Our family of origin is our first tribe. It is our introduction into social engagement and it is stop number one in the formation of our worldview. Our tribe gives us community, identity, safety and strength in numbers. Our tribe also gives us distorted world views because it only promotes the view of the tribe. If we never leave this group, our contribution to the world will be greatly truncated. I think that is why faith systems, stories, poems and songs talk so much about growing up and leaving home (Genesis 12:1). We all must come of age and this happens when we are exposed to views beyond the tribe.
Tribal consciousness, like all stages, is powerful. The tribe is fearful and positions itself against new ideas because it knows that once we are free from these formative containers, our worldview enlarges like a repotted plant. Once we adopt truth beyond our tribe, re-assimilation is essentially impossible. We all leave the garden at some point (Genesis 3:23-24). This is what Jesus meant when he said you can’t put new wine into old wine skins (Mark 2:22). Transcending the tribe doesn’t mean we reject all aspects of the tribe. If we are moving into truth, then we include the truth of the tribe.
Spiritual maturity is impossible if we do not leave our tribe. Our soul, like a plant will become root bound in our formative container. This is why Jesus taught that no one could be his student (disciple) if they didn’t hate their family (Luke 14:26). This is not a directive to hate our family, but is speaking to that fact that spiritual growth will cause us to depart in many ways from those that formed us. We ultimately discover that the only way to love our tribe is to include it in the transformation process.
The tribal stage of consciousness is focused on what is best for the tribe, and sometimes out of necessity. Tribal consciousness is focused on survival. The homeless, the addict, refugees from a war zone, represent those focused on immediate needs. Tribal stage religions resemble the Kalahari bushmen who must appease the gods of sunlight, rain and the hunt if they are to survive.
A low-level consciousness based upon appeasement has crept into our world’s religions. God is depicted as distant, and easily angered, but since “he” is so powerful and we are desperately needy, we fearfully do whatever we can to keep a dangerous God happy. This is the basis of all religious practice both within and outside systems of faith. These types of fear based religious rituals are evidence of tribal stage consciousness and is seen in the worldview within many sacred texts.
Tribal consciousness is seen beyond the religious. Atheists are also stuck in the tribal phase. Anytime we enter into an I-thou relationship in employment, education, academics, athletics, or business, we employ tribal spirituality. Schmoozing the client is tribal behavior. Some acts of courtship, performances, superstitions and accomplishments are masking some aspect of appeasement.
The gravitational pull of the tribe is strong enough to cause many to stay. Due to the prevalence of this low rung consciousness, some will conclude this stage represents all that is true. It’s surprising how many defend a survival of the fittest mentality. Not surprising, religions and people in tribal levels are often violent and divide the world into us vs them.
For some of us, the fear tactics of tribal consciousness have lost their effect. We have intuited through our own loving relationships that appeasement is the lowest form of engagement and it never brings real intimacy. We won’t enter the marriage bed under threat and some of us would rather die than pretend. As a result, our roots push firmly against the tribal container that tells us that fear is the path to love. We question whether God loves us or is a torturer and it immediately marginalizes us from the tribe.
The story of the cross is so revolutionary because it is the ruin of appeasement. Without appeasement the tribe is transformed, and so are we. But what becomes of us once we enter the exile from our tribal consciousness? Next week I’ll show you where most of us end up.