MOTTO: Know you not that I must be about my mother's business

  • QUIETUS (The Quaternary Investigation into
    the Evolution Toward the Uniqueness in
    ) examines the social and
    political implications of a consistent philosophy
    in Shakespeare's Sonnets, poems and plays.

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearen Thought
    The Quaternary Institute
    Quaternary Institute & Quaternary Imprint



    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005


    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.


    The Quaternary Investigation into the Evolution Toward the Uniqueness in Shakespeare

    Riane Eisler & Partnership

    This essay on Riane Eisler concludes Volume 4 because she seems to understand better than most how human biology impacts on the constitution of the human mind. And as an accomplished lawyer and advocate she also takes the logic of human life and applies it steadfastly to the logic of the social and political dynamic at the heart of the American Constitution.
          In her seminal books The Chalice and the Blade (1987) and Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Spirituality and the Politics of the Body (1996), Eisler uses a range of scientific and historical evidence and argument to support her understanding of human rights. She envisions a society where the promulgation of human rights does not require a compensatory set of rights for women and children. Under her ‘cultural transformation theory’ a society would be based on what she calls a partnership model rather than the dominator model of the last 5000 years.
          Eisler draws evidence from historical, biological, mythological, archaeological, and psychological sources to distinguish between dominator and partnership societies. In dominator societies either male or female assume power over the other, whereas in partnership societies the natural priority of the female is respected without ‘justifying the inference’ that ‘women here dominate men’. (1)
          As a female conscious of her logical status, Eisler’s understanding accords with the critique of the recent history of male dominated cultures by Duchamp, Darwin and Shakespeare. As males they take responsibility for the iniquities that follow so readily on the presumption of male priority. Together with Eisler they make a compelling case for female/male partnership.

    The primacy of female culture

    Eisler draws on the work of the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas who, with others, has gathered overwhelming evidence that societies and civilizations for over 30,000 years were respectful of female priority. The evidence from sites throughout Old Europe shows that the primary focus of cultural practices was the female. The great majority of artifacts found in dwellings and gathering areas represented females or female body parts. Statuettes of which the Venus of Willendorf is the most famous celebrate the sexual logic of human life as do the many representations of vulvae and breasts. As Gimbutas says, ‘the symbolic significance of the vulva remained universal throughout Europe for some thirty thousand years’. (2)
          Notable in the artifacts and artworks, such as cave drawings or petrographs, throughout the whole of Old Europe is the absence of the depiction of interpersonal violence or scenes of warfare. Eisler’s conclusion is that the societies that accepted the priority of the female and acknowledged the rightful worth of the male sustained a state of natural balance in which violence was needed only infrequently to resolve conflict. And because the natural priority of the female was respected, such societies did not have repressive attitudes toward sexual activity. They were at ease with the give and take of sexual pleasure.
          In what can be surmised of the mythologies of the female-based societies of Old Europe, the mother Goddess (or Goddesses) of fertility predominated as a natural consequence of biological imperatives. In any particular culture a number of Goddesses were named as were a number of subsidiary male Gods. The relation of Goddesses and Gods in the mythologies reflected the natural logic of everyday life.
          At issue is not the existence of Goddess cultures in the pre-historic era, but the acceptance across the whole of Old Europe of the primacy of the female for a period of more than 30,000 years. Although the oral mythologies of the ancient European culture were recorded only after the invention of writing, the general pattern of female priority emerges primarily from a study of the archaeological evidence. But it has also been possible to extrapolate back from the remnants of Goddess mythologies in biblical and other texts.

