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Author Topic: Gods as Ideas vs Gods as Deities  (Read 16121 times)
dartxni
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« Topic Start: March 19, 2008, 11:54:36 pm »

I grew up in an exceedingly dry and academic religious group called Theosophy. I learned plenty about myths, indeed the start of every Sunday children's class began with a story that fit with the theme of the week.
But it was all very dry. There weren't any rituals other than the sounding of a gong, and a very occasional intoned AUM. We were encouraged to meditate, but not to worship.

And now I'm interested in worship, in a relationship with a god or gods, but in my head they are still....archetypes. Concepts. Not real.

I remember as a kid I believed. I had my little alter to Krishna, and I'd intone his name one hundred and eight times before bedtime while counting on my brayer beads. (Lord Krishna, Avatar of Lord Vishnu, Protector of the Universe.)

As I find myself looking into paganism it all sounds very interesting. I want something spiritual in my life. But in the back of my head is the constant little voice saying, "its all very well, but you don't actually believe any of this stuff, do you?"

Edit: And as a question: How do you see the gods?
« Last Edit: March 19, 2008, 11:58:05 pm by dartxni » Logged

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« Reply #1: March 20, 2008, 12:16:11 am »

I grew up in an exceedingly dry and academic religious group called Theosophy. I learned plenty about myths, indeed the start of every Sunday children's class began with a story that fit with the theme of the week.
But it was all very dry. There weren't any rituals other than the sounding of a gong, and a very occasional intoned AUM. We were encouraged to meditate, but not to worship.

And now I'm interested in worship, in a relationship with a god or gods, but in my head they are still....archetypes. Concepts. Not real.

I remember as a kid I believed. I had my little alter to Krishna, and I'd intone his name one hundred and eight times before bedtime while counting on my brayer beads. (Lord Krishna, Avatar of Lord Vishnu, Protector of the Universe.)

As I find myself looking into paganism it all sounds very interesting. I want something spiritual in my life. But in the back of my head is the constant little voice saying, "its all very well, but you don't actually believe any of this stuff, do you?"

Edit: And as a question: How do you see the gods?

Wow.  I must say, I've never met anyone who grew up in Theosophy.  I've spoken with Theosophy people, I've done research on the subject, but I've never met anyone who actually was raised in Theosophy.

Honestly, if you want to go on believing that the gods are archetypes, there are plenty of pagan traditions that do this.  Most notable are the branches of eclectic Wicca and neo-Wicca that claim that "All gods are one God, all goddesses are one Goddess."  It sounds like your archetype-god concept is a little different than this sort of gender duality, though. 

Everyone doubts sometimes.  If you didn't have that little voice in the back of your head I'd be more worried, not less.

Here's an interesting question that I feel the need to ask (despite my own little voices telling me not to).  Do you need to have god(s) to be spiritual?  Is there any reason why you can't simply be spiritual for now and use your god-archetypes as aides in your spiritual understanding instead of objects of worship?  Doing that may allow you to take the steps slowly towards the more traditional deity-view, or it may reinforce your current state as the correct one for you.  I hope I'm not coming across as prosletizing (if I were preaching this idea, my very hard-polytheist-gods would be much more annoyed than they are).

How do I see the gods: Well, on one level, I'm a panentheist.  I see Existence and Infinitude as Divine.  I even believe that Divine-ness to be One sentient Divinity.

On another level, though, I believe that that Existence and Infinitude rendered a portion of itself to resemble a finite universe that contains finite beings.  I believe that some of those finite beings are humans.  I believe that others, who have longer lifespans, no physical bodies, and access to more layers of the finite universe, are the beings we refer to as gods.  I believe that even the idea of something is Divine and has power, even if the thing itself doesn't exist, and so all gods exist individually even if only on the level of the idea.

On yet another level, I'm dedicated to two specific deities (besides the Divine Existence) and work on a semi-regular basis with about four others.
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« Reply #2: March 20, 2008, 12:36:35 am »


I believe that the deities are real, separate individuals that have their own distinct personalities and agendas.  They will speak to you, perhaps work with you, and let you feel their presence in a real way.

