We’ve added a short story by William Kitcher to the Spinozablue mix, and some more paintings by yours truly. As always, your comments and suggestions are most welcome.
Finished Campbell’s fine collection of lectures and informal talks, Goddesses, and had some additional thoughts to share.
First off, I imagine my main takeaways are not the same as other readers, and what stands out for me now may not resonant with the majority. This is likely the case, as they probably wouldn’t have resonated all that much with my younger selves. I remember focusing more on the mythological stories as stories in their own right, their beauty, strangeness, and mystery, mostly delinked from current concerns or implications. When very young, I think I read them at least in part to escape from the present, not to find those links. I found joy in discovering connections across the ancient world, covert and overt, horizontally. But I rarely, if memory serves, felt much need to connect the ancient with the so-called modern, vertically.
Times have changed, and along with those changes, key questions, obsessions, anxieties, and so on . . .
What led to the shift from polytheism to monotheism? What impact did the shift have on society overall? Would we have been better off if we hadn’t made/accepted so radical a change? Would relationships between men and women have evolved in healthier directions if we had maintained the realm of the Feminine Divine, officially, as opposed to (in a sense) underground? Chthonic, so to speak?
One thing we know with certainty. The change resulted in massive destruction of Pagan art and culture. More than 90% of all Greek and Latin literature, for instance, was destroyed by enraged monotheistic zealots, and intolerance in other forms continues to this day.
This, to me, goes back to the vast differences between polytheism and monotheism, philosophically, structurally, even pragmatically. The former welcomed the many, as far as deities and divine powers go. When one tribe conquered another, or many others, it didn’t feel the need to destroy all vestiges of indigenous religions, mysteries, philosophies. It absorbed, or incorporated, or appropriated what was there before, sometimes changing the names of older deities, but never obliterating them. Myths of marriages between deities, for instance, often reflected historical battles, wars, and profound cultural change. Campbell and a host of other mythologists see them as analogues for cultural, religious, sociological and geographical mergers (in the real world) as well as beautifully poetic, aesthetically remarkable stories. Monotheistic tribes, on the other hand, did not, could not allow this. Their own belief system required the silencing of the past, of all rivals (as they saw them), and their myths show us this. Their myths, well represented in the Bible, tried to make cultural destruction, even genocide, seem “righteous,” by literally demonizing the indigenous. All other gods and goddesses were rebranded as “demons,” no longer the sacred gateways they once had been for their fellow human beings. This just wasn’t done when polytheistic tribes conquered other polytheistic tribes.
To take a few steps back for a moment. It’s not that polytheistic societies were necessarily more welcoming to all and sundry, or less given to misogyny. Terrible injustices existed there as well, of course. But they were at least premised on a foundation of openness, relatively speaking, toward the Divine, and that both Male and Female were essential to earth and the heavens. In the polytheistic world, it was unnatural to limit the Divine to just men, much less to just one man. All they had to do was look at each other to know this.
Could society have developed along far more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic lines if we had maintained a far better balance of Yin and Yang in our religions? More on this later, but, yeah. I vote Yeah.
More new paintings. I use a combination of the Fresh Paint and Gimp programs for most of the following. Free-hand “drawing” with the erasure tool, then back-filling it with a large brush. Gimp to create backgrounds and textures, including a simulated “canvas” look for some. Hat tip/homage to Kandinsky for Caves16 and 19: