Saturday, June 02, 2007

Gods and goddesses are real beings, not archetypes


Arnulfa wrote this as her response to the "official" Mary-position here that all gods and goddesses are in some sense the same god, an archetype of the human mind and spirit.

Why do I believe that the gods/goddesses are transcendent beings? Why don’t I believe that they are either aspects of the God and Goddess or simple archetypes? It actually comes down to an issue of faith and understanding human psychology.

Faith is emotion based in the human psyche. Early philosophers separated the human being into body, psyche or soul and mind or intellect. Logic was considered to be based philosophically in the area of the intellect. There is nothing logical about faith. As a university student working on majors in philosophy and psychology, I am very involved in the search for reconciliation between faith and logic. Is such a reconciliation between two such different things even possible? That is unknown because in many ways, faith transcends logic. It is the human soul's attempt to believe in something big enough to protect it from the monsters in the night, much like a child’s belief in its parent’s omniscience. Sometimes faith is also necessary to prevent us from becoming the monsters in the night. Does this mean those of us who believe in the gods are children? Perhaps, but whether it is a belief in one of the dominant spiritual practices in our world or one of the alternatives, faith in something bigger than us seems to be critical to human psychological well-being. Faith is a part of the glue that holds communities together. Because it is such a critical aspect of human psychology, I believe that choice in religion or gods is of paramount importance in our culture. Some discussion of those choices would be appropriate.

There are the dominant monotheistic systems of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Then there are the other alternative belief systems of Buddhism, and Hinduism. These are considered the “Big 5” of world religions. These major religions have many differences but one similarity which they share with any spiritual practice. They require the practice of faith, not logic as defined by the scientific community. Unfortunately, none of the Big 5 allow for much experience of the sacred feminine. The alternatives to these world religions include the pagans who believe in the God and Goddess, with all pantheons representing aspects of these two archetypes. Also there are other people who believe that God is a vast source of energy that manifests itself through archetypes in the human psyche. (See Jung.) There are also those who believe we are the gods and goddesses. These belief systems can be divided between monotheists, polytheists, animists and several other categories in an abundance that is overwhelming in its complexity. A final category is that of the indigenous tribals of each continent. You will notice, I did not address the practice of science as a religion. That is a totally different issue that I can address later.

So now that I have explicated in detail what I feel religion is based on, I should explain that I am part of the indigenous tribals, though not of the North American continent. I believe the gods and spirits are beings that have greater abilities than we humans do. As such, they are entitled to respect. This is the way that my bloodline has practiced for centuries. Now, don’t get me wrong, I chose to participate in that heritage. Half of my family believes in evangelical Christianity, so I had a choice. My desire to experience the sacred feminine drove me to pursue a different tradition. I cannot accept a tradition that considered half the human race to be impure, especially when it is the half that I belong to. I also believe the gods call us rather than our calling on the gods. I have experienced this, not only personally but in watching different religious services. In some religions, the priest or preacher controls the interaction between human and god. In others, the individual or the god can initiate contact.

For some reason, the gods have seen fit to interact with the human race. I don’t understand why at times but it seems humans are such an obstreperous race that sharing a world with them requires some form of interaction. There are many reasons why gods/goddesses might interact with us. Those reasons could include requiring us to perform duties that are to their benefit only. The myths delineate situations in which this is the case. Do the gods/goddesses always do what we perceive as best for us? Or are we required to accept that we are nothing but puppets? I think that neither scenario is totally accurate because it may be a matter of perspective. An adult or parent may perceive a threat or benefit that the less mature child cannot. If the gods have a higher perspective than we do, then we may not be able to understand their actions and requirements. However another explanation could also be the very human tendency to act out and project the blame onto the gods for the resulting disaster.

It seems to be a peculiar arrogance in human nature to assign all aspects of other beings in this world to human archetypes. It is an exercise in attaching logic to faith, much like attaching a log cabin to a modern cathedral. There is no reason why we should relegate all things that we cannot explain to aspects of or abnormalities in human psychology. This aspect of our society seems more allied to control of the population that it does to faith or logic.

Nevertheless it feels like we are now being forced into a choice between a controlling parent god and an anonymous, disinterested force in American culture. This type of choice would be consistent with an exercise in logic and control rather than an exercise in faith. So, I continue to practice my belief in my family gods privately. In a society where being different can limit options, I am very discrete about who I confide my belief systems in. That alone explains why I believe so strongly that all other human beings are entitled to the same respect in being allowed their own belief systems, whether I agree with them or not.

Image: Wedding of Peleus and Thetis, by A. Bloemaert (1564-1651). Note Eris is tossing the apple of discord into the wedding party.

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Damn, Arnulfa. I knew you'd be good at this but you exceeded my expectations. Keep 'em coming.

By the way, as far as the debate on which view of the gods is correct-archetype, dualism, polytheism, etc., etc.-

They are all right, you old crone you.
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