Words Create Worlds.1

This is a series I have been publishing over the past couple years in the online journal The Badger. The Badger is not a political journal, but in my work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) I have been seeing the intersection between spirituality and politics – particularly when politics is against peace and is against human rights. The spiritual path leads to ever greater states of union and love – and yet we are witnessing a resurgence of fascism which is based on separation, division and hate.

Thank you to The Badger for giving permission to post these essays in my blog. You can find the hub for all the issues here, and I will provide a link to the specific issue for each of these essays.

Words Create Worlds.1

A Memoriam for those Killed in the Christchurch Mosque Shootings

Originally published in The Badger, 2019, Year 5, Volume 1

“Words create worlds.” These are the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, here is the full quote, remembered by his daughter, Susannah Heschel:

“Words, he often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world.  He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.  Words create worlds he used to tell me when I was a child.  They must be used very carefully.  Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn.  The Book of Proverbs reminds us, he wrote, that death and life are in the power of the tongue.”[1]

I am writing this the day after 49 people were killed in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand (March 16, 2019). I have a personal connection to New Zealand, having lived there from 2010 – 2013. I visited Christchurch days before the second earthquake in 2011. I have a series of selfies my wife and I took walking across the courtyard in front of the Christchurch Cathedral, which was destroyed in the quake.

Since leaving New Zealand, I have been working with military veterans. The way I conceptualize my work is that I am helping to guide veterans from a war culture of the military world to the peace culture of the civilian world. It can be a tough journey after speaking words of war to speaking words of peace.

Red Begonias, Christchurch Botanical Garden, (D. Kopacz, 2011)

During this work, I was befriended by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), who has been working for world peace since the 1980s when he had visions of Sound Chambers, Peace Chambers: circular structures, half above ground, half below ground, with men and women chanting for peace. He has created over 50 chambers for peace across four continents.

Working with Joseph has reinforced and shaped my identity as a psychiatrist who is not just treating mental illness, but is supporting cultural transitions and transformations, and is creating peace. Joseph would agree that “words create worlds.” He often talks about the power of sound and speech. When we were working on our book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD, Joseph would tell me, I am my brother’s keeper.” As I contemplated this saying, I realized he was not just stating a world-view of many indigenous people—that we are all interrelated and connected—but that he was also speaking an antidote to the first murder documented in the Bible. After Cain killed his brother, Abel, God asks Cain where Abel is and Cain says, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”[2] With these words an identity of separation is created in the Biblical tradition. Joseph, in saying “I am my brother’s keeper,” is using words as an antidote for an illness of separation which is once again becoming an epidemic in our world.

“Words create worlds.” J.M. Berger, author of Extremism, would likely agree with this statement. Writing for the Atlantic, he writes of the dangerous impact of publishing and thus publicizing the words of mass murderers.

“It is far past time to reconsider the standard for publishing such manifestos. That does not mean we should abandon the search for meaning. But manifestos are rarely simple confessional documents. They are works of propaganda, just like ISIS beheading videos and al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine. Like those publications, journalists should report on manifestos, but they should mediate their propagandistic intent instead of blindly amplifying it. . .We have only begun to suffer the cost of these writings, crafted with an intent no less lethal than their authors’ violent crimes.”[3]

We find ourselves in a war of words. I try not to use the word “enemy.” To think of someone as an enemy is to make them “other” and this is the very root cause of violence, hatred, racism, and bigotry. To meet violence with violence or hate with hate does not create peace. Rather than enemy, I think opponent is a better term. The United States fought wars against England, Japan, and Germany. They were our opponents during the wars, but they are not our enemies. Consider the relationship between Gandhi and Jan Smuts. Smuts was the only person to sign the peace treaties ending both World War I & II. He advocated for the League of Nations following World War I. Yet, earlier in his life, he was a proponent of apartheid and he had a worthy opponent in South Africa on this, Gandhi. While Gandhi was imprisoned he made Smuts a pair of sandals. He returned the sandals for Gandhi’s 70th birthday, writing, “I have worn these sandals for many a summer, even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man.”[4]

These two men struggled against each other for their beliefs, and yet they were not life-long enemies. Smuts literally walked in Gandhi’s shoes. We can wonder if this influenced Smuts’ later 1926 book, Holism and Evolution, in which he coined the word, “holism,” the concept of not seeing things through separation and isolation, but as component parts of a larger whole.

