Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 7: The Two Tribes (Part 1))
The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution.
The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.” 7.
The Two Tribes The first inhabitants of the island of Allandon were a primitive tribe known as the ‘sitting tribe’.
Their main activity was to sit and experience the peace and harmony of nature.
They gave thanks to the Great Spirits for all that they had, and prayed and made sacrifices in order to continue receiving abundance from the Earth. One fine day, one of the tribesmen discovered the secret to making fire. He became able to produce fire whenever it was needed. For the first time, the people of the tribe did not have to call upon the Lightning Spirit to make a fire. This discovery led to a division of the tribe into two factions: one faction stayed with the traditional ways, continuing to pray to the Spirits for all that they needed, including fire.
The other faction believed that since they now knew how to make a fire on their own, they could make other discoveries as well if they looked hard for them.
The new tribe would no longer sit around; they started to run about the island to see what other secrets they could uncover. And so they became known as the running tribe.
They began to lose their reverence for nature and the order of things, for they felt they could create a new order. Discoveries were made, one by one, that helped the running tribe wean off their dependence on the Great Spirits, until one day the running tribe doubted the Great Spirits even existed. When I was young, I was very much focused on material life.
The spirituality that was available to me had very little impact. My parents took us to church every Sunday, but it never made sense to me or my brother or sister. I found it deathly dull and ritualistic. Stand, sit, kneel, repeat a phrase, and so on.
The only thing I found interesting was the Gospel, not just because it was near the end of the service, but because it often featured Jesus speaking one of his parables. But I had no desire for church, found no fulfillment from it, and would be happy to miss it any chance I could get. It seems like most of the people my age felt the same way at the time. I don’t think it was just because we were young. I think that going to church wasn’t really meeting our deeper needs. Church seemed like some kind of punishment for sins you might do, or some kind of duty to a God who for some reason seemed to care whether we went to church or not.
There was a sense that going to church was a form of paying moral dues.
The running joke was that once people had collected their holy bread and said their final amen, they would revert back to a purely material focus for the rest of the week. My mother had been taught in school by the nuns and was a fairly devout church-goer, and my father was quite religious as well. However when I got into my teens things started to change. We would miss church here and there for no urgent reason. My father was becoming more critical of priests whose words no longer inspired him, and he began taking us to different churches in search of what he felt was missing. He had started reading about Edgar Cayce and the writings of channeler Jane Roberts, and his views were slowly changing. Finally one day, he declared to the family that he didn’t want to go to church any more. He gave each of us the choice as to what we wanted to do, and to my mother’s dismay, we all gleefully said that we didn’t want to go to church any more either. I remember it as one of the happiest days of my youth. By the time I got to university, I called myself an atheist. It seemed to be the only reasonable position to hold. I associated atheism with intellectual integrity. It seemed to me that religion was tantamount to superstition, and the Marxian claim that ‘religion is the opium of the people’ rang true to my ears. No wonder Nietzsche’s pronouncement that ‘God is dead’ had such appeal to me at that time. To me this parallels a trend within Western history in general, where material life has split off from spiritual life to such an extent that it has become possible to live from a purely materialistic point of view. Western civilization is relatively ‘modern’ when we consider that more ancient human societies from Eastern civilization such as Sumer in southern Mesopotamia date as far back as 6000 years ago. Western civilization arose nearby in Greece around the 5th Century B.C., during the period known as the Classical Age of Greece. At this time, the Greek mind made its definitive break from traditional Eastern wisdom as a result of a steady flow of philosophical inquiry that culminated in one of the true watershed moments of human history: the refinement of rational thought. Socrates, the famous philosopher who developed the Socratic method of question, hypothesis and testing for contradiction, used to go around Athens embarrassing all the intellectuals of the time by showing them they really didn’t know what they thought they knew. Though he used his method primarily in dialogues dealing with moral concepts, it was to be the forerunner of the scientific method and the concept of objective truth itself. It wasn’t until about two thousand years later, though, with the Scientific Revolution in Europe, that the scientific method exploded Western society into completely uncharted territory. During the Scientific Revolution, there was of course no such thing as a ‘scientist’. Pioneers such as Johannes Kepler and Nicholas Copernicus were considered ‘natural philosophers’.
