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Author Topic: Hard-Polytheism/Soft-Polytheism and attitudes to other religions  (Read 22059 times)
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« Reply #15: October 04, 2007, 09:13:25 am »

I know people who believe that the Gods are archetypes -- but real beings.

It's only soft-polytheism if you believe the Gods are just archtypes.
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« Reply #16: October 04, 2007, 10:45:56 am »

It's only soft-polytheism if you believe the Gods are just archtypes.

I think at least a part of what's going on here is that your definition is being seen as too inclusive.  It's  not that it excludes people who are hard polytheists, it's that it includes people who are not hard polytheists.

I thought you'd addressed that in a reply to Lyric way back in the thread by agreeing that the word "individual" needed to be added, so it's entirely possible that people are just replying as they read through the thread and aren't seeing the clarification before they reply.
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« Reply #17: October 04, 2007, 11:19:40 am »

For example, while I'm generally a hard polytheist, I think there are some gods -- UPG alert! -- that are not as distinct from one another as others, if that makes sense.
I'm upgrading your UPG to SPG; that fits my perceptions/experiences too.

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Some beings seem perfectly happy to accept offerings made in the name of a deity that's commonly elided with them, while others not so much.
The degree of fussiness varies widely.  I have dealings with a one-eyed, staff-bearing wanderer - we've agreed that "Votans" is suitable to call him - who is adamant that he's nobody's "AllFather", and only grudgingly concedes that there's any sort of connection between him and other dudes with similar names.</UPG>

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As a folklorist, if I'm thinking about "other people's stuff," I think hard-er polytheism is a somewhat more... I don't want to say "ethical" (I don't think soft polytheists are unethical), but "safe" might be a better word.
Off the top of my head, "more innately courteous" seems about right.  Not that soft polytheists are necessarily discourteous, nor that hard polytheists themselves are more courteous, but that the stance has courtesy sort of built-in - while OTOH, the concepts of soft polytheism have been known (all too often IME) to lead folks who are otherwise very well-mannered and respectful of others into unintentional discourtesy.

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I just really like specificity and infinite diversity in infinite combinations, and, lacking any evidence to the contrary, i'll tend to treat entities with different names being worshipped in different cultures as separate beings until evidence (mythic, folkloric, UPG, etc.) comes along to suggest otherwise.
IDIC as a rationale for hard polytheism - delicious!

Sunflower (whose polytheism is poached medium-hard)
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« Reply #18: October 04, 2007, 12:04:35 pm »

Hard-Polytheism is the belief that the Gods are real divine beings and are not archetypes of a collective consciousness, personifications of natural forces nor aspects of a single God.

Soft-Polytheism is the reverse, in one way or another.

I see a third alternative, which is my personal belief.

I believe that the Divine, in all its totality and splendor is a "Meta-Person", beyond conscious appreciation. It is not less than personal, but more than personal; and our conscious selves aren't equipped to relate to it in its totality. I believe it can be known ... "grokked," if you will ... but only spiritually, which is a different dimension of human experience. The Gods are real people and personal, separate and distinct from one another; yet, they are also "merely Personal" personifications of this Meta-Personal divine.

An excellent illustration of the relationship between these concepts can be found in Edwin Abbott's Flatland. Imagine a two-dimensional world, populated by two-dimensional people. One day, a thoughtful Square is sitting in his living room, minding his own business, when he sees a very small circle appear in the room. To his astonishment, it begins to grow. When it has achieved a substantial size, it stops. Our friend, the Square, cannot account for this phenomenon; to his way of thinking, it is impossible. Then the Circle speaks. "I am a Sphere," he says. "I bring you news of the world of three dimensions."

No matter how hard he tries, the Sphere cannot make the Square understand how "up" can mean anything but "northward," or how "down" can mean anything but "southward." The phrases, "Up but not northward" and "Down but not southward" are meaningless gibberish to the Square.

I believe the Divine, in all its totality, is like the Sphere. When it presents itself to our consciousness, all we can perceive is its cross-sections, its Circles. Yet, this is not the same thing as the archetype theory, because I believe these cross-sections are fully personal, fully alive, fully individual. It's just that the Divine in its totality is Meta-Personal. The word is meaningless to our minds, just as "Up but not northward" is meaningless to the Square; but I believe this meta-personal reality is knowable -- spiritually.

I also believe our projections have something to do with how they appear to us; but that's true of all conscious perception.

Your mileage may vary ...
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« Reply #19: October 04, 2007, 01:02:49 pm »

I see a third alternative, which is my personal belief.

There are several different "osophies" running around. This just happens to be looking at the hard/soft polytheism question that is generally prevalent in the Reconstructionist religions.
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« Reply #20: October 04, 2007, 01:10:36 pm »

For example, while I'm generally a hard polytheist, I think there are some gods -- UPG alert! -- that are not as distinct from one another as others, if that makes sense.

