The Perspective of the Gods

Millions of years of evolution have given us the instinct to live for today – eat all you can now, since you don’t know when you’ll be able to find food again. Thousands of years of civilization have taught us to plan ahead, to plant crops and build houses. The two combined have taught us to moderate our self-interests enough to care for our children and grandchildren, since we know that while we will die our genes – and perhaps more – will live on in them.

But we still have trouble seeing beyond a short period – a few days or a few months or maybe a few years. That can be a problem when we’re participating in sacred work inspired by gods and goddesses whose perspective is a lot longer than the average American life expectancy of 78.2 years.

What do the gods want? What is their grand plan? And how long is it going to take?

Monotheists can talk about “God’s plan” or “God’s desires” with some integrity, though those words are incredibly weak and empty when spoken to those who have just experienced a great loss. Still, Jews, Christians and Muslims, as well as mystical monotheists can rightly wonder what God wants, search their hearts and study their traditions and order their lives accordingly.

For polytheists, the idea of “the gods’ plan” borders on the absurd. The goddesses and gods of our ancestors have vastly different areas of responsibility and influence and they were frequently in conflict with each other. Barring multiple cases of identical special revelation, we should not assume they are suddenly all playing on the same team.

Whatever their plans – individually, with other deities, or in the unlikely case they really are all working together – it’s a safe bet those plans do not have the comfort and convenience of humans as their highest priority.

Still, some deities are actively working in our world and in our lives. Look around, listen and read – you’ll find them. Brighid, Cernunnos, Danu, Lugh, Ceridwen, Dagda, and Morrigan – just to mention the Celtic gods and goddesses who I’m acquainted with and whose followers I encounter on a regular basis. In particular, Morrigan is calling priestesses and priests. What does she want with them? The message everyone is hearing is “something’s coming – get ready.” Get ready for what? And more importantly, how?

If we think from a human perspective we will think too small. We are not gods (though the Divine is in us all), but if we expand our frames of reference we can make some reasonable assumptions.

Many of our deities are Nature gods – they are closely connected to the Land, the Sky and the Sea. It is reasonable to assume they want to protect and preserve this planet, its natural processes, and its diversity of life.

Other deities are gods of ideals – gods and goddesses of justice, beauty, truth, order and such. It is reasonable to assume they want to promote their ideals and for us to embody them.

Many of our deities are tribal gods – they are closely connected to clans and cultures and nations. It is an arrogant mistake to assume the gods are here to serve us or even humanity as a whole, but they have invested thousands (millions?) of years in nurturing us and helping us grow into what we’ve become. I’ll repeat what I said back in April: the best chance this planet has of evolving highly intelligent, self-aware and compassionate creatures is for us to grow up. It is reasonable to assume they want us to learn and grow and take care of ourselves and each other.

Whatever it is they want from us – again, individually or in cooperation with others – I believe it revolves around caring for the Earth and becoming more god-like. They want our worship not because they’re needy or jealous but because they know what humans worship they become. And their perspective of time is far longer than ours.

I am leery – very leery – of trying to speculate further than that. I have enough trouble figuring out what I need to do on a day-to-day basis, much less trying to figure out what anyone else should do.

But I’m certain of this: if something brings me closer to Nature it’s good. If it brings me closer to the gods and goddesses I serve it’s good. If it brings me closer to my fellow humans it’s good. And if it helps my fellow humans to learn these things it’s good.

I’m certain I have a part to play in the growth and evolution of our planet and our species. So do you. We may never get to see the “master plan” – there may not even be a master plan. We will likely not see the end result. We are a link in a chain that goes back hundreds and thousands of years, and with our help, will extend thousands and millions of years into the future.

Try to keep things in perspective!

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  • "For polytheists, the idea of “the gods’ plan” borders on the absurd. The goddesses and gods of our ancestors have vastly different areas of responsibility and influence and they were frequently in conflict with each other. Barring multiple cases of identical special revelation, we should not assume they are suddenly all playing on the same team."

    One of the problems with monotheistic religions is that their followers often have a poor understanding of the fact that all conceptions of the divine that are accessible to the human mind, without exception, bar none, are METAPHORS. Far too often, this leads them to make the mistake of thinking that their particular metaphorical conception of the Holy is literally true, and all others which, on the surface, seem different, are literally false.

    Your post, unfortunately, constitutes good evidence that while monotheists may have an exclusive claim on that particular we-have-the-only-way version of this mistake, it can occur in other forms which, while perhaps less potentially malevolent, are just as wrong.

    I think we should also remember, if we are going to engage in a poetic reconstruction of ancient polytheistic practices, that the ancients also had philosophers among them and mystics who recognized that a unity underlay the apparent diversity of the gods, and that all distinctions in the world are somewhat arbitrary, drawn by the human mind in ways that may be objectively justified but are not objectively mandated.

    The gods are many — but that is in a sense an illusion. They are also one. To assert to the contrary is not to engage in religious freedom, but to forget wisdom and leave important parts of ancient paganism (its mysteries and its philosophy) behind, confining ourselves to the visceral level of understanding that was available to the uneducated, the unenlightened, and the unthinking.

  • I believe that ultimately All is One. Gods, spirits, humans, other animals, the physical world – we're all connected and all part of one whole Universe (and maybe Multiverse, but that's getting out of both my expertise and interest).

    But I have experienced individual gods and goddesses. I have not experienced them as aspects or as facets or as metaphors – I have experienced them as real, distinct, individual beings. Therefore I choose to relate to them as though they are real, distinct, individual beings, even though I can never be objectively sure I'm right.