10th July 08:14
Who Is Your Tribe? (mysticism energy welfare history reality)
Related website: http://www.metaphorsforlife.com
The issue of "tribe" seems to be emerging as the next big spiritual
issue. Tribe is now gaining the same popularity ( and over use)
mysticism did a few years ago -- and its often used just as
One's "tribe" is not one's friends -- though one's friends
may be part of one's tribe. It's not one's family -- though one's
nuclear or extended family may be part of the tribe. It's not one's
professional association -- though members of a professional
association (like the AMA, the Bar Association, the National Fire
Fighter's Union, etc.) might be part of the tribe.
The fact is, in today's modern, technology laden, economically
complex, flatland world, the "tribe" has become equally complex. Yet,
for the term to have any meaning at all as a spiritual Truth (the
focus of which is the first chakra), our modern "tribe" must fulfill
the symbolic roles that spiritual Truth demands.
To begin to decipher just who your modern tribe really is, we first
have to understand its function, both biologically and
spirtitually. The easiest way to do that is to look at a simplified,
"generic" tribal structure:
A Generic Tribe
Originally one's tribe was made up of collections of extended
family units. Five, ten, fif**** or more children, parents,
grandparents, and great-grandparents (or the equivalent thereof if, as
in much of ancient Polynesia, family units as we understand them were
not part of the culture) banded together into a single cohesive unit
that worked together to insure the health and welfare of all. Women
looked after each others' children; fathers fought and died for each
others' sons and daughters. Leaders made sure all tasks were completed
properly; authority figures kept the tribe on track; organizers
attended to every detail; and members applied their gifts and talents
to the good of the whole.
The idea that a tribal member might go without having their needs
met was abhorrent. All gifts that were honored and put to use were
entitled to compensation -- i.e. tribal support.
This reciprocal relationship between individual members and the
tribe as a collective is at the heart of what "tribe"
is. The tribe provides the spiritual, physical, and yes even monetary
support (in money based societies) structure; in return each member
provides their spirtual, physical, and monetary support.
Obviously this is a very simple model of something that, in
reality, is far more complex and loaded with human imperfections. The
natural, healthy hierarchy of leadership that emerges in any group of
humans is sometimes replaced by a dominator hierarchy; members of the
tribe have personal issues, or issues with other members that intefere
with the needs of the tribe as a whole getting met. Some members'
gifts might not be valued, or be less valued than some others', giving
rise to jealousy and resentment by those members. There seems no end
to the morass of very human problems that can and have been
experienced in the long history of the tribe.
Tribe in Modern Society
Up until the industrial revolution, the tribe grew with our
cultures, but the basic model outlined above was still
recognizable. In the countryside, where 80% of the population still
lived, the country village was each citizen's tribe, as Rhiannon Ryall
so quaintly describes in West Country Wicca. In the cities,
clubs and associations played much the same role. One might have to go
to an office to work, but tribal loyalty went to the club one spent
one's off work time with.
Then came the industrial revolution, and with it a whole new set of
challenges. Radio replaced the village or club for
socializing. Families now stayed home, ears glued to the radio; later,
TV would take over. The noisy automobile forced houses back from the
streets, so it was no longer possible to wave and chat with passers by
as they clopped along on their horses or in their carriages. As roads,
railways, and eventually air travel increased individual mobility, the
extended family slowly gave way to the nuclear family. Then, toward
the middle of the 20th century, even that began to fragment. Not only
were the next door neighbors strangers, the person in the next chair,
with whom we watched TV every night also became a stranger. It has
been estimated that 95% of families spend 80% of their leisure time
watching TV. In many homes, the set is on 24 hours a day, seven days a
week -- a de facto member of the family.
The physically localized social unit fractured; the fragmentation
caused divorce rates to rise, and a whole new set of problems to
emerge among children.
In the confusion, respect for authority plummeted. And as it
dropped, because authoritative systems are an endemic part of all
life, the yearning for respect and credibility sky rocketed. Modern
society has become, on the one hand, addicted to its ever-growing
litany of alphabet soup: credentials, licenses, certifications, and
diplomas in its attempt to address that natural yearning for
authority, and to replace the word of mouth credibility tribe once
provided; while on the other its distaste for those
"authoritarian standards" keeps pushing the bar to gain
those credentials and diplomas lower and lower. Today half of all high
school graduates are functionaly illiterate, according to one
survey. And one does not have to read many recently published doctoral
Where's The Tribe?
So where's the tribe in this morass of modernity? Many say it no
longer exists because it's no longer needed. But "tribe" is
an archetypal energy that cannot be so easily dismissed. It's there,
though it's now ignored, actively criticized, or misunderstood -- even by
experts. The result is the near epidemic rate of mental illnesses such
as multiple personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder,
depression, and destructive addictions such as drugs and alcoholism;
not to mention family dysfunctions such as the divorce rate, child and
spousal abuse. Misunderstanding and ignorance of the tribal archetype
is also at root cause for the widespread misanthropic view of
authority, because order and structure are two of the primary
functions filled by the tribal archetype.
