Monotheistic Filter: Expulsion from Eden

The Goddess religions reject the over-emphasis of the masculine Divinity in Monotheist religions and the subjugation of women. These religions depict the expulsion from the Garden of Eden as the Goddess being deposed by the God. The patriarchy that many Goddess Pagans rail about destroyed the peaceful matriarchy of prehistory.

The work of Marija Gimbutas, Lithuanian-American archeologist, implanted the idea of the Great Mother Goddess in prehistory in Pagan minds. The original idea was started by Johann Jakob Bachofern, Swiss anthropologist, in the 1860s. He asserted that the early Europeans were matriarchal. Friederic Engels (of Marx and Engels) reformulated Bachofern’s idea into a matriarchal Golden Age that was dislodged by the patriarchy of the Indo-Europeans.

Marija Gimbutas described the former Goddess culture of Europe. Ruled by female shamans, this peaceful and egalitarian culture nurtured all life. Gimbutas continued, “Through an understanding of what the Goddess was, we can better understand nature and we can build our ideologies so it will be easier for us to live.” (Note 1) Joan Marler, American archeomythologist, added, “If her theories are correct, then peace, reverence for the earth and the honoring of life are not only human capabilities, they are the very underpinnings of European civilization itself.” (Note 2)

Because of the Great Goddess myth, various Deities of prehistory are seen as Great Mother Goddesses. The interpretation of the objects of prehistory have been subverted into a Goddess Culture. For instance, the Bird Goddess becomes the supreme image of the Holy, with Inanna of Sumer and Isis of Egypt, Her Aspects. The Monotheistic Filter employed by the Goddess religions eliminates the male to formulate the One Goddess.

Notes:

Note 1. “About Marija Gimbutas,” Belili Productions.

Note 2. Ibid.

Works Used:
“About Marija Gimbutas,” Belili Productions. 2007. Web: http://www.belili.org/marija/aboutmarija.html

Adkins, Lesley and Roy Adkins, “Dictionary of Roman Religion.” New York: Oxford University Press. 1996.

Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green, “Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia.” Austin: University of Texas Press. 2014.

Blair, Nancy, “Amulets of the Goddess.” Oakland (CA): Wingbow Press. 1993.
“Goddess for Every Season.” Oakland (CA): Wingbow

Gimbutas, Marija, “The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization.” San Francisco: Harper & Row. 1989.

Markale, Jean, “The Great Goddess.” Rochester (VT): Inner Traditions. 1997.

Marler, Joan, “The Myth of the Universal Patriarchy.” 2003. Web: http://belili.org/marija/eller_response.html

Orr, Emma, “Kissing The Hag.” Winchester (UK): O-Books. 2009.

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

Penry, Tylluan, “Sacred Shadows: Ice Age Spirituality.” U.K.: The Wolfenhowlepress. 2013.

Ravenna, Morpheus, “Banshee Arts.” Web: http://bansheearts.com/blog/.
“The Book of the Great Queen.” Richmond (CA): Concrescent Press. 2014.

Gods Recruiting: Buddhism and Westerners

“Buddhism” was the term used by the British to denote the myriad religions of Asia that featured worship of the Buddha. These religions include those practiced by the Japanese and Tibetans, as well as the Thai and other peoples. Originating in India, Buddhism is actually a missionary religion. In the 6th century, monks from Korea went to Japan to spread Buddhism. After World War II, priests of various Buddhist lineages emigrated to the West and set up temples for Europeans and other Westerners.

During the various exchanges, Buddhism both transformed and was transformed by each culture. Because of the evolving nature of each culture, there is no one “pure or authentic” Buddhism. Instead, there are many lineages and sects instead.

In the exchanges with the West, Western philosophy permeated Buddhism. Western scholarship methods are now taught in Buddhist centers. Students read commentaries of the Holy Scriptures in English. Meanwhile from living in India, the 14th Dalai Lama has adopted the ahimsa of non-violence taught by Gandhi into Tibetan Buddhism. In contrast, the 13th Dalai Lama told Gandhi that he had no idea of what ahimsa meant.

The Gods in Buddhism are a cultural part of the religion. The Goddess Tara, a popular Goddess in Buddhism has many forms, but most Pagans worship Green and White Taras. (Security and Compassion, respectively.) Tara, Herself, was formed by the tears of Avalokiteshvara, the original bodhisattva. She is considered by some to be a Mother Goddess.

Another Goddess that Pagans revere is Kuan Yin (Wade Giles spelling), whos often regarded as the Mercy Goddess. She is another form of Avalokiteshvara. Kuan Yin is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of All Buddhas,” and is similar to the Christian Mother Mary. (Tara is from the Indian tradition of Buddhism, while Kuan Yin is from the Chinese.)

