The idea of a circle in relation to the human life and being can be discussed from the points of a life cycle, natural cycles, time circles, circles in space and specific forms. Thus, the religious view based on the Circle of Life idea is characteristic for the American Indians as well as for many other primal communities and religions. Orienting to the circle and its qualities, Indians choose the patterns and examples observed every day in relation to the world’s development and natural laws. Black Elk of the Oglala Sioux developed the principle of the circle in the life of Indians and focused on its connection with all the spheres of the people’s being. Thus, the Indians’ vision of the natural principles is based on the Circle of Life idea as the reflection of the natural laws, energy cycles, and normal order of life according to which the animal and physical worlds are organized; and this vision is opposite to linear concept of the world organization accepted in many religions and communities.
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From this perspective, the understanding and perceptions of reality which are typical for the Indians as the representatives of the Oglala Sioux are influenced by observing the principle of the circles and cycles in all the aspects of the people’s and natural life. These ideas are also shared by many primal societies because they are correlated with the world laws observed in the daily life. Thus, Indians focus on the natural order of the life which cannot be changed, and this order is based on circles and cycles. Seasons change as a cycle, a person lives a life which resembles a circle, the life of animals is affected by the principle of a circle, and main physical objects influencing the Universe are circles. Thus, the Power of the World realizes itself in circles, and this fact explains the orientation to circles in relation to daily patterns and norms (Neihardt, 2008). Circles are the basics to guarantee the circulation of energy in the world, and this idea also forms the fundament of the Indians’ religious vision.
If the Indians focus on circles in time, space, and being as the reflection of the natural order, laws, and principles, the modern cultures and religions develop with references to the linear concepts. The idea of the Circle of Life is important to emphasize the interaction of forces and the circulation of the spiritual energy in the world as in a circle. The linear concepts are mode focused on results and consequences. Thus, if the idea of the start and end in life is interesting for the Indians to point out the main elements of the cycle, the start and end in the other cultures and religions can be discussed as quite opposite points on a line of life where definite events influence the following events directly (Holler, 2000). The concept of linear time and space supports the idea of dependence which is important for many religions in order to accentuate the role of the people’s actions and moral choices in their life (Fixico, 2003). The Circle of Life idea is more metaphysical in this case because it depends on the principle of interaction and circulation of the energy.
Nevertheless, Black Elk’s ideas on the Circle of Life have many similarities with the Christian view of nature and the purpose of Creation which are based on the spiritual basics of religions. Concentrating on the principle of a circle, the Indians tried to organize their life according to this pattern and built their camps and communities as circles to preserve the energy and the natural order. In spite of the fact that the Indians’ usage of the Circle of Life idea is rather practical, it can be compared with the Christians’ orientation to the circle as the fundament of the spiritual visions. Thus, the Christians form the circles in their minds, thinking about the organization of the world and placing Jesus Christ in the centre of their spiritual world. Moreover, the Christian are inclined to discuss a human as the centre of the natural life which forms a circle (Hopfe & Woodward, 2012). From this perspective, the Indians are more practical in discussing the idea of a circle while gathering round the central fire in their camps. However, the purpose of Creation is based on the idea of a circle for both the religious visions (Fixico, 2003). The Indians are created to find the harmony hidden in the idea of a circle, and the Christians can find this harmony gathering round Jesus Christ and sharing his ideals.
Although different religions depend on many various principles and ideals, the spiritual idea of a circle is shared in many societies because of its direct connection with the norms of the natural order which can be easily observed. Black Elk’s discussion of the Circle of Life is not only important to understand the main ideas of the American Indians’ religion but also necessary to compare the development of the principle in the other religions such as Christianity.
Fixico, D. L. (2003). The American Indian mind in a linear world: American Indian studies and traditional knowledge. USA: Routledge.
Holler, C. (2000). The Black Elk reader. USA: Syracuse University Press.
Hopfe, L. M., & Woodward, M. R. (2012). Religions of the world. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Neihardt, J. G. (2008). Black Elk speaks: Being the life story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. USA: SUNY Press.