Why I don’t trust the gods (at least not if I’m alone with one)

I am a Jungian Neo-Pagan, which means that, theologically speaking, I fall somewhere between atheist Pagans and devotional polytheists regarding the existence of the gods.  By placing my beliefs in the “middle” here I do not mean to privilege my beliefs, only to make the point that I both agree and disagree with both groups about different things.  One thing I agree with devotional polytheists about is that the gods should be taken seriously.  One thing I disagree with many of them about is that they can necessarily be trusted.*

Taking the gods seriously

I worry sometimes that we Neo-Pagans don’t take our own gods seriously enough.  While I may disagree with devotional polytheists about the metaphysical nature of the gods (whether they are “real, independent, sentient beings” or real, independent semi-conscious archetypes), one thing I admire about them is the seriousness (the “piety” if you will) with which they approach the gods.  Ronald Hutton has noted that one of the distinguishing features of Neo-Pagan witchcraft is the “consecration of play”.  As the Charge of the Goddess affirms, “mirth and reverence” both play an important role in Neo-Paganism.  This is an admirable corrective to the dreary seriousness of much of Christian liturgy.  But there is a time and place for all things, and sometimes it seems that our revelry trivializes our religion.

More to the point, sometimes we Neo-Pagans trivialize our gods.  We do this with a lot of our art — consider how, in Pagan art on the Internet, the goddesses look like Barbie dolls or comic book superheroines.  Barbara Ardinger’s Finding New Goddesses: Reclaiming Playfulness in Our Spiritual Lives is another good example of the trivialization of the gods.  While Ardinger’s book was perhaps intended as a parody, there is more than a kernel of truthfulness in her characterization of Neo-Pagans worshiping “found gods” like “Spendifera (spen-DIF-er-uh) Goddess of the Mall”.  And then there is the eclectic Neo-Pagan practice of “using gods” like tools, which has been called “plug and play gods” and “the god faucet”.  These trivializations of the encounter with the divine have encouraged a kind of backlash in our community, helping in part to fuel the growth of devotional polytheism — which I see as a much needed balance to the excesses of an eclectic and playful Neo-Paganism.  The desire to take the gods seriously is, I think, much of what fueled one side of the Superhero debate in the Pagan blogosphere last year and the more recent discussion which was sparked by Morpheus Ravenna’s post on how ritual might be different if we took the gods more seriously.

Are the gods worthy of worship?

But as much as I am concerned about the trivialization of the gods, as a Jungian Neo-Pagan*, I am also concerned when it is assumed that the gods are benign.  Uncritical trust can be a form of disrespect too.  The word “worship” derives from the Old English word for “worthy”.  I wonder then, why have I rarely seen the question asked whether the Pagan gods are worthy of worship.  To put it another way, why should we assume the gods can be trusted?  When I have asked the question of devotional polytheists in the past, it is often heard as a nonsensical.  I have been met with responses ranging from “Because I have faith they can be trusted” to “Because they can rip your arms off and beat you with them”.  The first echoes of monotheism for me, and the second is a non-sequitur (as well as counterfactual).  John Beckett has written about the gods as paragons of virtue.  But are they not also paragons of vice?  I concur with John Opsopaus that “The Gods Are Not Moral Ideals”.  The polytheistic gods, as I understand them, are not necessarily good and they are not omni-benevolent.  If the myths are to be believed on any level, the gods are just as flawed as human beings — they just have more power.  Why bow down to power, if it is not paired with virtue?

This guy bothers me.

This guy bothers me more.

One answer perhaps is that the gods should be worshiped because they are — just as nature can be worshiped because it is.  Worship (or reverence, if you prefer) is the natural human response to nature.   Nature is not moral or virtuous, and I have no reservations about worshiping it.  But worshiping something and trusting it are two different things.  I don’t ever assume that nature is benign or trustworthy.  Why should we assume the gods are trustworthy?  Worshiping them, I understand.  But trusting them?  I suspect that for some devotional polytheists, this trust is built through experience, creating relationships with the gods (what I think Hellenics call kharis).  But, in my experiences, as a Jungian Neo-Pagan*, the gods are anything  but trustworthy.

