Native American Spirituality

Talk by Julian Ochoa 2015 at Sydney Blavatsky Lodge

I would like to pay my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this meeting takes place, and also pay respect to Elders both past and present 

Native American spirituality is not a topic that can easily be covered in one hour, saying native American spirituality is like saying eastern spirituality.  The Americas as it is known today, is so vast that the pre Columbian people differ in many ways from each other across the continent. 

It is hard to say exactly how natives lived before Columbus, what we know comes from recollections written by the Spanish conquerors, the Jesuits and more recently by archaeologists who describe everything from a Eurocentric viewpoint. 

There are many peoples that have survived western advance in the Americas but their cultures and traditions have almost disappeared, except in remote areas where people have managed to retains some practices and languages. 

That is not to say that the arrival of Europeans was totally bad, in some places human sacrifice and cannibalism was practiced, that was certainly eliminated with the arrival of the Europeans. Many other advances came with the west but the natives that first came into contact with the Spanish and the rest of the Europeans that came afterwards did not really enjoy their arrival. 

In 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Bahamas there were over 100 million people living across the Americas There may have been as many as 600 different languages in North America, 300 more in Central America, and 1400 in South America, of which more than two-thirds have become extinct. There were hundreds of tribes and nations across the continent, there were two advanced civilizations existing at the time, the Aztecs in Mexico and the incas in peru. By the time Columbus had arrived many other civilisations had already come and gone, in fact the arrival of the Europeans came at the time of the decline of  many of the American empires. Wars, droughts and time itself ensured that many civilisations like the anasasi in the north, the mayans and the olmecs in central America are only known to us by archaeological finds and local histories. 

By the 18th century 90% of native americans had died from deceases brought from Europe, they also died subjected to slavery, rape, pillage, dispossession, torture under the inquisition, hunger and by many other cruel ways that are not worth mentioning. Those that survived became refugees in their own lands, in central and south America many survived by going deep into the forests. As you all know, the advance of civilisation today has destroyed many forests so there aren’t many tribes left that haven’t had any contact with the civilised world. Today there are a no more than 5 uncontacted tribes in south America, each tribe with no more than 20 people. 

The Indians that Columbus and the  Spanish thought they met were seen as backward in every sense, many lived in small communities with huts and in simple ways, but even later Spanish conquistadors that met the Aztecs, and incas saw them as their inferiors. Native americans had weapons but made of wood and stones, the Spanish had come with weapons that had evolved in the European continent through metallurgy and trade with the east. The Spanish with their ships, swords, armours and horses were seen more like gods than anything else.  all the technology Europeans carried did not exist at the time in the Americas. 

For the Europeans the new world symbolised new lands, gold, new exotic foods and the possibility of growing Christianity and the Spanish empire, all that was short lived as the rest of the European nations also began to conquer parts of the Americas. The race and war for control of the new continent lasted until the late 19th century. 

The new lands, and its resources  increased European power to the point that it changed the world completely. 

What today we take for granted as normal in our day to day consumption like corn, avocados, chocolate, potatoes and tobacco all come from the Americas, they were part of the native America diet. The gold in the catholic churches in spain is all American gold.  

Thanks to occultists like Blavatsky, carl jung and merciae eliade and carlos Castaneda we know a little bit about native American spirituality, or at least what each of those authors had managed to discover. 

In modern culture native American spirituality has had its ups and downs, in the early days of television native americans were always portrayed as the bad guys, the cowboys and indian movies, some movies were more touching like dance with wolves or the emerald forest. Carlos Castaneda wrote several books about his encounters with Don Juan a shaman from new mexico. Thanks to carlos Native American spirituality as we know it today is part of the new age repertoire. In more modern times Ayahuasca a hallucinogenic drug from south America is becoming far more popular than carlos castanedas peyote. If you go to north America you can find sweat tents, and native American festivals, you can visit peru or Ecuador to live with a shaman and do a body and mental detox, many foreigners have opened retreat centers and over charge travellers over 3k for a retreat with a shaman. You can find native American decorations every where, the dream catchers, pottery sold for hundred if not thousands of dollars, jewlry and hundreds of books and groups practicing some native American ritual.

