Polytheistic metaphysics

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Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby treegod » 20 Feb 2015, 11:25

I asked these on another thread, but thought I'd create another thread for it.

Beyond the belief/experience of the gods as distinct entities, I'm wondering what is the metaphysical thinking behind it is (out of curiosity, not sceptic prodding ;) ).

What are they, and where do they come from? Do the myths reflect their origins? How are the gods of different pantheons related? How do they interact? What is the significance of/relationship to the natural and cultural attributes they are associated with? What is their relationship to the land and ancestry?

And finally, are these things important to consider or does a simple belief/experience of them suffice?

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Mountainheart » 20 Feb 2015, 14:22

I asked these on another thread, but thought I'd create another thread for it.

Beyond the belief/experience of the gods as distinct entities, I'm wondering what is the metaphysical thinking behind it is (out of curiosity, not sceptic prodding ;) ).

What are they, and where do they come from? Do the myths reflect their origins? How are the gods of different pantheons related? How do they interact? What is the significance of/relationship to the natural and cultural attributes they are associated with? What is their relationship to the land and ancestry?

And finally, are these things important to consider or does a simple belief/experience of them suffice?
Personally I think that the gods / goddesses reside in the realm of Jung's archetypes, being a common experience of the expression of the sub-conscious. This does not mean they are without power or reality: but it does require seeing them as in the field of mind rather than matter. I don't believe that there are specific invisible spirit entities, but that there is one pantheistic 'something' which is unnameable but can be experienced.

Jung identifies distinct archetypes as being expressed throughout the world's cultures, but it makes sense that each culture would give it's own name and setting for the experience of each archetype.

As to your final question, I think that experience of 'god/goddess' can suffice: but it is a natural aspect of the human mind to try and consider the nature of god / goddess - this just needs to be done with humility, knowing that anything we say or believe is a human construct, not the actual reality of the numinous.

What's your opinion?

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby treegod » 22 Feb 2015, 21:20

I take the gods of myth and legend to be symbols describing various things, foremost among them are the gods as archetypes. They can be interepreted on different levels: as people, whether historical or fictional; as anthropomorphic forces of nature; as cultural and technological paradigms in so much as the gods are patrons of them; as human potential and capacity to evolve. Amongst many other things. :)

I relate to the gods more as forces, sometimes as forces of nature, but more often I see in the myths the forces of the human psyche (archetypes). The archetypes I think of as "automatic" patterns that react and follow patterns, as opposed to autonomous entities that reflect, plan and choose.
Personally I think that the gods / goddesses reside in the realm of Jung's archetypes, being a common experience of the expression of the sub-conscious. This does not mean they are without power or reality: but it does require seeing them as in the field of mind rather than matter.
I think that the roots of the archetypes is a physiological one, and that the psychological forces at play within us are physically felt and expressed. The processes of the mind correspond to physical processes and, in my view at least, are very powerful forces.

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Sciethe » 23 Feb 2015, 01:06

I think that the roots of the archetypes is a physiological one, and that the psychological forces at play within us are physically felt and expressed. The processes of the mind correspond to physical processes and, in my view at least, are very powerful forces.
I think so too, but I do also think that there is a socially constructed aspect which clothes these fundamental objective drives and forces. In philosophical terms that ultimately emanates from a weak version of the classical sceptic school. I will expand on that if asked. I'm saying that we sense gods and entities and they are real: parts of our minds, natural forces etc., but what we perceive of them in our consciousness comes from us and from things we've learned. I find Jung's collective unconscious unconvincing as a strong global phenomenon, globally it seems relatively diffuse, but I understand and accept it as an intense tribal reality.

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Mountainheart » 23 Feb 2015, 08:14

. In philosophical terms that ultimately emanates from a weak version of the classical sceptic school. I will expand on that if asked.
Please could you expand on that? :-)

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Sciethe » 23 Feb 2015, 10:46

. In philosophical terms that ultimately emanates from a weak version of the classical sceptic school. I will expand on that if asked.
Please could you expand on that? :-)
Yes... and no. :grin:
Here goes:
Among the works of the ancient Greek Sceptics, Pyrrho's "acatalepsia" has a certain charm as a mindset. I'm arguing that a weak version of his thought can be applied to the consideration of what gods are.

Pyrrho thought that philosophers, when considering the human relationship to objects, forces etc. needed to look at what stuff is and how it works, but to confine themselves to what could be empirically measured when asserting truth. He also thought that the interior life or working of things is not apprehended, what we see is a personal construct of the world.

