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AyeAyeMagpie

How do you perceive deity?

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AyeAyeMagpie

A bit of a clumsy question but I'm at the end of a long day with my two young children so my ability to articulate is a bit limited.

I've just caught up with an old thread about Christian pagans and something said by Moonsmith got me thinking about belief in deities and how/why people interpret them in the way that they do. I consider myself to be an atheist and a pagan but Moonsmith's description of him/herself (sorry, I don't want to presume gender) as believing in a non-anthropomorthic deity struck a chord with me and now has me questioning my understanding of my own beliefs. I'm beginning to think I must have a very narrow view of what constitutes deity.

I respect the belief in anthropomorphic deities but I've always struggled with the idea, particularly the notion of interventionist gods. And for that reason I've defaulted to self identifying as atheist. But now I'm wondering if that's lazy of me; if the connection I feel for the natural world is a connection to something that could be described as deity - energy, life force, creator, connecting all things - without it being anthropomorphised. 

I'd really love to hear the thoughts of others on this subject. What's your perception of deity? Have you always felt that way? Have you challenged your own beliefs? Why does your belief (or lack thereof) make sense to you? 

Thank you x 

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Ellinas

Moonsmith is a he/him - well, unless he's hiding something behind his online persona, and not telling the truth in the bit underneath the picture of the bear...

 

What's your perception of deity?

This really falls into two categories for me.  I maintain a distinction between "god" and "the gods".  The former I see as what, for want of a better term, I will characterise as "the absolute".  You could say the "life force", "awareness" or "consciousness".  It would not be inaccurate to say "the universe", but I tend to regard it as something that underpins what we see and understand by that term generally.  I have no idea if personality has any meaning in relation to this concept, and regard it as beyond knowledge - a form of pure awareness, if that makes sense.  Rather, I would say that we are all part of, perhaps an expression of, that concept.

The gods, on the other hand, I see as something nearer to the anthropomorphised.  Having said that, I suspect the idea of deity in human (or even part animal like, primarily, the Egyptian deities) form is nothing more than a convenience for us to get our minds round the idea.  In the end, however, I regard the gods as a sort of "elder brethren" to human - and, indeed, all - life.

Insofar as interventionism makes any sense (and I suspect it can do so only on limited personal level, on the basis that if the laws of physics are not readily broken by physical beings, they are unlikely to be easily malleable for the less physical), I would limit that to "the gods".

Though I'm no expert on Hindu theology, this seems to me to have some similarity to their concept of the ultimate "Brahman".  Deities are, in effect, a form of manifestation or avatar of that ultimate.  As are humans - the individual consciousness being the "Atman", and yet "the Atman and the Brahman are one".

 

Have you always felt that way?

No.  I used to be a fundamentalist Christian, believing in an all powerful, all knowing, interventionist deity capable of expression on a personal level.  My current ideas have developed reasonably slowly since rejecting that belief system.

 

Have you challenged your own beliefs?

Frequently and at a pretty basic level.  See above.

 

Why does your belief (or lack thereof) make sense to you?

I start from the premise that life only comes from life, and consciousness only from consciousness.  A stone is not alive or conscious in any sense that we can detect.  Therefore, I conceive life and consciousness as underpinning physical existence rather than being a product of it.  My question, whenever it occurs to me that I am aware of something, is "who is the observer"?  I know of no conceivable mechanism whereby the electro-chemical reactions in the pound or two of mush in my cranium can be aware of anything, let alone self aware.  My brain, therefore, is not the observer.

This is the basis for my acceptance of the idea of some form of non-physical existence and awareness - if you like "pure life and consciousness".  Essentially, I assert that mind precedes matter.

 

Of course, I can prove none of this.  It makes sense to me.  It is gibberish to others.  Each to his own - you have to decide for yourself how you see the world.

And, as he's responsible for sparking your question, I should point out that this is likely to be quite different to Moonsmith's outlook...!

Edited by Ellinas
In the interests of accuracy and, maybe, intelligibility
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AyeAyeMagpie
22 hours ago, Ellinas said:

Moonsmith is a he/him - well, unless he's hiding something behind his online persona, and not telling the truth in the bit underneath the picture of the bear...

Ah thank you! Sorry Moonsmith for bringing your identity into question, I was viewing the forum on my mobile at the time so I couldn't see the full info. :) 

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Moonsmith

I have wondered whether sometimes, for some people, an interventionist deity is rather the personification of an intervention.  "Intervention" being an event that assumes a personal or social significance.  I'm thinking of rain/drought in central American cultures.

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Ellinas

Maybe.  Certainly that is the sort of thing that can be laid to the door of an interventionist deity.  It's a line of thought that could easily lead to the reversal of the cart and the horse.

