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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Thursday, March 12

ontological cuisinart


she tricks me into thinking
I can't believe my eyes
I wait for her forever
but she never does arrive

cars ~ all mixed up

In May of last year, in a post called I Can Get It For You Wholesale, I begged you (yes you, The Valued Readers) to buy me what I was then calling The Library of World Bullshit. This is a series of books including...

No sooner had I posted that than I got my wish! This is all fully documented in a post unaccountably titled 300: Prepare for Glory. These days, given the state of The Economy, I am begging for food, not books, but I did want to share the wealth by alerting you to a site I found while slumming the nether reaches of the web yesterday. Click the graphic below and be amazed!

One assumes that's a photo of author/editor Tom Butler-Bowdon, and not a male model, but no matter. Point is, if you click on it, you will be treated to many substantial excerpts from these valuable and informative books. In an interview with some unspecified interrogator, Butler-Bowdon says:
While Christians may view Goddess worship as the work of the devil, its adherents find in it a beautiful and complete expression of the sacred feminine power.
Not being a Christian myself, I don't view Goddesses worship as the "work of the devil" -- unless it is that infamous devil in the details. Let's explore some of those, shall we?

In aid of said exploration, I'm going to share a very cool pop-culture research trick with you here. And make no mistake, it's in popular culture that these ideas really take root and play out, not in the realm of academic scholarship. So here's the trick. If you go to Zinio.com, you'll see a search box at the top of the page. As Zinio sells electronically delivered magazine subscriptions, most people would reasonably think to enter the name of a magazine. But as Zinio apparently indexes the full text of all its 900+ magazines, you can search for anything. For instance, searching on "goddess" I found the following...

Prediction Magazine - Page 67 | Sep-05

...A home that is happy, welcoming and healthy is the goal of this goddess. Annette Gardner and Anne Nash of 21st Century Goddess work with goddess energy, offering themed parties and trips to sacred sites...

And you can even embed riffy graphical links to the full article in your blog, like so.

So how cool is that? But the ultracool thing is, your query will even turn up stuff in the advertising -- the sine qua non of pop culture. My "goddess" query found, among many other hits, this...

Expanding on the ad at the top of the right page, we get...

And going to the Fertile Goddess site, we learn even more!

“Here at Fertile Goddess we believe in the
inspirational connection between real women and the
bountiful power and wisdom of ancient fertility
goddesses....

From her days studying archaeology, [founder] Stacia
[Wells] knew that in many ancient cultures, abundance
was synonymous with fertility.”

I have emphasized "archeology" above because it plays into the rest of our story, which will serve to explain the particular brand of archeology Ms. Wells most likely studied.

To get deeper into that story, let's start on the landing page for (my favorite) 50 Spiritual Classics. There you will find one book listed for which, sadly, no excerpt is provided. I refer to the The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess - Rituals, Invocations, Exercises, Magic by Starhawk (pictured right). The book was published in 1979, at what some vainly hoped was the height of the madness, and was hugely influential in certain quarters of the U.S. where witch burning is deprecated. If you've never heard of her, you have clearly not kept abreast of the zeitgeist, as Starhawk now has a blog, "On Faith," on a joint Newsweek / Washington Post site.

I sometimes tire of people asking if my beat here on Mystic Bourgeoisie is not trivially marginal to mainstream American culture, and thus the world's. If you should entertain such misgivings, click that Newsweek / Washington Post link where you can read in Starhawk's mini-bio about how she "travels internationally teaching magic, the tools of ritual, and the skills of activism," and posts stuff like this bit from Compassion Begins With Mother Earth...

Earth based spirituality covers such a wide spectrum of diverse religions and spiritual traditions, from indigenous traditions to modern NeoPagansim. We share no unified dogma, and no one person carries the authority to speak for all, certainly not me.
Yeah, but hey, Newsweek, The Washington Post... you've sure got a bully pulpit! Though, granted, it's not as if there aren't plenty of other speakers for "earth based spirituality." For instance, also published in 1979, there's Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America by Margot Adler.

That would be the same Margot Adler who once told me, personally -- in front of a sizable audience -- that I was her kinda guy. No lie. At the time, which was April of 2000, we were both speaking on a panel at the University of Colorado's 52nd annual Conference on World Affairs. So you see, I've come a long way too, baby.

However, witches, druids, goddess-worshippers, and other pagans -- whether in America or elsewhere -- are no longer saying nice things about me. Not if they've ever read this blog. But let's get back to Starhawk and her latest documentary, which is about the archeologist Marija Gimbutas -- about whom I wrote back in June, 2006, in Yogis, Shapersons and Goddesses (if you didn't catch it the first time around, don't miss The Da Vinci Code movie review).

In The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (p. 357), Ronald Hutton writes of Gimbutas...

