Stories of Nonviolence: Lifting Soul Clouding
As we sit in meditation during this Season for Nonviolence, let us envision a grid of Unconditional Love encircling our Globe, supporting all those individuals and organizations working to make nonviolence our planet’s operating principle.
David Chethlahe Paladin, born of two cultures, was brought up by extended family on a Navajo reservation in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. He was a free spirit, and while still in his early teens, he and his cousin Joe stowed away on a ship in San Francisco. The two cousins met a third stowaway aboard ship, a young German boy named Ted. By the time the ship docked in Australia, World War II had begun and the three had to part company.
David and Joe ‘bummed around’ Australia and the South Pacific for a while until America entered the war. They had witnessed Japanese war preparations in the region, and so were of great value to the US. The two were picked up by the Americans and debriefed in Australia. A perfect candidate for a secret agent, David was invited to join the OSS (precursor to the CIA) and was trained for espionage. He became a Navajo Codetalker.
Eventually, he was captured as a spy behind enemy lines and sentenced to die in the gas chambers at Dachau. There at Dachau, in an astonishing turn of events, he again met Ted, the young German stowaway. Now a German officer, Ted saved his life by arranging for him to be sent to the work camps instead of to the gas chambers.
While in the German internment camps, Chethlahe experienced many atrocities including having his feet nailed to the floor. As gangrene spread to his legs, he was finally placed in the prison camp infirmary. There, too sick to defend himself, he endured suffering at the hands of a Nazi officer who would come to the infirmary when no one else was around and put maggots on the open sores on his legs and stuff raw chicken entrails down his throat. Chethlahe hated this man intensely.
After the war, Chethlahe, in very poor condition, was rescued from a train car filled with dead bodies. He went through 2 ½ years in a coma. When he regained consciousness, he was crippled and could ambulate only with prosthetic leg braces and crutches, and, he just couldn’t move past what had happened to him during the war. In total despair and demoralized from those experiences, he decided to go home to the reservation, say goodbye to his family, and then return to the Veteran’s Hospital to lie there for the rest of his life.
On the reservation, Chetlahe’s Native American clan listened to his story without emotional feedback – they witnessed. Then they held council to decide how to help him. They tied a rope around his waist and threw him into the Little Colorado river without his prosthetics and told him to call his Spirit back or they would let him go, for ‘no one can live without their Spirit’. They then stood back. In the high flood waters of the river, David’s choice was to drown or to keep his head above water. In order to survive this hydrotherapy ordeal, he was forced to move his body in new ways and, while in that deep, cold water, he fell into Soul Space and accessed his Truth in a vision.
He went through a sacred life review of all those memories and beliefs that had captured his spirit and held him back from living life fully. And at that difficult point when he found himself facing the image of that one Nazi guard who force-fed him, he finally said: ‘All right, I forgive you’, from the depths of his being. As he did so, the image spoke to him and said: ‘Chethlahe, I was trying to keep you alive and those were the only things I could find.’ This powerful vision confirmed his extraordinary encounter at the Nuremberg Trials after the war when he had testified to the atrocities he suffered at the hands of this Nazi guard. For after his testimony, a strange man arose and asked the court to consider the possibility that the Nazi guard, perhaps at risk to his own life, may have acted to save Chethlahe’s life. The man explained that the maggots ate the dead flesh on Chethlahe’s gangrenous legs allowing new flesh to grow and that the raw chicken entrails were one of only a few things that would have been nourishing to and assimilated by Chehtlahe’s immensely weakened body.
The uncovering of the truth behind the Nazi’s actions shattered Chethlahe and he wept as he released his years of anger and hatred, and resolved never again to hate or condemn another. He forgave himself and others and let all the painful memories go. Chethlahe’s healing began in that moment as he swam to shore, and he never returned to the Veteran’s Hospital.
During his experience in the swiftly flowing river, Chethlahe, through the process of forgiveness (seeing with new eyes), had to peel away the soul-clouding emotions of anger and hate from all the events that had captured his spirit, but most especially in the case of the German guard, in order to see that the guard was in fact acting from his inner soul qualities of compassion and love. Through this experience of uncovering and awakening more fully to the beauty of his own essence, Cheetlahe was able to see and appreciate the expression of soul beauty in the other. His experience taught him that sometimes, Soul Beauty comes dressed in the strangest garb.
As he healed, Chethlahe moved past his physical limitations and the limitations of Soul Clouding, to fully express his Soul, the wellspring of creative potential. He became an artist, his childhood love, and freely expressed his evolving Soul qualities of tolerance, compassion, acceptance and love in community service as volunteer police chaplain and prison chaplain.
Releasing soul-clouding emotions allows space for nonviolent interaction.
As we join our hearts together, know that powerful beacons of Light and Love will shine forth into the world, will join those from others of like intent, and be directed to those in greatest need on our beloved planet.
As we each prepare for the moment, let the mood be one of unconditional love…
…and May the Force be with us!
Please light your candles (optional) and commence with the following peace poem:
Dear God, Great Spirit,
Tonight, we hold the vision that each of us on Earth
Be granted the insight to recognize Soul Clouding when it occurs,
The wisdom to act on that insight
by peeling away the limiting emotions of fear, anger and hate
that create Soul-clouding,
And the courage to then fully embrace our inner beauty and others’
by suspending judgement and being willing to live as our best Selves.
May we freely express the beauty of our soul qualities
And hold ourselves and each other in a cocoon
of unconditional acceptance, compassion and love.
After this introductory vision/meditation/prayer, please express your own vision of peace. (As always, please feel free to modify the peace poem, or to use your own.)
~ Celebrating Great Souls Becoming ~
Please close your peace session with the extinguishing of the candle.
This Peace Circle was inspired by the life of David Chethlahe Paladin. It is the 3rd in the series of SNV2004 Peace Circles.
More about Chetlahe (1926 – 1984):
As an artist, David Chethlahe Paladin went into a relaxed state of daydreaming awareness where he accessed the beauty of Soul and painted the images that flowed from that dream space, images that encompassed all the legends of the indigenous peoples he’d encountered worldwide, and all of his life experiences. He began painting the dream…
‘I hope that my paintings awaken in others the knowledge of their own creative potential, and that this awakened potential will be used for the good of all humankind and for the preservation of Mother Earth.’
– David Chethlahe Paladin
February 13, 2004