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Posts Tagged ‘polytheism’

Polly Gods

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 21, 2010

Following up our recent discussion on polytheism, turns out there may be less “true” polytheists these days than I thought.

Meryl commented that Hindus generally believe that the gods are actually representations of the One (Brahman), so they would be “soft polytheists”, in that there is an ultimate reality, or perhaps g0d behind these deities. Freeman, a pagan, characterised himself as a “hard polytheist”, meaning that the gods are separate distinct and real entities. From my reading it seems Hindus might have been hard polytheists once upon a time, but their conception of deities have developed since then.

Bearing in mind the limitations of Wikipedia,

Many Hindus believe in different deities emanating from Brahman, and the majority continues to worship a deity as a matter of personal belief or tradition as a representation of this supreme being.

The Parthenon, where multiple gods were worshipped.


In the Smartha denomination of Hinduism, the philosophy of Advaita expounded by Shankara allows veneration of numerous deities with the understanding that all of them are but manifestations of one impersonal divine power, Brahman. Therefore, according to various schools of Vedanta including Shankara, which is the most influential and important Hindu theological tradition, there are a great number of deities in Hinduism but they are essentially different forms of the same “Being”.

In contrast to the Smartha sect, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism follow an established singular concept of a personal god, as panentheistic monistic monotheism, but differ in their conceptions of the Supreme God. A Vaishnavite considers Vishnu or Krishna as the only god worthy of worship, and worship of other deities as subordinate…

What’s it like to venerate a god, Ganesha in this case? Venga shared this attractive video of Westerners doing Kirtan:

Kirtan opens the heart and stills the mind. It is the yoga practice of ecstatic chanting. Through repeating the Divine Names in Sanskrit, the mind is cleared of worry, doubt, fear and all limiting concepts. The joy of peace and infinite love is given to the practitioner, and transmitted through the world by chanting. This is the practice of bhakti yoga or the yoga of devotion.” ~ Toronto Kirtan Community

This would be the kind of yoga the Hare Krishnas observe, and I guess they would be Vaishnavites as above. I intend to visit them one of these weekends. The food is good, and as I’ve said, music could be a pathway to the spiritual for me.

Some cool words I’d forgotten: “Polytheists do not always worship all the gods equally, but can be Henotheists, specialising in the worship of one particular deity. Other polytheists can be Kathenotheists, worshiping different deities at different times.”

Whew, lots of big concepts and foreign phrases today. For me, assuming it’s real, I think I’d rather focus on the One, or the God behind everything than the “lesser” beings.



? What do you think?

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Posted in agnostic, god, Hinduism, Sociology, spirituality | Tagged: , , | 12 Comments »

White People Need More Ganesh

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 9, 2010

I dreamed briefly about Ganesh last night, the god of wisdom, beginnings and removing obstacles. Meryl commented recently and asked why I find Hinduism weird; it’s mainly the polytheistic side that makes me feel funny. Blue gods, gods with many arms, elephant-head gods… Nevertheless, I found Ganesh ’warm’ enough in my dream.



I‘m amazed to discover he’s “invoked as Patron of Letters during writing sessions”. I’m a writer. Mystical connection, hello? Apparently Ganesha Chaturthi, the festival celebrating him usually falls between 20 August and 15 September— right now. Spoooky. He “is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees in the duration of this festival.”

Many neo-Pagans also believe in multiple gods, of the goddess and her consort at minimum, and possibly a whole lot more for those who identify with the ancient pantheons of the Greeks, Celts or Norse. Hindus can be atheist to pantheist to polytheist to monotheist and more. Indian religions are not one big unity, that seems to be an error of the West in naming the whole lot “Hinduism”:

Westerners approaching the Indian tradition for the first time … are faced with two equal and opposite problems. One is to find something graspable amid the apparently bewildering multiplicity; the other is not enforcing such a straitjacket onto the material as to overlook significant aspects of the diversity. The classic example of the latter is ‘Hinduism’: because of the existence of the name Hinduism, Westerners expect to find a monolithic tradition comparable to other ‘isms’. They remain baffled by what they find until they discover that Hinduism is a label that was attached in the 19th century to a highly complex and multiple collection of systems of thought, by other Westerners who did not appreciate that complexity.

Imagine the area covered by Europe and the Middle East at the time of the beginning of the Common Era— and suppose that outsiders had attached a single label to ‘the religion’ of that time and area. This will give an idea of what happened when ‘the religion’ of India was labelled Hinduism, and the extent of what needs to be unpacked to understand the tradition in its own terms.

~ Sue Hamilton, Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford Uni Press, 2001) p8

I love the Indian people, we had lovely neighbours growing up. It’s the large painting of Ganesh in their living room I dreamed of. I have thoughts about gods being representations of a deeper reality, something Jungian perhaps. I’ll leave that for you to discuss.

So there you go, a mystical/emotional/stupid brain experience (take your pick), made me think warmly about Ganesha. Maybe there’s hope for me yet?


How do you feel about multiple gods, some with alien-looking bodies?

The Moody Blues | Om More Westerners giving it a go. Damn hippies! 😉

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