In the Pagan community the subject of Gods is a very personal one and and explanation of their nature will vary greatly between tradition and even between individuals within a tradition. While other religions explain the nature of their Gods up front, Pagans are often left to seek personal experiences and draw conclusions based on those coupled with the often troubling backstories of the Gods we are reaching out to as told by the mythology associated with the cultures who first worshiped them. I am taking the Pagan Blog Project as an invitation to explore my faith on a deeper level and as such I am going to use this essay to explore the Nature of the Gods and compare and contrast my heartfelt beliefs with those of others I have discussed the matter with.
My husband and I have had long talks with each other and with other Pagans about the nature of the Gods. My husband is a self-proclaimed atheist, yet he still honors the same Gods I do. He has often played priest to my priestess and I have caught him on more than one occasion sharing a beer with Hermes in thanks or anticipation of his assistance. How can this be? It's simple. He doesn't consider them Gods. He was raised Christian with the Christian definition of God - an infallible, all knowing, all seeing, all merciful if you play along being with no human needs or desires and the power to create or destroy the Universe.
My Gods, with their fallibility, desire, passion and hunger, their limited sphere of influence and level of concern do not fit into this picture. He cannot change his definition of God, he has learned it as thoroughly as he has learned to wear clothing or use the bathroom (and he isn't going to change his stripes there either, let me tell you. No skyclad for him and absolutely no campgrounds without proper flushing toilets!). He is an atheist because he has found no evidence to suggest that this God he was taught to worship as a child exists. He has evidence of my Gods, but he doesn't call them that. Mostly he just calls them by their names. We talk of them as if they were friends who visit often.
But what are these beings that I call Gods and my husband just calls by name? I have heard many answers to this question.
All Gods are one God, and all Goddesses are one Goddess- The idea here is that every God you come in contact with is actually an aspect or representation of the One God/Goddess who has many faces and many names. In this view, the God/dess IS infallible, omniscient, etc. There may be one God AND one Goddess, or there may be one God being that is both male and female.
This is a monotheistic (or perhaps duotheistic) view that I am tempted to reject out of hand. The idea the God I worship has multiple personality disorder is just a little unsettling. More unsettling though is the patronizing potential of such a statement The idea that there is one God, but we humans can only perceive little bits of Him/Her and so this God shows itself only in little easy to understand chunks is reasonable, but it's easy to take that a step further and say "Your God is my God and you just don't get it" and that's a little scary.
As someone who has a close personal relationship with several Gods and a somewhat agonistic relationship with other Gods, I find it really hard to accept that they are all one in the same.
The Gods are metaphors and archetypal pieces of ourselves, not really entities in their own rights. This strips the Gods of their individuality nearly as much as the previous. This implies that I have multiple personality and dissociative disorder. The fact is, I have met my Gods and they have told me things I did not know and I can't see how they can do that if they are in reality merely a part of me.
That all being said, I don't believe any of these definitions are false. By my reckoning, all hold some truth.
Here's how I see it.
Everything is made of energy, some of that energy presents as matter, some light, heat, etc. There is life all along the energy spectrum. Beings of matter (us, our fellow animals, plants, etc.), beings of light and all sorts of other energetic beings. Among these are what I call Gods - and these may not fit other peoples' definition of God.
Because everything is made of the same stuff, we are all connected. We all swim in this primordial ocean of energy from which we are made. Material beings, however, have a hard time seeing our true nature and other beings not of the material spectrum. The further we get from our most natural, energetic state, the harder it is to connect with the ocean of energy that surrounds us.
Enter the Gods.
They are energetic beings able to interact with the material world. The ARE part of us in that we're all made of the same stuff. They ARE part of the energetic ocean which contains all of the creative life force and knowledge of the Universe and maybe beyond and could be referred to as GOD and, unlike us they are able to connect to its knowledge and creative power with ease. So in this way, all Gods are one God and God is omniscient and all Gods are part of ourselves. There is no one truth here. It is all true.
As for the stories about them, I am inclined to believe that they are metaphor and that part of the challenge of connecting with them is finding the deep truth within their stories. I do not believe that Gods have gender, I do not believe they reproduce sexually and have no need for genitalia. (If they create produce material children, I believe it must be done while they are possessing a material humans) The gender of Gods, I believe, is part of the metaphor, the story that we humans create to fit them into our worldview. The stories are there because the truth is beyond human language and can only be understood in meditation. The stories serve as a focus for this. This is why the Gods don't just come out and tell us things. Instead they show us visions in dreams and ecstatic states. Words are not enough to understand Them or the truth of the Universe.
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Comments, questions, criticism?