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The Death of the Feminine by Vincent Bridges

The Death of the Feminine by Vincent Bridges

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Published by Eleonora Matarrese

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Published by: Eleonora Matarrese on Dec 01, 2009
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The Death of the Feminine by Vincent Bridges
Sex Crimes, Celebrity and Sainthood in the Wasteland of the Technological CollectiveOneThe metaphor of the grail maidenThe “Eludcidations,” an anonymous prologue to Chretien de Troyes’ Le Conte del Graal, relates acurious tale about how the Land of Logres lost the “Voices of the Wells.” This Land of Logres,Merlin’s Isles of Greater Britain, is a curious place, a Celtic kingdom where the inner world and theouter world overlap and intermingle. Beautiful maidens live by the sacred wells and offer travelerssustenance from golden cups; the realm is at peace and life flourishes.This Celtic paradise was destroyed by a sex crime, we are told. Evil King Amangons (his namesuggests “a man of stones,” or a man with balls, an alpha-male deep in the throes of testosterone poisoning) ravished one of the maidens, held her captive and stole her golden bowl. This set anexample and soon all the males were out raping the sacred maidens and before too long the peacefuland fertile realm became a wasteland. The springs and wells dried up, the land became infertile, theanimals disappeared, flowers withered and the people faded away.This is the background of the Grail story. The barren wasteland is the result of a lost contact withthe source of life itself, symbolized by the abundantly flowing well or spring. For all the chivalric posturing of the Grail knights, the story is ultimately how the lost link to the female sovereignty of the land can be re-established. This is the true goal of the Grail Knight, the secret answer to thequestion: “Whom does the Grail serve?”As the last decade of the twentieth century totters on toward the new millennium, as TV showsannounce the end of history on their introductory voice-overs, this eight hundred year-old poemseems to be speaking directly to us.Our modern psychology tells us of lost wells of the unconscious, and the significance of their loss.Our century has seen more incredible images of the wasteland than any other in history. And seenthem live and in living color as it happens anywhere in the world. McCluhan’s Global Village hasturned out to be a global slum, a technological collective labor camp where the Wasteland (TM) isinstitutionalized by the unassailable fact of an unfillable void, an ache so deep that all the consumer goods in the world can never touch it.To us, the dwellers in this techno-slum, the grail maiden, holding her golden bowl of redemptionand rejuvenation, looks suspiciously like the girl at the drive-thru window dispensing Coke in a bright yellow cardboard cup. Perhaps for us, even the Holy Grail and the Paradise of Logres wouldresemble nothing more than a thrill ride at the latest theme park.
Our rage at this lack, this wound so deep and so constant we’ve forgotten we’re in pain, blinds us tothe reality around us. For us, the Grail Knight is Dirty Harry or Batman, endlessly fighting “evil”down in the heart of the wasteland, whose only question is “Do you feel lucky, punk?”However, the metaphor used in the “Elucidations,” the grail maiden as the holder of femalesovereignty over the land, cuts to the core of our dilemma. Somehow, if we are to escape thetechno-slum wasteland, we must find a way to recover the lost “Voices of the Wells.” The crime of King Amangons is recreated everyday, but our Dirty Harry Parzivals are all too often left withnothing but corpses.In the absence of an adequate grail knight, the importance of the grail maiden increases. If we can’treach out to her, she will reach out to us. There have been many such approaches in the last hundredand fifty years. The appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the grotto of Lourdes echoed thereturn of the grail maidens; at Fatima in Spain in 1917, the BVM performed wonders before crowdsnumbering over a hundred thousand. Even Medjugoria’s BVM appearances continued in the midstof ethnic cleansing and civil war, as if the lost female sovereignty was determined to assert her  presence before it was too late.Last month, as this is written, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared on the cover of Newsweek as theChurch debates elevating her officially to co-redeemer status. Just as the author of the“Elucidations” struggled with the role of women in society and religion eight hundred years ago, westruggle with the same issues today.The medieval author tried to explain the loss of the feminine in a mythological framework derivedfrom pagan folklore. Today, we explain it in terms of psychology and sociology. These disciplineshowever do not satisfy the way the myth does. Myth can give us more than information; it supplieswisdom, that is a way to interpret a personal and practical value from our understanding.Unfortunately, myth in the wasteland has been degraded to just another consumer venue. For a price, the girl at the drive-thru can supply you with your very own mythological action figure rightalong with your happy meal. In this context, folklore and ancient truths melt into pop culture tabloidicons. Culture then becomes a comic book canon of super men and wonder women, all sleek withsurface glitz and sexual power. These archetypal