For those who didn’t know, I am currently enrolled in an accredited seminary. My first quarter wrapped up, and during the interim, I’m hoping to get some writing done! Yet, the more I thought about what I wanted to write the more I realized that folks need to understand the angle from which I’m approaching things or it is going to be very hard to articulate some of the points I’m hoping to make. This post will summarize my personal ontology as well as address some questions I’ve had when articulating this ontology to colleagues and friends.
The Creator is the first cause from which all universes and realities spring. The creator has generated not only the forces that caused our universe but an untold number of forces that caused other realities with other laws; some of these realities sustain embodied life and some do not. The Creator creates, the Creator must create, and the Creator only creates. I’m uncertain of whether we can have a direct personal relationship with the Creator. By this I mean I’m uncertain whether a relationship with the Creator that is not mediated by a God. I don’t believe that the Creator directly meddles in mortal affairs (human or otherwise).
Since experience is a huge part of my theological formation and I have not had much experience with the Creator I don’t have much more to say about them.
Q: Why don’t you just focus on connecting with the Creator? Aren’t they the source of all being?
A: I get the instinct behind this question. I think it is one crouched in the esteem for which people hold their mothers and the process of gestation, but if a person’s only friend and confidant was their mother we’d probably consider that individual severely lacking in social support and experience. I think it is worth noting that even among Christians there is not a relationship with one, undifferentiated entity. At minimum Christians have a relationship with a Trinitarian expression but may have spiritual relationships with saints and angels as well.
Q: Do you think all deities are just facets of the Creator?
A: No, I believe them to be differentiated from the Creator as emanations. The creative impulse of the Creator resides within them, within us, and within all being, but they are still differentiated as discrete but interconnected, interwoven beings. I do think that the deities we see expressed across the world are facets of Gods proper, but I will discuss that further down.
Q: Do you think there is some sort of destructive parallel to the Creator?
A: I dunno. If there was, how would I even experience it without connecting to a force that would utterly destroy me? It is something that is worth considering, but as my theology is informed by experience it isn’t something I currently believe in.
The Gods/Principal Forces
The gods are the principal forces emanated from the Creator through which our universe is generated. Their essence is woven into the very fabric of our universe and they sustain it completely. All souls are emanated from the gods and it is from the gods that a being receives that divine spark. All souls gravitate towards the god from which they sprang. The gods also emanate all deities that we see in cultures across the world. I will discuss this later, but essentially it means that all deities exist in a very real way, but that there is a Minerva beyond Minerva, a Lugh beyond Lugh, a Christ beyond Christ. The god behind a deity is not identical to those they’ve emanated; if we are fortunate enough to connect with a god in this lifetime we will likely visualize them as being similar to the deity that elevated us to them.
The principal goal in life is to join the retinue of the god from which our soul sprang. I hesitate to use the language of “return to” or “merge with” because I strongly believe that interwoven, interdependent differentiation is both a spiritual and physical reality. My partner and I may operate almost as one unit at times, but we are still two separate entities. With the gods, we can get so close what is separating us becomes imperceptible, but we still remain differentiated. The means to do this is different for every person and varies depending on the god from which they sprang. A person may have had a moment where they realized that they will join their god after they die or they may be oblivious, the markers of this reunion are reflected in the way a person exudes their god’s goodness. Our suspicions or thoughts don’t matter, the reunion will happen when it happens.
The gods are totally and completely good. This means that they don’t try to screw over mortals, they aren’t petty and they don’t take vengeance. They are concerned with upholding and supporting the realms of this existence and are therefore not motivated by self-interest.
A person can experience a connection with these principal forces in this lifetime and that connection will result in gradual but significant changes to the individual. Their soul’s nature will shine through and be expressed more fully through their embodiment in this life. What this looks like varies, naturally, from soul to soul.
Q: Are you saying that [Athena, Odin, Amaterasu, etc.] and [Minerva, Hermes, Sunna, etc.] are the same being?
A: No, I am saying that they are emanated from the same entity. Connection with one of them to a transcendent level will enable connection to that being beyond them, the Athena beyond Athena and the Minerva beyond Minerva are the same beings (probably). Athena and Minerva are not (maybe). I do believe that some deities are transpositions of an expression and some are unique expressions, but let’s cross that bridge further down.
Q: Do you believe you have to worship a god to achieve reunion with them?
