Friday, October 23, 2009

Downsizing Polytheism

A 2003 panel from Partially Clips—A Webcomic for Grownups. Click to embiggen if necessary.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Polytheism and the Empowered Individual

An interesting article from a Hindu writer on polytheism, monotheism, and contemporary politics in India: "The March to Monotheism."

This paragraph caught my eye:

If the upside of monotheism is universalism and egalitarianism, the downside is that it admits of no rival. There can be no middle ground, no compromise. Reality is binary. It's either one or zero. It's my god or your devil. The aversion to idolatry and icons emerges from the same logic: an icon or idol is a personal god; it empowers individuals. It is democratic. It allows any individual to fashion his own god.Which is why iconoclast kings and priests have gone out of their way to destroy idols: the idea is to destroy the spirit of the empowered individual.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yes, Hypatia, There is a Santa Claus

This fellow -- Santa Claus, Father Christmas -- has joined the lineup of graven images on our polytheistic/animistic mantel. That's Hermes' foot at the far left, followed by an ossuary jar of sharp-shinned hawk bones, and Hekate on the right.

We all know that Santa's name derives from the Dutch form of St. Nicholas, but what need have we Pagans of a saint whose titles include "Defender of Orthodoxy" (versus the Arian Christians) and whose biographers proudly proclaim that he destroyed Pagan temples. So forget that part.

The connection with Odin is fascinating but fragile. Others go off on different tangents.

As the scripture states, "He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus."

On the other hand, I really have no problem with calling this time of year "Christmas" in casual conversation. When I was in my twenties, I rigorously drew a line and would only say "Yule." Now I am more casual.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Review: Written in Wine

Dionysos, writes Sannion of the Library of Neos Alexandria, "is a maddeningly complex god to figure out." And so he gets an anthology: poetry, fiction, hymns, essays, ritual from a group of Hellenic revivalist Pagans: Written in Wine: A Devotional Anthology for Dionysos

I like that approach for several reasons.

For one, contemporary Pagans must remember that our model of clergy is different from those of the monotheists. We start with service to deity, which is not the same as "pastoring" (herding sheep).

For another, we are drawn (or chosen) by different deities at different times. Sometimes, as Wiccan writer Judy Harrow says of herself, we are "serial henotheists."

Harrow herself produced an excellent book in 2003, Devoted To You: Honoring Deity in Wiccan Practice — the title is a slight misnomer, since two of four contributors, Alexei Kondratiev and Maureen Reddington-Wilde, are reconstructionist Pagans.

I once said that we needed poets, not theologians, and much of the poetry in Written in Wine is good stuff. Theokleia's "Come Dionysus" needs to be chanted by drunken, torch-lit devotees, while the collection also includes new translations of some ancient hymns to Dionysos as well.

The book includes stories and essays as well: I was impressed by Sarah Kate Istra Winter's "What It Means to be a Maenad" and, somewhat parallel to it, Tim Ward's "Dionysos on Skyros" with its questions of how a man moving toward middle age might still manifest the god.

I mentioned Ginette Paris, known for three excellent works of polytheistic psychology: Wisdom of the Psyche: Depth Psychology after Neuroscience, Pagan Meditations: The Worlds of Aphrodite, Artemis, and Hestia, and Pagan Grace: Dionysus, Hermes, and Goddess Memory in Daily Life.

Those books can help you see how divine energies penetrate the psyche and also manifest unexpectedly in everyday life, but Written in Wine is for the times when you want to call them forth—now!

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Polytheism and Punctuation

Have you seen the new ads for Gillette's Venus-brand razors?

Do you think some copywriter once read some classic of pop-psychological polytheism, such as Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives?

Or perhaps more amazingly, what if someone read Pagan Meditations: The Worlds of Aphrodite, Artemis, and Hestia?

Gods below! Polytheistic myth as psychology -- in the marketplace!

