The Balanced Rock (going inside)
This rock is not in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa. You can tell because the trees growing around it are not typical of the Kalahari region. This rock is in fact near the old settlement of Newman, southeast of Lake Placid, NY. It is called “The Balanced Rock,” for fairly obvious reasons; and, like most other such rocks, it draws its share of pilgrims. Nevertheless, if this rock actually were in the Kalahari Desert, the people who inhabit that region, the San people, upon whom Coca-Cola bottles occasionally fall from the sky, would tell you that the cracks and steps in the rock’s surface are places of ingress and egress for the spirit of the rock and for shamans who go inside the rock to communicate with said spirit. And they would tell you also that this is possible because the rock surface itself is a boundary between the human world and the spirit world, between the natural and the supernatural, or – if they could speak academicese – between conditioned reality and unconditioned reality.
If you were to ask them, the Shoshone and the Paiute peoples of eastern California and western Nevada, as well as the Algonquian people in Ontario, would say much the same thing; and to the Sami of Arctic Scandinavia, the San point of view would sound familiar, as it likely would also to the pre-Christian Scots and Irish.
“Well, those people must all be crazy,” we say. “Everybody knows there’s nothing inside a rock but more rock.”
Do we assume that a San or a Shoshone or a Sami has never broken a rock and seen that what’s on the inside looks pretty much like what’s on the outside? In religion, from the most archaic to the most recent, it is the unseen that is most important. So these people – whose religion informs every aspect of their lives – relate to the seen world in a way that fully acknowledges and honors the presence of unseen power, or poha (Shoshone). We can call that superstition, if we’re so inclined. We might fare better on this beautiful planet if we called it respect.
The Gods Must be Crazy, dir. and writ. Jamie Uys, CAT Films, 1980.
 Paul Devereux, The Sacred Place: the Ancient Origins of Holy and Mystical Sites (London, England: Cassell, 2000) p. 63-64.
 David S. Whitley, Following the Shaman’s Path: a Walking Guide to Little Petroglyph Canyon, Coso Range, California (Ridgecrest, CA: Maturango Museum, 1998) p. 24-27.
 Devereux p. 65.
 Devereux p. 78.
 Devereux p. 82-84.
 Whitley p. 3.