The amusing part is that the way I'm working it the argument bites it's own tail because any argument about gods is futile within that framework. Doesn't mean it's wrong though, because that's the idea. I'm rather fond of it actually. Something else he says is "it's OK, you can't know. Chill." Which is very Bill and Ted. Although he might not have used those exact words.
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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Mountainheart » 23 Feb 2015, 11:06

. In philosophical terms that ultimately emanates from a weak version of the classical sceptic school. I will expand on that if asked.
Please could you expand on that? :-)
Yes... and no. :grin:
Here goes:
Among the works of the ancient Greek Sceptics, Pyrrho's "acatalepsia" has a certain charm as a mindset. I'm arguing that a weak version of his thought can be applied to the consideration of what gods are.

Pyrrho thought that philosophers, when considering the human relationship to objects, forces etc. needed to look at what stuff is and how it works, but to confine themselves to what could be empirically measured when asserting truth. He also thought that the interior life or working of things is not apprehended, what we see is a personal construct of the world.

The amusing part is that the way I'm working it the argument bites it's own tail because any argument about gods is futile within that framework. Doesn't mean it's wrong though, because that's the idea. I'm rather fond of it actually. Something else he says is "it's OK, you can't know. Chill." Which is very Bill and Ted. Although he might not have used those exact words.
S
I'm all for that! Certainty is the root of fundamentalism, which I am opposed to in all its forms...

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Sciethe » 23 Feb 2015, 12:08

I'm all for that! Certainty is the root of fundamentalism, which I am opposed to in all its forms...
Yes, it's an easy going way forward. You could say that fundamentalism claims the Goal as its own, whereas philosophical investigation claims the Journey. The Journey is the developing force for the human psyche. Which is why we're discussing this.

And the journey is a circle (or spiral). And the most effective philosophies, like the one above, are circular. So you not only get wise [sic] but cool jewellery to wear. :yay: OuroborosOuroborosOuroboros
:spiral: :ouroboros:
But we digress.
S
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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby treegod » 23 Feb 2015, 13:58

I think so too, but I do also think that there is a socially constructed aspect which clothes these fundamental objective drives and forces. In philosophical terms that ultimately emanates from a weak version of the classical sceptic school. I will expand on that if asked. I'm saying that we sense gods and entities and they are real: parts of our minds, natural forces etc., but what we perceive of them in our consciousness comes from us and from things we've learned.
I think a cultural vehicle is essential for the collective unconscious, because it serves as a link and common identity between people. This can "divide" the unconscious somewhat, some groups can "merge" in some way, but others find themselves antagonistic. But underneath the collective unconscious behaves in the same way.
I find Jung's collective unconscious unconvincing as a strong global phenomenon, globally it seems relatively diffuse, but I understand and accept it as an intense tribal reality.
I think at a global level the collective unconscious is just as strong as the local/tribal level, but perhaps it is more disguised. As we might expect, it is unconscious, so we cannot be aware of it and so it may not appear very strong to the conscious mind. Also, in this day and age that celebrates so-called individuality, anything collective might be downplayed or underestimated, and even confused with one another. If someone presents the image they may still be influenced by the collective forces. They say 'I' where they should be using 'we', or they say 'we' where perhaps they should be using 'I'.

In tribal societies we may have a more "pure" example of the collective unconscious, because of cultural homogenity and intimate living. In a world where cultural boundaries break down and egotistical motivations, the "collective" becomes a bit more difficult to detect, but it is no less powerful.
I'm all for that! Certainty is the root of fundamentalism, which I am opposed to in all its forms...
I don't know, you sound a little too certain about that. Not a glimmer of doubt? :wink: :grin:

The certainty of fundamentalists, imo, comes from their fear of the unknown and a way for them to control it (which is illusory anyway; you can't control what you don't know). It's neurotically inflexible, trying to fit everything in the same box.

For me, I believe in a sort of "flexible certainty". Now, in this moment, I make a decision (moment of certainty) to believe or do as I see fit. Later, if I see it doesn't work or is no longer relevant, I reserve my right to learn and change course instead of continuosuly commit the same mistake over and over again. The future is not certain, but this present moment is, so I practice my certainty now, without clinging to an illusory certainty about the future or how I think it "should" be.

