Should Pagans Create Meaning From Scratch? Out of nothing?

I’ve been sneaking reading into my day, much like the old days under blankets with a flashlight. I got a copy of All Things Shining to review, which rumor has it basically recommends polytheism as the cure for modern nihilism.

In the second chapter I found an idea that made me pause, and I invite you to sit with it for a moment, to consider it:

“It is as if the true burden of this responsibility—the responsibility to escape from the meaninglessness and drudgery of a godless world by constructing a happier meaning for it out of nothing, literally ex nihilo as God himself once had done—was too much for any human spirit to achieve. It is a possibility that requires us to become gods ourselves.”

Ignore the strange mixture of theisms for a moment and consider the vastness of the universe. Consider the vast diversity of organic life on this planet. Consider the infinite chemical reactions, the transfers of matter into energy and back. Consider the breadth and depth of the human race. Now consider you have to create a meaning for all of this from scratch.

How daunting is that? Modern Paganism is a strange animal. We are a mixture of people who look to the ancients for meaning, people who create their own meaning and any possible combination of the two views. Some Pagans have a Nietzschean view of the Will, of being a “free spirit,” as the ultimate. Some believe the ultimate meaning lies outside ourselves, that we must accept it and keep rowing.

Before receiving the book I ran across this quote:

Seek not, my soul, the life of the immortals; but enjoy to the full the resources that are within thy reach.” — Pindar

Hubris is something ancient Paganism was concerned with. Our submission to the Gods is not like Christian submissiveness, but in the same way I am submissive to a mountain. If the mountain chooses to fall on me there is nothing I can do, I cannot convince the mountain to move by any argument, yet I can destroy the mountain if I have the resources and time. Attempts have been made to destroy the Gods in the past, but like the mountain, their essential parts remain and may be reconstructed over time. Usually though, we ignore the mountain we do not like, and it remains.

The kind of hubris that tries to destroy a mountain is the same kind that seeks to destroy a God. It’s a difficult and unrewarding task, and merely leaves you empty. The lack of a mountain is no improvement, and so it goes with Gods. More often hubris seeks to ignore the Gods. A God may accept your anger at them, that you are allied against them, and may even entertain your arguing with them, but what God will accept being ignored? What human accepts a fly ignoring their efforts to keep it out of their soup?

It seems to me that trying to create meaning ex nihilo, out of nothing, is to ignore the Gods and our ancestors, thousands of years of wisdom regarding the human experience. To codify that wisdom and reduce it to a single book is the error of monotheism, which gave rise to nihilism, existentialism and atheism. The structure of our worldview, of the meaning of our lives is not only living in the words of the ancients, but a continual revelation into present times. Like little buckets from a deep well, polytheism still informs our world view today. Wicca, Thelema and Discordianism are three very different forms of Modern Paganism which contain modern revelations. The Charge of the Goddess is not the Sermon on the Mount or the Ten Commandments. It’s not a brick in the wall to contain us, but a drop in a river that sustains us.

I’ve always believed that Paganism was not about transcendence, but about embracing humanity as it actually exists, about striving to be more human, not more godlike. I don’t believe we create our own meaning and morality. It’s why I’m Wiccan, why I came back to Wicca after being a “non-denominational” Pagan for years. The Gods, old and new, are tasked with creating a meaning for the Universe. I think it’s my job to be open to those small continual revelations and be content to be as human as I can be.

Here’s the author’s blog on the book project and you can likely expect more regarding this book here on Patheos.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

    Actually we create meaning out of nothing all the time, in our modern society, or more directly redesign/reorient words, to new meanings. I mean a Twitter is a laugh, now it is a SMS. Google is a 1 followed by a 100 zeros, now it is one of the largest companies in the world. Facebook would have been your High School scrapbook,now it is a major website, and the list goes on.

    As a Pagan we do this all the time, first by Oberon Zell, reclaiming and recapturing the word itself. The late Isaac Bonewits repurposing Pagan to NeoPagan, and even the word witch itself has been given new definition. So this has always been with us.

    We can not dis the Gods, not really. If they are truly what we feel and believe, then they are being of vastly superior intellect and capacity. We can only insult ourselves with small thinking and limited flar earth thinking.  It is why I became Wiccan myself, particularly, because of the drive to become one with the Goddess and God, the striving evolutionary leap forward, to become more towards the divine everyday. That I could look at the world as something continious from the deep past to the deep future and understand that I too am part of this.

    In the end we really can not create something out of nothing, that is the Goddess herself when she birthed the Universe did, and therefore anything we create can not be created from nothing, because she and her consort gave birth to everything, including the thoughts in my head. So to think and have the hubris to think anything we do is so new, so amazing and so different, is to say we too are creative little gods, and maybe that is what the goddess wants us to do.

    Just my thoughts, I love the article. You have become my most need reads Star.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

    Actually we create meaning out of nothing all the time, in our modern society, or more directly redesign/reorient words, to new meanings. I mean a Twitter is a laugh, now it is a SMS. Google is a 1 followed by a 100 zeros, now it is one of the largest companies in the world. Facebook would have been your High School scrapbook,now it is a major website, and the list goes on.

    As a Pagan we do this all the time, first by Oberon Zell, reclaiming and recapturing the word itself. The late Isaac Bonewits repurposing Pagan to NeoPagan, and even the word witch itself has been given new definition. So this has always been with us.

