Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Polytheism and "everyone else"

We are alone, and we have only each other to rely on, because outside our small circle of fellow polytheists, the world for the most part, has no idea we even exist. It used to be that we could point to Hinduism as a beacon of polytheism stretching back for thousands of years, and in some ways this is still true. However, the more I converse with western Hindu's, and the more one actually researches the religion, the clearer it becomes that Hinduism in a broad sense, is pantheistic at its core, and polytheistic at the periphery.

"Ekam Sataha Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti," which may be translated: "The truth is One, but different Sages call it by Different Names" 

This concept is also reflective of many inclusive forms of monotheism, especially that found among Unitarian Universalists. "Everyone is free to worship as they please, because at the end of the day, we're all worshiping the same force or divine spark." As someone who participates on a number of interfaith forums, I have lost count of the number of times these kind of condescending platitudes have been trucked out, in the name of inclusiveness. I find myself repeating, ad nauseum, that this just doesn't encompass my beliefs at all, that it is a simplistic dismissal of an outlying position, and that most folks simply do not care to contemplate the idea any further.

Often, people will admit that I may be worshiping actual, potent beings, but not gods; or at least not "top of the heap", "proper" gods. Those same people will then point to the only sort of polytheism they know, and wax about how chaotic the universe would be if the forces behind it behaved as the Olympians or Roman deities. Little more than squabbling gods who are seen as selfish, petty and tyrannical (yes, these attributes are found only among polytheistic deities, a monotheistic deity could never be any of these things...) Of course, such folks often have little critical understanding of those deities or the myths we have of them.

That last bit is really my point in all this, people have no clue that my gods are not their god(s). Why is this so horrendously difficult for people to wrap their heads around? I have listed a few ideas but there are any number of others.

Do not get me wrong, I'm used to being an outlier; being that (often) solitary voice in discussions on theology who throws a wrench into the monistic language. I'm just mildly agitated with this insipid notion of inclusiveness based on some unified godhead which I am unknowingly worshiping, and only if I truly understood, would the truth become known to me. Because, all those different conceptions of deity couldn't point to their being, you know, different deities?

I am not blindly groping an elephant, and I'm on a totally different mountain!



  1. Well put. There is something patronizing about being made to fit into others' schemes, not to mention the failure to consider polytheism as other than a literary leftover from Classical times.