    The rise of male-based religions

    According to Riane Eisler, then, the evidence suggests that for 30,000 years, from Spain in the west to Mesopotamia in the east, societies in Old Europe acknowledged the natural priority of the female and integrated the role of the male without apparent conflict. Yet around 5000 years ago male power and violence usurped the priority of the female-based societies.
          Eisler notes the connection between male God religions of the Hebrew Bible and other male-based religions such as the Christian and the Muslim that have held political sway for the last few millennia. She is particularly critical of the way male-based religions instituted a male God as creator of the world and relegated womanhood to a secondary status and frequently to servitude and denigration through cultures of fear and pain.
          The evidence suggests the inversion of natural priorities began when the masculine prowess that sustained nomadic cultures encountered and subverted female-based agrarian cultures. Eisler’s case for the ascendancy of male power over female priority 5000 years ago draws on Marija Gimbutas’understanding of nomadic cultures. Gimbutas theorises that the nomadic tribes of Northern Europe or Africa survived in inhospitable climates of tundra or desert by virtue of male strength. But the continual reliance on masculine virtues led to a society in which women’s rights were gradually subsumed. Then when the nomadic tribes invaded the pastoral/agricultural societies, in which the priority of the female was still respected, they enforced male superiority.
          The female basis of shared social responsibility was superseded by a culture of male-based hierarchical power required to suppress and denigrate the natural rights of women. Eisler considers the development of male dominant religions that regard the female’s life-perpetuating sexuality as inherently evil and symptomatic of a death wish in a set of beliefs that values death over life. For her its modern consequence is the threat by weapons of mass destruction to most forms of life on the planet.
          While Eisler recognises there have been attempts to mitigate some of the negative consequences of male God priority for womankind by individuals such as Christ and Luther, they were unwilling or unable to correct the illogicality of male God priority. Even attempts to assert that the Godhead was gender neutral fail to recover the natural priority of the female and hence the natural balance in a culture.
          The persistence of male-dominated societies has coincided with the rise in male God religions with their blatant contradiction of the natural order. But even when the conditions for a culture’s survival no longer require the pre-emptory exercise of male power, as might have been the case many times over the last 5000 years, the persistence of male-based institutions has ensured the natural priority of the female has not been allowed to reassert itself.
          The factor most responsible for institutionalisation of male power was the invention of writing. The advent of the written word at a time when malebased cultures were establishing dominance ensured their ‘commandments’ were inscribed as the unquestioned ‘word’ of the male God. The power attributed to the infallible word of God in proclamations such as the first three commandments of Moses enforced the usurped superiority of male over the natural priority of female and prevented a return to partnership cultures.
          Riane Eisler shows her awareness of the relation of enforced male dominance and the invention of writing around 3000 BC when she acknowledges that ‘most of written history carries the dominator stamp’ (3) and when she talks of ‘recorded or dominator history’ (4). In Sacred Pleasure she suggests that women particularly should ‘rebuild myth’ (5) to recover the priority of the female and give expression to the values of partnership. How this is possible will be discussed later in the essay.

    Recovering the natural order

    In her writings Eisler records the history of male-based iniquities toward women, and even toward men, to demonstrate the need for a cultural transformation. To advance the process of cultural transformation she uses biological and logical arguments to show that the priority of the female is not a social construct but a living reality. Ironically, the illogicality of imposing male superiority has led to the compensatory post-modern claim that all cultural agendas are social constructs.
          But biologically the human female is the primary entity and the male the secondary entity. The female has the greater number of shared features with an originary asexual life form. The male by contrast has fewer features in common with the asexual form and those features are clearly derived from female precursors.
          Although the emergence of the male as a logical entity is essential for the evolutionary shift to sexual differentiation, the male’s status at the head of the evolutionary process does not imply superior rights. The opposite is the case. The male’s evolutionary advantage is conditional on his ability to recognise and accept his dependency on the female priority. If the male demands priority and by abuse of his usurped power threatens through nuclear annihilation the existence of humankind, the consequence is not the survival of the male but a return to the state of nature that predates the rise of sexual species. The male is both biologically derived from the female and is dependent on her for his persistence.
          Eisler appreciates that logically the female is prior to the male. But because the human female and male are co-dependent, the logical relationship of female and male is one of partnership rather than dominance. As she says, ‘looked at from a strictly analytical or logical viewpoint, the primacy of the Goddess – and with this the centrality of the values symbolised by the nurturing and regenerating powers incarnated in the female body – does not justify the inference that women here dominated men’. (6)
          To claim male priority by asserting the existence of the male God of the Jews and the Christians and Muslims, has been shown to be illogical by philosophers such as Hume. So any claim for male dominance is wrong both biologically and logically. Eisler corrects the biological and the logical imbalance in the traditional understanding of the female/male dynamic.