flash points jab us with bursts of emotionalintensity, rushes of pure feeling, without supplying us with any sort of perspective. At this level, allof us dwellers in the wasteland are like junkies, endlessly searching for the next sensationalemotional fix.Keeping these ideas in mind, we can turn to the death of the feminine in our time.Let us remember that the media in the techno-slum fulfills certain specific tasks. It provideseveryone with a sense of belonging, and, at the same time, alienates us from our basic humanconnections. It lets us participate, vicariously, in the great events of our time, and, at the same time,it limits our personal understanding of any event to the surface of a phosphor dot screen. Reality ischeapened, degraded, and the wasteland comes to seem natural, like plastic flowers in a restaurant.And yet, the spring can still emerge from the blasted rock-slag. Even media myths have the power to change us, if we can but internalize their meaning and make it ours.TwoMurdering innocence: the myth of virgin sacrificeI was thirteen when the great horror movie fascination took hold. Trying to understand fear, I proceeded to scare myself silly with an endless diet of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and all theother monster motifs the mid sixties could provide. After a while, the make believe horrors began to pale. But, I can vividly remember one dark late night in front of the TV screen when I foundsomething that really shook me.It was a scene in the classic Frankenstein. The monster, stumbling around loose, comes on a young
girl playing at the edge of a pond. I had of course seen the movie many times, but somehow herewas a new scene, one I couldn’t remember having seen before.The monster plays with the girl; they throw flower petals in the water. And then, suddenly,tragically, the monster misunderstands and throws the girl into the water. My thirteen year old self was chilled to the bone. Evil was impersonal, random, and even well intentioned. Nothing felt safe,nothing could be safe, until some sort of balance was re-established. And yet I knew that no balancewas possible.I had seen a Truth, and it was not comforting. Innocence was no protection.Much later, I was able to explain all this to myself. Frankenstein’s monster looks a lot like modernman, patched together from fragments of the dead past and animated only by electricity, theelectronic media. This monster can never find love, its only response to innocence is to smash it.Science’s orphan, the monster searches for a soul and ends up destroying its creator, an aptly prophetic metaphor for science itself.The monster and his bride are the perfect inhabitants of the wasteland. They no longer notice or careabout its soullessness, they are comfortable members of the collective labor camp’s techno-consumer class.And then, the monster and his bride have a child, a new born full of innocence and wonder…Mary Shelly had her prophetic vision in 1823. Thirty six years later the streets of London, Paris,Berlin, New York and all the other industrial capitals were full of “Frankensteins.” The industrialrevolution pulled people off the land and forced them into crowded cities. Like rats in an over-crowded maze, the basic qualities of “human-ness” frayed and dissolved altogether.This was the “message” of the first serial murderer media superstar, Jack the Ripper. Jack, bydramatizing the brutalization of innocence in the slums of Whitechapel, held a mirror up to thewhole Victorian world view. The reflection was not pretty, but it became utterly fascinating as thelast century drew to a close. The entire Victorian world of nineteenth century science and smugsocial complacency faced a fate that made the violence of Jack the Ripper seem completelyinsignificant.The Great War, with its mechanized slaughter of innocence on all levels, turned the wasteland intoan institution. The post-war imagination found the idea of re-animating corpses and the soullessdestruction of innocence to be contemporary and charged with significance. Hence, the popularityof the classic film “Frankenstein.”The monster became an icon, an archetypal shadow persona at the core of modern culture. Andwhat of the monster’s children?In 1860, Amboise Tardieu published a paper on what we would now call the battered childsyndrome. He drew attention to the high incident and tragic effects of childhood sexual assault, andwas immediately discredited by his academic colleagues who restored the tradition of blaming thevictim by focusing on the possible ulterior motives for the “false” accusations.In 1896, Freud claimed that early childhood seduction was the central basis (he called it “the sourceof the Nile”) for neurotic hysteria. He was scornfully attacked and redeemed himself only byrepudiating his observations. Reinterpreting the painful disclosures of his patients, Freud abstractedhis findings into a theory of psychic sexuality that held that fantasy was more important than reality.This retraction reinforced a climate of blindness. The reality of sexual assault retreated behind thefantasies of Oedipus and penis envy.In 1932, Sandor Ferenczi, Freud’s favorite pupil, published his own findings on the importance of childhood sexual assault. Even Freud denounced him and his professional credibility plummeted.Ferenczi’s finest work, pointing out that childhood sexual assault could cause helplessness,unquestioning enslavement, introjected guilt and shame, identification with the abuser,

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