The God-Idea of the Ancients (or Sex in Religion)
By Eliza Burt Gamble
Public Domain Books
Chapter V. Separation of the Female and Male Elements in the Deity
Glimpses of antiquity as far back as human ken can reach reveal the fact that in early ages of human society the physiological question of sex was a theme of the utmost importance, while various proofs are at hand showing that throughout the past the question of the relative importance of the female and male elements in procreation has been a fruitful source of religious contention and strife. These struggles, which from time to time involved the entire habitable globe, were of long duration, subsiding only after the adherents of the one sex or the other had gained sufficient ascendancy over the opposite party to successfully erect its altars and compel the worship of its own peculiar gods, which worship usually included a large share of the temporal power. Only since the male sex has gained sufficient influence to control not only human action, but human thought as well, have these contentions subsided.
 At the present time, through causes which are not difficult to understand, the question of the relative importance of the two sexes is again assuming a degree of importance indicative of the changes which are taking place in human thought, and for the reason that we are just witnessing the dawn of an intellectual age, the problems to be solved will admit of no answers other than those based upon a scientific foundation.
That religious wars have not been confined to more modern times, and that among an early race the attempt to exalt the male principle met with obstinate resistance which involved mankind in a conflict, the violence of which has never been exceeded, are facts which seem altogether probable. Indeed, there is much evidence going to show that the cause of the original dispersion of a primitive race was the contention which arose respecting their religious faith or regarding the physiological question of the relative importance of the sexes in the function of reproduction; and that the general war indicated in the Puranas, which began in India and extended over the entire habitable globe, and which was celebrated by the poets as “the basis of Grecian mythology,” originated in this conflict over the precedence of one or the other of the sex-principles contained in the Deity. Although there are no records of these wars in extant history, accounts of them are still preserved in the traditions and religious monuments of oriental countries. In Egypt, in India, and to a greater or less extent in other Eastern countries, these physiological contests have been disguised under a veil of allegory, the true significance of which it is no longer difficult to understand. With the light which more recent investigation has thrown upon the subject of the separation of the original sex-elements contained in the Deity, the significance of the following legend in the Servarasa is at once apparent.
When Parvati (Devi) was united in marriage to Mahadeva (Siva), the divine pair had once a dispute on the comparative influence of the sexes in producing animated beings, and each resolved by mutual agreement to create a new race of men. The race produced by Mahadeva were very numerous, and devoted themselves exclusively to the worship of the male Deity, but their intellects were dull, their bodies feeble, their limbs distorted, and their complexions of many different hues. Parvati had at the same time created a multitude of human beings, who adored the female power only, and were well shaped, with sweet aspects and fine complexions. A furious contest ensued between the two nations, and the Lingajas, or adorers of the male principle, were defeated in battle, but Mahadeva, enraged against the Yonigas (the worshippers of the female element), would have destroyed them with the fire of his eye if Parvati had not interposed and appeased him, but he would spare them only on condition that they should instantly leave the country with a promise to see it no more, and from the Yoni, which they adored as the sole cause of their existence, they were named Yavanas.
The fact has been noticed in a previous work that, according to Wilford, the Greeks were the descendants of the Yavanas of India, and that when the Ionians emigrated they adopted the name to distinguish themselves as adorers of the female, in opposition to a strong sect of male worshippers which had been driven from the mother country. We are taught by the Puranas that they settled partly on the borders of Varaha-Dwip, or Europe, where they became the progenitors of the Greeks; and partly in the two Dwipas of Cusha, Asiatic and African. In the Asiatic Cusha-Dwip they supported themselves by violence and rapine. Parvati, however, or their tutelary goddess, Yoni, always protected them; and at length, in the fine country which they occupied, they became a flourishing nation. Wilford relates that there is a sect of Hindoos who, attempting to reconcile the two systems, declare in their allegorical style that “Parvati and Mahadeva found their concurrence essential to the perfection of their offspring, and that Vishnu, at the request of the goddess, effected a reconciliation between them."