Going back to your first post:
As to your final question, I think that experience of 'god/goddess' can suffice: but it is a natural aspect of the human mind to try and consider the nature of god / goddess - this just needs to be done with humility, knowing that anything we say or believe is a human construct, not the actual reality of the numinous.
My description of the gods is how I describe it, which is just a way to make sense of my ideas and experiences. Later, since experience and thoughts are always changing, my description needs updating, otherwise it'll end up crashing into reality.
I have a small card that says "don't believe everything you think," since whatever I think now may be out of date.
This is something else that fundamentalists don't do, they try to impose their ideas on the world, instead of adapting their ideas to how they experience the world. They live with preconcieved reactions rather than adjusted reflections.

When I describe the "gods" I a creating a signpost, indicating something real. I may say "natural forces", but that is a signpost towards my experience of it.
[/Yes, it's an easy going way forward. You could say that fundamentalism claims the Goal as its own, whereas philosophical investigation claims the Journey. The Journey is the developing force for the human psyche. Which is why we're discussing this.quote]

And that is a very good reflection. The contrast between goal and journey is very important!

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Explorer » 24 Feb 2015, 20:14

I have a few simple principles...
1) I don't believe in anything supernatural. Because it doesn't make sense. I have an open mind, but I never encountered anything that requires a supernatural explanation. Usually science or psychology can explain it, and otherwise I can leave it in the realms of the unexplained without grasping at supernatural straws.
2) I value my personal subjective experience above anything else when it comes to interpreting my relationship with life. Including personal experience of the spiritual world, including gods.
3) The 2 principles above do not contradict. Where they seem to contradict there is usually a paradox lurking. Which is usually doorway to a deeper understanding of what we sometimes call 'The Mystery'.

This leads to seemingly confusing statements that make perfect sense to me.
Like the gods don't exist, but they are real enough to influence me. I don't believe in gods, but I communicate with them on a regular basis.

Metaphysically speaking I think it is a mix of everything we can think of, natural, physical, psychological, subjective, objective, etc. Cut in neat packages that each represent some aspect of life's dynamics. The 'gods' of Earth, Animals, Love, War, Work, Money, Spring, Social Media, Traffic, Etc, Etc, Etc.

But perhaps a crucial part of the mix is that we can project our human emotions on it also. Like hope, confidence and joy. Or even fear, hate and submission if that's your thing. I think that this part is what gives the gods their real power. Whether they exist or not.
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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby DJ Droood » 24 Feb 2015, 21:16

Almost everything we `choose`to believe in doesn`t really exist. Outside of trees, rivers and rocks, etc, such things as countries, corporations, laws, sports teams, histories, gods...are all constructions of language ànd culture, and stories we tell ourselves. The United States of America does not exist, in any real way, nor do the maps it is printed on, outside the heads of the billions of people who choose to believe it.

(I am stealing most of these thoughts from an excellent book i am reading right now called``Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind` by Yuval Harari)

So I suppose if many gods are more meaningful for you than one god or no gods, who could really say you are wrong?
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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby treegod » 25 Feb 2015, 10:37

Loving the three principles, Explorer. I can go with those too. :)

(are we a bunch of psycho-polytheistic skeptics? Where have the polytheists gone to? :thinking: :grin: )

For what its worth, here are some of my ideas concerning the gods from a few years ago, they were formed from a synthesis of ideas like polytheism (weak), pan(en)theism, egregors and thoughtforms, anima mundi, collective unconscious, animism, and pansychism:

- there is no such thing as the supernatural. Everything that exists is natural.
- there is no division between consciousness and matter - to put it crudely, consciousness is a property of matter, i.e. panpsychism (though I landed more on the materialist side than idealist).
- all natural phenomena are endowed with consciousness, though perhaps not with personality or intention. Psychologically, they are not autonomous. The archetypes of the collective unconscious also fall into this category, as are basic cultural concepts.
- gods may be contained within gods or connected to others, so there may be gods of land, sea and sky, but they will also be part of the god/dess that it the Earth.
- the gods of myth exist as egregors or thoughtforms arising from an interaction between natural forces, archetypes and human belief/imagining. They are endowed with consciousness and intention, and so are relatively autonomous.
- anything that may be described as an entity or group (nations, religions, corporations, families, etc.) will also have their own egregor.
- the "impersonal" gods are difficult to relate with, since they don't share the same psychology as us - a mystical union may be formed if we release personal and cultural baggage.
- the "personal" gods are relatable, since they are made from human projections, and through them we may contact the energies of the impersonal gods. They will usually be closely associated to their ethnic groups and geographical zone, depending on how "exclusive" their cultural associations are.
- the human soul loses its autonomy (intention) and individuality upon death, though memories and personality become reabsorbed by the anima mundi.
- Sometimes souls may "cling on" and become thoughtforms in the form of spirits and ghosts. With enough human belief they may increase psychological autonomy becoming full-fledged egregors.
- all gods are aspects of one God, which I call Nature.

