11 June 2013


A few months ago, someone said something that started wheels turning in my head about the nature of my blogging and my writing. It doesn’t matter who said it (although, for attribution’s sake, perhaps I should actually figure out who), but it came down to the problem of writers speaking vocally for polytheism on the Internet and very few other people.

Due to my full-time job, I have stopped posting as much, but that does not mean that I have stopped praying and giving the appropriate devotions to our gods. Time prioritization has meant that my evening attention online has been devoted to other pursuits.

I have started reading a lot of web sites about minimalism and the art of owning and living with less. Many of the concepts stand in line with Stoic philosophy. Minimalism, across all of the blogs I have read, is really about the joy that comes from detaching from possessions to become more aware of what one truly owns. It is quite similar to one of the core Stoic statements about how we can react to things within and without of our controls.

People say many things on the Internet about minimalism. There are people who try to live without trash or with 33 different articles of clothing. They try to only live out of a backpack, or to deliberately downscale, and many take pride in owning very little.

When I think about having that few possessions, it does seem to fly in the face of some religious things I hold dear. The gods of the storeroom delight in having things to watch over (i.e., food, blankets), and the shrines and religious props I own are not frivolous pursuits. It seems perfectly fine to subject human things to such utilitarian discretion, especially members of my generation who move so often and have few roots, but books about the gods and the varieties of incense I burn have become as dear to me as the floor beneath my feet.

I know that I could get away with frankincense, an incense burner, lighter, and the names of the gods etched into sticks. I have done so before.

There is a difference, though, between austere minimalism and Stoic joy. Stoicism is the art of understanding that you may have the world, but that you own nothing but the chaos between your ears. It is very different from minimalist living.

So, to come back to the beginning, many of my musings and much of my devotion has moved offline. I am still thinking about religion online, though, especially because it offers such a wonderful opportunity for hard polytheists like me to discuss our ideas with people completely unlike ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, lots of drama re: The use of the word "Polytheist".

Here in Connecticut, you may have seen a man on TV this morning promoting the benefits of 'mindfulness'. Well and good, but nothing that Marcus Aurelius and his fellow Stoics didn't say earlier and more eloquently.


Kaye said...

Aetius: I know.

Truth be told, I have not been reading many of the discussions for the past few months. When I read about the current problem of name-calling among different types of people in the online pagan community, it made me shake my head a little.

I'll always come down on the side of the hard polytheists. It's not that I think people who talk in terms of archetypes are wrong, though. We just have different understandings of the Gods, and while I may find some of theirs offensive, it's nothing to write home about.

Anonymous said...

I also found the 'divine archetype' notions highly problematic. I also came down on the side of the hard polytheists, when this theological flame war started. It is to deny the essence of divinity, to argue that the Deathless Ones 'come from within' or whatever.

Here's the rub: At some point in the recent past, many within the hard polytheist camp decided that there are no longer varying degrees of polytheism. You either accept a thousand distinct solar deities, each with 1/1000 sovereignty over the orange orb in the sky, or you're no longer considered a polytheist at all.

Henceforth, those with Platonist sympathies shall be forbidden to describe themselves as polytheists. We are now Monists. We ARE Monists, but I find the hostility towards monistic (soft) polytheism startling.

We do not pass the new litmus test for polytheism. Whereas before, we simply self-identified as soft polytheists, this is no longer acceptable.

I share the hard polytheists' objections to 'self-centered' Paganism. Many hard polytheists have made enormous contributions to the Pagan communities online and in real life. This is, however, a major theological fault line.

Sooner or later, you will likely find yourself on the wrong side with these people.


Kaye said...

Been there. So, from a recon/non-recon dichotomy, there are plenty of people on the Internet who judge what I write to mean that I'm not recon because I don't Do It Right. (I think it's mostly because I talk about feminism, although it could be that I offer Japanese incense and a few other nontraditional things.)

I tend to view the Gods as real beings, but to go more in depth on the archetype thing: This may sound like pseudoscientific woo, but I think that part of the power of prayer and traditional Hellenic sacrifice is that it creates a "lattice" in the nerve patterns that fire in the brain that resonate with certain deities, much like how a statue of a deity can become a proxy-vessel for divinity. It's that lattice that is often mistaken for a deity really being within. The deity is not the pattern. The pattern is just occupied by the deity. Traditional rituals, especially those that take into account the philosophers' ideas, tend to enhance these effects.

Also: Platonists are still polytheists (unless they're the Christian kind). This new definition is ridiculous. Since when did ideological purity matter? There is no such thing. It makes no sense to draw these lines in the sand from a polytheistic standpoint.