"My Personal View of Deities" (October 8, 2009)
This is one of those spiritual topics that I tend not to talk about much at all, and to the extent that I basically just end up telling people that I’m a polytheist (agnostic one on top of that). However, part of the reasoning for this is because I’ve had so much trouble figuring out what to say about deities—as in, how I would go about describing my perceptions of them, along with me having a horribly rough, vague conception of them for most of this time I’ve wanted to write about them anyway. Added to that, though kind of related, I wondered what the worthwhileness would even be in explaining my view of deities to others, especially since it’s a rather different view and I don’t personally know anyone who holds a notably similar belief in deities (though I know some theists who have a roughly similar belief). It’s been that combination of finding motivation and reason enough to describe my personal deity conceptions for others to read, and the amount of effort it seems as though it would take to put those thoughts into text.
To make a brief backtracking, I first believed in a singular deity in a basically Abrahamic view of God when I was a child, up until I was about 11, because I didn’t even realize until that age that I even could not believe in that God (let alone believe in some other idea of deities). I believed in God because that’s what I expected I was supposed to—that it was just “how things are” for me to hold that belief. After abandoning belief in God around 11 years old, I defaulted to atheism, though not knowing it by that term until a couple of years later. I remained an atheist for about 7 years, with a large portion of that time spent with me as a stronger form of atheist believing that no deities existed at all, rather than just lacking belief in any deities. Sometime in 2004 I began to develop a belief in multiple deities, gradually over the course of months, until in early ’05 I admitted to myself that I was at that point really a polytheist. Since then, it’s remained a very gradual process and after almost five years I’ve only made a rather limited amount of progress in developing and refining my idea of what deities are and are like. One point of this writing is to go ahead and finally get those ideas down, to archive them outside of my mind, and thus have the opportunity to look back on them months or years from now and see what is changed or remains the same in these views of mine.
To start, I see deities as not really humanoid or anthropomorphic, though I think there maybe some deities or ‘semi-deities’, so to speak, that are in some ways significantly human-like, yet I’m not one to view deities as being, basically, metaphysically-bodied, extra powerful, and extra knowledgeable “humans”. I believe they are a vastly diverse umbrella category of beings, many of which I may never come close to even recognizing, and among those I do end up or have already recognized, I don’t expect to develop a greatly vast knowledge and comprehension of them as individuals, let alone deities as a generalized group of beings. There’s also the matter that I see “deity” as a relative term, and I’m still undecided on what exactly I think it should (in my own personal beliefs) denote and be defined as. Yet the beings I am referring to as deities are ones relative to humans.
I recently came to realize that my concept of deities is not limited to them as beings of “higher intelligence” than humans. For me to view deities by that criterion above other factors and aspects is for me to view them through a sort of human-lens bias. Humans are ‘higher’ in some relative way than other non-human animals in regards to our capacity and level of intelligence as a species—not in the sense that this makes us “better” than other animals and organisms, but just that it’s the biggest and highest specialization of Homo sapiens. However, I don’t have enough reason to assume that in order for a deity to be such, that it must have exceptionally high (greater than humans) specialization in intelligence. Why can’t an entity be a deity if it has some other exceptionally high specialization that is not seen amongst physical organisms (at least on Earth), or not seen to that level? Therefore I think that some deities do have an exceptionally high, greater than that of humans, intelligence, yet it’s not a criterion I apply to all or possibly even most deities. Though it may be awhile until I better figure out exactly what are the other criteria that lead me to view an entity as being a deity, including those other forms of specialization.
Deities to me are also often beings of consciousnesses that we as humans, in general, would have a lot of difficulty comprehending, if we can even get close in some cases of deities to understanding the way they “think” and why they do what they do. On one hand, deities greatly fascinate me and I continue to desire to learn much more about them, yet on the other hand, I still find myself having to admit that they are in many ways outside my ability to understand them and know numerous things about them in general, let alone for many of the specific individual deities. They are a huge enigma in my eyes and I expect that they will remain as such for the most part. I do not view them through eyes and hopes of wanting and yearning for a godly protector, patron, or creator that will satisfy my desires, passions, and insecurities about life, the universe, my own self, and so forth. They are entities in and of themselves, being and doing whatever it is they are and do, and most of them will likely have no knowledge of me, let alone care enough about me to devote time and effort into working with me.
But I do believe that eventually a deity may willingly contact me in some way by its own reasons for wanting to help or work with me, or that one or more have already been trying to contact and connect with me for months or years without me realizing it. That is the choice and will of the individual deity and I’m not intending to call upon them or pick and choose one myself that I want to prod at and say to it, essentially, that it should work with me or help me in some way. Besides, my guides and guardians do a wonderful job of doing personal work with me and my self-development, and I’ll only step up to doing such with a deity if such desires are expressed to me well from an individual deity (as in, I manage to understand their message) and I agree to do it.
The deities in mythology, religions, and other spiritualities, past and present, I see as being archetypes and symbols that, if an individual or group of people choose, can be worked with and learned from to significantly valuable extents. Thus, in some notable regard, those deities are still “real”, just that I don’t see them as being objective (albeit even metaphysical) entities, and thus literal deities. The Greek deities, Roman, Kemetic, etc., and even the various specific interpretations of the Abrahamic God are powerful archetypes that I believe can have real enough effects on the world through people’s beliefs and subsequent actions and inactions, that I respect them and the people who believe in or otherwise work with these meaningful symbols.
