Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World
II.7 | Contents | Epilogue
"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten."
Contents of this section:
Life and Death
In approaching the matters of life and death, it is advantageous to be armed with an awareness that, whatever we may believe about these things, no matter how stoutly held, our beliefs are myths; for no one (I believe) has ever fathomed the depths of the mystery out of which life emerges, or into which it returns. "The living know that they shall die," wrote the author of Ecclesiastes; but what the dead know, not even he could fathom. His guess was that they "know not any thing," but that was only his guess, his myth, neither more nor less valid than yours or mine. The bald fact is that neither the author of Ecclesiastes, nor you, nor I know (or knew) whether the dead "know any thing," or not; because the only thing we know for sure about the dead (including, presumably, the author of Ecclesiastes) is that they are no longer what we call "alive." Full stop.
Many people hold a reflexive horror of the idea of death – as reflected by the phrase, "a fate worse than death;" which must be pretty bad, because... why? We don't know anything about death; therefore we have no rational basis for making a comparison between it and something "worse." For all we know, enjoying a chocolate sundae may be "a fate worse than death;" or put another way, a fate not as sublime as death. It could be, couldn't it? We simply have no way of knowing where this mysterious "exit from the world" we call "death" fits upon a scale of desirable and undesirable "known things." Because, of course, death is not included among the set of "known things." It is included among the vastly larger set of "unknown things." It is a myth.
Of course, we can observe that all living things, including ourselves, reflexively cling tenaciously to life, and normally do everything in our power to prolong it. That may contribute to the notion that death, the cessation of life, is intrinsically abhorrent, and to be avoided at all costs. But then reflection discloses that our observation doesn't really inform us very deeply about the nature of death – because all efforts to avoid it are made only by living beings, who presumably know no more about what they are avoiding than we do. The living reflexively desire to continue living, and who can blame them (us) for that? If it were otherwise – if for instance it were widely or universally believed that enjoying a chocolate sundae is indeed "a fate worse than (or less sublime than) death," and that dying is far more preferable – then few children would reach maturity and reproduce themselves, and the race would quickly become extinct. So the pressure of natural selection insists upon an abhorrence of death, and a reflexive clinging to life; but this by itself informs us little or not at all about either death or life.
The first part of the Ecclesiastes statement, "the living know that they shall die," sounds pretty solid to me. It is a statement with an undeniable "heft" to it that is quite difficult to deny plausibly. It seems to be universally so, in other words, that everything that is born eventually dies; every blossom that blooms eventually fades; everything with a beginning also has an end. The only exceptions we can find to this rule are those – like you, dear Reader, and me – who were born at some point, but haven't died – yet. But our time too is presumably coming; of this we may be virtually certain, on the basis of persuasive evidence all around us, all the time. While we're actually here, though, we have a very broad choice as to how to respond to this quite persuasive "fact of life."
We might consider, for instance, whether it is a "good thing," or a "bad thing," that we have to (or are allowed to) die, eventually. Would it be better if we were born, but never died? What about others? Unless people (and animals, maybe, and plants, if they were immortal too) stopped being born, life on Earth might have gotten a whole lot more crowded than it has, in a lot shorter time, yes? Then those that had been born would just get older, and older, and older... forever; and (maintaining a balanced population) nobody could ever again have the experience of youth. Would that be better? We may like to think that we get wiser as we grow older, but it doesn't seem to be guaranteed. Some people just get more rigid, and brittle as they age; sadder, but not wiser.
So maybe we might see it as a "good thing" that people, and animals, and plants, including even ourselves, die off every so often, moving over and making room for follow-on generations. We may sometime reach a point in our own lives when we're ready to turn out the light, and give it a rest. The author of Ecclesiastes sounded like maybe he was approaching that point in his life when he wrote.
Looking at it that way, without emotional attachment, just with quiet contemplation, may have some corollary benefits. For one thing, it seems to disarm the almost reflexive fear commonly associated with the prospect of death – which sounds to me like a "good thing" for its own sake; because the fear of death seems to be the root of all fears, and without it, actually living fearlessly seems much more within reach.
The way I figure it, the universe – Cosmos, "All That Is" – taken all around, comes out looking like "a pretty good thing," factoring in the rough and the smooth, the "minuses" and the "pluses." I mean, it's not anywhere near being "neutral," or a "zero," is it? Mathematically, if you take all the positive integers – and there are an "infinite number" of them, whatever that means – and add them to all the negative integers less than zero – and there are an "infinite number" of those too – you come out with a sum of zero (0); zilch; zip; nada. That's what happens mathematically. But the universe isn't like that. With the universe, or "All That Is," when you add all the "good things" about it to all the "bad things" about it – however you like to evaluate these – you don't come out with a zero sum. What you come out with is the universe we live in, or "All That Is," undiminished, and unblemished; perfect. So I take it that "All That Is," just the way it is (however that is, because I can only glimpse the tiniest sliver of the whole thing) can hardly be improved upon. It's well nigh perfect, in any meaningful sense of the term. Don't you think so?
So we're a part of all that, you and I, at least from the day of our birth until the day of our death (beyond that, our knowledge fails); and our approaching death is a part of that too, and a part of what makes the whole thing perfect. Moreover, "everybody does it," so why should we try to exempt ourselves from a completely natural part of being "alive," which seems unavoidably to include its converse, being "dead?" What reason have we to suppose that being "born" at a particular moment is in any way preferable to "dying" at some other particular moment? They both seem to be part of the same phenomenon, which we call "living," and on the Cosmic scale of things happen virtually simultaneously. Yet during that brief flash that occurs in the "microsecond" between "birth" and "death," we get the sublime experience of living for a moment – meaning an entire lifetime – in this timeless Cosmos. What an extraordinary privilege! I don't know how or why it happened, or what it all means, but by golly, I'm sure glad somebody or something gave me a ticket to take a stroll through the extraordinary Hall of Mirrors we call "living!" Thank You! A thousand times, Thank You!
What this whole business of "life and death" seems to add up to, for everything and everybody, as far as I can see, is a constant and uninterrupted process of dynamic change. In the flux of time, nothing remains as it was, or is, or as it may someday become. The loftiest summits will in time be ground into dust, and washed into the sea; and the deepest seabeds will in time be thrust up to perch precariously upon the flanks of unnamed and unimagined mountain ranges. The universe is in constant motion, and nothing is at rest. How could it possibly be otherwise?
In that sense, the footprints I leave behind me in the sands of time are already a line or corpses left behind by former selves who walked for a moment upon the Earth, but are no more. For like everything in the universe, I too am swirling in a constant torrent of change. I'm not the man I used to be, nor the man I shall someday become, if I "live" long enough. The man I was yesterday was born and died with the rising and setting of the Sun, with the ticking of the clock, and today is born anew. And every day I am given the fresh gift, mysteriously, incomprehensibly, of a new life to live yet another day, another hour, another minute, right now. Thank You, Metaconscious Goddess, for the gift of another breath, another moment of Life!. I love You. Is it not marvelous? Is it not sublime?
[Return to contents of this section.]