    We can not dis the Gods, not really. If they are truly what we feel and believe, then they are being of vastly superior intellect and capacity. We can only insult ourselves with small thinking and limited flar earth thinking.  It is why I became Wiccan myself, particularly, because of the drive to become one with the Goddess and God, the striving evolutionary leap forward, to become more towards the divine everyday. That I could look at the world as something continious from the deep past to the deep future and understand that I too am part of this.

    In the end we really can not create something out of nothing, that is the Goddess herself when she birthed the Universe did, and therefore anything we create can not be created from nothing, because she and her consort gave birth to everything, including the thoughts in my head. So to think and have the hubris to think anything we do is so new, so amazing and so different, is to say we too are creative little gods, and maybe that is what the goddess wants us to do.

    Just my thoughts, I love the article. You have become my most need reads Star.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

    Actually we create meaning out of nothing all the time, in our modern society, or more directly redesign/reorient words, to new meanings. I mean a Twitter is a laugh, now it is a SMS. Google is a 1 followed by a 100 zeros, now it is one of the largest companies in the world. Facebook would have been your High School scrapbook,now it is a major website, and the list goes on.

    As a Pagan we do this all the time, first by Oberon Zell, reclaiming and recapturing the word itself. The late Isaac Bonewits repurposing Pagan to NeoPagan, and even the word witch itself has been given new definition. So this has always been with us.

    We can not dis the Gods, not really. If they are truly what we feel and believe, then they are being of vastly superior intellect and capacity. We can only insult ourselves with small thinking and limited flar earth thinking.  It is why I became Wiccan myself, particularly, because of the drive to become one with the Goddess and God, the striving evolutionary leap forward, to become more towards the divine everyday. That I could look at the world as something continious from the deep past to the deep future and understand that I too am part of this.

    In the end we really can not create something out of nothing, that is the Goddess herself when she birthed the Universe did, and therefore anything we create can not be created from nothing, because she and her consort gave birth to everything, including the thoughts in my head. So to think and have the hubris to think anything we do is so new, so amazing and so different, is to say we too are creative little gods, and maybe that is what the goddess wants us to do.

    Just my thoughts, I love the article. You have become my most need reads Star.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

    Actually we create meaning out of nothing all the time, in our modern society, or more directly redesign/reorient words, to new meanings. I mean a Twitter is a laugh, now it is a SMS. Google is a 1 followed by a 100 zeros, now it is one of the largest companies in the world. Facebook would have been your High School scrapbook,now it is a major website, and the list goes on.

    As a Pagan we do this all the time, first by Oberon Zell, reclaiming and recapturing the word itself. The late Isaac Bonewits repurposing Pagan to NeoPagan, and even the word witch itself has been given new definition. So this has always been with us.

    We can not dis the Gods, not really. If they are truly what we feel and believe, then they are being of vastly superior intellect and capacity. We can only insult ourselves with small thinking and limited flar earth thinking.  It is why I became Wiccan myself, particularly, because of the drive to become one with the Goddess and God, the striving evolutionary leap forward, to become more towards the divine everyday. That I could look at the world as something continious from the deep past to the deep future and understand that I too am part of this.

    In the end we really can not create something out of nothing, that is the Goddess herself when she birthed the Universe did, and therefore anything we create can not be created from nothing, because she and her consort gave birth to everything, including the thoughts in my head. So to think and have the hubris to think anything we do is so new, so amazing and so different, is to say we too are creative little gods, and maybe that is what the goddess wants us to do.

    Just my thoughts, I love the article. You have become my most need reads Star.

  • Elinor Predota

    I really like your comparison of Gods to a mountain here, and I agree completely about the hubris of attempting to create meaning ex nihilo, but I don’t quite follow you to your conclusion.

    I believe we do have a role as co-creators with those Gods, which are the Universe itself in all its diversity, not just one of passive acceptance of the meanings they provide. Our creative nature is a simple truth of human nature, along with our destructive nature. As A Course In Miracles puts it (to get syncretic for a moment), “We are as God[s] created us.”

    We are already divine as well as human and animal. To ignore any part of ourselves – within or without – is to ignore the Gods.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      To create is to be godlike, but the beaver, the honeybee and the prairie dog also create. Creativity isn’t a distinctly human trait. Saying that we’re creative doesn’t make us divine, it makes us a part of nature. What we have that is unique is our humanity, and I think it strange to say that our creativity is more divine than a prairie dog creating his tunnels and dens. He’s not likely to work against nature in his creativity. We are.

      So I guess I’m saying, “We’re creative. So what?” It doesn’t change that  the divine inspiration, the muse and the spark come from somewhere else.

      • Eldri

            The divine inspiration need not come from ‘somewhere else’, we are Part of it already

        Honeybees, beavers and *every Other part* of the Universe are Godlike/Part of god… as humans We create, and Think about what we create. Sometimes we strive for beauty…

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          I don’t believe in Universalism, Immanence or Pantheism. We are not One.

          Being connected does not make us the same. If we are One, then there is only me, and how lonely is that? It comforts me to know there is something out there other than myself.

          My tradition has a statement on One-ness that I have thought long and hard about. For me it represents solidarity, not Universalism. Connection is a choice, consequences and circumstances do not make a spiritual truth.

