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Author Topic: On Deity -or- Where the (Really) Wild Things Are  (Read 1631 times)

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Re: On Deity -or- Where the (Really) Wild Things Are
« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2013, 10:08:45 am »
Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117455

Bringing it back a little to the issue of mistakenly identifying an internal experience as an experience of deity, I was reading a thread here that mentioned an individual who felt that the gods and goddesses select (or refuse) followers based on racial background. Based on what I've heard, some groups hold this perspective. Yet I also feel that most people here feel that that perspective is incorrect. So... where did these individuals go wrong? If they genuinely perceive the gods and goddesses as upholding their standard of racially based spirituality... how can we make sense of that?


First, on your worry about being interested in a deity who isn't interested back: in my experience, it's generally not a huge problem: either the deity will make that clear, or it's more or less like, oh, having a bee around flowers if you're a flower. It's vaguely useful to you (pollination!), and not damaging to your interests.

(There's exceptions, but in the conversations I've had with people, you usually get lots of data if you're in an exception.)

Quote

I wouldn't think that they experience their own interactions with deity as fictional, or that we can always dismiss individuals who have this outlook as universally lacking in sincerity or experience... I get the sense that most would support their right to believe what they will... but that at the same time, despite it being a matter of "our experience" versus "their experience," we're pretty comfortable saying they're wrong. So again, it seems that someone is either having a confused experience... or the deities are not at all consistent, pre-existing beings...?


Well, people are not always externally consistent, either.

There's a bunch of possibilities here:
1) They are completely accurately reporting exactly what the deity told them, and that deity is being called by the correct name, and the other people with other experiences are mistaken or misinterpreting.

2) They are completely and accurately reporting exactly what the deity told them, but that deity's identity is not as accurate as it could be (and thus, other people with experience with the named deity may well disagree. I am not all Jennifers in the world.)

3) They are doing their best to completely and accurately report what they are getting from the deity, but the method of interaction leaves some to a lot of room for interpretation, and their own interpretation is getting more in the way than they realise.

4) They are working from fragmentary bits, and are putting them together in a particular way, when most people working with those bits would put them together a different way.

5) They are vastly exaggerating what they're getting for some reason (conscious or unconscious) of their own.

I tend to think that most differences in these kinds of cases are options 3 or 4.

Which is to say, I tend to presume people are *sincere* about what they're saying, but 'sincere' and 'accurate reporter' are not the same thing. In most cases, direct data from deity tends to be at least somewhat ambiguous, and in the cases where it is clear, is often very brief (so you may get an answer to a Very Specific Thing, and not discussion on, y'know, the rest of the world). So people fill in the gaps, like people do, but there's pluses and minuses in that, and some people are much better at doing it without adding biases than others.
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Re: On Deity -or- Where the (Really) Wild Things Are
« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2013, 07:07:16 pm »
Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117454

Fetch - that is a new word for me! I've gotten the impression at some point in time (from the foggy, disorganized, multi-year stage of my interest in paganism) that some individuals feel that deities are basically large-scale thoughtforms, created by the repeat energy and interaction of a community of individuals with a shared idea. I see this as a similar (if not the same) argument as saying the deities are human-created archetypes. I'd be curious to hear both of your (and others'!) thoughts? Do you personally feel this way about individual deities? And if the gods are archetypes, do you believe that they also have a energetic reality, or more that they are conceptual and based on human psychology (but still powerful)?


I'm only familiar with "energy" as a measurement of how much force it takes to move an object through space, so a lot of what you're asking I don't understand, but your last question reminded me of a scene from the movie "Hogfather," wherein Death explains to his granddaughter that concepts like Truth, Justice and Love are only real because humans believe they are, which gives such ideas their power.

When thinking about what is real and what is not, I distinguish between mental and objective beings. The former includes all fictional things, like Superman, who have no autonomous existence outside human imagination. He's real, just in a different way from the latter, which includes stuff that exists independently of human thought-the universe, clocks, trees, etc.