The role of capricious gods in a consent culture

Galina Krasskova writes that Dionysus and her own god, Odin, can be cruel, brutal, savage, even sadistic, and can even “violate consent”.  Consent is a core value for most Pagans, I think.  Do we have space in our pantheons for gods who violate consent?  Many of us worship nature even though nature does not respect consent.  Why should the gods be any different?  The Cambridge ritualist, Gilbert Murray, wrote the following about Euripides’ Dionysus:

“There are in the world things not of reason, but both below and above it; causes of emotion, which we cannot express, which we tend to worship, which we feel, perhaps, to be the precious elements in life. These things are Gods or forms of God: not fabulous immortal men, but ‘Things which Are,’ things utterly non-human and non-moral, which bring man bliss or tear his life to shreds without a break in their own serenity.”

It’s easy to see how gods like Dionysus and Odin fit this description, but I think it potentially applies to all the gods.  Take Aphrodite, for example, the so-called “goddess of love”, perhaps one of the most trivialized pagan goddesses in mainstream culture.  But in the myths, she was was responsible for the doom of dozens of mortals and gods who crossed her.  One thing that I take away from the myths is that the gods are just as likely to bring doom as they are to bring a boon.

Christine Downing, author of Gods in our Midst and The Goddess: Mythological Images of the Feminine, describes the gods as the “immortal, permanent, ineluctable aspects of the world.”  I think that definition could apply to the gods of devotional polytheists, as well as Neo-Pagan gods.  Whether we call them “gods”, “archetypes”, “forces of nature”, “immensities”, or “things which are”, it seems to me that they should be respected — but not trusted.  Respected, not the way Christians respect their benevolent father-god, but more like the way the ancient henotheistic Israelites respected Yahweh, who could be cruel and capricious. (Remember the story of Uzzah, who was struck down when he touched the ark of the covenant to steady it when the oxen carrying it stumbled in 2 Samuel 6?)  Yahweh was like a terrible force of nature that could kill indiscriminately (as well as a nurturing mother).

This is not to say that the gods should always be feared.  I can revel in a thunderstorm, and still respect it.  I agree with John Beckett, when he writes that “we can trust the gods to be who and what they are”– not to answer all our prayers, not to have our best interest in mind, but “we can trust the gods to be the gods.”  I agree, but I don’t think that’s saying very much.  I trust a thunderstorm to be a thunderstorm or the ocean to be the ocean, which is to say, I don’t trust either much at all.  But I still respect them and reverence their beauty and power.

How serious am I?

“Isn’t this all just hyperbole or metaphor, John?”, you might ask.  If a person like me believes the gods are natural forces or psychological archetypes, why does it matter if I respect them?  If the gods don’t grant us divine boons, what is the point of piety?  I would argue that respect is still the appropriate attitude for natural forces and psychological archetypes  If I don’t respect the lightning storm or the ocean, they can kill.  Attitudes determine actions.  And an impious attitude toward nature can get me killed.  If I treat the ocean like it is only the benevolent sheltering womb of the Goddess, then I overlook its dangers, the hidden undertow, the lurking predators.  The ocean may not intend to kill me, but I would still be just as dead.

And what about archetypes?  Carl Jung called the archetypes “gods” and compared the psyche to an “Olympus full of deities who want to be propitiated, served, feared and worshipped”.  How can the archetypes be dangerous?  They are dangerous if I assume they are benevolent.  Consider if I treat Aphrodite as merely a saccharine goddess of “love”, if I confuse Aphrodite Pandemos (lust) for Aphrodite Ourania (universal love).  Would that not wreak havoc on my personal life?   Or what if I treat the intoxicating power of Dionysus — in the form of drugs, alcohol, or sex — as an unequivocal good?  Or take the Morrigan, the goddess of sovereignty, who seems to be drawing many followers to her in recent years.  Often this worship seems to take take the form of an expression of personal sovereignty.  But a one-sided worship of personal sovereignty can undermine the connections that create community, something we Pagans need to be especially aware of, I think.  (Remember that sovereignty in Celtic myth meant, not independence, but a special kind relationship with one’s community and the land.)

