Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Great Monotheistic Error

This animist is also a polytheist. I believe in many gods. I have to be careful in talking about my gods and in using the "g" word at all, because the great monotheistic error confuses people.

Jack suggests that I use a word like “angel” to describe my gods in order to avoid confusion, but I stick to the word “god” deliberately, using it as the classical polytheists used it. My gods are very like the Greek or Roman or Norse polytheistic gods. They’re fallible, emotional, greater-than-human people, with personalities and a penchant for meddling in human affairs. They may live so long as to appear immortal to us lesser creatures, but they have vulnerabilities and can be hurt and will eventually, like all things, be reabsorbed into the great Everything-That-Is.

Everything-That-Is (ETI) is Mastery-Mystery’s word* for the Unknowable One (which is Jack’s word for it) which MM describes, in short, as “Everything That Is, Is Not, Was, Was Not, Has Been, Has Not Been, Will Be, Will Not Be and Could be and Could Not Be . . . " This Great Mystery of Everything Universe As God All At Once is way beyond human comprehension. I can’t experience it, hence, like the animists of old, I leave it alone. I don’t try to know it or define it. It’s not my big-G “God.” Since I can’t experience it, I don’t “believe” in it. I don’t worship it. I don’t relate to it. It’s way too big for this puny human.

But the monotheists believe in it. Not only do they believe in ETI, they think that ETI is their personal, book-writing deity and that it’s ETI who created them on purpose and that ETI has a personality and meddles in their affairs. In short, that ETI is their personal god. That’s the great monotheistic error. Monotheists call ETI big-G God, but their capital letter doesn’t fool me. They can’t have a relationship with ETI because no one can. It’s way too great for any of us and It would be way too great to give much of a shit about us, if It had any shit to give, which It doesn’t. Monotheists confuse their little-g god with ETI.

Monotheists have got the market for gods on this earth cornered and monopolized in their corporate churches, and they’ve plastered their gods' various names all over the media for several thousand years. Therefore, a lot of people think their big-G God-of-Choice is the only way to think about deity. They think there only exists one big-G God (and it’s the God of their choice) and he has to be ETI. In other words, they deny the existence of any gods but ETI and claim ETI as their god.

That’s why I have to be careful. Because when I say the word “god” most people think I’m talking about some big-G God or other as my personal ETI. It’s not just traditional monotheists who get confused this way. Many new age folks and other ETI believers still think ETI is the only possible thing that can be called god, and that the ETI of their choosing (whether they call it One-ness, the Creator, Great Spirit, etc.) is their personal god. That’s impossible! ETI ain’t nobody’s personal anything. IMHO . . . in my humble opinion . . .

The great monotheistic error makes it difficult to be polytheistic in the contemporary world. As much as I disbelieve in a personal ETI, monotheists disbelieve in the possibility of any gods besides ETI. Many folks dismiss my gods as metaphors, emanations or messengers of ETI, mythologies (meaning fictions), or disembodied forces. Boy, it’s hard to convince even my closest friends that this highly functional, highly educated, professional person experiences real, embodied, greater-than-human beings with names and personalities. But I don’t believe in anything I haven’t experienced, and I’ve never experienced ETI.

Maybe you have, though, and I’d be delighted to hear your experiences and thoughts on this topic. There’s no right or wrong, after all. We’re all just puny humans struggling to understand what’s greater than ourselves.

*Thanks to MM for defining ETI and for letting me snag the word. At least, I hope he doesn’t mind. MM has his own understanding of ETI. You can check out his fascinating philosophy at Cosmic Rapture.


Jack said...

I think one can experience the ETI and I believe many people do yet it is not a personal experience but rather a trans-personal experience. That is, as in deep meditation, one feels a oneness with the Universe and a loss of personal ego. The saints and mystics of all stripes have attempted to explain the unexplainable. Like The Tao, ETI is beyond mere human reckoning and certainly does not interact personally with instructions, revelations or even judgement. ETI is behind a veil of mystery to even the Angels. So we have gods, angels, ancestors, what-have-you to connect with in this Universe and help us along. The mono-God of the bible is just a jumped up local tribal fellow who didn't get along with his fellows and wanted to the Boss God (Yahweh and Satan are two sides of this same god) and stir up the humans in order to feed off their fearful worship and dark emotions. The gnostic christians saw this as they read about Yahweh and sought to untangle the Loving god Jesus from the old testament jealous murderous Yahweh. The ETI is revieled by discoveries in physics showing the entanglement of the universe on the sub-atomic level on up to the entire Universe - all parts of the Universe are in relationship in the present moment beyond the Time/Space frame of reference. ETI is the eternal Now, the One Love, the Great Mystery. The gods are much more like us and, if you wish to talk to them and take their advice, well ... caveat emptor.

puny human said...

Nicely said, Jack. Caveat emptor, indeed . . . I'll be careful which gods I follow!

Aron said...

I guess for me this topic ultimately comes down to metaphors. The Gods (I capitalize as a sign of respect) for me means using the relationship between humans beings to better understand our relationships with the Universe, with all beings.