Note the correct use of the apostrophe-in-direct-address in the Gillette page's title bar. A lot of sloppy writers forget that punctuation can have a semantic purpose. There is quite a bit of difference between "Let's eat, Susan" and "Let's eat Susan."


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gods Below

"Gods below!" was a favorite oath of the characters in Rome, my favorite HBO series ever.

I have been giving them a lot of thought lately, starting with Cloacina (scroll down to Poster 6).

The line to the septic tank at the guest cabin was clogged beyond my ability to clear it with a hand-cranked snake, so I had to call Cory the plumber.

And since the tank itself had not been pumped for a decade, I called the septic service to pump it. When the pump truck showed up, we discovered the baffle on the outlet pipe had fallen off. I got new parts from the hardware store (a four-inch 90-degree PVC elbow and a neoprene coupling to attach it to four-inch clay pipe, if you're wondering) to replace it.

It's a small tank, so I was able to attach the baffle by just hanging over the opening and reaching down. Didn't drop the screwdriver--hurray. The tank was empty, but still pungent.

I figure that M. could have fit through the opening and climbed down on a ladder, but for some reason she was not interested in helping.

So all honor to Cloacina, a goddess below.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Process Theology and Feminist Wicca

In her new book, Hidden Circles in the Web: Feminist Wicca, Occult Knowledge, and Process Thought, Denver priestess and theologian Constance Wise argues that process theology is uniquely appropriate for Paganism.

When we speak of the "Web of Being," she writes, "the interconnectivity of events posited by process though is so expansive across both time and space that it can scarcely be grasped by human thought. On the other hand, process cosmology provides a clear way to talk about the Web (114)."

Process thinkers' understanding of deity leans towards the abstract. It is not "hard polytheism." But process thought does offer a useful and challenging way to think about inter-connectedness and the Goddess.

It is the fourth book in AltaMira's Pagan Studies series.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Theoi Project

The Theoi Project is a site for "exploring Greek mythology and the gods in classical literature and art. The aim of the project is to provide a comprehensive, free reference guide to the gods (theoi), spirits (daimones), fabulous creatures (theres) and heroes of ancient Greek mythology and religion."

Want a family tree of the gods? It's here. And here is the cultus page for Hekate.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

The God with Many Eyes

The new issue of The Entheogen Review carries a piece by David Luke on cross-cultural encounters with a godlike being covered with a multitude of eyes. (Yes, Ezekiel's cherubim are one of the references.)

His article, "Disembodied Eyes Revisited: An Investigation into the Ontology of Entheogenic Entity Encounters," describes such encounters and descriptions from Jewish, Muslim, Tibetan, and non-traditional entheogenic experiences:

Then the multitudinous eyes of the being before me suddenly and quite deliberately blocked my curious consciousness's further explorations by mesmerizing me with its squirming, rhythmic eyeball hypnosis.

In Tibetan tradition, a multi-eyed being called Za functions as a "protector of the law," being a guardian deity on the borders of our world and the Other Side. Luke hints at a connection with Python the guardian of Delphi, mythologically slain by Apollo.

Searching trip reports at Erowid, he finds more similar reports, leading him to wander, "But is there anything that can be found in this wayward meandering through myth and visions that offers a case for the genuine reification of 'the other' encountered in psychedelic spaces on the far side of the psyche?"

Yes, it is the interpretatio graeca, saying that all these experiences are of the same deity / psychic structure / whatever. And why not? In applied polytheism, you start with your own experience.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Seizing Symbols of Love

The Valentine's Day card that I bought for M. would be illegal to Saudi Arabia's Wahabi Muslims.

It would be an acknowledgment that women are more than a necessary evil, household appliances in veils. Maybe it's an incitement to polytheism too. Who knows?

In fact "red items" are a problem.

So if I had Saudi students and marked their papers in red ink, I would be inciting lust or something?

Aphrodite will not be denied.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jezebel the Polytheistic Princess

I am reading Lesley Hazleton's Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen, which I picked up at the Doubleday booth at the AAR-SBL meeting.

