Greek Mythology Offers Important Perspectives on the Nature of Humanity and Refutes Biblical Creation Stories

Thoughts inspired by Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen.


Goddesses in Everywoman doesn’t challenge anyone’s belief in God and it isn’t suggesting that women are literally goddesses, but when I read it for the second time, I realized that understanding the concepts Shinoda Bolen shares in the book, which focuses on understanding some of the things people believed as far back as the 8th century BC, can dramatically affect who we think we are and perhaps even change what many people currently believe.

Goddesses in Everywoman doesn’t challenge anyone’s belief in God and it isn’t suggesting that women are literally goddesses, but when I read it for the second time, I realized that understanding the concepts Shinoda Bolen shares in the book, which focuses on understanding some of the things people believed as far back as the 8th century BC, can dramatically affect who we think we are and perhaps even change what many people currently believe.

The 8th century BC. The Iliad was written during that time period. It’s one of the oldest existing works of Western literature. [1]

“The Judgement of Paris” is one of the episodes of the The Iliad. It’s a story about a party that Zeus threw when a couple of his friends got married. For what seems like obvious reasons he didn’t invite Eris, the goddess of discord, but she showed up anyway and created a bit of a kerfuffle between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.

Most of the ancient Greeks who heard this story knew about Zeus and hundreds of other gods and goddesses. They believed they existed. It was common knowledge.

Every one of the gods and goddesses had a story that enabled people to understand them. It included a list of their relatives, their strengths and weaknesses, how they acquired them, and the people they interacted with or helped.

Each of the goddesses’ personalities was focused on a central aspect of women’s lives, like motherhood, love, wisdom, and adventure. But just saying that creates a problem. Some people may think that’s all they need to know. When we know a little bit about someone, when we find out they are a mother or a business person or an athlete, we often think that’s all we need to know because we have our own ideas about what those descriptions mean.

In Goddesses in Everywoman, Shinoda Bolen shares a concept that Carl Jung developed, that these simple, descriptive terms are archetypes.

Shinoda Bolen shows that for the ancient Greeks the nature of these archetypes were rich and complex because for them they were actual gods and goddesses. Of course, most people no longer believe in these gods and goddesses, but in Goddesses in Everywoman, Shinoda Bolen explores seven of the goddess archetypes and provides an incredible amount of information that helps us better understand ourselves and the women in our lives.

After reading Goddesses in Everywoman, I was able to reach a place of peace regarding my relationships with a number of women in my life.

I was finally able to see that one of them was, for the most part, Hera, the wife. Once I realized that the most important thing for her was to be the best wife she could be, I was able to stop wanting, expecting, hoping she would ever be anything else.

Of course, I was also able to see myself in number of the goddesses. The straightforward way that some of the personality traits are described and the events that occurred that created the goddesses’ lives added incredible depth to my understanding of myself. While I managed a business for over 20 years, I have felt most like myself in the actions I have taken as a mother, but throughout my life as a girl, woman, and mother, nothing I’ve ever read or experienced provided the kind of empowerment that eminates from the decriptions of the goddesses.

Demeter, the Goddess of Grain, Nurturer, and Mother, is described as:

1) stubborn, patient, and persistent

Shinoda Bolen explains that women who feel strongly aligned with Demeter fight to get what their children need and refuse to resign themselves to loss.

2) generous

Shinoda Bolen says that Demeter was the most generous goddess. “Some naturally provide food and physical care, some provide emotional support, while others give spiritual nourishment.” [3]

3) a super mother, solid, dependable, altruistic, and loyal

For most of my life, I was led to believe that some parts of human nature were undesirable, but in Greek mythology, everything about human nature is presented as fact, as normal. Goddesses in Everywoman helps people see some of the distortions that are being perpetuated by contemporary religion.

Even though you may start to sense the feelings these words elicit, the list above is too brief to do justice to the descriptions Shinoda Bolen has developed.

She includes the story of each goddess – the personality traits of the archetype, difficulties that may occur for women who manifest an archetype, how these aspects of ourselves affect us in different stages of their lives, how it affects our work environment, how it impacts our relationships with men and women, and how sexuality, marriage, and children are viewed.

Shinoda Bolen, also a Jungian analyst, also helped me rethink the concept of the animus.* Shinoda Bolen explains that, “(Jung’s) theoretical position discouraged women’s strivings to achieve,” which she confirmed by including this quote of his, “By taking up a masculine profession, studying and working like a man, woman is doing something not wholly in accord with, if not directly injurious to, her feminine nature.” [4]

In Greek culture 3,000 years ago people regarded women’s strengths as their own. They didn’t think that a woman would get her “rationality, spirituality, and competence” from some aspect within her that was inherently masculine. [5]

These stories, these myths, also affected me in a couple of other ways.

Aspects of myself that, throughout my life, I have been led to believe were undesirable in a woman are presented simply as facts, as normal parts of each goddess. It’s incredible to realize that the people of this culture understood the nature of humanity so clearly 3,000 years ago, and I believe people desperately need to understand it again.

Another thing that strikes me as remarkable is the fact that even though many people have been led to believe that everyone descended from Adam and Eve, and then Noah, which would lead us to expect that everyone would develop creation stories that were similar to the ones in the Bible, the ancient Greeks developed a concept about gods and goddesses that were completely different. They were family. [6]

Wouldn’t you think that if everyone descended from Adam and Eve, and then Noah, everyone would develop creation stories that were just like the ones in the Bible? But if you look at all of the belief systems people developed around the world, there have been radical differences.

Goddesses in Everywoman confirmed my belief in the importance of understanding as many of the perspectives that have been developed about humanity and God as possible.

We should never limit our path when trying to understand God. We don’t know if God is part of us or separate from us, but from what I’ve experienced, the true path to understanding involves searching for information that will help us understand and become our true selves, and opening our minds to having a relationship with God.

I keep seeing posts from people that say that “You know you’re on the right track when you are uninterested in looking back,” but I hope that you will keep seeking, whichever direction your path takes you.


*Animus/Anima: Jung developed the idea of the collective unconscious and says that it is the part of our consciousness in which all of the basic concepts or archetypes of life reside. In a man, the archetype of the anima finds expression as a feminine inner personality, and in a woman the archetype of the animus finds expression as a masculine inner personality. [7]

Note: Shinoda Bolen has also written Gods in Everyman and a number of other books.

1) “Iliad.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 June 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliad>.
2) “Judgement of Paris.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 June 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgement_of_Paris>.
3) Bolen, Jean Shinoda. Goddesses in Everywoman: A New Psychology of Women. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984. Print. p. 174
4) Ibid; 41-42
5) Ibid; 41, 43
6) “Theogony.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 June 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theogony>.
Note the last chart titled, “Children of divine mothers with mortal fathers.”
7) “Anima/Animus.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 June 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anima_and_animus>.


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2 Responses to Greek Mythology Offers Important Perspectives on the Nature of Humanity and Refutes Biblical Creation Stories

  1. Family is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when we say the word God and yet it’s what really stands out the most as a personal truth.

    I agree with you on the statement you made above which is
    “We should never limit our path when trying to understand God. We don’t know if God is part of us or separate from us, but from what I’ve experienced, the true path to understanding involves searching for information that will help us understand and become our true selves, and opening our minds to having a relationship with God.”

    I’ve been trying to understand who God is in my life for years now. Over the years I’ve come to many areas of research that I took on myself with the quest to understand what God’s path was for me.

    Through the path I found so many detours toward subjects and themes I wouldn’t have thought twice about had I followed my own will and desires.

    Each time that I followed the unknown path while holding God strongly within my heart and mind I found more truth that I believed was the last stop shop for truth.

    Finally after all this time of self reflecting, connections, spiritual pursuits, and experience I’ve come to understand that God wasn’t any of these things. A mere reflection of sorts that existed first within me and everyone. Beyond the human persona. The Christ self. From that moment on everything that wasn’t me finally vanished.

    Does any of this connect to your post you may be wondering.
    It does.

    Family seems as if it was the core of what God was creating when it comes to everything. The spirit that infused everything that God created could have been love.

    When I think about the Goddesses and God’s from Greek mythology, I can’t help but wonder if the God’s & Goddesses were culminations of what the teachers, leaders, and rulers of that time wanted to become and utilized their lives to reflect such courageous desires.

    If looked at in that light one could easily see a comparison to Saints through history. Mythological humans that thwarted demons, healed, and created miracles through their daily acts of love, truth, peace, and joy.

    In all actuality there may be so many more similarities to the God’s and Goddesses of ancient times to saints, teachers, or good Samaritans that dwell throughout our history’s pages of time than we currently realize.

    Creation stories and flood stories are both told during a time when human frailty was at it’s height. It was a time when God had to be an unforgiving, unloving, and fearful God because that’s what they believed God was. At the same time through the stories that are told about the people of that era, their lives reflect similar behaviors with their own families and through their daily lives. People who hurt one another out of jealousy and revenge. One must wonder did the peoples own beliefs and perceptions distort their understanding of God? Did God ever want any of that?

    Some may not believe in God which is perfectly acceptable. And maybe all that God really exists as is the perfected human being stripped of all selfishness to the very core of what makes a human being exist as if they are more than a mere human. Love.

    Love can seem like a silly word, but when one meditates on the word your true self shows you just how powerful love really is. If we’re brave enough to follow through with seeing the true essence of love we’ll find ourselves transformed by the truth of it’s existence. There can be no other way with it.

    This, from what I’ve come to understand is the Christ self (Jung discusses this as well) that we all are eagerly seeking both unconsciously and consciously. Depending on the person and their focus.

    It’s beyond religion, beyond mythology, it’s beyond humanity, and spiritual doesn’t even come close to it’s life.

    I believe that through the layers of mythology, history, and religion we can find the true message that God has been trying to teach us throughout time. We can see that once we judge someone we are judging our family. If we hurt someone we’re hurting ourselves. If we inspire someone we’re inspiring that person to find their true self and to become their true self. If we give to others we find we receive vast amounts of appreciation for life.

    Basically we have faults and areas of our self that don’t fit the status quo expectations of society and that’s the perfect blessing in disguise living as the true self. Living life from our true self is living Godly and vice versa.

    Of course these are only my thoughts and opinions that I felt I should share.

    God Bless

    MirrorLiving

    • MirrorLiving,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! Trying to understand God really is an incredible search process. I lived for so long with the idea of God as an abstraction, but the search has led to so many other ways of thinking about God, so many other dimensions.

      I never dreamed my search would enable me to understand myself so much better, and I think that is part of what makes the search process so hard to understand for some people, because we find ourselves talking about both things at once. Then the question is, what is real and what is just a reflection of ourselves? Here we can see that Greek mythological figures were just that reflection, but like you said, the concept of family still lingers.

      I am continuing to find more books that are enabling me to process different aspects of all of this!

      I will look forward to your thoughts, as always, as we move forward in our efforts to share the concepts we are finding and the understanding we are acquiring!

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