Do you consider yourself a Goddess? You should. The Goddess is the earth. We are all part of the earth. How has the main religion in the Western world, Christianity, shaped our beliefs about femininity? The bible tells us about how Eve was seduced by a snake and had to suffer for it. Almost every woman and man I know has been injured by this story. In today's blog Susan Scott shows us another side of Eve. Eve making a conscious choice. Eve walking hand in hand with Adam. Let's dive into our Goddess concept of Eve today to make us reconnect with our inner Goddess.
Mindfunda explores the Goddess in 4 blogs
The Goddess was hot in the seventies of last century. Marija Gimbutas put the Goddess back on the map. She inspired a lot of scientists, anthropologists and mythologists up to this day. But the attention for the Goddess seems to have faded away. Mindfunda want to invite you to reconnect with the Goddess. During the month of November Mindfunda will share 5 blogs:
A review of “The Book of She” written by Sara Avant Stover.
< Jumped in from elsewhere? Start at part 1
Today’s Guest blog is written by Susan Scott. Blogger on the Garden of Eden, author of In Praise of Lilith, Eve & The Serpent in the Garden of Eden & Other Stories.
Susan Scott is currently working on a book on ageing and becoming with Jungian analyst Susan Schwartz.
Eve as Goddess : Susan Scott
Susanne, thank you very much for inviting me to participate in this theme on Goddesses for mindfunda.com for November. It is an honour indeed!
Throughout the ages, stories with basic themes have recurred over and over, in widely disparate cultures, emerging from the goddess Venus from the sea of our unconscious
Joan D. Vinge
The myth of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a patriarchal one from around 4000 BC. It is not a very old myth, although it begins at the beginning of humanity on this earth as propounded by the creationists. It stems from the Iron Age onwards and replaced earlier myths which were matriarchal in kind, for example, the myths of Sophia, the consort of God; the Indian myth of Kali, or the Greek myths of the goddesses, Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter and Persephone to name a few. These matriarchal myths had Mother Nature as her Supreme Goddess. They were replaced by the worship of the monotheistic Sun God Apollo who assumed ascendancy as the matriarchal goddesses began their descent. The cycle turned – replacing the mother goddess with the father god. No longer was there reverence for Nature and living within her cycles.
However we view the biblical creation story in the Old Testament, it remains deeply embedded in the contemporary psyche of men and women, and in the collective unconscious too. Its echo continues. It has lasting value as all good myths do when they illustrate similar dynamics irrespective of time and place.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden where beauty, peace and order reigned supreme. All was at One, all was perfect.
Imagine: Eve languishing against the tree on which hung plump, delicious, glistening apples within arms’ reach. She knew there was a prohibition that she could eat anything within the Garden, except for the fruit from that one tree. After Eve told the serpent that she may not eat of this tree, for fear of death, the serpent beguiled her with its words:
‘You will not surely die. God knows, that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be as God, knowing good and evil’. (Gen. 2:17).
What are we to make of Eve going against this patriarchal injunction, accepting the apple, ingesting its seeds and swallowing them and offering it to Adam? What are we to make of God’s appearance and asking Adam why he disobeyed; and Adam then blaming Eve and Eve in turn blaming the serpent? Their subsequent exile from the Garden, covered in cloths and ivy leaves to cover their newly discovered nakedness, with shame as their dire companion? For Eve to suffer in childbirth …
Was she the original disobedient bad girl who deserved her reputation as being sinful and seductive when she offered the apple to Adam? Does she deserve the blame for her and Adam’s expulsion? And for bringing death, sin and sorrow into the world? Was this to be an ongoing ‘fault’ in forthcoming generations of women? Is this to be the legacy of the Old Testament?
What was it about Eve that threatened the new patriarchal order?
For millennia onwards, not only in western culture, we’ve witnessed the repression of the feminine principle. The animosity toward women has been expressed from time immemorial. Even the converted Paul upheld the subjugation of women, referring back to God’s word in Genesis:
‘Let the women learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression’. (1 Tim.2 10-14)
And the dogmatic St Augustine, brilliant in many ways, who referred to women as being vile and cursed, corruptible and filthy; her infant was infected with original sin from the moment of conception and was borne in faeces and urine; menstruation was close to the beasts; and that women have no souls …
The Mother of all Living (named so by Adam), once sacred, now degraded. Now also, the Mother of Suffering and Death.
The demonizing of women has caused a grave psychic wound to men and women. We’re all damaged, Mother Nature too. The concept of ‘sin’ keeps us bound to a paternalistic, vengeful, guilt ridden and narrow view of life. It is far removed from the image of wholeness that is deserved. It is a long repressed wound which needs healing.
