Original Wisdom – By Robert Wolff (updated Sept 11, 2013)


Volumes of commentaries, arguments, political and cultural viewpoints have been splashing in the news media over the subject matter on ‘Bumiputra’ or sons of the soil. Even until today ethnic supremacy has become an issue of political time-bomb.

In the midst of such constant political bickerings and tension this author concluded and lamented that we have no idea what we have lost, after several years of association with the Senoi aborigines in the deep jungles of Malaysia.

This brings back the spiritual lessons that we can learn from the film ” Avatar” – if only we, the so-called civilized and modern technocrats, can harmonize and live in revered respect for the native tribes’ culture rather than enslaving and destroying their value systems and compartmentalizing their living surroundings into an unnatural habitat.

Bringing in bulldozers and destroying the flora and fauna and chopping down the trees all in the name of development and progress will only invite a ‘karmic retribution’ that is yet to, but will surely come. ~ Evolutionarymystic

• Explores the lifestyle of indigenous peoples of the world who exist in complete harmony with the natural world and with each other.

• Reveals a model of a society built on trust, patience, and joy rather than anxiety, hurry, and acquisition.

• Shows how we can reconnect with the ancient intuitive awareness of the world’s original people.

Deep in the mountainous jungle of Malaysia the aboriginal Sng’oi exist on the edge of extinction, though their way of living may ultimately be the kind of existence that will allow us all to survive. The Sng’oi–pre-industrial, pre-agricultural, semi-nomadic–live without cars or cell phones, without clocks or schedules in a lush green place where worry and hurry, competition and suspicion are not known. Yet these indigenous people–as do many other aboriginal groups–possess an acute and uncanny sense of the energies, emotions, and intentions of their place and the living beings who populate it, and trustingly follow this intuition, using it to make decisions about their actions each day.

Psychologist Robert Wolff lived with the Sng’oi, learned their language, shared their food, slept in their huts, and came to love and admire these people who respect silence, trust time to reveal and heal, and live entirely in the present with a sense of joy. Even more, he came to recognize the depth of our alienation from these basic qualities of life. Much more than a document of a disappearing people, Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing holds a mirror to our own existence, allowing us to see how far we have wandered from the ways of the intuitive and trusting Sng’oi, and challenges us, in our fragmented world, to rediscover this humanity within ourselves.

Robert Wolff was raised among the indigenous peoples of Indonesia. A psychologist and educator who has lived in Suriname, Southeast Asia, and Europe, he has taught at the University of Hawaii and currently lives on the Big Island.

Click here to take a look inside.

Below are two stimulating reviews on the book Original Wisdom

A book Review – By Linda Anderson

The Senoi aboriginals of Peninsular Malaysia are shy, nonviolent tribal people who rely on oral history among their tribes to pass on ancestral wisdom. Despite worldwide changes going on around them, the Senoi are described as the most peaceful people on the planet and extremely dedicated to preserving their traditions and survival methods orally.

They are a subgroup of Malaysia’s Orang Asli people (translated as “the Ancient Ones,” because they are believed to have lived on the peninsula since ancient times), and are particularly famous because of other published works that described their extraordinary mental health through the use of dream interpretation and lucid dreaming.

They exist deep within the hilly jungles of Malaysia where there are no roads or towns. Because of their distance from civilization, they live lives of self preservation, personal and communal responsibility, and self reliance, with a deep, inherent respect for their natural surroundings. They exist with a definite knowing of their connection to all creation.

Mr. Wolff, the author of “Original Wisdom” and a psychologist and educator who lived in Malaysia, spent a significant amount of time visiting, living with, and studying the Senoi (spelled by Mr. Wolff as the Sng’oi) in the ’60s as part of a governmental study group and for personal research.

Mr. Wolff is considered the only person to both write about the Senoi and actually live with them and speak their language. During this time he learned of their unique methods of natural healing, ways of living, and preserving their cultural knowledge, passed down through their generations by word of mouth.