          Maybe I should unpack this idea further in the future.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’d be exceptionally intrigued to hear the results of that unpacking, I’ll be honest.  

            I’m freakishly underslept just now and language is being commensurately slippery, so I’m having a challenging time wrapping words around the whole transcendent / immanent thing, but to try to put it (deceptively) simply, I tend to believe that the Gods are both at once.

            I hear what you’re saying about solidarity, connection and uniqueness, and it resonates with me deeply.  At the same time, the notion that everything is a facet of an Unknowable Whole also resonates with me.  

            In any case, thank you for this post… it’s giving me a great deal of food for thought and tying into some things I’m working on, with regards to my path and relationship with the Gods.

            I’m particularly caught by your statement, “I’ve always believed that Paganism was not about transcendence, but about embracing humanity as it actually exists, about striving to be more human, not more godlike” and I was wondering… how do you define “being human” and “being godlike”? 

          • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

            To begin with, being a god is by definition not being human. So trying to be godlike is trying to be something entirely different from what you are. That’s not healthy. It’s like going around saying you’re trying to become more fishlike.

            My favorite definition of being human is that we are where the falling angel meets the rising ape. To be human is to accept our humanness, our natural condition. For instance, it’s inhuman to insist you should never be angry. Humans get angry and need to express it. How and when they express it must be learned, and that learning should strive towards excellence. The ancients were very caught up in the idea of excellence.

            Icarus was trying to be a bird or a God. That’s why he failed. When man finally learned how to fly it via the very human arts inspired by Hephaistos. The Delphic Maxims tell us to both “think as a mortal” and to “finish the race without shrinking back.”

            The problem with Universalism is it implies we are dissatisfied with our lot in life. Would anyone perfectly content in the struggle and glory of their humanity invent a transcendent One-ness? If we are One, it is not an indisputable fact of life, such as the earth revolving the sun, but a conscious choice to reach out and forge connections.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            Thank you for unpacking that.  As you explain it, I can totally see that.  

            I really like that definition of being human, too.  

            I think where I get hung up is that, I find myself, at times, aspiring to be more fishlike… in as much as I would like to have traits that I consider admirable in fish… say, a strong swimmer or to have stronger instincts.  And what I wouldn’t give for direction sense.  It doesn’t mean I want to literally be a fish… (for one thing, I look nothing like Don Knotts.)  

            I think I shy away from the notion of “perfect contentment”, too… If you’re perfectly content, what drives you to strive, to learn, to push and grow?  I don’t think you’re advocating stagnation, mind, it’s just that I think I have a different definition of transcendence.  I think there are things that we humans need to overcome in our nature, but I don’t think that requires leaving behind all that we *are* in order to become wholly something else entirely.  Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your definition, though, or at least missing some nuances.

          • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

            Being perfectly content in my home doesn’t mean I won’t sweep the floor or wash the dishes. It doesn’t mean I won’t change the curtains or paint the walls. Regardless of improvements or changes I make, I’m still satisfied to live here.

            Humans can be strong swimmers, have good instincts and develop a sense of direction. Those are human traits that can be improved by striving for excellence. Wanting to have gills so that you can live underwater is inhuman. Trying to pray away the gay, abstain from anger or avoid negative thoughts are inhuman. Sexual attraction, anger and having a negative thought or two are very human traits. Channeling them into something useful and productive is far different from transcending them.

          • Robert

            Immanence does not imply transcendence, however; in fact it usually is in opposition to the concept of transcendence.  Immanence infers that, since all is Divine, we too are Divine, and that we are Divine -right now-.  We don’t seek to transcend our Humanity because there’s nothing to transcend.  I am perfectly content with my own human nature, because my human nature is also my Divine nature, they’re one and the same. 

          • Hbuchy

            don’t know where you got the idea of being “One” from the above.
            Nor that immanence or pantheism implies a oneness, same ness. Being ‘part of’ is not sameness. Similar perhaps but sameness, no.
            I am not the same as my father or mother, yet in ways I am similar, and I am connected to them also in ways I have no choice in. And to their parents and to their parents parents etc. I am connected to the land in that I take sustenance from it and it becomes part of my material frame, part of my body. I breathe the same air as everyone else. The water I drink and void, the food I eat and void, all passes back through the earth and is taken up elsewhere by others. There are connections, energetic connections as well, and which one really doesn’t have a choice in. That physically make me a part of everything. I don’t even need to address any ‘spiritual truth’ in that regard.
            wtaer is made up of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Is a hydrogen molecule the same as any other? Perhaps in structure but not in ‘experience’, they are each  still an individual atom, each in a different place in time and space. Many candles can be lit from one fire,without diminishing that fire in the least. They are all individual flames yet they are also all fire.

          • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanence

            I don’t believe the Divine is in each of us, which implies the Divine is One. I don’t believe all is Divine, which implies the Divine is One.

            I believe I am human, separate, distinct, unique. I am not an atom. Sugar is in both cakes and lemonade. Cakes are not lemonade.

          • Hbuchy

            lol, you sourced wikipedia???heh
            true but they both have sugar in them. that’s the point.
            just because sugar is in them doesn’t make them the same. Nor does saying the divine is in everything imply that everything is one.
            Maybe for you it does, and perhaps for wikipedia, but not for me.

          • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

            It implies the Divine is One. Which is monotheism. Unless you can find a polytheistic definition of pantheism or immanence in Merriam-Webster.

          • Hbuchy

            Ah the dictionary game….
            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immanent?show=0&t=1313704834
            Indwelling, inherent.
            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immanence
            Immanence- the quality or state of being immanent.
            Pantheism
            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pantheism
            1) a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe.
            2) the worship of all gods of different cults, creeds,or peoples indifferently; also: toleration of worship of all gods( as in certain periods of the Roman Empire)
            Plain and simple, no implications of ‘oneness’ divine or otherwise.
            Nor does pantheism imply immanence, except by others who forced those ideas into those terms.

          • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

            We are One. And we are Two. And we are Three. And we are Four.

            And She was just Seventeen.

            If you know what I mean.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jannekebrouwers Janneke Brouwers

            I do not think connection is only a matter of choice. What about are childhood for example, our parents, our ancestors. We are connected to them even if we do not wish it so.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      To create is to be godlike, but the beaver, the honeybee and the prairie dog also create. Creativity isn’t a distinctly human trait. Saying that we’re creative doesn’t make us divine, it makes us a part of nature. What we have that is unique is our humanity, and I think it strange to say that our creativity is more divine than a prairie dog creating his tunnels and dens. He’s not likely to work against nature in his creativity. We are.

      So I guess I’m saying, “We’re creative. So what?” It doesn’t change that  the divine inspiration, the muse and the spark come from somewhere else.

  • Elinor Predota

    I really like your comparison of Gods to a mountain here, and I agree completely about the hubris of attempting to create meaning ex nihilo, but I don’t quite follow you to your conclusion.

    I believe we do have a role as co-creators with those Gods, which are the Universe itself in all its diversity, not just one of passive acceptance of the meanings they provide. Our creative nature is a simple truth of human nature, along with our destructive nature. As A Course In Miracles puts it (to get syncretic for a moment), “We are as God[s] created us.”

    We are already divine as well as human and animal. To ignore any part of ourselves – within or without – is to ignore the Gods.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      To create is to be godlike, but the beaver, the honeybee and the prairie dog also create. Creativity isn’t a distinctly human trait. Saying that we’re creative doesn’t make us divine, it makes us a part of nature. What we have that is unique is our humanity, and I think it strange to say that our creativity is more divine than a prairie dog creating his tunnels and dens. He’s not likely to work against nature in his creativity. We are.

      So I guess I’m saying, “We’re creative. So what?” It doesn’t change that  the divine inspiration, the muse and the spark come from somewhere else.

      • Eldri

            The divine inspiration need not come from ‘somewhere else’, we are Part of it already

        Honeybees, beavers and *every Other part* of the Universe are Godlike/Part of god… as humans We create, and Think about what we create. Sometimes we strive for beauty…

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

          I don’t believe in Universalism, Immanence or Pantheism. We are not One.

          Being connected does not make us the same. If we are One, then there is only me, and how lonely is that? It comforts me to know there is something out there other than myself.

          My tradition has a statement on One-ness that I have thought long and hard about. For me it represents solidarity, not Universalism. Connection is a choice, consequences and circumstances do not make a spiritual truth.

          Maybe I should unpack this idea further in the future.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’d be exceptionally intrigued to hear the results of that unpacking, I’ll be honest.  

            I’m freakishly underslept just now and language is being commensurately slippery, so I’m having a challenging time wrapping words around the whole transcendent / immanent thing, but to try to put it (deceptively) simply, I tend to believe that the Gods are both at once.

            I hear what you’re saying about solidarity, connection and uniqueness, and it resonates with me deeply.  At the same time, the notion that everything is a facet of an Unknowable Whole also resonates with me.  

            In any case, thank you for this post… it’s giving me a great deal of food for thought and tying into some things I’m working on, with regards to my path and relationship with the Gods.

            I’m particularly caught by your statement, “I’ve always believed that Paganism was not about transcendence, but about embracing humanity as it actually exists, about striving to be more human, not more godlike” and I was wondering… how do you define “being human” and “being godlike”? 

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

            To begin with, being a god is by definition not being human. So trying to be godlike is trying to be something entirely different from what you are. That’s not healthy. It’s like going around saying you’re trying to become more fishlike.

            My favorite definition of being human is that we are where the falling angel meets the rising ape. To be human is to accept our humanness, our natural condition. For instance, it’s inhuman to insist you should never be angry. Humans get angry and need to express it. How and when they express it must be learned, and that learning should strive towards excellence. The ancients were very caught up in the idea of excellence.

            Icarus was trying to be a bird or a God. That’s why he failed. When man finally learned how to fly it via the very human arts inspired by Hephaistos. The Delphic Maxims tell us to both “think as a mortal” and to “finish the race without shrinking back.”

            The problem with Universalism is it implies we are dissatisfied with our lot in life. Would anyone perfectly content in the struggle and glory of their humanity invent a transcendent One-ness? If we are One, it is not an indisputable fact of life, such as the earth revolving the sun, but a conscious choice to reach out and forge connections.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            Thank you for unpacking that.  As you explain it, I can totally see that.  

            I really like that definition of being human, too.  

