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Author Topic: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between  (Read 20904 times)

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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2013, 12:26:37 pm »
Quote from: Donal;104042

My question is: are you a hard polytheist, a soft polytheist, something in-between, or none of the above? And why?

 
I'm a hard polytheist who views the deities as seperate enitities. I also accept that the deities are part of a larger whole that everything is included in, but rather than one mashed up "thing" I view each part as a puzzle piece, and with the way my own perception of "reality" works, the pieces change and remind me that "oh hey, we're all different and have input" along with "we can do all of the transformation".

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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2013, 01:34:41 pm »
Quote from: Rhyshadow;104123
I started as the epitome of the "soft-poached", but as time went on and I began to personally interact, I've become the "hard-boiled"

My experience is that even those that are close (Brighid/Bride) are still distinct individuals - at least to me - and that's how I treat my dealings with them

 
I call myself squishy polytheist, but it sounds like I'm in the same general area as a lot of folks here. I think of Odhinn and Woden as the same deity, but mostly because he told me they're both him (cf Gaiman). Meanwhile, I've done enough with the PIE comparative religion stuff to see a lot of blurriness there, but in practice I don't always experience that.

I also think it's important to note the difference between belief and practice here - I have opinions about Powers, and I have theories about syncretisms, and suchlike, but I treat all deities as separate beings until Told Otherwise. I figure that falls under basic Fairy Tale Politeness Rules.
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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2013, 01:50:56 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;104113
That is to say, I believe that the gods are separate and distinct beings except when they're not...and I let them tell me who/what they are.

Anything else seems disrespectful to me.

 
Yup. But sometimes it seems like it's easier to accept the gods being who they are when you go from soft polytheism to hard polytheism. When it's the other way around, it's. . . strange.

(Says the dope who argued with Bast about her being Devi. -__-' All of a sudden, a whole bunch of stuff makes sense and it's veeeerrrry uncomfortable. Yes indeedy.)
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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2013, 06:01:42 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;104045
In general, I believe all gods and goddesses are distinct and unique individuals. But I also believe strongly that some deities have been known to different groups of people (separated by geography and/or time) by different names --
just like I'm known to different people by different names.   That is, my given name is Susan, most of my friends call me Suzi, the kids I work with call me Ms Susan, my husband calls me by a pet name, my daughters call me Mom, Cauldronites call me Aster, etc.  I think something like that has happened with some (not necessarily all) deities. But that's not the same as the "all gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess" concept.

This sums it up for me. I believe a deity is an different individual from another with similar names/traits/whatever until I see clear evidence to the contrary. Just as a believe that all Freds who work as doctors and like to grill hamburgers are different people until clearly demonstrated otherwise.
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Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #19 on: April 02, 2013, 09:01:16 pm »
Quote from: Shine;104135
Yup. But sometimes it seems like it's easier to accept the gods being who they are when you go from soft polytheism to hard polytheism. When it's the other way around, it's. . . strange.

(Says the dope who argued with Bast about her being Devi. -__-' All of a sudden, a whole bunch of stuff makes sense and it's veeeerrrry uncomfortable. Yes indeedy.)

I think it became easier for me once I actually *got* syncretization.  Before that, everyone was an individual.  Period.  Full stop.
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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #20 on: April 02, 2013, 11:07:13 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;104177
I think it became easier for me once I actually *got* syncretization.  Before that, everyone was an individual.  Period.  Full stop.

 
Syncretization can be tricky. Heck, Kemetic theology can be tricky.

I never had too much of a problem with syncretization in practice (in theory, it gets to be a bit mind-bending). For example, my approach to Bast has always been a syncretization of about half a dozen Netjeru.

Now, when those syncretizations started crossing pantheon lines. . .

Not that cross-pantheon syncretizations should be any more mind-bending than inter-pantheon syncretizations. I think it really depends on who's syncretizing with whom.
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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #21 on: April 03, 2013, 10:17:35 pm »
Quote from: Donal;104042
My question is: are you a hard polytheist, a soft polytheist, something in-between, or none of the above? And why?

