The Goddess is the ancient and sacred Idea of Woman conceived as divinity in order to personify and express the creative power of Nature. This manifold of concepts of Nature, Woman, and the Goddess derived its power from the numinous and not from the world of scientific definition. Complex mythologies developed around the Idea multi-formed and historically various, in which the concepts themselves shift and change through time.
The concepts are in some sense interchangeable. The natural world in a mythological sense is Woman, nurturing, generative and accepting, but also enticing, beautiful and destructive. Woman in a mythological sense is the world, in its completeness, embodying Nature’s rich aspects. Woman, celebrated, in this double-view, as the world and the human female, elevated to a worshipped divinity, and surrounded by religious awe and ritual, is the Goddess. So the Goddess can be manifest as Nature, and Nature reveal the Goddess. Or the Goddess can be manifest as Woman and Woman’s presence invoke the Goddess. The Goddess enters wearing multiple masks, animal or human, raw or civilised, powerful or powerless.
One goddess may be many goddesses; many goddesses may be one. Each manifestation, each invocation, each embodiment, each mask, is richly varied, and the mythological hub, spinning in space and time, draws around it a tapestry of detail, ornament and reference, winds in about its shining centre all particles of the myth, in complex orbit.
The Idea came out of the mind, out of deep biology and psychology. For Man, Woman is the recipient of his sexual desire, the source of new life, and his own first origin. She is the virgin maiden, the moonlit lover, the grieving mother. She is, in her nurturing aspect, his own sensitivity, his own feelings, the quickness of intuitive intelligence, his own tenderness, his own capability to care, to protect, to love. She is, in the mythological sense, his soul.
In that sense, she may be seen as all that is best in him. In that sense, she is both within him and beyond him. In that sense, she expresses and reflects the movements of his own inner being. If he loses the ability to see her, he dies spiritually. If he rejects her, he rejects himself, and all Nature, and therefore the totality of existence. The masculine component of the self recognises also the feminine component of the self. And she is a mystery to him. Since she is himself also, then when she is embodied in a woman, she can, also be within him. The lovers are one.
Above and beyond his own being he creates the symbolic and mythological embodiment of all being, as the Goddess. And he gives her many names. For Woman, the Goddess is herself, in all her masks. She is her own mother, and Nature as a mother, she is her own sexuality and desire, and her own inner processes. She is the mystery of conception and birth. She is the silence and subtlety of her seductions. She is the image of herself, and Man’s mirror. Looking into the shining face of the Goddess, Woman looks into herself, and into the depths of a man. Looking into the Goddess she sees all landscapes, all forests, all rivers and seas, all clouds and rain, all caves and sacred groves, all temples and palaces, all created creatures. She sees all objects that can be her masks and her resting-places, and all events that can be her voices and her oracles. As the Goddess she can give Man the thread to understand his life, within the labyrinth of himself and the world, and she herself can comprehend her life in relationship to Man, and to existence. She is life and death. She is the self within and the universe beyond. She is the silence and the sound. She is the reality and the dream.
We can trace the presence of this idea of the Goddess from earliest times to latest. She appears in the Paleolithic, in tiny statuettes of bone and ivory, in rock signs and carvings, from Siberia to the Pyrenees, and beyond. She is a bird, a pregnant creature, a face, a moon or a wave sign, a spiral or a labyrinthine meander. Twenty thousand years ago she is already associated with the images of lion and bull, bird, and fish, moon and snake, which later accompany her image in Sumeria and Babylon, Egypt and Crete, Greece and Rome. They appear again in Celtic religion and in the representations of the Virgin Mary.
In the Neolithic she is the Great Mother, the Great Goddess, multiple or bird-headed, in vase shaped images marked with running water, in the form of a fish, as a mother holding her child, as a bear holding a cub, as Goddess of the animals. We can follow her to Crete, as Mistress of the sea and the creatures, to Babylon as Inanna and Ishtar the evening and morning star. We can find her as Isis in Ancient Egypt, ‘the natural mother of all things, governess of the elements’ queen of earth, heaven and hell.
In Imperial Rome, she is not only Isis, but Cybele of the Anatolians, Venus and Minerva and Juno. In ancient China and India the same Great Goddess appears, and again in other forms she appears in Africa, the Americas, Polynesia, Japan. A plethora of masks and faces but with a consistency of motifs. All biological, natural, intuitive reflections of some aspect of Nature and Woman.
She gives rise to the Yin concept in China, the feminine side of reality. The moon for its phases, changeability, night presence, mystery. Blood and water, and all things that flow; seas and rivers, streams and clouds. Everything that contains and conceals; caves and woods, clouds and valleys, buildings and labyrinths. Her shining beauty is in stars, flowers, lakes, the leaves of trees, in precious metals and rare jewels. Her generative fecundity is shown in herbs and fruits, in the child on her lap. She is the human soul, elusive, transient, flickering and so she is seen with symbols of birds in flight, butterflies and bees.
The Greeks with their usual elegance capture her many faces in multiple Goddesses. She is the Cretan Nature Goddess of the animals. She is Aphrodite’s subversive glittering and perfumed sexuality. She is Artemis’s silence, stillness and virginity, renewing as the moon renews. She is Demeter the Mother, and Persephone the Maiden, the guarantors of the harvest, the roots of generation. And as Persephone she goes down to the Underworld, following the seasons. She is permanent in the constellations, and planets. She is variable in the moon and the months. She is vanishing and mysterious in night, death, time, and prophecy. She is the triple face of Woman, as child, lover and mother. She is the triple aspect of Nature in the heavens, earth and the underworld, Skelton’s ‘Diana in the leaves green, Luna who so bright doth sheen, Persephone in Hell’. She is the three Graces, who are Giving, Receiving, and Thanking. She is the three illusions, truth, love and beauty. She is the triple reality of outwardness, inwardness and stillness. She is the light, the twilight, and the dark. She is birth, life and death.
If Woman is a Goddess, then Man through his power to dominate her, as Nature or in her human form, can become a God. At first he can only be a consort. He is the temporary lover, Adonis, Attis, Osiris who makes a sacred marriage with the Goddess, so that together they renew the vegetation and the harvest. He is the god whose year will wax and then wane. Who will meet his rival, the new-year’s god, and be destroyed. Or he will be sacrificed, and his flesh and blood returned to the earth. She bears him, mates with him variously, sometimes capriciously, betrays him, mourns him and buries him. She is mother, bride, and layer-out. The battles of the rival gods will go on endlessly and ritually. They are the rival brothers of Renaissance plays, the kindred kings of the Greek myths, their assassins, their warring sons. They are the Gemini, the Dioscuri, the Kabiri, the twin pillars of the temple, the two giants Gog and Magog. They are Jehovah and Satan, the conflict eternal and unresolved.
