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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

the Nature of the Gods: how I define Deithe and an-deithe

The subject comes up occasionally - what makes a God a God?

It's a good question, really, especially if you haven't thought about it before. I'm pretty strongly against the idea of omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience - basically all the omni's usually attributed to monotheistic deities - as qualities of individual deities. There's just a level of cynicism in me that finds it impossible to to believe that anything that, well, grand for lack of a better term could or would have any interest in me on an individual level and my own experience does support the idea that we matter to the Gods and spirits in some way. I do believe there is some grand transcendent divine consciousness that holds everything together, beyond even my understanding of the individual Gods but I do doubt that such a thing would be any more aware of individual beings as I am of the single cells in my body or of the separate grains of sand in a desert. If there is such a grand divinity I would think it is so vast and beyond our ability to comprehend that it would effectively be almost impossible to connect to or engage with. Rather I think, perhaps, that this grandness is the spirit of our reality itself*.

Which is where the individual Gods come in. Whether or not we accept that there is a larger grand divinity - and I don't know that it matters whether we do or not - I do believe that there is a hierarchy of Gods and spirits that we can perceive and interact with. I base this concept on my own personal observations and experiences, so I won't claim that its some sort of universal truth or spiritual absolute, but its an approach that works for me. I like to use the concept of a hierarchy because I find that is basically how it works with the beings at the highest level having both the most power and the least interest in humanity and those at the lower levels having the least influence and the most interest in humanity.

At the highest level we have the most powerful spirits, beings that for simplicity's sake we call Gods**.  Gods have the greatest and most pervasive degree of influence over the widest areas, and the fewest limits on their actions and influence. I have seen Gods take an active interest in individuals for both good and ill, and I think it is always unwise to forget the level of power a deity is operating with. There is a range, of course, from an upper end of extremely powerful to a lower end of still-a-god but not as powerful. Gods also, again in my opinion, have the greatest scope of knowledge both of current events and of things yet to come. Why do Gods have an interest in individual people? Well that's going to vary by each person, but ultimately the Gods have their own purpose and agenda, and sometimes they need us to forward that. They work on a scope and scale that is so vast it can be hard sometimes for us to understand the why - although sometimes its pretty obvious. They need us, and we need them, on different levels.

Besides the Gods there are also a wide array of spirits, including those who are almost Gods themselves to those who are almost on the same level as humans, and those below us (influence-wise). Many of the Good Neighbors can be just below the Gods as far as influence and power goes, which is part - I think - of why they have always been so respected and feared. Others however are much closer to us and less dangerous to us. And if you take, for example, a spirit like most ancestors or human ghosts, they are very close to us indeed influence wise and while they can and do help us and provide us with information they usually aren't a significant threat to us unless something unusual is going on (or unless it is an ancestral spirit that has been or is being elevated to a higher level, which is possible - nothing is fixed, everything is fluid). The closer a spirit is to us the more logical it is for that spirit to want to help us or to need our energy.

All of this is of course very loose and there is a lot of grey areas. What I might call a God someone else might call a fairy and neither of us would necessarily be wrong. And I do believe that there is the potential for movement both up and down in this system, so that an ancestor who is honored and prayed to by enough people over enough time can become a deity and a deity who is forgotten and ignored for long enough can lose power. Much like so many other areas of life nothing is set in stone; rather our relationship with the Gods an spirits is a symbiotic one where both sides benefit. I'd also argue that ultimately it really doesn't matter whether what you are connecting to is a god, per se, or a powerful spirit, or one of the daoine maithe, if it does benefit you to have that connection.

*as an animist I believe that all, or almost all, things have spirits, including the world itself, and the solar system, and so on. When I sat down to contemplate this article I had to carry that idea outwards and admit that it is possible that there is, ultimately, a spirit of the manifest universe which could be viewed or perceived as the divine source. Whether or not other realities have their own such spirit I could not say.

**there really is not good definition for god or deity that isn't just circular logic. For my purposes I tend to define 'deity' as extremely powerful being who can influence all levels of reality to the greatest degree; following along with that however not-Gods or 'spirits' are beings with lesser degrees of influence.

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