Tag Archives: traditional

Polemical topics for polytheists (part 3): Systematic “polytheism”

First view: Polytheism is a mode of religion that governs the relations between people and Gods.

Second view: Polytheism is a mode of philosophical thought that governs how the world is viewed.

Balanced view: Polytheism is a religious, cultural, and social system based on tradition that governs our relations with the Gods, our way of life, and the world itself.

Words and terms can sometimes entrap those who think they are served by them; languages are by nature imperfect, especially when a complication arises because of time and tradition. There are also the problems of common usage, connotation, newly coined words, and mixing cultures. One thing is certain, however, within the scope of our discourse: The English language, together with probably most modern languages, does not contain a word that adequately explains “polytheism” as a concept or system. The word “polytheism” in itself is artificially constructed to provide a contrast to “monotheism”, a later system that supplanted its predecessor. Since both are defined through their differences, what we have left amounts only to “religion”, without the necessary considerations that accounts for the greater system that existed surrounding belief and worship. To think of either monotheism or polytheism merely as a religion, as many do, is to fall into the trap of modern language and its tendency to isolate or specialize terms, as well as to pretend it can encompass all ideas, beyond the confines of culture. The first and second views above are also examples of a kind of dualism that is at best unnecessary and at worst factious. Both views are correct, but they are also both partial, leaving out something greater that makes a complete whole. It behooves us in such a case to use larger words, as shown with the balanced view above. The worshipping of Gods existed amidst a cultural and social framework: There was agriculture or pastoralism to support their worldview, there was little pollution or oppression of nature to spoil it, there was oral tradition that passed through generations, there were customs that weren’t questioned or challenged selfishly within the group, there were priests or holy leaders who were revered by all (but not in a theocratic manner), there were elders and matrons who were respected by the young, and certainly there were communities of people that depended on one another. These are examples of a system surrounding the worshipping of Gods; take those all away and you are left with “religion” or “philosophy”, an isolated idea that applies to thinking and to individuals, more proper for books and discourse than as a true way of life. We should all aim at exploring and embracing all the parts within the larger system of polytheism that once existed in the better and more balanced world of our ancestors. In doing so, we will purify our worldview of the remnants of monotheism and its system, and lead a life that is more harmonious with people, nature and the Divine Beings.