Their business was to study the natural world and, in a way, their main motivation was to come to a better understanding of the mysterious workings of the Creator. Perhaps it was the idea attributed to Copernicus, that the Sun does not revolve around the Earth but rather the opposite, that got science to start spinning about a different axis. Suddenly, the Earth was not considered the center of the universe. This proposition did not sit well with the powerful Roman Catholic Church of post-Renaissance Europe. Suddenly these ‘natural philosophers’ were showing proof of things that contradicted some of the most basic and well-accepted tenets of Christianity. In Italy, thinkers such as Galileo and Da Vinci had to be very careful about what they said, lest they be accused of blaspheming against the church. In fact, it was only Galileo’s close connection with the Pope and his willingness to recant his support for Copernicus that prevented authorities from putting him to death. As scared as some of the natural philosophers were, so too the church authorities had fears about how the church could be weakened by these new theories and the growing power of rational thought. During this time of great turmoil a ‘line in the sand’ slowly emerged between the proponents of science and those of the church: science could concern itself with the practical matters of the physical world, but it would leave to the church all spiritual matters in the metaphysical world. While religion continued on in one direction supported by tradition, science went completely in the opposite direction supported by rigorous inquiry and the search for objective truth.
There was now no turning back. With the later development of Newton’s laws, there emerged a mechanistic view of the universe, which could be seen as a well-oiled machine capable of running itself on eternal physical laws. Suddenly, for the first time, it was possible to see a universe in which God did not necessarily need to play a part. Previous to that, it was widely accepted that planetary motion proved the existence of God—there needed to be a ‘prime mover’. Now, it became possible, indeed reasonable, to begin to explain the universe and all life in purely material terms.
The brain, the body, the universe, life itself, could all be explained mechanistically, as though each component of our world were simply a distinct and sophisticated machine. When Charles Darwin brought forth his theory of evolution, the schism between the material and spiritual world-view was nearly complete.
The Biblical notion of Creation itself was brought into question. Proponents of objective scientific inquiry now felt confident that eventually each of the world’s great mysteries would be revealed in material terms, replacing much of what they now saw as a superstitious mysticism that had ruled mankind during a time of greater ignorance.
The only limitation to our complete understanding and objectifying of the universe would be the technology to perform the experiments and measure the results. If it could not be perceived by our senses, or even more precisely by the scientific machines which were getting ever more accurate and effective, then for all intents and purposes it wasn’t real. It became possible to believe that there was nothing else to the universe but matter in its various forms. And so the schism that began in ancient Greece has ever widened, setting today’s Western world in direct opposition with its Eastern ancestry.
The legacy we have grown up with is a society in which the rational mind is favored over the intuitive mind, and matter is seen as more real than spirit.
The Ego Self that separates us from each other is revered while the Dao Self that brings us together has been forgotten.
There is a scene in the movie Seven Years in Tibet that perfectly distinguishes the different approaches to life of Eastern and Western societies. Brad Pitt plays a world-famous Austrian mountaineer who has stumbled into Tibet with a fellow climber. As the two men compete for the affections of a beautiful Tibetan girl, Pitt tries to impress her by showing her a scrapbook of his celebrated mountain climbing achievements.
The girl’s rebuff is at once gentle and powerful: “This is another great difference between our civilization and yours. You admire the man who pushes his way to the top in any walk of life, while we admire the man who abandons his ego.” Where one society applauds those individuals who rise above and attempt to reach new heights, the other encourages their members to maintain their place. Traditional Eastern civilizations like Tibet are holistic; they strive to align themselves to the greater totality, to nature and the established order of things.
They see the divine as present in everything at all times, and so they consider interconnectedness to be the ultimate truth of existence.
