By Ethan Indigo Smith
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
“The elders knew peace would not come on the Earth until the circle of humanity is complete; until all four colors sat in the circle and shared their teachings.”
The sacred medicine wheel of the four directions is for all extents and purposes a mandala, a visual depiction of the universe, our Earth and our inner universe. It’s symbolism is simple and primal, and through these qualities it is powerful and meaningful.
Representing the intersection of duality and polarity, four is recognized as symbol for completion. In nature this symbolism is illustrated in the cycle of four seasons — spring, summer, winter and fall — derived from the flow of cycles between two solstices and two equinoxes of our orbit, as well as the elements of nature: air, fire, water and earth. Four is also reflected in the four aspects of the self: the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional. Mathematically, the symbolism of four it is represented in the four forms of arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) while philosophically, comprehensive human thinking encompasses four dimensions: the thesis (is it so?), antithesis (is it not so?), synthesis (are both so?) and nullesis (are neither so?)
Correspondingly, this matrix of four is presented in the beginning of practically every creation story, from Genesis to the Popol Vuh (the Mayan creation story). Nearly all creation stories start with the polarities of Heaven and Earth, and male and female. In this respect, this matrix of four is the basis of most creation stories as well as being depicted in every cross-like symbol shared by so many religions (the Christian cross, the Hindu swastika, the Egyptian ankh etc.) The four Vedas (Sanskrit for “knowledge”) are the foundational scriptures in Hindu theology, while the cross symbol adopted by Christianity, Judaism and Islam, its presence in the creation story, and its basis in the four worlds of the Kabbalah reflect its major significance to those teachings.
Indeed, all peoples share traditions that include the symbolism of four directly (or subtlety) as part of their core belief systems — as I explore in detail in the article, The Common Origin of Religions and Theology. And it is this universality of the cross symbol and the unanimous celebration of the matrix of four, symbolically and philosophically, in Hindu, Taoist, Native American, Egyptian, Celtic and Judeo-Christian theology and symbolism that most clearly illustrates its commonality to human spirituality and understanding of our world.Correspondingly, this matrix of four is presented in the beginning of practically every creation story, from Genesis to the Popol Vuh (the Mayan creation story). Nearly all creation stories start with the polarities of Heaven and Earth, and male and female. In this respect, this matrix of four is the basis of most creation stories as well as being depicted in every cross-like symbol shared by so many religions (the Christian cross, the Hindu swastika, the Egyptian ankh etc.) The four Vedas (Sanskrit for “knowledge”) are the foundational scriptures in Hindu theology, while the cross symbol adopted by Christianity, Judaism and Islam, its presence in the creation story, and its basis in the four worlds of the Kabbalah reflect its major significance to those teachings.
But perhaps no group has lived so completely in unity and reverence to the seasonal cycles of Earth Mother and the universal system, as the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, now known as North America. Most significantly, the Hopi believe we are living in the fourth world. Hopi tradition states the first world was Endless Space, the second was Dark Midnight, the third was the Age of Animals and the fourth is the World Complete. Four migrations were written upon four sacred tablets which man was supposed to undertake once in this fourth world — to separate into smaller tribes, divided by color, and began to migrate in four different directions, settling in new lands.
The Medicine Wheel Prophecy: The Polarity of Institutions vs. Individuals
“At the beginning of this cycle of time, long ago, the Great Spirit made an appearance and gathered the peoples of this Earth together, and said to the human beings, “I’m going to send you to four directions, and over time I’m going to change you to four colors, but I’m going to give you some teachings, and you will call these the Original Teachings; when you come back together with each other, you will share these so that you can live and have peace on Earth, and a great civilization will come about…
“And so He gave each of us a responsibility, and we call that the Guardianship. To the Indian people, the Red people, He gave the Guardianship of the Earth… To the South, He gave the yellow race of people Guardianship of the Wind… To the West, He gave the black race of people Guardianship of the Water… To the North, He gave the white race of people Guardianship of the Fire… Each of the four races went to their directions and learned their teachings… [but] some of the brothers and sisters had forgotten the sacredness of all things, and all the human beings were going to suffer for this… The elders knew peace would not come on the Earth until the circle of humanity is complete; until all the four colors sat in the circle and shared their teachings — then peace would come on Earth.”
~ Source: A Cherokee Legend by Lee Brown, Cherokee
I have watched with dismay and horror over the last few years especially, and my lifetime in total, as the powers that be, every institution of each type — religious, government, corporate and media — have interjected and overwhelmed the discourse of the collective conversation, stifling the development of the discussion and thus the development of our thinking and being. This happens concerning practically every subject — topics are reduced to a consideration of limited polarities. This reinforces polarity in the human mind, which is trained from birth to look for opposites: Good/Evil, Right/Wrong, Left/Right, Thesis/Antithesis.
