Changeless at the Heart of Change

Joseph Epes Brown and Emily Cousins

in Teaching Spirits

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780195138757
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199871759 | DOI:
 Changeless at the Heart of Change

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This chapter focuses on Native American concepts of time and process. Western culture often perceives time as a linear progression that advances from past to present to future in a straight line. In contrast, many Native American cultures observe that the rhythm of the world is circular, as is the life of all beings and forms. In these cultures, time tends to be experienced as cyclical and rhythmic, rather than linear and progress oriented. Most Native American languages, for instance, do not have past and future tenses; they reflect instead a perennial reality of the present. These differing perceptions of time have contributed to the misunderstandings that characterize so many interactions between Native and non-Native Americans.

Keywords: Native American culture; linear time; cyclical time; Zuni; process

Chapter.  5159 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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