Request: Abrahamic views on polytheists?

Well, with my beloved wife doing what she does best (informing others and raising the general enlightenment level ;^), I figure I’ll throw this one out to our monotheistic friends.

It’s wonderful to see so much tolerance of Hindus, Buddhists, pagans (neo- and paleo- alike), and other various and sundry belief systems. What I’m curious to know is how the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim members of our Prophetic community view other metaphysical/theological concepts, particularly in relation to your own belief systems.

For example, is it “one true God and all else is pretense or deviltry” or is there room for other beings that we polies view as deities to exist in your cosmology? (Note to Muslims: while entire libraries could be filled on what I don’t know about Islam, I do know that the core tenet is “there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.” I imagine, however, that such belief would not necessarily preclude the totem spirits of native tribes, for example.) How do the principles of salvation, grace, blessings, and so on apply to those who worship other forces?

Please don’t feel limited by the questions I focus on above. I’m hoping to begin a broader discourse here on where we differ…and, hopefully, find where our common ground lies. On that same note, feel free to ask questions right back (though knowing my beloved, talented wife Morgan, she may answer you before you ask ;^).

(/) Roland X
Weirdafarian >g<


I don’t even play a theologian on TV (4.00 / 2)

but I can’t resist.  My own highly idiosyncratic interpretation is that our Christian Trinity is needed because any one of its aspects (G_d the creator and lawgiver, G_d incarnate, and G_d everpresent in spirit) would be too limiting.  However one tries to describe G_d, you’re not going to get all of it in.  Something will be left out of the best attempts.

I suppose a polytheistic religion would have different dieties that attend to specific realms or needs?  (No clue, here, sorry).  If so, then maybe you’d be combing out the facets in a different way.

It also seems to me that the tradition of saints in the Catholic church is one way of formalizing a connection to G_d when a worshiper needs a more concrete target because G_d is just too big.

If there is more than one diety for you, do they work together?  Or do they stay isolated in their individual realms?

(I hope somebody who’s actually studied this is the lead-off batter.)

by blue badger on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 20:48:37 PDT

Great stuff! (4.00 / 2)

This is exactly the sort of post I was hoping to see when I started this thread. 8^) Informative, insightful, hopeful for common ground — and prodding enough to make me look at my own assumptions and see what I can squeeze out of them.

First of all, I believe that there is a singular Essence to all things (Monism, I suppose), and that it is, on some level, divine. Second, I believe that those beings polytheists worship as deities are closer to this Essence than we ‘mere mortals’ are in several senses. It is both true and irrelevant, in my mind, that they are faces of Divinity (the part of Essence we can understand while incarnate — think Taiji to Tao or Logos to G-d); we are all faces of Divinity, they’re just more aware of it and more ‘purely’ Essence in…I guess structure would be the best term for it.

In that sense, I believe in the distinct nature of individual gods, totem spirits, neteru, angels, etc., while seeing them as very much agents of Essence/Divinity. Like (IIRC) the Buddhist image of the bodhisattvas, they act as conduits for/to the Divine as an act of compassion. It is not necessary for them to do so, mind you. It strikes me as the height of hubris to believe that the gods need us in that fashion. Perhaps those that love us need us the way I ‘need’ my son, to protect him and give him what I can, but I don’t need his worship or even respect just to exist.

Anyway, the most neo-pagan aspect of my, um, paradigm is the best way of putting it I guess, is the invocation of matron and patron deities. My matron is Brigid, as Morgan mentioned in her post on us weirdo types. ;^) As a muse, a goddess of fire, beauty, creation and inspiration, I practically worshipped her already, being a writer by nature and ambition, if not by trade as often as I’d like. At turns virgin and mother, illuminator and shelterer, I was drawn to her archetype both in search of insight and shelter, as well as being a champion for her (not that She needs protecting much!).

My, um, ‘knight in shining armor’ impulse (one that fits more metaphorically than physically, I’m sorry to say) figures prominently in my choice of patron. This needs a bit of lead-up — I was raised Jehovah’s Witness, and while I deeply respect their ethos and devotion, I will likely never be any kind of Christian as a result. I just asked too many questions that I couldn’t accept the answers to. The most pointed of them was, what, God only sent The Message to one group of people, and allowed the rest to be deluded? Oh, and every other form of religion is Satan’s deception? Ehh, no, sorry, ain’t buyin’ it.

The thing is, I like angels. Particularly the more protective variety, like Michael and Gabriel. And Egyptian divinity has always struck a chord in me. Finally, I’ve got a huge thing for phoenixes. So it wasn’t much of a leap to end up with Horus as my patron. Horus is, or represents, all that is great and good about protectors of the weak. He may be known as the Avenger, but I have my doubts about that translation; He was the god of the Pharaohs themselves, representing the ideal of just nobility. As an aside, “neter” is usually translated as “god,” but is more literally “principle,” from what I’ve read. Horus, in essence, is the principle of service by the powerful, “right makes might” (NOT to be confused with the reverse!) on a divine scale.

Both of these deities are gods of light, associated with the sun and (by association) illumination on multiple levels. Ironically, I’m a night person; perhaps this serves a balancing purpose.

To me, each deity is a principle, an example to follow and an energy pattern (for lack of a better term) to call on. However, each is also a self-aware being in and of hirself, to be respected and valued as such. The friendship of a god is no small thing! (Even if we don’t ‘see each other’ that often. Such is the way of friendships in a busy life.)