The very inquiry into the origins of human thinking and being is posed through the duality of polarity, and yet it is most often considered a singular polarity. Why are we the way we are? Is it the result of nature, or nurture? The debate of nature versus nurture is posed in a single distinct polarization, yet the best question itself supersedes the mindset of the singular polarity. Traditionally, the question is viewed philosophically as a trinity of options – the thesis (nature), antithesis (nurture) and synthesis (both) of one and the other. And yet, in its natural state, this mode of thinking is more comprehensively a matrix of four: thesis, antithesis, synthesis (both) or neither — the mindset of infinite alternative potential.
Such comprehensive thinking is uncommon today, as the institutions of the status quo have worked to maintain limited, polarizing collective narratives (particularly through the corporate media) so as to keep control of the way we think, and therefore, behave. But, when we understand how duality and polarity can be used against us, we soon come to see there are many holes in the institutional façade. Sometimes it is their actions that expose them, but quite often it is what they say and how they say it — or what they don’t say — that provides clarity into their real motivation: domination.
Four Types of Institutional Lies
There are four basic types of institutional/political lies, which directly correlate to the four basic forms of arithmetic. Like all effective lies, each type involves some nugget of truth. The first type of lie is the addition of information: Sometimes the addition of a small bit of (generally false) information can change the story entirely. The second type of lie is the subtraction of information: The removal of small key components can result in entirely different meaning. The third type of lie is the multiplication of information: Exaggerations of situations and related information are included in its presentation, to dilute or emphasize. The fourth type of lie is the division of information: The facts are interlaced with ‘disconnects’ which separate or underplay the significance of information.
This approach is often used to cover institutional prejudices and bias; to maintain the appearance of objectivity among institutional leaders. The four main categories of human prejudice are racial, religious, institutional/national and cultural heritage/history. Often prejudice is simply based on the pigment of one’s skin, or other inherited features, but sometimes it is much more nuanced and complicated than that, particularly where a history of conflict exists. And while human prejudice is typically based on these four distinctions, the specifics of each are near limitless.
Every time we observe police abuse in the United States, it is framed primarily as a racial issue. This causes some emotional duress, but it is often a distraction that belittles the situation, believe it or not. For example, I once observed a police officer jump out of his vehicle and shoot dead a child. And yet no one blamed the policing institution, only the prejudice of one officer. The media institutions unfolded the narrative as ‘White officer shot a black child’ — but the headline ought to read ‘Officer shoots child.’ If we sift through the racial drama we see a bigger more piecing narrative; that, not limited to individual officers, institutions have created a culture that supports attacking individuals with extreme prejudice. Racism is common among authoritarian types, and therefore among individuals who seek to enforce authority, many of these events contain elements of individual prejudice, but the problem is the systematic institutional abuse of individuals. Much like military conditioning, police officers are indoctrinated into a ‘police state’ mindset, then sent out into our communities — armed, and with brain-warping wifi devices mounted on their shoulders. That is why we keep hearing the same horrors repeated over and over — not because of individuals, but the institutions that create and enable them.
Take our water supply, for example, one of the fundamental building blocks of life on Earth. In observing Nestle’s government-backed plundering of the drought-stricken Californian water supply, and more recently, the water protection movement in the Dakotas, we see that individuals having to defend the environment (and indeed, their lives) from the systematic destruction at the hands institutions has become the new ‘normal’. In the Dakotas, for example, the media portray the people there as ‘Native Americans being attacked by private security’, or as ‘Native Americans acting to protect their water, and the water for millions of other people too.’ However, let’s firstly remember that the uniting of tribes of our Red brothers is an unprecedented event in the modern era! The Native Tribes coming together is historically significant not only in the number of tribal peoples that united, but also in the reconciliation of old tribal disputed and contentions that took place to make this union happen. These peoples saw beyond the lies — the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of information — and understood that the threat to water supplies and sacred lands posed by the Dakota Access pipeline superseded previous tribal divisions, and brought together peoples in unity against the institutionalizaton of nature. That is the story that would have been reported, were it not for the influence of institutional bias.
“It’s a major movement in Indian country,” said CJ Clifford, a member of the Oglala Lakota, who drove up from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He saw the protests as part of a historical continuum reaching to Little Bighorn. This battle, he said, was being waged peacefully.Take our water supply, for example, one of the fundamental building blocks of life on Earth. In observing Nestle’s government-backed plundering of the drought-stricken Californian water supply, and more recently, the water protection movement in the Dakotas, we see that individuals having to defend the environment (and indeed, their lives) from the systematic destruction at the hands institutions has become the new ‘normal’. In the Dakotas, for example, the media portray the people there as ‘Native Americans being attacked by private security’, or as ‘Native Americans acting to protect their water, and the water for millions of other people too.’ However, let’s firstly remember that the uniting of tribes of our Red brothers is an unprecedented event in the modern era! The Native Tribes coming together is historically significant not only in the number of tribal peoples that united, but also in the reconciliation of old tribal disputed and contentions that took place to make this union happen. These peoples saw beyond the lies — the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of information — and understood that the threat to water supplies and sacred lands posed by the Dakota Access pipeline superseded previous tribal divisions, and brought together peoples in unity against the institutionalizaton of nature. That is the story that would have been reported, were it not for the influence of institutional bias.
