A Crucial Time of Choice
As a Jungian analyst and a historian, I would like to offer an archetypal overview of why the current crisis may have come into being; showing when, where and how the masculine and feminine archetypes – reflected in the image of a God or Goddess – became separated, and why this separation has had such a deep impact on Western civilization. I am not speaking only of the pandemic but the far greater challenge of climate change.
We live in a world that has been governed by the masculine archetype for some 4,000 years, with no feminine archetype to balance it, no sacred marriage between them. (1)As a result, world culture and the human psyche have become dangerously out of balance, out of alignment with the Earth and the Cosmos. Forty or so years ago I had a visionary dream of a Cosmic Woman. Since then, my life has been focused on the recovery and restoration of the feminine archetype — the archetype that stands for our relationship with Nature, the Earth and the Cosmos. It also stands for a totally different perspective on life, a perspective which recognizes that we live on a sacred planet: that our human lives participate in a Sacred Cosmic Order and that our role as humans is to care for the life of this planet.The Feminine stands for the soul, for the heart, and for compassion and justice — the two primary values which protect and serve life. It is summed up in this statement by a Council of the Indigenous People of North America:
“All Life is sacred. We come into Life as sacred beings. When we abuse the sacredness of Life we affect all Creation.”
Today we are faced with a choice — a choice that will determine whether or not we survive as a species. Through ignorance, hubris and the belief that we could dominate nature to the advantage of our species alone, we have interfered so disastrously with the organism of the planet, that over the last 50 years, our growing numbers and our mindless exploitation of its resources have brought about not only the destruction of 60% of all species but also the crisis of climate change. (2)
This is a time of great peril, but also of unparalleled opportunity. Never before in our species memory has there been this collective opportunity to change course before it is too late. We need to understand why we have lost touch with Nature and why we have learned so little from our spiritual traditions that we are prepared to destroy God’s creation with our nuclear weapons, whose very existence pollutes the Earth. (3)
Two thousand years ago this prophecy was recorded in the Fourth Gospel of the Essenes. This Gospel, and three others, were discovered by Edmund Szekely in the secret archives of the Vatican in the 1930’s and translated from the Aramaic by him:
“But there will come a day when the Son of Man will turn his face from his Earthly Mother and betray her, even denying his Mother and his birth right. Then shall he sell her into slavery, and her flesh shall be ravaged, her blood polluted, and her breath smothered; he will bring the fire of death into all the parts of her kingdom, and his hunger will devour all her gifts and leave in their place only a desert.
All these things he will do out of ignorance of the Law, and as a man dying slowly cannot smell his own stench, so will the Son of Man be blind to the truth: that as he plunders and ravages and destroys his Earthly Mother, so does he plunder and ravage and destroy himself. For he was born of his Earthly Mother, and he is one with her, and all that he does to his Mother even so does he do to himself.”
Every word of this prophecy has come true. Believing ourselves to be separate from and above Nature, and having no idea of why we are on this planet, we have grossly interfered with the harmony of the natural world and are bringing disease and possible extinction upon ourselves.
In the words of an American philosopher, William Ophuls, “What the impending ecological crisis forces us to confront is that we have sacrificed meaning, morality, and almost all higher values for the ‘sordid boon’ of material wealth and wordly power. To keep drinking from this poisoned chalice will bring only sickness and death.” (4)
In order to transform our present view of reality we need to understand the ideas and beliefs that have created it. When did we lose the awareness that all life is sacred? Why did we lose the feminine archetype that connected us to Nature?
