Joseph Campbell, the Lunar Bull, the Serpent, and the Reversal of Mythological Meaning during Patriarchy
The Lunar Bull
Murder of the Goddess
Violence Begins Inside
The Spiritual Laws of Matriarchy
Bull and Serpent
Points to Ponder
This article intends to assist you in your quest to find out about your inner god or goddess. In a society with mainly patriarchal values, the soul will keep the counterplayer inside, hidden, and in the dark. Thus in a solar culture, such as ours, the counterplayer is the lunar principle, or, as it was called in antiquity, the Lunar Bull. If you want to become whole so as to embrace your soul values, you have to heal that phylogenetic split between patriarchal and matriarchal culture. This split was a historical fact and it has left imprints in our soul and our psyche.
But while this may have been so as a matter of history, while there have been matriarchal cultures first and patriarchal societies later, this is not how the soul has experienced these matters.
Recent research has corroborated that things are really not as clear–cut as historians thought they were. When questioned about patriarchy and matriarchy, many people, and among them even researchers of repute, tend to jump to quick conclusions. They take either–or positions or they question the whole dichotomy calling it a historic bluff.
And there are those who try to find a way out of that hide–and–seek game that leaves very important questions open by declaring them as obsolete. There is one author who stands out: it is Riane Eisler.
— See Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (1995), Sacred Pleasure (1996), and The Power of Partnership (2002).
She has not declared the dichotomy as a historic bluff, but showed with a lot of evidence that both of these concepts never have existed in a pure form, but that in a way they are complementary. However, in a second step, that was perhaps more important than the first, she has looked at the basic ingredients of each of these cultural opposites and found remarkable, if not striking, differences.
There is one main difference that she peels out and that, once you know about it, cannot be unthought. It is the discovery that, deep down, the two concepts differ by the way they look not at one gender, but by the way they look at both.
More precisely, Riane Eisler found that matriarchy is predominantly a paradigm that favors partnership relations between the two sexes and generally between all members in a given society, while patriarchy favors dominance and oppression, male over female, above over below, in the sense of strict obedience–based hierarchies. And of course also powerful over powerless.
Without knowing more, here already, with this kind of rudimentary knowledge as a quintessence of Eisler’s in–depth research, we see that there is something of an automatism built in patriarchy. It’s the automatism of abuse. It’s as if all was setup for it to occur. It’s as if the cultural and social framework was exactly drafted for abuse to happen. Abuse that is so eloquently fought, in patriarchal terms, as a sin and an abject behavior. While matriarchy tolerates it and has built rape right in most of its cultural myths. But patriarchy has institutionalized rape, in all its forms, sexual, social, racial, ethnic, military and commercial. That is the difference.
Riane Eisler’s amazing research has brought to daylight that maintaining the age–old dichotomy of matriarchal versus patriarchal is only accurate when we describe their psychological content, but not when we describe evolutionary changes in the human setup.
In reality, Eisler points out, we are dealing with a partnership paradigm versus a dominator paradigm, the first coming close to the idea of matriarchy, the latter more or less synonymous with patriarchy. The merit of Eisler’s approach is that we can get away from extreme positions: because there never was a really pure matriarchy or a really pure patriarchy in human history.
When we look, for example, at the mythology of highly patriarchal tribes, such as the ancient Hebrews, we find matriarchal elements, and therefore must conclude that we got a mix rather than a pure soup. In that mix, to rest with the example of the Hebrews, are predominantly patriarchal elements and a few matriarchal elements, as in yang is a small portion of yin, and vice versa. And as Johann Jakob Bachofen found in his classical treatise on matriarchy, even in highly matriarchal cultures there are to be found a few elements of patriarchy.
— Originally in German language, Johann Jakob Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht (1948).
Therefore, when we use the dichotomy matriarchal–patriarchal, we are arguing not from a real–life perspective, but rather from our ideological understanding of patriarchy or matriarchy. What interests us for the purposes of this article is the spiritual significance of matriarchy as a psychological and archetypal complex in the collective unconscious of humanity, rather than the historical or psychohistorical evolution of humanity.
— See Lloyd deMause, Foundations of Psychohistory (1982).
Regarding the evolutionary aspect, Joseph Campbell writes in Occidental Mythology:
For it is now perfectly clear that before the violent entry of the late Bronze and early Iron Age nomadic Aryan cattle–herders from the north and Semitic sheep and goat herders from the south into the old cult sites of the ancient world, there had prevailed in that world an essentially organic, vegetal, non–heroic view of the nature and necessities of life that was completely repugnant to those lion hearts for whom not the patient toil of earth but the battle spear and its plunder were the source of both wealth and joy. In the older mother myths and rites the light and darker aspects of the mixed thing that is life had been honored equally and together, whereas in the later, male–oriented, patriarchal myths, all that is good and noble was attributed to the new, heroic master gods, leaving to the native nature powers the character only of darkness — to which, also, a negative moral judgment now was added. For, as a great body of evidence shows, the social as well as mythic orders of the two contrasting ways of life were opposed.
— Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology (1973,) p. 21.
It is not difficult for us today to see that the symbolism of mythology bears a specific psychological scripting. Particularly under the perspective of psychoanalysis, and even more so, of psychosynthesis, there is little doubt that the old sagas are of the nature of dream, or that dreams are symptomatic of the dynamics of the psyche.
Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Géza Róheim, and many others have within the last century developed a vastly documented modern lore of dream and myth interpretation.
With our modern–day discovery that the holistic patterns of fairy tale and myth correspond to those of dream, the long discredited ideas of archaic man have returned dramatically to the foreground of consciousness. One of those archaic symbols or archetypes is that of the Lunar Bull, for there is a direct relationship between mythology and astrology. It can be said that astrology uses mythology to a large extent in order to make spiritual energies more visually comprehensive.
When explaining the nature of the planetary energy of Moon, for example, astrology will use certain metaphors. These metaphors are embodied in symbols, and the symbols, as such, build a necessary vocabulary for anybody to study who wants to practice and explain astrology. For example, the main symbols traditionally associated with the Moon energy are: Cancer, Bull, Female, Shell, House, Black, Water, Shadow.
As the mythic bull’s characteristics are associated with the lunar energies, it was called, in Antiquity, the Lunar Bull. This expression is not a fancy, even today, because the bull fighting tradition that dates from patriarchy, has put the whole bull mythology completely upside down.
The killing of the bull that was once a ritual sacrifice for the Goddess as the tutelary divinity of the bull was transformed into a sport in which the stabbing of the bull is a symbolic rape expressing the subordination of the female under the male’s sexual dominion.
Thus, by analogy, the modern bull, the bull that is stabbed and killed by the Matador within the traditional bull fighting has quite little or nothing to do with the matriarchal mythic or lunar bull. The lunar bull was the object of worship prevalent in the age when our sun was passing through the sign of Taurus.
