The Alphabet Versus The Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image -Abstract

Leonard Shlain
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (2001)
Pages 321–322


This presentation proposes that the rise of alphabetic literacy - the process of reading and writing - fundamentally reconfigured the human brain, and brought about profound changes in history, religion and gender relations. Making remarkable connections across brain function, myth, and anthropology- Dr. Shlain shows why pre-literate cultures were principally informed by holistic, right-brain modes that, venerated the Goddess, feminine values, and images. Writing, particularly alphabets drove cultures toward linear left-brain thinking. This shift upset the balance between men and women, initiating the decline of the feminine and also ushered in the reign of patriarchy and misogyny. Examining the cultures of the Israelites, Greeks, Christians, and Muslims, he reinterprets many myths and parables in light of his theory. Shlain traces the affect of literacy on the Dark Ages, Mary, Gutenberg, the Reformation and the Witchcraze.