Owing to the researches that I and a number of women have made over the last 40 years, we now know that in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras, the principal deity worshipped was the Great Mother. In this forgotten cosmology, there wasno Creator beyond creation. Creation emerged from the womb of the Great Mother. All species, including our own, were her children. Everything on Earth and in the Cosmos was connected through relationship with her, part of a sacred Web of Life. (5)
Then, around 2,000 BCE in the Middle East, there was a change so great that its repercussions are still felt today because it has been the major influence on Western civilization. (6)This change was the replacement of the Great Mother by the Great Father, with an intervening period when there were both goddesses and gods. As the monotheistic Father God brought creation into being as something separate and distant from himself, so Nature gradually became split off from Spirit and was no longer sacred. Simultaneously, the rise of powerful city states in the Middle East led to conflict between them and to the creation of a succession of vast empires ruled by powerful kings and emperors: Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman. The theme of conquest, domination and the pursuit of power laid down so long ago continues to this day with the leaders of the current great empires — China, Russia and America. (7)
Although the architectural, artistic and literary creations of the last four thousand years were extraordinary, the suffering endured was unimaginable. Millions of young men lost their lives and died in atrocious pain. Millions of women and children were raped and sold into slavery in the same way that the tragic Yazidi women were raped and sold by Islamic State. Deep traumas were created in the collective psyche of humanity that are unhealed to this day. During these thousands of years of war, we forgot about Nature and our relationship with her. Gradually, we developed the idea that we were above Nature, entitled to control and dominate her for the benefit of our species alone. To summarize: the change in the image of deity was a primary factor in separating Nature from Spirit. It led to a polarizing dualism that henceforth structured our concept of reality.
There was a second factor that, in my view, contributed to the loss of the sacredness of nature: a forgotten event that has had a devastating influence on patriarchal culture, the oppression of women, and our relationship with the planet. The story of it has been told by the Old Testament scholar, Margaret Barker, and by Dr. Betty J. Kovacs in her recently published book, Merchants of Light. (8)
What happened was this: the Jewish people once worshipped both a Goddess and a God, a Queen and a King of Heaven, who together created the world. But in 621 BCE under a king called Josiah, a powerful group of priests called Deuteronomists took control of the First Temple in Jerusalem. They removed every trace of the Goddess Asherah, the Queen of Heaven, who was worshipped as the Holy Spirit and Divine Wisdom and also as the Tree of Life — a cosmic Tree that connected the invisible and visible worlds, and whose fruit was the gift of immortality. The ancient shamanic rituals of the High Priest which had honoured and communed with the Queen of Heaven as the Tree of Life, Divine Wisdom and the Holy Spirit were replaced by new rituals based on obedience to Yahweh’s Law. Dr. Margaret Barker writes:
In the most ancient tradition of Israel, Yahweh was both female and male, and it was they who co-created the world. The feminine side of Yahweh was called Wisdom, the consort of Yahweh, the Queen of Heaven, the bright and radiant one whose teaching was like the light of the dawn. But Wisdom was abandoned by her husband.” (9)
In another book, she says that it was the First Temple that was remembered by many as the true Temple – and Wisdom, the Queen of Heaven, was at the heart of that temple tradition. (10)
But the Deuteronomists didn’t stop there. They also created the Myth of the Fall (Genesis 2 & 3) with its punishing God and its grim message of disobedience, sin, guilt, suffering and the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. They demoted the Queen of Heaven – whose title was ‘Mother of All Living’ – into the human figure of Eve, giving her the same title as the former Goddess and placing two Trees in the Garden of Eden instead of one. They blamed Eve for the sin of disobedience that brought about the Fall and for bringing sin, suffering and death into the world. Henceforth, all women would be contaminated by Eve’s sin and would have to be under men’s control lest they create further disasters.
Speaking as a therapist, I cannot begin to tell you the catastrophic effects of this myth on Christian civilization and how deeply it affected men, women and children, imprinting them with a conviction of guilt, shame and sin. From it there developed the pernicious idea that the whole human race was fallen, tainted by sin, punished for a primordial act of disobedience to God. The created world was no longer sacred – a manifestation of the Tree of Life – but was viewed as contaminated by the Fall. A woman was initially to blame for all this and woman’s long oppression, even persecution, stems directly from this myth. During the patriarchal era, in every culture in the world except the Indigenous ones, she was disempowered. Her voice was silenced for millennia and is just beginning to be heard.
Yahweh was left as the sole transcendent Creator God: The Divine Feminine aspect of God was deleted from the god-head. The only place where the concept of the sacred marriage survived was in the mystical Jewish tradition of Kabbalah, known as the Voice of the Dove. (11)The presence of the Divine Feminine in the god-head was not only banished from Judaism, but also from Christianity because it took its image of God from Judaism. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, the Trinity was defined in wholly male imagery and the Holy Spirit lost its previous feminine identity. (12)Islam from the seventh century CE also had a sole male creator god.
