Archive for the 'Symbolism' Category

The Shattered Image, A Personal Journey

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

I was an environmentalist from an early age, before the term had even come into use. I had always loved nature and been especially sensitive to nature’s beauty. In fact, I felt most at home, most safe and secure, out in the countryside or hiking in the woods. When I was eleven or twelve, I would take the family dogs for long walks alone in Alsop Park – a nature preserve behind our apartment house right in the middle of Little Rock – and I was never afraid. I think growing up in the south and being raised by a father who claimed the woods as his church had something to do with it. Even if one grows up in the suburban south, as I did, the wilderness was never far away – was always accessible for country drives and afternoon walks. My childhood dream after seeing Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger in “King Solomon’s Mines” was to go on an African safari. I longed to experience nature at its wildest. That was far more appealing to me than a Roman Holiday.

Many years later, I was able to realize the dream of going to a rainforest, but it was not on the continent of Africa, but in Central America – in the Quaker community of Monteverde, Costa Rica. In August, 1972, I finished a graduate degree in English one week and left for Costa Rica to get married the next. It was quite a jolt, going from the Barsetshire of Anthony Trollope’s novels, which had been the subject of my thesis, to the world of Joseph Conrad’s “Nostromo.” Like most North Americans of that era, I knew something about Europe, but almost nothing about Central or South America. I had never even heard of Costa Rica. So, when I boarded LACSA, the national airline of Costa Rica, I felt like I was stepping off into the void. I had no idea what an impact this tiny beautiful country was going to have on my life. I was going to Costa Rica to join my husband to be; I was focused on my marriage, not the locale. (more…)

Shattering the Image, Part II

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

This website focuses on the negative role Christian values, derived from the image of God, currently play in determining, not only the fate of western civilization, but, as the result of a western-dominated globalization, the fate of the whole world. I have felt compelled to write these essays because, not to be overly dramatic, I truly believe that the future of the human species is at risk. And it is at risk because our system of values has become totally corrupt – to be Biblical, it’s become as a “whited sepulchre.”

From CDS’s to WMD’s, nothing is as it seems, and it seems to matter very much what “the meaning of is” is. Our literal financial bankruptcy is a metaphor for our moral bankruptcy. No matter what venue one might be talking about, value given does not result in value received, but in value lost. We value that which no longer has any value and devalue that which is valuable. We do those things we ought not do and do not do those things we ought to do, to paraphrase the book of common prayer, and there is no health in us.

But just because I am out to expose the problems inherent in the image of the Christian God, it is not my purpose to deny the value of religion altogether. (more…)

Shattering the Image

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

The survival of the human species demands that we do nothing less than recreate  human nature.  Luckily, because we are humans and humans are adaptable, we can.  But in order for us to recreate ourselves,  we must first recall the image in which we,  western man, were famously created – the image of God.  To reconstruct human being, we must first deconstruct God. For, regardless of whether or not you are a believer,   the image of God as presented in Genesis – and throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bibles – permeates western culture and has had a profound effect on how Western Man sees himself, and consequently on how we relate to our social and physical world.

If you are wondering why I am using the politically incorrect term “man” for humanity or why I am  using the masculine pronoun to refer to all humanity,   I do it because the image we were created in is a male image (He is after all Jesus’ father, not his mother, and the pronoun He is universally used to refer to Him throughout the English-speaking world).  Consequently, we live in a society which is based on the idea that only those who are male are truly made in the image of God; therefore, only those who are male can be understood as fully human. Females are merely a subset,  as Eve’s secondary creation makes manifest,  their single purpose being to act as vessels to incubate the next generation. To be made in God’s image is to be not only male, but also a dominant male,  as Eve’s mandated submission to Adam represents.  In short, we live in a patriarchal society,  the hallmark of which is a dominant male deity – such as God or Zeus.  And it is this “patriarchal bent” which is causing all the trouble – both socially and environmentally.
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“Monster”: A Case of Misdirected Outrage