Syntropy and Entropy
In the subsection of this work, The Molecular Microworld of the Cell in section II.6, we discussed entropy, the name scientists have given to the tendency for chaos to accumulate in orderly systems; and in the sub-subsection, Cosmological Scale Expansion in section II.5, we discussed alternative cosmologies which deal in alternative ways with the cosmological consequences of the second law of thermodynamics, from which the phenomenon of entropy logically follows. In our discussion of entropy, we referred to a famous thought experiment by pioneer physicist James Clerk-Maxwell (1831 to 1879), in which he imagined a molecular-scale "demon" in control of a molecular-scale gate which allowed him (Maxwell's demon) to regulate selectively the movement of individual fast- and slow-moving molecules through the gate between otherwise isolated chambers, A and B; and "thus, without expenditure of work," Maxwell wrote, "raise the temperature of B and lower that of A, in contradiction to the second law of thermodynamics."1
We then examined the work of contemporary pioneer cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, who led us to the astonishing discovery that the very mechanism Maxwell had described 130-some years earlier is in fact ubiquitous throughout all biological life, "in the form," we wrote, "of innumerable receptor-effector pairs of Integral Membrane Proteins, capable of discriminating if necessary, as Maxwell speculatively described, between fast- and slow-moving molecules; they actually do discriminate on the basis of electric charge, nutritive value, toxicity, and even on the basis of the energetic qualities propagated in the form of electromagnetic, acoustic, and other energy waves – ceaselessly diminishing the entropy within each cell, and throughout all biological systems."2
There seems to be a vast balancing system at work (or in play) throughout the little sliver of Cosmos available to our close observation, whereby the ubiquitous forces of entropy – of decay and recycling – are balanced by the equally ubiquitous forces of germination, and the evolution of living and non-living self-organizing systems; to which I have given the name, syntropy. Entropy and syntropy are both vital, and combine in the ceaseless flux of change, without which life, and indeed "All That Is," would be impossible. Without constant motion in all dimensions of becoming, existence itself cannot be imagined; and without perfect balance, it cannot be perpetuated.
The Scale Expanding Cosmos proposed by C. Johan Masreliez, and mentioned a moment ago, is a perpetual Cosmos, without beginning or end, in the constant flux of change; because the metrics of space and time are themselves expanding constantly, in minute "quantum leaps," and always have been, and always will be, world without end, amen. Inches and meters and seconds and parsecs, according to this cosmology, are all getting proportionately longer, and so the necessary condition of ceaseless change is built into the very architecture of the universe. The Scale Expanding Cosmos isn't something with a beginning and a consequently necessary end, as implied by the "Big Bang" cosmology of the Standard Cosmological Model generally accepted by most contemporary cosmologists. It is an alternative "creation myth" which has not to my knowledge been rebutted by any disclosures of cosmology, astronomy, or astrophysics. It is therefore believable, even if not widely believed; and so I have welcomed it within my personal mythology. It has not been "proven," and my understanding of it, as of all things, is fragmentary and partial; yet to me it is plausible – which satisfies one essential requirement for a useful myth.
The Scale Expanding Cosmos maintains an exquisite, perpetual balance, whereby the consequences of the expansion of the three dimensions of space are perfectly balanced by the consequences of the complementary expansion of the single dimension of time. That is, inches, meters, and parsecs are constantly growing incrementally longer, expanding the dimensions of space; while seconds, minutes, and millennia are growing proportionately longer as well – with the exquisite result that it always takes a beam of light exactly the same number of seconds to traverse the distance of a light-year, even though that distance is constantly lengthening. Superficially, it appears as if nothing is happening, and that the universe is basically static, or nearly so; but this illusion is an artifact of the expansion not only of space and time, but with them of all our instruments for measuring them. As inches grow longer, so do rulers and tape measures; so there are always 12 inches in a foot, 5,280 feet in a mile, and approximately 5,869,588,231,434.816 miles in a light-year; no matter if a foot grows to the length of a mile, or a light-year of some former time. Similarly, as seconds, minutes, and hours grow longer, our clocks slow down in perfect synchrony, so it never takes more than 60 minutes to make the round of an hour; even if the length of an hour today is prolonged for the length of a century in an earlier age.
Although it doesn't look like anything particularly remarkable is going on, there are consequences which can be observed and verified, if one knows what to look for. If space is expanding, for example, in the course of time, which is also expanding, then in the large scale of intergalactic distances, which it may take millions, or even billions of years for a beam of light to traverse, significant changes are taking place in the very metrics of space-time while the light beam is in transit. The distances the light is traveling are constantly lengthening; so at the constant (measured) speed of light, the beam appears to lose energy, because it has to traverse a greater distance in the span of a year than it did when it left its source several million years earlier. A light-year is much longer now than it was then. A year is longer too, so it doesn't seem to take any more time to cover a light-year than it ever did; yet a light-year is much longer today than it was several million years ago.
The light beam doesn't have a means of acquiring any more energy than it had when it started its long cosmic journey, so in the course of time it must cover ever increasing distances with an unchanged complement of energy. Thus in effect, it appears to lose energy over the course of time during its progress through space. When a beam of light loses energy, it doesn't slow down, because the speed of light is an unvarying constant, c, throughout space-time, and always travels at "the speed of light." When a beam of light loses energy, instead of slowing down, it changes frequency, toward the red, or less energetic end of the electromagnetic spectrum.
So in the Scale Expanding Cosmos, light from distant sources always appears to be less energetic than light from relatively nearby sources, because it has taken longer to traverse great distances, during which time the metrics of space-time have expanded; with the consequence that light from distant sources is shifted toward the red, less energetic end of the spectrum, and this "cosmological redshift" is directly proportional to the distance the light has traveled. Light from distant sources is therefore said to be "tired light," because it appears to be less energetic than light from nearby sources. This is a phenomenon predicted by the Scale Expanding Cosmos, and it is what is observed in every direction we look.
At the time the cosmological redshift was first observed by Edwin Hubble early in the 20th century, the Scale Expanding Cosmos theory had not yet been proposed, so the cosmological redshift was interpreted in entirely different terms. It was interpreted as a Doppler effect, whereby the frequency of light from a moving source is shifted toward the red, or the blue end of the spectrum, in proportion to the velocity of the source, and its direction of motion relative to the observer.3 In this interpretation, the light source must be moving at a significant fraction of the speed of light in order for the large redshifts observed at great distances to occur; so the surmise was reached that the universe is flying apart, and that the farther apart it has flown, the faster it is flying apart. This results in a rather stratified universe in which distant objects are moving away from each other more rapidly than are nearby objects, which is the impression given by the observed cosmological redshift, interpreted in terms of the Doppler effect.
Conversely, it was reasoned, objects that are flying apart now must have at one time been much more densely grouped at some time in the past than they are observed to be at present; hence the cosmological theory of the "Big Bang." At some point, stepping the film backward through time, so to speak, all the matter in the universe must have occupied a single point of infinite density – and then started expanding with an unimaginably "Big Bang!"
From this interpretation of what is actually observed, it follows that the universe had a sudden, explosive beginning, and that it will eventually come to an end, either in a) the endless attenuation of all the dispersing matter and energy in the universe, during which all the stars will eventually burn themselves out, and all energy will evaporate into the frigid "heat death" of the ultimate entropy sink; or b) the combined gravitational forces of the expanding universe will be sufficient to slow its expansion to a momentary standstill, after which the expansion of the universe will reverse itself into an accelerating contraction terminating eventually in a "Big Crunch" – or a "Gnab Gib," as Douglas Adams termed it. Either way, entropy wins in the end in the Standard Cosmological Model adhered to by most cosmologists today.
