Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Theology Question No. 1

WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE GODS?

I started to consolidate my thoughts on this a
while back and think it is time to move on with the topic a little.

Essentially what constitutes a god is rather arbitrary as there is no clear way to delineate between a god or a particularly powerful spirit associated with a specific place (lets say the river Severn for instance), so I guess this applies to all non-physical beings to a lesser or greater extent. In my own view (and probably one shared by many others) is that the gods can be broken down into three types:

Primal Gods: those associated with raw natural forces such as the sea, thunder or the earth and landscape. Clearly some ancestral gods and spirits of place have become associated with natural phenomenon. This might be clear in some cases and in others not so.

Ancestral Gods: those gods who appear to have once been human beings and through a process of deification via ancestor worship have become what we could call gods.

Spirits of Place: those gods who have evolved out of a localised spirit of a well or river or hill.

I used to think this was all rather clear cut and with only a hint of cross-over, however these days I think there is far more 'smearing' of the boundaries of these types and far more crossover in our perception and understanding of them and their nature. That said I think the above classes of god are useful when it comes to explain their nature.

I am loathe to begin trying to explain the mechanics of how all of this works in scientific terminology and with some semblance of scientific explanation but I think I might have a go at it as at least an attempt to offer a means of explaining this is something other than a totally spiritual world-view.




In the blog-gasm I linked t above I talked how I visualise all existence as a stream with the physical (the bed itself with pebbles, plants etc being the physical) and the spiritual (water) coming together to form the whole. I mentioned how living things can be seen as loci of disturbance in the surface of the water (not disturbance in the negative sense) which act as centres of, and for, interaction with other loci (I use ripples in my analogy).

Right then, let's crack on!

These primal gods, the roaring ones of the rivers and the booming ones of the heavens. My view is that such beings do not exist as discrete and individual beings with personalities as such and only do so in the human conciousness as a result of human interaction with them. That is, the repeated interaction of people with a specific place (now that I am on about it think the same here can be applied to spirits of place) or phenomenon so that over time and with continual physical and spiritual interaction a new locus has developed and been imprinted with those qualities imparted by humans over many years, decades and millennia. In these cases what we perceive today as personalities and idiosyncrasies often associated with a discrete individual personality are impressions left behind as 'keys' to that locus which us humans use as a means of interacting with them which we can cope with a process as (limited) human beings. I think the term 'egregore' is probably useful as a descriptor at this point. As I said ancestral gods can be substituted in and become the personality of the place or phenomenon, and as such still act as the 'key' to that locus. In this case I find it hard to distinguish whether they are simply a 'mask' or whether they as a discrete entity with their own personality have now taken up residence within the locus.

In summary gods who fit these two types are 'keys' to our accessing and interacting with the spiritual loci within the landscape we inhabit. This is beginning to raise more thoughts and questions in me, specifically, regarding this interaction as being a means of regaining our place within the world as a whole which we have slipped out of in
what has been described as 'the fall' or other suitably Promethean process. Whilst we cannot retake our place within nature as a whole in a physical sense we can make efforts to do so in a spiritual manner. Though I think this is a subject to come back to at a more appropriate time.

Ancestral Gods come into this from a slightly different angle, they are to my mind loci in the 'stream' that persist and are maintained after physical death by people and their interactions over periods of time. These are the culture gods if you will; the divine-ploughman, the divine-blacksmith, the divine-wordsmith. They are also those gods who have come to be significant and important to the localised community though I think I highly likely that several ancestral gods can merge and spread in importance; to my mind Lugus-Belenus fits this mould as he has come to represent very anthropocentric qualities (craftsman, healer etc).

As I mentioned there is a lot of smearing in this whole system and so many loci have become merged and blended into one another taking on qualities of the other, so that an ancestral locus incorporates rather primal attributes and qualities or a primal locus has an ancestral locus implanted into it.

I think that kind of covers it for now and at least addresses the question posed. I am sure some of my astute readers will point out something I have missed or a point I have failed to address.

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