Obviously, these gods are from two entirely different traditions. Even if you believe in an ur-civilization like Atlantis or Lemuria (and I do), by the time you get to the versions that have come down to us across time we’re talking about aspects of Divinity from very different cultures. Even so, I have a hard time imagining that the gods are somehow walled off from one another. The idea of creating artificial limitations on beings on that level seems counterintuitive to me. Now you can theoretically get divine patterns that are incompatible — I imagine that YHVH and Set wouldn’t get on all that well — but for the most part, entities of that level of enlightenment strike me as too wise to get in pissing contests.

Now, whether Horus and Brigid are both going to work with me at any given moment is up to them. I get the impression, however, that they aren’t opposed to the idea, nor are their energy patterns dissonant. It’s just that I’m usually asking for one or the other when I call on the Divine (or, rarely, Essence itself), with the occasional Big Rituals (read: Samhain and Beltaine, mostly) being the exceptions.

Heh. I’m going to have to think about this more. Thanks! >VBG<

(/) Roland X
Feeling simply divine, thank you

by Roland X on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 23:49:18 PDT

NOOOOOOooooooo (none / 0)

You did not, did not, did not say PARADIGM !!!


:: WereWolf Prophet runs away, howling in Post I.T. Career agony … ::


by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:07:48 PDT

I guess this would be a bad time to mention… (none / 0)

…that I’m a HUGE Mage: the Ascension fan? {smiles innocently}

(/) Roland X
Truth Beyond Paradox
(Man, I never thought I’d use that .sig here)

by Roland X on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:40:37 PDT

OOOOooooo … NICE ! (none / 0)

I’m a long-ago RPG player (D&D derivative created by a friend of mine, who was also our DM / GM) but it’s been close to 15 years since I roled a 20-sided dice.

Consequently, I’d never heard of Mage : The Acension, but I read the Wikipedia entry you linked and it sounds terrific !

You are forgiven your use of … *shudder* … That Word !

<Canine-Toothy Grin>

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 01:12:14 PDT

Hand him a nickel (none / 1)

But then give no Quarter.

{bracing for the 1’s!}

by Austin in PA on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 08:35:09 PDT

A good pun (none / 0)

Always deserves a 4 😉

Morgan (Mrs. Roland ;-))

by Morgan on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:27:21 PDT

wow, thanks for the work in your reply (4.00 / 2)

I am very pleased to learn I pulled out the right thread.  

I guess I can’t imagine that the aspects of G_d in the Trinity would have separate decisions about whether to relate with you.  (Looks around for lightning bolts after limiting G_d to human imagination.)  I think it would be a matter of how you felt the presence of G-d (e.g. in reading the of the creation and the laws, in forgiveness, in the spirit and action of those around you).  You could even meet G_d in pain and anguish.  Matthew (25: 32-46) describes Christ being met in one who is hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, sick, or in prison.  (This is the “when did we see you, Lord?” passage) Some who met him this way helped, and some didn’t.  For the ones who didn’t, they are sent away (into eternal punishment).  

I still wonder what happens if you’ve screwed up and are in need of reconciliation?  Do your dieties play a role?  Do Brigid and Horus help you with any issue, or their specialties (maybe I should say, can they elect to help…)?  Do any of them keep vigil with you when you are suffering?  

BTW, I don’t accept a single route to G_d theory myself, essentially for the reasons you gave, but none of the churches I’ve attended have ever been ones requiring creeds where I’ve had to.

by blue badger on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 06:54:52 PDT

I won’t speak for my hunny (4.00 / 4)

But I know my gods have been a great comfort to me in hard times. The Mother is more than willing to kick me in the behind if She thinks I need it, but She’s also willing to hold me while I curl up on her lap and cry if I need that, too.

I was a single mom for 5 years before I met Roland (FTR, I was married when my son was conceived, but we separated while I was pregnant.) Anyone who’s been a single parent knows it can be rough. My faith got me through that.

The big one, for me, would have to be the time I was working graveyard alone in a convenience store, during a robbery one of the kids hit me in the head with a hammer. I’m not sure how long I was out, but after I came to and managed to call 911 I sat there wondering how bad it was (I knew that even minor head wounds bleed a lot, but still…). I called on the Mother and, while I obviously didn’t want to die, made my peace with the possibility. I firmly believe that my willingness to relax and put it into Her hands saved my life — that if I’d panicked and stressed out, it would have made it worse (as it was, I needed surgery for a depressed skull fracture but I was only in the hospital for four days).

I think back to when I was a Born Again for a few years in my late teens, and in many ways I find the feelings to be similar. I feel great and boundless love from my gods, I take strength in the concept that They won’t test me beyond my ability (up to the edges of it, sure, but not beyond :-), and I trust that they’ll guide me along the path that will ultimately be to my greatest benefit. I thank them for my beautiful sons and my wonderful husband. And, sometimes, they’ll give me a metaphorical boot to the tush if I’ve screwed up and/or need to get a clue :-).

Another FTR, I still respect Yeshua greatly and feel that He and I have reached an understanding of sorts, that He understands that the Christian path just wasn’t the right one for me. And, if I ever had the chance to pull an all-nighter with Him discussing philosophy and drinking (wine, coffee, whatever), I’d take it in a heartbeat! 🙂

by Morgan on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:44:42 PDT

“he” (4.00 / 2)

Yeshua is only a “he”?

That’s where
the heartaches

“There ain’t no sanity clause.” Chico Marx

by Asbury Park on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 10:32:03 PDT

IMO (none / 1)

Christ-energy transcends gender. But, the incarnate form is usually aparently male. Sometimes a little bishie, but still male ;-).

by Morgan on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 10:51:20 PDT

A lost opportunity (4.00 / 2)

I figure Jesus’ human gender was a cultural necessity. What puzzles is that although the very first person to  preach the good news of the risen Jesus was a woman – this was no accident – the church turned reactionary after women had clearly assumed important co/equal leadership roles in the early church & were directly responsible for its success, & the egalitarian character of its community.

