This lecture for the Goddess class is inspired by The Great Cosmic Mother, by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Moore, (Harper and Row, 1987), another fabulous book describing how women and nature went from holy to denigrated under the norms of patriarchy. Interspersed in this lecture with quotations by Sjoo and Mor are quotes from other feminist scholars, including my own thoughts.
What Goddess Here? Breaking Down The Evolution of Patriarchy
When activists point to the world’s most terrible problems, people often respon—“How did this happen?”—Well, here is an analysis detailing how the root cause of all modern human misery came about. What goddess here, and how to make sense of the worldwide cataclysm that is patriarchy? Understanding the now-global system of patriarchy is a gateway to begin to understand, and thereby break through our terrible conditioning.
Ancient womyn were the undivided ones—the human female was designed by evolution as the link between flesh and spirit. The mother’s womb is a condensed experience of the cosmos. Prenatal life is the original state of ecstatic consciousness within a sexual/spiritual universe. This shared experience of bodily reciprocity, gave us a taste of the undivided world, and we never forget it in the deepest layers of our psyches. The longing to return to this is not a backward craving but an urge to expand, to re-establish the cosmic connection. This is the core of all mystical experience. No leaders. No followers. No hierarchy.
We are connected to the earth as biological/spiritual beings. Life and earth haven’t changed. Our definitions of reality have changed. In dreams, in sex, in art, and when we’re tripping, we experience biology and spirit as unified.
Male theology is a spectator sport. The hero’s journey exemplifies this, with its insistence on individuation from the unity of the mother, the community, and the emphasis on individual suffering, alienation, competition, violence. In male theology and the hero’s journey, we see illustrations of Her silent presence beside His noisy history.
Under patriarchal religion, maleness is made, invented, mass produced, while femaleness is unmade, de-evolved, extincted. For 2,000 years, womyn have been conditioned out of our natural powers and wisdoms, taught to disregard the effects of our own rhythms, our bodies, while Judeo-Christianity and Islam and even Buddhism gained their energies by co-opting and distorting the goddess, womyn, birth, and blood.
It’s no longer valuable to view politics as merely existing in space, but also, politics exists in time. It’s not just geopolitics, but also, chrono-politics. Interruptions, oppressions and power structures are in the realm of Time. And that’s where our resistance should be. If we fight in space, instead of time, we will not find the enemy. Because the enemy exists in time—4,000 years ago. We are about to destroy the world because of a profound mistake made in Bronze Age patriarchal ontology. But biology also dreams, and in its dreams it outleaps time as well as space. To evolve in time to save ourselves and all life, we need to activate our genetic capacity for magic. We need to go back in time, and understand the relation to all life that has been denied by every patriarchal religion for 4,000 years.
—The lies of patriarchy rest on these assumptions—
1. The world was created by a male god.
2. Existing cultures and world orders were made by and for men with god’s sanctions.
3. Females exist to serve and populate these male orders.
4. The autonomous female poses a wild and lethal threat to these orders and must be controlled and repressed.
5. God’s existence as a male sanctions this repression.
—It’s the perfect circular bullshit model.
Wherever we go on this earth, every institution is built on the solid and rarely questioned slabs of these assumptions.
Patriarchal religions and systems suppress, dam-up and hoard ecstasy, nature, matter, pleasure, and connection. They practice world-hatred, separate the inner and outer worlds, and revere abstraction, which is presented as somehow superior to immersion in Life. Their religions lock us in the prison of dualism. The earth-based religions of the goddess, on the other hand, are about union with all manifest energies.
Ecstasy was once our original state of being as we perceived ourselves connected to all of creation. Now it’s been reduced to the momentary delusion of poets, madmen, drug users, and lovers. Ecstasy means standing outside oneself. It is our original state of being—sacred union. The cosmic passion of the universe experienced through the thought-forms of the universe—the flesh, the cells, biology and spirit—unified in the imagination of the earth. The earth is a living, intelligent system connecting us all.
