What do you first think about when I say the word family? Happiness or suffering, peace or turmoil, honor or shame, fulfillment or bondage? Family is a concept that means different things to different people, yet we can’t really grasp its essence, which is the same for everybody. What lies behind this mysterious, often sacred word?
They often say that family is sacred, or that family comes first. Whenever we deem something sacred, we confer it with spiritual, eternal or supernatural meaning. For most people, the family is not just a bunch of relatives living under one roof or a line of generations connected by a common bloodline. No, the family is much more than that.
To understand what it really is, we have to turn back the wheel of time, and go back to the beginnings of human society. For most of its existence, humanity lived in tribes, and shared almost everything among its members, including the responsibility of raising children. Unlike nowadays, the basic social unit was the tribe, and the family – or in other words the bloodline – remained secondary.
Another feature of tribal societies was the importance of ancestor worship. When somebody died, it didn’t mean he was gone forever, just the opposite: in some mysterious ways, he gained even more power by joining the spirit world. After their death, the members of the tribe were worshipped almost like gods, and the shamans often turned to them for blessing or advice.
At least in their beliefs, members gained immortality by joining a common pool of ancestors, and if your dead relatives are all safe in the otherworld, you can be rest assured that you will also get there. Besides, as an individual, you were also much more than a single person. The entire soul of the tribe was reborn, regenerated, renewed inside you.
Primitive societies viewed life just as cyclical as nature. Just like the plants and the animals, life had to be renewed through various customs and rituals. But this all changed when the previous hunter-gatherers started to become farmers, and the concept of private property first emerged. Although farming itself was still cyclical, our ancestors had to adopt a linear approach in all other aspects of life.
Agriculture and private property tore the fabric of tribes into pieces, and created two distinct yet similar institutions: the kingdom connected by a social contract, and the family connected by marriage. The king and the queen was the symbolic father and mother of the nation, while the father was the symbolic king in his own household. And the mother? Well, she remained in a subservient position along with the children for thousands of years.
In a regular patriarchal family, women and children had almost no rights of their own. They were only seen as the extension of the father, as a possession, about the same level as kettle. Wifes could be beaten, humiliated and even killed without any consequence. The same was true for children: their life gained significance only in relation to the father. They were no more than sons or daughters, instead of individual human beings.
You’ll be surprised to know that the word family comes from the Latin famulus which means slave. I think that quite accurately described the scheme of things going on in households until very recently. If the family was held together in part by physical or psychological coersion, it’s not surprising that we see so many divorces, singles and single-parent families nowadays.
During this economic, social and cultural revolution, not only the land but the souls of the children were privatized, as well. People were not ready to share their belongings with their neighbours like before. Instead, only blood-related sons could inherit the wealth of the family, so it gained special significance to keep your children under tight control if you wanted to take care about your legacy.
This coincided with a spiritual turning point in time. It was not anymore the soul of the tribe that was renewed in your children, but merely the soul of the family, limited to the close relatives connected by blood. The living members of the family encapsulated and represented all the past and future generations.
This is where the concept of family honor comes from. If you did something shameful, you brought shame to your whole family, not just to yourself. You committed a great sin that had to be punished severely, and your family name somehow restored. In those times, sons would often suffer for the sins of their fathers, while children were disowned or even murdered in the name of honor.
This line of thinkink may sound strange to our contemporary minds, but Ernest Becker’s ideas offer some unique insights to understand it. He argued that two important ways humans try to achieve immortality are self-esteem and family. He also said that for most, achieving immortality is more important than individual life. This explains why the good image of the family preceded the well-being of its members.
Self-esteem is important because without it you wouldn’t think more yourself to be than an animal destined to die without significance or meaning. But the family is even more crucial, exactly because you know that you will die anyway. The family is the vehicle that will save at least some parts of you, it is your basic immortality project.
You identify with your personality to save yourself from death, and then with your family to save yourself even more. In yourself, you are vulnerable and finite, but as part of something bigger than yourself, you can be durable and eternal. At least, this is the basic and subconscious hope of every parent. Whatever enjoys priority in your life, is the very same thing you want to achieve immortality with.
If it was up to you, you would like to go on living in your current body indefinitely. Until that’s not possible, the second best option would be to clone yourself into an exact copy. Plan C, which is the only viable option for now, is to find a partner, and with a common effort copy yourselves into a third entity.
If you think about it, nature solved the question of life in an ingenious way. If every organism lived indefinitely, then life would be stuck at the level of microbes. If creatures copied themselves into exact clones, it would have the same outcome. Only by mixing and matching together various genes was it possible for life to evolve and become as rich and varied as it is today.
But while life renewes itself in this awesome manner, this doesn’t really comfort the individual human being who struggles with his own mortality. For many people, especially those who lack spirituality, wealth, fame or creativity, family is the only accessible way towards some sort of symbolic and limited immortality.
This also explains why we think the family is sacred: because it equals to eternal life. For the parents, the children are more than the carriers of their genes. The mother and the father literally see themselves in their daughters and sons. When a baby is born by the parents, the parents are also reborn in the baby.
Just like in an ancient ritual, this makes the renewal of life possible in our modern times. But as parents suspect that they are more than their bodies, they can’t be satisfied with mere biological reproduction. They don’t just want you to look like them, they also want you to think, act and feel like them. Almost the moment you are born, they jump on you like Christian missionaries on a primitive tribe to instill their values and worldviews deep into your innocent mind.
So although the era of physical slavery inside families is largely over, psychological manipulation holds itself on firm ground. First and foremost, you are still a son or a daughter in your parents’ eyes. You need to understand that perhaps you are their only hope for immortality, and they hold onto you with their fists clutched like a climber holding on to a piece of rock fearing to fall into oblivion.
If you represent their very future, then it’s obvious that they protect you more than their own lives. It also explains why the biggest catastrophy that can happen in life is child death. The parents realize that they will lose not only their own lives, but even the possibility of living on through their children. Not surprisingly, all these subconscious machinations place a heavy burden on the youngsters.
This is why you implicitly connect family with responsibility. As a parent, you are responsible for your children for the sake of your own life. As a child, you are responsible for the life of your parents, and later to give the torch of life to the hands of the next generation. The lingering thought of death in the background turns love into duty and family into a form of sacred slavery.
In this free report, I’ll reveal my number one secret to spiritual enlightenment that almost nobody else speaks about. Download it now below, to find out what it is! I can guarantee you, you’ll be surprised!