“There ain’t no sanity clause.” Chico Marx

by Asbury Park on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 12:17:10 PDT

It’s a mixed bag (4.00 / 2)

When the Israelites moved into Canaan (however that happened), they had no problem using the name of the Canaanite high god, ‘el, to designate their own deity.  Of course, the dirty little secret is that the Israelites were Canaanites, so this should not be surprising.  On the other hand, for some reason, they had to reject Baal worship entirely.  This Canaanite God was seen as a competitor.
In modern situations, converts to Christianity from traditional religions in Africa routinely use the existing name of their high god to talk about the God of the biblical tradition.  Arab Christians call God “Allah.”  The line between syncretism and inculturation is a fuzzy one.

by illinifan17 on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 21:01:05 PDT

Allah (4.00 / 3)

The Arabic word “Allah” is considered by most linguists to be an elision of “al-ilah” which means “the god”. So it’s not exactly a name as such, and the English word “God” with its sense of “the one God” is an accurate translation of its meaning.

“Riches does not mean having a great amount of property, but riches is self-contentment.” (Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)

by lauramp on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 22:18:39 PDT

Oh, that’s fascinating! (4.00 / 3)

I’m suddenly curious as to the accuracy of my original quote about “no God but Allah,” at least by way of translation (with the understanding that translating the Quran is…let’s call it problematic at best).

Which brings me to one of my original questions. What is your belief regarding, say, totem spirits, like those called on by the Lakota or Navajo (avoiding the actual word ‘god’ to refer to sometimes-worshipped faces of divinity)?


(/) Roland X
“A rich person is one who has enough.” — Chinese proverb

by Roland X on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 23:56:07 PDT

Allah in Arabic (4.00 / 2)

The Arabic of the testimony of faith is:

Laa ilaha ill’Allah

So “ilah” is the word “god” again. Some Muslims translate it as “There is no god except God”. Others use “None has the right to be worshipped except Allah”. This is a bit less of a literal translation, but it avoids the problem of “There is no god except Allah” which may be misleading.

I wouldn’t say that translating the Quran is “problematic”; however, translating is often difficult, especially between languages that are as different as English and Arabic are, so in case of confusion or ambiguity, it’s best to refer back to the original Arabic.

“Riches does not mean having a great amount of property, but riches is self-contentment.” (Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)

by lauramp on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 13:50:24 PDT

I think (4.00 / 2)

that my hunny meant that translating any sacred text, since they rely on symbolism and such, can be problematic. And as soon as someone decides that one particular translation is the One True Word, well, things get sticky from there.

He’s at work, so I don’t expect him to comment for another 3 hours or so :-).

by Morgan on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 14:37:59 PDT

translations (4.00 / 2)

Yeah, that’s very true. Muslims do consider that translations aren’t the same as the original Arabic and shouldn’t be relied on without checking. When I was a Christian before, I don’t remember that this was ever important.

I didn’t reply to Roland for many hours because I was at work myself, so no worries on that score. We post when we can 🙂

“Riches does not mean having a great amount of property, but riches is self-contentment.” (Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)

by lauramp on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 14:58:04 PDT

spirits, creation, unity, etc (4.00 / 2)

Muslims believe in the existence of various types of spiritual beings including angels and jinn. The jinn are spirits that move about in the world with us, whereas the angels are in the heavens although they carry out tasks in the world. The main difference is that angels don’t have free will but are always good, while jinn have free will and can choose between good and evil. The Quran states explicity that it is sent to both the humans and the jinn.

One metaphor that I find helpful in thinking about God and creation is like the Sun and the light that it shines. The light is not the Sun, but it is not other than the Sun either. So in this metaphor, God is the Sun, and creation is the light. This includes all spirit beings such as angels and jinn, as well as the material world.

Muslims see the problem with polytheism as making the creation equal to the Creator. For us, there is a very clear separation. In the metaphor, if there was no Sun, there would be no light. It can’t exist on its own, it has to have a source.

Some mystics say that creating things is inherent to God’s nature, so that He would not exist without creating things. But there’s a cause and effect relationship.

So in Muslim thinking, there can be spirits that one may interact with in various ways, and they may have abilities that we humans do not. But they should not be considered to have the attributes of the Creator, nor should they be worshipped. Instead, one should go directly to God.

Muslims also don’t believe that God has more than one person (so we disagree with Christians here). God has many aspects and attributes but they are all One Being and could not be separated out.

“Riches does not mean having a great amount of property, but riches is self-contentment.” (Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)

by lauramp on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 14:04:49 PDT

Thank you (4.00 / 2)

for the information and the link. Good info. 🙂

by Morgan on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 14:41:42 PDT

interesting question (4.00 / 2)

I’m a Christian, but I turn to Hinduism as my basic reference model of how I interpet polytheism. In Hinduism, there is a great underlying unity of sublime being called Brahman, which is a pantheistic version of God. All the many gods of Hinduism, as well as all people and everything else that is, are manifestations of the divine Brahman. The compassionate Hindu god Krishna is a way of referring to that aspect of God, and Shiva the god of destruction is a way of referring to that aspect of God. And since God (whether Brahman or Yahweh or Allah) has infinite aspects/attributes, there can be infinite gods in the Hindu sense representing them.

by Elizabeth D on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 21:46:11 PDT

This is not very tolerant of me (4.00 / 2)

But I figure that polytheists are just misguided.  There’s no reason for me to think that.  I understand that my faith is revelatory, and that without the revelation to Abraham, polytheists are just following where their reason leads.  Because I’ve been granted that revelation, my reason leads me in a different direction.

