The Alphabet Versus the Goddess The Conflict Between Word

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess The Conflict Between Word and Image ⚦ The Alphabet Versus the Goddess The Conflict Between Word and Image Books ✫ Author Leonard Shlain – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk This groundbreaking book proposes that the rise of alphabetic literacy reconfigured the human brain and brought about profound changes in history religion and gender relations Making remarkable connec This groundbreaking book proposes that the Versus the Kindle Ð rise of alphabetic literacy reconfigured the human brain and brought about profound changes in history religion and gender relations Making remarkable connections across brain function myth and anthropology Dr Shlain shows why pre literate cultures were principally informed by holistic The Alphabet PDF or right brain modes that venerated the Goddess images and feminine values Writing drove cultures toward linear left brain thinking and this shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the decline of the feminine and ushering in patriarchal rule Examining the cultures of the Israelites Greeks Alphabet Versus the PDF/EPUB ¾ Christians and Muslims Shlain reinterprets ancient myths and parables in light of his theory Provocative and inspiring this book is a paradigm shattering work that will transform your view of history and the mind.


10 thoughts on “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess The Conflict Between Word and Image

  1. Nandakishore Varma Nandakishore Varma says:

    Dr Leonard Shlain has an idee fixe or in collouial – and colourful – terms a “bee in his bonnet” It is this alphabet literacy is the cause of misogyny among humanity He spends 400 pages of the current book The Alphabet vs the Goddess trying to convince us of this path breaking explosive ideaDoes he succeed? Sadly noDr Shlain starts out well enough Of all sacred cows allowed to roam unimpeded in our culture few are as revered as literacy Its benefits have been so incontestable that in the five millennia since the advent of the written word numerous poets and writers have extolled its virtues Few paused to consider its costs Sophocles once warned “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse” The invention of writing was vast; this book will investigate the curse In first three chapters the author traces the development of human beings from “hunted vegetarian to scared scavenger to tentative hunter to accomplished killer in a mere million years” This remarkable development was achieved by three accidents of natural selection forelimbs with opposable thumbs spectacularly powerful eyes and a huge brain Bigger brains meant difficult childbirth and extended childhoods – which reuired the female of the species to specialize in child bearing and –rearing leaving the male to hunt for food It also meant there had to be a strong pair bonding between couples so that the child can have a stable family to grow up in This was achieved through perpetual estrus of the female so that sexual attraction became a permanent bond Lo The modern family unit was bornEven though the above anthropological analysis of evolution may be debated we can or less take it as true though some contentions of DrShlain that females initially traded sex for food may be uestionable However from here the author takes off into uncharted waters He argues uite convincingly that the hunter male needed much of tunnel vision so that the cone cells of the central part of the retina developed at the expense of the rod cells which aid in peripheral vision; also the analytical left brain developed at the expense of the contemplative right brain In the females whose role was nurture rather than killing it happened exactly the opposite way So malesdeath femaleslifeAll right all right I know you cannot reduce humanity to such a simple euation but let’s accompany Dr Shlain a little further on this unusual logical journeyThe nurturing role of the female in mythology is of course well known Before the patriarchal religions took over there was the Great Goddess in many forms across the globe this matriarchal divinity was all encompassing and nurturing in almost all the cultures In contrast the male divinity is aggressive acuisitive and predatory As time went by this male god subjugated the goddess to extent of removing her totally from existence in the three Levantine religions Judaism Christianity and Islam and reigning supreme as the only true God In Dr Shlain’s opinion this happened because human beings became alphabet literateThe first form of abstract writing we have is the cuneiform script of Mesopotamia It is a commonly accepted fact that the original forms of writing were pictorial – in Dr Shlain’s words “before there was writing there were pictures” In his opinion in creating an abstract script human beings moved firmly into the camp of the left brain and the holistic right brain was marginalised With this the fall of the Goddess beganDr Shlain cites the myth of the god Marduk who killed the mother goddess Tiamat and dismembered her corpse to create the universe as the first male centric myth “shocking for its misogynist virulence” He sees it as the creation of Akkadian priests who conuered the Sumerians; significantly they also converted the image inspired ideograms of the Sumerian cuneiform into phonograms symbols representing the sounds of words This is a paradigm shift into the abstract arena of the left brain where the Goddess and her humanistic and holistic values have no existenceStarting from this the author moves through the history of the ancient classical medieval and modern civilisation mostly Western arguing with examples of how the world slowly adopted patriarchy as they got literate; to reach its pinnacle in the Abrahamic religions where images are total anathema God is a faceless male entity even though sexless God is always He and the word of God and the Holy Book are the only sacred thingsHere is where the things get a bit woolly Dr Shlain does a good job of analysing the growth of misogyny over the