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467 of 535 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History or Myth? Does it Matter?, August 22, 1998
This review is from: The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (Paperback)
The Chalice and the Blade describes idyllic, Goddess-worshipping societies that Eisler believes existed several thousand years ago in eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. She presents images of agrarian villages that had no defensive fortifications because there was no war. The communities were non-violent and egalitarian. There was no hierarchy and no sexism. There was no class system or great disparities of wealth. The people were deeply spiritual and practiced free love. They were profoundly connected to the natural world. Eventually, however, aggressive warrior nomads from the east (patriarchal peoples who worshipped male sky gods destroyed these peaceful, Goddess-worshipping communities. The warrior nomads killed the men, raped the women, and took the children as slaves. The Goddess was suppressed and the patriarchy has ruled ever since.

Reisler invites the reader to mourn the loss of ancient communities, and reconnect with their underlying values. I read the book as a life-affirming myth that challenges the abusive aspects of our patriarchal traditions. The Chalice and the Blade celebrates the value of partnership, equality, collaboration, non-violence, and connectedness to nature. Eisler gives us some sense of the enormous power to heal that resides in the repressed feminine and lunar realms. However, I would offer the following cautions:

1. It is possible that Eisler has extrapolated a few scraps of evidence into a highly idealized society that didn't really exist quite as she imagines it.

2 . It is possible that Eisler's vision is pyschologically naive in the sense that everything has a dark side. If the Goddess societies existed, they would, by necessity, have a dark side.

3. It is possible that the problem with western society is not that it has a male image of divinity but that it has a one-sided, gender-specific image of divinity. Substituting a Goddess-based image might not lead to Utopia, but might bring its own set of problems. Perhaps we need images of the divine that honor both genders.

4. Eisler is a nationally known advocate of partnership models as superior forms of human interaction in contrast to "dominator" approaches. Faced with the choice of partnership or domination, the former is clearly preferable. A more neutral way of distinguishing between these two approaches would be to substitute consensus for partnership and hierarchy for domination. It is possible that each approach - consensus and hierarchy - has its own merits and drawbacks. The negative shadow of consensus systems might be passive aggression, confusion, paralysis. It is possible that when grounded with love and respect, hierarchical systems can be generative and empowering.

I suspect that humanity would best be served by a society that reveres both male and female, earth and sky, soul and spirit, hierarchy and collaboration, passion and gentleness - a social order with a pluralistic approach that reflects mythopoetic diversity and celebrates consciousness. Yet, whatever the book's shortcomings I must confess that my heart is with Eisler.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 2, 2007 6:32:56 AM PDT
"It is possible that Eisler has extrapolated a few scraps of evidence into a highly idealized society that didn't really exist." I don't think so. Any archaeologist or prehistorian alive will tell you that in general, during the Neolithic, people lived in societies that were mostly peaceful, non-violent, egalitarian and equalitarian.

"Everything has a shadow or dark side." Who says? Are you sure? Isn't this modern 21st-century thinking? Are you sure it's right? Do you really know? Can you prove it?

"It is possible that the problem with western society is not that it has a male image of divinity but that it has a one-sided, gender-specific image of divinity." No. A mother-based deity is ideal for any society because the role-model is one anyone can see - a healthy mother loving her children unconditionally. If we all loved each other like this, there'd be no problems anywhere, anytime, anyhoo.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2007 3:34:02 PM PDT
bukhtan says:
"A mother-based deity is ideal for any society because the role-model is one anyone can see - a healthy mother loving her children unconditionally."
I know a lot of mothers who are nothing like this. I suppose you'd say they aren't "healthy" if they aren't like this. Well, what about the "unconditional" part? So what happens when the tribe gets into a spat with another tribe about nuts or berries or carrion or something? Wouldn't we expect unconditionally-loving Mom to start rolling rocks or starting fires or something, with the intent of fixing Other Mommas' Children, for good? I'm not so sure about this idyll. Wouldn't want to depend on "family values" as the basis for morality.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2008 2:42:39 AM PDT
Shem says:
I'm not sure you've really thought about what the Reviewer said. The point is that, yes, we currently miss much of the 'loving mother' aspect of human existence; but if we over-compensate, then we will lose other equally important aspects of human life - passion, drive, decisiveness and, yes, aggression (it's needed at times - think about it). We are out of balance, with 'yang' dominating 'yin', but we need a balanced society, not a yin-based one.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2008 9:11:59 AM PDT
Sidney says:
Well said. We always seem to be searching for a path of least resistance - an easy way out - a stereotypic worldview that will somehow reduce our own innate anxieties - it is self-protective. Holding dualism in some sort of balance is the lifework of every living thing. Humans not excluded. Eisler needs to find and develop a midway path in her partnership - dominance continuum. Lots more challenging and dynamic!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2008 7:50:50 AM PST
"So what happens when the tribe gets into a spat with another tribe about nuts or berries or carrion or something? Wouldn't we expect unconditionally-loving Mom to start rolling rocks or starting fires or something, with the intent of fixing Other Mommas' Children, for good?"

Spats can be taken care of easily by talking, compromising, sharing, negotiating, etc. Contrary to what big batches of 20th-century academics told you, the human species is not naturally violent. We're not born to war. We have to learn it. Read the new lit on our first cousins the bonobos (they don't do 'war'), or the volumes of lit about the peaceful societies in the world. Or, read my book, Switching to Goddess: Humanity's Ticket to the Future, just published last month and now for sale right here on Amazon.com

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2008 11:56:01 AM PST
Elfgiva says:
You counsel for, "talking, compromising, sharing, negotiating, etc." Qualities you clearly infer as the realm of the female. The male reviewer you originally responded to, however, offered a balanced and intelligent perspective. A compromise, in your parlance.

