Goddess of Democracy:
A Sacred Archetype to Heal the World
By Thom Hartmann
From: From The Ashes - A Spiritual Response
We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity, poised on the edge of events that may literally
reshape the world and the world mind.
People argue that the terrorist attacks against the United States reflect a war between
one religion and another, or between the poor and the rich of the world.
While there may be an element of truth to each, Id suggest that the real war here
is between the 11th century and the 21st century. And until our leaders figure that out,
we may miss some great opportunities.
Back in the Dark and Middle Ages, the Catholic Church ruled Europe. Women were often forbidden
to go out in public unless properly covered and were explicitly the property of men.
Justice was swift and severe, ranging from disfigurement to torture to death in horrific
ways, and most often meted out with the approval or supervision of clerics. The power behind
the power of all the royal families of Europe was the Pope.
On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban gave one of historys most famous speeches to the
Council of Clermont in France, calling for a holy war against Islam to unite factious Europe.
Dr. E.L. Skip Knox of Boise State University in Idaho summarized the Popes speech:
noble race of Franks must come to the aid of their fellow Christians in the East. The
infidel Turks are advancing into the heart of Eastern Christendom; Christians are being
oppressed and attacked; churches and holy places are being defiled. Jerusalem is groaning
under the Saracen yoke. The Holy Sepulchre is in Moslem hands and has been turned into
The Franks [Germans] must stop their internal wars and squabbles. Let
them go instead against the infidel and fight a righteous war. God himself will lead them,
for they will be doing His work. There will be absolution and remission of sins for all
who die in the service of Christ. Here they are poor and miserable sinners; there they
will be rich and happy. Let none hesitate; they must march next summer. God wills it!
began a war between two different medieval cultures: the 11th-century Catholic and the 11th-century
Over the next few centuries, the Catholics, with their battle cry of Deus vult!
(God wills it) were often victorious against the Muslims, whose only crime defined by the
Pope was that they were living on a land holy to the Catholic Church.
Medieval historian Raymond of Agiles wrote the following eyewitness account of the attack
and seizure of Jerusalem in 1099 by the triumphant Crusaders:
of our men cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they
fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles
of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary
to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared
to what happened at the temple of Solomon, a place where religious services were ordinarily
chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief.
So let it suffice to say this much at least, that in the temple and portico of Solomon,
men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins."
the 900 or so years since the early Crusades, both Christianity and Islam have undergone
The Protestant Reformation shook Christianity to its core, and the Renaissance in Europe
wrought huge transformations in both Christianity and Judaism.
Perhaps the most critical change came about in the18th century when Jefferson, Madison,
Franklin, and others synthesized the highest ideals of Greek, Roman, and Iroquois thought
and culture to create the United States of America. In doing that, they ignited the flame
of liberty, bringing into the world an archetype that to this day inspires hope worldwide.
As America grew and our ideas of republican democracy spread around the world, further transformations
of the world took place. Another turning point was when modern science challenged the medieval
worldview of the Church in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.
Although Clarence Darrow lost that case, its widespread publicity began a dramatic and lasting
process of change across the world.
The American Dream is a powerful and pervasive force in the world, even if the sometimes-imperialistic
behavior of our transnational corporations is often at odds with our own ideals.
The Dream has wafted over the entire world, and is still so powerful that people are willing
to die for it: In China, the Tiananmen Square protesters marched to their doom in 1989 carrying
a 37-foot-tall papier-mâché replica of the Statue of Liberty, which they had
renamed The Goddess of Democracy.
Of course, there are still pockets of medieval perspective in the Christian world. The postdisaster
comments of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that we had just witnessed the wrath of
[their] god who lifted the veil and allowed the terrorists
to act because of their gods anger over homosexuals, liberals, and the ACLU
[American Civil Liberties Union], reveals that such a worldview is still alive and
well in a small fringe of Christianity.
Some Christians are still today willing to commit terrorist acts of murder or mass murder:
Timothy McVeigh and those who have murdered numerous abortion providers all claimed their
acts are grounded in Christianity and biblical teachings.
Just as 21st-century Christianity still has its own pockets of medieval worldview, so does
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Moats, once a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan,
tells the story in the September 23, 2001 issue of the Montpelier Times Argus of
a discussion he had with an Islamic Afghani in 1971:
remember the evening when I explained to my Laghmani friend that in America we believed
the world was round, Moats recounts. I used a teapot and a lantern to show
how the earth revolved around the sun. He was skeptical. He was an educated man, but he
also knew that the Koran referred to the four corners of the earth, which suggests the
earth is flat.
difference these days, however, is that as a percentage much more
of Islam than of any other religion is still living out 11th-century
values. In many of Islams most wealthy and modern countries
(Saudi Arabia, for example, among others), women are still veiled
and forbidden to work or drive.