Somewhat as Robert Graves did in King Jesus decades ago--but with better sourcing--she takes a familiar Bible story and re-tells it from a different perspective.

Jezebel (Phoenician "Itha-Ba'al" -- woman of the Lord) was a Phoenician princess united in a political marriage with Ahab, who was actually one of the more militarily and successful Israelite kings of the Omride dynasty. The Bible slams him for not being hard enough on polytheists, however.

As queen and then as queen mother, she plays the political game as best she can before falling victim to monotheistic religious violence incited by the prophet Elijah. It's telling that Hazleton describes Elijah as issuing a fatwa against her: He is nothing but a forerunner of the Islamic preachers of today, urging the young men to blow themselves up in the name of Allah. When the Bible speaks of "companies of prophets," I see the Taliban.

The story is told in the the Book of Kings, which Hazleton supplements with what archaeology has since learned about the kingdom of Israel.

It has been many years since I looked at 2nd Kings. It is supposedly a chronicle of Israel and Judah, but as Hazleton says, "It has the logic of a dream." But I was reading Jezebel with the Bible in my lap for cross reference (Hazleton provides ample citations.)

Jezebel's grandniece,known to the Greco-Roman world as Dido, helped to establish the city of Carthage, Rome's military and commercial rival. But Dido's real name was Elitha, which via the Carthaginian colonies in Spain became "Alicia," or so Hazleton claims. Meanwhile, Jezebel--Itha-Ba'al--became "Isabelle" (or Isabella or Isobel) by the same route.

Margaret Murray, the English archaeologist who cast Paganism as the "Old Religion" in early modern Europe, claimed that "Isobel" and its variants (along with Joan) was among the most common names of women tried as witches. (Is that why Björk chose it?) But, really, I think that that was because it was a popular name, not because it was a "witch name."

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Deities Scramble after Bus Crash

This puts a new spin on the phrase "rush hour of the gods."

In the gods' haste to resolve the matter, some of the souls were apparently misplaced. In one instance, an adherent of Buddhism slated to be reborn into an Ohio family was temporarily reincarnated as a tree sloth. And as of press time, a self-avowed atheist who at the last minute took God into his heart has yet to be retrieved from the void and placed among the faithful.

Hat tip: Victoria Slind-Flor.


Friday, June 29, 2007

The Street of the Idol-Makers

Last Monday I drove to Denver for the last day of the International New Age Trade Show (West) at the Merchandise Mart, partly to see friends and also to check out the

Books, New Age and World Music, CD's and DVD's, Aromatherapy Bath and Body Preparations, Apparel, Candles, Crystals, Tarots and Divination Tools, Heath and Wellness Herbal Remedies, Incense, Jewelry, Native Traditions, Metaphysical Supplies and Greeting Cards.

I had not visited that show (it's wholesale only) since 1997, when I was signing copies of Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance at the Llewellyn booth. (They were not about to fly John Jones over from England, even though he wrote 75 percent of the book.)

The Llewellyn booth this year was big, but the energy seemed low. Nobody made eye contact. Maybe the staff had partied too hard the night before. I snagged a free 2007 Tarot reader for M. and left.

When M. worked for Celebration Books in Colorado Springs, she also had to work some of their metaphysical fairs--the same stuff, but at the retail level. (The two businesses are now owned separately, I understand.)

Walking the show, I could not help but notice how little has changed in the 20-some years since we first went to a metaphysical fair, other than the shift from videotapes to DVDs.

But there is one big change. In 1981 there was no Pagan merchandise sector. Now here was the Mythic Images booth next to Maxine Miller Studios and Celtic Jackalope (love that name), followed by Sacred Source and Dryad Design.

With all the divine images, it was like the Street of the Idol Makers.

Off to the side was King-Max Products with its bland Chinese manager representing a whole line of Gothy knick-knacks and kannabis kitsch and some very NSFW statuary. (You can't even see it on the website without an account.)

