316. Group Identities

Group identities act as bonding of a person into its social context. This happens within all spheres of human life, from a family cluster to the human species. If not resolved, the identifications will last indefinitely. The terminals of the identifications, or short: identities, are much less obvious than it is the case with normal identities. Their existence is therefore quickly forgotten even if the person was aware of it at the time of the
initial connection.

Group Identities belong to the classes of identities that appear the most difficult to resolve.

There are many varieties: town/state/nation, university visited,  preferred football team, racial groups, ownership of dog or cat or  horse, which car the person is driving and which clothes is worn.

Some group identities stay explicitely in the past like the 'university visited' class and are sometimes reestablished in a new frame work ("alumni"). Some group identities are fixed in the future. The goal of the person then becomes to 'really' be a member of the group that is identified with.

Genesis and Justification

At first glance these identities seem to make perfectly sense since they coincide with observable classes of phenomena in the 'real' world.

From the viewpoint of the body's software, the group's survival is equal to its own survival. From a spiritual viewpoint, the computation yields that there may be no games if there would be no groups. Both possibilities seem too horrific to confront.

On an even lower level abstraction, group identifications seem necessary as anchorpoints for both body software and being as an orientation in space/time. Attachment to the beacons of group members can be seen as a basic premise of any game whether newly initiated or enforced as a condition of participation in life in the first place.

Because of its pervading influence in all areas of life, group identifications could be the perfect study ground for the phenomenon of identification. On the other hand, however, it can be compared with a minefield of the mind. Whereas most studies of the mind can isolate conditions into a non-threatening lab-like situation, group identities are pervading so many aspects of life that it appears nearly impossible to proceed with any evaluation or classification without the influence of a host of different group identities.


Some of its properties are:

Freedom and Responsibility

Attaining a high degree of individual freedom implies a similar degree of responsibility.

From a group's view, individual responsibility is an 'evil' property even though it could benefit the group in form of higher competence.

In Gotamo's view, the ideal person is taking over responsibility for the entire creation. Through this act
the person is liberating itself.

This boundless responsibility is fundamentally different from the group viewpoint: "we are all one". In the latter, there truly is no individual responsibility at all.  Many people will vehemently protest this last statement. If this happens, the group identities, particularly those of the class of  'human species', are so strong that the person itself may feel attacked directly. Contesting the "we are all one"  viewpoint as valid (except as a consciously chosen, temporary, and exploratory viewpoint), is therefore dangerous for the proponent.

From a certain perspective, single-terminal identities can be seen as a special form of group identities. This viewpoint makes especially sense if it is considered that groups are usually represented by a name or symbol and is then acting as it were a single-terminal identity whereas on the other hand, most single-terminal identities can be broken down  into groups upon further inspection.

Resolving group identities can therefore mean to resolve identities in general.

If there are no identities left, a Being has an unlimited number of choices: it finds itself in a state of complete freedom.


While dropping group identities, a person encounters phenomena which very often propells it right back into the same or another group identity.

The 'bottomless pit view' that Gotamo discussed several times in the Pali Canon is the most dramatic phenomenon.

A feeling of 'being left out', fears of non-survival, concerns of reprisal from the side of the former group, and similar emotional reactions are side effects that are less strong than the 'bottomless pit', but are usually strong enough to act as a serious hindrance for proceeding to resolve group identities.


Copyright © 1998 by Maximilian J. Sandor, Ph.D.