My bias lies with Cosmological Scale Expansion, wherein the forces of syntropy and entropy are exquisitely yet robustly balanced, making plausible a perpetual Cosmos with neither beginning nor end. And since nothing has surfaced so far demonstrating such a perpetual Cosmos not to be possible, I think I'll adhere to my preferred myth, thank you very much, rather than to the one favored by the Standard Cosmological Modelers.
Thus (depending upon your chosen myths) the perfect balance between syntropy and entropy exhibits itself at the microscopic scale of cell membranes, and Integral Membrane Proteins, and at the macroscopic scale of observable cosmology among galactic clusters – which seems pretty much to cover the field visible from the narrow slit through which we are able to view some fractional part of Cosmos, or "All That Is." It may never be possible to "prove" the idea that syntropy and entropy balance throughout Cosmos, even though frequent momentary imbalances occur locally; yet intuitively, it seems like such a satisfactory surmise that it strikes me, at least, as having a great deal of plausibility and appeal. It is undoubtedly not "the whole story," yet as far as it goes, it seems to me believable.
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Symbiosis and Predation
The balance between syntropy and entropy described above at microscopic and macroscopic scales, though peripheral, seems contextually relevant to the analogous balance that must be continually maintained in the immediacy of our daily lives here and now. Existence itself is not static, but an endlessly dynamic process which requires adjustments to a ceaseless flow of multi-dimensionally changing circumstances. Like a skilled surfer racing the curl of a gigantic wave, everything is in the flux of ceaseless change, and life and death, or their analogs, are decided every moment by the ability of each entity to maintain its balance in the dynamic environment of "All That Is." As long as the surfer maintains his balance, he may ride the wave. If he loses his balance, he "wipes out," and if he wants to try again, must recover his board, and catch another wave.
The thrust of this work has been from the outset an inquiry into how this dynamic balance can best be maintained among the human inhabitants of Spaceship Earth. As noted in the Introduction, we humans seem to be in a "predicament," which has been viewed in the course of this exploration alternatively with the alarm of one trapped inside a burning building; or with the alarm of a fetus about to be born. Two different species of alarm: one anticipating death, the other anticipating life; but alarm in either case.
In the Introduction the suggestion was made that the so-called "human predicament" aboard Spaceship Earth may be in the larger scheme of things no more unusual in the evolution of a planetary human race than is the birth of an infant; and that our adventure with "civilization" for the past five thousand years may have been more or less typical in the course of human evolution, and functions as a mechanism whereby emerging humanity may learn, among a great many other things, the principle of universal reciprocity.
The principle of universal reciprocity may be summed up with the observation that everything that exists has some kind of relationship with everything else that exists; or that nothing exists, so to speak, "in a vacuum." We are all connected in reciprocal relationships with each other, with everything and everyone that ever has been, is now, or ever shall be. This principle seems to have been intuitively or instinctively understood for thousands of years by "pre-civilized" humans, examination of whose archaeological remains discloses that they lived in relative peace and harmony with one another for thousands of years prior to emergence of the system that goes by the name of "civilization" today.
About six thousand years ago, in southeastern Europe, also called Old Europe,4 Anatolia, and the Levant, there lived many Neolithic, and quasi-civilized peoples who left behind them evidence of universally peaceful cultures rich in the arts, invention, and cultural innovation. They were the discoverers of metallurgy, and the inventors of agriculture, architecture, town planning, pottery, and weaving; and most strikingly, they had lived in uninterrupted peace with each other throughout this wide region for thousands of years. Their towns were undefended by walls, towers, or ramparts, and their art, in striking contrast to that of later periods, displayed no interest in weapons, warfare, heroic battles, plunder, or slavery. Their grave sites evidenced an egalitarian approach to living, in contrast to those of later periods, in which the large and lavish burial mounds of prominent chieftains displayed highly stratified, hierarchical societies in which lesser mortals were entombed far more modestly. These manifestations appeared later, however, than the period of which I am now speaking, to whose peoples the principle of universal reciprocity seems to have been intuitively familiar, and war and hierarchy had been unknown for thousands of years.
Yet between the BCE years of about -4300 and -2800, a period spanning 1500 years, something came out of the larger context in which these peaceful, prosperous, thriving peoples lived, which they had never encountered before. Armed horsemen, in three major waves, came swarming down upon them from the Eurasian steppe to the north and east, slaughtering, plundering, and enslaving all in their path.5 By the time this chaotic period had run its course, the free, open, egalitarian, symbiotic-social organizations which had populated the region before had been completely crushed, and were replaced by the predatory-parasitic organizations of the invaders, out of which evolved what has been called "civilization" for the past five thousand years; and today seems to be in an advanced stage of metamorphosis.
In the Introduction, the speculation was advanced that this episode with "civilization" may be typical, and that it may fulfill the function of demonstrating the universal applicability of the principle of universal reciprocity to those who attempt to ignore it. One application of the principle of universal reciprocity is that no living organism can live for very long in the absence of other living organisms. There is no such thing as an entirely self-sufficient living organism. This means that we all live in relationship with others like, and unlike, ourselves, and that we depend for our very lives upon the nature of our relationships with other organisms.
There are two, and only two, kinds of relationship possible between or among living organisms: a) symbiotic-social, and b) predatory-parasitic. Both are naturally occurring kinds of relationship, and both are vital to the health of ecological systems; but a is not b, and it is a fatal error for any organism to mistake b for a.
An "ideal" symbiotic-social relationship among organisms is one in which all participating organisms benefit, and no organism interferes with the free choice of another within the symbiotic-social relationship. This translates into a kind of "social law" which may be expressed in words as something like, Live however you wish, come and go as you please; and allow all your peers the same liberty. Otherwise, you damage the social fabric, and become their enemy. The reason symbiotic-social relationships form and are maintained is that they provide advantages to each constituent not otherwise available, and therefore provide survival and life-enhancing value to all constituents. Therefore, anything that damages or threatens the social fabric damages or threatens the life of each constituent. To their constituents, symbiotic-social relationships are worth the effort required for their maintenance.
A pack of wolves, for instance, maintain symbiotic-social relationships amongst themselves, although they are predators in relation to other creatures. They do not prey upon each other, nor do they pretend to have symbiotic-social relationships with their prey; and their prey usually "understand" this clearly. To a rabbit, a wolf is an unambiguous enemy, and this is clearly "understood" at some level by wolves and rabbits alike – which never (usually) share social relationships.6
Parasites are a more subtle, more highly specialized variety of predator, inasmuch as they succeed in their predations by disguising their presence to their prey, or host. But the actual relationship between parasite and host, whether or not this is clear to the host, is exactly the same as that between wolves and rabbits – which is to say, it is not symbiotic-social; it is predatory-parasitic. In broad strokes, it may be observed that mistaking predatory-parasitic for symbiotic-social relationships during the five-thousand-year course to date of "civilized history" is the error that has perpetuated the "human predicament" in which we find ourselves today.
