UTOPIA - A WAY OF LIFE?
by Jane Cull
We often hear the word Utopia used to describe an idyllic life. The scene is painted of a peaceful world where everyone gets along with each other and lives in harmony with nature. There are no wars or violence in Utopia. Males and females are equal and nature is respected and cared for.
If I were to aspire to live in such a world most people would greet this with statements of "oh, but that is Utopia, that is not the real world" or "you're not living in the real world, that is Utopia and it doesn't exist."
If Utopia does not exist, then how can we imagine and talk about it with others? Was there a part of our history that we still have some knowledge of today, that we call Utopia?
Answers to these questions lies in some extensive research conducted by three people namely: Marija Gimbutas, a renowned archaeologist, Riane Eisler, an internationally known peace researcher and educator, and Humberto Maturana, a well known Chilean biologist. It is through the efforts of these three people that we can begin to understand aspects of our pre-histor, at a time some 7-9,000 years ago where there existed pre-patriarchal societies now commonly referred to as "matristic" societies or culture.
The term "matristic" refers to a culture that is feminine in nature but is not defined by power relations, where the woman has power over the man (a matriarchal culture). The matristic relations are defined by sharing, cooperation, respect, love, trust and acceptance and are egalitarian - relations of equality.
To understand the day to day lives of these matristic people, Marija Gimbutas explored the early civilisations of Old Europe (7000 to 4000 B.C.E) in which she found no signs of weapons or battle scenes in their art. Most of the art depicted symbols of nature which were associated with the worship of the Goddess. Interestingly, there were no Gods in this culture, only Goddesses. The arrival of a sky God who dominated nature and humanity arrived later with the invasion of patriarchal people that were possibly Indo-European.
As Riane Eisler points out in her book "The Chalice and The Blade":
"The Goddess-centered art we have been examining, with its striking absence of images of male domination or warfare seems to have reflected a social order in which women, first as heads of clans and priestesses and later on in other important roles, played a central part, and which both men and women worked together in equal partnership for the common good." (Eisler 1990, The Chalice and the Blade)
Other images there were associated with the Goddess was the bull, or the horns of the bull. Later this symbol was transformed in patriarchal societies, particularly in Christianity, to a symbol of evil depicted as Satan.
And what of the mystical experience of the matristic?
The mystical experience was strongly associated with nature and the Goddess representing the giver of life. Thus, the Goddess and nature were inextricably linked and were shown in shrines and houses, wall paintings and motifs on vases and sculptures. Serpents and butterflies were identified with the transformative powers of the Goddess. Riane Eisler remarks on the Goddess, "as a symbol of the unity of all life in nature, in some of her representations she is herself part human and part animal."
No doubt, these images would have depicted the mystical experience and tell us much about the lives of these people, because the mystical and spiritual experiences reflect the culture in which they live.
So what happened to these Matristic people and their culture? Maturana proposes that they were invaded by patriarchal people, possibly Indo-Europeans, who lived in domination, enmity and appropriation and relations of heirarchies. Much of the matristic societies were transformed.
Matristic men were either destroyed or submitted to the Patriarchal way of life. But Maturana claims that the women did not submit completely:
"....the matristic remained in the households......in the relations between the women and the children." (Maturana, 1991)
Other changes occurred. Fortifications began to appear along with weapons and the domination of nature and animals. Animals became slaves to the wills of their masters. If they did not submit, they were punished until they conformed and became passive. Respect was given not through love, but fear. A sky God was worshipped instead of the nature based Goddess. God was a patriarch, an authoritarian, who dominated and ruled over all things to do with life and death.
If a person conformed to what was expected, they went to heaven. If they did not conform, they went to purgatory or to hell and there they would not be saved unless they did their penance. This was a God to be feared if a person did not conform to the prevailing religious and social expectations.
The sky God was associated with the masculine qualities, just as the Goddess featured the qualities of the feminine. Anything that was associated with the feminine became evil or was subjugated to the masculine. Now all of these features reflect the culture or the human relations that define it as patriarchal.
So far we have explored one aspect of our history, the matristic. But what of the patriarchal, how did it begin?
