At the moment I am in the process of writing a book entitled The Whole Story. Healing our Sense of Separation, and hope to finish the text somewhere in the autumn of 2020. If you want to have an idea what it will be about, below you can find a brief outline of the content.
The Patriarchal Shift
We have been, and still are, confronted in our time with several crises – like a financial crisis, an identity crisis, an ecological crisis, and more recently also a corona crisis – which are in fact manifestations of a deeper, more encompassing spiritual crisis that we have to deal with. This crisis is the result of a development in Western culture that goes back to a major shift that took place about 6000 years ago, which I have called the Patriarchal Shift. Usually this period is historically considered the start of Western culture and civilization (and whatever happened before that is put under the heading of prehistory), but in my view (and many others) this tells only half the story, or even much less. Feminists have appropriately called this part of the human story His Story, thereby emphasizing the fact that it has been primarily the story of men and of the predominance of masculine values. To include Her Story we have to revaluate the period of prehistory, investigate survivals of it among indigenous people, and integrate them to Our Story, the Whole Story.
Research in several fields has made it clear that by limiting the start of human culture and civilization to the period after 4000 BCE we have ignored several important elements in our human developments. First we must acknowledge that we all have a dual nature: on the one hand we are interconnected beings, who are born from and remain inextricably connected to the universe, but on the other hand we experience ourselves also as an independent subject – as an ego, a separate self – that opposes itself to the world. In other words, we are both cooperative and competitive creatures. Originally there existed a balance in our dual nature (in line with the balance of the dual character of the entire natural world, as beautifully expressed by the Taoist yin-yang symbol), with the emphasis on our interconnected, cooperative side. Around the period of the Patriarchal Shift a structural unbalance manifested itself in our dual nature, probably due to traumatic events that human beings were confronted with in that period, an unbalance that has continued until our time. This has truly been a paradigm change that touched all levels of human development. The human ego, or separate self – the side of ourselves that feels independent – suddenly rose to prominence and generated a deep sense of separation. No longer we experienced ourselves collectively as being fully embedded in the natural world, we placed ourselves outside and above it, and from this position tried to exert control over it. This sense of separation had a profound impact on our experience of the Sacred dimension of life. When we still felt embedded in the natural world, the entire natural world – from the large body of the landscape around us and the smaller body that we inhabit – obviously possessed this Sacred quality. By putting ourselves outside the natural world, all material bodies lost their Sacred quality and were reduced to mere matter.
In this period the experience of the Sacred gradually moved from the outdoor to the indoor world. Therefore this development can be characterized as one from what I call outdoor spirituality to indoor religions. This means that the rise of the so-called World religions, which include the monotheistic religions of the Judeo-Christian heritage, are no longer considered a beginning of something entirely new in the human world, as marking the human discovery of religious aspects of life, but that these religions had a significant spiritual predecessor, in the form of outdoor spirituality. For this we must revaluate the heritage of our prehistoric ancestors, that has been distorted due to the Patriarchal Shift, which has given them the low status of ‘primitives’, ‘barbarians’, or ‘savages’ who were considered to have no sense at all of religion or spirituality. This generally accepted low status of our prehistoric ancestors, which has lasted to fairly recent times, has also distorted our view of the Goddess heritage, by which the outdoor spirituality of our ancestors expressed itself, and of the ways it manage to survive in later periods.
Hierarchical organization outside nature
Another development that was generated by the Patriarchal Shift has been the creation of hierarchical organizations, which are ruled from without, top-down, by the principle of power over. By going through this shift we have put ourselves outside the natural world; we have reduced it to mere matter, to a collection of objects, and made the (legal) idea of landownership possible. Landowners could reduce their land a resource that they could exploit for their own benefit and, as we all know, have done so on a large scale, resulting in today’s ecological crisis and problems of climate change. The creation of hierarchical organizations, the principle of power over, and the idea of landownership also gave rise to the forming of nation states, which in time grew larger and larger until they expanded to the size of empires. They were driven from the very start by the ongoing urge of expansion and conquest. They were driven by abstract ideas of the Fatherland, and it is obvious that the concrete Motherland, the surrounding landscape in which we are all embedded – the ground under our feet and the sky above us -, has suffered tremendously by this approach. Although some populist political leaders today still continue to dream of their Fatherland and of expanding its power, fortunately more and more people realize that we can never deal properly with the current crisis through principle of the top-down and power over – as it actually has created the problem in the first place and is very much part of the problem.
The Great Turning
Central in my book is the notion that we must first understand the impact of the Patriarchal Shift, and what has been lost due to this shift, before we can heal the spiritual crisis that we are confronted with in our time and generate what has been called the Great Turning. This Great Turning involves a reintegration of the parts of our human story that have been suppressed or ignored, so that we can finally tell and become part of the Whole Story. In fact, by fully understanding what the Patriarchal Shift in the distant past has done to us, how it has cut us off from significant human experiences necessary to enable us to live our lives fully and openly, in particular with regard to the Sacred, the Great Turning is generated spontaneously both on an individual and collective scale through the return to our inner and outer balance. It makes us finally part of an Earth Community, that includes not just ourselves but all the other living beings on our planet as well – the more-than-human world, as David Abram has called it. This concept of the Earth Community is not abstract and does not focus our attention directly to the planetary scale, but makes us pay attention to life in our direct vicinity on a daily basis, by being open, empathic, respectful, communicative and cooperative towards other people, by treating animals and plants the best way we can– and by experiencing awe on a regular basis that remind us that we are always and everywhere embedded in much larger, natural world. Then the principle, that is also the motto of this website, becomes meaningful: only by fully realizing where we are, in time and in place, we get in touch with who we actually are, and always have been.
In short, the book is really about coming home – and about the many obstacles that have prevented us doing so.