The other thing I love about studying Neolithic Art is the raging debate among archeologists on the Mother Goddess issue. Supporters of the idea that the Mother Goddess or Earth Mother preceded the Father God or Sky Father and that Neolithic societies were matrilineal and peaceful is argued against with a passion that creates suspicions that they doth protest too much.
The most well-known supporter of the idea that belief in a Mother Goddess preceded the Father God and that Neolithic societies were matrilineal and peaceful was archaeologist Marija Gimbutas.
A Wikipedia entry on the topic of the the Mother Goddess is remarkable for its lack of coherence. The first part of the article is a less than objective attack on what he calls the popular view of the Goddess movement that the Neolithic era would have been just, peaceful and wise. The author concludes that it is highly unlikely that such a civilization ever existed, based on the following rationale:
“There isn’t a scintilla of physical evidence that anything of the kind occurred. There is no archaeological evidence of a supersophisticated civilization 10000 years ago—no gleaming cities, no factories powered by Earth energies…”
As I say, the irrational passions that this issue stirs up are a delight to investigate.
After deriding the theory of an archetypal fertility cult of the Mother Goddess which “supposedly” would have existed prior to the rise of patriarchy and the oppression of women, the author concludes:
“Carl Gustav Jung suggested that archetypal mother goddess was a part of the collective unconscious of all humans; various adherents of Jung … have argued that such an archetype underpins many of its (I am assuming Western civilization’s ) own mythologies and may even precede the image of the paternal “father.” Such speculations help explain the universality of such mother goddess imagery around the world. The Upper Paleolithic Venus figurines have been sometimes explained as depictions of an Earth Goddess similar to Gaia.”
So the author contradicts his/her earlier stance that there “isn’t a scintilla of physical evidence that anything of the kind occurred” while provided evidence from Psychology ( under the heading New Religious Movements). This evidence supports the idea that Neolithic worship of the Earth Mother Goddess preceded belief in the Sky Father God.
While the Wikepedia entry makes no effort to be objective, then gets lost in conflicting evidence, another footnote to the entry admits that:
“the issue of the Mother Goddess continues to be an exemplar for the problems of studying women in antiquity: mysterious images disembodied from their contexts, multiple scholarly biases and motivations, and conflicting interpretations of the scanty and fragmentary evidence.”
There have been many complex issues in the history of human thought that philosophers and other thinkers have wrestled with, not the least of which is the existence of God. Pascal argued that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).
An article in the Guardian on a UN report summarized the infinite losses, or hell on earth, that we humans are creating in the belief that we have a clear mandate from the Sky God to rule the earth and everything in it for our own wants & needs. Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems: coral reefs dying; rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature being destroyed at a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years.
The biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction – all largely as a result of human actions. Two in five amphibian species are at risk of extinction, as are one-third of reef-forming corals, and close to one-third of other marine species.
At least one in 10 insects are threatened with extinction and, in economic terms, the losses are jaw-dropping. Pollinator loss has put up to $577billion of crop output at risk, while land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of global land.
Other impacts on humankind, including freshwater shortages and climate instability, are already “ominous” and will worsen without drastic remedial action. “The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,”
Therefore, I would suggest that a rational person should live as though the Mother Goddess or Earth Mother exists and seek to believe in her and act accordingly. This would entail worshiping nature instead of converting it to consumer goods and then dumping it in the landfill, and preserving the earth because it is sacred. If the Mother Goddess or Earth Mother does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if the Mother Goddess or Earth Mother does exist, we all stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by the continuation of life on this planet for our children and grandchildren) and avoid infinite losses (Hell on earth as represented by a scorched earth where humans have destroyed the ecosystems on which they depend).
Meanwhile, as an artist, I see the Mother Goddess debate as one of many between those who can see the need to change the very basis of our belief systems and those who cling to those beliefs. The Western world view is shaped by belief in a Father God that has given one species and gender created in His image a mandate to rule the earth in his own interests. The Mother Goddess or Earth Mother is a challenge to that world view at its most basic level as it would entail an earth-centred approach to our economic and social organization rather than a human-centred one. Those committed to a system oriented toward the interests of human males understandably feel threatened by such a radical change. So they put a lot of time & energy into convoluted, if contradictory, attacks on earth-centric views, such as the ongoing and fiery Mother Goddess debate.