Hermes in India

The use of the caduceus of Hermes as a symbol of the medical profession was the subject of Walter Friedlander’s book “The Golden Wand of Medicine” and a previous post, Hermes Trismegistus and American Healthcare. Friedlander posed many questions about the use of this symbol and its adoption in the United States in 1917. The current realities, including runaway healthcare costs and inaccessibility of medical care, together with the objectionable aspects of the ‘fix’, have led to questions about the influence of this symbol, which the medical-industrial complex has chosen to share with the liar, thief and trickster god, Hermes. Edward Moor’s “The Hindu Pantheon” and Georges Dumézil’s “The Stakes of the Warrior” provide additional clues about the identity of Hermes.


According to Moor, a key figure connecting the Hindu scriptures to Hermes is Nareda or Narada, one of the ten lords of living beings. In the Sivpuran, which contains the doctrines of the worshipers of Siva, Nareda was born from Brahma’s thigh, although he is also said to be the offspring of both Brahma and Saraswati. He was one of the seven Rishis. But while the Institutes of Menu and the Bhagavata mention him, the Scanda Purana leaves him out.

One of the points Friedlander made in his book is that it is not known why the Greeks chose to associated Hermes with the Egyptian Thoth, who has a very different personality. However, Narada has many of the characteristics of Thoth: He is “a wise legislator; great in arms, arts, and eloquence;” he was also an astronomer, and a musician. He invented the Vina, a sort of lute…and was a frequent messenger of the gods. In these and other points he resembles Hermes, or Mercury. Some think he is the same with Thoth.

Narada is often introduced in the histories of Krishna, and is said to be only another form of Krishna himself…Crishna (in the Gita, p. 82) speaks of his ‘holy servants, the Brahmans and the Rajarshis;’ and says, ‘I am Brigu among the Maharshis…and of all the Devarshis I am Narad.’ (P. 80)

Buddha and Woden

A Buddha, whether or not he is the same as the ninth Avatara, has been said to share the same character with Mercury–so has the Gothic Woden; each gives his name to the same planet, and to the same day of the week: Budhvar, in India, is the same with Dies Mercurii, or Woden’s day–our Wednesday. Buddha, Booda, Butta, and others are mere varieties, in different parts of India…and so ‘perhaps is the Bud, or Wud, of the ancient pagan Arabs. Pout in Siam; Pott, or Poti, in Tibet; and But, in Cochin China, are the same.’


It was mentioned in American Cosmology and Arlington National Cemetery that many of America’s founders were believers in the doctrines of Hermes Trismegistus and that when he was discredited as an historical figure, he was replaced by Noah. In the Hindu pantheon, the seventh Menu was Vaivaswata, or child of the sun. He is the one saved on the ark and therefore the father of the whole human race. The seven Rishis were said to be with him on the ark, although they are not mentioned as fathers of human families. However, it is also said that Vaivaswata’s “daughter Ila was married…to the first Buddha, or Mercury, the son of Chandra, or the Moon, a male deity, whose father was Atri, son of Brahma.” Because of this, Vaivaswata’s posterity are divided into two branches called the Children of the Sun, from (Vivaswat, the Sun) his own father; and the Children of the Moon, from the parent of his daughter’s husband.  One of Vaivaswata’s other names is Satyavrata, whom Sir William Jones thinks corresponds to the Italian Saturn.

Aesculapius, Hermes and Parvati

In Hinduism, Parvati is the sacti or energy of Siva. She has many additional names, the most common aside from Parvati are Bhavani, Durga, Kali, and Devi, or the Goddess. Ma is a name of Bhavani in her personification of nature, and under the name of Bhavani she represents the “general power of fecundity.” She has connections both to Aesculapius and to Hermes.

According to Moor, “The word Cala, or Kala, signifying black, means also, from its root, Kal, devouring: whence it is applied to Time, and, in both senses in the feminine, to the goddess in her destructive capacity. In her character of Mahacali she has many other epithets, all implying different shades of black or dark azure: viz. Cali, or Cala, Nila, Asista, Shyama, or Shyamala, Mekara, Anjanabha, and Krishna.”

