Monotheistic Filter: The Great Chain of Being

Ordained by the Christian God, the Great Chain of Being, is a hierarchy based on perfection, independence, spirit and flesh. God is at the top, perfect, completely independent and made entirely of spirit. The Angels come next since they are dependent on God. Humans, who are made of flesh and spirit, are farther down. Each member of the chain is dependent on the next higher member. At the bottom, below the rocks is Nothingness, the opposite of the Christian God.

This concept is subtly reflected in the discussions about various pantheons. A hierarchy is assumed with the “chief” God being a male Sky God. Then the pantheon’s hierarchy moves down from the Gods of the sky to the earth to under the earth. Spirits of the Home or Place are often relegated as unimportant or ignored since They do not fit neatly in this hierarchy.

The study of Polytheistic religions reveals something different. The Greeks have three Brothers – Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades ruling their respective domains as co-equals. The Etruscans and Romans have Triads of Gods to govern their pantheons. These Triads consist of two females and one male, who are peers of each other.

Furthermore, the Great Chain promotes single purpose units, since it is a moral duty to know one’s place in the Chain. Fish are just below seed-eating birds, which are just below worm-eating birds. This aspect of the Great Chain is reflected in Polytheism by having only single purpose Gods. Thus, Mars is relegated to being only the God of War in the Roman Pantheon. Mars is also regarded as being the only God of War as well. (Note 1).

Note 1: Minerva, Bellona, and Nerio are Goddesses of War. Honos and Virtus are the Gods of Military Courage and Honor. Mars is also the God of Fields and Agriculture. None of these Gods are single purpose Gods.

Further Reading:

Kaldera, Raven, “Dealing with Deities.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press. 2012.
“Wyrdwalkers.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press.2007.

Paper, Jordan, “The Deities Are Many.” Albany NY: State University of New York Press. 2005.

Suber, Peter, “The Great Chain of Being.” 1997 Web: http://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/re/chain.htm

Wheeler, L. Kipp, “The Chain of Being: Tillyard in a Nutshell.” 2017. Web: https:// web.cn.edu/kwheeler/Tillyard01.html

 

 

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One thought on “Monotheistic Filter: The Great Chain of Being

  1. I think this is due to God originally being Canaanite sky god, similar to his counterpart An of the Sumerians. I am pretty sure it’s because of PIE (proto-indo-european) religion. But I am unsure on the data.
    Further, God in Canaanite/Hebrew pantheons, when he was part of it prior to monotheism, started to receive competition from his son, the god Baal. There was in fighting among the tribes, and that’s why the story is in the bible. The Hebrews were not really monotheistic. This is a later development and people still treat Zeus like they do God, as the head of the pantheon.

    Like

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