Just as spiritual warriorhood is part of the sacred masculine that we seek today whether we be women or men, so too is the archetype of the hunter-gatherer.  The hunter-gatherer archetype is ancient and deep in our DNA.  It includes 95% of human history after all. 

Hunters from the indigenous Hadzabe tribe of north-central Tanzania, the last hunter-gathering people in the country. Photo by Idobi on Wikimedia Commons.

Let us praise those among us who are hunter-gatherers for justice.  I think of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, jr., of Oscar Romero and Malcolm X, of Sojourner Truth and Dorothy Day and of Jesus. And those who resisted the insurrection of January 6 and others who have stood up to slavery in all its treacherous forms. 

Notice, however, what happens when those hunting for justice step forward: They often become the hunted–Gandhi, King, Romero, Malcolm X, Jesus, Medgar Evans, some capitol police, were murdered while standing for justice and truth.    

Hunting has a shadow side also.  The Ku Klux Klan is a hunting organization.  So were the Nazis and many orthodox-seeking hounds of religious fundamentalism today and fascism in all its expressions warp the hunting-gathering archetype.  Those storming the capitol on January 6, confederate flags aflutter, shouted that they were “hunting” for Nancy Pelosi and vice president Pence. 

Insurrectionist outside the U.S. Capitol, bearing a noose against legislators, January 6, 2021. Photo by Blink O’Fanaye on Flickr.

In the face of such hatred, it takes warrior energy to stand up for the most precious of human pursuits: Justice, freedom and truth so that the people may live and a democracy survive amidst rabid ideologies.

So deep in our memories and psyches is the hunter-gathering experience, that I believe we can say this about all of our work: When our work includes the hunter-gatherer dimensions of adventure, creativity, searching, alertness, spontaneity, surprise, it is truly human work. 

But when it lacks these dimensions of our hunter-gatherer pasts, we need to ask: Is it still work?  Or is it merely a job?  A job is something we do for a paycheck and for economic survival alone.  Work is what we are here on the planet for. The reason we have come.  It will always, as it did for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, have something to do with serving the larger community including those who come after us. 

Composite video of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including radio communications by police and insurrectionists. Posted to YouTube by MSNBC. Explicit content.

E. F. Schumacher lamented how it is that we have insurance if one’s body is injured at work but not if one’s soul is abused.  Many people are abused at work, some in their bodies—witness the 140 police on January 6.  Others in their souls and bodies. Consider the trauma issues these policemen are dealing with and the four who committed suicide as a result. 

In this context of our hunter-gatherer selves, light is shed on what does and does not constitute healthy work.  Also, hopefully, on how men and women alike can be healed from the soul abuse that work in today’s economy often engenders.  The wisdom of our hunter-gatherer ancestors teaches us much about the ways of healthy and useful work.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 75f.

Also see Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work, pp. 27f., 2-6.  

Also see Matthew Fox: Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart.

Banner Image: José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva was ambushed and murdered in 2011 with his wife Maria do Espírito Santo, for their activism against illegal burning and logging in the Amazon Rainforest. Image by visionshare is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Do you feel a connection to your hunter-gatherer ancestors?   What energy and strength does that bring to you and your work in the world and the development of the spiritual warrior in you?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter


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7 thoughts on “Hunter-Gatherers for Justice”

  1. Avatar

    The awful sounds of the insurrection it’s. Makes me feel like I’m witnessing the invasions of the barbarians centuries ago. The Huns, Mongols, etc,

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    We are the hunters… seeking wisdom’s ways, for all to see
    We are the gatherers… collecting eternal truths, like seed
    We are the warriors… planting hope of justice, yet to be
    We are the gateway keepers… offering keys, to set all free
    We are the sojourners… whose ancestors are, walking with thee

  3. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew, for your quotation from Schumacher. Our souls are certainly being injured as we watch all the things going on around us–as even in the face of horrific wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes, many in government and society reject climate change; as states begin to pass laws limiting free speech and critical thinking in elementary and secondary schools (e.g. in Tennessee about racism and sexism); as core principles of democracy are no longer cherished by too large a percentage of Americans; as the most vocal “Christians” turn Jesus’ teachings upside down; and as far too many U.S. citizens are willing to hold onto white privilege and even racism in the face of changing demographics. In our heart of hearts may we hold onto the faith that the arc of history bends toward justice.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Michele, thank you sooo much for your comment and “may we hold onto the faith that the arc of history bends toward justice”–thank you for that prayer of faith!

  4. Avatar

    In Jared Diamond’s Discory website on agriculture being the “worst mistake in the history of the human race “, Diamond talks of agricultural societies overrunning hunter gatherer societies because “might makes right” and 100 farmers can over power one hunter gatherer(because agricultural societies can produce more children than hunter gatherer societies.) was Jesus saying to live as a hunter gatherer when he said “lay not your treasures up on earth where rot and rust doth corrupt and thieves break in and steal “? When Jesus said “I am the good shepherd” “I lay down my life for my sheep “ was he laying down his life for his hunter gatherer sheep and the (science based) Father who wants us to have the CO2 emissions of hunter gatherers and not contribute to global warming and the (science based) Curses of Deuteronomy? When Jesus sought justice, was he seeking Justice for hunter gatherers who had been displaced from their land by agricultural societies? Is this the solution to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C and abiding by the Paris Agreement?

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