Monday, August 1, 2016

The Loss of Our Rites of Passage

All "primitive" societies have forced boys, right around the age of 12, to undergo initiation rites in which they symbolically died as children and then were reborn as adults, under the direction of learned elders (I'm going to repeat that -- learned elders, not just elders).

One of the reasons for this "rebirth" is to boys pull away from the mother, who at her worst is represented by the motherly/destructive/seductive mythic goddess Kali (today, I use the example of the Borg Queen), and these days by society-destroying feminism, which although the average woman does not believe in it as an ideology, has still been infected with its ideas.

Mircea Eliade defined initiation as "a basic change in existential condition which liberates man from profane time and history," he wrote. "Initiation recapitulates the sacred history of the world and through this recapitulation, the whole world is sanctified anew...[the initiated] can perceive the world as a sacred work, a creation of the Gods."

He also believed the purpose of rites was "help [new generations] assume the responsibility of being truly men and hence of participating in culture." In short, to transmit cultural values.

The mythologist Joseph Campbel divided it into thee parts: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return.

This pulling away is necessary for boys to be introduced to the world of men, otherwise, under the influence under the worst aspect of the feminine (which pretty much means weak or absent fathers), they end up showing every imaginable pathology that exists.

These boys, in essence, were being taught to be budding patriarchs, and since all successful cultures are patriarchal (being that women destroy everything they get involved in) these initiation rites, being that they are universal, are absolutely necessary.

To a much lesser extent, there have been rites of passages for girls. In both cases, it happens right at puberty, when the body and brain are changing rapidly and profoundly.

Nowadays, we've lost these rites, at least the good ones. Did we ever have good ones? I'm sure we did, but offhand, I can't think of what they were. Currently, we're got some bad ones, and the kids and society pay for it. And pay and pay and pay. The lack of them is damaging to individuals and to the culture. "Culture is the public expression of group continuity," commented one thoughtful man, and I couldn't agree more.

Many people either don't know, or don't want to admit, how fragile society is, and that one of its purposes is to repress or transform all the imperfections inherent in human nature. When societies lose those myths, rituals and rites that help transform into something better, worse rites will take their place. That's how we end up with kids wearing tribal tattoos and acting like wiggers.

Here's an example, and it's about a woman instead of a man (if it's this important for a young girl, imagine how much for important it is for a boy): when I was about 23, and in college, I was sitting in the room of this woman, who was about 21 years old. We were just passing time listening to her CDs.

I was casual friends with her, but had noticed she was a bit more intelligent, sensitive and creative than the other girls who lived in her house, almost all of whom, in my opinion, were callow and not-very-bright college students. The one I was talking to was an art/design major, the only one in her house of 11 girls. Most of the others were studying to be grade-school teachers.

To this day, I have no idea why she told me the things she did. She starting telling me about her time in 7th grade, when she was pudgy and wore those kind of horn-rimmed glasses that always sit crooked on your face. She showed me a picture; personally, I thought she was rather cute.

She was certainly cute at 21, certainly much better-looking than the other girls in the house.

She told me that because of the way she looked, she was ostracized by the other 7th-graders. Twelve years old and an outsider and a scapegoat. Just great. No wonder Stephen King's novel Carrie was such a big hit. Public schools...

Over the summer, she told me, she grew up, lost the baby fat, filled out, and got contacts. Ugly duckling to swan in less than three months. When she came back for the 8th-grade all the kids who ostracized her now wanted to be her friends. She ignored them.

The way she was treated in the 7th-grade affected her for the rest of her life. She told me she was never attracted to what most people would consider "good-looking" men and was instead attracted to what she called "unusual-looking guys."

I got a big laugh out of this one: she told me she liked guys who looked like Peter Noone. I didn't recognize the name, until she told me he was the lead singer Herman of "Herman and the Hermits." They were popular about the time she was being born.

I saw her a few years later, after we had graduated. She had married a guy who looked like him.

She turned out just fine, but her initiation rites in 7th-grade consisted of a bright, creative, sensitive girl being ostracized and humiliated in public school. What she had gone through were unwitting initiation rites, ones that, I repeat, affected her for the rest of her life.

She was lucky enough to make it through them, even without wise elders, just teachers instead, although in a sense she was scarred for the rest of her life. She symbolically died and was reborn courtesy of being poorly treated by a bunch of dim-witted, immature 12-year-olds tossed together in public schools (which I think should be burned down and the ground salted). Those were not good rites of passage for her.

As bad as it was for her, I think this lack of initiation rites is a lot worse for boys. A lot worse, and I can't emphasize just how bad I think this lack is. We still have them, to a degree, although they're exactly the same as my friend went through: being tossed into the mish-mash that is public-school 7th-grade. It's not working.

My time in middle school consisted in getting into fights, trying to avoid them, being bored, and daydreaming. That was about it.

The fact we don't have any initiation affects us politically. Politically, the leftist nanny-state is Mommy. Why do men fall for it? Because, even though raised with two parents, they're still stuck in mommy-mode, due to the lack of initiation rites that pull them away from mommy and toward daddy. In other words, when boys don't go through the correct initiation rites, they can turn into leftists - or women haters, which is an attempt to get away from them.

