The tempest in our public schools promoted by fundamentalist Christians over the subjects of sex education and creationism, raises an opportunity for all of us to participate in a search for the real "truth". I suggest we apply scientific scrutiny, the same process used to determine the validity of evolution, to the origins of Christianity itself.
Amazing recent discoveries in archaeology, linguistics, art history, and chaos theory, have been publicly reported in newspapers & books, shedding light on a pivotal event in human prehistory. This event, from which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam derive, can be described as the greatest murder mystery and cover-up of all time.
We are all familiar with tales of an earlier harmonious and peaceful age. The Bible tells of a garden where woman and man lived as equal before a male god decreed that woman be subservient to man. The ancient Greeks wrote of a "golden race" who tilled the soil in peace before a "lesser race" brought in their god of war. From the time when Schliemann helped establish the reality of Homer's Troy, science has slowly changed its perception of myths as sheer fantasy to a view that myths represent a garbled recollection of actual events.
Today, new archaeological excavations, coupled with reinterpretations of older digs using more scientific methods, reveal a very long period of peace and prosperity when our social, technological, and cultural evolution progressed. During this period of peace (measured in millennia, not decades or centuries), all the basic technologies, on which our modern civilization is built, were developed in societies that were not male dominant, violent, or based on ranking.
More evidence that ancient societies were organized very differently from ours are the many otherwise inexplicable images of the Deity as female in ancient art, myth, and even historical writings. Indeed, the idea of the Earth or Universe as an all-giving Mother has survived even into our time. Even in Christianity, the devotion to Mary is widespread. Although she is regarded as non-divine by the Catholic church, millions of people pray to her as the "Mother of God" seeking her compassion, protection, and solace.
It is intuitively easier for us to think of divine power in human form as a female creatrix rather than a male creator. Our ancestors must have answered the basic questions (Where do we come from before we are born? Where do we go after we die?) by noting that life emerges from the body of a woman. It would have been natural for them to associate the universe with an image of an all-giving Mother from whose womb emerges all life and to which, like the cycles of vegetation, it returns after death to be reborn again. Societies with this view of the divine would naturally be organized much differently than societies which worship a divine Father who wields a thunderbolt or sword.
Previous scientific analysis stereotyped the societies that worshipped a Mother Goddess as "matriarchal", in other words, where men were subservient to women. However, re-examination of the evidence shows that underlying the great diversity of human culture are really two basic models of society. The first is the "dominator", the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second, in which social relations are based on "linking" rather than ranking, is best described as a "partnership" model. In this model, differences between the sexes are not equated with either inferiority or superiority.
During the prehistory of our Western civilization, a cataclysmic turning point occurred when the direction of our cultural evolution was quite literally turned around. The progression of the societies that worshipped the life generating and nurturing powers of the universe was interrupted. From the peripheral areas of our globe came invaders who ushered in a very different form of organization for society. As the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas writes, these were people who worshipped "the lethal power of the blade" -- the power to take rather than give life that is the ultimate power to establish and enforce domination.
Although it seems as if humans constantly strive for higher goals in truth, beauty, and justice, our history instead has been a jagged series of movement to higher ideals punctuated by massive regressions. The values of intolerance, brutality, oppression, and warfare, demonstrated all too clearly in the Greek Dark Age and the Middle Ages, parallel the Biblical view that "Knowledge is Bad, Birth is Dirty, Death is Holy".
These values resulted from the Orwellian remaking of sacred stories along with the rewriting of codes of law in the Middle East, largely as the work of male priests. The Great Goddess was gone, a faint memory living only in the retelling of her rape and murder. Other stories were absorbed, covered-up, twisted, and reversed.
This process of re-mything has profoundly affected the Western mind in primarily one sacred book, the first half of the Bible. The re-mything explains why, despite attempts to give an impression of unity, there are so many inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible. One well known example is the two different stories of how God created human beings found in Chapter 1 of Genesis. The first tells that woman and man were simultaneous divine creations. The second, more elaborate one tells that Eve was created as an afterthought out of Adam's rib.
We can still read in the Bible of the enormous physical destruction which accompanied the re-mything. The Hebrews, and later also the Christians and Muslims, razed temples, cut down sacred groves of trees, and smashed pagan idols. Up to modern times, not only through book burning, but through the burning and persecution of heretics, those who did not hold the "correct" view were killed or converted. Today, this conditioning by fear dominates all aspects of life in child rearing, school, and law.
The authoritarianism and male dominance that Western fundamentalists preach to their followers always contains a coded message: "Don't think, accept what is, accept what authority says is true. Above all, do not use your own intelligence, your own powers of mind, to question us or to seek independent knowledge. For if you do, your punishment will be horrible indeed." In an open debate, however, the public can decide for itself whether to reject the "traditional" values of the fundamentalists and instead return to the original life-affirming values of our ancestors.
This essay is far too short a medium to document the many sources that point to the ancient time when partnership, creativity, and caring prevailed, when tools were more important than weapons, when men and women were equals, and people lived with more solidarity than aggression. Instead, I encourage the public to read the scholarly yet passionate book, The Chalice & The Blade by Riane Eisler, which will substantiate the claims I make.
My hope for the future is that humans rediscover our ancient heritage of partnership. If so, then our children will not learn epics in which men are honored for being violent or fairy tales about children who are lost in frightful woods where women are malevolent witches. They will be taught new myths, epics, and stories in which human beings are good; men are peaceful; and the power of creativity and love is the governing principle. Our thirst for knowledge, justice, and equality will at last be freed. After the bloody detour of the last 3500 years, both women and men will at last find out what being human means.
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