The God-Idea of the Ancients (or Sex in Religion)
By Eliza Burt Gamble
Public Domain Books
Chapter XI. Fire and Phallic Worship
“Know, first a spirit with an active flame Fills, feeds, and animates the mighty frame; Runs through the watery worlds and fields of air, The ponderous Earth and depths of Heav’n and there Burns in the Sun and Moon, and every brilliant Star Thus mingling in the mass, the general soul Lives in its parts and agitates the whole.”
Although earth, air, water, and the sun were long venerated as objects of worship, as containing the life principle, in process of time it is observed that fire attracted the highest regard of human beings, and on their altars the sacred flame, said to have been kindled from heaven, was kept burning uninterruptedly from year to year, and from age to age, by bends of priests “whose special duty it was to see that the sacred flame was never extinguished.” The office of the vestal virgins in Rome was to preserve the holy fire. The Egyptians, and in fact all the earlier civilized nations, knew that force proceeds from the sun, hence the frequent appearance of this orb among their symbols of life. Indeed there is not a country on the globe in which, at some time, divine honors have not been paid to fire and to light.
The Hindoos, “believing fire to be the essence of all active power in Nature, kept perpetual lamps burning in the innermost recesses of their pagodas and temples, and in the sacred edifices of the Greeks and Barbarians fires were preserved for the same reason.”
The festival of lamps, which was once universal throughout Egypt, still prevails in China. On the evening of the fifteenth day of the first month in the year, every person is compelled to place before his door a lantern or light, such lights differing in size and expense according to the degree of wealth or poverty of those to whom they belong. Light was the symbol of Muth (Perceptive Wisdom). Among the Persians, the Egyptians, the Mexicans, the Jews, the Etruscans, the Greeks, and the Romans, fire was venerated as the essence of the Deity; and, at the present time, in Thibet, in China, in Japan, and in portions of Africa, it still forms an important part of worship. The Hebrew writings show conclusively that not only the Jews but all the surrounding nations were fire-worshippers, and that their sacrifices were not infrequently to the God of Fire. Of this Forlong says:
“When Rome was rearing temples to the fame and worship of Fire, we find the prophets of Israel occasionally denouncing the wickedness of its worship by their own and the nations around them; nevertheless, even to Christ’s time Molok always had his offerings of children."
 Rivers of Life and Faiths of Man in an Lands, vol. i., p. 325.
It is believed that Abraham introduced fire-worship among the Jews from Ur in Mesopotamia, a land in which lights are still venerated, and fire altars are worshipped as containing the Deity.
The real essence of fire which was identical with the life-principle was holy. The “Lord” of the Israelites was in the fire which descended on Mt. Sinai, Exodus xix., 18. “The bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed,” Exodus iii., 2. Whether the signification of “bush” is the same as “grove,” I know not, but Josephus assures us that the bush was holy before the flame appeared in it. Because of its sacred character, it became the receptacle for the burning “Lord” of the Jews. The ark, the religious emblem which Moses bore aloft, was simply a fire altar on which the fire must continually burn. The fact will doubtless be observed that although the ark and the bush (female emblems) were invested with a certain degree of sanctity, they were nevertheless only receptacles for the substance within them.
At the same time that the Jews kept sacred or holy fires continually burning on their altars, they carried about a serpent on a pole representing it to be the “healer of nations.” They also kept a phallic emblem in a box, chest, or ark which they worshipped as the “God of Hosts,” the “Life Giver,” etc. It has been observed that although the Jews frequently lost their ark, they were never without their serpent-pole. At a certain stage in the religious development of mankind all the temples in Africa and Western Asia were dedicated to Vulcan the fire god or the “Lord of Fire,” to whom all furnaces were sacred. The principal festivals in honor of this Deity took place in the spring, at the Easter season, and on the 23d of August, when it is said that the licentiousness practiced in the temples compared with those of the “Harvest Homes” of Europe when the sun was in Libra and the harvest had been garnered in. Vulcan was the “God of fornication” or of passion.
These excesses, which remained unchecked down to the fourth century before Christ, are said to have somewhat abated after the rise of the Stoic philosophy.
