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Author Topic: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?  (Read 1883 times)

Grimnir

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Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« on: October 19, 2012, 05:37:27 am »
I've always had problems with the idea that all gods/esses are one god/ess. Before I found my path I didn't use names, just Lord and Lady, but this wasn't because I thought they were all the same, more that I didn't know/hadn't been introduced to the deities I needed to work with. (It took me some time to figure this out - strong in arm, thick in 'ead).

To me, ALL gods and goddesses are real. All of them are discrete, individual beings. None are omnipotent or omniscient but they all have their own areas that they have a greater influence on than others. I don't say "I don't believe in [God]", I say "I don't follow that [God]". For me, the individuality of our existence mirrors theirs. If there is something beyond them, it is beyond my comprehension.

Many pagans I have met speak of 'ascending', of 'becoming one' with the whatever-it-is that is beyond the Gods, of reaching a new vibrational level where we no longer need 'self' or awareness. This concept has always been abhorrent to me - the loss of self, of identity, of uniqueness, of everything that we, as individuals, are. This has perhaps coloured how I see the deities, as I cannot believe they would wish to lose their selfs, their uniqueness.

Perhaps this is what Odhinn fears from Ragnarok, and why He spends so much effort in preventing it?

What are your thoughts on the Self - both ours and that of the Gods?
Kind Regards, Raven
Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel! - Fate goes ever as she shall!

Rhyshadow

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2012, 07:02:02 am »
Quote from: Grimnir;77161
I've always had problems with the idea that all gods/esses are one god/ess. Before I found my path I didn't use names, just Lord and Lady, but this wasn't because I thought they were all the same, more that I didn't know/hadn't been introduced to the deities I needed to work with. (It took me some time to figure this out - strong in arm, thick in 'ead).

To me, ALL gods and goddesses are real. All of them are discrete, individual beings. None are omnipotent or omniscient but they all have their own areas that they have a greater influence on than others. I don't say "I don't believe in [God]", I say "I don't follow that [God]". For me, the individuality of our existence mirrors theirs. If there is something beyond them, it is beyond my comprehension.

Many pagans I have met speak of 'ascending', of 'becoming one' with the whatever-it-is that is beyond the Gods, of reaching a new vibrational level where we no longer need 'self' or awareness. This concept has always been abhorrent to me - the loss of self, of identity, of uniqueness, of everything that we, as individuals, are. This has perhaps coloured how I see the deities, as I cannot believe they would wish to lose their selfs, their uniqueness.

Perhaps this is what Odhinn fears from Ragnarok, and why He spends so much effort in preventing it?

What are your thoughts on the Self - both ours and that of the Gods?

 
What you're describing is Hard Polytheism, which is the idea that all god/desses are individuals, rather than Soft Polytheism, which is the idea that they are just facets of the One.

Depending on the person, the viewpoint can vary between those two ideals, some are semi-Hard, others very much so.

As far as an afterlife, there are probably almost as many views on that as there are Pagans; some truly believe that we 'create' our own "heaven/hell".

No matter what your view is on both those things, they're completely valid and there are probably quite a number of people who have the same or nearly the same view

Myself, I'm a Hard Polytheist - all deities are separate individuals with their own personalities and after I leave this plain of existence, I plan on living in Tír na nÓg at least for a time until I decide to come back

Nyktelios

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2012, 07:52:56 am »
Quote from: Grimnir;77161
I've always had problems with the idea that all gods/esses are one god/ess. Before I found my path I didn't use names, just Lord and Lady, but this wasn't because I thought they were all the same, more that I didn't know/hadn't been introduced to the deities I needed to work with. (It took me some time to figure this out - strong in arm, thick in 'ead).

To me, ALL gods and goddesses are real. All of them are discrete, individual beings. None are omnipotent or omniscient but they all have their own areas that they have a greater influence on than others. I don't say "I don't believe in [God]", I say "I don't follow that [God]". For me, the individuality of our existence mirrors theirs. If there is something beyond them, it is beyond my comprehension.

Many pagans I have met speak of 'ascending', of 'becoming one' with the whatever-it-is that is beyond the Gods, of reaching a new vibrational level where we no longer need 'self' or awareness. This concept has always been abhorrent to me - the loss of self, of identity, of uniqueness, of everything that we, as individuals, are. This has perhaps coloured how I see the deities, as I cannot believe they would wish to lose their selfs, their uniqueness.

Perhaps this is what Odhinn fears from Ragnarok, and why He spends so much effort in preventing it?

What are your thoughts on the Self - both ours and that of the Gods?


