We now continue with Halstead’s, The Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism.
In which he’s trying to prove that Gods cannot be individual beings:
And if the gods are part of nature, as many polytheists claim, then the same must be true of our relationship to them as well. As “natural polytheist” Alison Leigh Lilly has written in her essay “Naming the Water: Human and Deity Identity from an Earth-Centered Perspective”:
“If human identity is complex, both personal and social, physical and psychological, spiritual and ecological — why should we expect deity identity to be any simpler? If our sense of self-identity is fluid and changeable, interconnected, responsive to the teeming, dancing life that permeates and surrounds us — why should we expect the gods to be objective, discrete and separate beings? The experience of spiritual practice and the biology of physical life teach us otherwise — showing us both the astounding unity and the sacred, interconnected multiplicity of being.” (emphasis added)
Why should I expect the Gods to be discrete beings when human identity is so fluid and changeable…
So because individual human identities are capable of fluidity and change, this means the Gods cannot have any identities of their own? Because humans individuals interconnect with each other to form societies and through nature, the Gods are incapable of being objective, discrete, and separate beings?
By the Gods, this kind of logic, it’s like saying “Because monkey’s can fling poo, Gorillas do not have assholes.”
I sympathize with those polytheists who are eager to prove that their gods are “real”. But by emphasizing the “separateness” of the gods, they are playing by the rules of a positivistic paradigm and, so, they have already lost the game. Rather than insisting that the gods are real because they are separate from us, we should instead argue that what is real is not the radically separate, but the radically interconnected — and that applies to us, the earth, and the gods.
Okay, first off, I don’t know any polytheist who is trying to prove that “their gods are “”real.”” And technically, Halstead, as a Pagan, wouldn’t they be your Gods too? Oh, right, sorry, you’re an atheist. Who is a Pagan. In Paganism. A religious grouping for people who worship a multiplicity of Gods….
Are you sure you didn’t lose the Game?
Anyways. Polytheists are not trying to “prove” the Gods are real. We “Believe” the Gods are real, separate, discrete individual beings. We’re not trying to scientifically prove they exist. I hate to speak for all polytheists here, but I’m going to. WE DO NOT CARE IF THE GODS ARE SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN!
Would it be nice? Sure. I’d love to watch the middle east spontaneously combust when the realize that the Asgardians are real and they can’t prove shit about Allah’s existence. But my own desire to roast marshmellows aside, my faith in the Gods has no basis in science, my religion does not require scientific proof, and it is not hurt in the least because some prick in a lab coat can’t put Hel in a test tube.
But if I wanted to prove Hel or any of the Gods are real, here’s how I do it.
Me: Hel is the Goddess of Death. In order for Hel to exist, Death must exist, so if I can find Death, I know Hel (the nexus of Death energy and the being who generates and controls that nexus) is real.
Hel: Well, you did just eat a dead fish, with some dead plants.
Me: GODS BE PRAISED, I HAVE FOUND DEATH AND MY FAITH IN HEL IS TRUE! THE GODDESS OF DEATH EXISTS!!!!!
We’re not even arguing that the Gods are real because they are separate beings from us Mortals. The reality of their existence wouldn’t matter if they were symbioticly within us. A zebra is no less real because it exists externally to me than a tapeworm would be if it existed internally of me!
At this point, I would accept your sympathy over my “failing” to prove the Gods are real, but frankly it kinda feels like accepting a candy bar from a retarded kid who feels bad for me because he thinks I can’t buy myself some ice cream. On the one hand, free candybar. On the other hand, well shit I just tricked some mentally challenged person into giving me his candy bar.
I mean, Gods, I actually feel bad about this now. Like, idk, I should be going around kicking puppies. It would be less cruel. It feels like Halsteads going, “Hey guys, sorry you suck at playing t-ball, haha.” While we were over here playing DnD and wondering what the fuck he’s on about.
I was recently challenged on this point by Jes Minah. She argued that I was ignoring the fact that the vast majority of polytheist writing, thought, and practice is about relationship — love, honor, obligation, reciprocity, generosity, devotion — which it might be argued is the opposite of objectification. You cannot objectify a being that you are in respectful relationship with, said Jes:
“When the world is peopled with gods, and spirits of all kinds, a river is not a river. It is the home of a river spirit, a being you are in relationship with. That means it has desires and needs and wants that are ultimately separate from your desire or need to have a place to put toxic chemicals. When we are in relationship, we must consider the other.”
Well, at least someone had some sense. Thank you Jes Minah, for illustrating perfectly why Individualism is better than collective identity. And I will credit Halstead for putting this in there. Of course I can’t wait to see how he tries to deny it.
I see Jes’ point. I do think recognizing the “otherness” of the world and its inhabitants is a necessary step toward its re-enchantment. Our primary experience of the world and of other people is often of our own projections. You may have had the experience of talking to someone and, suddenly, for the first time you really see them, see them as a unique individual. Or you may have noticed something about the place that you live that you never saw before, and suddenly the world seems alien. That experience can be both fascinating and disturbing. We Pagan often do this when we project our images of gods onto nature before we truly encounter it. We have a tendency to see the dryads and Ents and loose sight of the trees.
Actually, Halstead, I’m pretty sure that’s you and those like you. I always see everyone as a unique individual. I don’t have to have a “moment.” It doesn’t take some “revelation” for me to suddenly see a person as an individual rather than part of a “group.” That’s why I’m a polytheists, and its something polytheism has taught me. When everything is a discrete individual with their own inherent worth, you don’t ever see them as some collective group. And while I can’t speak for all polytheists in this regard, I don’t think many of us “loose sight of the trees because we’re seeing dryads and ents.”
That’s the beauty of Polytheism, you’re not projecting “Freyr” or “Sylvanus” on the trees of a Forest. They are Gods of the Forest, and the forest exists because of their divine powers, but the Forest is its own thing. And that means each tree, each plant, is a precious living thing in its own right!
See, that’s how individualism works, John.
But wait, there’s more, in part 3!!!