years along with the growth and spread of the Abrahamic religions however he does not succeed in proving that literacy itself is the cause Alphabet literacy grew along with the patriarchal religions true But as the author himself admits correlation does not immediately prove causation There are one or two areas where Dr Shlain posits a far fetched theory and later on builds his arguments on this dubious foundation Take his analysis of the Cadmus myth for example In one of the versions the Greek hero Cadmus came to Thebes from Phoenicia slew a terrible serpent which had been terrorising the populace extracted its fangs and sowed them in a nearby field From each tooth sprang a fierce warrior The grateful Thebans made him king Dr Shlain sees the serpent as a feminine symbol throughout the book this itself is dubious as most mythologists and psychologists see the snake as a phallic symbol – and the teeth as the symbol for the alphabet So in killing the serpent and sowing the teeth the myth is talking about the Phoenicians’ feat of bringing the art of writing to Greece for which there is historical evidence Ergo the advent of alphabet literacy killed the Goddess in Greece I would call this dubious reasoning at bestDr Shlain also makes mistakes while analysing history For example even though he says that Israelites’ captivity in Egypt is unproven and the majority of the historians do not subscribe to it however one of his chapters is based on the Exodus as a historical event and he brings in a lot of uestionable claims to support his theory even uoting discredited authors like Immanuel Vellikovsky to support his arguments Also his chapter on India is full of erroneous statements He considers the Aryan invaders to India an invasion theory which has been largely disproved to have been alphabet literate hence misogynist and aggressive whereas the Harappan civilisation which existed before that to have been illiterate and hence Goddess oriented He also puts in such patently silly statements such as “the Harappans spoke a form of early Sanskrit” “The Rig Veda is India’s oldest epic poem it is not an epic poem at all and contains glimpses of the culture as it existed before the arrival of the Aryan warriors and alphabet literacy the Vedas were written by Aryans – according to some sources before they reached India see The Vedic People by Rajesh Kochhar”I could go on uoting but I think the above examples are sufficient to show why Dr Shlain’s credibility took a severe beating once I passed this chapterThe author makes a lot of definitive statements on things which could only be conjecture He seems to be hell bent on splitting things into twos one part dealing with literacy the left brain misogyny and intolerance and the other dealing with the right brain image centric Goddess worship and toleranceThe book analyses almost all of the religious and cultural history of mankind through this dualistic glass be it the cult of Dionysus Buddhism the Tao or the teachings of ConfuciusAs he moves past the medieval age into the history modern religion especially in the West however Dr Shlain proves to be an entertaining narrator He has meticulously traced the transformation of Christianity from the unorganised and tolerant religion preached by Jesus into the intolerant and murderous behemoth it became after the Renaissance also the story of the metamorphosis of Islam from the frugal desert religion based on surrender to God to an empire spanning half the globe is also enchantingly told One can only cringe at the excesses of the inuisition and the cruelties of the witch hunts One fails to understand how such hatred towards believers of another faith and general intolerance towards women could reach such paranoid heights – but apparently they did The only caveat I have is that Dr Shlain relates intolerance and bigotry everywhere to literacy based on very tenuous evidenceMore of the same arguments follow as the development of the “modern” world as we know it is analysed – it would be tedious to give a line by line account Suffice it to say that the monster of alphabet literacy is identified to be behind all modern evils such as the Holocaust and the Stalinist purges and the re awakening of the right brain in the twentieth century is seen as the source of positive movements like feminism –although it is never made clear exactly how the connection is made By now the book starts reading like a polemic against the alphabetHowever the last chapter where Leonard Shlain identifies television as the antidote to the misogyny engendered by the written word takes the cake His argument that the return of the image on the TV screen to replace the word on the printed page has again started engendering right brain values in human beings is extremely uestionable Does the production of a generation of couch potatoes addicted to reality shows and mindless soaps imbibing the lies dished out by the corporate news networks along with chunks of lurid advertisements help the Goddess come back into our lives?To be fair to Dr Shlain he writes in the epilogue I began my inuiry intent on answering the uestion Who killed the Great Goddess? My conclusion – the thug who mugged the Goddess was alphabet literacy – may seem repugnant to some and counterintuitive to others I cannot prove that I am right I have to say that you are right on that count Dr Shlain For someone who has been taught that Music and literature and are the twin breasts of Goddess Saraswathi One music pure sweetness from top to bottom; the other literature ambrosia to the mind it is very difficult to differentiate art and literature – and to see either of them as not emanating from the Goddess Edit to add Even though I do not agree with Dr Shlain's premise the growth of misogyny along with dogmatic religious views merit serious consideration There is ample reason to believe that the left brain took over from the right brain somewhere along our march to civilisation even though it helped us in material ways our spiritual side atrophied And I personally believe this spiritual side has a lot to do with the Goddess Hence my two stars


