Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows

The True Story of an Indigenous-Based Social Transformer

by R. Michael Fisher (Author)
©2018 Textbook XXII, 338 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 525


In times of extreme cascading global crises facing humanity, all responsible humans need to re-evaluate the dominant worldview that has brought us to this point of facing extinction. As a species we need to relearn the "good" ways from our greatest allies in Nature and from Indigenous cultures that lived in relative harmony with Nature. Equally, we need to learn the best ways to think critically and act on the holistic understanding that may guide us beyond our individual and collective trance and illusions cast forth like chains upon modern societies through elites who manipulate fear.
Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows offers a unique strong "medicine" for the reconstruction of a healthy, sane, and sustainable future for all. Utilizing the form of an intellectual biography of Four Arrows (aka Dr. Don Trent Jacobs) and his daring activist life and true teaching stories, the author creates a powerful adventure into the firey philosophy, activism, and emancipatory inspirations of one of the world’s great visionary prophetic educators and social transformers. Through a number of unique experiences, including firefighting, white-water kayaking, wild horse training, world-class athletic competitions, and counter-cultural activism, Four Arrows has become a connoisseur of fear and courage. This book shows how he walks a universal ethical path of Fearlessness at a time when too many remain trapped by their fears.
Among other readers, high school teachers and post-secondary teachers across diverse disciplines will find great ideas, eliciting dialogues and study questions for students, who now face a globalizing world where they can take charge of the future via fearless engagement.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Opening Prayer
  • Table of Contents
  • Photographs and Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword: On Being a Warrior (Shirley R. Steinberg)
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • CAT-FAWN Connection: Fear Management Up-Graded
  • Evolution: Sense of History, Development and Progress
  • Transpersonal Lineage(s)
  • Suggestions on How to Engage with This Book
  • Notes
  • Part I. Fearless
  • 1. Fearless Waters Deep
  • Big Picture: What Road Shall We Take?
  • Big Picture: Extreme Challenges, Lessons, Solutions
  • Beginning Deep
  • “Wild Undertakings”
  • Notes
  • 2. “Walking a Path of Harmony”
  • Performing and Writing Fearless as Beyond
  • Performing Fearless Presence: The Peaceful Way
  • From Human Nature to “Wild” Nature: Finding the Best Teachers
  • Four Arrows’ Explicit Uses of “Fearless”
  • “Outlaw” Scholar-Activist at the Extreme
  • Notes
  • 3. Radicalization of a Moralist
  • Peace and War: Wearing a “Velvet Glove”
  • Life-Transforming Event(s) and Choices
  • Who I Am(?)
  • Notes
  • Part I Study Questions and Practices
  • Part II. Fearlessness
  • 4. CAT-Nature as (Com)passionate Gifting
  • Lunar (and Feminine) Side of Fearlessness
  • “Loving Fearlessness”
  • A Germane Truth of the 21st Century Context: The Anthropocene
  • Sanctuary of the Heart and Soul of Nature
  • Fear Management 101: Biophilia and the Feminine Reconstruction
  • Notes
  • 5. Dancing in/with the Spirit of Fearlessness
  • The 2027 Visionary Conference on Fearlessness
  • Four Arrows’ Uses and Discourse(s) of “Fearlessness”
  • Notes
  • Part II Study Questions and Practices
  • Interlude
  • Part III. Courage(ous)
  • 6. Radical Honesty: Harnessing the Magic of Fear
  • Protecting the “Connoisseur of Fear” Conception
  • Olympic Bound: Fencing on the Edge
  • A Certain “Crazy”: Practicing Radical Honesty
  • Sanity: Riding “Windhorse”
  • Notes
  • 7. Befriending the “Gift of Fear”
  • What Is Physical Courage?
  • Notes
  • Part III Study Questions and Practices
  • Part IV. Brave(ry)
  • 8. The Bronco and the Boat
  • Brave Arising
  • Making Brave(s) Not War
  • Notes
  • Part IV Study Questions and Practices
  • Epilogue by Four Arrows
  • Make the Best of It
  • Appendix: The CAT-FAWN Model (adapted from Jacobs, 1998)
  • Index
  • Series index

| xi →

Image 1. Five-years-old, riding high on stuffed horse

Image 2. Ten-years-old, with dad and dog

Image 3. Eighteen-years-old, with dad, grandfather, and friend

Image 4. Twenty-two-years-old, in US Marine Corps uniform

Image 5. With nine-year-old daughter with horse in Ride & Tie Race

Image 6. With fifteen-year-old grandson

Image 7. With Corazon

Image 8. Mom on horse

Image 9. Hard Kayaking in Clavey Falls

Image 10. With Paco

Image 11. Sea Kayaking

Image 12. With His Wife

Image 13. Competing in World Champion Old Time Piano Event

Image 14. With Augustin Ramos

Image 15. Assisting the Water Protectors from a car at Standing Rock, ND

  Appendix. CAT-FAWN Connection (Original Model)