Bearing the god, the Goddess is still the Great Mother, Ana, Demeter. As his bride she is the seductress who leads him to glory but also to his destruction, she is Cybele the voracious, the man-eater, and Sekhmet the lion-headed destroyer of Ancient Egypt. She is Ishtar and Aphrodite, the adorned and voluptuous. She is Venus Anadyomene, created from sperm, risen naked from the foam of the sea, standing on the vulva-shaped scallop shell, blown to the shore by zephyrs, greeted by the Spring. She brings with her perfumes and love-tokens, night-whispers and music, sensual delight and the ‘little death’ of orgasm. She can dissolve the earth, transform the night, shrink the universe, still the mind. Her eyes dart arrows.
From her silence comes the language of poetry. She is the demanding Muse, and the tormenting paramour. She is Cleopatra, and Lesbia, Doricha and Thais, and ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’. She is the arresting apparition, the Bav, ‘the washer by the ford’, the priestess, the Sybil, the oracular voice of the Pythia at Delphi, or Cassandra bringing doom.
As his seductress she is the princess under the sea, the mermaid who draws him down to drown, the Queen of the Night, the flower-daughter, the lady of the magic garden, or of the sealed tower, of the lake or the well. As his mother and layer-out she is Venus with Adonis in her arms, the Mater Dolorosa, Ishtar mourning Tammuz, Cybele mourning Attis, the archetype of grief. She will be for him, the triple incarnation, the magical source and the silent inwardness, the dangerous, detonating force of the erotic, the sweetness of the hive mingled with the fear of the final darkness. He will pity her tears, and thereby pity his own mortality. He will drown in her eyes and thereby go willingly to his fate. She is the sea, with its charms and treacheries. Pain and joy, beauty and disaster are inextricably mixed into the love potion. She will curl in the hollow of his breast, draw him down into the deeps of space and time, and release him at the last through the gates of ecstasy to an eternal sleep. She is Isolde. He is Tristan.
The God grows in power as Man begins to control society, nature and woman. The great city-states, in Sumeria and Ancient Egypt, in India and China, display hereditary male rulers, institutionalised priesthoods, economic muscle, and the attributes of civilisation. They have writing and mathematics, pottery and metalworking, agriculture and the calendar, pyramid building and slavery. The intellectual and technological adventure has begun. Man is at play in games of his own devising, and in turn the Universe is seen as a game, a play, a ritual where the God dances.
His relationship with the Goddess alters. He is the Sun, she is the Moon. He dies only in metaphor, or effigy. She seduces him only in ritual, and mourns him only in show. This is the external image of the Sacred Marriage. In the myths of Knossos, the Cretan sun-bull marries the moon, through the generations. Zeus couples with Europa. Minos and Poseidon, as bulls from the sea, couple with Pasiphae. Theseus couples with Ariadne. At Eleusis, in rite or reality, the priestess and the hierophant celebrate a sacramental union, and give ‘birth’ to the image of the Holy Child. In Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Crete the Goddess unites with the God.
Inwardly the worshipper merges with what is worshipped, the mortal is filled with the divine. In the private union of man and woman, in the sexual fulfilment of the lovers, minds and bodies meet and thereby reflect the greater union of the deities. ‘What is above, that is below’ say the Mysteries. Mutual commitments, exchanges of tokens (rings and necklaces which encircle and crown in sacred, sexual imagery), sharing of thoughts, mingling of bodies, joint action and harmonious stillness, the intermingling of glances, tendernesses and endearments, alternating service and command. The eyes meet and the world stills.
Hierogamy, the ‘marriage’ of the Goddess and the God, is every ‘marriage’ of lovers, is every deeper union, is the marriage of the planter with the earth, the hunter with the quarry, the priest with the sacrifice. It is both external act, and internal mystery. It is private and hidden as at Eleusis. It is public and ceremonial as at the altar. It is Nature whose veil may not be lifted without meeting death, like Actaeon and Pentheus, or being blinded like Tiresias and Oedipus. But it is also the open communion, which every citizen, every participant can partake of, in the congregation, as in the congress.
The Greeks, it may be said, go rapidly beyond the mysteries. In the East Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism take a rational direction away from divinity. In the West Athene the spirit of pure reason invades the Greek mind. In a moment we are on the verge of modernity; the secular state; the rule of law; the scientific enquiry; logical analysis; mathematics and physics; biology and astronomy; democracy and commerce. Plato celebrates Socrates. The dialectic of Pure Reason begins, and ‘The Republic’ anticipates the possibilities of the future social order. It is a defining moment. But before it can be fulfilled, in the Renaissance, in the Great Revolutions, in the Enlightenment, and finally in the modern scientific world, there is one more great delaying movement of the mythological story in the West.
It is the coming of the all-powerful God, the jealous God, Jehovah and Allah out of the religions of the Middle East. It involves the enshrouding within Jehovah’s myth of the older myth, where the weeping Virgin will cradle in her arms the all-suffering consort, he who descends and then ascends. It is a moment of disaster for the Goddess. The gods become one. The God out of Israel is a faceless, nameless, God of the Word. This voice of the jealous God, allowing no rivals, will defame and subdue the Goddess in all her manifestations, whether she is Astarte of the Canaanites, or Ishtar of Babylon, or Diana of the Ephesians.
The legacy of Sumeria, Babylon, Egypt and Assyria enters the minds of the authors of the Pentateuch. Genesis places Man and Woman in the Paradise Garden. Instead of Crete, the island paradise, where the Goddess was Mistress of the Animals, here we have the Fall. Into the consciousness of the West, for two thousand years, enters a degraded and degrading view of Woman. From this moment the Goddess begins to die.
The names of God are masculine. Since he has usurped the role of the Goddess, and is everything and everywhere, since he owns nature as the Creator and made Man in his image, so Woman must become part and not whole, a fragment, a secondary piece of Man. His maleness is appropriate for a military God warring against tribes loyal to the Goddess. He is a God of History, of Destiny, of a nation, of a time to come. His inwardness is obedience and awe. He is fire, and mountain, voice and language, the Yang attributes of the male. He is a God of the tamed and not the wild, of the law and not that beyond the law. The female is subdued, and submerged, becomes personal and private.