In 1974 she published a celebrated analysis of the figurines which had long been recognized as one of the most remarkable features of neolithic and Copper Age sites in south-eastern Europe. Following the collapse of general scholarly belief in a Great Goddess, she treated these as representations of individual deities and interpreted their symbolism -- elaborately and boldly -- according to a system which had been developed in its essentials by the Jungian psychologist Erich Neumann, whom she acknowledged and praised.
Jung, of course, as we might have suspected. But continuing...
It was only in the late 1970s that feminist theory replaced Jungian psychology as her major conceptual tool, and this may not be unrelated to the fact that she taught in the University of California, Los Angeles.

Your...


...at this juncture would not be inappropriate.

A much fuller description of the Gimbutas debate is provided by an article in Lingua Franca (April/May 1997) by Lawrence Osborne. It's called...

And not all the naysayers are men, by a long shot. Quoting from the above...
  • Lotte Motz, an expert on Germanic mythology, argues that images of men and animals are just as prolific as goddess imagery in early European cultures.
  • Lauren Talalay at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor, Michigan, claims that Gimbutas's work was as marred by gender bias as that of her Russian peers in the 1950s.
  • For many scholars, the Pokrovka warrior women serve as the final nail in Gimbutas's coffin, putting her male-marauder theory permanently to rest. "We have this macho myth about the so-called Kurgan nomads, that they were hierarchical warmongers and so forth," says Claudia Chang, an archaeologist at Sweet Briar College, who works on Kurgan graves in central Asia. "But in fact, as these recent excavations are showing, their kinship system often favored women and enabled them to enter the military and social elite."

What you see in the video on the Belili Productions website is the first minute and a half of this more complete YouTube video, which is the first part of Starhawk's documentary about Marija Gimbutas, "Signs Out of Time."

Olympia Dukakis (narrator): "What does the dance mean to the dancers? How do we measure the beliefs that set those feet in motion?"

Good questions, to which we will eventually loop around again.

Meanwhile, the following are sequential statements from Part 7 of the Signs Out of Time - Marija Gimbutas video on YouTube.

  • Lord Colin Renfrew: "She felt she had a direct line to these things. So she felt to some extent that she could understand it in an intuitive way. I'd almost say a feminine way, but that might be... I might be criticized by some of your more critical viewers. But she had a very holistic approach to things."
  • James Harrod: "And that's why it was so creative. It was that cross-fertilization of ideas which enabled her to see things which other people hadn't seen."
  • Olympia Dukakis: "But artists, ecologists, feminists, contemporary goddess worshippers, and social thinkers were deeply inspired by her work."
  • Joan Marler: "When Marija began to publish her work on the symbolism of Old Europe it just happened to coincide with the second wave of feminism and the development of eco-feminism and sense of rediscovering the fact that we are connected with this Earth."
  • Ernestine Elster: "There were feminists who found in Marija's ideas the scientist who they had hoped would support their ideas that once God was a woman. And so she was borne aloft by, really, a lively group of women -- and pr... men too. And she never looked back." [note: the "pr..." elision was probably "probably" -- doncha think?]
  • Patricia Reis: "So the backlash against her I think was part of the backlash against feminism, because she got identified with feminism."

By the way, if you click on the names above, you'll find some... interesting background on these people.

The voiceover then refers to Gimbutas' home country: "Lithuania, where goddesses have never been forgotten." We'll come back to that shortly -- and with a vengeance.

But first note the interesting logic on display above: What many (including myself) believe to be a crackpot theory just happened to intersect with "second wave feminism" (there have been more waves than two, but we'll let that ride) and was accepted, adopted and championed by a whole herd of crackpots who were eagerly awaiting a crackpot with a Ph.D. in Archeology and a bunch of cracked pottery, who, and which, supported their own crackpot theories.

Continuing in an oddly (but intimately, you could say) related direction, Hugh Urban's Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism has an interesting table of contents. Here's a sample.


My emphasis. In case you wondered.

Urban also wrote Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion. Both books are published by the University of California Press, and Urban is Associate Professor of Religion and Comparative Studies at Ohio State University. Whether because of or in spite of these credentials, he seems to know what he's talking about, and his books are a needed counterbalance to the plethora of absolute malarkey about "Tantric Sex" that is being spewed around these days by the ignorant loonies of the Mystic Bourgeoisie. He writes in Tantra (p. 2)...

As we can see on the shelves of any bookstore, Tantra pervades Western pop culture, appearing in an endless array of books, videos, and slick web sites. Indeed the phrase "American Tantra" is now even a registered trademark, representing a whole line of books, videos, and "ceremonial sensual" merchandise.
There is much more in this vein at Urban's The Omnipotent Oom: Tantra and Its Impact on Modern Western Esotericism.