In many Islamic nations, such as Pakistan, its forbidden for
girls to go to public school. And in a communiqué to America,
Osama bin Laden cited the 11th-century Christian Crusades against
Islam a war he clearly sees himself as still fighting
as part of his justification for terrorism and a holy war or jihad
against the West.
As much as Robertson, McVeigh, and Falwell would like to portray
themselves as warriors for the heart and soul of Christianity, the
vast majority of Christians see them for what they are: anachronisms
with medievalist perspectives.
Thank goodness in America theyve been marginalized and, along
with the abortion-clinic bombers, can only stand, even with the
megaphones of their millions of dollars and television networks,
on the extreme fringes of a mainstream American culture.
Similarly, even the most orthodox and conservative of the sects
of Judaism, the Hasidic movement, interacts fully in the modern
world. None among them, to the best of my knowledge (and Ive
lived and worked among them), would invoke the name of G-d in a
war against any other group unless in self-defense.
Buddhist and Hindu traditions, as well, are largely modern around
the world (although they, too, struggle with minorities still stuck
in the 11th century).
But, uniquely in the world, the Falwells among Islam actually control
entire nations. A small but significant portion of Islam still lives
the values of the Middle Ages, and the evangelists for that medieval
worldview in Islamic context are gaining ground, particularly among
the worlds poorest nations.
Thus, a September 22, 2001 editorial in The News, a large
daily paper in Islamabad, Pakistan, said that the time has arrived
to decide whether they want this country to remain under the
ever looming threat of Islamic fundamentalism, with a tiny but militant
minority refusing to let Pakistan pull itself out of the medieval
ages... or join hands to purge the polity of terrorism, blackmail,
If this is, in fact, a battle between the 11th century and the 21st
century, then its not a battle that will be won with bombs,
threats, or intimidation.
No matter how high-tech they may be, these are the tools of the
Instead, America and the free world must hold high our archetypal
vision of freedom, individual liberty, and religious tolerance
and change the world with ideas instead of bombs.
The Reformation and Enlightenment were times when ideas swept
across the world and transformed every one of the worlds nations
and major religions, to greater or lesser extents.
In past centuries in much of the world polygamy has been outlawed,
women and minorities freed, and the lines between religion and government
are drawn sharply in ways that no theocracy could ever again rise
None of these idea -based changes have yet happened among
the most fundamentalist of the Islamic nations (nor, to be fair,
among small but marginalized pockets of the worlds other medieval
and premedieval-based religions).
We have the means, through printing presses and radio-transmitting
towers, to carry 21st-century ideas to people still living in the
mind of the 11th century.
If we were to set aside the internal politics of the Voice of America,
we could quickly join BBC and Deutsche Welle (German radio) in reaching
out to contemporary 11th-century-worldview Muslims in their own
languages, and begin to give them the ideas that could bring them
into the 21st century.
We may also even be able to modernize a few of our homegrown Christian
terrorists, if we do it right.
And we have the obligation to do this: Not only were we one of the
victims of fundamentalism, but we are also the holders of the most
sacred archetypes of the modern era: the Statue of Liberty and the
Bill of Rights.
While Islam itself has not gone through a huge, systemic transition
into relative modernity as did Christianity with the Protestant
Reformation or Judaism with the end of the Second Temple period,
nonetheless there are many modern Moslems and Moslem clerics. Islam
also has a long and beautiful tradition of nonviolent mystics, those
who passionately seek God rather than political power: The most
well-known in the West are Rumi and Kahlil Gibran, but there are
Persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered in countries like Iran, the
Bahai sect of Islam is among the most outspoken in its advocacy
for a 21st-century worldview within the context of Islam and its
Now is the perfect time and opportunity for us to give the mystics
and moderns among Islam a voice, to help them lift their brothers
and sisters around the world out of the 11th century and into the
21st century, so we can live together in a world of shared visions
and ideals, even while maintaining our respected differences.
If this is the outcome of this tragedy, it will prove to be a fitting
tribute to those who died, and has the potential to positively transform
the entire world. If, instead, our reactions are grounded entirely
in force and fear
the tools and
ghosts of the 11th century then we risk plunging the world
back toward the Crusades, and possibly even creating what Joseph
Chilton Pearce calls Evolutions End.
Let us pray that our leaders will make the right choices in the
days and years to come, and the Goddess of Democracy will always
be a beacon of light and hope for the world.
Hartmann is also the author of Unequal Protection: The
Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights. You can visit his
website at www.thomhartmann.com.
Thanks go to Mr. Hartmann for his kind permission to reprint this article.