I am working with this right now actually.  I am trying to establish a "working relationship" with my deities through prayers, meditation, rituals, etc.  And well, all I can say is that it's not going to happen overnight Smiley 

There weren't any rituals other than the sounding of a gong

Half of the fun is making them up yourself (after doing some research Grin)

As I find myself looking into paganism it all sounds very interesting. I want something spiritual in my life. But in the back of my head is the constant little voice saying, "its all very well, but you don't actually believe any of this stuff, do you?"

Well, do you?  Is this what you truly believe in?  Is this the path you wish to take? You don't have to be pagan to be spiritual. 
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« Reply #3: March 20, 2008, 12:42:43 am »

Wow.  I must say, I've never met anyone who grew up in Theosophy.  I've spoken with Theosophy people, I've done research on the subject, but I've never met anyone who actually was raised in Theosophy.
Lol, yeah, I'm probably one of the few people raised on a commune in the 90s too.
Quote
Honestly, if you want to go on believing that the gods are archetypes, there are plenty of pagan traditions that do this.  Most notable are the branches of eclectic Wicca and neo-Wicca that claim that "All gods are one God, all goddesses are one Goddess."  It sounds like your archetype-god concept is a little different than this sort of gender duality, though. 
I don't really find the gods to have that much in common though. Certainly, a lot of traditions of similar gods filling similar roles but...
Quote
Everyone doubts sometimes.  If you didn't have that little voice in the back of your head I'd be more worried, not less.

Here's an interesting question that I feel the need to ask (despite my own little voices telling me not to).  Do you need to have god(s) to be spiritual?  Is there any reason why you can't simply be spiritual for now and use your god-archetypes as aides in your spiritual understanding instead of objects of worship?  Doing that may allow you to take the steps slowly towards the more traditional deity-view, or it may reinforce your current state as the correct one for you.  I hope I'm not coming across as prosletizing (if I were preaching this idea, my very hard-polytheist-gods would be much more annoyed than they are).

This is exactly what I am interested in doing. The problem is that I have always sucked at meditating, so I'm interested in something more active. I don't know what though.
Quote
How do I see the gods: Well, on one level, I'm a panentheist.  I see Existence and Infinitude as Divine.  I even believe that Divine-ness to be One sentient Divinity.

The only thing I sincerly hard and fast believe is that the universe (Existence and Infinitude) has a will (sentience) and that will is balanced toward goodness and positiveness. I'd prefer to believe in Reincarnation, and find Karma or some sort of universal balancing law to be logical.
Quote
On another level, though, I believe that that Existence and Infinitude rendered a portion of itself to resemble a finite universe that contains finite beings.  I believe that some of those finite beings are humans.  I believe that others, who have longer lifespans, no physical bodies, and access to more layers of the finite universe, are the beings we refer to as gods.  I believe that even the idea of something is Divine and has power, even if the thing itself doesn't exist, and so all gods exist individually even if only on the level of the idea.
I like your thinking. Its a lot like my thinking sometimes is.
Quote
On yet another level, I'm dedicated to two specific deities (besides the Divine Existence) and work on a semi-regular basis with about four others.

This is what I am interested in examining.

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« Reply #4: March 20, 2008, 12:47:31 am »

I believe that the deities are real, separate individuals that have their own distinct personalities and agendas.  They will speak to you, perhaps work with you, and let you feel their presence in a real way.

I am working with this right now actually.  I am trying to establish a "working relationship" with my deities through prayers, meditation, rituals, etc.  And well, all I can say is that it's not going to happen overnight Smiley 

Half of the fun is making them up yourself (after doing some research Grin)

Well, do you?  Is this what you truly believe in?  Is this the path you wish to take? You don't have to be pagan to be spiritual. 

I like paganism. I grew up new age, and I am tired of spiritualism without a focus other than self improvement. That sounds wrong. I don't mind self improvement (its masturbation.) But sometimes you just long for a relationship with somebody other than yourself. [/pithy statement]
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« Reply #5: March 20, 2008, 12:51:16 am »

How do you see the gods?

Most of the time, I see the gods as separate and distinct individual beings (hard polytheism).  But sometimes my faith falters, I guess, and I fall back to the gods-as-concepts idea.  

In my case, my relationship is with Brighid.  I have no direct experience with any other deity.  I've encountered Brighid as a voice I heard very clearly, as several series of explicit signs I asked for, and through a seeress who "channeled" Her during a seidh ritual.  The seidh ritual was an incredibly powerful experience and there is no doubt in my mind that Brighid was *in* and speaking through the seeress.  There were many witnesses present at that ritual, and the ones I spoke to afterward are also certain She was there and speaking with me.