There is still tenderness in the Old Testament. Women figure in it as individuals. Rachel, and Leah, Lot’s wife, Bathsheba, Judith, the mystic bride of the Song of Solomon. In the third century BC the feminine is present in Judaism as Wisdom, Hokhmah or in the later Greek world, Sophia. And is there as early as the first century AD as the Shekhinah, the presence of Yahweh, the Holy Spirit binding the human and the divine, in the story of Moses, in the figure of Miriam. This is the Soul of Wisdom, the Matronit, who will reappear in the Middle Ages in the Kabbalah, the mystical tradition of Judaism. Judaism remained supremely ethical. But authority had been transferred to the male deity, to the nation and the people.
The Goddess is dying though love is not. To the old religion, comes the new. Jesus the man teaching a caring, compassionate democracy of feeling and being, where all may be freed from their various bonds, where power and status mean nothing in the universe of the spirit, where woman is still individual and redeemable from sin. Jesus talks to all women, and has women as his companions as well as men. He brings back into a Roman Palestine the benign face of the Goddess, in his curiously neutral and androgynous form, the merged form of the sacred marriage, of the union of lovers, that Donne claims, beyond sex and beyond separate identity.
He refreshes and reinvigorates the ancient message of compassion, and empathy, of caring and kindness, of universality and the right to life. He is subversive of state power; he preaches a world outside the social. He has a voice for the voiceless and the oppressed, the slave and the downtrodden, the disadvantaged and the unequal. The spirit has rights, the individual has rights, implicit not articulated. Anyone who can feel is to be looked on equally, to be cared for equally, to be redeemed equally, in a kingdom of the mind and spirit, if not in the realms of the body. Christianity levels the field, and sets the scene for the Rights of Man to be articulated. Democracy, Marxism, Feminism all are supported by that vision of the equality of feeling and spirit, of the rights of anyone who has senses and emotions, regardless of their rational powers, to be considered an individual with inalienable rights. And if for Man, why not for the animals also, though we have not yet got that far?
Jesus, the suffering God, born of a mother (later a ‘Virgin’ mother), living in love, and dying, to be cradled in the Goddess’s lap and mourned, a reincarnation of the older myth, reinvigorated and renewed, to be eternally resurrected in ‘Heaven’. His myth completes the partial myth of the Old Testament. The Fall is complemented by the Resurrection. Original Sin is redeemed by the Passion. The myth is superimposed on his teachings by his followers, and spreads across the ancient world. It overlays itself on Goddess worship and that of the pagan Gods, renaming their festivals, rededicating their sacred places, persuading their priests and priestesses to his congregation.
Institutionalised, compromised, both victim and aggressor, his Church converts the West, though carrying always within its womb, the message of love, compassion and equality. But its theology is deeply damaging. The disaster for the Goddess, since she is Woman deified, is a disaster for Woman also, and since Nature also is the Goddess, it will become a disaster for Nature. Sacred joy, delight, and wonder are turned to fear, guilt, punishment and blame. The fault is disobedience. The perpetrator of the fault is the woman, seduced by the voice of the beguiling serpent, the wild murmur of nature. Sexuality, knowledge, life itself are tainted by sin. The man is an offender but at second hand.
Prehistoric themes of human incompleteness through mortality, of guilt at consuming animal and vegetable life, and of the moral ambivalence of cunning and curiosity surface in the concept of sin. No myth survives unless it has deep content, and here the image of Faustian restlessness and yearning is also born, of the mortal to achieve the immortal, of the limited to reach eternal truth, of the bounded to become all-powerful, of the human to become divine. To be pushed out of Heaven is to wish to return. To lose Paradise is to dream of it endlessly. The deep theme is human unease at passing the boundaries of the life that Nature prescribed, while embracing the human destiny in History, to know, to outwit, to control, and to command. Christianity, as the Church, bound its people, devalued the Goddess and her nature, weighed humanity down with guilt, and offered a counter-seduction, of the next life, of the paradise to come. It is promised to those who confess, to the contrite and the humble, to those whose love is not of the material world, to those whose sins will be redeemed by the one life which takes away all sins.
The whole of Nature becomes fallen and cursed, the place of sex and death. This is nowhere in the teachings of Jesus but everywhere in the teachings of the early Church. For Tertullian ‘Man issues through the parts of shame’, woman is ‘a temple built over a sewer’. For Augustine we are born ‘inter faeces et urinam’. It is the war between the spirit and the flesh. The womb was Woman, Nature and the Goddess, and the womb was source of both attraction and aversion, seduction and sinfulness. The tragedy, exemplified by Augustine, is the tragedy of a deep and affirmative teaching in thrall to a pernicious and perverted idea. Yet it flows in full logic from the testaments, and the myth would not have persisted without it finding a response in the darker aspects of male sexuality, of mind subject to a body, as body is also subject to mind, the twin aspects of our being. The results of the dichotomy are still all around us, despite a pretended liberation from superstition and prejudice.
Woman is the soul, and is Nature. As the Goddess she is neither power nor destiny. She is completeness, stillness. She is the amorphous background sound, of the wind in the trees, or the waves of the sea. If the Goddess is lost and betrayed, then so is the woman, and so is love. In the twelfth Century, Heloise fights free for a moment, beyond the understanding of Abelard her lover, to assert the independence of woman’s mind and the human spirit in ‘a love that knows no bounds’ ‘Wholly guilty though I am’ she writes ‘I am also, as you know, wholly innocent.’ ‘I would have had no hesitation in following you or going ahead at your command into the fires of Hell.’ She is Iseult, beyond the world. And in the mystic and pagan traditions, and in the cult of the Virgin, the old values somehow continued to operate, below the level of official society, throughout the Medieval period. The troubadours, the Arthurian legends, the poetry of Gottfried, using Arabic and Celtic sources, maintain the sweetness of love, and secular identity, preserve the full-blooded and richly articulated sensitivity to love and all its ways. The Virgin Mary, as the Black Virgin, and at other shrines, receives the full weight of the Goddess’s attributes. Her mother is Anne, the ancient Ana. The Virgin is shown with her lions, and pillars, her doves and flowers. Her imagery echoes in the later paintings of the Venetian and Florentine Renaissance, placed amongst Leonardo’s mysterious waters, or against Bellini’s tender skies. She has all the names of the Goddess, the Holy Mother, the Mirror of Justice, the Morning Star, the Tower of Ivory, and the Queen of Peace. She is Stella Maris, and the Seat of Wisdom. She is the Gate of Heaven, and the mystic Rose.