But, what is native American spirituality, is it a religion or religions… 

The common perception about native American spirituality is that its animistic and primordial. In many cases it is, there were many tribes that lived very simple lives and their religion was the connection with the land and the elements with a shaman as a mediator. However most people in these tribes also played a role to maintain harmony between nature and the tribe, any sign from the elements could come from anywhere to anyone. There were other more advanced civilisations like the Olmec, Mixtec, Toltec, Mayan, Aztec, and Inca civilizations that had deep myths and legends and entire pantheons of gods and goddesses. On the other spectrum there were cannibals and dark magicians which were looked down upon by other tribes and civilisations. 

Like in our modern society, native americans believed in totem animals, nature spirits, elementals, there was mediumship, claravoyance, magic, dark magic, in the more developed societies there were state religions, sun worship, mon worship, high temples were built to worship and initiate candidates. There were forced sacrafices, these were practiced mainly in times of famines or trouble, there were self sacrafices, in the Aztec culture self-sacrifice was seen as honourable and the only way to appease the gods. A.E. Powell in his book the solar system says that many of these practices survived from the Atlantean age. Many of the dark magicians that managed to escape the deluge went into hiding in the Americas and there they transmitted their dark teachings to people who still practice them today. These dark practices persevere despite having been banned by the Spanish inquisition. 

What does theosophy have to say about native americans?

Blavatsky visited the Americas several times, she went to mexico and peru. During one of her trips to the Andes, H.P.B. visited the borderline between Brazil and Bolivia. In a particular location, she collected a handful of sand from a river with a few specks of gold in it. Driven by the strength of the waters, the gold had come from the Brazilian side of the borderline. For her own reasons, H.P.B. took the small sample of sand, not only the gold, with her to Europe.

H.P.B. wrote rather extensively on Peru and the Andes in her text “A Land of Mystery”, and in the book “Isis Unveiled”.

In her masterpiece “The Secret Doctrine” she mentions the inner link connecting esoteric schools in South America (Andean region) and other parts of the world. H.P.B. writes:

“The members of several esoteric schools – the seat of which is beyond the Himalayas, and whose ramifications may be found in China, Japan, India, Tibet, and even in Syria, besides South America – claim to have in their possession the sum total of sacred and philosophical works in MSS. and type: all the works, in fact, that have ever been written, in whatever language or characters, since the art of writing began (…).”

Blavatsky, A.E. Powell and Leadbeater mention that the native Americans belong to the fourth root race, or at least that their genetic ancestors were part of the fourth root race which inhabited the atlantean continent and the different parts of the Americas that the atlanteans ruled thousands of years ago. Annie besant mentions in her book the ancient wisdom that the turanian race which belonged to the fourth root race migrated from atlantis towards the west mainly the north American and south American continents, others migrated to asia, from them emerged what we know today as the Asiatic peoples and the native americans.  

What is interesting to note is that several nations in the Americas mention that their ancestors migrated from an island that had sank in the atlantic thousands of years ago. what is more intriguing is that they have a similar concept of the origins of the cosmos to that mentioned by the secret doctrines; the Hopi once lived with the maya and with whom they later traded, the Hopi conceptualize the cycles of time as world-ages. The Hopi believe that we have suffered three previous world cataclysms. The First World was destroyed by fire—a comet, asteroid strike, or a number of volcanic eruptions. The Second World was destroyed by ice—a great Ice Age. As recorded by many cultures around the globe, a tremendous deluge destroyed the Third World. These three global destructions were not the result of merely random earth changes or astrophysical phenomena but of humankind’s disregard both for Mother Earth and for the spiritual dictates of the Creator. In other words, cataclysmic events in the natural world are causally connected to collective transgressions, or negatives human actions. Many Hopi spiritual elders (singular, kikmongwi) claim that we are living in the final days of the Fourth World. For more than 60 years, different Hopis have predicted various Earth changes that signal the conclusion of the current age and the onset of the Fifth World.