So I tend to appraoch my devotions as conversations with an actual being who can answer me (through signs and sometimes with an actual voice).  Other times, though, when I haven't heard from Her in a while, I start doubting my memories.  At those times I think of Brighid as a specific combination of certain forces (creativity, wisdom, healing, justice, etc.).

I know that sounds a little...contradictory...but that's how it is for me.  And, ultimately, I'm not sure it really matters.  Either way (being or concept), She sustains me and supports me.
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« Reply #6: March 20, 2008, 12:56:25 am »

I like paganism. I grew up new age, and I am tired of spiritualism without a focus other than self improvement. That sounds wrong. I don't mind self improvement (its masturbation.) But sometimes you just long for a relationship with somebody other than yourself. [/pithy statement]

Holy shit  Shocked lmao.

And I absolutely agree with you.
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« Reply #7: March 20, 2008, 01:12:22 am »

I don't really find the gods to have that much in common though. Certainly, a lot of traditions of similar gods filling similar roles but...

As I said, you do seem to be going in a different direction than most of that.

Quote
This is exactly what I am interested in doing. The problem is that I have always sucked at meditating, so I'm interested in something more active. I don't know what though.

If I may suggest a method that often works for me, go for a walk in a park or somewhere you find to be generally relaxing to be.  While you're on your walk, there are two things you would aim for.  One: spread your awareness to encompass a wider area than it normally does.  Two: hold a conversation with yourself.  Not necessarily out loud, of course (especially if you want to avoid odd looks from passerby) but you would be aiming for an internal discussion.  Brainstorm.  Stream of conciousness.  Try to go for the more spiritual things, of course, but engage your thoughts and ask "why" and "what does this imply?"

Quote
The only thing I sincerly hard and fast believe is that the universe (Existence and Infinitude) has a will (sentience) and that will is balanced toward goodness and positiveness. I'd prefer to believe in Reincarnation, and find Karma or some sort of universal balancing law to be logical.

My personal path includes reincarnation and a more direct version of the Wiccan Threefold Rule that holds that you simultaneously feel the effects of every action you have ever taken in life when you die, but that you are not penalized in your next incarnation by your previous one.

As for examining an interaction with gods, the easiest way is probably just to start talking to them.  Doing so in a ritualized manner may help you with this.  I talk with deities freely now, but it really helped me to get the "feel" for it at first to do so through various rituals in both Wiccan and Shamanic forms.
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« Reply #8: March 20, 2008, 08:08:08 am »

I like paganism. I grew up new age, and I am tired of spiritualism without a focus other than self improvement. That sounds wrong. I don't mind self improvement (its masturbation.) But sometimes you just long for a relationship with somebody other than yourself. [/pithy statement]

in FlameKeeping (my religion) self improvement is only one part of the whole.  If you don't then turn around and share that improvement to go out and improve the Universe, you're missing the point.

As far as the gods - I am also a polytheistic pantheist.  I believe all the gods, and everything else, put together is one force that is self aware.  But there are also gods, and they have specific goals and needs.

As to how I perceive them - usually, voice in my mind or *knowledge* that just appears there that I have no reason to know.  And I celebrate them by action.
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« Reply #9: March 20, 2008, 12:46:10 pm »

I grew up in an exceedingly dry and academic religious group called Theosophy. I learned plenty about myths, indeed the start of every Sunday children's class began with a story that fit with the theme of the week.
But it was all very dry. There weren't any rituals other than the sounding of a gong, and a very occasional intoned AUM. We were encouraged to meditate, but not to worship.
And now I'm interested in worship, in a relationship with a god or gods, but in my head they are still....archetypes. Concepts. Not real.

Absolutely the hugest change in my spiritual life was going from liking the idea and/or imagery of one or more gods, thinking they were beautiful or interesting or just plain cool, and actually having a *relationship.* And before I made that switch, I didn't even understand that there *was* a difference. So you're clearly a few steps ahead here. ^_^

Quote
I remember as a kid I believed. I had my little alter to Krishna, and I'd intone his name one hundred and eight times before bedtime while counting on my brayer beads. (Lord Krishna, Avatar of Lord Vishnu, Protector of the Universe.)

