After a short description of androgyny
– i.e. of its symbolism (unity of male and female, eventually elaborated in connection with unity of all oppositions/polarities)
and of the mythical motifs in `Western’ literature lying at its root (particularly that of an original androgynous `man’ – Image of God, cf. Genesis 1:26-27 – and his splitting and the consequences thereof) –
two traditions will be illustrated:
1. androgyny positively elaborated with mutual completion as most important aspect, even at the divine level,
2. androgyny reduced and used in favour of encratitic (ascetic) views.
Special attention will be given to Philo of Alexandria, the Gospels of Thomas and Philip, and to the philosopher Jacob Boehme (about 1600).
The relation between androgyny and sexuality will be shown as well as the importance, for the interpretation of androgyny, of distinguishing at least three levels: the `earthly’, the ‘human’ and the `divine’.
Next attention will be given to the difference in character of the contexts in which the `positive’ and the `negative’ elaborations of androgyny took place.
Whereas these contexts – in general – connotate with `wisdom traditions’ and `rationalistic traditions’ – with the first having at least as old roots as the second but with the second having more and more become the dominant tradition of Western culture (and religion?! – see below)-, an attempt will be made to demonstrate links between androgyny and the general character of Western culture and religion, including the relation between science and religion, as well as between androgyny and patriarchy in Western culture and religion, including a view on patriarchy and matriarchy as possibly useful concepts for the study of cultures and religions in general.
Within this framework a relation will be demonstrated between matriarchy as `alternative’ for patriarchy and the `alternative’ traditions in Western culture and tradition, the `wisdom traditions’.
Concrete phenomena to which attention will be given are: the pre-Christian symbolism of the Sacred Marriage and the cults of the Great or Mother Goddess, the figures of Anthropos, Sophia and Logos in Jewish and Christian Gnosticism, the victory of Catholic Christianity over Gnostic Christianity and their ambivalent relation afterwards (gnosticism returning in forms related to hermetism, alchemy and theosophy, and also in literature, art and philosophy).
Also will pass in review: a possible danger of a (too) `reductionistic’ use of the concepts of `patriarchy’ and `matriarchy’ as well as some possible relevance of their use insofar there are interrelations with rising consciousness in Western culture about related problems: the position of women, the relation to nature and the status of `religion’ compared with that of `science’.
Comments on this communication are very welcome, especially in the form of positive or negative verification, as well as contructive criticism or appreciation.
Literature: (see list of publications)
Boudewijn Koole, Man en vrouw zijn een: De androgynie in het Christendom, in het bijzonder bij Jacob Boehme (English title: Man and woman are one: Androgyny in Christianity, particularly in the works of Jacob Boehme), Utrecht 1986 (with extensive `Summary in English’, 315-339); = diss. Utrecht 1986
Idem, Voorbij het patriarchaat: tegenbeelden van de westerse kultuur: de relatie van westerse spirituele tradities tot de fundamenten van de kultuur (only in Dutch; translated title: Beyond patriarchy: counterimages of Western culture: the relation of Western spiritual traditions to the foundations of culture), Kampen 1989
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