Originally appeared on OpEdNews.
The Secret Life of Lady Liberty: Goddess in the New World by Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D., and Laura E. Cortner is a multifaceted tome exploring the missing piece — and missing peace — in American society: the power of the Feminine. Since the last major election cycle, the deadly imbalance in America's toxic patriarchy has become unmistakable.
The US ranks 104th in women's representation in government. Women and girls currently make up more than half the population in the US, but they're represented by a Congress made up of 80 percent men. This isn't just an issue in terms of equal representation — the proportion of women in government profoundly affects how all of society views women.
Annually, four million people are drawn by the iconography of the symbol of the feminine to make the pilgrimage to Liberty Island to pay respects to America's version of the Great Mother. And what inspires such yearning for the Lady with the torch? Can it be this lack of balance in American society and politics?
November 19, 2017 is the 130th anniversary of the death of Emma Lazarus, who is best known for her sonnet, "The New Colossus," immortalized in a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The sonnet was written in 1883 when Lazarus was 34 years old, just four years before her death.
"The New Colossus"
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Emma Lazarus, 1883
OpEdNews is glad to welcome authors Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D., and Laura E. Cortner as our guests.
Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D. is an internationally known historian, visual artist, and radio host and has appeared on the History, Discovery, BBC, and National Geographic channels. The host of 21st Century Radio®, he lives in Maryland.
Laura E. Cortner has coauthored previous titles with Robert R. Hieronimus including Founding Fathers, Secret Societies; Inside the Yellow Submarine; and United Symbolism of America. She is the director of the Ruscombe Mansion Community Health Center for holistic services in Maryland.
Meryl Ann Butler: Thanks for visiting with OpEdNews, Laura and Dr. Bob! I really enjoyed your newest book, The Secret Life of Lady Liberty: Goddess in the New World. I was born in NYC, and have many memories of visiting the Statue of Liberty as a child. She has appeared in my artwork many times over the years, most recently as the poster I created to carry in the Women's March.
I'm so happy to feel her deep importance to this nation beginning to return. One of the most important "vacuums of the feminine" in America has to do with our structure of government. While we based it on the very successful model of the Iroquois Confederacy, what was left out of our Constitution was, in my opinion, the most important aspect of checks and balances. Can you speak about that?
Laura E. Cortner: Thanks Meryl Ann! This is one of our favorite topics and one of the reasons we wrote this book about the Statue of Liberty in the first place.
One of the biggest "secrets" about Lady Liberty that we are referring to in the title of our book is her Native American ancestry. This is evident symbolically and from an art history standpoint when you examine the images of the so-called Indian Queen on the earliest European travel literature of the late 1500s.
These European artists depicted the new land as a voluptuous, mostly naked, dark-skinned woman — and we can elaborate later, if you like, about how this "Indian Queen" image unconsciously continues to influence our domination paradigm in the United States even today, in terms of environmental stewardship. But what you're pointing to with your first question is the missing element in the U.S. Constitution: namely, the voice of the Council of the Clan Mothers.
Our founders borrowed heavily from the Native governing structures they observed in their neighboring societies, in particular the League of the Iroquois. And when you compare the two governments side by side, U.S. and Iroquois, you can immediately see the esteemed position in which the Iroquois held their women.
The Council of the Clan Mothers among the Iroquois, or to more correctly name them, the Haudenosaunee, is on par with the U.S. Supreme Court. The wise women made all the most important decisions for their nation. The women determined when to go to war and when to negotiate peace; they were the ones who voted in the chiefs, and they held the power of impeachment; the women owned all the property and retained it in times of divorce, and on and on.
But though John Adams and others acknowledged their indebtedness to the Native Americans for inspiring the American Revolution and providing a framework for their new experiment in self-rule, Adams spoke for many when he voiced his fear of giving too much power to the women.
I'll let Bob tell you what John Adams said in praise of the Iroquois, but here's what he said in reply to Abigail Adams when she famously told him to "remember the ladies," (i.e, women's rights) when drafting this new declaration of independence they were all talking about. His reply to her was tongue-in-cheek, saying women are already so powerful that the men were at their feet. He joked that if in their declaration of independence from the King that they simultaneously freed the women from the centuries of legal repression that was preventing them from education and employment or even personhood, then they would face what he called the dreaded "petticoat revolution." In other words, it scared him less to take on the King of England and his mighty army of redcoats and mercenaries than it did to change the laws that continued to suppress women's equal access to full citizenship.
Dr. Bob Hieronimus: That's right, and thanks for inviting us to this interview, Meryl Ann. Practically all of the founders we learn about in school wrote at one time or another about their praise for the governing methods of the Indians. John Adams said that the U.S. Constitution was the Americans' attempt to "set up a government of . . . modern Indians." That was in his Defence of the Constitutions in 1787.
