indigenous wisdom (1)

As some of you know, I am close to finishing the first draft of a book ms. on the life and work of Four Arrows (aka Dr. Don Trent Jacobs), a mixed-blood Irish-Cherokee critical (Indigenous-based) holistic educator and activist. At age 71, Four Arrows has a lot of true life-adventure stories to tell and this book I'm writing with his assistance has 15 teaching stories, following the Indigenous pedagogy format of using stories as ways of learning, knowing and passing on wisdom. The initial title for the book is Fearless Engagement in the Life and Work of Four Arrows: An Indigenous-based Social Transformer (to be published likely in 2018 by Peter Lang: New York). The reality is that this is an intellectual biography with an emphasis on my doing a fearanalysis [1] of Four Arrows' experiences and writing.

Image 1  Four Arrows (much younger) with his 'wild' mustang (Brioso) training for the Olympics

Four Arrows is a prolific athlete, eco-social activist and writer with some 20 books and hundreds of articles. He's won many honors among them the Martin Springer Moral Courage Award and he was chosen as one of the top 27 AERO Visionary Educators. He is frequently asked to be a presenter and guest lecturer around the world. His main teaching is that humans have not nearly reached their highest potential. He has developed many approaches and techniques to assist that process. He is very critical of the general way humans are socialized (e.g., in North America) to be unfit and adopt life-styles that are unhealthy. As well, in the last three decades he has studied and adopted the American Indigenous traditional ways of teaching/learning and living as wisdom, that he works to help protect, preserve and bring to the general non-Indigenous populations [2]. Controversial as his life and work has been, including his own re-conceptualizing of "Indigeneity" [3], I heartily support his overall project and see it as an important up-grade of fear management/education on this planet as well as a specific complement to expanding critical pedagogy/theory [4].

In that sense, he is an avid interpreter of the 'old ways' of Indigenous but also many traditions of spirituality. His own version of analysis for his "point of departure theory" tells of a time when our human ancestors were "relatively harmonious and healthy" living via a "Nature-based existence" that was non-anthropocentric, non-hierarchical and non-dominating. He identifies a "Dominant worldview" that began 9-10,000 years ago when "some humans chose to disregard the old [traditional] ways" that were ecologically in harmony with the environment [5]. He argues we are on the brink of extinction and today we have to re-integrate the best of the Indigenous worldview with the best of the Dominant (e.g., Western) worldview. In that sense, I have followed his work since 2007, because of my interest in "Two-Eyed Seeing" ( as a way of bringing together conflicting worldviews as part of conflict transformation and syntheses of ways to analyze and solve the biggest (most "wicked") world problems. You may know, I happen to think the global Fear Problem is no. 1. Four Arrows brings a lot of intriguing experience and research to this problem, and so I have appreciated our working partnership, off and on, since 2007. 

Image 2 Four Arrows (today) [photo: courtesy of Beatrice Angela Jacobs]

In the mainstream, academia and in Education generally, Four Arrows is, unfortunately, relatively unknown, although in some circles of critical theory, Indigenous (worldview) Studies, holistic education and character education he is well-known. He is currently professor in the School of Leadership Studies at Fielding Graduate University, California (15 years service). My task is to make him more known, but in particular, to focus on bringing forth a better understanding of his major discovery from an NDE (near death experience) and spiritual vision in 1983, verified by research and spiritual leaders of the region [6], in a remote canyon in Mexico--that is, his vision (theory) named CAT-FAWN Connection.

This blog is a very condensed version of his explication of this theory/praxis, a form of 'fear'-vaccine, Fearlessness and fear management/education, in which it can best be described as a de-hypnotizing technology [7]. I'll explain that shortly. The book Fearless Engagement offers more detail, and you can find other publications by Four Arrows and/or myself that give background on the theory/praxis of CAT-FAWN Connection [8].

CAT-FAWN Connection: De-Hypnotizing Technology for the 21st Century

Doing a fearanalysis of Four Arrows' experiences and writing is a complex venture, to say the least. The new book is quite a wild ride and I have learned a good deal from the experience of writing my first biography. I have also been continually inspired by Four Arrows' life and work. I find it a refreshing critique of the mainstream and Western history and current globalization problematics as well as the common ways we understand Fear and courage (i.e., fear management/education). He brings unique combinations of life-experience and professional study together. Fear management/education is truly going to get an up-graded booster from his work, particularly his unique notion of becoming a "connoisseur of Fear" [9] and CAT-FAWN. So, let me give you a quick sense of CAT-FAWN, without all the details of his original vision and the 15 years it took to finalize the theory/praxis. I preface this explanation as not the exact way Four Arrows may describe it, and I am an admitted total amateur in CAT-FAWN practice and/or in hypnotherapy overall. I do have a cognitive and intuitive understanding of it and I expect many of us readers will intuitively use CAT-FAWN technology more or less (usually, only in part) without even knowing it.

