It is by comparing and distinguishing that people come to know, understand and benefit from things. Distinction is often the essence of learning, for to deepen one’s knowledge in isolated things, without determining how much they differ, is to lose the eye in parts, without gaining the whole. Such a narrow view then leads to mistakes and misunderstandings which can always be better prevented than cured.
Because polytheism at the present time is undergoing a slow and hopeful regeneration, at the hands and in the hearts of many practitioners and well-wishers, often isolated by the force of various difficult circumstances, it becomes necessary to pursue and maintain discussions that can bring about some degree of a common view and good understanding, which are the seeds of community. However, since many polytheists have gone through hardships and isolation in their own experience, they may well be attached to personal views and practices that had supported them. This is indeed the case, I would venture to say, with all of us, more or less; we are hardened and bold, because we have, like our ancestors, always been taunted and attacked for our ways. But although disagreements among us are bound to occur, nothing can be worse than to allow our personal attachments get the better of our common understanding. If there can’t be harmony, let there be discussion, and if discussion should fail, let there be negotiation. Continual isolation and differences may stifle our budding growth, or what is actually worse, raise a weak and deformed tree.
I can’t find a better word to use in this point than tree. It is an eternal emblem of life, growth, beauty and strength in the world that unites all polytheists, in spite of their different traditions or personal views. The tree is often the first beautiful thing we remember when thinking of the beauty of the earth. But what is it that makes a tree grow, live, become beautiful and strong? Constant watering of the seeds in one place, and a suitable climate till it grows, and afterwards, constant care of the body and roots of the tree to prevent a deformed or sickly body. Although it is already a well known analogy, I will not hesitate to repeat it, because it is too strong and striking in its plainness to require refinement or variety.
If each tree may represent a flourishing polytheist, then the leaves represent his work, the fruits his successes, and the roots his experience and the experience of those before him, his ancestors. An isolated tree may strike the eye at first, but it will not last alone, either in its growth or strength, especially if the soil is barren and unsuited to the tree’s seed. Thus, without the community of a forest, the tree is bound to fall and lose itself. Collected trees stand strong and high, side by side, not only striking the eye with its grandeur and beauty, but also striking the mind with its endurance and perseverance. Even in the most difficult times, the forest outlasts disasters, and because it is too precious in its bounty and beauty, it gains many friends who protect it.
This is the first and fundamental distinction in polytheism: community and common understanding distinguished from individualism and isolation.