The end-result of this new polarizing cosmology was that life on earth was split off from the divine world: Nature was split off from Spirit. Men defined themselves as the superior gender and unconsciously identified themselves with Spirit. They identified women with Nature. Body was split off from mind and mind from soul. Sexuality came to be regarded as sinful, the main impediment to spirituality. (13)St. Augustine’s conviction (in his City of God) that original sin was transmitted through the sexual act deeply imprinted the Christian psyche with guilt and shame. (14)The patriarchal religions defined woman’s only role as one of obedience and service to man and the carrier of his seed. All this was a complete reversal of the earlier cosmology focused on the Great Mother.
There is one further factor that needs to be included in this story. This was the deliberate decision by the Roman Church to eradicate all trace of Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene (15)and create the vicious calumny of Mary as a penitent whore (16) that was not removed until 1969 by Pope Pius VI. In the four canonical gospels the female companions of Jesus are cited on only seven occasions. In six of these Mary Magdalene is the first woman named. In the seventh Jesus’ mother comes first. Why would Mary’s name appear first of a group of women in all but one of these lists if she were not the wife of Jesus? It is inconceivable that Jesus, a Rabbi, would have an unmarried woman following him around during his Mission. He frequently stayed at the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. In all four gospels, Mary is described as present at the crucifixion of Jesus, standing with his mother and sister at the foot of the cross. She would not have been allowed access to the sepulchre, with or without other women accompanying her unless, as his wife, she had come to anoint his body, as was the burial custom at that time—a custom which is alluded to in Mark 16:1.
To get a truer picture of their relationship, we need to turn to the Nag Hammadi texts discovered in 1945 and to the gnostic Gospel of Philip and a text called The Dialogue of the Savior.(17)Finally, there is an extraordinary Greek text called The Gospel of the Beloved Companion, said to have been brought from Alexandria to the Languedoc area of France in the early to middle part of the first century CE and passed down from hand to hand in a closed community in that area for generations, until the present time. It has been translated from the Greek by Jehanne de Quillan and published in 2010. It reads like an eye-witness account of someone who was very close to Jesus and who was given a hidden aspect of his teaching that is missing in the Gospel of Mary that is known to us and was evidently not divulged to some of his closest disciples. (18)
Think what it would have meant for the development of Western civilization if the union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been celebrated by the Church founded in his name. Had their marriage been recognized and Jesus not turned into the celibate Son of God, (19)Christianity would have had a totally different history, without a celibate male priesthood harbouring a deep suspicion of and contempt for women and without the persecution of women in the witch trials that scarred Europe for five centuries and resulted in the death at the stake of an estimated 100,000 women. (20)The long addiction to absolute power and control on the part of the Catholic Church laid down the pattern of domination and the extermination of heretics and other innocents which found its ultimate expression in the ‘Final Solution’ of Nazi Germany.
Returning to the wider picture, the monotheistic cosmology of the three patriarchal religions has led to the situation where the Earth is no longer viewed as sacred and we are confronted with the catastrophic effects of the loss of the Divine Feminine. They did not teach reverence and respect for a sacred Earth. They pursued endless wars, conquests and brutal conversions in the name of their God. They treated other races as inferior and subject to the white race and the God they worshipped. A series of Papal Bulls from 1493 gave the European nations permission to invade, capture, subdue and enslave the indigenous populations and to seize all their lands and possessions. (21)Because of this history, we have been on the wrong path for more than two thousand years, out of alignment with the Earth and the Cosmos. It has led us to this time of crisis and awakening and to the need for a New Story, a story that tells us that we are the life and breath of the Divine in human form and that all life is infused with Divinity. (22)
For a very long time now, the primary experience of human consciousness has been one of increasing alienation from Nature, culminating in the ideology of technological progress and limitless growth that is unrelated to the needs of the planet and our utter dependence on the viability of its life. Our current worldview, whether West or East, rests on the premise of our mastery of Nature, where the diminishing resources of the planet are unthinkingly plundered to serve the ever-growing numbers and needs of our species alone.
Materialist or reductionist science – a further example of a powerful, dominating ideology – built on the flawed or unbalanced foundation bequeathed to it by patriarchal religion and has dispensed with both God and the soul. It tells us that the universe is without life, purpose or meaning. When the physical brain dies, that is the end of us. The highest authority is the rational mind. We are separate from the world around us. The Master Story is technological progress. I think this explains why, in a worldwide culture deeply influenced by this secular philosophy, we have come to believe that it doesn’t matter what we do to matter – that Nature and matter are not sacred, that we are not part of that sacredness. This is why there is no foundation for morality in our relationship with the Earth. What we think we need, we take.