And instead of enlisting any of those vaunted "female" virtues noted, you chose only to....argue.

I'm a woman. Exceptions abound for everything, but - - "in general" - - I've found men easier to work with AND for, because they are less controlling, nit-picky, vengeful, and don't tend to take things as personally or hold grudges as women "in general" seem more inclined toward.

Yep, it's just my experience, but many other women have said it is theirs, as well. Ditto for personal relationships, whether friends or family.

At the same time, I have several long-term friendships with gals, and it would be just plain silly to suggest every guy I've ever met was a model relative, boss, or acquaintance.

Entire libraries have and will continue to be written about the mechanism and etiology of gender differences -- perceived or otherwise. DNA, gender socialization...the list is long and truth lies in more than one answer. Meantime....

Tom Fuller has it right. I read The Chalice and The Blade years ago and also was uplifted by the book's message. Your facility to so easily ignore your own counsel, however, gives me little reason to explore yours.

Posted on Jan 14, 2009 11:14:54 AM PST
An Old Woman says:
Well, uh, that's what the author is saying, too. Glad to see you 'eadin' in the same direction.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2009 9:05:13 AM PDT
Jeri, to support your opinion in the 3rd paragraph, there is extensive psychological research supporting the idea that mother-child bonds are far more important in influencing children than father-child bonds. This research also that the mother-child bond has the ability to mediate all other outside forces.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 26, 2009 11:39:38 AM PDT
Ameenah says:
With respect to your views in regard to "finding men easier to work with", perhaps you might like to investigate and read "Women's Reality: An Emerging Female System In A White Male Society" by Anne Wilson Schaef. This book shares an eye opening and deeper understanding as to "why" we as women sometimes (sadly many times actually) feel like 'men are easier" to work with than our own sex. Perhaps if we didn't loathe ourselves so much as a gender and feel like we have to constantly compete, over achieve etc.. to make up for being female we might get along and love ourselves as womyn better. In any case, I'm not saying this is 'the answer' but it does indeed offer another eye opening perspective that there are other realities and systems at work here, not just the one shaped, created and ruled by patriarchy, the "White Male System".

Posted on Nov 5, 2009 12:46:48 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 7, 2009 7:52:00 AM PST
Seeker says:
It's a shame that this review has become Amazon's "most helpful" review because the reviewer has either not read or not understood the book which advocates balance, and respect for both women and men. My response to the comments in this review:

1. The evidence used by Eisler is not just a few scraps. For example, at Knossos in Crete, the evidence pointing to a peace-loving, advanced civilization is great, considering that this civilization existed about 3,500 years ago. This evidence includes:
a. The so-called "palace" that's an intricate collection of over 1000 interlocking rooms;
b. The aqueducts bringing fresh water to both the "palace" and the town;
c. The extensive roads
d. The frescoes depicting nature and people - both men and women - participating together in athletic feats but no art depicting war or violence;
e. The burial sites which showed that everyone was treated equally in death with no wealthy/powerful people buried with riches (or with spouses or servants) and no mass graves where poor people were simply dumped together as exists in other civilizations.
f. The lack of any fortifications or stores of weapons

2. This reviewer misunderstands Jung's concept of the shadow. Jung himself said that the shadow is 90% gold and it refers to those aspects of ourselves that we are not conscious of. It certainly does not mean that all societies (or all people) are equally good (or equally bad). Does this reviewer think that no society can be better than any other, or that no society can improve because the shadow side keeps all societies equal?

3. Eisler clearly states that she's against one-sidedness. She does not advocate a female god instead of a male one; she is pointing out that in societies that worshiped the life-giving powers of the female there was more equality, peace and higher standards of living for everyone. This tended to include having male gods too and having both priests and priestesses. Also, are we really in danger of having a female god dominate our culture? The male god is so pervasive in our culture that people are shocked if anyone ever refers to god a "she" or "mother" unless of course you're referring to ancient Greek religion or some other distant or long-forgotten polytheistic religion.

4. The reviewer's fourth paragraph re-names partnership and domination, ignores the definition that Eisler gave them and then discusses his newly named, newly defined terms (mixing in the misunderstanding of shadow) without any understanding of what Eisler talks about. This isn't exactly bait-and-switch; it's more of a switch-and-conclude which does nothing to help us understand the validity of Eisler's arguments. Here is how Eisler defines her terms:

"[T]he dominator model is what is popularly termed either patriarchy or matriarchy - the ranking of one half of humanity over the other."

The partnership model is one "in which social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking.... In this model - beginning with the most fundamental difference in our species, between male and female - diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority"

So basically all Eisler is saying is that domination or ranking as inferior based on sex (and other difference such as race) is bad. I wonder how many people who voted that this review is helpful would really disagree with this.

I would also add that the woman who commented that she finds men easier to work with than women is actually proving the point that we must work on eliminating the deeply-rooted belief that women are inferior. How many of us would say "I find it easier to work with white people" or "I find it easier to work with Christians" or "I find it easier to work with heterosexuals"? How would this woman like it if no one hired her because the employers find it easier to work with men?
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