I just wonder if the Chinese worker painting the statuette of a voluptuous woman receiving cunnilingus from a wolf thinks that that is a common occurrence in America.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mars and Venus Are in Love

Ich bin ein siegreicher Unterwasserkommandant.

The July issue of the popular military history magazine Armchair Generalhas my name in it. Two other readers and I were named winners of the "You Command" contest in the March issue, involving a U-boat attack on an Atlantic convoy in 1943.

It's a sort of essay question: You are given a scenario with three tactical options, and you must pick one and justify it in writing. They print excerpts from the winning entries.

So I decided to try, and I won. Everything I know about commanding submarines I learned by reading and by playing Gato and Harpoon -- computer games.

Ensign William Thomas BaileyIt felt odd to write my entry. The man in the photo popped into my head, which was a bit creepy. His name was Ensign William Thomas Bailey. In March 1942 he married the woman who would become my stepmother, and in September 1942 his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk with all hands. She waited in New Orleans for three more months until it was obvious no miracle was going to bring him back, then eventually went to work for the Army in Honolulu where she led an active social life involving beaches, restaurants, high-ranking officers, and drinks with umbrellas in them.

Mars and Venus are in love.

Armchair General's publisher, Eric Weider, tries to make that point in his July editorial, answering critics who claim that study of military history is "odd or even morbid." The trappings of war are beautiful (airplanes, uniforms, music, etc.), and war is an activity that brings out not just the worst but the best in its participants.

The psychologist James Hillman, whose "polytheistic psychology" has changed my thinking quite a bit, threw himself against the same problem in his recent book A Terrible Love of War. He takes the combat-as-ecstasy (literally being outside your everyday self) line, but also refuses to think that war can be wished away with perfect social engineering.

Notes from a 2002 conference about the book, by someone wrestling with Hillman's message:

What if Aphrodite were akin to Pan? What if she valued, not war, but Ares himself, a man-god, a relationship, a lover, yes, a lover, not a warrior?

• A reviewer at contemplates Hillman's connection between ideological wars and monotheism:

Being reveals itself as "War" in the West not because of Homer's glorification of it, but because it is nourished by the extreme monotheism of Christianity, an "Old Testamament'warrior' God of Jaweh, tacked onto a New Testament without War ("Turn the other cheek, and give your enemy your cloak). . . . Now war has become "Apollonic" because "It was Apollo who chases, but fails to consummate his relations in closeness." Here Hillman does not hesitate to draw the inevitable conclusions from the fact that Ares always lies down with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. From ancient Sumner to present day Iraq the story is the same: the thrill, the glory, and the 'erotics" of war pass every other experience in intensity and delight. The hold of war is as powerful as Eros, indeed, IS Eros: "There is no beauty like it, because its beauty is evil" said one soldier, echoing Baudelaire. Can anyone be so foolish as to blieve that this violence is only incidental, only or purely contextual? The much touted "Sex AND violence" of the so called "conservatives"? Do we think that television generates it?

• It has even made it to YouTube.

It's a book that I will need to re-read one day, trying to understand how the energies of the gods show themselves in our lives and our culture.

And I am waiting for a stronger connection to be made between polytheistic psychology and religious polytheism. Too many people who espouse the latter still conduct their mental lives within a more agnostic psychology (think of behaviorism, for instance). The gods, as the poets tell us, have their own agendas, which sometimes rip our lives apart. How do you give them enough, but not too much? Is Ares satiated with computer-game slaughters?

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Reading Augustine on Polytheism

As a Reed College student in my freshman humanities class, I read St. Augustine's Confessions, often considered to be the first autobiography in the Western world.

Augustine did more to shape institutional Christianity in the West (Roman Catholics, Protestants) than anyone except the apostle Paul. The eastern Orthodox churches were not so impressed by him.

I re-read The Confessions when I was working on The Encyclopedia of Heresy and Heretics, because of Augustine's former involvement with the followers of Mani.

