Mythology and Moderns: Paul Wallis and “Escaping From Eden”

Originally an Archdeacon of the Anglican church in Australia, Paul Wallis now “researches the world’s mythologies for their insights on our origins as a species and potential as human beings.” He explores “our shamanic and mystical traditions, ET contact, and our place in the universe, and how we can be more conscious and more awake for a better human experience.” Wallis regards mythology to be a monomyth told through the prism of individual cultures. He says “as I joined the dots from one mythology to the next I could see that the very strangeness of the stories and the unlikely repetition of those strange motifs stand as evidence that in these mythologies lies a body of ancient collective memory.”

To Wallis, mythology is sacred storytelling. He writes that “it is the memory of us, who we are and where we have come from. Ancient stories survive for a reason because generations have connected with it. The stories tell us a recognizable truth about the world we live in.” This is the manner in which he approached reading the Bible.

As an Archdeacon, Wallis wrote extensively on Christian hermeneutics, which is the practice to find hidden meanings in texts. Biblical hermeneutics can be divided into four parts – literal, moral, allegorical, and anagogical. The literal is the physical dimension – “the thing is what it is.” The moral asks “what is the ethical intent of something.” The thing is evaluated by a set of abstract principles. Allegorical is the mirroring between the thing and what it represents. “Everything stands for something else.” Finally, there is the anagogical (metaphysical) – “What is the higher reason beyond the thing.”

Wallis grappled with the writings of Genesis, which for him held too many contradictions. Since he wanted to reconcile all of them, Wallis first looked at the names of Adam and Eve. The Adam (of the Earth) stories were about Earthlings. The Eve stories (the Living) were of the living. He could feel the current of the clarity and depth of those particular words.

Then the walls fell when Wallis tackled the word “Elohim.” This term could either mean “God,” “Gods,” or a special class of beings. If YHWH was referred to as Elohim, Wallis asked then what was being interpreted. Wallis decided that the word meant “Sky People,” (Note 1.) who were powerful but mortal beings. (In other words, they were extraterrestrials.) Reading the myths of Genesis, he became aghast at the violence against humanity as told in The Tower of Babel, the Flood, and the Fall. (Note 2.) (Note 3.) The myths of the Old Testament are therefore a history of aliens behaving badly according to Wallis.

Researching further, Wallis concluded that the world myths were describing extraterrestrials as Gods. His new understanding of the word “Elohim” made him question the nature of his reality. In “The Scars of Eden,” Wallis relates how the myths detail space aliens experimenting on humans.

Wallis claims that in organized religion, there is no such thing as an informed orthodoxy. Instead, there is a mainstream doctrine that defines and polices heterodox thought. This doctrine brushes away other interpretations. He concludes that there is a deliberate forgetting that happens in this process. Therefore, the fact that the Gods are aliens is forgotten, while the Gods as divine beings is enforced. Wallis believes that religion’s role was to have everyone toe the line.

Wallis uses the principles of the Enlightenment to apply to the interpretation of myths. The Enlightenment says that people should think for themselves, and base their beliefs on reason. Hence any beliefs derived from tradition should not displace a reasoned judgement. (What is left out is that tradition can be a source of truth.)

According to Wallis’ reasoning, the Gods were based on humanity’s contact with a technologically superior species. His personal gnosis of space aliens ruling humans is based on scientific literalism. He sought to find the literal truth of mythologies. Embracing freedom of thought, Wallis now sees alien Gods.

In my opinion, Wallis exchanged one orthodoxy for another. For many modern people, belief in aliens is possible, but not in Gods. He has embraced the new religion of UFO Gods. (Note 4) Wallis has simply displayed the biases of the modern industrial world. That world insists on a monoculture and a united theory of everything. Therefore, ancient myths are homogenized into one monomyth of human uniqueness.

Notes:
Note 1. Wallis refers to “Elohim” as “Powerful Ones/ Sky People/ Engineers.”
Note 2. Wallis believes that the True God (his capitals) is the creative source of humanity with a vision of love and justice. The True God is the “harmonious source of all things.”
Note 3. According to Wallis, Jesus of the Gospels came to liberate people from hierarchies and from living in fear.
Note 4. The UFO religion has its doctrine and dogmas. The central one is that extraterrestrials have been a part of human affairs since prehistory.

Further reading:
John Michael Greer, “The UFO Chronicles.”
Diana Walsh Pasulka, “American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology.”
Paul Wallis, “Escaping from Eden.” And “The Scars of Eden.”

Explaining Monism or Are the All Gods the Same?

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Photo by Tomáš Malík on Pexels.com

In his poem, “In God’s Grandeur,” Gerald Manley Hopkins declares “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” This Jesuit priest and poet eloquently describes monism. “Everything has an essence that points to God’s nature and its connection to all of creation.”

Monism is the theological view that all Gods are of one essential essence. The creator is also the creation. (Note 1) Therefore, the universe is a single closed system of unity. Christian Wolff (1677- 1754) introduced the concept of monism to counter the mind-body dichotomy of Western intellectual tradition. (Note 2) According to Wolff, the mind and the body are manifestations of the same substance. The philosopher Williams James wrote that monism is the “all-form” or the “collective-unit form,” with the whole defining the parts.

