THE WARRIOR GENE. Its Origins and Evolution

The warrior revels in the excitement of combat.
He actively seeks engagement
He risks life and limb
He glares at the mask of death.

Generally speaking primates are timid fruitarians. Though dangerous when provoked or cornered, and prepared to fight in defense of territorial trespass, they are not heroes and would retreat rather than attack. They are known to occasionally hunt and eat meat, but they never hunt a dangerous foe.

So what made the human primate a warrior who is stirred by the call to battle?
What makes him dream of fighting Goliath and becoming a hero?
How and why did the warrior gene imprint itself in human consciousness?

That question arose in my mind one day while out hunting in East Africa. A troop of chakma baboons fled at my approach and found safety in a high tree. On a whim, as I stood beneath them, I fired a shot from my rifle into the air.
Big mistake!
Some fifty sphincter muscles suddenly went flaccid .
I was covered head to foot in a solid rain of stinking doodoo!
Apes piss and shit themselves when frightened.
Human warriors do not.
What happened in human evolution that gave the human ape, not just control over fear, but the guts to seek it out and confront it head-on?

It took me years to seek out the answer.
Though the answer was logical in an evolutionary sense, it surprised me.
I have formulated an original theory on the origins and evolution of the warrior gene.
I would like to share the theory with fellow philosophers.
But first, since this is one of the most intriguing and puzzling of human characteristics, it would be interesting to read your thoughts and mull over any theories of your own, should you have them.
It would indeed be surprising if you came up with the same surprising answer that I did.

I will give you one large clue. The warrior gene did not imprint during the Stone Age.
I lived with the Kalahari Bushmen for a while. Though canny hunters and dangerous with their poisoned arrows when cornered, they are not heroes.
War is alien to their consciousness. They do not trepass on each others hunting territory and they do not have the sporting impulse to go after dangerous animals. They are gentle, timid people.

My answer is ‘calling any gene “the X Gene” is a load of bollocks since individual genes do nothing by themselves, they only function in relation to other genes, the organism and the environment they are in’…

The true warrior type only fights because they must. It is a sense of duty to proctect hearth and home. Over generations of civilzation this sense of duty has probably developed into an inclination or trait.

Humans are the only ape species to develop specialty clans or groups for the survival of the species. Humanity all began in one specific area of the world. It took generations to spread. Habits die hard. It was a given in the beginning, that the child of a carpenter would be a carpenter, the child of a leader would be a leader, the child of a soldier would be soldier. Education came strictly from the parents. So parents taught their child what they knew. Compound this over generations. Then the next step was apprenticing.

It would probably be safe to say that if you are inclined to be a warrior or carpenter, somewhere down the line you had multiple, multiple generations that filled that niche.That part of the brain function that causes such inclination is a bit more developed from generational use. Traits are heriditary after all.
This is not a very good explanation, I can do better, but for right now that is all that is popping into my head.

I’m interested, MagnetMan. As for an attempt at a solution, my thoughts went in this direction. You have said before that these bushman had an animistic “religion”. I place “religion” between quotation marks because animism is very close to shamanism, and shamanism is usually not considered a religion. So now we have the following collection: Stone Age, hunter-gatherer, shamanism, and non-warrior culture. So perhaps the warrior thing is something beginning in the Iron Age (or an intermediary age), with agriculture and domestication, and actual (non-shamanic) religion.

In the New Age mythology of the astrological “ages” (e.g., the Age of Aquarius), it is said that, around 4000 B.C., there began a worldwide peaceful matriarchal culture like the one on Crete. This was the Age of Taurus. Then, around 2000 B.C., the Age of Aries began, with Romans, Greeks, and other Caucasians conquering the aforementioned culture by force, and founding a patriarchal, warlike culture. Then, with the sacrifice of the Lamb, around 0 B.C. (a male lamb being a young ram), the Age of Pisces was ushered in, which in the West was dominated mainly by Christianity (cf. the sign of the fish, Greek ichthus).

