by Christine Downing
"Let no one of the gods vanish. We need each and every one, every one should matter to us, every perfected image." No writer of her generation has taken Rilke's words as thoroughly to heart as Christine Downing has. In a remarkable series of books she has given us "perfected" as well as ambivalent images of the great goddesses of classical antiquity. In this book she turns to the "gods in our midst," the gods as they appear to women, and she shows how these energies and epiphanies embodied in male egos are relevant to women' s "inner experience, their most profound needs and hopes, their bitterest suffering and greatest fear." Whether as counter-players or ego-figures, figures to whom women relate or with whom they may even identify, the Greek gods embody ways of being, worlds which enter into the experience of both men and women. They "help us to see who we are and what we might become."
The male gods described here are, to a certain extent, fictions, fantasies, created out of bits and pieces of the ancient traditions woven together in ways that the Greeks never had. But the Greek gods were always in via, on the way, still in process. And what Downing's Greek gods are helping us proceed toward is a post-patriarchal image of male wholeness, a woman's view of what men might be like.
Christine Downing currently teaches in the Mythological Studies Doctoral Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, after serving for almost twenty years as chair of the Religious Studies Department at San Diego State University. She has also taught at Rutgers and Temple Universities and at the Jung Institute in Zurich. Her books include The Goddess, Journey through Menopause, Psyche's Sisters, Myths and Mysteries of Same Sex Love, Mirrors of the Self, and The Long Journey Home.