Wilford said that the river Kali, the Nile in Egypt, got its name from Mahacali, who, according to the Puranas, made her first appearance on its banks in the character of Rajarajeswari, also called Isani, or Isi. That river is also called Nahushi, from the warrior and conqueror Deva Nahusha, or Deonaush, who Wilford thought was probably the Dionysius of the ancient Europeans. Dionysius is often portrayed with similar characteristics to Nareda and Krishna. (Some writers have suggested that Dionysius was a Minoan deity–the fact that he was born from Zeus’ thigh makes that doubtful, but more on that later.)

Siva as Half Woman
Mahadeva as Ardha Nari

Sir William Jones thought that in her character of Bhavani, she was “Venus presiding over generation, and for that reason was sometimes portrayed as having both sexes, as in her bearded statue at Rome and perhaps in the images called Herma-thena, and in those figures of her which had a conical shape.”  (Hermes is also said to be an hermaphrodite)

Bhadra KālīIn her form called Bhadra-Kali, Maha-Kali, and by other names, she is eight-handed, ashta-buja. In one image of her one of her right hands holds something like a caduceus, without snakes.

Friedlander said that the caduceus of Hermes was originally topped by a figure-eight with the top open.

On the other hand, Mahacali also has the names of Amba, or Uma; and Aranyadevi, or goddess of the forest. She is Prabha, meaning light; and Aswini, a mare, the first of the lunar mansions. It is said, “In this shape, the Sun approached her in the form of a horse, and, on their nostrils touching, she instantly conceived the twins; who are called Aswini-Kumari, the two sons of Aswini,” beings of importance in the identity of Aesculapius. The house cock is one of the Goddess’s symbols; Friedlander said the house cock was a symbol of Aesculapius.

Surya and Esculapius

(Moor’s spelling)

“Surya, (the Sun) “is believed to have descended frequently from his car in a human shape, and to have left a race on earth, who are equally renowned in the indian stories with the Heliades of Greece. His two sons, called Aswina, or Aswini-Cumara together, are considered twin brothers, and painted like Castor and Pollux; but they have each the character of Esculapius among the gods, and are believed to have been born of a nymph, who, in the form of a mare, was impregnated with sunbeams.” (Jones. Asiatic researches, Vol. I. p. 263.)

Fourteen Gems and the Beverage of Immortality

There is a Escuapius-like figure among the Hindus, who had a different sort of birth. In the notes on page 342 Moor says, “…I do not recollect that Dhanwantara, the Esculapius of the Hindus, has an attendant serpent like his brother of Greece: the health-bestowing Dhanwantara arose from the sea when churned for the beverage of immortality. He is generally represented as a venerable man, with a book in his hand.” He was a physician and was also one of the fourteen gems obtained when the ocean was churned for the recovery of Amrita, the beverage of immortality.

Red Cross or Green?

Surya is portrayed with his “seven coursers green.” Friedlander documents that the well-known symbol of the Red Cross used to be green, but I don’t know whether the green color of this symbol was connected to Surya. (Correction: Friedlander was referring to the caduceus, not the red cross.)


Friedlander said the staff of Aesculapius had snakes by the 5th century BC, wings by the 1st century AD, and snakes and wings together by the 15th or 16th century. There is a picture in Moor’s plates of Krishna with a winged figure, who Moor thought was his divine spouse Rukmeny. Moor calls this picture ‘singular’, but I offer it only as a subject for further research.

Rādhā, Krishna, and attendant Gopia

Woden/Odin, as characterized by Georges Dumézil

The connection with Odin, or rather the relationship between Odin and Thor on the one hand, and Siva/Rudra and Vishnu on the other, is discussed by Georges Dumézil in “The Stakes of the Warrior,” where Kṛṣṇa represents Viṣṇu as his avatara.