Although I often consider myself a polytheist, I'm not sure either monotheism or polytheism represent the inherantly better option. So calling this an error on the part of monothiests, I'm not ready say. The errors seem to me to originate from not admitting to the limitations of our ability to represent the world, therefore in my mind our ability to build knowledge in a pragmatic sense of the word.

For me whether we represent the World as One or Many, either way, I see these relationships as whole, ultimately, in mystical sense.

Ron said...

I'm agnostic toward anything supernatural but pantheistic toward nature and animistic toward life, attributing not only consciousness but soul to all living things, including myself. So if I encountered, say, Bast, I would neither affirm nor deny that she exists outside my consciousness, but I would revere and honor my experience of her as an expression of my soul and the pantheism my soul embraces. Here's the key: if Bast told me to start slaughtering dogs by any means available, I would reject her, attributing her words to my own flawed psyche, alien to everything I know of my soul, alien to my pantheism, alien to my animism, alien to any part of me that I think might be worthy of surviving death. But Bast as the personification of my love for cats is beautiful and holy, ennobling and empowering, mother of meaning.

puny human said...

So, one thing we share, Ron, with our animist ancestors, is a trust in our own experience. Your personal experience tells you that the animal people are valuable. You reject what would harm them . . . rather than harming them because of dedication to Bast as an abstraction or to some ideology or book.

Ron said...

I've been reading the older posts on this blog, and wow, do you and I think alike. Dominators? Oh, heck, yes. I was also reading the blurb about you at the bottom of your home page. You say the trees are your kin. I feel something similar. I haven't yet advanced to where I hear the voices of the trees, but I have no doubt they're speaking to us, and to me in particular. I think the best way to express my feeling is, "The trees are my elders." I would also say, without really knowing what it means to say it, "My soul is a tree gnome." These words aren't meant to be probed or parsed. I'm trying to express feelings that at root are non-verbal. On a completely different tangent, I have recently become very impressed by seven words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth: "You cannot serve both God and Mammon." Again, probe or parse too relentlessly and all magic will be siphoned out of this saying. I think Jesus was put to death because he threatened Mammon and its disciples, whom you would name the dominators. The fundamental problem with our culture is that it values money above all else. The soul and the corporate matrix are mortal enemies, as are Mammon and the trees. You and I, meanwhile, are allies.

masterymistery said...

Of course I don't mind. Thanks for the recognition.

Excellent post: IMHO The dreaded G-word carries too much baggage to be useful. "Deity" is not bad, but still comes laden with preconceived ideas and meanings.

"numinous" is better, but still not quite right.

I think Hindu metaphysics has the right approach to this issue:

As a polytheistic belief system, Hinduism features a multitude of gods and goddesses and forces and powers, all with their own names and identities and natures. And none denying the right of other entities to hsave their separate and distinct names, identities, and natures

But, all of them are seen as part of, and subordinate (in a non-hierarchical way) to, the fundamental "underlying ground of being": Brahman .

This is a very slippery issue: "the all in one". Gestalt psychology --- Humans are great at drawing boundaries, defining what is in and what is out.

And of course, anything can be in and out, according to where the human-drawn boundaries are.

Things can be right AND wrong, good AND bad, Wave AND Particle (Complementarity Principle). And every thing is context-dependent, except for Everything;

Similar concept to the Great Chain of Being. Ken Wilbur writes a lot about this. A non-hierarchical chain of things that include other things that include other things etc etc without excluding anything.

I think humans are slowly coming to realise the shortcomings of such "demiurges" (Plato's view) as Jehovah: wrathful, jealous, singleminded, male.

Poseidon is the god of the sea. And Neptune is the god of the sea. And neither of them are. And both are.

Everything That Is

masterymistery said...

Hey Jack, you preempted me.

"local tribal fellow" ?

As Plato would say, a "mere demiurge"

Ron said...

Instead of "gods" maybe we could speak of "guides." I like to think individuals have guides, and creaturely groupings (like all felines) do too, and whole ecosystems as well. My own image of a guide for an individual tree would be a gnome. A guide for all felines could be Bast. A guide for an ecosystem might be a Shinto kami, bearing in mind that an ecosystem includes the mineral, liquid, and atmospheric components, and the Shinto kami would be guiding all of that, as well as the populations of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, protists, and archaea. One nice thing about the concept of a "guide" is that it implies leadership by virtue of wisdom rather than force. We follow guides because they know where they're going, not because they'll kill us or maim us if we don't follow.

Anonymous said...

Puny - I am glad to see you are still writing about his. I wish I had your motivations and ambition lately. And I like what you and the others here think about "ETI" (fun acronym). Like aron I think of G/god(s) as metaphors and ETI is the relationship everything has to everything else - thus the trans-personal bit that Jack said. I have been exploring religious naturalism and possess thought lately thinking about this whole god thing. Like many religious naturalist, I see "The Sacred" as the creative processes and we are all co-creators. I like to believe in infinite possibilities so I do not discount the ideas of god(s) but find it illogical to assume there is only one - unless we think in monist and non-duality where the separation between everything gets blurry which is just the way I like it :)