            I think where I get hung up is that, I find myself, at times, aspiring to be more fishlike… in as much as I would like to have traits that I consider admirable in fish… say, a strong swimmer or to have stronger instincts.  And what I wouldn’t give for direction sense.  It doesn’t mean I want to literally be a fish… (for one thing, I look nothing like Don Knotts.)  

            I think I shy away from the notion of “perfect contentment”, too… If you’re perfectly content, what drives you to strive, to learn, to push and grow?  I don’t think you’re advocating stagnation, mind, it’s just that I think I have a different definition of transcendence.  I think there are things that we humans need to overcome in our nature, but I don’t think that requires leaving behind all that we *are* in order to become wholly something else entirely.  Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your definition, though, or at least missing some nuances.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

            Being perfectly content in my home doesn’t mean I won’t sweep the floor or wash the dishes. It doesn’t mean I won’t change the curtains or paint the walls. Regardless of improvements or changes I make, I’m still satisfied to live here.

            Humans can be strong swimmers, have good instincts and develop a sense of direction. Those are human traits that can be improved by striving for excellence. Wanting to have gills so that you can live underwater is inhuman. Trying to pray away the gay, abstain from anger or avoid negative thoughts are inhuman. Sexual attraction, anger and having a negative thought or two are very human traits. Channeling them into something useful and productive is far different from transcending them.

          • Robert

            Immanence does not imply transcendence, however; in fact it usually is in opposition to the concept of transcendence.  Immanence infers that, since all is Divine, we too are Divine, and that we are Divine -right now-.  We don’t seek to transcend our Humanity because there’s nothing to transcend.  I am perfectly content with my own human nature, because my human nature is also my Divine nature, they’re one and the same. 

          • Hbuchy

            don’t know where you got the idea of being “One” from the above.
            Nor that immanence or pantheism implies a oneness, same ness. Being ‘part of’ is not sameness. Similar perhaps but sameness, no.
            I am not the same as my father or mother, yet in ways I am similar, and I am connected to them also in ways I have no choice in. And to their parents and to their parents parents etc. I am connected to the land in that I take sustenance from it and it becomes part of my material frame, part of my body. I breathe the same air as everyone else. The water I drink and void, the food I eat and void, all passes back through the earth and is taken up elsewhere by others. There are connections, energetic connections as well, and which one really doesn’t have a choice in. That physically make me a part of everything. I don’t even need to address any ‘spiritual truth’ in that regard.
            wtaer is made up of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Is a hydrogen molecule the same as any other? Perhaps in structure but not in ‘experience’, they are each  still an individual atom, each in a different place in time and space. Many candles can be lit from one fire,without diminishing that fire in the least. They are all individual flames yet they are also all fire.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanence

            I don’t believe the Divine is in each of us, which implies the Divine is One. I don’t believe all is Divine, which implies the Divine is One.

            I believe I am human, separate, distinct, unique. I am not an atom. Sugar is in both cakes and lemonade. Cakes are not lemonade.

          • Hbuchy

            lol, you sourced wikipedia???heh
            true but they both have sugar in them. that’s the point.
            just because sugar is in them doesn’t make them the same. Nor does saying the divine is in everything imply that everything is one.
            Maybe for you it does, and perhaps for wikipedia, but not for me.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

            It implies the Divine is One. Which is monotheism. Unless you can find a polytheistic definition of pantheism or immanence in Merriam-Webster.

          • Hbuchy

            Ah the dictionary game….
            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immanent?show=0&t=1313704834
            Indwelling, inherent.
            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immanence
            Immanence- the quality or state of being immanent.
            Pantheism
            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pantheism
            1) a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe.
            2) the worship of all gods of different cults, creeds,or peoples indifferently; also: toleration of worship of all gods( as in certain periods of the Roman Empire)
            Plain and simple, no implications of ‘oneness’ divine or otherwise.
            Nor does pantheism imply immanence, except by others who forced those ideas into those terms.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            We are One. And we are Two. And we are Three. And we are Four.

            And She was just Seventeen.

            If you know what I mean.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jannekebrouwers Janneke Brouwers

            I do not think connection is only a matter of choice. What about are childhood for example, our parents, our ancestors. We are connected to them even if we do not wish it so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1181634360 Mary Frampton

    “Seek not, my soul, the life of the immortals; but enjoy to the full the resources that are within thy reach.” — Pindar

    But how does one know if something is within reach unless they reach for it?  A 5 yr old reaches for an apple hanging on a branch that is just out of his reach.   In 3 months he grows an inch.  He can reach the apple now, but would not know this unless he reached for it again.  I think reaching for what is more than ourselves IS what makes us human.  Sure, sometimes it means we’re beating our heads against the proverbial wall, but sometimes walls fall, and we grow in numerous ways.

    There are potentially so many more levels between being human and being a god.  Personally I’d find it rather boring to just accept what I can “reach”, not learning and growing, both from success and failure.  I’d rather keep reaching, because maybe someday I might grow that inch… :)

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Right, but growing and expanding as humans is far different from trying to become Gods. Being the best human you can be is not the same as transcending your humanity.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1181634360 Mary Frampton

        “Right, but growing and expanding as humans is far different from trying to become Gods.”

        Is it really?  How do we know where the line is?

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          So are you saying the Gods are human? Because the continuum theory should work both ways.