Various philosophers of early historic times as well as many of the early fathers in the Christian church believed that God was a corporeal substance which in some way is manifested through fire.
In Egypt, during the early ages of Christianity, “a great dispute took place among the monks on the question, whether God is corporeal.” Tertullian declared that “God is fire"; Origen, that “he is a subtle fire"; and various others that “he is body.”
There is little doubt that in early historic ages the Persians, who had undertaken to purify their religion, were the strongest and purest sect of this cult; they were in fact the genuine worshippers of the pure creative principles which they believed resided in fire.
We have observed that force or spirit was originally regarded as a part of Nature, or in other words that it was a manifestation of, or an outflowing from matter, but so soon as it began to be considered as something apart from Nature, there at once arose a desire for some corporeal object to represent this unseen and occult principle.
During many of the ages of fire-worship, holy fire, although a material substance, seems to have been too subtle to clearly represent the god-idea, hence everywhere the worship of the serpent is found to be interwoven with it. In fact, so closely are serpent, fire, pillar, and other phallic faiths intermingled that it is impossible to separate them.
The Persians are by some writers said to have been the earliest fire-worshippers: by others the truth of this statement is denied, while many claim, and indeed the Maji themselves declared, that they never worshipped fire at all in any other manner than as an emblem of the divine principle which they believed resided within it. It is probable, however, from the evidence at hand, that they, like all the other nations of the globe, prior to the reformation led by Zarathustra and his daughter, had lost or nearly forgotten the profound ideas connected with the worship of Nature.
Passion, symbolized by fire, is declared by various writers to have been the first idol, but later research has proved the falsity of this assumption. It is true that at an early age of human experience the creative processes were worshipped, but such worship involved scientific and, I might say, spiritualized conceptions of the operations of Nature which in time were altogether lost sight of. Gross phallicism is clearly the result of degeneration, and of a lapse into sensuality and superstition.
I think no one can study the facts connected with fire and light as the Deity in the various countries in which this worship prevailed, without perceiving the change it gradually underwent during later ages, and the grossness of the ideas which became connected with it as compared with an earlier age when mankind “had no temples, but worshipped in the open air, on the tops of mountains.”
In another portion of this work we have observed that in the rites connected with the worship of Cybele (Light or Wisdom), although phallic symbols were in use, the ceremonies were absolutely pure, and that throughout all the earlier ages her worship remained free from the abominations which characterized the worship of later times.
At what time in the history of the human race the organs of generation first began to appear as emblems of the Deity is not known. Within the earliest cave temples, those hewn from the solid rock, sculptured representations of these objects are still to be observed. Although until a comparatively recent period their true significance has been unknown, there is little doubt at the present time that they were originally used as symbols of fertility, or as emblems typifying the processes of Nature, and that at some remote period of the world’s history they were worshipped as the Creator, or, at least, as representations of the creative agencies in the universe.
Concerning the origin and character of the people who executed them there is scarcely a trace in written history. Through the unravelling of extinct tongues, however, the monumental records of the ancient nations of the globe have been deciphered, and the system of religious symbolism in use among them is now understood.
A small volume by various writers, printed in London some years ago, entitled A Comparative View of the Ancient Monuments of India, says:
“Those who have penetrated into the abstruseness of Indian mythology, find that in these temples was practiced a worship similar to that practiced by all the several nations of the world, in their earliest as well as their most enlightened periods. It was paid to the Phallus by the Asiatics, to Priapus by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, to Baal-Peor by the Canaanites and idolatrous Jews. The figure is seen on the fascia which runs round the circus of Nismes, and over the portal of the Cathedral of Toulouse, and several churches of Bordeaux.”
Of the Lingham and Yoni and their universal acceptance as religious emblems, Barlow remarks that it was a “worship which would appear to have made the tour of the globe and to have left traces of its existence where we might least expect to find it.” In referring to the “sculptured indecencies” connected with religious rites, which, being wrought in imperishable stone, have been preserved in India and other parts of the East, Forlong says that when occurring in the temples or other sacred places they are at the present time evidently very puzzling to the pious Indians, and in their attempts to explain them they say they are placed there “in fulfilment of vows,” or that they have been wrought there “as punishments for sins of a sexual nature, committed by those who executed or paid for them.” It is, however, the opinion of Forlong that they are simply connected with an older and purer worship–a worship which involved the union of the sex principles as the foundation of their god-idea.