The Senoi do not know how to write and have no written language. During several of Mr. Wolff’s visits with one of the indigenous settlements, he decided to thoroughly learn and write down their language, and, to further educate them, teach them to write out their own words using phonetics and spelling.

The Senoi were puzzled by his desire to write and the need to make “scribbles”; they could not understand why he did not instantly remember and recall the words. The aboriginals could easily remember all acquired knowledge; it was apparent to Mr. Wolff that anything they heard and understood only once, they knew, without the need for repetition.

Mr. Wolff went on to explain that he later learned this is not unusual for indigenous groups such as the Senoi, and that people whose minds have not been cluttered with so many day-to-day facts and details have no problems with memorization, and perhaps why it’s believed oral history is as accurate as, if not more than, the written history progressive civilizations rely upon.

What makes his experience with the Senoi extraordinary is the story of his native training experience to hone his shamanistic skills to the same level of expanded perceptual insight the Senoi shamans possess.

When a shaman discovered Mr. Wolff’s inherent gift for bringing through wisdom after falling into trance during a special ceremony, he offered to show Mr. Wolff the ways of the Senoi shaman so he could tune into his natural surroundings and become one with all living things.

Mr. Wolff was led through the jungles using only the gentle, subtle leadership of the shaman to find his own way to increasing his innate awareness. He was never instructed with specific advice nor given hallucinatory plants.

The Senoi culture shares the belief that is held by so many other indigenous settlements that healing is an intrinsic capacity of human beings. All Malays believe that the root of all sickness is disharmony of the individual’s internal and external environment. Even if the disease may have been the result of an invasive organism, the disharmony was the original cause and allowed the invasion to take place.

That is why the Malays embody harmony in all their actions–soft, gentle, and polite, they do not offend or embarrass others, and they make gentle movements, walking carefully and speaking softly.

The Senoi believe that sickness is a warning that something is wrong, and there is a need to stop and make a change. It can be a behavior that needs changing, but it can also be a thought, feeling, or even a word, and it must be done to enable complete healing. The Senoi know that healing is solely in the hands of the ill person, and that no one else can do it for them.

When there is disharmony, the local healer only assists to bring back harmony, and sometimes gives herbs to help a person cope with the symptoms, all done without payment. But the ultimate goal, through the efforts of both the healer and ill person, is to restore balance to their environment, both physical and social.

Mr. Wolff also observed a daily ritual that contributed to the aboriginals’ well-being. During the times he would live in the village, he would take part in dream sharing with the group the next morning. They believe the world we live in is a shadow world and that the real world is behind it; at night they are able to visit that real world and the next day bring forth wisdom from it.

After everyone was awake, they would sit around in a group and listen to each other recount important aspects of their night’s visions and messages. After one person’s recount, another might add their thoughts, insights, or very subtle advice. Oftentimes, many individuals wove together parts from each other’s dreams to become one significant message for the entire group.

All of these things contributed to their wonderful health, overall contentment, and self sufficiency. What Mr. Wolff remembers most during the times he lived with them is that they most often expressed joy. Although sadness was sometimes expressed, voices were never raised in anger, and they lived with a childlike, uncomplicated innocence.

Mr. Wolff stressed the increasing importance of preserving the wisdom of folk medicine and traditional healing as Western culture infiltrates ever-widening areas of the remote world where people practice time-honored, ancient healing methods. Mr. Wolff aptly describes this dilemma:

“Science is so sure that it is the only truth that it has become incapable of accepting other ways of learning about reality. Medicine, as a scientific discipline, for instance, is certain that all other forms of healing are quackery and are not to be tolerated; they must be rooted out, destroyed. Such arrogant insistence has eradicated much knowledge and wisdom in the world.”(p. 5)

It has only been in the twentieth century that medicine has replaced healing, and Mr. Wolff felt that soon no one would remember the old ways, since it seems they are being erased by intolerance and our rush to create man-made chemicals.