A: No. Each soul is a spark from a particular god. This determines what will elevate the soul of an individual. For some, it may be through attaining knowledge and wisdom, for some it may be through honing the body, for some it may be through deeply loving another person, or a myriad number of other things or combination of things. There is no singular answer to this, and I understand that is upsetting to some folks. It implies that there is no guidebook, no set of rules, and no doctrine that will lead you to your soul’s reunion, but I also think to realize this is incredibly life-giving.
Q: I used to be an intense devotee of one deity, now I’m an intense devotee of another deity. Are you saying that my soul “changed” somehow?
A: No. Within the context of my own theology, it would imply that those deities are either emanations of the same principal force, or the deity served as a stepping stone on the journey to whom your soul is longing for. I suppose it could be possible for two souls to inhabit one body, but I have no further thoughts on that.
The Deities/The “Gods”
These are emanations of the principal forces. I try to refer to them as deities within this post for the sake of clarity, but in other writings, I may refer to them as gods. The quotation marks indicate the ambivalent usage of this word in my writing.
Despite mythologies surrounding them, are completely benevolent. Their primary function is to aid mortals in reunion with the principal force from which their soul sprang and to participate in the upholding and support of the realms of existence.
The deities which we see cultures worshiping and having genuine interactions with are completely real, but this does not imply that each deity is a discrete being. Cultural transpositions definitely occur which we see with the examples of Ganesh to Kangiten, Saraswati to Benzaiten, Apollon to Apollo (I’m cheeky, I know), and others which we have clear lines of transmission. In many other cases, there is no way to know for certain whether two deities are actually different cultural expressions of the same deity.
Regular offerings and meditations on the nature of a deity can lead to an individual having that first transcendent moment where they experience the grandeur of the deities. The encounter of a deity through devotion will permanently alter a person’s life and worldview even if that deity is in no way related to the principal force from which a mortal’s soul sprang.
Q: My gods aren’t benevolent at all! They are demanding and will devour you/fuck you over in an instant! How do you explain THAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
A: First of all, cool it on the punctuation. There are a few possibilities that exist in this instance. One possibility is that you are misinterpreting the actions of your deity or you are ascribing things to them that were not their will. Another possibility is that you WANT to have that sort of relationship with a deity or set of deities and they are giving you exactly what your heart desires. I find this is often the case with people who bristle or clutch their pearls at the mere suggestion that the gods are essentially benevolent, for whatever reason it is integral to their worldview that the gods NOT be benevolent. The last possibility in my mind is that your deity isn’t actually a deity. Your non-benevolent “deity” may be venerated, adored, or liked, but real deities serve to bridge us to the principal forces and this cannot be done by a being that is not primarily motivated by benevolence simply due to the nature of the job. You are worshiping some sort of spirit, ancestor, or perhaps even a malevolent force, but not a deity.
Q: Since all deities are bridging us to the principal forces, does that mean it is okay to just mix and match and create my own custom pantheon?
A: I don’t think there is anything wrong with this on a basic level, I think that you are making it harder on yourself whenever you remove the expression of a deity from the context of their culture. Deities, as expressed in a particular culture, are inherently linked in some way to the other deities worshiped within that context; by removing them from that context you are missing out on a lot of their aspects and therefore truths about the god behind the deity. Furthermore, when you conduct public worship of deities from multiple cultures you end up with something that is usually symbolically incoherent. There is also the moral issue of appropriating deities and practices from cultures that currently exist and that have been colonized by the West. It is one thing to engage in worship when you’ve been invited to do so such as through initiation, by attending shrine or temple worship, or through some other appropriate means. It becomes morally wrong when you simply decide to appropriate deities from a living culture without any engagement, any participation, or any real connection beyond you just appreciating a particular deity. If you want to worship a deity from a living culture that you have no connections to, think about how to do that in a way that doesn’t promote the colonizer narrative and doesn’t reinforce imperialism.
Q: How do you interpret Christ/TheFather/Holy Spirit in this context? Do you consider them deities or something else?
A: I believe that Christ was a human being who managed to achieve a connection in a very deep way with his god during his life, to the point of almost complete identification with Them. I believe that the Father is a deity derived from the Christian interpretation of the deity YHWH. I don’t believe YHWH to be the Creator, but I do think he had very good PR from a kingly figure insisting he was the Creator. The Holy Spirit appears to be some sort of very close attendant to YHWH, to the point of almost complete identification with him. Hence, within the framework of Christianity, a differentiated Trinity is certainly possible within my theology as long as one does not insist that the Trinity is the Creator.