This might be a clue for you, right here. Instead of worrying about meditating, maybe try *doing* something. Set up an altar, pour some water, offer something like a flame or a flower or some incense, say a prayer. You may not get a "zap" immediately; keep doing it on a regular basis, and see what happens. (Of course, you may be doing this already, but it may need some more time to kick in.)

Think about it as being like having a relationship with a person. You might know a lot about somebody who's a celebrity, for instance, but until you go out for coffee with them regularly, spend time at each other's houses, maybe have some crazy misadventures together, you don't know what they're really *like.* How they react to things, how it actually feels to be around them....

Quote
As I find myself looking into paganism it all sounds very interesting. I want something spiritual in my life. But in the back of my head is the constant little voice saying, "its all very well, but you don't actually believe any of this stuff, do you?"

I have that little voice, too. It lives in its own little compartment inside my head, where I can check in with it if something seems seriously over the top, but where (for the most part) it doesn't interfere with my practice or my relationships, although it's always present in the background.

A lot of the time, I kind of wish that I could just believe in all the woo-woo utterly and without question. Think how interesting and magical life would be if I could just turn off the filter! Perhaps a little *too* interesting and magical...I really don't want to turn into Lady SparkleUnicorn and be fighting off astral invaders every week or two. There's a place for skepticism and self-questioning in religion; it just needs to be balanced, so that it doesn't take over and deconstruct all of the awe and wonder. I think that maybe faith isn't merely belief in something we can't prove outright, but the ability to balance doubt and belief against each other and to be supported by both.

Quote
Edit: And as a question: How do you see the gods?

All "one," on some level that's generally beyond my need-to-know, but never all "the same." They may stir the parts of us that resonate to archetypes, but they are not themselves archetypes. It's really been brought home to me recently how very individual they are (in my experience, anyway)--I've been writing songs for various Netjeru lately, and they all have different degrees of involvement in the process. It can be pretty funny.  Grin

Are there any gods or mythologies that you're particularly drawn to? That would be a good place to "hang out" and start talking while you're waiting for "your" gods to show up. Also, I don't see why you couldn't just begin with an agnostic ritual: "I don't know who's out there, or whether anyone's out there at all, but I'm doing this to honor you anyway. If you want to talk to me, I'm listening."

Good luck!

--L

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« Reply #10: March 20, 2008, 12:56:36 pm »

If I may suggest a method that often works for me, go for a walk in a park or somewhere you find to be generally relaxing to be.  While you're on your walk, there are two things you would aim for.  One: spread your awareness to encompass a wider area than it normally does.  Two: hold a conversation with yourself.  Not necessarily out loud, of course (especially if you want to avoid odd looks from passerby) but you would be aiming for an internal discussion.  Brainstorm.  Stream of conciousness.  Try to go for the more spiritual things, of course, but engage your thoughts and ask "why" and "what does this imply?"

I heartily second this.  Grin 

For me, meditation isn't the vehicle through which I feel spiritual or connect with the divine. It's something I do for myself, to get myself clear enough so that when the gods decide that they have something to say, I might actually be able to hear it. (Actually, I kinda think they get somewhat bored when I'm just sitting in front of the altar trying to still my mind. They'd rather I talk to them. Or sing. Or dance. Or offer them a shiny present.  Grin )

--L

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« Reply #11: March 20, 2008, 03:47:17 pm »

I don't see why you couldn't just begin with an agnostic ritual: "I don't know who's out there, or whether anyone's out there at all, but I'm doing this to honor you anyway. If you want to talk to me, I'm listening."
I must say that I love the idea of an agnostic ritual, before I found my deities, or they found me or I became aware of them (I'm not sure which apply and to what degrees Cheesy ) I would definitely have done something like this if it had been suggested.

I would alos like to add that the gods who decide to make contact with you aren't neccesarily thesort you would seek out if left to your own devices. I do know that the gods who chose me are the 'right' gods for me, but some of them have aspects that make me uncomfortable.
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« Reply #12: March 20, 2008, 03:57:02 pm »

Edit: And as a question: How do you see the gods?

I am a hard polytheist. I believe that the gods are separate and distinct individuals with distinct personalities, likes and dislikes. I believe that it is possible to have close, 'one on one' relationships with the deities.

