Occidental Mythology

 

Occidental MythologyPrinceton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series, XVII, 1973.

Occidental Mythology, to say it coarsely, renders the murder culture eventually comprehensive. It is Joseph Campbell’s merit to have unveiled Isis a second time, after her first veil was torn by Helena Blavatsky …

It all started with a murder, the Murder of the Goddess, and it became the mold of all the murders perpetrated thereafter. And he, the scholar, politely talks about ambivalence and inversion for explaining that the basic symbols of the Bible address a pictorial message to the heart that exactly reverses the verbal message addressed to the brain, and that this nervous discord inhabits both Christianity and Islam as well as Judaism, since they too share in the legacy of the Old Testament. We do have a constant rhetoric in the Bible that uses the word ‘love’ like a strange kind of balm for the wounds torn by violence and the patriarchal fear of the female.

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./21

The ‘fury of fire and sword,’ as Riane Eisler called it in The Chalice and the Blade (2005), was in Campbell’s opinion a moralistic neurosis as the point of departure of patriarchy.

He speaks about an infantile thinking in opposites that typically is marked by an almost total absence of intuition, association and synthesis. It is a stiff and inflexible, and neurotic left-brain concept, called the ‘solar worldview.’

If this worldview were a mere historical artifact, we could relegate it to the history department. But we are not yet beyond the solar worldview, as it has become rather popular again, with religious and political fundamentalism, and a widespread moralistic attitude pervading public discussions. And one may ask why humanity has developed a solar worldview in the first place? Campbell explains:

As the mother of all living, Eve herself, then, must be recognized as the missing anthropomorphic aspect of the mother-goddess. And Adam, therefore, must have been her son as well as spouse: for the legend of the rib is clearly a patriarchal inversion (giving precedence to the male) of the earlier myth of the hero born from the goddess Earth, who returns to her to be reborn./30

Campbell’s writings precede Riane Eisler’s reports of a matriarchal reign of peace and partnership that contrasted strongly with the later inverted culture, and having had its peak in Crete, the great Minoan Civilization. Referencing Martin Nilsson, he does not hide the impact that this difference had upon sexual mores:

The culture, as many have noted, was apparently of a matriarchal type. The grace and elegance of the ladies in their beautifully flounced skirts, generous décolleté, pretty coiffures, and gay bandeaux, mixing freely with the men, in the courts, in the bull ring—lovely, vivid, and vivacious, gesticulating, chattering, even donning masculine athletic belts to go somersaulting dangerously over the horns and backs of bulls—represent a civilized refinement that has not been often equaled since : which I would like the present chapter to fix firmly in place, by way of a challenge to the claims of those proudly phallic moral orders, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, that were to follow. (…) And the observation must finally be added that all references to sexual life, all phallic symbols, such as abound and are so aggressive in / numerous religions—including the historic religion of Greece—are in Minoan art completely missing./62-63

After the peaceful, emotionally intelligent, wistful and abundantly joyful Minoan Civilization was ravaged and burnt to ashes, an upside-down movement set in that Campbell well describes as a rewriting of mythology, that resulted in attributing to most deities the exact opposite values they have had before; it was a forum of cultural brainwashing. All cultural values were turned to their opposite. As a result, something like a new morality came up at that time of early patriarchy that is based upon the demonization of the autonomous, wistful and knowledgeable female:

The Babylonian epic of Creation 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./86

And here we see why the serpent became a demon, and a seducer, and why native cultures, with their natural integrative attitude toward nature and the female, have been largely decimated over the course of patriarchy.

Studying the research undertaken by Joseph Campbell gives us the opportunity to be informed and enlightened about the infamous cultural betrayal that is part of our past as a civilization, with all the consequences this entails. One of them namely is our problem with controlling violence and abuse.

Fact is that patriarchy has made of abuse an automatism. It has built abuse right in its cultural and social setting. It has made abuse inevitable, and this is logically so, as this cultural paradigm came about through murder and abuse, and the ravaging of ‘the children of the enemy,’ when the strong-and-righteous were taking over the non-believers. And we can even go as far as saying that patriarchy is per se a form of ritual abuse of nature. And that is why we have to overcome the cultural betrayal of patriarchy and not for any other less important, reason!


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