Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Lack 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 whiggers.

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.


Glen Filthie said...

How old are you Bob? I have to ask - it took me 50 years to amass this wisdom and I see that mugshot of yours and wonder how a young man picked all that up so fast?

You are absolutely right of course, but if you somehow DID create some popular rite of passage, you would have flocks of stupid people screaming at you and suing you because their own idiot children couldn't hack it...or that it excluded women...or that it wasn't nurturing enough for gays...or...or...look at what they've done to the Boy Scouts. Or the Marines for that matter...would you want to join them today? I wouldn't.

Not only should public schools be burned to the ground, and the earth salted; tactical nukes should be used to scour the ground on which they sat.

It is one thing to bitch about all this...but I think it is time for some kind of common sense revolt. How could one do it and make it work?

Unknown said...

I'm 56, and it took me forever to figure this stuff out because NO ONE TOLD ME.

I should change that ridiculous picture.

Anonymous said...

The closest things to initiation rites that I can think of today are getting a driver's liscence and getting a job.

I'm also learning new things rather late in life and my outlook is becoming more Libertarian as I do. I wish someone had told me a long time ago, but by elders themselves didn't know.

Quartermain said...


Nothing wrong with the picture.

I took it as a sign that you can be unconventional and laid back without being a brain dead PC liberal.

Glen Filthie said...

Well Bob I don't feel so bad now!

But you really need to keep writing because otherwise, the younger crowd is going to have to learn it the hard way the same way we did.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob-- big fan (I'm 48) and like you, I had to learn this stuff on my own (most of it within the last 10 years).

I agree with your observation on Christianity. When I have attended services (on again/off again Episcopalian), I have always chosen to attend "old school" services that eschew what I call the 'dancing bears' services-- more campfire in atmosphere and designed for "the young people"-- guitars, jokes, etc.

Spirituality is critical to me and when it is reduced to half-assed variety show, you've lost me (and I suspect the 'young people').