You are on the right track here Sauw. If you keep working on it you might hit the nail on the head =D>

The 'religious"cult of the warrior that you more or less refer to emerged later - in the late Bronze Age. This spiritual aspect of the warrior has vital purpose in the development of human consciousness. We will get into the ramifications of that aspect after establishing exactly why and how evolutionary circumstances initially forced man to develop courage. :smiley:

“The history of agriculture is a major element of human history, as agricultural progress has been a crucial factor in worldwide socio-economic change, including wealth-building and militaristic specializations rarely seen in hunter-gatherer cultures—when farmers became capable of producing food beyond the needs of their own families, others in the tribe/nation/empire were freed to devote themselves to ambitions and enterprises other than food acquisition.”

The second major step in point of fact, and a huge one at that!!
A quantum leap in consciousness was required to move man from the basic day to day existence of hunting and gatherering and adopt agriculture as a survival imperative. The move was made perhaps as long ago as 20,000 B.C. (There is archeological evidence of seed storage bins as old as 15.000 BCE)

In order to grasp the extreme nature of our second evolutionary step, one has to imagine living a life for tens of thousands of genereations, existeing entirely in the here and now - looking minute by minute for food, always on th everge of starvation - and then grasp the fantastic futuristic concept of not hunting or gathering and laboring for months on end, trusting in a harvest. Virtually every previous survival value had to change in order to make the social and spiritual adjustment from Stone Age to Bronze Age.

Explaining all the ramification of that crucial step took several chapters in my book on Psyche-Genetics.

What I am driving at in this thread, is that the domestication of nature forced human nature to adopt two brand new ethical constructs that, for the next 600 generations, deeply impacted on our consciousness and made us who we are today.

One was the tedium of the chore-based work ethic which agriculture demanded.
The other the ethic of courage.

It is this latter that we are examining in this thread. What made the timid ape who had evolved into the infinitely more intelligent, yet still timid hunter/gatherer, become a warrior who eventually gloried in war?

Territorial protection, clan raiding and out-right war followed only after man developed a sense of valor. A crucial factor, far more primitive than intercine warfare, made that happen.

I am not trying to be coy with you in withholding the information I have. I have explained my theory to a number of people in the past and, like it is with magical tricks, as soon as the secret was revealed they lost further interest. Considering the extreme importance courage has and always will play in evaluating the human psyche, this casual attitude has invariably astounded me. The confusion of the moden mind is because it does not grasp the signficance and importance of its infant beginnings.

Our courage was not a gift from God. It was not imprinted in the primal gene. Our early Bronze Age ancestrors earned it the hard way, and passed it on to us. When I discovered how hard and how many hundreds of generations it took to imprint that ethic, the Confucian exhortation for ancetral reverence became a very real factor in my ideas of what values are truly important to us, especially in developing sterling characters in children. So the story of how man frst found courage is one of the earliest lessons I impressed on mine.

I promise to reveal the ancient secret in my next post if you remain interested. You stumbled on it at the beginning when you also mentioned the domestication of nature. :smiley:

With all due respect, MagnetMan, I can imagine that happening to you quite often. I remember your “Five Senses” thread (which included a poll). I found your question very interesting, and I think that I have given a very interesting answer. But when you finally gave your answer, which according to you was the answer, I did lose interest: for you spoke of things like “the Conscious-forming Act of Creation”.

With all due respect, MagnetMan: I think you are a wacko; but an interesting one. I am willing to bear with you and see where this thread goes.

I never suggested or even thought to myself that my take on the most important human sense was “the” answer. Simply my own feel on it. I was more interested in finding out if anybody else had given it any thought.

As to being called wacko, even respectfully so:
Original thinkers are usually negatively labelled until their theories prove to be true.

You have at least admitted that this thread is interetsing, so I am prepared to go on with it, bearing under the title of wacko, if you can show me where I have said anything on this subject that is not sensible and well thought out.

If you agree that so far I am on point, I will be only too happy to take you through the rationale that proves this theory, step by step.

For starters I will give you three steps.

At the end of the Stone Age, when our success as hunter/gatherers allowed us to establish hunting territories throughout Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, and no more hunting space was available for population expansion, agriculture became a survival imperative. Nature had to be domesticated regionally in order to produce higher yields of food. With domestication, came pestulence.

Three avenues for continued existence were open to us.