What was preserved from that time were the mysteries of Mithras. The horns of the bull were generally a symbol of fertility and bountiful riches in many cultures for thousands of years. The constellation Taurus may also allude to the Greek story of Europa and the Bull.
Europa was daughter of King Agenor. One fine spring day, accompanied by her hand maidens, Princess Europa went to the seashore to gather flowers. Zeus, who had fallen in love with Europa, seized the opportunity. Zeus transformed himself into a magnificent white bull, and as such he joined King Agenor’s grazing herd. Europa noticed the wonderful white beast, who gazed at them all with such a mild manner that they were not frightened. Europa wove wreathes of flowers for the beast, and wrapped them around his horns. She led him around the meadow, and he was as docile as a lamb.
Then, as he trotted down to the seashore, she jumped onto his shoulders. Suddenly, to her surprise and fright, he plunged into the sea and carried the princess to Crete. As they reached the Cretan shore, Zeus then turned into an eagle and ravaged Europa.
She bore three sons, the first of which was Minos, who is said to have introduced the bull cult to the Cretans. He had Daedalus build a labyrinth in the depths of his palace at Knossos, which became the home of the Minotaur, the offspring of Minos’ wife Pasiphae, and a bull. Seven young boys and seven maidens were ritually sacrificed to the Minotaur every year, until Theseus killed the monster.
The Lunar Bull
The mythic lunar bull, lord of the rhythm of the universe, to whose song all mortality is dancing in around of birth, death, and / new birth, was called to mind by the sounds of the drum, strings, and reed flutes of the temple orchestras, and those attending were set in accord thereby with the aspect of being that never dies. The beatific, yet impassive, enigmatic Mona Lisa features of the bull slain by the lion–bird suggest the mode of being known to initiates of the wisdom beyond death, beyond changing time. Through his death, which is no death, he is giving life to the creatures of the earth, even while indicating, with his lifted forefoot, the leftward horn of the mythic symbol.
— Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology
What does this myth tell us? Which psychological truth does it reveal? Let us have a deeper look at this intriguing story. We got a seducer here, we have an abduction, a rape, and then, as a result, a child–eating monster that eventually is killed. And we have a bull. What does this bull stand for, psychologically?
Experts of mythology and psychiatrists agree that the bull, despite of his phallic horns is a symbol for matriarchy, and this because the bull cannot be seen isolated from the Goddess that, metaphorically and from the visual depictions, stands on the shoulders of the bull. This is a metaphor because we would not be interested in that bull if it had only a historical meaning for us. We are interested in that bull because we have its energy within us. Joseph Campbell affirms that all the gods are within us.
Hence, the bull, as a sort of matriarchal god, also is within our own unconscious, a part of our male love instinct that can enjoy to conquer and rape, abduct and possess, enclose and abuse.
We are used today to a psychological language that suggests all these longings were abysmal and abject and we tend to project them, as a result of our blinding them out, onto others that we call the monsters, perpetrators, rapists or sex offenders and that our morning papers abound of. And yet, all this psychological hide–and–seek is useless: we are facing but parts of ourselves when dealing with these well–hidden issues that often are wrapped into the folder of our best–kept family secrets.
When in the extraordinary book The Power of Myth (1988), which is actually a wonderful example of human dialog, Bill Moyers asked Joseph Campbell about the serpent as the seducer in the biblical story of the genesis, Campbell replied:
That amounts to a refusal to affirm life. In the biblical tradition we have inherited, life is corrupt, and every natural impulse is sinful unless it has been circumcised or baptized. The serpent was the one who brought sin into the world. And the woman was the one who handed the apple to man. This identification of the woman with sin, of the serpent with sin, and thus of life with sin, is the twist hat has been given to the whole story in the biblical myth and doctrine of the Fall.
— Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (1988), p. 54.
Joseph Campbell basically affirms that patriarchy is but a form of life–denial, a collective neurosis, not a lifestyle, a philosophy, or a Weltanschauung.
It’s a disease, a twist given to life and that perverts its very nature. And ultimately, therefore, it’s a refusal of humanity. Campbell develops the theme further by alluding to the Star Wars plot:
Darth Vader has not developed his own humanity. He’s a robot. He’s a bureaucrat, living not in terms of himself but in terms of an imposed system. This is the threat to our lives that we all face today. Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system to the attainment of human purposes? How do you relate to the system so that you are not compulsively serving it?
— Id., p. 178.
Patriarchy, with its craving for obedience to the father, is a sort of compulsion neurosis. Not only are individuals flattened out by systems that are eternal replacements of real fathers, those that have typically abandoned their roles as true caretakers, having become troublemakers.
These authority–craving individuals have flattened out their better halves, their right brains, so as to serve the system even more.
The bull story tells us that rape desires as part of sexual longings are not destructive per se, but become destructive when they are enclosed, incarcerated, tightly controlled and discarded out of life by strict moralistic rules rules.
The Minotaur became a child–eating monster because it was enclosed in a tower, because King Minos was afraid for his reputation and wanted to hide the monster from the populace. And this may historically have been the first time when child protection thinking was to be noted in human history, and when the results were obviously as devastating as they are today.
We have the symbolism until today written into the Tarot where The Tower, the 16th Arcane, is a symbol of something that is too tightly controlled, to a point to explode, with all that usually accompanies those explosions — that most of us have gone through, once in our lives, in one or the other way, be it a scandal, a public outrage, the revelation of a family secret, an abuse story, or criminal conviction as a sex offender.
— See, for example, Sallie Nichols, Jung And Tarot (1986).
And then, we ask ‘Why has this happened?’ and we are again regressing in childhood longings for autonomy that were thwarted by over–controlling parents or educators, and we face our rage — eventually. The public outrage we encountered was but a projection of our own inner rage that we had repressed. We had forgotten about the library with the books that can talk, and the wizard, and magic houses that endure.
And back where we came from, we can eventually ask what we really want when we want to rape, to possess, to abduct, to ravish. And we gradually, very gradually, find out that, then, we want to find unity with our soul, and make the split undone that was forced onto us by patriarchal life–denial, by moralism, by a schizoid education that we suffered, individually and collectively.
After all, to copulate means to link! And then we might finally ask the pertinent question: ‘How has patriarchy come about — and what was before?’
It all started with a murder. The murder of the Goddess. Which is ultimately a matricide, and implicitly a mother–rape. And it became the foundation of what is called a culture. It became the foundation of what is called a religion. Joseph Campbell explains:
[I]n biblical times, when the Hebrews came in, they really wiped out the Goddess. The term for the Canaanite goddess that’s used in the Old Testament is the Abomination. Apparently, throughout the period represented in the Book of Kings, for example, there was a back and forth between the two cults. Many of the Hebrew kings were condemned in the Old Testament for having worshiped on the mountaintops. Those mountains were symbols of the Goddess. And there was a very strong accent against the Goddess in the Hebrew, which you do not find the Indo–European mythologies. Here you have Zeus marrying the Goddess, and then the two play together. So it’s an extreme case that we have in the Bible, and our own Western subjugation of the female is a function of biblical thinking.
