Woman’s own awakening to the realization of her value is part of the recovery of the feminine principle.
— Anne Baring
Around 2000 BC, we enter the Patriarchal Era and begin to lose touch with the older story.
This was an era of huge social and political change; an era that I have called the Phase of Separation, lasting some 4,000 years to the present day.
The Great Father replaced the Great Mother.
The sun replaced the moon as the primary celestial body. Two immensely powerful mythologies became the major influence on the social, political and religious history of the West, right up to the present time.
The Goddess began to be associated with nature as a chaotic force to be mastered and the God assumed the role of creating or ordering nature from a ‘place’ that was outside or beyond it. Spirit began to be defined as something beyond the world, something remote, transcendent, beyond nature, beyond ourselves.
Moreover, it was defined as male and paternal. This new ordering of reality led to a fundamental split between spirit and nature that is the origin of our exploitive relationship with the planet today. Since this separation had not previously existed it could be seen to express a new phase in the evolution of human consciousness, one which involved a progressive withdrawal from a sense of participation in the life of nature.
While this resulted in an increasing autonomy for human consciousness, it also resulted in a growing sense of separation from the natural world and the conviction that man had the right to master and control nature for his own benefit. Hence the belief enshrined in the Book of Genesis, that man (Adam) has been given ‘dominion’ over the animals (Gen. 2).
All three patriarchal religions eliminated the image of the Goddess as well as all traces of Animism — the belief that spirit was present in the forms of the natural world: in the rocks, mountains, trees and rivers.
All identified spirit with a wholly transcendent monotheistic concept of God. Only the Indigenous cultures kept the older story alive: the story of life on this planet as a Sacred Order and our relationship with the Earth and the Cosmos a sacred trust. One of the major factors bringing about this change was the dominant mythology of this era: the cosmic battle between Light and Darkness, Good and Evil — a battle portrayed in countless statues and paintings of St. George fighting a dragon.
Despite its magnificent cultural and scientific achievements, this 4,000-year-long patriarchal era has been dominated politically by the theme of conquest, territorial expansion and the creation of a series of gigantic empires, culminating in the First and Second World Wars and the current catastrophe in the Middle East.
This pervasive oppositional mythology led ultimately to the battle to conquer and subdue nature in the service of Man, to the splitting of the atom and the invention of nuclear weapons. Since matter was no longer sacred, splitting the atom and creating nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors with their deadly residue of plutonium was not seen as an act of sacrilege against the Divine Order of life.
During this era, the drive for power and dominance replaced the older lunar emphasis on relationship with a harmonious cosmic order, a relationship that had been supported by precise astronomical observation gathered over millennia. Many extraordinary human achievements owe their origin to the battle to overcome darkness and evil such as, for example, the abolition of slavery and the discoveries that have transformed our lives, but it was also projected onto the struggle for power between nations and the creation of an enemy — the ‘dragon’ that had to be defeated by the solar hero.
The dualistic paradigm has dominated patriarchal culture for 4,000 years.
Another factor in the loss of the older story was the new emphasis on the warrior as solar hero and conqueror, most famously personified by Achilles in The Iliad and, at a later date, by Alexander of Macedon. The powerful archetype or pattern of the warrior still dominates the piling up of arms by the great nations today. Leaders of nations still unconsciously assume the role of the solar hero battling the forces of darkness projected onto an enemy. We do not hear the voice of women throughout this era save in the plays of the great Greek tragedians. In Euripides’ heart-wrenching play “The Trojan Women”, we can listen to what women suffered during these 4,000 years. Raped, orphaned and widowed in ceaseless conflicts, women lost generation after generation of their sons as these were conscripted to fight ongoing territorial wars. When conquered, women were taken away into sexual slavery, much as the tragic Yazidi women have been raped and taken into slavery by Isil today, indicating that very little has changed in our patterns of behavior.
The Myth of the Fall of Man
There was a third and vitally important factor in the loss of the older vision: the immensely influential Myth of the Fall of Man. The Book of Genesis tells the story of our expulsion from a divine world and our Fall into this world, a Fall that was brought about by a woman, Eve, who disobeyed the command of God and brought sin, death and suffering into being. In this myth the image of deity has changed from Great Mother to Great Father. The Goddess has been demoted into the human figure of Eve who still carries the Goddess’ former title of ‘Mother of All Living’.
Stay tuned for the rest of The Myth of the Fall of Man on the next Anne Baring episode…