 See The Evolution of Women, p. 303.
 Asiatic Researches, vol. iii., pp. 125-132.
 Asiatic Researches, “Egypt and the Nile,” vol. iii., pp. 361-363.
The people who were dominant in Asia long before the rise of the late Assyrian monarchy, are said to be those whom scriptural writers represent as Cushim, and the Hindoos as Cushas. They were the descendants of Cush, or Cuth, and were believed to have been the architects of the Tower of Babel. Epiphanius, Eusebius, and others assert that at the time of the building of this tower there existed two rival beliefs, the one demonstrated as Scuthism, the other as Ionism, or Hellenism, the latter of which embodied the worship of the Great Mother, or the female element, which was worshipped in the shape of the mystic “Iona or Dove.” The Scuths, on the other hand, believed in the pre-eminence of a Great Father, or, perhaps I should say, in a Deity composed of a triad containing the elements of a male parent. Upon this subject the learned Faber remarks: “I am much mistaken if some dissension on these points did not prevail at Babel itself; and I think there is reason for believing that the altercation between the rival sects aided the confusion of languages in producing the dispersion."
 Pagan Idolatry, book vi., ch. ii.
Those who believed in the superiority of the male in the processes of reproduction, adored the male element in the Deity, while those who held that the female is the more important, worshipped the female energy throughout Nature under one or another of its symbols, sometimes as a woman with her child and sometimes as a dove, but oftener as an ark, box, or chest.
It is evident from the sacred writings of the Hindoos that in India, during a period of several thousand years, there existed various sects, those who worshipped the male as the only creative force, others who adored the female as the origin of life, and those who paid homage to both, as alike important in the office of reproduction.
It would seem that the fierce wars which had devastated the land had ceased prior to the beginning of the Tower of Babel. According to the testimony of Moses, the Lord himself declared “Behold the people is one.” This unanimity of belief, as is plainly shown, was of short duration, for the Tower arose “upright and defiant,” not, however, as an emblem of the primeval dual or triune God in which the female energy was predominant, but as a symbol of male creative power. It was the type of virility which in the subsequent history of religion was to assume the position of the “one only and true God.”
It is not improbable that idolatry began with the Tower of Babel.
Indeed it has been confidently asserted by certain writers that the earliest idols set up as emblems of the Deity, or as expressions of the peculiar worship of the Lingajas, were obelisks, columns, or towers, the first of which we have any account being the Tower of Babel, erected probably at Nipur in Chaldea. Until a comparatively recent time, the actual significance of this monument seems to have been little understood. Later research, however, points to the fact that it was a phallic device erected in opposition to a religion which recognized the female element throughout Nature as God. The length of time which the adherents of these two doctrines had contended for the mastery is not known, but through the deciphered monuments of ancient nations, by facts gathered from their sacred writings, and by the general voice of tradition, it has been ascertained with a considerable degree of certainty that this great upheaval of society was the culmination of a dispute which had long been waged between two contending powers, and which finally resulted in a separation of the people, and in the final success, for the time being, of the sect which refused longer to recognize the superior importance of the female in the god-idea.
At what time in the history of mankind the Tower of Babel was erected has not been ascertained, but the great antiquity of Chaldea is no longer questioned. Sir Henry Rawlinson, in the Royal Geographical Journal says:
“When Chaldea was first colonized, or at any rate when the seat of empire was first established there, the emporium of trade seems to have been at Ur of the Chaldees, which is now 150 miles from the sea, the Persian Gulf having retired nearly that distance before the sediment brought down by the Euphrates and Tigris.”
To which Baldwin adds:
“A little reflection on the vast period of time required to effect geological changes so great as this will enable us to see to what a remote age in the deeps of antiquity we must go to find the beginning of civilization in the Mesopotamian Valley."
 Prehistoric Nations, p. 191.