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

When Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a monster, it was a very embarrassing Freudian slip — revealing the deeply rooted anti-woman emotions which were fueling the Obama campaign. Power’s terminology was frequently echoed in the media – Dowd, Ruden, to name a few — although it is patently clear that Hillary Clinton is not a monster.  She is merely a smart, accomplished, and successful woman.  It was as if all the anger and hatred people had for George Bush was redirected at Clinton. Strange. After all, Bush really is a monster, having been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands as well as the imprisonment and torture of innocents. But although Bush has low approval ratings, there doesn’t seem to be any real outrage directed at him, e.g., no one is calling him a monster.  Crowds are not demonstrating in the streets demanding his impeachment.  In fact, Dennis Kucinich’s repeated calls for impeachment are ridiculed and find no support among his fellow representatives.  Is it because something in our patriarchal culture restrains us from going after the patriarch in chief, so long as his sins are “patriarchal” sins – sins having to do with an excess of patriarchal action? Who knows?  At any rate, it appears that Obama and the media just cleverly tapped into and redirected the outrage to Clinton. But why was it so easy to redirect the rage to Clinton? Was it because to be a smart, strong, ambitious woman in America is in and of itself to be a monstrous freak of nature? If so, what does that say about America?  Instead of joining in the pile-on, a la Maureen Dowd and Samantha Power, all women need to wake up and take notice of the sexist atrocities committed by the media — and by default the Obama campaign and the DNC — during the 2008 primary.  With all this anti-woman emotion stirred up, you could be next.


Take That, Richard Dawkins!

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Like Richard Dawkins, I don’t “believe in” the JudeoChristian God. Unlike Richard Dawkins, however, I do recognize the JudeoChristian God as a powerful psychological reality – for 2000 years, the most potent shaper of the worldview we have come to know as “western.” Like Richard Dawkins, I am no longer a devotee of any religion as conventionally understood; but unlike Richard Dawkins, I recognize religion, too, as a reality, as a real behavior performed by real human beings. Unlike Richard Dawkins, I have taken the time to study God the Symbol and the religion which has grown up around him. Not surprisingly, I have come to very different conclusions about religion – beginning with its definition. (more…)

The Perils of Transcendent Patriarachal Monotheism

Monday, April 30th, 2007

This essay was delivered as a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee on April 29, 2007.

Not to be too Henny Pennyish, but I think the end times are upon us – not the end of all times, but the end of western civilization as we have come to know and love it – and, from my point of view, it’s about time. If we don’t accept and promote this end – and look for a new beginning, a radically new way of being in the world, we or our grandchildren may be facing the end of the human species altogether.

From my point of view, the place to start in changing our ways is with the way we think about religion in general and Christianity in particular. One of the ways we liberals think about Christianity is that it is a collection of silly stories and superstitious beliefs which only complete fools could believe in. Another way we think about religion is that the stories are not meant to be taken literally, for it is the morals of the stories, not the stories themselves, which form the kernel of religious belief.

Perversely, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with both approaches: I do not dismiss the Bible or Christian doctrine as being fundamentally silly or superstitious; but, along with the Richard Dawkins’s of this world, I do believe that anyone who takes the stories literally is more than a little off base. Like the liberal Christians of this world, I do believe it is the moral of the story, not the story itself which is where the message is; however, I no longer believe in the message, having come to the conclusion that, due to unintended consequences, the moral itself has become immoral – promoting death and destruction rather than life and the well being of all.

So if I believe in neither the story nor the moral, why don’t I just get on with my life and abandon religion altogether? Because I believe that Christianity is too powerful and dangerous a force in our culture to be cavalierly dismissed. To me, religion is not just one aspect of culture, it is the essential shaper of culture and cultural institutions. Religions, when they are functioning properly, have an evolutionary purpose: religious symbols are the carriers of cultural value systems which in turn generate cultural worldviews which ultimately promote social stability and individual survival.

The JudeoChristian God is the symbol which carries the value system of western culture. From my perspective, Genesis is not the story of the creation of the world, but the story of the creation of our worldview. God The Symbol is the creator of our psychological reality, the shaper of human consciousness within JC society, signaling what is important, what is not important, what is good and what is bad, what has value and what has no value.
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Rape and Pillage: The Sacred Marriage and the Gospel of John, Take One

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

The Christian version of the new creation as told in the Gospel of John completes the transition from pre-Western to Western consciousness – a symbolic journey which began in the dark mysteries of the great Mother and moved through the various iterations of the Sacred Marriage to finally arrive at the current version of the story — which reads like wife abuse and an ugly custody battle leading up to an acrimonious divorce.

