The Mongolian Wolf

The Mongolian Wolf comes from Siberia, and is the spiritual ancestor of Chingis Khan and all Mongols. We must always honor and revere it with all of our heart and soul. 

What is the significance of the wolf?

When the Mongolian ancestral myth as handed down to us through The Secret History of The Mongols describes Chingis Khan, and by implication the spiritual as well as the materialized Mongol nation, as descending from the blue-gray wolf, it is of course signifying the close connection between the Mongols and the qualities and principles manifested in the world by that animal. This leads us to two insights: Firstly; it is a message that the Mongolian principles are particularly well equipped to convey and give out what the wolf stands for in the broadest possible sense. This of course reflects very favorably upon all Mongols.

Secondly: At the same time, it imposes an obligation upon those among us who stand for these values, and that obligation is valid not only for Mongolians, but for all who are spiritually connected to the "wolf principle."  It is our duty to bring out the wolf in today's world. What exactly does that mean? Since the wolf functions as a symbol, it is what that symbol stands for. Remember, the deeper definition of a symbol is that it is something concrete that represents something abstract which then again may manifest into the material and physical - always in accordance with its intrinsic principles. 

What, then, is the wolf a representative of? Among those positively disposed towards the animal it is generally accepted that the wolf is associated with and stands for wilderness and freedom, but what exactly is that? Perhaps the best way to elucidate is to compare the wolf to its domesticated form, the Canis lupus familiaris, better known as the domestic dog. 

In such a comparison, some prominent features immediately spring to mind. The wolf is simply a less comfort-seeking, much more intense, active, restless and resourceful creature than is the dog. Whereas a dog is typically content with a sedentary life within a house, the wolf is constantly exploring its environment, wanting to cover incredible distances in the process. We do find the same pattern of behavior in dogs, but the abilities and corresponding inner urges of a wolf are very much greater and more powerful. The wolf is not interested in comfort and safety, but on the contrary its inner compass directs it towards a life in constant motion and intense activity.

A wolf can be tamed, and bear in mind that taming, the process of socializing an animal to humans, is not the same as domestication, which is the deliberate gradual modification by selective breeding of a wild species over many generations into a docile, pliable creature that follows the will of others and possesses little or no urge to challenge and extend the boundaries of anything. The tame wolf can be friendly and gentle, but even if tamed it does not want to be restricted in any way; it wants and needs a very high and intense level of activity and cannot be made to tolerate the confinements and constraints the domesticated dogs have to endure. Its natural intelligence and instincts simply prevent a wolf from accepting them. For these reasons wolves are not suitable as pets.

Of course, the wolf is the wild animal that roams the forests and the steppes, and it does so with an endurance that surpasses every other animal on earth. Only Man comes close in endurance capability. Humans and wolves can run down the fastest horses; the former may need ten hours to do so whereas the wolf may do it in much less time, but the pattern is remarkably similar. Also, the social structure within a wolf pack is basically the same as among humans. Naturally, this is how the making of the dog was made possible. Without a great similarity of social structure and behavior between wolf and human communities the original contact could not have been established between the two different but strangely related species.

The dog is nothing more nothing less than a reduced variety of its wild form Canis lupus lupus. It has been demonstrated that a wolf has jaws that are nearly twice as powerful than a dog's of the same size. Canis lupus lupus can exert 1450 lbs/sq.inch whereas Canis lupus familiaris is capable of a mere 750 lbs/sq.inch. In situations where tame wolves and dogs have been put together to play the stamina and intensity of the wolf has been clearly demonstrated. For example when one tame wolf had been put to play with a brace of dogs, long before the wolf tired the dogs became totally exhausted and had to be replaced with a couple more from a nearby kennel. This result occurred every time that situation arose, as described by the Danish ethologist Britta Rothausen in her little book "Ulven Samson" (Samson the Wolf), unfortunately only available in the Danish language. 