Regarding the cause for the “indecent” sculptures of the Orissa temples, the same writer quotes the following from Baboo Ragendralala Mitra, in his work on the Antiquities of Orissa.
“A vitiated taste aided by general prevalence of immorality might at first sight appear to be the most likely one; but I can not believe that libidiousness, however depraved, would ever think of selecting fanes dedicated to the worship of God, as the most appropriate for its manifestations; for it is worthy of remark that they occur almost exclusively on temples and their attached porches, and never on enclosing walls, gateways, and other non-religious structures. Our ideas of propriety, according to Voltaire, lead us to suppose that a ceremony (like the worship of Priapus) which appears to us infamous, could only be invented by licentiousness; but it is impossible to believe that depravity of manners would ever have led among any people to the establishment of religious ceremonies. It is probable, on the contrary, that this custom was first introduced in times of simplicity–that the first thought was to honor the Deity in the symbol of life which it has given us; such a ceremony may have excited licentiousness among youths, and have appeared ridiculous to men of education in more refined, more corrupt, and more enlightened times, but it never had its origin in such feelings. . . . It is out of the question therefore to suppose that a general prevalence of vice would of itself, without the authority of priests and scriptures, suffice to lead to the defilement of holy temples."
 Rivers of Life, vol. i., p. 275.
Originally the Ionians, as their name indicates, were Yoni worshippers, i. e., they belonged to the sect which was driven out of India because of their stubborn refusal to worship the male energy as the Creator. During the later ages of their history, at a time when their religion had degenerated into a licensed system of vice and corruption, and after their temples had become brothels in which, in the name of religion, were practiced the most debasing ceremonies, the Greeks became ashamed of their ancient worship, and, like the Jews, ashamed also of their name.
It is believed that the Greeks received from Egypt, or the East, their first theological conceptions of God and religion. These ideas
“were veiled in symbols, significant of a primitive monotheism; these, at a later period, being translated into symbolical or allegorical language, were by the poets transformed into epic or narrative myths, in which the original subject symbolized was almost effaced, whilst the allegorical expressions were received generally in a literal sense. Hence, to the many, the meaning of the ancient doctrine was lost, and was communicated only to the few, under the strictest secrecy in the mysteries of Eleusis and Samothrace. Thus there was a popular theology to suit the people, and a rational theology reserved for the educated, the symbolical language in both being the same, but the meaning of it being taken differently. In course of time, as knowledge makes its way among the people, and religious enlightenment with it, much of what had been received literally will relapse into its original figurative or symbolical meaning. Reason will resume her supremacy, and stereotyped dogmas will fall like pagan idols before advancing truth."
 Barlow, Essays on Symbolism, p. 121.
Although, during the later ages of the human career, the higher truths taught by an earlier race were lost, still a slight hint of the beauty and purity of the more ancient worship may be traced through most of the ages of the history of religion. Even among the profligate Greeks, the mysteries of Eleusis, celebrated in the temple of Ceres, were always respected. Care should be taken, however, not to confound these remnants of pure Nature- worship with that of the courtesan Venus, whose adoration, during the degenerate days of Greece, represented only the lowest and most corrupt conception of the female energy.
Down to a late date in the annals of Athens there was celebrated a religious festival called Thesmophoria. The name of this festival is derived from one of the cognomens of Ceres–the goddess “who first gave laws and made life orderly.” Ceres was the divinity adored by the Amazons, and is essentially the same as the Egyptian Isis. She represents universal female Nature. The Thesmophorian rites, which are believed by most writers to have been introduced into Greece directly from Thrace, were performed by “virgins distinguished for probity in life, who carried about in procession sacred books upon their heads.”
