Some Critiques of the Feminist/New Age ''Goddess'' Claims

                                         Robert Sheaffer
                                         Box 10441
                                         San Jose, CA 95157 USA

                                         December, 1992

             Some Critiques of the Feminist/New Age "Goddess" Claims

                   on Marija Gimbutas' 'Idyllic Goddess' Theories:

          - from "Idyllic Theory of Goddess Creates Storm"
          by Peter Steinfels (New York Times, Feb. 13, 1990):

             "the   skepticism   about  this  thesis  by   many   leading
        archaeologists  and anthropologists is unmistakable, although  it
        always  comes with expressions of deep respect for Dr.  Gimbutas'
        other  contributions  and  with concern for  her  struggles  with
        lymphatic cancer.
             Yet the growing acceptance of her theories among  nonexperts
        has  led  some of these scholars to feel that  they  should  make
        their own criticism more widely known. In the end, they say,  Dr.
        Gimbutas'   work  raises  sensitive  questions  not  only   about
        prehistoric civilization but also about the relationship  between
        speculation  and scholarship and between scholarship  and  social
             Her  ideas  have been welcomed by eminent figures  like  the
        mythologist Joseph Campbell, who wrote a forward to Dr. Gimbutas'
        latest  volume  before he died in 1987,  and  the  anthropologist
        Ashley  Montagu,  who  hailed that book as "a  benchmark  in  the
        history of civilization."
             But many other investigators of prehistoric Europe have  not
        shared   the   enthusiasm.  Bernard  Wailes,   a   professor   of
        anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, says that most of
        Dr. Gimbutas' peers consider her "immensely knowledgable but  not
        very good in critical analysis. "
             "She  amasses  all the data and then  leaps  to  conclusions
        without  any intervening argument," Dr. Wailes said. "Most of  us
        tend to say, oh my God, here goes Marija again," he said.
             Ruth  Tringham  is  a  professor  of  anthropology  at   the
        University of California at Berkeley, who is an authority on  the
        same  time  and geographical area of prehistoric  Europe  as  Dr.
        Gimbutas.  Choosing  pages at random from "The  Language  of  the
        Goddess,"  she  repeatedly  voiced dismay  over  assertions  that
        demanded, she said, serious qualifications.
             "No   other   archaeologist  I  know  would   express   this
        certainty," Dr. Tringham said.
             Linda  Ellis,  an  archaeologist  at  San  Francisco   State
        University  ... makes it clear that she thinks Dr.  Gimbutas  has
        gone too far.
             David  Anthony,  an assistant professor of  anthropology  at
        Hartwick  College in Oneonta, N.Y., whose area of  research  also
        coincide  closely with Dr. Gimbutas's, said that contrary to  her
        claims,  the  cultures of Old Europe built fortified  sites  that
        indicate  the  presence  of warfare. There is  also  evidence  of
        weapons,  including some used as symbols of status, and of  human
        sacrifice, hierarchy, and social inequality ...
             There  is  also no evidence that women  played  the  central
        role,  in  either  the social structure or the  religion  of  Old
        Europe, he said. These were "important and impressive societies,"
        he said, but rather than Dr. Gimbutas' "Walt Disney version" they
        were "extremely foreign to anything we're familiar with"...
             "In a way she's a very brave woman, very brave to step  over
        the  boundary  and take a guess," said Dr. Ellis. But  Dr.  Ellis
        strongly rejects Dr. Gimbutas' detailed assertions.
             Dr. Gimbutas calls the enthusiastic reception of her work by
        artists  and  feminists "an incredible gift" coming late  in  her
        life. But "I was not a feminist and never had any thought I would
        be helping feminists," she said.
             Still,  "The Language of the Goddess" rings with  a  fervent
        belief that knowledge about a Goddess-worshipping past can  guide
        the world toward a sexually egalitarian, nonviolent, and  "earth-
        centered" future.