So, if you're wondering if believing in a mental being, like a god, hard enough will make it evolve into an autonomous being, that isn't possible. But if you believe in Compassion, Justice and other abstract things like that, you'll most likely become a better person for it. Hope that helps.

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Re: On Deity -or- Where the (Really) Wild Things Are
« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2013, 08:03:55 am »
Quote from: Naomi J;117458
This is probably going to be a bit unhelpful - but I believe that the gods *use* our imaginations. As such, for me, it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference [...] I think it's always worth backing up anything a spirit or god tells you with other sources and with critical reasoning, personally.


Not at all - this was incredibly helpful! It is comforting to hear that even with experience, the process can be somewhat ambiguous and open to interpretation. In these responses, I am gathering that there are broadly two types of experience: (1) the rarer and undeniable FWAP and (2) more common, ambiguous communication, which requires interpretation, critical thought, etc., gets easier with experience, and yet can still be misinterpreted or confused.

This discussion has been comforting, because I am seeing that experience does seem to help (so most seem to eventually find these experiences to be distinct and distinguishable), but that it is almost always not going to be just straightforward and clear as day (with exceptions). So if I don't receive a door-sized post card from a god/dess, I'm not doing something wrong. :)

I also like your statement that the gods likely use our imagination. It does make a lot of sense. So in a way, perhaps it is like telling the difference between touching your own arm and someone else touching you - they are similar experiences, but not the same? And sometimes, like with trying to tickle yourself, the effect produced by the other is unmistakably different from anything you provide for yourself... Except here, the sense of touch is a broad and complex set of symbolic meanings, imaginative abilities, etc!
 
Quote from: cymrudraco;117462
Experience, mostly. Hekate certainly thwapped me when we first began working together until I told Her I really needed Her to slow down to give me time to deal with everything She'd told me, which She did, to Her credit. I felt like I was in a daze for three weeks while She infodumped into my brain. Could only think about Her, and what She'd told me.


That must have been quite an experience! Sounds like the kind that inspires jealousy until you're on the receiving end. ;) I'm curious - to whatever extent you are capable of and comfortable with elaborating - what kind of things was Hekate info-dumping? I'm having a hard time imagining what that content could be - personally relevant information, information about Her, information about the environment or universe, or other spiritual realities?

Quote from: cymrudraco;117462
Sometimes, I'm just spending time with Them, and if all I get is the sensation that They're there with me, that's fine.


Would you say it is unusual to think of them and then feel their presence in response? On one level, I can see being concerned if I can too easily stimulate a response (after all, the gods are not going to be waiting at my elbow to chat with me - my imagination is)... At the same time, perhaps it is not much effort/intent for them to simply have their presence be felt? What is your experience like? If you sat and thought about one of them now, do you generally expect to feel at least a warmth/presence, or is even that more uncommon unless you're really focusing?

Quote from: cymrudraco;117462
So Aset will tell me one day, 'I have touched everything', and that's it. There's no conversation, no more words, just that.


Wow, that is ambiguous! :) I can see how a lot of interpretation would be necessary.

Quote from: cymrudraco;117462
So there's one I wrote involving an exploration of dead gods and Wesir that, while superficially a piece of fanfiction, is much more than just that.


That is awesome. I'd be curious to read it, if it is available online or something you are open to sharing. :) I really like the idea that in this day and age, we can still have meaningful interactions with the gods, and produce pieces of work that are as inspired and meaningful as some of the historical work that many practitioners turn to for information! It makes history more human, and the present more profound.
 
Quote from: Jenett;117468
I think they're way more complicated and layered than archetypes implies, even though they (like humans!) can be clearly heavily affected by one or more archetypes.

I am sort of agnostic on the topic of whether the Gods came first or people came first, but I lean toward the idea that whichever one was first, it's been a constant interplay for millenia.


