“Now is the time for the feminine principle to resurface in world culture and some people are early warning instruments. I feel that I am one.”
The recent massive #MeToo and #NeverAgain protest marches signify a cultural shift that has provoked the crumbling of the patriarchal power structure. Major male establishment figures, i.e., Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Charlie Rose, James Levine, Al Franken and Kevin Spacey, all lost their reputations when women who claimed abuse gained credibility. With so many disturbing and scandalous events in the news, it is hard to present the big picture in the midst of chaos.
After WWII the fear of nuclear holocaust made western nations strive for strong governments with supremacy in military, technological and industrial might. People felt that their fate rested in the hands of their leaders rather than their own prowess. Today, with a diminished nuclear threat and rise of individual expression via social mobility on the internet people feel empowered the create change. However, world leaders are creating a backlash trying to maintain their grip with autocratic policies.
As a tenured architecture professor at Pratt University, Mimi was beloved by her students for her brilliance, humor and generosity. A big lady, she wore colorful dresses adorned with abundant silver jewelry and talismans. As a Goddess scholar her appearance personified the deities she revered. Her book “Spatial Archetypes” (soon to be released on Amazon by John Lobell) that she worked for twenty-five years (from 1976 until 2001) contains exceptional insights into how the architectural paradigms in historic cultures mirror human development. What she wrote can add perspective to what is happening now.
In her book Mimi’s last two Archetypes that refer to Now and the Future are The Grid and Dissolution. She wrote ’The Grid archetype becomes apparent in the international commercial-industrial networks that survive the collapse of Radiant Axes empires. The Grid marks the decline of a civilization, characterized by deflation, anonymity, mechanization, commercialism, crushing bureaucratization, secularism to the point of despiritualization, and paralysis of the creative will. The Grid has no center. Thus, it separates everything into identical units, becoming the champion of statistical uniformity, quality control, measurement, and census-taking. The Grid is the handmaiden of any operation seeking to reduce something - products, people, information, land—into predictable, manageable units. Hence it is favored by industry, the military, bureaucracies, and colonial governments. Psychologically, the Grid represents
the existential malaise of the deflated ego, with no centering inner Self to turn to and no sense of power in the world. The deflated personality is adrift on the Grid’s endless alienating sameness.”
Although her last chapter on “Dissolution” was not complete she left these notes. “Dissolution refers to the ultimate disintegration and death of a culture - Breakdown of social structures and institutions, ad hoc groupings and cults, experimental communities and families, decadence, terrorism, anarchy, death, survivalism, nihilism, opportunistic worldview, scavenging, recycling, sampling, eclecticism. Its Multidimensional Time Space is marked by - The wasteland - charnel ground, apocalypse, chaos, shantytowns, urban decay, homelessness, refugee camps, battlegrounds and virtual space.”
I believe the Grid does define our visual world today with square buildings with rows of windows – computer images broken into pixels – maps, graphs, medical and cosmic pictures with organic forms imposed on them. The weakness of the grid is that if pressure is put on any one point the rest of the grid collapses and deforms from that one point and spreads to the whole. Dissolution or Chaos occurs when the Grid no longer functions to hold a society together and corruption mars the halls of power and the streets. In an attempt to redeem the Just and the True social revolutions are occurring that can dissolve power structures but offer no constructive alternative.
Interview with Mimi Lobell
“The valley of the spirit never dies;
It is the woman, primal mother
Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.
It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.”
(From the TAO TE CHING by Lao Tsu)
I was initiated as a Goddess feminist by my beloved sister-in-law, Mimi Lobell, first wife to my brother, John Lobell, in the early 1990s. As a tenured professor at Pratt Institute, author and lecturer she dedicated her career to research, discovery and promotion of feminine principles in architecture. Her theories and insight into prehistoric Goddess centered civilizations culminated in a vision that transformed the academic curricula of architectural study and women’s lives today.
She supported her friend, renowned scholar Marija Gimbutas, by entering the archeological debate as to the true interpretation of primitive figurines as relics of worldwide Goddess worshiping societies. Being close to her, I identified with her intellectual struggle and shared the discussion without being aware of its revolutionary impact. When she first gave me a picture book on the Goddess, I was intrigued by their powerful myths, yet shocked by images showing women’s bodies morphing with animals, their breasts and bellies often distorted in mammoth proportions. I felt I was traveling in new country and wanted to know more. Thus began my liberating exploration of the Goddess and the resulting book reviews, poems and drama I wrote in Her honor.
In her book entitled “Spatial Archetypes”, Mimi distinguished universal forms in architecture. During the time of the “Great Round”, primarily in the Neolithic era, preliterate Goddess-centered civilizations created megaliths; from temples in Malta, passage graves in Western Europe, burial mounds in the Americas, Stonehenge, Pueblo Kivas, Minoan Palaces and more. These monuments were built to honor female power in the earth, sky, time, space, being and non-being, creating a spiritual language in earth works and stone. In collaboration with Dr. Cristina Biaggi, she designed the Goddess Mound, a blueprint for a contemporary structure dedicated to this beautiful lost legacy. Mimi believed that knowledge of sacred forms, their connection to astronomy, earth and life cycles could guide our consciousness to the temple within.
Although, she faced many obstacles in a male dominated profession, Mimi’s writing is vastly quoted in feminist literature by prominent authors and her contributions still ramify. In her honor, I share the following quote from a taped interview I did with her in the 1990’s.
“I started a career in architecture not even thinking there weren’t any women in this field or wondering why not. The obstacles I’ve overcome were never in my own mind, but in the outside world. I didn’t notice any discrimination until 1972. I had worked my way high enough in an architectural firm to be promoted and then I hit a glass ceiling. I went through the right motions, bringing clients into the office, performing competently, but I was never appointed Associate. Several women that I knew were having that experience, so we started meeting and after a year formed the Alliance for Women in Architecture, which is still in existence. Moving from offices to academia was just a way of sidestepping those obstacles. At Pratt today, I am the only woman professor at the School of Architecture as well as the only full-time one. It is easier for women to advance in
architecture today, but basically it is manners that are changing, attitudes are fundamentally the same.
It is fact that there was massive global Goddess worship that went on for thousands of years. The age of the Goddess, the Neolithic or New Stone Age, was the period when farming, animal domestication and pottery were developed. Neolithic life was characterized by communities of small homesteads that were equalitarian and matrilineal. There were no status differentiations in this life or the afterlife. This prehistoric legacy is actually being denied to us. I’ve been to archeological conferences to present my ideas and there is a wall of resistance. The Goddess was the first personification of the religious impulse.
The female principle is violated when it is portrayed in such stereotypes as the barefoot earth goddess or in the Mary syndrome; the absolutely pure, compassionate, servicing female; or as Eve, the destructive wanton whore. These terrible distortions are the result of more than 4,000 years of male dominance. The Great Goddess was not just an earth Goddess, she was a heaven Goddess. She was not only nurturing, she made demands. She was a force that had to be appeased, not just the big-mama with a cookie jar.
Now is the time for the feminine principle to resurface in world cultures and some people are early-warning instruments. I feel that I am one.”
For more information on Mimi Lobell and her work visit John Lobell’s website - Spatial Archetypes Book – Mimi Lobell - mimilobell.com/spatial-archetypes-book/