This is naturally a gross oversimplification. Every organism is necessarily a predator in relation to at least some other organisms, because all organisms have to eat, and there is nothing on Earth to eat except other organisms. As populations grow, they naturally come into competition with one another for food and living space; and so it is possible that some symbiotic-social human populations, which until about six thousand years ago were the prevailing norm among the Neolithic peoples of Old Europe, may have at times profited at the expense of others. Those peoples were not Utopians, and like all beings, had to deal with the rough-and-tumble of real life, which at its best is never entirely free of conflict. Even among wolves socially disruptive conflicts are not unknown. The salient point being underlined here, though, is that any symbiotic-social structure degenerates swiftly when its constituents begin preying wholesale upon each other. This began happening among humans when the first hierarchies appeared.
A hierarchy in this context is a pseudo-social structure in which those higher in the hierarchy prey upon those lower. In this connection, "prey" is any deliberate action that benefits one entity at the expense of another. Naturally, there are innumerable ways of doing this short of, but not excluding, slaying and devouring. A hierarchy creates a chain of predation from top to bottom, in which every member above the bottom is a predator, and every member below the top is prey. Hierarchies masquerade as symbiotic-social relationships, but that is not what they are. Top to bottom, a hierarchy is predatory-parasitic; and the emergence of hierarchies among humans marks the point at which humanity fell into the fatal error, or the cruel snare, the final consequences of which are taking their due course throughout "civilization" today. As we shall see, there are many factors that combine to perpetuate this snare.
Riane Eisler reconstructs in considerable detail the egalitarian societies of Old Europe, in which women and men were not hierarchically ranked, but were co-equal partners in the prevailing symbiotic-social cultures of six thousand years ago. The archaeological evidence discloses clearly that these cultures, dispersed over a wide geographic area, and a span of several thousands of years, universally worshiped the Goddess, and honored the feminine values of giving and nurturing life, and the leadership of responsibility – as opposed the to worship of male gods of war and thunder, and the power to dominate, kill, and destroy that eventually conquered and replaced the cultures of Old Europe. This is important, because only in a culture in which the relationship between masculine and feminine – between individual women and individual men – is symbiotic-social, is maintenance of a symbiotic-social culture possible at large. This is so because every generation nourishes its roots in the quality of the relationship between the feminine and masculine elements that give it birth; and if the quality of that source relationship is predatory-parasitic, then symbiotic-social relationships cannot find healthy nourishment in such soil.
The transformation of the Old European symbiotic-social cultures into the predatory-parasitic cultures that replaced them was a gradual process that, expanded to global scope, is in a sense still in progress today, although showing signs of severe stress; yet the onset was as sudden and ferocious as a lion taking a lamb by the throat.
For the majority of Old European settlements [Eisler writes], such as the Karanovo farmers of the lower Danube basin, the Kurgan invasions were, in Gimbutas's words, catastrophic. There is wholesale material destruction of houses, of shrines, of finely crafted artifacts and works of art, which have no meaning or value to the barbarian invaders. Masses of people are massacred, enslaved, or put to flight. As a result, chain reactions of population shifts are set in motion.7
These vast population shifts, and particularly the barbarian invasions that prompted them, may themselves have been prompted by catastrophic climate changes in large areas within central Asia. In a sequel to The Chalice and the Blade, Eisler cites the work of geographer James DeMeo, who has found evidence for climactic changes that severely exacerbated the already harsh conditions of life for the central Asian pastoralists living in the arid margins beyond the rich and fertile lands occupied by the egalitarian peoples of Anatolia and Old Europe. For the peoples of the arid Eurasian steppe, life had long been harsh and severe; for agriculture was not an option, and they lived as nomadic pastoralists in perpetual search of forage for the herds of animals upon which their lives depended. They did not enjoy the luxury of the fertile ground that nurtured the egalitarian societies to the west, and developed hierarchically stratified cultures of which male dominance and female submission were core features. When large-scale and lasting climate changes made their marginal situation impossible, they migrated west and descended massively upon the peaceful peoples of the Fertile Crescent and Old Europe, and slaughtered, plundered, and enslaved them without mercy.8
The widespread chaos and destruction brought about by the waves of invaders rendered the peaceful, egalitarian way of life native to Old Europe impossible, and brought social evolution to a halt. The fine art and craftsmanship of former times disappeared, and was replaced by workmanship that was strictly utilitarian, and barely adequate. The open, well-planned towns and unwalled settlements situated in pleasant lowlands were laid waste and depopulated by the invaders; and fortified hilltops became ubiquitous.
Now everywhere the men with the greatest power to destroy – the physically strongest, most insensitive, most brutal – rise to the top, as everywhere the social structure becomes more hierarchic and authoritarian. Women – who as a group are physically smaller and weaker than men, and who are most closely identified with the old view of power symbolized by the life-giving and sustaining chalice – are now gradually reduced to the status they are to hold hereafter: male-controlled technologies of production and reproduction.9
The ground was conquered by invasion; but could only be held by a combination of unrelenting force, and the gradual transformation of the conquered peoples into cooperative hosts to feed the new predatory-parasitic system. Part of this transformation was an automatic response to their invaders by the Old European survivors, as already discussed in The Parable of the Tribes, in the Prologue to this work. Something akin to the Stockholm syndrome, whereby victims of violent abduction have been known to identify and cooperate with their captors, may also have contributed its mite. Extreme stress can have surprising side effects, and there is no doubt that the peoples of Old Europe were at intervals overtaken by extreme stress for 1500 years.
Slowly, as the Old Europeans, for the most part unsuccessfully, try to protect themselves from their barbaric invaders, new definitions of what is normal for both society and ideology begin to emerge. Everywhere now we see the shift in social priorities that is like an arrow shot through time to pierce our age with its nuclear tip: the shift toward more effective technologies of destruction. This is accompanied by a fundamental ideological shift. The power to dominate and destroy through the sharp blade gradually supplants the view of power as the capacity to support and nurture life. For not only was the evolution of the earlier partnership civilizations truncated by armed conquests; those societies that were not simply wiped out were now also radically changed.10
To make good their conquest in the longer term, the invaders and their successors had to transform the indigenous gylanic cultures into clones of themselves – or at least into compliant cultures that could be "broken to the saddle" of androcratic11 conquest and enslavement. At first this was accomplished merely by brute force: slaughter and rapine. As the generations passed, however, and the grandchildren of the original conquerors' childrens' children settled into their conquered domains, some of them began to acquire tastes for the refinements native to the original cultures; and some of the lost arts, technologies, and sophistication of the indigenous cultures were resuscitated and appropriated. The cultural evolution which had been halted by the invaders resumed – but now firmly harnessed to the conquerors' agendas.
Still, force could not be constantly used to exact obedience. It had to be established that the old powers that ruled the universe – as symbolized by the life-giving Chalice – had been replaced by newer and more powerful deities in whose hands the Blade was now supreme. And to this end one thing above all had to be accomplished: not only her earthly representative – woman – but the Goddess herself had to be pulled down from her exalted place.12
To this end, a protracted and essentially endless campaign was undertaken to hijack and entirely remake the conquered peoples' mythologies; which is still in progress to this day. Just as a predatory-parasite can never have a genuinely social relationship with its prey, or host, so although some of the indigenous arts, inventions, and cultural artifacts of the conquered peoples were adopted by their androcratic conquerors, a gylanic mythology can never be assimilated by an androcratic culture – because a gylanic mythology is essential to a symbiotic-social human culture, and androcratic culture is not social at all, but antisocial, and predatory-parasitic.