Christchurch, New Zealand (D. Kopacz, Feb 2011)

In this war of words we are struggling with our own darker natures, as well as the darker nature of all humanity. It is human nature to view ourselves as separate tribes and clans and peoples based on the superficial colour of our skin or which football team we support, or which religion we belong to. Yet there is also a deeper truth that we are all one, we are all interconnected, sharing the same Earth. The findings of scientists about Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam tell us that we all are, literally—not just figuratively—brothers and sisters.[5]

This war of words is a struggle about what kind of world we are going to create: a world in which everyone is equal and everyone has a place and a voice, or a world which is only for some people, a world where some people have more rights than others. This is a struggle of words and world-views which is being waged in the hearts and minds of all human beings on planet Earth as we try to come to terms with our interrelatedness and oneness.

Gerald Arbuckle, a Catholic priest and cultural anthropologist (who is from New Zealand and lives in Australia) has been studying the effects of loneliness and isolation and the resurgent rise of fundamentalism in our world.

He calls this a “global epidemic of fundamentalism both religious and political,” and he defines fundamentalists as “boundary-setters . . . marking themselves off from others.” Arbuckle sees, “A typical fundamentalist leader is a populist, homophobic, charismatic, authoritarian man who likes to bully,” a personality type that is only all too common in positions of power across the world.[6]

To see ourselves as separate from others opens the doors to discrimination, racism, and violence. Separation leads to loneliness and authoritarian and fascist movements promise a way out of loneliness through belonging to a tight-knit in-group based on an exclusionary identity opposed to another group or culture. Fascisms power comes from having an “other” who is an enemy. We should be very suspicious of the use of this word “enemy,” for instance in hearing the press called the “enemy of the people,” which is an age-old fascist trope.

Christchurch Cathedral – February 2011, prior to being destroyed in earthquake (D. Kopacz)

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s response to these recent killings was this: “Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who needs it. And those values will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”[7]

New Zealand is geographically isolated, tucked away in the South Pacific, it has a strong anti-nuclear policy, refusing to allow nuclear U.S. warships into port. In New Zealand, the police do not openly carry guns. One former patient of mine, a teenage refugee from the Balkans, told me, “As soon as I saw the police here in New Zealand do not carry guns, I finally felt safe after years of war.” Now we have a major act of terrorism in New Zealand. In the United States we have debates over gun violence. Second Amendment Rights advocates always argue for more guns after gun violence, but research on gun ownership and gun violence shows that guns are more likely to be used in suicide or against someone in the home than they are against a violent “other.” In the United States, powerful lobbies and ideologies actually banned scientific research on gun violence for fear that it will lead to restrictions in gun ownership.[8] How do we respond to gun violence, terrorism and acts of hatred? Research for individual gun ownership does not support that we should all arm ourselves. The suspected killer in Christchurch, a 28 year-old, Australian born man targeted this gun debate and wanted to fuel the flames. Reporting in the New York Times states:

“Writing that he had purposely used guns to stir discord in the United States over the Second Amendment’s provision on the right to bear arms, he also declared himself a fascist. ‘For once, the person that will be called a fascist, is an actual fascist,’ he wrote.”[9]

We should take a closer look at this word, “fascist,” including its current manifestations and history, because it is like a disease that our global civilization has had a recurrence of in recent years.

Duke professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Omid Safi writes of these killings,

“This terrorist attack is not an aberration. This is not about mental illness, it is not about one person. This is where all the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant discourse over the last few years leads to.”[10]

Safi sees the roots of these killing in the ideas and words of white supremacy and he anticipates the gun rights arguments that “guns don’t kill people, people with mental illness kill people.” Yet when we have the confluence of easily accessible lethal means and a growing epidemic of violent words, there is an increase in violent actions. “Words create worlds.”

Nietzsche warned us that those who fight something risk becoming the very thing they fight, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look too long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”[11]

Pink Begonias, Christchurch Botanical Gardens (D. Kopacz, 2011)

Clarrissa Ward, from CNN, sees a similarity in the ideas and words of the far-right and terrorist organizations.

“To me, there’s almost a symbiotic relationship happening right now between extreme terrorists on the far-right and between some of these other terrorist organizations that we’re more familiar with.

The other thing that’s interesting, and disconcerting, frankly, is how much of the language and ideas he [the Christchurch killer] talks about have also seeped into mainstream political rhetoric.