  2. vladimir vladimir says:

    Ok for bibliophiles this book is like being told that the parents you've admired and cherished and emulated for so long were drunken abusive misanthropesBut if you tough it out accept the possibility that this habit this passion that keeps making life worth living has had possible side effects then the pay off is astoundingShlain provides copious examples for his thesis that the invention of the abstract alphabets western and to some extent eastern pictograph alphabets subtly altered the brain functions of all humansUltimately what one gets from this book aside from the elasticity of Mind is the cautionary tale of technological progress Do the things we make make or remake us in turn? Think about this next time you pick up our cell phone how has that changed your life and the culture around you?


  3. Damien Damien says:

    Imagine that you have a rich friend whose Saint Bernard ate a solid gold ring The friend tells you that you can have the ring if you are willing to go through the dog's poop to get it That's what this book is like something valuable within a big pile of crapIt begins along these lines early human females needed a lot of iron to give birth to their big brained children and since they were too weak to hunt the great woolly mammoth needed to get this iron they offered sex in exchange for whatever meat their big manly studs would give them It pretty much ends along these lines television is bringing down the patriarchyIn between literacy causes sexism war and oppression That's what Leonard Shlain proposes In fact he writes I propose a lot every time he tries to reinforce his theoryuite a bit of this was fascinating; if I could edit it down from 432 pages to about a hundred it would be a great reference to keep on hand Every time he started tossing in his own opinions and social commentary I had to ask myself WHY am I reading this? I almost want to recommend this to all my friends to see what kind of drunken conversations we can have afterwards


  4. Holly Holly says:

    Dr Shlain definitely takes some liberties in his review of history but he also asks himself uestions that you find yourself eually as curious about as he is when he presents them The historical flux between word and image masculine and feminine is often filled with reversals of fortune tales of religious zealotry attempts to wipe out the past sweeping changes by rulers and eually as sweeping changes back by their successors History is by no means boring when you are looking through these lenses Even if you take issue with his willingness to stretch an idea to the limit in my experienceyou weren't necessarily dragged kicking and screaming to get there


  5. Owlseyes Owlseyes says:

    “In the beginning was the image”Leonard Schlain This is pretty much on the topic of the “rise of the feminine”; its apology; its prediction as the author had his main thesis idea back in 1991 while on a Mediterranean tour Schlain highlights the tremendous evolution humankind witnessed with the alphabet literacy acuisition made possible via the use of the alphabetical writing He contrasts this acuisition with previous complicated forms of communication cuneiform and hieroglyphic writings namely From a historical perspective even Mao Zedong saw benefits in abandoning the old “ideographic writing and adopting the “romanized alphabet” thus overnight Peking became Beijing and Mao Tse Tung became Mao Zedong; etc His main thesis just recaps the “old” idea of two brain hemispheres with distinct functions Leonard Schlain argues for gender hemispheres Therefore the masculine left brain is responsible for 90% of the verbal function on right handed people; its processes are “linear seuential reductionist and abstract” On the other hand the feminine right hemisphere is holistic spatial and is responsible for patterns and faces recognition and gestalt perception; thus it has a “simultaneous” and concrete form of processing Yet Schlain speaks about a “repression of women” played by the alphabet’s role and advocates for the “iconic” information processing; an “euilibrium” between the two hemispheres None better to grasp these ideas than a uote from Virginia Woolf “In each of us two powers preside one male one female and in the man’s brain the man predominates over the woman an in the woman’s brain the woman predominates over manIf one is a man still the woman part of the brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties” He predicted when writing this book that a “new Golden” age was arriving His analysis is historical; he visits the Greeks the Egyptians and Babylon He noticed a difference in Pharaoh Ikhnaton a different usage of images Some of the debatable ideas of Schlain look like this with the Gutenberg printing massive witch hunts ensued in Europe in England France Spain; the patriarchs of the Reform dressed up in black and white and they wanted to get rid of Mary Clearly the printed word wasn’t good for women one might conclude Schlain believes the oral words of Jesus were changed and his message became one of “sin guilt suffering and death” Lateralization of brain structures is based on general trends expressed in healthy patients; however there are numerous counterexamples to each generalizationfrom WIKIJust one final little objection All these brain functions depend for each specific individual namely on the lateralization process🙏My comment