                             - - - - - - - - - - - -

          -   from "The Goddess Theory" by Jacques Leslie
              (Los Angeles Times Magazine, June 11, 1989)

             "Nevertheless,   Gimbutas  remains  a  black  sheep   within
        academia;  even  colleagues  who admire her  other  work  express
        skepticism  about  her description of ancient  Europe.  Edgar  C.
        Polome,  a  leading Indo-European scholar at  the  University  of
        Texas  and co-editor of a volume of essays published in honor  of
        Gimbutas,  calls her portrayal of Old Europe "a bit of  a  dream-
        world."  Kees  Bolle,  a UCLA religion history  professor  and  a
        friend  of Gimbutas', says she has "a peculiar  romantic  strand"
        that causes her to "overestimate" pre-Indo-European societies.
             Most archaeologists think that Gimbutas' interpretation goes
        far  beyond the tenative conclusions that can be drawn  from  her
        data.  Ian  Hodder, a Cambridge  University  archaeologist  whose
        field of expertise overlaps Gimbutas', calls her work  "extremely
        important" because it provides a "coherent and wide-ranging  view
        of  the evidence," but he rejects her interpretation of  symbols.
        "She looks at squiggles on a pot and says it's a primeval egg  or
        a snake, or she looks at female figurines and says they're mother
        goddesses. I don't really think there's an awful lot of  evidence
        to support that level of interpretation."
             Alan  McPherron, an anthroplogy professor at the  University
        of  Pittsburgh,  buttresses Hodder's view.  McPherron  says  that
        after he published a book describing a dig he led in  Yugoslavia,
        Gimbutas  designated  one of the excavated structures  a  temple,
        even though it was distinguished from surrounding houses only  by
        its slightly greater size. "In my opinion, it's no more a  temple
        than I am a monkey," McPherron says.
             Many  archaeologists  believe that one reason  Gimbutas  has
        caught  laymen's  attention  is  that  she  habitually   presents
        debatable assertions as fact. Ruth Tringham, an archaeologist  at
        UC  Berkeley, says the evidence from early societies is  far  too
        murky to allow such definitive statements. "I would never  write,
        'This is the obvious conclusion' - there is nothing obvious about
        what we write. Whatever we write is always, 'it could be this, it
        could be that'. Our problem is that the public isn't attracted by
        that kind of ambiguous thinking."
             Since  Gimbutas often omits the logical steps by  which  she
        arrives at her conclusions, Tringham says she has no way to judge
        the validity of the conclusions, and therefore can't accept them.
        Tringham  is unconvinced, for example, that  Gimbutas'  figurines
        represent goddesses, or that neolithic cultures were dominated by
             Like  many  other archaeologists, Tringham is  reluctant  to
        criticise  Gimbutas  because  she does not  wish  to  thwart  the
        feminist  objectives with which Gimbutas' ideas  are  associated.
        Nevertheless, she says: "What Gimbutas is trying to do is to make
        a generalized stage of evolution type of interpretation, in which
        all societies at one time are [dominated by women] and then  they
        all  change  to  another  kind.  But  prehistory  is  much   more
        complicated  than that. Anthropologists left that behind  a  long
        time ago".....
             In  some ways, the controversy reflects a  classic  conflict
        between  science and art. To scholars who think that  archaeology
        is legitimate only to the degree that it is grounded in  science,
        Gimbutas'  grandiose  claims are too far-fetched  even  to  merit
        consideration. And she considers her colleagues too  passionless,
        too  unintuitive,  too alienated from nature  to  understand  the
        prehistoric  past.  Gimbutas' theories are  suspect,  conceivably
        flatly  wrong,  yet they resonate far more than  her  colleagues'
        arid  treatises. Whether or not the world she describes  existed,
        her  advocates feel as if they've glimpsed it, and long  for  its

                           - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

         - from "Did Goddess Worship Mark Ancient Age of Peace?
           by Jay Matthews (The Washington Post, Jan. 7, 1990)