I'm with Sunflower on this being SPG, not UPG.

This is exactly the kind of idea I've been exploring regarding Brighid, and the possibility that She was/is worshipped by other names in varying localities.  With *some* deities, there seem to be too many similarities to ignore the possibility that They're actually the SAME deity but using a different name for some reason.

In other threads, we've likened this to how I'm Moon Ivy here at TC, but "Jean" on LJ, _____ to my family and friends, <cute pet name> to my husband, "Mom" to my kids, etc.  If I can have different names under different circumstances or with different groups of people, certainly Brighid can do the same.

This is decidedly NOT the same concept as "All Gods are One God".  I'm NOT saying that Brighid is the same as a sun deity in a different culture.  That would be absurd.  Brighid and Ra (I hope I got that right) and Apollo (also hoping I got that right -- sorry, not my cultures) are CLEARLY NOT the same Beings.

But Brighid and Sulis may very well be (both of Celtic origin), and Sunna and Kupala possibly, as well (also Northern Europe).

As Sunflower says, though, YMMV.
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« Reply #21: October 04, 2007, 03:34:29 pm »

Well not neccessarily but if you believe that the Gods are just archetypes of a collective unconscious or personifications of natural forces, then clearly you don't believe that the Gods are real divine beings.

Not all soft polytheists are believers in the archetype theory or that gods are merely "personifications of natural forces"; archetype theory != soft polytheism, although they often overlap in a Venn diagram sort of way.  Many soft polytheists simply believe in a *fewer number* of gods than hard polytheists do.  Unless you're going to call the Romans who were hardcore devotees of the interpretatio Romana non-believers, or claim that they were archetype junkies.

You're trying to break down soft vs. hard on the axis of "belief in the gods," with hard polytheists, and only hard polytheists, believing.  And frankly, it's rather insulting to assert that those whose polytheism is softer than yours don't really believe in the gods as divine beings.  And that's not the way the terms usually get used around here -- as Lyric said, you should qualify this as your *individual* interpretation.   The usual distinction between soft vs. hard is how *separate* one perceives divine beings, not on belief in divine beings themselves. 
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« Reply #22: October 04, 2007, 04:57:19 pm »

  The usual distinction between soft vs. hard is how *separate* one perceives divine beings, not on belief in divine beings themselves. 

That's the way every definition/discussion I've ever seen divided it. I've absolutely never seen the definition hinge on belief, but on separateness.
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« Reply #23: October 05, 2007, 04:23:20 am »

You're trying to break down soft vs. hard on the axis of "belief in the gods," with hard polytheists, and only hard polytheists, believing. 

No! What I am trying to do is this; Initial post reposted in the interests of clarity:

I've noticed this coming up on other threads and though it worth exploring in a new thread.

What I'd like to look at is the views of the Hellenic community both past and present.

Theres been much said about Hard & Soft-Polytheism and I've noticed it's now being related to the pracices of syncretism and ecclecticism as well as relationships with other religions.

Hard-Polytheism is the belief that the Gods are real divine beings and are not archetypes of a collective consciousness, personifications of natural forces nor aspects of a single God.

Soft-Polytheism is the reverse, in one way or another.

Trying to relate these beliefs with the ancient practices of Syncretism and ecclecticism is problematic. Syncretism and ecclecticism was practiced by the Hellenes in Egypt and the far East as well as at home.

Syncretism is often thought to imply Soft-Polytheism however some Hard-Polytheistic Syncretists say that a syncretised deity is another God, so in the case of Zeus-Ammon, a Hard-Polytheist Syncretist would say theat Zeus, Zeus-Ammon and Ammon are three different Gods. Conversely a Soft-polytheist ecclectic may in the case of the cult of Isis in Hellas say that he is worshipping Demeter in another form.

Also reading in attitudes to other religions from hard-and soft-polythism is difficult. A hard-poytheist may say that the Gods of other religions are also real whereas a soft-polytheism would say that there is really only one pantheon.

Realating this to attitudes towards other religions is problematic beacuse, a Hard-polytheist may want to take a more qualitative view and say that because he/she beleives the Gods are real divine persons, that rules out the Gods of other pantheons being real. Conversely a Soft-Polytheist may want to admit that the existence of the local Gods unique to other religions are actually real.

In antiquity we can see different attitudes to other religions. I've seen no manifestation of religious relativism, I woudn't deny it may have existed but pluralism, inculsivism and exclusivism are well represented.

According to the myths when Typhon lead his assault on Olympus the Gods fled to all parts of the world taking different forms is this an example of an exclusivism or inclusivism in the sacred-texts?