— Joseph Campbell, Power of Myth (1988), pp. 215, 216.
It seems that when man began to preach high morality and confessed to strive for goodness, he began to really become diabolic.
Campbell remarks that the vandalism involved in the destruction of the pagan temples of antiquity is hardly matched in world history.
— Id., p. 248.
Again we may reflect on the teaching of the Lunar Bull. Zeus married the Goddess by raping her, and that rape ultimately was union and creation.
While patriarchy, with its strong emphasis about the abomination (sic!) of what it labels sexual crime is exactly embodying the perversion that it so strongly projects upon matriarchal cults.
The true abomination is a religion or cultural paradigm that distorts nature into a total repression of the living impulse and that puts a single male god as the creator principle, thereby annihilating the eternal balance of polarities, manifesting as yin and yang, female and male, moon and sun, red and blue, cold and hot, moist and dry, and that restricts life to a dead morality. Campbell explains:
The patriarchal point of view is distinguished from the earlier archaic view by its setting apart of all pairs–of–opposites — male and female, life and death, true and false, good and evil — as though they were absolutes in themselves and not merely aspects of the larger entity of life. This we may liken to a solar, as opposed to lunar, mythic view, since darkness flees from the sun as its opposite, but in the moon dark and light interact in the one sphere.
— Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology (1973), p. 27.
Many people, even in our days of feminism, women rights and open criticism of patriarchal tradition and values do not really grasp the implication of patriarchy upon our sexual mores.
In another publication I have demonstrated that all our major civilizations or dominator cultures since Babylonian times almost completely disregarded eight fundamental patterns of living that however pre–patriarchal cultures, and still today most tribal cultures respect. This denial, I showed, makes for:
- our high destructivity;
- our judgmental and persecutory attitudes;
- our schizophrenic split between mind and body;
- our belief in the superiority of the mind;
- our belief in the inferiority of the body;
- our dysfunctional approach to living and loving;
- our hypocrite in–group and out–group morality;
- our disregard for the yin principle and female values.
The terms lunar and solar world view that Campbell uses are derived from astrology. The bull enters the books of world mythology in both versions as the mythic bull and the lunar bull. And in both versions, according to Erich Neumann, the bull on which the goddess stands is the symbol of masculinity.
— See Erich Neumann, The Great Mother (1972), p. 141, with many reproductions of ancient sculptures featuring both types of bull. See also the recent study of Michael Balter, The Goddess and the Bull (2006).
The bull is also said to have succumbed to the archetypal mother in matriarchal incest, which is a phantasmagoric incest, symbolizing the closeness and symbiotic aura of the mother–son relationship.
This phantasmagoric incest that in ancient matriarchal rituals was put on stage dance and chant as a celebration of creation, has quite little to do with actual incest, the prototypical father–daughter incest so ingrained in patriarchy. It is not a sexual incest, but symbolizes the need of the young male for a healthy symbiosis with his mother, if he is to develop his full psychosexual potential.
An important detail in those old representations of the Goddess and her Bull is that the bull is actually in a supportive role: the Goddess stands on him. He thus supports the Goddess. The male supports the female. That is the quintessential message of matriarchy.
That does not mean he’s a servant of the female. In patriarchy these poles have not just be reversed. The female is not just supporting the male, but serves the male. That is the substantial difference.
In matriarchy, the son supports his mother, but he is not her servant. In patriarchy, the daughter is not just supporting her father, but she’s supposed to be his servant. We have that incarnated both in the household–female and the love–female. The wife is supposed to serve her husband. The prostitute is supposed to serve her client. Both are in not just a supportive role, but hold actually slave roles.
That is why we can say that patriarchy has not just reversed matriarchy. It has distorted it to a caricature of life in which roles are no more naturally taken by people, but artificially forced upon people.
— See Joseph Campbell, The Hero with A Thousand Faces, (1973), pp. 258, 259, note 5:
This recognition of the secondary nature of the personality of whatever deity is worshipped is characteristic of most of the traditions of the world. (…) In Christianity, Mohammedanism, and Judaism, however, the personality of the divinity is taught to be final — which makes it comparatively difficult for the members of these communions to understand how one may go beyond the limitations of their own anthropomorphic divinity. The result has been, on the one hand, a general obfuscation of the symbols, and on the other, a god–ridden bigotry such as is unmatched elsewhere in the history of religion.
Murder of the Goddess
If we look at the whole span of our cultural evolution from the perspective of cultural transformation theory, we see that the roots of our present global crises go back to the fundamental shift in our pre–history that brought enormous changes not only in social structure but also in technology. This was the shift in emphasis from technologies that sustain and enhance life to the technologies symbolized by the Blade: technologies designed to destroy and dominate. This has been the technological emphasis, rather than technology per se, that today threatens all life in our globe.
— Riane Eisler
For every stoic was a stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian?
— Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell’s research on the religious roots of culture is not new, but for this reason it is not less a theme of the day; for it is counteracting fascism, as it shows with such strong evidence not only how complex the human soul is, but also that this safeguards psychic health.
— See, for example, Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces (1973), Occidental Mythology (1973/1991), and The Power of Myth (1988).
If we stay with the historical facts alone and see their symbolic and archetypal content, we must acknowledge that something went wrong at that point in human evolution.
Riane Eisler, in her remarkable study The Chalice and the Blade (1995) called it the truncation of civilization. It was the unwritten historical vow of many to deny their humanity and follow the course of atrocious violence that began with the slaughtering of peaceful and nature–abiding cultures by the new arrogant patriarchal hordes and their violent, jealous and blood–thirsty God Yahweh, and psychologically a turn from permissiveness to moralistic repression.
Wilhelm Reich called it the irruption of compulsory sex–morality, whereas Campbell qualifies it as ‘the power impulse [being] the fundamental impulse in European history [that] got into our religious traditions.’
— See Wilhelm Reich, The Irruption of Compulsory Sex–Morality, (1971) and Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (1988), p. 248.
As Reich and other psychoanalysts clearly showed, this power obsession, that lasts until today in our Western culture, was from the start a sort of cultural cancer as the result of the denial of nature and man’s arrogant claim to improve creation and make it better, thereby destroying it.
And that is exactly what I am saying in other articles of mine, namely that it is by repressing primary power and breeding depression that the thirst for power was taking immense dimensions in our culture, until this day.
It was the denial of primary power that was at the origin of this cultural perversion. Joseph Campbell observed that the gravity of this historical shift was so deep and lasting that even the mythological and archetypical symbolism changed with it:
The new age of the Sun God has dawned, and there is to follow an extremely interesting, mythologically confusing development known as solarization, whereby the entire symbolic system of the earlier age is to be reversed, with the moon and the lunar bull assigned to the mythic sphere of the female, and the lion, the solar principle, to the male.’
— Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology (1973/1991), p. 75.
It was the real beginning of the apocalypse, for all that came later and that we face today as facts of life are but results and consequences of the profound shift that took place at this time.
It was the shift from matriarchy to patriarchy or, in new terminology, the shift from a partnership culture to a dominator culture.
— The great majority of authors before the new perspective brought up by Riane Eisler were founding their terminology on Bachofen’s study Das Mutterrecht (The Matrilineal Order) that was published in 1948.
Joseph Campbell acknowledges the dominance of the patriarchal gods since then in our Western cultural paradigm, but he considers the goddess as the counterplayer in the collective unconscious and thus assigns her at least a shadow role. In Occidental Mythology (1973/1991), p. 70, Joseph Campbell remarks:
I am taking pains in this work to place considerable stress upon the world age and symbolic order of the goddess; for the findings both of anthropology and of archeology now attest not only to a contrast between the mythic and social systems of the goddess and the later gods, but also to the fact that in our own European culture that of the gods overlies and occludes that of the goddess — which is nevertheless effective as a counterplayer, so to say, in the unconscious of the civilization as a whole.
This shadow role of the Goddess in Christianity is symbolized by the Holy Virgin, and it is sexually fantasized about as a secret wish to defile, debauch and rape virgins.
— See R.E.L. Masters, Forbidden Sexual Behavior and Morality (1951), p. 387 who observes:
It is ironic that where the desire to defile, humiliate or otherwise sadistically abuse children is concerned, it is so often the very notion of the child’s purity and innocence that leads to the violation.
In fact, how can a deity that originally stood for fertility become an eternal virgin? When we study Greek mythology, we see that the original mother goddess was Demeter, while the Church’s virgin cult suggests that her daughter Persephone, a girl abducted by Hades, god of the underworld, became the new, castrated, Virgin Mother.
— In Greek mythology, Persephone, daughter of the earth goddess Demeter became the queen of the underworld after her abduction by Hades.
And Hades represents the psychologically and socially rejected sexual longing for virgins, for little girls, that became suppressed in our personal and collective underworld, the unconscious.
We can thus see that the virgin cult is a direct consequence of patriarchy and already well present in the Hellenistic and Roman cultures, and not an invention of the Christians.
— It was during the Victorian Era that the virgin cult became a real sexual obsession or mania, a cult for well–to–do men to rape and defile young girls, when those were available, for example, in the worker classes of the poor quarters in industrialized London and other major cities of that time of the early Industrial Revolution.
The female, to become acceptable in an entirely man–dominated world, had to be deprived of her own desire, castrated, relegated to the role of the obedient little girl.
Without desire herself, the girl–female became undesirable as an unconscious reflex of the superego’s copulation prohibition. She was no more desired as a child to be lovingly procreated by her parents, but her birth was largely considered an accident; in many cases a man who procreated only girls or too many girls was considered weak in Antiquity and even through the Renaissance.
What I am saying is that with the psychological castration of the female and the moralistic prohibition of her being desirable sexually, human sexuality turned into a voyeuristic cult that hypertrophies the visual and neglects the tactile: the psychological roots of pornography are to be found in the taboo to touch a female child sexually. (While she still could be looked at sexually). The more sexuality with female children became tabooed, the more the sexual female child became a haunting sex obsession for males, and led to the criminal definition of rape, originally a property offense.
— See, Florence Rush, The Best Kept Secret (1980), and Riane Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade (1995).
Rape, from the Latin rapus, originally meant theft, and this can be well shown in French, where the word for theft is vol and for rape viol.
In Antiquity, to possess a female child sexually meant in most cases to abduct her, a fact that is well established in Greek mythology in the story of Hades abducting Persephone for enjoying and possessing her sexually. In ancient patriarchy, the rape of a little girl was an offense against her father, a kind of property damage that could be repaired by paying an indemnity to the father, but not a crime against the person of the child.
From the Church’s modified goddess doctrine, its virgin cult becomes easily understandable. While the god–mother is a very old idea and existed long before Christianity, this god–mother, for the Christians, had to be a virgin, and even a Holy Virgin.
Behold, the doctrine of Immaculate Conception was only valid for the conception of the Son of God. All other children were born in sin, from ordinary, non–virgin mothers.
I can’t think of a greater distortion of nature because this mental construct means in fact that nature is wrong and faulty and that the very denial of nature is right and holy.
The large fallback into paganism today is the result of this denial of responsibility of the Church to integrate human sexual desire in all its forms. And by doing so the Church missed the meaning of the Holy Grail.
— According to Joseph Campbell, the grail symbolizes the respect not of abstract rules and regulations (sexual or other ones) but respect of nature, of creation.
The Babylonic Epic of Creation amply demonstrates this fact:
[It is] a forthright patriarchal document, where the female principle is devaluated, together with its point of view, and, as always happens when a power of nature and the psyche is excluded from its place, it has turned into its negative, as a demoness, dangerous and fierce. And we are going to find, throughout the following history of the orthodox patriarchal systems of the West, that the power of this goddess–mother of the world, whom we have here seen defamed, abused, insulted, and overthrown by her sons, is to remain as an ever–present threat to their castle of reason, which is founded upon a soil that they consider to be dead but is actually alive, breathing, and threatening to shift.
— Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology (1973), p. 86.
On the other hand, Campbell reports in Oriental Mythology that in most non–Western cultures the very opposite paradigm was being in place, isolating Christian life–denial as something unique and atrociously perverse in human evolution:
The dreamlike spell of this contemplative, metaphysically oriented tradition, where light and darkness dance together in a world–creating cosmic shadow play, carries into modern times an image that is of incalculable age. In its primitive form it is widely known among the jungle villages of the broad equatorial zone that extends from Africa eastward, through India, Southeast Asia, and Oceania, to Brazil, where the basic myth is of a dreamlike age of the beginning, when there was neither death nor birth, which, however, terminated when a murder was committed.
— Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God (1962), p. 4.
The synthesis is to be found in what the Taoists called The Tao and that Campbell calls ‘the perfume, the flowering and fulfillment of human life, not a supernatural virtue imposed upon it.’
— See Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (1988), p. 245.
And like the Taoists, Campbell says that ‘heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us.’
— Id., p. 46.
Campbell makes his point by telling us to overcome the schizoid split so deeply rooted in the patriarchal shift that occurred five thousands years ago and reminds the myth of the Grail as a syncretic doctrine of love allowed to grow beyond all borders:
The Grail becomes symbolic of an authentic life that is lived in terms of its own volition, in terms of its own impulse system, that carries itself between the pairs of opposites of good and evil, light and dark.
— Id., p. 245.
And Campbell emphasizes that love ‘is not expressing itself in terms of the socially approved manners of life because it has nothing to do with the social order.’
— Id., p. 254.