Inman, in his Ancient Faiths, quotes an oracle of Apollo, from Spencer, to the effect that “Rhea the Mother of the Blessed, and the Queen of the Gods, loved assemblages of women.” As this festival is in honor of Female Nature, the various female attributes are adored as deities, Demeter being the first named by the worshippers. After a long season of fasting, and “after solemn reflection on the mysteries of life, women splendidly attired in white garments assemble and scatter flowers in honor of the Great Mother.”
The food partaken of by the devotees at these festivals was cakes, very similar in shape to those which were offered to the Queen of Heaven by the women of Judah in the days of Jeremiah, an offering which it will be remembered so displeased that prophet that a curse was pronounced upon the entire people.
As the strictest secrecy prevailed among the initiated respecting these rites, the exact nature of the symbols employed at the Thesmophorian festivals is not known; it is believed, however, that it was the female emblem of generation, and that this festival was held in honor of that event which from the earliest times had been prophesied by those who believed in the superior importance of the female, namely, that unaided by the male power, a woman would bring forth, and that this manifestation of female sufficiency would forever settle the question of the ascendancy of the female principle. Through a return of the ancient ideas of purity and peace, mankind would be redeemed from the wretchedness and misery which had been the result of the decline of female power. The dual idea entertained in the Thesmophorian worship is observed in the fact that although Ceres, the Great Mother, was the principal Deity honored, Proserpine, the child, was also comprehended, and with its Mother worshipped as part of the Creator. Thus we observe that down to a late date in the history of Grecian mythology the idea of a Holy Mother with her child had not altogether disappeared as a representation of the god-idea.
To prove the worthiness of the ideas connected with the Eleusinian mysteries it is stated that “there is not an instance on record that the honor of initiation was ever obtained by a very bad man.”
In Rome these mysteries took another name and were called “the rites of Bona Dea,” which was but another name for Ceres. As evidence of their purity we have the following:
“All the distinguished Roman authors speak of these rites and in terms of profound respect. Horace denounces the wretch who should attempt to reveal the secrets of these rites; Virgil mentions these mysteries with great respect; and Cicero alludes to them with a greater reverence than either of the poets we have named. Both the Greeks and the Romans punished any insult offered to these mysteries with the most persevering vindictiveness. Alcibiades was charged with insulting these religious rites, and although the proof of his offense was quite doubtful, yet he suffered for it for years in exile and misery, and it must be allowed that he was the most popular man of his age."
 Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal.
In Greece, the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries was in the hands of the Emolpidae, one of the oldest and most respected families of antiquity. At Carthage, there were celebrated the Phiditia, religious solemnities similar to those already described in Greece. During the two or three days upon which these festivals were celebrated, public feasts were prepared at which the youth were instructed by their elders in the state concerning the principles which were to govern their conduct in after life; truth, inward purity, and virtue being set forth as essentials to true manhood. In later times, after these festivals had found their way to Rome, they gradually succumbed to the immorality which prevailed, and at last, when their former exalted significance had been forgotten, they were finally sunk into “the licentiousness of enjoyment, and the innocence of mirth was superseded by the uproar of riot and vice! Such were the Saturnalia.”
From the facts connected with the mysteries of Eleusis and the Thesmophorian rites, it is evident that in its earlier stages Nature-worship was absolutely free from the impurities which came to be associated with it in later times. As the organs of generation had not originally been wholly disgraced and outraged, it is not unlikely that when the so-called “sculptured indecencies” appeared on the walls of the temples they were regarded as no more an offense against propriety and decency than was the reappearance of the cross, the emblem of life, in later times, among orthodox Christians.
Neither is it probable, in an age in which nothing that is natural was considered indecent, and before the reproductive energies had become degraded, that these symbols were any more suggestive of impurity than are the Easter offerings upon our church altars at the present time. Whatever may now be the significance of these offerings to those who present them, sure it is that they once, together with other devices connected with Nature-worship, were simply emblems of fertility–symbols of a risen and fructifying sun which by its gladdening rays re-creates and makes all things new again.
If we carefully study the religion of past ages we will discover something more than a hint of an age when the generative functions were regarded as a sacred expression of creative power, and when the reproductive organs had not through over-stimulation and abuse been tabooed as objects altogether impure and unholy, and as things too disgraceful to be mentioned above a whisper. Indeed there is much evidence going to show that in an earlier age of the world’s history the degradation of mankind, through the abuse of the creative functions, had not been accomplished, and the ills of life resulting from such abuse were unknown.