What are we to make of the equation of Jehovah with Typon in antiquity, exclusivism?

The attitudes to other religions especially Buddhism and Hinduism in the Greco-Bactria and Indo-Greek Kingdoms reveals a pluralism. Whereas the Hellenism of Antiochus Epiphanes in Israel was radically exclusivist, to the point of fundamentalism.

In the final analysis the broad spectrum of attitudes in contemporary Hellenistmos reflects, attitudes in antiquity, were a broad church theres room enoUgh for all IMHO.
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« Reply #24: October 05, 2007, 09:55:23 am »

Realating this to attitudes towards other religions is problematic beacuse, a Hard-polytheist may want to take a more qualitative view and say that because he/she beleives the Gods are real divine persons, that rules out the Gods of other pantheons being real.

Are you intending to suggest that hard polytheism does rule out the Gods of other pantheons being real, or are you intending to say that it's an example of how a hard polytheist might feel but not necessarily something that's an inherent feature of hard polytheism?  I know I've seen that viewpoint at least once recently, so I can't argue that people might feel that way, but I personally disagree that it's something that's automatically implied in a hard polytheistic outlook.  (On the contrary, I'd tend to say hard polytheism has a greater allowance for other pantheons being real because those pantheons are believed to be made up of a whole different group of separate and distinct entities, as opposed to being just another way to approach the same entities.)

I guess other than that I'm not really sure what you're getting at in general, I'm sorry.  Your post reads to me kind of like just a statement that both hard and soft polytheism exist, and I'm not clear on where you're trying to take this discussion from there.
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« Reply #25: October 05, 2007, 10:04:01 am »

Hard-Polytheism is the belief that the Gods are real divine beings and are not archetypes of a collective consciousness, personifications of natural forces nor aspects of a single God.

Therapon,

You're redefining the term. What you're saying about real beings and hard polytheism is fine. What you're neglecting to say is that they are individuals. Single. Not moving across pantheons. In other words, Hermes is not Mercury. Cupid isn't Jesus (or whoever Poseiden's Daughter was putting him with). Hermes is distinct and separate from any other pantheon's deity. He may share similar characteristics, but he is an individual in each pantheon.

You've done this before when we were talking about Intelligent Design, and I'm sorry, but unless you're using a standardized definition, I just refuse to engage you here.
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« Reply #26: October 05, 2007, 10:15:03 am »

Hard-Polytheism is the belief that the Gods are real divine beings and are not archetypes of a collective consciousness, personifications of natural forces nor aspects of a single God.

This is where the trouble lies -- your definition of "hard polytheism" is not the one the rest of us are using. Your definition is narrower in some ways and broader in other ways the the one most of use are using. I think most of us would define hard polytheism more like this:

Hard Polytheism is the belief that the Gods (of all pantheons) are generally separate individual beings. While it is true that certain deities may be called by different names and/or be worshiped somewhat differently in different places and times, it takes a lot of hard evidence to demonstrate to a Hard Polytheist that a being named X and a being named Y the same being (especially if they are from different cultures). For a Hard Polytheist, merely sharing an area of interest (e.g. being a Sun deity) or a somewhat similar myth (e.g. a trip to the underworld) is not nearly enough evidence to declare two beings really different names for one diety.
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« Reply #27: October 05, 2007, 10:28:48 am »

Hard Polytheism is the belief that the Gods (of all pantheons) are generally separate individual beings.

You're using a definition that goes beyond hard-polytheism and includes assumptions of pluralism. The consequense of using a 'dual definition' like this is that it excludes hard-polytheists that don't believe in other religions.

I could more easily accept a definition like 'Hard Polytheism is the belief that the Gods are generally separate individual beings.' although this is a purely quantative and does'nt include the qualitative definitions usually considered part of a complete definition of hard-polytheism.
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« Reply #28: October 05, 2007, 10:59:31 am »

I could more easily accept a definition like 'Hard Polytheism is the belief that the Gods are generally separate individual beings.' although this is a purely quantative and does'nt include the qualitative definitions usually considered part of a complete definition of hard-polytheism.

Do you have some sort of sourcing for the definition you're using? Because your's is going completely against what I've ever seen commonly referred to. And, Therapon, please note, people are having pretty much the same problem with your definition. That's why I'm asking for some sourcing.
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« Reply #29: October 05, 2007, 12:02:59 pm »

You're using a definition that goes beyond hard-polytheism and includes assumptions of pluralism. The consequense of using a 'dual definition' like this is that it excludes hard-polytheists that don't believe in other religions.


I have trouble with that too - why does "believing all deities are separate individuals" automatically exclude those who don't believe in other religions anyway? Unless you add a quantitive factor to how many deities there are? Colour me confused...  Huh
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