Dumézil presents legends from Scandinavia and India, which have similar patterns and themes, and discusses the comparison first in terms of his theory of the three functions, where Odin and Thor represent the magical sovereign, and the champion or warrior, the “first and second entries on the canonical list of the gods of the three functions.” The problem, he attempts to solve, is this: Although the elements of the stories are too similar to be coincidence, in the Rg Veda, Rudra (Mahadeva or Siva) and Viṣṇu don’t fit, individually or together, in the trifunctional structure. He says the Vedic Viṣṇu is an associate of Indra at the second level (warrior) and although he is above Rudra in the hierarchy, he doesn’t fit in the first level, or that of magical sovereign, and the two of them, Rudra and Viṣṇu don’t interact. It was Hinduism that later gave them trifunctional characteristics. (Actually, Dumézil says the Indian gods still do not have a definite trifunctional aspect, although Hinduism put Viṣṇu and Rudra in a more oppositional relationship.) Further, Rudra operates more on the third level as a healer and herbalist, and on the second level only as archer, alone or in his plural form Rudrāh. Also there are problems with fitting Odin and Thor into the trifunctional structure in the Scandinavian legend.

In fact, in the tales of the Scandinavian Starkaṑr and the Indian Śiśupāla, there seem to be strong similarities between Odin and Rudra, even though, hierarchically speaking, the similarities should be between Odin and Viṣṇu. Both Odin and Rudra have a weakness for the demonic, and in the end, must be rescued or have things put right again, in Odin’s case by Thor, and in Rudra’s by Viṣṇu (or Kṛṣṇa).

Others, besides Dumézil have listed physical and mental traits of character and behavior shared by these two seemingly different deities, Odin and Rudra.

Both are tireless wanderers, they like to appear to men only in disguise, unrecognizable, Odin with a hat pulled down to his eyes, Rudra with his uṡniṡa falling over his face; Odin is the master of the runes as Rudra is kavi; and above all the bands of Rudra’s devotees, bound by a vow, endowed with powers and privileges recall sometimes the berserkir, sometimes the einherjar of Odin. This sovereign god, this magician, unarguably has one of his bases in the mysterious region where the savage borders on the civilized. Like Rudra-Śiva he is often, in terms of ordinary rules, even immoral…Like Rudra-Śiva, he has his taste for human sacrifice, particularly the self-sacrifice of his votaries. More generally, like Rudra-Śiva, he has in him something almost demonic: his friendship and weakness for Loki are well known; but Loki is the malicious rogue who, one fine day, in arranging the murder of Baldr, takes on the dimensions of a ‘spirit of evil,’ of the greatest evil.

By contrast, Thor, like Viṣṇu, exterminates demons, or giants (although he is also sometimes aided by Loki or Thjalfi). According to Dumézil, the “overriding difference” between the pairs of Odin-Thor and Rudra-Viṣṇu is that “Viṣṇu–in the only sense that matters here–is superior to Rudra-Śiva, even constituting his ultimate recourse, while Odin, notwithstanding his impudences with the giants, is superior to Thor, hierarchically speaking and apparently also in the degree of esteem accorded him by human society. His complexity, his magical knowledge, the post-humous happiness he assures his followers in Valhöll, all make him theologically more interesting.”

For these reasons, Dumézil categorizes Odin and Rudra-Śiva as the “dark gods,” and Thor and Viṣṇu as the “light gods…Each of the two heroes, the Scandinavian Starkaṑr and the Indian Śiśupāla, belongs entirely to the dark god and is opposed by the light god. But the structures are almost reversed by the fact that in Scandinavia the dark god holds the first place, being more important in this life and especially in that to come, and that consequently his favor is the more desirable, the light god having only an immediate and limited range; whereas in the Indian legend it is the light god who is in the spotlight and directs the game, and whose favor in this life and in the hereafter is most fervently sought, while the dark god acts only implicitly, without showing himself, through the “Rudraic” nature of the hero.” Dumézil concludes that the Scandinavian hero, the favorite of Odin, is the good hero, while the Indian hero, a type of Rudra-Śiva, is the evil one, apparently because of the hierarchical superiority of Odin, or his function as magical sovereign.