One of my first inclinations toward developing my polytheist beliefs started back in 2004 sometime, with me gradually finding myself seeing deities more and more as a possibility of existing, particularly with these beliefs beginning with a certain view I had developed regarding the Sun and other stars. It’s a subject I ended up writing about in a journal entry back in early ’05, though I’ve since refined and in some ways changed my particular ideas I had back then. However, the basics have proven to still remain after almost 5 years regarding my view of stars, including the Sun, as deity-like. I’m nevertheless continually indecisive it seems as to whether I consider stars themselves physical deities, or if I view them more as physical manifestations (more like ‘representations’, or physical bodies) of non-physical deities. That along with me having not decided if I believe in an overall Deity of Stars, per se.
Even back in ’04 and ’05, my view then of the Sun and other stars as deities wasn’t in an anthropomorphic way—I viewed them as living entities, specifically as deities, yet not as “people” in a typical human sense of the term. I sensed them as beings with souls, spirits, thoughts, etc. distinctly different than that of humans, and probably in ways that we as humans would have a lot of difficulty being able to conceive, let alone to really understand. But in stars, I see souls and I see spirits, powerful, extremely ancient ones, and they go through physical lives of being “born”, growing, aging, and dying, yet on a scale that is beyond our capacity to really comprehend aside from quantifying it in numbers of millions or billions of years or more. They aren’t biological life, and they aren’t human-like, but they, to me, have been one of the most notable things in physical existence that got me to revoke my atheism and finally take up some level of honest belief in deities. And of course, I continue to associate myself with that by keeping my alias “Sonne” (German word for Sun), which remains a fitting name for me in some odd way.
Stars are thus also what brought me into initially viewing deities in general in a much less anthropomorphic way. For a being that has lived a physical life, as a star, for millions or billions of years, I can’t bring myself to imagine that such a being would be on a very similar level as that of human thought. And that’s not meant at all as a downplay of human intelligence, but it’s a comparison and contrast between two very different types of entities, with extremely different longevity, physical bodies, etc. Just as I won’t try to claim that a bacterium, or an insect, for example, is on the same level of intelligence and thought as a human, without that being a downplay to bacteria or insects. Different entities have different specializations and generalizations, and as I mentioned early in this writing, I personally feel that applies to deities as well. Though I don’t rule out the possibility that the stars as deities can have some kinds of “human-like” thought, it’s just not something I hold to in my belief that they actually do have much (and if at all, for some/many). Nevertheless, I think there maybe still some capacity for people to communicate with, both ways, to these star deities, such as the Sun, if the deity can alter the way it ‘presents’ itself to an individual so that it can be understood and communicated with in a human way. Which maybe a capability of many other deities, though I don’t have a belief as to how common of an occurrence that attribute is amongst the variety of deities.
This brings me back more to my own interactions and communication with deities, that of which are very few if any at all. I’m still trying to figure out the best way for me to go about communicating with deities, and finding out which one(s) to do so and my reasons why I would like to communicate with one or more of them. My continued practice in totemism and developing my animist beliefs I think is helping a lot in getting me closer to eventually ‘opening communication lines’ with one or more deities. Based on those practices, it seems that one of the ways I may end up, at least early on, in communicating with a deity would be through symbolism and metaphors kind of like I do with spirit guides and totems in order to understand what they are trying to teach me or communicate to me. The specific symbolism would be heavily dependent on the particular deity and what I feel that entity is associated with, including what it is “tied to” in the physical realm (lands, certain ecosystems, an entire planet, certain types of animals/organisms, stars, and the list can go on). At this point, however, I am not yet ready to take on delving into working with or communicating with deities, though I’m trying to gradually prepare myself for whenever I reach the point when I feel it would be a good thing for me to do, or I otherwise get a sense of a particular deity trying to contact me.
Perusing through Pagan forums and sites on Pagan deities for comparison and contrast to my deity views reminds me more of the vast differences between my polytheism and that of most other Pagan (let alone Abrahamic) theistic beliefs. Though then again, I feel little connection and similarity to most Pagan paths anyway except for some beliefs/practices of neo-totemism and animism. But I just accept that it’s one of those drawbacks to having such a personal, individualized spiritual path—that it is difficult to find people with similar enough beliefs to connect with them and share with them in some sense of decent understanding, rather than simply intrigue. Yet trying to purposefully force my spiritual, especially polytheistic, beliefs into something much more akin to those expressed and held more amongst a variety of Pagan paths doesn’t work for me and is roughly like the concept of insisting on shoving a square peg into a round hole; and thus I don’t bother trying.
As unstructured and vague as my deity beliefs are after these past few years, I nevertheless do have a certain level of honest faith in them, even though when it comes down to it I’m agnostic about their true, objective existence, and thus am fine to admit that my views maybe wrong. Regardless, whether these deities, or even the spirit guides, totems, guardians, etc. that I work with, believe in, and ‘come across’ are objectively “real” or not, they are important to me, my spiritual path, and numerous parts of my life. Part of my spirituality involves the concept that physical, objective reality is not the only thing, or the only “reality", per se, to be important to an individual and even the other people and entities s/he can affect through spiritual belief or other beliefs rooted outside of physical reality.