Sunday, August 14, 2016

Conversations We Need To Be Having: An Ongoing Discussion With Galina Krasskova (Part 6)

For me Polytheism can be summed up in three phrases: the Gods are real, the Gods are many, the Gods are here. If you believe in archetypes, symbols or anything else grounded in the human experience you are an Atheist; if you believe all Gods are masks of one God you are a Monotheist; if you believe the Gods have withdrawn attention from this world you are a Deist. There's nothing wrong with any of those positions, but they are not Polytheism. There's plenty of room for discussion, disagreement and diversity within those three phrases: I see nothing to be gained by diluting those principles in the name of "inclusivity" or "tolerance."

GK: I agree with you. What I find objectionable is not that these positions exist on the religious spectrum, but that those holding them are attempting to co opt polytheism and redefine it to accomodate their positions. If you cannot deal with polytheism as it is, then maybe, just maybe you are not a polytheist. It's this attitude, by the way, that I suspect is the reason why in many ATR houses, neo-pagans aren't welcome. They won't adapt to the tradition but expect the tradition to adapt to them. It's the height of white, western, secular privilege. I include secular there because if one actually believed in the Gods as real Beings, then the idea of taking into account what those Gods wanted, what They've told our ancestors and those who originated these practices would be taken into account first and foremost. Instead, the Gods are given short shrift and rendered tangential to a fetishization of "inclusiveness" and "tolerance." I think quite a bit of the push back we're getting from anti-theist Pagans and Anarcho-Marxist Pagans is a testament to the threat inherent in polytheism. If you want to change the world, return to the Gods of your ancestors. THIS right here is the ultimate resistance because if we become rooted in any large scale way once again in the mindset of polytheism and animism then that has world changing possibilities.

I also have to laugh at the emphasis, a dogged emphasis even, on "inclusiveness" and "tolerance." Firstly, those screaming about these things are anything but. Secondly, it is the very nature of a tradition that there are boundaries. Traditions are not open door experiences. Why should they be? Mysteries are not for the uninitiated. There are processes and rites and ceremonies and study and learning proper protocols that enable one to better engage with the Gods and spirits, to do so relatively safely, and most importantly to do so in the ways that the Gods have asked. If one isn't willing to do that, why should one be entitled to entrance? This of course brings up the question of who is entitled to set those boundaries and here i'd warrant your elders and specialists within a tradition -- you know, the ones the Gods actually task with doing just that. No one else is doing it, and apparently saying "leave us in peace" is oppression. A Tradition is a living thing, a living container for the mysteries of a particular set of Gods, and we are tasked with protecting and nourishing that, with restoring it. What we're being asked to do is allow those who don't care about our Gods, who refuse to give any thought to the most basic of religious fundamentals (like miasma), who moreover are actively hostile to the idea of restoring traditions carte blanche to trample all over them. Why would any self-respecting polytheist choose to do that. yet if we don't, we are told we're intolerant. Well, if respecting my Gods means I'm intolerant, so be it.

Of course what I find truly mind-boggling about this is that this illiberal left in our polytheistic communities seems to truly believe itself oppressed. In a discussion on my fb, Peter Dybing said that "it's the left in polythiest communities that are leading the way. With reactionary right wingers resisting the fundamental changes that are sidelining their narrow views." What fundamental changes would that be? Substituting marxist theory for theology? Eradicating veneration of the Gods in favor of social justice work? Pushing piety out the window as being 'intolerant?' They truly believe that they are oppressed because, those of us who actually care about our Gods won't allow them to run roughshod over our traditions. This is no different than fundamentalist christians whining about how oppressed they are because they're not allowed to ram their theology down everyone else's throat. It's precisely the same narrative with devout polytheists being cast as unreasonable and intolerant.

As I look at India's ongoing sacred cow controversy, I see lots of concern about regional food shortages and on how Indian Muslims have no access to beef because of someone else's religion. I don't see anybody saying "why don't they eat pork?" Because of course Hindu cow veneration is a silly superstition, but Halal laws are an important part of a major religious tradition. We're "racist" if we speak out against hamburger stands in India and racist if we suggest pork farming in Pakistan. Monotheistic double standard much? :)

GK: Of course it's a double standard and as much as we like to think that secularism is the polar opposite of monotheism it isn't. Polytheism is. Secularism is just another form of forced unity of thought and ideology dedicated to the eradication of indigenous traditions, i.e. polytheisms. More and more I've been reading about situations in India where Hindus have to fight to hold processions (there was controversy about this recently with a procession for Ganesh at one of His festivals in Mumbai), to practice their religion, to fill their streets with veneration to their Gods and this controversy should not exist. That land belongs to the Hindu Gods. period. Why should any quarter be given whatsoever to foreign faiths? At least, why should it be given when the result is diminishing one's own sovereignty to practice? Yet an insidious narrative is being fed to this nation from the time of British colonialism that damns polytheistic practice as superstition and puts a premium on diminishing rites and traditions as nothing more than interesting folklore. Why would one defend folklore? which is exactly the point.