In venerating these Gods and others of Buddhism, Pagans should be aware of several things. First, the Buddhism that permeates popular American culture is an invention of Henry Steel Olcott. (Note 1) He reimagined the religion as rational, free of dogma, and with no rituals. His reinvention has Buddhist tenets based on Western science.

Secondly, the Shangri-La myth (Note 2) of popular culture presents Tibet as the place of all wisdom, with the lamas as the “old wise ones.” By romanticizing Tibetan Buddhism, this myth gives Westerners the notion that this is the purest form of any religion. The Shangri-La myth spoke to the Western psychological needs of being unrooted in a modern world.

One Pagan that I knew regarded the Green and White Taras as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deities.” (Note 3). He viewed these Goddesses to be non-judgmental and compassionate. He often spoke of Them as helping him to heal and to be a happy human being. As he told me about Them, I thought of the Taras as therapeutic constructs for him.

I think that Pagans who worship Buddhist Gods should know their cultural origins. Not only that, but what sect of Buddhism are They a part of. Context will aid in knowing who these Gods are. This helps in keeping these Gods from becoming psychological devices to meet the particular needs of the worshipers. Once Pagans understand the cultural roots of these Gods, they can be better able to adore Them.

Notes:

Note 1: Olcott (1832-1907) is regarded to be the first American convert to Buddhism. He is a co-founder of Theosophy with Helen Blavatsky. He is also credited with the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Note 2: James Hilton (U.K., 1900-1954) presented a Tibetan utopia called Shangri-La in his novel “Lost Horizon,” written in 1933. This book became one of the most popular novels of the 20th Century.

Note 3: Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton coined this term in 2005 to describe the beliefs of American teenagers. They define Moralistic Therapeutic Deism defined as:

A God exists who created, ordered the world, and watches over human life on earth.  The God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in The Bible and by most world religions. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. The God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life, except when this God is needed to resolve a problem. Good people go to Heaven when they die.

For Further Reading:

Tibetan Buddhism in the West: Cultural Issues: Info-Buddhism.com

Study Buddhism from Dr. Alexander Berzin: StudyBuddhism.com

Previous Post in this series: Gods Recruiting: Hindu Gods

Gods Recruiting: Hindu Gods

While some people have been recruited by various Hindu Gods, the vast majority have attracted to these Gods for other reasons. Many Eclectic Pagans have a statue on their altars of Lord Genesha, the “Elephant God,” to remove any barriers in their lives. This means that Lord Genesha shares altar space with non-Hindu Gods, and may not receive the proper reverence.

Other popular Hindu Gods among Pagans are Kali Ma, the Dark Mother and Tara, the Mother Goddess of Tibet and India. The Goddess Religions will add to these Goddesses, Kuan Yin (Wade-Giles spelling), the Chinese Goddess of Compassion to complete the trio. Within these religions, each of these Goddesses is a part of the Great Goddess.

Begun in the 1970s, in the West, the Goddesses Religions reject the over-emphasis of the masculine divinity in monotheist religions, and the subjugation of women. These religions focus on uniting the cross-cultural feminine divinities found in other religions. (Note 1) The result is that the Goddesses of many pantheons relate to each other rather than to their Gods of their own cultures.

However, all of these Gods and Goddess live in a richly textured eco-system where they relate to the other Gods of their Pantheon. Taking Them out of their religious and cultural context creates a loss of relationships and meaning. Fitting these Gods and Goddesses into an alien context causes Them to lose their original purpose of being. It changes Them in becoming something other than Hindu Gods. Some Hindus have complained that this practice weakens their Gods, and saps Their Power. As a “hard” Polytheist, I see differences between Kali Ma of Hinduism and Kali Ma of the Goddess Religions.

For me, this tendency to “plug and play” seems to manifest itself with Pagans who have eclectic practices or see the Gods as archetypes. I wonder if this is a carry-over from the propensity of New Age and Theosophy practices of using the cafeteria approach to Eastern religions. Or is it an offshoot of combining Eastern and Western religions into one belief system as the New Age and Theosophy does? Or is it simply a part of being a part of a monotheistic culture that tries to have all things be homogenous?

Each of the Hindu Gods cannot be distilled into to a single purpose or character. Kali Ma, who has many forms, is the consort of Shiva. She can either purge people of their anger or be the force of destruction. Lord Genesha, the Son of Shiva, has thirty-two forms and titles. His titles range from the God of Scholarship to the Granter of Prosperity to the Lord of Beginnings. This is an example of the horizontal aspects of a God. (Note 2) Each “piece” can be worshipped and called upon separately but together they make up the whole. In their vertical aspects (Note 3), Gods can move from cosmic and unknowable to personal. We as humans can only guess at their True Natures.

