Aside: Gender Roles in Scriptures and Modern Society

Sky Father

The Rig Veda, or Rg Veda is the oldest of the canonical Hindu texts called the VedasAlong with the Book of the Dead, the Enuma Elish, the I Ching, and the Avesta, the Vedas are among the most ancient records of doctrine available to us.

The Indic language of the Rig Veda reveals a strong linguistic and cultural similarity with the early Avesta, or Zoroastrian scriptures.  These languages derive from the proto-Indo-Iranian/Aryan times, which date back as long ago as 7000 B.C.E.

In the ancient scripture is a character called Dyaus Pitr (or Pita).  ‘Dyaus’ sounds like deeoos.  Translated from the ancient Vedic language, Dyaus Pitr means ‘Sky Father’.  From ‘dyaus’, comes the words ‘theos‘ and ‘deity‘, and theologies about a deity in the sky persist, even today.

The Lord’s prayer begins with:

Our father, who art in heaven…

The Judeo-Christian Father God is depicted in religious art as an elderly white man with a full beard who lives in the clouded sky.

Cima_da_Conegliano,_God_the_FatherSince the story of Dyaus Pitr was first told, thousands of years have passed.  We have learned that the earth is not the center of the universe; and for that matter, neither is the sun!  (Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for suggesting this.)  Half a century ago we sent men into orbit around the earth, and for the past quarter-century, the Hubble telescope has been in operation.  We know full-well there is no old white dude living in the clouds!

From ‘Dyaus’ we get the Greek god’s name, Zeus; and from ‘Dyaus Pitr’, we get the Roman god’s name, Jupiter.  We do explain to middle-school students that these two different names refer to one and the same mythological character; however, we do not tell the kids that these names link the mythological ‘Sky Father’ to the Bible’s “Father Who art in Heaven”.

Children fooled by adults to believe stories about a gift-bearing Santa Claus, a wish-bearing genie, or an egg-bearing Easter Bunny, come to see the game of it by the time they start school; yet, somehow, this ‘Sky Father’ motif has endured unchallenged through the ages.

Earth Mother

In the Vedas, Dyaus Pitr was accompanied by Prithvi Matr (or Mata).  Translated, Her name means Earth Mother.

The Tao te Ching (~500 B.C.E.), which preceded the Bible by several centuries, tells of a primal Mother:

The valley spirit never dies; it is the woman, primal mother.  Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.

Says the Upanishads, written a few centuries before the Common Era:

Thou indeed art the undifferentiated first cause, the highest Prakriti.  Oh, Divine Mother!

The Gnostic Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone & Marvin Meyer describes the primordial Female as the womb of the universe:

She became the universal womb, for She precedes everything.

Those quotes, though not well-known in the West, tell of the Feminine involvement with Creation. 

From Egalitarian to Hierarchical Rule

The Rig Veda does not discuss the caste system, however, the Bhagavad Gita, which was written between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E., stresses its importance.  To insure the caste system, women must be secluded and guarded, so as not to be impregnated by a man of a lower caste.  This practice was institutionalized by the highest caste members.

The Brahmanical Patriarchy legally disempowered the female gender, as she was seen as a portal for miscegeny, or intermixing of the caste bloodlines.  Thus, social hierarchy produced gender inequality.

Censorship

Among those complicit in the conspiracy of insuring patriarchal rule were those who censored and selected books for inclusion in the Bible.  These men saw fit to disregard the Female aspect of ECP and write Her out of the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

Elaine Pagels, in The Gnostic Gospels explains:

Every one of the secret texts which gnostic groups revered was omitted from the canonical collection, and branded as heretical by those who called themselves orthodox Christians.  By the time of the process of sorting the various writings ended — probably as late as the year 200 — virtually all the feminine imagery for God had disappeared from orthodox Christian tradition.  … 

[T]he absence of feminine symbolism for God marks Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in striking contrast to the world’s other religious traditions, whether in Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, and Rome, or in Africa, India and North America, which abound in feminine symbolism.  …

The Lord’s prayer begins with:

Our father, who art in heaven…

Genesis opens with this sentence:

In the beginning, God [Father/Male] created the heaven and the earth.

There is never a mention of a Female companion to the Father God, the Creator in Genesis.

The Female was stripped of Her power, which was then re-assigned to the Male, who was thus rebranded.  The Male/Father became supreme and autonomous, with authority unchecked.

Through the lens of Male dominance and exclusivity, metaphysical consciousness (Male product) was exalted and identified as Oneness.  Physical corporeality (Female product) was free to be exploited.  Considered merely begrudged distractions/stimuli, She is acknowledged derogatorily.  The power of the Mother was overtaken in the short-run, though underestimated in the long-run.

The One that is Two

‘Dyaus’ also sounds similar to the Latin word ‘duos‘.  In Old French, deus means two.  (In modern French the spelling has changed to deux.)  Duo/two is linguistically linked to deus/God.  Built into our language is evidence that the One comprises Two opposite forces, which dynamically operate in exquisite balance.

The words, divine, diva, devis and devas (goddesses and gods), are all cognates that share the syllable, ‘div’, which means ‘to shine’.  In ancient and medieval Indian mythology, each masculine deva is partnered with a feminine devi.

Sri Aurobindo Ghose spoke metaphorically when he said:

The whole wide world is only he and she.

From Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, Heinrich Zimmer tells us:

It must be understood that in Sanskrit, grammatical gender is not always a sign of physical sex.  Gender infers function, sex infers form; so that an individual may be masculine from one point of view and feminine from another.

Brahman can be regarded as the “womb” of life, and as in Christianity “this man” and “this woman” are equally “feminine to God” [in Hinduism].