    Sexual dominance

    The usurpation of priority over female-based cultures by the male God religions had illogical consequences for the status of sexuality. To maintain their sense of priority male-based cultures have not only dominated through violence and fear, they denied the logic of sexual persistence basic to the priority of the female.
          Riane Eisler is in no doubt that the institutionalisation of male dominance led to the repressive attitude to sexuality that is typical of Hebrew, Christian and Muslim social systems. ‘Males are ranked over females; violence and abuse are systemic and institutionalised; the social structure is hierarchic and authoritarian; and coercion is a major element in sexuality. And it’s all supposed to be just human nature’. (7) In male-based religions where the female is not accorded human status, fifty percent of the population is relegated to powerlessness and servitude.
          The natural attitude to sexuality over 25,000 years of female based cultures, which is expressed in their mythological pantheon of Goddesses and Gods as represented in their artifacts, was denigrated in the over-written male-based mythologies as unnatural and evil. Eisler discusses in detail the history of repression over the last 5000 years, a repression still practised today. As she says, ‘a very misleading and pathological image about sexuality exists in our culture’. (8)
          Symptomatic of the repressive attitude is the refusal of Marija Gimbutas’ publisher to accept the title of her seminal book Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. (9) They insisted the title read Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe and it was not until the second edition, when Gimbutas’ reputation was secure, that the original title was sanctioned.
          Eisler deplores the corruption of natural values particularly in periods of fundamentalist religious fervour. She notes with irony that although the Christian mythology is written in erotic terms, the faithful were ‘flagellating their bodies…And the Mediaeval Church, instead of offering these people therapy, canonised them’. (10)
          As mythologies express a particular culture’s vision of origin and persistence Eisler argues that the forceful annexation of the priority of the female by the male leads not only to an inversion of values but also to a denigration of sexuality. And once sexuality is demonised then any form of physical pleasure is readily proscribed as evil.

    Sacred pleasure

    In the process of considering the female/male relationship from the vantage of the various disciplines Eisler emphasises the logical connection from sexuality to spirituality. She affirms the natural logic that ‘sexual pleasure and spiritual pleasure come from the same source’.(10) She acknowledges Darwin’s insight that the mind is derived from bodily characteristics through evolution. The spirituality of the Goddess religions of Old Europe is an ‘embodied spirituality’. (11)
          The archaeological evidence from the religious observances of Goddess worshipping cultures of Old Europe supports the primacy of sexual priorities and energies. Even the male-based dominator misogynist religions, by their denigration of sexuality and prohibitions on its expression and women’s freedom, acknowledge the primacy of the sexual. Their programme of life denial and lust for death speaks of a psychological fear of life that they alleviate by taking retribution on the female.
          Eisler is precise when she distinguishes between the sexual or the logic of reproduction and the erotic or the pleasures or desires associated with secondary sexual characteristics. While there is a logical requirement for humankind to persist through sexual means there is not a universal requirement for everyone to do so, or for anyone to devote themselves entirely to the increase process. Rather Eisler reasons that the body, both female and male, is specifically designed for the experience of pleasure separate from the act of coitus. Masturbation, particularly for the female, is a form of pleasuring unrelated to intercourse. The female orgasm as a clitoral event establishes the independence of the erotic for the female.
          Because the sexual dynamic provides the logical connection to posterity, it is not surprising that expressions of the eternal relationship between human nature and nature should be characterised by the sexual. Eisler is able to show that the Goddess religions of Old Europe and the logic of human life naturally express the sexual logic of persistence. She records and applauds the logic of sexual metaphors in religious expression.
          Ironically, even those religions that seek to deny sexual logic adhere to the logic of sexual persistence by casting their mythologies in the erotic. As the erotic is the logical expression of the sexual dynamic within the dynamic of the mind, then the erotic elements in all mythologies acknowledge the primacy of the sexual dynamic whether they intend to or not.

