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Civilisation Judas - Chapter 10 - The Mother vs The State
The last chapter focused on the male archetype in Christianity. Here we look at the female aspect. Given the power and prominence of the Mary figures in Christian iconography, particularly the classic image of the Virgin Mary, it's worth first of all noting how relatively minor their roles are in the New Testament in comparison to that of Jesus. The four gospel texts, as expected, are dominated by the story of Christ, with the various female figures playing important, but supporting roles. Likewise the Acts of the Apostles and the various Epistles give little mention of the Mary figures, and are dominated by males, such as Paul and Peter. Who in turn speak heavily of Christ himself. However, in contrast to this, in Christian artwork and iconography both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene appear almost on an equal billing with Christ himself. Expanding, in spite of their lesser game time in the New Testament, to reach parity in the wider cultural landscape. Vastly outshining all the other male figures with the exception of Jesus himself. So it seems the archetype is much bigger than the text alone would allow. Perhaps filling a natural need for such a companion female archetype in our collective psyche.
It's also worth noting just how many Marys appear in the New Testament. As well as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus, we also have Mary of Bethany, Mary of Rome, Mary of Clopas, Mary mother of James, and Mary mother of John Mark. I would argue that the reason for this bevy of Marys is the confusion over the name Mary itself. My view being that all these Marys are simply echoes of the same female archetype. The mother figure. Either that or that the name is simply a title rather than a given name. For example, take the modern title mrs - someone not familiar with this term, on coming across several mentions of women titled as such, would maybe assume that mrs is actually their given name rather than simply a title common to all married women. Again, this serves as another example of how history can easily become confused and mistranslated.
The name Mary is very similar to the word marry, and I would suggest that the title Mary probably just signifies a married woman. In this regard it would make much more sense of the names given to both Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. Virgin Mary would quite literally translate as married virgin. This would help to explain the story of the supposed "virgin birth". The mother of Jesus being not a virgin who gave birth, but rather a virgin who got married and then gave birth. Likewise the name Mary Magdalene would render similarly. Magdalene is generally thought to derive from Magdala - a settlement on the Sea of Galilee where Mary was thought to hail from. A name which in turn is generally said to derive from the Hebrew word migdál ( מגדל ) meaning tower. However, a variant of the name Magdalene is Madeleine, and in German this means "little girl" (mädelein). It's also very similar to the word maid or maiden. So we could speculate that Magdalene simply means maiden. Which would then give the name Mary Magdalene the meaning of married maiden. Another identical concept. We also have the motif from history of the maiden locked in a tower. Common to fairy tales and ideas of marriage and chastity. So the double meaning of tower and maiden could have a deeper overlap in that sense too.
Interestingly, these Mary names are also very similar to the name Maid Marian. Another traditional female figure from history. Likewise associated with similar concepts. In her case May Day ceremonies and marriage rites. Again, her name could be similarly rendered as simply denoting a maid marrying. In fact, along with all the various Marys in the New Testament we also have the figure of Martha, the sister of Lazarus. With her name sounding very similar to the word mother. So it would seem that in the New Testament traditions we simply see a repeating, archetypal theme.
Incidentally, we also have another Jesus duplicate in the New Testament in the person of Barabbas, a criminal set to be crucified alongside Jesus. Who was then released by Pontius Pilate. The name Barabbas is said to translate as "son of the father", which has clear echoes of the "son of God" or "son of man" epithet often used in reference to Jesus. In some early gospel manuscripts his full name is even given as Jesus Barabbas. It's almost as if multiple folk traditions regarding these archetypal male and female characters have been amalgamated into one over-arching canon of work. Leading to numerous duplicates and inconsistencies.
Returning to Maid Marian and the various Mary figures it's also striking that the "M" sound is so common in all these names. The sound of the letter "M" is made by simply opening and closing the mouth, and as a consequence of this we have many onomatopoeic words associated with eating - something that naturally involves the opening and closing of the mouth of course. Words such as "Mmm", "chomp" or the text speak favourite "nom". We also have words like mouth and milk. This all perhaps helps to explain the almost universal use of this sound in words signifying mother. As in mam, mummy, mater, madre, etc. We also have the similarly derived word mammary. So it makes sense that words containing this "M" sound would be associated with feeding and nourishment, and that likewise they'd be used for names signifying the female archetype in wider culture. It's also of interest that the word mermaid, another traditional female figure - often shown bare-breasted in folk art - similarly contains this double "M" sound. A name which is likewise a compound comprising of the mer/marry and maid components of the aforementioned Mary names.
