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TO RESTORE THE WHOLENESS OF LIFE
Because of the general confusion, it is urgently necessary, that we understand our today's situation. Only then we will be able to find a way out of the crisis. It is as with a physician. First of all, he/she needs to do questioning, then an examination, then a diagnosis in order to be able to implement an effective therapy. Because our socio-cultural situation is coming very close to a terminal illness, the facts will necessarily be painful. However, it is the condition for realistically estimating reality. Starting point is the religion as the starting point of our culture.
It is like in psychotherapy.
Central thesis is, that Christianity could only carry itself through, because in the course of time it eliminated all "competitors", often by force. Because we are on the search after the roots of our civilization, it is crucial to know, which other sources originally were available. Isn't our our problem our one-dimensionality? Surely, much new inspiration came from the East (Buddhism f.i.). However, it is essential to clear up one's own "path of suffering", to reconnect to one's own sources in order to be able to start a healing process*.
* Severe criticism is inevitable. However, realize, that it serves the purpose of clarifying historical backgrounds, only. It will help Christians to understand their own tradition, something that is needed in order to bring about reconciliation among people. Obviously, in the here and now we are embracing every religion, without reservation, working actively toward tolerance, peace and justice, yes, unity in diversity. The latter has been formulated in a draft*, that at the moment is available in Dutch, only. Very soon, we hope to have it translated into English, as well.
The Great Mother
The first religion with which Christianity argued against, was the Great Mother (Goddess)Tradition. Since prehistoric times the Ultimate was considered to be a Cosmic Womb. Other conceptions were Nothingness, Emptiness, the Abyss, the Darkness, the Night and the Sea. Everything was born out of Her, while continuously returning, including the Divine, the Light. There thus was a hierarchy: the Mother as the Ultimate and "God" as Her Son (or Daughter). Early patriarchy changed all this. In the Enuma Enlil, a Babylonian text (about 1400 BCE), the Great Mother (Tiamat) is destroyed by Marduk, the first God, who proclaimed absolute authority.
At the same time, this was the beginning of demonizing the Great Mother. All Her aspects, which until then had symbolized Her life-giving strength, changed into aspects of evil. This development thus began in Babylon, however, continued in Judaism. There Yahweh "fought" against the people's piety, including to the majority of the Hebrews - together with kings such as Solomon - who worshipped the Great MotherGoddess (Asherah/Astarte). The Bible can very well be considered as a report of this struggle. The ruthless oppression of the Levitic priests against the people is well documented. It is not exaggerated to say, that so-called Jewish monotheism has been forced upon the people (by force).
First of all, the essence of the Mother was denounced. Therefore, Genesis speaks with horror of the original Nothingness, Emptiness, Darkness or Chaos. Subsequently, it isn't Her Who gives birth anymore, but "God who created the world out of nothingness". God had replaced the Great Mother. Instead of giving birth - the natural procedure on all levels of the universe - the world "was created" by the uttering of a "word". In the first case, we are truly children of the Mother, having thus an intimate relationship with the Ultimate and each other (later imitated by the Christianity: "children of God"), while in the second case, we are a product of divine creation*. In early patriarchy (Babylon, Assyria), the "word" had been already a power instrument of the elite. Through the "word" illiterate people were suppressed. The same in the Bible. Instead of acknowledging Nothingness as the Primordial Source, darkness and light were considered opposites. Subsequently, Light should "overcome" darkness.
* The relationship is thus between a creator and his created, to compare with a artisan and his work. To be a product is giving the feeling of alienation, creating a gap between humans and their Origin. It has consequences with regard to all other areas of life. Hasn't nowadays everything become "a product?"
Christianity continued this trend. Christ as "carrier of the Light" had come to redeem us from evil. Nothingness is evil perse. For example, "St" Augustine declared, that God hadn't created the world from nothingness without reason. Nothingness was therefore the anti-thesis of God. He transformed the classical "horror vacui" of Aristotle into non-being - the negation of all Being - the devil perse, from which only God - through his Being - could liberate us. In addition, other aspects of the Great Mother were attacked. Her snake - symbol of continuous regeneration - was converted into the devilish snake of paradise. Why? Because for the last time, the story of paradise gives testimony of the fact, that wisdom used to be transferred from the Mother (Her symbol, the snake) to women, e.g. Eve*.
* Called by Adam "Mother of all life".
Since then fear of Nothingness runs like a red thread through our culture. Confrontation with Emptiness must at any price be avoided through continuous activity and/or distraction. "Idle course is all vices beginning". It explains the central driving force of our culture. However, fear of Nothingness is becoming more and more acute. In a culture, in which we lost contact with the (multilayered) reality - in which we are "thrown upon ourselves" - existence becomes increasingly eerie. We, individually and collectively steer toward Nothingness. Is that not ironical? That, which we want to absolutely avoid, happens in the end. Now, our survival depends on whether we actually consider Nothingness as being the senseless end, or as the Primordial Ground of Existence - the Cosmic Womb - in which everything old dies in order to become reborn.
