I had a dull enlightenment a few years back when I was working at a college down South. It was dull because it was like discovering that all of the even numbers are the same and they are different from all of the odd numbers. I was looking up at the spire above the chapel. The chapel was very similar to hundreds of others built by the early Protestant colleges in the United States. It is almost identical to Harvard’s. I was thinking about what Freud had said about phallic symbols, which was the one thing, besides how to smoke dope, that people of my generation learned in college.
Pointed architectural structures and made objects like guns and knives and certain cars, are phallic symbols, symbolic representations of the penis and the masculine force sublimated into made objects. That includes church steeples. And some former guy at this school back in the Fifties had written a controversial novel about the school’s church steeple as a penis or something like that. It shook them up in this part of the Bible Belt when they hadn’t quite allowed dancing yet.
What I hadn’t realized until that moment at this particular school was the prominence of a large metal circular scrollwork arch way with a light on top at the very center of the curve, used by the architect to balance the masculine features. This was the feminine force, sublimated into architecture, with the light prominently displayed at top, the arch only in the vaguest outline suggesting the vulva and the cave of the Earth Mother, but the light on top clearly suggesting the clitoris.
Then I started seeing it everywhere. I looked at the university publications and noticed that university photographers loved to view the spire on the chapel in the distance framed under the arch, with the arch in the foreground, usually with the light on. Then I started asking people about this. Did anyone ever notice that the spire was a phallus symbol and the arch represented the female genital parts as a counterbalance?
I asked about 25 people – all guys – and invariably the answer was always the same: No, I had it all wrong. The spire was a phallic symbol, but the arch was just a thing.
The students however, were very interested and even became animated. They really got into it. They started seeing them everywhere. They became particularly attentive to the arches in front of the woman’s dorms, and whether or not the light was on or off.
I concluded that most people like myself are well aware of masculine symbols but are chronically unaware of feminine symbols, women as well as men. That may be because our cities are filled with square buildings representing the masculine aspect of consciousness, and until recently, with the appearance of artists and sculptors such as Maya Lin, whose art employs yin themes and feminine archetypes, sculpture was primarily masculine in theme and archetype or countervailing it, which is the masculine principle as well (yang minus does not equal yin).
But it wasn’t always that way. Church buildings in Europe of the gothic and mediaeval period display feminine archetypes. Maybe Freud feared female genitalia because they were so barely sublimated in the portals of the early Christian cathedrals throughout northern Europe. There is no getting around it, the portals of western European cathedrals from Ireland to England, across France and on into Germany are utterly gynecological in architectural design, with layer upon layer of scrolling architectural detail progressing inward, like the labia of the vagina. There are even prominent architectural protrusions at the top, occasionally even a statue of a saint flying upward that suggests nothing but the clitoris. These features are so prominent and so universally used in the mediaeval period that I can’t believe that people don’t notice them. They just don’t want to talk about them.
I suspect the churches don’t want to talk about them because they reveal that the primary consciousness of the mediaeval period was feminine – the ancient tradition of the Earth Mother and the Triple Goddess in Europe – rather than masculine, the sublimated power principle coming from the Roman church. But the architecture and the archetype tell the story.
As Robert Graves explains in The White Goddess, the Roman church incorporated the Pagan church lock, stock and barrel, including holidays, rituals, and ritual sacrifice, and also, and especially, the devotion to the Earth Mother. And the two, the Pagan and the Christian beliefs, played together in a healthy stew well into the 13th century. The Cathedral at Chartres, for instance, was a temple to the Earth Goddess for three hundred years before the cathedral was build. And a statue in her honor, a black Madonna, was simply brought inside the new cathedral to be revered as the Virgin Mary.
Using Graves, this would make the 12th and 13th century not the low-church beginning of Christendom so much as the high-church end of Earth Mother worship (and find in the 12th century’s Eleanor of Aquitane the full rose moon, the high water mark). As ancient Egypt is called up by the pyramids, so too may Christendom be recalled by the rose glass stained window of the early cathedrals. The rose glass, particularly the magnificent one at Notre Dame and at Reims (this one), resembles a spinning wheel, which often accompanies the Three Sisters weaving the fabric of life in their northern European expression), but it also represents the rose moon, which ancient pagan lore says will mark the high noon period of the Goddess - the three phases of the goddess - the white goddess, the rose goddess and the death mother, marked by black or dark blue; (new moon, full moon, waning moon).
