In the preceding treatment of History I have tried to show how the cultural programming of the patriarchy separated human beings from the biological reality of the Natural World. Psychologically, the masculine qualities became exaggerated and dominant while the feminine characteristics of the species were repressed. As a result, there arose a violent and pathological imbalance within individuals in the culture.
In order to heal this deep fragmentation personally, we have to move into our shadow-land, into our darkness, and dis-cover that which has been hidden. For most of us, this takes a tremendous amount of courage. For there in the darkness we have kept our secret pain, our self loathing and rage. And under the covers of denial, they attack our peace of mind and even torture our physical body. We have become victims of our own myths, beliefs and symbols, held prisoner by our conceptual structures and wounded by our ideals of perfection.
This is not a negative judgement about who we are, or even about what we have done. It is about what we have been taught, how we have been plugged into a defective program that has been running for the last 5,000 years. In his book Ulysses, James Joyce has his hero utter in prophetic wisdom: "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
Many people in the world, especially in the United States, refuse to look into their collective and personal darkness. They are simply afraid of what they might find. The pain is too terrible, the nightmare too horrible, and their very lives feel threatened. So they live in denial. They remain asleep, dreaming their dreams of some magical cure, utopia, or salvation.
Just as night and day are legitimately equal parts to our physical reality, the known and the unknown are complementary components of our psychological reality. Being programmed to value the known and to fear the unknown, we quite naturally attempt to hold on to one, and escape the other.
How each of us tries to carry out this exercise in futility, depends on our programming and personality. People who are caught up in trying to escape their shadow will inevitably feel frustrated and helpless, and at some point, many turn to some kind of substance or obsessive behavior for help or relief. And the faster they run, the more frustrated and helpless they become. Unfortunately for some people, their whole lives come crashing down around them before they stop running.
Individually and collectively we have to stop and ask ourselves, what is in the darkness of our Being that is so frightening, so terrible that we can't stand to look at it? The ancient Greeks had a wonderful story about what lives in our cave of darkness. They said that an ancient Goddess dwells there. Her name is Medusa. She has serpents growing out of her head, and her face is so terrible that all who looked at her were petrified with fright.
Symbolically, Medusa represents our unrecognized Divinity, and all the feminine and creative aspects that could not be conquered, controlled or dominated by the analytical mind. All those creative energies that were denied expression became as serpents growing out from her head. And when we come face to face with these unintegrated and unexpressed aspects of our creative power, we become frightened.
The belief systems and values of the patriarchy have cast a spell, and put a terrible curse upon the Goddess. Being immortal, and yet part of our humanity, she could not be killed or eliminated entirely. She was simply pushed into the shadow-land, the darkness of the subconscious mind, where she now appears to be something terrible and frightening.
Individually and collectively, we must now remove the curse, set the Goddess free and reclaim the power of the night. We have to do this not because some wise person or some holy book says so, or because somehow we think we will be more spiritual. I am sure you can see by now, the reasons go far deeper than such superficial nonsense.
We are at a point in our evolutionary journey in consciousness, where Adam can no longer continue alone. Our image of the Male Deity can no longer facilitate the deeper yearning of our hearts. The intellect without the balancing qualities of the emotions and intuition has become suicidal. Not only has Adam become suicidal, but he is on the verge of turning the entire Garden into "the Wasteland". We have come to the point that if we are to survive as a species, the Goddess not only has to be set free, but welcomed back into the bridal chamber of our soul.
How do we begin this process then? How do we move into our collective and personal darkness, break the spell and lift the curse? We begin by examining our most basic of all human relationships, our relationship with our own body. It is my realization that you can't truly begin to love yourself or anyone else for that matter, while rejecting your own physical reality.
It is very important to begin this process by fully recognizing your body as part of who you are at this level of experience. Your body is your own unique connection with this dimension of existence. It is your own particular connection with your mother and father and with all your larger human family. It is also your connecting link with all other life forms here, and with our one common mother - the Earth.
To understand and strengthen this primal relationship with your body, will automatically transform all other relationships as well. This process is not easy, and cannot be completed in a week, a month or a year. It is an on-going process of exploration of who you are, and on a deep emotional level will begin to reconnect you with aspects of yourself, that in the present moment you are scarcely aware of.
As you begin to explore this relationship, you will also begin to recognize that many of your negative beliefs and feelings associated with your body, are simply the reflections of the predominant emotions and beliefs of the culture you happened to be born into. These programs have been deeply imprinted into your body and mind, and have been running for your entire lifetime. They've not only influenced how you thought, felt and acted, but even helped to establish the very parameters of what you could or couldn't experience.
I'm not writing about some esoteric fine point here, that for the most part remains a question for academic debate. I'm relating to beliefs about our biology that have left all of us deeply wounded and our bodies damaged and scarred. And this trauma began before we emerged from the womb.
For most of us living in the last 60 years in the United States, our birth took place not in the tranquil comforts of home and family, but in a place of disease, pain and suffering - in other words, in a hospital. Our mother was not surrounded by the support and care of people who loved her. Rather, she was brought into a sterile environment of strangers, who for all their good intentions, remained distant and professional.
Without adequate knowledge and preparation about what her body was going through, she was frightened. And as the contractions increased, she gladly took the drugs the professional people offered, not knowing these chemicals would also affect her baby.