But wait! That's not all you'll get!

I searched Zinio again, this time for "Gimbutas," and found her mentioned in the 28 September 2007 issue of Science, which has been the official journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 1900. In other words, this is not Science Lite. The article, titled "Myths and Consequences" is a review of Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science by Stefan Arvidsson (on my Amazon wishlist, yo). The University of Chicago Press site provides a useful synopsis, including this bit...

Stefan Arvidsson traces the evolution of the Aryan idea through the nineteenth century -- from its roots in Bible-based classifications and William Jones’s discovery of commonalities among Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek to its use by scholars in fields such as archaeology, anthropology, folklore, comparative religion, and history. Along the way, Arvidsson maps out the changing ways in which Aryans were imagined and relates such shifts to social, historical, and political processes. Considering the developments of the twentieth century, Arvidsson focuses on the adoption of Indo-European scholarship (or pseudoscholarship) by the Nazis and by Fascist Catholics.
While "Fascist Catholics" is certainly a show-stopper phrase, don't let it overshadow that reference to pseudoscholarship. Meanwhile, you can read the full review right here...

The reviewer, Michael Witzel (Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard), notes that 19th-century linguists Max Müller and Hermann Hirt had argued against drawing connections between language and race. He then continues...

I found this interesting note on p. 293 of Aryan Idols...

Marler (1997) stresses Gimbutas's strong Lithuanian identity and the traumatic consequences that the Polish and later the Russian Bolshevik occupation of Lithuania had for her and her educated family, who seem to have held liberal and romantic-nationalist values. As for many Lithuanians during the interwar period, the German army instead seemed like defenders of the Lithuanian culture.

the cited reference is to
"The Circle Is Unbroken: A Brief Biography" by Joan Marler
in From the Realm of the Ancestors:
An Anthology in Honor of Marija Gimbutas

So what have we got here so far? Archeology, Feminism, Indo-European languages, Hindu Tantra, The Goddess, The Four Noble Truths, Hour-Long Orgasms, Perfect Great Enlightenment, Total Utter Bullshit... As The Cars once said: it's all mixed up.

But maybe, just maybe, we can still extract some shred of sense out of this bubbling cauldron of newts' eyes and fenny snakes.

Something about the opening bars of that Starhawk/Gimbutas video made me uncomfortable. Dancing peasants happily cavorting around bonfires always give me a creepy feeling. They conjure up images of the carefree Wandervogel circa 1900, about whom I've written elsewhere. (Click graphic for more.)

Point is, many of those kids, several decades after their youthful revels, were signing up with the Nazi Party.

So, on a hunch, I broke out of Starhawk's "Signs Out of Time" vid and googled "Lithuania Holocaust" -- without the quotes. And the first thing I found was a Wikipedia page called (predictably, but still I was floored) Holocaust in Lithuania. It says...

The Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Lithuania resulted in the near total destruction of Lithuanian Jews living in the Nazi-controlled Lithuanian territories... Out of approximately 208,000 to 210,000 Jews, an estimated 195,000 - 196,000 perished before the end of World War II (wider estimates are sometimes published)...

It has taken me several days to put this into the context that the balance of this post will attempt to present. This has already been long, I know, but I hope you'll bear with me to the bitter end. And it is bitter indeed.

In 1992, Christopher Browning published a book titled Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. The Publishers Weekly review said...

On June 13, 1942, the commanding officer of Reserve Police Battalion 101 received orders to round up the Jews in the Polish town of Josefow and shoot all but the able-bodied males. Major Wilhelm Trapp, who wept over the order, gave his troops the extraordinary option of "excusing themselves" from the task. Of the 500 in the unit only a dozen did so, and the rest slaughtered 1500 women, children and old people. ...these ordinary men, mostly middle-aged working-class people from Hamburg, shot to death some 38,000 Polish Jews and sent 45,000 others to the Treblinka gas chambers. ...this short work... reveals how average Germans became mass murderers.
Four years later, in 1996, Daniel Goldhagen ignited a firestorm with Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. Here's Publishers Weekly again...
Refuting the widespread notion that those who carried out the genocide of Jews were primarily SS men or Nazi party members, he demonstrates that the perpetrators -- those who staffed and oversaw the concentration camps, slave labor camps, genocidal army units, police battalions, ghettos, death marches -- were, for the most part, ordinary German men and women: merchants, civil servants, academics, farmers, students, managers, skilled and unskilled workers. Rejecting the conventional view that the killers were slavishly carrying out orders under coercion, Goldhagen, assistant professor of government at Harvard, uses hitherto untapped primary sources, including the testimonies of the perpetrators themselves, to show that they killed Jews willingly, approvingly, even zealously.
But it wasn't just the Germans who did this. That Wikipedia article on the Holocaust in Lithuania cites an article by Dina Porat -- The Holocaust in Lithuania: Some Unique Aspects -- which appears in The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation. Porat writes (p. 163)...
A declaration issued after the war by the Lithuanian Jews in the American zone in Germany regarding "the guilt of the Lithuanian people in the extermination of Lithuanian Jewry" concludes: "The small places in the Lithuanian provinces, without any exception, were erased by the Lithuanians." This declaration actually sums up the events detailed in Lithuanian Jewry, the volume on the Holocaust: the handful of survivors of 220 Shtetles and small towns describe how the Jews in those places were killed. Their descriptions, in which the Germans are hardly mentioned, make it quite clear that Lithuanians perpetrated most of the torture and killing, generally without any German officials on the spot. Recent research confirms Jewish sources to a large extent. The German historian Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm, in his research on the Einsatzgruppen, assumes that "possibly half or two-thirds" of Lithuanian Jews were killed by local units. It seems, then, that the part played by the Lithuanians was greater than the Germans could afford to admit in their reports to their headquarters.