Being older and a little wiser--and also Pagan--I was somewhat less impressed by how piously he ditches his Pagan girlfriend, the mother of his son, because his Christian mother (St. Monica) does not like her and wants him to marry a Christian virgin. Monica herself advised Christian women to be sweet to husbands who beat them. You can find her spiritual heirs on the shelves of Christian bookstores today.

Augustine's big book, however, is The City of God, which established him as a theologian. I never had read it, but I have decided to attempt at least the first half, which is his attack on Roman polytheism.

He wrote it around 410, roughly 50 years after Julian, the last Pagan emperor, and a century after the imperial house (except Julian) became officially Christian. Paganism lingered, more in the Western empire than in the East, I think, but no longer enjoyed such government subsidies as formerly.

Its historical context was the Visigoths' attack on Rome. The Visigoths, who had lived in present-day Bulgaria, were tribes allied to Rome, and the attack was part of an attempt by their leader, Alaric, to become supreme Army commander--or maybe more--it was a complicated time of military-political contests for rulership. But the idea of barbarians breaking into Rome was a big shock for the empire, and some people claimed it happened because Rome had abandoned the old gods.

Here is were Augustine seems to "spin" his story, however, in a manner worthy of a Sunday-morning political TV talk show. He did teach rhetoric, after all.

Right off, in Book I, he makes much how the "the barbarians" spared residents of Rome who fled to Christian churches, even Pagans. He writes, "For of those who you see insolently and shamelessly insulting the servants of Christ, there are numbers who would not have escaped that destruction and slaughter had they not pretended that they themselves were Christ's servants."

He was not an eyewitness, but let's assume he was right. But what he does not mention is that "the barbarians" themselves--at least some of them, including Alaric--were Christians.

The only problem is that from Augustine's point of view, they were the wrong flavor of Christians. They were Arian Christians, who believed Jesus was created by God the Father instead of having existed eternally as part of the Trinity. Arianism was big among the Germanic tribes, possibly because it made Jesus more of a "culture hero."

The controversy was long and bitter, so Augustine prefers to write about "barbarians" instead of admitting that they were largely Christian barbarians looting a Christian/Pagan city.

That's Book (in other words, "chapter") One. I might have more to say about his take on polytheism later.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

If I Had a Hammer . . .

Now that the Veterans Administration has granted the Wiccan pentacle as a grave marker, the quest for Thor's hammer begins.

Pesky polytheists!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Saying the Pagan Rosary

Pagans and the rosary: religion journalist Kimberly Winston examines a spiritual practice and some Pagan material culture.

Fuensanta Plaza, a follower of the Norse gods who lives in Carmel, Calif., says if her house caught fire, the only thing she would run back for would be her pagan prayer beads, dedicated to the god Loki and goddess Sigyn.

"They are extremely important to my spiritual life, and therefore to my life," she said. Every day, she sits before her home altar and slips them through her fingers one at a time, "very much, presumably, as my Catholic grandmother used to say her rosary every day."

Yes, I linked to BeliefNet, despite what I and others are starting to think about BeliefNet, where polytheists are not welcome.

But Winston's story may pop up in some newspapers as well. And she quotes me, yay.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Dionysus, Jesus, Castaneda

After watching the BBC take on anthropologist - novelist - sorcerer Carlos Castaneda, M. and I rented another documentary about him. Enigma of a Sorcerer was released in 2002. It is available through Netflix, but it is only for the hardcore student of neo-shamanism as phenomenon.

Since it is only a collection of interviews (including the late Dan Noel), someone had the bright idea to put pulsating "psychedelic" backgrounds behind each talking head. "I need Dramamine," M. said, turning away from the screen.

Amy Wallace, one of Castaneda's inner circle of lovers-students in the 1990s and author of a memoir about that time, was another of the persons interviewed.

Watching both videos, however, you see how Castaneda was somehow possessed by Dionysus--just like every other death-defying savior with a circle of women: Krishna, Jesus, Joe Smith, Carl Jung (compare his "valkyries" to Castaneda's "witches.") Gurdjieff too, probably.

