The entire history of cultural evolution can be seen, from a distance, as a process consisting of three essential phases: moving from unity to plurality and, at some point in the future, back to unity. This can also be expressed as oneness followed by duality followed by oneness.
In this first phase, the earliest indigenous communities were inherently unified by virtue of their common traditions, beliefs, and need to sustain their way of life. They lived with a consciousness of their oneness, as well as the oneness of all things around them.
They generally lived in harmony with each other, interacting mostly in a mutually beneficial fashion. The emphasis was on their own cultural values, beliefs, and customs, maintaining these, and passing them on to the next generation.
Their cultures were founded on the principle of unity in homogeneity, or unity in sameness. They were primarily concerned with unity on the level of their own community, because that is what was foremost in their realm of consciousness.
Indigenous people intrinsically know they are an integral part of the natural world around them, and intentionally live in union with this natural order. Their spiritual beliefs and practices are woven into the very fabric of life, making all of creation, and every moment of every day, sacred to them. Living life as practical mystics, the unitive elements of their spirituality have endured in spite of widespread devastation, forced migration, and centuries of cultural pressure to abandon their traditional ways. Living in oneness is a natural extension of their mystic nature.
The qualities that often define indigenous and traditional cultures (harmony, balance, morality, mutuality, stability, complementarity, and cooperation) have contributed in an essential way to the pattern that has sustained them. Traditions (based upon a firm foundation of values and beliefs) led to bonding, which led to solidification and internal strength, which led to the growth of internal complexity.
Understanding indigenous cultures and the primal worldview is particularly important because it offers us a glimpse into a holistic way of experiencing existence. What we see as “religion” or “spirituality” (most often a separate part of our lives in which we strive to become united with a higher will or purpose), does not have a distinct name or domain of life; it permeates all aspects of life for indigenous people. Simply being alive is being spiritual.
With this deep understanding of reality comes a responsibility that is especially relevant to our time. Indigenous beliefs retain the ancient knowledge that the Creator entrusted humans to be “the keepers of the earth.” The ancestors were given “the wisdom about Nature, about the interconnectedness of all things, about balance and about living in harmony,” and they saw “the secrets of Nature.” The keepers of this wisdom recognize that it’s time to share these secrets with all people of the earth, as indigenous spirituality holds important keys to our collective evolution and survival.