Throughout the long span of human development, women have always moved with instinctual wisdom into a squatting position, in order to use the natural force of gravity in their deliveries. Finding herself in an environment where instinctual wisdom is devalued by scientific theory, most likely our mother was not given the freedom to move as her body dictated in the birthing process. The professional people forced her to lie flat on her back, making her labor that much harder and longer.
Through this ignorance, the baby is put under tremendous stress by the difficulties of such a prolonged labor. In many cases the doctor has to intervene with forceps. He grabs the babies' head with his steel tools and forcefully pulls the baby out of the birth channel, many times injuring the child in the process.
In harsh contrast to the environment in which the newborn has spent the last nine months, she or he is now subjected to the most insensitive hostilities imaginable. Glaring light pierces the eyes, loud noises assault the ears, cold air shocks the skin. Sometimes, as a result of such a traumatic birth, the baby needs help to breathe. So he or she is held upside down and hit on the backside. The resulting shock is not from the blow itself, but from the forceful rush of cold air into the lungs for the first time.
It is important to realize here, that the first act of the baby's body in this new environment resulted in searing pain. Many babies simply remain afraid to take another deep breath for a long time afterward, and some remain shallow breathers for the rest of their lives.
We came into this world with pain and tears, simply because of ignorance. But the ignorance does not stop here by any means.
In the first few critical minutes after birth, the lungs are striving to perform an almost miraculous feat. They're struggling to come on line immediately at 100% capacity. They generally require 4 to 5 minutes to make this critical transition. During this time the brain depends on the placenta as a backup to keep it adequately supplied with oxygen.
This double source of oxygen from the lungs and the placenta, insures the young brain will get the necessary amount of oxygen during this critical transition. For at this time, even the slightest oxygen deprivation can permanently damage the brain. Once the lungs are stabilized and functioning at full capacity, the body in its instinctual wisdom will make the necessary adjustment. The heart automatically closes a valve, stopping the flow of blood into the umbilical cord and placenta. The blood is now directed to the lungs and the transition is finally completed.(36)
Against the biological wisdom of millions of years that went into the design and evolution of this miraculous process, the medical establishment thinks it knows better. It is a widespread practice in this country to cut the umbilical cord immediately after birth. In many cases the baby is already under tremendous stress as a result of a long and difficult delivery, and in some cases under the added disadvantage of the drugs given to the mother, and to this already stressful situation is added the premature cutting of the umbilical cord. Most often, this practice sufficiently tips the balance against the baby so that breathing becomes a serious problem. Intervention is required at this point or the baby would die.
It is a tragic fact, tragic because in most case it is preventable, that in a large percentage of all hospital deliveries even today, the baby requires resuscitation. In those first critical moments when the lungs are struggling to supply the brain with oxygen, the backup system is cut off. Consequently, the brain suffers oxygen deprivation which many times results in brain damage.
Unfortunately this is not some far out theory that can't be verified. Autopsies have revealed brain lesions resulting from just such oxygen deprivation during birth. This information hasn't exactly been kept secret either. A doctor by the name of Henry F. Windle wrote an article which was published in Scientific American, 1969. After extensive research in childbirth practices in the United States he concluded "birth asphyxia lasting long enough to make resuscitation necessary always damages the brain ..."
The failure to breathe on the part of the newborn, is not found anywhere else in Nature. And among human beings it is found nowhere else, except in the hands of the medically trained professionals in hospitals.(37)
The tragic consequences of such ignorance are only now beginning to be realized. It is seriously suspected among scientists who are studying child development and learning, that "neurological impairments at birth" are causing learning disabilities among 20 to 40 per cent of our school children.(38)
Unfortunately, this is one of the most dramatic and concrete examples of ignorance begetting ignorance. But the horror story does not end here. After such a traumatic delivery, the professionals determine that mother needs time to recover. So the baby is quickly cleaned up and carried off to another part of the hospital - the nursery. This one act, done so routinely in our institutions of modern medicine, probably is the most damaging single act of their entire birthing ideology.
Nature has genetically coded into the human brain, specific patterns to be activated immediately following birth. These patterns are generally referred to as the "bonding process".
The newborn baby has left the comforts of the womb, and the brain is now specifically programmed to quickly receive input from his or her new world. Just as the mother served to provide the unborn baby with a world as womb, the mother is now required at this particular stage of development, to provide the newborn with a world centered on herself. Her baby is seeking to establish contact and interaction with her, because without her, the center of this new world would remain missing. The innate brain patterns are looking for her face to lock onto as a means to establish the centerpiece of this new world. This in turn, activates another process in which the image of the mother becomes the perceptual foundation for all succeeding mental structures.(39)
So it is vitally important that immediately after birth, the newborn baby be allowed to be completely flooded with sensory information regarding the mother. He or she needs to have skin to skin contact with the mother, to be touched, held and caressed. This specifically activates certain centers in the brain which relieves the birth related stress. The baby also needs to hear the voice of the mother. This offers a sense of continuity between the interior world of the womb and the exterior world at large. Her voice serves as a bridge between these two worlds.