We go back to the Garden where all was quiescent, yet too tranquil, too stable and too domesticated. It’s usually the best time for something to happen! There must have been a longing in Eve for change, away from this languor and passivity, dependence and homeostasis. The status quo. She’d been a child for too long. What did those seeming opposites of good and evil mean and why did they also appear to belong together? Two words, each holding great weight. And, after all, what would the knowledge of Good and Evil be if one were permanently in the Garden where all was ‘good’? The serpent offered a way out.
Eve acted on her instinct and used her initiative. She acted unconsciously because at that moment consciousness was not yet in her purview. There must have been a sense within her of wanting to move from this complacent security where there was no room for growth.
Her act resulted in the rise rather than the fall of man. A rise into consciousness, lifting the veil from that uroboric childlike innocence. An awakening. A growing up – into a new world, where pain and pleasure, life and death, sunlight and shadow, love and power, saint and sinner, wildness and conformity, joy and sorrow, strengths and vulnerabilities, solar and lunar resided side by side. A world of opposites. A world of duality – where distinctions and discriminations are necessary. Yet, identification with one side of the polarity and repression of the other means immobility and stagnation and movement towards wholeness is prohibited. Our task in life when faced with a conflict is to hold the tension between the opposing forces until a transcending symbol reconciling the two appears. It does mean that the old ‘pattern’ or way of relating to life will die, yet we consciously allow that to happen for the new to emerge. We begin to see that those opposites are complementary to each other and not necessarily in conflict. They need each other. Eve’s innocence in the Garden died yet allowed the discovery of the ever-present paradox in the new world, as we do too. Death endows life with meaning. We were not meant to be immortal.
Why else were we given the gift of free will? Yet, free will carries with it an enormous responsibility, so it is not so free after all. It sounds enticing, yet it is also a burden. It is a meaningful paradox illustrating being bound to the treadmill of Fate and Destiny by our freedom of choice –
Eve was a catalyst for growth for herself and Adam. She wanted more than just the taste of the apple. Those seeds had potential, activated by her swallowing and digesting them. Her knowledge of Good and Evil was an intuitive knowledge, embodied in experience, not rational knowledge. She opened up a new way of knowing. This is the mystery, the uncertainty and the wisdom of the unknown, which is the field of all possibilities. Hers was a beginning knowledge ‘…of the opposites, a knowledge necessary for higher consciousness’.*
Her breaking the rules meant that ego consciousness previously lacking, was given the opportunity to develop. We leave home eventually, making our way in the wider world. In my view, I think it’s reasonable that God precipitated Adam and Eve’s exile from Paradise. A loving parent knows that its child must leave the security of the nest eventually – and push them out if need be so that they stand on their own two feet – and experience first hand the challenges of the outside world. He knew that they would have to navigate their lives with all its ups and downs as they ventured forth; but that it would be of value to them as they entered a world of conflict and paradox, never a straightforward and easy task. They would experience community and responsibility, cooperation and the continued search for their spiritual identity in their alienation. Perhaps Adam and Eve also came to realize that both of them were guilty of laying the blame for taking the apple onto the other. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. In other words, each denied their own role and blamed the other. It sounds familiar doesn’t it. We still do it …
Wise choices are made only when the conflict or difficulties in our lives are made conscious, after differentiation and discrimination between the seeming opposites. Too often in our contemporary lives the difficulty seems insurmountable and we ‘choose’ not to confront it – we’re not prepared to do the hard inner work.
We can thank her for her curiosity about the serpent’s words offering her the tantalizing apple. She considered the offer very seriously before her acceptance. She wanted to share ‘knowledge’ with Adam. It was not an act of corruption but one of cooperation. She sensed the hidden world of human potential. Besides, she felt an intuitive kinship with the serpent who, according to legend, was Lilith, Adam’s first wife. Lilith was the woman prior to Eve who was also exiled for exerting her standpoint and demanding fairness, banished this time to the Depths of The Red Sea. The first two woman, both exiled, both repressed, both wanting to be a help-meet to their partner and both prepared to do the hard work necessary in meeting the challenges in everyday life to proceed authentically on their journeys –
Incidentally, the literature invariably shows Goddesses in time past with the revered serpent alongside as a symbol of fertility and rebirth. In Hatha Yoga, the serpent (kundalini) energy lies at the base of the spine, coiled upon itself in a ring.
With certain breathing exercises the snake uncoils itself upwards, releasing energy into all the chakras until it reaches the third eye where awakening occurs. Hermes, the winged messenger and trickster has two entwined serpents, symbolizing good and evil, health and sickness at the top end of his staff. Worthy of consideration is that the staff is rigid, straight and unyielding related therefore to the masculine, whereas the serpent coiled around it is flexible and yielding thus representative of the feminine principle. This image of the staff and the serpent graphically illustrates the union of the opposites, masculine and feminine inter alia, contained therein.
