The family: from Antiquity up to Postmodernism

If someone today speaks about a "crisis of the family" it circumscribe very euphemistically the radical termination of the holy institution of the family. Sadly to say, people today usually have no idea what family originally meant.

Has it become cold, dark and lonely at the Western family? Where are the glory days of big families? (Picture: Steven Otto)

This article is summarized translation of a three-parted article-series based on serveral books about the history of family, that I published here on my blog in german.


Early periods: natural grown structures


Let's imagine a family thousands of years ago, a family, living on a common farm, with enough land and livestock, consisting of several generations, and their non-related helpers, all together usually called "The House" - of course a pure subsistence or self-catering-farming. And if such a "house" became too large, the needed free land was not the problem and so the number of farms grew up and after several generations, a village arouse, a so called clan-village.

A clan-villages was a village that consist of many families defined by an all-common ancestor. That was the original form of the village and in this sense, the village was, f.e. with the ancient Greeks, only the extension of the house or the family. This was more or less until a few hundred years ago more or less in this way.

The sevenfold nature of family

In the history of families, f.e. with the romans, the family consists, starting from the great-grandfather, of three generations of his descendants and also three generations of his ascendants. That means, that the family was also committed to worship his ascendants. This worship was an integral part of all cultures at any time and in any place in the world, but now in the "civilized" world often disparagingly called ancestorship.

The ancestors and their memory has to be honored. They were a seriously spiritual part of the family. The storries of them, the good, glorious doings were told on the evening-fire, they had their place on the family altar, which has to be maintained. Also, in more cultivated times, every family had his own chronicle of family in which were collected all the important events and documents over generations. The family was a sacred institution. So it was taught to the people, and as so often, they forget much too quickly.

Natural purpose of the family: security in every sense

This three generations "up" and "down" in the family tree were together with the generation of the great-grandfather, which was the boss, seven generations, but of course three of them (the not more living) only spiritual. All together one original family, quickly 50 to 100 people large, today almost unbelievable, but nonetheless true and many of such families formed a clan or a clan-village.

And the historic family was the absolute base of a person. The family stand in all cultures particular for continuity, duration, solidarity and security. It was the cornerstone of human life and fulfilled a key role of holistic care of all its members. The former human beings, because of the independence of the family, were totally legally, socially and economically hedged as part of his family (today very many are dependent, f.e. on foreign employment (money), supermarkets (food), electricity ( the whole society would not work without electricity) and thousand other things and often they have no big family network of security for the worst case). This is the natural and highest purpose of a family - a strong, indestructible, independent and secure base of life in all essential aspects.

Families become clans and clans become tribes

The families grew, the farms multiply and thus also grew the count of clan villages. The combination of many different clans or clan-villages in an area were called tribes, f.e. as the tribe of the Saxons on the North Sea coast in the first century, but not to be confused with wandering tribes. In the original spirit the natural families in their grouping as a clan-village was the archetype of the today known villages and cities, and the tribes also the natural precursors of today nations or countries and the polity structures.

As a side note here, f.e. in India or also in other cultures such as the early Germans, was the land, livestock and equipment etc. not owned by the family, but always in ownership of the clan, means common property, and with the end of a family all of that fell back to the clan and was redistributed. There was a active public life, laws, judiciary, morals and decency, exchange, assistance and also help for nonprofit things that were good for the whole clan and so on and all of that in the context of a positive intepretation of family.


The great transformation of the family


The beginning of that change started here in Central Europe with the arrival of a foreign religion (Roman Church). And with this religion came also a foreign polity (Roman Empire). The free families living on their own, free land (no land tax), had to be subordinated to non-family structures. The natural tribal and clan structures were replaced with the sword by state-like structures of privileged social classes and more and more previously unknown dependencies were created.

The overarching legislation (f.e. inheritance), the church (f.e. marriage laws), the ongoing wars, exploitation, slow-onset urbanization, decimation by disease and not al least human imperfection are undoubtedly some causes that the historical basic understanding of family-life and the family itself slowly but safely decomposed during the centuries.

With Humanism and Renaissance, this transformation continued and with the age of reason only the demolition of the remains of the natural family begins. Pioneers here were particularly the early urban and middle class influenced by destructive but to popularity raised literature or even more unreasonable behavior f.e. of the higher class, lacks of culture or the bad fruits of different bloody and bloodless revolutions.

The final destruction of the family as advancement

The promoted individualization and forced proletarianization of broad parts of society was very devastating to the family. The stipulated "freedom of the individual" during the age of reason becomes until now pure and brutal selfishness. But if the individual does not subordinate itself to the family, the family dies. And when the woman was forced to go to work, thereby the family can survive at all, the beginning of the final end of the family was rung in.

Today we understand family as a "family nucleus", i.e. father, mother and child, and often already the next generation of family, the postmodern "family" in which gender roles are also repealed as any structure of natural family. And all this is also possible, because the decline in morality and tradition is called progress, f.e. "to break up encrusted, old structures" and "the liberation of constraints", what means with the sophistical dialectic of materialism to omit traditions, ethics, decency, child-rearing, social activity etc.

Additionally, history teaches us, that with growing prosperity, sadly to say, there was always a decline of morals and also a decline in values and traditions, which includes the decaying of the family. And as can be clearly seen in this materialistic society, traditions and morality go more and more lost with every generation. The natural aim and structure of family is almost unknown today.

And so history tells us also very clearly: first the moral decay, then the chaos, often by the collapse of an Empire, as f.e. Egyptian, Greek and Roman Empire and in maybe in the not too distant future also the so called "Western World" will have to go this cathartic but self-inflicted very painful way.


Soul and heart: the important role of the woman


The reasonable former woman and mother, is more close to her heart and therefore more close to her "soul" or in some sense to the inner higher spiritual principle, means higher intiution (in contrast to the man, who is more close to the principle of thought or the physical intellect) and because of that on the true women just know, where man has to think a lot, often with dubious output and because of that, in the historic period, the mother was always the inner protector of the morality and traditions in the family and thus also the guardian of the family itself.

It was the mother, who took care of the cohesion and social activities within the family, she maintained the passed down morality and traditions and she held up the flag of the spirit of self-restraint, of moderation and self-sacrifice in their family. She acted balancing, reconciling, loving.

And the separation of the sexes is a clear sign of a higher level of culture, such as the division of labor is generally a witness to a higher stage of civilization. Gender roles are a naturally form of division of labor, which meet optimal the essence of the various stakeholders. Only in times of complete lack of culture, the mother was forced, in spite of the various internal and external entity to act like a man, for example, to ensure the survival of her children.

Wife and mother, the guardian of family, morality and traditions

The mothers play the most responsible and with distance most important role in a society, because they mainly educated the future people of the society. The mothers are thus not only the true inner protector of the family, but also the heart and soul of a society.

And today? Many women see their so very important and responsible role and challenging task as a contaminated sites from which they must be emancipated. In addition, for the most, the government and the media take over the education of children (side by side with the described materialistic "progress") and the implications of these developments are often fatal for the society and the individual, as we can see.

This emancipation began already with Romanticism and the Age of Enlightenment or Reason, mainly with its literature for women, during which an attempt was made to convince they, that the vocation of woman is worth less than that of the man, which of course is utter nonsense. But surely it is also good if the woman has won freedoms within the centurys, in order to understand me correctly.

However, fact is, the natural families was a real bulwarks against any adverse, external circumstances and it's probably a good idea, to be prepared for the worst, even if we hope for the best.

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