The baby not only needs to hear, see and feel the Mother, but he or she needs to smell and even taste her as well. Consequently, breast feeding is the most important element in the whole bonding process, as it provides an opportunity for all these vital sensory processes to be activated at once. As the umbilical cord was severed, the direct link between the baby and the source of nourishment had been cut off. Now through the breast this link needs to be quickly re-established. The continuity between the womb and the external world is assured, and the baby will recognize the new environment as safe and nourishing.
Beyond this biological level of interpretation, the bonding process is primarily a communication on an intuitive-emotional level. The mother's breast is the channel through which the baby is nourished psychically as well as physically. This nourishment establishes a foundation on which future development is secured and stimulated. Specific functions of the brain are activated, which in turn begins a process of structuring knowledge about the world at large. All new experiences are then referred back to this basic structure, and integrated into an expanding yet coherent world view.
Intelligence has been defined as being based on our ability to move from the known to the unknown.(40) If this is indeed the case, the newborn baby is involved in the most dramatic transition from the known to the unknown that he or she will ever face. And it is through the bonding process that Nature has provided the necessary means for this transition to be completed.
It has been recognized that depending on the success or failure of the bonding process, the innate intelligence of every human being can be enhanced or injured, stimulated or starved. Through the success of this first and most important of transitions, the baby will be adequately equipped in the future to move into the unknown with self assurance and the excitement of adventure.
Having now understood something about the biological and psychological importance of the bonding process, we can begin to understand the absolute horror the newborn baby must endure, when he or she is separated from the mother immediately after birth. The process that has been encoded in his or her genes over a span of millions of years is simply dismissed or not recognized. And the consequence is a psychological trauma that may leave its wounds for a lifetime.
Just when the baby is genetically primed to focus on the mother as the centerpiece of his or her new world, the process is interrupted. The baby is removed and isolated. Consequently the centerpiece is not clearly brought into focus, the foundation of intelligence and personal power is not adequately formed, the unknown remains yet unknown, unpredictable and even a source of fear and anxiety.
The most severe anxiety that a baby can possibly experience is abandonment. And now, just after a long and traumatic birth, the baby is left in a raging storm of anxiety. The newborn tries to fight back at these intolerable circumstances; trying in vain to communicate his or her most basic needs. But the screams and crying fall on deaf ears, as this reaction is interpreted as nothing more than a sign of good health.
After many hours, frustrated and exhausted the baby sinks into a state of helplessness and apathy. The sensory and cognitive receptors in the brain that were once open for a flood of information, now begin to close down. Freud's description of the newborn infant is like a self fulfilling prophecy. His observation was that the baby "lacks consciousness, perception, sensation and all other psychological functions."(41)
In a way he is absolutely right, but only if we are observing the abandoned baby. For in this situation the baby is in a state of psychic shock or depression, which generally takes several months to dissipate. Over time, the infant slowly begins to find ways to compensate for all the losses.
Once the stage-specific process of bonding has been missed, the baby then has to work at putting together the pieces of a fragmented world. This is a particularly laborious task, because now the pieces may be warped by anxiety and fear. Is there any wonder then, why we are witnessing an epidemic increase in infantile autism in all the technological societies of the world?
In a much larger view, the process of bonding with the mother begins the bonding with our body and the Earth. If this process is interrupted or retarded the child will have great trouble feeling completely at home in the body or on the Earth. Acceptance, security and trust will not be at the center of his or her world. Personal power will not be the foundation on which later development is built.
Consequently the unbonded child or adult is always turning back to that earlier stage of development, continually trying to establish a base of power. We find these attempts manifesting themselves externally, as behavior based on power over others, violence, exploitation and obsessive-compulsive attachments to material objects: food, sex, drugs, etc. The hunger at the center needs to be constantly fed. And the feeling that there is something missing never seems to go away.
We have an insight here, as to why somewhere in this country there is a rape occurring every three minutes. The unbonded male is not seeking sexual pleasure, as some people mistakenly believe. Rather, he is desperately searching for the power he lacks. Compulsively he returns to the female, seeking that missing bond with the feminine and his own personal power.
We can also understand, how this adequately serves as a metaphor for our technological society's relationship to the Earth. Based on the fear for survival, human beings attempt to gain security and power by exploiting the body of our Mother Earth. This relationship effectively demonstrates no real bond with the Earth. Consequently, in our blind search for security and power we find ourselves destroying the very basis of our own survival.
Ego has been defined as that part of the mind which is turned externally and interacts with the world at large. The ego is based on a primary sense of personal power and self-esteem. If the bonding process has been inadequate, the ego is not grounded in its source of power and remains malnourished, weak and afraid.
On the other hand, if the bonding process has been successful the ego is sufficiently grounded in the source of personal power, and it quite naturally expands to include an ever growing sense of identification with others. The very basis of Love rests on a healthy sense of self-worth and personal power.
Understanding the ego in this holistic context, we can see how damaging and misplaced the idea is that the ego should be done away with, or somehow weakened. The problem in our society is not too much ego, the problem is the ego has been damaged, fragmented, ungrounded, separated from its base of security and power.
Each of us, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, has been deeply wounded by some of the toxic ideas and values of our culture. It is not the fault of our parents or any individual. This is not about blaming people. It is about recognizing the mythologies that we have been living and the cultural programs we have been ritualistically playing out. The consequences have now become so severe, the pain so deep, the nightmare so terrible, that collectively we are beginning to wake up.
