As one acquainted with Riane Eisler's book ''The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future'' from its inception, I am writing regarding the distortion and misrepresentation of this remarkable book as antimale ''science fiction'' by its reviewer, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese Oct. I am one of 19 social scientists and other scholars, both male and female, who reviewed this book prior to its recent publication. Because its reconstruction of our past, present and future is based on neglected and even suppressed as well as long-established findings from a wide range of fields, and because this reconstruction differs so greatly from traditional including the reviewer's Marxist views, sections relevant to their expertise were screened for accuracy by two archeologists, two historians, an anthropologist, two systems theorists, three sociologists, three psychologists, three religious studies scholars, two art historians and an economist. In contrast to the reviewer's attempt to trivialize this extraordinary work, assessments by the above group ranged from ''groundbreaking'' and ''catalytic and pioneering'' to ''the most important book since Darwin's 'Origin of Species. Rather than resorting to distorting omission for example, failure to even hint at the archeological evidence discussed at length in the book, backing its conclusions , quoting out of context and ridicule, an honest review from someone who believes and this is a quotation from the review within context that ''violent conflict'' is the ''midwife to some of the greatest leaps toward freedom,'' and who intimates that war is just ''human nature,'' would have openly addressed the author's and the reviewer's fundamental ideological differences.

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According to Riane Eisler, this eerie phenomenon already happened long ago. Eisler traces the unseen forces that shape human culture, from prehistory through recorded history and into the future. Following 12 years of rigorous research and synthesizing the work of many others, Eisler proposes that conventional historians are painting the wrong picture of the origins of civilization. In the traditional view, Man the Hunter plays the leading role, forming the beginnings of ancient civilization by wielding the lethal blade.

Rather than forming an invisible backdrop, women probably invented the domestication of plants and animals, and new social relations probably stemmed from their relations with children. Innovations such as agriculture, weaving, writing, town planning, commerce, and government were made in cultures that had one feature in common: the worship of the Goddess, the association of woman with the powers that govern life and death.

Many feminist scholars have, for the last two decades, been re-examining history with fresh eyes. Some have even gone so far as to conclude that this woman-centered society must have been matriarchal in structure.

They reasoned: If men did not dominate women, women must have dominated men. Eisler, the author of two earlier books on women, offers what might be called a post-feminist viewpoint. The most recent evidence, drawn from new methods and emphasis in archeology, supports neither male nor female domination, she says. To explain further, she proposes that two basic models of society underlie diverse human cultures.

The dominator model includes patriarchy and matriarchy. It assumes the ranking of one-half of humanity over the other. The partnership model, in which social relations are based on linking, does not demand inferiority or superiority.

Eisler uses the language of nonlinear dynamics, or the study of chaotic systems, to describe alternating historical cycles of dominance and partnership. Unfortunately, the introduction of these difficult concepts lends the book an academic tone in these sections.

Later, around the time of Jesus and again in the Renaissance, partnership societies were once more on the rise. Each cycle has a characteristic type of technological and social evolution, she points out.

Therefore the direction of cultural evolution--whether it will be peaceful or warlike--depends on which model guides society. The text is studded with references to archeologists and historians who are following the same trails. These citations add richness and validity to the book, but also interfere with the simplicity of the story line. Her historical review is more than an academic exercise. She goes back in time in order to rewrite the future.

She asks the Big Questions: Why do we wage war, not peace? What are we to make of ancient legends of the Garden of Eden, or a coming Golden Age? This ambitious new synthesis so contradicts what we have been taught that its hold on the mind is like a message written in sand.

It lingers for a moment but, relentlessly, the force of centuries works to undermine it. Later, after some time has passed, it draws the reader back, curious, hopeful. Eisler contends that the choices we make as a society today are determined by a history that has been cut and edited by a select few, beginning at a crucial time, a crossroads in the past when the shift from a partnership to a dominator society took hold.

Today, she says, we face a similar disjuncture, an evolutionary crossroads from a dominator to a partnership society. She points to signs of change in grassroots movements that seek to create egalitarian relationships, harmony with the environment, and peaceful societies.

However, she warns, we do not know that we wear cultural blinders. Our choices, within the framework of what we have learned to choose, cannot solve our problems. And the path toward partnership is not inevitable. Hot Property. About Us. Brand Publishing. Times News Platforms. Times Store. Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. Tarcher, forthcoming.

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The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (Updated With a New Epilogue)

The author presents a conceptual framework for studying social systems with particular attention to how a society constructs roles and relations between the female and male halves of humanity. Eisler highlights the tension between what she calls the dominator or domination model and the more naturally feminine partnership model. Eisler proposes tension between these two underlies the span of human cultural evolution. She traces this tension in Western culture from prehistory to the present. The book closes with two contrasting future scenarios. These challenge conventional views about cultural evolution up to the time of the book's publication.


The Chalice & the Blade: OUR HISTORY, OUR FUTURE by Riane Eisler (Harper & Row: $16.95; 261 pp.)

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