Those family groups established in coastal regions continued fishing, mainly tidewater shell fishing with a gradual evolution out into the open ocean.

Those groups who once hunted in fertile valleys and light forests took to mixed farming. Wild flora and fauna were domesticated - mainly grains, root vegetables, goats, pigs, fowls etc. Small cats were tamed for rodent control in the grain bins. Dogs were trained to control the larger cats. One leopard on a night raid will isntinctively kill or maim every animal trapped inside a pen. The farmer and his sons would use the dogs to track down and tree the cat and then dispatch it with bows and arrows. This would leave them reasonably pest-free until another panther filled the vacant spot.

The final groups who had hunted the steppes and open plains, tamed wild cattle and became nomadic herdsmen. This group came into direct competiton with prides of lions.

10,000 years ago lion prides dominated the natural food chain on every continent. Except for Africa they are all extinct now and herein lies the answer to the development of human courage. Mankind was forced to systematically hunt them down and dispatched every last one of them in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and America. This practice continued in Africa up until colonial times.

How they socially organized themselves to accomplish this extinction over hundreds of generations, is a fascinating un-told tale of the gradual cukltivation of bravery that fully explains the emergeance of the warrior spirit.

If you or any other reader finds the above reasoning wacko, I will stop here. If not, I will like a retraction and I will happily continue.

I must say that in this thread you come across as completely sane. That “wacko” thing was derived from past threads. Also, I will readily affirm that I am a maniac. I hope I have not insulted you.

This solution of yours is very interesting, as I have been wondering how man has subdued greater predators, especially the lion. I wonder if he did so by courage or by cunning, or by both. Please continue this exhibition of your thoughts.

Am somewhat mollified. Eccentric I’ll accept, wacko is a mite strong. I take pride in my common sense base of reasoning and sharing the richness gained from forgotten regions of human existence.

Okay. So we have shown that the mid-sized solitary cats can be dealt with by an early Bronze Age farmer/hunter and his missiles and dogs without the need to evoke much more courage than is required for territorial protection.

The story of our confrontation with the prides of lions was entirely different. By domesticating wild cattle and claiming the plains as our rightful pastures, it was we who were trespassing on their territory. That trespass started a 10,000 year-long war between man and lion that is still going on in remote parts of Africa today. In order to face the lions and win the war an entirely new level of courage had to be developed and evoked in the guts of man…

How we learned to face the lions then is the meat of this story,

A pride of lions needs to kill a large animal every three days. Cattle herded into thorn bomas at night make for easy meat. Once a pride starts on night raids, at least one of the pride, preferably the male, needs to be killed to teach them a lesson – which may last for a year or two, before the next males are old enough to give it another try.

As mentioned, a male lion can weigh six hundred pounds. Extinct Cape lions weighed up to 800 lbs. They are far too heavy to be treed. When a lion is pursued it retreats into heavy cover and uses its natural camouflage to hide and wait in ambush. Venturing in after one, even with a high powered rifle, is a highly dangerous business. For a lone man armed only with a primitive spear, it is certain death.

It takes up to forty men, armed with spears and shields to beat a lion out of its cover and then surround him and spear him to death. The major problem is to regiment the lion fighters – to get them to act in unison - to be absolutely sure that not one of them will break ranks at a crucial moment and evoke mass panic. Death to the lion had to be certain. Leaving a wounded lion in the vicinity invited even greater danger.

Thus it was that young tribal boys were trained to become lion fighters by initiating pubertal circumcision guilds. The pain had to be endured without flinching. The rite was followed by an endurance trial. They had to live for months alone up in the hills, fending for themselves, overcoming the fears of the dark and of loneliness. This ordeal helped to sharpen their appreciation for the company and comforts of the community and their obligations to protect it. Only then, at about 14 or 15 years of age were they ready to join a lion fighting guild. They would remain in bachelor guilds until male menopause (until the first grey appeared in their beards) Their need to remain unattached bachelors introduced the concept of polygamy into tribal life. At around 40 years of age, according to their prowess as lion-fighters each received a portion of the tribal herds as their own – and used that to buy young wives

The ethic of courage imprinted into the genes of those early nomadic tribes, made them, as the Bronze Age wore on, the great warrior nations that conquered all others -.and in doing so - spread the warrior gene among all of us.