             The  Lithuanian-born UCLA professor's work stands as one  of
        the  most  breathtaking  examples of a  new  surge  of  feminist-
        oriented  scholarship  and has inspired  some  skepticism.  Brian
        Fagan,  archaeologist  at  the University  of  California,  Santa
        Barbara,  called the thesis "pretty controversial," and a  female
        scholar,  who  asked  not to be  identified,  spoke  of  "goddess
        groupies  ...  trying  to influence modern  social  change  in  a
        direction a lot of us would like to go" ...
             Fagan said the notion of a peaceful, female-centered ancient
        Europe dates back at least a century but has enjoyed a resurgence
        in  the  last  decade  or two as  the  feminist  perspective  has
        affected the way university scholars are examining old questions.
             Margarey Conkey, associate professor of anthropology at  the
        University  of California at Berkeley, said she  thinks  Gimbutas
        has   made   "important   contributions"   in   emphasising   the
        "mythological  traditions" of prehistoric societies but that  she
        and  others  have  "a lot of problems"  with  Gimbutas'  sweeping
             "Little  by  little,  we became a  patriarchal  and  warrior
        society," [Gimbutas] said. "We dominate nature; we don't feel  we
        belong  to  her.  This warrior society goes  back  to  the  Indo-
        European conquest of Europe, which eventually led to such  people
        as Stalin and Hitler. We have to come back to our roots."

                           - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

         - from "The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles"
           by Ronald Hutton (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) - p. 37-42