Although at the time of the building of the Tower of Babel the worship of a Deity in which the male principle was pre-eminent had not become universal, still the facts seem to indicate that the doctrine of male superiority which for ages had been steadily advancing had at length gained the ascendancy over the older religion. The new faith and worship had corrupted the old, and through the conditions which had been imposed upon women, and the consequent stimulation of the lower nature in man, even the adherents of the older faith were losing sight of those higher principles which in preceding ages they had adored as God.
We have seen that in every country upon the earth there is a tradition recounting the ravages of a flood. Whether or not this legend is to be traced to an actual calamity by which a large portion of Asia was inundated, is not for a certainty known; but the fact that there was a deluge of contention and strife, surpassing anything perhaps which the world has ever witnessed, seems altogether probable.
Not long after the catastrophe designated as the flood, emblems of the Deity, representations of the male and female elements, appear in profusion. Babylon, at which place was erected the Tower of Belus, and Memphis, which contained the Pyramids, were among the first cities which were built. As the tower typified the Deity worshipped by those who claimed superiority for the male, so the pyramids symbolized the creative agency and peculiar qualities of the female, or of the dual Deity which was worshipped as female.
Although the grosser elements in human nature were rapidly assuming a more intensely aggressive attitude, and although the higher principles involved in an earlier religion were in a measure forgotten, it is evident that at this time humanity had not become wholly sensualized, and that the lower propensities and appetites had not assumed dominion over the reasoning faculties.
The Great Mother Cybele, who is represented by the Sphinx, had doubtless been adored as a pure abstraction, her worship being that of the universal female principle in Nature. She is pictured as the “Eldest Daughter of the Mythologies,” and as “The Great First Cause.” She represented the past and the future. She was the source whence all that was and is had proceeded.
In its earliest representations, the Sphinx is figured with the head of a woman and the body of a lion. By various writers it is stated that the Sphinxes which were brought as spoils from Asia, the very cradle of religion, were thus represented. The lion, which symbolizes royal power and intellectual strength, is always attached to the chariot of Cybele. The Sphinx is supposed to typify not only Cybele, but the great androgynous God of Africa as well. However, as Cybele and Muth portrayed the same idea, namely, female power and wisdom, we are not surprised that they should have been worshipped under the same emblem. Neither is it remarkable, when we recall the fact that the female was supposed to comprehend both sexes, that in certain instances a beard appears as an accompanying feature of the Sphinx. We are told that the fourth avatar of Vishnu was a Sphinx, but a further search into the history of this Deity reveals the fact that her ninth avatar is Brahm (masculine). The female principle has at length succumbed to the predominance of male power, and Vishnu herself has become transformed into a male God.
Although the rites connected with the worship of Cybele were phallic they were absolutely pure. In an allusion to this worship, Hargrave Jennings admits that the “spirituality to which women in that age of the world were observed to be more liable than men was peculiarly adverse to all sensual indulgence, and especially that of the sexes.”
Although the creative principle was adored under its representatives, the Yoni and the Lingham, still the principal object seems to have been, when administering the rites pertaining to the worship of Cybele, to ignore sex and the usual sex distinctions; hence we find that, in order to assume an androgynous appearance, the priestesses of this Goddess officiated in the costumes of males, while priests appeared in the dress peculiar to females. However, that the sensuous element was to a certain extent already assuming dominion over the higher nature, and that priests were regarded as being incapable of self-control, is observed in the fact that in the later ages of female worship one of the principal requirements of a priest of Cybele was castration.
It is the opinion of Grote that the story which appears in the Hesiodic Theogony, of the castration of Saturn and Uranus by their sons with sickles forged by the mother, was borrowed from the Phrygians, or from the worship of the Great Mother.
In India, the strictest chastity was prescribed to the priests of Siva, a God which was worshipped as the Destroyer or Regenerator, and which in its earlier conception was the same as the Great Mother Cybele. These priests were frequently obliged to officiate in a nude state, and during the ceremony should it appear that the symbols with which they came in contact had appealed to other than their highest emotions, they were immediately stoned by the people.