This has become an issue for me personally, and I would very much welcome insights from other practicing pagans of all stripes.

My own experience is that rationally I am a soft polytheist: the Gods and Goddesses are Thought-Forms, Archetypes, and Projections of the Unconciousness.

Non-rationally, I have always "talked" to spirits and gods/goddesses since I was a kid, some in particular developing into a sort of teacher/student relationship, for example (me and Athena).

Over time, the more that I have formally interacted with Deities as an adult, the more that these so-called "Thought-Forms" have taken on a force, personality, and energy of their own. Thus I have seen some evidence of the existence of Gods and Goddesses as independent entities, and rationally, I have moved somewhat towards a more centrist position on the hard/soft polytheist spectrum.

Rationally, I am more soft polytheist, intuitively now more towards hard polytheist.

Has anyone else gone through a process or change on these issues? The experiences and insights of other experienced (or not so experienced) pagans of all types would definitely be welcomed.

Thanks,
Donal


I just wanted to thank everyone for their responses to this subject. It has been very helpful.

I also wanted to quickly clarify my use of terms which might have been a bit fuzzy.

When I talk about the "nonrational", I am talking about inuitions, feelings/emotions, instincts, and experiences. Only thoughts and behaviors can be irrational or rational. Feelings, intutions, and experiences are neither rational nor irrational; they just "are", and thus are "nonrational" (ie, not directly pertaining to thought and consequent behavior).

I was not trying to imply that being a harder or softer polytheist is more or less rational. I was just laying out some evidence of feelings and experiences that I have had (nonrational elements) that have caused me to revise my thinking (rational response to these feelings/experiences).

I hope that clarifies a bit.

Thanks again for everyone's responses!

Donal
« Last Edit: April 03, 2013, 10:20:35 pm by Donal »
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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #22 on: April 03, 2013, 10:56:07 pm »
Quote from: Shine;104054
Working with Hindu deities really threw a wrench in my hard polytheism, though.


Yeah, it makes a difference to study an actual living polytheistic tradition, and these neo-pagan categories of "hard" and "soft" polytheism become pretty irrelevant. Monism often seems to go hand-in-hand with polytheism.

There are a few examples that come to mind about the more fluid nature of polytheism. Greek deities would often be associated with each other, as the Orphic Hymn to Nyx uses Aphrodite's name interchangeable with Nyx's, the hymn to Apollon calls him "Pan in guise," and the hymn to Helios the sun god also addresses him as Zeus. Hera and Aphrodite share each other's names as epithets, indicating that they are different forms of the same deity. In ancient Egypt, deities could blend together as well as be separate, so they definitely were not "hard," and scholars like Sigfried Morenz suggest that the gods were different local names and aspects of the supreme god. That idea is common in Hindu traditions also, as the three major sects consider their god to be supreme (either Shiva, Vishnu, or Devi/the Goddess) and other gods to be different forms of the supreme being. Hard polytheism strikes me as being a modern pagan invention reflecting a limited and superficial understanding of the gods and their worship.

I am personally skeptical that the gods literally exist as actual beings independent of the human mind. I see them more as complex symbols that help us relate to the unknowable divine power in forms we can understand, as it is far beyond the capacity of our human minds to comprehend. I don't consider the ultimate divinity to be a being like a god, but more of a power or energy. The gods are different in that they are different forms and incarnations of this power, but many embody the same principles, and so in that way they are the same. I definitely don't think the gods are like people somewhere out there, each physically separate and mentally unique. It would be very convenient if these powerful, eternal beings just happened to look and function exactly as our particular species at this stage of our evolution. Not likely.

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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #23 on: April 04, 2013, 05:36:49 am »
Quote from: Carnelian;104243
Yeah, it makes a difference to study an actual living polytheistic tradition, and these neo-pagan categories of "hard" and "soft" polytheism become pretty irrelevant. Monism often seems to go hand-in-hand with polytheism.