In closing, I will add that very little of the above is conjecture. I was fortunate enough, some fifty years ago, to live among different primitive Bronze age cultures and also to see an 8mm movie of one of the last Masai lion hunts, before the British East African administration banned the practice. That experience was like a clear window into our ancient past.

For those interested I am posting a part of one of the chapters from my book on Psyche-Genetics. It describes a Masia lion hunt in detail

Becoming Moran

Africa remains as a vast treasure house of pre-literate social and spiritual customs, with residues of living evidence of the formalities that took place in pre-historic initiation lodges. For example, in East Africa just 50 years ago the Masai were the last spear-carrying pastoralists to actually be witnessed during a lion fight; the old tradition being that he who draws first blood from a lion becomes a moran, a warrior.

Lion-hunting, Masai-style, evolved with the changing world in which the tribe found itself, so that over thousands of years, as the numbers of lions diminished, the lion-hunt was gradually refined from a practical, nuts-and bolts confrontation between man and beast into a spiritual ritual.

The circle of fighters surrounding the lion became an arena for the display of personal valor; facing a lion without fl inching was an opportunity for an individual fighter to be elevated and attain the status of moran. Once a lion had been beaten out of its cover and surrounded, the circle of warriors did not immediately close in to spear it to death. Instead the coup de grace was delayed so that fate could determine who would become a moran. The instrument by which fate would make its choice was the lion itself, crouching frightened and ever more infuriated at the epicenter of a wall of shields until it chose one man to charge as its avenue of escape.

The Masai lion-fighting spear is close to six feet long. The broad swordlike blade is over two feet in length. It has a cutting edge on both sides, designed to inflict maximum arterial damage as it slices through muscle and tissue. The sharp blade is fitted into a short wooden shaft, just wide enough for a handhold, with its lower end consisting of an iron spoke, four feet long. The hunter’s back-up weapon would be a simi, a short sword hung at the waist in a buckskin scabbard, and he would have an iron-hard shield of ox-hide, almost six feet long, to provide protection for his entire body.

Originally the Masai warrior’s weapons and equipment were somewhat different, but over hundreds of generations as lion fighting gradually became a highly formalized ritual in tribal life, they evolved to suit the changing fighting techniques.

When a pride of lions attacks a Masai boma (cattle enclosure) and kills a cow, young boys are immediately sent out to surrounding manyettas to call the lion-fighting guild together. In the meantime the male lion of the pride is tracked down and his sleeping place located, and the trackers then keep tabs on his movements.

Once the guild is assembled, the fi ghters spend considerable time in personal preparation. It is highly possible that one or more of them will die when the lion is finally cornered. A man must look his best when he faces death. They bathe their bodies, then oil their hair and skin with lion fat and red ochre They help each other to braid elaborate ocher hair styles, and adorn themselves with jewelry and lucky talismans.

When all are ready, a squad of some 40 armed fighters, ranging in age from14 to 40, assemble in ranks and then trot off across the plains to the thicket where the lion is lying up. The group tests the wind direction and decides on the open space towards which the lion must be driven. Then they surround the thicket, advancing slowly, making a low humming sound while beating the flats of their spear-blades against their shields. As they draw nearer the gaps in the ranks close, so that a wall of shields surrounds the thicket.

Confused by the noise, the lion eventually bursts from his last scrap of cover, and the hunters move in, shoulder to shoulder, trapping it in a six foot high wall of shields. Alarmed and angry, the lion winds himself up for action, his tail flicking back and forth and teeth bared in a fearsome snarl that turns into a series of frightful roars.

For both man and beast the moment of truth is at hand, and the lion charges. In one or two quick bounds he leaps with extended claws and wide-pen fangs directly onto the man blocking his line of escape. The selected man must immediately jab the rear of the spike to ground and aim the spear blade directly at the lion’s descending chest. As the lion’s body drives into the blade the man falls backwards and sinks beneath the weight of the beast now on his shield. He then reaches for his simi and begins stabbing the lion, while at the same time the others rush forward and sink their spears into the lion.