 Sonnerat, Voyage aux Indes, i., 311.
The identity of the religions of India and Egypt has been noted in an earlier portion of this work. Wilford, in his dissertations upon Egypt and the Nile, says that in a conversation which he had with some learned Brahmins, upon describing to them the form and peculiarities of the Great Pyramid, they told him that “it was a temple appropriated to the worship of Padma Devi.” The true Coptic name of these edifices is Pire Honc, which signifies a sunbeam. Padma Devi means the lotus, or the Deity of generation.
It is thought by many writers that these gigantic structures were erected by the Cushite conquerors of Egypt, who invaded and civilized the country, as emblems of the female Deity whom they worshipped. Certainly the magnitude of these monuments and the ingenuity displayed in their construction indicate the intelligence of their builders and the exalted character of the Deity adored. The Great Pyramid is in the form of a square, each side of whose base is seven hundred and fifty-five feet, and covers an area of nearly fourteen acres. An able writer in describing the pyramids says that the first thing which impresses one is the uniform precision and systematic design apparent in their architecture. They all have their sides accurately adapted to the four cardinal points.
“In six of them which have been opened, the principal passage preserves the same inclination of 26 degrees to the horizon, being directed toward the polar star. . . . Their obliquity being so adjusted as to make the north side coincide with the obliquity of the sun’s rays at the summer’s solstice, has, combined with the former particulars, led some to suppose they were solely intended for astronomical uses; and certainly, if not altogether true, it bespeaks, at all events, an intimate acquaintance with astronomical rules, as well as a due regard to the principles of geometry. Others have fancied them intended for sepulchres; and as the Egyptians, taught by their ancient Chaldean victors, connected astronomy with their funereal and religious ceremonies, they seem in this to be not far astray, if we but extend the application to their sacred bulls and other animals, and not merely to their kings, as Herodotus would have us suppose."
 The Round Towers of Ireland, p. 159.
According to the testimony of Inman, the pyramid is an emblem of the Trinity–three in one. The triangle typifies the flame of sacred fire emerging from the holy lamp. With its base upwards it typifies the Delta, or the door through which all come into the world. With its apex uppermost, it is an emblem of the phallic triad. The union of these triangles typifies the male and female principles uniting with each other, thus producing a new figure, a star, while each retains its own identity.
 Ancient Faiths, vol. i., p. 145.
Thus the primary significance of the pyramid was religious, and in its peculiar architectural construction was manifested the prevailing conception of the Deity worshipped; namely, the fructifying energies in the sun. We are informed that “all nations have at one time or another passed through violent stages of pyrolatry, a word which reminds us that fire and phallic cult flourished around the pyramids. . . . Every town in Greece had a Pyrtano."
 Forlong, Rivers of Life, or Faiths of Man in All Lands, vol. i., p. 325.
As not alone the sun but the stars also had come to be venerated as agencies in reproduction, the worship of these objects was, as we have seen, closely interwoven with that of the generative processes throughout Nature. The attempt to solve the great problem of the origin of life on the earth led these people to contemplate with the profoundest reverence all the visible objects which were believed to affect human destiny. Hence both the pyramid and the tower served a double purpose, first, as emblems of the Deity worshipped, and, second, as monuments for the study of the heavenly bodies with which their religious ideas were so intimately connected.
While comparing the early emblems which prefigure the primitive elements in the god-idea, Hargrave Jennings observes:
“In the conveyance of certain ideas to those who contemplate it, the pyramid boasts of prouder significance, and impresses with a hint of still more impenetrable mystery. We seem to gather dim supernatural ideas of the mighty Mother of Nature . . . that almost two-sexed entity, without a name–She of the Veil which is never to be lifted, perhaps not even by the angels, for their knowledge is limited. In short, this tremendous abstraction, Cybele, Ideae, Mater, Isiac controller of the Zodiacs, whatever she may be, has her representative in the half-buried Sphinx even to our own day, watching the stars although nearly swallowed up in the engulphing sands."