New Questions about Kṛṣṇa

If Kṛṣṇa is Hermes, and also associated with Odin, and if he is an avowed avatara of Viṣṇu and also strongly associated with Siva and Parvati, Dumézil may have just summed up the tensions inherent in Hermeticism. If Viṣṇu, and therefore Kṛṣṇa, fits the ‘light god’ description, it seems strange that the giant Śiśupāla, the favorite of Rudra, was Kṛṣṇa’s cousin. But Odin has demonic ancestry as well.

Dumézil said that some have thought the name, Śiśupāla, is a transposition, “to the level of the ‘small’ (Śiśu-)” of the Vedic epithet of Rudra, and later of Rudra-Śiva, paśupati, ‘lord of animals’. In the legend, this is the being who bestowed his power on Krishna.

Moor says that Prajapati means the lord of prajas, or creatures; “and although mostly applied to Brahma, is a name or title sometimes given to his sons, and other persons. He has stated repeatedly that although there are many deities in the Hindu Pantheon, they all eventually resolve into one God, and Prajapati, the lord of creatures, is the Deity of them collectively.  The words Prajapati and paśupati are not exact, but I’m not aware of a lord of animals separate from the lord of creatures in the Hindu Pantheon. (According to online definitions, ‘Pasu’ means any tethered or sacrificed animal. My assumption that this referred to the ‘lord of creatures’ was based on the Hebrew belief that humans are not innately superior to animals. Any superiority is derived from God’s appointment of man as steward. In that case, ‘creatures’ include both man and beast.) In fact, the worshippers of Siva often claim supremacy for him and call him the supreme god, in opposition to worshippers of Vishnu, who claim supremacy for their deity.  Maybe Siva was lord of creatures to his followers, and therefore in the texts belonging to that sect.

Christian Hermeticism

Moor repeats the claim many times, which I have seen elsewhere, of monotheism being the most ideal form of the ancient religions, although Scholem’s guide to the Kabbalah contrasts ‘true Biblical monotheism’ with the ‘extreme monotheism’ of Christianity.

Moor writes, “In the last part of the Niructa, which entirely relates to deities, it is twice asserted, that there are but three gods– ‘Tisra eva devatah.’ The further inference, that these intend but one deity, is supported by many passages in the Veda…and the index to the Rig Veda…”

In this light, it seems meaningful that the infant Krishna is depicted with a triangular die, (on the table next to Dēvakī) denoting ‘trinity in unity’ marking his “coequality with the grand powers of the Triad conjoined.” In one verse “Krishna is immediately identified not only with Vishnu, who reclinest on the bosom of Kamala…and sittest on the plumage of Garuda…but with the Sun, from whom the day star derives his effulgence…and to Brahma, who calledst three worlds into existence; and to Mahadeva, sipping nectar from the radiant lips of Pedma..”

Crishna with triangular Die
Crishna nursed by Dēvakī

At a festival called Rat’ha jattra, Krishna is worshipped as Jaganat’ha, or lord of the universe.

Krishna brought the dead back to life, washed the feet of the Brahmins, and was said to have been born of a virgin. Jesus is said to be Mercury/Hermes.

Moor reports, “Sonnerat notices two basso-relievos, placed at the entrance of the choir of Bordeaux cathedral: one represents the ascension of our Saviour to heaven on an eagle; the other his descent, where he is stopped by Cerberus at the gates of hell, and Pluto is seen at a distance armed with a trident.

“In Hindu pictures, Vishnu, who is identified with Krishna, is often seen mounted on the eagle Garuda, sometimes with, as well as without, his consort…and were a Hindu artist to handle the subject of Krishna’s descent to hell, which I never saw, he would most likely introduce Cerbura, the infernal three-headed dog of their legends, and Yama, their Pluto, with the trisula, or trident…”

The Question of Incarnation

According to Moor, only the Gokalast’has adore Krishna as the Deity; other sects of Hindus condemn him. “The anathematizing of Krishna is not confined to the Buddhists, but is common to other sects of Hindus equally hostile to his claims to deification.”

