Pantheism, Monotheism, Polytheism

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Pantheism, Monotheism, Polytheism

Postby pobble » 05 Jun 2007, 21:34

An old topic, but one I feel like revisiting in the light of my own experiences.  How many of you feel like one or other of these?

Like most of us (I think) I was raised in a monotheist or atheist culture (and I mean that the messages I was given were one or the other, not usually both from the same person).

Having come to some sense of communion with God as known to the Jews, and also some sense of communion with nature, I came to OBOD and found it quite easy to hypothesize that 'God' or 'Great Spirit' is in everything and everything is God: which is a kind of pantheism.

But then one is confronted with the notion of individual gods and goddesses such as Lugh, Brigid and Ceridwen.  Not to mention the ideas of tree spirits, or faeries, or, indeed, ghosts.  So how do these fit with a pantheistic perspective?  Intellectually, it is quite easy to say that spirit is in everything, they all arise from the same Source.  But while this is adequate for beings who aren't claiming to be Gods, how exactly does one deal with being confronted with a very specific God(dess) who one experiences as totally different from any other?

Some would then invoke Jung's idea of archetypes.  According to this, we have a collective unconscious, and our personality is in some sense made from a collection of inner personas that exist in this collective unconscious.  The inner personas are called archetypes, as I'm sure you all know, and some will equate Gods and Goddesses with particular archetypes.  They are then equated with pieces of the collective self, which of course if spirit is in all, are certainly "of Spirit".  The evidence of a degree of similarity between the gods of different cultures and of common mythological themes appears to support the theory.  But the question then becomes what exactly is a "collective unconscious"?  There seem to be two answers to this that I can think of.  One is that we inherit personality facets, and these facets, the building blocks of all our personalities are in fact the archetypes.  The other is that it isn't within us individually at all, but is actually shared: in other words, we are having common perceptions of something outside ourselves in some sense rather than perceiving a similar inherited part of ourselves.

It is, I suspect, pretty impossible to discern by objective experiment which of these two might be correct.  Which in fact leaves room for one to believe in the objective reality in some sense of many Gods (which is being a "hard polytheist").

It still seems like a bit of an act of faith to opt one way or the other, but I happen to find that the gods and goddesses that I perceive are rather more complex than an equation of them with pure archetypes would allow.  This slants me more towards polytheism.

So what do you all think on this?

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Postby Beith » 05 Jun 2007, 22:50

What an elegant and eloquent post befits your usual style!

I think you hit on the same "problem" everyone encounters in trying to define "god" - be that in the singular or multiples. The notion of a God is that he/she/it is something beyond human experience and understanding and therefore undefinable, so for us to try to put a fine point on the concept, seems to be futher than our definitions can reach.

I would tend to go with your latter concept:
The other is that it isn't within us individually at all, but is actually shared: in other words, we are having common perceptions of something outside ourselves in some sense rather than perceiving a similar inherited part of ourselves.
- The view of God or Gods being something other than of human creation or shared inheritance of archetypal notions. Rather that we, perhaps because of the limits of human understanding of the inexplicable, have shared interpretations of what a God or Goddess is because that is common to our manner of thinking no matter where we hail from and we apply it locally to our native culture and give it/them native names in recognition; thus generating archetypes because each idea or concept can be compared to others and analogous "features" drawn from them to create the "model" of an 'archetypal' God.

Personally, I have shared features of Catholic belief and folk religion from mixed Christian and pagan source, simply because both of these are intertwined in the customs and heritage of this country. So one worships Brigit as well as Mary, observes her feast day and follows the rituals of and there's no conflict of the pagan and the Christian ideas. They are intertwined in religion.

I would tend to see each persona mentioned in myth tales and religious tales as different persons and personas, because they have distinct stories and lore about them, but at times it is borrowed across to other saints/pagan characters and you see "motif attraction" between them -where characteristics, traits or even direct episodes are borrowed or shared. However at times I do not distinguish and I simply acknowledge the presence of the divine in all things - such as when I am out for a walk and see fantastic colours in the sky or appreciate the beauty and diversity of birds, trees, flowers, animals. Then I do not think of specific Gods or Goddesses, but simply a lifeforce, an essence of divine nature. On specific festival times and feast days, or in places associated with a particular figure, then I acknowledge the individual God or Goddess or simply "God". ie. time and place, folklore and custom determine the perception of an individual deity or saint.  For me, this has always been a seamless integration of intertwined folk and 'orthodox' religion and has never raised conflicts in my own belief. It just "is".

Ultimately, whether one interprets them as all facets of one universal "Godforce" or as distinct individual Gods/Goddesses with individually determined and personalities and specific traits, is largely a matter for one's own theology I suppose.  

Great post, thanks for reopening a very interesting topic. I'm sure you'll get interesting replies thereto!

many regards

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Postby Hennie » 06 Jun 2007, 04:50

'collective unconsciousness' by its definition is something unconscious. What your talking about I believe is in your consciousness; or a collective consciousness. Where does this 'knowing' come from? Is it when a part of the collective unconsciousness come conscious to you and you give it your own color? Or is there a God who sends a message that you then take in your own way? Or are we just hearing stories we are telling to each other, be it orally, be it in writing, and that we forget about and that at sometime pop up  in our mind, so that all of it would be just consciousness and there would be no need for introducing 'unconscious knowing'. Again to be able to name and know something I think does mean that this something is thinkable and conscious. Perhaps you could say God is the sum of all there is including consciousness, so we are all part of it and add to it by our reflecting and pondering, so God grows with us and we grow with God. Where I said God you could perhaps also read Nature or Universe.
I don't know how such a view must be called; I do believe there is consciousness everywhere in the universe and in all things and that this is One and growing.


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