 Phallicism, p. 25.
From the time when the two religious elements began to separate in the minds of the people, the prophets, seers, and priestesses of the old religion, those who continued to worship the Virgin and Child, had prophesied that a mortal woman, a virgin, would, independently of the male principle, bring forth a child, the fulfilment of which prophecy would vindicate the ancient faith and forever settle the dispute relative to the superiority of the female in the office of reproduction. Thus would the woman “bruise the serpent’s head.” In process of time not only Yonigas, but Lingajas as well, came to accept the doctrine of the incarnation of the sun in the bodies of earthly virgins. By Lingaites, however, it was the seed of the woman and not the woman herself who was to conquer evil. Finally, with the increasing importance of the male in human society, it is observed that a reconciliation has been effected between the female worshippers and those of the male. Athene herself has acquiesced in the doctrine of male superiority.
Thalat, the great Chaldean Deity, who presided over Chaos prior to the existence of organized matter, is finally transformed into a male God. The Hindoo Vishnu, who as she slept on the bottom of the sea brought forth all creation, has changed her sex. Brahm, the Creator, is male, and appears as a triplicated Deity in the form of three sons within whom is contained the essence of a Great Father, the female creative principle being closely veiled.
Hence we see that the God of the ancients, the universal dual force which resides in the sun and which creates all things, is no longer worshipped under the figure of a mother and her child. Although the female principle is still a necessary factor in the creative processes, and although it is capable of producing gods, the mother element possesses none of the essentials which constitute a Deity. In other words, woman is not a Creator. From the father is derived the soul of the child, while from the mother, or from matter, the body is formed. Hence the prevalence at a certain stage of human history of divine fathers and earthly mothers; for instance, Alexander of Macedon, Julius Caesar, and later the mythical Christ who superseded Jesus, the Judean philosopher and teacher of mankind.
Henceforth, caves, wells, cows, boxes and chests, arks, etc., stand for or symbolize the female power. We are given to understand, however, that for ages these symbols were as holy as the God himself, and among many peoples even more revered and worshipped.
We have seen that the ancients knew that matter and force were alike indestructible. According to their doctrine all Nature proceeded from the sun. Hence the power back of the sun, which they worshipped as the Destroyer or Regenerator, or, in other words, as the mother of the sun, was the Great Aum or Om, the Aleim or Elohim, who was the indivisible God. The creative agency which proceeded from the sun was both male and female, yet one in essence. Later, the male appeared as spirit, the female as matter. Spirit was something above and independent of Nature.
It had indeed created matter from nothing. The fact will be remembered that man claimed supremacy over woman on the ground that the male is spirit, while the female is only matter; in other words, that she was simply a covering for the soul, which is divine.
Thus was the god-idea divorced from Nature, and a masculine principle, outside and independent of matter, set up as a personal potentate or ruler over the universe.
The logic by which the great female principle in the Deity has been eliminated, and the subterfuges which have been and still are employed to construct and sustain a Creator who of himself is powerless to create, is as amusing as it is suggestive, and forcibly recalls to mind la couvade, in which, among certain tribes, the father, assuming all the duties of procreation, goes to bed when a child is born.
 The Evolution of Woman, p. 127.
All mythologies prove conclusively that ages elapsed before human beings were rash enough, or sufficiently blinded by falsehood and superstition, to attempt to construct a creative force unaided by the female principle. Just here it may not be out of place to refer to the fact that in the attempt to divorce God from Nature have arisen all the superstitions and senseless religious theories with which, since the earliest ages of metaphysical speculation, the human mind has been crowded.
To this separation of the two original elements in the Deity, and the consequent exaltation of one of the factors in the creative processes, is to be traced the beginning of our present false, unnatural, and unphilosophical masculine system of religion–a system under which a father appears as the sole parent of the universe.
The fact is tolerably well understood that mysticism and the accumulation of superstitious ideas are the result of the over-stimulation of the lower animal instincts. When the agencies which had hitherto held the lower nature in check became inoperative–when man began to regard himself as a Creator and therefore as the superior of woman–he had reached a point at which he was largely controlled by supernatural or mystical influences.