Only pantheon is worthy of worship

And the gods can also be dangerous when they are not balanced with each other. What happens if Dionysus’ ecstasy is not balanced by the tempering influence of Apollo’s cool rationality?  Or if Odin’s berzerker rage is not mitigated by the grounding influence of Frigga?  Will not these archetypal power tear my life to shreds “without a break in their own serenity”, as Murray writes?

This is one thing that Paganism has taught me about my former faith, Christianity:  The problem with Yahweh wasn’t so much that he was a bad god; it was that he thought he was the only god.  Protestantism of the kind that I practiced (Mormonism, specifically) had done away with the Trinity, the saints, and the Theotokos, not to mention the spirits of nature — leaving only the jealous God who will have no others beside him.  (Sure, Mormons believe in a Heavenly Mother, but she has no name, cannot be prayed to, and is only mentioned in whispers.)  Paganism, especially Jungian Neo-Paganism, taught me that it is better to be whole than to be good — if to be “good” means to be one-sided.

In this sense, it is only the gods in their plurality that are worthy of worship, not any individual god.  To put it another way, it is only the pantheon, not the gods, that can be trusted.  Christine Downing writes, “At the very heart of polytheism lies the conviction that only the totality of the gods and goddesses constitutes the divine world. …  There are many myths that reveal how fatal it is for us humans to overlook even one, to fail to give each his or her due honor.”  For us to disregard any one of the gods, she goes on “is to curtail the richness of the world and the fullness of the human.”

Of course, I can’t worship all the gods all the time.  I can’t even worship all the gods of one pantheon all the time.  But I can be aware, as my attention is drawn to one god in particular for a while, that any deity exists in a sacred context — a pantheon — that includes other balancing powers. I can remember this in deed this by honoring different gods during different seasons or different times of the day.  I can do this by honoring in my rituals those ADF druids call “the Outsiders” and what the Greeks called Agnostos Theos, the unknown god.  I can do this by celebrating the fact that every god has his or her shadoweven the most seemingly benign.

Pagan priesthood and laity

Of course, there will always be those who are called to be priests and priestesses (or even godspouses), devoted exclusively to one god or another.  But perhaps such individuals should be approached with the same reservation and caution with which we approach the gods.  Emerson is believed to have said,

“The gods we worship write their names on our faces, be sure of that. … Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we are worshiping, for what we are worshiping we are becoming.”

Odin devotee, Galina Krasskova, seems to suggest as much when she writes: “Falling into Gods like Odin, and like Dionysos … carries with it the potential for finding those elements of the Gods’ nature in ourselves, for becoming in however small or large a way, transformed by Them, by the contact, transformed into becoming a bit more like Them in outlook.”  What does this mean when your god is a “savage god”?  I imagine this can be a good thing, just as there is such a thing as righteous anger — but it is not an unmitigated good.  An exclusive worship of one deity can be pathological.  Consider this example, from a certain priest of Dionysus:

“In the spirit of Savonarola and Charles Manson

I think the cult of celebrity is destroying Paganism
so I’m going to transform myself into a Pagan celebrity.

That’s right. I’m gonna get my nasty clown c*ck all up in that sh*t
so that the whole institution ends looking gross and absurd
and people will have no choice but to flee internet communities
and return to the solace of their shrines, just them and their gods
and never another thought given to what authorities think.

To kill what you hate, you must become it.

It ain’t gonna be easy. I’m going to have to stir up a lot of drama.

Innocent people will get burned.

But they brought it on themselves. You make yourself a sheep,
you’re pretty much asking to get fleeced. …”

Fortunately, not all Pagan priests identify so completely with the object of their devotion, and not all deities are as destructive as Dionysus.  But, as a Jungian Neo-Pagan*, I think the danger is always there in focusing exclusively on one god or goddess.  It seems like there is a fashion in Paganism recently for ever increasing levels of intimacy with individual gods (witness the proliferation of godspouses)– which seems odd in a community which is defined primarily by its polytheism.  Priests and priestesses are an essential part of our community, but it’s good, I think, that most of us are not priests (at least not in the traditional sense of the term).  A large pagan laity is a good thing, in my mind.  A community of true priests, like a community of shamans, would be no community at all — it would be a madhouse.

