In Search Of The Feminine Archetype

I often wonder what the world would be like if women were in
charge of it instead of men. It would definitely be an altogether
different place. Moreover, it’s hard to escape the sneaking
suspicion that it would probably be a far better place too.

In watching the 9/11 attack on New York, and the resulting military
response, this masculine aspect to events is most striking. Men
planned and carried out the attack on the USA. Government men
around the world speak words of aggression in response, and
rapidly commit masculine military strikes, depriving many
innocent people of their lives and homes; all in the name of
peace and the sanctity of human life. Nowhere in any of this do
we see the feminine archetype present – only the masculine.
Indeed, such is the domination of the masculine archetype, the
feminine does not seem even slightly relevant.

In his excellent book, “The Alphabet Versus The Goddess”, Leonard
Shlain provides compelling evidence for an astonishing phenomenon
present in human history. His essential contention is that the
rise of literacy in the form of alphabetic writing has led to an
over-emphasis upon masculine left-brain thinking at the expense
of the feminine right-brain. This has resulted in a decline of
the feminine archetype within the cultures where literacy has
been introduced. Not only has the Goddess herself declined as the
primary deity, in favor of her masculine competitor, but women
themselves rapidly become subjected to extreme debasement.

Shlain is not alone in this contention. In fact, he is in good
company. Neither Socrates, Buddha or Christ wanted their
teachings committed to writing, but instead subscribed to the
oral tradition. Their teachings were only preserved in written
form decades or (in the case of the Buddha) centuries after their
deaths. More recently, anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss stated:

“There is one fact that can be established: the only phenomenon
which, always and in all parts of the world, seems to be linked
with the appearance of writing…is the establishment of
hierarchical societies, consisting of masters and slaves, and
where one part of the population is made to work for the other”.

In essence, the conflict is between Word and Image, and the way
our brains accept and integrate information from both. The
masculine left-brain function is primarily associated with logic,
numeracy, abstraction, analysis, reduction, writing and speech.
The feminine right-brain is non-verbal and its language is that
of image. It controls non-logical states, views things in
concrete fashion rather than abstract, and is connected to
intuition. It is both creative and nurturing, and is holistic in
viewing things in an “all-at-once” fashion.

Thus, the two are very different and both have valid
contributions to make. Ideally, a balance of both is required.
Yet, throughout history, it has been the masculine left-brain
that has dominated, and this can be traced back to the profound
change that writing has had upon us.

The earliest written work that continues to influence the modern
world is the Old Testament. Moreover the Jews, the first race to
derive their entire religious effort from the written word, soon
came to display this split between masculine and feminine
functions. Immediately, we see the battle between Word and Image
displayed. Of the Ten Commandments, the first is that there
should be no other gods besides Jehovah. The second is that there
should be no graven images or likeness of ANYTHING in heaven, on
earth, on in the oceans!

Thus, in the first two commandments alone, we see the function of
the right-brain/feminine function completely banned. Moreover,
the previous rich diversity of gods and goddesses, representing
all the aspects of creation’s mysteries in which we are immersed,
are replaced by an abstract, single, “male” God who is “out
there” somewhere, and definitely NOT part of Creation itself. We
can only learn about this abstraction through the written and
spoken word (left-brain & masculine), and NOT through image and
creativity (right-brain & feminine).

In addition, and in contrast to the all-inclusive nature of other
religions of the time, Judaism was peculiar in being the only
religion in which God had seemingly created a “Chosen People”
with whom he would share himself in exclusion to all other
nations upon the earth. This divisiveness is a distinctively
masculine function, and contrasts sharply with the more holistic
all-inclusive universal character of the feminine archetype.

Indeed, this “chosen people” characteristic was later adopted
from the religions that took Judaism as their root; namely
Christianity and Islam. Here too, the abstract monotheistic male
god, separate from and often condemning his creation, and who
gives his revelation only through the written and spoken word,
was adopted in preference to the accepting embracing Mother
Goddess, who speaks through the vast diversity of Creation, as
well as through image and inner intuitive seeking.

These religions, in their most extreme forms, adopted intensely
repressive attitudes towards women. There is plenty of evidence
to suggest that the founders did not necessarily display
antipathy towards women themselves. However, their later male
adherents definitely did display such tendencies, which has
led to the repression, and even persecution, of women throughout
the centuries. The most extreme example of this is the Witch
Trials in both Europe and America.

It was only in the 20th century that women’s rights began to
truly recover from the negative bombardment that has been
inflicted upon them for millennia. Interestingly, this was also
the era that brought us Television, Cinema, a huge surge in
interest in Art, and more recently, Computer Graphics. This may
be no coincidence, since all of these communication media are
IMAGE-oriented. They stimulate the right-brain feminine side. As
a consequence of these new technologies, traditional literacy has
been under attack in the Western world, and has even started to

The act of writing itself is now, for the first time in history,
being carried out by both hands at once, through the use of
computer keyboards. Thus, the left-brain/right-hand dominance is
breaking down, and giving way to a more brain-balanced mode of
putting words into print.

This is not so much an issue of Feminism, and of women having the
right to be jet pilots. The more important issue is the welfare
of the feminine principle itself. When this was debased with the
decline of the Goddess and right-brain activity, women themselves
were “literally” denigrated. When the feminine archetype is
restored to its rightful place in our civilization, as is
beginning to take place, the fortunes of women themselves must
necessarily rise too.

At present, the trap women find themselves in is that they can
certainly succeed in a man’s world. However, to do so, they often
end up behaving more like a man than most men do! In other
words, a woman in today’s world may eventually get the top
position she seeks, but somewhere along the line, she has lost
some, or even most, of her femininity. Conversely, a man who
seeks a top job must always over-emphasize his masculine traits,
and rarely reveal his feminine ones.

This demonstrates that the male left-brain archetype still
dominates our culture. It does not matter what physical body you
happen to have been born with, success in our culture requires
the adoption of the left-brain mindset. A woman has to adopt it
in order to compete equally with men. She cannot easily do so on
her own terms, as a fully feminine women.

The most desperately needed place for the feminine archetype at
present is the arena of international politics. Here, the absurd
polarization of left-brain dominated men threatens the whole
human race with potential annihilation. Absurdly simplistic
analyses of extremely complex issues are trotted out, and acted
upon violently, without any effort to seek to understand or
empathize with the deeper issues involved. This situation is the
masculine tendency for analysis and reduction carried to
ridiculous extremes.

So what can we do? Decide that in your personal life, you will
work to develop your right-brain qualities to their fullest
extent. This can be a difficult challenge for both sexes, such is
the dominance of the male archetype and the power of alphabetic
literacy upon our brains. Seek to promote these qualities in your
life to the fullest extent possible, and encourage others who are
trying to do the same. At the same time, it should be said that
people who are overly biased towards the right-brain function
should develop their LEFT-brain skills. Remember that it is
balance that is sought and true brain integration. Both sides
have their vital parts to play. One if not better or worse than
the other. They are just different.

Let us hope that this new millennium, and the raising of
consciousness that all metaphysical people are hoping for, will
herald the permanent reinstatement of the feminine principle in
society. If this can be progressively achieved, the world must
surely change beyond description. And for the better!

Copyright Asoka Selvarajah 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Asoka Selvarajah is a writer on personal growth and spirituality, and the author of “The 7 Golden Secrets To Knowing Your Higher Self”. His work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and discover their soul’s purpose. You can subscribe to his FREE ezine, and get his FREE ebook “Inner Light Outer Wealth” at: _______________________________________________________________

You have permission to reproduce this article in your ezine, website or offline publication as long as you do so in its entirety, and include both the copyright notice and the resource box at the bottom.

About Asoka Selvarajah

Dr. Asoka Selvarajah is a writer and teacher of personal growth and spirituality, and the author of numerous books and courses. His work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and discover their soul’s purpose. Subscribe to the Aspire To Wisdom list to receive more articles and resources to your inbox.

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One comment

  1. Yes let us hope that the female archetype will once again shine -we are in desperate need of her…

    Thanks for the encouraging article



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