It is told in the Puranas how:

Krishna fought eighteen bloody battles with Deva-Cala-Yavana, or Deo-Calyun, from which the Greeks made Deucalion.” Deo-Calyun was a powerful prince who lived in the western parts of India. In the Puranas he is called an incarnate demon because he resisted Krishna’s ambitions, almost defeating him. However, Krishna was victorious in the eighteenth battle through treachery.

The title of Deva is not of course given to Calyun in the Puranas, but would probably have been given him by his descendants and followers, and by the numerous tribes of Hindus, who, to this day, call Krishna an impious wretch, a merciless tyrant, an implacable and most rancorous enemy; in short, those Hindus who consider Krishna as an incarnate demon, now expiating his crimes in the fiery dungeons of the lowest hell…

(Moor cites Wilford’s Essay on the Chronology of the Hindus.–As. Res. vol. V. page 289).

Mr. Colebroke, in Asian Researches Vol. VIII, said that he believes “the sects, which now worship Rama and Krishna as incarnations of Vishnu are comparatively new: (he has) not found in any other part of the Vedas the least trace of such a worship,” and doubts whether the Rama-Tapaniya inserted in all the collections of Upanishads, and the Gopala-tapaniya inserted in some, are genuine. Also, according to Colebroke, the worship of deified heroes has no part in the Hindu system. He thinks it is likely that the old religion was lost and was never fully recovered after the overthrow of Buddha in India. New rituals were established, founded on the Puranas, and ‘a worse source, the Tantras.’ It was only then that the worship of Rama and Krishna, and that of Mahadeva and Bhavani were introduced.

See Also:

The Genealogy of Adam and Eve

Adam, Noah and the Snake-king

The Conversation With OWS


Dumézil, Georges. “The Stakes of the Warrior”.  University of California Press Berkeley. 1983

Moor, Edward. “The Hindu Pantheon”. T. Bensley. London, 1810.

Scholem, Gershom. “On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead”. Schocken Books Inc. New York. 1991

Pictures from Moor’s “Hindu Pantheon”:

Mahadeva as Ardha Nari: Plate 24, figure 1

Bhadra Kālī and Caduceus: Plate 28

Rādhā, Krishna, and attendant Gopia: Plate 67

Crishna nursed by Dēvakī: Plate 59

Cain and Abel in the Hindu Pantheon

I should explain the reference to Cain that was in the first version of the Patriarchy article, and which I left out of this version. I wrote that in the Old Testament story Cain sinned because he forced the ground, which was how it was presented in “Mythology Among the Hebrews.” At the time I also thought it was meaningful that Cain was male. I think that approach may have created unnecessary confusion about the meaning of the myth. I suspect that the assumption that the Hebrew patriarchs are the model for modern patriarchy is incorrect, although the story of Cain and Abel wasn’t the best way to argue that point.

In Mythology Among the Hebrews, the story had more to do with the age-old strife between nomads and city-dwellers. Cain, a solar figure was a builder of cities and an agriculturalist. Abel was a nomad. Their mutual animosity was a fact of life.

I found another version of the story in Edward Moor’s “Hindu Pantheon.” Moor cites Mr. Wilford, who argued that the following is similar to the death of Abel.  It provides an interesting perspective on the Hebrew interpretation.

“Iswara attempted to kill his brother Brahma, who, being immortal, was only maimed; but Iswara finding him afterwards in a mortal shape, in the character of Daksha, killed him as he was performing a sacrifice.” (Iswara is Siva or Mahadeva.)

“There had subsisted for a long time some animosity between Brahma and Mahadeva in their mortal shapes; and the latter, on account of his bad conduct, which is fully described in the Puranas, had, it appears, given much uneasiness to Swayambhuva (Adam) and Satarupa (Eve); for he was libidinous, going about with a large club in his hand. Mahadeva was the eldest, and was indignant at seeing his claim as such disregarded in favour of Brahma, which the latter supported by such lies as provoked Mahadeva to such a point, that he cut off one of his heads in his divine form.”