As for me, I am content that no Pagan god has singled me out.  I know what that kind of divine scrutiny is like.  I know what it is like to be “possessed” by a god (Yahweh).  I experienced it more like a disease than a blessing.  And I have learned that the only remedy for it is to open my eyes to discover “a world full of gods”.

 

[*Note: I do not mean to imply by anything I write here that the experiences of devotional polytheists and Neo-Pagans are necessarily comparable.  Oftentimes they are not comparable, as I have learned from discussions with several devotional polytheists.  Sometimes they are not entirely incomparable, as I have learned from Joshua Tenpenny's frank writing about his communication with the gods here and here.  Nor do I mean to imply that all Neo-Pagans experience the gods the same way, or that my experience is everyone else's.]

[Author's note: Most of the links to devotional polytheists' blogs have been removed to prevent controversy.  If you would like a source for a specific reference, please contact the author.]

Print Friendly

  • Lycaeus

    Perhaps the danger is moreso when worship is from an individualistic standpoint, rather than as worship from the standpoint of family and community.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      Good point. My perspective is very individualistic. Thanks for the insight.

  • Sarah Sadie

    Eternal Haunted Summer featured an article on Heathenry’s emphasis on humans’ “relationship” with the pantheon, as opposed to either obedience (as in the Big Three monotheist traditions) or mystery (as in at least much of Neo-Paganism?). I found it helpful.

    http://eternalhauntedsummer.com/issues/winter-solstice-2013/relationship-based-heathenry-ethics-and-practices-part-one/

    I agree the gods–even the most seemingly benevolent–should not be blindly trusted to be always kind or good from a human perspective. But somehow I think they need us as much as we need them. Proceed with caution, I guess.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      Thanks! That is an interesting distinction that I will have to give some more thought.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Interesting reflections, as always.

    I do think that the pantheonic context of any deity is extremely important, so thank you for highlighting that. One of the reasons I broke off from the earlier Antinous group that I co-founded was the monotheizing tendencies of that group, when in fact Antinous cannot exist as a deity without a number of other deities (from different pantheons!) existing first and giving him his deification–e.g. Re-Harakhte, Thoth, Selene, Osiris, Bes, Hathor, and Hermes for starters, and at very minimum! Even when they joked in the phrase “There is no god but Antinous and Hadrian is his prophet,” I was not comfortable with that suggestion, by any stretch of the imagination…what can I say, I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool polytheist by nature for a long time.

    As for “not trusting the gods”: hmm…It’s interesting to me that you’ve chosen that phrase because “to trust” and “to believe” are pretty much synonymous in both Latin (credo) and Greek (pistis)…and, in fact, I’ve suggested that even better than “believe” or “trust” would be the translation “have confidence in,” e.g. “I don’t believe in Antinous, I have confidence in him,” etc. While one could argue that confidence requires trust and belief when it comes to deities (and that is “true” to some extent or another), at the same time, to use one of your examples, I can be confident that a storm will be a storm and the ocean will be the ocean without having to have trust in it in the way you’ve described it above.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts. ;)

  • http://www.celestinetarot.com/ Celestine Angel

    Thanks for this post, it’s given me something to contemplate.

  • Za Goudou

    What effect does worship have on a devotee?

    How often have human beings in power sought to write themselves into history as a ‘god’?

  • Phillip Hunt

    Reading Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” opened my eyes to the danger of uncritical and slipshod involvement with the Divine Forces. Susanna Clarke in her ” Ladies of Grace Adieu ” also shows the dire consequences of meddling with the “Sidhe.”. For myself, I want to approach these “powers” with knowledge and reverence. I believe that ritual can be one way to safely partake of the divine energy. As a Spiritualist medium I also learned and experienced that the higher energy can be stepped down through the medium and become more accesable.

  • Henry Buchy

    “9 Now, the question is raised: ‘Since
    people think that they will become the Whole by knowing brahman, what did
    brahman know that enabled it to become the Whole?’

