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In laying out the considerable circumstantial evidence implicating the written word as the agent responsible for the decline of the Goddess, I have sought to convince the reader that when cultures adopt writing, particularly in its alphabetic form, something negative occurs. Because of literacy's overwhelming benefits, this pernicious side effect has gone essentially unnoticed. My methods differed from most historical analyses in that I gave little weight to the content of the works of any period, and focused instead on the perceptual changes wrought by the processes used to learn an alphabet. Throughout, as a writer, as an avid reader, and as a scientist, I had the uneasy feeling that I was turning on one of my best friends.

All of my adult life I have lived in two worlds-one dictated by the exigencies of being a surgeon and the other inspired by the imaginary realm of literature. I am amazed at and humbled by the sheer volume of words in the medical textbooks I have read in order to learn my profession. I know that each written statement represents the accumulated wisdom of earlier physicians who had to endure the inevitable blind alleys associated with the imperfect process of trial and error. Without a means to organize, clarify, classify, and pass on this gleaned knowledge-not only in medicine, but in all fields-how far advanced would our culture be? But the neatly alphabetized indices appearing in our textbooks and encyclopedias represent only part of the great gift of literacy. There exists another dimension also: the sheer aesthetic pleasure that accompanies reading. Breaking the confines of the shell that more or less encases each individual, literature allows readers' minds to merge into the imaginations of the most thoughtful writers who have ever lived. I, personally, feel deeply grateful, privileged, and ennobled to count Yeats, Plato, Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky among my mentors. I am who I am because of alphabet literacy. To bring this charge against the written word, I had to use the written word to assist me in solving this complex whodunit-an irony not lost on me.

I acknowledge the analytic, linear, sequential skills of my own left brain without which I could never have kept track of the narrative arrow that aligns this work. My left hemisphere's gift of abstraction has permitted me to discern the connections among seemingly disparate historical events. My scientific side has persisted in badgering me like a pesky gadfly protesting, "yes but" throughout, and that skepticism resulted in a better book.

Perhaps in my zeal to make my points I have overstated the right/left, feminine/masculine, nurturer/killer, and intuiter/analyzer dualities. In individuals, the divisions are not so sharp, and there are dualities within each duality. Nevertheless, I believe overlaying these templates upon human history has helped clarify many complex currents and has made certain patterns apparent that otherwise would have remained murky.

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