We know that the serpent sheds its skin to be born anew. We individually need to shed skin when it becomes too tight and does not fit any longer. Society needs to shed skin when ideas are outdated or outmoded. We become too comfortable and complacent, afraid of change and thus do not shed our skin. The serpent can be likened to Hermes, the trickster and messenger, precipitating change. Perhaps God too …
Eve can be seen as an agent of change bringing an end to the status quo in the Garden. In a way, she sacrificed herself to bring about change. Though the price was high, she stepped out of the Garden, with Adam’s arm around her, unaware of the blame that would be forever accorded her or the projections she would have to bear, not only from men but from women too who’ve accepted a fully submissive role, as in doormat. She’s been a scapegoat for far too long and the doctrine has been far too pervasive. Women’s voices continue to be silenced in many parts of the world, as we know.
Eve was to learn in the second Eden of the world’s repression of her feminine principle. She would come to learn of man’s repression of his own feminine principle (the anima) as she would of her own masculine principle (the animus). Men and women contain within themselves both male and female energies in varying degrees. Women can successfully use the male energies of e.g. assertiveness and ambition, reason and courage if they consciously don’t sacrifice their feminine energies in the pursuit, but manage to keep the balance. Men too would benefit from being more in touch with their feminine side where qualities such as reflection, patience, openness to life, and the willingness to initiate and explore life’s mysteries were not suppressed. Eros and Logos need each other and require emergence from the unconscious so that transcendence within the individual, and collectively too, can occur.
Women throughout the ages have defended Eve and thus allowed women’s voices to be heard from their own experience and not from that of a patriarchal view. They’ve said No! to the projection of sin put upon them. Having to be patriarchy’s scapegoat was something (and still is) unacceptable.
Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was benign to Eve, seeing in her the person who bestows divinity onto humanity, and seeing in her also the prefiguration of Mary. Pain in childbirth is not seen as inevitable or a curse; rather each time the mother gives birth, the hidden image of God is revealed in every child who is born.
Christine de Pizan (1365-1430) rehabilitates Eve in The Book of the City of Ladies, arguing for equal status, stating that Adam and Eve were made in God’s image.
Sarah Joseph Hale (1788-1879) contends in her book Woman’s Record that Adam needed assistance in cultivating his good qualities and ‘left to himself, his love becomes lust; patriotism (becomes) policy; and religion, idolatry. He is naturally selfish in his affections, and selfishness is the sin of depravity’. She contends that Eve took the apple because of her ‘higher faculties of the mind’, her ‘desire for knowledge and wisdom’. She also states that Adam ate with ‘compliance’, typical of a person with of a ‘lower nature’ and motives no higher than ‘gratifying his sensuous inclinations’.
To this day, writers grapple with Eve, she is painted, poems are written of her. Analyses of the implications of her role are ongoing. A psychological approach to what she stands for is always needed. As Edward C. Whitmont (ref. below), and many others who look at her in depth, writes: ‘Thus the dichotomy of the virgin and the whore, the good mother and the witch, continues to gnaw like an unresolved canker at the soul of modern man’.
Eve, mother of all living, mother of suffering and death – opposing poles of the archetype of the Great Mother. Is it possible that a woman can hold these polarities within her at the same time? Is this an archetypal image still felt deep in the collective unconscious?
It is our task, men and women alike, for us to venture into the wilderness, explore beyond boundaries, into the depths of our being, to find authentic meaning for ourselves and thus for the collective, this troubled world in which we now live.
Eve was such a woman. It is fitting that she appears in Genesis, the book of origins. Hers is a universal story, one in which we are accountable for our responsible use of free will. If we want to live less stressful, less fear-filled lives we have a moral responsibility to stand up against injustice in any shape or form, to ourselves, another, animal and Mother Nature. It begins with the individual. What is positively transformed on the micro level has positive effects on the macro level.
She offers us the chance of a new beginning, a new way of relating between men and women, a new way of relating to the earth, a way yet to be born when we come to the fullest expression of our adult selves. We too, like Adam and Eve, can walk together, arm in arm, bound perhaps by adversity and love, courage and trepidation as we continue on our journey.
“The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves”.
* Marion Woodman, Elinor Dickson: Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness. Gill and Marcus 1996
Anne Baring & Jules Cashford: The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image Arkana, Penguin Books 1993 (first published by Viking in 1991)
Edward C. Whitmont: Return of the Goddess, Arkana edition 1987
Pamela Norris: The Story of Eve. Picador 1998
Naomi H. Rosenblatt & Joshua Horwitz: Wrestling with Angels, Dell Publishing 1995
And my own book: In Praise of Lilith, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden & Other Stories. Olympia Publishers 2009
THIS CONTENT IS CREATED BY SUSANNE VAN DOORN, AUTHOR AND OWNER OF MINDFUNDA; MAKING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PSYCHOLOGY, MYTHOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY EASY TO USE IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE!
What is Mindfunda about?
My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.
This posting is categorised as Mythofunda:
“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths” Joseph Campbell used to say. This part of Mindfunda shows you how your personal mythology can create peace in your life.