John Beckett has a post up, The Future of Polytheism: Keeping the Gods at the Front, and John Halstead has a response to it entitled, If It Doesn’t Help Me Save This World, I Don’t Want Your Polytheist Revolution.
As so often, I find myself positioned halfway between the two Johns. An uncomfortable position to be in, perhaps.
When I first read John Beckett’s article, I couldn’t pin-point exactly what it was that made me uncomfortable about it. I just knew that it made me uncomfortable. Putting the gods at the front – what does that mean? Does it mean that they are the most important aspect of Paganism and/or polytheism?
I am more comfortable with John Halstead’s article, but I think he missed the qualifiers in John Beckett’s article: that the gods are immanent, and therefore part of the natural world that we want to protect from the depredations of humanity and capitalism; religion is not much good if it doesn’t work towards social, environmental, and restorative justice.
The way I see my relationship with the deities, as I outlined in my post on why I am a polytheist Wiccan, is that they are our allies. They are not our masters and we are not their servants; we are not their masters and they are not our servants. We are co-creators with them of reality. Sometimes the realities that we create are frightening and harmful, as in the current ecological and climate crisis. Sometimes the realities that they are said to have created are frightening and harmful, as in the Trojan War (though I am sure it was all too easy for the ancient Greeks and Trojans to claim that the gods made them do it).
So whilst the gods are important, because they are the consciousnesses of specific places and natural phenomena, they are not more important than the ecosystem, Nature, the Earth, and other species who share the planet with us.
As a relational polytheist, I feel that it is our job to focus on right relationship with other beings, starting with other animals, including humans, and with the ecosystem in which we live, of which the deities are the conscious emanations. This can mean that we need to engage in restorative justice, such as the Black Lives Matter campaign, or by supporting the Idle No More protests of Indigenous peoples, or campaigning for asylum seekers to be treated fairly by the UK.Being in right relationship with our fellow embodied beings, and in right relationship with our ecosystem, will do more to bring us into right relationship with our deities than any amount of worship. Yes, we need to make that inner connection with the spirits of place, the spirits of the land, and the deities, as part of our awareness of all the interconnected relationships of the nested interconnections of being in which we live. But deities, land-wights, animals, humans, are all part of that web of relationships. The deities are not more important than other aspects of that interconnectedness, any more than humans are.
So I stand beside my deities as an ally and a co-worker. They are more powerful and far-seeing in the realms of spirit, consciousness, and the timeless, so I need their help to access that mode of consciousness. They, on the other hand, need my finite, time-bound, and physically-embodied mode of consciousness in order to bring about change in the physical world.
I am devoted to the interconnectedness, to bringing about heaven on earth, to creating (right) relationships and beloved community. If the gods are allies in that process, then they are my allies and my friends.
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