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Author Topic: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism  (Read 5788 times)

Jack

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3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2013, 11:27:21 am »
Quote from: Lydia;120833
In my encounters with a divine entity, the only mentions that I have heard of such classic anthropic gods is that they are false gods, though in some cases they have inspired elements of truth in them; therefore this isn't an issue to me.

So just out of curiosity, which deity is this? What definition of "true god" are you (or your deity) using? I've usually only heard the "false gods" thing in Christian and Islamic circles.
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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2013, 10:59:31 pm »
Quote from: Jack;120837
So just out of curiosity, which deity is this?


The word 'which' does not apply, because it isn't any classic deity that people would recognize, though some limited knowledge of it's existence has inspired elements of a few of such deities, the biggest such inspiration being in Spenta Mainyu.

Quote from: Jack;120837
What definition of "true god" are you (or your deity) using?


'False god' usually means 'god that does not exist'. Is there another, rare definition that you know of?
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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2013, 01:50:02 am »
Quote from: Jack;120837
I've usually only heard the "false gods" thing in Christian and Islamic circles.

It's present in pretty much any monotheistic or quasi-monotheistic religion. Even monolatrist ones, if they're sufficiently intense about it.
The way Lydia describes it, it sounds kinda like Gnosticism; it's duotheistic like Zoroastrianism, but with a clearer distinction between the material and the immaterial on moral lines. "False" in reference to other deities, or the demiurge, could indicate not necessarily that they don't exist, but that they're not to be followed or dealt with.

Jack

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2013, 01:56:50 am »
Quote from: Lydia;120875
The word 'which' does not apply, because it isn't any classic deity that people would recognize, though some limited knowledge of it's existence has inspired elements of a few of such deities, the biggest such inspiration being in Spenta Mainyu.


Do you wear a fedora and thick glasses, by any chance? Because that's a really classic example of "oh, my god? you probably wouldn't have heard of him."

Quote
'False god' usually means 'god that does not exist'. Is there another, rare definition that you know of?

 
I've seen people use "false god" to mean "not up to a certain standard of godliness, and therefore a spirit or some other kind of being." I only occasionally run across people in explicitly pagan spaces using it in the way you are, in fact. Generally pagans believe in, you know, pagan gods, so I was surprised by your usage.

So out of further curiosity, then, what do you make of the many people who report firsthand experiences with the gods? Are we deluding ourselves or is there another explanation?
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Jack

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #19 on: September 05, 2013, 01:58:35 am »
Quote from: Louisvillian;120879
It's present in pretty much any monotheistic or quasi-monotheistic religion. Even monolatrist ones, if they're sufficiently intense about it.
The way Lydia describes it, it sounds kinda like Gnosticism; it's duotheistic like Zoroastrianism, but with a clearer distinction between the material and the immaterial on moral lines. "False" in reference to other deities, or the demiurge, could indicate not necessarily that they don't exist, but that they're not to be followed or dealt with.

 
See, that's the definition of false I expected to see in a pagan context, but per her later comment that seems not to be the point being made.
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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2013, 02:03:53 am »
Quote from: Jack;120881
See, that's the definition of false I expected to see in a pagan context, but per her later comment that seems not to be the point being made.

Both connotations can coexist. The figures so disparaged could be viewed as non-existent as they are not viewed as gods, and rejected as they are viewed as dangerous or impious beings. Similar to the mediaeval view in Christianity that the gods of the ancients were demons leading them astray--both existing but not existing (not the way their follows thought of them, anyway) and definitely to be avoided by pious individuals.

MattyG

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2013, 02:00:52 pm »
Quote from: Roheon;119266
1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"


Pretty much what everyone else is saying. They all perform their jobs in their own time and place. Though, in some sense, I tend to see the gods as somewhat co-imminent. Thor, Zeus, and Lugh are all separate entities, but perhaps every physical thunderstorm contains the essence of all three. Depending on what perspective you're viewing the storm from, you're going to see a different god.

Quote
2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?


I tend to believe that, with more metaphysical ideals like the hearth, or Pharaohhood, those gods existed before the actual practice/idea, but they weren't made manifest in the world yet. Essentially, they existed in the Otherworld/Asgard/Olympus/Wherever before they came here.