I think my beliefs now are similar but much simplified, so all what I call "groundless speculation" has been dropped, and I'm left with something more relevant and functional. Questions of intention, personality and psychology are reduced to neurological attributes (depending a lot on neurological complexity), so egregors are simply memes. I still believe that consciousness is not separate from matter - it cannot be exclusively attributed to the brain and is closely allied with matter in someway (some form of panpsychism), though exactly how is not yet known and any speculation is pretty fruitless without evidence.

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Davin Raincloud » 26 Feb 2015, 04:20

Hard polytheism does not equal polytheism.

Hard is not a standard. It's a variation.

So please don't phrase definitions of polytheism in Hard polytheistic language.

I've never been that black and white about our invisible friends. There is still considerable doubt that they exist at all independent of our perception of them. So insisting that all polytheism = hard polytheism is pagan political clap trap.

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby DaRC » 26 Feb 2015, 17:28

Ok it's taken me a while but I've got round to it...
What are they, and where do they come from?
Whilst the Jungian Collective Unconscious theory is appealing and has some validity within a view of the gods I think it only represents one side of the coin. If the coin has two faces and a middle, the middle being the relationship between the 2 faces, then it can represent the middle view of the gods. If you interpret the collective unconscious with a cultural explanation - that each culture has it's own Collective Unconsciousness, which in day to day language is explained by cultural stereotyping.
I don't think it explains the other faces, the god/esses face OR an individuals own viewpoint.

Which then raises the question of their origin - are they purely human constructs, which supports the Jungian Collective Unconscious theory, or natural phenomena that humans interpret as Gods? I tend towards the natural phenomena theory on most days (other days I tend towards the Jungian Collective Unconscious).

To continue the coin analogy this means that the gods themselves are a natural phenomena, whilst our interpretation is individual but filtered through our Collective Unconscious which is represented by our language and cultural bias.
Do the myths reflect their origins?
Not in detail, the Norse creation myth has large gaps around the genealogy of many of the Gods - particularly Mimir and Frige but also Hana/Hoenir. There is no Celtic creation myth so that it is unknowable. Particularly if some deities seem to have had human avatars/incarnations such as the Celtic Taliesin or the Norse Rig (thought to be Heimdall).
How are the gods of different pantheons related?

If the Gods are a natural phenomenon then their appearance will be impacted by their location. Just as my behaviour is different at work and at home, or in a foreign clime I think so are theirs.
So are the Celtic Taranis, Ango-Saxon Thunor and Norse Thor one and the same? To be honest I don't know - I suspect that in the same land they are one and the same but the names reflect their appearance at different times viewed through their relationship with a different Collective Unconsciousness.
Is the Greek Zeus the same as the Italian Jupiter or the Celtic Daga and the Norse Odin? Personally I don't think so or rather we should certainly not treat them so, the differences are too great in both the landscape and the Collective Unconsciousness that they relate to.
Which raises the question, which Neil Gaiman uses as the conceit for his book American Gods, is someone working with Thor in the US working with the same Thor as someone in Sweden?
Is the American working with the North American Thunder God whom they have called Thor, whilst the Swede is working with the original Norse Thunder God known, amongst other names, as Thor?
I think I tend to believe the latter situation - so for me there is a Thunder God in Southern Britain, I feel that his range covers to the south of Brittany in Northern France and North up to the Borders of Britain, in the west it's Wales (it could extend to Ireland but I've never been there) and in the East across to Germany. He has many names, I know him best as Thunor but often use the name Thor as everyone knows that name and few know him as Thunor.
How do they interact?
With whom? On an individual basis they appear during meditation, dreams and via natural coincidence or synchronisity. It's the transrational within the patterns of our lives.
What is the significance of/relationship to the natural and cultural attributes they are associated with?
My personal perspective is that the natural and cultural attributes control the perspective that we understand them by - this enables the follower of a pantheon to interpret and gain wisdom by understanding their interactions.
What is their relationship to the land and ancestry?
Personally I think that the relationship of the Gods is part of understanding a natural landscape and environment. I think the view of a pantheon is related to a cultural ancestry rather than a biological one.
And finally, are these things important to consider or does a simple belief/experience of them suffice?
Yes I think they are important to consider so that you can know your own mind and beliefs as a pagan. To know thyself, which I think is one root of modern paganism, you need to understand and. be able to answer questions from outsiders, these questions will tend to relate to your pantheon and the nature of the Gods.
If each Pagan owns their relationship with Gods/Goddesses/Spirit or is an atheist it is necessary to understand and be able to articulate your beliefs.