Absolutely, Brahman, although grammatically neuter, is the principle of all such differentiation.  Essence and nature are respectively masculine and feminine, logically distinct, but “one in God,” who is neither this nor that [in Hinduism], and therefore “It” rather than “He” or “She” specifically.

Elaine Pagels again:

Jewish, Christian, and Islamic theologians today are quick to point out that God is not to be considered in sexual terms at all.  Yet the actual language they use daily in worship and prayer conveys a different message: who, growing up with Jewish or Christian tradition, has escaped the distinct impression that God is masculine?  And while Catholics revere Mary as the mother of Jesus, they never identify her as divine in her own right: if she is “mother of God,” she is not “God the Mother” on an equal footing with God the Father.

So, was the Heaven and Earth actually created by a Male, or is a Female at the root of Heaven and Earth?  Could both be responsible together?  Or, perhaps, the Creator is neither Male nor Female?  Referring to the gnostics, Pagels continues:

Some insisted that the divine [ECP] is to be considered masculo-feminine — the “great male-female power.”   Others claimed that the terms were meant only as metaphors, since, in reality, the divine is neither male nor female.  A third group suggested that one can describe the primal Source in either masculine or feminine terms, depending on which aspect one intends to stress.  Proponents of these diverse views agreed that the divine is to be understood in terms of a harmonious, dynamic relationship of opposites — a concept that may be akin to the Eastern view of ‘yin’ and ‘yang’, but remains alien to orthodox Judaism and Christianity.  

The earliest reference to Yin and Yang is in the I Ching (Book of Changes), which was written in China around 700 BCE.  In this Chinese concept, it is thought that any phenomenon can be reduced to either yin or yang, according to its predominate proportion of various polarized characteristics.  A few are listed here:

yin yang.001By uncritically combining these ideas we acquired the attitudes that, in general, attractiveness and passivity is expected of women and competitive aggressiveness is cultivated in men.

Since it is said, “a picture is worth a thousand words” the images below should well explain how gender inequality, which afflicts our politics, religion, and science, became so thoroughly embedded in our subconsciousness.

Open Version 44.001

Quadernity demonstrably agrees that “the divine is to be understood in terms of a harmonious, dynamic relationship of opposites”, and it reveals the equal necessity of Male and Female, each to the other, and both to the dual realms in which they make their marks: the Father’s records are in the metaphysical Heaven/sky (above, expansive, rarified), and the Mother leaves her evidence in physical matter/Earth (below, contracted, dense).

Dynamical systems are always gender-balanced; regardless, the universal Male and Female remain unbalanced in our concepts, attitudes, personal and professional roles.

From Polarity to Prejudice

Besides gender inequality, another polarizing social issue can be traced back to the definitions of yin and yang.  That light is associated with the Heavens/divinity and darkness is associated with the Earthly underground/dirty remains an unconscious impulse underlying racist attitudes worldwide.

Dark (below) and light (above) were another pair of characteristics that acquired negative and positive connotations.  The sociological impact of associating females and people with dark skin with such qualities as denseness and inferiority is perverse.  Most of us have no idea where our prejudices originated, and because they are subconsciously expressed, we are generally oblivious of our complicity in perpetuating racism and gender inequities.

For those of us who grew up watching westerns, we knew without even being told that generally the cowboys in black hats were the bad guys and those wearing white hats were the good guys.  This cultural meme has been updated, as we now live in a technological Age of Information.  Computer hackers are now classified in terms of ‘black hats’ or ‘white hats’.

That a naive understanding of yin and yang could subconsciously lead to both sexist and racist ideations, would be an hilarious suggestion, were it not for all the evidence pointing to that effect.  Right here in 21st century America, pervasive and persistent, pre-programmed prejudices lead to punitive practices and improper policies concerning persons of the so-called “weaker sex” and/or persons with darker skin tones.

As absurd as it is to think that the color of one’s skin tone indicates his/her worthiness of dignity and opportunities, it is likewise absurd to think that receptivity is exclusive to women and expressiveness is exclusive to men.  In fact, none of the descriptors in either column (a few paragraphs above) are exclusive to the genders associated with them.

Without meaning to, many of us still end up touting these travesties ourselves.  Unwittingly attributing Yin characteristics (profane/dirty/deficient/exploited) with females and dark-skinned people, and Yang characteristics (powerful/divine/proficient/exhalted) with males and light-skinned people, causes profound, if sometimes unintentional, consequences.

Here we are, nearly two decades into the twenty-first century, and women earn two-thirds what their male colleagues earn for equal work, and police are considered “justified” when they shoot unarmed black boys and men, simply because they “fear for their lives” when in the proximity of people unfortunate enough to display darkly pigmented skin.

For links to a few current events (as of 2016) which illustrate sociological issues created by imbalanced polarities, a short aside is offered here: Current Event Links.

Degrading women and imprisoning/enslaving blacks are most certainly unacceptable and immoral behaviors; however, they have become institutionalized cultural norms.  As our laws continue to allow these practices, they will remain rampant.

Universal polarities were thrown into imbalance when the power of the Female was overtaken, though underestimated.  The Male was left alone, unchecked though overwhelmed.  As long as we pervert the equity of natural balanced polarities, penalties will pile upon us.

We must understand how this imbalance has caused the severe repercussions from which we suffer, and we must correct it, restoring the Female/Mother to her divine status and equal role in Creation.

May we disavow our pernicious patterns.

May we overcome the inertia of our self-pacifying habits.

May we restore the harmonious balance of powers between Male and Female forces in governmental and social practices.

May we shift our paradigm to one of altruism and justice for all.