In theory the lion should be killed without harm to anybody. In practice it is rare that at least one of the hunters is not mauled and left with a serious injury, especially if the chosen man fl inched at the last moment and missed the heart as the lion descended on him. Even when thrust to the heart, a lion still has up to a minute of furious life left in him, enough time to wreak enormous damage. A raking blow from one paw is enough to tear the shield out of the prostrate hunter’s desperate grasp and fling it 40 yards away, leaving him fully exposed to the savage embrace and skull-crunching jaws.

As a living witness to the enormous effort in self-control and sense of personal honor exhibited by the Bronze Age psyche, there is an official report from a British District Commissioner who witnessed and attended to a wounded Masai after a hunt.

The moran, no more than 16 years old, sat dripping blood on the carcass of the lion, his chest cage ripped so wide open by a single swipe of the beast’s claws that his heart could be seen beating inside the bloody cavity, a near fatal wound by Western standards. But the boy did not move a muscle or make a sound while he was being sewn up.

The only certain elements in a Masai lion hunt are that the lion itself will surely die, that group honor will be upheld, and one or more men will become moran.

The reason why our war with the lions has not been told and celebrated by every society on Earth today is because it happened in an early moment of human evolution. The fight for territorial rights took place near the dawn of the Bronze Age, as much as fifteen thousand years ago. The story of that great battle was never carried forward orally in any of our mythologies, because it was not the feat of any single hero or single social group at any single moment in time. Every man of the early Bronze Age was involved in that fight as it raged for untold generations all across the planet, wherever lions roamed and preyed on our herds.

There are a thousand epic tales that have been told and retold about ancient warrior heroes and their bold deeds, about the great battles and wars that they fought in. We relish telling them; but there is not one story about the initiation of courage in our very first warrior, or how courage eventually became distorted and ended up with men warring unreasonably against each other for something less than honor.
The lions hold that lost key to the bottom drawer of our war chest.

Pubertal peer groups circumcision ceremonies, initiation ordeals, the establishment of military regiments and the wars of men against men all stem directly from early Bronze Age lion-fighting tactics and survival strategies. There is no other single episode in our history that so comprehensively defines the basic values of the extended family and the emergence of a militant nature in man.

Our ignorance regarding that primitive era disconnects us from our early ancestors. It leaves them in a dark cave, portrayed as brutish club-wielding louts, devoid of personal honor. They seem unrelated to us, and through that unfamiliarity, give us false license to crudely scoff at and vilify them as savage barbarians and pagan idolaters.

This crucial gap in our self-knowing robs us of a reverential ancestral attitude, and humble appreciation for the extreme hardships of their period, and the inestimable gift of raw valor that they imprinted into our gene pool. Not only are we are all poorer in spirit for not honoring their memory, but the lack of intimate familiarity with pre-industrial phases of social development seriously distorts our post-colonial relationships with the oral-based agricultural societies struggling in Africa and elsewhere today.

We simply do not recognize Third World cultures as parts of our extended family who are continuing to experience the same formative evolutionary encounters that we once did. We need to realize that they are struggling to transcend precisely the same pre-literate limitations that we also experienced when the Romans first arrived in Britain two thousand years ago. This fact does not make them any less than us. With help they can avoid our mistakes, and when the time comes for their 15 minutes in the sun they can flower to a height even greater than ours.

Our success at lion hunting has been far reaching. If mankind had never found a method to evoke the level of courage that it takes to face a muscular six hundred pound cat, armed with two inch fangs and eighteen razor-sharp claws, with little more than a primitive spear, we would probably have never left the Bronze Age and remained dirt farmers to this day. Once courage was firmly seated in our psyche that level of personal valor taught us how to truly love and respect each other. That love in turn gave us the conscientiousness and vision to craft a better life for all. Industrial craftsmanship gave us the smarts to become scientists. It is the courage ethic, together with the sharing and work-ethics, which form the solid foundations of our human character

I found this video on YouTube. As a commentator said, “That is neat as hell! I loved it. Too bad that Hollywood shit is mixed in with it. The hunt was awesome!”

Nice find! I have always hoped that the 8mm film I saw when still a lad would one day turn up somewhere. It was more detailed than this one. Thanks for sharing it.