Christians, you’re polytheists too.  Sorry.  I just don’t understand how someone can say “G-d is three” and “G-d is one,” and not see a contradiction.

This post is REALLY offensive to non-Jews, but you asked for my thoughts.

“This is nothing less than a battle for America’s soul.” – Jimmy Carter, 2004 DNC

by Matthew Krell on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 22:31:09 PDT

Read this to answer that (4.00 / 2)

The Trinity (Triunity) of God. Or Three in One.

Those explain how someone could believe the Trinity does not constitute polytheism. Whether you buy that or not is another issue.

Bible in a Year now posted weekly. Index is here

by JCHFleetguy on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 22:53:24 PDT

asdf (3.50 / 2)

:: The WereWolf Prophet welcomes JCH onto his turf, whilst trying to hide licking his chops … ::

<Big Canine-Toothy Grin>

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 23:29:34 PDT

the worst PR (4.00 / 2)

mistake we ever made was letting the idea of trinity get out from  under the whiskey bottle it crawled out from.  it’s just damn hard to explain, at least without alcohol involved.

that said, it’s a really good idea.  God’s person is innately relational, not just in intention outwardly towards human kind, but by essential character.  Why not then, express knowledge of God in a relational model between aspects of God’s self?

in the history of revelation, we claim that God creates, redeems, and sustains the world…trinitarian confession places that history of revelation in to a model that fits with our belief in God as love.  Love doesn’t just stay in one place…it necessarily flows from something to something. Thus, trinity.  

a real pity that it’s the worst explained concept in Christian life today…i guess it’s no surprise that it’s an utter flop outside of Christian circles as well.

We are being saved for hope.

Romans 8:24a

by martinguerre on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:04:13 PDT

the part I don’t get (none / 1)

is the Holy Spirit. why three persons rather than two? I only have a very vague idea about that.

by Elizabeth D on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:13:03 PDT

That’s Mom >G< (4.00 / 3)

I learned from “A History of God” that the word translated as “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost” in Christian bibles is actually Sophia, which means “wisdom.”

Can you say “Goddess of Wisdom?” {smiles innocently}

(/) Roland X
Now if they’d just untie her and let her out of the closet they locked her in…mutter mumble grumble gripe ;^)

by Roland X on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:19:46 PDT

Sophia (4.00 / 3)

That is very interesting! I know in the Latin Vulgate Bible there is actually a book called “The Book of Wisdom.” Apparently “wisdom” herself (characterized as a “her” mind you) is talking directly to the reader (or a listener, I’m not sure.)
Is this a holdover from some prior polytheistic conception? I’ve been told that in the original text of Genesis it uses the word Gods as a plural, so I suppose the Isrealites had some polytheistic origins to start.

While we’re at it, what are the alternate translations for the other parts, the father and the son? Are there books of the Bible, modern or vulgate, focused on them too?

by Pav on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:42:08 PDT

Slow down (4.00 / 3)

The Book of Wisdom is in all Catholic Bibles (Protestant traditions consider it apocryphal), not just the Vulgate. But the full title is “The Wisdom of Solomon.” It’s a book of sayings, not a book about a deity or even a revered person.

Most biblical scholars acknowledge three separate strands in Genesis (or three different authorial traditions, if you will): the Yahwist, the Elohist, and the Priestly (often designated by the letters J, E, and P, respectively–the J coming from an earlier transliteration). The first two are named for the name they use for God: יהוה or אלהם, respectively: the latter is technically formally plural, but is not usually taken to be indicative of a polytheistspan class=strong
pic bent in Judaism.


by musing85 on Thu Oct 20th, 2/p005 at 07:24:49 PDT

Nopers (4.00 / 4)

Wisdom is personified (rhetorically, not theologically) in the Psalms and one of the wisdom books of the Hebrew Scriptures. But in the Christian Scriptures, the word used for the third Person of the Trinity is πνεῦμα, “spirit” or “breath” or even sometimes “wind” (which is what lets Jesus make the double entendre about the wind/Spirit blowing where it will).


by musing85 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 07:02:26 PDT

thanks for clarifying this (none / 0)

I didn’t think it sounded right that the word sophia was used.

by Elizabeth D on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 07:04:23 PDT

And I think (4.00 / 2)

the Christian reading of scripture tends to identify Wisdom personified–despite gender–as the second person of the Trinity which, after all, is eternal (don’t believe Milton).

Duns Scotus is Extraordinary.

by Mackerel Snapper on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 07:20:18 PDT

OOps (4.00 / 3)

Yeah, I know Sophia’s the word from the OLD testament. That was in my head when I started writing my comment. The datum…just didn’t make it to my fingers when I typed. My bad. (This is how misinformation starts. Sigh.)

I hasten to add that the error is mine, not Karen Armstrong’s. I can’t recommend A History of God enough.

Though there is a silver lining — I learned something new! The idea that the word for Holy Spirit (God’s active force in the world) in the New Testament literally means breath? So, interestingly enough, does ch’i… >g<

(/) Roland X
Mea culpa-ing today

by Roland X on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:10:32 PDT

Goes further than that (4.00 / 3)

The scholars who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (the Septuagint version) also used πνεῦμα to translate the phrase ורוח אלהים in Genesis 1:2 (“and the spirit of G-d moved upon the waters”). The word usually translated as “soul” in the Christian Scriptures, ψύχη (“psyche” in transliteration), is used by Homer in a way that implies that for him it meant the last breath breathed out by a dying person.


by musing85 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:29:32 PDT

The Gnostics (4.00 / 2)

I believe there is some speculation (or evidence to prove?) that the early Christian Gnostic sects (or some of them) did see the Holy Spirit as a feminine component of the trinity, Sophia.  She was tied closely to their concept of the wisdom handed down directly in line from Jesus.  
I’m not sure how much this is based on archeological evidence and texts, and how much is reconstruction.  If I remember right, much of our knowledge of the Gnostics is pretty fragmentary, due to the ‘other side’ winning out.

