“True to the Earth” By Kadmus

“True to the Earth: Pagan Political Theology.” Gods & Radicals Press. 2018

Kadmus, a professor of philosophy, expounds on the difference between Polytheistic (Pagan) and Monotheistic metaphysics. After explaining the differences, he applies Polytheistic theology to modern Western politics. He concludes that capitalism came from Monotheism, which he considers to be nihilistic. To combat that, people need to embrace Polytheism, which is life-sustaining.

The major value of this book for me was how to think as a Polytheist. According to Kadmus, the invention of writing fundamentally changed how people think. Writing objectified words, which now exist without any anchor to reality. Therefore, abstract concepts such as “goodness” could come into being. Since writing detaches words from time and space, it allowed Monotheism to come into being.

In contrast, oral cultures are concrete and additive. They force the listener to be present with the speaker. Oral thought cements words to a particular time and place. Like verbs, oral thought follows “and also” to encourage things to accumulate more parts.

Kadmus writes, “This objectifying nature of the thought of a literate society shows up in many of our very worst modern characteristics. It also runs deeply throughout Monotheistic metaphysics. The Monotheistic God is most often an abstract goodness or perfection, a strange monster impossible to grasp in an active, concrete associative logic.” He continues, “If the One God were good, we could have this world; if it were evil, we could have this same world; if it didn’t exist at all, we could have this same world again. Thus, ‘goodness’ here is clearly a word without concrete content.”

Meanwhile, Polytheist metaphysics is committed to a complex plurality. This can be seen in the many names for the various Gods. For example, Marduk of Babylon has fifty names; each as important as the others. He is the Commander of the Legions of Wind Demons, Wielder of the Flaming Sword, Knower of the Secrets of the Earth, the Bringer of Rain, and more. Marduk can be all of these parts without being a totality

Monotheist thinking is reductive while Polytheistic thinking is productive. Monotheism reduces everything to One, while Polytheism promotes an abundant plurality. Kadmus writes “Reality within Pagan metaphysics is defined in terms of multiplicity and complexity, while Monotheism instead posits an ultimate oneness arrived at through reduction and simplification. For most versions of Monotheism, the oneness of the universe will derive from the power and oneness of its creator. If God is One, then so too are Truth and Reality. On the other hand, if the Gods are many, then so too are the truths of reality.”

Kadmus continues “When your metaphysics is based upon unity, reduction, totalizing, and Oneness, your approach to the world be shaped by it. Your approach to the world will focus on perfection, purity (Note 1), and the one narrow path to the only acceptable goal. In such a view, each thing has an essence that it either fulfills or betrays. Likewise, each thing has a purpose that it either serves or neglects. Oneness is purity, multiplicity is sin.”

As we try to re-establish Polytheistic metaphysics, these ideas are worth pondering. There is no One Truth but as many truths as there are Divine Beings. Polytheistic thinking celebrates fertility in all its forms, multiplying instead of reducing.

Notes:
Note 1. Purity in Polytheism can be seen in context such as dirty dishes that need to be washed. Christian purity involves purpose and order. In Monotheism, to be pure means to consist of only one thing.

Entering the Mythic Mind

As a part of Polytheistic devotions, the myths need to be read and pondered. Since they are taught as simply stories, myths have lost their sacredness for the everyday person. To counter that, a reader can recall William Butler Yeats placing the poet at the meeting point between heaven and earth. To Yeats, a poet’s calling was to be the oracle connecting two realms. Therefore, a myth can be regarded in this manner.

Myths shape the meaning of human existence within the cosmos. They connect the ordinary with the numinous, by offering symbols to ponder. Understanding them is critical in developing the right way of living. By sharing a gnosis of the various Gods, a myth unlocks the sacred.

Entering the myth means leaving behind the concept of Materialism. This philosophy insists that physical matter is the fundamental reality. It can be regarded by the religious as the denial of the Spirit in all things. Materialism is reflected in the belief that the Gods are only figments of the imagination. The corollary to this is the dogma of Mechanism. That says that everything that happens is the result of predictable cause and effect. In contrast, mythic words are magic, for they weave the world into being.

The mythic mind perceives the world not as an object of thought but as a subject of feeling. While the intellectual tradition of the West emphasizes logic and rationality, the mythic mind moves through perceptions. That means polygenesis is expected and welcomed. Multiple creation stories, which contradict each other, fit together as a whole. For example, in Egyptian mythology, Hathor showed that the fruitfulness of the world is sacred. Meanwhile, Ptah spoke the world, and wisdom was recognized. The world became a living being who “involved a simultaneity of opposite states.”

