I Seek a Middle Ground Between Jungian and Hard Polytheist
My agnostic side and my Luna Lovegood side (I didn’t intend this HP reference become a “thing” – but it sort of has, and I’m going to go with it) are ever at odd with one another, competing for control of the spiritual portion of my consciousness.
I am a woman of science (I have a degree in physics, after all) but I also have a touch of the whimsy about me. This isn’t the first post I’ve written in attempt to reconcile my internal debates, and it won’t be the last. I am on a pagan spiritual path whereupon the journey is the destination.
Some aspects of the universe are best left to my agnostic side; most notable being the nature of the afterlife, or lack thereof. One of the biggest appeals of paganism to me, as it is for the humanist pagans no doubt, is a focus on the here an now. It would be pretty darn sad, IMO, to live a life exclusively devoted to preparing for an afterlife which never materializes. There may or may not be something great waiting for me after this – I’m more than happy to leave it as a welcome surprise be that the case. In the mean time, I don’t want to miss out on a millisecond of the amazing experiences available to me right now.
That being said, spirituality in some form or another is one of the experiences available to me as a mortal being. Fitting it into healthy balance with all my other experiences, however, is the challenge.
I studied Jung extensively during my first years in college (as an English major). My favorite professor was very much a Jungian, which increased my interest in Jung. The idea of archetypes is quite appealing to an agnostic. They satisfy spiritual needs without impinging too much on the pragmatic. Whenever I get to reading an except of a Jungian-based text, I think, “hey, that sounds good, why don’t I try the archetype thing again?!” It gets me every time. But then I get to really thinking about archetypes in my practice and the more I think about them as fulfilling my spiritual needs, the less they seem capable of doing so. The archetype idea is too impersonal for my own practice. To some extent, I can get on board with the idea of major deities being archetypal, but when my thoughts move to a less cosmic scale, the archetype idea becomes less and less appealing.
I may have doubt from time to time about major deities, but I never, honestly never, question my belief in lesser spirits – land wights and such. It isn’t a problem for me to feel the spiritual energies emanating from nature all around me and to allow these energies independent agency. I can talk to my local nature spirits and never once feel like I’m being silly. Communicating with bigger deities, though, poses a problem in that I can’t work out to what extent a god can multi-locate. If I’m not addressing a single all-powerful cosmic creator, then I have to accept that the gods are not omnipresent. Obviously, if they were, rituals to call on them wouldn’t be necessary. This is where the idea of archetypes comes in as a handy and logical alternative. If 20,000 people are all calling on Thor, is he really an independent being capable of hearing all 20,000 of those people? But again, the archetype thing starts to feel too impersonal, albeit logical. From here, my thoughts move on to the necessity of ALL the pantheons. “Isn’t this why I acknowledge the existence of every culture’s gods?” I ask myself. “Since one set of them can’t be everywhere at once, it makes sense that there are regionally specific pantheons.” Well, that is all fine and sensible for the ancient, less-populated and less cosmopolitan world. What about all the cultural groups who migrated, taking their gods with them? Of course they can do that. But how many times can segments of that group migrate independently, taking their gods all over the place? Again, I have to question how feasible it is that a non-universal god figure can interact with multiple people all over the globe.
So I settled upon the idea that the collective conscience functions as our human connection to the non-local hierarchies of deity, possibly even up to the highest level of Great-Cosmic-Spirit (I recommend again that you read this blog post)
The higher up the scale of existence we go searching for deity, the harder it is to comprehend. It’s not too far of a stretch for me to imagine that there is some overlap between the concept of archetypes and individual deities with agency. But what does it even matter? Because at this point, I feel like i am concerning myself with matters that should not concern me (insert agnostic-me here). I don’t really need to know **how** it works when I call on a major deity. Nevertheless, us humans can’t help but busy our minds with meaning-of-life type thoughts from time to time, even if they go no where. So I carry on with my wondering. It makes sense to imagine that gods may reside partially in my own consciousness, but this does not subtract from their independent agency outside of my consciousness. If I allow for the existence of a cosmic-god-force, it makes even more sense that the higher up the chain of deities we go, the more the collective consciousness thing will play a part. A cosmic-god-thing/Great Spirit does not strip the free will of the lesser deities that compose it. If that were the case, all of us mortal creatures would not have any free will, since we too are part of this divine force.
I’d like to conclude here with an except from another interesting blog that I came across:
I describe divinity like a diamond, beautifully cut and shining brightly. Everyone looks at the diamond a bit differently. You can look at the whole thing, but the reflection can be so bright, its hard to understand and accept it as a whole. You know its there, but it seems unknowable. Details are hard to grasp. This is a strict monotheist view. You look at the whole and nothing else.
Sometimes a particular facet of the diamond will grab your attention, to the exclusion of everything else. You feel that facet is the only one, and there are no others. You do not see the whole diamond or any faces. You feel the rest are illusions. This is a particularly zealous brand of monotheism, excluding all other possibilities and viewpoints.
You can be attracted to a few of the faces, a patch of them, and focus all your attention on them. They represent a series of archetypes, the gods and goddesses from a particular pantheon. You may focus on them exclusively, but most realize there are other faces of the diamond. This is why many pagan cultures borrowed from each other, seeing other expression of their own gods in other lands. This is also why mixing and matching in the eclectic focus of modern witchcraft works so well. Even the early voodoo practitioner learned to adopt the saints as mask for their gods, because the archetypes are so similar.
Hopefully seekers recognize the faces of the diamond, and the whole diamond itself, and understand it is all a point of view. They are both right, and both have their truth. Native American traditions have a wonderful story. The world is a dream, dreamt by the Dreamer, the Great Spirit. The Dreamer realized he/she could not dream it alone, that other must create, and created many dreamers, each in charge of their own dream. One dreamer dreams of rocks, another of trees and another of love and romance. Each has their own realm of responsibility. The Dreamer is like the diamond, while the dreamers are the facets, the gods and goddess.
Another great expression is that all gods are shadows cast from the same light. The important thing to remember in any of these analogies is that we, too, are part of the whole. We are all faces in another layer of the diamond. We are dreamers. We are shadows cast by the divine light.”
Notice the part that says “We too are a part of the whole….” If we are a facet of the cosmic whole analogous to a deity who is a facet of a single God or Goddess, then what does that really mean in the end as far as the concept of archetypes is concerned? If all the facets can be their own dreamers, then is a facet of a single deity any different than the hard polytheist version of a deity?