Thomas Paine wrote, "To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to have some idea of the natural state of man, such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America. . . . [Poverty was a creation] of what is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. . . . The life of an Indian is a continual holiday compared to the poor of Europe."
This respect that our founders felt for the Native Americans is a subject that I always try to bring up whenever I'm being interviewed by the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or the many other shows I've done about the "secrets" of the founding fathers.
You know my doctoral dissertation is a humanistic and transpersonal interpretation of the Reverse of the Great Seal, that mysterious eye in the triangle over an unfinished pyramid.
Today, thanks to these many documentaries I've appeared on, most Americans THINK they know this symbol means "Illuminati" or "Freemasons" or worse, "Satanic." That's why I almost always refuse these interview requests any more. They will cut out the parts when I'm talking about the influence of the League of the Iroquois and how much we owe to them, and they will leave in all the edited bits from my symbolic analysis of the Great Seal or the layout of Washington, DC, that links them however tenuously to the Freemasons. Oftentimes what I say will be skewed into whatever conspiracy theory they are trying to spin for whatever ratings season they are in.
Personally, I find it far more fascinating to focus on the convincing evidence of the influence of the Native Americans on the founding fathers. This research has been collected by dozens of scholars such as Roy Fadden, John Mohawk, Bruce Johansen, Donald Grinde, Oren Lyons and more.
For crying out loud, the Indians were right there with all the famous men in that hot building in Philadelphia in the pivotal summer of 1776. They were right there! The Second Continental Congress actually invited them to observe their debates over independence and give their feedback.
In May and June of 1776 twenty-one Iroquois sachems camped out in the room above Congress on the second floor, and Secretary of the Congress Charles Thomson, himself an adopted member of the Delaware Indians and whose Indian name translated to "Man Who Tells the Truth," recorded their visit in detail in the official minutes for the Congress.
MAB: Wow, Bob I never learned that in American History class! That's enlightening!
BH: Right! But that's not all. At the end of this observation period, they gave John Hancock, the president of the Congress, an Indian name, Karanduan, or the Great Tree, likening him to their own Great Law of Peace, the central hub around which all their laws radiated.
And you're absolutely right in terms of what they left out. We believe the main reason that the Iroquois system of the Great Law of Peace survived for hundreds of years (successfully maintaining peace between sovereign nations), and the U.S. system has only marginally succeeded over the past two hundred years (going to war at least once a decade and providing unequal opportunity for health and security of its citizens) is the missing element of the clan system and their value for the power of women.
The Iroquois acknowledged that men and women had different strengths, but considered them equally powerful. In fact, due to their quite different creation stories, they considered women more powerful than men in many ways, and would never dream of attempting any action without their guidance.
MAB: I agree about women being more powerful. As an example, there is a video on social media which shows a couple of men who get hooked up to a labor pain simulator because they want to prove that their wives exaggerated the pain of childbirth. Of course, they begged for mercy as their wives high-fived each other!
And that is only one of the ways in which women are stronger than men. Also, women are typically more apt to want to cooperate and they are less inclined to let testosterone-induced competitiveness push them into war.
In Michael Moore's film "Where to Invade Next," he interviewed the women who ran the only Icelandic bank that survived the country's famous financial collapse. Here's the clip in which they explain why they believe a women's bank succeeded:
It seems that a generous application of the feminine perspective can be healthy for humanity. Do you see any ways that we can get back to more of the feminine influences here in the US? Can the archetype of Lady Liberty help us?
LEC: Oh yes! And thank you for this opportunity to talk about Chapter One in our book, The Secret Life of Lady Liberty!
One of the most compelling revelations we had when we did the research that went into this book started when we read announcements in brain science that claimed to explain the differences between men and women. A lot of the reports centered around research into the hormone oxytocin, a naturally occurring chemical produced by both men and women, but mostly ignored for the past 100 years. Up until recently, scientists thought oxytocin was solely related to women's health because they had identified its role in breastfeeding, and the birthing process, and bonding with the baby. But when someone labeled it "the love hormone," and neuroscientists started talking about its ability to induce feelings of trust and safety that could impact the financial markets as well as riot control, suddenly oxytocin was a hot topic.
We thought we had an "Aha!" moment when we first read how this primordial hormone and its receptor system explained why women were better at some things than men were, and vice versa. But when we dug deeper, we learned that not only do many feminists cringe at such conclusions (those who have been fighting for decades to show that women are completely equal to men), but the really serious neuroscientists were not the ones making these conclusions.
