“Opposing the solitary austerity of Artemis to the joyous union inspired by Aphrodite must not let us forget the benefits of solitude, the significance, for the contemporary personality, of Artemesian chastity.
“Since, from the beginnings of Christianity, most examples of the solitary meditative life have been offered by monasticism, it is relevant to establish the bond, at once historic and mythic, between the cult of Artemis and the solitary life as lived by the religious orders of Christendom, in order to discover the positive elements of both Christian and Artemesian seclusion.
“However, we must distinguish the chastity of the monk or hermit from that of the secular priest, for they did not have the same meaning, nor the same effect. We have spoken sufficiently of the misogyny of the Fathers of the Church, who, while appropriating to their own advantage the power of domination over others (particularly over women), refused to grant the least power to the feminine sex. The chastity of such men, who were men of power rather than of spirit, often and unfortunately implied disdain or dislike of women. When chastity is defined more by negation – rejection of the other sex – then by a positive choice of a way of life, its experience is corrupted. Anxiety towards the opposite sex and a solitary life are two realitites which should not be confounded.” (pp. 132 -133)
“The first communities of monks or solitaries, as marginalizing the dominant values of their society, had other things to do than found a family. Their refusal of relationship with the opposite sex was perhaps above all a refusal to identify with the paterfamilias and the conqueror mentality associated with virility. For the nuns, chastity might have been a way to escape the biological destiny of maternity and a way to live in a female hierarchy of power. In fact, certain monks gave the impression of venerating nature and the feminine principle but also of identifying with the style of life proper to women: they wore robes, tilled the soil, and refused to fight wars. (The first Christian monks, retired into the desert or into a monastery, were often Roman soldiers who refused military service.) (133)
“The chastity of the first Christian monks thus resembles the castration of the priests of Artemis, who emasculated themselves voluntarily to enter the service of the virgin Goddess, approaching her through mimesis. Contrary to this, the priests of the ecclesiastical orders identify with a hierarchy of power that is strictly male and that clearly seeks to keep the priest from feminine contagion. The pyramidical organization of ecclesiastical power resembles that of an army, whereas the rules and values adopted by the religious orders – such as the Franciscans, the Benedictines, or the Cistercians – are much more similar to the cult of Artemis and of nature than to the rest of the Church. The equilibrium of manual labor, contemplation, and intellectual work, their cult of nature, and the importance accorded solitude and silence – all these aimed to develop contemplatives and not soldiers of Christ.”
These passages are quoted from "Pagan Meditations, The Worlds of Aphrodite, Hestia, Artemis" by Ginette Paris, published by Spring Publication.
I just happened to open to this by chance, and everywhere I look in this book I want to copy out passages! (The ancient scribe-woman lives!) This particular section helps me to make sense of how, when I was self-identified as Christian, I did not feel 'sympatico' with much that was happening around me in the 'church,' but rather felt drawn to the monastic tradition, to contemplative practices, and I idealized 'the hermit living in the woods.' (I've pretty much transfered all of this whole to Hinduism where it also fits in rather well, especially with my Guiding Light, Amma, whose personal spiritual practice took place basically on the beach.) I was also able to see how the Andalusian culture of contemplation, enshrined in the 'alcove,' the meditation garden, etcetera, was adopted into European Christian culture in the late medieval period and how that influenced the Catholicism I grew up with, but this puts a whole new slant on things.
For me, Ginette Paris' words evoke a startling realization, a whole new way of seeing something previously very familiar, or so I thought.