| xiii →

I offer appreciation to my life-partner, Barbara Bickel, for traveling with me intimately for over a quarter of a century, providing at times that necessary hard-to-hear feedback on my writing and excesses. I appreciate myself for both listening and rebelling. I am grateful to the trust and companionship Four Arrows has offered so that I could complete this book and remain sane. I thank Robert Sean Lewis (aka Rafiq) and Jack Miller for being willing agents, respectively for sharing an “inside” story on Four Arrows and exploring fear in several vivacious dialogues, and for both participating in my fictional account of them herein. Greg Wendt offered the first feedback on the first draft of the first ragged chapter and has continued to be a friend and colleague I treasure from my time living in the mid-west USA. To my UK ally, Dr. Terry Biddington, his invaluable detailed critical feedback on an early draft made this book a lot easier to read. Thanks to Dr. Aluli Manu Meyer for the Indigenous-based intriguing epistemological discussions on email and to Bea Jacobs (Four Arrows’ wife) for the beautiful photos, some of which made it into the book. I acknowledge the support of a dwelling offered graciously by Al and Laura Santos in Calgary for me to complete the writing and final editing of this book.

It is with humble gratitude I honor the Opening Prayer by White Standing Buffalo, bringing that important transpersonal perspective to the energies vibrating ← xiii | xiv → in this book. And thanks to the editorial staff at Peter Lang and, especially, the strength of conviction carried by professor Shirley R. Steinberg who knew when to push and when to step back in nurturing this project along.

My acknowledgments include the following authors and publishers for permission to reprint excerpts and/or interviews:

Don Trent Jacobs for excerpts from Primal Awareness: A True Story of Survival, Transformation, and Awakening with the Rarámuri Shamans of Mexico, Inner Traditions, ©1998 by Don Trent Jacobs

Don Trent Jacobs for quotes on the front and back covers by Daniel Hays and Sam Keen respectively from Primal Awareness: A True Story of Survival, Transformation, and Awakening with the Rarámuri Shamans of Mexico, Inner Traditions, ©1998 by Don Trent Jacobs

Don Trent Jacobs for reprinting his CAT-FAWN model (p. 236) from Primal Awareness: A True Story of Survival, Transformation, and Awakening with the Rarámuri Shamans of Mexico, Inner Traditions, ©1998 by Don Trent Jacobs

Don Trent Jacobs for excerpts from Last Song of the Whales, including reprinting the poem “The Escape of Burlo Dundee,” Savant Books, ©2010 by Four Arrows

Terry Biddington, Aluli Manu Meyer, and Robert Sean Lewis (Rafiq) and Four Arrows for permission to publish our email interviews.

| xv →

On Being a Warrior


While waiting to be introduced to a graduating class of high school students in Bedford Stuyvesant (Bed Stuy), New York (2004), Joe L. Kincheloe abruptly changed his speech. He later told me that he understood, at that moment, the enormity of the task that each young individual had completed. This was no ordinary convocation, it was a celebration of triumph over an unsurmountable adversity: successful completion within a New York SUR school (School Under Review). With graduation rates poised well below 40%, Joe understood that he was about to address warriors. He had witnessed the culmination of the challenges required by these students in order for them to conquer their twelve years of an institutionally-employed curriculum created to defeat them. Indeed, they were warriors.

Formulating the notion of intellectual warrior, Joe acknowledged the inherent battles that are fought within a framework considered normal by most educators: a framework of ability grouping, of testing and measurement, and of classroom management. Becoming a warrior in this sense, insists on a critical social and cultural awareness, which understands the battle and intuitively engages in a hermeneutic reading of the necessary conditions of remaining human. With this volume, Michael has gathered us to commune with the life and work of a warrior, Wahinkpe Topa, Four Arrows. In considering Four Arrows, we are introduced to a ← xv | xv → warrior. Influenced by the convergence of cultural diversity, inspired by the practice of fearlessness, we meet a combatant who takes up the good fight, the worthwhile battle by identifying struggles ignored and misunderstood. The campaigns Four Arrows takes on require victories often undetected and unannounced.