Saints, Bodhisattvas, Heroes, etc.
These are individuals who were venerated long after their deaths and continued to have some sort of influence on the living. I separate these individuals into two separate groups. The first are humans who did not yet achieve reunion but are sticking around to protect and help their communities or a geographical area. They tend to be heavily tied to a particular geographical location and exhibit extreme favoritism on who they bestow their blessings on. The second group are humans who did achieve reunion but have elected to stay around so that others may do the same. Many saints and bodhisattvas fall into this category. These beings are eager to help those who seek their aid and are especially prone to assisting those souls with whom they share a common originator. They may be easier to commune with at specific geographical locations or if you are of a particular profession or status, but in general are quite approachable.
Ancestors and Honored Dead
Ancestors and the honored dead are individuals who have died recently and have still not undergone the process of rebirth. These include our relatives who have passed on, our friends who have passed on, our mentors who have passed on, and our cultural icons who have passed on. If they are honored and kept in our memories then they will continue to stick around and may eventually become equivalent to the heroic dead mentioned previously. When they are fully forgotten their soul is reborn into a new body, but an afterimage (perhaps thought of as a shade or eidolon) remains that can be connected to in a limited way. These dead care deeply about those that they are/were close to and are therefore the easiest to connect with. They want to support you on your way forward and will usually do what they can to help you.
Usually, even dead that weren’t excellent people whenever they were alive will be much wiser, compassionate, and open after death. This isn’t always the case though and some dead may be vengeful, hostile, or wicked. These dead must be dealt with in an appropriate way so that they can re-enter right relationships with their kin and eventually move on to rebirth. The gods assist in this endeavor, the deities assist in this endeavor, various spirits and attendants assist in this endeavor, and the living assists in this endeavor. Remember that goodness and benevolence I talked about? This is one of the places it finds an expression.
Humans are embodied creatures with souls. Each mortal being, humans included, possesses a spark from one of the principal forces which longs for reunion with its source. Due to the fact that we possess this spark, even the cruelest and most malevolent behaving among us still has an essential seed of goodness. Therefore to honor the gods we must honor the divine spark that dwells within each and every creature, though we will inevitably fail, striving towards this is important. We all have inherent worth and dignity.
Our soul is not the only gift that we receive from the gods, keep in mind that the gods are the cause of our existence. Therefore our bodies, sex, food, the ocean, our planet, joy, sorrow, birth, death, and every aspect of existence that contributes to who we are is a gift from a god. We are completely and totally children of the gods. This also means that all beings possessing souls are similar to the deities as they both are emanated from the gods/principal forces. The major difference is that the deities do not exist as embodied beings, we do. This comes with advantages and disadvantages, but at the end of the day, all beings with souls are kin to the deities.
I believe that all life is endowed with a soul and therefore much of what I’ve said about human life is applicable to non-human persons. I don’t believe that humans are reincarnated as non-human animals as a form of punishment and I don’t believe that non-human animals are incapable of being reunited from the god who generated their soul. This also means that I think for those of us who have the privilege to choose to be vegetarian or vegan, those diets are morally superior to omnivorous ones. Saying this makes me a bit of a hypocrite since I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but my stances have no relation to making me feel good about myself. My stances are what I’ve concluded to be true.
I’ve never met any aliens. I’ll update this when I have.
Q: Are you saying humans don’t get punished for their cruelty?
A: More or less, yes. I don’t believe there is some continuously running moral bank account or tally that determines how and when we get punished. We take action and reap the consequences of those actions. I drink coffee and feel jittery and anxious, that is not a punishment but merely a consequence of my actions. A punishment is an intentional response to an action. If a being takes an action that action has consequences for good or ill. Those who perpetuated genocides and suffering may incur nothing other than living through the cycle of rebirth again. I understand that this may be a hard thing to swallow, but retribution is a very human concept and it doesn’t really have much room in the divine order of things. The principal forces and deities are merciful beings because of their goodness and benevolence. This means that if an evil system and a destructive line of thought is being promoted in this life, we have a duty to undo it and fight against it. The gods desire us to live in equitable and just societies and therefore it is up to us to right wrongs in this life, here and now.
Q: Why aren’t you vegetarian if you believe it is morally superior? Also, animals eat each other all the time!
A: Cultural indoctrination, poor impulse control, a meat-loving partner, and laziness. If I was single and had sufficient means I would definitely be moving towards a vegetarian-oriented lifestyle. Vegetarians and vegans are living with respect for the interconnected web of life and for the divine spark dwelling in all beings so it pisses me off when folks act shitty to them for that.