The earth-based religions were the celebration of the recognition that we are One with all Life. The celebration of the female—who can give birth from her body and create food to feed that life from her body—is magical, is holy, and is the earliest link to the goddess. From the earliest beginnings, the human community loved, thanked, made art and sang praises to this earth, which like a woman makes food enough for her offspring from her own body. The realms of the goddesses were, for 400,000 years, about celebrating oneness with intense joy, intoxicating ritual, and the illumination of relationship. There’s no border between me and not-me. That’s the ecstasy all religions talk about, but patriarchy patrols the borders of all our minds and bodies, completely controlling womyn and nature both, and all of our minds.
Yes, we long to know the divine, but we must do this by enlarging our souls and lighting up our brains, an activity which runs against the aspirations and apparatus of commerce and politics. Politics, the science of domination, finds illumined and enlarged people way too hard to control. Any study of human history will show that politics usurped religion a very long time ago. Kings bought off priests and fed the people ignorance, superstition and fear to keep them small and under control. Rulers disconnected humans from the earth and the waters. Soul—heavy and hot, was traded for spirit—cool, abstract, detached, connected to the sky, to gasses and fire, and the fire-power of war. Mysticism was criticized, direct participation with divine creation and knowledge was belittled as exotic and inferior. Religion is organized, controlled mysticism, which kills it. Religion is a denial of all that’s divine in people. So, of course we want to do drugs!
Patriarchy is the repression of this energy. It’s a system that harnessed all of this ecstasy and then began to control it, make us fear it, or make us buy it. Patriarchy set out to banish ecstasy in order to control people’s minds. Patriarchy tells us that the body is dirty, Sex, and most forms of ecstasy are sins, and women are “a temple standing over a sewer”—(Saint Paul).
Patriarchy is the opposite of ecstasy, all alienation and domination and suffering. The machinery of patriarchy runs on those ecstatic energies, totally repressed and converted to piety and drudgery. The masses of people are forcibly retrained, retained, and maintained at the level of the reptile brain—the brain of ritualized repetition and benumbed violence. The reptile brain is kept hypnotized from the outside by means of mass-produced dreams, the commercial hallucinations of transcendence, and the longing for things. The luminosity is all on the screens, projected at us, while our evolutionary brain sits in darkness, dulled and numb.
Orgasm is an ecstasy that’s linked to the experience of intrinsic connection, compassion, and the loss of both mind and ego. It’s linked also with the goddess realms of intense joy and illumination that cross the border from the wastelands of despair, sin, suffering and alienation. One may only love god—divinely, abstractly—and so Christians who enjoy a good orgasm face chronic guilt. Nowhere has sex been so debased, and porn so prolific. Non-reproductive ecstasy, the goddess’s initiations and rituals, is forbidden in orthodox religions, especially for women. The fanatic misogyny of Judeo/Christianity and Islam is obvious to see, as patriarchy sets out to destroy our psychic relationship with the earth and the cosmos. Ecstasy is what’s needed, to tear down the isolated ego, to merge again with knowing that we are connected to all life. That and only that will save us.
“You are what is female. You shall be called Eve. And what is masculine shall be called God. And from your name—Eve—we shall take the word, Evil, and from god’s name— the word, Good. Now you understand patriarchal morality.” (Judy Grahn)
All Patriarchal Religions are misogynist, and all the organized religions of the world are patriarchal. Christianity teaches humans to believe in a hereafter so that they will put up with all manner of tyranny, poverty, and pain. To concentrate on heaven is to create hell. The rain of missiles, the great thunderclap of war, babies born smelling of sulfur. But the time of refreshing shall come, say the orthodox religions of male rule. The cliché of the end of the world is the king of all clichés and came down through the institutional process of organized religion to limit people to second-hand experiences.
Christians longing for heaven, for The Rapture, long to transcend the disorder and chaos of an uncontrollable world. The apocalypse is the driving force in U.S. politics today. The delusional is no longer marginal—it sits in the Oval Office, in the Senate and on the Supreme Court of the United States, and its biggest constituency is actively praying for the end of the world.