Again, the reason a gylanic mythology is essential to a symbiotic-social human culture is that unless the relationship between men and women is symbiotic-social at its core, a symbiotic-social culture is impossible. If the relationship between women and men is hierarchical, it is predatory-parasitic, not symbiotic-social, and nothing but a predatory-parasitic culture can rise from such a foundation. This is why the core agenda of the androcratic conquerors and their successors was from the outset, and has been for the past five thousand years, to do everything necessary to establish and keep the relationship between men an women hierarchical, and predatory-parasitic.
This too is of course a gross oversimplification. Even in the most Draconian of androcratic cultures there have been instances of mutual love, affection, and respect between some men and some women; and even in the most sublime of gylanic societies there has been conflict. Yet it cannot be too strongly emphasized that the key feature of androcracy is hierarchical organization, and the linchpin of androcratic hierarchy is the domination of women by men. From there it self-perpetuates and spreads automatically, from generation to generation; for there is no way around the biological fact that women, not men, give birth to and nurture every new generation. Therefore, relentless domination of women by men has been essential to the perpetuation of androcracy; and so it has been throughout the "civilized world" for the past five thousand years. There have been ebbs and flows, times when gylany has rallied, androcracy has somewhat relaxed; yet always in the course of "civilized history" to date, androcracy has kept the initiative, and suppressed anew every resurgence of gylany.
Eisler devotes several chapters (Eisler, 1987), and the greater part of an entire book (Eisler, 1995), to discussion of how the androcratic conquerors, over the course of their expanding domination, through centuries and millennia, have worked ceaselessly at reshaping the myths of the conquered peoples; marginalizing and trivializing the role of women in human society, and degrading the status of the Goddess to one of subordination to the gods of war; and eventually to virtual extinction altogether, particularly among the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Before elaborating a few of the noteworthy examples of this protracted campaign, I would like to insert here that my intent is not to demonize this or that religion, race, or social system; but to attempt illumination of a mythology so widespread and pervasive throughout the world today that it has become, like water to the fish, virtually invisible to most people. We have all become so thoroughly habituated to the androcratic approach to life that few can imagine an alternative to it; yet the archaeological record discloses unambiguously that there have been alternatives to it in the past, and therefore implies that there may be alternatives to it in the future.
I believe this is important, because the overall heading of contemporary humanity seems to be on a collision course with catastrophe; which suggests that a change of course might be appropriate. A change of course is impossible, however, if passengers and crew aboard Spaceship Earth are in more or less unanimous agreement that the heading we are on, impending catastrophe notwithstanding, is the only heading possible; the only heading we have ever held, and the only heading we can possibly keep – "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" This seems to be the substance and effect of many prevailing contemporary mythologies.
The question on the agenda paper before us today, ladies and gentlemen, is not which system is "right" or "wrong," symbiosis or predation; gylany or androcracy; or which nation, religion, race, gender, or socioeconomic or political system is "superior" or "inferior." The question before us today is, Does our species have a future on planet Earth? And if so, what changes must we make, individual by individual, in order to secure a place in it for ourselves, our children, and the children of our children's children? For humanity as a whole, for each of us individually, and for our present and future descendants, it comes down to a question of Life and Death, the myths this section originally set out to consider.
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How We Got Here
Although it may not be easy to look at the path we humans have taken out of our remote past to Here and Now without experiencing some emotional trauma, there are reasons for the sequence of choices we have made that eventually brought us here. We have already seen how the Old Europeans, who seem to have enjoyed a nearly idyllic home in the bosom of a bountiful Earth, living for thousands of years in unblemished peace and plenty, were suddenly invaded, slaughtered, and enslaved by a foreign people from over their horizon, about whom they had no way of knowing anything in advance. And we have seen how the invaders – today called the "Indo-Europeans," although they originated neither in Europe nor India – had evolved an entirely different organizational system, in response to much harsher circumstances in a different part of the world.
Not only did the so-called "Indo-Europeans" live under far less hospitable conditions than their contemporaries to the west; the nomadic, pastoralist lifestyle they adopted in response to those conditions may have had the long-term effect of transforming for them a marginal situation into one that was impossible.
The reason is that nomadic pastoralism (more even than today's cattle ranching) is ecologically unsound. It is a way of using up natural resources through animal grazing without returning even seeds to an increasingly depleted earth. Thus, as the desertification of pastoral lands in prehistory and history demonstrates, nomadic pastoralism is a technology that even in the absence of externally caused climate changes will after a certain time lead to a progressive loss of vegetation – and therefore to a more arid and inhospitable environment.13
As we have already discussed in Learning to Live Within Our Means, section II.3, and expanded upon in Social Survival and Collapse, Easter Island, Tikopia, and Nauru, in section I.11, this sort of thing was nothing new six thousand years ago, and it still plagues us today. That is, in response to the challenge of maintaining our balance in the context of a world in ceaseless change, we humans have from our earliest beginnings made choices, taken action, conducted experiments, which have at times had unanticipated and unintended negative consequences to ourselves, and to our world. The challenge of keeping our balance has therefore often required not only adjusting to the naturally occurring flux of constantly changing circumstances, but also adjusting to the consequences of our own errors, made because, mainly, "we didn't know any better."
The Indo-Europeans, not enjoying the natural abundance that blessed the Old Europeans, were not worshipers of the Goddess, nor appreciative of the miraculous regenerative bounty of the Earth; for their part of Earth was neither bountiful nor regenerative. For them, life was harsh and cruel, and they learned from the examples demonstrated by their inhospitable land. Their gods were masculine, intolerant, unyielding, and arbitrary, and were armed with wind, drought, thunder, and famine. In response, the Indo-Europeans developed the skills of predators, and formed rigidly hierarchical androcratic cultures. When, either by their nomadic, pastoral lifestyle, or by the caprice of the gods, or a combination of both, life in their inhospitable land became impossible, they swarmed west and south, and plundered the bounty, and enslaved the gylanic peoples they did not slaughter, who had been living peacefully in the Fertile Crescent and Old Europe; and as already described, savagely interrupted, and brought to a crashing halt the several-thousand-year evolution toward gylanic civilization then well under way there.
Then, having decisively and irrevocably overpowered their prey, and having entrenched themselves in far more hospitable surroundings than those of their origins, the Indo-European predators, generation by generation, century by century, selectively imbibing elements of the Old European, Anatolian, Levantine gylanic cultures, evolved gradually from androcratic predators into androcratic predatory-parasites – and established the foundations for what has been called "civilization" for the ensuing five thousand years.
As has often been observed, "Rome was not built in a day," and this evolutionary process too has occupied the entire scope of the past five thousand years. Many details of its early stages have been lost; but enough examples remain lodged in contemporary culture to illustrate at least some of the methods employed in this epochal cultural metamorphosis.
