I’m beginning to appreciate a course we took in my last regular quarter at Pacifica. I was first skeptical of the course because it, Religious Studies Approaches to Mythology, true to its name, focused on theoretical approaches to the study of myth. I would have preferred that we study particular myths more closely. The class seemed too abstracted from those myths whose study I both enjoy and find important to understanding the human condition.
But, as we considered the work of the various scholars of myth, our professor reminded us (as did some of the other writers we read) that many of them, even the most gifted, brought their theories of myth and other biases into their work. As I begin background research on the goddess for my dissertation focusing on the (in my view) most important deity outside my faith, I begin to appreciate more our study how the perspectives of the various scholars impacted their work.
As I’ve been reading one such book (Anne Baring and Jules Cashford’s The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image) which has provided important information on the development of mythic ideas as well as the role of the goddess in that development, I find the authors often leap to conclusions to support their thesis that a goddess-culture once dominated Europe before the arrival of the Aryan (i.e., Indo-European) invaders in the Bronze Age. Thanks to my class, I can better see their feminist bias. As a result, while I may question their conclusions, I still can appreciate many of the facts they marshal and the arguments they make.
(All that said, taking the book‘s bias into account, I highly recommend it; it is both well-written and informative.)
Yet, like those feminist scholars so eager to use archeological discoveries from pre-literate cultures to substantiate their goddess theory, * it seems that all too many in our media (as well as left-wing blogs) are eager to believe any evidence of the misconduct of US troops in Iraq and see it as evidence of the noxious effects of the president’s (in their view) misguided policies. No wonder the editors of the New Republic were so eager to publish Scott Beauchamp’s writings from Iraq.
As Curt of Flopping Aces put it, “They can’t be faulted too much tho seeing as how his stories fit in so well with the narrative of the Iraq war they believe in so fervently.” All too many in our news media are focused in Stephen Spruiell’s words, “on American ‘atrocities’ as opposed to Al-Qaeda atrocities.” He writes that since:
Demand for evidence of the former is so high — and documented abuses so relatively scarce[,] we have ambitious aspiring writers willing to lie and exaggerate in order to get published in prestigious national journals, and the editors of those journals willing to believe even the most dubious accounts of.
Like some scholars of myth, these writers have reached their conclusions before they have even considered the evidence.
But, unlike those supporting the notion of a goddess-centered culture in preliterate Europe, those putting forward the notion of the noxious effects of the Iraq war on the American troops have considerably less evidence to marshal in support of their pre-existing theory.
- B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)
*This is not to say that the theory of a goddess-centered culture to be bunk, it’s just to say that I believe it to be one among many theories on the beliefs of these prehistoric peoples. And the particular world-view of the scholar studying the evidence may well color her (or his) conclusions. (There is, to be sure, some pretty solid evidence backing up the goddess-theories.)