The psychiatrist, C.G. Jung, could see the dangers of this materialist philosophy and commented: “As scientific understanding has grown, so our world has become dehumanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional “unconscious identity” with natural phenomena… No voices now speak to man from stones, plants, and animals, nor does he speak to them believing they can hear. His contact with nature has gone.” (23)
In another passage, he describes how, as the conscious mind gained more and more autonomy and independence from the deeper matrix of the psyche, the whole super-structure of consciousness became disengaged from the age-old instinctive ground out of which it has developed. “Consciousness thus torn from its roots…”, he said, “possesses a Promethean freedom but it also partakes of the nature of a godless hybris.” (24)
Once, long ago, the world was experienced as alive with spirit. Nature was part of a sacred cosmic whole. In spite of horrendous persecution, the Indigenous peoples of the world have kept alive this awareness of the sacredness of nature and the idea of our kinship with all creation. They also have preserved what Riane Eisler calls a Partnership society rather than one based on Domination. (25)
The New Story emerging in quantum physics tells us that the whole universe is a unified field. Our lives are part of a cosmic web of life which connects all life forms in the universe and on our planet. Every atom of life interacts with every other atom, no matter how distant. We are not only connected through the Internet but through the infinitesimal particles of sub-atomic matter. We are part of an ‘Infinitude of Consciousness’(26)which sustains not only our world, but the entire universe. This restores the original cosmology of the Great Mother at a new level of understanding.
A new vision is struggling to be born; a new vision of our profound relationship with an intelligent, living and interconnected universe. The realization is dawning that we are participants in a Cosmic Consciousness or Intelligence which is present in every atom of our being and every particle of matter.
We are called to a profound process of transformation that is manifesting as a new planetary consciousness: a consciousness which recognizes that we are part of a Sacred Web of Life. Sir David Attenborough has shown us that we are part of the biodiversity of the planet. Whatever we do to the planet affects us. (27)In his new book, A Life on Our Planet,and in his programme on Netflix, he says that we have come to regard the Earth as “Our planet, run by human kind for human kind. We have moved from being part of Nature to being apart from Nature.”
Thousands, even millions of us, are joining groups like Humanity Rising, working together to create a new civilization based on different values and a different relationship with the planet. (28)We need a science and a technology that does not seek to dominate nature but works with nature, humbly respecting its harmonious order. (29)We need enlightened men and women, who are not driven by the will to power, to establish the values and the practices that could transform our relationship with the planet into one of love and care.
This pandemic carries an urgent message for us to wake up to the small window of opportunity we have to change course before it’s too late. This means change in every sphere of life: change in the very concept of what it means to be human and living on this extraordinary planet — change above all, in our relationship with the planet and all the species it sustains. We tread a path which is on the knife-edge between the conscious integration of a new vision on the one hand and the virtual extinction of our species on the other. Which path will we choose?
1. For a detailed exploration of this statement, see Baring, Anne & Cashford, Jules, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, Penguin, Harmondsworth, London 1992 and The Dream of the Cosmos: A Quest for the Soul, Archive Publishing, Shaftesbury, Dorset, 2013 & 2020, Chapter 6, The Separation from Nature and the Battle Between Good and Evil
2. see the warning given by Sir David Attenborough BBC 1, 13/9/20
3. There are currently (2020) over 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world, many of them primed and ready for launch in minutes. $100 billion per year is spent designing, developing and deploying nuclear weapons.
4. Ophuls, William, Apologies to the Grandchildren, 2018 Independently published, p. 21
5. see The Dream of the Cosmos, Chapter 4 The Great Mother
6. One major example of this change was the influential Babylonian Epic of Creation (The Enuma Elish) ca 1700 BCE where the god Marduk kills the Mother Goddess Tiamat and creates heaven and earth from her split carcass. This was the model for future myths of the hero’s fight with the dragon. See Chapter 7, The Myth of the Goddess
7. For the theme of Domination, see Eisler, Riane and Fry, Douglas P., Nurturing Our Humanity, How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future, OUP 2019.