Earlier ideas focused also on the dragon. The dragon is a symbol related to the Original Mother. Unlike China, where it is the manifestation of the primordial power, in the West it always has been a monster, that seeked to destroy human life. Therefore, the greatest heroes are dragonslayer like S.George and S.Michael. At the same time an iconography of the devil was developed. It was often introduced as a goat. He prefered to be active mainly at night - the realm of the Mother. His appearence originates from ancient times, as well, since the favourite animals of the Goddess were e.g. virile male animals. In the rites they embody fertility.
Christianity has used all means to destroy the memory of previous ancient times. Not only force and suppression, but manipulation and incorporation were used, as well. As emperor Theodosius (5 ACE) forbade the Artemis worship, the people revolted and demanded the return of the Great Goddess. The church didn't have a choice and in the council of Ephese (431) it proclaimed Mary as "Mother of God". That was very diplomatic, because this title could be interpreted in two different ways. The fundamentalists were content, because they could interprete it as the Mother of Jesus, while the people in the street understood it literally. Obviously, the church in no way meant, that Mary would be equal to the old Mother Goddess. The former did not have transcendental qualitities. It was rather a deflection. It was nevertheless a success - think of Mary devotion - that will finally finish the church, though. Because the return of "The Eternal Feminine" as the Ultimate, cannot be stopped anymore.
An institute, that gives so much effort to "conquer darkness through the Light", would obviously be very generous in letting every believer participate in the Light. Nothing however, is further from the truth. Since Mary Magdalene, the one who "knew the All", all spiritual Realisation was suspicious. The reason: people, who recognised the Divine Spark within as their innermost core, did not have a need of subjecting themselves to an organisation, that demanded faith only. Who once has seen reality, doesn't need the rules of the church no longer. O, irony. People with God-experience became the greatest threat to the "early church". Major task of the religion was to suppress the inherent spirituality...... God-belief against God-experience. It would become the beginning of the first large suppression wave, the one against the Gnosis.
The hellenistic world was a mixture of innumerable faiths. The origins layed in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The first great Illuminated One was the pharao Echnaton. His hymn to the sun is immortal. The other highlight is Hermes Trismegistos. He wrote various treatises, in which he describes the God-experience. His mission was to bring the Light to mankind. He has had tremendous influence, e.g. also on Jesus and the Christian tradition (John). In the meantime, the mystery schools had developed themselves, as well. To them the archaic "to die and to become reborn" was crucial. The School of Eleusis was the most well-known. Pythagoras may also not be forgotten. He spent twenty years in Egypt, and had full Enlightenment there. His teachings had a large spreading. Finally also Zeno, Plato and Plotinos have to be mentioned. The latter wrote the Enneades, the foundation of Neo-Platonism.
Inspired by this background gnostic schools developed. As mentioned above, with them God-realisation stood central. Their main teachers were Jesus and Mary Magdalene. In the gnostic texts we can read, that Jesus says: "the Light is in you" and "become like Me". No separation thus between him and other humans. Everyone can acquire the kingdom. Later the fractions differentiated, with the school of Valentinus as the most influential. Like the old Mother tradition, he regarded sexuality as holy and a way to God-experience.* Important differences between the Gnosis and the church were a.o. the position with regard to God-realisation, Christ's birth, God as the Father/Mother, the church hierarchy and the problem of suffering. Power politics of the church prevented further development of the Gnosis. It had been (almost) destroyed.
* Very similar to Indian Tantra practises.
In the time thereafter (4.-10 ACE) - in which the church dedicated itself to the suppression of paganism* - the Gnosis had gone underground. In the early Middle Ages, however, it was - as from nothingness - suddenly there again. Mainly by the influence of Neo- platonism (Dionysios Aeropagita, John Scotus Eriugena) all kinds of people and movements began to agitate. "Pantheistic tendencies" (Amalrik of Bena) emerged. Some moved around as self-appointed Godpeople (Tanchelm). Groups (Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit) emerged, organizing themselves around the ideal of holiness. Parallel to it the Begines and Begards movement developed. The Cathars were very successful in spreading their teachings. The Mother of God in the form of the Black Madonna (symbol of the original Great Mother) emerged everywhere. The Parcival legend was written. In addition, mystics from within the church agitated as well, a.o. women like Hadewych, Beatrijs of Nazareth, Birgitta of Sweden, Gertrud von Helfta and Hildegard of Bingen. Most well-known were Ruusbroec, Eckhart, Tauler and Suso. The poverty movements should not be forgotten either.