During his travels in Tonga he had a conversation with a woman who was a gifted native healer. She agreed that a lot of age-old knowledge has been lost; but, she acknowledged, there have been and will always be people who “know,” who retain the knowledge in their minds and their hearts. When it is needed the most, she said, it will be within each of us to find.

Another Review by J.W.K.

The aboriginal Sng’oi of Malaysia are often described with words like “pre-industrial” or “pre-agricultural,” but it is a mistake to think of them as living in a former stage of what of our more “advanced” society has become. As Wolff shows in this book, it would be more precise to say that are living in another world – a better world.

Having spent half his youth growing up among Sng’oi, Wolff says this: “I learned early on to be in two different realities.” One reality was oriented around the clock, efficiency, technology, and harsh realism.

The other was fluid, timeless, almost dreamlike – a world in which “people touched each other,” a world in which “we knew animals and plants intimately.” The bulk of this book is spent fleshing out differences between these worlds, in an attempt to teach us Westerners another way of knowing, another reality. Yet in the process of doing so, it quickly becomes apparent that the modern world doesn’t quite measure up.

As slaves to an alienating industrial system, we civilized people must pay rent to live. A completely self-domesticated species, we live in a state of complete dependence on big industry and agriculture. We are ignorant of the flora and fauna that support our life, and helplessness to a capricious global market. Thus, the condescending glance “modern” humanity casts at so-called “primitive peoples” is extremely ironic.

Traditionally referred to as “Sakai,” or slaves, by modern Malaysians, the Sng’oi do not take offense. Says one Sng’oi man, “We look at the people down below [literally, from up in the mountains] – they have to get up at a certain time in the morning, they have to pay for everything with money, which they have to earn doing things for other people. They are constantly told what they can and cannot do. No, we do not mind when they call us slaves.”

At one point in the book, Wolff recounts a number of silent educational trips into the rainforest with his friend/guide, Ahmeed, who was subtly trying to teach him to interact and connect with the forest on his own terms. After days of walking, Wolff became thirsty. It was precisely then that Ahmeed decided to sneak off and leave him to find water on his own.

After searching for hours, he not only discovered water – he also discovered another way of seeing. “When I leaned over drink from the leaf, I saw water with feathery ripples, I saw a few mosquito larvae wriggling on the surface, I saw the veins of the leaf through the water, some bubbles, a little piece of dirt… How beautiful, how perfect.” His perception suddenly “opened,” and a deep feeling of connection enveloped him. “The all-ness was everywhere, and I was a part of it… I could not be afraid – I was apart of this all-ness.”

Contrast this with our culture, a culture walled-in with fear; a culture that “learns – has to learn – to shut off the senses, to protect oneself from all the noise.” Unlike the Sng’oi, who are brought up to listen, watch and feel their world in depth, our culture inhabits apsychological straightjacket.

We are brought up to act like machines only to find ourselves replaced by machines built to act like humans. Perhaps our fear of the natural world explains why our economic system has set out to expand and colonize every wild space left on the globe.

In the other world Wolff experienced, every day – indeed every second – was a miracle. Life, by no means perfect, was nevertheless full of smiles, stories, songs and dance. It was a world without fear and domination – until Komatsu bulldozers started coming to clear away the forest.

The topics Wolff address in this book vary from indigenous medicine to education, from dream interpretation to surviving the onslaught of civilization. This is not simply anthropology or ethnology, but a critique of modern industrial civilization and it’s “Development Scheme” in the gentle voice of someone intimate with the Sng’oi.

In all, the book amounts to nothing less than an alternative way of being. I found it refreshing, insightful and transformative – three criteria for any great book.

j.w.k.

Religion Book Review: Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing by Robert Wolff

Published on Aug 25, 2012

http://www.ReligionBookMix.com

This is the summary of Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing by Robert Wolff.

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