I tend to share that same opinion and would simply call myself a polytheist. With all the different "theisms" out there being terms used by philosophers, writers, and theologians not much older than the 17th&18th centuries I find the further modern subdivisions of "hard" and "soft" kind of irrelevant in trying to understand ancient cultures, especially since "soft polytheism" was mostly influenced from a work of fiction written by a monotheist author, and "hard polytheism" kind of sprouted to counter that.

In viewing deities as "beings" I think in the evolution from animism to monotheism there might be too many counter influences from monotheistic faiths around today in viewing deities in concrete humanoid form and their personalities taken too literally from mythology where a lot of the time they function as characters from human thought. The fact that many cultures viewed their Gods in non-anthropomorphic form, and cultures such as tribal ones that lacked an actual codified pantheon and mostly venerated ancestral&tutelary deities (including animals), but yet believed they could manifest in human form expresses that view of fluidity as well that's difficult to categorise in modern thought.

I personally view the Gods to be the natural forces that create, sustain, and destroy the universe that can manifest in whatever way they can be understood. Mostly connecting with orthopraxic practices myself, my gnosis from that as well as considering the myths&historic practices involved in their worship form my understanding of their nature&personalities that comes from worship&connection. Further I believe that even though we have emanation from deity, there's a further divine imminence in us all, and that still doesn't affect my belief in poly(many)theoi(gods), or ildiachas and the Gaelic Fírenne.

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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #24 on: April 04, 2013, 07:48:47 am »
Quote from: Micheál;104267
I tend to share that same opinion and would simply call myself a polytheist. With all the different "theisms" out there being terms used by philosophers, writers, and theologians not much older than the 17th&18th centuries I find the further modern subdivisions of "hard" and "soft" kind of irrelevant in trying to understand ancient cultures, especially since "soft polytheism" was mostly influenced from a work of fiction written by a monotheist author, and "hard polytheism" kind of sprouted to counter that.

In viewing deities as "beings" I think in the evolution from animism to monotheism there might be too many counter influences from monotheistic faiths around today in viewing deities in concrete humanoid form and their personalities taken too literally from mythology where a lot of the time they function as characters from human thought. The fact that many cultures viewed their Gods in non-anthropomorphic form, and cultures such as tribal ones that lacked an actual codified pantheon and mostly venerated ancestral&tutelary deities (including animals), but yet believed they could manifest in human form expresses that view of fluidity as well that's difficult to categorise in modern thought.


I agree with this.
 
Quote from: Carnelian;104243
the Orphic Hymn to Nyx uses Aphrodite's name interchangeable with Nyx's, the hymn to Apollon calls him "Pan in guise,"


Ugh, I should proofread before I post. I meant "interchangeably" and "Pan in *royal* guise."

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Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #25 on: April 04, 2013, 12:18:44 pm »
Quote from: Micheál;104267
I tend to share that same opinion and would simply call myself a polytheist. With all the different "theisms" out there being terms used by philosophers, writers, and theologians not much older than the 17th&18th centuries I find the further modern subdivisions of "hard" and "soft" kind of irrelevant in trying to understand ancient cultures, especially since "soft polytheism" was mostly influenced from a work of fiction written by a monotheist author, and "hard polytheism" kind of sprouted to counter that.

I don't really use them in relation to the ancients (except in discussions with people who are arguing that all goddesses are the One Great Goddess worshipped in the Perfect Ancient Matriarchy) but in contexts like this thread where I'm trying to summarize what I believe for other pagans and understand what they believe in return.
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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #26 on: April 04, 2013, 01:22:56 pm »
Quote from: Donal;104240
I also wanted to quickly clarify my use of terms which might have been a bit fuzzy.

