On Deity, or Where the (Really) Wild Things Are


Deity (Photo credit: Mabacam)

I would like to raise a discussion about the nature/experience of deity; I welcome any input of course, though I am also particularly interested in hearing from individuals who write, roleplay, act, and/or otherwise create fictional characters.

I am just beginning my study on pagan based religion, after a long standing interest. I am very drawn towards the concept of multiple, distinct deities, though I haven’t settled on whether I take a hard polytheistic stance, or a softer “all are facets of the one” stance yet.

What I am struggling with is how to discern experiences of deity from experiences of imagination, archetypes, the subconscious, etc. The reason I specifically asked for input from individuals who create fiction, is because as someone who very casually roleplayed in my younger days, I have nonetheless had the experience of a “living” fictional character in my head. While I am sure I used some archetypal personality structure for these characters, they had their own experiences in the roleplay, and seemed to exist as distinct individuals in my mind. If I wanted, I could have a mock conversation with them, as well as being aware that their advice or opinions on specific issues may differ from mine, or from other of my characters. Being creations of my mind, their input was almost always available on a whim – of course with more nuance and detail the more I had been thinking about the roleplay and that character.

I am given to understand this is not an unusual experience for individuals who roleplay or write stories. I would think this is also similar to how individuals can internalize close relationships, such that they can almost “talk” with their mother, or best friend, etc., in their own mind. What I struggle with is whether (and if so, how) this can be differentiated from the process of actually getting to know specific, individual, pre-existing deities?

So, my question for all: How do you discern between the voice and experience of deity, versus the voice and experience of any other internalized character (e.g., the internalized voice of your mother, your fictional character, your best friend)? In particular, for individuals who have created very nuanced or detailed character types in their head, how are interactions with those characters different from your interactions with deity? How are they the same?

Thank you all kindly for reading, and for any answers you’re willing to provide! I am guessing the answer to this will be different for everyone, so I’d love to hear any points of view – from hard and soft polytheists, as well as individuals who work with more universal deity concepts, archetypes, land spirits, other forms of self, spirit guides, anything!

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