We may reasonably believe that those instincts in the female which are correlated with maternal affection and which were acquired by her as a protection to the germ, or, in other words, those characters which Nature has developed in the female to insure the safety and well-being of offspring, and which in a purer and more natural stage of human existence acted as cheeks upon the energies of the male, were not easily or quickly subdued; but when through subjection to the animal nature of man these instincts or characters had been denied their natural expression, and woman had become simply the instrument of man’s pleasure, the comparatively pure worship of the organs of generation as symbols of creative power began to give place to the deification of these members simply as emblems of desire, or as instruments for the stimulation of passion.
We are assured that on the banks of the Ganges, the very cradle of religion, are still to be found various remnants of the most ancient form of Nature-worship–that there are still to be observed “certain high places sacred to more primitive ideas than those represented by Vedic gods.”
Here devout worshippers believe that the androgynous God of fertility, or Nature, still manifests itself to the faithful. Close beside these more ancient shrines are others representing a somewhat later development of religious faith–shrines, by means of which are indicated some of the processes involved in the earlier growth of the god-idea. Not far removed from these are to be found, also, numerous temples or places of worship belonging to a still later faith–a faith in which are revealed the “awakening and stimulation of every sensuous feeling, and which has drowned in infamy every noble impulse developed in human nature.”
Of the depravity of the Jews and the immorality practiced in their religious rites, Forlong says:
“No one can study their history, liberated from the blindness which our Christian up-bringing and associations cast over us, without seeing that the Jews were probably the grossest worshippers among all those Ophi–Phallo–Solar devotees who then covered every land and sea, from the sources of the Nile and Euphrates to all over the Mediterranean coasts and isles. These impure faiths seem to have been very strictly maintained by Jews up to Hezekiah’s days, and by none more so than by dissolute Solomon and his cruel, lascivious bandit-father, the brazen-faced adulterer and murderer, who broke his freely volunteered oath, and sacrificed six innocent sons of his king to his Javah.”
Of Solomon he says that he devoted his energies and some little wealth “to rearing phallic and Solophallic shrines over all the high places around him, and especially in front of Jerusalem, and on and around the Mount of Olives.” On each side of the entrance to his celebrated temple, under the great phallic spire which formed the portico, were two handsome columns over fifty feet high, by the side of which were the sun God Belus and his chariots.
In a description of this temple it is represented as being one hundred and twenty feet long and forty feet broad, while the porch, a phallic emblem, “was a huge tower, forty feet long, twenty feet broad, and two hundred and forty feet high.” We are assured by Forlong that Solomon’s temple was like hundreds observed in the East, except that its walls were a little higher than those usually seen, and the phallic spire out of proportion to the size of the structure. “The Jewish porch is but the obelisk which the Egyptian placed beside his temple; the Boodhist pillars which stood all around their Dagobas; the pillars of Hercules, which stood near the Phoenician temple; and the spire which stands beside the Christian Church."
 Forlong, Rivers of Life, vol. i., p. 219.
The rites and ceremonies observed in the worship of Baal-Peor are not of a character to be described in these pages: it is perhaps sufficient to state that by them the fact is clearly established that profligacy, regulated and controlled by the priestly order as part and parcel of religion, was not confined to the Gentiles; but, on the contrary, that the religious observances of the Jews prior to the Babylonian captivity were even more gross than were those of the Assyrians or the Hindoos.
These impure faiths arose at a time when man as the sole creator of offspring became god, when the natural instincts of woman were subdued, and when passion as the highest expression of the divine force came to be worshipped as the most important attribute of humanity.
The extent to which these faiths have influenced later religious belief and observances is scarcely realized by those who have not given special attention to this subject.