          • Hbuchy

            where do you think gods come from?
            are they created ex nihilo? do they create ex nihilo?
            heh, it does work both ways, least in my experience and perspective.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1181634360 Mary Frampton

            When I envision a “god”, I see an energy being far more advanced spiritually than humans.  I suspect you’re saying that as long as we are human, it’s impossible for us to ever attain the level of a god.  I would tend to agree with that, since I believe our physical bodies are limiting to our spiritual ones.  

            But what about when we’re no longer attached to our bodies?  Is that the only time we can potentially attain a “godlike” state of being?  Can we work towards this while we are human or is there no point because we can’t attain it in our lifetime anyway?  Personally, I believe that we can grow spiritually while human to achieve a more advanced level of being in our spiritual life, and to do so requires thinking outside the human box and working towards something larger than myself.  Not sure if this is your definition of trying to be “godlike”, or if I’m just off on a completely different topic entirely ;)

          • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

            So basically, you are not satisfied with being human. You’re saying the grass is greener on the other side. You view the material world as limiting and the corporeal state as confining rather than it being the preferable state for humankind. I completely disagree with that. I have no desire to transcend the material world or my corporeal body, and believe that being an excellent human is worthy of my best effort rather than attaining something ethereally inhuman.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1181634360 Mary Frampton

    “Seek not, my soul, the life of the immortals; but enjoy to the full the resources that are within thy reach.” — Pindar

    But how does one know if something is within reach unless they reach for it?  A 5 yr old reaches for an apple hanging on a branch that is just out of his reach.   In 3 months he grows an inch.  He can reach the apple now, but would not know this unless he reached for it again.  I think reaching for what is more than ourselves IS what makes us human.  Sure, sometimes it means we’re beating our heads against the proverbial wall, but sometimes walls fall, and we grow in numerous ways.

    There are potentially so many more levels between being human and being a god.  Personally I’d find it rather boring to just accept what I can “reach”, not learning and growing, both from success and failure.  I’d rather keep reaching, because maybe someday I might grow that inch… :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Right, but growing and expanding as humans is far different from trying to become Gods. Being the best human you can be is not the same as transcending your humanity.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1181634360 Mary Frampton

        “Right, but growing and expanding as humans is far different from trying to become Gods.”

        Is it really?  How do we know where the line is?

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

          So are you saying the Gods are human? Because the continuum theory should work both ways.

          • Hbuchy

            where do you think gods come from?
            are they created ex nihilo? do they create ex nihilo?
            heh, it does work both ways, least in my experience and perspective.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1181634360 Mary Frampton

            When I envision a “god”, I see an energy being far more advanced spiritually than humans.  I suspect you’re saying that as long as we are human, it’s impossible for us to ever attain the level of a god.  I would tend to agree with that, since I believe our physical bodies are limiting to our spiritual ones.  

            But what about when we’re no longer attached to our bodies?  Is that the only time we can potentially attain a “godlike” state of being?  Can we work towards this while we are human or is there no point because we can’t attain it in our lifetime anyway?  Personally, I believe that we can grow spiritually while human to achieve a more advanced level of being in our spiritual life, and to do so requires thinking outside the human box and working towards something larger than myself.  Not sure if this is your definition of trying to be “godlike”, or if I’m just off on a completely different topic entirely ;)

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

            So basically, you are not satisfied with being human. You’re saying the grass is greener on the other side. You view the material world as limiting and the corporeal state as confining rather than it being the preferable state for humankind. I completely disagree with that. I have no desire to transcend the material world or my corporeal body, and believe that being an excellent human is worthy of my best effort rather than attaining something ethereally inhuman.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I like what you’ve written here in general, Star.  However, I would like to discuss the following bit a little further:

    I’ve always believed that Paganism was not about transcendence, but about embracing humanity as it actually exists, about striving to be more human, not more godlike.
    Of course, I’m biased, because one of my main gods used to be human, so that colors what I think on these matters.  Having said that, I believe it was the Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin who said something along the lines of “that which humanizes, divinizes,” and while (again!) there is a theological bias there toward seeing the divine and the human as not-separate or incompatible, again, I have always thought there was a great deal of truth and usefulness in that line of thought.

    No, we don’t have all of the powers and knowledge of the gods (and thus we should never fool ourselves into thinking that we do), but we have many things that they don’t (a greater deal of autonomy and agency, for example), including corporeality; and, we also have many things which they do have, including our own wills, individuality, desires, the ability to take in and interpret information, and so forth.

    As it is possible for us to become heroes through virtue (which, it has to be said, some deities lack to a large extent!), and heroes are “divine” in a way that is analogous to deities, there are other levels on which the difference between humanity and divinity is not an existential or essential one, but an accidental one, and merely the differences of grade or degree on a kind of sliding spectrum.  (And, if you bring in things like Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, gods end up being reborn as humans all the time, and vice-versa in the former two…)

    Also, a question:  isn’t it pretty common in Wicca to use the phrase “Remember Thou Art God”?  (Or is that another type of modern Paganism/polytheism/occultism?)

