Archetypes vs. “Real Gods”

November 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm 5 comments

Pagans, being more focused on spiritual practice than belief, don’t argue as much about theology as other religions. But there has been a growing clash between “hard” polytheists who believe and experience deities as real, individual beings that they worship & interact with- and eclectic pagans who view gods as archetypes- powerful concepts within their own minds, that they use to connect to the Divine more broadly. Chaos magicians, as I understand regard gods as symbols to center the mind during spellwork. They are more interested in finding what works magically rather devoting themselves to a god, pantheon and cultural tradition. Some even say that “god-forms” or archetypes are more powerful the more spiritual/emotional energy people direct towards them. If this is so, they should be asking Jesus for help. Instead, it has been become more popular to call upon pop culture characters in rituals.

I don’t really believe in magic, so for me the question of whether this is effective is moot. I think we should avoid stating beliefs as facts. The sun is made of helium and hydrogen. That’s a proven fact. Believing Helios, the Greek sun god is a real dude is a belief. So is the belief that Helios is an aspect of the sun god archetype, the same dude as Ra, Balder, Lugh etc. And for the record Lugh & Balder are not actually sun gods in their original mythologies, but they are often seen as such by modern pagans. But as you can see this can lead to a lot of sloppy lumping together of otherwise totally dissimilar beings.  So moving along, you think hey, Luke Skywalker is a hero who conquers darkness and evil- wouldn’t he make a great sun god? So then the followers of Ra, Helios & Balder get even more insulted when their gods are equated with a mere movie character. (Would that mean George Lucas is the Creator? Scary thought) But really, should they care? This fight has become really stupid, folks. That’s why I haven’t commented til it cooled down a little.

I think the real problem is when one pagan or polytheist expects another to affirm their beliefs. Monotheistic Unitarians may believe they worship the same god as Catholics, even if they view him differently. But they don’t expect Catholics to approve of their beliefs or practices, and they aren’t even remotely part of the same religion or community. They may work together in interfaith and social justice groups,  but they agree to disagree about specifics of their religions. If they don’t, then they avoid each other, with the exception of the occasional awkward Thanksgiving dinner or what have you. So that’s what we need to do. It’s not that hard, people!


Entry filed under: Deities, Interfaith, Mythology, Pagan Communities, Popular Culture, Theology. Tags: , , , , .

Taking the Autism/Atheism Connection Too Far Who Are My Followers?

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Favorite “A” PBP Posts | The Lefthander's Path  |  January 12, 2014 at 12:13 am

    […] like my earlier (non PBP) post Echtrai and Wild Forest Gods both added some nuance to the fierce theological/philosophical debate […]

  • 2. Looking at Pop Culture Paganism | The Lefthander's Path  |  August 15, 2014 at 3:42 am

    […] When the Gods Become Real,  Archetypes vs. “Real Gods”  […]

  • 3. Inclusive Polytheism | The Lefthander's Path  |  September 13, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    […] Archetypes, eregores and magical “thought constructs” might be Things in your path, but they are not gods. […]

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