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Moonsmith

Volkswagon deism.:biggrin:

Blame/attribution seems to be built into our psyche.  If something happened then someone did it.  The bigger the thing that happened the bigger the person that did it.  Why do you think that church doors are so high.  The bigger the person that does things the more powerful they become either on my behalf or as the agents of my doom.  They may of course be governments as much as deities.  The most powerful of all are the omnipotent "They" authors of all our woes.  As individuals we are impotent and need some bloody big entities on our side to oppose "They".  Enter the Gods .... with the Demons close behind.  You can't have Superman without kryptonite.

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Moonsmith
On 4/21/2018 at 8:53 PM, AyeAyeMagpie said:

...........the connection I feel for the natural world is a connection to something that could be described as deity - energy, life force, creator, connecting all things - without it being anthropomorphised. 

Take a look at Animism.

I was looking to link to a previous post but just type animism into the search box at the top and enjoy what you read.  It's not me but it is many Pagans who feel as you do.

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Earthdragon
On 4/21/2018 at 8:53 PM, AyeAyeMagpie said:

A bit of a clumsy question but I'm at the end of a long day with my two young children so my ability to articulate is a bit limited.

I've just caught up with an old thread about Christian pagans and something said by Moonsmith got me thinking about belief in deities and how/why people interpret them in the way that they do. I consider myself to be an atheist and a pagan but Moonsmith's description of him/herself (sorry, I don't want to presume gender) as believing in a non-anthropomorthic deity struck a chord with me and now has me questioning my understanding of my own beliefs. I'm beginning to think I must have a very narrow view of what constitutes deity.

I respect the belief in anthropomorphic deities but I've always struggled with the idea, particularly the notion of interventionist gods. And for that reason I've defaulted to self identifying as atheist. But now I'm wondering if that's lazy of me; if the connection I feel for the natural world is a connection to something that could be described as deity - energy, life force, creator, connecting all things - without it being anthropomorphised. 

I'd really love to hear the thoughts of others on this subject. What's your perception of deity? Have you always felt that way? Have you challenged your own beliefs? Why does your belief (or lack thereof) make sense to you? 

Thank you x 

My perception of deity varies depending on how I come at deity. In meditation when I ask for contact with deity I can get a mind's eye vision of personified deity. Sometimes I just have the feeling of that sort of presence without the image or shape of them. In both cases there will be a significant feeling or articulation within my own mind that seems to pertain to some element of where I'm at on my spiritual path. Sometimes the experience needs mulling over or reflecting on. In any case, as I see it, we all tend to weave an experience into our existing picture of our world. I try to leave some areas of that picture blank on a continual basis in the hope that I'll be more open to knowledge that is new ( to me anyway hehe ).

I have experienced vivid dreams where I believe I have interacted with personifications of deity. The experiences have been powerful and the interpretation I have just given to them came afterwards upon waking ie. I didn't perceive the characters as god's/goddesses whilst I as in the dream - they were very much like a regular human being though were very big in presence if you know what I mean.

When in ritual or giving offerings I have a different perception of diety. It is more like the feeling of a presence of someone in a room when your back is turned or you close your eyes and they are being quiet. I can feel an atmosphere due to their presence but it's not easy to pin down any particular sense perception that give rise to that feeling. I have had an experience of a presence such as this swooping into an area when deity was called upon for a funeral rite. When she was addressed and the purpose of the calling made clear her presence withdrew somewhat and remained watchful.When in ritual or when thinking about or addressing deity there is often a reaction among energies of nature that are in the immediate vicinity. Bird calls and birds coming close to hand are typical.. Trees making a craking sound or other unusual sounds is another example.

In all of this I view my perceptions of deity as how my senses interact with the energy of the deity and that is always a personal thing for each of us. The element of mind that is involved fashions the experience into my own unique experience. 

Yes I challenge my beliefs and in a sense I don't have beliefs I only have ideas, perceptions and the interpreting of those. My ideas certainly evolve with the experiences that I have and my perceptions change and include new stuff. I like to keep my interpretations not fixed but open ended.

Why do these things make sense to me? 

 I think that there has been a continuity to my experiences and a coherence to them which has seemed stable and takes into account the differences in the way others view deity, and the varying ways that I have perceived it. It makes sense because it works for me in that I feel that my relationship with myself and others has been enriched. I suppose that is based on outcomes rather than logic though we have a saying in Druidism - knowledge is based on Nature's logic rather than human knowledge. This type of saying is meant provoke an evolving, subjective understanding of the concepts and IMO aren't meant to indicate a fixed objective reality just like deity to me doesn't exist in a fixed form as an external entity - personified or not - outside of human experience. The energy of deity is a term I use to identify some of the broad the tendancies and types of process that can be observed in what we call the natural world and how these resonate in different ways.

I would quickly add that I also work with the concept of my experience as being partly collective and non-material ie. outside my physical self and shared with others including people long dead by way of resonance and a shared collective consciousness. 

