A MAORI WORLD VIEW – By George Parekowhai
Kia ora tatou te iwi. Kia ora hoki koutou i raro i te tahuhu o tenei whare, me ki te whare o Te Atua. No reira, nga mihi atu ki a koutou. Me nga mihi ano hoki ki nga mate kua hinga atu i nga marae maha. Me ki, tukuna ratou kia haere.
Ka hoki mai ano kia tatou te whanau. Haere mai; tena koutou, tena koutou, kia ora tatou.
Thank you for allowing me to begin in Maori. You might wonder why I did? I like to say to myself that I take the initiative from you in my language, because I walked down a particular track in that language which is the result of my descent from a particular tradition. I am lucky perhaps in the sense that 150 years ago or more, my violent, savage, pagan ancestors encountered Christians, and there was a coming together of those two views of the world, and I have been, seven generations later, brought here in front of you.
The popular Christian view is that one should relinquish all one’s earlier learnings and become absolutely Christian. I am not able to do that, and I don’t have the explanation exactly; if you can understand that I was born out in the paddock – my Dad was an angry fellow and he fought with my grandmother, and that was in the middle of winter, and my pregnant mother and my Dad, and my elder sister and brothers camped out in a tent, and I was born out there.
BAPTISM: MAORI AND CHRISTIAN
He was an ornery sort of a bloke, my Dad, and his grandmother came down from the wharepune, which is the Maori meeting house, and gathered us up. And I was baptised, if that is the right word, in the ancient way, in the old meeting house, and I subsequently was baptised in the Christian way, and I have taken the dual experience as one of the tension points for me to work through. I consider that it is possible to be in more than one place at the same time. It is a matter of handling space and thought. The body can only be in one place, I admit that, but other parts of you can be elsewhere.
So here I am to address you, and I welcome you first of all from the different places of the world, and I hope to make your brief stay here useful and informative. I am an educator, and though our college of education has a component which acknowledges the indigenous segment of the community, the majority of students are non-Maori, and they are brought through the system and I encounter them and pass on to them much of the common current educational theory. I have a degree in English literature, and I love English and I love literature, and in that experience I have walked the traditions of the English-speaking people from the Greeks and the Romans down through medieval times to Elizabethan times, where Shakespeare is the popular myth figure of mine, and down to the modern times – I hope my English competence is good enough for you to take meaning out of what I say.
A PERSONAL MAORI WORLD VIEW
Now first of all, I am speaking about a Maori world view, but this should not be seen as the typical Maori world view out there, because I am much more humble than to believe that I epitomise a notion of a common Maori view. I will simply say, a Maori world view, meaning I am a Maori and it is my view that I shall promote!
Now what is that? First of all, in the history, in the tradition that I have indicated, I claim that everybody, you and me, are the summation of all that has come before us. In the science of genetics, as I understand, in the DNA that is the template of what each of us passes on to the next generation, we bring these so-called physical ideas into the reality of the present; and if we have children and grandchildren, we bring them into the next generations. I can remember from when I was born, it seems to me (and from the time that I was out in the paddock under the quince tree, it seems like a hundred years ago). This apparent ability is a mixture, I guess, of having the tradition told to me and having my Maori elders reiterate that I am a product of everything that I have passed through from birth; it is contained in that notion of the common idea of memory.
MEMORY BEYOND EXPERIENCE
We are people of memory, and at the level I am talking to you, the consciousness that you and I share is the accumulated memories from the times we are born. And we train our intellects, if that is the right thing that works, to take account of the things we remember, and we express the truths, or the experiences in every situation daily, taking account of memory and intelligence. But I would say, that is not all, because I think we remember things that are beyond our experience, and that is the hard part.
THE FIVE SENSES
In looking at what I understand from the Western pseudo-intellectual tradition, they talk about knowledge and they talk about our senses. They tell us there are five senses, and we interpret our world through our sensory perceptions – what you hear, what you see. All you are listening to at the moment is the information on the wavelength of sound that is passing from me to you, and that sound travels at seven miles a second. That is one sense.
Another sense is that you are looking at me and seeing me in the colours I am wearing. The information is conveyed to you on a wavelength of light. If I could touch you and you could touch me, I would sense your nice warm supportive flesh under my fingers, and I would hear you. And if I could taste you, and I’d like that too! Not very practical, but that is another sense. Smell – I had a shower before I came and rubbed the chemicals all over me, so if you can smell me I hope it’s a good smell!
