(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

In Behind the Sex of God, Carol Ochs discusses philosophical systems based on matriarchy, patriarchy, or androgyny as means to understanding the nature of a deity, ethics, the material world, and the meaning of life and death. In her discussion of matriarchy, Ochs accepts the theory that Western religious systems were originally matriarchal. According to Ochs, matriarchal systems primarily valued the blood bond between mother and child, thus emphasizing relationship as a primary value. Matriarchal systems also valued the material world, saw death as the end of existence, worshiped a female deity, and imagined a cyclical view of time. On the other hand, patriarchal systems did not consider blood ties to be of greatest importance and opted instead for a system based on abstract ethical principals. Patriarchy valued reason over material creation and thus emphasized a spiritual world that was beyond the material world. In patriarchy, death was the entry into the spiritual world, the deity was male, and time was viewed as linear.

Ochs elaborates her theory of the importance of blood ties by comparing the matriarchal traditions surrounding the Greek goddess Demeter and the Eleusinian Mysteries with the patriarchal Judeo-Christian tradition as illustrated, for example, in the binding of Isaac by his father, Abraham (Genesis 22). According to Ochs, the blood tie between Demeter and her daughter Persephone becomes the basis for salvation within the...

(The entire section is 408 words.)