In “A Secret History of Consciousness,” Gary Lachman writes “The mythic structure existed in a kind of sacred circle (temenos) a self-enclosed sphere containing the polarities of Heaven and Earth, a kind of Cosmic Egg whose protective shell housed human consciousness.” Things are neither this nor that, but before or beyond or both. Time is not linear moving from a past to a present to a future. Past and future are meaningless because time holds all at once. The past is in the present, the future in the past, since events move from a beginning and return.

Reading a myth entails many levels of “seeing.” Myths both make the world and redefine it. To understand a myth deeply is to be transformed by the sacred. It presents the truth that illuminates the reality that everyone is a part of.

(I am planning to blog further on reading myths.)

Levels of reading a myth:
Time:
What is the temporal relation between the teller and listener? Between the various relationships within the myth?

Space:
What is the chronotope (how time relates to space)? What is the structure of the cosmos? What is featured in the myth as landscape?

Quantity (Number):
What numbers have special associations?

Quality (Kind):
What is being described and how? Are there genealogies or a unity of opposites?

Relations/Cause:
The entities in the myth are linked in multiple ways. How do they interact and influence the world? Are things created out of nothing?

Polytheism: After Reconstructionism

For Western Polytheists, a lot of their time is spent trying to reconstruct the Polytheism of the ancients. They are trying to revive, reconstruct, and modernize these religions, that were taken from their ancestors. Usually, this endeavor requires a lot of research and reading. The result is that the person’s Polytheism becomes bound up in a dry intellectual tradition. The lore becomes more important than personal gnosis.

At “Axe and Plough,” Marc discusses “Post-Recon? What Happens Next.” For what comes “next,” he introduces the concepts of “renewal, restitutions, and restoration.” His aim is to have a “living breathing religion.” My interpretation of Marc’s terms is as follows. “Renewal” means to embrace the living traditions of the ancients such as piety. “Restitution” is resolving the neglect that humans have done in the cosmic ecological (Note 1) system that they are a part of. “Restoration” is the act of recreating the ancient religion for modern times. Using these concepts, a person can develop a methodology to revive their “living” Polytheisms.

His post can be found here: https://axeandplough.com/2020/05/23/post-recon-what-happens-next/

“The Soul of a Pilgrim” by Christine Valters Paintner offers suggestions on how to do this. Paintner, a Lay Benedictine and Abbess of the Abby of the Arts, writes for a Christian audience but her advice can be applied to Polytheists. In her writing, she presents eight stages of pilgrimage from “hearing the call” to “coming home.” (Note 2)

We Polytheists have responded to the call of the Gods. Our inner fires are lit as we try to relearn and recreate the Polytheism of our Ancestors. However, we do not have a map except for scraps of lore. “Reconstruction” focuses on creating a coherent map out of the scraps. To do this, Paintner advises relinquishing control, as you cross the threshold starting your journey. Then trust that the flow of greater currents will carry you home. For me, it is the direction of the Gods. When I feel lost, I consult the Ancestors and follow their direction.

While on the pilgrimage, Paintner stresses daily practice. For Polytheists recreating their religion, devotions act as touchstones that will sustain them. What offers structure to deepen our faith are the rituals and practices of our traditions.

In her writing, Paintner warns against trying to domesticate the Sacred into prayers that follow our own rules. That is, in my opinion, the problem with modern Paganism. By placing the Gods into “teacups,” people expect Them to be genteel and delicate. In so doing, the Gods become housebroken and companionable to Pagans. This is how humans separate themselves from the ecological system of the cosmos.

In her book, “Earth: Our Original Monastery,” Christine Valters Paintner explains that ecosystem. There are three circles, in her opinion. The egoic circle refers to a person’s private feelings. The next, the ecological circle is the bridge from the inner to the outer worlds. The third circle, the cosmological is where everything and everyone embrace in a sense of transcendence. Now, everything is intertwined and interwoven with everyone.

By re-entering the ecosystem, we become ready to be broken open and moved beyond our safe places. The Holy cannot be tamed. By remaining separate from the Cosmos, we can pretend that our Gods are domesticated. Then we can never encounter the Unknown Gods in their awful mysteries. Rejoining plunges us into the Great Unknowing.