    10 In the beginning
    this world was only brahman, and it knew only itself (Atman), thinking: ‘I am
    brahman.’ As a result, it became the Whole. Among the gods, likewise, whosoever
    realized this, Only they became the Whole. It was the same also among the seers
    and among humans. Upon seeing this very Point, the seer Vamadeva proclaimed: ‘I
    was Manu, and I was the sun.’ This is true even now. If a man knows ‘I am
    brahman’ in this way, he becomes this whole world. Not even the gods are able to
    prevent it, for he becomes their very self (Atman). So when a man venerates
    another deity, thinking, ‘He is one, and I am another’, he does not understand.
    As livestock is for men, so is he for the gods. As having a lot of livestock is
    useful to a man, so each man proves useful to the gods. The loss of even a
    single head of livestock is painful; how much more if many are lost. The gods,
    therefore, are not pleased at the prospect of men coming to understand
    this.”
    Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.9-10
    from Upanishads, a new
    translation,Patrick Olivelle,Oxford World Classics

  • https://www.facebook.com/Vampyrian.Rev.JP Vampyrian

    I am of a Pagan type faith as well but it is my own belief as I had to sift through religions to find what I personally believe. I do not worship as I find it a giving up of your self and your strengths however I do trust my personally Goddess or God as I know they would never harm me personally as well as know they are higher beings than weak humans and deserve that respect. Humans are very faulty and destroy there own nature as well as only think of themselves or those they “Love” but most dont give a damn about the animals or other people they cant trust and many fell the same about the christian God or other gods as they destroy there own land and creators…

  • Morgan

    Yahweh knew very well he wasn’t the ONLY god, as he was part of a larger pantheon of gods whose creator/father was El. Yahweh simply set out to place himself above the others and, in time, be the only god to be known among the early Hebrews. Meanwhile, the non-Hebrew tribes, the earliest Pagans, were worshiping OTHER gods. It was one of these tribes that took in Cain after he was expelled from Eden; THAT is where his wife (and later, his brother Seth’s wife) came from.

  • ridetbred

    i don’t think that ‘trusting’ the gods means that one expects them to be eternally accommodating and fluffing and smoothing and soothing. and i’m in a fairly small minority in believing that they are absolutely purely good. that doesn’t mean i can expect them to pay my mortgage and save my ass from bad decisions. they’re not paragons of virtue to us because we’re humans, and our standards and jobs and ethics and very beings are not like theirs. we’re supposed to be humans, not gods. that doesn’t mean they are therefore paragons of vice.
    i think the problem here is far too much literalism when it comes to myths.

  • 02Dave12345

    .

  • http://stripey-badger.blogspot.com/ Rowan

    This ‘trust the gods to be themselves’ is very much in line with my own practices. Gods don’t fit in pretty little boxes to match the archetypes I need. A true practice, a real relationship with deity, forces me to accept the things about them that are not in accord with what makes me comfortable, and figure out how those things will challenge me.

    I do struggle with the idea of gods and consent. For me, it’s like a contract. I agree that they can meddle about in my life, but they understand that meddling in ways that are harmful to me will result in me refusing to fulfill any promises I’ve made them and refusing to serve them further. There are certain gods I give a wide berth to (for example, Odin) because they tend to be more high-handed and less concerned with what their followers want. The gods I work with tend to be more of the kind that poke you to go a direction, and poke you again, and then poke you harder, until you either go the direction or you say “No, I refuse that path.” When I was first being pulled to become a priestess, I was getting pretty much all dark goddess and grief counseling all the time, and I finally said, “OK, gods, if this is all my path as a priestess is gonna be, I’m not gonna do it, because this is killing me.” The pull stopped abruptly, until a couple of years later when I had the opportunity to perform a wedding and some other more positive aspects of ritual, and then I said, “OK, gods, this is a better balance. This path, I’ll walk. I have to have the good. You cannot only give me the hard things, because I’ll become useless to you as I burn out and fail.” They seemed to understand “I will do what is hard, but I need experiences that feed me as well.”

    It seems that the gods will accept me refusing a path, honor my ‘no’, if they understand that I am also giving up all the benefits a ‘yes’ would have given me. If I refuse to serve as a priestess, I lose the power and the respect and the deeper relationship that accompanies that commitment. I find that in certain parts of pagan community, some are inclined to want those benefits, but still refuse to earn them with service. That’s the ‘god faucet’ mentality you mention: the gods should hear my words and do my will on my terms, but I should not be expected to hear their words and do their will on their terms. I can’t imagine wanting to be that imperious and demanding of beings I personally believe can literally change the physical world.