Aztec mythology claimed that the world has undergone five “creations,” the first four being destroyed by jaguars (symbolic of earth), a hurricane (wind), volcanic eruptions (fire), and a flood (water), the four elements represented in the Aztec Stone. If one identifies these as analogous to the theosophical idea of the Root Races, the Aztec notion that we are in the fifth of those “creations” is essentially the same as one finds in The Secret Doctrine. It also suggests that the Aztecs, unlike the Mayans, thought of themselves as post-Atlantean. Flood myths, of course, are common to many cultures around the world and may be interpreted either allegorically as signifying being overwhelmed by psychic experiences during the Fourth Root Race, with the result that the intellect now prevails in the Fifth Root Race, or else as literally referring to an actual flood which occurred when the island of Poseidonis, the last remnant of the continent of Atlantis, sank about 12,000 years ago (SDII:765). The Aztecs believed the fifth “creation” will end with earthquakes. In order to forestall that catastrophe, they believed, human victims had to be sacrificed at certain important festivals and their hearts cut out and offered to the appropriate god.

The American Indian treatment of death, is one that is perhaps less well known, Death was born or appeared at a certain point or on a specific date in mankind’s early evolutionary history. Before that, Death did not exist, and human beings did not die as they now do. For example, in the sacred scriptural history of the Quiche-Mayas of Central America, the Popol-Vuh, the word death does not appear until mankind’s Third Age is described (humanity now being in its Fourth Age according to this tradition). Specifically, in the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, a related Mayan scripture, Death is mentioned as an “invention” of the creative deities that was needed to destroy the crude humans of the Third Age because of their imperfections. “On Three Cimi, there occurred the invention of death. It happened that Deity Our Father invented the first death.” Therefore some tribes look upon death with aversion, as an unfortunate interruption of our conscious existence and a threat to life, but one that because of past wrongs committed by man must now be undergone by him until his debt to the Creator is paid. (Moffet) 

In the secret doctrine volume 2 blavatsky speaks about how in Americas prehistory giants roamed the continent and are the builders of the giant monuments that exist across the Americas. In 439 she mentions how a red india tribe wrote  a petition in their language to the American government to regain back some of their land and scientists had dismissed their writing as primitive. Blavatsky goes on to say that their writing does not come from phonecian but from atlantis from where all writing comes from (Blavatsky).

Number Seven, the fundamental figure among all other figures in every national religious system, from Cosmogony down to man, must have its raison dêtre. It is found among the ancient Americans, as prominently as among the archaic Aryans and Egyptians (Blavatsky). The Hopis of Arizona have their “seven universes, each with its successive worlds, comprising the total of forty-nine stages of man’s development along his Road of Life.” The Seneca of New York have a closely-held teaching of the Seven Worlds of being. If we turn to South America, it is the same. The Guarani peoples of Southern Brazil and Paraguay, for example, have their seven “paradises” or planes above the earth plane (Moffet).

Another similarity with theosophy among the natives is their contact with God-men that visited them to teach them laws, agriculture, and state craft in general. Bochica for example arrived in what today is know as Colombia to teach the muizcas how to operate a society better, According to Chibcha legends, Bochica was a bearded man who came from the east. He taught the primitive Chibcha people ethical and moral norms and gave them a model by which to organize their states, with one spiritual and one secular leader. Bochica also taught the people agriculture, metalworking and other crafts before leaving for the west to live as an ascetic. When the Muisca later forsook the teachings of Bochica and turned to a life of excess, a flood engulfed the Savannah of Bogotá, where they lived. Upon appealing for aid from their hero, Bochica returned on a rainbow and with a strike from his staff, created the Tequendama Falls, through which the floodwaters could drain away.

