The Chalice and The Blade is one of my ‘significant’ books. Riane Eisler looks at a broad sweep of social history from Neolithic times to the present day and nature of the Divity that was worshipped and how it affected the culture.
The book starts with an anlysis of Neolithic artefacts and archeology that indicated that the people of those times were in awe of the lifegiving powers of womankind. They recognised that it was out of the female of all creatures that life was born into this earth. They revered the human woman as the apogee of all created feminity and carved many small ‘venuses’ as representations of her that have subsequently been dug up around Europe. The power of men in these cultures was directed into productive and artisitic activities and the societies were generally equitable and peaceful with settlements without defenses and few armaments. She suggests that the sexes co-operated in an interdependent partnership that had synergistic creative energy.
In contrast the pastoral groups of the plains had a different orientation and their ideals rested in the male power of taking life and dominating nature. Their gods were warrior gods and their artefacts were weapons of war. Their attitude to women was one of domination and possession as a means of production. When these two groups met the aggressive pastoralists overpowered the agriculturalists and in successive invasions changed their culture – they moved away from the life-giving Chalice to the life-taking Blade.
The overriding cultural perspective from the fall of Crete to the present day has been predominantly masculine with women relegated to a subservient position of reproach as worker and producer. This masculine drive to dominate and manipulate nature has lead to all the technological advances that have improved human life thus far but at the expense of social development and the environment. Life is lived in the context of powerful men and the threat of war with huge national ‘defense’ budgets and little spent on birth control and things that affect women’s wellbeing.
Riane calls for a return to a gylanic (life-generating) female perspective to inform our culture before our male androcratic (dominator) culture comes to it’s inevitable conclusion in a war that will bring global catastrophy. Anyone who wants a big picture context for the issues of the world should read this book. It is incredibly useful in providing a new view of an old way of life that is the answer to much of humanity’s current groping in the dark. For anyone with a female partner, the future lies in the woman standing next to you. It seems so right that men’s power should be in providing a safe space for women to discover their sexuality and space to express it multi-faceted creativity. Obviously you can’t make war when you are making love.
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