Each of us has felt deep loneliness and fear in the night, but we had no idea what had happened to us. Part of the process then of waking up, is to became more consciously aware of what has happened. We are then able to reconnect with our hidden pain and work through it. In this sense pain is our blocked creative energy. It is the place where our power remains frozen. By bringing our attention back to these places, we are able to release our creative power and initiate a process of healing and transformation.
As I have stated before, part of the process of becoming more aware of what has happened to us is by recognizing the mythological scripts that have played out in our lives. The story of your birth is actually a ritual performed as part of the mythological programming of the culture.
Now if you happened to be born a male, you were almost automatically selected to play the role of the sacrificial offering or victim. In this role you were required to sacrifice a part of your body to the male god of the semitic tribes, or the god of scientific theory. Either way, the priest/professional faithfully reenacted an ancient ritual and the foreskin of your penis was systematically cut off.
Isn't it strange, that almost immediately after a male arrives in this world, his sexual organs are attacked and mutilated? And this is done most often, without any anesthetic whatsoever! From the baby's subjective experience, what is the message here?
On the deepest level of awareness, already sexuality is linked with pain. The source for his greatest physical pleasure is turned into his greatest pain. And so a wedge is effectively driven between the body-mind relationship, and the baby is left to deal with this horrific abuse the best he can.
It shouldn't come as any surprise to find that 80% of all silent crib deaths are male infants.(42) Could it be, that after all the trauma of the birth itself, this next injury simply proves to be too much, and he never recovers from the shock? As of yet, there is no concrete evidence to support this connection. However it can be seen through the eyes of common sense, that this barbaric ritual has a tremendous impact on the male psyche. There could also be a connection here with the growing incidence of sexual dysfunctions among males, and with their problems of negative social interaction and emotional withdrawal.
The concept of the "wounded child" is not some abstract catch phrase of pop psychology here. Mythology doesn't exist just in books, but always seeks expression through action or ritual. Here, there is a knife and blood, and physical mutilation to an individual too young to understand anything of what's going on. The wounded child is a living reality. And sometimes in the silence of our nights we can still hear him crying.
We have begun to peer into the collective darkness of our pain, anxiety and fear. And we have discovered some of the trauma we suffered upon our arrival here: the unnaturally prolonged and difficult delivery; the introduction of drugs into the birth process; the forceful removal from the birth channel; the premature cutting of the umbilical cord, leaving the stress filled brain without adequate oxygen; the interruption of the bonding process, leaving us isolated and feeling abandoned; and in the case of male infants, the added violence of circumcision.
Having suffered and endured all that, Nature still has provided a means for healing to occur and development to proceed. Breast feeding her baby, the mother is not only providing the necessary nutrition the baby needs, but this one act more than any other, provides the psychic nourishment the baby needs for healthy development. Having missed the stage specific opportunity of the bonding process immediately following birth, breast feeding that is continued over a long period of time, will do much to compensate for that missed opportunity. The breast milk of the mother not only provides nutrients to stimulate and strengthen the baby's immune system, but it is also now suspected that there are specific hormones in the milk that actually facilitate the bonding between the mother and child.(43)
All biological processes have their own wisdom, which we are only now beginning to consciously understand. When our cultural conditioning takes precedence over our biological programming, it is always done at some cost. It is no mistake of Nature, that the human child is dependent on the mother for a longer period of time than any other species. We now understand there is actually some purpose, some reason for this extended infancy.
At birth, the human brain is already proportionately huge compared to the rest of the body. This fact indicates the driving intention of our biology is centered around the development of this miraculous mind-brain system. We also know that the brain-mind develops through interaction, and that breast feeding happens to be the most powerful and intimate of all interaction the baby can experience. In this light, it's obvious why it is so imperative that this intimate relationship be encouraged.
If we look at the other primates, one of the species that is physiologically similar to human beings is the mountain gorilla. Their infants do not remain helpless or dependent for quite as long as human babies. Regardless of this fact however, the females nurse their young for over three years.
It's also interesting to note that among the various so called "primitive peoples", we also find mother's breast feeding their babies about the same length of time.
Our genetic programming is always attempting to provide the most optimal conditions for the development of intelligence. And breast feeding our babies is one of the most important aspects of our genetic programming for this development.
In a culture that devalues Nature and the instinctual wisdom of our bodies, the rational mind has set itself up as the sole authority. It dictates what is normal and what is abnormal, what is scientific, and what is superstition. Consequently, millions of babies have been and will be, deprived of their most basic needs.
This profound ignorance on the part of our culture, perpetuates itself by retarding the development of intelligence in our children. And through this process, the story of Genesis becomes our reality. The seemingly abstract ideas of the fall of human nature has now become a literal and concrete fact. Not because of some deities' curse or some inherent flaw in our nature, but because we have unconsciously and faithfully played out the mythologies of our culture. We believe ourselves to be separated from the Divine. We have left the beauty and harmony of the Natural World to walk the Earth as rejected and abandoned children. We no longer deeply trust our world to meet our basic needs. So we feel we have to sweat and toil and exploit, just to survive. We live in a place of fear. So we feel we have to defend ourselves, and march in conquest for the sake of security. We live in a place of pain; so we feel we have to medicate ourselves just to feel good.