             "By the 1950s, prehistorians had achieved agreement upon the
        question  of  their  origins  [European  megaliths].  They   were
        described  as  being the result of an idea brought up  from  more
        advanced Mediterranean civilizations, together with the cult of a
        Great  Goddess or Earth Mother. Both parts of this  concept  were
        shattered  at the end of the 1960s, the notion of the Goddess  in
        circumstances which will be described later, and the belief in  a
        Mediterranean origin by the discovery of faults in the Carbon  14
        dating process...    [p. 19]
             It  was  the world of late nineteenth and  early  twentieth-
        century  scholarship which extended the idea into principle  that
        prehistoric  peoples  had  believed in  such  a  universal  deity
        [Goddess]. Once this decision had been taken, evidence was easily
        produced  to suubstantiate it, by the simple device  of  treating
        any  female  representations from the Old and New Stone  Ages  as
        images of this being. Refernce has been made in chapter 1 to  the
        practice in the case of the Paleolithic 'Venuses'. Any male image
        could  be  explained away as the son and/or lover  of  the  Great
        Mother.  During  the  mid-twentieth  century,  scholars  such  as
        Professor  [Glyn]  Daniel  and  the  equally  celebrated   O.G.S.
        Crawford  extended  the  Goddess' range  by  accepting  that  any
        representation of a human being in the Stone Ages, if not  firmly
        identified as male, could be accepted as her images. Even a face,
        or a pair of eyes, were interpreted in this way. Because  spirals
        could be thought of as symbols of eyes, they also formed part  of
        the Goddess' iconography, as did circles, cups, and pits. In  the
        mind  of  a  historian of art like  Michael  Dames,  the  process
        reached  the  point  at which a hole in  a  stone  signified  her
        presence.  Mr. Dames was doing no more than summing up a  century
        of  orthodox scholarship when he proclaimed that  'Great  Goddess
        and Neolithic go together as naturally as mother and child' [_The
        Silbury Treasure_, London, 1976, p. 51].
             As  a  matter of fact, when Dames published those  words  in
        1976,  they were about seven years out of date. In 1968 and  1969
        two  prehistorians directed criticisms at this whole  edifice  of
        accepted scholarly belief which brought it all down for ever. One
        was  Peter Ucko, in his monograph _Anthropomorphic  Figurines  of
        Predynastic  Egypt  and  Neolithic  Crete_  ....  Professor  Ucko
        reminded  readers  that a large minority of  Neolithic  figurines
        were  male  or asexual, that few if any statuettes had  signs  of
        majesty  or  supernatural  power,  and  that  few  of  them   had
        accentuated sexual characteristics (the 'pubic triangles' on many
        of   them   could  be  loincloths).  He   warned   against   glib
        interpretations  of  the gestures portrayed upon  figures;  thus,
        early Egyptian figurines of women holding their breasts had  been
        taken  as 'obviously' significant of maternity or fertility,  but
        the Pyramid Texts had revealed that in Egypt this was the  female
        sign of grief.... all over the globe clay models very similar  to
        those  of the Neolithic are made as children's dolls. Just as  in
        the  modern West, most are intended for girls and are  themselves
        female. Another widespread use of such figures is in  sympathetic
        magic  ...  there  was  absolutely  no  need  to  interpret  them
        everywhere as the same female or male deity.
             The second attack was made by Andrew Fleming, in an  article
        in  the periodical _World Archaeology_ uncompromisingly  entitled
        'The Myth of the Mother Goddess.' He pointed out the simple  fact
        that  there  was absolutely no proof that spirals,  circles,  and
        dots  were  symbols for eyes, that eyes,  faces,  and  genderless
        figures  were  symbols of a female or that  female  figures  were
        symbols  of a goddess. This blew to pieces the accepted chain  of
        goddess-related  imagery  from  Anatolia  round  the  coasts   to
        Scandinavia. He was helped by the revolution in the carbon-dating
        process,  which disproved the associated belief  that  megalithic
        architecture  had travelled from the Levant with the cult of  the
        Great Mother...
             There was no answer possible to Ucko and Fleming, and during
        the  1970s the scepticism which they embodied proceeded to  erode
        more  of  the  Mother Goddess's reputed  range.  Ruth  Whitehouse
        ['Megaliths  of  the  Central  Mediterranean'  in  Renfrew,  _The
        Megalithic  Monuments of Western Europe_] considered  the  statue
        pillars  of Italy, Sardinia, and Corsica, which had been  treated
        as part of the deity's iconography, and found that only a few had
        any  female characteristics; many, indeed, carried weapons.  Even
        Malta,  long  considered  one  of the  most  obvious  centres  of
        Neolithic  goddess worship, fell before David Trump  ['Megalithic
        Architecture in Malta' in Renfrew, op. cit.]. He pointed out that
        although  some of the Maltese statuettes were  certainly  female,