“After the last tree is felled, Christ will return.” (James Watt, 2006, Bush’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency. ) It’s not only not important to protect nature, but the sooner it’s destroyed, the better. The war with Islam is welcomed by these people as an essential piece on the road to redemption. Since 2002, 45 Senators and 186 Representatives were Born Again Christians, who believe that we’re living in the End Times. If time doesn’t run out soon, they’re gonna run it out. They see signs that the end is near—the same signs their opportunistic ancestors saw millennia ago. They believe they’re in spiritual warfare on earth, and that this is the time of the immanent second coming of Jesus Christ. They want purity and order, not friction and unpredictability, secured by angels in the final, gated kingdom. The messy unpredictable imperfection of life is solidified by fundamentalist Christianity into a perfectly ordered and totally controlled monolith.
In Christianity, God never has sex. He is literally above life. He lives in the sky. Mary is a virgin who doesn’t have sex. Jesus is a celibate. Eve is condemned, and through her, all womyn, condemned by god to leave the garden forever, and to follow her dumb-ass husband over the barren, male-controlled earth—condemned specifically to unwanted pregnancies, painful childbirth, and ignorance. In all patriarchal religions, womyn are controlled by men, culturally tamed and broken, dominated property of fathers and husbands and sons.
The Goddess only appears three times in the Old Testament—patriarchalized as Eve (bringer of death to the world), demonic as Lilith, and male-corrupting as The Whore of Babylon. The mouthpieces of Judeo-Christianity were too freaked out by her openness, her variability, her magic, and her carnality to even write down her name—Astoreth, Inanna, Astarte, Isis. (These were the various names of the Great Goddesses of the Middle East at the time of Yahweh.)
Male-dominated agriculture evolved the concept of the earth as inert, and the life seed—(sperm)—as containing the child. ‘Ploughing’ was the rape of the earth’s dumb matter by the enlightened spirit, sowing the life force of his seed. The female ovum wasn’t discovered by science till 1827, so for 4,000 years of patriarchy, all religions, philosophies, and biological theories were based on the assumption that the male was the sole generative physical and cosmic force. This set humans up for complete alienation from connection—nothing makes any sense separate from the earth. Judeo-Christians were anti- earth, anti-body, anti- woman, anti-pleasure, anti-unity. Sex was just for reproduction and training in sexual paranoia; it’s is still an all-pervasive belief among orthodox religious people. Above all, women must not enjoy sex.
Since the dawn of consciousness, the light of the world was the Divine Mother, who all male gods usurped or killed outright. She—Mother of God, the mother of all—was life-giving and nurturing, yes, and these are the only acceptable qualities of womanhood remaining to us in patriarchy, but She was also the mistress of chaos and destruction, the abyss that is the source and the end, the ground of all being. Life still begins in the womb and the earth. Because she was changeable and playful, because she loved natural chaos as much as natural order, because her feminine intuition was at odds with masculine reason, because she could give life while they could only take it, resentful Hebrew priests led a coup against her 4,000 years ago and Western Civilization is the result, and only men control the divine channels now. Even though their control is an illusion, their laws, institutions, and weaponry are all-too real, and these exist to maintain that illusion.
So here’s an important question —why do womyn continue to serve male dominated and male defined institutions which are based, structurally and ideologically, on a searing contempt and hatred of womyn? After 2 or 3 millennia of serving a male god, of this level of brainwashing, could womyn ever take ourselves seriously enough to serve the sacredness of ourselves, of each other, of future survival, of the earth and her holy wild creatures?
In the patriarchal myth of Christianity, Mary is utterly meek and passive—she is the captured goddess, metaphysically cannibalized, domesticated and tranquilized. She gives birth in silent bliss and tranquility, while Christ is the one who suffers, twists on the cross in labor giving birth to a redeemed human race. Blood pours from his body in a parody of the female experience, while womyn, who really do these things, have been forced to hide our bleeding, our childbirth, our breastfeeding, our messiness out of sight in shame and inferiority. The deified male martyr flaunts his “sacrifice” everywhere, while we are required by “decency” to hide ours. Womyns bodies, womyn’s powers, womyn’s cycles were excluded because we are politically subversive.