It has been stated that in the time of Solon, law-giver of Athens, there were twenty temples in the various cities of Greece dedicated to Venus the courtesan, within which were practiced, in the name of religion, the most infamous rites and the most shameless self-abandonment; and that throughout Europe, down to a late period in the history of the race, religious festivals were celebrated at certain seasons of the year, at which the ceremonies performed in honor of the god of fornication were of the grossest nature, and at which the Bacchanalian orgies were only equalled by those practiced in the religious temples of Babylon.
It is impossible longer to conceal the fact that passion, symbolized by a serpent, an upright stone, and by the male and female organs of generation, the male appearing as the “giver of life,” the female as a necessary appendage to it, constituted the god-idea of mankind for at least four thousand years; and, instead of being confined to the earlier ages of that period, we shall presently see that phallic worship had not disappeared, under Christianity, as late and even later than the sixteenth century.
Such has been the result of the ascendancy gained by the grosser elements in human nature: the highest idea of the Infinite passion symbolized by the organs of generation, while the principal rites connected with its worship are scenes of debauchery and self-abasement.
At the present time it is by no means difficult to trace the growth of the god-idea. First, as we have seen, a system of pure Nature-worship appeared under the symbol of a Mother and child. In process of time this particular form of worship was supplanted by a religion under which the male principle is seen to be in the ascendancy over the female. Later a more complicated system of Nature-worship is observed in which the underlying principles are concealed, or are understood only by the initiated. Lastly, these philosophical and recondite principles are forgotten and the symbols themselves receive the adoration which once belonged to the Creator. The change which the ideas concerning womanhood underwent from the time when the natural feminine characters and qualities were worshipped as God, to the days of Solon the Grecian law-giver, when women had become merely tools or slaves for the use and pleasure of men, is forcibly shown by a comparison of the character ascribed to the female deities at the two epochs mentioned. Athene who in an earlier age had represented Wisdom had in the age of Solon degenerated into a patroness of heroes; but even as a Goddess of war her patronage was as nought compared with that of the courtesan Venus, at whose shrine “every man in Greece worshipped.”
The extent to which women, in the name of religion, have been degraded, and the part which in the past they have been compelled to assume in the worship of passion may not at the present time be disguised, as facts concerning this subject are well authenticated. In a former work, attention has been directed to the religious rites of Babylon, the city in which it will be remembered the Tower of Belus was situated. Here women of all conditions and ranks were obliged, once in their life, to prostitute themselves in the temple for hire to any stranger who might demand such service, which revenue was appropriated by the priests to be applied to sacred uses. This act it will be remembered was a religious obligation imposed by religious teachers and enforced by priestly rule. It was a sacrifice to the god of passion. A similar custom prevailed in Cyprus.
 See Evolution of Woman, p. 228.
Most of the temples of the later Hindoos had bands of consecrated women called the “Women of the Idol.” These victims of the priests were selected in their infancy by Brahmins for the beauty of their persons, and were trained to every elegant accomplishment that could render them attractive and which would insure success in the profession which they exercised at once for the pleasure and profit of the priesthood. They were never allowed to desert the temple; and the offspring of their promiscuous embraces were, if males, consecrated to the service of the Deity in the ceremonies of this worship, and, if females, educated in the profession of their mothers.
 Maurice, Indian Antiquities, vol. i.
That prostitution was a religious observance, which was practiced in Eastern temples, cannot in the face of accessible facts be doubted. Regarding this subject, Inman says:
“To us it is inconceivable, that the indulgence of passion could be associated with religion, but so it was. The words expressive of ’sanctuary,’ ’consecrated,’ and ’sodomites’ are in the Hebrew essentially the same. It is amongst the Hindoos of to-day as it was in the Greece and Italy of classic times; and we find that ’holy woman’ is a title given to those who devote their bodies to be used for hire, which goes to the service of the temple.”
The extent to which ages of corruption have vitiated the purer instincts of human nature, and the degree to which centuries of sensuality and superstition have degraded the nature of man, may be noticed at the present time in the admissions which are frequently made by male writers regarding the change which during the history of the race has taken place in the god-idea. None of the attributes of women, not even that holy instinct–maternal love, can by many of them be contemplated apart from the ideas of grossness which have attended the sex-functions during the ages since women first became enslaved. As an illustration of this we have the following from an eminent philologist of recent times, a writer whose able efforts in unravelling religious myths bear testimony to his mental strength and literary ability.
