Devaluing the earth : salvation, immortality and the status of women in religion : a depth psychology approach.


Brigid Burke

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


This study considers how psychological ideas about "masculine" and "feminine" are related to mythical and religious ideas about death and the afterlife, including notions of the soul, immortality, and salvation. Belief in an immortal soul and salvation has a paradoxically negative impact on perceptions of the archetypal Feminine in myth, religious scripture and philosophy; this can be demonstrated using the lens of depth psychology. The change in focus from the collective nature of death described in Homer to the fate of the individual soul in Greek philosophy and later early Christianity is concurrent with the devaluing of the feminine and its associations, particularly the earth and what lies under the earth. The idealization of spirit and the connection of spirit to the air and the sky creates a masculine, rationalized view of religious goals that treats matter, the earth, and sexuality as something corrupt, culminating in the Biblical view of women as destroyers of the human connection to God through lust. This has potential implications for the social view of feminine sexuality in Western culture as well as attitudes towards the earth and environmental issues.