According to Four Arrows, CAT-FAWN is a metaphor, "a new theory of mind" and metacognitive mnemonic that tells of a predator (CAT) and its potential prey (FAWN) operating with the joint (dialectic) bonding of a hyphenated form; this indicates a basic integration of opposites in a complementarity--the latter, being a foundational principle of the Indigenous worldview (and harmony) as he has written about. The CAT portion stands literally for Concentration Activated Transformation. This refers to a heightened state of consciousness/awareness, which can be induced by many stimuli (situations), for e.g., meditation, dreaming, and/or a shock, etc.).

Fear (and/or trauma) is a big cause of CAT as well. Because of his long training as a hypnotherapist, Four Arrows (like the Indigenous Peoples of the 'old ways' in pre-point of departure times, especially) knows that when people are in CAT they are in a light-to-heavy "trance." At this time, the human brain (which includes other-than-humans as well) is hard-wired to attend with extra-sensory awareness to the subtle and gestalt realities of one's self and surroundings and does so initially, virtually unconsciously. It's a healthy preparatory state of action, for e.g. fight-flight reaction among others--all intended for good Defense Intelligence operations [10] and ultimately survival strategies if needed. Instinct and primal awareness are core to CAT and so is hypnosis and/or "trance-based learning" (Four Arrows' latest label for this phenomena). We are heightened for (transformative) learning in CAT.

The problem, Four Arrows notes, is when we enter a CAT state without noticing or knowing we are so, and what is causing it.Thus, if largely unconscious to CAT we are highly susceptible to "inputs" from the environment that may condition us, that is hypnotize us and implant "messages" that are harmful to us. These trance-based learned messages, even if unconscious and subliminal, are deeply memorized and held in the nervous system, so goes the theory of hypnosis. The quick example, is when a parent first scares a child, say by yelling at them unexpectedly with anger, creating a CAT in the child, and then tells the child they are stupid. It is unfortunately so common. We also have the equivalent of this fear-based conditioned (trance-based) learning happening in societies as a whole, e.g., the media showing images of the 9/11 towers being on fire and collapsing and so on. Then media and presidents give "messages" (e.g., propaganda) when we are in shock state--this is now a cultural trance. Messages driven into our systems by these means are very difficult to change and worse yet, the 'bad' messages continue to influence our mood and behavior for a life-time in some cases. There has to be a rehabilitation "program" of conscious de-hypnotizing going on, which involves first better managing the hypnotic messages implanted and, second, learning a de-hypnotizing technology (e.g., CAT-FAWN) that would offer a way to re-circuit the early learned messages. Also, new positive messages can be put in place when in a state of CAT. So, you would learn how to bring about CAT and/or how to recognize it when it occurs spontaneously in daily life. 

Remember, in this teaching by Four Arrows' on CAT-FAWN, there is both new scientific information, clinical knowledge and ancient Indigenous wisdom combined. Again, with limited space in this brief summary, let's move on to the other half of the "formula"--FAWN. Literally, F = Fear, A = Authority, W = Word(s) (and music) and N = Nature. This stands for what Indigenous Peoples of the 'old ways' always knew were "four major forces" that shape our lives, for good or ill (depending on our awareness and management of them). Fear is taken as very primal in both inducing CAT and joining with CAT (e.g., CAT-Fear) as a powerful two-some able to bring about "courage" as a virtue (for e.g.) or to bring about "panic" and "irrationality" as a vice (for e.g.). Great character/values are built on the former, and shabby destructive values built on the latter. To reach our highest human potential(s) one has to learn to manage CAT-Fear well--without doing so, this can undermine all the good ways of the other three major forces. Authority is very powerful because it can use Words (for e.g.) to hypnotize. Humans, as a social species, are particularly hard-wired through evolution to "follow" authority (dominant) individuals, groups, organizations, nations, ideologies. So, one has to be very aware when in CAT of their relationships going on via CAT-Authority and CAT-Word.

The last of the major forces of the de-hypnotizing technology is most foundational to the entire CAT-FAW complex, and I prefer to write this formula (theory) as CAT-FAW/N. Which is saying that the common denominator and most influential factor is N = Nature [11]. It is the most benign of the forces. I won't go into all those reasons but many of us know how powerful it can be to connect with Nature when we are "off-center" or "hurting" and or "terrified" by the human world. The Natural world, in general, is our "Mother" (Source) for earthlings. Today some groups of modern people know this, as well as the Indigenous Peoples of this planet that have lived in relative harmony with Nature for 99% of human evolution, which is the basic premise of Four Arrows' theory and work overall. 