Later, Brahma, in his human shape, or Daksha, was found boasting that he ruled over mankind.

“One day in the assembly of the gods, Daksha coming in, they all respectfully arose except Mahadeva, who kept his seat and looked gloomy, which Daksha resented; and reviled and cursed Mahadeva in his human shape, wishing he might ever remain a vagabond on the face of the earth; and ordered that he should be avoided, and deprived of his share of the sacrifices and offerings. Mahadeva, irritated, in his turn, cursed Daksha; and a dreadful conflict took place between them: the three worlds trembled, and the gods were alarmed.”

The conflict escalated to the point that the gods separated them and effected a reconciliation. Eventually Daksha gave one of his daughters to Mahadeva in marriage. But later when this daughter, Devi, was treated disrespectfully by Daksha, she threw herself into the sacrificial fire. The battle between Daksha and Mahadeva resumed, and Mahadeva killed Daksha by cutting off his head. But before that, several of the gods were wounded in the battle, “particularly the Sun and Moon: heaven, hell, and the earth, trembled.”


Moor, Edward. “The Hindu Pantheon”. T. Bensley, London. 1810.

Western Patriarchy

This was written for the Wikipedia article.  Much of it was deleted in a dispute.  

Patriarchy is a social system in which the father or eldest male is head of the household, having authority over women and children. Patriarchy also refers to a system of government by males, and to the dominance of men in social or cultural systems. It may also include title being traced through the male line. (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)

Within feminist theory, patriarchy refers to the structure of modern cultural and political systems, which are ruled by men. Such systems are said to be detrimental to the rights of women. However, it has been noted that patriarchal systems of government do not benefit all men of all classes.

While the term patriarchy generally refers to institutions, the term is sometimes used less effectively in describing societal attitudes. It has been argued, “Institutions are very persistent and may last, with little change, into a period in which attitudes have altered considerably since the institutions were devised.” Gordon Rattray Taylor used the words “patrist” and “matrist” to describe attitudes (as opposed to institutions), and noted that the outlook of the dominant social group seems to swing between the two extremes. however, the patrist assertion that the patriarchal system of authority was the original and universal system of social organization inevitably leads to the establishment of corresponding institutions.(Taylor, Gordon Rattray. Theories of Matriarchy and Patriarchy. Sex in History )



In the third century BC, Aristotle taught that the city-state developed out of the patriarchal family, although he thought the two were different in kind as well as in scale (Lock, John, “Two Treatises of Government, with a supplement Patriarcha by Robert Filmer, edited with an introduction by Thomas I. Cook, New York. Hafner Press, 1947). He wrote that the highest form of human community is the political community. In the Politics, Aristotle attempts to illustrate the nature of the hierarchies that exist in the political community and its subordinate communities. He argues for an origin of male rule. In Chapter Thirteen he states that men and women have different kinds of virtue, “just as those who are natural subjects differ (from those who rule by nature.)” Other types of community, such as the household, are subordinate and inferior to the polis. Aristotle proposed that the household is subordinate to the political community because the aim of life in the household is the mere preservation of life, or the satisfaction of life’s daily needs, whereas the aim of membership in the political community is to live well. He also proposed that the household is inferior to the political community in the character of its rule. In the household, the man rules by virtue of his age and sex, monarchically at best and tyrannically at worst, while in the polis, citizens choose their rulers on the basis of merit. (Stauffer, Dana Jalbert Aristotle’s Account of the Subjection of Women


Both Plato and Aristotle seem to have followed the lead of Socrates, who denied that citizens had the basic virtue necessary to nurture a good society and equated virtue with knowledge unattainable by ordinary people. During Athens’ struggle with undemocratic Sparta, Socrates favored Sparta (Linder, Doug, The Trial of Socrates).


Plato never mentioned Socrates’ sedition against Athens, but the cosmology of the Timaeus includes the idea that a man who lives well will live a happy and congenial life on his consort star. Failing this his second birth will be as a woman. (41E-42D, on the Creation of Souls).