I personally never understood the 'deities as archetypes' viewpoint...it doesn't jive with my experience at all. There are, however, plenty of pagan paths which work under this viewpoint...and it seems to work rather well for them. Smiley
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« Reply #13: March 20, 2008, 06:29:54 pm »

So I tend to appraoch my devotions as conversations with an actual being who can answer me (through signs and sometimes with an actual voice).  Other times, though, when I haven't heard from Her in a while, I start doubting my memories.  At those times I think of Brighid as a specific combination of certain forces (creativity, wisdom, healing, justice, etc.).

I know that sounds a little...contradictory...but that's how it is for me.  And, ultimately, I'm not sure it really matters.  Either way (being or concept), She sustains me and supports me.

This makes sense for me. Gods such as Odin, who has appeared in one thoroughly.....interesting and dramatic dream is fairly real to me. So are the Hindu pantheon, because of my early childhood introduction to them. (Our next door neighbor was sort of a guru to the community, and he was Hindi.)

I think the key to my own spirituality is seeing Gods as both personalities and Archetypes.

This might be a clue for you, right here. Instead of worrying about meditating, maybe try *doing* something. Set up an altar, pour some water, offer something like a flame or a flower or some incense, say a prayer. You may not get a "zap" immediately; keep doing it on a regular basis, and see what happens. (Of course, you may be doing this already, but it may need some more time to kick in.)
This is advice I fully intend upon following
Quote

Are there any gods or mythologies that you're particularly drawn to? That would be a good place to "hang out" and start talking while you're waiting for "your" gods to show up. Also, I don't see why you couldn't just begin with an agnostic ritual: "I don't know who's out there, or whether anyone's out there at all, but I'm doing this to honor you anyway. If you want to talk to me, I'm listening."

Good luck!

--L

My early and constant contact with Hinduism means I know the most about this pantheon. But its hard, and maybe incorrect to disconnect the mythology of Hinduism from the religion of Hinduism. I'm sort of fed up with some concepts, such as Dharma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma). My dad (yeah father issues!) tended to lecture for hours on the subject, so now I am rather sick of it. The whole of Hinduism is basically about following Dharma.

There is the idea that a person should confront things that may be uncomfortable, but I'm not currently interested. Maybe later in life when I inevitably become my parents.

Which means the idea of an Agnostic ritual sounds like an awesomely good idea. I'll probably touch base with Odin and see if his brief insertion into my dream life warrants further examination. 
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« Reply #14: March 20, 2008, 10:05:24 pm »

Wow.  I must say, I've never met anyone who grew up in Theosophy.  I've spoken with Theosophy people, I've done research on the subject, but I've never met anyone who actually was raised in Theosophy.

Honestly, if you want to go on believing that the gods are archetypes, there are plenty of pagan traditions that do this.  Most notable are the branches of eclectic Wicca and neo-Wicca that claim that "All gods are one God, all goddesses are one Goddess."  It sounds like your archetype-god concept is a little different than this sort of gender duality, though. 

Everyone doubts sometimes.  If you didn't have that little voice in the back of your head I'd be more worried, not less.

Here's an interesting question that I feel the need to ask (despite my own little voices telling me not to).  Do you need to have god(s) to be spiritual?  Is there any reason why you can't simply be spiritual for now and use your god-archetypes as aides in your spiritual understanding instead of objects of worship?  Doing that may allow you to take the steps slowly towards the more traditional deity-view, or it may reinforce your current state as the correct one for you.  I hope I'm not coming across as prosletizing (if I were preaching this idea, my very hard-polytheist-gods would be much more annoyed than they are).

How do I see the gods: Well, on one level, I'm a panentheist.  I see Existence and Infinitude as Divine.  I even believe that Divine-ness to be One sentient Divinity.

On another level, though, I believe that that Existence and Infinitude rendered a portion of itself to resemble a finite universe that contains finite beings.  I believe that some of those finite beings are humans.  I believe that others, who have longer lifespans, no physical bodies, and access to more layers of the finite universe, are the beings we refer to as gods.  I believe that even the idea of something is Divine and has power, even if the thing itself doesn't exist, and so all gods exist individually even if only on the level of the idea.

On yet another level, I'm dedicated to two specific deities (besides the Divine Existence) and work on a semi-regular basis with about four others.
I have to say, after reading this... that you are the first person who may have described what my beliefs are or at least very close to them. I have never been able to put it into words, but I think you have done a great job for me. Thanks for the eye opener.
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