In Hinduism, Acharya Ramanuja of Vaishnavism (Note 3) said that Vishnu who created the universe is also the created universe. He taught that the Soul (Divine Self) is separate from Vishnu (Universal Soul). When the person achieves Final Liberation, their Soul merges with Vishnu. The person’s individual nature is not lost but embraced in Vishnu. This theology is known as Qualified Monism (Vishishtadvaita).

In monism, the cosmos is a monad, a single consciousness that expresses itself in many forms. No matter the form, it is still the One. Therefore the Gods would be attributes of the One. Qualified Monism allows the Divine Self to be separate.

In “A Pluralistic Universe,” William James wrote that the “Monism thinks that the all-form or the collective-unit form is the only form that is rational. The all-form allows no taking up of

or dropping of connexions, for in the all the parts are essentially and eternally co-implicated.” Disagreeing with that philosophy, James said that unity was not possible since there was always something still out there. Instead, the parts defined the whole, but the parts are not all there.

James further added, “Things are with one another in many ways but nothing includes everything or dominates over everything. Something always escapes. However much may be collected, however may report itself as present at an effective centre of consciousness or action, something else is self-governed and absent and unreduced to unity.”

I think that if you have only one entity (creator and created), how does that entity know that it exists? It takes at least two to confirm the other of what is and what is not. For example, without the shadow, how does anyone know what the light is?

Qualified Monism is a puzzle to my thinking. Vaishnavism says that the Soul becomes a companion to Vishnu. How is something apart but not apart? If the soul is separate, is it an equal to the creator? Is it the other entity? But when it becomes a part of the Creator, does not that combination become a different entity?

A river starts when a single stream merges with another stream. The quality and essence of the newly formed river is the mingling of the two streams. As more streams merge with the river, the water does not mix automatically each merger. For a distance, the separate waters can be seen as two colors or currents. Eventually they do mix, with the river being different in color or in current. As James says, something always escapes. Rivers wander over the landscape leaving behind ox-bow lakes.

Notes:

Note 1. Yahweh of Monotheism is separate from his creation. This is panentheism where the God animates all of the universe but transcends it.

Note 2.  The “mind-body problem” is the relationship between consciousness and the brain. It was addressed by Rene Descartes as Cartesian dualism.

Note 3. In Vaishnavism, Brahma, Krishna, and Shiva are attributes of Vishnu.

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

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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.”

The Gods Are Not Inventions

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In the “An Atheist’s History of Belief,” Matthew Kneale subtitles his book: “Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention.” The author posits that the Gods were invented by humans to keep bad things from happening. Eventually this developed into a transactional exercise where the Gods would do for you as you do for them. The traditional method to do this transaction was ritual. Kneale sees that the core of religious belief is trust in these invented Gods (or God}.

He writes, “Religions are created out of the fear of being alone and in the dark. So I suspect there will be a few more invented world views. What fears will they answer? This will depend on us. It will depend on how safe our world feels.” By using the word “invention,” he captures the problem of why modern people have trouble believing in the Gods at all.

What is ironic is that monotheism itself is an invented religion. Belief in only one God does not come naturally to humans. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince writes in “When God Had a Wife,” “In fact it was the invention of monotheism, with the will of the masses being overturned and the elite priesthood and prophets triumphing.” The authors continue, “The notion not just appealing to one god alone, but that there was only one god to appeal to in the first place would have been downright nonsensical…They must have felt hollowed out spiritually…The loss of the pantheon of deities caused real confusion — and real suffering.”  (emphasis – the authors’)

Furthermore, Kneale displays a common underlying assumption of modern people. He assumes a linear mythos – “when and how were the Gods created.” Modern people see the world in terms of finite time and space – everything has to have a beginning and an ending. The modern scientific view is of the march of progress, a straight upwards arrow to the future. The basis for this comes from the Christian mythos when Christ comes to establish His Reign on earth, thereby ending the old world. In contrast, the multiple creation stories of the Sumerians, and other Polytheistic cultures point to “what is,” and not “what will be” or “what was.”

This linear logos devolves into humans creating the Gods by their own powers of the mind. Stemming from Kneale’s inventions, the Gods become “facets” of the One God. Eventually, these facets fall away leaving only the One God, who later becomes fiction Himself. Therefore the difference between many Gods, one God, or nothing lies only with humans. The human perception governs all reality.

Using the concept of “invention,” some Pagans theorize that the accumulation of belief in the minds of believers create the Gods. Therefore, these Gods can be replaced by science since it provides solutions to problems, that religion once answered. Once more, the Gods are reduced to fictions.

Judith O’Grady in “God Speaking” provides an alternative point of view. As she puts it – Gods dwell in Gods’ Land, and will manifest Themselves from time to time. O’Grady writes, “the in-dwelling Spirit does not come at the behest or exhortation of the human mind nor does the human create the Spirit. The Spirit must have some reason sufficient to Hirself for entering a place; Ze must “want” to.”

Further Reading:

Matthew Kneale, “An Atheist’s History of Belief”
Judith O’Grady, “Pagan Portals: God Speaking”
Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, “When God Had a Wife”