Quote
3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?

 
I tend to view some deities, like gods of arts, crafts, or universal ideas, as existing throughout creation. I view gods with a more physical nature, like nature spirits, ancestral spirits, or directly Earth-phenomenon related (like our moon gods and goddesses) as being more directly tied to our local solar system. I admit, I could very well be wrong, and my opinion on this matter tends to shift day-to-day, so take that with a grain of salt :p

MattyG

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2013, 02:04:58 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;119284
I don't know, and I don't know that it matters.



Quote
It doesn't matter at all.

 
I have trouble saying that things simply don't matter. This is really just my opinion, but I believe that either everything in the universe matters, or nothing does, and I prefer to go with the "everything" option. Sure, I may not have time or the interest to explore every facet of existence, but I feel that simply saying that something doesn't matter does a great disservice to the practice of critical thinking.

MattyG

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #23 on: September 05, 2013, 02:13:09 pm »
Quote from: Louisvillian;119778
Depends on which deities we're talking about. I think most gods are indifferent to us, because I think the gods are coterminous with the universe, i.e. that the gods are the universe's collective spirit. The universe is indifferent, thus the gods are generally indifferent.

 
I find this idea interesting. You see, I would think that the gods being coterminous with the universe would mean that the gods, to some degree, do care about us, what with us being a part of the universe. The way I like to think of it is that we are both contained within the essence of the gods, and we contain the gods' essence within us. The gods' dramas shape the universe around us, and within us as well. We act out their stories and play their roles.

Yes, I agree that the universe doesn't particularly care where, when, or how I die, but it is that same universe that made me exist in the first place. From the moment of the Big Bang, my existence was a certainty. And even if my existence is unnoticeable in the vast expanses of space and time, I've still been connected to the whole of creation. The laws of gravity mean that my very existence, ever so slightly, tugs on every other particle in existence.

Honestly, I guess it's just a matter of perspective, but I prefer to see myself and everyone else as the universe made manifest.

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #24 on: September 05, 2013, 03:54:13 pm »
Quote from: MattyG;120934
I have trouble saying that things simply don't matter. This is really just my opinion, but I believe that either everything in the universe matters, or nothing does, and I prefer to go with the "everything" option. Sure, I may not have time or the interest to explore every facet of existence, but I feel that simply saying that something doesn't matter does a great disservice to the practice of critical thinking.

 
Meaning is something created by thinking minds, not something intrinsic in the universe.  When the topic is something that has absolutely no practical significance or effect on the actual lived world, I am entirely comfortable saying it does not matter.

"Do the gods live on other planets" will be something that will maybe start to matter when there are people worshipping them on those planets.
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MattyG

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #25 on: September 05, 2013, 05:05:05 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;120942
"Do the gods live on other planets" will be something that will maybe start to matter when there are people worshipping them on those planets.

A Mormon might argue with you, seeing as their religion and idea of the afterlife is dependent upon the idea that their god exists on other planets. Also, as this is a discussion about hard polytheism, questions about the transcendence/imminence/universality of the gods would seem to matter quite a lot in the conversation. Yes, "mattering" is a value judgement that only has meaning in the context of the human mind, but it seems silly to me to go on a board dedicated to discussing and debating philosophical matters, and simply say that matters of philosophy are without value.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2013, 05:06:03 pm by MattyG »

Darkhawk

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #26 on: September 05, 2013, 06:29:07 pm »
Quote from: MattyG;120951
Also, as this is a discussion about hard polytheism, questions about the transcendence/imminence/universality of the gods would seem to matter quite a lot in the conversation.


I genuinely cannot see how.

In what way do you perceive these questions as being relevant to relationships with the gods in the here and now?
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MattyG

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #27 on: September 05, 2013, 08:52:35 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;120963
I genuinely cannot see how.

In what way do you perceive these questions as being relevant to relationships with the gods in the here and now?

Where does the original question ask anything about "relationships with the gods in the here and now"? The topic is about the nature of the gods, not about people's relationship with the gods.

That said, the idea of whether a god is rooted to specific geographic locations can have a great deal of influence in which gods somebody chooses to worship and how they view their relationship with the gods. Granted, the issue of other planets may not have immediate importance to anyone but Mormons, but it's still something that we can think critically about.