Of course all of this is just my personal view - I could be utterly and completely wrong :where:
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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby Mountainheart » 26 Feb 2015, 18:54


Which then raises the question of their origin - are they purely human constructs, which supports the Jungian Collective Unconscious theory, or natural phenomena that humans interpret as Gods? I tend towards the natural phenomena theory on most days (other days I tend towards the Jungian Collective Unconscious).
I'm not sure that Jung would say that the archetypes are purely human constructs. In 'The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious' he says "Is the nixie [anima] really nothing but a product of moral laxity? Were there not such beings long ago, in an age when dawning human consciousness was still wholly bound to nature? Surely there were spirits of forest, field, stream long before the questions of moral conscience ever existed...the physche has attained its present complexity by a series of acts of introjection." (page 25). So he seems to be saying that archetypes are an echo of things we experienced in the distant past in a time when we were more open to the spirits of nature.

Personally I quite like the concept of the egregore as mentioned earlier in this thread: and the archetypes play into this. The archetypes make us collectively aware of 'spiritual' things; and then the collective experience of this awareness gives the archetypes reality through the egregore effect.

I offer the same disclaimer as others in the thread, about this and everything else I ever post here: I could be completely and utterly wrong :-)
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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby illion » 27 Feb 2015, 07:25

Of course all of this is just my personal view - I could be utterly and completely wrong :where:
I happen to always agree with your personal views, Darc :)

I tend to think that in traditions that were based on an Indo-European concept of Father Sky - Mother Earth, and the deities mostly worked in pairs, it is difficult to divide a god from his goddess or the other way around. I think the holiness was seen in the meeting of the two. The land is important to define the sky and vice versa, and they have different expressions depending on where you are in the world. Zeus and Odin could therefore have "almost" the same functions, but they couldn't be the same.

I think....right now.... tomorrow that might change :D

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby DaRC » 02 Mar 2015, 15:59

I'm not sure that Jung would say that the archetypes are purely human constructs.
Agreed - Jung may well have thought them as having a mystical element I admit to extrapolating Jung as a psychiatrist/therapist and (for arguments sake) positioning it from a atheistic/scientific view.
Zeus and Odin could therefore have "almost" the same functions, but they couldn't be the same.
Yes a good thought - they can't be the same because their wives, as Goddesses of the land, are quite different. Hera, possibly started as a corn goddess, and is epitomised as a jealous wife, whilst Frige, whose home in Fensalir suggests a more generic fertility role, is known for out-smarting her husband. This may well also drive the differences between the two societies in how women were treated.
Father Sky - Mother Earth, and the deities mostly worked in pairs
Yes within the Indo-European tradition I think what we know from both the Celtic and Germanic traditions show similarities to the Shiva/Shakti Hindu tradition e.g. this would relate to the passive feminine Sunna and active male solar energy in Balder, with Mani as the passive male lunar whilst the Disir or possibly Freyja (I would argue) represent the active female lunar energy.
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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby treegod » 04 Mar 2015, 12:34

I'm not sure that Jung would say that the archetypes are purely human constructs.
Agreed - Jung may well have thought them as having a mystical element I admit to extrapolating Jung as a psychiatrist/therapist and (for arguments sake) positioning it from a atheistic/scientific view.
Archetypes are to the psyche what organs are to the body, they are the natural structure of the human psyche and present in all cultures (by definition). A lot of understanding of them comes through the study of mythological symbols and themes, so they are understood through cultural lenses.
I've found it helpful to describe the collective unconscious in terms of natural/human and cultural, one being inherited through genetics, the other, through our culture. I would describe "stereotypes" as culture specific archetypes, as they have a similar function and contain archetypal energies in a "crystallised" way. Each culture does have it's own "collective unconcious", which is the encoding of the human unconscious in culture specific ways.
I have a lot of affinity or familiarity with British and European culture, because I share the cultural unconscious, but I can still find resonance in other cultures because of the collective (human) unconscious.
Zeus and Odin could therefore have "almost" the same functions, but they couldn't be the same.
Yes a good thought - they can't be the same because their wives, as Goddesses of the land, are quite different. Hera, possibly started as a corn goddess, and is epitomised as a jealous wife, whilst Frige, whose home in Fensalir suggests a more generic fertility role, is known for out-smarting her husband. This may well also drive the differences between the two societies in how women were treated.


