Shattering the Image

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.

Within patriarchal societies,  there is a built-in power differential between men and women (men have the power,  women don’t).  It is an absolutely essential ingredient of patriarchy,  which is why feminism is so feared and hated,  and why so many people remain willfully blind to misogyny, for feminism threatens the very foundations of patriarchal society. This power differential  has been institutionalized and blessed by church and state,  primarily through the establishment of traditional marriage and family values,  as well as other laws and customs and cultural narratives  which serve to hobble women.  It is so deeply embedded in our consciousness that many believe it is the natural order of things. The power of the dominant male/submissive female model, however,  indicates not that it is the natural order of things, but that it is about much, much more than male/female relationships,  which helps explain – but not defend — why the oppression of women is readily accepted and so hard to eradicate.

Male dominance, coupled with female submission, in itself a survival strategy,  also symbolizes the central survival  strategy of western culture.  In the family tree of western culture, the ascendance of male dominance as an approved cultural behavior  culminated around 3500 years ago in the mythological overthrow of Bronze Age Goddesses. Bronze Age Goddesses were among the many representations of the all-powerful, all-inclusive  Mother Nature or Great Mother, who was understood as the source of all life and who had long been a part of human psychological consciousness.  The conquerors of the Bronze Age Earth Goddesses (otherwise known as brazen hussies) were  Iron Age Sky Gods, who, themselves  symbolized a newly emerging (male) humanity – a humanity who saw themselves no longer as coming from nature or dependent on nature  but as a different order of being altogether,  the owners and exploiters of nature,  whose source and creator was a transcendent male deity.  The conquest of the Bronze Age Earth goddesses by Iron Age Sky gods symbolized the triumph of male mind over female matter,  a triumph of a technologically assisted, active male Humanity over an inert, passive female Nature – a triumph which was demonstrated daily in the lives of ordinary humans by the absolute subjugation of women to men and the creation of a value system which overvalued  males and devalued females.

This mythological palace coup ushered in the western version of patriarchy,  within which the submission of a wife to her husband’s will represents the supplanting of the Bronze Age nature-oriented , immanent, worldview  with the worldview of the Iron Age – a worldview which imaged a  transcendent male humanity taking dominion over a female  earth.  The control of women by men, therefore,  serves as a foundational metaphor for western civilization’s  belief that the ability to control nature  is the key to survival.  Whether we’re talking about achieving control of food production through technological dominance over nature and the earth or control of land and natural resources and people through military conquest, the conquest, rape,  and exploitation of the female body and the ownership of her offspring is the underlying model.  Today,  this survival strategy is backfiring – and we need to back off.  Patriarchy needs to be replaced and the patriarchal gods need to be overthrown just as the goddesses of the bronze age were.

The most successful of the Iron Age Gods,  the most powerful of the Iron Age Gods, the God which not only controlled nature, but created nature,  the God which is reputedly the source of our being, is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Constantine.  We were created  “in His image.”  It is time for that image to be shattered – and replaced.  In order for a new image – a new behavioral pattern — to take root in the unconscious of the collective  cultural psyche,  we must first disempower and demythologyze  the image  already planted there.  And the only way to do that is to investigate  and bring to light the destructive implications of being created in the image of that ancient Iron Age patriarchal  sky god.  By taking apart and analyzing God as the dominant symbol of western civilization  we might have a chance at removing the enchantment  — or breaking the spell — which is forcing western societies to behave in self-destructive ways.

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