Sannion (House of Vines) has discussed how he intends to construct the Starry Bear Tradition. Through personal gnosis and research, he is tracing how certain Gods such as Odin move through multiple worlds, times, and realities. Searching folk traditions and myths, he is focused on which piece fits into making the puzzle, “whose finished picture has been lost.” By beginning again, Sannion embraces the unknown on his way home to the Starry Bear Gods.

As for me, I am in the throes of an oddly-eclectic devotion. My main focus is Roman and Mesopotamian Gods. However, I have altars to Anubis, Hekate, The Morrigan, and the Gods of Canaan. I also have altars to the Ancestors, the Prehistoric Dead and the Norse Gods. I have no idea where this is going but I am on my way.

Notes:
Note 1. This ecosystem consists of Gods, Spirits, the Dead, Ancestors, humans and the Others (elves, dwarfs, etc.).

Note 2. The Eight Stages are:
Hearing the Call and Responding
Packing Lightly
Crossing the Threshold
Make the Way by Walking
Being Uncomfortable
Beginning Again
Embracing the Unknown
Coming Home

In Polytheism, There Are No Good Or Evil Gods

“We are Polytheistic fish swimming in a monotheistic ocean.” (Note 1) This aptly describes the modern propensity to divide Gods into the categories of Good and Evil. Christianity, the dominant Monotheistic religion in the West, separates the world into those two poles. Thus, it becomes a matter of habit for modern Pagans to do the same.

During the time of the Christian assimilation, Polytheistic Gods were demoted to being Servants of Satan, God’s Adversary. An example of this is Nergal of the Babylonian Underworld. He became associated with Christian Hell as the “Chief of Hell’s Secret Police.” However, popular Gods like Brigit of the Irish (Note 2) became assimilated as saints, who possess their attributes.

The Gods who are Chaos Bringers are usually shunned by many modern Pagans. Loki of Norse mythology is a prime example. Since the Norse Sagas were written by a Christian, centuries after the Norse conversion, they have Christian sensibilities embedded in them. This presents problems for many Norse Polytheists, who converted from American Protestant religions. They tend to regard the sagas (i.e. the Lore) as the “Final Authority.” This habit is left over from various Protestant sects, which directed people to rely only on the Scriptures. According to the Sagas, Loki brings about Raganok. Therefore, many of these Polytheists shun Loki as an evil God who is out to destroy the world. However, Loki is more complex and complicated than that simple interpretation.

Even the Monotheistic God Yahweh cannot be simplified. The belief that Yahweh is (only) All-Good and All-Powerful presents many problems. Theologians grapple with the question of “where does evil come from.” Some say that He has a counterpart in Satan but this contradicts Yahweh being All-Powerful. Some say that evil is a part of God’s plan. This contradicts Him being All-Good. The cost of eliminating many of Yahweh’s undesirable attributes have caused many believers to engage in mental gymnastics to explain evil.

Modern Pagans also do mental gymnastics concerning their Gods. Rather than recognize that the Gods are complex Beings, they have separated Them into polar groups. However, a human may encounter different aspects of the same God. Apollo, who is the God of Light and Logic, has a dark side of raping women.

An example of a God with many conflicting facets is Enlil of Mesopotamia. Called Lord Air, He is the power of the storm. Enlil can bring rain to soften the hard earth or winds to topple the date trees. He is the “Great Mountain” who holds the Tablets of Destiny, and sits at the Head of the Assembly of Gods.

The “Hymn of Enlil” explains the Sumerians’ attitude towards this God. As each human understands each God differently, what emerges is a consensus of who the God may be. For me, the Sumerians demonstrate the best way to regard the Gods.

“Enlil in the E-kur (Enlil A)”
“Enlil’s commands are by far the loftiest, his words are holy, his utterances are immutable! The fate he decides is everlasting…

Without the Great Mountain Enlil, no city would be built, no settlement would be founded; Without the Great Mountain, Enlil, Nintud would not kill, she would not strike dead; no cow would drop its calf in the cattle-pen…

Enlil, your ingenuity takes one’s breath away! By its nature it is like entangled threads which cannot be unraveled, crossed threads which the eye cannot follow. Your divinity can be relied on. You are your own counsellor and adviser, you are a lord on your own. Who can comprehend your actions?” (Note 3) (Note 4)

Notes:
Note 1. Edward Butler, Polytheist Philosopher
Note 2. St. Brigid of Kildare
Note 3. The translation source is http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section4/tr4051.htm
Note 4. Many of Enlil’s attributes were transferred to Yahweh.

