Letting Go Of Binary Thinking: Polytheistic, Pagan, And Occult Realities Are Complicated

Letting Go Of Binary Thinking: Polytheistic, Pagan, And Occult Realities Are Complicated June 11, 2018
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Good versus evil is a readily accessible trope with a treasure trove of myths and mythology backing it up. Unfortunately a good chunk of that and similar notions of polarity of ideas rests in dual, binary thinking which has no genuine bearing on the actual polytheistic, pagan, and occult worlds. For those worlds are vast, beyond human comprehension, and cannot be boiled down into stereotypes.

Part of the temptation of this black and white approach to analyzing the world around us I feel falls to the fear of a lack of certainty, the desire for readily identifiable approaches to spirituality, to religion, to magic, and to mysticism. But it limits us, our understanding of the actual world we’re in, and ultimately holds us back from evolving as people.

An example of this includes the very gods we honor and work with. The gods are neither all good nor all bad; they rely on a far bigger picture that is not accessible to us humans. It isn’t to say that they do not care or do not love us–far from it. But the reality is that human notions of justice, right, and wrong are not the same as divine justice.

With daimons, it’s no less different. There is no particular daimon which is universally bad or universally good; they come in a wide variety. And like with gods, we should not expect that what is intuitive to us will be intuitive to them and vise versa. I have personally found in my own experience that the more exposure to humanity a particular daimon or deity has, the more likely they are able to understand us and be able to potentially communicate with us on some level that we can comprehend. However, the less manifest to the physical world a being is, the less likely we are to be able to have the remotest understanding as to what they truly are.

People need to take this notion of abandoning binary thinking and absorb it into their own work, practice, and gnosis. It will enable us to best engage in acts of self improvement, personal development, and necessary retrospection. The term “shadow work” has been thrown about often with varying definitions, but I think it can be best described as acknowledging and getting in touch with the parts of yourself that deal with rage, anger, pain, hatred, and other things typically thought of as being “negative”.

We cannot constantly dwell in false notions of purity, “white light”, and all things positive. The ongoing philosophy of black vs white, dark vs light, good vs bad, positive vs negative ultimately holds us back. It encourages spiritual bypassing at best and at worse, turns us into New Age bullies. It prevents us from seeing the bigger picture, from understanding our own spiritual cosmology, and hinders us from doing both the necessary spiritual, mystical, and/or occult pursuits we seek to be involved in.

In addition the binary approach no longer works in a world which is finally beginning to acknowledge gender and sexuality beyond simply male and female, straight and gay. We are evolving and our traditions must evolve with us. It does not mean that we have to either ignore or otherwise refuse to teach our history; I feel that we must educate about our past in order for us to know where we came from and why. But it does mean rethinking long held attitudes about polarity, duality, and other notions some of us may be so used to that we take them from granted.

In a world which must evolve and us with it, we have to continually examine and question in order to maintain pace with the tide. And as time goes on, this will become increasingly crucial for our very survival.

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  • Jennifer Whitford

    Thank you. Another good post about a subject I’ve been thinking about. I have a kind of quasi-question. My background is in Wicca (a sort of seat-of-the-pants, by-my bootstraps solitary Wicca), but it seems to me that paradigm shifts and expansion experiences are vitally important to all types of pagans. We may have different experiences and interpretations of our experiences, but the end result is that we pagans don’t view the world the way we used to, or the way others/non-pagans do now. (Which makes it hard to explain things to practitioners of Revealed religions.) The nonbinary, non-materialism paradigm shift may be the hardest shift of all since it’s ubiquitous. In your experience do pagan teachers have a paradigm shift agenda as a part of their curriculum? Or is it a “we’re going to present this material for a period of time, and hope that between the studies and ritual a shift will occur”? I’m sorry to be vague about it. I know you’re not an expert on every form of pagan group’s classes. I just thought maybe you may have had conversations with other teachers. 🙂

  • I’ve personally never seen it directly presented except as sidenotes in discussions, particularly when it becomes relevant. I myself when engaged in any sort of leading a presentation, class, or discussion sometimes find myself getting into that, especially when it comes to terminology. I actually just saw someone on my Facebook feed post the other day asking what word that pagans use instead of “worship” since the term was contentious. My response was that I didn’t have the same connotation with that word as others did, and there’s definitely a huge difference in the way of people’s thinking who spent most of their lives as a pagan/polytheist vs someone who has been involved for far less. It’s hard to unlearn things, even more so when you’ve had a bad experience with mainstream religions and certain things remind you too much of them. But I think part of the dialogue is understanding that those specific religions have desperately tried to set themselves as the standard, and have terms which should be universal strictly associated with them. That’s a poison we all have to actively overcome.

    Long, but I hope I addressed your question. 🙂

  • Nicole Krieger

    It’s so easy to get into a track, like a train, and just run with it. It’s really hard, because sometimes it makes us so angry to read opposite perspectives, but we need to do it. Things are getting so polarised in the world right now, it frightens me.

  • Helmsman Of-Inepu

    In the House of Netjer beginners class, they discuss polyvalent thinking in Egyptian religion- how many ‘apparently contradictory’ things can be both true and false at the same time (like multiple creation stories). Versnel’s “Coping With the Gods” talks about how the “ancient Greeks displayed a disquieting capacity to validate two (or more) dissonant, if not contradictory, representations of the divine world in a complementary rather than mutually exclusive manner.”
    But in general, I think the default is binary. “Unpacking Monotheism” or “Deprogramming Monothesim” should be lesson #1.