An Excerpt From Anatomy Of The Spirit by Caroline Myss
“David Chetlahe Paladin (his real name) shared his personal history with me in 1985; he passed away in 1986. It is a testimony to the human potential to achieve a quality of internal power that defies the limitations of physical matter. When I met him, he radiated a quality of empowerment that was rare, and I had to know how he had achieved what so many people were seeking to achieve. David was one of my finest teachers, a person who mastered the sacred truth Honor One Another and who fully transmitted to others the energy of the sefirah of Yesod and the sacrament of communion.
David was a Navajo Indian who grew up on a reservation during the 1920s and 1930s. By the time he was eleven, he was an alcoholic. He left the reservation in this mid-teens, wandered around for a few months, then got a job on a merchant marine ship. He was only fifteen but passed himself off as sixteen.
On board ship, he became friends with a young German and another young Native American. Together they traveled to ports of call throughout the Pacific Ocean. As a hobby, David took up sketching. One subject he sketched was the bunkers that the Japanese were building on the various islands in the South Seas. The year was 1941.
David’s bunker drawings eventually fell into the hands of the American military. When he was drafted into military service, he assumed that he would continue his work as an artist. Instead, he became part of a secret operation against the Nazis. The Army had enlisted Navajo and other Native Americans for a spy network. The operatives were sent behind enemy lines and transmitted information back to the main base of military operations in Europe. Because all radio transmissions could be intercepted, Native American languages were used to guarantee that a message picked up could not be interpreted.
While David was behind enemy lines, he was caught by a group of Nazi soldiers. The Nazis tortured him by, among other things, nailing his feet to the floor and then forcing him to stand for days in that condition. After surviving that horror, David was sent to an extermination camp because he was “of a lesser race.” While he was being shoved into a train car, he felt a rifle push him in the ribs, ordering him to move faster. He turned to face the Nazi soldier. It was the German fellow David had befriended on board the merchant marine ship.
David’s German friend made arrangements for David to be transferred to a prisoner of war camp, where he spent the remaining years of the war. When the camps were liberated, American soldiers found David unconscious and dying. Transported to the United States, David spent two and a half years in a coma in a military hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan. When he finally came out of the coma, his body was so weakened from his prison camp experiences that he could not walk. He was fitted for heavy leg braces and, using crutches, he could drag himself short distances.
David made up his mind to return to his reservation, say a last good-bye to his people, then enter a veterans’ hospital and stay there for the rest of his life. When he arrived at the reservation, his family and friends were horrified at what had become of him. The gathered together and held council to figure out how to help him. After the council meeting the elders approached David, yanked the braces off his legs, tied a rope around his waist, and threw him into deep water. “David, call your spirit back,” they commanded. “Your spirit is no longer in your body. If you can’t call your spirit back, we will let you go. No one can live without his spirit. Your spirit is your power.”
“Calling his spirit back,” David told me, was the most difficult task he ever had to undertake. “It was more difficult than enduring having my feet nailed to the floor. I saw the faces of those Nazi soldiers. I lived through all those months in the prison camp. I knew that I had to release my anger and hatred. I could barely keep myself from drowning, but I prayed to let the anger out of my body. That’s all I prayed, and my prayers were answered.”
David recovered the full use of his legs and went on to become a shaman, a Christian minister, and a healer. He also returned to his drawing and earned a reputation as a highly talented artist.
David Chetlahe Paladin radiated a quality of power that felt like grace itself. Having survived a confrontation with the darkest side of power, he transcended that darkness and spent the rest of his life healing and inspiring people to “call back their power” from experiences that drain the life-force from their bodies.”