Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Roger Vandersteine, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, 1975

THE GENESIS MYTH yields a rich harvest of illuminating insights. Eve is blamed for the Fall. The Serpent directs his sales pitch at her and she takes the first bite of the Forbidden Fruit which endows her with sudden self-awareness. She offers the Fruit to Adam but as he sinks his teeth into it, God's voice comes booming out from concealed loudspeakers, causing the original attack of Fear and Guilt.

"Gulp!" bleats Adam with a chunk of "apple" stuck in his throat: "She made me do it!" What else can you expect? The scriptures were authored by MEN.

From the evolutionary viewpoint, however, the Serpent is a metaphor for the Vital Force (which yogis call kundalini); and Eve is the principle of curiosity, receptivity, adventurousness. In other words, the spirit of scientific research. What about Adam? He robotically obeys his programming until encouraged by Eve to experiment. But before he can swallow and digest the Experience, he goes into a total funk and tries to pass the buck.

Quite despicable and most unmanly (or should I say unwomanly?) - but fairly typical behavior in male-dominated power politics. To cover up their moral cowardice men perform assorted acts of physical bravado. As a child Saddam Hussein had his cheeks pinched by all his aunts and uncles, but just look at him now: SADDAM! Even his name sounds like the pounding of great big guns.

People used to call George Bush a sneaky little wimp. Not any more: BUSH! and there's a great big crater in the desert. Being extremely horny may be a nice macho feeling - but it's no excuse for rape.

I know two well-circulated feminist jokes. The first is about the astronaut who encounters God in deep space. On his return to Earth he's asked to describe God and he just laughs and says: "Boy, have I got a surprise for you. She's black!" The other joke has it that women are superior to men for the obvious reason that God is a perfectionist who learns from his mistakes; when God decided to create Woman he was a little more experienced.

Consider next the structure of the sex chromosome: females are double X-rated while males result from XY combinations. Geneticists say the Y chromosome is really just a deformed and undersized X chromosome. Sorry, guys, but facts is facts.

Did I hear Harry yell, "Traitor!" Hey, I'm not undergoing a sex change. I'm quite happily male, thank you, and the preceding polemic is essentially a scheme to improve my chances of getting laid. Seriously, though, I do have genetic memories (or at least vivid fantasies) of having lived female lives and I'm convinced that individuals often switch genders in the course of their earthly incarnations. They also tend to experiment with a variety of ethnic and geographic combinations - so let's all hurry up and outgrow racialistic-nationalistic nappy-rash jingoism. It's not so cute anymore.

And while we're at it, let's declare a general armistice in the Battle of the Sexes and put sexism to bed where it belongs. Here, you can wear the pants. I'm quite comfortable in my sarong.

Another aspect of the Feminine Principle that fascinates me is the dramatic transformation that Motherhood brings about: from lithe and slender flowerbud to bulbous huge ripe pear state is an awesome procedure. And when they spring right back to fantasizable size, it's another miracle all over.

I know the institution of Motherhood is sacrosanct (after all it's a vestige of Goddess worship) and it brooks no criticism - but I can't help noticing the psychological stranglehold that so many mothers seem to maintain on their children. Somehow the influence of the Father appears easier to shrug off.

Not in every case, I agree, but the number of middle-aged men and women who can be plunged into depression with just one Christmas phonecall to their dear Momsies far outweigh those who continue to recoil from their Daddy's wrath when they're 45 years old. I'm curious to know what the sons of Deng Xiao-ping or Lee Kuan Yew have to say about this. (Pardon me? Can't hear you, the tanks are too noisy...) which leads me to wonder if humans might not fair better reverting to oviparous reproduction ("Quick, Dicky, the egg's getting cold!"); even so I can picture how some mothers may suffocate rather than incubate their offspring.

Smothering beats mothering! ("Oh oh, here comes Mum with the pillow... mmmpfff!") I can't speak from personal experience on this - but does the pain of childbirth leave permanent scars on a mother's brain, causing her to be ambivalent thereafter about her kids? Perhaps our conventional approach to obstetrics should be thrown out with the bathwater: I have friends who have given birth in a tub of warm water with surprising ease and no complications. And no nightmarish fluorescent lights or forceps or masked strangers who rudely snip your cord and spank you for the crime of being born. Surely we're not all too busy being neurotic to think about a few fundamental issues of life-and-death importance?

Anyhow, I'm of the opinion that Motherhood is vastly overrated: it should be gently phased out soon after the child is weaned (yes, I'm all for breastfeeding but that's about as much mothering as anybody really needs, I think).

Have I shocked anyone? Don't misunderstand: every child thrives on tender loving care and lots of attention unstintingly given. And that must come from more than just one source - especially if that one source happens to take the role of Mother too seriously, too dutifully (and perhaps resentfully too, since she seems to have no choice whatsoever).

My real point is this: anyone of any gender can play the role of Mother for a while. Such a vital role demands a platoon of stand-ins; no one should insist on hogging it. Most clear-thinking and farsighted mothers will applaud this trend of thought. But first, we humans have to learn to let go. Insecurity makes us clingy and possessive. Kahlil Gibran said it best:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which
you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth...

Get thee back to the grave, Confucius! Respect for our Youngers is what I preach, and I do try to practice it. Respect, in any case, has to be mutual and spontaneous. Or else it's pure intimidation.

Now, coming back to the idea of Woman as the manifestation of the Goddess. I happen to view ‘chastity’ and 'wantonness' as equally seductive attributes. The Virgin and the Prostitute. Surefire marketing concept, Ms Ciccone aka Madonna. Men, be honest and admit that you desire both these qualities in your women.  Opposites aren't necessarily contradictory; usually they're complementary. Innocence and Experience attract each other. Virgins are still being sold to the highest bidder. Prostitutes work at union rates, negotiable on cold nights. Over here we have a loose woman with tight lips and over there an uptight one with loose lips. Take your pick, brother.

The Goddess is nurturer and destroyer in one. Before the birth of the Cosmos, there was the Cosmic Womb which the Egyptians called Nuit, goddess of Night. Others call it the Primordial Chaos. I call it the Matrix of Infinite Possibilities. Maria or Kali, Fairy Godmother or Wicked Witch: she can soothe and she can torment. Like the calm or raging sea, like life or death, the Goddess is not a static reality. She is not rigid with rationality, though she can be entirely reasonable or unreasonable as it pleases her. 

The practice of automatically assigning God the masculine pronoun Him is disturbing, perhaps even dangerous. Our only chance of making it through these apocalyptic times is to restore the Feminine Principle in our religious reckonings; to acknowledge that the sphere of awareness implies a concave as well as a convex dimension, an inner and an outer form.

And most cogently, to realize that the two are an interchangeable oneness in perpetual dynamic equilibrium. Without this understanding, we shall continue to inherit a world governed by overgrown little boys with dangerous toys.

That's right. Don't you be fooled by that funny mustache. He's got a pea-shooter in his pants. And a hot date with Mae West. Or, as visionary historian William IrwinThompson puts it:

"Civilizations, like the penis, rise and fall, and when the towers and the battlements crumble into the earth, they return to the embrace of the Great Mother."  

Pretty Oedipal, eh?

[Written 6 January 1991 and subsequently published in The Star. First posted 18 May 2013. Reposted 15 August 2016]