A Thought Adventure

Monday, December 28, 2015

31. From Matriarchy to Patriarchy. II

To some scholars the radical change of leadership from female to male expresses a change in consciousness.  As people realize that human beings are independent agents who can affect history, they begin to draw away from the natural world and let male gods who represent new realities and emphases take over.
Other scholars see the transition to patriarchy as a result of the shift from village culture to city culture, i.e., in terms of gradual physical changes more than a conflict between differing views. According to Jared Diamond (scientist and author of popular science works), once farming is invented the long-term trend in human society is toward larger, more complex units. As food surpluses lead to increased populations, we go from bands and tribes to chiefdoms and states and a permanent centralized authority.
Hunting--once men's major contribution to the economy--diminished when farming took over, But as the village diversifies and needs more organization (e.g., large-scale labor to build reservoirs, drains and sewers), men’s work becomes more important. And with greater job specialization, better skills and tools, which bring with it material, intellectual and artistic refinement, it becomes necessary to delegate more responsibilities to men.

Ancient Egyptian Irrigation System
Mumford thinks “the ancient city couldn’t have taken the form it finally did without the village’s “whole range of technical inventions (from stone and pottery utensils, cisterns, barns and granaries to houses, canals and irrigation ditches).” Yet to him the village is still only an ‘unfertilized ovum’ in need of “a whole set of complementary chromosomes from a male parent to bring about the further process of cultural development.” If this is a metaphor for the input needed at this stage from the ‘masculine’ principle in the human psyche, or the conscious ego, I totally agree. But it doesn’t explain why men monopolize the use of it. Unless we accept my theory that this was how they take over the power that used to belong to the matriarchs.

The way I interpret this development is that with the breakthrough of consciousness time has come for humanity to build a society based on equality between the sexes. Now that a man is no longer only a son  but also woman's husband and father (and a woman not only a mother but also a man's wife and daughter), the masculine and feminine principles in the psyche must be balancedSomething happens, however, that seriously delays this onward movement and not just makes the changeover needlessly violent but also dooms the world to live, for thousands of years yet to come, in an egregiously unequal social system.

What happens, I think, is that towards the end of the matriarchal era women’s reluctance to share power with men grows into a form of megalomania or a state of mind that Mumford calls ‘spiritual inflation’ and spots at the core of every civilization. I see it as symptomatic of an ever widening gulf between the matriarchs’ worldview and the new one emerging. And the more the women leaders resist men’s efforts to secure their rightful place in society, the faster men’s long repressed anger rises to the surface--until it reaches such a high pitch that the men resort to force, overthrow the matriarchy and establish patriarchal rule.

Darwin and Freud.
Charles Darwin had a hypothesis that early man, like the big apes, lived in small groups (primal hordes), each led by a powerful and jealous older male who forced the young males to find females outside of the group. On it Freud built his theory that culture began with patricide: the young men joined together, killed and ate the primal father. But as they took his place and identified with him, they felt guilt for their deed and soon restored the father figure by honoring him first as a totem animal, later as a god.

It’s a theory I think we need to turn clear around: patriarchal culture, or civilization (not culture per se), begins with matricide, i.e., with men killing the Great Mother cult and taking over the reign of the matriarchs. The person they identify with is the goddess’s consort sacrificed on her altar, whom they make into a father god and substitute for the ancient mother goddess. That there ever was such a thing as female supremacy seems not to enter Freud’s mind. Because, although he recognizes that great maternal deities “perhaps everywhere preceded the paternal deities,” he admits he can‘t explain them. 

I trace the ultimate reason for the downfall of the matriarchy to its misperception of the role of consciousness. Once the matriarchs discover they possess a conscious mind, they become so enthralled with intellectual power that they stop listening to their instincts and fail to establish a balance between the two. A balance I contend we still have not reached today.

Or as A.E. Watts puts it in his book Man and Woman: "When human beings acquired the powers of conscious attention and rational thought, they became so fascinated with these methods that they forgot all else, like chickens hypnotized with their beaks to a chalk line. Our total sensitivity became identified with these partial functions so that we lost the ability to feel nature from the inside, and more, to feel the seamless unity of ourselves and the world.” 

Now over to patriarchy and a look at its two major institutions, organized warfare and monogamy. See next post.

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