ED

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Ember Autumn Rose

Honestly? I'm not sure. I overthink things too much, and I doubt myself a lot more :o_lol: I think of myself as a sceptical theist. I do believe there are deities, or there is something out there. However, I'm not sure if that's just because I want to believe in them and not that we're here by pure coincidences again and again.

I'm not sure whether deities are actual beings of some kind, or just anthropomorphised concepts which are relevant to people's lives. I have felt in the past what I believe were "nudges" or a presence from certain deities, but then again, I'm not sure if I noticed those "signs" purely because I want to believe there are deities out there willing to communicate. I think the only way I would know for sure is if they popped up and told me straight... but that is unlikely to happen :laugh: I think it's something I will always ponder, but I'm ok with that.

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Moonsmith
38 minutes ago, Ember Autumn Rose said:

I think the only way I would know for sure is if they popped up and told me straight... but that is unlikely to happen :laugh: I think it's something I will always ponder, but I'm ok with that.

If they are so bloody powerful, why can't they use a big red crayon and simple words?

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Ellinas
2 hours ago, Moonsmith said:

If they are so bloody powerful, why can't they use a big red crayon and simple words?

I think you are confusing deities and toddlers...

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Moonsmith

The average toddler is vastly better at making its wishes known than any deity of which I am aware.

They could learn a lot about humans and communicating from children.

They are said not to be overly concerned about us but as discussed since my first days in the valley, why then do we care about them?

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Ellinas

Toddlers are generally better at that than adults also.

Perhaps deities are even more grown up, and hence even more reticent...

Not sure that humans do "care about" deities - as opposed to what they hope deities can do for them.

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Tobias

Interesting discussion!  These are all issues I'm constantly wondering about.  I've landed on the polytheism side of things, but I can't figure out why sometimes the anthropomorphism of a deity seems *right* and other times it doesn't.  I don't think I have any pearls of wisdom to add to that part of the discussion.  lol

When it comes to interventionist deities, it is real easy to think like an atheist.  None of them are in the business of breaking the laws of nature.  Or if they do, we wouldn't know about it anyway.  Most humans would like a god who does this for us from time to time, but the presence of that desire within each one of us simply reinforces the logic behind atheism, imo.

What it leaves unexplained though, is that pattern of synchronicity many of us experience.  Wisdom teaches us to go with the flow, to swim with the current instead of fighting it.  This is the very foundation of magick, is it not?  I don't think this can be easily swept away as most atheists seem to do.  For me, synchronicity is the evidence of the existence of something... deeper.

Often I think of the deities as ancestors, or disembodied spirits that may have once lived in the physical world as we now do.  They do not directly affect the physical realm, but can offer knowledge and advice to those who will listen.  This mindset works for me most of the time, until something explainable happens.  Then I am left feeling like a idiot and an unbeliever!  And I wonder just how many hands of the Fates it took to weave together a tapestry so complicated.

sigh

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Ethereal

When I was quite young, deity was a chap in a white robe and beard who lived in this place called heaven. No-one could tell me why He was in fact a he or exactly where heaven was.

As I got a bit older and started asking harder questions of those around me, my perception of deity changed to there is lots of them, all with different names, living in different places/realms.

Not long after that point my perception became “it’s all just stories, there is no such thing as deity”. I stayed there for some time.

Now it’s complicated, Deity is. I perceive an overriding, underlying, energy that pervades everything in existence. This is Deity.

However, I also perceive discarnate personalities/energies, which seem to have their own agendas/beliefs/likes etc and that transcend the physical plane.

Finally there are anthropomorphised deities/beings that can exist in the physical plane, influence it, affect it, yet are not wholly of it. This category includes a whole host of critters which came into being through the collective consciousness.

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Ellinas

When I was quite young, deity was a chap in a white robe and beard who lived in this place called heaven. No-one could tell me why He was in fact a he or exactly where heaven was.

Yep,  and when I was a bit older as well..!

 

Now it’s complicated, Deity is. I perceive an overriding, underlying, energy that pervades everything in existence. This is Deity.

That sounds like my idea of "god".

 

However, I also perceive discarnate personalities/energies, which seem to have their own agendas/beliefs/likes etc and that transcend the physical plane.

That sounds like my idea of "the gods".

 

Finally there are anthropomorphised deities/beings that can exist in the physical plane, influence it, affect it, yet are not wholly of it. This category includes a whole host of critters which came into being through the collective consciousness.

At this point, I am unsure.  Are you suggesting, given your last sentence, something along the lines of tulpas?

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nappadog
5 hours ago, Ethereal said:

When I was quite young, deity was a chap in a white robe and beard who lived in this place called heaven. No-one could tell me why He was in fact a he or exactly where heaven was.