    The priority of the body over the mind

    So far this essay has followed Eisler’s programme for the recovery of the natural priority of the female and the logic of female/male partnership. Her recognition of the primacy of the female, the significance of the sexual dynamic, the relation of the erotic to the sexual, and the illogicality of traditional male God priority are consistent with the natural logic of Darwin and Shakespeare. Her philosophic mind avoids the illogicalities that affect even Marija Gimbutas.
          For instance, in Sacred Pleasure Eisler counters Gimbutas’ fanciful claim that ‘there is no evidence that in Neolithic times mankind understood biological conception’. (12) She points to evidence from a 8000-year-old plaque ‘demonstrating that our Neolithic ancestors understood the connection between sexual intercourse and birth’(13) and makes the observation that if women and men understood how animals and plant procreated, then it is sensible to expect that they knew the biology of conception. Gimbutas’ erroneous understanding reflects an inability to uncover the logic behind God or Goddess beliefs. Her desire for a return to Goddesses religions of the past blinds her to the logic of human persistence, from out of which Eisler develops a more exacting appreciation of human desires.
          Eisler’s willingness to consider the logical relation between the body and mind is a reflection of her more philosophic disposition and her acceptance of the findings of Darwinian science. Characteristically she says ‘the way a society structures the most fundamental human relations – the relations between the female and male halves of humanity, without which our species could not survive – has major implications for the totality of a social system. It clearly affects the individual roles and life choices of both women and men. Equally important, though until now rarely noted, is that it also profoundly affects all our values and social institutions’. (14)
          Throughout her writings Eisler is conscious of the logical relation between nature at large, the sexual dynamic of the body, and their implications for the effective operations of the mind. She does not consider human sexuality a ‘baser instinct’ or a ‘lower drive’ but as ‘part of what we might call a higher drive – an indispensable part of what makes our species human’ (15). If the logic of nature is adhered to as it was in the female cultures for 25,000 years, a society and its understanding of the world shows greater consistency and peacefulness. But if a society does not adhere to the logic of nature the consequence is a corruption of the function of aesthetics and ethics resulting in an inability to control and predict conflict and dissent.
          While Eisler does not present an exacting analysis of the aesthetic and the ethical dynamic, she appreciates that the ‘polarisation into absolute good and absolute evil’ in dominator societies leads to the ‘idealisation and institutionalisation of cruelty, violence, and insensitivity’. (16) She is also aware that ‘cynicism has long been the refuge of disillusioned idealists’. (17) Her consistency of understanding enables her to advocate in social and political forums with insight and incisiveness.

    The mythic dynamic

    Besides critiquing male-based cultures and institutions using archaeology and biology, Eisler also considers the status of mythologies in the last 5000 years of recorded history. She shows that the mythologies of female-based cultures gave priority to the female and incorporate the male in a partnership while recognising his logical dependence on the female. With the shift to malebased cultures, where the male Gods usurp the role of the female, the expressive relationship becomes one of dominance and denigration.
          If myth was previously transmitted orally in the cultures of Old Europe, then not only could it vary in the telling, it could not be inscribed as the unvarying myth of a culture. Before the advent of the written word, religious expression had the non-exclusive status that Jefferson recovered by writing tolerance into the American Constitution. Any form of religious expression, be it of the Goddess or of the Gods, was secondary to the natural conditions of existence and the natural exercise of power in a particular culture.
          If male-based cultures of violence and misogyny did arise and were the cause of the overthrow of Goddess cultures around the time that the written word became the primary means of codifying behaviour in laws and mythologies, then the shift to male dominance expressed in the mythologies became enshrined because males had assumed control of the new technology. The culture of scribes and priests ensured male dominance and female subservience was written into laws.
          The evidence of Genesis points to just such a scenario. The creation of the world by a male God, the formation of Adam prior to Eve, the control of the ‘knowledge of good and evil’ by the male God, the denigration of the female as sinful and sex as evil, and the confusion of languages in Babel, which retrospectively pillories the many languages already in existence in favour of the written word of the Hebrew Bible, show the usurpation in progress.
          So the Bible bears witness to the inversion of natural logic by the assertion of male priority for which Gimbutas and Eisler find evidence in the archaeology and in the altered mythologies in the period around 3000- 1000 BC. The use of the written word to secure male dominance is still evident in the appeals to the male-God based edicts of the Bible and Koran and the inevitable violent disagreements over interpretation.