  6. Janna Janna says:

    Really interesting enlightening theory on literacy's influence on brain development and sexism Makes a lot of sense an easy very interesting read Explains why non literate cultures were goddess worshipping and egalitarian Literacy sparks a shift in society to a dominant Left brain resulting in forsaking many valuable feminine instinctsattributesways of thinkingattitudes especially causing mistreatment of women as a whole The historical evidence Schlain lines up makes a pretty compelling case Look at almost any culture through out history before and after the advent of literacy and you almost always see a violent shift in attitudes towards women ie Europe in the middle ages printing press precedes the women's holocaust when hundreds of thousands of women were burnedFoot binding didn't start in china until after the printing press became widespread there The list goes on


  7. Andrew Andrew says:

    Here is a book which according to the number of 1 or 2 star reviews on the first page roughly 75% of its readers will be predisposed to agree with upon picking it up The other 25% will or less reject its central premise out of hand I am among the 75% who accept Shlain's hypothesis that alphabet literacy has fundamentally realigned humanity's brain function To me it is a compelling convincing argument that explains many of the large scale patterns in modern history It's an argument that stuck with me for so long after originally reading it almost a decade ago that I recently felt called to re read it to see if the ideas held up after some maturing on my partTo my contentment the ideas do hold up though I've found upon the 2nd reading that Shlain does himself and his hypothesis a huge disservice by presenting said ideas in such a bloated disorganized and overreaching book Really the book could have been about half as long and probably reached and convinced a much larger population as a result In other words in those sage words that once exited the mouth of Renee Zellweger Shut up just shut up You had me at Ch 3 Given the first sentence of this review that most of this book's audience will basically accept the premise uncritically within the first 100 pages Shlain's decision to continue harping on the point for 300 pages is just plain overkill The history he presents is engaging and intriguing from his hyper feminist perspective but by obsessing over all the details in his attempt to fit them to his hypothesis he not only exhausts the reader but also loses credibility when he inevitably exaggerates or mischaracterizes certain events in order to fit their roundness into his suare hole Better to discuss the loose pattern and leave it at that the archaeological record of vast Goddess worship the essentially systematic usurpation of the Goddess by masculine religions at the same time as alphabet literacy swarmed the land the horrors of the ReformationInuisition coinciding almost exactly with the invention of the printing press etc than get lost in the trees as Shlain does In his zeal he loses credibility for instance with his speculation presented as explanation of the Black Mary of the Middle Ages or his insinuation that TV is somehow the cure for books or when he says that whites now try to imitate blacks because they have intuited that African Americans are closer to their tribal ancestry and therefore are better guides to this preliterate wisdom than are any of the European American print people Yeah noThe unfortunate effect of these obvious overreaches are to make the cautious reader dubious as to some of his other erudite claims such as late in the book when he proposes that the explosion of dyslexia is a result of TV realigning male brains to the image based right hemisphere or his proposition that the recently a Muslim nation experienced its print revolution the patriarchal it is These hypotheses are intriguing if true there's just no way you can fully trust Shlain's research or interpretation due to his apparent zealotry Still I really loved some of the discussions here especially the Jews and their revolutionary approach to readingliteracy; Gnosticism and its subjugation by the Orthodox; and the horrors of the witch hunts Shlain's general emphasis on the fundamental alteration that reading forces onto our brains seems incredibly important and is unlike anything I have ever seen in a relatively academic text He does well to make his reader understand just how revolutionary the act of reading was and is it's not at all as intuitive as is presumed by 99% of Westerners Shlain's research is also impressive; he clearly spent hoursdaysweeks reading on the extensive history he presents I just really wish he had split this book into two the first being an introductory version with the important points and the second being a optional Extended Notes version or something I probably would have read both of them and given the first 4 stars and the second 2 Many people would have read the first one instead of opening this version seeing how dense it is over 400 plus pages and immediately replacing it on the shelf It's a real shame because the central idea here is hugely significant to how we understand reading feminism duality and even the universe I think it's difficult if not impossible to overstate its importance And I walk the walk; I love books but have a near 5 year old who I am not instructing in the least with regards to reading though he is however taking a natural interest and learning or less independently I want him to preserve his hemispheric balance for as long as possible And here's a fact that Shlain omitted in support of his hypothesis surprisingly since he seemed to grasp at every other piece of minutiae Finland teaches its children to read later than any other developed nation age 7 and they also have the best education system of any Western nation So should you read this book? The first 100 pages definitely After that you can decide if you agree or not then keep reading accordingly at your leisure a chapter every now and then should do the trickNot Bad Reviewspointblaek