The mythology of the "Fall" adequately fulfills itself, as our negative cultural conditioning mindlessly is passed down from one generation to the next. It literally has left its scars on our bodies and in our minds. We have become fractured, fragmented, fearful people, living out our lives in contraction and limitation, repression and guilt.
The true miracle is that so many of us have actually survived. For there are many who were not so fortunate, falling along the way to infantile autism, childhood schizophrenia, hyperactivity dysfunction and a wide range of learning disabilities.
The wedge that was driven between body and mind as a result of the birthing ritual, is systematically driven deeper by our antisexual morality. Once again, our culture ritualistically plays out a negative mythological program that impedes the natural development of intelligence.
As young children we are genetically programmed to interact and explore our bodies and everything in our immediate environment. Through this interaction our intelligence develops and expands. As this process proceeds, our parents or those around us, gave us messages about what was good to interact with and what wasn't. When the object of attraction was a fire or a moving truck in the street, strong negative messages were appropriate - our survival depended on such messages. What was particularly inappropriate at this point in our development however, was that many of us received equally negative messages about certain parts of our own body. These body parts of course had nothing to do with survival issues.
The body was giving us strong messages of pleasure, while our parents were giving us messages of negativity. Because of these conflicting signals our genitals became a source of confusion. The brain-mind system at this stage of development is simply unable to compute such ambiguity. The brain pattern imprints concerning our sexuality and physical pleasure became ones of stress and anxiety. The wedge that was driven between mind and body at our birth, is now driven even deeper. Not only are we left unbonded with our mother, we are now methodically being prevented from bonding or deeply connecting with our own body.
Physical stimulation of the pleasure centers in the body are a natural part of human development, whereby the pleasure circuits between the genitals and the brain are activated and developed. This neurological integration facilitates our capacity for pleasure. It is an essential part of our genetic programming. Being a powerful interaction between the body and mind, pleasure actually stimulates neurological growth and the development of intelligence. But once again, our cultural programs have attempted to override this natural process. Our belief systems are part of a mythology of conquest, not of cooperation. The way of Nature is seen as chaos, confusion and death. We have been taught that human beings are here to conquer, control and dominate Nature and thereby transcend Nature.
In this context then, pleasure is perceived as terribly threatening. It is seen as giving in to Nature, and ultimately leads to the loss of control. In the New Testament, we find in a letter written by Paul to the Galatians a clear statement of this polarization: "The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other". Galatians 5:17
We find the same message in his letter to the Romans: "For the wisdom of the flesh is hostile to God." Romans 8:7.
This conflict between the body and the spirit was later expanded and refined by St. Augustin, who explained that our sexual impulses were actually the body's rebellion against the rational control of the mind. Just as Adam and Eve rebelled against the law of God, our sexuality perpetuates that act of rebellion.
Martin Luther, who protested the corruption within the Catholic Church, nonetheless, held onto this mythology of polarization as a lifeboat, flatly stating: "All natural inclinations are either without God, or against Him, therefore none are good."
Of course these negative attitudes were not something new. They merely represented several more articulations of the long anti-sexual sermon of the patriarchy. From Buddha to Shankar, from Socrates to Luther, it's the same old theme.
As the modern day of scientific discovery began to dawn, the religious context and language of this theme began to loosen its grip, and eventually gave way to the language of science. Now the negative message is no longer clothed in the terminology of body and spirit, good and evil, but is replaced by the criteria of normal and abnormal, health and disease.
In 1812 Dr. Benjamin Rush, generally credited as the father of modern psychology, declared masturbation to be the cause of "impotence, pulmonary consumption, dimness of sight, vertigo, epilepsy, loss of memory and even death." (44)
This opinion was not some obscure theory confined to the halls of academia or scientific journals, but directly reflected the widespread belief system of the general population. For in 1916, a similar message could be found in such a popular educational tool as The Boy Scout Handbook. In a chapter written by a physician called "Health and Endurance", we read, "any habit which a boy has that caused this fluid to be discharged from the body tends to weaken his strength, to make him less able to resist disease...".
This attitude has became deeply ingrained in the public mind. Even today, it is almost an unwritten law among professional football coaches, to instruct their players not to have sex the night before the big game so as to preserve their strength.
In 1968 The Boy Scout Handbook was still advising young boys to avoid the loss of semen. No longer on purely physical grounds, instead it advised against it because it "may cause guilt and worries". This was a classic case of a double bind. Because it was as late as 1976, Pope Paul VI was still pronouncing masturbation "a grave moral disorder", which of course made it almost impossible not to associate "guilt and worries" with the act.
If sexual attitudes are repeatedly associated with fear, guilt, and punishment, then sex quite naturally becomes a source of unhappiness, dis-ease and problematic relationships. On the other hand, if our sexual attitudes embrace the cultural values which have a positive interpretation of the Natural World, then sex becomes associated with trust, affection, tenderness and sensitivity towards others. Our biological integrity is maintained, and even strengthened through our sexual expressions.
Only relatively recently have scientists begun to suspect, that self-pleasure might actually be necessary for developing the capacity for orgasm. The implications here, go much further than just physical development. There have been a number of studies done where the deliberate inhibition of the natural sexual response in animals, has been observed to result in aggressive and cruel behavior. Sexual permissiveness on the other hand, resulted in more peaceful and nurturing relationships.
