Humans are tribal animals, and have been since before we were even humans. It’s very difficult for an individual to feel at peace if they do not also feel like they are part of a tribe who are watching their back. As this essay will examine, there are four major kinds of tribe, corresponding to the four feminine elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire.
The element of Earth corresponds to the soil, and reflects one fundamental kind of tribe: that which grows out of the soil together. This kind of tribe is that which occupies a particular geographical territory. The element of Water corresponds to blood, and reflects the other fundamental kind of tribe: that which is related by family relations. Roughly speaking, Earth can be described as neighbourhood and Water as family.
In a state of Nature, there is very little difference between the first two kinds of tribe. This is because, in a state of Nature, the overwhelming majority of people don’t move very far from where they were born. So what people usually mean by their tribe is those who they share bonds of soil and blood with. For the first 99% of human history, one’s tribe was the same thing as one’s tribe of Earth or Water.
The third kind of tribe is the tribe of ideology. This corresponds to the element of Air. This could be said to have first come into existence with the arrival of civilisation. The advent of civilisation brought with it original dilemmas, such as whether or not a person should leave their tribe of savages to join the clean and peaceful people. This opportunity would have created great tensions with the loyalties to the tribes of Earth and Water.
In this sense, religions count as ideologies, because they are also supranational and also of the mind and not the physical world. The existence of religion creates an ideological tribe that inevitably leads to tension with existing bonds of solidarity with tribes of soil and blood. This is especially true now that the Age of Imperialism has mixed things up so much.
The fourth kind of tribe is the tribe of spirit, or frequency. This corresponds to the element of Fire, and reflects a person’s soul or true nature, independent of outside influences.
The bonds of solidarity at this level are, like flames, both subtle and extremely powerful. Not everyone automatically understands what their own spiritual tribe is, which is why the bonds are subtle. When understood, however, these spiritual bonds can often override the others.
All four of these tribal affiliations can play off against each other.
The tribes of Earth and Water can come into conflict when two blood tribes come to compete for the same territory. One tribe might get pushed out of their territory by a natural disaster or by a stronger tribe, and this often leads to them fighting with the incumbent tribe in the new territory they enter.
They also conflict a lot in today’s world on account of that there has been so much immigration. A New Zealander might find himself facing a loyalty test between people of a different race but who they grew up around and people of the same race but from other countries. This conflict occurs anywhere there is mass movement of peoples.
The tribes of Air often conflict with those of Earth and Water when ideological demands cause bonds of physical solidarity to weaken. Certain religious traditions, in particular the Abrahamic ones, run across racial lines. This means that followers of a religion might have divided loyalties, where they are as loyal to a foreigner of the same religion as they are to a countryman who follows a different creed.
Luke 12:51-52 cites Jesus as saying “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.” This says explicitly that the religious ideology promoted by Jesus would threaten existing bonds of soil and blood. This is all but inevitable, unless a person’s ideology stems directly from the soil and blood themselves.
Another common conflict here is when a person from a particular family graduates into a different social class. A person from a working-class family might get an advanced education, and this might put them in conflict between their intellectual peers – who respect that person’s education and appreciate them for it – and their blood relatives who don’t appreciate it or who feel envious about it.
The tribes of Fire conflict with all of the others. A person’s spirit will see them form bonds of solidarity with others who have the same spirit, and this is true even within a family or an ideology. These spiritual bonds can cause all kinds of subtle tensions – or gross ones.
A classic conflict is when a couple’s romantic inclinations cause them to come into conflict with their tribes of Earth, Water or Air. This often happens when a person falls in love with a foreigner, because foreigners are often of different religions and races as well as different geographical areas. Some family and friends will not approve – others will think it great.
Another one is when a person’s true Nature causes them to feel bonds of solidarity with certain people – and not others – within a workplace or social club. This phenomenon could be said to be the basis of true friendship, because the solidarity involved does not necessarily confer material benefit.
These four basic kinds of tribe can be found all over the world, and so can the basic types of conflict between them. As the world continues to rapidly change and become more complex, we can predict that conflicts between the four kinds of tribe will occur with greater frequency. This is true whether the conflict occurs between or within groups, or between or within individuals.
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