I am interested in why we live in a world that is dominated by masculine energy, rather than a world where there is a balance between feminine and masculine energies. Maybe some of you out there will take issue with my basic premise that we live in a male dominated world – I’d like to hear what you have to say.
My intention here is to present a time line – a very long time line – with each main point as condensed as I can reasonably make it. So, here goes.
1. 200,000 to 30,000 years ago (I told you it was a long timeline). The range in dates is because the experts can’t really decide. The Great Mother, the Goddess, was the center of spiritual life. The earth herself was seen as the mother of all life – and, all beings come into this world through the body of woman – also the giver of life. Men hunted the game and protected the hearth. Both essential to the survival of the tribe. Men took life so that the tribe could live and women brought forth life so that the tribe could continue. “Death is not the opposite of life, it is the opposite of birth.” Michael Meade
2. 4400 BC – about 6,000 years ago. This is the beginning of the end. The Great Mother was overthrown as the center of spiritual life. By this time communities had been formed and they needed to be defended. Wars. Women and children became part of the spoils of war. The men in the community that had been bested, were mostly killed. Women were raped, traded and enslaved – this fed into the economic welfare of the men who won the war. Since the father of a child is not always known for certain, many restrictions were put on women so that the man could know the child was his.
Women were once an equal partner with men – had equal rights with men. Now, all that changed. Culture shifted from one that was dominated by nature – mother earth – to one where men fought to dominate each other and women were practically slaves.
Consciousness shifted from the world of nature to the world of humans and power shifted totally from the Great Mother to the absolute rule of one man – whose status was sometimes elevated to that of god.
3. 2,000 years ago. The birth of Christ. Christ was a rebel who challenged the then Roman and Jewish rule. He taught love and community, social equality. His life was very short and his message perhaps did not have time to fully mature.
Christ said heaven was here on earth. Yet, the material world was still suffering. The men in charge of the temples were wealthy, had status and power. God was seen to be smiling on them. Never mind how this wealth came to them. The men in power declared that those people who were poor must be sinners. If they had done nothing wrong, then they must be the victims of original sin – a sin they had nothing to do with, yet had to overcome. Those in charge of the temples dictated purification, sacrifice, self-denial and suffering – a convenient, brutal philosophy. As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire it became a tool of power.
4. 1,659 years ago. The birth of Augustine (354 – 430 AD). Augustine was a very influential man in the shaping of the original church and its doctrines. He lived a sexual life, had a concubine (girl friend), fathered a son. Then he put forth some totally crazy ideas that are still at play today in many parts of the world.
Because he could not will his sexual desire away (his penis rose and fell without his conscious control) he concluded that free will was not something he possessed and that no one else possessed it either – he didn’t believe it was even possible to have free will. He believed that Adam did not have free will and that Adam’s sin of having sex with Eve was passed down through the ages in the substance of semen. Therefore all descendants of Adam – all of us – were guilty of original sin from the moment of conception. He believed that sin entered the world because man (the spirit) did not exercise control over women (the flesh).
I’m not making this up – although, I admit it’s absurd – especially when you realize that 1,659 years later many in our world still believe this stuff. Amazing.
Since Augustine could not control his erection, he further decided it was necessary to put controls on women to limit their ability to influence men. He believed women were threatening to men and intellectually and morally inferior. He believed dictatorial policies of the church were the only way to solve this problem.
5. 1095 – 918 years ago. The first Crusade began in 1095 AD – the Crusades were a war against anyone who was not Christian, mostly Muslims and Jews. By this time the original message of Christ was obscured and twisted to fit the needs of the powerful men in charge. The Crusades lasted approximately 200 years, killing hundreds of thousands of women and children – all in the name of god. People began questioning the absolute power of the church.
6. 1231 – 782 years ago. The Pope declared the Inquisition. Peasants, mostly women were captured and killed. The Crusades had a stated purpose of conquest. The Inquisition had a stated purpose of pure sadism and torture. The Inquisition brought lots of money to the church – they confiscated the property of their victims.