Animals eat other animals also isn’t a satisfactory argument for why eating meat is morally neutral for those with the privilege to choose otherwise. Human beings have a choice on what we eat and are capable in many cases (but not all!) of choosing not to consume the flesh of other beings. Dogs don’t have this capacity, bears don’t have this capacity, etc. It is a strawman argument to equate human consumption of animal flesh with non-human animals’ consumption of animal flesh.
Q: Are you saying that humans should be worshiped like deities?
A: No, humans and deities have a common source but are essentially different in composition. It is the difference between dark chocolate ice cream and a delectable roasted brie. They are both derived from dairy but they are not interchangeable and have vastly different qualities. One isn’t better than the other, they are both wonderful expressions of dairy.
The deities are our kin. Our worship and reverence for them are rooted in our interrelationships (which includes reciprocity), their wisdom, and their benevolence.
Attendants and Spirits
Attendants are expressions of deities intended to convey an essential trait about them. Some examples include Aphrodite and the Charities, Hera and the Horae. Attendants are not without their own wills but are utterly devoted to the deity which expressed them. They work to uphold the order of things by supporting the deity which generated them. We can have relationships with these entities but usually don’t unless we have a relationship with the deity they attend.
Land and Nature Spirits
These are the spiritual beings of the natural world. These manifestations are generated as expressions of the connectivity of a particular ecosystem and may be single in number or plentiful in number. They aren’t particularly benevolent or malicious, but they may lash out when their area is threatened or harmed. When nature or land spirits of a particular region don’t like you, you may feel a deep sense of unease. Even those not sensitive to spiritual matters may feel a sense that they shouldn’t be in a particular location, or that they are somehow intruding. Spirits belonging to a particular ecosystem change with that ecosystem, if a plain region becomes forested the spirits change along with this new reality. If an area is completely desolate and devoid of life the spirit may become inert or die.
Examples of land and nature spirits include nymphs, satyrs, fae, kodama, nereids, and wights.
Spirits of Place
These are spirits that come about as a result of human habitation and interaction in constructed places. Usually, a home that has or had inhabitants will have some sort of house spirit dwelling within it. This spirit is shaped by a lot of factors, the people who’ve dwelt in the house, the age of the house, the neighborhood the house is in, and the climate are elements that commonly affect the house spirit. Destruction of the house results in the destruction of the spirit.
Spirits of place also exist at other human buildings that are continuously used for some purpose. Churches, synagogues, community centers, and other places where people regularly gather and have an attachment to will generally have a spirit associated with it that is easily felt by most people; the same goes for museums and libraries. Even office spaces may have a spirit associated with it. For whatever reason, office spirits are usually very simple and very “loud” in presence. Walk into an empty office space and immediately it may feel bright or oppressive or dull despite no one being there. That is the spirit of that space announcing its presence to you. Usually, the initial sensation goes away quickly but sometimes the feeling will linger. I haven’t deduced what causes this difference.
Examples of this spirit include the genius loci, certain interpretations of the agathosdaimon, house wights, and certain kind of fae.
There are of course many other kinds of spirits. Some are helpful, some are harmful, and some are just tricky. These spirits can come from a variety of places such as human-generated (like house spirits) or emanations from a deity or emanations from the gods (not all sparks have to be embodied). Listing and describing them all take up far too much space. At this point, I’m just going to note they exist and move forward.
Q: Do you believe in angels and demons?
A: Yes, though I have had no interaction with either group so I can’t really say more than that.
Final Thoughts and an Invitation
This ontology is informed by experience and reflection and is therefore subject to change as I take in new information. The biggest advantage contained within this structuring of the universe is that it makes space for most religions to have a valid truth claim. It also inherently encourages religious pluralism due to the focus on the divine sparks being reunited with the god that they sprang from and the belief that the best way to do that varies from soul to soul. Different religions encourage and focus on different practices and virtues that help elevate the soul and since the deities of most religions are manifestations of the gods/principal forces, what truly matters becomes the practices and symbolism speaking to your soul.
I invite anyone with questions or thoughts on what I’ve written to post them constructively. Hostile, insulting, or deprecating remarks will not be tolerated. Proselytizing will also not be tolerated. Remember that this is not an exhaustive description and I expect this post will grow as I answer more questions and edit it.
I look forward to hearing from you!