The Athenians and the Egyptians Compared

Other ancient societies contemporary with Aristotle, as well as many Athenians, did not share these views of women, family organization, or political and economic structure (del Giorgio, J.F. The Oldest Europeans. Guadeamus, Caracas, Venezuela, 2003). Egypt left no philosophical record, but Herodotus left a record of his shock at the contrast between the roles of Egyptian women and the women of Athens. He observed that they attended market and were employed in trade. In ancient Egypt a middle-class woman might sit on a local tribunal, engage in real estate transactions, and inherit or bequeath property. Women also secured loans, and witnessed legal documents. Greek influence spread, however, with the conquests of Alexander the Great, who was educated by Aristotle (Bristow, John Temple. “What Paul Really said about Women: an Apostle’s liberating views on equality in marriage, leadership, and love”, Harper Collins, New York, 1991). Eventually, when Alexander wanted to unite his two empires in equality, Aristotle was adamant that all non-Greeks should be enslaved.

Aristotle and the Jews

About 200 BC the Jewish Philosopher Aristobulus of Panaeas claimed that Jewish revelation and Aristotelian philosophy were identical. Before another 200 years had passed it was said that Aristotle derived his doctrine directly from Judaism. In the 12th century Aristotlianism was harmonized with Judaism by the Talmudist, philosopher and astronomer, Maimonides.Subsequent rabbinical thought includes such pronouncements as “Eve was not created simultaneously with Adam because God foreknew that later she would be a source of complaint. (Gen. R. xvii), and “Nine curses together with death befell Eve in consequence of her disobedience” (Pirke R. E. Xiv.; Ab. R.N. ii. 42). While Maimonides dared to contradict Aristotle’s ideas in matters of faith, it wasn’t long before the Islamic Philosopher Averroes, endorsed them without reserve. Aristotle in Jewish Legend

The Christians

For the last 1800 years Christian leaders have placed great emphasis on the creation of Eve, believing that the story was historical fact, rather than androcentric myth. Combined with the account of the Fall in Genesis, Chapter 3, it has been used as evidence of insurmountable character defects, not just for Eve but for all women. In the 2nd century Tertullian, the son of a centurion and a pagan until middle life, told women believers, “Do you not know that you are Eve?…Because of the death which you brought upon us, even the Son of God had to die” (De cultu feminarum, libri duo I, 1).

In the 4th Century, the basic attitude was one of puzzlement over the seemingly incongruous fact of woman’s existence. Augustine of Hippo said he could not see how a woman could be any help for a man if the work of childbearing is excluded. However, it was only with Thomas Acquinas in the 13th century that Aristotle’s teachings emerged in the official teachings of Roman Catholicism. Aristotle’s assertion that women are misbegotten males can be found in the Summa Theologica, I 92 I ad 1. The influence of combining Aristotle’s theory with Biblical interpretations can’t be overestimated.

Christine de Pizan on the Christian Canon

In about 1404 Christine de Pizan wrote “Le livre de la cite des dames”, a systematic feminist treatise arguing against the misogyny in classical works and the Christian Canon. After the advent of printing the discourse became known as “the Querelle des femmes” and continued for the next 400 years.

Sir Robert Filmer and the Divine Right of Kings

From the time of Martin Luther, Protestantism regularly used the commandment in Exodus 20:12 to justify the duties owed to all superiors. ‘Honor thy father,’ became a euphemism for the duty to obey the king. But it was primarily as a secular doctrine that Aristotle’s appeal took on political meaning. Although many 16th and 17th century theorists agreed with Aristotle’s views concerning the place of women in society, none of them tried to prove political obligation on the basis of the patriarchal family until sometime after 1680. The patriarchal political theory is associated primarily with Sir Robert Filmer. Sometime before 1653, Filmer completed a work entitled patriarcha. In it he defended the divine right of kings as having title inherited from Adam, the first man of the human race, according to Judeo-Christian tradition.

