Friday, February 20, 2009


Some years ago I was at Kennedy airport with my teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. We had to take a long walk between terminals and I took the opportunity to ask him a question that had been on my mind for some time. I tend to puzzle over very broad patterns in how humanity evolves and, at the time, I had been thinking a lot about the coming age and the effect on the relationship between men and women. I was aware that patriarchy had been the main force for several thousand years but I could feel a slight slippage in its power. From my reading of history it was obvious that matriarchy had at one time been the norm and had been replaced by patriarchy starting around 3000 - 4000 years ago. It seemed to me that, as modernity really took hold, the next phase would be one of balance between the sexes. So I asked Pir Vilayat if this would be so. He got this very disgusted look on his face and said, "No, matriarchy will be the next stage." He did not seem at all happy about that idea so I did not follow up with any further questions. But I never forgot his answer, an answer that came out of an extreme honesty, even though the answer was not one that he liked. I can only speculate why he might not like what he saw in this regard so I will reserve my ideas and only build on my own thinking for the purposes of this little essay.

As I have noted elsewhere in my writings, we tend to see the world and humanity's place in it with a very myopic vision. We tend to believe that what is taking place currently is the way that things always have been and always will be. Very few people that I know ever read any history, or even understand that psychological evolution is the norm rather then the exception. We want things to be stable, even if they are uncomfortable or difficult because change is terrifying. I have worked with many people over the years and one thing that I have found is a basic resistance to discovering the true magnificence of being. People would much rather continue to believe they are small and ineffective against the forces arrayed against them. It is ever so much easier to resist change. This is always the first illusion to overcome, that you cannot do. Once that barrier is breached then it becomes a struggle between terror and elation, fear and excitement at all the possibilities that suddenly appear. And Pir Vilayat's declaration is certainly in that style. I have no doubt that, had he lived, he would have gradually become a champion of the coming age.

Some definitions are in order now. Simply put, patriarchy is a vertical ordering of society. Someone is in charge in each social group and there is a scramble below them to decide who is next in line and so on. Verticality of decision is the norm in this model. Pretty much every society on the planet is ordered in this fashion, with the possible exception of some very remote primitive tribes who still hold to matriarchy. Matriarchy on the other hand is horizontal. There is little verticality in decision making, with the exception of listening to wisdom when it is needed. Consensual expression is much more normal and people tend to support one another rather then look for ways to best them. In patriarchy there are winners and losers. In matriarchy there is no contest, only discovering how to agree and support all members. Obviously there are lots of variables in the two ways of being but these are the essentials.

Pir Vilayat was very fond of saying that we are the midwives of the coming age. What he meant by this, I believe, is that our actions will either hinder or assist what is going to take place. Our actions, to some degree, determine not only the rapidity with which the shift is instituted but also the actuality of how it will be experienced. It is very obvious to me that people are afraid, that they sense the coming changes and are afraid. It is the subliminal reason for the high degree of fundamentalism currently in vogue. This I believe. But there are more subtle signs as well. Within spiritual groups, which should know better, there is a definite resistance. Almost all of the traditional groups are falling back on a patriarchal model, with someone in charge, several other someone's jockeying for power roles and the assumption within these groups that the only way a person can be successful within the group is to advance up the ladder of responsibility; which is obviously still the vertical way of doing things. Doing one's best to simply be friends with every one who appears before you is an ideal that is not practiced very much. But, this is very much what is needed.

I think I need to be very clear here. I am not advocating ignoring specific talent. I know for instance that I have a talent for guidance that others do not have. I do not have a talent for many other things and I admire those who do. We do not need some kind of perfect communism. What we do need is simply to see that friendship is normal. Admiring a friend for their talent does not mean that one is also envious and looking for ways to make them small so we can feel big; or worse, ignoring talent that does not fit within the need for power and domination over others. This whole essay is really about noticing what is taking place, without blame, without rancor, without needing to be right, without prejudice. Notice without judgment. If you do that I believe that you will find possibilities within yourself that have been dormant for a long time, maybe f or eons.

If Pir Vilayat was correct, and I believe he was, then we have a very real responsibility to revise the way we think about ourselves and our relationships in a very basic way. Give yourself a moment to examine how you really feel about those around you. Are you content to leave people be who they are or are you constantly looking for how you are better, etc.? We are culturally bound to the latter but the former is where the action is. It only remains to be seen how well we can implement what will take place in the coming age, with or without our cooperation.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

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