And this is from the Neustadt-Saki chapter of Lithuanian Jewry, referred to by Porat in the previous quote...

...a group of Lithuanian "Activists," under the command of Germans who came from Shirvint, attacked the city. They ordered all Jewish males above the age of fourteen out to the streets. There armed Lithuanians were waiting and they took them under heavy guard to the District Council building. Council officials collected their papers, money and anything of value found on them.

In groups of fifty the Jews were taken to the Jewish cemetery. There, pits which were excavated by Soviet prisoners of war were ready. One hundred ninety-two of the prisoners were murdered by the Germans and the Lithuanian "Activists." They were shot at the edge of the pits.... The district governor and the council head were present at this mass execution. ...all those who participated were invited by the district governor and council head to a large banquet. The two thanked the Germans and the Lithuanians who participated in the mass slaughter for their efforts.

To make this even more real, try watching these YouTube videos:
  • Holocaust Testimony: Murder of the Jews of Lithuania
    Dina Baitler, age seven, was brought to the forest of Ponary outside of the city of Vilna, Lithuania together with thousands of other Jews. From morning till night the Jews were lined up and shot into pits located in the forest.
  • Holocaust Survivor Describes Escape from Cattle Car
    Born in 1930 in Kaunas, Lithuania, Kalman Perk was deported with his family to the Kovno ghetto in 1941. Hiding in a cellar in July 1944 to escape the impending liquidation of the ghetto, the family was forced to abandon their hiding place due to German-ignited fires in the ghetto. They were then loaded onto a cattle car and deported to the concentration camps.
Remember this? "Lithuania, where goddesses have never been forgotten."

So it wasn't just the Germans. And it wasn't just the men.

A book published just last Fall, Ordinary People as Mass Murderers: Perpetrators in Comparative Perspective, contains a chapter titled "Perpetrators of the Holocaust: A Historiography." Here's a clip...

The representation of female perpetrators and their defence strategy in various Nazi trials is a largely neglected topic but played an important part in the collective strategy of denying any guilt. Accused women exploited their gender status by arguing that they had been exploited and had acted in subordinate positions as helpless assistants in a regime that was led by men. Furthermore, analyses of "courtroom culture" and "media representation" of trials show that female perpetrators were stereotyped and demonised as complete deviations from femininity and exceptional "female brutes", e.g., Ilse Koch, "the witch from Buchenwald", Carmen Maria Mory, "the devil" of Ravensbrück, or Herta Oberheuser, "the sadist of Ravensbrück". This discourse disguised the participation of a large number of women in Nazi crimes, and served to avoid a critical self-reflection on the past. In short, the picture of "unnatural femininity" and dehumanised creatures with unbridled sexuality allowed society to construct a counter-model of itself as normal and innocent.
The following names (and links) are taken, fairly randomly, from the Wikipedia pages for Ravensbrück concentration camp and Female guards in Nazi concentration camps...
Hermine Braunsteiner, Emma Zimmer, Johanna Langefeld, Maria Mandel, Dorothea Binz, Greta Boesel, Elisabeth Marschall, Christel Jankowsky, Ilse Goeritz, Margot Dreschel, Kaethe Hoern, Irma Grese, Elisabeth Volkenrath, Herta Ehlert, Alice Orlowski, Jane Bernigau, Gerda Steinhoff, Hildegard Neumann, Ruth Closius, Juana Bormann, Ruth Hildner, Elfriede Lina Rinkel, Herta Bothe.
If you visit all those pages, as I did, you'll recognize some of the faces on the cover of this book...

So how did that Starhawk/Gimbutas intro go again?

What does the dance mean to the dancers? How do we measure the beliefs that set those feet in motion?
You tell me, babycakes.



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