    Understanding the logic of myth

    The final chapter of Sacred Pleasure is given over to the status of the mythic and Eisler’s hope that creative minds will rewrite mythic texts to express the equality of female and male in nature. Yet it is in her proposals for a new mythic awareness that Eisler’s arguments are least incisive and reveal an ignorance of the artistic dynamic required to write at a mythic level. This is evident in her earlier wondering whether Greek mythmakers ‘had a sense of tragicomic irony or whether, like some artists of today, they were just ‘telling it like it is’. (18)
          While Eisler is aware that to ‘change our realities we also have to change our myths’, (19) in myth the ideas must not only encapsulate the natural logic of life but must be written by a poet capable of giving expression to the required depth of insight. It is not by accident that only the first few chapters in Genesis and in three of the Gospels are written at a mythic level, and that most cultures have a single mythology around which other legends and tales are centred.
          Oddly, while Eisler should realise she is one of the few capable of writing books such as The Chalice and the Blade and Sacred Pleasure, she falls for the common misunderstanding that anyone can create a work of art even at the mythic level. Her suggestion that traditional ‘fairy tales’ be transformed mythically to recognise the priority of the female in a partnership relationship is misguided in that fairy tales do not sublimate the full erotic logic essential to mythic expression. While Eisler is aware of the distinction between the sexual and the erotic, she abandons her awareness when she encourages all artists to be mythic.
          Eisler’s and Gimbutas’ difficulties arise at the beginning of their account of the shift from female partnership cultures to male dominator cultures. While the rise of male dominant cultures in nomadic tribes would have contributed to the destruction of female-based cultures Eisler mentions only in passing the other vehicle of male dominance. She talks of ‘recorded or dominator history’, correctly recognising that the dominator religions out of the Middle East coincide with the advent of the written word.
          As long as there is a tendency to look for a religious or ‘spiritual’ counter to male God priority by re-instituting Goddess worship the consequence of the effects of the written word will not be addressed. If the primary cause of the demise of the Goddess religions is the social and political usurpation of power by the male then the cyclical nature of female/male dominance and the reasons for the overwhelming male dominance around 3000BC remains speculative. But if the effect of ‘recorded or dominator history’ is recognised, both historic and contemporary misogyny can be addressed.
          As long as Eisler’s argument is based in archaeology and comparative mythology, the logic of myth will escape her. And the final chapter in Sacred Pleasure points to the heart of the problem. Her analysis of artistic practice fails to take account of those artists such as Marcel Duchamp who are capable of giving ideas mythic expression. It is not sufficient to encourage all artists to create their own revisions of the dominator biblical or other mythologies.
          Eisler is coy in failing to acknowledge her own special talent to argue coherently for women’s rights, something she does more coherently than other women’s rights advocates. She is also coy to expect artists who work literally or even symbolically to operate at the mythic level. In any culture only a few individuals achieve mythic depth in their work.

    Duchamp and Shakespeare

    These essays, and the four volumes as a whole, acknowledge the type of talent required to operate at the mythic level and identify two practitioners who not only work at such a level but articulate the logical conditions for operating at the mythic level. Both Marcel Duchamp and William Shakespeare created specific works that show how they recover the priority of the female over the male and formulate the distinction between the sexual and the erotic as fundamental to mythic expression.
          Marcel Duchamp’s ubiquitous role in twentieth-century culture is a silent witness to his unique achievement of giving mythic expression to the deepest aspirations of the culture. But twentieth-century critiques of his work have failed to note his articulation of the logical conditions for any mythic expression in art.
          But it is Shakespeare who most comprehensively confronts the inconsistencies of the written word when it is engineered to give validity to a male-dominant culture. Compared with Duchamp’s primarily pictorial and plastic presentation of the inconsistencies, Shakespeare’s use of words directly confronts the inconsistencies of biblical and other male-based mythologies by formulating a consistent mythic expression.
          Shakespeare’s Sonnets are based in nature, they recognise the priority of the female over the male and the logic of increase, they acknowledge the priority of the body over the mind, and they correctly account for the logic of aesthetics and ethics, and in doing so they articulate the logical conditions for any mythic possibility. In Sexual Pleasure Eisler does show an awareness of the logic behind the increase argument of the first 14 sonnets when she says ‘there is little question that the human need for love stems from a biological fact: that without love…we humans do not survive’. (20) At the level of Darwinian science she is clear about the natural logic of life. But unlike Shakespeare she does not know how to connect the biology of the body systematically to the mythic expression of the relationship of body and mind.
          Eisler’s level of insight into the natural logic of body and mind and the significance of a mythology to a particular culture is evident in her comments on two of Shakespeare’s plays. Inevitably she shows no appreciation that the Sonnet philosophy articulates the mythic logic behind all his plays. As she is unaware of Shakespeare’s achievement at a level of insight which gives him an overview of the mythic possibility, she misrepresents the role of Kate in the Taming of the Shrew. (21) And although she lauds the role of Portia in the Merchant of Venice (22) her ignorance of the Sonnet logic leads her to suggest that Shakespeare’s Kate expresses a negative attitude to women.
          She thinks that classics like Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew exhibit the ‘eroticisation of brutality and violence’ that ‘serves to maintain the domination of one half of humanity by the other’. (23) She cites Portia from the Merchant of Venice as a rare instance of a ‘heroine modeling spunk and independent action’ to counter the tales where the heroine uses ‘her body as currency to pay for her deliverance by a powerful male’. (22)
          Because the Sonnet philosophy is the philosophy behind all his poems and plays, then the issue being addressed in the Taming of the Shrew is the over masculinised personality of the shrewish Kate, who is brought back into balance with natural logic by the already naturally achieved male Petruchio. Eisler falls into the trap of reading the Taming of the Shrew out of the context of the other 37 plays and without the advantage of knowing the Sonnet philosophy.

