Today as I was researching the life of Crazy Horse, I came across an account by Nicholas Black Elk of one of his major visions, which occurred near present day Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills of what we today call South Dakota. Crazy Horse was doing a Haŋblečeya ("crying for a vision," sometimes translated "vision quest") when he received his revelation. Here is a portion of Black Elk's account:
"When I was a man, my father told me something about that vision. Of course he did not know all of it; but he said that Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world. He was on his horse in that world, and the horse and himself on it and the trees and the grass and the stones and everything were made of spirit, and nothing was hard, and everything seemed to float. His horse was standing still there, and yet it danced around like a horse made only of shadow, and that is how he got his name, which does not mean that his horse was crazy or wild, but that in his vision it danced around in that queer way.
"It was this vision that gave him his great power, for when he went into a fight, he had only to think of that world to be in it again, so that he could go through anything and not be hurt. Until he was killed at the Soldiers' Town on White River, he was wounded only twice, once by accident and both times by some one of his own people when he was not expecting trouble and was not thinking; never by an enemy."
As I read this account, it occurred to me that what Crazy Horse saw really IS the real world. All of the forms and events that we experience as "solid" are - as even modern physics admits - transparent space and energy. In Buddhist terms, "Form is emptiness," and in Christian mystical terms, "All things are made of the formless love of God."
When I read descriptions of the character of Crazy Horse, many traits stand out - especially bravery, bigheartedness, generosity, self-denial and humility. But I also picture a man whose vision was ever-focused on the larger, all-encompassing spirit world, even in the midst of daily affairs. Black Elk says he "would go about the village without noticing people or saying anything. In his own teepee he would joke, and when he was on the warpath with a small party, he would joke to make his warriors feel good. But around the village he hardly ever noticed anybody, except little children. But everybody liked him, and they would do anything he wanted or go anywhere he said."
I pray to be able to live with this Larger World ever before my eyes, and to allow this bigger Vision to give me courage in the midst of the various personal, emotional and societal "battles" that I am called to fight . . .
Photo: This is Gem Lake, not Sylvan Lake, but every time I hike up to this lake it seems to me like a mini-version of the place where Crazy Horse had his vision.
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, December, 2016
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.