Even more clearly, Thomas Moore, in his book Care of the Soul states that ‘[m]oralism is one of the most effective shields against the soul, protecting us from its intricacy.’
— Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (1994), p. 17.
Thomas Moore pursues:
The soul’s complex means of self–expression is an aspect of its depth and subtlety. When we feel something soulfully, it is sometimes difficult to express that feeling clearly. At a loss of words, we turn to stories and images. Nicholas of Cusa concluded that we often have no alternative but to live with enigmatic images. Since soul is more concerned with relatedness than intellectual understanding, the knowledge that comes from soul’s intimacy with experience is more difficult to articulate than the kind of analysis that can be done at a distance. Soul is always in process, having, as Heraclitus says, its own principle of movement; so it is difficult to pin down with definition or a fixed meaning. When spirituality loses contact with soul and these values, it can become rigid, simplistic, moralistic, and authoritarian — qualities that betray a loss of soul.
— Id., pp. 239, 240.
Wilhelm Reich stated this fact in similar terms in his book Children of the Future (1950):
Moralism only increases the pressure of crime and guilt, and never gets at or can get at the roots of the problem.
— Wilhelm Reich, Children of the Future (1950), p. 44.
Finally, I wish to address the split between so–called erós–inspired and agapé–inspired love. Reich appears to anticipate Riane Eisler’s research for almost a century:
The splitting of sexuality into debased sensuality and transfigured love, which generates entire systems of philosophy on the problem of sexuality and eroticism is nothing more than an expression of the dominant position of the man and, in addition, a consequence of the efforts of distinguished hypocrites to set themselves apart from the masses by adopting a special morality.
— Id., p. 204.
The moralists, however, only have eyes for what occasionally, in their opinions, confirms their theory. They do not see and do not even want to see that their doctrines do not apply to the mass of young people, and they duck responsibility for what will happen in the future if people follow their teachings.
— Id., p. 197.
Reich explains something very important for our quest to reunite with nature’s wisdom and overcome our socially programmed and culturally sanctified alienation, our split existence; it is the fact that when the emotional nature of humans is not bent and has not been thwarted early and life, we are naturally sane, both emotionally and sexually.
To say it crudely, men and women who are sane and natural won’t abduct, rape and murder children because of lust for child sex; hence, moralism’s reasoning about the ‘impossible human’ is essentially a perception error, and so are our sex laws and the whole body of behavior rules that more or less implicitly assume that when people are unobserved, and let free, they will indulge in perverse acts of all kinds and jeopardize the friendly togetherness of the community. Reich comments:
Sexual responsibility is automatically present in a healthy, satisfying sexual life.
— Id., p. 208.
It is this dependence on parental care and authority which the Church immediately enters the fray to defend, equipped with all the machinery of stultification and platitudes about an avenging God, his eternal will, and his wise foresight in its attempt to translocate marriage and family to divine regions far removed from the real world.
— Id., pp. 214, 215.
Reich’s position is clearly for a free emotional and sexual life of children as a conditio sine qua non for overcoming the life–denying patriarchal pest:
The means which such parental homes use to bring their children to heel consist essentially of sexually intimidating and crippling them and making them afraid of their sexual desires, thoughts, and deeds.
— Id., p. 215.
When the Tao was lost, Lao–tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, the spirit of dualism began to build images of ideal substance. Instead of recognizing substance as eternal change, expressed in the yin–yang alternation of ever–changing evolution, the schizoid thinkers began to split the world into what they called the miserable state of the world, on one hand, and the ideal paradise–like state of heavenly existence, on the other.
Despising the origin of their very existence, that is mother earth or Gaia, they began to despise and fear the essence of earth, the sparkling spirit of abundant creation, naming it serpent or devil. Having condemned the source of their bliss, the new inhabitants of a split world were making for the ground of their profound unhappiness and paranoia.
Instead of striving for harmony and accepting all–that–is, they transformed in their madness peaceful togetherness into innumerable wars that they proudly proclaim as war–of–the–sexes, war–for–survival, war–against–evil, war–against–perversion, war–against–drugs, and so forth. The result is a world full of strife, war, destruction and a perverse rat–race for material gain and dominance.
This new, and even larger, international dominator culture is currently spreading all over the world and our modern global consumer culture is its latest, and most appalling, offspring.
This is however not a new phenomenon, as the same, only regionally more limited, was occurring when China became a feudal state. Lao–tzu then retired into the mountains and wrote in the Tao Te Ching:
The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become.
The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.
The wise does not discriminate between the sexes, recognizing that yin, the female principle, was first in creation and is more encompassing than yang, the male principle. That is why the wise man who is inspired by the Tao will celebrate the androgynous nature of the soul; he will not nourish an exclusive preference for one of the sexes because he knows that in relating only to yin, his yang force will overflow and damage his inner yin, and that by relating only to yang, his yin force will overflow and damage his inner yang.
As a result of this fact, and because of his self–knowledge, the sage does not reject anything; he is not influenced by the split of consciousness. Knowing that all things are nourished by the Tao of spontaneous creation and change, the wistful lover recognizes the values of care, love and parenthood in other adults; he does not attack the family order nor the order of the state. The wistful lover does not reject the world, nor does he need to make for an ideal or paradise–like state of happiness. He is happy by accepting all–that–is, and the world as it is, by not trying to do creation better than the Tao.
We have created total confusion in our relationships, and put the love principle upside–down, demonized what is naturally beautiful and enriching and put up false values that render us shallow and mean, and full of suspicion and fear.
To justify what we see is producing still more confusion and destruction, and in order to veil our millenary stupidity, we blame nature and human nature. While it is so obvious that it’s the perversion of nature and human nature that has created the mess and brings about the destruction, but not this nature herself, we go on affirming that nature was wrong and not to be trusted and our so–called scientific mind could correct the errors in inherent in nature.
Violence Begins Inside
No murder can happen without being preceded by a murder inside of us way before we set out to kill in the first place.
The very desire to kill comes about through the schizoid split created by killing something within ourselves.
Our past millennia of collective murder and genocide were preceded by the killing of one of our internal opposites and thus upsetting the natural balance of yin and yang within us: by condemning and tightly regulating sexual pleasure or certain forms of it, by achieving to interfere with and repress the natural emotional flow in the lives of our children, we have distorted the natural order, and turned upside–down the subtle energy flow, not only in the human being but, as all is connected, also in the stratosphere of the earth, the planetary energies within our galaxy and the intergalactic energy balance within the whole of the cosmos.
And we had no right doing so because the bodies of our children are not our bodies, as we do not own our bodies. The human body as the whole of life cannot be owned. Lao–Tzu said the human body is ‘the eternal adaptability of heaven.’
Other philosophers said that the universe or mother earth lends us a body that we have to give back when we go back to the subtle realms of existence.