Matriarchy means “rule by the mothers”. In matriarchal societies, a man stood in relation to his mother. He was the son; she was the divine. All the ancient male heroes receive their beauty, strength, and their creative-destructive powers from their mothers, all of them are chopped-up forms of the Great Goddess.
Abortion foes aren’t “pro-life”, they’re pro-fetus. Well, it’s easy to champion a fetus when the women are doing all the work. What is hard is to change the world so millions and millions of children have a chance for some kind of goodness in life after they’re born. This is the only real pro-life work. Fundamentalists aren’t involved in a religion of life, but in a religion of male control, which is about a male’s exclusive rights to make life and death decisions.
Abortion represents a woman’s right to make life and death decisions. It’s one way to regain our ancient power and intuitive skills by making these decisions. This is how god becomes female again. Even primates nurse their babies for 3-6 years before becoming pregnant again. This much suffering, starvation and poverty from overpopulation is not Natural, is Not “Life”- it’s a condition traceable solely and specifically to patriarchal religions. These religions support nuclear proliferation, the death penalty, and war against other humans and the Earth. There is nothing “pro-life” about them. The truth is that Life does not begin or end. Life is always here. It doesn’t emerge from us, we emerge from Life.
Perpetual war is necessary to maintain perpetually exploitable humans. Man’s social and economic institutions exist to provide continuous cannon fodder and spoils for continuous war. The city began as a fortress. And it doesn’t even matter if war occurs, it is the PREPARATION for war that drains all resources and keeps the hierarchy in place. Whether we are fighting others, ourselves, or just chronically getting ready to fight, it makes no difference. The result is that, for 3 or 4000 years, we’ve lived and died in a structural, habitual state of war. All resources run from the needs of a society towards it, and all people live in a state of lack and unconscious fear because of it.
The energetic state of war is unconsciousness, but consciousness is the energized aim of evolution. Evolution is the biological epiphany of consciousness. No wonder the fundamentalists want to dispute evolution’s existence. They just want war without end, not world without end. The war god exists to drag us back into a state of oblivion, to before consciousness began, but without all the magnificent potential. The god of patriarchy has always been a god of war and economic exploitation. He is a dominator, a god of money and hierarchy and power, a controller of nature’s bodies and women’s bodies.
“We need a god who bleeds now/ not wounded but who bleeds to life/ a god who’s wounds are not the end of anything…the planet mourns our ignorance.” (Ntozake Shange)
For hundreds of thousands of years, women and men participated in shared work and ritual celebration of communalism. But, the last 3 or 4,000 years have created patriarchal economic systems of state, military, business, court, and religious ruling elites who collude in mutual empowerment to exploit human labor and earth’s resources. All historic revolutions have done is add new, additional economic groups to the collusion—slaves, women, immigrants, and the working classes.
Capitalism is incapable of working if it pays a living wage. The capitalist system is parasitic rather than actually productive. It uses business to co-opt and take credit for the accumulated knowledge, experience, inventions and discoveries, and sells it all for its own profit—at a gross loss to the planet, all animals, and all but the most elite humans. It monopolizes and distributes all wealth and resources to keep us in need for all the stages of all our lives. All the world locked down in an obsolete male power dance of capitalism, politics, and religion.
By setting itself against evolution—“the continuous epiphany of biological consciousness”, patriarchy had set itself against Life, and plundered its way toward the complete construction of a substitute life—The global shopping mall, a man-made mechanical paradise. Shop till you drop, and shop till the world’s life-support systems drop too. That’s the dictum of modern capitalism.
Capitalist theory fits perfectly with patriarchal religion. Organic, celebratory links to the earth and the body are gone. Communal sharing is gone. Neolithic goddess religions that supported and taught this way of life are politically destroyed. That is the story of the Old Testament—it’s one, long coup against the pagans. Now all we have to work with are habitually repressed energies, functioning on mere subsistence levels, capable only of piety, misery, meaninglessness and drudgery, incapable of revolutionary ecstasy, expansion and illumination, and no time or energy to escape. No time or energy to even question what’s happened to us, or why or who is served. What is served. And to never question where all our potential and all our sacred, shining energy has gone. All potential buried beneath the almighty dollar.
