One or Many?

August 26, 2006 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment


Are the Gods completely separate beings, or are they ultimately part a larger One- call it what you will the All, the Force, the Great Mystery?

Many Wiccans and Neo-Pagans take the all deities are one position, a stance sometimes called “soft polytheism”. Our eastern cousins, the Hindus are also “soft polytheists”- in fact it is likely that this view of divinity came from them as Hinduism spread to the West (albeit sometimes in watered-down forms). Sometimes it’s a gender-based division as in “All Gods are one God, all Goddesses are one Goddess”. This sounds poetic, but I don’t think gender is a deity’s most important characteristic. Deities don’t really have gender in the way humans do, but a deity might choose to manifest itself more commonly in a female or male form. While many view the ultimate divine as neuter, it’s also common especially among Goddess-oriented Pagans and Dianic Wiccans, to view the All as feminine, the universe as the Goddess’s body. As I’ve thought about it more, it does make sense in its own way- all fetuses begin as females, and only through a chemical process (androgen) can they become male.

Now, in the other corner, we have the “hard polytheists” those who believe the Gods are completely separate beings. Many Norse, Hellenic and Celtic Reconstructionists take this position, which they base on evidence of ancient religions as well as their own experiences with the Deities.

I don’t think any of us should be so confident in making absolute assertions about the Divine. We can strive to understand the true nature of the Gods and the Universe as best we can as human beings, but I don’t know if we’ll ever truly know all the answers.

The cosmos manifests itself as both multiplicity and unity- many stars, planets, and later life forms came out of one explosion of energy, but when these things are each destroyed in turn, they go back to the source from which they came. Many came out of One, but One also comes out of Many- or “E Pluribus Unum” our national motto. One is Many and Many is One- like a Yin/Yang symbol, paradox seems to be the true nature of things.


Entry filed under: Theology. Tags: , , , , .

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