In fact, even the dullest of the dull must admit that we cannot take our bodies into any afterlife. Minutes after our spirit has left our body, this body begins to decay and in a few days it is but a peace of rotten flesh that is virtually eaten up by a multitude of birds, insects, worms, beetles and other animals and plants that mother earth sends out to embrace back in her substance what she has so generously granted us as a vehicle for our spiritual advancement.
Life is created by pleasure and natural death equally is pleasure as it opens an illuminated path into a subtle vibrational existence.
Killing natural attraction was the foremost tool of dominator culture to get hold of humans and to manipulate and control them into the literal essence of their flesh and their bones.
By the same token and with the same goal, dominator culture repressed the truth about the cyclic nature of birth–and–death, and invented the myth of a linear one–time life that ended in death as ultimate shock and destruction. The three dominator religions have coincided in suppressing the teaching of natural reincarnation that is an essential element of perennial philosophy.
There is a new culture now raising especially in highly civilized societies that refuses to stay with analyzing and blaming the terrible state of affairs we are in, and instead practices a new way of living. While these movements are very diverse, what they have in common is that they attempt to become germs or living cells of what could be realized on a larger scale within a new human, and truly humane, society and culture. While communities were existing already in the 1960s, they were overruled by a new wave of fascism from about the 1980s, but the basic idea is familiar with all those who practice one or the other alternative lifestyle.
Young people today who subscribe to what could be called a love culture seem to be inspired by a deep quest for innocence. They tend to accept and understand the spiritual significance of matriarchy and respect what they call the Gaia principle, a deep veneration of Mother Earth.
They are often involved in professions that either involve art, drama, dance and music, or the professions that deal with natural healing, body work, healthy diet and integral living, or else they are unconventional psychiatrists or psychoanalysts, astrologers or numerologists as well as those who engage in one or the other spiritual path such as Yoga or Zen. But there are also people from other professions who individually join these circles, temporarily or permanently.
This brings me to explain more in detail what I exactly mean when I am talking about the spiritual significance of matriarchy. In Occidental Mythology, Joseph Campbell observes:
In the older mother myths and rites the light and darker aspects of the mixed thing that is life had been honored equally and together, whereas in the later, male–oriented, patriarchal myths, all that is good and noble was attributed to the new, heroic master gods, leaving to the native nature powers the character only of darkness — to which, also, a negative moral judgment now was added. For, as a great body of evidence shows, the social as well as mythic orders of the two contrasting ways of life were opposed. Where the goddess had been venerated as the giver and supporter of life as well as consumer of the dead, women as her representatives had been accorded a paramount position in society as well as in cult. Such an order of female–dominated social and cultic custom is termed, in a broad and general way, the order of Mother Right. And opposed to such, without quarter, is the order of the Patriarchy, with an ardor of righteous eloquence and a fury of fire and sword.
— Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology (1973), pp. 21, 22.
In simple words, whenever we face a life paradigm that does away with the changeability of life and thereby reduces the concept of living to a monistic, monolithic principle, we are facing not human saneness, but insanity at its peak, and the result, invariably, is violence. All the eloquence of Biblical preachers cannot betray the truth seeker’s intuition of what is naturally sane, and the more missionaries preach and exhort, the more violent, the more dangerous, the more genocidal they are. Human colonial history has given abundant factual proof for that sad psychological reality.
Ours is undoubtedly a murder culture because those who founded it were themselves based upon murder, the rape and extinction of their surrounding out–groups which was, at that time of much more limited population compared to today, already a mass–murder to be qualified as genocide.
It is here where the spiritual significance of matriarchy comes in as a regulatory principle. Joseph Campbell affirms:
I am taking pains in this work to place considerable stress upon the world age and symbolic order of the goddess; for the findings both of anthropology and of archeology now attest not only to a contrast between the mythic and social systems of the goddess and the later gods, but also to the fact that in our own European culture that of the gods overlies and occludes that of the goddess — which is nevertheless effective as a counterplayer, so to say, in the unconscious of the civilization as a whole.
— Id., p. 70.
What has the female become under patriarchy? A virgin to be defiled, raped, abducted and killed, on the subconscious level, and a daughter of good breed, the obedient slave–girl, at the apparent or outside level, the princess to be married off for material riches paid to the father. An investment at best, when older, a household item. When old, a nuisance.
Patriarchy instituted correction homes for the young, prisons for the free thinkers and retirement homes for the elder. All those who fall outside the in–group, which is the 20–40 majority, have to be taught that sex is a shame, and has to be repressed. They are deprived of it as a matter of social duty, just as prisoners are. That is the respect patriarchy has in front of the child and old age. The rest is lip service and sentimentalism. The reality of life speaks in facts, not in cathedral speeches.
An old female, once the person of highest regard and social status in matriarchy, under patriarchy has become a double form of plague, the plague to be a female and the plague to be old and useless within the greed machinery of patriarchal making.
The Spiritual Laws of Matriarchy
The spiritual laws of matriarchy are the counterplayer in the collective subconscious that Campbell intuits, not the imaginative embodiment of the female in patriarchal minds because it will be debased until the, probably catastrophic, end of patriarchy! But patriarchy cannot alter cosmic laws and this, and not human wit, is what I am talking about here.
Matriarchy is based upon a whole range of laws regulating the relationship between the human realm and the animal and plant realms. Patriarchy, by contrast, is based on the violation of these spiritual laws. It cannot last because it dethrones nature and, by doing so, debases creation itself. It is blasphemic, in last resort. And patriarchy’s monotheism was born on the blood–soaked linen of raped and massacred nations and populations that have been sacrificed for Yahweh’s cool walk in the garden.
Thomas Moore has spent more than a decade in monastic seclusion as a Catholic monk and he finally quit religious life with all its restrictions, only to discover that life within the busy world of modern international society can guard and purport the same soul values and the same sensitive and lucidly intelligent approach to life he once discovered and implemented by spending long years in monasteries. In his bestselling book Care of the Soul (1994), Moore writes:
Moralism is one of the most effective shields against the soul, protecting us from its intricacy. (…) I would go even further. As we get to know the soul and fearlessly consider its oddities and the many different ways it shows itself among individuals, we may develop a taste for the perverse. We may come to appreciate its quirks and deviances. Indeed, we may eventually come to realize that individuality is born in the eccentricities and unexpected shadow tendencies of the soul, more so than in normality and conformity.
— Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (1994), p. 17.
Caring for our soul, being connected to all–that–is, implies to pay attention to detail — all detail in life. Moralism, in last resort, is a form of shallowness, an ingrained laziness to deal with all the stuff that makes daily life, including our oddities and difficult–to–admit perversities. Moralism is the banner of patriarchy and for good reason it never had a stand in matriarchal cultures. Whoever is really soulful, and spiritual, pays attention to all–that–is and does not make up a phraseology of ought–to’s that fills his mind in order to put his soul at rest, so that it does not become too virulent and inquisitive.
