Manataka American Indian Council
Wisdom of the Ancients
By The Reverend Doctor Fred Wilcoxson, Manataka Member
“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts:
the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to
determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.
In the first place, no one can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom
he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be
from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.
In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven are like streams conducting us to
Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as
by the hand to find him.”
These words come from John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 1, and Paragraph 1. Calvin appears to be affirming the answer to the epistemological question with an a priori statement granting God providence in creation and in the creature human. In the long history of natural theology Calvin’s statement does not stand out; but the teleological implications place him in the stream of thought that is now becoming more popular and more accepted the both scientific and theological minds.
Shakespeare in his play As You Like It gives us the character good Duke Senior who is banished to the Forest of Arden where he lives in nature with his friends.
“And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
His conclusion can be taken as teleological, representative of natural theology, and anthropomorphic.
Poet Gerard Hopkins expresses a theology that God’s glory is radiated through the natural order.
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89) insists that we must cultivate the habit of seeing nature correctly, in that this alone holds the key to its
appreciation. Yet the predominant trend within the western theological tradition has tended to assume that our engagement with nature is cerebral and cognitive – the discernment of order and patterns, leading to an orderly, rational deduction of the existence of a creator God.
This can be seen in the first two and last two sentences of his work God’s Grandeur.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Hopkins affirms that nature reveals the reality of God. But can nature speak or must the human discern God’s roll in nature? And, if he can discern God’s hand in all things must he have the assistance of God, through the Holy Spirit to do so? General Revelation theology claims that those who have never been given any information at all about the existence and presence of God will look at nature and see that there must be a god.
Late in the life of Sir Isaac Newton he came to understand that what could be seen of nature was only an indication of what dwelled below the surface and beyond what might be visible. Therefore, in his writing he offers the introduction of teleological ideas into the scientific realm.
One could write pages, possibly volumes, quoting the thoughts of wise and intellectual men and women who admit that the universe and our existence is the result of a purposeful and intentional process. The process is beginning both theoretically and empirically to find validity in the assumption that the natural order established at the onset of everything was and is directed by a higher power, God.
I believe that the understanding of the process talked about has been methodically subverted through man’s desire to lay claim to the starting point of knowledge a posteriori to accidental evolution. The scientific and biological community and the religious (primarily Christianity) parted company. This estrangement went so far as to make the theories of one community mutually exclusive of the other. There was a repression of sensory and cognitive processes of cultures or traditions that did not conform in one or the other of these categories. Entire cultures that understood the relationship of all that was created and were able to communicate throughout the natural world were eliminated by what Jared Diamond described in his book Germs, Guns, and Steel and that F. David Peat reiterated in his book Blackfoot Physics. From the middle twentieth century to the present the enlightened quantum physicists, human genome investigators, cosmologists, joined by anthropologists and theologians have reanimated at least the knowledge of the lost and repressed natural and general revelation.
“In the past, natural theology was seen as mapping out an area with conceptually porous boundaries, allowing dialogue and cross fertilization between Christian theology, the arts, literature, and especially the natural sciences.”
Efforts from several fronts have emerged from think tanks to universities taking on the challenging quest in search of the truth. The dialog thus far is promising but is missing what I believe to be a valuable piece of the puzzle. I firmly believe in the inclusion of the mythical, verbal, and historical of aboriginal societies from all continents and geological eras who claimed to live in harmonious relationship with nature and communicate freely with all creatures and inanimate objects. I would suggest that there are first-people from around the world who are living and have memory or experience in those phenomena. Investigation must begin from within the civilizations that were not corrupted by greed and the need for power. There may be existence an eye witness account of Creation and a Creator accurately passed through generations and preserved to this time.
My hope in presenting this short, but thought provoking article is that others will respond to it. I invite you to answer this article with intuitive, intellectual, scientific, and/or theological statements, position papers, recommended reading, your thoughts, your musings, or your gut reaction. I am really hoping that a few of you will respond with wisdom from the American Indian culture and perspective. You may offer these responses to Manataka for publication or simply to be forwarded to me by e-mail.
The Reverend Doctor Fred Wilcoxson upon whom the Beauty Way has been stamped, through blood, growing up in Osage County, Oklahoma, and association, is an Episcopal cleric, board certified Clinical Chaplain and Pastoral Counselor, Police Chaplain, trained in Critical Incident Stress Management, and Trauma Stress counseling. Fred serves as the Supervisor of Pastoral Care at a community hospital, volunteers at the Police Department as a chaplain and the Counseling Committee of Manataka as a counselor.
 Professor Alister E. McGrath, Kings College, London, 2009 Gifford Lectures, Aberdeen University, Lecture Text 1, Page 4
 Ibid, page 6
 Ibid, page 9
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