Hindus themselves have called Westerners who worship Hindu Gods but remain wedded to the Western lifestyle as “half-Hindus.” They do understand the need of the person to seek their soul purpose. However, many Hindu religious leaders regard these “half-Hindus” as being separated from their old faith but not fully embracing Hinduism. Added to their concerns is the history of predatory and disruptive conversions by Christian missionaries.

How does someone ethically worship Hindu Gods? Some religious authorities have suggested to first study the basics of Hinduism. For example, they counsel practitioners of yoga to know about the religious sources of their discipline. This will deepens the practice by understanding its underpinnings. I think that this can apply to Pagans as well. By studying Hinduism, they can forge the proper relationships with the Hindu Gods that they venerate.

Note 1. “Goddess Spirituality is a movement ¦ a practice ¦ a belief system made up of women and men…  A belief in Goddess as the primary divinity, the Creatrix, is one of the common factors of those who identify with Goddess Spirituality.  Ways of worship, ceremonial practices and expression of Goddess Spirituality is fluid and reflects a “being-ness” rather than dogma and there are no set rules.  Goddess Spirituality can exist within traditional religious frameworks and can also exist without any framework at all.”   From The Mother House of the Goddess http://themotherhouseofthegoddess.com/goddess-spirituality-priestess-practices-resources/

Note 2: “Dealing With Deities” by Raven Kaldera discusses these concepts in depth. Kaldera defines “horizontal” as the aspects where the difference is in the sphere of influence, not the distance from the person. If you call upon a deity using a particular epithet, that is how They will appear.

Note 3: Kaldea defines “vertical” as “how personal and close to humans, or how impersonal and close to the undifferentiated Divine.” The higher aspect is more distant and archetypical, but still the essence of the God.

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To learn more about Hinduism as explained to Westerners: Kauai’s Hindu Monastery: https://www.himalayanacademy.com/readlearn/basics/god-and-gods-of-hinduism

Their book: “How to Become a Hindu” (which is a free e-book) focuses on the questions of conversion and Westerners. https://www.himalayanacademy.com/view/how-to-become-a-hindu

Gods Recruiting: Shinto of Japan : My previous entry in this series.

How Gods Find Followers: Intro

Since I follow several Gods, who are not as well-known as the Norse or Celtic pantheons, I often wonder how They get followers. Why are some Gods or pantheons are more popular than others? How do the lesser known pantheons go about getting devotees? Many Pagans follow Gods who are from the African Traditional Religions, Egyptian, Celtic, Greek or Norse pantheons. Meanwhile, various other Gods such as Inanna (Babylonian) and Astarte (Canaanite) are usually followed as individuals separate from their respective cultures.

One factor is that some of the more popular pantheons have Gods who actively recruit such as Odin and The Morrigan. Also, Sekhmet of the Egyptians recruits from the general population as does Dionysius of the Greeks. Within each of these pantheons are popular Gods such as Isis and Apollo, who also attract devotees. People will shift pantheons in their spiritual lives as some Gods come to speak to them, while other Gods leave. Odin and Sekhmet will often leave the person once they are settled in Paganism.

Another factor is that people are introduced to popular Gods such as Hecate in “Goddesses” books. These books often do bring people deeper into Paganism. However, many focus on the Goddesses as archetypes for self-empowerment, while others present the various Goddesses as aspects of the Great Goddess.

I have come to realize that the focus on individual Gods (Goddesses) in general Paganism hinders knowing some of the more obscure pantheons. Furthermore, Pagans often see Them as archetypes representing a part of a whole. To me, this is a paradox of extreme individualism and non-differentiation between Gods.

nbt_acheulian

My experience with the Acheulian Goddess reflects some of the common problems faced by the more obscure Gods. I was approached by the Acheulian Goddess because of my work with the Early Human Dead. I see Her in that context, as a Goddess of Homo erectus, the Goddess of Beginnings. I know of only few people who differentiate between the various Neolithic Goddesses. I suspect that it is because in general culture, They are lumped together. Moreover, few discussions of Neolithic religion present each of these Goddesses as being discrete from each other.

I have met people who follow the Goddess Path, who venerate Her with the other Neolithic Goddesses. They tend to think of Her as a facet of the Great Goddess. Outside of the Goddess Worshipers, She attracts few people.

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I am writing a series of posts on how various Gods recruit their followers. I find the topic fascinating, and hope that my dear readers will also. If anyone has any input to this topic, feel free to contact me, and we can discuss further.