Soteriology--the various doctrines of salvation--all suggest the story of the God of variousness whose salvific function is well known in the Orphic cult. His name is Dionysus.

So writes David L. Miller (not to be confused with this David Miller) in The New Polytheism: Rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses (1974), a book a little ahead of its time.

All promised the overcoming of death. Castaneda, according to the interviews, offered a non-ordinary death--to disappear "bodily into the Second Attention"--to his followers. After he expired from liver cancer in 1998, at least one of his lovers went alone to Death Valley, where her bones were later found. Three of the "witches," Florinda Donner Grau, Taisha Abelar, and Carol Tiggs, also killed themselves, Wallace claims. But she offers no details as to when and how--she just thinks that they must have done so.

Actually, had the BBC wanted to do real journalism, they could have found out who cashes the royalty checks from all of Castaneda's books. I assume that they go to Cleargreen, Inc., the organization that he set up to incorporate his teaching methods.

Castaneda even has his own "Saint Paul," Victor Sanchez, who fills the role of the person who never met the Teacher but who claims to be passing on his methods.

Maybe the woman we call Mary Magdalene was either a composite figure or possibly only one of a group of her Dionysian teacher's intimates. There could be a book there . . .

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Polytheism at The New Stateman

The New Statesman, a British news magazine, has been offering polytheists a platform in its online religion column:

A Blackboard Epiphany in Ancient Delphi (March 19)

The Ancient Gods of Greece Are Not Extinct (March 20)

A Liberal Religion (March 21)

Worshipping the Ancient Greek Gods (March 22)

How Did I Become a Druid?" (March 26)

Worshipping the Sun of God (March 27)

A Brief History of Druidry (March 28)

How Being a Druid Affects my Life (March 29).

Collect the whole set. (Via Tropaion, a blog on Neo-Hellenic religion.)

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Polytheism, not Tradition

Keep an eye on the International Year of Polytheism Web project.

This is really more of a conceptual art piece than any sort of reconstructionism (definitely not reconstructionism or capital-T Tradition), although it has been mentioned earlier in the Pagan blogosphere.

Still, if anyone wants to "wants to overcome the epoch of the monotheistic worldviews (and its derivatives such as 'The West' and 'The Arab World') through the reconstruction of a polytheistic multiplicity in which countless gods and goddesses will eventually neutralize each other," I wish them well.


Monday, February 26, 2007

The tricky side of charisma

Over at GetReligion, a blog devoted to the collision of religion and journalism, Terry Mattingly links to a story of a Pentecostal preacher in trouble.

The details do not concern me. What caught my eye was this part of the linked posting:

Again, in my opinion, this false teaching arose because church leaders saw a need to conceal the widespread sexual immorality in their own ranks. “Touch not mine anointed” is often repeated alongside the Apostle Paul’s statement that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” The latter verse, from Romans, is used to rationalize how a minister can lead a completely dissipated life and still display genuine gifts of God such as the ability to preach or prophesy. The misuse of these verses has done tremendous damage within the Pentecostal-charismatic tradition.

Something that we polytheists should understand -- something that I learned in my first coven -- is that magickal ability or even the favor of the gods is not the same thing as moral character.

When Mattingly calls Rev. Allen "charismatic — in every sense of the word," that is what he is saying, with his Christian terminology. The man has "the juice." But having the juice does not mean that you trust in him other areas.

I suspect that Socrates, for instance, knew that perfectly well. Consequently, he does not discuss it. Every ancient Athenian probably knew that you could be filled with divine power -- enthused -- now and then, but being so enthused did not make you a philosopher.

Monotheists, however, want it all in one package: the Professional Good Man, to borrow a phrase from Elmer Gantry. Consequently, they are always dealing with clergy-corruption issues.