  • yewtree

    Thank you for saying this. It resonates with my own thoughts on the matter. This is why I regard the gods as allies and not beings to be served.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

    Author’s note: Most of the links to devotional polytheists’ blogs have been removed to prevent controversy. If you would like a source for a specific reference, please contact the author.

  • http://www.paganleft.wordpress.com Mariah Sheehy

    There are some polytheists that describe their relationships to deities in ways I shy away from- like “godslaves” They will talk about how this god made them lose their job, develop an illness etc. but it was all a test of their devotion! Umm, no thanks. Definitely not part of my value system. I can accept that a god may challenge you to get outside of your comfort zone and be a better person, and religion is not all easy and fun going thru extreme suffering for the sake of faith is not what I signed up for. I’m not all sure about gods- I do know plain ol’ atheism doesn’t feed my soul. I’m not sure about humanistic paganism either. There are certain deities (like Zeus and the Morrigan), after studying their mythology that I really have trouble worshiping. I understand that we don’t take the myths literally and all that but still.

    • Matthew Robb

      I always found that sort of outlook to be terribly egotistical. Thinking a deity is micromanaging every aspect of your life by screwing with the people around you just seems silly.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

    A response from Tess Dawson:
    http://tessdawson.blogspot.com/2014/07/circles-look-at-article-about.html
    Unfortunately, I think she missed my main point.

  • https://undertheowlswing.wordpress.com/ Conor O’Bryan Warren

    Still too many hyperlinks per paragraph ;)

    I’ll be absolutely blunt John, I hate this article. Not because of your opinion (because I do think you have a point to make) but because the way you approached things renders a lot of what you said just ineffective.

    1) You rely on mythological literalism way too much. While the myths are certainly pointers to the nature of deity, your approach to myths felt like it lacked any nuance. I can’t say that the examination struck me as childish, but it did strike me as being *shallow*. I know you can do better than that.

    2) History shows that your assertion isn’t exactly gung-ho correct. New deities were frequently introduced to and assimilated into existing cultures. For Western examples we have the cult and worship of Auset/Isis being spread from hither to yon and attracting devotees by the truckload. Other examples include, but are not limited to Mithras, Osiris, Anubis, and (possibly maybe?) Dionysus. For a non-Western example we only have to look at Shinto, where Sri Ganesh was worshiped as Kangiten and Saraswati was worshiped as Benzaiten.

    3) It is unclear whether or not you are talking about henotheism or merely extreme devotion. The people you cited were mostly extreme devotionalists and not henotheists, since they worship gods other than the ones to which they are extremely devoted to. You could refine the argument to focus on henotheism, but you’d also have to find new living examples since neither Galina nor Sannion are henotheists.

    4) A pantheon in its wholeness is extremely difficult to worship on a regular basis. In Hellenism there are several hundred gods *that I am aware of* and my knowledge is likely incomplete. A pantheon of gods is not neat, tidy, and easy to manage with each god in their neat little place with their domains neatly intact. A pantheon is messy, fluid, and changing. Apollo has the epithet of Healer, but so does Athena. Many gods hold the title of “Savior” and “Mother” (one of which, by the by, is Athena.) Your argument seems to rest upon that particular crux, that pantheons are neat, tidy, and somehow removing one god from the equation would cause the house of cards to tumble. It isn’t so, from the days of Linear B to what we know to be roughly the end of the Classical era, the worship of some deities which may have been important (we aren’t sure entirely) ceased and fell away, or else were assimilated into the worship of other deities. Furthermore, the principal and supreme ruler seems to have shifted from Poseidon to Zeus.Gods are not neat and tidy and they don’t exist in a pantheon to balance out the others. They exist because they do.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      1) That’s curious, because I don’t take the myths literally.

      2) I’m not sure which assertion you’re referring to.

      3) From a Jungian perspective, I think the distinction between “extreme devotionalism” and henotheism is a distinction without a difference.