8. Kovacs, Dr. Betty J. Merchants of Light: The Consciousness that is Changing the World, Chapter 11 and p. 254
9. Barker, Dr. Margaret, The Great High Priest, 2003, p. 236. In Temple Theology, she comments that the most important result of Josiah’s purge was the introduction of monotheism. p. 7
10. Barker, Dr. Margaret, The Great Angel, p. 14. See also The Revelation of Jesus Christ, T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 2000, pp. 15-17 and Chapter 13 The Woman Clothed with the Sun.
11. For the principal concepts of Kabbalism, see Baring, Anne, The Dream of the Cosmos, Chapter 3
12. At this Council the Christian Trinity was rendered entirely masculine. The former feminine gender of the Holy Spirit, described in the Book of Proverbs and in the Apocrypha (the Books of Ben Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon), was permanently lost to Christianity. The Hebrew word for Spirit was ruach, a feminine noun. Translated into Greek, it became a neutral noun, pneuma. Translated from Greek into Latin, it became the masculine Spiritus Sanctus.In this way, the former feminine identity of the Holy Spirit was erased, assisted by
St. Augustine’s treatise on the Trinity: de Trinitate.
13. For the attitude to sexuality and the virulent misogyny of the Early Christian Fathers, see The Dream of the Cosmos, Chapters 7 & 8
14. This conviction passed into Church Law at a Council in Carthage (418 CE) which formulated the Doctrine of Original Sin.
15. The books of Laurence Gardner provide detailed evidence that the Vatican moved heaven and earth to conceal the fact of their marriage and that it holds a document called the DesposyniChart that provides evidence of their marriage and the existence of their children. The Magdalene Legacy, Element, London, 2005 and The Grail Enigma2008 HarperElement, London. Mary Magdalene was recognized as the consort of Jesus by the religious orders in France, where she lived and taught for twenty years, and by the Knights Templar as well as by the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit, established in France in 1157 and destroyed by the Albigensian Crusade of 1209 and the Inquisition.
16. In a sermon given by Pope Gregory the Great in 591 CE
17. Robinson JM (ed.) (1977) Nag Hammadi Library (NHL).Leiden: E.J. Brill, ‘Dialogue of the Savior’, pp. 230–238, 235 and The Gospel of Philip, pp. 135–36. The Greek word koinonôsused in these texts can have the meaning of consort or wedded partner as well as partner, friend or companion in faith.
18. Éditions Athara, Foix 2010 now also translated into English (Amazon). The Greek text was translated into Occitan, the language of the Languedoc, in the early part of the 12thcentury. It was, I believe, the most precious document guarded by the Cathar Church of the Holy Spirit and was possibly removed just before the capitulation of the fortress of Montségur in 1244.
19. From the Church’s point of view, Jesus, as the Son of God, had to be celibate or the whole foundation of the Church as the Bride of Christ, served by celibate priests, as well as the authenticity of the Apostolic Succession, would have been compromised.
20. The practice of priestly celibacy in the Western Church was imposed in the two Lateran Councils held in 1123 and 1139, when a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. The Catholic Church still will not allow women to become priests. The figure of 100,000 is taken from Eisler and Fry, p. 263. A Decree of July 2010 stated that the ordination of women was one of the most serious crimes in Canon Law. See The Dream of the Cosmos, Chapter 8, p. 170
21. Kovacs, p. 437
22. This New Story has been defined in The Dream of the Cosmos, Chapters 17 & 20
23. Jung, C.G. Man and His Symbols, p. 95
24. Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower, p. 85
25. Eisler, Riane & Fry, Douglas P. Nurturing Our Humanity, 2019
26. An expression used by Dr Larry Dossey
27. In a programme on BBC1 on 13/9/20
28. An online initiative started in Spring 2020 by Jim Garrison, Founder and President of Ubiquity University
29. as in Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life 2020.
This article was originally given as a talk for Jim Garrison’s ‘Humanity Rising’ Series, Day 82, August 11th, 2020 and was published in Paradigm Explorer, the magazine of the Scientific and Medical Network in January 2021
For a computer-aided reconstruction of the face of Mary Magdalene from her skull and a lock of hair preserved in the Basilica of Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume,the third most important Christian shrine after St. Peter’s and the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, see