A Thought Adventure

Thursday, December 10, 2015

27. The Legacy of the Malevolent Matriarchy

According to psychologist Charles T. Tart in his book States of Consciousness, every culture identifies with the ‘ordinary’ state of consciousness,  which seems like a ‘natural’ way of looking at things because introduced  to people in childhood. Usually chosen by a narrow élite to serve as a tool for handling a certain reality, the ordinary state of consciousness only develops a few human potentials. Tart compares it to a paradigm or super-theory in science (like Newtonian physics whose laws of motion ruled science--and our understanding of the universe--before the theories of relativity and quantum physics).

Therefore, what we see as real and true may have nothing whatsoever to do with our actual experience. Or as writer John Berger puts it in his Ways of Seeing, “The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe.“ And just as one’s self-image may be determined by a parental attitude or a significant occurrence in childhood, so I think a society’s entire outlook on the world may go back to some pivotal prime event or action by its first ancestors, or even by a single influential person, like the founder of a religion or an important institution.

Identifying leading with oppressing.
I propose that the matriarchs who make up the original Council of Elders in the earliest agricultural village are the ones who establish the world's first consciously conceived social order. In so doing they lay the groundwork for humankind's first 'ordinary' state of consciousness and set the rules for what people regard as reasonable thinking and normal behavior. 

Since its most emphasized human potential is obedience to authority, I see in the Malevolent Matriarchy history’s first dictatorship, in its goddess cult a conscious intention to deny men equal status with women, and in the custom of ritual regicide an effective means to limit men’s paternal role to the physical act of procreation.

Moreover, because I assume that witnessing the first male sacrifice is such a profoundly traumatic experience for newly conscious man, I suggest that it sows in him the first seeds of an enduring male fear of woman--both as authority figure and as sexual being. A fear I consider extreme enough to jolt men out of their healthy sexual instincts and ignite the hatred of the female sex that is still ablaze in the worldwide practice of misogyny.

Stunting consciousness.
Beyond oppressing men, however, the matriarchs also leave a heavy imprint on the population as a whole. I think they realize that the ego’s capacity for independent thinking is a lethal challenge to them, as to all power-holders, because of the germ it contains of rebellion against the elders (and all authority and tradition). Their overarching aim then becomes to halt the emergence of the individual ego and keep the use of the conscious mind a privilege for the few. The ruling élite therefore makes a determined effort to cut short in the many the necessary process of individuation (the process by which individuals in society become differentiated from each other).

An infallible helpmate in trying to curb the growth of a healthy ego is organized religion thanks to the effective means it disposes to mold people's minds. I consider the Malevolent Matriarchs' most important legacy to be the widespread belief that human beings are inherently flawed, and have
to be saved by outside forces. A belief that' stems from the idea they implanted in us that a certain kind of suffering--involving sacrifice and violent death--is an inescapable part of the human condition, 

We also recall that the Mesopotamian city-states had deeply pessimistic outlook on humanity. So did the classical Greek writers who portrayed human beings as born to suffer and inflict suffering--a notion so widespread and deeply entrenched that it can be found in arts and literature the world over.

What the malevolent matriarchs do, then, is not only undermine the male self-image but lock the entire population in a completely arbitrary, deep--and deeply offensive--underestimation of who they are as human beings. When you know that to be human is not simply to do things wrongly but to BE wrong, how can you even dream of trusting your own intellect and judgment? And because, by and large, we still accept this misanthropic definition of ourselves, we’ve come to take destructive and self-destructive behavior for granted. On it patriarchy builds the perverted belief that murder in the form of war--or the large-scale killing of youths--is legitimate, a belief we’re still not ready to abandon.

If the reader thinks I've speculated enough by now and looks for more concrete underpinnings to my chief theory, let me now present a remarkable universal phenomenon that may indeed be the most convincing piece in the puzzle. It also explains why I have insisted on tracing the origin of sexism all the way back to prehistoric times. See next post.

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