Polytheism: Views on Good and Evil

PazuzuDemonAssyria1stMil_2

Pazuzu from the Louvre

One belief in Christianity is that the material world is inherently evil. People live in a “fallen world.” Therefore, the cosmos is a battleground between the forces of good and evil. The Devil tempts people to sin to separate them from God. A Christian’s only hope is through the Blood of Christ.

When the Church was assimilating Pagans (Note 1), they cast the various Gods as spawns of Satan to discourage belief in Them. However, because of their popularity, some Gods became saints such as Bridgit. Eventually, the Polytheist pantheons were divided into “good” and “evil” Gods. (Note 2)

In contrast, Polytheism regards the universe (including the material world) to be whole. Humans, Gods, Spirits and Others live together in a cosmic ecosystem. What each one does effects the others and their respective worlds. The web of the cosmos has each thread crossing another one or several. It is a tapestry of wholeness. Gods, Spirits, Others and humans meet at the nodes, the liminal places.

An example of this rich complexity is Pazuzu, the demon featured in “The Exorcist” (1973). This Mesopotamian demon (Note 3) is the son of Hanbi, the King of the Evil Wind Demons. Although Pazuzu brings the Wind of Famine, He protects against the West Wind of Pestilence. Meanwhile, newborns and pregnant women are protected by Pazuzu as well. (In Babylon, women wore amulets of his head for protection.)

As I noted, Christians saw demons as evil. Demons like Pazuzu, who have a connection with the Underworld, became agents of Satan, God’s Adversary. Thus the Pagan Underworld was transformed into the Christian Hell, with the Gods and demons as tormentors.

Gaius Florius Aetius, Priest of Apollo, writes in his essays on good and evil (Note 4) that the Gods can be thought in terms of order or chaos. He notes that Plato wrote about destructive forces that oppose the ordering known as Logos. In the Roman Polytheistic sense, order creates civilization, chaos the wilderness.

Aetius writes, “Paganism (Note 5) always revolves around the idea of change. For a Pagan perspective, creation exists always, it merely changes its status and herein lies a hint to the Pagan concept of Evil. There are two different kinds of order, or chaos versus order…The world before the Gods is the original state of the cosmos as a place hostile to life and to civilization…the Gods now come into being and make a new space inside the chaotic cosmos, as a place of order and harmony, wherein life and culture can develop.” (Note 6)

Aetius grapples with the role of the Gods of Chaos. He writes “Seth (Set, Egyptian God) symbolizes the other, the alien, the enemy and the disturbance of harmony, that which is anti-natural. His very existence is contrary to the natural order.” He continues, “Seth sheds some light on the Pagan idea of Evil, as He is the non-defined animal, like one who would not want to be one thing or another, not decide, while culture and personal development requires decision.” (Note 7)

In my reading, Set (Seth) is not evil in the Christian sense. What this Egyptian God does is to ensure that order does not stagnate or overwhelm the cosmos. Raven Kaldera, Northern Tradition shaman, expands on this by explaining that the “troublemaking” Gods have a sacred duty to battle complacency and extreme order.

Because everything is a combination of order and chaos, balance between the two is essential for life. Balance is harmony of the two, for within chaos is order, and vise versa. The excess of order is oppression, the excess of chaos is anarchy.

Notes:
Note 1. The Church coerced the conversion of many European Pagans.

Note 2. This is reflected in how modern Pagans regard Underworld or Trickster Gods. Loki of the Norse is viewed as “evil.” Therefore, when approaching various Pantheons of Gods, be mindful of the unconscious bias of “good” or “evil” Gods.

Note 3. In Mesopotamian nomenclature, “demons” are human-hybrids. “Monsters” are the combinations of animals. Pazuzu, a demon, has a human body with scales, a penis of a snake, the talons and wings of a bird.

Note 4. His essays are “Demons, Spirits and Miasma,” “The Roles of Evil in Paganism,” The Gods of Madness – Danger of the Logo-Centric Western Culture,” and “Concept of Evil.”

Note 5. He refers to Polytheism as Paganism.

Note 6. Gaius Florius Aetius, “Schola Aetii – Reformed Roman Paganism.” P. 126.

Note 7. Gaius Florius Aetius, “Schola Aetii – Reformed Roman Paganism.” P. 127.

Works Used:
Gaius Florius Aetius, “Schola Aetii – Reformed Roman Paganism.”
Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, “Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia.”
Tess Dawson, “The Horned Altar”
Thorkild Jacobsen, “The Treasures of Darkness.”
Raven Kaldera, “Dealing with Deities.”