He talks a lot about the idea of invasion, that Muslim migrants are invading white Western countries. He talks about the birth rate, the idea of replacement, that white culture is being replaced. We’ve heard such words coming from the President of the United States. We’ve heard them coming from far-right governments in Europe, whether it be Italy, whether it be Hungary. . . .

When you look at the zeitgeist and the rise of the far right in Europe and the US, ideas that were once considered as taboo to talk about are now being flaunted and public discourse invariably sets a tone.”[12]

Ward raises this disturbing spectre that Western Democracies are at risk of becoming our enemies—state-sponsored terrorism and extremism. The disturbing rise of far-right ideologies and words is being supported at the highest levels of governments across the globe.

Over the next year, I would like to write about some of these topics of how our “words create worlds.” In working with Joseph Rael, writing our next book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, I felt compelled to write about the responsibility of mystical, visionary, and shamanic experience—that we must work toward “Spiritual Democracy.” At its deepest point, mystical experience leads to an awareness that we are all one and this comes with a responsibility to challenge words of separation which ultimately lead to fascism. Mystical experience is a pathway that leads us to question who we are and gives us a responsibility to use our words wisely to create worlds where we are becoming the medicine that our world needs. As Rumi says, “We are pain and what cures the pain.”[13]

Cape Reinga, North Island, New Zealand – meeting of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea (D. Kopacz, 2013)

[1] Life Between the Trees blog. I first came across a shorter instance of this quote in the Omid Safi reference below.

[2] The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, Genesis 4.9.

[3] J.M. Berger, “The Dangerous Spread of Extremist Manifestos: By sharing the writings of terrorists, media outlets can amplify their impact,” The Atlantic online, 2/26/19, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/christopher-hasson-was-inspired-breivik-manifesto/583567/.

[4] Mahatma Gandhi, The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas, ed. Louis Fischer, 98.

[5] This is discussed in National Genographic DNA results. Also see Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History and “Y-Chromosomal Adam,” Wikipedia.

[6] Gerald Arbuckle, Fundamentalism At Home and Abroad, 28, 9, 15. Also see his recent book, Loneliness: Insights for Healing in a Fragmentary World.

[7] Lucy Bennett “Christchurch mosque massacre: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to nation following shootings,” New Zealand World Herald, 3/15/19, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/crime/news/article.cfm?c_id=30&objectid=12213187.

[8] Arthur L. Kellermann, et al, “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home,” New England Journal of Medicine, 10/7/93, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199310073291506. February 13, 2013

Arthur L. Kellermann and Frederick P. Rivara, “Silencing the Science on Gun Research,” Journal of the American Medical Association, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1487470. J. John Mann, M.D., Christina A. Michel, “Prevention of Firearm Suicide in the United States: What Works and What Is Possible,” American Journal of Psychiatry, Published Online: 22 Jul 2016, https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16010069 .

[9] “New Zealand Shooting Live Updates: 49 Are Dead After 2 Mosques Are Hit,” New York Times, 3/15/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/15/world/asia/new-zealand-shooting-updates-christchurch.html.

[10] Omid Safi, Facebook, 3/15/19, https://www.facebook.com/omidsafi/posts/10157227737858793.

[11] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146, trans. Walter Kauffman (1989).

[12] Clarissa Ward, “How language in the attacker’s purported manifesto mimics the words of ISIS and al Qaeda,” CNN, 3/15/19, https://www.cnn.com/asia/live-news/new-zealand-christchurch-shooting-intl/index.html.

[13] Rumi, “We are the mirror as well as the face in it,” The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks, 106.

Spiritual Democracy

“I am you and you are me. There’s only one being here, and even though you have a different body, I have a different body, and a different moment, but we are in this together, you know, and people don’t understand that.”

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

(from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, pg. 379)

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) & David R. Kopacz (photo K. Kopacz)
Earth Child of Spiritual Democracy, Joseph Rael (BPA), ©2020

Following the Teachings of Beautiful Painted Arrow (in Circles) from Seeds of Peace Newsletter

I recently had an article published in the Seeds of Peace Newsletter, which is dedicated to exploring the teachings of Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). I wrote about how I came to meet Joseph. I will paste a copy of the article below. Please email Marina Budimir if you would like to be on the mailing list of the newsletter: mayarinabudimir61@gmail.com.