The work of Four Arrows has not been determined by the trendy, fashionable ways of being often witnessed within academic do-gooding. Our field is barraged by phrases and recipes taken up and inflated: social justice, environmental consciousness, even, (and I offer this with trepidation) critical pedagogy. Shallow interpretations, curriculum de jour, methods employed, matrices, templates, models, and taxonomies birthed … as educators we are subject to becoming enchanted with the non-essential. Our ability to get down, engage the battle in authentic and sustainable ways is usurped by the loud unimportance of what doesn’t matter. By bringing us together to connect with Four Arrows and his Indigenous-based worldview, R. Michael Fisher has brought us closer to a difficult authenticity and engagement.

Four Arrows is a warrior, and yet, remains in the reality of becoming a warrior. A man of humility, intellect, and humor, his essence is committed to continually searching, finding, and re-searching. Without self-importance, this soul reflects his endeavors as he remains in the salt mines of the academy. In his work, he is determined to engage and aggress against the wrong, the misunderstood, the frenzied, and the inequitable. Michael has introduced us to Four Arrows, accompanying us to the threshold of the path of fearlessness, and the core work of a warrior. He has enabled us to become privy to extraordinary ideas written by a man who would insist, in absolute terms, that he is but ordinary.

Shirley R. Steinberg
Barcelona, Spain

| xvii →

I first learned of Four Arrows (aka Dr. Don Trent Jacobs) as a teacher, scholar and writer when he approached me in an email in early 2007. He had read some of my dissertation (2003) and asked if I wanted to submit a short piece for a chapter in his upcoming anthology The Authentic Dissertation (2008). That experience was a positive academic collaboration where I learned more about him. Around 2010, after my initial reading of some of his published work, he mentioned a controversial paper he had written on 9/11 and the neglect of North American educational institutions to respond to it with critical reflection; including truthing-out the alternative evidence to the “official” US government story of what happened. He had completed the paper with co-author Rafiq (aka Robert Sean Lewis) but was having no luck with educational journals. I recommended to him a Pakistani journal of critical inquiry of which I had an article on pedagogy of fearlessness accepted for its next issue. Reflecting a sort of kinship in our approaches, that journal published his piece along with mine in 2011.

Thereafter, I began to seriously study Four Arrows’ work, in particular, his Indigenous perspective on fear management and transformation. I began to correspond more frequently. Graciously, he has kept up a dialogue with me since. At one point I told him I had not found any academics, especially in the field of education, who had published as much and thought as deeply about fear as he ← xvii | xviii → has. He was happy to assist me when I offered to write an intellectual biography on his life and work. I wanted to know what our synthesis of ideas would produce regarding an Indigenous-based notion of “fearless engagement.”

Because I had specialized in the transdisciplinary study of fear and fearlessness for two decades before encountering Four Arrows, it was inevitable this lens would influence my reading of his life and work. This book is a product of that lens. Like Four Arrows, I am intrigued with a deep critical analysis of the “worldview” that is inculcating the dominant ways that most people and societies operate in the modern and postmodern era. I really felt a passion for what I was reading in Four Arrows’ publications and his life story—especially, his learning from Indigenous Peoples. The universal Indigenous worldview he wrote of became a great source for re-visioning the current hegemonic worldview that is leading the world into great cascading ecological and social crises.

I want to briefly mention our collaboration. This is my first biography and it is not a normal one because of my specialist research background interweaving with Four Arrows’ life and writing about courage and fearlessness. The overall intention was to write it with attention to how Four Arrows’ intellectual ideas have taken shape over a lifetime. The priority was to capture his growth as a creative, original and controversial thinker. This includes his growth as an ethical human being whose attitudes and teaching are greatly informed by his critical ideas. At one point, it occurred to me to label him an ecophilosopher, which he liked, though he hadn’t previously thought of himself that way. To forewarn readers, both of us are quite philosophical-types though we definitely work to keep that interest grounded in the world too.

This intellectual biography is not only about things intellectual but is full of emotional and spiritual stories based on true experiences in his life, with real physical and psychological joys and sorrows. I love how he has been very candid in sharing some of the most intimate aspects of his life throughout the book project. He reveals his ecstasy and his bruises. I appreciate that honesty and vulnerability—two core features of what I call walking the “path of fearlessness.”

As in all projects of closely attending to the material in a book, we had our challenges. At times, we were psychically in synch with amazing magical and synergizing occurrences taking place between us. At other times, we were at odds over what now seem, for the most part, such minor things. The overall story arc in the book was continually informed by his past but also by the everyday moment-to-moment unfolding events of his life and our correspondence.