* See next chapter.
As usual, the church arose with extreme harshness against all those, who had a deviating opinion. It was the time in which the Inquisition was founded. It had a widespread network of spies, that reported everyone, who had drawn the slightest suspicion upon him/herself. Hundreds of thousands of fake processes were organized. They got the blame from the beginning. "Holy ones" like Dominicus took part in a (very) active way. The final solution against the Cathars was planned and implemented. Even orthodox mystics weren't safe (Teresa of Avila). Even the greatest of all (Meister Eckhart) has not been rehabilitated until this very day. Giordano Bruno died a miserable death in prison (1600). Not to forget are the innumerable progroms of the Jews. Altogether, the Inquisition took many centuries, being responsible for hundreds of thousands of murders. The consequence of this inconceivable terror was, that the spiritual emancipation was exterminated up to the roots. People had no other choice, but to fall back on the only area, that wasn't controlled by the church: the ego.Hence, people turned themselves to materialism ("Renaissance").
The mission of religion should be to lead humans to God. If it would do so, then some (many) people sooner or later would have God-experience. In this experience - better said Realisation - the personality dissolves for a short period of time. One merges with the Ultimate. It is the experience of becoming One with That, Which you ultimately Are. Not only the personality - including its ego-functions - has temporarily disappeared, but also its socio-cultural background. In this condition all ideas, concepts and convictions have dissolved. Also the religious ones. The Divine Itself has taken the place of the religion. That means, that after "returning", one has left religion behind. A true religion would accept this outcome. It would be selfless in the true sense (like they always teach their followers). In reality such a religion doesn't exist. No religion is so selfless, that it would make itself redundant. It is exactly the opposite. Religion is the ritual, that has to prevent, that people find their way to God. "Following Jesus", yes, but being not allowed to realise what he Really Is, namely the Divine in him. Not surprisingly thus, that people are leaving the church en masse. It is the best, who feel, that within religion God cannot be found.
In the old times humans regarded themselves as part of nature. They felt connected with the earth as life-donating source, together with all living creatures, with the cycle of the seasons, with the secrets of the night and the changing of the moon. In their inclusive consciousness everything was connected to each other. The universe as a whole was the web of life, which was born from the Cosmic Womb, while continuously returning. Fertility and women occupied a central role. The whole existence was sanctified, because everything was part of the body of the Great Mother. It thus does not surprise, that many - nearly all - features in nature had a special meaning. Thus there were holy mountains, holy wells, holy oaks and holy stones. Worship of the Mother Goddess and later of Gods often took place in the open. The treatment of the earth was founded on reverence. As was (is) the case with many native peoples - before one began to plow - forgiveness from Mother Earth was asked. And because of the injury inflicted on Her, offerings were made, to balance the damage.
Risking repetition, it cannot be be avoided to mention the role of the church here. In its effort to bring everything under control, all existing competitors had to be eliminated. Veneration of nature was part of the Great Mother tradition and originated from there. Thus, the ("pagan") practices were a thorn in the eye to the church. Hence, already very early a crusade against the "pagans" was started. The missionaries, who penetrated the "barbarian areas", soon were portrayed as heroes by the church. What they did in reality, was ruthless destruction of all "pagan" objects and symbols.Who does not remember "S" Bonifacius, "protector" of the Friesians? Actually, he had cut their holy oaks, destroyed their holy groves, poisoned their holy wells and devastated their altars. Everything that was holy to them, was taken from them. So that only the option of an upheaval remained. Not surprisingly thus, that this "popular missionary" was finally beheaded by the Friesians.
Those, who still had maintained most of their relationship with nature, were the women. After all, they were the representatives of the old Mother religion. It was the women who had invented agriculture. They also had preserved the knowledge about herbs and other natural healing methods. They had consciously or unconsciously "secret" knowledge. In addition, patriarchy had not been able to take away "the birth ability from women".....All together, it was an area, in which men felt uncomfortable. Women were thus encountered with great suspicion. Mother religion, women and nature now were thrown in a heap. Remember, that at that time the Great Mother was demonized, eventually becoming the devil himself. Now, this was transferred to nature. Nature as work of the devil! It went that far, that everything related to nature was considered to be the "anti-Christ". "If you see a blossom in spring, destroy it before God".* It didn't take long before women were attacked, as well. The witch progroms - lasting many centuries - victimized countless innocent women. ** The brutal burnings at the stake will probably never disappear from our collective Consciousness.