        many  of  the large cult statues were  kilted,  flat-chested  and
        generally androgynous...
             However, the same mood of iconoclasm in the late 1960s which
        inspired  Peter  Ucko  and Andrew Fleming brought  into  being  a
        women's movement bent upon challenging patriarchy in both society
        and  religion.  Professor Ucko's book was an  academic  monograph
        with a forbidding title, while Dr. Fleming's essay was lodged  in
        a  scholarly periodical; the old popular works were still  lining
        public  library  shelves (and indeed being reprinted),  and  they
        provided some radicals with precisely the universal female  deity
        they had been seeking. At the very moment that the concept of the
        Neolithic  Great  Mother crumbled inside academe, it  found  more
        enthusiastic adherents among the general public than ever before.
        This  tendency was enhanced by the appearance in 1974  of  Marija
        Gimbutas'  beautiful book _The Goddesses and Gods of Old  Europe_
        [Berkeley:  University of California Press]. It  deserved  praise
        for  two  great achievements: it established that  the  Neolithic
        cultures  of  the  Balkans had left a huge  trove  of  figurines,
        statues  and  painted ceramics, and it provided a  feast  of  new
        images  for historians of art and indeed for artists  themselves.
        Yet  Professor  Gimbutas' interpretation of those  images  caused
        much  scholarly  concern. She accepted Peter Ucko's work  to  the
        extent  of  speaking of different goddesses and gods  instead  of
        one. But she completely ignored his other criteria by regarding a
        very  large range of human representations, especially among  the
        statuettes,   as   divine,  and  proceeding  to   classify   them
        confidently  with no justification other than her own taste.  She
        explained  the  significance of geometrical symbols in  the  same
        fashion, and in subsequent works went on to complete her portrait
        of  a goddess-worshipping, woman-centered, peaceful and  creative
        Neolithic  Balkan civilization, destroyed by  savage  patriarchal
        invaders.  There  is good archaeological evidence to  cast  doubt
        upon  this, but Professor Gimbutas has refused to  recognize  it.
        The mixture of affection and frustration which her work  inspires
        is neatly summed up by her Festschrift, the collection of  essays
        by  admiring colleagues customarily presented to a  distinguished
        scholar  who  is approaching the formal age of  retirement.  That
        delivered  to  Professor Gimbutas is characterized by  both  deep
        respect for herself and profound dissent from her views...
             [Catal  Huyuk in Turkey, discovered by James Mellart in  the
        1950s,  is  the  largest Neolithic  settlement  yet  known.]  Mr.
        Mellart returned to the subject once more, in a detailed text for
        students, _The Neolithic of the Far East_, published in 1975.  By
        now Peter Ucko's warnings had made their impact upon academe, and
        Mr. Mellart scrupulously avoided any interpretations of the  kind
        which  he  had  made  earlier.  He  now  spoke  only  of  'female
        figurines',  male statuettes', and ex-voto figures',  and  raised
        the  possibility  that  some were dolls. When  he  wrote  of  the
        Balkans,  in  the wake of Marija Gimbutas's  book,  he  carefully
        declined to repeat any of her interpretations of the finds there.
        But  this dry, densely written academic text made  no  impression
        upon  the  public,  whereas his own popular  book  of  ten  years
        earlier [_Earliest Civilizations of the Near East_] had now  been
        reissued in paperback. Read with the works of Professor Gimbutas,
        it  produced strong and escalating interest in Catal Huyuk  among
        the same sort of feminist writers and artists who were taking  up
        the Mother Goddess. By the time feminist philosopher Riane Eisler
        published  in the mid-1980s [San Francisco: _The Chalice and  the
        Blade_, 1987], the settlement was confidently believed by them to
        have been matriarchal in its society as well as its religion, and
        also  - or rather, 'therefore' - a peaceful  community  requiring
        neither  weapons  nor  defences  (a  claim  contradicted  in  Mr.
        Mellart's original textbook)...
             Ian Hodder has recently taken a fresh look at this  evidence
        and  the context in which it is set ['Contextual Archaeology:  An
        Interpretation of Catal Huyuk and a discussion of the Origins  of
        Agriculture',   _London  University  Institute   of   Archaeology
        Bulletin_  1987, 24, pp.43-56]. He notes that women  were  buried
        with  ornaments and cosmetic boxes, men with weapons of  war  and
        hunting and implements of agriculture; that women were  portrayed
        far  more  often in the figurines, usually nude, while  men  were
        portrayed  most often in the wall-paintings, clothed and  usually
        engaged in hunting; that the art placed a great emphasis on  wild
        nature  and little upon agriculture or domestic tasks;  and  that
        the  living spaces around the hearths and the  cooking-pots  were
        never decorated like the rest of the hearth...