      4) I understand that, historically, pantheons are “messy” and fluid. That’s so of course because of differences in geographical and historical devotion. But from a Jungian perspective, I am not concerned with history, only with the “pantheon” that each of us is living with in the present.

      • https://undertheowlswing.wordpress.com/ Conor O’Bryan Warren

        1) You attribute and take the flaws of the gods in the myths as matter-of-factly accurate and definitely indicative of the reality of the being. It is sort of like saying that because I played a dumb character or a rude character that I *am* rude or dumb. It is like the folks who projected the sins of Joffery onto Jack Gleeson.

        2) The assertion that a god is only deserving of worship when contained within their own pantheon.

        3) As my boyfriend and I frequently tell each other, that’s okay, you’re allowed to be wrong :) The differences between extreme devotion and henotheism is like the differences between a platonic best friend and a spouse. But hey, I encourage you to joint-file in 2015 with your best friend instead of your spouse, you’ll get your return on time I’m sure. If the Jungian perspective cannot differentiate between the two then I seriously have to question its usefulness.

        4) I feel like this is a cop-out. It makes it seem to me that you are not concerned with historical basis because it repudiates the Jungian hypothesis and shows that the gods did not operate on such a model in ancient times. Likewise, by that assertion and logic there is no need to not mix and match, as long as one’s “personal pantheon” contains deities who even each other, you’re as golden as the sun. Or to take it on a different train, cultural heroes and symbols of our own generation and time would be the best to employ. Figures such as Lady Liberty, Columbia, Caffenia, George Washington, Johnny Appleseed, Davey Crockett, and Paul Bunyun. And there are boatloads more, if the archetypal nature and culture context are all that truly matter then folk heroes, figures, and personifications from the United States itself ought to work better than anything from Japan, China, India, or ancient Greece, yeah?

  • Helmsman Of-Inepu

    I’d say I don’t “trust” the police to be universally benevolent or have my interests and wellbeing as their first priority either. The same thing is true with teachers, bosses, etc.That’s not to say they all should be ignored or treated with a complete lack of respect.

    The Kemetics I know have talked about many of these issues too. One thing that strikes me is that most of the Netjeru seem to have balancing qualities within them. So Sekhmet is a goddess of pestilence as well as healing. Djehuty “Thoth” is involved with wisdom and writing, but is also the dirty-tricks vizier who gets the job done, and the other gods don’t want to hear about his methods.

  • Manuela Simeoni

    I would like to translate your post for the italian audience: many pagans there still can’t read English, but I think your post has many things that could make people reflect. Will you allow me to do so?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      Absolutely! Thanks.

      • Manuela Simeoni

        Thanks to you! I’ll post the link here as soon as it’s ready!

  • Matthew Robb

    I find I prefer the idea of aligning or allying with deities rather than worshipping them, but then I’m not one for subjugating myself to anyone. Odin and I go way back. Also, as you said, a healthy respect for any potentially dangerous entity is simply wise.

  • Thomas Duncan

    It’s difficult believing in invisible people. While some of the Gods seem to be living in flesh and blood, many are not. “Most” scientific method parties are none-religious and have ruled out the existence of none physical beings and religion only believes in one omnipotent super overlord being. Maddness can come from their acquaintance and most of them don’t even seem interested in politics or ‘religion’.

    Additionally: I mean that most none religious and atheist scientific method parties stick to fact based rationalization and would consider this experience delusion, which is reasonable. I’m moving on and not arguing with people on the internet anymore based off previous experiences, people are extremely rude and continuously waffle back and forth, trolling. It was a great opportunity for people to compare whatever guidance the Gods or Angels gave them, mine has been superb. People want answers and I have very few nor am I trying to be the messenger, I just wanted to learn and compare experiences and from what I can tell, no, It’s not very fair.

    I consider it a bit un-practical this mental level communication. the human mind is fragile and these beings seem more than delighted to humor me. As time goes on it becomes more convincing over the passing years to ease my mind. Other than that I realized I am not interested in politics most of the time and there is no reason why they would discuss politics with me at this time.