7. 1348 – 665 years ago. The Black Death cut across all classes. The church said it came as a demonstration of god’s punishment for people’s sins – not the church’s sins, of course. The church used the Black Death as further evidence of the need to obey the church’s authority. Since medicine’s could not cure the Black Death, anyone practicing herbcraft or healing became suspect.
8. 560 years ago. The Dark Ages were from approximately 475 to 1453 AD. They ended 560 years ago. The church had become all powerful during this time and the Pope’s power had become unlimited.
9. 1484 – 529 years ago. The Pope declared witchcraft was a central threat to the church. A publication of the church, The Witches Hammer, warned against: “The dangers of free thinking women.” Witches were defined as any female scholar, priestess, gypsy, mystic, nature lover, herb gatherer and any woman “suspiciously attuned to the natural world.” Hundreds of thousands of men and mostly women were tortured, hanged or burned. Children would be beaten while watching their mothers go up in flames. In The DaVinci Code Dan Brown says that over a period of 300 years of witch hunts, the church burned at the stake an astounding five million women. Witch hunts lasted from approximately 1450 – 1700.
10. 1517 – 496 years ago. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) – the resentment toward the church culminated in the Protestant Reformation. Like Augustine, Luther believed that humans lacked free will and were doomed to sin.
Let’s stop here a minute. Just when I thought maybe, just maybe, a little more research would cast a different light, I came across a few more facts:
The apostle Paul described women as the “weaker vessel.” Seems Augustine had a few more guys on his team – Paul, Tertullian and Luther – they all put the blame for sexual desire on women – the devil’s gateway! In the second century Father Tertullian wrote: “Women are the gate by which the demon enters . . . It’s on your account that Jesus died.”
In the sixth century, the Council of Macon took a vote as to whether women had souls. Tomas Aquinas – the nature guy – said: “Nothing defective should have been produced in the first establishment of things; so woman ought not to have been produced.”
In the town of Wittenberg, where Luther tacked up his refutations that started the Protestant Reformation, there was a debate over whether women were even human beings. Luther married, had six kids – some girls – and said: “Take women from their housewifery and they are good for nothing. . . .If women get tired and die in childbearing, there is no harm in that; let them die as long as they bear; they are made for that.”
Skin was considered bad – the church said the female body was to be covered in dark clothing at all times.
I could go on – you get the idea.
11. 1564 – 449 years ago. John Calvin (1509 – 1564). He believed that humans are a sorry, sinful lot, with women at the bottom of the heap . . . Sex before marriage resulted in death – his own stepson and daughter-in-law were executed, along with their lovers. Any single woman found pregnant was drowned.
12. 1700 – 313 years ago. Witch hunts ended.
13. Ok, so let’s fast forward.
1920 – 93 years ago. Women win the right to vote in the U.S.
1951 – 62 years ago. Witchcraft laws were repealed in England.
1960 – 53 years ago. Birth control widely available and the Women’s Lib movement in the U.S.
1968 – 45 years ago. Pope Paul VI confirms artificial contraceptives – intrinsically evil.
2012 – 1 year ago. Pope Benedict reaffirms ban on women priests.
2012 – 1 year ago. Approximately .04% (that’s less than one percent) of Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women to date.
2013 – Now. Five women serve as State governors; approximately 4% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women.
I know that was a lot to read – and, it is a very high level view of these events.
As I was doing this research, I was astounded that natural sexual expression – once honored and celebrated – became to be thought of as evil. How ridiculous. I was further astounded that those beliefs have endured in many groups until this day. In this article I have followed the Catholic church – I understand that any/all? religions may have a similar story.
I wonder how much the cruelty, oppression and death that women endured over these many years of history is still swimming around in the female psyche – the one mind – consciousness – societal norms – pick one. And, I further wonder what unseen energy remains that keeps our world in such an out of balance state.
My dream for the future is woman and man – standing side by side – each bringing their natural gifts to the other and to the world. Who knows – we might even have peace on this beautiful Great Mother once again.
1. Lots of this material is taken from Waking the Global Heart by Anodea Judith
2. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
4. Various news articles on the web