I have always been fascinated by the power of individuals to shape and influence history. Why do people feel, think and act the way they do? Since I was deeply affected as a child by the Second World War, I wanted to understand the causes – religious, political and psychological – which could drive human beings to the depths of depravity and the heights of altruism and self-sacrifice.
Travelling to India
After I left Oxford University, I took off in 1956 for India and the Far East, having found a job in Italy that commissioned me to purchase photographs of the finest works of art from all the museums in Asia (except China, which was out of bounds at the time) for inclusion in an Italian Encyclopaedia of Art. Attracted to religion, I studied Hinduism and Buddhism as I travelled in search of the required photographs. At the same time, I was asking myself those perennial questions of the soul: Who am I? What is the meaning and purpose of life? Why am I here on this planet? These two journeys to the East changed the course of my life because they put me in touch with the sacred literature and art of ancient and extraordinary cultures which had posed and responded to those questions. Only after studying these in depth did I begin to understand Christianity.
My Life with Robin
I have been married for 60 years to the artist, Robin Baring and we have a dearly loved daughter and grandson. Looking at the body of his work, it seems that he has been painting the images that reflect what I have been writing about. Word and image have become intertwined in our long, happy and creative life together.
After finishing the book, I turned in a totally new direction, becoming a dress designer and manufacturer with my own shop in London. Inspired by the beautiful materials I had discovered in India, I took immense delight in designing evening dresses. This phase lasted for twelve years.
Becoming a Jungian Analyst
Then, issues in my personal life, in particular, severe depression, led me into analysis with a Jungian therapist and, eventually, to train and practise as an analyst myself. This experience deepened my understanding of the causes of human suffering and at the same time brought together a longing to write, a passionate interest in history and a new interest in mythology, religion and psychology.
2000 BC The Great Mother & The Great Father
During the 1980’s I embarked on writing The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image with Jules Cashford, a friend and fellow analyst who had specialised at university in philosophy and English literature. The book took us ten years to write. What interested us most was the influence of the sacred image on Western civilisation and the need to integrate the masculine and feminine principles. The quest to explore this theme led us back to the Neolithic and Palaeolithic eras and the origins of the sacred image, tracing its development through the Bronze Age and beyond.
We wanted to know why and how the image of deity changed from being feminine to masculine (Great Mother to Great Father) at a specific historical time (c.2000 B.C.) and how this change came to polarise spirit and nature, mind and soul, in human consciousness.
We discovered that the polarisation originating so long ago has deeply influenced Judeo-Christian civilisation and the paradigm of reality which presently governs our culture, leading ultimately to the ecological and spiritual crisis we now face.