                           - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                   On Gimbutas' "Kurgan Invasion" Hypothesis:

        - from "In Search of the Indo-Europeans" by J.P. Mallory
          (London: Thames & Hudson, 1991)

             ...the  present formulation of this theory owes much to  the
        publications  of Marija Gimbutas who has argued for over  twenty-
        five  years  that the Proto-Indo-Europeans should  be  identified
        with  her  Kurgan tradition ... The capsule image of  the  Kurgan
        tradition  is a warlike pastoral society, highly mobile  ...  [p.
             The  Kurgan solution is attractive and has been accepted  by
        many  archaeologists and linguists, in part or in total  ...  One
        might at first imagine that the economy of argument involved with
        the  Kurgan solution should oblige us to accept it outright.  But
        critics  do  exist and their objections can be  summarized  quite
        simply  - almost all of the arguments for invasion  and  cultural
        transformations  are  far better explained without  reference  to
        Kurgan  expansions, and most of the evidence so far presented  is
        either totally contradicted by other evidence or is the result of
        gross  misinterpretation  of  the cultural  history  of  Eastern,
        Central, and Northern Europe [p. 185; detailed discussion follows
        in next two chapters].

         - from _European Prehistory_ by Sarunas Milisauskas
           (New York: Academic Press, 1978, p. 183.)

             Many  scholars, especially Gimbutas (1956, 1965, 1973)  have
        maintained  that  the Late Neolithic saw not only the  influx  of
        pastoralists from the steppe regions of the southern Ukraine  but
        also  the  appearance of the Indo-European  speaking  peoples  in
        various  parts of Europe. However, to demonstrate  a  prehistoric
        migration  or  even the presence of a pastoral economy is  not  a
        simple  matter. As we shall see, the migration hypothesis  should
        be treated with caution.

                        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                  on Marija Gimbutas' "Language of the Goddess"

         - from Hutton, op. cit., p. 346.

             Its many illustrations make it a wonderful gift to  artists:
        that  apart,  it  is  a personal  dream-world  infused  with  the
        author's political preoccupations. It makes wholly arbitrary  and
        selective  interpretation  of the prehistoric  symbols  which  it
        reproduces, and tacks onto this an interpretation of the historic
        Great Witch Hunt which is based not even upon dubious scholarship
        but  upon  assertions  of modern pagans  made  without  research.
        Overall,  the  book  is an extended and  very  beautiful  radical
        feminist tract.

          -  from  a review by Ruby Rohrlich in "The  Women's  Review
             of Books" (Vol. VII, No. 9, June, 1990)

             The  reknowned archaeologist Leonard Woolley has shown  that
        in  Sumer, the first civilization in the Old World, the  earliest
        dynastic  rulers  practiced  human sacrifice.  Others  have  made
        similar  findings. Gimbutas seems to accept human sacrifice as  a
        corroboration,  not a refutation, of hr thesis; she  argues  that
        such sacrifice strengthens the life-force by conveying the energy
        of the victim to the sacrificer...
             Gimbutas proposes a single, simplistic theory - invasion  by
        violent, patriarchal Indo-Europeans - to account for the  changes
        that radically transformed human society in this period...
             Despite  its  theoretical weaknesses, _The Language  of  the
        Goddess_  is a book to cherish for its spectacular  reproductions
        alone ... If nothing else, Gimbutas' herculean labors have  borne
        fruit  in  a  magnificent  collection of the  art  of  our  early
        ancestors, a treasure trove for anthropologists, art  historians,
        teachers, and students.

             [RS  note:  Rohrlich  is a feminist scholar  who  makes  the
             highly-dubious  claim that ancient Crete was a  "matriarchy"
             (in   _Becoming  Visible  -  Women  in  European   History_,
             Bridenthal  & Koonz, eds., Houghton Mifflin,  1977,  chapter

                            - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                     Dubious Assertions by Marija Gimbutas:

         - from an interview in the "Whole Earth Review",
           Spring, 1989.

             "  'Old  Europe'  is  my term  for  the  culture  which  was
        matrifocal,  not  patriarchal, non-Indo-European....  The  social
        structure  *didn't*  change [for 20,000  years].  The  matrifocal
        social   structure  continued  from  the  Paleolithic  into   the
        Neolithic  and  therefore  the  goddesses  were  the  same....  I
        discovered  at Achilleion - this is northern Greece - one  temple
        above  another.  They were in the shape of  houses....  The  huge
        herds [of the Indo-European pastoral nomads] had to be controlled
        by the man, and I think this was the primary cause why patriarchy
        became established.
             Question: How can you tell if you've gone too far in drawing
             Gimbutas:  Well,  this  has to do with  your  intuition  and
        experience. Just like an art creation you must feel that you  are
        right in what you are saying.

