Saturday, September 11, 2004

Tribes, Individuals, and Visions

I don't have many visions, but I can talk about them.

A friend remarked that individuals seem to be
disappearing from our society. That's a subjective opinion
of course, but it's worth thinking about. Most younger
people seem to look in fashion magazines for clues about
what to wear and watch sitcoms for behavioural guidance.

Re individuals Joseph Campbell had a beautiful vision
of the three stages of spiritual development: 1. The family
is the child's world and God is the father (perhaps most
often the mother nowadays).

2. The tribe takes the family's place. It may be
anything: a choral group, a high school debating team, one's
church-- or state (like Texas), or nation (like America or
Chile). Of course many of us belong to a number of tribes.
The characteristic thing about the tribe according to
Campbell is that all positive affect is focused on the tribe
and all negative affect is directed at those outside.

3. The third stage might be called joining the
human race, or being an individual: our tribe has expanded
to include all humanity-- and perhaps even further to all
life forms or even rocks.

We might agree that most of us have lingered at the
tribal level. For example perhaps 80% of religious
practioners were born into the particular branch of
Christianity to which they belong-- and consider it the
best! They are at the tribal stage, and it may mean about as
much as the college football team they root for-- a fierce,
but not very thoughtful allegiance.

But when we look at a man like MM, we find an
individual, a man with the freedom to go on a spiritual
journey. He's willing to make a move, and put his treasure
where his heart is-- to follow his vision. Michael is an
individual. And behond that he's willing to share his
vision; he doesn't keep a low profile like most of us. (See
me for particulars).

William Blake said, I must create a system or be
enslaved by another man's, and did he ever! Like Blake
Michael has created a system and has shared it. Blake was
said to be a Bible soaked Protestant. The Bible was the
primary source of his visions, but through the eyes of the
platonists, the gnostics, the kaballah, the alchemists, the
bogomils and cathari, and a hundred other kinds of
interpreters. His visions included corrosive judgments on
the orthodox.

Of course behind Blake stood Jesus; his vision is
certainly worth considering; it came through Isaiah and
Plato: Jesus saw the kingdom of God in our hearts, the lion
lying down with the lamb, the conquest of love over hate.
That's a vision I can relate to, and though the future may
look ever so dark, I'm convinced that in due course the
vision of Jesus will become the reality we experience.

Golly, you guys are great! You have inspired in me these
tremendous thoughts-- well they seem tremendous to me!

Larry Clayton
My Hypertext Bible Commentary:

1 comment:

Marjorie said...

>>A fierce, but not necessarily thoughtful allegiance to the tribe...
I think you are very right about this. Its hard, though, because it is scary and painful to examine these beliefs -- why, you may find they aren't what you really believe after all and then where do you go? Once past the initial fear, however, I've found it incredibly liberating and enriching to learn that there is so much more that I had ever imagined.
Sometimes its hard to have patience with those who are stuck at the tribal level, but I guess I can find it within myself because its been a gift I've received from others -- thank you, Larry!