So just where is the tribe? The largest sense of tribe most people
can sustain is national identity, that loyalty we feel to flag and
country. The fierce pride we feel when we hear the national anthem
played; when "our team" wins gold in the Olympics, even
though we've never met even one member of "the
team". They're compatriots, one of us, they hold our flag high
and stand stock straight as the national anthem is played before
millions, so they are "ours".
But there is a more immediate tribe as well, one that is of more
concern to us right now. The immediate tribe is made up of the people
you do know, probably fairly intimately. They're the ones you
choose to "hang out with" when you're not at work (or maybe
when you are); they're the ones you plan parties and outings with;
they're the ones who turn to you for help; and the ones you turn to
when you need help at 2 am, because you know they won't be
upset. They're the ones whose authority and opinions you respect. They
provide you a much needed sense of order and structure in today's
crazy, modern world; and in return you provide order and structure to
It's probably not a group of people you even chose
consciously. Because tribe is an archetype, it must exist in some form
or another, easily or uneasily in the current social structure. It may
be the extended biological family, it may be a group of friends; it
may be co-workers; it may be fellow church, coven, or circle members;
it could be folks you share a hobby interest with. It might even be
your bar buddies. It is not necessarily your blood kin or your friends
or those you may like to think of as your tribe.
In the tribal identification game, actions speak louder than words
or fantasies. You might claim your church is your tribe, but if you
spend five nights a week at your gaming group and only one day a week
with fellow congregants (and that during Sunday service), guess what?
Your gaming group is your tribe, not your church group. To
double check that, think about who is more likely to call you for help
-- or who you're more likely to call. Is it Joe from church or
Sally with whom you've now attended three gaming conventions?
Reflections In The Mirror
Identifying your tribe is important because your tribe can tell you
a lot about yourself. An honest look at your present tribe will tell
you how you fit into that tribe and provide a reflection of who you
are right now, and where you are in your path work:
- Are you the group's leader?
- Are you "a member of the pack," doing the work, but
never taking charge?
- Maybe you're still the learner.
- Are you the performer, instantly "on camera" when
you're around your tribe?
- Do you always have to be the center of attention? "The bride
at every wedding and corpse at every funeral?"
- Perhaps you have a profound effect from the background, just
because you are who you are.
- Maybe you're the volunteer, always eager to help out.
However you fit in and interact with those that make up your tribe,
it is one of the most accurate statements of who you are right now.
And if you can be honest with yourself, you can learn a lot about how
much you've grown, and where you need to grow, by paying attention to
how you interact with the other members of your tribe.
The other half of the equation is what your tribe does with
itself. Just as your interactions with the people that make up your
tribe are important, the primary purpose of your tribe's existence
says a lot about what you consider important and the experiences you
seek out. From camping to sewing, from sports to cooking, from the
board room to the bedroom; there are no rights or wrongs, no goods and
bads; what is important is to note the activity and the sense of
purpose you gain from participating in it. Then, and only then, can
you make a decision about whether it is an accurate statement of who
you are, and who you wish to become.
If you discover you're conflicted about your tribe, you're not
alone. Now-a-days it's hardly uncommon to claim as your tribe a group
that really isn't. It's also not uncommon to feel guilty for spending
so much time (and money) engaged in the activities of the tribe,
especially if those activities are not considered socially important
or acceptable, or if your tribe isn't supporting you and your work --
a problem very common for those in spiritual service outside of
Unfortunately, tribal membership can be neither changed nor
transformed if the existence of it isn't acknowledged in the first
place. And once acknowledged, it must then be accepted. To paraphrase
a good many teachers: In order to get where you're going you must
first be where you are.
If your tribe is your bar buddies, and membership in that tribe is
about to explode your marriage, acknowleding the problem to your
spouse is a good first step in both saving the marriage and putting
you in a place to begin to step away from that tribe.
Even an acknowledged tribe can become problematic when you've
outgrown it. You pull away a bit (or they do), become bored, and yet
all too often get ****ed back in. Habits of word and action snap you
right back into the tribal routine. But the incongruence is still
there, and gnaws like an itch that can't be scratched.
This can be a deadly trap for those who take their spiritual growth
seriously. Out growing the tribe, leaving them behind and discovering
a new tribe, is an essential part of growth. One that takes courage,
discipline, and sometimes a willingness to jump into the void, not
knowing what's going to come next. But jump you must, or that tribe
will become the concrete that arrests your spiritual development until
death finally forces you to move on.
So who is your tribe? What do they say about you? Are they
propelling you forward in your evolutionary path, or holding you back?
Dare to look in the mirror they represent.
Rev. Dr. Michael Matson is an author and mystic who teaches and counsels
extensively on our modern orthodoxies and the process of recovering
from fundamentalism, and is is currently writing a book on the
subject. You can learn more about his work by visiting
http://www.metaphorsforlife.com/RF041-event.php. If you'd like more
information on fundamentalism and our modern orthodoxies, send an
email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.