This away-from-dominating-mommy/searching-for-daddy can be seen in gangs, most of whom were raised without fathers and with unfit mothers. They found all-male gangs, ones that denigrate women. Their initiation rites and lives are all in the bad-male mode.

Teenagers have a vague, inchoate, instinctive understanding of their need for initiation rites. That's why they act and dress as they do. I did it when I was a teenager. Almost all of us did. Almost all of us used drugs, although in those days it was booze and marijuana. Then it was Ecstasy and raves. I understand.

Looking back on it, I realize my friends and I were rather wild, at least compared to the other kids. There were a lot of us, creating our own initiation rites of drugs and booze and parties. We had no true mentors, be it parents or teachers. There was no ritualistic adjustment from childhood to adulthood. Nothing. These days, we'd be given Ritalin.

The way I see it, in American society, the skyrocketing rise of gangs and reckless behavior dramatizes how youth seek some sort of initiation rites, made worse in the absence of anything provided by the culture (read "learned elders" for "culture"). Unfortunately, old geezers fear young people, not realizing their wildness and energy are really just an unending longing for initiation into the adult world.

Adolescents hunger for real tests, somewhat risky ordeals by which they can turn into adults, ones with a purpose in life. What ceremonies and rituals and rites do we have? High school graduation? College graduation? Meaningless. They're not tests. Nearly everyone wants to feel like the Hero on a Quest. Luke Skywalker. That is why those movies are still so popular?

True rites involve some risk, some pain, and self- discipline and self-sacrifice. Look how many boys want to join the Marines. When those things are offered, then there is community. It doesn't matter what it is -- it can be anything from gangs to religious cults.

That lack of serious rites is one of the reasons Christianity is in the trouble it is in. It's too soft; it doesn't challenge. Make it harder, make it challenging, make it involve self-discipline and self-sacrifice, and the softness that plagues it will disappear.

We don't have, and we certainly need, adolescent initiations that meet the needs of kids today, ones that draw on tribal rites, ones that are feasible in a modern, urban culture. Since we live in a highly technological society, we need new rituals appropriate to urban teenagers. Then, of course, the other essential ingredients are elders and mentors willing to devise and perform such rituals and a supportive community -- that "group continuity" -- into which the initiated teens are brought.

The way things are now, we're turning into a society without fathers. When women try to raise children along, they almost automatically turn into Terrible Mothers, even though they don't mean to. They're just ignorant. Abysmally ignorant. The law has, foolishly and destructively, decided fathers are optional, and when they aren't, when a couple has to work to make ends meet and give their six-week-old baby to a pre-school, that's just another way of saying we no longer have elders. The government is no substitute.

When you're looking at young gang members, you're looking at people with no fathers or elders. So we either develop true fathers and elders and mentors, or the amount of violence will increase year by year. This is not something that can be replaced by government programs.

Sooner or later, we'll have to figure it out. We have to. But until we do, all the Ph.D.s and government studies and programs, are in vain, just chaff flying in the whirlwind.

4 comments:

Twarog said...

"Adolescents hunger for real tests, somewhat risky ordeals by which they can turn into adults, ones with a purpose in life. What ceremonies and rituals and rites do we have?"

Getting a driver's license seems to be the closest widespread thing we have today, but it's not a very good ordeal- it's the same for both sexes, there's no real ritual element to it, and fifteen/sixteen is a little too late. Team hazing has a ritual element to it, but there's no "learned elder" involved, so the rites are usually puerile and stupid (I had to eat a hot chili pepper as a freshman; it was not exactly fraught with mystical significance). A lot of young teens get their rites of passage by joining a martial arts school; it certainly worked wonders for my disgruntled mood when I was 14. Testing for a new stripe or belt brings a sense of earned accomplishment, with a learned elder in the form of a black-belt to confer the honor. Teens who attend a good martial arts school (bad ones are plentiful) are often markedly more mature than their peers. The Scouting movement seem to do a decent job with traditional rites of passage, or did before they very recently caved to political correctness- wilderness trips combined with an elaborate ranking system and badges of achievement.

Bob Wallace said...

The Boy Scouts are fine - or used to be.

Shaun F said...

Bob -

I’ve seen the “hero’s quest” played out with younger boys, specifically my nephews, in video-gaming. Real tests, without competitive sports in school, and all territories within cities that could be explored fenced off for safety? The pickings are slim. Unless you enroll your child is a competitive league, where it’s expensive and you’re traveling and training all the time. When we were growing up, we’d make games up and play outside or inside. The initiation rites you described were the same as mine, and most people I grew up with. That’s quite sad about the young girl, but it’s nice to hear she landed on her feet. I have a certain distaste for stories like that, as the world is full of dishonest, manipulative people. Your experience in middle school (fights, avoiding them, being bored, etc.) is like my experience at middle school and throughout my work life! And I see all these people with Masters of Education proposing “solutions”, and I’m like...you are so lost, but they’re so full of themselves, and of course they don’t listen....they’ve obviously been educated beyond there level of intelligence.

paulmurray said...

> The mythologist Joseph Campbel divided it into thee parts: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return.

One of these rites is the honeymoon. On return, the two people are a married couple. Of course, this is being destroyed too by cohabitation.