As I got a bit older and started asking harder questions of those around me, my perception of deity changed to there is lots of them, all with different names, living in different places/realms.

Not long after that point my perception became “it’s all just stories, there is no such thing as deity”. I stayed there for some time.

Now it’s complicated, Deity is. I perceive an overriding, underlying, energy that pervades everything in existence. This is Deity.

However, I also perceive discarnate personalities/energies, which seem to have their own agendas/beliefs/likes etc and that transcend the physical plane.

Finally there are anthropomorphised deities/beings that can exist in the physical plane, influence it, affect it, yet are not wholly of it. This category includes a whole host of critters which came into being through the collective consciousness.

This is similar to the view I hold, which I'd best describe as shamanic,you speak of an underlying energy which I also believe ,in my system this energy is a constant that flows through the different levels, dimensions, of existence it is transcendental and ties together the realms of present,past and future as well as the realms of the physical and energetic it is the conduit used to travel from the body to the realm of spirit it is the collective mind in which we all exist and the life force we are all born from and return to....it's the hand that lifts the blindfold to let us see outside of the confines of physical existence....

Or it could just be I'm mad......  :-)...but happy in my insanity!

Edited by nappadog
Illiteracy
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Ethereal

Ellinas tulpas would fit in that category, but my definition includes beings such as Angels, Fae Folk, Vampires, Werewolves and all the many others that abound in people’s beliefs and long told stories

Nappadog what you describe makes sense and fits my understanding thus far (limited as that is :laugh:)

Edited by Ethereal
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Væyra

I'd refere to the Hindu concept of Brahman. This is the overarching all-mind/consciousness/spirit (there really isn't a better word than Brahman) in contrast to Devi/Deva. And of course the absence of distinction between them.

Vague I know but if I give you the words to look up, it would be easier than me rambling in circles as to what Deity means to me. Source takes every form for a purpose, even us.

Blessed be!

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Capricorn
On 4/21/2018 at 8:53 PM, AyeAyeMagpie said:

...

I'd really love to hear the thoughts of others on this subject.

1) What's your perception of deity?

2) Have you always felt that way?

3) Have you challenged your own beliefs?

4) Why does your belief (or lack thereof) make sense to you? 

Thank you x 

1) I have completely let go of any kind of concept of an absolute/supreme and/or overarching/underlying/underpinning/inherent divine/divinity, God/dess or soul. Yet I do believe in gods as well as other "spiritual" (for lack of a better word, meaning not human, animal or plant) beings - lesser developed than gods e.g. ghosts, nature-spirits, nagas, as well as higher developed than gods/enlightened i.e. buddhas & boddhisatvas. I believe gods [and other spiritual beings] to be symbolic personalised 'mind-forms' and/or natural forces. That does not mean that they are 'not real' nor that they can't be actual beings (strangely, I do not agonise over the exact nature, which surprises me massively). I also believe that there is an element of awareness within all sentient beings, including "spiritual" beings and an inter-connection; however this awareness is simply an element - it is not a "divine-/god-principle".

2) Hel no! I grew up completely non-religious (for which I'm really grateful). But then with 12 - for some reason or other, probably social convention - I was put into Lutheran 'confirmation class' which children from age 12 - 14 in Germany at my time were put into (unless they were Catholic, then they had the Catholic equivalent from age 11 -  13). That's when I got introduced to the theistic idea of an 'uber- god'. Because my mother raised me a feminist I shortly after "switched" to 'Goddess' for 'God'. At age 17 the whole MBZ Mist of Avalon thing kicked off which was "right up my street" at the time. A couple years later the first Wicca books came into the bookstores. I then went for a decade for a concept of a monotheistic/pantheistic/panentheistic Goddess, with all goddesses being forms of Goddess. I had always problems with "the God" and decided that he was also part of Goddess. Towards the end of my pregnancy and with the birth of my son I fell away from Neopaganism - I craved something deeper (no offence intended). After a detour via Quakerism and Christianity I came to Hinduism - naturally latching onto the Hindu Goddess Tradition (Shaktism). Yet I continued to study pretty much any and all theistic religions and philosophies there are; and engaged in a handful. I kept searching and searching because I never felt quite at peace. When my dog died in 2013 I had a short period of non-theism, because his death (he was in a way my first child) was so raw & real that it catapulted me for a while away from anything I didn't believe in. Yet I also crave/d a philosophical system/framework and soon turned back to my search.

Only very recently have I reached a point where I had become so ill - mentally and otherwise - that I needed a complete break and leave everything behind that I do not believe in and which does no good for me; while concentrating on that which does.

3) Co-on-stantly! for 20 years pretty much non-stop! 

4) It makes sense to me on a logical and rational level. It's in sync with science. It matches my actual experiences. It gives me peace of mind respectively I finally don't have my mind screaming at me any longer.

 

 

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