We have already had a look at The Rise and Fall of Minoan Crete in section I.8, depicting the last gylanic civilization on Earth before the final fall of night. Additionally, Eisler cites the Oresteia, a trilogy of Classical Greek dramas written by Aeschylus in -458, to illustrate one method by which the native gylany was discouraged and suppressed, and gradually replaced by the stern rigors of androcracy – often with popular approval and ascent.
Eisler points out that for the Classical Greeks, drama was not "mere entertainment," as it most often is for us. For them, drama was a kind of ritual, by means of which the verities of gods and men were conveyed to reverent audiences. The aspect of the Oresteia upon which Eisler focuses attention was the premeditated murder of his mother by the main protagonist Orestes; and his subsequent trial and absolution of any crime, on the grounds that "The mother is no parent of that which is called her child," pronounced by the god Apollo;14 and therefore that, in murdering his mother, Orestes had not shed the blood of kin.
It would be an error to dismiss this item as merely a manifestation of one of the quaint peculiarities of Classical Greek mythology; for suppressed gylany was nevertheless very much alive in those days, as it is in ours, and was accurately perceived by the predatory-parasitic successors of the Indo-European conquerors as intolerable and unassimilable by their system of governance. Also, the Classical Greeks were quite aware of where babies come from. Apollo's pronouncement, therefore, that "The mother is no parent of that which is called her child," eventually upheld in the drama by the Athenian court, was in deadly earnest; with the deliberate intent of pounding yet another nail, so to speak, into the coffin in which gylany, and all womankind, were intended to be buried forever.
Modern historians routinely heap honor and praise upon so-called "Athenian democracy;" yet examination beneath the surface discloses that Athens was a "democracy" only among free men, a distinct minority of its residents. The majority of Athenian residents were slaves and women – or in a single word, slaves.
In fact, as the classical historian Eva Keuls points out, the legal position of women and slaves in Athenian society during its celebrated classical period was not all that different. ... As Keuls reports, "like a slave, a woman had virtually no protection under the law except in so far as she was the property of a man. She was, in fact, not a person under the law. The dominance of male over female was as complete during the period in question as that of master over slave."15
This was not a condition peculiar only to Classical Athens. The Scriptures of the Old Testament, common to the contemporary religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, contain abundant evidence of the widespread suppression of women and gylany from ancient times to the present, and testify to the sobering extent to which people who today consider themselves to be "upright," "moral," and "just" have been thoroughly desensitized to the actual content of their Biblical "morality."16
Although many of the "faithful" may not be aware of it, the Bible, and Scriptural texts of that vintage, have been edited, rewritten, and extensively reworked over the course of centuries and millennia during the long process through which the contemporary "Holy Bible" took shape. Sacred Scriptural texts of earlier provenance, so-called Apocrypha, were removed, and new texts added, by a succession of priestly editors until as late as the third century BCE, when the Hebrew Scriptures were most recently rewritten by Hebrew priests. Eisler quotes annotations in the Dartmouth Bible by Biblical scholars who credit "nearly half of the Pentateuch," and "eleven chapters out of the fifty in Genesis, nineteen of the forty in Exodus, twenty-eight out of the thirty-six in Numbers, and the whole of Leviticus" to the Priestly school that reworked the Hebrew Scriptures about a hundred years after the appearance of the Oresteia in Athens.17
As to the so-called "morality" of the Old Testament, still today accepted by the faithful of three major world religions as the "Word of God," it is evident that its authors and priesthood did not then, and do not now, place a high value upon the welfare of women, in comparison to that of men. This is illustrated in two strikingly parallel Old Testament stories told respectively in Chapter 19 of Genesis, and in Chapter 19 of Judges. Both tales involve sojourning lodgers, in the first case, a pair of angels hosted by Lot in the city of Sodom; in the second, a Levite, his servant, and his concubine hosted in the house of an old man in the Benjamite city of Gibeah. In both stories the lodging is surrounded by townsmen who beat upon the doors demanding that the visiting men be brought forth, "that we may know [them]."18 And in both instances, the respective masters of the house step outside to confront the demand, and reply in almost identical words, "...I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly...," and offering instead to bring forth the women in the house, for the crowd to "do ye to them as is good in your eyes" (Genesis), or "do with them what seemeth good unto you" (Judges).
In the second instance, the master of the house delivers the concubine of his guest into the hands of the townsmen, who brutally rape her throughout the night; and the morning finds her dead at the door of her host. This seems, if Scripture may be believed, to have been a situation that arose at least occasionally during Biblical times, and there was evidently a culturally acceptable response to it: protect the men (or male angels, as the case may be), and throw the women to the wolves. And to this day, hardly anyone among the faithful seem so much as to twitch an eyebrow at the practice. Isn't that interesting?19
In contemporary times, when the world is beset by exploding populations and the plague of AIDS, practices which might significantly ameliorate these threats are discouraged by religious hierarchies – "on moral grounds."
Even now [Eisler writes], although it is widely known that the only effective protection from the sexual transmission of AIDS for both women and men is a latex condom together with the generous use of spermicides,20 religious leaders, including the pope, still place enormous pressure on national governments and international agencies to deny people sex education as well as access to contraceptive techniques. Perhaps most shocking is that when the pope visited Africa in 1993 – a time when it was already well known that millions of women and men on that continent were HIV infected, when whole villages were beginning to be decimated by the AIDS plague – he still preached wherever he went that the use of contraception is a sin.21
These "straws in the wind" which appear in countless different shapes and contexts throughout "civilized history," and the "civilized world," are not arbitrary or accidental curiosities. They are connected to each other, and to the nonnegotiable androcratic requirement that women must not be allowed sexual freedom or independence, and must be kept under the domination and control of men. For once again, women, not men are the biological progenitors of the species, as is the female of every species, and are the nurturers of every succeeding generation. Absent the dictatorial supervision of men, women can and will resuscitate gylanic values and mythologies at the expense of androcratic values and mythologies. This the androcratic "masters" cannot and will not voluntarily allow, for it means the end of androcracy and the predatory-parasitic way of life established five thousand years ago by the "first civilizations" (so called).
That, in a nutshell, is one view of how we got here. So, what next?
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The Myth of Inevitability
In the experience of listening to great symphonic works, to the point of becoming intimately familiar with them, I have often noticed a kind of seeming "inevitability" about them. The opening chords seem to set the tone of the work as a whole, and flow into its rhythm, melody, and harmony with perfect grace; and each successive theme segues into the next with the same seeming inevitability, as if it could happen in no other way, until the final chords of the final movement echo into silence. "That's the way that piece of music goes," I muse. "How could it possibly be otherwise?"
And yet, in experiencing my own creativity, and in observing the creative processes in the works-in-progress of others, it is clear that there are in fact any number of ways in which any creative work could turn out "otherwise," yet no less masterfully than the way in which it did turn out. The sense of "inevitability" that seems to invest particular creative works is entirely illusory; for the final form of a creative work is only one of infinite multitudes of final forms it just as easily might have taken. A forest furnishes the example of a multitude of trees of the same species, no two alike, yet each a masterpiece. The final form of a creative work is the sum – indeed, is more than the sum – of all the creative processes that went into it; and many of these can be quite fortuitous. Who knows today what epic poetic work might have emerged had Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 to 1834) not been interrupted during his attempt at drafting Kubla Kahn? No one in this world will ever know.