The double "M" sound is also quite common in popular culture. For example, names such as Marilyn Monroe or Mickey Mouse. We also have the now ubiquitous word meme. It appears equally significant in eastern cultures too. Such as the famed "Om" sound utilised during sessions of meditation, and considered sacred in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. We also see the sound appearing in the titles used for religious leaders. Such as the Sanskrit Mahatma, meaning "Great Soul", or the Muslim title Imam. In fact, in Islam there seems to be an abundance of these "M" words. Muhammad, Muslim, Mecca, Medina, variants on the name Muhammad, such as Ahmed and Mahmud. The word Islam itself.
In Jewish history we have the noted medieval scholar Maimonides, who also has a name containing this double "M" sound. Or triple if you consider his full name; Moses ben Maimon. The biblical Moses of course is another towering religious figure whose name possesses the sound. In more modern times we even have the Mormons - an appellation that once again contains this repeating "M" sound. Not forgetting the word mammon too, meaning wealth or money - the milk of economic life. It may be that all these various words are so common simply because they sound pleasing to the ear, and so therefore get repeatedly used. Which in turn perhaps stems from the positive and comforting feelings we naturally associate the sound with from motherhood and breastfeeding.
Going back to the Virgin Mary, or Madonna - another "M" name, we can see that her iconic image also imbibes feelings of comfort and reassurance. The similar connotations of motherhood and breastfeeding being obvious. There's generally a natural and familiar beauty to her depictions. As there often is with the various other "mother" figures from tradition and culture. Again no doubt because of the natural associations they come with. It's an image we can all intuitively relate to. The image of the mother is the image of our own mother. No image or symbol can induce greater empathy in us. The symbol of the mother with child is in many ways the anchor of all human culture. Childbirth the natural cornerstone of all human society. Consequently the symbol of the mother and child is a powerful and emotive image. The image at the heart of family life, at the very heart of society.
The importance of the mother/child relationship, both symbolically and in actuality, brings me to the final focus of this chapter, and of this book. Namely the battle for custodianship of the child between nature (the mother) and civilisation (the state or social order). This is perhaps the key battleground and deciding conflict regarding the ultimate fate of society. Yet one that is generally missed when people contemplate the progress and aims of civilisation.
What's all too often overlooked by adults with their adult concerns is the life allotted to children in civilisation. Particularly in the school system, or the various other institutions of state or social care. It could be said that in many ways the state or school system removing a child from its mother is the very apotheosis of civilisation. The state, its rules and sophistication intruding into the most sacred and natural area of human life. Severing and overpowering the foundational bond that the entire social family rests upon.
School - the educator, the civiliser - yet also the jailer and suppressor of the child and its natural impulses. This lack of freedom children have in regard school is symptomatic of the wider lack of freedom civilisation has brought to all humanity. That stress of civilised living mentioned earlier. The stress which sometimes drives adults to walk away into homelessness, or to dream of some secluded desert island far away from it all, is not spared the child. In fact, the workaday week adults endure is imposed upon children in perfect imitation, specifically to prepare and subdue them into this adult life that awaits. The hours of a child's life not valued by the child's enjoyment of them, but by the value they have as a commodity to be used by civilisation, to further civilisation.
This may all sound a little overdramatic or grandiose, a bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but deep down we know it to be true. If we stop, ponder for a moment ..and remember. That feeling on a Sunday night before school. We can all recollect it quite easily. It still lingers upon our Sunday evenings in ghostly form even now. Yet we consciously forget it, push it to the back of our mind and just decide to accept it as an unavoidable part of life. That it probably wasn't really as bad as we remember it. That it's perfectly acceptable and normal that all later generations must also live through this. Yet deep down, when we pause, it's still profoundly vivid. You enjoyed the Friday night. A sheer relief; no more school this week. Enjoyed the Saturday ..but then, as Sunday evening crept forward. That feeling. "I'm back at school tomorrow." Five solid days of school, then just two days break. One of which being a Sunday ruined by the dread of the following Monday to Friday.
As a child you questioned why it had to be like this. Why five days out of seven? Who decided this? Why such an imbalance between freedom and work? But by adulthood it just gets accepted as a fact of life. Much like how the rent and mortgage mentioned in earlier chapters is also deemed a fact of life by everyone. Everyone that is, except those born outside of civilisation.
So, is this just the price of civilisation? Does there really have to be this trade off between freedom and civilised living. Is it not beyond the will of man to create a civilised world that also acts in harmony with our nature? That allows us to avoid such dread and anxiety. Giving true individual freedom, but with all the benefits of human advancement too. Perhaps it's the destiny of civilisation to redeem this situation by marrying nature and progress together to create something with the best aspects of both?
