Derby Unitarians

The Great Cosmic Mother

"The Great Cosmic Mother" - (Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth) - a 500-page book, with colour and black-and-white illustrations, by Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor.

- A Review by George Cope. March/April 1996

This book contains some challenging ideas, competently stated in a comfortable-to-read way, about the present state of our world and how we came to such a sorry state. In my opinion, the book makes a valuable contribution to the debate on where are we going, and is worthy of consideration even if not wholly agreed with. Written from a feminist/pagan perspective, with a dash of concepts from Tantric yoga, its field of investigation and comment is very wide and covers a historical period stretching from early pre-human life forms to the present day. The book challenges the view that the major advances in human knowledge were made by men, contending instead that women invented (due to her maternal role) language and writing, cooking, weaving, design, medicinal art, agriculture, astronomy, etc., and that most of these inventions were later usurped by men, mechanized and used in exploitative, profit-making ways. It further contends that the subsequent subjugation of women by men, as matriarchy yielded to patriarchy, is the primordial and fundamental subjugation from which all other subjugations flow: man subjugating Nature (instead of co-operating with it), white over black, imperialism, one country dominating another, boss over worker, and all the other aggressions and wars, and all the plundering and pollution of our planet. Matriarchy is not seen as patriarchy in reverse, but as being more in accord with our true nature which has both a male and a female side to it. Technology is no enemy, but should be used for mutual good instead of exploitatively.

These contentions are backed up by the evidence from studies of pre-history, and from modern science. Darwin believed that the female principle was the original one, and even thought the prostate may be a rudimentary uterus. Whilst conclusions drawn from pre-historical evidence may be somewhat conjectural, evidence from around us may seem more convincing, yet this, too, seems to substantiate the speculations from prehistory: parthenogenesis (and I would add, such phenomena as the growth of facial hair in some women, gynecomastia in some men, gender confusion, and much modern psychology accepts a male/female aspect to each human psyche).

For the authoresses, the Book of Genesis describes the struggle between the archetypal pagan goddess and the emerging male God (between matriarchy and patriarchy). This is reflected in the story of God's displeasure with Cain's offering from agriculture (at that time a matriarchal pursuit) and his acceptance of Abel's offering from nomadic pasturing (a patriarchal pursuit). The book does not always go along with other feminist approaches. Viewing the present male-dominated system as one of exploitation for profit (hardly a maternal ideal!), the authoresses feel that Western feminists should not fight for equality within such an intrinsically rotten system (but should have a larger vision). Nor should they accept female biology as a disadvantage (which would blame Nature for women's oppression rather than blaming the male-invented political and social system) - a biological. difference is not a disadvantage unless one lives in'a culture which defines it so. A 1982 Official-Report to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, quoted, says:
"While women represent ½ of the global population and 1/3 of the labour force, they receive only 1/10 of the world income and own less than 1% of the world's property. They are also responsible for 2/3 of all the working hours on earth."
Some book! Would this brash, noisy, macho, warring and polluted world have been a gentler, kindlier, more loving and more healthy place had humankind not taken (for reasons un- explained) the path to patriarchy? This book makes one wonder!

A few days ago, I came across, in a Charity Shop, a copy of "The Woman's Bible" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who, I find, has a substantial entry in "Webster's American Biographies". She admits she is at a loss to explain the Cain/Abel episode remarked on above, but she saw the Bible as the primary cause of the subjugation of women. What surprised me was the date this book was first published - 1895!

- G. Cope.