Friday, May 8, 2009

Poly/Mono theistic dichotomy

Frater POS posts here some thoughts about Polytheism and Monotheism. 

I myself have always thought of this as another false dichotomy. 

First lets look at Polytheism. No matter how many gods a culture has, most Pagan pantheons only have one creator god, one god from whom all others originate. One or two create everything - other beings are by definition lesser beings and while perhaps immeasurably powerful and long lived by human standards, still possess quite human neurosis and frailties according to their myths. 

Now look at Monotheism. One creator god, but it doesnt really end there. There are angels and demons, and saints, and djinn, and a whole host of beings that one can relate to. Its not much different than a Pagan pantheon. 

The idea that all the pagan gods are really aspects of one god isnt really just a product of the current culture. If you look at the more complex Pagan mystical texts like the Chaldean Oracles, you see this same idea. Similarly in most Hinduism both ancient and modern. 

The transition from Yahweh to "God" happened before the old testament was even compiled. One can easily see the Elohist and Preistly narrative that got laid on top of the Yahwist narrative in order to transition the god of Isreal from a god to GOD. When he is behaving in the truly cosmic transcendent sense, than he/she is GOD. When he is being persnickety about what offerings are burnt on what mountain and when in order to defeat the enemies of some other tribe, he most certainly is not GOD, but just a god. The same can be said of Pan, Shiva, Hekate, and a host of other beings that have both immanent and transcendent manifestations. For instance it is hard to reconcile the cosmic Hekate of the Oracles with the dark Hekate of the Papyrii. 

Of course I myself am more a Buddhist than anything else. I find most of the ideas of non-mystical monotheistic and polytheistic religion pretty silly. I am not a worshiper. While I do feel a certain "direction" and consiousness to the universe itself that I have often described as God, I do not really feel compelled to relate to any outward deity as a means of salvation or goal, so maybe I just dont understand the whole thing. 


Frater POS said...

With your intellect, I still think you'd enjoy John's book. I could be wrong.

Jason Miller, said...

I probably would. I don't need to agree with an argument to enjoy it. Heck I even listen to right wing radio sometimes :-)

IanC said...

I must admit that I have a hard time identifying a creator God in the Pagan systems I know. Who would that possibly be in Greek lore, for instance? Various things are created by various Gods in various ways, from Arachne to the creation of various constellations. Some Pagan tales seem to have a sort of first cause, but that first cause is still not the maker of all, and certainly not the ruler or manager of the world as it is.
I think that's one big diff between polytheism and monotheism - monotheism assume a 'providential will', that guides event, while polytheism must understand the world as many wills (including our own) whose pattern makes the world, with no one purpose guiding it.

MSG said...

I dont think being God/a god is about being the creator specifically. It is about being the Ultimate, Reality, the Truth, etc. "The Source" can definitely be included here as another name to point at the Unnamable that I am talking about. If a spirit is to be properly regarded as a god, it must be experienced as this Ultimacy. Otherwise it is just a powerful spirit.

I would say that in the moment of worship or communion there can be little thought of other gods. But whether the various gods (ie the various presences of divinity) are ultimately one God is a question that I dont think has a definite answer. When divinity presents itself under the symbolism of Oneness, then I say yes. But when divinity is present to me as a mountain, I see no need to say that this is the same God as when I saw the divine in the ocean. The question of number doesnt arise.