The superiority of the wolf naturally extends to mental abilities. It is endowed with a bigger and better developed brain. On average a wolf's brain is 25% larger than that of a domesticated dog of the same size. Wolves are known to be capable of learning by observing, something rarely seen in dogs. Tame wolves have been found to consistently learn, understand and repeat actions (that their bodies are capable of repeating) of their human associates, for example the opening of doors or the moving away of objects simply by watching how humans do it. Very few if any dogs are capable of such learning; dogs have to be trained, and then they do what they have been trained to do, not what they themselves have decided upon based on mentally processed experience. On the other hand, wolves are difficult to train because they are only willing to do something for a purpose. It is easy to condition a dog to jump through a ring by giving it a morsel the first times. Afterwards, the dog will connect the action with the reward and repeat the jump an infinite number of times even when there is no further reward. A wolf, on the other hand, is capable of a very much higher level of reasoning, if it is fitting to use this concept about wolves. To make a wolf jump through the same ring an endless number of times is not at all difficult, but it is only willing to do so if it sees a purpose for it, that means you have to consistently reward the animal for the action. As soon as it does not see that the jumping has a worthy purpose from which it can benefit, the wolf will not jump any more. It cannot be cajoled and tricked into following other's wills, let alone forced to do so.

The mind of a wolf is so strong that, unlike most humans, it does not distinguish between punishment and attack. That is an intriguing trait indeed, and if we think it over, it is the wolf who may be closer to truth. In human societies punishment generally results from human laws, and what is called "law" may be very different from "justice." Often the law serves as an instrument deliberately designed for the benefit of those who are in power or who have economic interests that are protected by the law, thus the enforcement of many laws has been and is, in effect, an attack on people's traditional rights (as well as those of animals and wildlife) and a threat to their freedom and in some cases even to their entire existence. The wolf has an inherent albeit in all probability unconscious instinct for justice, and therefore it will not so easily bend to the will of another. If forced to, it will wait for the first opportunity to get even with the force that has trespassed upon its integrity. 

To watch wolf footprints and those of dogs in snow is also illustrative. A dog leaves tracks that bespeak lower intensity and lesser distance covered per time unit, and in addition the comparatively disoriented and purposeless dog leaves tracks that stand in sharp contrast to the more deliberate, energy-efficient and determined pattern showed by the wolf tracks. So what conclusions can be drawn from these aspects of reality? Without a doubt, the most significant element here is the incomparable superiority of a wolf's mental capabilities over those of the domestic dog - reflected in the way it moves.

Now, the dog is Man's creation, the product of culture. In modern thought, some assumptions are generally taken for granted, e.g. the inferiority of previous conditions, systems or entities. Another is that advancement or improvement is linear in the sense that things improve with time, with the concomitant belief that what is more recent is by definition better and more sophisticated than what was before. Both these views are mistaken and reflect a human propensity towards teleological explanations and interpretations in a futile attempt to impose order upon an unfathomable Universe. Evolution has no specific direction, it is a pure and constantly ongoing adaptation to a set of environmental conditions.

The wolf can with every justification be said to be a messenger. It tells humans that the original form Canis lupus is a very much stronger, more powerful and able being than the dog which has originated from the wolf and hence is a more recent version. Of course, the reason why the wolf is superior is that it lives in a natural environment where it is constantly challenged and forced to become as strong mentally, psychologically and physically as possible. This is a prerequisite to survival in a challenging environment. There is, however, more to it than just that. Humans have deliberately bred the dog to be more manageable. In order for that to be the case, the dog had to be made less intelligent, less strong physically, and less active and inquisitive than the wolf. Even though it may be argued that this was necessary in order to obtain an obedient dog, this process reflects deeper structures in thought and action, thus it indicates certain values and some disturbing lines of development that go with them. Historically many human societies have hated and despised the wolf. One part of the reason is that wolves prey on domestic animals, but the reason is way more complex and runs far deeper than that. Because the wolf is the animal that most closely resembles the human being with respect to social structure (in fact, much more so than apes), humans have always observed wolf behavior with particular interest and an instantaneous even if subconscious recognition. 

Then, the wolf displays not only an immense superiority as compared to the dog, the artifact of civilization. It thereby shows that the most modern development is not necessarily "progress" in the positive meaning of the word. Thus it forces humans to question the very foundations on which much of human culture rests, even if this is mostly happening in the subconscious. 