Anyone know the history of the Hagia Sophia?  Is there a relation there?

by Austin in PA on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 07:19:39 PDT

if (4.00 / 2)

if you’re gnostic, you don’t really have a trinity.  if creation is evil, you can’t have a creator father.

sophia is usually associated with logos or word…and the redeemder, not the paraclete or advocate.

We are being saved for hope.

Romans 8:24a

by martinguerre on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 07:47:40 PDT

Almost, but not quite (none / 1)

There is room for a Trinity with Gnosticism — the true Creator is usually good, but the Demiurge is responsible for the Fallen World (aka this one). Not that I take that route, but Gnosticism was a pervasive enough ‘heresy’ within Christianity that the early church took steps to eliminate it.

(/) Roland X
“You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland. And I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” — Morpheus, from the most famous Gnostic fable in modern times (The Matrix)

by Roland X on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:15:05 PDT

gnostic (4.00 / 2)

I’ve got all sorts of trouble with “gnostic” scholarship…

it’s a total empty title to me, and one that i think causes more confusion than it alliviates.  i can see where that concept might happen, but i’ve never seen a trinitarian text be effectively linked with Gnostic movements, whatever that means.

Sheer lack of data is a bitch, but i suppose these folks have to get PhDs on something.  Why not air?

We are being saved for hope.

Romans 8:24a

by martinguerre on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 13:50:40 PDT

not really (4.00 / 2)

just to add to musings notes on the issue:

follow me, if you like, to

The Blue Letter has a nice concordance feature, for quick interlinear translation of the Greek.  Not great that it’s KJV, but for most questions, it’s a nice first check.

Holy Spirit or holy spirit, depending on your choice, is pneuma (spirit) and hagios (holy).  Follow me to 1 Cor 2:13, and it’s all clear.

Wisdom, sophia, is used in contrast to hagios pneuma.

Yes, Sophia traditions are often used to support trinitarian thought.  But it’s not a “secret” of the translation.  The prosaic truth is that the only real issue in translating holy spirit is if you add capital letters or not.

We are being saved for hope.

Romans 8:24a

by martinguerre on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 07:45:58 PDT

See above (none / 1)

Yeah, I goofed on not specifying the Old Testament. The Greek is obviously very different from the Hebrew.

It may not be ‘secret,’ but it’s definitely one of the more interesting little tidbits of translation that gets…er…overlooked in public. ;^)

(/) Roland X
Sophia traditions? I foresee a Google dive in my future… >g<

by Roland X on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:17:58 PDT

Yeah, the Holy Spirit doesn’t get explained much. (4.00 / 3)

Not that I’m any authority, but this might help:  mostly, the early Christians had to reconcile their monotheism with the divinity of Jesus and, while they were at it, the “advocate” he had spoken of as well.  But I have read (but don’t have the smarts to know if it’s true) that the New Testament talk of spirit was not entirely new, and had in the past often meant something less “person”-al.

Duns Scotus is Extraordinary.

by Mackerel Snapper on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 04:53:53 PDT

this fits (none / 0)

with my own surmises, as does Roland’s comment. But all that also highlights why the concept feels muddled and unspecific to me.

by Elizabeth D on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 07:02:35 PDT

Actually, MG … (4.00 / 2)

… in most Wiccan and many Wiccan-like Traditions, there is something very much like the Christian Trinity.

She is known as the Triple Goddess, and manifests as Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

The Maiden is virginal new life, bursting forth with freshness, energy and the strength / weakness of innocence.

The Mother is the creative, procreative and nurturing face of the Triple Goddess, while the Crone is post-menopausal, often depicted as very old, and wise in her knowledge of Birth, Maturation, Fruition, Decline, Death – and ultimately, Rebirth. The Crone is arguably the source of modern culture’s image of Witch as Old Hag, especially since She is connected to night, darkness, ravens, Magic, the Dark (New) Moon, and death-as-transition/transformation.

A more recent concept is that of the Triple God, the male correlate of the Triple Goddess, who manifests as Youth, Father and Sage.

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:29:44 PDT

This is very useful, actually (4.00 / 3)

I hope you’re not offended here, but this is the sort of thinking that I have to consider with the fundies (having The One Truth), except of course they’re not so polite about it. (I take it I can safely assume you’re not interested in forming a theocracy in America, regardless of the deities involved. 8^)

A quick side note: one of the reasons some Christian sects believe that Witnesses are not Christian is because they reject the Trinity — Christ is God’s son (the living incarnation of the Word, God’s very first creation, but not God Himself). The Holy Spirit…they gloss over. (This Goddess worshipper has a soft spot for ol’ Sophia. ;^)

Back to the main point: how does G-d relate to non-Jews? Also, how do you view revelations that disagree with yours? Do you believe that they are just mis-filtering G-d’s message? Or are they (we) actually deluded, and only revelations that match your experience are accurate? (I’m not going to ask for a treatise on Qaballah, just your general belief regarding it, for reference/perspective  regarding aspects of divinity.)


