Gorean Compass – In The Same Boat

The Gorean Compass is a class given every Thursday by Master Gorm Runo.  Classes are held at the Gorean Campus and are given at noon and 6pm SLT.  All are encouraged to come and join in the amazing discussions.

Tal and Greetings

At the end of the last class, as we were discussing tribalism, one of our students made a comment where he stated that “of the same chain” was simply a way of saying, ‘we are all in the same boat.”

same boat 1

That is an extremely accurate way of looking at the basic dynamics of what I call “Gorean tribalism.”  We are, indeed, all in the same boat and facing the same basic survival needs, and it was the meeting of these needs that led to the development of morals, and ultimately, the civilization of today.

It is hard for modern humans to completely understand how it would be to live in a world where danger and uncertainty were not simply something that occurred from time to time in a random situation.  Recently, I watched a film about a couple on a camping trip in a Canadian national park that went all wrong.  At the end, the man was being eaten by a bear, while the female barely escaped after a long run with the bear following her scent and hunting her relentlessly.  This made for some good entertainment, but the viewer recognized that it was an unusual situation and not the norm of life  Now, imagine a world where we are not the top of the food chain and the most dangerous predator, but actually somewhere down in the middle of it, and living in a constant state of danger like a rabbit, nervously moving in the open, never knowing when a sudden strike will end its life.


Certainly, the concerns of humans in such a primitive and uncertain time would be directed inwardly.  All over the world, there would be other groups of humans struggling to survive, and they would be of little concern to the small tribal band of hunters and gatherers to which one belonged.  The “tribe” would recognize that they were all in the same boat and would be working out ways to avoid sinking.  There would be little time to worry about how others were faring.

People who have studied these primitive societies have concentrated on the study of those occasional groups of stone age people discovered living unaware of modern civilization in the jungles of some Pacific island, or the vast Amazon basin.   Some of their conclusions were that much of our morals and taboos came from the most basic survival need.  How is food shared in the tribe fairly?  How are children protected so they grow to provide new Hunters and breeders? How are leaders chosen and what is the extend of their power?   All of these questions were being asked and answered in the very dawn of time.

We learn from the Gor books that the Goreans did not understand the concept of borders as they exist on Earth.  They could never understand the idea that an imaginary line on the Earth could have any meaning or signal any change.  I always think of this when traveling, when a sign along a stretch of desolate road through empty countryside notifies me that I have now left one State and entered another.

no borders

The Gorean idea is circular in nature.  Political divisions are not lines drawn on a map, but reflect areas actually controlled.  In the play, “Lion in Winter”, the English king claims that the Province of the Vexin belongs to him, and the French King responds, “by what right?”   The English King replies, “It has my troops all over it, that makes it mine.”    Despite our being uncomfortable with this “might makes right” approach, it also reflects the core Gorean belief that you are responsible for that which you can actually control, and not responsible for that which you can not control..

This is the core, also, of tribalism, as we come to understand it from the Gorean novels.  By keeping things smaller and more independent and less regimented and conforming, it leaves things under the control of those that are most concerned and most able to effect change.

This leads to an inward out focus.   Our primary concern is ourselves.  No one can exercise more control on us than ourselves, so it is a good place to start.  When we are under control, we move outward in increasingly larger circles of influence and control.  We take care of our family, we take care of our Caste mates, sister slaves on our chain, and then out another circle , we care for our city and neighbors, and finally, we recognize our common humanity.  We are all part of Gor, which means “Home Stone.”, and suggests that we are all in the same boat as human beings.


if you just open your eyes and look around, you will see that we do not practice this process very well in our modern Earth world at all, and we carry the baggage of this warped view into Second Life Gor.   The modern man, bombarded by media and instant communication spends more time worrying about things over which he has minimal, if any control, and neglects what is happening in his own household or neighborhood.   They obsess over the problems of imaginary people far away, but do not know the names of their next door neighbors, let alone their problems and needs.

The Hunter-gatherer ancestors, John Norman tells us in the book Time Slave, gave way to the farmers.  The diggers in dirt created a whole new dynamic whereby leisure time was created, and the idea of all being in the same boat changed.  Some of us were now in a much bigger and safer and richer boat, and some of us were in a boat filled with leaks.  The singularity of purpose,  “stay alive in situations where it was not all that easy to do” changed.   And as time went on, we became less tribal.  It is interesting that during this period, much of what defined the early tribal mores and behaviors transferred into “blood families.”   The family replaced the “tribe” but kept many of the basic principles intact.  Loyalty to the group, care of the children, and many of the other characteristics of the tribe were now found in what was called the extended family.