The highest spiritual law is total attention. The moralist does not deal with detail. He haughtily rushes over all detail in life, declaring that ‘little daily matters’ did not count for a ‘spiritual’ man, a man of word, of honor, of principles, a man whose life was based upon values. In reality, there are no little daily matters as all matters, as all is important for the one who pays attention to detail. Love is detail. For the truly spiritual person, there is no shame connected to talking about his perverse sides, fantasies, longings or deeds. He knows that the energy can flow in one direction and at times in the other direction, that energy can retrograde and pent–up and that this brings about perverse reactions, desires and needs. But to recognize this means to be free of it.
To admit perversity means to deal with it, while moralism entangles one who arrogantly wipes off the idea of admitting perverse desires, making him a slave of his repressed perversions.
That is why non–judgmental, permissive cultures, which are those that are more matriarchal in their base setup, can deal with human perversity, and constructively so, while human history shows with much evidence that patriarchal moralism brings about emotional stuckness that puts on stage a clean reality, while behind the stage all the devils are playing hide–and–seek. Moore explains:
Care of the soul is interested in the not–so–normal, the way that soul makes itself felt most clearly in the unusual expressions of a life, even and maybe especially in the problematic ones. (…) Sometimes deviation from the usual is a special revelation of truth. In alchemy this was referred to as the opus contra naturam, an effect contrary to nature. We might see the same kind of artful unnatural expression within our own lives. When normality explodes or breaks out into craziness or shadow, we might look closely, before running for cover and before attempting to restore familiar order, at the potential meaningfulness of the event. If we are going to be curious about the soul, we may need to explore its deviations, its perverse tendency to contradict expectations. And as a corollary, we might be suspicious of normality. A facade or normality can hide a wealth of deviance, and besides, it is fairly easy to recognize soullessness in the standardizing of experience.
— Id., p. 18.
The spiritual laws of matriarchy are of course no written laws. They are no worldly statutes or regulations. They are truths valid on a cosmic level, and on a soul level. But they are observable in the lives of those who live in close relation with nature: tribal peoples who maintain a living spiritual contact with all natural forces through their shamans, and their long–standing traditions of dialogue with nature’s wistful energies.
Bull and Serpent
The spiritual significance of matriarchy is not just a matter of mythology, of energies, of symbols. Its meaning goes beyond the mythic bond of humans with nature and all the forces that have their imprint upon us and the whole of the universe. The matriarchal laws have a direct impact upon our soul.
Our soul is at odds with the normalcy concept that is at the basis of patriarchal laws and their underlying morality code. As Moore expresses it:
Care of the soul sees another reality altogether. It appreciates the mystery of human suffering and does not offer the illusion of a problem–free life. It sees every fall into ignorance and confusion as an opportunity to discover that the beast residing at the center of the labyrinth is also an angel. The uniqueness of a person is made up of the insane and the twisted as much as it is of the rational and the normal. To approach this paradoxical point of tension where adjustment and abnormality meet is to move closer to the realization of our mystery–filled, star–born nature.
— Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (1994), p. 20.
The soul really follows the self–regulation pattern of living; it cannot be forced to adopt other than its own rules, and its intelligence is not rational, but the emotional intelligence of the heart. The soul’s major longing is balance, harmony, wholeness, and its major effort is the one of healing fragmentation. Carl Jung writes in Religious and Psychological Problem of Alchemy:
But the right way to wholeness is made up, unfortunately, of fateful detours and wrong turnings. It is a longissima via, not straight but snakelike, a path that unites the opposites, in the manner of the guiding caduceus, and whose labyrinthine twists and turns are not lacking in terrors. It is on this longissima via that we meet with those experiences which are said to be inaccessible.
— Carl Jung, Religious and Psychological Problems of Alchemy (1993), p. 541.
The soul and its superior knowledge about life and happiness is indeed inaccessible if we think life, instead of living life, applying only our left brain hemisphere and considering only logical thought as being relevant for understanding life and living processes. It can be said that this kind of lifestyle, that today is widely adopted, is lacking shadow, rendering life as a one–dimensional drawing, a solar worldview in the words of Joseph Campbell, where shadows are lighted away by the sun rays of the purely rational mind. Thomas Moore explains:
A neurotic narcissism won’t allow the time needed to stop, reflect, and see the many emotions, memories, wishes, fantasies, desires, and fears that make up the materials of the soul. As a result, the narcissistic person becomes fixed on a single idea of who he is, and other possibilities are automatically rejected.
— Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (1994), p. 67.
For the narcissist, all in life is about statistics. Love is expressed in percentages and probabilities. But what is the daily life taste of it? Never known, never seen. The narcissist talks about principles, rules and facts: he suggests love could be measured, quantified and scientifically demonstrated. Nay, such a thing cannot be, otherwise it would not be love, but the shallow soup that today is yelled from all megaphones of international consumer stupidity. Love me forever! The soul knows that love is not a concept and cannot endure according to the mind and will. It has its own life span, and it knows its own death.
The narcissist flies in the air and cherishes lofty Apollonian ideas. But where is their Dionysus? The truth is encoded in that part of them, and carefully hidden from their public appearance. Care of the Soul, for most of us, means care for the Dionysian principle in us, the Sad King, as I used to call my shadow.
Narcissism is an inevitable by–product of patriarchy, and its etiology as wrong relating. Wrong relating to self. Wrong relating to others. It is built on the preclusion of the shadows of the soul — and thereby ignores its own shadow. Narcissists, therefore, are tragic figures. They are tragic in the sense that they run into the abyss without the slightest idea of what they are doing. Because they are not grounded and have their feet in the air, like the Fool in the Tarot. They are lunatics, because they have not integrated their own Luna, their Moon energy. They are the eternal Peter Pan’s of sunshine movies, and present themselves to the public smiling, broadly smiling, most of the time, but in haphazard moments you see their true face — while they themselves ignore it.
Thomas Moore observes that narcissism, in our times, is a problem that by far surpasses the individual and has become a societal concern:
America has a great longing to be the New World of opportunity and a moral beacon for the world. It longs to fulfill these narcissistic images of itself. At the same time it is painful to realize the distance between the reality and that image. America’s narcissism is strong. It is paraded before the world. If we were to put the nation on the couch, we might discover that narcissism is its most obvious symptom. And yet that narcissism holds the promise that this all–important myth can find its way into life. In other words, America’s narcissism is its refined puer spirit of genuine new vision. The trick is to find a way to that water of transformation where hard self–absorption turns into loving dialogue with the world.
— Id., p. 62.
Narcissism is so destructive because it eternally believes in shortcuts, quick fixes and once–for–all solutions. The soul however, and evolution in general, proceeds in a spiraled movement, which is something like a circled forward movement. Thomas Moore describes it in alchemical terms:
All work on the soul takes the form of a circle, a rotatio. (…) I keep in mind the alchemical circulatio. The life of the soul, as the structure of dreams reveals, is a continual going over and over the material of life.
