Karen Armstrong is the author of several of my favorite books – and of several of my least favorite!
Buddha, published in 2001, takes the sparse facts we know about Siddhartha Gautama and blends them with the history and geography of the time, giving us a breathtaking picture of him and his world.
The Battle for God, in 2000, really gives us an incredible picture of our 3 major religions, and how we got to today’s mistrust and struggles.
But her Short History of Myth starts in the wrong place, giving us a look at the patriarchal myths and what followed from them (our difficult culture). I wanted her to start with the original Goddess myths, talk about how they were distorted as the patriarchy took such destructive power, and give us some hope for today and tomorrow. Karen’s deciding that the original mythology on the planet does not need to be brought to current consciousness blows me away. Re-telling the bad stuff does not strike me as useful.
And then there’s her latest, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, 2006. Again, this book reads as though these religions sprang forth from nowhere, had no history behind them, did not have specific historical agendas. When, in fact, each of them emerged from clashes with mainly Goddess / women centered belief systems, and were created to stop women’s trust in their Goddess.
Her facts are, as always, impeccably researched. But her interpretations ignore the foundations of the people already living in the places she investigates. And those people / tribes were usually being violently overrun by the new religionists. So the facts lead to, in my point of view, incorrect conclusions.
The 35,000 to 100,000 years of human history prior to the rising of the patriarchy 6,000 to 8,000 years ago deserve more study, more truth telling, a broader place in our culture. And that’s my primary argument with Karen Armstrong.