And so it must be as well with the unfolding creative work of human history, in which every one of us plays a part. We can look back into the past, and speculate about "what might have been if...?" and know that we shall never know the "answer" to any such speculations; for as another poet once remarked,
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.22
What is past is written; the present moment is being written now, by you and me, and by all of us together; and the future remains unwritten, by anybody; and who can say how it all might "turn out?" You and I can say, for we are the authors of the future, even as we speak.
The momentum of human events for the past five thousand years appears to be on a trajectory toward a long-predictable destination; and I have long predicted it, in various parts of this work. And yet after all, who can reliably describe the momentum of human events, or predict their eventual destination? For as discussed in Infinity and Complementarity, Again in section II.5, whatever interpretation you or I place upon the data we receive informing us about anything, including the momentum of human events, our interpretation is always and unavoidably based upon partial information, and excludes data to which we do not have immediate access. And there is always excluded data, and we never get "the whole story," about anything. This places our most reliable and carefully worked out predictions of future events irrevocably in the domain of myth – at least until such time as the future is written down in the present, and solidifies within the crystalline matrix of the indelible past.
Yet even of that which is by now "indelibly written" in the past, to how much of it do we have access in the present? In fact, very little; so it emerges that, realistically, our view of what is "written" in the past, of which mere fragments come to our individual attention in the present, is no less mythical than our view of what has yet to be "written" in the future; and by the same token, that even our view of the present moment is fragmentary, distorted, and indistinct. Yet these blurry, fragmentary, and indistinct myths about past, present, and future are the best our most penetrating investigations, and our most rigorously disciplined analyses are capable of yielding, as we squint and peer, like Mister Magoo, into the fog-shrouded mysteries that envelop us. Therefore, we should perhaps not be too much dismayed if the shadowy mailbox or lamp post we happen to have mistaken for a pedestrian does not respond by giving us the correct time.
This may sound at first like a rather down-in-the-mouth assessment of things, or of our ability to assess our circumstances accurately; but it may just as easily be interpreted in quite up-beat terms. If it is so that our perceptions of reality are as fragmentary, indistinct, and unreliable as I have suggested, then it follows that the bright, colorful, highly detailed world we see and experience all around us is very largely a product of our own imaginative creativity; yet we navigate it daily with hardly a thought, or a doubt that our experiences are accurate reflections of "what is really there."
I imagine there is hardly anyone who has not had the experience of grotesquely misinterpreting available information, out of which was formed a thoroughly erroneous picture of a particular set of circumstances. Such errors are probably far more common than they appear to be, because most such misapprehension seems to be effectively of little or no consequence, and we often never even glimpse how wide of the mark many of our assessments are, if only matters of which we know nothing were to come to our attention. Sometimes such matters do emerge to our view, placing a circumstance we had thought we clearly understood in a completely different light, and prompting a radically different interpretation.23 Is it not so?
Therefore, since the myths in which we apprehend the past, present, and future of the world around us are shaped by our interpretations of the partial information at any time available to us; and since our myths are our best possible approximations of the reality in which we live; and have such a significant emotional impact upon the quality of our daily lives; we may take as profoundly liberating the discovery that we have such a wide spectrum of creative flexibility legitimately available to us in the fashioning of our myths. This thought may require some introspective contemplation before its significance is fully appreciated.
If our experience of daily life occurs within the context of our imaginative myths, then it follows that we ourselves – or those we allow to fabricate our myths for us – are effectively the creators of the various worlds each of us experience and inhabit daily. We are (potentially) the makers of our myths, and therefore the creators of our worlds, the closest we ever come to apprehending reality. This can be an utterly liberating realization; for if we find the myth in which we are living, such as our perception of the momentum of human events, is a source of oppression, fear, or doubt, we may be sure that such myth is the product of partial information only, and is by no means "the whole story." We may at all times be sure that there is other information available, even if not within our current horizon, which if apprehended will doubtless prompt alterations to our existing myths, or possibly substantiate, or make plausible, entirely different myths. If we wish, we may seek such other information, and seeking, find it, and use it in fabricating more uplifting, satisfying, and optimistic myths about such things as the momentum of human events; and thereby literally create for ourselves more satisfactory worlds in which to live.
This is no small thing; for each of us is literally empowered with the ability to create the world in which we live and have all our experiences. For many, this is a novel, perhaps virtually incomprehensible, idea; for many have imbibed the widespread myth that we are all "victims of circumstance," or subject to "the will of the gods," or "the laws of physics," or "economics," or "political reality," and like it or not, "that's the way things are." For many, this is the essence of reality, and the only available choices are either to accept it, or complain about it, and endure it anyway.
Yet as we have seen, this too is a myth, and if there is information at large to support it, we may be sure that such information is not the whole story. We have already glimpsed some of the ways in which the predatory-parasites who founded the (alleged) "first civilizations," over the course of centuries and millennia re-forged the indigenous gylanic mythologies of the peoples they conquered into androcratic mythologies susceptible to parasitic-predation. This was not accidental, but deliberate; has never ceased, and is in "industrial strength" operation today. Yet this too is not the whole story, and nothing can threaten or diminish the unalienable power and authority of each individual to author his or her own myths, and live in the world of his or her own creation. Can you believe that?
So, how do you like your world, right now? How do you like your myths? Are you happy? Satisfied? Cheerful? Optimistic? Joyful? Enthusiastic? If not, would you like to be? It can be arranged. You can arrange it. You are already the creator of the world in which you live. Why not make that world more habitable, hospitable, rich, and alive?
How do you like my myth, that I've been spinning out for you all this time: that our so-called "civilization" is on its way to inevitable collapse, and maybe some of us will be fortunate enough to get out of it alive? No? Doesn't quite do it for you? It doesn't seem to do it for me either, anymore. Well, it's nice to know that it too is a myth supported only by partial information, and that there is plenty of basis for alternative myths which may deliver superior satisfaction. For as implied by the title of this subsection, inevitability is itself a myth, and there are any number of alternative ways our story here may eventually "turn out," or continue on.
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An Alternative Myth
O.K., how about this? Assuming that all we've been talking about in prior subsections, and in other sections of this work, are more or less "true" – or at least plausible, which is to say, supported by partial information – suppose that besides all that, it comes to light that large numbers of people, of every race and every nation, male and female, young and old, in all walks of life and "social strata," are quietly undergoing, day by day, and year by year, metamorphic reconstructions of their myths, values, priorities, perceptions, and understandings of the world in which they live and have their being? This is not a "collaborative work," but takes place privately, within the hearts, minds, and spirits of individuals. Nor is it something that makes a big splash in the "mass media." It is easily overlooked by almost everyone; yet its impact upon the momentum and direction of human events could be global, and profound. It could amount to a spontaneous "quantum leap" in the evolution of the human species, and its effect could be that the so-called "imminent collapse of 'civilization'" takes the form of an effortless and gentle transition into a reality in which those old dominator / dominated games just don't work anymore; because people don't think, and feel, and act that way anymore. Back in the 1960s, we used to hear the question, "What if they gave a war, and nobody came?" Well? What if...?
There is evidence for the plausibility of such a myth. An item that came to my attention recently is David Bornstein's book, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Oxford University Press, USA, 2004, 336 pp. I haven't read the book, but reviews of it I have seen are quite encouraging. It is about a number of individuals living in different parts of the world who have taken the initiative to solve problems in their worlds that lie beyond the reach of "conventional solutions."