I wouldn't say I see the many gods as aspect of one god or being, I see them rather as manifestations of an all-pervading divine power or force that is immanent in the natural universe. I don't think of the gods as literal personalities, it just seems a little crazy to my rational mind to think of greater beings with super powers existing somewhere out there. To me, they are symbolic ways of personifying the different powers of the universe.

Maybe in the same way, humans and all living things are manifestations of the same divine life of the universe in unique forms during physical manifestations, until we die and dissolve back into the whole and the different parts are recycled into new unique individuals. The whole "drop in the ocean" thing.

RandallS

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2012, 08:19:03 am »
Quote from: Grimnir;77161
To me, ALL gods and goddesses are real. All of them are discrete, individual beings. None are omnipotent or omniscient but they all have their own areas that they have a greater influence on than others. I don't say "I don't believe in [God]", I say "I don't follow that [God]". For me, the individuality of our existence mirrors theirs. If there is something beyond them, it is beyond my comprehension.

In my opinion, most are real but some may not be -- just the imagination of us humans. Most are separate beings, but some are deity X under another culture's name (e.g. some Roman deities are Greek deities called by a Roman name).
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Gilbride

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2012, 09:28:31 am »
Quote from: Grimnir;77161
To me, ALL gods and goddesses are real. All of them are discrete, individual beings.... Many pagans I have met speak of 'ascending', of 'becoming one' with the whatever-it-is that is beyond the Gods, of reaching a new vibrational level where we no longer need 'self' or awareness. This concept has always been abhorrent to me - the loss of self


That concept in some form is at the core of all forms of mysticism. I think it's worth noting that it is found in many polytheist religions throughout the world, and that some ancient European pagan sources (such as the neoplatonists) make it the basis of their theology.

It also doesn't really mean the existentially horrifying thing you take it to mean. The idea is not that you are simply erased, but that you move beyond the limited and false sense of a self separate from the universe and expand into a much broader sense of Self that is not. Nothing is subtracted, but infinity is added. Or at least that's one way to look at it.

One last point- there's no contradiction at all between seeing the gods as distinct individual entities with real personalities and seeing them as aspects of this universal Source, because in the mystical view of reality you and I are also aspects of this universal Source, and we certainly have distinct individual personalities. "Hard polytheism vs mysticism" would be a false dichotomy.

Shine

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2012, 09:30:18 am »
Quote from: Grimnir;77161


What are your thoughts on the Self - both ours and that of the Gods?

 
I think there is ultimately a source to which all things in the world can be traced back to. That doesn't mean that we're all aspects of that source. It does mean we do share identities with it.
Leave your darkness with me, and I will make you shine.

Grimnir

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2012, 10:13:11 am »
Quote from: Gilbride;77179
It also doesn't really mean the existentially horrifying thing you take it to mean. The idea is not that you are simply erased, but that you move beyond the limited and false sense of a self separate from the universe and expand into a much broader sense of Self that is not.

 
Ah, but that Is the 'existentially horrifying thing' to me. Why is a sense of self limited and false? Why should we strive to move beyond it? If self is false then is not personal responsibility also false, as without self we cannot make personal choices?
Kind Regards, Raven
Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel! - Fate goes ever as she shall!

veggiewolf

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2012, 10:24:27 am »
Quote from: Gilbride;77179
That concept in some form is at the core of all forms of mysticism...

 
You're making a blanket statement here about all forms of mysticism. Would you share your sources for this assertion?
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Gilbride

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2012, 10:25:28 am »
Quote from: Grimnir;77182
Ah, but that Is the 'existentially horrifying thing' to me. Why is a sense of self limited and false? Why should we strive to move beyond it? If self is false then is not personal responsibility also false, as without self we cannot make personal choices?

 
It's not that "a sense of self" is limited and false, it's that a limited and false sense of self is limited and false. We strive to move beyond it in order to get beyond what is limited and false to what is limitless and true. And of course we still have personal responsibility, because "self" is not what is false.

The issue is sometimes framed that way because of the inherent difficulty in talking about these topics, but the issue really isn't that the self is false, only that it's actually limitless and we don't usually realize that. You might say that the mistaken notion that the self is limited is what mystical theology sees as being "false."

Gilbride

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2012, 10:26:45 am »
Quote from: veggiewolf;77183
You're making a blanket statement here about all forms of mysticism. Would you share your sources for this assertion?


Honestly, no- because it depends on your definition of mysticism, and on your interpretation of the sources. Some types of comment really can't be sourced.

Grimnir

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2012, 10:31:52 am »
Quote from: Gilbride;77184
It's not that "a sense of self" is limited and false, it's that a limited and false sense of self is limited and false. We strive to move beyond it in order to get beyond what is limited and false to what is limitless and true. And of course we still have personal responsibility, because "self" is not what is false.