Maturana proposes an interesting theory to explain the rise of the patriarchal culture. He proposes an emotional change that was possibly matristic in origin, but changed with the advent of pastorial living that possibly began in Asia some 15,000 years ago. Maturana uses the Lapse as an example to explain how the emotions changed in relation to the animals that they hunted and ate which was mostly reindeer. The Lapse followed the reindeer on their migratory journey, but did not restrict their mobility.
Maturana claims that pastorial life began when the Lapse restricted the access of other co-eaters of the reindeer, like the wolf for example. They may have thrown a stone or chased the wolf away. But as this manner of interacting with the wolf was repeated over time, it became part of the manner of living of the Lapse. They no longer trusted in the natural processes of life and death, because they feared other co-eaters. As Maturana puts it, "trust in the normal coherences of life is lost, operationally lost and emotionally lost." (Maturana, 1991).
Appropriation and control soon followed as they defended what they had appropriated - the reindeer. The normal mobility of the herd has changed to one of restrictions and boundaries. Sooner or later, a killing of the wolf would take place. In this action the killer is proud of defending the animal/s successfully and the emotion of enmity will appear. Anything that is a threat to the herd instantly becomes an enemy of the Lapse. The instrument for hunting becomes a weapon which is used for killing, not hunting, and herein lies the foundations for war.
As these interactions became conserved with the animals, they also became part of the manner of living. As these emotional changes became conserved generation after generation, the patriarchal manner of living arose.
This is our history - the matristic and the patriarchal, and we live these two cultures today in our interactions with each other that is our manner of living. Maturana explains:
"...we grow as children in a matristic medium. We are invited to participation, to cooperation, and if we have disagreement ...we are invited to solve our disagreement not through quarrel or fighting, but through conversation, through coming together in understanding." (Maturana, 1991).
He adds further that we grow in a matristic childhood and later become indoctrinated into a patriarchal adulthood where "men and women grow up and enter the real life. And the real life is competition, appropriation, hierarchy, obedience, fight for your possessions or for you rights. Everything is lived in terms of struggle. Any disagreement is an opportunity for a quarrel or a war." (Maturana, 1991)
Maturana also claims that the battle between the sexes arises in the opposition between the matristic and patriarchal manner of living. Boys are raised in linear thinking, in control of their emotions and rational, not weak like a woman. Anything that is associated with the feminine is seen as a weakness or is trivialised.
This is particularly relevant for women who trivialise their own thoughts and opinions, because they have been trivialised by the culture as a whole. Women are not taken seriously, therefore, they do not take themselves seriously. They question their abilities, potential and opinions. However, they are raised in systemic thinking, encouraged to show and express their emotions and to solve disagreements through conversation.
This is a bit of a generalisation, as women can be as patriarchal as men and men can be as matristic as women. What is important to remember, are the features of these two cultures and how they are expressed in our manner of living.
To change our patriarchal culture back to the matristic, requires emotional changes in human relations which is realised through our manner of living.
"If emotions do not change, the manner of living does not change." (Maturana, 1991).
The emotional changes are from fear and mistrust to trust, appropriation and control to sharing and competition to respect and co-operation, etc. Most of the problems that we suffer from today, stem from the opposition between the matristic and patriarchal manners of living.
So if we have the knowledge and understanding of our early matristic beginnings, surely we can bring about an ideal world. A world where both sexes live in harmony, mutual respect and cooperation not only with each other, but also with our glorious planet. A world that we call Utopia.
These books and others from these authors can be ordered on-line from the yOni bookstore (in association with Amazon.com) at substantially discounted prices
The Chalice and The Blade by Riane Eisler, Copyright, 1990. Harper Collins Publishers, 77-85 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London, W68JB.
Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe: 6500-3500 BC.
London: Thames & Hudson, 1984
Humberto Maturana, Australian Seminar 1991, Video 8. Available from Mr D. Mendes, Maturana Tour, 14 Dean Street, Kew, Vic, 3101.
Jane Cull is an Educational Consultant on personal and social change. She has specialized in the work of Chilean Biologist, Prof. Humberto Maturana; the connections between biology, human relations and culture. Her other specialities include four methods which are designed to understand and change cultural behavioral patterns in four key influential relationship areas - personal, family, business and social.
You can contact her at Life's Natural Solutions
Copyright 1996 Jane Cull. This material may be freely copied and reused, provided the author and source are cited. However, the author would appreciate being contacted should you wish to copy or reuse the material.
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