“For many, the effort was about reclaiming a stake in ancestral lands that had been whittled down since the 1800s, treaty by broken treaty.
“Lands were constantly getting reduced, shaken up,” said Dave Archambault II, the tribal chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux. “I could give you a list of every wrongdoing this government did to our people. All of that is frustration pent up, and it’s being recognized. … It’s a tipping point for our nations.” [source]
The White, Yellow and Black skinned peoples of the world would do well to take note.
But this water protection event is also historical in that institutions openly united against individuals, and individuals responded (for the most part) by uniting against those institutions. Of course, you won’t see that discussed in the controlled corporate media. Instead, they continue to add, subtract, multiply — and divide.
The Matrix of Four: Overcoming Institutionalization
Everywhere, in every issue of contention, there are complex dynamics at play. But the overriding factor behind each major issue of today is the institutional oppression of individuals, and the main focus of information presented in the mainstream is to convince individuals that this oppression is not the case; that the main factor is racism, or a one individual, or that it is just a problem that should concern only black people, or white people, or red people, or yellow people — instead of an institutional problem (such as the water protection issue in the Dakotas) that affects us all, and could therefore unite us all in solidarity.
The truth of institutionalization must always be concealed from the public in order for it to prosper. That is the nature of institutionalization: we would only play along so long as we don’t understand. As a result, institutions (and the institutionalized) will always portray important issues and points of contention in a way that maintains conceals the truth, by blaming an individual or group of individuals, when the mechanics of institutionalization are actually responsible; when institutionalization — prioritizing institutions over individuals — is the obvious common denominator.
Nanice Ellis accurately explains this phenomenon:
“Virtually all dysfunctional behaviors and dangerous social dynamics are held together by secrecy, [which] perpetuates the cycle of repression. … [Secrecy] is the glue that holds the whole illusion together. Without secrecy, large groups of people could not be repressed – only through a system of secrecy and separation can an organization maintain compliance. … Open communication will likely bring hidden issues to a head, and, as a result, things might seem to get worse before they get better, but… communication and information results in empowerment.”
In the postmodern era of nuclear contamination, water wars and petrolithic poisoning, the worldwide institutions plundering our natural environment are forming recognizable patterns of destruction, exploitation and community division. And this pattern can be seen and predicted, to our benefit.
When we consider all information using the Matrix of Four — including the crucial ‘infinite potential’ represented by the nullesis/neither option — nothing can prevent us from seeing through the dogmatic hindrances of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. That is what the NetherWorld Oligarchy fears the most.
That is the lesson of the Four Sacred Directions: unity. Unity of individual and universal, and unity of individuals over institutions. As individuals we are made up of and dependent on the elements of the web of life, the sacred circle of water, air, earth and fire, as represented by the Medicine Wheel. And by the same token unity comes from breaking down the false perception of division between peoples of all colors; by black, red, yellow and white coming together.
When all four colors of man, and accordingly, all four polarities of dualistic thought, are finally unified as one, we can finally bring the intersection of duality and polarity to completion and unite as family in the total awareness of truth. Only then will we be able to change this culture of compliance-by-deceit, and put an end to the institutionalized destruction of Earth Mother we know would lead to our demise.
Celebrate the Matrix of Four, symbolically and philosophically, remember our mutual origins, embody the sacred interconnection of all things, and allow that understanding to guide your actions in all you do. In this age of enlightenment, our task is to understand the limits imposed by the dualistic language and thought-forms that led us here, and hold accountable to our enlightened truth those so-called “leaders” who intentionally steer us off cliffs.
When we act in unity, neither institutions nor the institutionalized can harm us. When the circle of humanity is complete, and all the four colors — black, white, red and yellow — sit in the circle and share their teachings, as brothers and sisters, then peace will come to the Earth and humanity reclaim its place as Guardians of the Earth… just as the American Indians prophesied.
The Matrix of Four
Matrix of Four: the Philosophy of the Duality of Polarity is available here on Amazon.
About the author:
Activist, author and Tai Chi teacher Ethan Indigo Smith was born on a farm in Maine and lived in Manhattan for a number of years before migrating west to Mendocino, California. Guided by a keen sense of integrity and humanity, Ethan’s work is both deeply connected and extremely insightful, blending philosophy, politics, activism, spirituality, meditation and a unique sense of humour.
Ethan’s publications include: