Aug 1, 2011

The "Making" Of Gods

I've found another rather contradictory article claiming that humans create Gods. This one is written by a purported hard polytheist. In any case, the basic view seems to be common. I've seen variations of the same argument in some of Diana Paxson's writings as well: i.e., she'll sometimes maintain that the Gods and Goddesses depend on us to exist, and that They somehow fade away without human attention.
I very much disagree with this take. We can and do bring a lot to the Gods. The relationships that enrich us also enrich Them. This is a beautiful thing. Profound connections and uplifting bonds do not go one way; the exchange is part of the power and the wonder of it all.

Fundamental existence is another question entirely. We are far less likely to see a claim that humans are dependent on another being's belief to exist. We die, all of us, but many of us have faith in some sort of continuity, in some sort of transcendent integrity of consciousness. Rarely will someone propose that you must be observed or interacted with to exist--even if you happen to be in a non-corporeal spiritual state. When it comes to our fellow men and women, we tend to presume a kind of immortality. Culture and timelines have little impact on this belief. We still send off the dead, for we are convinced that there is something to send off.

Why would the Gods be different? On what basis can we assume that if They are forgotten on Midgard, They cease to be? The idea seems so untenable to me as to be almost laughable. My own experience has been one of going from a vague, impersonal sort pantheism to being introduced to very real Gods and Goddesses. My closest God, Forseti, has not been actively worshiped in at least 1,300 years. His name is still rarely hailed. And yet He's had no trouble whatsoever in making His presence, personality, and--yes--His strength and power known to me. The word "God" does mean something. Divinity means something. 

Perhaps this hints at the underlying problem. The Gods as archetypes allow us a certain degree of comfort... an escape clause, if you will. An archetype arises from the human mind and is ultimately dependent on us to exist. With sufficient understanding, it can be circumvented or controlled--used, even. If we acknowledge that the Gods are at least as real as we are, we lose our tidy illusions of being in charge. We have to deal with Them as individuals, and we no longer have the final say. The Gods and Goddesses are suddenly no longer "safe." If we chose to approach Them, we begin to realize that we would be wise to do so with... a basic measure of respect.

Power is not an easy concept; less so when so many people have been on the receiving end of abuses of power. We discover that we have to trust the Gods--and ourselves--in ways we've never had to trust anyone before. Therein, I think, lies some of the aversion to the sort of hard polytheism that insists on the enduring reality of the Divine. It's "easier" to deal with constructs and archetypes. But if we're honest with ourselves, we begin to realize that the "easy" answer can feel incredibly empty.

Even in the context of real Gods, our surviving myths are of incredible importance: the earth-bound human mind needs to have a few stepping-stones in place before it can begin to build a bridge. But if everything had been lost? No, our Gods and Goddesses would not have ceased to exist. Fortunately for all sides, we do have what we have: enough to strike off on the most amazing of journeys, in the most amazing of company.

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