Polytheist Dark Night of the Soul(s)

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Like some other Polytheists, there are times when I doubt the existence of the Gods. I question whether they are only wild imaginings or simply fictional characters. During these times, I feel empty and alone.

I have pondered the reasons for the occurrence of this dark night of the soul(s). Since the body is the root of the self, physical and mental health need to be checked first. When I am sick, my mind is not focused on anything in particular. Moreover, meaningless and emptiness are signs of deep depression. Since I have major depression, I need to check the effectiveness of my medicines.

Second, I look at what I am currently reading. For various reasons, I read Christian historical romances. Usually, I balance this reading with science fiction and mysteries. I do find that if I read too many of the former, the monotheistic filter gains a foothold and sprouts.

One sign of monotheistic thinking is regarding the Gods as fiction. Another is believing that there is only “one true living God.” This is the “monotheistic gaze,” which views all Gods as One. Furthermore, the monotheistic gaze insists that there is order in the universe. Since God (or the Single Divine) is the logical authority of the Universe, everything happens according to His Plan. Therefore there is always a logical explanation for every happening, bad or good. This is supposed to answer the question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

In contrast, the “polytheistic gaze” embraces chaos since the Gods are diverse and anarchic. For me to regain the polytheistic gaze is to stop expecting meaning and order in everything. When my dark night occurs, I realize that I have too much order in my life. Because I need more anarchy, I go squirrel watching. Yes, squirrels demonstrate that there is no universal plan or universal order. Nobody knows why they chase each other through the trees. From the squirrels, I learn that life is to be embraced on its own terms. I also learned the polytheistic gaze from them as well.

10 thoughts on “Polytheist Dark Night of the Soul(s)

  1. I can sympathize from similar experience, as can many others. There is some conflict between rationality and spirituality, particularly in the framework (which favors categoric specialization rather than holistic thinking) set by modernity. For the educated polytheist, rationality is needed to make sense of the past and recover what was lost; I think this should be both a means towards spirituality and an end in itself. Furthermore, doubtfulness (like depression) is often a symptom of isolation and lack of community (i.e. lack of sharing religious rituals and experiences *in person*) and this is more or less a problem for all, except for those who have (unreasonably) contented themselves with philosophical and individualistic modes of religion. I confess I haven’t been reciting the hymn to Zeus for several months together, but I have my well meaning reasons In the meantime, and whenever I am too doubtful, I try to maintain what could be called a superficial animism, which perceives natural forces as divine, standing in awe of them passively through the senses without regard to particular tradition or without attributing them to a particular pantheon (much like a squirrel does, I dare say!). I hope this will change when I live to Greece one day and find community. Until then, I will be devoted to all manner of important and essential investigations, ideas & reflections concerning the history and nature of society and polytheism.

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  2. Belief is a Christian priority. Don’t concern yourself with belief at all. The question should be, is your practice useful? Does it improve your life? Why makes no difference. Maybe it is just illusions of the mind the ancient people used to motivate change. If thats what it is and its working then so what.

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  3. It’s very hard to break out of indoctrination that was forced upon one as a child. When I conceptualize things about the gods, I think to myself as them being a greater part of the whole, since nature in secular form does have some resemblance of order and all of our physical world is based on math.

    When I think of gods as fictional vs literal, I try not to see it as mutual exclusives that both are possible truths. Does it really matter if the gods literally exist or figments of our mind? I think a better way of looking at it, is that even if they do not exist in some form and are only fictional, *I* get something out of believing/revering/working with them as extensions of myself. It helps me cope with reality and deal with life. It’s is beneficial to my own psychological state and believing in them has helped me greatly. This is more important to me as a person dealing with life itself, then trying to prove they literally exist to anyone or through science.

    I think it’s normal to question the gods’ existences and it’s healthy. I encourage it. But I also think that for some people, it is much more beneficial to believe in something than nothing. So I understand why people would be religious.

    As long as you aren’t hurting anyone, then it is a healthy belief that helps you. It may not be real, objectively, or to science but the gods are “real” to you on a subjective level (The level science cannot ever cover) and they have made the quality of your life improve, then this is all that really matters.

    I also tend to think that overthinking about this can be disheartening and it may be good to take a break. It’s one of those subjective life answers that seem to come to you when you’re not working on it, naturally. You may find the answer you seek for yourself by taking a break from it as a random occurrence. Life is funny that way. 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Monotheistic Gaze – TheCommonAtheist

  5. It is the supernatural aspect that gives most moderns trouble. Moderns have trouble believing in spirits, whether gods or wights. In my case, I had experienced some strange things well before becoming a heathen. A few times I could hardly believe what was happening. Not just me, but a few other people with me too. Believing in spirits is not a problem for me.

    There is another thing. Some in my family have been what is called “clairvoyant”, or “uncanny” as my grandmother put it. Things would just come to them from time to time, like visions. I know some of these for a fact, I was around for them. They turned out to be exactly right, unfortunately. As far as I can trace it, it goes back at least to my great great grandmother, who also had a reputation for being uncanny. My maternal and paternal great grandmothers lived a long time, so I knew them, and I have also learned a lot about my recent ancestors from my uncle and grandmother. Aside from all this, there was something else I was told by a family member within the past two years that surprised me but made a lot of sense.

    If I had to characterize the modern mind, it would be like a microscope. We have zoomed in and gotten a close view of a bit of the world, while losing the ability to perceive anything else.

    What doubts I can relate to are that I feel like I have not done enough. I need to improve myself more and I need to get out there and accomplish my goals. My personality and habits hold me back in many ways. I tend to hold on to bad habits as much as good ones. I keep scrapping what work I have done because I don’t consider it good enough. And I procrastinate too much. And I am disorganized. I have had a lot of stress put on me lately by family obligations too.

    You seem to have a concern about order and meaning in the world. What about fate? Do you consider that a type of order to the world?

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    • I see the universe as random. As a Roman Polytheist, I tend toward order and need to remind myself of that chaos is needed.

      I had a wall fall on me, sustaining a traumatic brain injury. The episode taught me that randomness is the rule. The Gods do not decree what happens, but They do use what happens for Themselves.

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      • I sometimes wonder if the flow of events is so powerful that nothing we do can change anything. That bothers me more than anything concerning the gods. Maybe things being as they are now was fated. Most of this is probably from a tendency toward melancholy. That and prior experience.

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