John Locke on Filmer

In 1688 John Locke called Filmer’s all-powerful prince “…this strange kind of domineering phantom called the ‘fatherhood’ which, whoever could catch, presently got empire and unlimited, absolute power.” Locke asserted that if ‘honor thy father’, places everyone in subjection to political authority, then it couldn’t mean the duty owed to natural fathers, since they are subjects. By Filmer’s doctrine fathers have no power since power belongs solely to the prince. Locke also observed that those who propose political rights based on this commandment invariably omit the word ‘mother’ which is present in the Biblical verse. (His editor, however, made a note of Locke’s inconsistency in attributing natural law to the governance of relations between a father and his children, while stating that the law governing relations between a man and his wife is based on legality, or on Eve’s punishment after the Fall. Two Treatises of Government).

Aristotle’s view, by Locke’s time elevated to an anthropological doctrine, was not weakened by this argument, and subsequent writers continued to give credence to Filmer’s views.

Nineteenth Century Feminism

In the 19th Century, Sarah Grimké dared to question the divine origin of the scriptures. later, Elizabeth Caddy Stanton used Grimke’s criticism of Biblical sources to establish a basis for feminist thought. She published The Woman’s Bible, which proposed a feminist reading of the Old and New Testament. This tendency was enlarged by Feminist theory which denounced the patriarchal Judeo-Christian tradition. (Castro, Ginette. American Feminism: a contemporary history. New York University Press. 1990)

Theosophy, evolution and Racism: Patriarchy at its Worst

In Europe, from about 1770, the rationalist Enlightenment and the desire for mystery had brought about a resurgence of a synthesis of Gnosticism, neo-Platonism and Cabbalistic theosophy. This particular version arose first in the utilitarian and industrial countries of America and England, with the theosophy of Madame Helena Blavatsky. This had a profound impact in Germany where it fit into the Libensreform movement. It is likely that Adolf Hitler was influenced by Blavatsky through the writings of Guido von List and Lanz von Liebenfels.

List sought a chauvanistic mystique for the defense of Germandom against the liberal, socialist and Jewish political forces in the late Wilhelmian Era. His blueprint involved ruthless subjection of non-Aryans in a hierarchical state; qualification of candidates for education or positions in public service, as well as in professions and commerce, based on racial purity. All non-Aryans were to be slaves. His political principles included racial and marital laws, and a patriarchal society where only male heads had full majority and where only Ario-Germans had freedom and citizenship. Each family was to have a genealogical record, proving Aryan lineage. he proposed a new feudalism where only the first-born inherits. These ideas were published as early as 1911 and were similar to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

Darwinist writers, who wrote of blond, blue-eyed Aryans, were influential in the writings of von Liebenfels. Von Liebenfels had illiberal, pan-German and monarchical sentiments. He believed the lower classes were inferior races and must be exterminated along with the weak. Socialism, democracy and feminism were his most important targets. Women were a special problem in his view because they were more prone to bestial lust. He advocated brood mothers in eugenic convents, sterilization and other practices that later influenced the Third Reich, apparent in Himmler’s anticipation of polygamy for his Schutzstaffel (SS), care of unmarried mothers in SS homes, and musings on the education and marriage of chosen women (Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan cults and their influence on Nazi ideology: the Ariosophists of Austria and Germany, 1890-1935, New York University Press. 1992).

Romantics and Marxists

By 1673, Francois Poullain de la Barre, “On the Equality of the Two Sexes”, had turned feminism into a systematic Enlightenment philosophy (as opposed to the previous Renaissance feminism).(Feminism) However, in 1861, Johann Jakob Bachofen, a German romantic and writer of the counter-Enlightenment said that matriarchy preceded patriarchy, and is superior to patriarchy on moral grounds. Bachofen influenced Karl Marx and Frederick Engles. Marxist analysis has been a basis for subsequent feminist thought. (Mestrovic, Stjepan Gabriel. Durkheim and postmodern culture. A. de Gruyter, New York. 1992) From the beginning, socialist feminists in France, for example, were challenged by the republic, which “oppressed them as workers and women; by Marxism, which ignores gender; and by the misogyny of their socialist brothers. This struggle continues within all parties of the left (History of Feminism).