    Church and State

    In the essay on Thomas Jefferson it was suggested that the influence of Shakespeare can be felt in the determination in the eighteenth-century America to separate Church and State. There is a consistent argument throughout Shakespeare’s plays for limitations on the role of the Church and the recovery of the natural logic of mythic expression. The religious turmoil in the Europe of his day led eventually to the ring fencing of the Catholic Church in Italy within the Vatican City, to making the Anglican monarchy in England apolitical, and to the complete separation of Church and State in France.
          If Shakespeare’s analysis of myth is added to Eisler’s evidence for female priority, then her advocacy for the separation of Church and State (as guaranteed by the American Constitution) and for women’s equality before the law receives a logical sanction of unprecedented precision and comprehensiveness only hinted at in her statements accepting the priority of the female over the male and in her prescription for a revival of female-based myth and story.
          For Eisler the ‘two basic human types are male and female. The way the relationship between women and men is structured is thus a basic model for human relations’. (24) If male dominance prevails then ‘the force-backed ranking of man over woman, man over man, race over race, and nation over nation that can only be maintained by inflicting or threatening pain’. (11)
          If the American Constitution prevents the possibility of any religion assuming power then it also prevents Goddess religions from taking priority. Duchamp and Shakespeare, and Eisler as far as she goes, set out the logical conditions for social and political consistency at the level of statehood. They do not argue for a new religion to replace the male-based religions currently attempting to undermine the natural logic of the Constitution. They advocate, as Jefferson did in the Declaration of Independence, a society that conforms to the laws of Nature.

    The priority of the female

    Throughout her writing Eisler vehemently denounces the influence of male-based dominator religions such as Christian, Hebrew, and Islam with their denigration and enslavement of women, who constitute one half of the world’s population. She recognises that it is in the mythologies of those religions that the illogical male superiority is expressed and promulgated. Even the Ten Commandments begin with three laws that relate solely to male dominance. Above all other iniquities inflicted on half of humankind, the abuse of myth to enforce rigid male dominance is the focus of her condemnation.
          Eisler’s response to the iniquities is to be an activist in both personal and public domains for a woman’s right to be equal and valued. At the constitutional level she advocates the incorporation of women’s (and children’s) rights into a single statute of human rights. She argues they should not be separate and so conditional on male-based rights. She has established the Partnership Institute to promote the natural justice of equal treatment for female and male in personal relations, in the home, school and society.
          The USA already has a Statute or Amendment to the Constitution forbidding any religion from becoming the State religion. To complete the logical pattern, an amendment that guaranteed equality of female and male because female is prior to male and the male is dependant on the female would remove another cause of iniquity and division resulting from male domination. If France and America can set the standard for natural government by suppressing the tendency of male-based religions to assert dominance, an amendment that constitutionalises female priority as an example to the Jewish, Muslim and fundamentalist Christian world would proscribe a male-based injustice and give societies a chance to concentrate on issues that arise in the natural course of events.