Hm, I like that. It makes me think of a personality typing system I am interested in, which I see as very much like finding what archetypal personalities are most like the individual in question. I never thought of applying that same reasoning to the personality of the gods though. :)

The idea that gods and humans have interacted for millenia, and have influenced each other's development is fascinating, especially how you talk about deities as having a different set of abilities, scale of influence, and even their own challenges and development. I really like that. It also makes me think of primitive primates slowly developing a sort of religious/spiritual consciousness (e.g., it sounds like Jane Goodall witnessed chimpanzees engaging in dramatic gestures/dances in response to waterfalls and other forms of nature - a pdf that describes some of this http://www.religionandnature.com/ern/sample/goodall--primatespirituality.pdf), and that consciousness then developing into a sort of thoughtform which slowly gained stability and complexity as the force of the primates' intent and interest sharpened, clarified, and diversified... It almost seems more powerful than if they simply were floating around, waiting for us to evolve enough to notice them.

Quote from: Jenett;117468
Hmm. Some of all of the above? (A lot of my examples are outside the scope of what I could explain here in a reasonable amount of time and space: many are the 'you need an hour of background for the next three sentences to make much sense' sort of thing.)


What about using an unreasonable amount of time and space? ;) Though perhaps I should finish my Paganism 112 (I'm a little past 101, I hope!) before jumping to what sounds like Paganism 401 :) Not that I wouldn't read and be interested if you did have the time and inclination to expound at length, but I also understand that there is only so much time and it might take a lot of doing.

Quote from: Jenett;117468
And some it's odd little things: I work in a tradition that includes Draw Down work, and every single Draw where it's been clear there's a strong presence of deity, that deity has called me something specific (an epithet, not a name.)


This is a really cool example; I can understand more what you mean about the consistency bleeding though. That must be interesting, meeting a deity through another's body/form/face...
 
Quote from: Jenett;117471
First, on your worry about being interested in a deity who isn't interested back: in my experience, it's generally not a huge problem: either the deity will make that clear, or it's more or less like, oh, having a bee around flowers if you're a flower. It's vaguely useful to you (pollination!), and not damaging to your interests.


That is comforting - I was imagining it being like I am ringing the phone at their temple over and over and over again, but every time they picked up, I couldn't hear them (and just shouted "hello? hellllooooooo"), or they just got static.

Quote from: Jenett;117471
There's a bunch of possibilities here: [...]

Which is to say, I tend to presume people are *sincere* about what they're saying, but 'sincere' and 'accurate reporter' are not the same thing.


This was really helpful, thank you. Even knowing that the individual makes a difference, I don't think I was giving enough weight to what the person is bringing to the table. I also appreciate the clarity with which you described the type 3 and 4 experiences. I was stuck between "having an accurate experience" and "unconsciously exaggerating or embellishing their experiences" and worried about falling into the latter camp (in the sense of an inflated and false sense of spirituality and development). Your listing of all the possibilities brought the issue into perspective.

Quote from: Materialist;117496
I'm only familiar with "energy" as a measurement of how much force it takes to move an object through space, so a lot of what you're asking I don't understand, but your last question reminded me of a scene from the movie "Hogfather," wherein Death explains to his granddaughter that concepts like Truth, Justice and Love are only real because humans believe they are, which gives such ideas their power.


I just use "energy" as... hm, well, I'm still a little not sure of it myself. ;) I suppose in retrospect, I actually meant "literal/concrete/external" existence - or like you said, autonomous. I am still not sure whether (1) the gods have an autonomous existence outside of all individuals, which gets interpreted differently by each -- in the way that a painting concretely exists, holds some generally indisputable properties (e.g., it contains the color red, if you can perceive red), but still evokes different responses... or (2) the existence of the gods is purely psychological, in that shared experiences or cultural values shape deity concepts which are beyond individuals, but which still have an independent existence in each person exposed to that idea -- in the way that motherhood is common to all societies, but where my individual idea of the "mother" archetype may live and die with me... we can't pull "mothering" out and examine it, or claim it has any indisputable qualities, in the way we can with a painting, or another external object.