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      I’m headed out the door and will digest this later, but I believe that quote is from Thelema or the OTO, not Wicca.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        I wonder if the Crowley thing about “Every man and woman is a star” is another way of saying this, in a certain sense…?!?  (If our sun is also a star, but it has been more commonly worshipped as a deity than anything else, I suppose that would be “yes,” but anyway…)

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I like what you’ve written here in general, Star.  However, I would like to discuss the following bit a little further:

    I’ve always believed that Paganism was not about transcendence, but about embracing humanity as it actually exists, about striving to be more human, not more godlike.
    Of course, I’m biased, because one of my main gods used to be human, so that colors what I think on these matters.  Having said that, I believe it was the Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin who said something along the lines of “that which humanizes, divinizes,” and while (again!) there is a theological bias there toward seeing the divine and the human as not-separate or incompatible, again, I have always thought there was a great deal of truth and usefulness in that line of thought.

    No, we don’t have all of the powers and knowledge of the gods (and thus we should never fool ourselves into thinking that we do), but we have many things that they don’t (a greater deal of autonomy and agency, for example), including corporeality; and, we also have many things which they do have, including our own wills, individuality, desires, the ability to take in and interpret information, and so forth.

    As it is possible for us to become heroes through virtue (which, it has to be said, some deities lack to a large extent!), and heroes are “divine” in a way that is analogous to deities, there are other levels on which the difference between humanity and divinity is not an existential or essential one, but an accidental one, and merely the differences of grade or degree on a kind of sliding spectrum.  (And, if you bring in things like Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, gods end up being reborn as humans all the time, and vice-versa in the former two…)

    Also, a question:  isn’t it pretty common in Wicca to use the phrase “Remember Thou Art God”?  (Or is that another type of modern Paganism/polytheism/occultism?)

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I’m headed out the door and will digest this later, but I believe that quote is from Thelema or the OTO, not Wicca.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        I wonder if the Crowley thing about “Every man and woman is a star” is another way of saying this, in a certain sense…?!?  (If our sun is also a star, but it has been more commonly worshipped as a deity than anything else, I suppose that would be “yes,” but anyway…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kargach Rob Henderson

    I’m pretty sure “Thou Art God” came to us from the Robert Heinlein novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” by way of CAW, not Wicca.

    And I don’t agree with the statement, but I’m neither Wiccan nor from CAW, so that doesn’t prove much.  >8)

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      You’re right, it is Heinlein! Thanks!

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      Thank you–I’ve only heard Wiccan and Wiccan-esque folks say it; not sure if the ones in particular I’m thinking of have any connections to CAW…

      • Hbuchy

        it’s a far older concept, Heinlein just made use of it. I’ve experienced its use in similar phraseology in non wiccan context, and no connection to CAW.
        It’s the foundational premise or formulation for the greeting Namaste, and the Mahavakyas “Tat Tvam Asi” “Aham Brahmasmi” and “Soham”.
        If I remember rightly even in the ‘Divine Pymander’, the concept is expressly related.

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          Thank you!  Yes, I had known it existed elsewhere, or that similar concepts were present in other religious contexts, but wondered where the specific modern Pagan origins of it might have been.

          • Hbuchy

            you’re welcome.
            Ah, right Modern Paganism, silly me! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/kargach Rob Henderson

    I’m pretty sure “Thou Art God” came to us from the Robert Heinlein novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” by way of CAW, not Wicca.

    And I don’t agree with the statement, but I’m neither Wiccan nor from CAW, so that doesn’t prove much.  >8)

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      You’re right, it is Heinlein! Thanks!

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      Thank you–I’ve only heard Wiccan and Wiccan-esque folks say it; not sure if the ones in particular I’m thinking of have any connections to CAW…

      • Hbuchy

        it’s a far older concept, Heinlein just made use of it. I’ve experienced its use in similar phraseology in non wiccan context, and no connection to CAW.
        It’s the foundational premise or formulation for the greeting Namaste, and the Mahavakyas “Tat Tvam Asi” “Aham Brahmasmi” and “Soham”.
        If I remember rightly even in the ‘Divine Pymander’, the concept is expressly related.

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          Thank you!  Yes, I had known it existed elsewhere, or that similar concepts were present in other religious contexts, but wondered where the specific modern Pagan origins of it might have been.

          • Hbuchy

            you’re welcome.
            Ah, right Modern Paganism, silly me! 

  • Rua Lupa

    I am admittedly atheist, yet I don’t mind if others believe something different from me. In fact I encourage it! To see and understand different world views is what has helped me determine my path and those same exposures may lead a different person to completely different views and understandings. And that is great. Diversity is what keeps any ecosystem strong and human society is no different.

    I respect that you chose to follow a Wiccan path, and see no problem with it. And the question you pose to us will likely get very different responses from what you have seen in your own. So when responding to this question, I bare no disrespect to you or your path or Gods, this is only my opinion and for my personal path.

    I agree that reducing everything of value to a single book is wrong. But I don’t understand how monotheism has anything do to with nihilism, existentialism or atheism; or how creating meaning ‘from nothing’ means creating a fundamentalist world view and path. That seems to be quite the leap. I personally don’t see the need to have Deities to justify life and meaning.

    Our ancestors knew much about Nature and there was a lot that could be learned from what they knew. But not everything they knew and did were of value. Human rights were violated all the time by our ancestors and slavery was far too common to ignore, and is something that anyone on this forum would likely disagree with their ancestors on. I know that some of my ancestors were real bigots and not so nice people and would not want them to be any guide of mine. I regard ancestors much like my present day living relations, I will not agree with all of them and often would prefer not to associate with many of them due to their fundamentalist beliefs. Much can be learned and can be of value from how our ancestors lived, but not all of them or all they did and believed should be regarded so highly.

