Alphabet and Goddess

My friend and ex-sparring partner Alan Moore got my attention with this thought:

Some people describe the alphabet as masculine whereas the web is feminine This has deep implications as to how culture is created, how business is created, how organisations are structured.


Alan recommends the book The Alphabet versus The Goddess, which

proposes that the process of learning alphabetic literacy rewired the human brain, with profound consequences for culture. Making remarkable connections across a wide range of subjects including brain function, anthropology, history, and religion, Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain’s linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy’s early stages, the decline of women’s political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.

Shlain contrasts the feminine right-brained oral teachings of Socrates, Buddha, and Jesus with the masculine creeds that evolved when their spoken words were committed to writing. The first book written in an alphabet was the Old Testament and its most important passage was the Ten Commandments. The first two reject of any goddess influence and ban any form of representative art.

I love this theme of non-linearity and I’m feeling a bit less lonely in advocating it these days.

1 thought on “Alphabet and Goddess

  1. Robert Paterson


    I think that this is a very productive idea – It is of course connected to the Messy or Not ideas. Julian Jaynes’ great book “The Origins of Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind” adds to this. He claims that text closed down our ability to connect more deeply.

    He also disses the value of the rational mind in a chapter where he lists all the most important decisions that we make and shows how we never use our rational mind to make them – the person you marry, the house you buy etc.

    Another way of seeing this – where I have bene spending a lot of time recently – is the myhtic conflict between Dionyios and Apollo. Apollo is all about order and reason. Dionyios is all about intuition and epiphany. It appears that Apollo has crushed Dionysios right nw.

    As all great ideas emerge from intuition and epiphany – conversation – we will not be able to get ourselves out of the real mess we have without being messy again!


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