Furthermore, when the necessity for sexual pleasure is recognized and appreciated, this in turn establishes a strong connection with our own personal power, the ability to effectively act and make a difference in our world. It is through this sense of personal power that we can safely reach out to others in cooperation and a true sense of relationship. This in turn, becomes the very basis for community.
The compulsive obsession of our culture to compete, dominate and control, are all symptoms of human beings lacking personal power and the inability to engage in relationship. Sex is entered into from a sense of separation, not out of a sense of connectedness. The symptoms of such a pathological condition are alienation, repression, guilt and violence. This condition is becoming more obvious in every segment of our lives, as the culture begins to manifest some of the more advanced stages of its disease. And probably in no other area of our lives is this negative conditioning more obvious, than in the relationship between men and women.
As our patriarchal culture plays out its mythologies on the world stage, individuals have become overwhelmed, hypnotized as it were, by the constant barrage of symbols, signals and messages. Just as our culture's ideologies have influenced the manner in which we were brought into this world, and helped shape our attitudes about our body and our sexuality, they've also had a tremendous impact on the relationship between men and women.
The widespread problems we are experiencing throughout our society regarding the relationship between the sexes represent the bitter fruit of seeds planted long ago. If we examine this problem from a historical perspective, we can gain much needed insight into some of the dysfunctional programs that have been running for the last several thousand years.
Currently, there are a number of religious groups around the country preaching about a rather abstract subject they call "family values". If we explore some of the sources for their beliefs and ideas, we find a value system reflecting the patriarchy's myth of relationship, in which the intimate bond between men and women is actually devalued and attacked.
If we begin our examination of some of these ideologies in the context of Christianity, the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians boldly declares "It is good for a man not to touch a woman." I Corn. 7:1. He tries to soften the blow by explaining, that if an individual is unable to live up to this elevated standard of "goodness", then it is better to go ahead and get married, rather than to live in a state of perpetual sin. However the message is quite clear, if a person is serious about loving God, human relationships are to be somehow transcended, especially the relationship between men and women.
Like an undercurrent of polluted water, this concept has poisoned the well of human relationships down through the centuries. For hundreds of years, anyone who even suggested that people living as husband and wife might be more blessed then those who were celibate, could be excommunicated. The earliest Christian marriages were performed outside the church building, in order to keep the church free from any moral pollution associated with the marriage ritual.
All the Church fathers preached a sermon of negativity when it came to the relationship between the sexes. St Jerome said that: "every man who loves his wife passionately is guilty of adultery." The explanation being, that one should only love God passionately. St Ambrose said: "marriage was a crime against God, because it changed the state of virginity that God gave every man and woman at birth. Tertullian claimed that marriage was "more dreadful than any punishment or any death."
As strange as it may seem, for over one thousand years the Christian Church did not recognize marriages in Cannon Law. It wasn't until the year 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council that marriage was granted any legal status. Furthermore there was no Christian sacrament of matrimony until the 16th century.(45)
This antagonistic attitude and reluctance to recognize the most basic of human relationships in a spiritual context, reflected the deeper animosity toward women and sexuality. And when the Church finally did compromise on the issue of marriage, it made sure that the concept of women's rights and equality, found no support in the Church.
As it gave ground on the issue of marriage, the Church compensated by making sure it gained even greater control over women, who were always seen as a threat to the male power structures. Much of this grave responsibility of control, quite naturally fell upon the husband.
During the Middle Ages, the Christian Church published some clear guidelines concerning the relationship between a husband and his wife, called the Rules of Marriage. Within these guidelines, we find explicit instruction to the Christian husband who at one time or another, might find himself with a disobedient wife:
"Scold her sharply, bully and terrify her. And if this still does not work...take up a stick and beat her soundly, for it is better to punish the body and correct the soul than to damage the soul and spare the body...Then readily beat her, not in rage but out of charity and concern for her soul, so that the beating will be to your merit."(46)
As astounding as this may seem, this document was not some isolated work by a small group of sadistic old men, but generally reflected the prevailing values of the culture at large. Not only were these attitudes widespread, but they literally spanned the centuries.
In the 18th century, both English and American law established guidelines for marital disagreements based on Sir William Blackstone's famous "Rule of Thumb":
"in order to enforce the solitary restraints of domestic discipline," a husband was legally free to beat his wife, but the rod was to be no thicker than his thumb.(47)
At the same time, the Anglican Church supported such brutality by officially declaring: "Women are intrinsically inferior in excellence, imbecile by sex and nature, weak in body, inconstant in mind, and imperfect and infirm in character."(48)
With this prevailing attitude, a husband's right to discipline his wife was not even questioned. And certainly she had no legal recourse. A man's house was his castle, and the "sanctity of the home" could not be breached by the courts.
This situation existed right into the 20th century, and to a large degree still exists today in the United States. It wasn't until the legal reforms of the 1970's that domestic violence was even seriously considered. Up until then, a man who committed aggravated assault against a stranger, was charged with a felony. If however, the same assault was against his wife, he was charged with only a misdemeanor, which rarely landed the attacker in court, much less in jail. This injustice, unfortunately still exists in most states today.