    And I have in fact ‘created meaning from nothing’ if nothing means no deities or ancestors. Ehoah is designed around Nature without including deities, spirits, or ancestors in its foundation. Ehoah can involve deities and ancestors or any other practice or belief if the Seeker of Ehoah decides that it is something that is true to them. It is a personal path, so all forms of beliefs including those who are atheist and agnostic can and do find meaning through seeking Ehoah, without requiring deities or ancestors to be involved.

  • Rua Lupa

    I am admittedly atheist, yet I don’t mind if others believe something different from me. In fact I encourage it! To see and understand different world views is what has helped me determine my path and those same exposures may lead a different person to completely different views and understandings. And that is great. Diversity is what keeps any ecosystem strong and human society is no different.

    I respect that you chose to follow a Wiccan path, and see no problem with it. And the question you pose to us will likely get very different responses from what you have seen in your own. So when responding to this question, I bare no disrespect to you or your path or Gods, this is only my opinion and for my personal path.

    I agree that reducing everything of value to a single book is wrong. But I don’t understand how monotheism has anything do to with nihilism, existentialism or atheism; or how creating meaning ‘from nothing’ means creating a fundamentalist world view and path. That seems to be quite the leap. I personally don’t see the need to have Deities to justify life and meaning.

    Our ancestors knew much about Nature and there was a lot that could be learned from what they knew. But not everything they knew and did were of value. Human rights were violated all the time by our ancestors and slavery was far too common to ignore, and is something that anyone on this forum would likely disagree with their ancestors on. I know that some of my ancestors were real bigots and not so nice people and would not want them to be any guide of mine. I regard ancestors much like my present day living relations, I will not agree with all of them and often would prefer not to associate with many of them due to their fundamentalist beliefs. Much can be learned and can be of value from how our ancestors lived, but not all of them or all they did and believed should be regarded so highly.

    And I have in fact ‘created meaning from nothing’ if nothing means no deities or ancestors. Ehoah is designed around Nature without including deities, spirits, or ancestors in its foundation. Ehoah can involve deities and ancestors or any other practice or belief if the Seeker of Ehoah decides that it is something that is true to them. It is a personal path, so all forms of beliefs including those who are atheist and agnostic can and do find meaning through seeking Ehoah, without requiring deities or ancestors to be involved.

  • Blacksnake

    Shades of Bishop Berkely, Batman !! Is that the hedonistic scent of solipsism wafting through the verdant greensward of modern Paganism? I spent three years sitting in the woods eating nuts and berries.whils’t  attempting develop a quantum theory of magick. While it is far from complete, I believe that I can demonstrate a fundamental unity, a connection between all that has been and can be. from which I have to conclude that all that exists, even potentialy , is Divine and inseparable. when i questioned the meaning of my work, I stuck it in a divine desk drawer , said good night to kernunos, gloried in the humor of my Lord and Lady, and went back to reciting my mantra, First do no harm.
    blacksnake

  • Blacksnake

    Shades of Bishop Berkely, Batman !! Is that the hedonistic scent of solipsism wafting through the verdant greensward of modern Paganism? I spent three years sitting in the woods eating nuts and berries.whils’t  attempting develop a quantum theory of magick. While it is far from complete, I believe that I can demonstrate a fundamental unity, a connection between all that has been and can be. from which I have to conclude that all that exists, even potentialy , is Divine and inseparable. when i questioned the meaning of my work, I stuck it in a divine desk drawer , said good night to kernunos, gloried in the humor of my Lord and Lady, and went back to reciting my mantra, First do no harm.
    blacksnake

  • http://www.blackpagan.com blackpagan

    Being connected means there’s a thread in all of us that is the same. I believe it is divine, expressed through the material. Thou art that indeed.

  • http://www.blackpagan.com blackpagan

    Being connected means there’s a thread in all of us that is the same. I believe it is divine, expressed through the material. Thou art that indeed.

  • http://www.blackpagan.com blackpagan

    How did the first humans create meaning? They did it as we all do, from experience.

    For some people that means learning from tradition, for others that means forging their own paths. Or some mish-mash of the two. Trying to put rules on it smacks to me of the monotheists. We humans are an incredibly diverse lot and our plastic brains are capable of an infinite amount of connections; so to me it’s not surprising that there are many ways to the divine. One of the dangers of being part of an established tradition IMO is falling into this absolutist way of thinking that “my way is the best way.” 

  • http://www.blackpagan.com blackpagan

    How did the first humans create meaning? They did it as we all do, from experience.

    For some people that means learning from tradition, for others that means forging their own paths. Or some mish-mash of the two. Trying to put rules on it smacks to me of the monotheists. We humans are an incredibly diverse lot and our plastic brains are capable of an infinite amount of connections; so to me it’s not surprising that there are many ways to the divine. One of the dangers of being part of an established tradition IMO is falling into this absolutist way of thinking that “my way is the best way.” 

  • Rua Lupa

    Here is a source of people who don’t have their rituals or life meanings based on the supernatural, but are active in a religious or spiritual manner.

  • Rua Lupa

    Here is a source of people who don’t have their rituals or life meanings based on the supernatural, but are active in a religious or spiritual manner.


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