As described of the hackers mentioned in Metaconsciousness in Action, section I.6, a social entrepreneur is evidently one who "scratches his or her own itch," and goes after something in her or his local world that no one else is able or willing to address. Bornstein draws upon a selection of such individuals who have achieved notable success in their endeavors; yet the few examples of the phenomenon Bornstein illuminates may point to multitudes like them who have not achieved notoriety for their efforts, but could represent a sea change among humanity at large with the potential for far-reaching and profound repercussions. It could emerge as a "resistance movement," not in "resistance" to anything, but only multitudes of self-motivated individuals who, spontaneously and without direction or coordination, are "marching to a different drummer;" which could ultimately render the predatory-parasitic, antisocial, androcratic, hierarchical approach to life obsolete and inoperable, without significant confrontation at all.
If you like that myth better, why not look for additional information to support it, and flesh out its details? Surely, if we look for it, more evidence in support of such a myth will surface, sharpening its clarity, and adding to its plausibility. For we are ultimately the authors of our own worlds, and what we seek, we find. Seek out evidence to support the idea that "We're all a-goin' to Hell on a sled," and you will surely find it, in abundance; and so if you believe that partially supported myth, that's where your world will indeed be headed. Seek out evidence instead that humanity at large is in the midst of the most profound evolutionary cultural leap in human history, and that is surely what you will find – leading, if you so choose, to the enhanced plausibility of that partially supported myth. Then it can be the course and eventual destination of your world.
Each of us is the pilot of our respective worlds, propelled by our myths, which in turn are nourished by whatever partial information we choose to imbibe and entertain. It's quite simple, really. That upon which we direct our attention grows in our world; that which we ignore diminishes. Therefore, it is prudent to give our attention to "the bright side" of life – which is not exactly what I have been doing in large portions of this work; which is why, in part, I am bringing it to a close.
I have no apology, however, for what I have written here, because I consider it a fruitful exploration – which has yielded the basis for belief in a ceaselessly expanding, perpetual Cosmos in which the expansion of time and space are perfectly balanced; as are the tendencies toward syntropy and entropy. Such belief provides basis in turn for the plausible myth that, even if they have not been achieved within recorded historical memory, similar balance may yet emerge among humans between symbiosis and predation, and most crucially, between the feminine and masculine elements within and among Homo sapiens. There is evidence for such balance during "prehistory," which supports the expectation that it may again be restored.
The Myths of Life and Death, to close the circle of our discussion, are no different from any other myths, inasmuch as they too rest upon partial information. Neither you nor I nor the author of Ecclesiastes know anything of the mystery out of which life emerges, or of that to which it returns when it appears to end. Therefore, we are entitled to believe whatever we choose about them; and our choices have consequences in our worlds of experience. Of the gylanic civilization on ancient Crete it has been said that "the fear of death was almost obliterated by the ubiquitous joy of living."24 The androcratic "civilizations" of the past five thousand years have emphasized instead the power to cause, and the fear of suffering, death and pain. Which is your preference?
Thank you for your time and attention. Let me know, if you wish, how things are going in your world. Mine seems to be brightening up already.
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1. See The Molecular Microworld of the Cell, section II.6, for the full Maxwell quote, and a footnote pointing to its source.
3. This is described more thoroughly in Cosmological Scale Expansion, section II.5.
4. Eisler, 1987, pp. 12-13.
5. Eisler, 1987. See also Dominator and Partnership Civilizations, and The Revised History of Old Europe, in section I.8.
6. In those rare instances where, in effect, "the lion lies down with the lamb," a traditional predator and its traditional prey can have a symbiotic-social relationship; in which case, of course, the predator is no longer predatory within the relationship. Unusual, but not unheard of.
7. Eisler, 1987, p. 52, referencing Gimbutas, "First Wave of Eurasian Steppe Pastoralists," 288, 290.
8. Riane Eisler, Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body, HarperSanFrancisco, 1995, p. 91, ff.
9. Eisler, 1987, p. 53.
10. Loc. Cit.
11. See Dominator and Partnership Civilizations in section I.8, p. 95, for a brief discussion of the respective meanings of gylanic and androcratic.
12. Eisler, 1987, p. 92.
13. Eisler, 1995, p. 95. "In Africa, pastoralist villages have recently been encouraged to return to hunting, because it is so much less ecologically damaging to the land and also does not so drastically encroach on other (increasingly scarce) species' habitats." [Eisler's footnote.]
14. Eisler, 1987, p. 79, ff.
15. Eisler, 1995, p. 105, quoting Keuls, 1985, 6.
16. Some "Thought-provoking questions for Dr. Laura," which have made the rounds among e-mail correspondents, provide a somewhat amusing commentary upon Biblical commandments still accepted as the Word of God in many contemporary contexts.
17. Eisler, 1987, pp. 85-6. "See The Dartmouth Bible (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950) for an account of how scholars have now been able to reconstruct how the Bible was put together over several hundred years by various 'schools' of rabbis and priests. See esp. 5-11." [Eisler's footnote.]
18. Genesis 19:5, Judjes 19:22, KJV.
19. The sequel to the incident quoted in Genesis 19 is that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are utterly destroyed. The sequel to the incident quoted in Judges 19 is more complex, for ensuing chapters describe how the children of Israel make devastating war upon the children of Benjamin, destroying Gibeah and all the other Benjamite cities, almost obliterating the children of Benjamin utterly, and swearing, "There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife." (Judges 21:1)
After cooling down, however, the children of Israel seem to regret their harsh treatment of the Benjamites, yet cannot break their oath not to replenish the decimated Benjamites with wives from among their own daughters. They resolve the dilemma by singling out the people of Jabeshgilead, who had not responded to the call to make war upon the Benjamites; and "the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children. And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man. And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male; and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan." (Judges 21:10-12) These they give to the Benjamites to replenish their wives destroyed in the recent wars.
Yet the story doesn't end here, for there still remain about 200 surviving Benjamites without wives. The solution to this problem is found in an annual "feast of the Lord in Shiloh," during which "the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances." So the Benjamite widowers are advised to "come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin."
This advice the Benjamite widowers follow, which brings the tale to a tidy and satisfactory conclusion for all. (Judges 21:19-21) Except, maybe, for the surviving females of Jabeshgilead and Shiloh.
20. "In 1993, the Federal Drug Administration approved sale of a female condom in the United States, protection for women who have sex with men who will not use condoms." [Eisler's footnote.]
21. Eisler, 1995, p. 310.
22. Edward Fitzgerald, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám of Naishápúr, LXXVI.
23. A couple of striking examples of this are discussed in Syntropy and Entropy above, in The Molecular Microworld of the Cell in section II.6, and in Cosmological Scale Expansion in section II.5; in which prevailing scientific opinions may turn out to be based upon widely mistaken interpretations of observable phenomena, namely the second law of thermodynamics, and the cosmological redshift. The very architecture of the entire universe can be fundamentally reshaped by our choice of myths!
24. Eisler, 1987, p. 32, quoting Nicolas Platon, Crete, 148.
Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World
II.7 | Contents | Epilogue