But nevertheless, all I am saying is that our world view at any given time is the result of our sensory perceptions, what we see, what we hear, what we touch, what we taste, what we smell – five of them. And the richer our world view is, the more sensitive we sharpen those senses, so that those who are good visually would see colour, beautiful, dynamic colours. If you would have a good nose you would smell a whole lot of smells. However, all I claim at the moment is that your
view of the world is no different from mine, it is the result of the five sensory perceptions interpreting and responding to where you are at any given time.
A SIXTH SENSE
But there is a sixth sense, and my Maori tradition knew that sense. The Western theorists call it intuition. Funnily enough, they say women have that sixth sense, and the common notion that I have learned from the Western people is that they tend to put down women with intuition, as though they do not wish that sense to be developed. That is a shame, because I think it is going to be one of the ways we will more carefully and more profitably interpret our world in the future.
If I were to hazard a guess where this intuition might come from, it is the notion of being conscious not only of yourself but of somebody else, and women have the advantage in that they bear children, and when the children are conceived, they have a dual consciousness; the child is aware of them and they of it, and stay together until nine months later. And when the child is separated, the dual, mutual consciousness is retained. Now these heavy-footed male things just keep clobbering around the countryside hardly aware what is going on, thinking they are so clever, and I am saying they have got it wrong. Intuition is that sixth sense, and it is a higher level perception of the world, because it starts from the premise that they, mothers, are part of something larger. Males have yet to learn this, unfortunately.
FRAGMENTS OF NOW
So I am saying that my world view takes into account of at least six sensory perceptions. What is the difference? The difference for me is that the five senses have to do with fragments of the now. The time category is important. We tend to handle time as though it were a linear thing that has gone past; we’re here now, and we are going where the future is. Now my Maori world view is not that. My world view is that it is all in front of us – the past, the present and the future is all here, right now, but we interpret and respond consciously to fragments of the now.
That’s why it’s easy for me, when I speak to you in Maori, to consider that I am supported by my forbears of ancient times, a hundred years, two hundred, a thousand years ago, and they join me in my greeting with you. Why? Because that tradition says that I am the same as you; that we Maori are the result of what the Christians have taught me to be, the spark of divinity, and what my tradition, Maori, says is similar to that except that the Maori word for it is mauri. And it is proper that I address that part of you first, the metaphysical part of you, if you like. The physical part of you, which you put clothes on, is really a projection of what you want me to understand is you, but the real part of you is the metaphysic part. And so I speak to you in my language as I share the moment with you, and it is my way of sharing the higher level consciousness that makes you.
What is consciousness, you might say? That is a pretty difficult word, but we are conscious of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, five sensory perceptions, and
we are educated in the formal schools – well, I can see that some of you have been educated in traditions outside the Western tradition of English education, but I think structurally it is no different. The culture educates you, and advances you, moving you from positions of knowledge, of knowing, to positions of knowing more.
So in effect, education for you, as for me, is no different, we look to the position of being better informed, and in the case of my encounter with you, you are being better informed about how one Maori sees the world that he functions in, and up to now, I don’t think it is too different from your own? But then that does not matter, because I think that is the whole point.
A POWERFUL ARROGANCE
If I look at the impact of the West on my people and on myself, I see the West has a kind of powerful arrogance in assuming that they can improve the situation that I belong to. They introduce another philosophy, they introduce another technology, they introduce systems to develop my nation. And so they cut all the trees down and plant grass to graze millions of animals, each one a methane-producing creature, and modern science tells us they are stuffing it up! Neither President Bush [USA] nor Europe, want our beasties anymore, so it’s a bigger problem ahead for us, all in the nature of development.
THE BUSH THE WAY IT WAS
I’d prefer to have had the bush the way it was, and have the trees and the birds there. It would have been nice for the Christian colonists to come and say, ‘cease those violent ways’, and leave it at that, but to take over the resources and manipulate them and diminish my people was not a good idea. But then, it is not a plea of only my nation, it is the plea of any indigenous people colonised, whether in Australia and Africa, in the United States or wherever.
It seems like two or three hundred years ago, there was this idea that ‘there are spaces out there waiting for me to arrive, and I’ll go down there and take hold of it.’ It think we are up to there as far as Antarctica is concerned, that there are penguins and whales down there, but who cares about them? We will go down there and gouge out big holes there and dig up the oil, or whatever are the resources, so-called, and stuff it up again.
It seems to me, if Europe has taught me one thing, it has taught me that it has this enormous wish to take power over other parts, and the way to do it is by dividing those structures into smaller parts and making them weaker. And I think that what I’m here for, and what you are probably here for, is to understand that fragmentation must come to an end, that we must connect it all up again. We must value each other, we must value our environment, we must value the waters, and the creatures here.
Published in Theosophy in New Zealand, September 1992