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Kneeling breast feeding mother - Paula Modersohn-Becker, date unknown

Kneeling breast feeding mother – Paula Modersohn-Becker, date unknown

When the breast withers away to a vanishing point, other oral and maternal values are also drying up and atrophying; when the breast spouts forth again, these values are also returning.

By no accident, the most admired poem among American intellectuals in the 1920s was T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land; although actually dealing with his adopted country, England, his symbols spoke very eloquently to American sensibilities also. The withdrawal of the breast is suggested in Eliot’s images of wandering in the desert, of thirst, of the failed crops in the land rules by an impotent king, of sterility in general. The most famous of Eliot’s images– e.g., “lilacs out of dead land,” “The Hanged Man,” “the Unreal City,” “the corpse you planted last year in your garden,” “rock and no water and the sandy road”– all revolve around the theme of life struggling to survive without nourishment. The final section, in the mountains (breast symbols, according to Freud), brings the promise of rain and renewal. If all poets seek to summon the mother goddess in her guise as Muse, Eliot in a very real sense is calling for her to appear as wet nurse.

Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising

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