The Chalice and the
by Riane Eisler
Riane Eisler describes how humankind once lived in a caring, sharing
environment. That period, which lasted for tens of thousands of
years, survived, though barely, just into historical times. It was
characterized by a worship of the divine feminine as represented
by the chalice in the title of Eisler's book.
In a blink of the eye, historically speaking, that environment
was brutally overthrown and replaced with the beginnings of the
patriarchy in which we live today. Those who overthrew this golden
age worshipped not life and creativity, but death and destruction;
in short, the blade. Those in power today continue to worship that
blade, which has been changed by the rapid rise of technology into
the lethal systems that could end all life on the planet in a matter
of days or hours.
The premise of The Chalice and the Blade is that the rapid
transition from a partnership society to a male dominator society
was the result of the sociological equivalent of a "critical bifurcation
point" in Chaos theory. Eisler explains in some detail how the currently
popular scientific theory applies to that sudden shift into darkness
that occurred approximately six or seven thousand years ago. However,
she also goes on to propose that we once again face a critical bifurcation
point; that we live in an exciting, dangerous time in which we can
just as rapidly overthrow our hierarchically controlled patriarchal
system and replace it with a technologically advanced model of the
partnership system in which both genders work together to emphasize
the nurturing side of life.
That's the theory, anyway.
I found the early part of The Chalice and the Blade fascinating.
Eisler frequently quotes such notables as Marija Gimbutas and James
Mellaart, whose archaeological findings are the supporting pillars
in Wiccan/Pagan cosmology. In fact, my only complaint about the
first two-thirds of the book is that Eisler often refers to specific
photos in the books of those two authors, but does not reproduce
the photos in The Chalice and the Blade. Not a problem if
you have the other works at hand; however, not everyone does.
About a third of the way from the end of the book, however, I began
to lose interest. This is the point at which Eisler begins to explain
how our age has reached that critical point in which we can effect
a rapid transformation of our patriarchal (dominator) society into
anything we want--in particular, the partnership model that would
truly represent a maturing of our species. So why did I lose interest?
Eisler's theory is the stuff of dreams.
I would give almost anything to return to a Chalice-oriented social
structure. However, Eisler just didn't convince me that we have
reached that critical bifurcation point. She labors long on man's
cruelty to woman and what things might be like; too long, by a good
measure. Of course, in the vernacular of the internet, YMMV (your
mileage may vary).
Having lived in those heady days of revolution known as the sixties,
I'm a little more realistic about the pace at which change occurs.
However, those days also taught me that persistence is how to bring
change about. For that reason, I can criticize Eisler for her verbosity,
but not her persistence.
If you've read Mellaart and Gimbutas, you might want to pass on
reading The Chalice and the Blade. However, if your Goddess
history is a little weak, you should take a look at this book to
fill in the gaps. ~ Yona