THE TIME FALLING BODIES TAKE TO LIGHT: Mythology, Sexuality' and the Origins of Culture by William Irwin Thompson

THE TIME FALLING BODIES TAKE TO LIGHT: Mythology, Sexuality' and the Origins of Culture

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Heady stuff: a virorous, venturesome essay with enough ideas in it for a hundred seminars. Thompson, who is founding director of the Lindisfarne Association and had written a number of stimulating books, including At the Edge of History, attacks the quasi-impossible question of humanity's leap (or fall) from nature to civilization with lively wit and formidable learning. Thompson wastes no time in showing where his sympathies lie by dedicating his work (in a uncharacteristic silly gesture) to ""the Eternal Feminine."" He then proceeds to offer a series of splendid feminist speculations on the pre-historical world, clustered around the three epochal ""moments"" of hominization, symbolization, and agriculturalization. He traces the ""displacement of the feminine"" in Sumer and ancient Egypt, and concludes with some reflections on the coming breakup of our culture and the shape of its replacement. Thompson is bold, ingenious, and remarkably persuasive. Thus, for example, he suggests that when the early hominids moved out of the trees and into the open, dangerous environment of the savannah females may have deliberately changed their pattern of sexual receptivity from seasonal (the estrus) to continual, and thereby literally seduced the males into a new social order, marked not only by a ""full confrontation of mates in frontal intercourse"" but by an altogether richer and denser network of human relations. Similarly, Thompson builds a case for women as ""holistic scientists,"" who made the great intuitive discovery of the periodicity of nature. Hence, in contrast to Robert Ardrey, who seeks the origins of science in the masculine art of killing, Thompson finds them in ""menstruation, lunar calendars, and midwifery."" As an expositor of mythical thought he is unsurpassed for his combination of interdisciplinary range and unpedantic freshness.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1980
Publisher: St. Martin's