In 1991, 4 million women were reported beaten, and 1,320 were killed in domestic violence in the United States. One third to one half of all female murder victims, are killed by their spouses or lovers, as opposed to 4% of male victims killed by their female partner. More American women are injured by the men in their life, than by car accidents, mugging and rapes combined; 22-35 percent of all visits by females to emergency rooms are for injuries from domestic violence. This of course does not take into account those women, that for various reasons don't go to an emergency room, and those too humiliated to tell even their closest friends.(49)
In 1992 the AMA, backed by the Surgeon General, declared that violent men constitute a major threat to women's health in this country. Should we really be surprised at such violence, when we realize the pathology of our cultural programming. In computer science, there is a universal saying: "Garbage In. Garbage Out." In other words, if there is a flaw in the software (the programming) then the results can only be flawed. It is not a problem of the hardware, the inherent nature of human beings, but in our conditioning, ideologies, and mythologies. These serve as the blueprint or model for our reality, and the foundation upon which our culture is built and organized.
As these negative programs are being lived out in our culture, human beings find themselves alienated, fearful and in despair, many times believing that their pain is inherently part of the human condition. It should be pointed out however, that males are also victims of this negative programming as well as females. In our culture males are conditioned to feel that to become mature men, they must reject all that is feminine: the feminine qualities within themselves, as well as the feminine values of the culture. The qualities of competition, domination and conquest are elevated to overwhelming importance within the culture, and the result is an extreme psychological imbalance.
Our education system perfectly reflects this debilitating imbalance. The curriculum in our schools is almost totally locked into the development of the left brain. Rational intelligence has become almost the exclusive focus. Emotional development is only addressed in terms of "adjusting" to this already imbalanced focus. Objectivity is always in the spotlight of our attention, while subjective reality is marginalized and relegated to the dark basements of our being. Scientific objectivity has become the new religion of our Age, and our schools have become the temples in which it is preached without end.
I am not suggesting that science and technology are bad in and of themselves, or that somehow they should be eliminated. For they have greatly contributed to the development of human understanding and prosperity. What I am saying is that we have finally reached a point in our development both culturally and individually, where this imbalance between the masculine and the feminine , the intellectual and the intuitive, the mental and the emotional has become pathological to the point of being self- destructive. Our culture is on a path of self-destruction.
As dark as things may appear, we should keep in mind that death is not an end in itself, but represents a transformation. In the most broad terms, the death of the patriarchal culture actually represents the birth of true civilization.
A New Day Dawning
Individually and collectively, the people on this planet are involved in a process of transformation that is simply unprecedented in its scope. We are involved in one of the most dramatic evolutionary transformations of consciousness the human species has ever experienced, more significant and inclusive than the Renaissance of the Middle Ages, the Scientific-Industrial Revolution and the discovery of the Americas all combine.
This journey in consciousness is not without a direction or purpose. Like a morning glory breaking through a sidewalk seeking sunlight, a New Perspective has broken through the dominant mythologies of our culture and into our collective consciousness, and the world hasn't been the same since. It's as if a door in the unconscious mind opened after being closed for thousands of years, and all at once there She was - The Goddess.
Whether we choose to interpret The Goddess in terms of a Female Deity, or as a personification for the anima - the interior feminine aspect of every human being, or as a metaphor for the characteristics of instinctual and intuitive wisdom, nonetheless the presence of the Feminine within the collective consciousness can no longer be denied or ignored.
We can also recognize this breakthrough in consciousness by following a distinctive trail of ideas and beliefs, which were once part of the culture of the Goddess, so many millennia ago. For if we look back at the events of the 1960's, something absolutely extraordinary is revealed. The gestation period for a large number of historical movements ended and collectively we experienced a tremendous birthing process. For in just a relatively short time, a whole list of events and movements broke into our collective consciousness during the 60's:The Women's Movement; The Civil Right's Movement; The Peace Movement (which did in fact stop the Vietnam War); The American Indian Movement; The Environmental Movement; The Neo-Pagan Movement; The Natural Foods Movement; The Home Birth Movement; The Sexual Revolution (when people began to take off their religious straight-jackets and more freely express their sexuality); and the birth of a subculture: rock'n'roll, long hair, psychoactive drugs, wild and colorful clothes and experiments in communal living.
One event however, more that any other of the 60's or even of the entire 20th century for that matter, which was of unprecedented significance occurred in the last few months of that decade. It was as if this one event served as a symbolic climax to a decade of transforming consciousness.
On July 20th 1969, while millions of people on Earth watched in utter amazement, two men stepped out onto the strange and mysterious landscape of the Moon. Driven by an almost genetic sense of urgency, the scientific priests of the patriarchy reached out and connected with the ancient Goddess of long past mythologies.
The attention of the mainstream culture was given to the importance of the technological achievement itself, while the deeper, subtler implications remained hidden or unrecognized. In terms of mythological significance, human beings collectively reached out and touched that mysterious, ever changing Goddess of the Night, Queen of the Stars, and brought back to Earth parts of Her body as a magic talisman. It was in fact journey in consciousness, into the shadow side, into the darkness of the unconscious mind, the realms of the Feminine, and the anima.