There can be no question that the three pointed entry portals (with their inwardly schrolling gynecological motifs) that invariably accompany the circular rose glass, even their thousands of terrible contemporary copies still being built to this day throughout the U.S, represent the three phases of yin consciousness, maiden, mother, wise woman. There are readily available paintings of the death of King Arthur with three large portals directly behind his casket, very similar to the three portals, each with a woman dressed all in black and wearing a tall, black pointed hat or other wise present. (Likewise, my astonishing dreamer friend dreams of three coffins before a temple of women.)
Feminine elements pervade the mediaeval churches. The insides suggest caves or wombs, often with the most explicit bioligical interiors. Until the 13th century the inner life was associated with the feminine consciousness in Europe, then it changed.
It could be seen that a transition occurred in European consciousness in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, bringing Europeans out of earth-based consciousness and into sky-based consciousness. The religious art of the Christian clearly suggests this in the early painting of Mary associated with earth and stables. Sassetta’s pictures of Saint Anthony at the cave espress fear and trepidation. This general condition of the European about to engage the outside world (notice the centaur at top left). Mattias Grunewald at the turn of the 1500s has St. Anthony torn to pieces in the open air. This is akin to the work today of Pink Floyd, as the Western mind awakens again in pain, to new consciousness.
With Michelangelo, God is a man in the sky (and so is Jesus) and European consciousness begins its rise to the heavens, astrologically a male realm. Christ becomes the dominant figure, not Mary. The Roman church adandons her entirely and doesn't get back to her until the mid 1800s (and then only under the Marxist threat to its very existance). Aquarius is an air sign, suggesting passage from the Mediaeval period to our own, that transition marked by the Renaissance.
For northern Europeans, England in particular, this implies coming out of the Unconscious – the Earth Consciousness – and into the new realm and the ascending Sky Consciousness of Aquarius. Graves’s history of the Great Mother notes that this transition took place with the rise of Protestantism in England when England abandoned the Virgin Worship of the Roman Catholic. It may have meant independence from the Roman church, but it also implied the death of the Earth Mother because the two were one.
It can’t help but to be noticed that this exact period – this exact moment -- was marked by the ascent of a woman to the throne in England. The crowning of Elizabeth I in 1558 was probably the most important turning point in the history of England. And that would bring strength and power to England, culminating in this small country, primitive by European standards and isolated, surrounded by water, rising to world conquest in less than three hundred years.
Elizabeth I was known as the Virgin Queen but she was not barren. She reestablished Protestantism as the dominant religious culture in her realm in 1559, removing the emphasis from the tradition of the Virgin. Under her reign England rose as a sea power. And on December 31, 1600, she granted 215 “billoneurs” a charter to the East India Company which would quickly lead to world dominance by a new capitalist class under the banner of England. “The British Empire appeared to be governed by the Crown and Parliament, but by the end of the 17th century the British Empire was run by the East India Company,” writes John Remington Graham in his book, A Constitutional History of Secession. Graham points out that at the Boston Tea Party it was not the much maligned George III who owned the tea, but the East India Company which owned George III. As this new class of business manager rose to its peak with Victoria, it went to its end with Elizabeth II.
In The Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism by Philip Augar, the author claims that deregulation of London’s financial markets in the mid-1980s led to the foreign takeover of Britain’s investment banks and the end of the old boy network from Eton and Cambridge. “No one in the City [London’s financial market] was prepared for a world in which the computer replaced the handshake,” he says.
Elizabeth I and II were the book ends of British capitalism, Victoria the book. Was Victoria not the one marked by the Age of Pisces, a water age in astrological terms and a feminine sign? Was she not sent to fulfill the ancient destiny of Albion, Graves' White Goddess, manifesting thousands of years of Unconscious from Arthur back on into antiquity to an brief outward journey under the Sun? From Lord Nelson victory in 1805 to Scott's cold and deadly voyage at the dawn of World War I, England expanded outward, disarming and eclipsing the entire world. As she rose into her life from 1819 to 1901 all would yield under her stride and the entire world came to form a British mandala with London as its center and Victoria on the throne at the vortex. Was she not born to fulfill the third phase of the moon in Graves’ explanation of the Triple Goddess; the dark phase of the moon. Did she not bring the final phase; the blue moon, the death moon, the Death Mother?
Historians as well as pundits have said that England does better during a woman’s reign. It is almost as if the sublimated power – the power of the Earth Goddess -- when it disappeared into the unconscious, found its way into England’s conscious mind in the form of the great British queens.
