The Many Faces of Spirituality

For as much as we would like to think otherwise, we are a part of the animal kingdom. We can be as much of a beast as the lion or a bear.  Religion and spirituality are just a few of the concepts that do set us apart from them, well at least as far as we know.  Still, we need to take grasp of a concept before we can understand it.

In a way religion is like the magic of a new experience. The first time we took Freya to (insert destination here) all she could do was bask in everything that was new. It didn’t matter where we took her. It could be Walmart, Bardstown Road in Louisville, the Friendship Festival, even her first time in a pool.  She sees everything around her, but she doesn’t comprehend everything around her. The same is true of our experiences in religion and spirituality. We are always working towards understanding those concepts.

We could not understand the unknown so we put it in understandable terms.  We called the womb-like caves our home and it came to represent the mother. We took the fierceness of a storm to be a male force or the father.  Understanding the forces of nature was the beginning of our understanding of the God and Goddess so long ago. We identified forces and concepts related to each by what we knew. We identified some forces as masculine and others as feminine. There were crossovers and man came to just accept them as a part of the whole.

From this we came to understand the duality of woman, man, and the whole of nature.  From this arose a concept of life. We came to mainly identify the father as a protector, fierce and strong. The mother came to be known for her nurturing aspects.  These were our first colorings of understanding of the divine.

There is still much debate however, This article will touch on some of those debates and afterwards it’s up to you to decide what you believe. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer. Just the answer that is right for you. The reason I say this is because I don’t think it matters so long as we truly live.  The point isn’t to be right, but to be the best we can be.

Immanent vs Transcendent Deities

If the God and Goddess are humanized aspects of nature or masks concealing what we cannot know, then where or what is the Divine? Theologians call this the debate between Immanent and Transcendent Deities.

Immanence, refers to a deity that exists within everything.  You, and I, and everything are divine and a part of the divine.  In comparison transcendent deities are ones that go beyond our world and exist separate from our world.  Transcendent deities guide and nurture, but are separate entities. They become a benevolent ruler that watches over everyone. Arguments against this include the concept that such a deity would not abandon us to mere chance events and outcomes within our lives.

The argument against Immanence is that if we are all a part of nature, then when something dies or is killed by something else, that a part of divinity is being killed. This obviously isn’t possible if a divinity exists. This would also imply that the divine is self destructive. If Immanence is the correct answer then life does indeed exist in both darkness as well as light.  Proponents of immanence say that the animal dying recognizes that they are a part of the continuous cycle of life.

Witches tend to believe that the God and Goddess are immanent, but there are others who tend in the other direction.

Monotheism, Polytheism, Animism, and Pantheism

Monotheism is the idea of a single deity who is responsible for all things. Some people even think of this as an extended “Big Bang” theory: that all matter and energy in the Universe existed in a single molecule and that molecule is God.  That molecule began the infinite cycle that continues today. That would be the more pagan concept of it, that all the Gods and Goddesses are a part of the whole.

Polytheism is the argument that there are many gods who govern different aspects of the whole. Together they show the whole of life. Some of them represent only one thing and some of them represent many things.

Animism is the belief that every aspect of nature has its own spirit, even the wind.  This is a very Native American concept.  Rather than assign deific names to aspects of life, the animist says that the aspect itself is a living thing.

Pantheism. Technically there are two forms of this. Both the West and the East had two conflicting ideas on this. For the sake of this article, I feel that the second definition should be considered pandeism. So Pantheism is the idea that all we know is an expression of the whole of the Universe. In comparison Pandeism, the second definition here would represent the idea that all Gods and Goddess are worthy of respect and honor, no matter what their origins are.

You may see one as your hard set concept of the world or you may find yourself torn. You may even find that there’s room for a bit of mixing and molding of several of them. For example, in my personal experience I find that I do believe in one supreme entity (monotheism), but that that deity chooses to present themselves according to what we need or our cultural expectations (polytheism) as a facet of the whole. I consider it similar to a diamond with many facets. I also believe that we are all a part of the divine and that everything does have a life force or spirit (animism). All the Gods do have a place in the Universe as a part of the whole.

It’s up to you to decide how you feel about it. Like I said, you may find one preferential to the rest or two that closely fit your perception of the divine. The point is to understand your stance, not to determine which one is the only correct one, because we won’t know until its all said and done….and that’s if we’re lucky.

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