The summary is, we are easily hypnotized, and when FAWN are utilized in 'good' (positive) ways for recovery, healing, transformation, then we grow and mature as healthy and sane humans. When FAWN are made meaning of and utilized in 'bad' (negative) destructive ways for control, order, manipulation tactics etc., then we shrink and stay immature and very dubious creatures with seemingly only self-centered interests and a relative floating and undependable moral compass. Four Arrows knows we can do better than fall "victim" to hypnotic trance-based learning of ill-intent especially. We may get "caught" but then catch ourselves, and use the CAT-FAWN mnemonic to recall what we need to do to unravel any potential destructive hypnosis going on, consciously or otherwise. It is not paranoid, I don't think, nor does Four Arrows, to assume that most leaders of the Dominant worldview already well-know how to control and manipulate by creating CAT and using FAWN negatively with it (e.g., propaganda).

We now have the de-hypnotizing technology in CAT-FAWN to make our own history, to decolonize and de-hypnotize our minds! The first step, is to realize this may be a good thing to try to learn and implement. Believe you me, both Four Arrows and i know, people often "get it" how CAT-FAWN works more or less, but there are massive programs in place in the mind and culture-at-large (e.g., modern Western societies) that resist learning this technology. Personally, I know how many years I resisted (unconsciously) learning what Four Arrows was teaching in CAT-FAWN Connection. I mean years, and that's a confession that comes from one who is deeply interested in fear management/education and I knew F stood for Fear in his formula. Let it be a lesson...


1. "Fearanalysis" is a methodology I have been working with since the mid-1990s. For more details on its basic composition see for e.g., Fisher, R. M. (2012). Fearanalysis: A first guidebook. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute; also, an upcoming book is underway A general introduction to fearanalysis: Putting the culture of fear and terror on the couch.

2. He has carefully researched Indigenous scholarship, lived and worked with Indigenous communities, practiced sacred rites with Indigenous communities (e.g., Sun Dance) and has dialogued on this contentious issue: who has the right to claim "Indigeneity" and/or even if that is a term that ought to be used? He has many supporters in Red and White (and Mixed) camps--and, some distractors against his approach. Basically his understanding of "primal awareness" is core to Indigeneity, and if we all track back far enough we'll find our Indigeneity connections (primal awareness as "instincts")--so, in that generic sense, we are all Indigenous.That said, he (like myself) is very respectful of the distinct Indigenous cultures and their value and in no way does he wish to 'speak for them' and/or collapse their histories, lives and teachings into only one summative functional generalization of Indigeneity or Indigenous. See any of his recent books in which he directly address these issues and his current stance.

3. For e.g., see Four Arrows (aka Jacobs, D. T.) (with England-Aytes, K., Cajete, G., Fisher, R. M., Mann, B. A., McGaa, E., and Sorensen, M.) (2013). Teaching truly: A curriculum to Indigenize mainstream education. New York: Routledge.

4. See Fisher, R. M. (2017). Critical philosophy, theory and pedagogy need an upgrade. FM ning April 11, 2017.

5. Four Arrows (aka Jacobs, D. T.) (2016). Point of departure: Returning to a more authentic worldview for education and survival. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing

6. Four Arrows arrived at this finding in a sacred initiation process over many years. His primary teacher was Augustin Ramos, a 104 yr old Raramuri shaman and other Tarahumara spiritual leaders and/or shamans that Four Arrows met during his dissertation research in remote Mexico have passed on a lineage teaching of which is sacred (see Jacobs, 1998) and is not to be only taken as some invention of Four Arrows or anyone else. I take this teaching and responsibility for it as an ancestral lineage of which is not merely a secular theory/praxis. In this sense I acknowledge the ancestors and the privilege it is for me to work with this lineage Four Arrows has shared so intimately with me over the years.

7. I appreciated Dr. Barbara Bickel for discussions on Four Arrows work, where she coined this term in regard to Four Arrows' work. See also a book review of Four Arrows' latest book Bickel, B. (20

8. For e.g., see his first major book gives the best description: Jacbos, D. T. (1998). Primal Awareness: A true story of survival, transformation, and awakening with the Raramuri shamans of Mexico. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions; see also his latest book Four Arrows (2016); see also Fisher, R. M. (2016). Four Arrows: His philosophy, theory, praxis and pedagogy. Technical Paper No. 62. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. 

9. Originally Sam Keen coined this word and Four Arrows had talked with Keen back in the 1990s and has since modified Keen's conceptualization to include an Indigeneous-based perspective where we learn to be connoisseurs of Fear from our ancient ancestors (living and non-living, human and other-than-human).

10. See my own writing on Defense Intelligence (in relation to Fear and fear management/education and fear management systems theory) in Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

11. Recently, Four Arrows wrote in regard to my re-write of the formula "you [Michael] are a co-developer of it [now] as far as I am concerned.... love it and appreciate it and grant the modification whole-heartedly" (per. comm., Jun. 10/17).

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