In Peru Viracocha rose from Lake Titicaca (or sometimes the cave of Paqariq Tampu) during the time of darkness to bring forth light. He made the sun, moon, and the stars. He made mankind by breathing into stones, but his first creation were brainless giants that displeased him. So he destroyed it with a flood and made a new, better one from smaller stones.[6] Viracocha eventually disappeared across the Pacific Ocean (by walking on the water), and never returned. He wandered the earth disguised as a beggar, teaching his new creations the basics of civilization, as well as working numerous miracles. He wept when he saw the plight of the creatures he had created. It was thought that Viracocha would re-appear in times of trouble. Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa wrote that Viracocha was described as “a man of medium height, white and dressed in a white robe like an alb secured round the waist, and that he carried a staff and a book in his hands.”

In mexico There are several stories about the birth of Quetzalcoatl. In a version of the myth, Quetzalcoatl was born by a virgin named Chimalman, to whom the god Onteol appeared in a dream. In another story, the virgin Chimalman conceived Quetzalcoatl swallowing an emerald. A third story narrates that Chimalman was hit in the womb by an arrow shot by Mixcoatl and nine months later she gave birth to a child which was called Quetzalcoatl. A fourth story narrates that Quetzalcoatl was born from Coatlicue, who already had four hundred children who formed the stars of the Milky Way.

According to another version of the myth, Quetzalcoatl is one of the four sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, the four Tezcatlipocas, each of whom presides over one of the four cardinal directions. Over the West presides the White Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl, the god of light, justice, mercy and wind. Over the South presides the Blue Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. Over the East presides the Red Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec, the god of gold, farming and springtime. And over the North presides the Black Tezcatlipoca, known by no other name than Tezcatlipoca, the god of judgment, night, deceit, sorcery and the Earth. Quetzalcoatl was often considered the god of the morning star, and his twin brother Xolotl was the evening star (Venus). As the morning star, he was known by the title Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, meaning “lord of the star of the dawn.” He was known as the inventor of books and the calendar, the giver of maize (corn) to mankind, and sometimes as a symbol of death and resurrection. Quetzalcoatl was also the patron of the priests and the title of the twin Aztec high priests. Some legends describe him as opposed to human sacrifice while others describe him practicing it.

Geoffrey hodson in sharing the light in his travels he recounts the story of an indian avatar in rio grande mexico, a messenger of the great white brotherhood. He possessed great powers, without ceremonies he could produce all sorts of phenomena.  He appeared to natives as a healer, teacher and prophet, he cast out sorcery from villages. He was a great orator and captivated his audience where ever he went he was very tall, with tall black hair. Hodson claimed that this teacher was part of the fourth rootrace branch of the government of the world also known as the Yucatan brotherhood. On his passing from the world he return to his brotherhood. 

Native American cultures are rich and diverse but their myths and origins if looked from a theosophical point of view, seem to come from an antiquity that is lost to modern day scientists. It would take many lectures to cover all the annecdotes, stories, myths, religions and histories of the pre-Columbian americans. It does not matter if the suffering the pre Columbian people went through was karmic, or just the end of a cycle for a civilization their suffering and dispossession is something that still hasn’t been solved karmically for the new people inhabiting the Americas. Thanks to the Secret doctrine and other occult writers we have a different perspective on the origins of the native peoples of America. The natives of the Americas are indeed custodians of a land that has given the world a nation that for good or for bad has changed the history or our current humanity. 


  • Besant, A. The Ancient Wisdom, published in 1897, TPH ( 2016).
  • Blavatsky, H.P, Isis Unveiled, The Theosophy Company (1931)
  • Blavatsky, H.P, The Secret Doctrine 1888, TPH Adyar edition (1938).
  • Fuller, O.J, Blavatsky and her Teachers: An investigative biography. TPH (1988).
  • Hodson, G. Sharing The Light, Theosophical Publishing House Phillipines (2008).
  • Powell, A.E, The Solar System, TPH (2001).
  • Wikipedia 2015, Bochica, (2015)