When I talk about the "nonrational", I am talking about inuitions, feelings/emotions, instincts, and experiences. Only thoughts and behaviors can be irrational or rational. Feelings, intutions, and experiences are neither rational nor irrational; they just "are", and thus are "nonrational" (ie, not directly pertaining to thought and consequent behavior).

I was not trying to imply that being a harder or softer polytheist is more or less rational. I was just laying out some evidence of feelings and experiences that I have had (nonrational elements) that have caused me to revise my thinking (rational response to these feelings/experiences).

I hope that clarifies a bit.

 
Whoops - even though I do usually make just that sort of a distinction between 'irrational' and 'non-rational', when I touched on this in my answer, I did so as if you weren't.  That's my bad.

But even with my misreading, I didn't get the impression you were judging anyone else's position; I just thought you were being unnecessarily harsh on your own ambivalence (probably because I've done that myself).

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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2013, 10:31:28 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;104325
Whoops - even though I do usually make just that sort of a distinction between 'irrational' and 'non-rational', when I touched on this in my answer, I did so as if you weren't.  That's my bad.

But even with my misreading, I didn't get the impression you were judging anyone else's position; I just thought you were being unnecessarily harsh on your own ambivalence (probably because I've done that myself).

Sunflower


No problem. I just felt that maybe I was unclear, so any fault was mine.

Good discussion, though. Thanks for everyone's responses.

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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #28 on: August 16, 2014, 12:03:00 am »
Quote from: Donal;104042
Hello, Everyone.

I am not sure if this has been addressed here on the Cauldron explicitly and/or lately. I have only been on the site, on and off, since late December. I hope this is an appropriate location for this topic.

My question is: are you a hard polytheist, a soft polytheist, something in-between, or none of the above? And why?

This has become an issue for me personally, and I would very much welcome insights from other practicing pagans of all stripes.

My own experience is that rationally I am a soft polytheist: the Gods and Goddesses are Thought-Forms, Archetypes, and Projections of the Unconciousness.

Non-rationally, I have always "talked" to spirits and gods/goddesses since I was a kid, some in particular developing into a sort of teacher/student relationship, for example (me and Athena).

Over time, the more that I have formally interacted with Deities as an adult, the more that these so-called "Thought-Forms" have taken on a force, personality, and energy of their own. Thus I have seen some evidence of the existence of Gods and Goddesses as independent entities, and rationally, I have moved somewhat towards a more centrist position on the hard/soft polytheist spectrum.

Rationally, I am more soft polytheist, intuitively now more towards hard polytheist.

Has anyone else gone through a process or change on these issues? The experiences and insights of other experienced (or not so experienced) pagans of all types would definitely be welcomed.

Thanks,
Donal


Can't there be such a thing as bi-theism? I was thinking that's basically what Wicca is. I know most people say Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the top monotheistic religions, but I can say for certain that I don't see Christianity as a monotheistic religion, especially if you follow the older denominations such as Catholicism and Anglicanism that basically revere Mary as a goddess (although most of them wouldn't say that), and give reverence to various saints and angels. I would say at this point in my life, I'm basically a soft monotheist with a polytheistic leaning but at the same time realizing the agnostic/atheistic ideas that perhaps no deity or supernatural beings actually exist.
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Re: Hard Polytheism, Soft Polytheism, and Everything In Between
« Reply #29 on: August 16, 2014, 03:22:31 am »
Quote from: PrincessKLS;155924
Can't there be such a thing as bi-theism? I was thinking that's basically what Wicca is. I know most people say Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the top monotheistic religions, but I can say for certain that I don't see Christianity as a monotheistic religion, especially if you follow the older denominations such as Catholicism and Anglicanism that basically revere Mary as a goddess (although most of them wouldn't say that), and give reverence to various saints and angels. I would say at this point in my life, I'm basically a soft monotheist with a polytheistic leaning but at the same time realizing the agnostic/atheistic ideas that perhaps no deity or supernatural beings actually exist.

Do you mean duotheism? Most trad Wiccans would agree that's what their religion is, I think.
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