflection of a madness that afflicts industrial civilization world-wide. To say that this madness borders on being criminal is an understatement – it IS nothing other than criminal.
There is a systemic psycho-spiritual disease—a true madness—that pervades the body politic of humanity, and what is happening at Standing Rock is an acute localized outbreak of this disease. The Native Americans have a word—“wetiko”—which signifies this illness of the soul—a truly demonic force—that informs such acts of unmitigated evil. As stated by one Native American source, “Native tribes, in general, have a story they tell about Wendigo [another name for wetiko], the spirit of cannibalism. This Black Snake [like an oil pipeline] that is being protested by the Standing Rock Sioux is the spirit of Wendigo, and yes the ‘White Man’ does eat everything, including Mother Earth.”
Those aligned with and taken over by the Black Snake – i.e., wendigo/wetiko endlessly “consume,” like an insatiable cannibal, the life force of others—human and nonhuman—for private purpose or profit, without giving back anything of value from their own lives. At the collective level, this perverse inner process is mirrored by the consumer society in which we live, a culture that continually fans the flames of never-ending desires, conditioning us to always want more. As if starving, we are in an endless feeding frenzy, trying to fill a bottomless void. This process of rabid, obsessive-compulsive consumption is a reflection of a deep, inner shared sense of spiritual starvation that is endemic to industrial civilization.
To quote Native American scholar Jack Forbes, “This disease, this wetiko (cannibal) psychosis, is the greatest epidemic sickness known to man.” Wetiko is a collective psychosis that can be likened to a virus of the psyche that deranges our mind, thereby giving us the wrong orientation towards life and what is truly important. A true case of moral insanity, wetiko is the root cause of humanity’s inhumanity to itself, of the self-and-other destruction that our species is acting out all over the world. Wetiko disease is a self-devouring operating system, a living death sentence that, if left unchecked, destroys everything within its dominion, including itself.
It is significant when a deeper, mythic archetypal process becomes embodied and acted out (i.e., “dreamed up”) like it is at Standing Rock, for this is an expression that this heretofore unconscious process is emerging into consciousness so as to be potentially integrated. Seen symbolically, the deeper archetypal—and primordial—process of good vs. evil is getting played out at Standing Rock. To give a sense of the evil we are up against, the company constructing the pipeline—Energy Transfer Partners—exploiting the chaos of the recent Presidential election as a distraction, announced on Election Day that it would defy President Obama’s request to stand down and would begin the drilling of the most contentious portion of the pipeline in just two weeks.
Splitting the world into good and evil (and being identified with the good) is a slippery slope, oftentimes quite dangerous (as many millions of innocent people have been killed as a result of this process), but if there was ever a situation that lends itself to clear-cut good vs. evil, Standing Rock is it. A war between life and death is, both literally and symbolically, playing out at Standing Rock. When the opposites appear in bold relief like this, it is an expression that something “beyond the opposites” is beginning to emerge into view – we should be on the lookout for this. This is to say that encoded in the conflict is a potential blessing, just like hidden within a poison is its own medicine.
On the one hand there is the fossil fuel industry—“Big Oil”—backed by, and in collusion with our legal system, the police and the government. Because of its power, Big Oil has managed to have public funds being used to protect its very private interests (i.e., its profits); this is to say that taxpayers are footing the bill on behalf of the super-wealthy. Add to this mix the mainstream media (the propaganda organ of the prevailing powers-that-be), which, when it is not putting out disinformation about what is taking place, is barely covering what is happening—some independent journalists have been violently brutalized and even arrested as they report on the protests.
Due to the mainstream news blackout, we are being left “in the dark” – which is to say that many people aren’t even aware of what’s taking place at Standing Rock. This is by design, for as more people find out about the evil that is being perpetrated in their name, the more power becomes available to us – the people. Only in coming together can people and communities create the conditions for the regeneration of life and overcome the very powerful forces that would extract the last barrel of oil from the earth. In this case, knowledge is truly power – this is why the powers-that-be, and the mainstream media they control, are heavily invested in keeping us in the dark. The seeming entity that enlivens, sponsors and supplies cover for this sinister project is what the Native American wisdom holders are pointing at when they use the word wetiko.