But, like you noted, the belief in something entirely fictional can still have power (which I suppose is how I mean "energy"). The power/energy to shape a person's life and actions. I suppose in some ways, the debate on the existence of the gods is moot - the outcome (a positive change in life direction and behaviors) is largely the same either way, with smallish differences... but that doesn't stop me from wanting an answer ;)


You're all fantastic - thank you for your responses so far! I was a little hesitant to go diving in and posting questions - but after lurking a bit I've just really come to like what I see of the culture and people on this forum. I have no regrets. :)

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Re: On Deity -or- Where the (Really) Wild Things Are
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2013, 10:21:35 am »
Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117541

That must have been quite an experience! Sounds like the kind that inspires jealousy until you're on the receiving end. ;) I'm curious - to whatever extent you are capable of and comfortable with elaborating - what kind of things was Hekate info-dumping? I'm having a hard time imagining what that content could be - personally relevant information, information about Her, information about the environment or universe, or other spiritual realities?


Yeah, it was. It was really intense, but I'm also glad Hekate was willing to pull back when I asked Her to, because I needed some space to think about everything She'd told me. She told me so many things during those three weeks, and it's still hard to really write down what most of those things were. She told me things about, well, about Her, and I got a chance to glimpse the aspect of Her I was dealing with, which is Hekate in Her role as Cosmic World Soul. So there was a lot of brain-breaking things as I contemplated how big She was, and the realms She ruled over. She also told me about Her relationship with Isis. There were probably other things, Mysteries and whatnot, but like I said, it's still really hard to write down all the things She told me. I hope that helps to give you some idea of what it was like and what She told me.

Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117541

Would you say it is unusual to think of them and then feel their presence in response? On one level, I can see being concerned if I can too easily stimulate a response (after all, the gods are not going to be waiting at my elbow to chat with me - my imagination is)... At the same time, perhaps it is not much effort/intent for them to simply have their presence be felt? What is your experience like? If you sat and thought about one of them now, do you generally expect to feel at least a warmth/presence, or is even that more uncommon unless you're really focusing?


WELL. If I just spend a moment thinking about Them now, I get a slight warmth, but it's very subtle. It's the least and most I expect from Them at any given time, and it really depends on the God in question. Like, I'm a polytheist, and I deal with lots of different Gods. They're not all around at the same time, thank the Gods, so right now, as it's Imbolc, I've had a lot of Hekate and Isis on the brain, because I'm honouring Them for Imbolc. A few weeks ago, it was all Sobek and Heru-sa-Aset. During the Mysteries of Wesir, well, Wesir is constantly on my mind. It's something of a seasonal thing, because as I plan for festivals, I think about the gods I'm honouring, and it kind of builds on itself or something.

I've learnt to pick apart sensations that are me, and sensations from the Gods, but there is a lot of crossover, and it takes a while to really be able to tell them apart. Lots of experience and taking the time to logically think through each experience so you've got a better idea of what's what.

Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117541

Wow, that is ambiguous! :) I can see how a lot of interpretation would be necessary.


Yeah, it was pretty amazing at the time, because it's not just the words and the sensations that come with it, it's working through what that all really means as well. That tends to last longer than the initial experience.

Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117541

That is awesome. I'd be curious to read it, if it is available online or something you are open to sharing. :) I really like the idea that in this day and age, we can still have meaningful interactions with the gods, and produce pieces of work that are as inspired and meaningful as some of the historical work that many practitioners turn to for information! It makes history more human, and the present more profound.

 
Sure, you can read it here: Spell For Giving Life To The Lord Of Souls. It's part of a longer fic series, which you are also welcome to read, but that fic in particular is the one I'm talking about. I remember finishing it and thinking, 'have I just brought forth a new god?' because it seemed to have gone beyond just the fic itself. This sort of thing doesn't happen very often for me, though. At least, not in the sense of writing fanfiction.

I also create devotional art and writings for my Gods, which is another way to honour Them. I like exploring those sort of things, and I think I've got to the point where I'm not as afraid of doing art as I used to be, so I'm more able to just let it come and know it's going to be appreciated. I'm also writing myths for Sobek, because He doesn't have any surviving myths of His own. He does appear in a few myths, but they're not myths about Sobek, so I'm apparently the one who's going to try to redress that as much as I am able to do so. just so there are stories I can tell about Him so that people can get to know Him, and maybe later, write their own stories about Him.
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Re: On Deity -or- Where the (Really) Wild Things Are
« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2013, 10:55:30 am »
Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117455
I think this brings up the heart of what I am questioning - how to tell imagination from deity. After all, there is evidence of people who fail to accurately make this distinction. While I am a fair distance away from approaching individual deities in my own work, this uncertainty makes me nervous even anticipating it.


I really genuinely truly do not worry about this.

I mean, I run a couple of error-check protocols every so often, along the lines of "If none of this is factually correct in any meaningful way, what are the effects?" which usually come out to "I've expended a certain amount of time and resources for something from which I have derived significant personal and emotional benefit, and I generally feel that I have been a better person to others as a result".

And you know?  That's pretty good score for delusions, and I'm okay with that.

(I have more thoughts on evaluating this stuff in a thread here:  http://www.ecauldron.com/forum/showthread.php?4262-Evaluating-Your-Gnosis )

Quote
Bringing it back a little to the issue of mistakenly identifying an internal experience as an experience of deity, I was reading a thread here that mentioned an individual who felt that the gods and goddesses select (or refuse) followers based on racial background. Based on what I've heard, some groups hold this perspective. Yet I also feel that most people here feel that that perspective is incorrect. So... where did these individuals go wrong? If they genuinely perceive the gods and goddesses as upholding their standard of racially based spirituality... how can we make sense of that?


Generally speaking, I think it's worth making a distinction between the religion of a culture and the gods.

Many minority groups have a history of having outsiders (read here "white people") come in and either actively try to destroy their culture and religion or to insist that the outsiders deserve to come in, gain entry, and participate fully even though they have not done the necessary work.  (Built up the appropriate relationships, been through the appropriate rituals, learned the language and approach, and so on.)  Any group has the full right and responsibility to determine which petitioners they will allow to gain access to their stuff.  Especially in the case of these minority groups, I fully respect their position that their stuff is only for people who, by birth or proper adoption, belong to their culture.

The gods, if they deal with people of other cultural backgrounds, are very unlikely to bring the same tools and mysteries and rituals that they do to the people they have dealt with for generations.  It is utterly inappropriate for those of us who are outside those circles to say that we are doing that group's stuff; we're not.  We are doing our own thing, at best brokering a compromise between where we are and where those gods are, and it is an outsider's perspective.
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Re: On Deity -or- Where the (Really) Wild Things Are
« Reply #20 on: August 01, 2013, 02:53:43 pm »
Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117541

 I suppose in some ways, the debate on the existence of the gods is moot - the outcome (a positive change in life direction and behaviors) is largely the same either way, with smallish differences... but that doesn't stop me from wanting an answer ;)


The answer  (taking a cue from Darkhawk) is: don't worry about it. Soft and hard polytheism are both correct theologies.

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Re: On Deity -or- Where the (Really) Wild Things Are
« Reply #21 on: August 01, 2013, 03:39:47 pm »
Quote from: TheHumanAxiom;117541
This discussion has been comforting, because I am seeing that experience does seem to help (so most seem to eventually find these experiences to be distinct and distinguishable), but that it is almost always not going to be just straightforward and clear as day (with exceptions). So if I don't receive a door-sized post card from a god/dess, I'm not doing something wrong. :)

 
There's a lot of people who simply don't feel the gods. So if you don't get anything, it's a perfectly normal thing and I don't think you should worry about it. Not everyone is an open channel to deity.

(I wasn't going to post this because you were asking specifically about distinguishing deity from non-deity, but FWIW...)

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