    My first experience with a psychiatrist ended with the her suggesting I be put in an asylum for observation, I ain’t got no time for that. So if you are being aided or tormented by the Gods or Angels please be reserved on your pursuit for professional help as they are just as likely to put you away. This new feature of my life doesn’t bother me, but if I was losing my grip on reality, which I’m not, I would like to know about it, but this experience with professional mental health was insulting. Cheers.

    • http://orphicplatonism.com/ Todd Jackson

      “Science has ruled out the existence of none physical beings and religion only believes in one omnipotent super overlord being.”

      Science has done no such thing whatsoever, and most of the world’s religions believe in many deities – including those which claim to believe in only one.

      • Thomas Duncan

        fixed

        • MadGastronomer

          Science has not ruled out the existence of gods or spirits. The scientific method — which you do not apparently understand — has not turned up sufficient evidence to conclusively demonstrate their existence. It’s completely different.

          Furthermore, I have been under the care of various psychiatrists and therapists for many years, as treatment for a mood disorder. I have discussed my religious experiences with most of them. Not one has concluded that I have delusions, hallucinations, or psychotic breaks. I have never been institutionalized or hospitalized for them. You do not know what you are talking about.

          • Thomas Duncan

            Go on

  • http://orphicplatonism.com/ Todd Jackson

    Articles, and attitudes such as this one are what can happen when, for a worshiper, the Many loses its roots in any ultimate Unity. There’s a reason Plato fuses the Good and the One. Lose a robust, all-embracing One, and replace it with a One that merely affirms individualities, and you lose the Good as well. You’ve drawn up a Cosmos filled with innumerable little egotisms, some of which are just older and stronger than others. You lose any necessary connection between the God and the Good. You also lose any fundamental connection the God and your self, having dimininished self into something small, hard, and innumerable, rather than Self.

  • MadGastronomer

    Reading this, frankly, I don’t understand what you mean by “trust”. Trust them to do what? I trust my friends, certainly, but I don’t trust them to be nice or kind all the time, because people aren’t. I don’t trust them to put my best interests before their own, because that would be unreasonable. Does that make them unworthy of my trust and friendship?

    The gods are individuals, and their natures and personalities are what they are, and we should give our trust and faith based on what they are, not what we think they ought to be. I trust the gods I worship to do what they say they will do, to carry out their duties, to be true to their natures. Mortals simply declaring that the gods ought to be or do this or that — to be omnibenevolent, to answer every prayer, to do whatever — doesn’t make that actually their duty or nature.

    I trust that the things Hekate asks me to do have some purpose, and are not just whims, even if I don’t understand them, because I understand her nature to be such that she makes deliberate choices, and I trust that she will accept my choices, and accept it when I make the choice not to do as she asks, because she has always done so. I trust Dionysos to grant me freedom through his ecstasy, because that is his nature and his function. I trust all the gods I worship to do their things.

    I also don’t understand how there’s no functional difference to a Jungian between “extreme devotion” and henotheism. Henotheism, by definition, means worshiping only one god while acknowledging the existence of others. The people you mention not only worship multiple gods, but worship multiple gods with what you seem to be calling extreme devotion. How is there not a functional difference?

    And if you think that Apollo is a god of “cool rationalism,” then your understanding of him is both extreme modern and extremely facile. He is a god of philosophy and science, yes, but he is also a god of art and creativity, things which are not often coolly rational. He is a god of plague as well as healing. There are ecstatic rites of Apollo. The Oracle at Delphi was an ecstatic oracle, relying on trance and mind-altering fumes to contact the god. This supposed Apollonian/Dionysian split is an entirely modern notion, and again, has nothing to do with the nature of the god. Dionysos, meanwhile, is not only a god of excess. Abstinence, too, is a part of his worship, because yes, if we do not take time to live in the world, take time in a mundane consciousness, ecstasy rapidly loses meaning. It does us no good if it is not set aside as separate and different.

    For all you talk of taking the gods seriously, your understanding of them seems shallow and poorly considered, and to be based in what you think they ought to be rather than what they are. I don’t mean that you think of them as archetypes, but that you do not seem to consider the full dimension of what those archetypes are, but to rely on only one facet of them, even as you mention multiple epithets for some of them.

  • Thomas Duncan

    Teaching divine intervention in religious doctrine should be forbidden as well.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X