Certainly the Age of Pisces – astrologically a feminine age – will have its last days recalled under the reign of Queen Victoria, for if it was Elizabeth who brought England to its feet, it was Victoria who completed the journey, bringing England around the world and to the East, to India. Victoria was the Earth Mother incarnate (the Queen of Earthly Queens, proclaimed a banner in English and Hindustani at her Diamond Jubilee procession in 1897).
From this point of view, the rise of Elizabeth I to the throne and the submission and sublimation of the Earth Mother is perhaps the most important fact in English history and subsequently in the rise of America and the Christian West. Perhaps this shift in consciousness was “preconditioned” by the first translations of the Bible by John Wycliffe in the 14th century and later efforts which gave the common people the ability to read the Jesus story themselves. Prior to that the common man and woman who couldn’t read could accept Jesus as the Enlightened One without abandoning their indigenous beliefs, and there is evidence that Irish practitioners of the Old Gods welcomed Jesus as the one predicted by prophesy and astrology, but kept their own creation myths. And as the many cathedral carvings indicate, into the 14th century the Knights Templar saw Jesus as the fulfillment of their pastoral system without abandoning their fidelity for the Virgin Goddess and the Green Man (like this one at Canterbury Cathedral - how close to Jesus with the crown of thorns).
But now that people could read the Jesus story for themselves they would also read Genesis attached to it and accept the Hebrew and North African creation myth. In this, they would “become” Christians in a different way; not only accepting Jesus as the Enlightened One, but accepting his tradition as their own and abandoned their own Indigenous Myths and traditions. They were set adrift and forced out of their natural place in the Cosmos to a new conceptual place – a place not of the Earth with living centaurs and nature gods, but of Ideas.
Perhaps this sheds light on my father’s old school Irish folk belief (see The Death of the Earth Mother, this blog, January, 2006) that Jews have secret mystical power which brings the world into balance: Among the moderns, only Jews today live with their own Creation Myth. Only the Jews are Whole.
Nowadays there are efforts by American Christians to see their European religious tradition as their own “ethnic” tradition; German Lutherans, Irish Catholics and the like, to create linkage with the past, but still it only reaches back to the 15th century thereabouts and there it detaches. Still separation and breakage occurs, from the Psyche, from the feminine principle and from the Earth Spirit.
Widespread prognosis of schizophrenia in the world today as well suggests detachment from ancient channels of human consciousness. Moderns are prisoners of the illusion of lineal time, in crates and cages high in the ozone.
Separation from instinct and intuition is a characteristic affliction of the modern age. Of the world religions, Buddhism attempts to leave the indigenous creation myths of local people intact, but even here the organic, ancient traditions become abandoned over time with allegiance to the new belief systems.
In the dog days of August in 2002 there was public concern that the all-American pastime was dwindling in spirit when the All-Star Game was called at a tie after just two overtime innings. Rather than stress the pitchers, the baseball commissioner called the game. But what was even more worrisome to promoters was the ratings. The game pulled only 9% of the TV ratings, compared to 28% in 1980.
What is telling about the culture today in this is that more people were watching Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. The Slayer, featuring Sarah Michelle Geller, is an incarnation of the goddess archetype, coming to take back the night in Sunnydale from vampires and Revenge Demons. Regular viewers know what Revenge Demons are. They are spirits which identify at every turn with the discontent, rather than with the civilization. They come out of the earth just when you are doing something joyful, healthy, fun and family-like, such as trimming the Christmas Tree or stuffing stockings and they attempt to disrupt the situation. They are the negative manifestation of the Earth Mother – they are Kali, the Death Mother.
Buffy – alone in her generation - is the avatar and front line of defense against Revenge Demons. In Buffy World, men are no longer men (they are Kali Whipped, to coin a phrase) and they no longer have the political will to defend themselves, their traditions and their families. Indeed, family is a shattered shard of the past and men who once defended the hearth have been made cowering wimps by these Creatures from Beneath the Earth. So Buffy – (we call her The Slayer) – has to take it back by herself with her few heroic mortal apprentices. Buffy patrols the dark city exterminating rapists and other sexual predators, particularly those who prey on the young and unprotected. In the last TV episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Buffy pulls a sword from a stone and enters a vault deep in the earth. Her archetypal ancestor appears to her from behind a curtain. It is the Earth Mother. She says to Buffy: “You pulled it out of the rock. I was one of the ones that put it in there.” (In Buffy creator Josh Whedon's Serenity, a similar character is a river spirit.) Buffy comes from the earth and there is an underground quality to the show as if it is a characterization unfulfilled or not yet seen in its full potential – like the Kreb’s Factor in Dobie Gillis. That is, it is not yet seen its full light but soon in our new century, the goddess will find her way and come to full flower.