During the two-year research time for this book, we met once during a conference in Indiana. That is also where Four Arrows introduced me to his friend ← xviii | xix → and mentor White Standing Buffalo (aka Tom McCallum), who wrote the Opening Prayer for this book. Four Arrows and I corresponded by email, made a few phone calls and one Skype session, all which filled in the gaps between what I was viewing on YouTube videos and/or reading in his many publications since the mid-1970s when he first published seriously.

The most challenging part for me was keeping up with him. I know I am not the only person to say this about having a relationship with Four Arrows. He’s like a whirlwind at times and a bit chaotic. With strong personalities, we would miscommunicate on email at times. Yet, we worked through the conflict of differences and embraced our similarities. And in the end both of us came out more insightful of our own pre-assumptions, errors and impulsivities to judge too quickly. We grew to be brothers in the process of acknowledging our differences. I learned better how to enter respectful conflict and find an authentic sense of “community” with him through that process—a rare and treasured experience for me.

The contents in this book are both true and at times “wild.” Four Arrows contributed the true stories of his life and I wove the interpretive, sometimes wild speculative theories (my own stories) in and around his core teachings. He read each chapter as I wrote it and confirmed it was accurate, although he would not necessarily agree with everything I developed in my own style.

For my part, I also did not agree with all of his ideas or style he brings to his life and work—some of these differences I articulate in the book. However, overall my intent was not to be a critic but a biographer. The method was to take his Indigenous-based ecophilosophy and engage it in reflection with my own philosophy. The goal was to introduce his work, perhaps in a fresh way, which would help more and diverse kinds of people understand it and its value.

Clearly, I am not some neutral biographer. Four Arrows knew that from the start. I put a whole lot more of myself into this biography because of the fearlessness lens I brought to it as an expert in this area for many years. Four Arrows gave me full reins to write what I wanted as long as I didn’t mess around with “facts” of historical biographical truth.

This book is exciting to release to the world. May it become an integral part of a critical and emancipatory holistic curriculum for the 21st century. Such progressive ideas and ethical vision receive far too little attention today in an era of increasing conservative educational philosophy in our schooling systems and public life in general. To view the four min. book video trailer go to: https://vimeo.com/265228513.

| 1 →

Be it courage as Maya Angelou suggested1 or fearlessness as the Bhagavad Gita promotes,2 both are highly valued in the work of Four Arrows (aka Dr. Don Trent Jacobs). Both sources, like Four Arrows, claim they are foundational as the primary virtues required before the other virtues can be developed or practiced well. They serve as potent universal criteria for assessing basic morality, health, maturity, sanity and sustainable humanity—now threatened, while situated in the deep cascading global crises of the 21st century. Yet, we modern humans suffer, at times near paralyzed by fear, because generally neither authentic courage nor Fearlessness as taught by Four Arrows are understood or nourished sufficiently by the vast majority.

Along comes a contemporary elder, who stands out in critical consciousness, adding a call for a revised worldview and virtue-foundation, adding the keenest observational skills of a critical Indigenous-based educator, hypnotherapist and social reformer/transformer. In particular circles—in the fields of critical theory, holistic and Indigenous education, worldview studies and moral/character education—Four Arrows is well-known3 and sought after as an inspirational leader and dynamic guest speaker at conferences around the world. He fervently teaches, “[I]t is time for people to break through their illusions.”4 An up-graded critical consciousness is required—similar to, yet expanding upon conscientização as the Latin American liberation educator Paulo Freire called it.5 ← 1 | 2 →

Not by any means a household name or recognized by most mainstream educators, professionals or academics, Four Arrows offers a unique holistic perspective on human potential, curriculum, and pedagogy as an alternative to the destructive path modern economic and technological-based societies are on. The path of Fearlessness he offers radically intervenes into the enslaving Fear-based6 hypnotic processes of everyday unconscious individual and cultural trance7 that plagues most societies today.

He recently concluded:

In my mind, this mass hypnosis syndrome, I now call Trance-based Learning [TBL] gone awry, is the only explanation that makes sense of how modern educated societies, especially, have rationalized their technologies of domination, their polluting of their own nest, and their addictions to ways of life that paradoxically destroy Life. My own vision of rehabilitation from this destructive path is that Fear and courage concepts are essential to understand as they drive learning and development in a “good way” or “bad way.” The insight of the CAT-FAWN connection from my near-death experience and spiritual vision in 1983 has grown to become a de-hypnotizing technology, a metacognitive tool that brings the unconsciousness of TBL to consciousness and ultimately to Fearlessness. Where people are able, they may now turn around from being victims of this colonizing of their minds to engage the world and its problems from a new standpoint or worldview—in a “good way”—as empowered learners and authentic transformers. This is the ethical core to all my environmental and social reform work. I offer an intentional transformation learning theory and critical praxis as an initiative to build a society and world that is able to resist and reconstruct current hegemonic fear-conditioning—the latter, which has unfortunately become “normal” socialization—a “culture of fear.”8

