"Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a flea, and yet he will be making gods by
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
I've known Barbara G. Walker for over a decade, after I contacted her about using quotes from her books for my work The Christ Conspiracy. She graciously agreed, we became friendly, and she has continued to inspire me. Indeed, Barbara has been a muse for me all these years, a living aspect of the Triple Goddess, a reflection of the "Crone" in her purest sense. She has been not only a mentor and muse but also a spiritual sister, whose wise ways should be emulated while her sagacity is shared....
Barbara's previous texts concerning mythology, such as The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets and The Woman's Dictionary of Sacred Symbols and Objects, provide a mass of erudition compiled over decades of research. Whenever I revisit these masterpieces, I am in awe of how much information she has managed to record in those large tomes.
The essays here provide similar valuable knowledge, and are overall a smooth read that will enchant and enlighten the reader at the same time. Coming from a leader in the freethought community—and a notable female voice therein as well—Walker's pearls of rationality can be digested readily in this handy, portable format....
In this collection, Barbara Walker recounts instances and epiphanies from her own life, while exploring numerous important subjects relating to the mysteries of human existence as a whole, including our place in both life and death, as well as salient myths that affect us to this day. For example, in discussing the influence of Bible myths, Walker remarks:
We sing the hymn, "Morning Has Broken," which speaks of the Garden of Eden "fresh from God's Word," and of God's literal footstep on the first grass. We may think of it as a nice poetic metaphor, though the writer of the lyric obviously thought of it as the truth. But the story of Eden is not a nice poetic metaphor; nor is it true. It is a lie born out of ignorance, and what’s more, it is a pernicious lie that has caused an unimaginably huge amount of unnecessary human suffering over the centuries. It is the source of the doctrines of original sin, female inferiority and the damnation of disbelievers. The evils rooted in this myth still continue. There are still millions of people willing to kill or to die for Old Testament lies. There are millions of people who despise scientific enlightenment, who forbid real education for their children, who hate their neighbors if they disagree with Bible mythology. Battles are still fought, and will go on being fought, over religious nonsense. This is one of the greatest of human follies: Perhaps this is even what might be called the real original sin.
In my experience over the many years I have been discussing these subjects, Barbara G. Walker remains one of the few people I've encountered with such a clear understanding of mythology and the history of religious ideation—a comprehension without which we are largely lost on many issues relating to religious beliefs.
In her deep grasp of comparative mythology, Barbara is bold in her declarations and pronouncements concerning supposedly "historical" biblical figures representing in reality ancient gods and goddesses remade—and she is undoubtedly correct.
...Barbara once said of my book Suns of God that she found herself nodding in agreement on every page. In reading her book, I found myself thinking about how alike our minds really are. Those who enjoy my work will thus be delighted with this book, as it not only demonstrates a pleasant and refreshing likemindedness but it also reveals new and juicy information along the same fascinating lines.
Barbara's analysis of the contents and history of the gospels rates as one of the sanest around, making much more sense and based far more on the evidence (and lack thereof) than is the received Christian tradition. As audacious as I can be, Walker makes some wonderfully direct comments that only she can "get away with," so it has been with great glee that I have read and published them here! Such as:
Today's more informed Bible scholars and theologians know perfectly well that Jesus was never an identifiable single person, but rather a composite figure drawn from numerous savior-god traditions. They know that there never was a single coherent philosophy that could be called Christian, dating from the early years of our era. But today's theologians seldom dare to make this knowledge clear to the general public. Why not?
The answer is money. If the real truth of "gospel truth" should become widely revealed, the financial loss would be devastating.
...It is only when we sever knowledge of mythology, along with goddess-worship symbolism and tradition—in other words, when we are ignorant of a vast amount of human culture—that we can suggest these various characters to have been "real" and "historical" persons....
...[D]escribing the holocaust of the Native Europeans, Walker remarks:
After the reign of Constantine I (272-337), as soon as the Church attained political ascendancy in the Holy Roman Empire, it set about destroying libraries and schools, burning books and outlawing secular education. The contention of the Church fathers was that the Last Days were at hand, and to waste time acquiring pagan learning was futile and wicked. The old gods and goddesses were declared to be devils, and a mighty effort was made to erase all records of them. The only people permitted to be literate were priests, and the only religious books permitted to be read were the Old Testament and the few gospels selected to be part of the canon. Can anyone truly fathom what a horror such a thing was?
During this centuries-long persecution, learning ground to a halt, as temples and schools were destroyed, libraries burned and literacy eradicated for centuries, in order for Christianity to be imposed forcefully upon a more pliable—and ignorant—people. Ancient cultures—our ancestors’ native cultures—were denigrated and devastated, leaving a bad taste in our collective mouth for hundreds of years.
Furthermore, with this intense anti-literacy atmosphere, there were few writers to record history and opinion—one of the major reasons this period is called the "Dark Ages" (c. 500 to 1000 AD/CE). Between this social ill and the massive burning of books, very few texts have survived from that era.
In addition to the forced ignorance, torture and genocide, the sexism and misogyny of the organized Christian Church that Walker so adeptly exposes here are breathtaking in their scope, breadth and depth....
Over the decades, Barbara Walker's work has helped to restore the lost but long record of goddess worship, a subject both fascinating and momentous. In reading her essays, I was struck by just how impoverished in this regard are the current monotheistic faiths, which utterly omit rich and feminine aspects of the world's lengthy and vital religious and mythological history.
As may be expected of Walker's work, this book too brings out the lost, hidden and largely forgotten history of the Goddess, the divine feminine and women's sacred myths, traditions and secrets in general. And, as usual, Barbara does an outstanding job of raising these important issues and making them interesting to people of both genders. Indeed, men in particular may be interested to know what they have been missing all these centuries under patriarchal domination.
The tremendous disservice done to humanity by the destruction of longstanding sacred icons and by the suppression of goddess worship is still being felt in the enormous misogyny and sexism that permeate today's patriarchal religions and cults. This fact is made perfectly clear in this book, which hopefully will inspire many impassioned discussions and debates about the blatant oppression of and cruelty shown towards women over the past millennia of male dominance.
This book's emphasis on the abuse of women by religious fanaticism is understandable since Barbara is a woman and since such abuse has been relentless over the last several thousand years in some places. The current climate is superior in certain areas, but, as Barbara says, "Women who cling to the biblical worldview will never achieve their full humanity." That assertion applies also to orthodox and fundamentalist views in the holy texts of other religions and cults, including and especially Islam.
Walker may well be right to suggest that a significant restoration of knowledge about the divine feminine will go a long way in bringing about peace on planet Earth...
As concerns my editing of this fine and enlightening work, I have added all chapter subtitles, created a 300+-source bibliography and a 24-page index, and included numerous additional citations and annotations therein, which are appended as endnotes at the back of the book and marked "EN." Moreover, all 120 illustrations were handpicked and formatted by me as well....
Finally, as can be seen, the meaning of the title Man Made God is clear enough: Rather than representing a set-in-stone reality, the notion of God has changed over the millennia, depending on the culture and perception by the human mind. Hence, it is man who makes gods and God. Barbara G. Walker demonstrates that fact quite abundantly in this series of insightful essays....
For more, see Man Made God.