Neolithic art and funerary practices demonstrate that women were the equals of men. Religion celebrated life and nature, with the Goddess (symbolized by the chalice) being the primary figure of worship. Minoan Crete marks the last instance of this social and religious organizational pattern.
Conquering peripheral tribes, such as the Hebrews, introduced a patriarchal, death-centered system (symbolized by the blade) that valued aggression and dominance and denigrated earlier faith in the Goddess. Such views, expressed in the Old Testament as well as in the Gospels, continue to influence the direction of Western culture to the present day.
Suppressed documents such as the APOCRYPHA show that the Goddess was still a strong mythic figure, one that church fathers ultimately succeeded in demoting to a nondeity in the form of the Virgin Mary.
Relative stability and tranquillity have marked the few times that feminine values have since been in the ascendance (such as Elizabethan England). In direct reaction to them came eras of violent aggression, such as World War I, seen here as a patriarchal rejection of the ideals espoused by nineteenth century feminists.
We now face a critical crossroads, Eisler contends: We either continue in the patriarchal mode and destroy humankind or return to the life-affirming, cooperative patterns of the Goddess--a system that is neither matriarchy nor patriarchy, but one of shared responsibilities and rewards where all work in harmony with nature and celebrate life rather than aggression and death.
Eisler’s study is worthwhile reading for anyone wishing to look at our heritage from something other than a patriarchal point of view.