(/) Roland X
If I weren’t so burned on the “Judeo-Christian tradition,” I could very happily become a follower of Sophia (Sophist? ;^).

by Roland X on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:15:47 PDT

Hmmm… (4.00 / 2)

It is written, that the righteous of all peoples will have a share in the world to come.  So, I would say that G-d doesn’t care whether you’re Jewish or non-Jewish, or even whether you see one G-d or many elohim (uncapitalized on purpose).  As far as disagreeable revelations (a phrase I just made up, but like for its connotations), again, because of the first thing in this comment, it doesn’t matter.  If you live a holy life, by YOUR lights, G-d will welcome you into the Olam Ha-Ba, the world to come.  My guess is that even if we proclaim our “Hail Satan!” philosophies, consume porn by the truckload and murder little kids while laughing at the blood, there’s a small part of us that knows how truly unholy we are then.  I’m exaggerating, of course; but the point is that if you hear the promptings of conscience and follow them, then surely you will be welcome in the company of the Lord.

Yes, even the Palestinian or Iraqi suicide bomber.  As immoral as I feel his dying act to be, as deep in my soul I KNOW it to be wrong, I fully expect to meet him before the Throne and embrace him as my brother.  The b’nai Avraham may not choose our family.  Whether we like it or not, you silly Christians and Muslims are our little siblings – and even you pagans and Vedantists and Buddhists are b’nai Noach.  So you’re our cousins.  We’re all the same before G-d – Israel is just sort of the oldest son – of whom much more is expected.

That’s my thoughts, anyway.  As far as Kabballah, I’ll say only that I don’t study it and don’t intend to for at least eighteen years (you have to be forty to study Kabballah by halakhah).

“This is nothing less than a battle for America’s soul.” – Jimmy Carter, 2004 DNC

by Matthew Krell on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 16:08:04 PDT

Fascinating (none / 0)

As far as Kabballah, I’ll say only that I don’t study it and don’t intend to for at least eighteen years (you have to be forty to study Kabballah by halakhah).

Wow. Is there a stated reason for that?


by musing85 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 19:19:25 PDT

because it’s intense (none / 0)

there are stories of rabbis who were driven mad by kabbalah.  Wise, learned men who just came apart at the seams mentally.  The age restriction is intended to give you time to make sure you’re mentally and religiously ready to gaze upon the face of G-d

“This is nothing less than a battle for America’s soul.” – Jimmy Carter, 2004 DNC

by Matthew Krell on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 22:27:00 PDT

How delicious! (none / 0)

Religious doctrine that comes with a parental advisory label! 🙂


by musing85 on Fri Oct 21st, 2005 at 07:06:57 PDT

I don’t know… (4.00 / 2)

…about tolerant, but in my lineage we acutally define our path as “experiential,” not “revelatory” to differentiate ourselves from the “folks with prophets.”

So you have a point. Although I’ll have to disagree about the misguided part. 🙂

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” — Hunter S. Thompson

by rune on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 15:38:21 PDT

I’m with “rune” on this one … (none / 0)

Matthew Krell wrote : This is not very tolerant of me …

Perhaps, but at least you have the courage of your faith to put it out here and have it be discussed, which is a *lot* more that I can say for most Xian fundies.

MK : But I figure that polytheists are just misguided.

These are usually fighting words for me, but I’ll give you a pass, especially since conservative Christians & Muslims are gonna say the same about you. And I’d like to point out that for the most part, us polytheists are not trying to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth.

MK : There’s no reason for me to think that.

Correct. There is no reason involved in your attitude, it’s an gut-level emotional response probably implanted when you were young.  Many times, our gut can be right, but it can also be very, very wrong.

MK : … and that without the revelation to Abraham …

This statement is consistent with the Jewish version of One True Way ® TM theology, which I flatly reject. The Power(s) Greater Than Ourselves (G-d, if you prefer) can and do speak through any number of other sources (my own direct experience, major, minor and miniscule prophets of any of the world’s religions, scientists, scholars, literary / artistic / musical / poetic works, ordinary people and of course, through Nature Herself).

MK : … polytheists are just following where their reason leads.

You could not be more wrong. Yes, polytheists (of the Pagan variety, anyway) use our reason to sort out the chaff from the wheat, but we also place great emphasis on our own DIRECT EXPERIENCE of Deity.

I suppose the biggest difference between Pagans and Abrahmics is that we are absolutely sure that Deity is speaking all the time and that a lot of the messages are tailored to each individual. Put another way, “God” loves us so much that S/He/It/Them will speak personally to us, addressing the unique aspects of our Selves and lives, with words that most likely would be terrible misguidance for you or anyone else.

MK : Because I’ve been granted that revelation …

Again, we’ve been granted “revelation”, too. The difference is, we are not so arrogant as to presume that our message is binding on anyone else.

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Fri Oct 21st, 2005 at 09:19:33 PDT

As a Vedantist… (4.00 / 3)

or what you would call a Hindu, I think there’s a basic misconception of Hindu “polytheism”. As touched on in one of the comments, Vedantists see that all lesser deities (and all beings) are derived from Brahman – which is the name of the one Godhead. We see the “Creator” (Brahma) as being one aspect of Brahman.

But, I think the best way to look at this, is expressed by a conversation I had with a conservative Christian. It went something like this: “Do you worship the Hindu God, the Muslim God, the Jewish God?”

I answered, “Do you believe in more that one God? Brahman, Allah, Jehovah are just different names for the same Source of all existence.”

Ramakrishna had a saying that people took water from different places of a large lake, and called the water by different names: water, aqua, wasser, eau. Same stuff, just different names.