Looking more specifically at education, in Chapter Eight we briefly mentioned how literacy is more a consequence of access to technology than access to formal education. You may remember the mobile phone example. No one requires hours sat in formal school lessons to master the use of a mobile phone ..or a laptop, or a tablet, etc. Though such things can sometimes be quite complicated to use all people really require is access to the technology itself, and a desire to use it. Given this each person will then in turn learn to use the technology to meet their own particular needs. For example, one person may simply want to use a mobile phone to make basic calls and receive texts. Consequently they'll learn only to the most basic level. Another may want to do all manner of things, from gaming to god knows what else, and as a consequence may become quite an expert in the art. It's a completely organic process. Some may learn quickly, some will have more difficulties. Some at times may need the help and guidance of others. In essence, the tech literacy across society has just sort of happened - without the need for any form of structured education. It would therefore be silly, time-consuming and maybe even counter-productive to force everyone to sit through a formal education on such topics.
Such an imposed formalisation of the education process would also lead to a severe lack of enjoyment. The people with little enthusiasm for using mobile phones would not enjoy being forced to sit in a room and suffer the torture even more so. Likewise the more tech-savvy would resent having to endure the slow pace and formality of dull, compulsory lessons.
I would speculate that it was much the same with the advent of the printing press. Once such mass production made books and other reading material available to a wider section of the population the literacy took care of itself. People wanted to read. They wanted to use and enjoy this new technology. So they learnt in a similar organic way. Choosing to freely buy, borrow and share such books and pamphlets, and choosing to educate themselves in how to read and take advantage of such new developments in technology. This is perhaps why we tend to find literacy in towns and cities, and illiteracy in more rural areas. People in rural areas simply having less access to the technology. Again that dichotomy of civilisation and wilderness.
The school system often takes credit for the overall rise of literacy. However, I would proffer the argument that literacy is largely a consequence of access to technology and interaction with other people that are using it. Therefore the school system is just an organised state or civil management of an already existing occurrence. The school system is not education itself, but rather the regulation of education. Education is something that happens naturally. It would no doubt be much more effective if this was recognised.
It's also worth noting that the human mind works effectively not just by remembering, but also by forgetting. We remember the important things and forget the unimportant. It's not much use remembering every pattern in the clouds you've ever seen. Or every single blade of grass you've ever stepped over. You may have walked past your next door neighbour's front door everyday for the last ten years, but may still not recall the colour of it when asked. This is not because of some failing of the mind or memory, but because the colour of the front door isn't important ..unless you have a particular interest in front doors that is.
We tend to remember important things that we need to know - like how to tie our shoe laces, or the route from our home to school or work. We likewise tend to remember things that we have an emotional investment in, or a passion for. Such as the eye colour of the person we fall in love with, or our favourite piece of art or music. Anything that isn't valuable to us in one of these ways tends to get cast aside. This is why a schoolchild may have an encyclopedic knowledge of their favourite pop star or football team. Yet at the same time completely fail to remember what you've just been trying to impart to them regarding Henry VIII or the Battle of Hastings. It's all just information, but they have no everyday use for the information you're imposing on them, nor a passion for it. So very little sticks.
This is why the average person leaves school with basic maths, basic English and very little else. They need the basic maths and English to function in everyday civilised life - and both are things they would have learnt anyway to some degree completely regardless of schooling. The rest is just fluff.
Basic mathematics and numeracy is needed for such everyday things as using cash or telling the time. This is why virtually everyone in the civilised world can do maths to the basic level needed to get the shopping done or understand the times in the TV guide. As learning how to do these things has a practical use. In fact, in regard more complex mathematics, such as Pythagoras' theorem for example, you'll often hear children complain to their teachers; "..but when will we ever need to know this in real life?". The teachers will sigh in despair, but it's a perfectly sensible question to ask. Most people will never use such mathematics in their normal everyday life. Consequently most, intuitively understanding this, will never learn it in school, no matter how long you sit them down for in a classroom trying. The ones that do learn either having a natural aptitude and/or a genuine passion for the subject.
It's the same with reading and writing. Basic English is obviously needed to read letters, newspapers, signs, menus, to communicate with others, and so on and so forth. You need it to function in civilised society. It's therefore desirable and useful for a person to learn how to do this. Just as when you go to live in a foreign country you need to learn to speak, read and write the language in order to function and thrive there.
In fact, the learning of foreign languages is a good example to use to highlight the failure and pointlessness of formal education. Pupils spend hours every week in schools learning French or German, or whatever the preferred language of the state syllabus is. For instance, in Britain we tend to learn French at school. With successive generations each spending hours and hours of their life, as well as countless pounds of taxpayer's money, in this quest to make British people fluent speakers of French. However, in spite of all this time and money and effort almost every British person who has been through this process isn't fluent in French. Not even close. Again, most people leave school with very little. In spite of perhaps five years of solid French lessons they leave with just bonjour, au revoir, the French numbers one to twenty, and perhaps if they were really clever a few lines asking which way to the bakery. Basically the bits they learnt in the first few weeks of French lessons before the fun and novelty wore off. Again, that passion thing. The importance of having a genuine interest or enjoyment in something.