    These four volumes of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet Philosophy have presented evidence and argument for a profound philosophy in the Sonnets of great consistency and comprehensiveness as the basis for all Shakespeare’s poems and plays. The first three volumes suggested Shakespeare was in part responding to the religious atrocities of his day and in part to the logical inconsistencies in biblical mythologies. From those concerns he was able to articulate a philosophy based in nature that recognised the priority of the female over the male for a coherent understanding of truth and beauty. The volumes, and particularly Volume 4, have considered other thinkers who have dismissed the illogicalities of biblical faiths. Darwin, Duchamp, Mallarmé, Lakoff and Johnson, Nietzsche, Jefferson, Freud, and Joyce, have in varying degrees argued for the natural basis of understanding.
          It is only in this last essay, though, that a thinker has been considered who lifts her sights out of the male-God dominated period of recorded history to present a case for the period of 25,000 years in which female cultures thrived in relative harmony. From that vantage it is then possible to see that the period of recorded history has been usurped by male-driven prerogatives that have led to societies that have been in perpetual war over issues of belief prejudiced by excessive religious idealism.
          Riane Eisler is not alone in noting the short period of time in which male dominance has perverted the natural logic of life. Other thinkers such as Marija Gimbutas, David Loye, Merlin Stone, Ashley Montagu, Elinor Gadon, and Buffy Johnson, to name a few, have in different ways argued for a return to a society based on partnership and natural values. But unlike some who would see a Goddess-based religion replace the male-God religions of the Bible, Eisler is able to acknowledge the need for a spiritual dimension to life without losing sight of the basic logic of human life within nature in which the female is logically prior to the male.
          Eisler’s understanding of life seems to accord with the Nature template derived from Shakespeare’s Sonnets. She lacks only the mythic overview that Shakespeare so precisely laid out in the Sonnets as the basis for all his poems and plays.

    Nature Template

    Nature Template

          Eisler’s more philosophic approach is consistent with her strident advocacy of the separation of Church and State and of the promulgation of comprehensive human rights. Her Cultural Transformation Theory expresses her desire to reconcile personal experiences and values with cultural justice. She senses that the time is ripe for the recovery of natural values on a globe threatened by 5000 years of religious paranoia.
          If Aristotle heralded a return to nature after the heady idealism of Plato, he also exemplified the male-based prejudice of the last 5000 years. Eisler records that, ‘As Aristotle explicitly stated…just as slaves are naturally meant to be ruled by free men, women are meant to be ruled by men’. She comments that ‘the same philosophical premises have also been integral to the other major tradition that has shaped Western civilization: our Judeo- Christian heritage’. (25)
          Four hundred years ago Shakespeare, who mentioned Aristotle twice, had already formulated the philosophy needed to correct the anti-Nature beliefs of excessive male-God idealism and to institute a philosophy based in nature and the priority of the female over the male to enable a consistency in truth and beauty.


    1 Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, San Francisco, Harper Row, 1987, p. 27. Back
    2 Marija Gimbutas, 'The "Monstrous Venus" of Prehistory, in In all her names, exploration of the feminine in divinity, ed. Charles Muses, Harper San Francisco, p. 30. Back
    3 Riane Eisler, Interview with Jerry Snider, Magical Blend, January 1996,, 22.06.04. Back
    4 Riane Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, Spirituality and the Politics of the Body, Harper San Francisco, 1996, p. 361. Back
    5 Ibid., p. 378. Back
    6 Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, p. 27. Back
    7 Riane Eisler, Interview with Mark Harris, Conscious Choice, February 1999,, 22.06.04. Back
    8 Ibid. Back
    9 Marija Gimbutas, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, 6500-3500 BC, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1982. Back
    10 Riane Eisler, Interview with Jerry Snider. Back
    11 Riane Eisler, from Tikkun, January 1999,, 22.06.04. Back
    12 Marija Gimbutas, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, p. 137. Back
    13 Riane Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, p. 63. Back
    14 Riane Eisler, 'The Goddess of Nature and Spirituality, An Ecomanifesto', in In all her names, exploration of the feminine in divinity, ed. Charles Muses, Harper San Francisco, 1991, p. 10. Back
    15 Riane Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, p. 49. Back
    16 Ibid., p. 135. Back
    17 Ibid., p. 304. Back
    18 Ibid., p. 85. Back
    19 Ibid., p. 126. Back
    20 Ibid., p. 173. Back
    21 Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, p. 142. Back
    22 Riane Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, p. 271. Back
    23 Ibid., p. 223. Back
    24 Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, p. 168. Back
    25 Ibid., p. 118. Back

    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

    Back to Top