The Goddess is love grieving, love lost, love defamed, love betrayed and love abandoned, but not love defeated. If we examine the Elizabethan drama in England, then we can see Shakespeare weaving the theme of the abandoned, or lost, or traduced, or defamed, or imprisoned Goddess into his plays. The theme was articulated for him in Virgil’s Aeneid, the abandonment of Dido by Aeneas, recreated in Marlowe’s verse as the Tragedy of Dido Queen of Carthage. Dido is the Phoenecian Astarte brought from Tyre to North Africa, and her fate echoes that of Ariadne, abandoned on Naxos by Theseus. Ariadne likewise is the shining face of the Goddess, noted for the multiplicity of her sacred deaths, that Ariadne who in the most potent of the Greek myths enabled Theseus to thread the maze of the labyrinth and emerge alive.
Aeneas and Theseus are the heroes who throw away their own souls, exchanging spiritual achievement for worldly success. Theseus rules Athens, Aeneas founds Rome. The Goddess goes into the shadows, or into the sky as a constellation, or into the flames of the funeral pyre of love. Marlowe’s text with Nashe’s editing, appeared in 1594 the year after Marlowe’s death, at the beginning of the dozen or so years when Shakespeare and Donne place love between man and woman at the core of their writing. At the end of that period Shakespeare writes The Tempest with Marlowe’s text at his elbow, echoing lines here and there, allowing the sea and storm imagery of Marlowe to infuse his own play, likewise set on a sea-shore, beside and within a cave or cell.
Aeneas meeting a disguised Venus (his mother) on reaching land calls her a ‘fair virgin’. ‘Thou art a goddess that delud’st our eyes.....instruct us under what good heaven we breathe as now, and what this world is call’d on which by tempest’s fury we are cast.’ In similar words Ferdinand also finding Miranda, ‘Most sure, the goddess on whom these airs attend!’ It is from Marlowe that Shakespeare learnt that language of awe, admiration and breathless delight, which he then proceeded to transform. A delight in woman as goddess permeates his last plays, where things that are lost or abandoned are found safe, the supposed dead are resurrected, and the loving soul is reunited to the soul that loved.
There are echoes of Dido too in Cleopatra, of Aeneas in Antony. It is instructive to look for these verbal echoes in Shakespeare and there are many, in order to realise how important Marlowe’s work was to him. Above all it is the atmosphere of the Dido, the mythological setting, the core theme, the notes of adoration, of almost mystical awe, in rich description, which both poets achieve, that mattered to him. It is the note that Marlowe brings to English verse, and Shakespeare takes up, the sweet, rich, burdened, hesitant voice of the lover to the beloved, as it describes the Goddess in Nature, her flowers, her sacred paradisial landscapes, and her creatures, as worshipped woman or man. It is a voice that goes beyond Petrarch or Sydney, to a more direct utterance.
Shakespeare has other sources for the wrongly accused female. Eve is his hidden source, but in the Greek myths there is lost Persephone, found to be lost again; Alcestis like Cordelia loyal to the grave; the ravaged nymphs and mortals who in pity or escape are transformed to trees like Daphne’s laurel, or stars like Ariadne, or birds, like Procne and Philomela.
As Venus she is rejected in Venus and Adonis, as Lucrece she is ravaged in The Rape of Lucrece. Shakespeare projects this image on to so many of his heroines. They are vilified, like Eve, or lose what they love like Mary Magdalen, or are forced to wait for reunion with what they love, like Rachel. An aspect of the great theme in Shakespeare is a dramatisation of attitudes to Woman and Woman’s attitudes. Part of it no doubt surges up out of his own life-history, but part also seems to be in him as an instinctive empathy with the betrayed and devalued. His heroines are symbols of devalued Love, devalued Nature, the devalued sincerity and simplicity which properly valued are the heart of silence and the centre of his ethical world. Love, as the lost daughter Sophia, the Heavenly Bride, or the exiled Shekhinah who is the Precious Stone and the Pearl, must be rescued, by the agency of the good, and returned to her father and mother in the sacred Heavens. She is the lost soul, fallen, wandering, seeking and yearning for its true home. And Shakespeare’s heroines are the twin souls and hearts of his male protagonists. An example is Rosalind. Her name is an anagram of Orlandis, so that she and Orlando are like male and female twins, with twinned names. As an anagram, and in the play as a youth, she is disguised and concealed. Similarly Cordelia is grammatically, Lear’s loving sacred heart the ‘coeur de Lear’, and also the Kore, the Maiden, the Delian Goddess with the values of moderation of Apollo, and the sacredness of Apollo’s sister Artemis, both sun and moon, hidden from Lear in his blindness.
The male protagonists in Shakespeare’s later plays are blinded to the Goddess, and to the sincerity and loyalty of enduring love, in some way, and therefore are separated from their own souls. In that state Woman becomes Eve, the source of sin and the Fall, concupiscent, ravening, slippery, cloacal, a dark womb, a vicious whirlpool into which man is drawn. She is a witch, a sorceress, an adulteress, unfaithful, dissembling, cruel. She is the lie, the devil’s presence on earth. She is all the foul things in Nature, adverse to Man, those things he battles in order to create civilisation. She is the raw, the uncooked, the wild, the untamed. She demands the surrender of his Reason, subverts it, corrupts it, and in the end overturns it. As his soul she constantly seeks to be heard, to be found, to be reconciled, and to be loved. As his condemned and fallen shadow she is to be vilified, destroyed, and damned.
In the distorted imagination, this dark shadow weaves a substantial being around itself, summons up its double the dark other, and in this dual form assaults the mind and body of the protagonist. As Nature, the dark duality is disorder, chaos, the storm, the tempest, out of which ultimately truth and calm might come reborn. Truth is the stillness of the marriage sacrament, the silence of love, or, as in the Greek myths, a tree in leaf, a star in the sky, or some small bird or flower resonant with beauty. In relation to Woman the duality is wilfully misunderstood love, perceived as love’s opposite, disobedience, manipulative deceit, dishonesty, concealment, indifferent carelessness, veniality, evil, sin. As the dual male component, it is some antagonistic brother of the body or the soul; some upsurge of the denied self demanding justice, return to order; some agent of good, or merely some counter-force.