* "S" Ambrosius (14. ACE)
** While at the same time we won't become tired in critisizing Islam for being a "barbaric religion"....
Finally, the influence of the Christian civilization process on the community has to be discussed here. You can ask yourself the question, what will happen if one - to a community, that is deeply embedded in the Great Mother, in the inherent Divine and in nature - simply takes these most sacred areas of life away. Exactly, one takes away the basics of life. Faith, rites, customs, habits, plays, celebrations, taboo's and objects are denounced or/and destroyed. Instead, totally strange convictions are forced upon you. And: who didn't want to "convert" him/herself voluntarily, was forced to do so. Christianity is a religion that was forced upon us from outside. Those who were not willing, were persecuted, tortured and/or killed. For a long time people resisted. However, because the church had state power behind itself, people had hardly a chance. Therefore, Christianity has, together with the destruction of the religion, torn apart the coherence of traditional community. The more total the disintegration, the more simple to force upon the "barbarians" the "values" of the new "civilization". It is the same strategy the "free-market economy" is practising nowadays. The more hopeless the people are - through loss of their (cultural, social, spiritual, psychological, ecological) context - the simpler it is to be driven into the consumer craze.
At the end of the Middle Ages people were totally finished. Their spiritual power of regeneration had completely broken down. Christianity had destroyed their existential foundation, while replacing it by the illusory reality of the faith. What do I mean by that? In the traditional community people had direct contact with reality. They lived in great veneration for the Source of the life: the Great Mother, together with the Divine as being Her Son (Daughter). They actually felt part of the Whole, part of the web of life. Hence, to them nature was sacred. Since the beginning of patriarchy the Mother was replaced by the male God, though. However, people still aimed at a direct contact with the Divine (Mystery schools, Gnosis, Neo- Platonism). Summarizing, people (in principle) lived "in harmony with Heaven, earth and the community ".
This all changed fundamentally, as Christianity appeared on the stage. In order to be able to become a dominant religion, the church started to destroy everything that was sacred to people. With the aim of planting the seeds of the new faith in the general confusion. Something, that by the way nowadays still takes place. Think of fanatic protestant sects with their mission zeal in the Third World. Instead of an existential foundation, an Ersatz-reality "offered", though. It only consists of a set of beliefs, which have little or nothing to do with existence. One had to believe in a father God (with whom we could not have contact), to his son, who is also god, and who died in order to redeem us.....Instead of a direct contact with the Divinity, we should accept the church as the only mediator, without which no salvation is possible. A great deal of regulations, rules, dogmas, prohibitions and punishments must be taken for granted.
Because the existential Reality - to be rooted in "Heaven, earth and the community" - was destroyed, the identification with the ego remained as the only way out. It marks the transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Not surprisingly thus, that at the same time capitalism had its beginnings (Northern Italy, 15th Century ACE). The ego-culture had its way through up to this very day. We lost contact with reality and are "thrown upon ourselves". Essential in this regard is to recognize, that we arrived at an end of a development, that had started with the appearance of Christianity. More ironically it cannot be, probably. A religion, that had removed God from the life of the people.......All reproaches to "secular society" as if it would be responsible for the disappearing of "God" is sheer hypocritical. It was Christianity itself, that destroyed the inherent religiosity of the people. Unnecessary to say tha the former carries a main responsibility here. It is the main cause of today's virtual world, of modern nihilism, today's materialism and individualism.*
* "Secularization" is thus primarily not consequence of a "natural" development of society toward modernity, but it is the consequence of a dramatic spiritual-cultural amputation, that took place in the Middle Ages. Our effort, therefore, has nothing to do with a nostalgia toward the past, but comes from the urgent necessity to still healing the culture. It can be compared with trauma's in personal life. The more early they took place, the more serious they general are.
Our main problem is, that we are cut off from our roots. My effort has no other aim, but to making you aware of it. The solution to our world-wide crisis thus does not lie in the future. A future without being embedded in the Source is like a tree without roots. It misses the necessary life sap and will die. It does not have a life chance. We should on the other hand strive after the Wholeness of Life, by restoring contact with the Essence, something that was lost in history. It means acknowledgment of the Great Mother as the Ultimate, in order to find sense and security once again e.g. dismantling of our existential fear; the possibility of God-Realisation, thus finding awareness, joy of life, compassion and inner strength; the re-establishment of harmony with nature, realising sustainability, while healing the community, developing self-sovereignty and solidarity *.
* See also: "Transformation Manifesto for the 21st. Century"
In practice, this could take place as follows. These times of degeneration carry a meaning in itself. We should co-operate with the decay! In the sense, that we let all our self-centeredness, accumulations and addictions die "in order to become reborn". Thus turning a crisis into a chance. In order to, with our new Self, subsequently fitting in in "Heaven, earth and the (new) community ", once again. Only, if the basis of the culture is again healthy, we have a chance not only to survive, but also to have a sunny future. Then, on this new foundation new future-oriented initiatives may develop.
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Stiekema. All rights reserved.
Last revising: 05/10/12