Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thoughts On Pantheism

For a long time, I have more or less thought of myself as a pantheist - that is, one who views everything as "God" with the idea that everything is part of one, big whole. I was quite taken with the idea and the concept of connection as a way to explain my pantheist views.

me --> nature --> God
I like the idea of an interrelated web where I was only one part of the greater world; a connection through being a part of the whole, which is usually labeled as "God."

Along with this idea that everything is a part of the whole, I began to think of the different gods as individual representations of parts of this whole. Gods and goddesses are usually said to be "the god of ...." or "the goddess of ......" with only a few of their interests or "domains" being mentioned. But I am starting to realize that to acknowledge only a part of them (what we think of as their correspondents, domains, etc) is to deny the rest of their own individual wholeness. Each god is a being in his or her own right, not just a part of another being.

I thought that to say they each had their own distinct personalities was to deny their connection to the greater whole. I am starting to realize that to say that the gods are individuals on their own doesn't deny them that important connection to the rest of the world, just like I wouldn't be denying my connection to my friends and family to say that I am my own individual.

I've got some more to think about....

7 comments:

Erik said...

Oddly enough, I just touched on some of these same questions the other day at ExecutivePagan... it seems to be going around. Here's what I'm thinking about it, if it helps:

I believe - absolutely bred-in-the-bone believe - that whatever may be the true nature of What Is, we can't fully understand it. I am also, at this point in my thinking, a pretty firmly convinced panentheist: I do think that there is some sort of ultimate Unity of which all things, including the material universe, the Gods, and us, are a part, and that It is more than just the sum of Its parts. Beyond that, what I suspect is that the Gods are more-or-less independent manifestations or self-revelations of that Power; the appropriate term to use here would depend in part on whether this Power is a Person, or is simply the Ground of Being. Since that's part of what I think we ultimately can't answer, I don't worry too much about it.

Sojourner said...

Erik said: whatever may be the true nature of What Is, we can't fully understand it.

Yes, I would agree with you that we can't fully understand. Yet, I do think that we can come to some kind of understanding through our personal relationships with the gods.

Thanks for your comment!

Kay said...

I think that the idea that the gods and goddesses are "independent manifestations" of an infinite ground of being is exactly right. And I would still call such a view "hard" polytheism.

That the gods and goddesses are masks or aspects of the ground of being I would call "soft" polytheism.

It's the difference between my having children - who have there own personalities,who go forth and do there own thing - and my wearing different masks to represent different personalities. Poor analogy, I know, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice, frustrated from my blog exploding. Heh.

Erik said...

Kay,
All analogies are imperfect, but yours works well enough! Sorry to hear about the blog...

Sojourner,
I do think that we can come to some kind of understanding through our personal relationships with the gods.

I am planning to expand on that point in "Why Hellenism", but I agree with you 100%; in fact, I think that it is *primarily*, if not solely, through coming into relationship with the Gods (and more intentional relationship with the rest of the natural world) that we can get at that deeper understanding.

fyreflye said...

Joseph Canpbell titled his four volume survey of World mythology The Masks of God. He knew.

Erik said...

I used to love Campbell, but the more I study and learn, the more I see how he tends to bend all his interpretations of world mythology to support his basic monomyth hypothesis, particularly in "Hero With a Thousand Faces". He still has a lot of value to teach, but I take his interpretations with a pretty big grain of salt these days... he's certainly not as bad in this regard as Frazer, but he is of his era and descended from the Cambridge School, and it shows.

Sojourner said...

Thanks for all of your comments, everyone!

erik said: more intentional relationship

Yep. I think that we need to seek those relationships out (ie - be intentional about our own connection with the gods). I'll be looking for your post in the future.

FyreFlye said: Joseph Canpbell titled his four volume survey of World mythology The Masks of God. He knew.

Were you saying that Joseph Campbell knew that there were many gods or that he knew that they were all aspects of the same being? Can any of us really "know"?

I think that Erik had it right when he used the word "interpretation." All any of us can do is ofter up our own interpretations and ideas.