“I hear the Pima song, and my heart cries out for the nameless ones, and I repeat the words:
This is the Whiteland, we arrive singing: Head-dresses waving in the breeze. We have come. We have come. The land trembles with our dancing and singing.
They come, turn, and leave. That is the glory of the primitives’ entry into the world and their exit. We, the developed ones, the mighty ones, the proud builders of cities and starships, come to stay, stay forever. We do not understand the ecstasy of an Aztec or of a Wintu.
Ah Flowers that we wear. Ah songs that we raise. We are on our way to the Realm of Mystery.
It is above that you and I shall go. Along the Milky Way you and I shall go. Along the flower trail you and I shall go: Picking flowers on our way you and I shall go.
It was Denver that I first watched the Pow Wow, the great assembly of the Native American dancers drawn from various tribes and regions. As I waited for the Grand Entry into the hall, I first heard the starting of the drums, and as I closed my eyes and gave myself up to the beat and the rhythm of those drums I saw myself moving across an unfamiliar valley flanked by a mighty range of mountains, and I saw an eagle descending from great heights. As I opened my eyes, facing was a sight I have never seen before. The sheer variety of colour was so dazzling that it took sometime for me to conceive a meaningful picture of what I was seeing. Each dancer dressed in flowing and yet ingathered garments of such bright colours, their combinations crowned by eagle feathered head-dresses – the entire assembly appeared as a congregation of celestial birds on “their way to the realm of mystery”. Each one an individual and yet an integral part of the marching rows of dancers were now forming a vast circle with their bodies swinging and their head-dresses waving in the breeze of the drum as though saying:
We have come. We have come. The land trembles with our dancing and singing.
I knew then that “the land” was within me, that inner ground which throbbed at the touch of their dancing and singing. And I sat that afternoon watching this bewildering and enigmatic sight unlike anything I had met before. I imagined how all this wonder could be rejected by some as something pagan or explained away in terms of one or another school of cultural anthropology. I decided just to watch and to listen, and to be there co-present to what I was watching and listening. I had to admit to myself that nothing from my conceptual equipment could help me understand what I was then experiencing. I had reached the limit.
I wondered how many among those who went out to study other cultures and religions, their rites and rituals would confess to themselves that in such encounters that had reached the limit, the unsurpassable limit to their own mode of understanding. I am not in any way referring to limit as one difficulty or another in our academic study of alien cultures. Not at all. I am referring to limit as an integral and intense aspect of our experience – the point of the greatest contact with the other! It is the experience of the tangibility of the other, the feeling of having laid one’s hands, as it were, on a closed door, face to face, with its unmistakable presence, its reality. It is then that the limit becomes a threshold, a horizon upon which appears the vision, the vision of the ineffable beauty connecting the other with our own innermost mystery.
When I looked again at the colour and the dance, I knew that it was all within me. The event, though visible from outside, was taking place right within my soul. I was their vehicle as they were my vehicle. The vision had replaced the struggle to comprehend. The seer and the seen were on the way to forming a unity, the source of our presence before each other. Now my hearing and seeing and what I heard and saw all were one act: Ah Flowers that we wear! Ah! Songs that we raise!”
By Hasan Askari from his book “Alone to Alone – From Awareness to Vision” (page 19)