One of the descriptions used by myself to attempt to convey my still developing world view is the term polytheist. Historically, the term referred to the worship of multiple deities, the pantheon of Gods evidenced by, for example, the Norse traditions.
I suspect that this interaction took the form of what may be thought of as a practical living arrangement. That is to say, votive offerings and communication, either through the individual concerned or the religious figure of the community acting as intermediary for the individual concerned. Unlike the structured ritualistic services of the Abrahamic religions designed for the attendance of multiple individuals, I suspect that the nature of these earlier interactions took the form of either the individual or at the most, the family unit.
One may now consider it to be reasonable to assume that the arrangement was one that mirrored the practical nature of the existence of life at that time. That is to say, the names and personalities of their Gods would have been as well known and talked about as much as the family living across from them. Their Gods would have taken on different personalities or qualities and would have been accessed when the need arose, with specific rituals saved for specific times and the attendance of multiple individuals.
The rise and subsequent popularity of the Abrahamic religions, took away this practical daily interaction and placed the deity into the realms of the supernatural, making access available, primarily through the appointed representative of said religion. The consequences of this were obvious, not least, placing control of the individual’s access to deity through the structure of an organization that spanned large areas of inhabitation. The teachings of said religion was one that took it’s basis from the documented scriptures, thus, interpretations of the meanings of these scriptures to the general populace was placed in the hands of those very same appointed representatives.
As this viewpoint, placing a single deity at the centre of theological discourse, took prevalence over the general populace, the names and personalities of these earlier Gods restricted themselves to the smaller groups of individuals who, for whatever reason, chose to continue with this earlier form of interaction. So, polytheism found itself restricted very much to isolated local populations or individuals. This is now representative of today’s society.
The change in cultural ideas in the 20th century and beyond and the emergence of the scientific method have led people to reconsider and redefine their relationship with the realms of the spiritual. Their method of consideration is now based upon the notion of reason and it’s application. This has led many to reject the literal truth of the scriptures because of the obvious inconsistencies involved therein and to a certain extent, resort back to a relationship mirrored in earlier times, i.e. one of a personal practical nature.
My own viewpoint has followed this route also. The prevalence of the scientific viewpoint, and more importantly, it’s methodology, leads one to base one’s reasoning within the structures of what is reasonably evidenced. To some, this takes priority over all methods and their reasoning strictly adheres to this. I suspect that most of us display the qualities shown by our ancestors generally, that is to say, a pragmatic approach.
So, why am I self identifying as a polytheist now? Well, my polytheism is now subject to a modern interpretation. I have never been able to either identify to or interact with, the anthropological identification of deity. Using the strict interpretation of polytheism, my self identification may now look to be on even unsure foundations. Why should this be? Well, over a period of time, I have come to realize my own interactions are based more about what would be considered to be spirits of place or the Genius Loci of Roman description.
These were placed in the realms of the Gods under the general interpretation of polytheism, so as such, I consider the description to still be relevant for my own use.
Using the model of life evidenced to us by the scientific method, we observe that life, however it manifests itself in the natural world, rarely, if ever, stops at a single example. The nature of life is one of diversity and reproductive success through a variety of processes and therefore, one may reasonably assume that there only need to be one form of life to be identified and it is more than reasonable to predict further examples of life resulting from this initial example.
Therefore, if evidence of a life form is placed before me that meets the criteria to qualify as an independent entity, I would consider it to be reasonable to assume there would be further examples of said life forms and as such, meet my definition of polytheism. My polytheism therefore, is defined by the reasoned assumption that the entities experienced by me are independent existing entities and using the example of life as we perceive it on Earth, I cannot perceive of it as a single example. Therefore, they must exist in multiples.
My modernistic viewpoint, however, also structures me to the conclusion that my relationship with said life forms take the form of a relationship based, as far as reasonably practicable, on an equal basis with both parties contributing without compromising the other by a subservient approach.