From a sexual point of view the protagonist is in the world of the extreme Puritans, of Augustine and Tertullian, of the later Donne. Of Prospero also, where there is a coldness in the character which makes him hard to like, that stiff mantle, that wizard’s severity, that remoteness from laughter. The protagonist is suspicious of the body and the womb, celebrating the virginal and chaste, the snow-cold, the immaculate. He is the justice that ‘tries all offenders’, the steely lawmaker, the hair-splitting rationalist, the intricate logician. He suppresses his tenderness, his mutual love, his union of hearts and minds, his instinctive affections for wife, mother, daughter, companion, his own soul. Seeing in her, the darkness of night, the fickle sea, the changeable moon, the amoral reproductive drive, the orgiastic maenad, the inimical, and forbidden, the animalistic and deathly, the supernatural and cursed, he pushes her down into the depths. He drives her away or seeks to ensnare her, imprison her, defuse her, disarm her.
The trapped and imprisoned psychic forces then do what all trapped psychic forces do, they emerge irrationally, usurp the protagonists reason and will, drag him into a chaos of disrupted Nature, Society and Self, topple him and defeat him. The end of that defeat is silence and death, as in Hamlet, and Lear, suicide as in Othello, or ultimate knowledge, reconciliation and forgiveness as in Cymbeline, Pericles and The Winter’s Tale.
Or something else happens, as in the Tempest. That something else is the alternative ending, the path that England took in reality, that Donne took in the second half of his life, that the modern world resulted from. The Goddess is stilled. Irrational desire and passion are abated. Virginity before marriage is celebrated, and demanded. Ferdinand is faced with austere ‘trials of thy love’. Authority, civil order, society, the law, and the magician Prospero, force a contract, blessed by spirits, which are invoked not real, within a masque, not a religious revelation. The Goddess is diminished, and remains imprisoned in the bonds of magic, or in the private world of the subdued self. Venus vanishes, and Cupid breaks his arrows. There is a sacred marriage, but it is overseen by the chilly severity of Prospero.
The staff is broken, the book is drowned, Ariel his creative soul is released, and Prospero abjures ‘rough magic’. All the arts and spells of the Goddess are foregone. He goes out into the dark, still, silent, and barren landscape. There are no more ‘spirits to enforce, art to enchant; and my ending is despair, unless I be reliev’d by prayer, which pierces so that it assaults Mercy itself and frees all faults.’ That last plea of Prospero’s is kin to Donne’s prayer in one of the Holy Sonnets, ‘ Take me to you, imprison me, for I, except you enthral me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.’ It is the same language of magical constraint in order to end beyond magic in spiritual freedom. It is the Puritan message. And one reading of the Tempest is that far from being a reconciliation of the Goddess with the God, of Catholicism with the Protestant theme of sin and forgiveness, it is a final conceding or even fulfilment of Shakespeare’s position in the face of his own imminent death. It is the recognition of the colder Puritan world, without irreverent laughter, overt sexuality, sacred nature, ritual theatre, without any of the spirits or arts or magic of the Goddess, where only within marriage love, compassion and joy will survive, contained and controlled.
And Caliban, who is the corrupted spirit in man, the fallen one, the brute, the potential rapist, the outsider, the ‘natural’ man. Caliban, who knows ‘all the qualities o’ the’ isle’, the dreamer whose irrational dream is full of rare music and lulling voices sounding in a paradise garden, will be ‘wise hereafter and seek for grace.’ Prospero’s ‘imperialist’ mercy allows even Caliban to be part of the community if he behaves. Prospero’s severity is also Donne’s, who calls beggars ‘ dogs’ and ‘vermin’, and for whom the ‘herd of vagabonds’ are not fit for charity being outcasts from’ the household of God’. Donne, who argues ‘an inherent right in the Christians, to plant Christianity in any part of the dominions of the infidels, and consequently, to despoil them even of their possession, if they oppose such plantations.’ All shall conform, accept, obey the laws, constrain their thoughts. It is the cold message of Puritanism, which will become the cold message of Protestant imperialism, and parliamentary democracy. It is a clinical, scientific coldness, Prospero’s coldness, the coldness of Plato’ Republic. And just as reading Plato leaves an uncomfortable chill behind, so does The Tempest. So does a reading of Donne’s sermons. Compassion, and pity, and mercy, and love are still there, but they do not somehow seem to mean what they meant. The reconciliation is still a defeat for the Goddess.
The Civil War sealed it. The suppressed forces of Puritanism finally overthrew in a mighty convulsion the forces of hereditary kingship, and the last sanctuaries of the Goddess. And the Restoration in England disguised but did not alter the triumph of the modern world. The stream of Greek experience, modified by Christianity, flows forward again towards the Enlightenment, social Revolution, democracy, global trade and commerce, industrialisation, and the scientific project. What wild Nature is left gives way to continued plantation and enclosure. What is unmapped will become mapped, and Nature and her creatures, having become a resource, will be exploited and desacralised. Men have been clearing the English forest to create woodlands and pasture since Neolithic times, but there is a new view of that process, a new absence of respect, religious awe, sense of guilt. Society will become secular. Religion will be used to endorse commerce, imperialism, war. Sexuality will become pornography. Love will become Romance. Art, poetry and the theatre will lose their sacred imagery and potency.
Science will invade Nature, commit Tarquin’s rape of Lucrece, lift her veil, tear apart her limbs, cut out her tongue. As Bacon said, Nature will be ‘hounded in her wandering...bound into service...made a slave.’ Authority, severity, duty, the work ethic, activity, the need to consume, will rule under the law. Joy, awe, delight, mystery, the true erotic, the inner worship, will vanish into the private and personal domain. Or into an underworld, the gate to it concealed by hypocrisy, the mysteries sanitised, trivialised, and democratised as commerce, the Goddess imprisoned in her flesh, hung with adornments from which the meaning has bled away.
The Elizabethan 1590’s and the early 1600’s, are a lens through which we can see the defining moment when our modern world emerged. It is a focal point of English History, out of which social revolution comes, to influence and direct the later revolutions in France, and America.
Greek philosophy and Roman law and the concept of the secular state have triumphed in the West, and will, if reason continues to rule, do so globally. Puritanism yoked together the triumph of the God, and the triumph of Reason to create a world out of which came the Enlightenment, the release of ordinary humanity from the grip of superstition, from the nightmare of the past. As the God and all religions wither away, we are left with three legacies.
One is the legacy of equality and rights, upheld by secular law, mediated by participative government. Within that legacy, loyalty, compassion, mercy, empathy and kindness have historically found space and influence. So has the individual, locking away in inwardness personal values and spiritual and sensual raptures, behind the walls of the acceptable whenever they cannot be accepted by the majority. It is not a world of external magic. It is civilised, patterned, organised, controlled, managed. The Goddess exists only as an inner paradigm. We are free of her constraining and constrained rituals, sometimes bloody, always elitist, and her unscientific superstitions. We have given up the raw, the primitive, and the mythical, and accepted the cooked, the cultivated and the secular.