The Bible refers to one aspect of the multi-faceted wetiko pathogen as Mammon (the god, or demon, of the love of money), and it makes the point that we can’t serve two masters; we either serve God (and the good) or Mammon. Those who serve Mammon are driven by nothing other than power, control, greed and money—truly the powers of darkness. As if something is riding them, they are taken over by something other than themselves – they aren’t able to help themselves in the compulsive acting out of their money-lust. The incredible destruction that they cause, be it of the environment, communities or the lives of individual human beings, are considered to be nothing more than collateral damage, merely the price of doing business. Human beings are “objectified,” either seen as pawns, obstacles, commodities or consumers.
One of the ways wetiko takes on corporeal embodied form is by incorporating itself through multinational corporations like Big Oil (which, like a multi-headed hydra, is only one of wetiko’s appendages). These multinational corporations have ever-increasing influence over governments worldwide, which serves to further wetiko’s propagation. Like a Frankenstein monster, as wetiko entrenches itself in our global system of doing business, it practically assumes an autonomous life and will of its own. This sinister life-form feeds on life and the living, as if it is a form of death taking on life. Endlessly draining the earth’s resources, the vampiric wetiko entity is, like an addict, only interested in its next fix. It is solely concerned with short-term profits, having little or no meta-awareness of, or concern for, the deleterious long-term effects of its rapacious actions.
And yet, in its full-bodied incarnation at Standing Rock, the formless entity of wetiko is revealing itself, which is to say that what is playing out at Standing Rock is a symbolic out-picturing—a living flesh and blood revelation of something within us—that is crucially important for us to bring into consciousness. Standing Rock is a looking-glass, helping us to get into focus and see—in a case where the micro mirrors the macro and vice versa—that wetiko is not just a localized phenomenon appearing solely in North Dakota, but is informing the evil that is playing out all over the world. Because wetiko acts itself out through our unconscious blind-spots, the way to dispel wetiko’s pernicious effects is to see it, to bring consciousness to how it operates both out in the world (via our unconscious collusion) as well as within our own mind (please see my book Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil).
On the other hand are the Native American people who have been oppressed for so long and are finally saying “enough, no more,” as they stand up to their oppressors. More than three hundred Native American tribes have come together and are on the ground at Standing Rock standing as one, which itself is unprecedented, as some of these tribes have been enemies from time immemorial. Stepping out of the illusion of being powerless, these tribes are recognizing the incredible power that becomes available when we see through the illusion of our being separate from each other, and in the spirit of peace, come together in solidarity and join forces – this itself can serve as a mirror and inspiration for all the rest of us. Waking up to our intrinsic power as we stand together as one is the powers-that-be’s worst nightmare.
In their sacred activism, the Native American protestors consider themselves to be the guardians and protectors of the water, of the land, of the earth as a whole system. This is a job that we shouldn’t out-source to indigenous people: we are all the custodians of the earth—protectors of life itself—which bears with it a great responsibility. There is no greater honor.
We are all in this together. Let us hear the call of the indigenous soul within us and spread the word about Standing Rock.
Standing Rock Sioux Nation website
Sacred Stone Camp, to go literally “stand” at SR physically
Red Warrior Camp
Medical/Healers Council – donate/volunteer
The Indigenous Peoples website
How You Can Support Standing Rock
How You Can Help
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. He is the author of Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father(Awaken in the Dream Publishing, 2015), Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013) and The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis (Authorhouse, 2006). He is the founder of the “Awakening in the Dream Community” in Portland, Oregon. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over thirty years. He is the coordinator for the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. Please visit Paul’s website www.awakeninthedream.com. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections.