Introduction II.C:

4. The Creative Body vs. the Creative Word

The mechanical philosophy continued the erosion of the belief in female creativity.  While Neo-Platonism and Hermetic philosophy stressed the importance of female Nature uniting the realm of Ideas with primal matter and giving birth to our world, Cartesian philosophy divided existence into male active mind and female inert matter, that is, God the Father and the corrupt Earth, which He had created by His Word.  Further, the role of the individual woman in reproduction was reduced to that of an uncreative vessel and source of nourishment, with the embryos preformed by God at the creation, and the immortal soul coming from Him by way of the father's sperm.  Woman could be said to be creative only in the inferior sense of supporting the growth of the preformed embryo, whereas man provided essence of humanity, the rational mind and immortal soul, the creative word (idea) in another form.  Finally, at a social level, the material creativity of the peasantry and middle classes was denigrated in comparison to the intellectual creativity of the privileged classes (and especially Cartesian philosophers!).  In all cases the creative body was considered inferior to the creative word, and the superiority of the word was proved by its ability to dominate Nature, for "knowledge is power" (Bacon).

In pre-industrial societies ruling-class males had demonstrated their superiority, over subordinate males as well as women, by their greater physical strength.  In the emerging capitalist societies, with their denial of the inherent value of the body and sexuality, men displayed their superiority in their intellectual accomplishments and in ambitious projects for exploiting the natural world.

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