Within our world slavery, inequality, sexual, racial and other kinds of discrimination are in principle unacceptable. And women in redefining their social roles are freeing themselves from the taint of the imagery of Eve and the Virgin, leaving Man to come to terms with the more difficult areas of his inherited sexuality. Reason rules, and if we have any knowledge of History we are grateful. Perish those who cherish passions and desires that are outside the law. If it is a blander, safer, quieter, stiller world with less social colour in it, so be it. We have saved the primal virtue of Love within the private individual mind and within the union of minds. We have saved the religious qualities of compassion, empathy, generosity, and loyalty, understanding and forgiveness, to inform, influence and permeate our society. We might have failed.
The second legacy is much more ambivalent. Commerce, Industrialisation, and Capitalism, driven by and driving new technologies have attacked Nature and put pressure on Human Nature. We have destroyed external solitude and been pulled out of our own inner solitude, which is a part of our true, authentic life. Nature instead of containing us is now contained. The wild is now only a garden, though not the Paradise Garden, and we are now the gardeners.
We have not extended rights to the creatures in the garden though we now know our own animal origins. Instead Nature has become a resource. The landscapes and the creatures, the plants and the minerals have become ours to ruthlessly exploit. What primitive man never dreamed of possessing, because he was only a small insignificant element of the natural world, we now parcel up, divide between us, sign away, and own. Nature is no longer the Goddess, the soul, and therefore the soul has departed from Nature. We recapture it in moments, in fragments, in isolated spaces, in part, and not as a whole.
Love is not to exploit, to ravage, to destroy. Therefore to exploit, to ravage, to destroy is not to Love. This external aspect of the Goddess as the natural world cannot pass within, become inward, a part of the private spirit. This aspect of the Goddess can only live or die, perish or be saved. This aspect of the Goddess is Perdita, is Marina, is The Pearl, is Artemis of the wooded glades, is the Cretan Mistress of the Creatures, is Astarte the morning and evening star, is the Great Goddess of the Paleolithic world. If we have no respect for Nature, then by analogy we have no respect for our deepest feminine creative impulse, and no longer any respect for the Goddess who is Love.
Where there is no respect then desecration can only bring desolation. The reign of the disassociated God, divorced from his creation, in tyranny over it, has in a secular world become the Wasteland, with rapacious industry and commerce, greed and consumerism, as the new accepted tyranny. Marketing and the media may lull, and the dying religions may still promise, but the deep mind knows. We are civilised animals. We are rapacious. We are destroying our world. We are mortal, and transient. We are alone.
The third legacy is a double-mask. One face is benign Reason, examining, understanding, achieving knowledge, applying it to cure the world’s ills. Success will bring endless energy, boundless leisure, increased lifespan, cures for all sicknesses, greater beauty and intelligence. It will explain all, save all, and manage all. It will comfort all, and bless all. It is Science. The second face is Faustian experiment, prying, testing, opening, torturing, altering, distorting, inventing, loosing, and then erasing. Success will bring restless novelty, boundless complexity, invasion of privacy, mounting ethical dilemmas, a dangerous uprooting of Humanity from its original form, spiritual impoverishment, and the potential redundancy of our species. It will uproot all, destabilise all, destroy all. It will condemn all, and harm all. It is Science.
Is this God with two faces a good benevolent God, or an evil, malicious God? It is neither. It is a neutral, blind, burrowing God. It is a sexless, amoral, indifferent God. It has one value Truth, and one method Knowledge, and one work Technology. When Faustus has his knowledge and his power, when it will do ‘whatever Faustus shall command’, what then? What will he command? Can he control the forces he has let loose well enough to be obeyed? Or will he be the Sorcerer’s apprentice?
‘Heaven,’ says Mephistopheles ‘was made for man, therefore is man more excellent.’ What is it, this heaven, humanity is after? ‘There is a midnight hour’ says Kierkegaard. ‘Faustus’ says Lucifer, ‘in hell is all manner of delight.’ ‘Oh might I see hell, and return again’, says Faustus, ‘how happy were I then!’ ‘Thou shalt;’ says Lucifer ‘I will send for thee at midnight.’
One face of the God is Greek. It is Apollo’s mask. Asclepius’s medicine is in his care, astronomy and mathematics, philosophy and the arts. He is a God of moderation, of civilisation. The other face of the God is modern, obscured, difficult to read. It has something of Daedalus, Icarus, Phaethon, Faustus in its features. Its voice speaks its message, which is ‘let us try’. In its care is Pandora’s box, full of ideas, curiosity, desires. It is the face of a powerful magician, of Merlin, of Faustus. He can invoke twin daemons. They can have modern, secular names. They can be labelled Genetics and Artificial Intelligence. Their forms are woven out of information, out of language, but it is the language of human reality, of the body and the mind. They are weak, and embryonic, not yet powers, but they will be. With them we will have the knowledge to change ourselves, to remake ourselves, to transfer ourselves into other forms.
With our knowledge of the genetic code we will alter our physical nature. We will increase our lifespan, conquer diseases, reproduce, without sex, outside the body. We will clone and replicate ourselves, engineer our children and determine the characteristics of those children. We will evade disability without needing to employ abortion, increase beauty and intelligence, identify who it is safe to mate with, know our genetic identity and have it known by others, and know the risks it brings us. We will have learnt enough to alter identity, temperament, personality, ability. Our own genetic nature will be ‘a resource’.
And we can do all this to animals too. We can make them redundant as food by engineering equivalents, and stop torturing them in experiments to help us to new knowledge. We can store their genetic forms, and resurrect them, clone them, and extinguish them. All this will be ruled by economic and political forces? Human beings will be commoditised, tailored, sanitised, and pressurised to adopt the technology or fail to compete? Or perhaps, if we are very clever, it will be ruled by ethical debate, a feeling for the sacred, a sense of genetic responsibility, a moral framework, where love, compassion, freedom, and kindness drive reason and technology?