The Hindu greeting ‘Namaste’ reflects this belief, as it means ‘I honor in you the divine that I honor within myself and I know that we are one.’ The individual and the Ego Self are recognized as part of the human condition but are ultimately illusions. Life consists in working to transcend these powerful illusions so that one can fully be in the presence of the One, the Dao. Western civilization, on the other hand, could be deemed atomistic; its vision is that things are as they appear, separate and distinct, and these separate things are prone to be in conflict with one another. Nature and the established order of things is something that is to be overcome. This idea is not challenged by religious orthodoxy in the West but rather is fully supported by it. In the Bible’s book of Genesis, God instructs man to ‘fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds in the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ The implications of this directive have proven quite far-reaching. Rather than developing the ability to live better in communion with nature, Western civilization has been built upon the conquest of the natural landscape, where the imprint of man-made structures is now indelibly stamped.
The proclamation by the Greek philosopher Protagoras during the Classical Age that ‘man is the measure of all things’ would prove to be one of the underlying themes of the rise of Western Civilization to prominence in the world. Believing that man is above the ecosystem of the planet rather than a part of it, it should come as no surprise that Western man has slowly pushed Mother Nature dangerously out of balance through sheer exploitation and neglect. With our modern machines that can strip, excavate, and bombard the planet at an ever-accelerating rate, the danger has only been exacerbated. We have caused more damage to the natural world in the past hundred years than in our entire history before that, and it’s getting worse exponentially. Today we are in a crisis that threatens our very existence. One reason for this is because historically it has not been a great strength of the Western mind to question the broader implications of its approach. Being grounded in the Ego Self and outwardly-focused, there has been very little self-reflection about the wisdom of an incessant push to modernize, to progress, to conquer. Western Imperialists had little doubt in their minds that their modern ideology was the pinnacle of human civilization. And there was certainly nothing that they thought they had to learn from any culture that was mired in outmoded traditions of the past. Wherever it clashed with more traditional cultures, Western man was convinced that it would be in the other culture’s best interests to adopt a modern Western perspective, and let go of their hapless, infantile, savage ways.
The dealings of the European settlers with the Native Americans is a striking example.
They imposed their way of life in the New World and, while they could argue that they acted justly, one must remember that at best this was ‘justice’ from a purely Western perspective. Western ways made no sense to the natives, and in the end the natives had little choice in the way their fundamental disputes would be worked out. In 1854 Western settlers offered the embattled Native Americans $150,000 for two million acres of prime land in America. Here was Chief Seattle’s response: If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.
The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.
The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us.
The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers.
The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man—all belong to the same family. So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us.
The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children. So, we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us. This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you the land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.
The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.
The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst.
The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother. We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs.
The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s grave behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care. His father’s grave, and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert. I do not know. Our ways are different than your ways.
The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man.
There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of the insect’s wings.
The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around the pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand.
The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond and the smell of the wind itself, cleaned by a midday rain, or scented with pinon pine.
The air is precious to the red man for all things share the same breath, the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath.
The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days he is numb to the stench. But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.
The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow’s flowers. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition—the white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I am a savage and do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be made more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive. What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know which the white man may one day discover; our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white.
The earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.
The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. But in your perishing you will shine brightly fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.
The end of living and the beginning of survival. Today, over 150 years later, these words have never been more poignant. In a society where our sense of the sacred has been splintered off from our material lives and compacted into once-weekly ritual, the consequences of our alienation from each other can no longer surprise us. Our search for the spiritual experience of connectedness that Chief Seattle speaks about has become ever more desperate. Our hunger to feel part of something bigger than ourselves is growing. Up to now our material decadence may have fed us, but more and more it is fueling our fear of the night when we will suffocate in our own waste. In the West we have awakened to the implications of continuing to plow forward, but we are surely not eager to go backwards. Where does that leave us? Due to the pressure of mass censorship, we now have our own censorship-free, and ad-free on demand streaming network! It is the world's first and only conscious media network streaming mind-expanding interviews, news broadcasts, and conscious shows. Click here to start a FREE 7-Day Trial and watch 100's of hours of conscious media videos, that you won't see anyw.
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