  8. Sherry Sherry says:

    This one is in my top books ever read definitely a 5 star book Mr Shain takes us through the history of Western civilization via the lense of the development of the alphabet He cites the linear seuential alphabet for creating an out of balance left hemispheric lobe hyper developed In the wake of literacy comes religious wars witch hunts and misogyny He demonstrates how each culture becomes extremely left brained veering toward hunterkillers and away from gatherer nurturers ie the Goddess The writing is riveting and Mr Shlain points out in his epilogue that the irony that he has just written a book full of black letters is not lost on him The book is eye opening and reframed history for me in an extremely uniue way


  9. Robert Lent Robert Lent says:

    This book offers anecdotes but no evidence He claims that the written word alters people's brains to make them less feminist but offers no evidence Where are the experiments? If as he claims the media is what matters and not the content then you should be able to measure changes in people's attitudes before and after they read certain books If he is correct reading feminist books should make people less feminist The spoken word has much power to manipulate emotions than does the written word If you want to whip a mob into a frenzy you want the spoken word When people read they take time and think about what they are reading The spoken word is highly linear It comes at you at its pace not at yours People are a lot likely to burn witches because they are whipped into a frenzy by the spoken word than they are by reading a bookOne of his examples is to claim tha the left side of the brain is the bad side while the right side is the good side One of his examples is that the dominant hand is the hand that holds the weapon while the other hand is the one that holds the baby But while that baby is being held in the left hand the dominant hand is holding the spoon The dominant hand is simply the hand which we are best able to use It is much better better for fine work and is accurate whether that accuracy is with a weapon threading a needle or feeding a babyThe use of goddess imagery does not imply feminism Look at American coinage there used to be female imagery on the coinage in the late 18th through the 19th century But in the early 20th century the female image was replaced by male image But the 20th century was clearly feminist than the 19th century He gives the credit for feminism to television glossing over the fact that the suffrage movement was a literary movement It wasn't TV that obtained the vote for women it was the written wordHe does to great lengths to scrub male symbolism Consider the myth of Cybelle and Attis Attis is contrary to his agenda so he dismisses Attis as a footnote saying essentially that all Attis does is to die and rise again But this role as an agricultural god was very important in ancient mythology Perhaps as people are estranged from where their food comes from the less value is placed in the gods and goddesses of agriculture He also makes the peculiar claim that the bull is a female symbol because according to his claim the bull's skull and horns looks like a uterus and falopian tubes It really doesn't You would have to arrange them just right and suint to see them like a bull's skull The bull is a symbol of male virility for good reason its genitalia is just the most obvious reason Everyone who sees a bull notices this Most people don't get a look at a bull's uterusIt is ironic that people who love books like this book so much Imagine two people the first person has many books the second has few Which of these two people are likely to be feminist? If Slain was right the second person the non reader would be the feminist But it is the first the person with many books is much likely to be a feminist If he's right those who listen to anti feminist speakers should become feminist while those who read feminist books should become less feministShlain makes a major mistake The written word great power but the power doesn't lie in the written word itself The power lies in its permanance The written word remains even when you aren't there It can persist for centuries after your death And you can distribute identical texts far and wide The permanence of the written word allows one version to dominate and replace every version which was not written down We know mythology only from the versions that were written down How many other versions of these stories do we not have because no one wrote them down? Patriarchal societies did not arise because of the written word The written word allowed those who wanted power to control the messages that people were exposed to


  10. Carlos Alonso-Niemeyer Carlos Alonso-Niemeyer says:

    I am a feminist and lover of women I admire women as a mysterious entity that never stops fascinating me This book walks you through the history of women power through out the years As you understand the constant battle that women have had to fight against a male dominated world one begins to understand why the written world has become a way to chain them and take their power awayHowever the future will tell us differently Already there are women graduating in the US than men Some of them Generation X women are moving from stay home moms to vixens ready to take over their rightful place in the worldThis book is hard to read because it provides a grim view of women's role in our society through out history However the analysis of how women process information and how the future is brighter for our female counterparts is encouragingIf you are a feminist this book is a mustIf you want to learn about different religions and what are they about this is surprisingly a great resource


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