Which gods: In my history classes, I learned that the Greeks often viewed their gods as geographically rooted. When they would colonize other areas, it was common for Greeks to take up the worship of local gods, as they would often believe that many gods of their homeland didn't come with them. Meanwhile, the Romans had a slightly more universal view, causing them to create an imperial pantheon, and often view the gods of conquered cultures as manifestations of their own. Then, we have the peculiar history of the Jews, where their god was both universal, allowing him to be worshiped throughout the diaspora, while simultaneously linked with the temple in Jerusalem, causing the collapse of the priestly caste. Historically, there's a large importance to the question. As a pagan in America, I have to establish which gods I should or should not worship. Do I worship the gods of my ancestors, the gods I find the most interesting, or the gods native to my geographic region?

The nature of the relationship: If you don't see how the nature of the gods could affect someone's relationship with them, then I simply don't know what to say. I can only say how different interpretations would affect me personally. If the gods are transcendent, I'm going to have trouble sympathizing with and understanding them. I'm going to have a more distant relationship, similar to a grudging respect. I'll respect the power, but I find it difficult to forgive the flaws of a transcendent god. This is the relationship I developed with the Judeo-Christian god before I left that religion. If I view the gods as imminent, I'm going to tend toward hard polytheism and have a much more familial relationship with them. I can easily sympathize and form a personal relationship. I can visit their holy places and feel their presence. If I view the gods as universal, then I'm going to tend more toward soft polytheism and tend to see myself as more of a manifestation of the gods. I'm going to see us as one and the same.

Now, all of those descriptions are a little simplistic, and I honestly believe all three interpretations to some extent from day-to-day. So, I interpret claims that the nature of the gods doesn't matter an implicit attack on the time and energy I spend thinking about it. It has a deep effect on my relationship with my gods, and it shapes the way I see the world around me.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2013, 08:58:36 pm by MattyG »

Jenett

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #28 on: September 05, 2013, 09:57:48 pm »
Quote from: MattyG;120982

That said, the idea of whether a god is rooted to specific geographic locations can have a great deal of influence in which gods somebody chooses to worship and how they view their relationship with the gods. Granted, the issue of other planets may not have immediate importance to anyone but Mormons, but it's still something that we can think critically about.

 
My primary personal deities are almost certainly English in origin. I had a fascinating experience when travelling along the Danube a few years ago, where they just - dropped out of signal. Not their land, not their space, other deity space, they weren't going to get in the way.

I was born and lived my entire life in the US, but my father was English, so there's a fairly direct connection, and I'm reasonably sure that that connection was why I came to M'Lady's attention. (There are tons of minor English water deities.)

But if They weren't in my life, I'd honour other deities (and in fact, do: the deities I work with and honour and commit to in my personal life are not the deities of my tradition. There's no conflict for me, though I can see situations where demands might conflict in some settings or for some people.)

Anyway. I *do* have deities who have a pretty strong opinion about geography. But whether they'd apply outside of this planet? Is not a thing I spend very much time worrying about. I am unlikely to ever qualify for space flight, even the commercial sorts, if we see it in my lifetime (I have really cranky lungs.) And while I'm on this planet, and as long as I don't want to move to Eastern Europe, or somewhere else they don't feel they can come with me - well, not a big deal.

It's an interesting thought experiment, but for me, that particular question is way down my list of topics to start with.
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Darkhawk

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #29 on: September 05, 2013, 10:03:12 pm »
Quote from: MattyG;120982
Where does the original question ask anything about "relationships with the gods in the here and now"? The topic is about the nature of the gods, not about people's relationship with the gods.


Ah, that is perhaps the core of dispute, then:  I am a hard agnostic.  I believe that the nature of the gods is both unknown and unknowable.  I cannot make religious decisions that would depend on knowledge that I believe to be fundamentally unattainable; if that knowledge is in some way significant or necessary, then religious practice becomes entirely impossible.

It's stuff that falls in the realm of thought experiment, to me, and while thought experiments may be fun at times, they're not a substitute for actual religious engagement: what do the gods appear to want from me, what do they appear to be guiding me towards, what are my responsibilities in action and behaviour.  None of these depend on whether or not my gods are transcendent or whether they would go to Mars.
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