Four Arrows (Wahinkpe Topa) fully embodies the amiable, athletic, courageous and moral charm of a well-disciplined mid-Western American “good boy” with great potential from Missouri. Living his life moving freely between Mexico, Canada and the United States, he is anything but a typical American. Currently, professor in the School of Leadership Studies at Fielding Graduate University, California, with 16 years of service, he is anything but a typical academic. Having had many career tracks, often fired because he is a conscientious “whistleblower”9 and justice activist, his life is never boring. This non-typical personality and theme pervades all his other diverse activities in life.10

Author of 20+ books and some 200 hundred book chapters and/or articles, Four Arrows is a scholar and social transformer, preferring to call himself an Indigenous educator and activist always ready for change, risk and adventure. A life-long learner from the extremes, more than once he has put his life on the line for what he believes. The 15 true-life stories in Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows provide an intriguing ethical reflection on a man of principle never satisfied with ← 2 | 3 → the status quo. Yet, a complainer he is not. Creative engagement with the challenges of this world leaves little room for wallowing in the past over things broken, gone wrong or tragic. Although critical analysis is important, his instinct prefers corrective action to talking about problems. He leads a very busy life dedicated to the cause of protection of justice, rights, and encouragement of responsibilities within constructive reform and transformation.11 Ideally, he is guided by a vision that all may attain their highest human potential.

A giving soul by nature, Four Arrows works hard to that end. Walking his talk—on a path of integrity, sometimes self-sacrifice—is the only option for a life worth living. And, living the everyday, within the context of Western society’s predominant violent value-system and dominant worldview, pushes him to continually search for and facilitate spaces of nonviolence, peace, integrity, balance, harmony, learning, and healing sacred practices—a full-time occupation, via his stories as teachings (the Indigenous way) reveal.

Fearless Engagement is educational but not dogmatic, spiritual but not religious. In this intellectual biography, that defies the objectifying separation of intellect from body, heart, community, Nature from Culture and Spirit promoted in the “Dominant worldview,”12 Four Arrows is presented in his various attempts to unify these domains experientially, philosophically and theoretically. In particular, the eclectic nature of his “heroes” and “teachers” of lessons is nothing less than “wild.” It is this latter broad and deep open-minded Fearless standpoint13 for understanding that makes this truly a unique biography of fascinating relationships—for example, with the archetypal Trickster-teacher: Fear. Where else can you read about the unfolding of a social reformer’s life that is threaded together and interpreted throughout with Fear, in a “good way,” as the central attractor, motivator, teacher? Fear has been and still is an effective primal catalyst to practice the best of trance-based learning (TBL) and virtues like courage, humility, patience and generosity. This is an ancient Indigenous understanding of the wise and “old ways.” “It is the ultimate partnership,” Four Arrows wrote recently, “to marry Fear and Hypnosis” and produce a deep understanding needed for our times.14 He fears not Fear. Preferring not to run away from it, he moves toward and with Fear in order to learn as much as he possibly can about this great meta-motivational force in Nature. Desh Subba, founder of the “philosophy of fearism” wrote, “Wherever life exists … the main road is fear. It is the greatest road. All other paths of life [and their best philosophies] come to join the greatest road.”15

Beyond working with Fear, Four Arrows gifts the world with a vision that not only transforms his relationship to Fear but transforms his entire life. And likewise he has done so for many others who have studied with him in some form ← 3 | 4 → as students, clients, friends and allies. His great discovery is that of a new/ancient Indigenous-based approach to fear management/education and life in general, which he calls CAT-FAWN connection. It’s a “sort of formula for the main ingredients for living in accord with the Natural world”16 and what constitutes the spiritual path of Fearlessness.17


XXII, 338
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Vienna, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XXII, 338 pp., 15 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

R. Michael Fisher (Author)

R. Michael Fisher has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction and a masters of adult education from The University of British Columbia. He is the founder of the In Search of Fearlessness Project and Research Institute. Fisher is the author of hundreds of published articles, as well as book chapters and monographs, focusing on the topics of education, fear, and fearlessness. His two prior books are leading-edge explorations: The World’s Fearlessness Teachings (2010) and Philosophy of Fearism (2016).


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