I am reminded of a book read long ago about early humans.  This group had decided that screwing out in the fields made the crops grow, and being naked in the rain caused women to get pregnant.   So, they would often be out having sex in the muddy fields during rainstorms, and sure enough, the crops grew and the women got pregnant, proving that they had the science right.

I mention that story, because obviously, family did not have the same meaning to primitive humans.  Only the mother would be known for certain.  They weren’t going to be doing any DNA testing to determine the father.  They would be more like Hal Moore described the Sioux tribes in the movie, “We were Soldiers.”  He said, that babies drank from the breasts of every nursing mother.  That they called every older woman, grandmother, and every older warrior was called “grandfather.   This is what I mean by “family becoming the basic tribe.”


Now, we seem to be losing even that last hold on our tribal origins.  The extended family becomes less and less significant.  And it is being replaced by the idea that mankind is our tribe and Government is both wise father and kindly mother.   It has turned the whole idea upside down.  We start with the largest group.  The planetary Home Stone, and we move down to our city and finally, to our individual concerns.  It has made us much more insect like and insignificant.  We are only one of billions “in the same boat” now, and trying to solve the myriad problems and insure the individual happiness of billions is so impossible that society spins its wheels like a car stuck in a snowbank.

Which brings me to the second point made in the student’s comment last week.  He was warning us of the dangers of tribalism.  And they are valid dangers, too.  Xenophobia , the irrational fear of strangers and others, has been a topic in this seminar.  Tribes competing for scare resources was most likely the beginning of warfare.  Everything has both negative and positive sides and it is not at all inappropriate to recognize and fight against the down side of tribal behavior, however, I take issue with his example that the rise of Nazism in Germany, and the genocide that followed is reflective of tribalism run amok.  Everything about Nazi Germany was essentially anti-tribal.  it was more about Nationalism and although some saw the flags and uniforms and slogans and pageantry of it all as expressions of tribalism, I see it as its very antithesis.  There was never a sense of “all being in the same boat.” in a dictatorship, and even the German idea of “Ein volk”  or “one people” was designed to force people to reject the basic tribalism and accept a merger into a massive national tribe.  The Germans were not “one folk” at all, but were Bavarians, and Prussians and Austrians, and those groups were broken down into smaller sub-divisions.  Germany was one of the last nations of Europe to unite into a “country.”   So, I do not think we learn anything about what tribalism means from looking at Nazi Germany, or from looking at the Soviet Union, or even the United States of America.

And I believe this whole discussion is vital to the continued success of Second Life Gor.
We are very much all in the same boat here.  We share the common ground of the Gorean novels and an interest in both the trivia and philosophy laid out in those novels.  And we are in the middle of a hostile world.  Maybe it is not filled with saber toothed tigers and cave bears, but it is filled with people who do not understand us, or hate what we do, or view us as different or “others” simply because they can not understand our love or even interest in Gor.   We will not find the answers to our problems by forced conformity as the Nazis tried to do, and we will not do it either by the outward focus and lack of individual responsibility that mark our modern Nation States.

family tribe

The answer, I believe, really lies in a return to the basics of tribalism.   It starts at the middle of the circle.  We improve ourselves, and then we improve those we can directly influence and control, and then we make our own Home Stones more authentic and safe. We demand our leaders be leaders; we take care of our own,  we fix our own problems and deal with our own issues.  We organize so as to deal with things on a realistic scale.

We can laugh at the idea of “cavemen” and shake our heads in amusement at the idea that they were developing ideas and tools that would raise them from that middle spot on the food chain to planetary dominance.
But, this is who and what we were for millions and millions of years, and the successful ideas were passed on in the DNA and genetic hard wiring and still reside in us today.

In the discussion in Glorious At, last night, the topic was “What is bringing people to SL Gor, and what brings them back again and again.”   Perhaps, the answer is that hard wiring.  Maybe John Norman was right about that.  We hear the drums and remember on a celluar level the roar of beasts, and the safety of the fire , huddled together safe with the other members of the tribe.

Many tribes, in their own language , referred to themselves as “the people” or “the men”
While some would see this as an example of the dangers of tribalism , or xenophobia, as if people not of the tribe were not even people, but that is not what it meant.  It meant, simply, that they were the ones in that same boat, and what does it really matter how the other boats were faring, if our own boat sank.


It is like that here in Second Life Gor.    We are “the people.”   A special and unique tribe in an isolated and hostile world, and we will not thrive here by looking at modern culture and society for solutions to our most basic concerns.  I think we should turn our attention backwards and look at what exactly got us here and, sure, we can identify exactly what was evil, and wrong, and no longer necessary, but if we throw out everything that made humans an evolutionary success story, we throw out the baby with the bathwater. And then, I fear, we are doomed.

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