(Essay 1) The Power of Metaphor: Spelling Ourselves, Our World by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

[This essay is part 1 of an edited excerpt from the Introduction to the author’s book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.]

Metaphor systematically influences the shape ‘the Divine’ takes … Image: Inanna/Ishtar, Adele Getty, Goddess: Mother of Living Nature, p.39

Metaphor is not merely a matter of language, it is pervasive in everyday thought and action; “the way we think, what we experience, and what we do everyday is very much a matter of metaphor.”[i] Lakoff and Johnson say that conventional ways of talking about anything “pre-suppose a metaphor that we are hardly ever conscious of”.[ii] They make the point that “the metaphor is not merely in the words we use”, that it is in our very concept of the thing.[iii] They say that “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another”;[iv] so (for my purpose here), “the Divine” or however one names what is Deepest in existence, is perhaps not ultimately gendered: that is, not female and not male, though the metaphor used may suggest a likeness. The Webster’s Dictionary defines “metaphor” as “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or action is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them”,[v] and further that metaphor is an implied comparison, as opposed to an explicit comparison. As Starhawk notes, “an overt metaphor is a map, a description we may find useful or not, may accept or reject”,[vi] whereas if the metaphor is covert it is free “to restructure our reality by leading us to accept the map as the territory without questioning where we are going or whose interests are being served.”[vii] The fact that the Divine, the Essence of existence, is so ubiquitously called upon as “God”, systematically influences the shape “the Divine” takes, and the way it is talked about.[viii] It suggests a likeness and it is usually a covert metaphor that restructures our reality without question.

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