This interests me a lot. For instance, for me thunder is universal natural phenomena, so any thunder god is essentially "the same" but seen through different cultural lenses. And yet Zeus, Thor, Thunor, Taranis, Indra, Jupiter and many others could be distinct entities.
What is the function/identity of a thunder god in relation to natural storms? And to other thunder gods of other cultures?

I remember reading something on how the ancient polytheists thought and how that changed with the influence of Christianity and NeoPlatonism (the gods were local, and then they became "cosmic"). It was Ronald Hutton; I'll have to dig it up. :where:

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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby DaRC » 04 Mar 2015, 14:42

I've found it helpful to describe the collective unconscious in terms of natural/human and cultural, one being inherited through genetics, the other, through our culture.
So a kind of nature / nurture view of the collective unconscious?
And yet Zeus, Thor, Thunor, Taranis, Indra, Jupiter and many others could be distinct entities.
What is the function/identity of a thunder god in relation to natural storms? And to other thunder gods of other cultures?
Yet, IME, Thunderstorms are naturally different in their formation and effect. The typical thunderstorm in southern Britain is an exciting event, often providing release from oppressive summer weather and one you'd stay up for and watch - at the right time it provides the water needed to ripen the harvest and at the wrong time can damage the harvest. A typical thunderstorm in Texas is a very different affair, a bigger (well everything is bigger in Texas) and more violent event that you might see from a distance but probably don't want to get caught in.

So Zeus (I've not lived in Greece and so this is conjecture) is much more of a mightily smiting God and friend to the Aristocracy whilst Thor, although he mightily smites the Jotuns, is seen as a benevolent God who is responsible for the fertility of the land and is a friend to the common farmer.
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame. (Havamal 68)
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treegod
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Re: Polytheistic metaphysics

Postby treegod » 04 Mar 2015, 20:01

I've found it helpful to describe the collective unconscious in terms of natural/human and cultural, one being inherited through genetics, the other, through our culture.
So a kind of nature / nurture view of the collective unconscious?
What Jung described was pylogenetic and common to all humans (nature), but I think it can be argued that there is a culturally transmitted unconscious or cultural layer, since nations and regions have their own distinctive characters, something that's become more acute for me since moving to Spain and seeing the contrast between cultures.
Yet, IME, Thunderstorms are naturally different in their formation and effect. The typical thunderstorm in southern Britain is an exciting event, often providing release from oppressive summer weather and one you'd stay up for and watch - at the right time it provides the water needed to ripen the harvest and at the wrong time can damage the harvest. A typical thunderstorm in Texas is a very different affair, a bigger (well everything is bigger in Texas) and more violent event that you might see from a distance but probably don't want to get caught in.

So Zeus (I've not lived in Greece and so this is conjecture) is much more of a mightily smiting God and friend to the Aristocracy whilst Thor, although he mightily smites the Jotuns, is seen as a benevolent God who is responsible for the fertility of the land and is a friend to the common farmer.
Yes, the thunderstorms of each region would have their own character. I haven't thought about it, but I could imagine that what I experienced in England (hot and oppressive) could have a different character to here. At the same time, I imagine that a viking coming from the north into the Mediterrenean would habitually think of all thunderstorms as "Thor" and no be aware of or not acknowledge the local gods. Two citizens of the same city could be looking up at the same thunder clouds and thinking in terms of different gods.

I was reading Witches, Druids and King Arthur and there's an interesting chapter on "The New Old Paganism", looking at the theological heritage of modern Paganism and what ancient traditions have influence did the most. Very roughly speaking, before the influence of Hellenisation, Imperial expansion and Christianity, ancient polytheists were "conservatiive, plural, ancestral and local." They weren't given to intellectual definition of their beliefs ("polytheistic metaphysics"), nor even how several pantheons with overlapping functions were able to coexist as distinct beings (they just did, like our languages). Later, polytheistic theology became more complex and the gods stopped being so local and started taking on "cosmic" proportions, specifically through Neoplatonic ideas. Basically, in early forms of polytheism my questions aren't really relevant because the gods were a part of traditional beliefs and practice, rather than contemplation.

I'll have to read the chapter again, it was very interesting.


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