In stark comparison we can see that if a British child goes with their family to actually live and settle in France they will soon pick up the language - because they have to - i.e. it becomes useful for them to do so. When you think about this it makes perfect sense. It's how a mind is supposed to function. What is the point in learning French if you don't regularly interact with French speakers? Or again, if you don't have a genuine passion for French language and culture.
Taking note of this we can therefore see that it's largely pointless trying to teach people things they have no need or desire to learn. It's fruitless trying to beat nature. Reading a book can be very rewarding, but no one enjoys reading a book they're forced to sit and read. Nor will they absorb much information from it under such circumstances. Therefore it stands to reason that if there was more freedom for children (and for adults) they would become much happier ..and by extension much brighter. However, civilisation's desire to regulate human life doesn't allow for this. So we only ever see increasing management.
It's the uprooting of the child from the mother, or rather the failure to appreciate the importance of this bond between mother and child, that is in large part responsible for this onward creep towards human management. The obvious remedy would be a return to the veneration of the mother and child. Not necessarily in a religious sense, but at least in a way that reminds society of the sheer importance of this relationship. That makes sure civilisation remains rooted in the needs of the people, particularly the needs of its children. Rather than rooting the child in the needs of civilisation. A mother naturally wants happiness for her child. The state snatching the child from the mother, or overruling the authority of the mother, is therefore in many ways the ultimate rejection of, or act against nature. When we allow ourselves to forget this misery ensues.
Today we find ourselves in an age where parents are threatened with legal action for daring to take their child out of school for a week of holiday. The state decides what's best for the child and the parent must reluctantly follow. Many parents in response now want to homeschool their children, but again the constraints of work and civilisation itself make this difficult. If not impossible. With even those parents in a position to do so still having to be under the watchful eye of the state, following the state curriculum. In a truly free society parents would be able to choose the hours their child spends at school or the curriculum they follow - after all they are the ones that are paying for it.
Surely it's not beyond us to make school more flexible. If a parent, remembering the misery of those long school days and weeks, decides that their child would be happier spending less time in school, then why is that not possible? It would also be perfect for parents wanting to homeschool, but not having the opportunity because of work constraints. They could, for example, send their child to school on the days/mornings/afternoons when they work, then homeschool when they have free time. Currently the only choice available is to homeschool - if they even have that option - separating their child completely from interaction with other school children. Or to subject their child to the complete full force of the state. With no way of mitigating against its effects or excesses. Even a wholesome family holiday during school term is forbidden.
Finally, as well as that feeling on a Sunday evening before school there's also another familiar feeling from childhood that's worth remembering - that feeling we had at the beginning of the summer holidays. Those seemingly endless summers are for many people the happiest times of their life. Their fondest memories. It was such a happy time because it was free time. Not to mention the beautiful weather of course. You knew that for a full six weeks there was no school. Complete freedom. No constraints or compulsion. A heady carefree feeling of abandon that was only dampened in the final few weeks when you realised that school would soon be back upon you, and that your days of freedom were dwindling away. In fact, that day in the final week where your parents took you to get your new school uniform was especially depressing. Wasting a precious day off school, getting something needed for school, which in turn reminded you of school.
The summer holidays are generally the one time in life people taste real freedom. No worries, no clock watching. Real happiness. Sadly however, in the civilisation we've created even children only get six weeks of that freedom a year. With the odd other free week or two separating the endless grind at a few other points in the calendar. Why can't life always be like those summers? If not for adults then at least for children before they enter adulthood. Why has civilisation resulted in so little freedom? So little freedom for everyone, from the top to the bottom. Such a limited taste of that feeling. It makes little sense on face value. Imagine if we had more of it. Surely it must be the aim of civilisation to build that into existence, and to make civilisation work in the interests of increasing that feeling. Not just in the interest of increasing civilisation for the sake of civilisation.
We mentioned earlier in the book the word cultured in regard this civilising effect, and its relative meaning; to cultivate. Maybe the end goal of this quest to civilise the world is to create a garden paradise in some way, a tailored version of nature. Where civilisation enhances our experience of nature, instead of severing us from it. Maybe to refind the Garden of Eden in some sense even. To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.  That freedom, and those feelings, perhaps should be the very fruits of civilisation.
 This line was famously spoken by Senator Robert F. Kennedy in his speech on the night of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
"My favourite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote: 'Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.' What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black ..Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world."
The Aeschylus passage he quotes is from the play Agamemnon, as translated by the writer Edith Hamilton.