I had not realized that Pentecostal Christians, in particular, used Bible verses to explain away the issue. They ought to just understand that even if someone "displays the genuine gifts of [their] God," he or she may still not be someone to listen to in other areas. Their sheep/sheepherder model of organization gets them in trouble again and again.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blog Valhalla, Polytheism, Books and More

¶ Yvonne Aburrow's Pagan theologies wiki has what might be the definitive list of active Pagan blogs. I am adding a link on my sidebar.

¶ Speaking of which, this blog now appears on BeliefNet's Blog Heaven page again. Thanks to everyone who made a fuss.

¶Bedside reading: I started, put aside, but will return to John Lamb Lash's Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief.

It is a difficult book for me to evaluate: I sympathize with Lash's point of view, but I think that he distorts some of his sources too much in order to support his views. He wants to use Gnosticism as a path that "can provide the spiritual dimension for deep ecology independently of the three mainstream religions derived from the Abrahamic traditions."

Gnosticism is still concerned with "salvation," a concept largely at odds with polytheism, as John Michael Greer points out (see below). Much Gnostic thinking disparages physical existences as a "mistake," so I am waiting to see how Lash reconciles that with deep ecology and its focus on our relationship with and as a part of nature.

Lash writes his introduction around the life of Hypatia of Alexandria, a Platonic philosopher murdered by a Christian mob in 415 CE. He wants to view her as an "urban shaman," but I see her more as today's tenured professor of mathematics. An intellectual through and through. Note how she elevates philosophy over erotic attraction this story of her teaching, true or not.

Reviewing Not in His Image in the Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kirch writes:

Lash is capable of explaining the mind-bending concepts of Gnosticism and pagan mystery cults with bracing clarity and startling insight. At moments, however, he slips into a kind of New Age rant as baffling as any mystical text. "What we seek in 'Gaia theory' is a live imaginal dimension," he writes in one such passage, "not a scaffolding of cybernetic general systems cogitation." . . . .

And when he considers what he calls the "sci-fi theology" of the ancient Gnostics, he comes uncomfortably close to affirming that the otherworldly "Archons" of Gnostic myth were authentic extraterrestrials.

An interesting book, but full of special pleading.

¶I am happier with John Michael Greer's A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism, published by the Druidic group Ár nDraíocht Féin.

Greer's arguments for polytheism as offering a better model of the universe (including the evil and suffering in it) than monotheism and his lucid explanation of polytheistic spirituality deserve a wide hearing.

He works hard to show that monotheistic thinkers simply do not comprehend the polytheistic experience, and their arguments against it (unless enforced by violence as in Hypatia's case) simply fail.

Indeed, ancient and modern Pagans alike have the described mystical states in which they have become aware of multitudes of divine beings filling every corner of the cosmos; in the words of the Greek philosopher Thales, they have seen that "all things are full of gods." This is the polar opposite of henotheism; it is also among the most powerful and transforming of Pagan religious experiences.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Snake Motif

Right before M. and I left on the road trip that culminated in my rattlesnake bite and hospital stay, I was having trouble with a blockage in the bathroom lavatory.

I did not think that I could get my large plumber's "snake" down through the waste pipe behind the wall, and I thought of going to the hardware store and picking up a hand-operated plumber's snakesmaller one. But we were busy packing, and so I left the problem for later.

And then, five days later, came the bite from a "baby" rattlesnake and, minutes later, an encounter with a larger one who acted like a proper rattlesnake. In other words, the second one gave us a warning buzz so that we could avoid it.

Home again and still on crutches, I called Cory the plumber. He roared up the driveway in his big diesel van the following morning.

Of course I had to explain the crutches. A few minutes later, he had disassembled the drain and was carrying his electric plumber's snake up from the van.

"I've had about enough of this snake motif," I said.

"All right," he replied, "we'll call it an auger."

Little snake and big snake, metaphorical. Little snake and big snake, literal.

Sometimes the only god worth worshiping is the god of irony.

There is a complicated message here about the "poison path," I think, but I am still thinking about it.