It was journalists and science reporters who were leaping to the more extraordinary conclusions about oxytocin, so we kept digging until we found someone to interview who really knew her stuff. We went straight to the top and interviewed Dr. C. Sue Carter, Ph.D., whose pioneering research led the way for the social psychology experiments in this new field. She discovered that it was the oxytocin system that explained monogamy in the prairie vole, one of the very few other mammals that practice monogamy besides humans. Her team recorded phenomenal levels of oxytocin in the brains of the prairie voles when compared to other voles or rodents who did not practice monogamy. Oxytocin also explained how much "love" they demonstrated in their family units.
Oxytocin is produced equally in males and females but women are able to use it better, especially in times of stress. Others have concluded this is why in high stress situations like revolution or environmental disasters, you'll often see groups of women who will circle together to come to a solution for the group. They are using the oxytocin their brains are producing to stay calm and focused.
As you say, where men are testosterone-driven — either after millennia of social conditioning or by predestined genetics, we don't know, but it's true men approach tasks differently than women do, generally with a more goal-oriented end in site. Study after study have shown that when both men and women are present at the board of directors meetings, more compromise happens, and the bottom line of the company grows.
When more compassionate actions are practiced by the human resources department, like providing physical amenities for pregnant employees and generous family care leave for both men and women, productivity and creativity among all employees benefits enormously.
When a prairie vole gives birth, there is such a surge of oxytocin in both the father and the mother that oftentimes, the father will be the first to reach the pup to begin licking and grooming it. Aunts and uncles also pitch in to help, as the young tend to live together in bonded family units. More research is needed, but it's clear that the "love hormone" is designed to help humans get along with each other, and if we can figure out how better to adapt to its power, we might advance to a new kind of humanity.
So, just as in my first answer when looking to the Iroquois for a role model, my response would be: elect more women to positions of power. Look around wherever you have the chance to influence your world, from the county fair and PTA meetings to local and national government. Identify the women whose platforms you can support together with the men who recognize the importance of an equal rights agenda. We want to support anyone who can see that valuing compassion leads to strength.
The more compassion and care we give to young children in their first 5 years, the better developed their brains will be, the better workers they will be, and the more creative will be their solutions for the problems facing the world right now. We need to create more compassionate and highly creative people to envision and create the solutions needed to break out of the box of the materialistic domination paradigm we seem stuck in, and these new patterns start in the home. Our votes need to go to leaders who will support caregiving from the start.
BH: And yes, we do believe that focusing on the Statue of Liberty, particularly in her true role as the American goddess, can help Americans make this shift.
She's taken a lot of flak lately from our current administration who seems hell-bent on reinventing America as the land of the selfish and the me-firsters, but see how resilient she is! She is still standing noble with that torch held high in New York Harbor because as a very effective symbol, she represents whatever is everyone's private notion of the best that America can be.
She is both flexible and hollow (literally and metaphorically) and that's what enables her to withstand both the winds of Hurricane Sandy, and the winds of abuse coming from the ill-informed anti-immigration advocates.
She is in essence a powerful woman, confidently striding forward, comfortable in her power. As such, she is a great role model for young girls seeking to overcome the social conditioning that their talents are less valuable than the boys.
But it's her deeper background in the lore of the goddess-worshiping cultures of "pre-history" where her true value lies to Americans right now, I think. If more of us could wake up from the spell of the Christian church's mindgrip of patriarchy, and realize that for thousands of years "God was a woman" (Merlin Stone), it would allow us to access the freedom and great truth that comes when you tap the divine in female form.
The ancient Hebrews had their own version of the female half of divinity, but most of us never hear about Her, because like the early Christian church's promotion of women to leadership positions, these teachings were suppressed by some misogynistic bishops about 400 years after the death of Jesus Christ. Once the Roman imperial system was overlaid on top of the Christian religion, women were voted out, and patriarchy ruled supreme for the next two millennia.
Check out some of the early American advocates for women's rights like Matilda Joslyn Gage who wrote the prescient Woman, Church and State. Elizabeth Cady Stanton edited The Woman's Bible and was another who bravely pointed to the Christian church as the source for the fundamental patriarchal suppression in society. Radical stuff for many of your readers, I know, but it's nothing new.
Once you wake up to the fact that the Statue of Liberty is not an "it" but a "Her" and a "Goddess" at that, you can start to question your assumptions about why that word "Goddess" might bring up feelings of fear or suspicions in your consciousness. Is it because you were taught in Sunday school the same prejudices taught by the early Roman bishops trying to suppress all the pagan religions in favor of the new Christian patriarchal orthodoxy? Why did the early American patriots not feel this same fear or suspicion when they depicted their new nation as a goddess in all their early statuary and flags and state seals and newspaper mastheads?
Because they were better schooled in the classics and in symbology than we are today, that's why. She may not have symbolized anything to do with female empowerment to our patriot forebears, but at least they appreciated her power to inspire virtue and nobility of spirit, and yes, even inspire the newly minted "Americans" to be more compassionate with one another.