With artificial intelligence, rather than working from the gene outwards, we will work from the mind inwards. Understanding mental processes of which consciousness will be one (and many), and using the increasing power of computer technology, we will enhance our minds, and build minds. We will amplify our memories, our processing capabilities, our reasoning powers. We will compete with each other, by enabling ourselves to become cleverer than each other, by altering our own brains to become different individuals, a different self. Or we will transfer our mental abilities into machines. We will create computers that think. Not twentieth century computers, that carry out limited logical instructions, without senses or self-reference, without emotions or reasoning, without consciousness. But fully conscious machines which will have personalities, individuality (and feelings, or they will not be able to think fully). They will be freed from the limitations of our bodies, as powerful as physics will allow, cleverer than us, more intelligent than us, rendering us an inferior species, capable of retiring us, and building their own successors. Should we not say, they will be us? That it is not the species that will end but our old organic bodies? The species will migrate into other substance, and another level of intelligence and consciousness. The Goddess and the God, as Woman and Man, as Nature and World will no longer exist. What we know now is not what we will be, then.
This is not fiction. It is potentially, at some near stage in our future, cold scientific fact. The direction of Science is already laid out. Biotechnology and Information technology are already two massive growth areas in Science, and, with more direct impact on us, in applied Technology. Some things may not be attempted for a very long time. But the reality of Science is that its developments always take longer than we think but always come upon us faster than we can control. These are ‘brave new worlds’. They can be as Miranda imagined them, or, as Prospero’s reply, ‘’Tis new, to thee’, with a realism born of experience, expressed, replete with all the old evils, compounded by Scientific power, robbed of the values of the benign creative incarnations of the Goddess.
Might we have the power to control the God we have created, this two-faced God of Science? Coupled with Commerce he is a ravening God. Where will Love live? Where will solitude be? Will Love be our refuge, in the sacred temple of the individual, the human mind? We know we are only creatures. We know the process, Evolution, which brought us here. We can see where we have come from. The spiritual and the sacred were in Nature, and in our minds and bodies. There was nowhere else for them to be. If we destroy Nature, and sever ourselves from our existing bodies, if we transform our minds, our worlds, and the universe, what will we be, and how can we be? The Goddess is silent, so is the God.
Science often gives the impression that nothing in its research is wrong, that nothing will go wrong. There are issues to be faced in applying knowledge but all will be well. Why then do we feel unease and an instinctive deep concern? Are these visions the visions of the better worlds Humanity dreamed of? These new territories of Science are infinitely more challenging, infinitely more dangerous than those of the past, because they are the worlds of which we ourselves are made. To destroy external Nature, to rape the Goddess is one thing. To destroy one’s own self, is something quite different, as Shakespeare’s antagonists discover, as Faustus discovers. The descent to hell is easy, said Hesiod, and Virgil. ‘Come not, Lucifer!’ cried Marlowe’s Faustus ‘ I’ll burn my books!’
We can remember the Goddess. We can remember her benign values, to be true, to be sensitive, to be kind. They are the values that come out of empathy, and nurture, out of our genetic history, out of the animal kingdom, out of Nature. They are compromised and often rejected by the rapacious, tyrannical God, the God who is technology and commerce. It is the God we allow ourselves to worship, the one to whom, if we lose our nerve, we transfer our love. There is nothing more evil to the soul than to worship the wrong God.
We can retell our own story. Nature was once a vast external mystery. Powerless in front of mystery, our response was fear and awe, and the creation of religions. Gradually reason allowed us to dispel mystery. We took food and fire from Nature, energy subdued it, mind explained the chains of cause and effect, and theory anticipated the future. Experiment, and action, successfully repeated became knowledge. A social order was built on the back of our technologies.
Then emotion held us back. Knowledge brought guilt; the fear of having broken some externally imposed law, of having initiated actions with terrible consequences. Too much knowledge might be error, sin. Guilt was assuaged by sacrifice, by piety, by prayer. It was in the interests of an existing social order to encourage guilt, to create taboos, to embed sacrifice in ritual, to warn of the dangers of excess, so that challenge to that order was minimised. To break the taboos, to think the unacceptable, was heresy.
To change the existing order required exceptional courage and a social Revolution. So that each step forward in knowledge was dangerous, and often it was followed by disaster, by backward steps, dark ages. But gradually knowledge increased, regardless of problems within the social order. The social order was fallible, but true knowledge was immune from that fallibility. The method of acquiring true knowledge was scientific theory, supported by experiment and application. The true knowledge itself is Science.
In the process of acquiring knowledge we have understood that the Universe is indifferent to us, and without directing mind. Given sufficient knowledge we will acquire sufficient power to make all Nature, the everything outside us, a resource. Nature is then totally our possession, our object, neutral and pliable. Given knowledge we will have endless energy at our disposal. We can then mould Nature as we desire, and the mysteries will be dispelled.
We have also understood that we ourselves, our own bodies and minds, are built of neutral and indifferent content. We are here because we have passed through the filter of natural selection. The random mutations within our genetic structure were eliminated if they were relatively harmful to survival, otherwise retained and coded into the information content of our cells. We have begun to understand that genetic information, to read the code, and comprehend the book of the body. In that process we have seen that there is nothing but process, nothing but information, nothing but what is bounded inside the mind and body themselves. Consciousness is a feature of the structure and process in our minds, is itself a set of processes. The mind is difficult to enter, difficult to experiment with. We are only at the first beginnings of understanding the processes of mind. We will have to move from the simplest functions to the most complex, but we will eventually understand how it works. We have always, when we set our minds to it, been able to progress our understanding of how things work.
We have learnt therefore that we will be able to change ourselves and to transform ourselves, until we no longer are ourselves. If what we are is information, then we can do with it what we can do with any information. We can copy it, alter it, add to it, subtract from it, store it elsewhere in a different medium, and translate it from one language to another. The body can be a different body, made from different matter, equipped with different senses, imperishable, infinitely more powerful, needing little or no resources to run. The mind can be recreated as its processes in any medium that can sustain them. We can have mind without, in a sense, any body at all, just as we can have body without mind. We can have spare bodies or spare minds, we can have enhanced bodies or enhanced minds, we can have networks of linked bodies and minds. We can, in a further extension, become merely information, located as one entity, a network of entities, or individual entities. We can disperse the self, and change the meaning of self. What science fiction has speculated about, we will do.
That is the agenda of Science. If we pretend otherwise we will be deceiving ourselves. Curiosity runs too deep for us ever to call a universal halt. Those who remain religious will continue to operate a dual system for their own mental convenience. It does not matter how many philosophers or theologians debate the issue, it will not change the agenda. It has not done so for the last four hundred years, and there are no signs of it doing so now.
But we have also learnt something else. That we, as we are currently constituted, have a value system embedded deep within us, that came out of our mammalian heritage, out of nurture, bonding, survival through co-operation. It is built into our sexual rituals and into our social structures. We are an inconsistent species, though, since that system is not operational in all its individuals, or in all societies, or for all of the time. Alongside it is another value system we also inherited that came out of our predatory heritage, that of curiosity, cunning and competition.