From a survival strategy based on a worldview which saw all life as dependent on a Sacred Nature, humanity evolved a new survival strategy – a strategy which focused on the domination of a desacralized nature (land) and the conquest of the people most closely associated with nature and the land (women, farmers, peasants, campesinos, etc.). Western culture moved away from a reality which placed the highest value on life-giving activities: the care and feeding of plant, animal, and human life, and constructed a new reality where the highest survival value was given to life-taking activities: the conquest of land and the extermination or enslavement or colonizing of the people on that land. Why did this happen? Is Western humanity cruel and perverse?
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The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Dear Richard Dawkins,

I have just read Jim Holt’s review of your new book The God Delusion in The New York Times (October 22), and I have a few comments. First and foremost, I would like to apologize for what I am about to say, because my comments are based only on a review. Although I have not yet read the book, I would like to address some of the issues brought up by Holt while they are fresh in my mind. (more…)

The Sacred Marriage: Analyzing the Symbology That Gave Birth to Christianity

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006


I first ran across the the Sacred Marriage when, as a bored twelve-year-old browsing through my grandfather’s books, I made the amazing discovery of Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Let me just say that it certainly got my attention and I was bored no more. I next encountered the themes of the sacred marriage a few years later in the novels of Mary Renault, specifically, The King Must Die and again felt the powerful emotional pull of this story. Fifty years later, it continues to fascinate me.
These early exposures to the Sacred Marriage and the emotions which it evokes sent me on a lifetime quest to understand its mysterious power — and the power of myth and symbols in general.

Over the years, through my studies of myth and religion, I have come to believe that the power of symbols derives from their role in the shaping of human consciousness. I believe it is the function of symbols, specifically religious and mythological (other people’s religious) symbols, to shape our psychological and emotional realities in response to the requirements of the physical and social worlds we inhabit.

Pagan myths and symbols found sacred life-giving qualities within nature and created a human consciousness which promoted and sustained a pastoral and agricultural way of life — when that way of life made the most sense with respect to human survival. In contrast, symbologies associated with transcendent patriarchal monotheism (Christianity, as the most extreme and successful example) find the sacred outside of nature, specifically in a transcendent male authoritarian god who looks and acts a lot like a powerful human king. Transcendent patriarchal monotheism creates a type of human consciousness which has the go-ahead, even the mandate, to exploit a desacralized nature including those humans most closely associated with nature — women and indigenous peoples, etc. Transcendent patriarchal monotheism promotes and sustains a social structure and value system which is congenial with an imperial worldview.

Although there is still a great deal of academic argument swirling around the “facts” of the sacred marriage and the dying and rising god, I think there can be no disagreement on the power of its symbology – based as it is on the most powerful of human emotions, surrounding the most powerful of human experiences: sex, death, and birth — nor on its formative role in the evolution of the symbology of the JudeoChristian tradition. Judging from the art and mythology of the ancient near east (ANE), pagan nature religions of that time and place frequently employed the symbology of the sacred marriage. For further proof of the power and ubiquity of these themes in the ANE, one need look no further than the Hebrew and Christian creation myths to detect the symbology of the sacred marriage lurking just beneath the surface – and wreaking a good deal of psychological havoc for all true believers who find themselves faced with endless religious contradictions. For evidence of the power of this symbology, even today, just key in “sacred marriage” in your web browser and see how many references can be found on the internet.

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Symbols and Survival

Friday, February 24th, 2006

Whether or not you believe you believe in Him, if you are a member of Western culture, you believe in God-the-Father’s “survival stragegies.” Western survival strategies understand the male way of survival — dominance — as the key to and model for the survival of Western society. Western society believes that its survival depends upon its ability to dominate all others in the world through achieving and maintaining superior power — whether it be political, military, economic, technological, informational, etc.. God-the-Father as symbol connects to and fleshes out, in a culturally-specific way, the biological archetype for human maleness, making all men gods and God the quintessential Male. God the symbol is therefore powered by all the deeply felt drives and emotions experienced by and associated with the biological human male as he exists in Western society.
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Damsels in Distress, Murder Most Foul, and The Da Vinci Code

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

Although I, like other readers, thoroughly enjoyed reading The Da Vinci Code, for me, the most fascinating and interesting thing about The Da Vinci Code is the phenomenal response to it — which shows that The Da Vinci Code is much more than just a fast-paced page turner. What is it about this novel that millions of readers find so compelling? What is it about this novel that the church finds so threatening and so dangerous that it has no less a personage than Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone up in arms, warning Catholics a little belatedly — not to read it and that shill for the church, Pat Buchanan, suggesting on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country that a fatwah should be issued against author Dan Brown?
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Getting Over God

Monday, November 10th, 2003

I no longer believe in God. But before you automatically write me off as a nihilistic atheist, let me explain. When I say I no longer believe in God, I do not mean that I do not believe in a first cause or a principle of ultimate reality or that I think for a minute that what we understand as material reality today is all there is to know. What I do mean is that I no longer believe in that personage called God which we have come to know through the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and the Koran and who, as Jack Miles clearly demonstrated in his Biography of God, is really a very unsavory character. I do not confuse this cruel tyrant with ultimate reality, dear reader, nor should you. As to ultimate reality, I confess I know nothing — except I know it isn’t God.
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