Philosophy 111 – Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2002)
Metaphysics. Black Elk. “Crazy Horse’s Vision”
[Students and professors, please read.]
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be alive, but not be able to see anything, to hear anything, to feel anything, to taste anything, or to smell anything–to not be able to sense anything at all? Have you ever wondered what that sort of existence would “feel” like? I imagine that we would go inside our memories and “remember” these five senses instead of actually experiencing them–but what if you have never experienced them before and never knew what it felt like to see, hear, feel, taste, or smell? Without even a memory of these senses, could you even “feel” your own existence? Would there not even be a “you”? Would you be like an inanimate object? So–would that mean you have no spirit? Crazy Horse doesn’t think so. Black Elk writes that in Crazy Horse’s vision, even trees, grass, and stones are made of spirit, that these objects are just shadows of a spirit world that is the real world behind this one. I am not too familiar with Native American religions, but Black Elk does not write “spirits” but “spirit” and I am wondering if this means that Crazy Horse sees this world as a sort of shadow of one spirit, which is why he sees even rocks as spirit in that world. If so, it reminds me of the “all is One” concept of Chuang Tzu.
I have heard of mothers lifting cars off their children after an accident, the whole “mind over matter” phenomenon that science credits to adrenaline. But I have never heard of a person escaping harm in battle because, although they are fighting in this world, their mind is in the spirit world, like in Crazy Horse’s vision. I tend to be skeptical of such things, but I want to focus on how I can see where he is coming from. My take about Crazy Horse’s real world is that it is not distinct from the one we’re in now, but that it seems more real because it is to him a more complete view of reality. If the fourth dimension was our perspective, it would seem “more real” than 3-D, but it wouldn’t make 3-D “unreal”, just as, being our perspective, 3-D seems “more real” than the lower but very real second, first, and zero dimensions.
I don’t know if his character is owed to his vision, or if his vision is owed to his character, or what, but Crazy Horse seems to have an awareness that there is more to this world than what we are able to perceive, and he would go there in his mind. Because of his more complete view of reality, he was not obsessed with material things or the concerns that come with this shadow-world, but he put others’ needs before his own because he was not worried about even his own survival here. I kind of wonder how much of what Black Elk wrote actually came from Crazy Horse’s relating his experiences to others, and how much of it came from people’s speculations about Crazy Horse’s peculiarity, because Black Elk says Crazy Horse would go around not saying anything, and when he would say anything it would be to joke or tease. I can imagine that Crazy Horse was a very introspective person who, when it came time to talk, had had enough serious conversation in his mind and was ready for some silliness–involvement in this world must also seem pretty silly in comparison to where he was at in his thoughts.
“Crazy Horse’s Vision.” The Philosophical Quest: A Cross-Cultural Reader, Second Edition. Ed. Presbey, Gail M., et. al. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 2000. 18.