Also in the series:
Last time we saw how the idea of god corresponded with the idea of the parent. This idea goes back to prehistory. Then people had a deep reverence, even worship, for ‘Mother Earth’. The earth provided everything they needed, food, water, shelter. It was suckle, cow, mother. There was a sacredness about all things, and all came from the earth and returned to her too, gracefully, in time.
This wasn’t merely confined to the planet. The sun was the masculine counter to mother earth, penetrating her with rays of heat and energy, seeding new life in her, which in due course brought forth issue. The two became symbolic of the creative male and female principle, prototypes of the original ‘parent’. The constellations were great lights, distant but near, that charted the lives of individuals, as well as epochs.
A new mythic paradigm of the parent was born. In the brain of our earliest ancestor the idea of the earth as mother was neurologically wired to that of goddess, begetter, protector. The two became synonymous. Then, at some stage in our evolution the female principle as supreme creator was replaced with that of the male. There are various theories for this, such as the move from nomadic to agrarian society.
There were shamans and wise folk on earth then (as there still are), but with the changing of fashion people stopped listening to them. Eventually, with the passing of time, all these energies of nature, in their outward form, be they mountains, trees, rivers, came to be seen as gods in their own right.
The meaning of symbols was lost, and people fell to worshipping the outer expression, or form, of what nature stood for. Once they had true vision, but that was lost as they began to believe their own fear-based projections.
This made them look upon the earth with new, distrustful eyes, and thus what was erstwhile benevolent became menacing and treacherous. The mythographers would chart this as a shift from a Golden Age to an Iron Age, and write great sagas about it.
For just as nature gives life, food and shelter, it can mercilessly take these away. Viewed through the prism of fear, that life is unfair, people saw lack, prolonged winters, great floods and devastation.
And thus seeing, crops failed and the storms came.
Even the sun, the great giver of life, could seem oppressive, its heat murderous. Can you imagine the terrors endured by early man when he first encountered thunder raging behind the heavy dark clouds, and first witnessed the angry spit of lightening cutting the firmament? Phantoms were created that would populate a thousand fairy tales, and a plethora of bad movies generations later. Hence was the prototype of Jove, or Zeus the thunderer forged.
People began to make sacrifice in an attempt to propitiate these angry forces.
Around 3000 years ago (or earlier) Greek culture began to give these energies and aspects very definitive human characteristics.
Anger = Ares (Mars),
Struggle =Hephaistus (Vulcan),
Jealousy =Hera (Juno),
to name but a few.
The anthropomorphic gods were born.
To the early Greek mind the ‘other’ was the female, which they had both a reverence for and a distrust of.
It’s almost as if the energy of the female had to be contained. Myth and fable were used to this end, but here too the energy is always in danger of breaking loose. In Aphrodite (Roman Venus), we find a sanitised and anodyne version of the divine mother.
We get a sense from Greek mythology that the older gods, energies they called the Erinyes, which had been suppressed, pushed down into the depths of the unconsciousness mind, threatened at any time to burst out again.
Interestingly, these energies were associated with guilt, specifically familial, or what was known as ‘blood guilt’, and their infringement would exact a high tribute, particularly for the killing of a parent. Many great plays were written about this, including Aeschylus’s Orestia. Again it shows the idea of the parent and the divine coexisting in the collective consciousness even at this time.
The Romans came to absorb and then supplant Greek culture, adopting the Greek religion, although perhaps only the outer symbols of it. The Greek pantheon lived on, only now with Latinised names, and often subjugated to Roman nationalistic ideals. And perhaps, with the deep psychological timbre of the Greek mind absent too.
The phallocentric god was now well and truly established, and along with it, a society that followed its dictates. One that prioritised war and political expediency above needs of a nurturing or holistic kind.
A society whose model, by the way, we still largely adhere to.
We ask, ‘why does God allow all the terrible things to happen in the world; wars, terrorism, sickness?
The answer: He doesn’t. We do.
Or, in a personal capacity, why did God give me all these problems? Why is my life not working?
The questions themselves imply blame. Helplessness. Fix me.
Unfortunately, so much of modern psychiatry and self development seems to facilitate this, based as it is on the premise that ‘I’m broken’, there’s something wrong with me. Therefore, I need ‘fixing’. This postulates the role of a victim and that of a perpetrator. Another set of opposites.
Ironically, God can fix it!
God can heal all this because it’s not actually broken. Byron Katie said, ‘you are responsible for your life, but only for all of it’. When we’re blaming someone else we’re not being responsible for ‘all of it’.
All this ancient terror is imbedded in the memory bank of the infant. It is in the darkness when it wakens. Heat or strong light can trigger primordial fears, real or imagined. Guilt darkens the mind and fears are intensified.
In the next part we’ll see how the idea of God became channelled into religion.
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