The issue is sometimes framed that way because of the inherent difficulty in talking about these topics, but the issue really isn't that the self is false, only that it's actually limitless and we don't usually realize that. You might say that the mistaken notion that the self is limited is what mystical theology sees as being "false."


You strive to move beyond it, I strive to retain the 'me' that I am. For me, losing the self is death - ceasing to exist style death, not reincarnating, not ascending, just ending. That is what I don't like, I want my journey here to be the beginning, not the only step "I" can take.

A limitless self is meaningless, as all things would then be that self, and if everything is one great self, then nothing has a sense of self as there is no differentiation. If that is the goal, I'll pass thanks :)
Kind Regards, Raven
Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel! - Fate goes ever as she shall!

veggiewolf

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2012, 10:35:04 am »
Quote from: Gilbride;77185
Honestly, no- because it depends on your definition of mysticism, and on your interpretation of the sources. Some types of comment really can't be sourced.

 
You might want to be more clear, then, when a statement is based on your opinion and/or UPG.  Statements in the vein of "All X are..." are less sticky when sources are available.

So, am I right in saying that your working definition of mysticism includes the ascension aspect?
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Gilbride

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2012, 10:52:50 am »
Quote from: veggiewolf;77187
So, am I right in saying that your working definition of mysticism includes the ascension aspect?


Yes. To expand a bit, I acknowledge that different types of mystical theology around the world have both differences and similarities, but I accept the assertion of Ramakrishna, Hazrat Inayat Khan and other great mystics that the core reality asserted by the different mysticisms is the same even though the language used and the theological context involved can be very different due to the ineffable nature of the mystical experience. I'm well aware that some people disagree with this analysis and can point out various intellectual differences between (for example) the theology of Plotinus and the theology of Sufism or Tantra or what have you. It is my personal opinion- and the opinion of Ramakrishna, Khan and others- that those intellectual differences are not essential because what is being talked about here is beyond the intellect.

Gilbride

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2012, 10:55:22 am »
Quote from: Grimnir;77186
A limitless self is meaningless, as all things would then be that self, and if everything is one great self, then nothing has a sense of self as there is no differentiation.


According to that logic, there can be no such things as separate cells in your body because they are all part of the greater self that is you. In reality, your cells each have an individual existence yet are simultaneously part of a greater whole.

Maps

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Re: Individual Gods, Aspects of a greater being, or something else?
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2012, 11:13:01 am »
Quote from: Grimnir;77161
I've always had problems with the idea that all gods/esses are one god/ess. Before I found my path I didn't use names, just Lord and Lady, but this wasn't because I thought they were all the same, more that I didn't know/hadn't been introduced to the deities I needed to work with. (It took me some time to figure this out - strong in arm, thick in 'ead).

To me, ALL gods and goddesses are real. All of them are discrete, individual beings. None are omnipotent or omniscient but they all have their own areas that they have a greater influence on than others. I don't say "I don't believe in [God]", I say "I don't follow that [God]". For me, the individuality of our existence mirrors theirs. If there is something beyond them, it is beyond my comprehension.


Mesoamerican thought of Central America has it that the gods are both individual personalities and expressions of a greater whole. They're not mutually exclusive.


Quote from: Grimnir;77161
Many pagans I have met speak of 'ascending', of 'becoming one' with the whatever-it-is that is beyond the Gods, of reaching a new vibrational level where we no longer need 'self' or awareness.


This screams of nuage stuff more than "what pagans are likely to think".

Quote from: Grimnir;77161
This concept has always been abhorrent to me - the loss of self, of identity, of uniqueness, of everything that we, as individuals, are. This has perhaps coloured how I see the deities, as I cannot believe they would wish to lose their selfs, their uniqueness.


The thing is though (for me and my religious school of thought, at least) is that gods are -not- immortal and invulnerable and forever and unchanging. Some of them die, some of them cease to be when their identities are not longer relevant, or when the expression that they embody no longer exists. They go back to that whole, like how someone might go back home after being laid off, and do something else.

I don't believe gods have the same sense of "self" as we do; either that, or they have a different capacity for free will than we do, otherwise the natural world would be far less predictable than it is.

The ego is a fleeting, mortal thing. We cling to it because we're incapable of internalizing any other alternative, and therefore everything else that might be is scary and tantamount to death. You'd be surprised how much of your "self" is wound up in fear of mortality and suffering, fear of boredom, want of worldly wealth, in your gender and your politics, your drive to procreate. What is the self without those things? Unless you believe in some kind of afterlife that's exactly like life here, then you'd better just get used to the idea that someday you'll be completely different.

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