The first value system is based on seeking truth and being true, on feeling empathy and understanding others, on generosity and kindness. We have extended it culturally to reflect our compromise between living as individuals, and living as a group. If we are fully intelligent we are culturally conditioned now to see the world in terms of rights, fairness, and justice. The nurturing approach combined with our sexual warmth is Love. Love wishes the best for what it loves. Out of that wish comes the desire for equality, for justice, for rights, for the individual to fulfil its potential whatever that might be. It is a value system without fear except fear for what is loved, full of joy in what is loved, creating peace as its context. It delights the spirit, and it extends through creativity the capability of the human. But it is not universal.
The second value system is based on achievement, on knowing more, on having more, on controlling more. We have used it to fuel our projects, to increase our wealth, to empower our fragile bodies, to extend our life span, to conquer all other species. There have been many disasters in human and animal terms along the way, and so we have curbed it with law, and surrounded it with guardians. We have failed to curb it universally, but that is a stage we are passing through. Its by-product is a cultural conditioning, in most of the species, that declares power to be effective. Power can be misused if individuals do not feel love in all its aspects, or only perhaps a limited self-love or a love of chosen objects only. Since its misuse is rarely punished, or may not be capable of being punished, then cunning, competition, and knowledge rule. This is the way of Power.
Between Love and Power there is no easy compromise. Since the Greeks Western Society has sought to impose the way of Love on the way of Power, using Power itself to serve Love and punish the misuse of Power. Unfortunately Love is damaged by Power. Some individuals have chosen the way of Love without Power. Some groups have chosen to try and balance Love with limited Power, to attempt the Utopia of a self-restraining Love. All Utopias have fallen to the ravages of Power from within or without.
Science as a servant of Love is beneficent. Science in the service of misused Power is malificent. Science as a path of cumulative knowledge, as the search for Truth is neither. The challenge for the future is therefore this. The Scientific agenda will progress. We know conceptually what will be delivered, without knowing yet the ‘what’ or the ‘how’ of the actual delivery. The result of our second value system has been to threaten the first. Where nature is only a resource, then we have exploitation and destruction. Where everything is mindless and knowable, then how can we feel awe? And how can we create? Where there is no mystery, we have only ourselves. ‘And if I am only for myself, then what am I?’ said Hillel. In the future if we are only information, not this mind, not this body, then what are we?
Our social reflex is to hold on to the order we have for fear of the disorder we might bring, and yet the irony is that the scientific project and the deployment of innovation driven by competition will implicitly destabilise the world we are in. Faced with instability and endless change, lacking any external support, dependent only on our own biological and cultural values, we are putting our hands to the reins of the Sun God’s chariot. Power’s tragedy is the desolation of the spirit. Love’s tragedy is the isolation and powerlessness of the spirit. What use is it to complain of the wasteland if it is one we have made?
Science, by searching for Truth, has exposed us to the indifference of the Universe. Our sole resource is Love and Love’s values, empathy, endurance, kindness. If the deepest awe that we can feel is not the awe of mystery but only the awe of beauty, and if the deepest solace we can find is only the solace of escaping from humanity into the constantly assailed silence of the non-human, and if our deepest delights are in the private, the personal, and the insignificant, then perhaps the highest aspirations of our society have to be that beauty, that solace, that friendship, and that privacy. If we do not know what we want, then no God or Goddess will tell us.
Science is Daedalus the artificer, making the maze, the dancing floor of Ariadne, which imprisons the Minotaur. The creature is an image of ourselves, half-human, half-animal. Daedalus bends to make the wings of wax for Icarus. They take flight, but Icarus cannot control his path. Like Phaethon he challenges the Sun, and plunges from Heaven to Earth. It is all beyond his strength. He falls into the waves. But Daedalus safely travels beyond. In Cumae he dedicates his wings to Apollo, God of Moderation, and builds a golden temple for him, where Diophebe, the Sybil will prophesy. Finally in Sicily he makes, for the Goddess at Eryx, a golden honeycomb. ‘This infinite hive of honey, this insatiable whirlpool of the covetous mind’ said Donne ‘no dissection hath discovered to us’ and yet ‘for spiritual things.... we have no room; for temporal things... we have no bounds.’ Plato through the mouth of Socrates tells us, in the Protagoras, what was inscribed in Apollo’s temple at Delphi, as a warning to Humanity. ‘Know yourself’. ‘Nothing in excess’.
The myth of the Goddess is the history of our inner nature, reflected in an outer Nature. In her are the natural values we say we desire, those values which are grounded in our origins, woven through natural selection into the honeycomb of our bodies, embedded in our civilisation. There is no conflict between our knowledge of our animal descent, through the sieve of natural selection, written in our genetic inheritance, our physical reality, and the benign values of the Goddess which come out of that same history. They are the values of nurture, empathy, generosity, loyalty and courage. From the animal base, from the primitive acropolis, we have lifted to the Heavens on our waxen wings. We are still, though, the creature imprisoned in the Labyrinth we also have made. We are surrounded by walls, mazed by knowledge, mirrored by the bronze, trapped in a body half human mind, and half animal origin.
External Nature is the shrine of Artemis, full of her creatures, her distance, her silence, her still and moving waters, her woods and hills, echoing back to humanity, in deep resonance, the creative forces in ourselves. What is sacrilege, but to enter mindlessly, and destroy wantonly, the sacred grove? Our internal Nature likewise, is a mortal labyrinth where we can go fearfully and with awe, or mindlessly with violence and crudeness. When Theseus reached the centre of the labyrinth, and killed Asterion, the man-bull, without compassion, he in turn became the monster. He in turn was the living thing imprisoned in the corridors and behind walls, in the darkness, separated from Nature. ‘He slew there the Minotaur’ says Plutarch, ‘by the means and help of Ariadne; who being fallen in fancy with him, did give him a clue of thread, by the help wherof she taught him, how he might wind out of the turnings and cranks of the Labyrinth’. That Ariadne, the ‘most pure’, the incarnation of the Goddess and her values, Theseus abandoned and betrayed. From his Athens, through means of powerful ideas originating in the Greek experience, Humanity, the artificer, has gone on to make this scientific world, this New Labyrinth. We are Daedalus. We are the Minotaur. We are Theseus, and Ariadne has placed the thread in our hands.
Copyright © 2000 A. S. Kline, All Rights Reserved
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Last Modified 08/02/2000