We live today on a dying planet undergoing prolonged torture. A fully sensate being subjected to an infinite amount of murders. Dynamited and clear cut and strip-mined and gassed with poisons. The sea, her brain, the air, her breath—all thick with toxins. All the heavy metals leaching into her womb to be drunk by a million tongues of roots. Instead of cosmic energy and creative power, we are addicted to false poisonous energies—oil, electricity, sugar, mass entertainment, shopping, driving, & war.
All the fabulous little machines we’re surrounded by, particularly in the age of high technology, are substitutes for living flesh and our connection to the living world. What is the machine but man’s baby, man’s transformational ritual, his magical uterus of mass production? The machine converts buffaloes into dogfood, ancient forests into toothpicks, the black blood of the earth’s veins into nuclear missiles, plastic shit, beer cans, and air pollution. Now he too can be a mother.
All machines run on fuel, and all fuel is originally organic energy. Controlling capitalism today are the fully-repressed energies of orgasmic sexual ecstasy, delight in connection with nature, and authentic spiritual epiphany. The masses of people everywhere forcibly retrained, retained, and maintained at the level of the reptile brain. This is the brain of ritualized repetition and benumbed violence. The reptile brain is kept hypnotized from the outside by systems of patriarchy and capitalism that reinforce in us all the mass produced dreams and longing for things. These commercial hallucinations of transcendence rule our lives. We are lost in the commodities we live for and devour. The luminosity is all on the screen projected at us, at our slavering reptile brain, while our evolutionary brain sits slumbering in darkness.
Our modern-day heroes —Superman, Batman, James Bond, The Terminator, Transformers—are skilled in one thing—machinery. They are not erotically/sexually connected, or heart-connected at all. They are too busy, too patriotic, too dangerous, or moving too fast for real relationship. Their primary relationship is to their machines—guns, cars, planes—the power and the wildness in these heroes is embodied in man-made metal objects. There’s not a tree or moon in sight. Totally disconnected, like Zeus, like Yahweh—their prototypes. We are living beings embodied in a living earth. All patriarchal heroes are designed, consciously or unconsciously, to deny that memory and practice, and to turn us into numb mechanical workers. That’s capitalist theology. The mother is gone; we have only the machine.
Cities and Deserts
Rome was, perhaps, the first empire that excelled in the struggle for freedom-from-Nature and natural needs. This marks the historical trend of Christianity, and replaces religion with the political idea of authority that overruns everything and molds all the world to its own needs. Rome carried on a ruthless struggle to raise the patriarchal political state above spirituality, and imposed a historical-linear view of the universe instead of the ancient cosmic-cycle view. Rome cast off “natural law” and eradicated every trace of the great matriarchal cultures. Everywhere, the Roman male regards himself as the first factor in historical life, as did the Greek male. Among Rome’s first edicts was the subjugation of women and children to the complete control of the father, who was given life and death powers over all members of the family.
Roman cities, so beloved of so many scholars of patriarchy, is a profound lesson. Here, we see the city emerging as man’s ultimate attempt to be a Mother, to become man-made, born from himself rather than from Mother Nature. The feeling of self-sufficiency he achieves through the city is abstract, because the sources of our biological lives remain the same as they always were—they come from the land and matter. But city-man maintains contact with his natural life sources, not from immediate body experience, but through the artificial medium of exchange—money. He no longer works with the earth. He buys it and sells it. The ancient energy exchange between humans and nature becomes a money exchange between humans only.
Money is at the heart of the new accumulation complex—the capacity of money to bear interest is its energy, while its body is that fundamental institution of civilized man—the city. Archeologists note the complete rupture with the previous style of life which marks the foundations of the first cities. A city reflects the new masculine aggressive psychology of revolt against the female principles of inter-dependence, cooperation, and nature.
The famous Roman roads were built by slaves, and were meant to transport armies and weaponry, as well as slaves, outward into the empire’s tribal territories. The wealth of the plundered earth was then transported back into Rome on those legendary roads to support the increasingly complex way of life at its imperial urban heart. And so we hear and we repeat, without understanding the historical foundation—“All roads lead to Rome.”.