The fact is observed that in course of time the governmental powers are no longer in the hands of the people; the masses have become enslaved. Their rulers are priests–deified tyrants who are unable to maintain their authority except through the ignorance and credulity of the masses. Hence one is not surprised to find that the change which took place at a certain stage of human growth in respect to the manner of reckoning descent was instigated and enforced by religion. Apollo had declared that woman is but the nurse to her own offspring. Neither is it remarkable at this stage in the human career, as women had lost their position as heads of families, and as they were no longer recognized as of kin to their children, that man should have attempted to lessen the importance of the female element in the god-idea.
Wherever in the history of the human race we observe a change in the relations of the sexes involving greater or more oppressive restrictions on the natural rights of women, such change, whether it assume a legal, social, or religious form, will, if traced to its source, always be found deeply rooted in the wiles of priestcraft. Since the decay of the earliest form of religion, namely, Nature-worship, the gods have never been found ranged on the side of women.
Later investigations are proving that the primitive idea of a Deity had its foundation in actual physical facts and experiences; and, as the maternal principle constituted the most important as well as the most obvious of the facts which entered into the conception of a Creator, and as it was the only natural bond capable of binding human society together, so long as reason was not wholly clouded by superstition and warped by sensuality, it could not be eliminated. In other words, a Creator in which the more essential element of creative force was wanting, was contrary to all human experience and observation. Indeed nothing could be plainer than that the deified male principle could of itself create nothing, and that it was dependent for its very existence on the female element.
By this attempt to construct a masculine Deity, absurdities were presented to the human judgment and understanding which for ages could not be overcome, and by it contradictions were necessitated which could not be reconciled with human reason and with the ideas of Nature which had hitherto been held by mankind. It was not, therefore, until reason had been suspended in all matters pertaining to religion, and blind faith in the machinations of priestcraft had been established, that a male God was set up as the sole Creator of the universe.
When women, who had become the legitimate plunder not only of individuals but of bands of warriors whose avowed object was the capture of women for wives, had degenerated into mere tools or instruments for the gratification and pleasure of men, Perceptive Wisdom or Light, and Maternal Affection the Preserver of the race, gradually became eliminated from the god-idea of mankind. Passion became God. It was the Creator in the narrowest and most restricted sense.
Although in an age of pure Nature-worship the ideas connected with reproduction, like those related to all other natural functions, were wholly unconnected with impurity either of thought or deed, still when an age arrived in which all checks to human passion had been withdrawn, and the lower propensities had gained dominion over the higher faculties, the influence of fertility or passion-worship on human development or growth may in a degree be imagined.
The fact must be borne in mind that curing the later ages of passion-worship the creative processes and the reproductive organs were deified, not as an expression or symbol of the operations of Nature, but as a means to the stimulation of the lower animal instincts in man.
With religion bestialized and its management regulated wholly with an idea to the gratification of man’s sensuous desires, religious temples, under the supervision of the priesthood, became brothels, in which were openly practiced as part and parcel of religious rites and ceremonies the most wanton profligacy and the most shameless self-abandonment. The worship of Aphrodite or Venus, and also that of Bacchus, originally consisted in homage paid to the reproductive principles contained in the earth, water, and sun, but, as is well known, this pure and beautiful worship, in later times, and especially after it was carried to Greece, became synonymous with the grossest practices and the most lawless disregard of human decency.
With the light which in these later ages science and ethnological research are throwing upon the physiological and religious disputes of the ancients, the correctness of the primitive doctrines elaborated under purer conditions at an age when human beings lived nearer to Nature is being proved–namely, that matter like spirit is eternal and indestructible, and therefore that the one is as difficult of comprehension as the other, and that Nature, instead of being separated from spirit, is filled with it and can not be divorced from it; also that the female is the original organic unit of creation, without which nothing is or can be created.