In the Indo-European languages the root word for both "moon" and "mind" are the same. Even to this day, we speak in terms of this connection with the word "lunacy", (as if the mind was somehow influenced by Luna - the moon). Originally however, this was perceived as being in a state of grace, whereby one was possessed by the spirit of the Goddess.(50)
In the language of the archetype, our journey to the Moon represented humanities' journey to the forgotten lands of the mind, a reconnection with the Feminine and the rebirth of the Goddess. Being the very instrument of Grace and Ecstasy, once again She is among us, bringing new Life to the wasteland of an alienated and hurting humanity.
Through the lens of these metaphorical associations, we can now see the 1960's as a unique period in the last 5,000 years of what has been called "Western Civilization". For this period represents a sudden and dramatic shift in consciousness, a birthing of ideas, beliefs and values all part of what I call The Feminine Perspective.
The various Movements that were born in the 60's, can be seen metaphorically as individual children of the Goddess, each having been spawned from the consciousness of The Feminine Perspective. Each of these Movements however, has remained more or less isolated from the others, intently focused on addressing some particular aspect within the mainstream culture, struggling with their own agendas as if each were seeking it's own identity and sense of purpose.
These Movements have been tremendously successful in their own spheres of activity, growing and gaining strength through the last two decades. Individually however, they have achieved a stage of maturity in which a transformation is now necessary if they are to continue to mature. And as if guided by some internal clock, this next stage of transformation is right on time.
In the 1990's these Movements, these children of the Goddess are all coming together. They are beginning to consciously recognize their common bonds to the same Mother. And the networking between these separate groups represents the formation of an entirely new culture. It is from this inevitable union that the structural elements of a true civilization will be formed. The foundation for this planetary society, in which many diverse cultures will peacefully participate, is already being laid down.
We are living at a time on the Earth, unlike any other that has gone before. The Culture of the Goddess that had been driven underground thousands of years ago, has re-emerged to open up a whole new horizon of future possibilities. To those who fearfully hold onto the patriarchal ideas of conquest, exploitation and competition, truly it will be the end of their world. But those who are able to see beyond the old patriarchal programming and mythologies, and embrace The Feminine Values of empowerment, partnership and cooperation, for them - a whole new day is beginning to dawn.
* * * * * *
1. Manu, Manava Dharma-Shastra, Maohar I.A., 1986.
2. Lalitavistara 15. The Bodhisattva's Graveyard Vision, Trans. adopted from N.J. Krom, The Life of the Budda.
3. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, pp. 50-5.
4. The Nag Hammadi Library, General editor, James M. Robinson. Harper & Row. Gospel of Philip, pp. 135,136,138.
5. Gospel of Philip, ibid., p. 142.
6. The Nag Hammadi Library, op.cit., The Gospel of Mary, pp. 472-3.
7. The Nag Hammadi Library, ibid., Trimorphic Protennoia, pp.461-2.
8. The Nag Hammadi Library, ibid., The Thunder, Perfect Mind, pp. 271-2.
9. The Nag Hammadi Library, ibid., Introduction, p.5.
10. Quoted by John Phillips, Eve: The History of an Idea, p.133.
11. Quoted by Baring & Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, p.533.
12. Quoted by Baring & Cashford, ibid., p. 534.
13. John Phillips, op.cit., p.70.
14. St. John Chrysostom quoted in Malleus Maleficarum, by Heinrich Kramer & James Sprenger, p.43.
15. Quoted by Riane Eisler, The Chalice & The Blade, p.131.
16. Riane Eisler, ibid., p.132.
17. Malleus Maleficarum, op.cit., pp.43-47.
18. Malleus, ibid., pp.225-6.
19. Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark, pp.187-8.
20. Barbra G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, p.444.
21. Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising, p.134.
22. Wilson, ibid., p.134.
23. Walker, op.cit., p.586.
24. Martin Luther, Luther's Works Vol. I, Lectures on Genesis, pp.202-3.
25. Unfortunately I was unable to locate this quote.
26. Shaman's Drum, Mag. No.18, "500 Years of Indian Resistance", p.15.
27. Shaman's Drum, No.18, ibid., p.15.
28. Steve Newcomb, Shaman's Drum, No.29, "Five Hundred Years of Injustice: The Legacy of Fifteenth Century Religious Prejudice", p.18.
29. Taft quoted by Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues, p.158.
30. Quoted by Chomsky, ibid., p.22.
31. Chomsky, ibid., pp.231-2.
32. Chomsky, ibid., p.173.
33. Dan Turner, Creation Spirituality, Nov/Dec. 1993, "Is There Hope for Guatemala?", p.34.
34. Barbara Mor & Monica Sjoo, The Great Cosmic Mother, p.324.
35. Mor & Sjoo, ibid., pp.394-5.
36. Quted by Joseph Chilton Pearce, Magical Child, p.50.
37. Pearce, ibid., p.50.
38. Newell Kephart, director of the Achievement Center for Children at Purdue U., quoted by Pearce, ibid., p.50.
39. Pearce, ibid., pp.53,89.
40. Pearce, ibid., pp.16,17,29.
41. Quoted by Pearce, ibid., p.37.
42. Pearce, ibid., p.59.
43. Pearce, ibid., p.54.
44. Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising, p.109.
45. Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, pp. 585-590.
46. Walker, ibid., p.592.
47. Walker, ibid., p.593.
48. Walker, ibid., p.921.
49. Time mag. 6/29/92.
50. Walker, op.cit., p.670.
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