Faith is not believing something which our intelligence denies. Faith is the resolve to place the highest meaning on the facts which we observe.

by mondaymedia on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:04:46 PDT

>curiosity peaked< (4.00 / 2)

As I’m learning through my (and Morgan’s) study of “Hinduism,” saying “Hindu” is more like saying “Abrahamic” rather than actually describing a single religion, is that fair/semi-accurate?

Getting to the point…

As touched on in one of the comments, Vedantists see that all lesser deities (and all beings) are derived from Brahman – which is the name of the one Godhead. We see the “Creator” (Brahma) as being one aspect of Brahman.

This isn’t really all that different from my own beliefs — see my massive response to blue badger for details if you’re interested. What interests me about this paragraph, however, is that if I read it right — admittedly through some bias, as my faith is similar in cosmology — since all spirits are of Brahman, from prokaryotes to the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, wouldn’t that include a belief in the existence of the deities? Whether or not that is polytheism rather than pantheism or panentheism, in my opinion, depends on whether one worships the deities in question, but I hope you see my point.


(/) Roland X
Hmm…now I’m wondering, does Brahman = Taiji or Tao? Inquiring minds… >g<

by Roland X on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:33:48 PDT

Good Questions… (4.00 / 2)

You’re absolutely right in your comparison. The religion of India is very diverse – much more so than the Abrahamic traditions. They do have a common root – called Vedanta, based on the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of the world.

The people of India call their religion Sanatana Dharma – or the eternal religion. A major branch of Sanatana Dharma is Vedanta. The word `Hindu’ is a Western term applied to the religion of those living in India and is speculated to have derived from the name given to the people living east of the Indus River. See my diary
What is Vedanta? Here is a small part:

Vedanta takes its name from the most ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas. While there are specific, historic, written Vedic hymns, they are also considered to be without beginning and without end. They are the accumulated treasury of verifiable spiritual truths discovered by different mystics, saints, sages, and incarnations of God throughout the ages.

Just as the laws of physics existed and were true before their discovery, and would still exist even if all humanity forgot them, so it is with the truths that lay at the core of all religions. Vedanta holds that all the major religions are true, just as many different paths lead to the same mountain top. This is not to say that religions are all the same, but rather that they all lead to the same place. The analogy is given by Huston Smith that a pair of pants is plural at the bottom, but singular at the top. The various religions start from different positions in time, culture, and methods – but lead to the same goal. God, Jehovah, Allah are different names of the same Source – called Brahman in Vedic literature and described as the Being whose nature is Sat-Chit-Ananda – Existence-Knowledge-Bliss.

As to your specific question about whether “a belief in the existence of [multiple] deities”, is polytheism, I would agree if the person worshiping those aspects of Brahman lost track that they are all Brahman (think of the Hindu image of the multi-headed God, like the Jimmy Hendrix album cover).

Otherwise it is just worshiping attributes of Brahman. In the Christian world, if you gave a separate name to the compassionate nature of God, and gave worship to that, it would not be considered polytheism.

A good explanation of this is in the Upanishads:

…as by knowing one lump of clay, all things made of clay are known, the difference being only in name and arising from speech, and the truth being that all are clay; as by knowing one nugget of gold, all things made of gold are known, the difference being only in name and arising from speech, and the truth being that all are gold – exactly so is that knowledge [knowledge of Brahman], by knowing which we know all.”

You might also enjoy a post I did about Vedanta and Chomsky [1].

As for your question about the Tao, it’s my understanding that it literally means the Way [or path] and is similar to one of the definitions of Dharma. Brahman is the goal, Dharma is the means. Some would say, and I think I agree, that the path and the goal become one.

I look forward to reading your massive response.


Faith is not believing something which our intelligence denies. Faith is the resolve to place the highest meaning on the facts which we observe.

by mondaymedia on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 10:15:55 PDT

character (4.00 / 2)

while i’ll confess that i don’t have the power to describe God exhaustively, maybe even all that adequatly…

i do believe that God is fundamentally One in purpose and will.

and i believe that God’s self is so difintively expressed in the person of Jesus Christ, that to not define God from those terms is to say the least a major difficulty.

i’m far more comfortable extending an idea of siblinghood in belief to the Abrahamic traditions to be quite frank.  but in all things, i believe i am called to genuine relationship (i place this in opposition to knowing a person soley for the purpose of conversion), good will towards all God’s children (regardless of if they like that term or not) and service of the other without discrimination.

i think it’s less what i think about other people than what relationships i can have with other people.  

We are being saved for hope.

Romans 8:24a

by martinguerre on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 00:19:09 PDT

“Extra ecclesia nulla salus” (4.00 / 2)

  “Outside the Church, none are saved.”  You don’t hear that one so much these days!  Last I heard, it was still the official line, but has been unofficially amended with:  although who’s to say exactly where “Church” begins ands ends?  That is, everyone is saved through Christ, although some might not be aware that He’s the one who’s saving them.  Face-saving PC semantics?  Perhaps.  But it beats the alternatives.  And you don’t get into all the dumb what-ifs of Ghandi and Gilligan.
  (People used to get positively nutty about this stuff.  Years ago, a Boston priest named Feeney hatched some theory that the repentant thief must have at one point been a baptized follower of Jesus, otherwise how could he have been promised salvation?!)
  I think this includes everyone, not just the Ambrahamic religions in your diary.  But, if anyone is really interested, the “cover story” of the latest issue of America is the Vatican II statement of religious liberty and the Church’s relations with other religions (especially Jews), known as Nostra Aetate, and what has happened in the forty years since the Council promulgated it.

Duns Scotus is Extraordinary.

by Mackerel Snapper on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 05:22:57 PDT

Qualifier: (4.00 / 2)

I wrote:
   everyone is saved through Christ.
That should read:
   everyone who is saved, is saved through Christ.