Following the Teachings of Beautiful Painted Arrow (in Circles):

I have been listening to Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) since I first met him in 2014, although I had already been learning from him through his books since the year 2000 when I saw the cover of Being & Vibration by Joseph Rael and Mary Elizabeth Marlow. I was entranced by Joseph’s eyes peering through the opacity of the dust jacket and the book opened up a doorway into a living spirituality.

I spent some years living my life, then moving from Champaign, Illinois, to Auckland, New Zealand, where I was working as a psychiatrist at Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre. I was writing a monthly newsletter called, “Thoughts from the Clinical Director.” I remembered Joseph’s section on “Becoming a True Human,” in Being & Vibration, and I wrote my penultimate “Thoughts” on that, as I was getting ready to move back to the United States, taking a job in Seattle working with veterans at the VA.

Back in the United States, I was going through reverse culture shock. As I sat listening to veteran after veteran come into my office and telling me that they felt out of place, that they could not relate to civilians, and that they felt lost, I could relate, in some small way, to what they were feeling. In New Zealand, I had been talking with my friend and colleague Bernie Howarth about using Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey and developing a class to help clients find themselves and their purpose as part of the rehabilitation process. We never got that going before I left, but I thought it would be perfect for helping veterans find their way home from war to peace and I started working on that.

In Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, I came across another book that caught my eye—The Visionary: Entering the Mystic Universe of Joseph Rael Beautiful Painted Arrow, by Kurt Wilt. I quickly read through the book, noticing that Kurt described Joseph, at times, using Campbell’s Hero’s Journey framework. I sent Kurt an email, he sent one back, saying that he thought Joseph Rael would be interested in my work. Joseph and I exchanged a couple of emails and he invited me to Colorado. I thought I could maybe add a chapter to the hero’s journey on indigenous approaches to reintegration after war, and I set off for three days with Beautiful Painted Arrow in October, 2014.

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David Kopacz, photo by Karen Kopacz (2018)

My first day with Joseph was confusing and disorienting. What were we doing and why were we doing it? Why were we driving around in circles? Why were we sitting by the side of the road as trucks whizzed by, looking at a barren hill where a house used to be? Joseph said some things that first day that I am still trying to understand. One thing he said that sticks with me was, “You and I are both crazy, you can tell that, we both love life!” I thought, “Who is this guy? I can tell at least one of us is crazy!” Although I am still coming to understand Joseph Rael’s kind of crazy (as well as David Kopacz’s kind of crazy) that statement and laugh of Joseph’s warmed my heart and I felt like we were two adventurers setting off to God only knows where.

After the first day of going in circles with Joseph, I was writing up all my notes and I thought, “We should write a book together!” When I mentioned this to Joseph, he simply said, “That’s what I was thinking.”

Working with Joseph Rael has been a disorienting process. The writing flowed smoothly, but when I turned it in to Paulette Millichap, our publisher, she said, “This is a very interesting book, but where is the book about the veterans?” “Oh no,” I thought, “Joseph kept me going in circles, writing about Pope Francis and St. Francis, about ETs, and how we don’t exist and we gradually shifted away from what we were supposed to be writing about!” I was learning that working with Joseph Rael was similar to what he said it was like being around his grandfather, “living with the unpredictable,” (Being & Vibration, 39). I went back to the drawing board with the book, kept part of it, wrote some new material based on a review of theories of trauma and my clinical experience, and then Joseph told me about a vision he had that God holds back a place of goodness in all of our hearts, no matter what we do or what is done to us. “Beautiful!” I thought, but then, “Gee, it would have been really helpful if Joseph told me that before we started the book because it is the perfect framework for healing trauma!”

David Kopacz and Joseph Rael, photo by Karen Kopacz (2018)

One thing I am learning from Joseph is that we need to move beyond thinking of people as “other” and start thinking of each other as “brother and sister.” Joseph often says to me, “I am my brother’s keeper.” Eventually we published Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD in 2016, a book that helps us re-orient when we become lost in life. Our next book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, is due out later 2019. In this book I see us moving beyond even brother and sister to a place of mystical, visionary oneness that has something to do with the fact that we do not exist. We have a chapter on “Circle Medicine,” because I think this is one of the key points that Joseph is teaching me: thinking and being in a different way than the linear, separated, and reductionistic way that most of us live our lives. I am still following Joseph around in circles and still working toward being a true human. Joseph teaches us, “A true human is a person who knows who he is because he listens to that inner listening-working voice of effort,” (Being & Vibration, 68).