         - from _The Language of the Goddess_
           (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989, p. xx - xxi):

             The Goddess-centered art with its striking absence of images
        of warfare and male domination, reflects a social order in  which
        women  as  heads of clans or queen-priestesses played  a  central
        part.  Old Europe and Anatolia, as well as Minoan Crete,  were  a
        gylany.  [MG footnote: Riana Eisler in her book _The Chalice  and
        the  Blade_ (1987) proposes the term gylyany (_gy_ from  "woman,"
        _an_  from  _andros_,  "man", and the letter l  between  the  two
        standing  for  the linking of both halves of  humanity)  for  the
        social  structure  where  both sexes  were  equal.]  A  balanced,
        nonpatriarchal  and nonmatriarchal social system is reflected  by
        religion,  mythologies,  and folklore, by studies of  the  social
        structure  of Old European and Minoan cultures, and is  supported
        by  the  continuity of the elements of a  matrilineal  system  in
        ancient Greece, Etruria, Rome, the Basque, and other countries of
             So the repeated disturbances and incursions by Kurgan people
        (whom  I  view  as Proto-Indo-European) put an  end  to  the  Old
        European culture roughly between 4300 and 2800 B.C., changing  it
        from gylanic to androcratic and from matrilineal to  patrilineal.
        The  Aegean and Mediterranean regions and western Europe  escaped
        the process the longest; there, especially in the islands such as
        Thera,   Crete,  Malta,  and  Sardinia,  Old   European   culture
        flourished  in  an enviably peaceful  and  creative  civilization
        until  1500 B.C., a thousand to 1500 years after  central  Europe
        had been thoroughly transformed...
             We  are still living under the sway of that aggressive  male
        invasion and only beginning to discover our long alienation  from
        our  authentic  European Heritage - gylanic,  nonviolent,  earth-
        centered culture.

                          - - - - - - - - - - - - -  -

                 on Riane Eisler's "The Chalice and the Blade":

          - from  "The Goddess Theory" by Jacques Leslie
                  (Los Angeles Times Magazine, June 11, 1989)

        "Equally  significantlly,  a  book called "The  Chalice  and  the
        Blade,"  written  by Riane Eisler, used Gimbutas'  ideas  as  its
        cornerstone for arguing that features of modern civilization such
        as patriarchy, warfare, and competitiveness are recent historical
        developments,  introduced  by the villanous  Indo-Europeans.  Far
        from  being  inevitable,  Eisler  claims,  the  ills  of   modern
        civilization can be blamed on its unbalanced embrace of masculine
        values. Societies that cherish the Earth, as Gimbutas and  Eisler
        argue that the Old Europeans did, would not waste their wealth on
        nuclear  arsenals, nor would they allow life on the planet to  be
        threatened  by  environmental problems. Published in  1987,  "The
        Chalice and the Blade" is now in its seventh printing and  enjoys
        a kind of cult prominence within the women's movement.

                           - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


        The   feminist/New  Age  "Idyllic  Goddess"  theory  is  not   an
        intellectually-respectable   hypothesis.  It  was   invented   by
        conjecturing far beyond what available facts will permit,  guided
        by  a  political agenda, and "validated" by  intuition.  While  a
        belief in a universal Goddess of the Neolithic was widely-held by
        scholars  several  decades ago, recent scholarly  critiques  have
        exposed serious difficulties with this view, and it is now  quite
        discredited   within  academe.  The  overwhelming   majority   of
        anthropologists  and archaeologists reject Gimbutas'  interpreta-
        tions and conjectures on "the Goddess"; however, most of them are
        reluctant  to speak out too strongly, out of sympathy  for  their
        ailing colleague, and for her feminist goals.

        Yet  in spite of its rejection by scholars, the  Idyllic  Goddess
        theory  has found enormous support among certain segments of  the
        general public, because it appeals to their preconceived beliefs.
        Thus Gimbutas' Goddess theories should be placed alongside  those
        of  Velikovsky  and  Von  Daniken:  belief-systems  which,  while
        enjoying  a cult-like popularity among certain groups of  laymen,
        are  rejected virtually _in toto_ by scholars who have worked  in
        the field. They are classic examples of pseudo-science.

                                     Robert Sheaffer
        Robert Sheaffer - Scepticus Maximus -