“The Chaldees believed in a celestial virgin who had purity of body, loveliness of person, and tenderness of affection, and she was one to whom the erring sinner could appeal with more chance of success than to a stern father. She was portrayed as a mother with a child in her arms, and every attribute ascribed to her showing that she was supposed to be as fond as any earthly female ever was."
 Inman, Ancient Faiths, vol. i., p. 59.
After thus describing the early Chaldean Deity, who, although a pure and spotless virgin, was nevertheless worshipped as a mother, or as the embodiment of the altruistic principles developed in mankind, this writer goes on to say: “The worship of the woman by man naturally led to developments which our COMPARATIVELY SENSITIVE NATURES [the italics are mine] shun as being opposed to all religious feeling,” which sentiment clearly reveals the inability of this writer to estimate womanhood, or even motherhood, apart from the sensualized ideas which during the ages in which passion has been the recognized god have gathered about it.
The purity of life and the high stage of civilization reached by an ancient people, and the fact that these conditions were reached under pure Nature-worship, or when the natural attributes of the female were regarded as the highest expression of the divine in the human, prove that it was neither the appreciation nor the deification of womanhood which “led to developments which sensitive natures shun as being opposed to all religious feeling,” but, on the contrary, that it was the lack of such appreciation which stimulated the lower nature of man and encouraged every form of sensuality and superstition. In other words, it was the subjection of the natural female instincts and the deification of brute passion during the later ages of human history which have degraded religion and corrupted human nature.
Although at the present time it is quite impossible for scholars to veil the fact that the god-idea was originally worshipped as female, still, most modern writers who deal with this subject seem unable to understand the state of human society which must have existed when the instincts, qualities, and characters peculiar to the female constitution were worshipped as divine. So corrupt has human nature become through over-stimulation and indulgence of the lower propensities, that it seems impossible for those who have thus far dealt with this subject to perceive in the earlier conceptions of a Deity any higher idea than that conveyed to their minds at the present time by the sexual attributes and physical functions of females–namely, their capacity to bring forth, coupled with the power to gratify the animal instincts of males, functions which women share with the lower orders of life.
The fact that by an ancient race woman was regarded as the head or crown of creation, that she was the first emanation from the Deity, or, more properly speaking, that she represented Perceptive Wisdom, seems at the present time not to be comprehended, or at least not acknowledged. The more recently developed idea, that she was designed as an appendage to man, and created specially for his use and pleasure,–a conception which is the direct result of the supremacy of the lower instincts over the higher faculties,–has for ages been taught as a religious doctrine which to doubt involves the rankest heresy.
The androgynous Venus of the earlier ages, a deity which although female was figured with a beard to denote that within her were embraced the masculine powers, embodied a conception of universal womanhood and the Deity widely different from that entertained in the later ages of Greece, at a time when Venus the courtesan represented all the powers and capacities of woman considered worthy of deification.
To such an extent, in later ages, have all our ideas of the Infinite become masculinized that in extant history little except occasional hints is to be found of the fact that during numberless ages of human existence the Supreme Creator was worshipped as female.
One has only to study the Greek character to anticipate the manner in which any subject pertaining to women would be treated by that arrogant and conceited race; and, as until recently most of our information concerning the past has come through Greek sources, the distorted and one-sided view taken of human events, and the contempt with which the feminine half of society has been regarded, are in no wise surprising. We must bear in mind the fact, however, that the Greeks were but the degenerate descendants of the highly civilized peoples whom they were pleased to term “barbarians,” and that they knew less of the origin and character of the gods which they worshipped, and which they had borrowed from other countries, than is known of them at the present time.
About 600 years B.C., we may believe that mankind had sunk to the lowest depth of human degradation, since which time humanity has been slowly retracting its course; not, however, with any degree of continuity or regularity, nor without lapses, during which for hundreds of years the current seemed to roll backward. Indeed when we review the history of the intervening ages, and note the extent to which passion, prejudice, and superstition have been in the ascendancy over reason and judgment, we may truly say: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth have been set on edge.”