David Kopacz and Joseph Rael, photo by Karen Kopacz (2018)

David Kopacz is a holistic and integrative psychiatrist who works at Puget Sound VA in Seattle. He is a national VA Whole Health Education Champion and an Assistant Professor at University of Washington. He is the author of Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine and, with co-author Joseph Rael, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD and the forthcoming Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. His website is davidkopacz.com and blog, beingfullyhuman.com

Review of 2018

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Photo credit: Mary Pat Traxler

On this first day of the New Year, January 1st, 2019, I thought I would take a look back at this past year. 2018 was filled with a lot of travel. We took a trip to England, Wales, and Iceland in May that I have blogged about. I have continued my work as a Whole Health Education Champion with the national VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation and teaching programs took me to Madison, WI; Portland, OR; Nashville, TN; St. Cloud, MN; and three times to the Boston area (including an evening visit to Walden Pond). My mother had a couple of surgeries, which went well, but took me back to Illinois three times during the year.

As far as writing goes, I continued to work on the next book with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). My sister and I took a trip to visit him in October.

We finished the book on the Winter Solstice and I am now gathering a few endorsements for the book and we will be starting the publication process now. The new book is called Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into A Living Spirituality. Here is a copy of the table of contents, and the cover we are working with.

Cover Screen Shot

Joseph Rael’s painting, cover for Becoming Medicine

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abbreviations
Foreword by Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Acknowledgements
Introduction: The Secret Journey
Part I: Separation (Seeking)
Chapter 1.         Becoming Medicine
Chapter 2          Circle Medicine
Chapter 3          Separation
Chapter 4          Becoming a Visionary
Chapter 5          Becoming a Shaman
Chapter 6          Becoming a Mystic
Part II: Initiation (Finding/Receiving)
Chapter 7          Story Medicine
Chapter 8          Entering the Doorway
Chapter 9          Guhā: Cave of the Heart
Chapter 10        Enlightenment & Endarkenment
Chapter 11         Initiation
Chapter 0          Na-yo ti-ay we-ah (We Do Not Exist)
Part III: Return (Giving)
Chapter 12        Returning to the Land
Chapter 13        We Are All Pangeans; We Are All Related
Chapter 14        Spiritual Democracy
Chapter 15        Refounding
Chapter 16        A Living Spirituality
Chapter 17        Returning to the Garden of Paradise
Chapter 18        Secret Journey to the Secret Garden
List of Sound Chambers

We had an excerpt from Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD published in Parabola magazine, which was very exciting. We’ve also given permission for the book cover to appear in a movie about someone healing from PTSD and we’ll give more information about that as it becomes available. We had an article called “Sage—the Wise One,” published in the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy. I gave a workshop for Muckleshoot Indian Tribe Behavioral Health on “Circle Medicine for Healing Trauma.”

journey-home-cover-large

Mary Pat and I took a very restful trip to the Pacific coast near Copalis Beach just last week and I’ll post a few of those photos.

Corbin and I took a hike up Fletcher Canyon near Quinault. We couldn’t go far because there were a lot of trees down. We scrambled over a few before turning back after about an hour of walking up hill.

We stopped on the way back to take in the world’s largest Sitka Spruce tree, estimated to be 1000 years old.

DSCN5704

1000 year old Sitka Spruce

One morning, I heard a raucous cacophony of crows cawing. I quickly ran out to see what was happening. I saw a flutter of movement on the ground and an eagle flew off, leaving a stunned crow. I watched over the crow for a few minutes, eventually he flew off, a bit unsteadily, and then the eagle gave up and flew off in the other direction. These aren’t shots of that seen, but other photos of an eagle and some crows.

Who knows what 2019 will bring, likely lots of changes, as well as the publication of Becoming Medicine!

Photo of Dacotah Building published in MNopedia Article

In 2013 I visited my sister in St. Paul, Minnesota and we made a bit of a literary tour, stopping at bookstores and also W. A. Frost where a young F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented when he was growing up in the neighborhood. W. A. Frost is in the historic Dacotah Building, built in 1889. I took a few photos and posted them in my blog, “A Literary Tour of St. Paul, Minnesota,” and MNopedia liked one of them and used it for their article on the Dacotah Building.

You can follow the link to the MNopedia article.

Here is my photo that was published with the article:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are a couple other photos of the building:

Link to my original blog post from 25, May, 2013, “A Literary Tour of St. Paul Minnesota.”