If the products of Man are inferior to those of Original Nature, then the implications are exceedingly far-reaching. Seeing all this and at the same time all too frequently rejecting the message carried by the reality that manifests as the gray and powerful canine child of the wilderness, some human cultures reject the wolf because they cannot bear the great truth in its message: That civilization, the way it has formed to this day, is in many ways inferior to Nature's solutions, and that a more healthy way to live would be possible if humans could allow themselves to be aligned with natural life instead of falsely believing that human culture is morally or otherwise superior to Nature. 

Contrary to a widespread strain of popular belief, the wolf is never cruel. The continuous competitive actions stemming from the dominance hierarchies within a wolf pack are neither destructive wars nor actual conflicts, but rather ritual contests in which all participants are required to develop the appropriate psychological and physical strengths, as well as social skills to cope with life. Wolves have a very strong instinct for togetherness and common endeavor, as have humans if they choose that tendency. One may even suggest that the most prominent quality of the wolf is its remarkable capacity to form strong bonds, to keep the pack together in order to uphold its life. It is telling that within Shamanic traditions, the wolf is universally considered a carrier of feminine principles, most notably the nurturing and caring qualities so characteristic of this animal.

The question is towards what endeavors should humans strive, in what directions should their movement go? The message from the wolf is that by harmonizing with and accepting the principles of the natural forces, humans can become much more powerful, in all respects, than if they distance themselves from Nature. The difficulty is that in the self-understanding of a large portion of cultural humanity, distancing from Nature is erroneously considered to be necessary to realize the human potential. In truth it is the other way around; Nature is what humans are but a part of, and failure to acknowledge that reality will inevitably lead to a further diminishing of natural abilities which predictably will assume a pattern similar to that which emerged when the domesticated dog was made from the wolf. 

As mentioned in the above, throughout much of human history, and in particular in the areas where livestock breeding has been a major human enterprise, the wolf has been an object of unbridled hatred and persecution marked by a desire to destroy which hardly any other animal has ever been subject to. In part this has been caused by predation on domesticated animals like sheep, poultry and cattle. It is however doubtful if this is the whole story. The real problems with livestock depredations by wolves can easily be seen as secondary motivations for the historical human persecution of wolves; the main and underlying reason why the wolf has evoked so much irrational hatred from human societies lies in all probability elsewhere. Where? The very existence of the wolf and its qualities superabundantly demonstrate the failings, shortcomings and outright destructive features of much of modern-time human culture. Confronted with that, only two modes of reaction are possible: One is to hate and fight the wolf tooth and nail in a never-ending, obsessive battle. Insofar as the deeper source of this hatred is the realization that a furry, fierce and intelligent animal has something to teach Man, the driving force behind the war against the wolf is a great difficulty with accepting the truth in the Wolf's silent message, making compensatory defence mechanisms psychologically indispensable. Sadly, when this way of thinking dominates it frequently amounts to a denial of Mankind's origin and moorings in the wilderness and of the healthy truth that Nature represents.

The other possible path for humans is to at long last embrace and arrive at an acceptance of the animal, "wilderness" part of human nature, and build up their societies in harmony with it. How is that to be done? Practically it means to become more physically active and strive to live more of life in contact with Nature instead of seeking to get away from it. There are sound reasons why future social and economic planning should create societies where people do not spend their lives in large megacities where Man is blocked from contact with the elements of Life, but as far as possible in rural and sylvan areas. Also, humans need to value and above all cultivate the abilities that enable them to participate in the wilderness as part and partner of the community of all life forms, including the ability to care for and feel responsible towards our environment and our fellows. It is salutary to be mindful of the fact that the indeed awesome human intelligence - as well as the capacity to maintain togetherness and solidarity between individuals and groups - has developed as the effect of the ubiquitous, constant challenges in Mother Nature where selective processes enabled Man to reach the intellectual level and emotional qualities needed to build and sustain culture. It is truly a paradox if human culture rejects the very foundations of its existence. 

Here we humans are helped by the four-legged emissary from the wilderness. By receiving and accepting its silent yet distinct and unambiguous advice we will be able to be humans without rejecting Nature. It is possible to build a society where humans would be developing the part of their mental abilities that comprises knowledge and science and at the same time strive to live as animals in Nature with full recognition of the past, present and future desirability of also that part of ourselves. Certainly that is a vast challenge, but this is what the wolf presents to us. We are called upon to meet it. 

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Last Updated August 19, 2007 by Per Inge Oestmoen