Core Beliefs: On the Gods
The following is a truncated list, detailing some of the most fundamental beliefs that I currently find myself subscribing to. I had a list – larger and more caustic – that has been seen by other people who might remember me from earlier blogging days. That list is in the process of being revised, and I have scrapped several of those for being too provocative and unimportant to my spirituality.
I have a mind of splitting the lists up under different headings, to better enunciate my opinions on individual topics. If I continue to do that, consider the following to be specifically detailing the Gods themselves.
Note that these are not concrete, or otherwise set in stone. Life is ever changing, and rigidity and dogmatism stifle growth and expression.
I. The Gods are individual entities with their own ambitions, needs, and names.
This is the fundamental belief in the concept of “Hard” polytheism. I do not focus on deity “archetypes”. The Gods may share similarities across the board, but I choose to view them largely as individualist entities, unless there is concrete evidence than a God in one tradition is known by another name in another tradition (Anglo-Saxon Wotan with Norse Odin, as an example). I feel the idea that the Gods are all facets of one larger universal force, or are otherwise one God and one Goddess masquerading throughout history to be offensive. I do not subscribe to “monopolytheism” or “soft” polytheism.
As I am an individualist. I would not like to be conflated with another person who shares my qualities and traits. It is a manner of due respect. Nor do I believe that the Gods can be “reduced” down to earlier personalities and names. So while there exists a plethora of sky deities across the spectrum of polytheistic religion, these are not necessarily all stemming from the same distant source. Although this doesn’t mean that their stories, parables, and fables are not existent from an earlier cultural memory and shared across cultures.
I am yet on the fence about the idea of Jungian archetypes within religious circles. While I feel that they can be good in determining a growth of one’s spirituality, I do not subscribe to them. I find that too many people limit themselves to them for whatever reason, and fail to see the Gods as the immanent, yet individualistic beings that they are. I feel that this is a measure of modernist secularism. Or perhaps it is a measure of the level of indoctrination, where the Gods – our Gods – have been transformed from beings of worship to objects of folklore and mythology. After all, there is an implicit assumption in American culture that Christian mythology is factual, whereas Pagan mythologies are inherently not.
Presently, the concept of syncretic deities fall into a unique position in terms of theological positioning for me. I am unsure how to approach them, whether as unique deities in their own right, or what not.
II. Religion and Faith is a private matter and should not be brazenly forced out into the open.
Glorification of one’s religion is fine. Ostentatious and gaudy displays are not. One’s faith should be a point of pride. One should be proud, and confident, and willing to stand up and declare their faith openly. It is nothing to be ashamed for. Nothing to live in fear of because. Yet self-aggrandizement and pretentiousness do dishonor. Living in one’s faith is not the same as wearing one’s faith for show.
III. My answer to “Where do ‘new’ deities come from? Are deities that people ‘invent’ actually their invention, or is there some reality to them?” to be YES.
I do not believe that this means that the Gods are creations of humans. But, if we follow the natural course of the idea that “energy follows intent”, as perpetuated somewhat crudely by various New Age movements, it could be understandable that certain energies can take on their own life.
And then there is also the possibility that a God is not yet revealed. I do not believe that we, as a group (or groups) know the fullest extent of the deities that have been revealed. So many personalities and individuals have been left to us as singular inscriptions or simple names, leaving scholars to guess at their purpose. There are hundreds of beings awaiting rediscovery. This isn’t even mentioning the sheer multitudes that I believe exist that have yet to be revealed. New Gods will come to the fore as human culture expands and grows. It has always happened, and it will continue. Of this I have no doubt.
Whether or not this means that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is real or not remains to be seen.
IV. I believe that the Gods are basically benevolent, although there is some fundamental differences in what that benevolence entails.
However, I flatly refuse to take an ethical standpoint along the so-called ‘Good-Evil axis’. As complex beings with their own individuality, one that humans can barely understand, it is not our place to try to fit them into our own (flawed) moral paradigm. I recognize both ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ deities, and do not deny the darker aspects of their being. I feel that failure to do so is a disservice, an insult, and a hold-over from more “compassionate” monotheisms.
Benevolence, in this case, is an intriguing subject. I believe that the Gods know more about the bigger picture than we do, and can shape our lives (if they chose) in order to facilitate our existence better. The ways in which they do that can be jarring, painful, or downright cruel. But I believe that they do these for our greater good, and not simply because they are spiteful. If a God knows you are in a situation that is unhealthy for you, they will sometimes make that situation fall apart so you can move on, regardless of the pain. They operate on a wider vision than us mortals.
Although, it must be said that while I believe that vengeful Gods do exist, I do not believe that they were simply aspects ascribed from humanity’s more “dangerous” past. There are Gods I would flatly not wish to have dealings with, for fear of them. Despite this, I recognize them and give them their due honor.
V. Despite this benevolence, I do not believe that the Gods are intended to cater exclusively to our own desires.
We enter a natural relationship with the Gods. There are some that are more amenable to this relationship than others, and some who would eschew us, as we them.
VI. Believing in Love and Light is all well and good, but the denial of the darker aspects of a deity’s nature is both a grievous misunderstanding and a potentially dangerous recipe for interaction.
This is sort of in line with belief IV. and V. There are a number of Pagans of various stripes which are uncomfortable with the idea of the shadowy, dark, aspects of a deity or group of deities.
There is a trend, most definitely, among various groups of Pagans that romanticizes the idea of divinity. It strips aside the more brutal, bestial, or uncivilized aspects of those deities and tries to make them all agents of positivity. While I, and I reiterate, believe that the Gods are essentially benevolent this does not mean that they have to be nice about it. By any stretch of the imagination.
VII. I believe that the idea of religio-cultural purity to be a result of geographic isolation, and not indicative of the general trends of pre-Christian polytheistic societies.
I just wrote a post about the idea of multiple polytheistic practices, but a brief reiteration should stand here: In those regards, I feel that those who wish to expand their personal pantheons have a historic precedent to, so long as they maintain the proper respect for that deity. I also do not believe that there is anything wrong with maintaining a strictly traditionalist path.
I’m going to conclude this list at seven points, simply because I fear making it too long. As I have said, the idea of faith is a mutable, changing one. I do not claim to say that this will always be the case, but that for the past fifteen or so years, this has been the truism that I have found myself following. My paradigm in this regard will most likely never change, although practices and other theological belief may.
Thanks for reading.