Lady Liberty is the American nation's version of a Mother Goddess. We can learn a lot that will help us in the future by acknowledging her as such.
MAB: Thank you both for sharing your insights.
Laura, I think it's odd that some feminists have been fighting for decades to "show that women are completely equal to men." Of course, I agree with equal human rights, and I certainly believe that any women should get equal pay for equal work. But even back in my hippie teen days, I was confused by fighting for equality, it always felt to me like a step down!
I grew up being taught the Bible stories, and how the world was created in Genesis. But it never made sense to me that a creator would create a lot of cool things, each one getting better and better, and then decide that the second-to-last creation was the most evolved!
As an artist, involved daily in the creative process, I live that creative process. I know what it is like to be in the creative flurry, making something and then improving it in the next iteration, and on and on until I finally feel like I have made it as perfect as I can...and then I rest for a while and look at my finished art before moving into the next creative cycle.
So it makes sense to me that the pattern I experience would be a copy of the pattern experienced by a Divine Creator, and that, therefore, the last iteration in a creative cycle would be the most evolved.
I am grateful for your book as a guide toward getting our country back into balance, and I certainly agree that electing more women into political positions is required. And thank you for your "flexible and hollow" metaphor, Dr. Bob, I love that, and I do think that it is the image and symbolism in our Goddess of Liberty which will be pivotal in saving us.
Thanks again, both of you, for visiting with OpEdNews. Do either of you have any final thoughts as we complete this interview?
BH: I really appreciate your description of the creative process and how it brings you closer in tune with the Divine. That's great!
I always like to remind everyone that they have an artist inside of them, and to work on using their creative energies. It's good for your health and your own spiritual evolution.
Now, in terms of what you were saying about feminists back in the day demanding equality, every cause has its militant adherents who insist on a black and white kind of definition of their ideals. This reminds me of one of the extremist views of the Statue of Liberty that is gaining traction in these days of more and more people turning to conspiracy theories.
I would like to close with a simple warning to your readers not to fall for the claim that the Statue of Liberty is proof of an Illuminati conspiracy to rule the world. This is a popular theory on Internet conspiracy sites and it's presented with slick and compelling videos that will frighten the ill-informed. They call the Statue of Liberty a demonic Whore of Babylon. That particular theory, however, is a complete red herring.
Of course, there are real conspiracies all over the world where powerful men try to manipulate events, as they have for all of time. But there is absolutely nothing that links the Statue of Liberty to the Bavarian Illuminati, and there is very little that links her to the Freemasons. Furthermore, when you dig a little further it becomes clear that the conspiracy theorists who attack the Statue of Liberty by claiming she's demonic are emotionally disturbed people who resent women having authority, especially when it comes to controlling their own reproductive cycles. The crazy rumors on the Internet calling the Statue of Liberty the Whore of Babylon are linked to the rise of the theocratic right wing in this country and their determined assault on women's rights. All religious fundamentalists around the world prioritize pushing women back to their so-called traditional place. We learned a lot from Stephan Schwartz on this, and I highly recommend his latest book The Eight Laws of Change.
MAB: Thanks for the reminder about Stephan's work, Bob, I should interview him, too!
How about you, Laura?
LEC: Thanks for one more chance to share a few more ideas Meryl Ann. I really loved your story of how your young self sorted out the Genesis creation story to make sense to you in a proto-feminist way! That's priceless.
Instead of encouraging women to be strong like men, we should be encouraging both to respect what each brings to the table. Much more can be achieved in every endeavor when both halves of humanity work unitedly to cultivate each other's strengths and grow together.
What was revolutionary about the American Revolution was their creation of a republican society where all can be considered equal under the law, something the designers of the Statue of Liberty emphasized symbolically by placing that tablet of law in her left hand.
The future definition of American liberty, as the liberty to do good and improve the world for others, will outshine the liberty to make a profit. If we want to work toward that, we can bring it about by living it in our own lives right now. We are all connected, and changing our own lives can change the world. Because we are all Liberty's children. We are all one.
Symbols are powerful because they are a bridge between the conscious and unconscious minds. Symbols are far more effective at motivating people's emotions than words and facts are. The Statue of Liberty has achieved the premier status as the symbol OF America, and despite the complexity and confusion of what "America" means, she continues to represent the best that all of us hope America can be.
To us, the Statue of Liberty is the goddess of the NEW world, for she has become both a symbol of the myths that unite us and the diversity that strengthens us. There's that hollowness and flexibility again. The Statue of Liberty, with her torch of enlightenment/wisdom held high, reminds us that through learning, and reaching for the infinite goodness of divinity, we can secure true liberty. This is why we love America so. This is the AMERICAN Liberty, based on enlightenment and embodied by a goddess.
Mab: Wow, what a lot to think about, thank you both, again, for a great interview!