The city broke down the organic life of the tribe and the agricultural village. It brought about the final destruction of the matriarchy and instituted the patriarchal rule of abstract urban “law and order”. Life materials, life styles, and life energies were torn from nature by technical and mechanical means. All this was unconsciously understood as the conquest of male mind over female matter.
The ego has definitely arrived on the scene of history, and it is screaming out against its cosmic isolation. Before, all the processes of culture were connected with the cycles of nature, and in death, tribal man simply returned to the Great Mother. But when civilized man sets up walls between himself and the forest, and when he sets up his personal name against the stars, he ensures that the now-isolated ego will cry out in painful recognition of its complete alienation, all connected to his fear of death. It’s a proven fact that men are far more afraid of death than women, and maybe this is why.
Significantly, the murder of forests always leads to deserts. Deserts always seem like ancient environments, but in fact they are the youngest environments on earth. Most deserts are man-made. They are what’s left after everything else has been conquered, or used up. Perhaps this is why the ancient Hebrews and their Old Testament mind-set were so brutal. Nature wasn’t supportive of them as they needed it to be. It was all used up by previous settlers. In my opinion, they were pissed off, for the most part, because they percieved nature to be their enemy.
To evolve in time to save ourselves, we need to recognize the relationship of human life to That Which Is. All patriarchal religions have denied this relationship. They practice world-hatred, and seek to transcend matter and The Mother. They separate the inner and outer worlds, and they revere abstraction as superior somehow to full immersion in life. They suppress, damn, & hoard ecstasy, nature, matter, pleasure, divinity, and connection. In their paranoia and violence, they’ve completely lost their way, and in their confusion, have created this prison of dualism.
The mission handed down from a male deity to the forefathers was a command to control. A compulsion, a coersion, a bombing mission, a phallic outward thrusting explosion from one single source. Under patriarchy, the history of the world is weighted down with this burden of violence. It’s time to move from rape to reciprocity.
We need to feel the wonder of givenness—the beautiful gift we’ve been born into. We need an ever-more conscious participation in the community of Being. The earth is with us, not for us. The return of the goddess is not focused on transcendence, but on the embodiment of the sacred, here and now, in life and in relationships. The matriarchal deity is not the mother-in-heaven or anywhere else besides the ground. All ground is holy ground. All water is holy water. The Great Goddess is physical and always present—she surrounds us. She is the earth we are living on and she is the cosmos we see above us shining. And she is also within us. So, she is not alien, other-worldly, or elevated. Not ever.
“I am a waste dump site, like much of the earth; my stream of consciousness is thoroughly polluted. I do not trust anything…. Still, the moon began again last night.” (Susan Griffin)
How might our lives have been different, how might the lives of a thousand generations of women been different, if there was a place for us? A holy, true place? If there was, as there once, no distinction between the Primordial Goddess, the earth, and the earth’s children?
“Let us say the time of our waiting is over. That the silence has been broken. Let us say there can be no forgetting now.” (Olga Broumas.)
The Eco-zoic Era
This time we have to live on this planet, this life in the 21st century on Earth, could shift everything. Here and now is the only time we have for action, if we can grasp the opportunity for compassionate survival. Here and now is where we can break the brokenness of human alienation. We need a new global spirituality that acknowledges our earthly roots as evolutionary beings. We need a new ontology that acknowledges the earth as a conscious and spiritual being. We need to evolve or die. Most days it seems that we have chosen.
We will only survive this time in history if we can remember the bio-chemical connections between our cells and the stars, between the beginning of time and now. We must return to that time, in our genetic memory and in our dreams, when we were born to live together with all species—all of us relatives. These are things humans have known for most of our time. For at least 500,000 years of human time, we have known them. For 5 billion years of earth time we have known them. For 13 billion years of galactic time we have known them. Set against this time of knowing our Oneness, the past 4,000 years are merely an aberration. Just a brief forgetting.
*The end of patriarchy is our rapture. Nothing burning but our souls, minds, freedom, creativity, and our passion for this world. (Oak Chezar)
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