— Id., p. 13.
The spiraled movement is more holistic than the linear movement because it carries our base all along from here to there. That means we do not leave our origins, but remain firmly rooted in where we came from. These roots are essential for providing us with living energy.
It’s a serpentine movement, the movement of a snake. However, our quick efficiency, our stress on immediacy, our lack of time, our focus on straight solutions prevent us from integrating, rooting, personal evolution in the soul. As a result, our progresses are merely peripheral and remain at the surface of the personality.
All this, while it sounds commonplace, is the inevitable result of patriarchal morality because it circumvents the soul.
To explain this on a mythological level, let me introduce another symbol, as important or even more important in world mythology than the bull: it’s the serpent. Ralph Metzner, in the introduction to his book Ayahuasca: Human Consciousness and the Spirits of Nature (1999), observes:
Not only among Amazonian shamans, but throughout the world, in Asia, the Mediterranean, Australia, serpent images are used to represent the basic life force and regarded as a source of knowledge — the wisdom of the serpent. The serpent image is seen often as a link between heaven and earth, and in this regard the snake is often found in association with other images of ascent.
— Ralph Metzner (Ed.), Ayahuasca (1999), p. 34.
Joseph Campbell reports two crucial turning points for the cosmic serpent in world mythology. The first occurs in the context of the Iron Age Hebrews of the first millennium B.C where the mythology became inverted, so as to represent the opposite to its origin, the second is to be found in the creation myth where the serpent who had been revered in the Levant for at least seven thousand years before the composition of the Book of Genesis, plays the part of the villain.
Yahweh, who replaces it in the role of the creator, ends up defeating the serpent of the cosmic sea, Leviathan.
For Campbell, the second turning point occurs in Greek mythology where Zeus was initially represented as a serpent, but then, when the myths changed, Zeus became a serpent–killer. From that time, Zeus was depicted to secure the reign of the patriarchal gods of Mount Olympus by defeating Typhon, the enormous serpent–monster who is the child of the earth goddess Gaia and the incarnation of the forces of nature.
It is in accordance with this fundamental change in mythology that, as I mentioned earlier, the Significance of the Bull equally changed from a matriarchal to a patriarchal meaning, and the Hispanic tradition of bull fighting clearly reflects the patriarchal tradition rather than, as some suggest, representing a matriarchal base structure in Hispanic machismo. While the female principle in the Babylonian epic of creation has been devalued, we can still find it associated with the serpent, the boa, the Great Mother, in the natural philosophy of most tribal peoples, as reflected by shamanism.
The Ayahuasca reader by Ralph Metzner contains a range of reports contributed by people from all walks of life who have taken the traditional Ayahuasca brew in order to encounter the plant teachers or spirits of the plant. Two of them report visions of the cosmic serpent.
Raoul Adamson entitled his experience Initiation into Ancient Lineage of Visionary Healers (pp. 46–57) and writes:
I become aware of a morphic resonance between serpent and intestines: the form of the snake is more or less a long intestinal tract, with a head and a tail end; and conversely, our gut is serpentine, with its twists and turns and its peristaltic movement. So the serpent, winding its way through my intestinal tract was teaching my intestines how to be more powerful and effective — certainly a gut–level experience!
— Id., p. 48.
Ganesha, in her Vision of Sekhmet ( pp. 76–85), reports:
As I read about Sekhmet and assimilated my experience with her, the understanding that formed in my consciousness was that Sekhmet is a Great Mother Goddess, one that spans all time. With the sun disk at her head and the snake around it, she symbolizes the serpent power of the root chakra having risen to the crown. Thus, she encompasses both heaven and Earth, and demonstrates the way to unite the heaven and Earth of our own nature, Spirit and Form, through the awakening of the kundalini power in the muladhara chakra and its arising to the sahasrara chakra.
— Id., p. 83.
Raimundo D., in his The Great Serpentine Dance of Life (pp. 129–131), writes:
The plumed serpent is masculine, involves outer impression and show of power; the unplumbed serpent is feminine, involving inner expression and statement of strength. (…) I experienced my entire body being reprogrammed and rearranged, even reconstituted at the deep cellular level. This resulted in an incredible feeling of openness, solidity, wholeness and openness.
— Id., p. 130.
We can thus summarize that the association of the serpent as a matriarchal symbol for the Mother Goddess is not only a recurring theme of world mythology, but can be experienced, with the use of entheogens, as a spiritual vision that impacts directly on the soul and super–consciousness.
As it can be argued that what is seen in psychedelic visions is but the content of the collective unconscious of humanity, there is truth in Campbell’s statement that the Goddess still today acts as a counterplayer to patriarchy, on the level of the unconscious, and this independently of personal beliefs or intellectual understanding of shamanism or nature religions.
Points to Ponder
- In this article we (hopefully) became aware that the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy, and the correlating change in symbolism was not just a historical or psychohistorical event, but something that has affected human consciousness as a whole.
- We learnt that on the level of both the individual and the collective unconscious, this change or transition that however deeply impacted upon wake consciousness, is rather secondary. Visionary and psychedelic experiences, as well as experiences with hypnosis have given repeated evidence to the fact that the matriarchal symbolism is still deeply rooted in our subconscious mind and its pictorial vocabulary.
- These visions are not just visual effects that show the energetic impact that encountering cosmic spiritual entities has on those who go through such transformative experiences. In fact, the amazing and almost miraculous healing that most have experienced who encountered mythic creatures in the trance state that is induced by entheogens can only be explained when we assume a direct infusion of bioenergy from these sources — whatever the explanation one may give as to their origin.
- What I wished to demonstrate in this rather complex research was that the large rhetoric about the matriarchy–patriarchy dichotomy is but an intellectual problem, because on the soul or super–consciousness level, such dichotomy simply does not exist. The patriarchal gods may have taken their place in our churches, but they were fortunately not able to penetrate in our hearts and the larger parts of our consciousness that are accessible for the spiritually awakened individual. Here, we have the whole of the Olympus, so to say, and not only the official part of it.
- And for everybody who has once entered that dimension, I do not need to mention the fact that the matriarchal symbolism is the only one that really stands out on that level of consciousness, while the patriarchal gods may well exist also on that level, but have a minor importance. The psychological reason for this fact was clearly recognized by Joseph Campbell when he wrote: [A]s all schools of psychology agree, the image of the mother and the female affects the psyche differently from that of the father and the male. Sentiments of identity are associated most immediately with the mother; those of dissociation, with the father. Hence, where the mother image preponderates, even the dualism of life and death dissolve in the rapture of her solace; the worlds of nature and the spirit are not separated; the plastic arts flourish eloquently of themselves, without need of discursive elucidation, allegory, or moral tag; and there prevails an implicit confidence in the spontaneity of nature, both in its negative, killing, sacrificial aspect (lion and double ax), and in its productive and reproductive (bull and tree).