Duns Scotus is Extraordinary.

by Mackerel Snapper on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 05:25:49 PDT

And: (4.00 / 2)

The Jews needn’t convert, since they and God have a previous agreement.  I think that’s the deal.

Duns Scotus is Extraordinary.

by Mackerel Snapper on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 06:34:27 PDT

It’s not changed (4.00 / 2)

But they’ve been doing a better job of talking it up since Vatican II. As it says in the Catechism someplace, while we’re absolutely sure that Baptism guarantees salvation, that doesn’t mean God can’t have other avenues or other means of effecting Her universal salvific will.

(What that means in English for all y’all who aren’t systematic theologians is that God wants everybody to be saved. The Catholic Church says that we know for sure one method works, and is keeping its options open on the existence of others.)


by musing85 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 06:58:29 PDT

Ooo, I’m starting to like Catholicism more. (none / 0)

Definitely interested in the theological underpinnings here. Great stuff! 8^)

(/) Roland X
Recovering Witness

by Roland X on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:21:59 PDT

As long as they practice what they preach (4.00 / 2)

After all, most religions seem to have times when the “theory” and “practice” diverge widely, like killing the heretic to save his soul or denying a loving committed couple the right to enter into a civil contract while waving “Hate is a Family Value” signs.

But I agree, it is a good start :-).

by Morgan on Th ( (u Oct 20th, 2005 at 10:02:23 PDT

I’m a henotheist (4.00 / 4)

Not a monotheist. I mean what I say when I recite the Nicene Creed in church on Sundays and holy days: “I believe in one God….” But that doesn’t mean I can’t be open to the possibility that others exist. It’s just that I choose to acknowledge one of them, because that’s the best “fit” for me. Other folk may have other ideas, and that’s no skin off my nose.

I usually describe myself as a Zen Catholic, and I think the Buddhists were on to something when they said there was one mountain, but many different possible routes to get to its top. And really, when you get right down to it, I find it hard to conceptualize a God who could bring into being this incredibly complex universe in which we live and move and have our being, with all its diversity, and then insist there was only one right way to call upon that Deity.

When you get right down to it, my personal spiritual philosophy has always been “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” Or, as Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth …than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” If it works for you, run with it. As long as you’re willing to allow me the same latitude, we’ll get along just fine.


by musing85 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 08:05:42 PDT

That says it all (4.00 / 3)

If it works for you, run with it. As long as you’re willing to allow me the same latitude, we’ll get along just fine.

That’s my stand as well. My problems with any given Christian (or other) individual or sect are directly proportional to their inclination to give me grief over matters philosophical/theological. I only “picked on” the Christians there because they’re the ones we pagans are most likely to have to deal with.

One of the things I like about SP: Usually the only Christians we pagans see in forums where we can be openly pagan are the ones who only come in to tell us in ALL CAPS that we’re going directly to Hell if we don’t repent and accept their interpretation of Jesus, Right Now. Most of us are pretty good at reminding ourselves not to judge the rest of Christianity by these bad apples ;-).

by Morgan on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:57:55 PDT

We Christians do have a bad history (4.00 / 3)

with respect to your faith tradition. And that’s a problem–for the obvious reason, but more importantly because it automatically predisposes many people on both sides of the line to be mistrustful of one another, and it encourages people to frame their discourse in “evangelizing” or “get off my back” terms. We should spend more time talking with one another, and less time shouting at each other–and that goes for all the faith traditions in the world, and all the political factions as well.

Myself, as I’ve observed elsewhere on this blog, if it works for me and is not intrinsically oriented toward evil, I’ll happily borrow it, adapt it, or use it. Yes, you’ll find Bibles and Christian ritual books lying around my house. But right alongside them you’ll find copies of the Tao te ching, the teachings of the Buddha, and, yes, books on magick. Some years ago, I was privileged to attend the handfasting of a couple of pagan friends. I think I was the only Christian in a roomful of pagans and Jews (both spouses came from Jewish families)–and a great time was had by all. No, their rites are not the same ones used in my tradition–but the import and the end result are the same, and nobody was asking me to become a pagan, just to celebrate a marriage between two friends. And besides, I’m naturally curious about all manner of things, including the ways in which humans relate to the divine–and this was a perfect opportunity to see how other people did it. I’d have been an idiot to turn it down.


by musing85 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 11:44:58 PDT

It’s interesting how many pagans come from Jewish (4.00 / 2)

My first druid teacher was also a Jew, and I know of several other pagans who were raised Jewish and some who still (I think) practice.

I’ve tried on occasion to theorize why it’s as common as it is, but to no avail. If we have any folks here who fall into that category (or know someone who does well enough to comment), I’d love to hear their thoughts. Perhaps in another diary, though :-).

by Morgan on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 11:55:16 PDT

Ultimate Unity (4.00 / 3)

I believe in ultimate unity. Dualistic concepts like god/goddess, him/her, male/female, lord/lady are  metaphors resolved in the One. We have no reason to accept without question that these categories, derived from observing carbon-based life on our planet, are universal or transcendent. Of The Trinity, Dr. Gail Ramshaw writes that: “ brilliant balance nothing would be said of any one of the Three which does not include the truth of the other two. (from Under the Tree of Life)

Are there higher orders of sentient beings than humans? Other than the possibility of more highly evolved forms in the physical universe. Angels, saints, pantheons of minor deities with limited powers? I don’t know.  

“There ain’t no sanity clause.” Chico Marx

by Asbury Park on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:13:09 PDT

[1] link originally to

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