Gods Before Humans

Alright, I need to jump into the fray here, because I’m really sick of the perspective of the solitary mystic being the ONLY perspective that isn’t validated or honored by the so-called Social Justice Warriors. I could identify as a non-binary-gendered, multi-racial, differently-abled, neuro-divergent, polyamorous asexual and be lauded and supported, but I cannot simply say: My priorities lie with the gods rather than with other humans and the social constructs they have created – without being told I must accept someone else’s definition of my actions.

Let’s deconstruct this recent post about privilege (oh noooooo, privilege, we must disown our privilege, distance ourselves from it, beat ourselves up over it, gods forbid we actually utilize it, recognize and appreciate the fact that we are privileged enough – through no doing of our own – to be able to turn our attention largely to the spiritual over the mundane world). And let’s set aside the extreme irony of a white cis hetero male telling the rest of us that “there is no such thing as a non-political space” for us, as if he has any idea what it’s like to be me, as if he can dictate my experience of the world. As if my various culturally-recognized labels define who I am, how I see the world, and how I must act in relation to it.

Now, to a degree, I get what he’s saying here – if you define “political” very broadly, then pretty much anything that involves other humans can be labeled as political. But here’s the thing – MY SPIRITUALITY DOESN’T INHERENTLY INVOLVE OTHER HUMANS. My relationship with the gods is between me and Them, and it would exist, pretty much unchanged, even if I spent the rest of my life completely alone on the top of a mountain without ever seeing another human being (and don’t arguments like these make me long for that life even more).

I get it – that’s not the experience of most pagans or polytheists, and from what I’ve seen, most people see “religion” as a social thing, with a little spirituality thrown in (after all, I’ve seen people leave a religion due to lack of community, which to me seems ridiculous – the gods are still there, and that’s what matters). But in every religion, there have always been mystics, individuals entirely consumed by their religious practice, often operating in total isolation, but considered to be important if not essential to the functioning of the religion at large even by the average worshipper. They have the “luxury” (some might say, privilege) of focusing entirely on the spiritual entities and practices of that tradition, so that those forces are being properly honored and attended to and the rest of the population can have a lesser degree of participation and still benefit from that right relationship being maintained.

So I’m not going to speak for anyone else, but for me, as one of these solitary mystics, my religion is not political. Here’s how that plays out in response to some of the points in that post:

“Politics is about power: who gets to use it and when and how.  Politics is how we decide who has power … and who doesn’t.” See, this is about people, and human society. Take that out of the equation, and the only issue of power between myself and the gods is that They have immense power, and I ultimately only have power over my own actions and thoughts. And I’m fine with that. I trust Them. I am even happy to give some of my power over myself into Their hands. I honor and stand in awe of Their power, the power of birth and death and liberation and pain and growth and love. I don’t have to struggle against that power or resent it (an extremely childish approach to the gods I see often from the very political crowd), because it’s not a question of some other, equally limited human trying to assert their will over mine for selfish reasons, it’s just the nature of existence – no more political than the reality that I can’t lift a mountain or turn back time.

“When politics is understood in this way, then it’s easier to see that there is really no place or zone that is free of politics.” Yes there is – any place that is free of humans is free of politics. And that is, primarily, where I encounter my gods.

“Both inner work and external activism are political.  Being political isn’t just about working to change the world; it’s also about working to change ourselves too.” Plenty of inner work has nothing to do with other people, or at least not social groups of them. If I work on, say, being in the present moment more (a key practice of one of the major world religions, by the way, this doesn’t just apply to polytheism), what does that have to do with politics, or privilege, or labels of self-identification, or any of that? I can be present just as well in the middle of a forest (actually, much more easily, because other humans are constantly trying to remind me of the past or the future, which are primary concerns of politics).

“But if you think you’re not being political when your praying to your gods, then you’re deluding yourself.  Think about it … What are you praying for?  Are you asking for help to make the world a more just and peaceful place?  Or are you only praying for more divine favors for yourself, to keep what you have, and get more for yourself?” Well first of all, I don’t pray FOR things every time I pray. Prayer is not just gimme, gimme, gimme. Prayer is exaltation, and gratitude, and love. That is something that devotional polytheists take to heart, and everyone else seems to keep misunderstanding.

But okay, sometimes I do ask my gods for things. And yes, they are mostly for myself and my close loved ones. Because honestly, I don’t think prayers for world peace make a bit of difference. It’s too broad a concept, too many variables involved outside the direct control of even the gods. (And if I do ask for help to do my part in making a social change I want to see happen….well, isn’t that for my own benefit too? It’s hardly altruistic.) But if it’s political to pray for the larger culture, and it’s political to ignore the larger culture in one’s prayers because one has different priorities or doesn’t think it’s practical, then you’ve just defined all of human existence and every possible choice or action as political and it becomes entirely meaningless.

As a mystic, my biggest, most deeply felt prayer is usually “Let me know You better.” How the fuck is that political?

“And what about our gods?  Do yours gods bear an uncanny resemblance to you?” I am so sick of hearing this. THE GODS ARE NOT PEOPLE. They do not “look” like anything, actually. They do not have corporeal form. They can appear as anything They want. So yeah, sometimes Dionysos – as experienced by His worshippers – is a dark-haired, bearded, Mediterranean man, who looks vaguely like me because I also have Mediterranean heritage. But He is perfectly capable of coming as a dark-skinned child or a trans woman or any other race, gender, age, etc. And sometimes, maybe much more often, He is a bull. He is a panther. He is cool green ivy. He is blood, or wine. He is fire. He is a heart-rending ecstatic FORCE with no physical appearance whatsoever. None of these things look like me, none of them look human, HE IS NOT HUMAN.

I did not decide what my god looks like, and outside of the spiritual meaning His guises can convey, I don’t care what He looks like. I was not drawn to Dionysos, or any of my gods, because They do, or do not, resemble my personal characteristics or those of my social group (hell, most of my spirits are known only to me, so that really takes other people out of the equation). I didn’t make a political choice. It has nothing to do with the power structures between humans. I would have the exact same religion were the rest of society to completely change, or completely disappear. THAT is what I mean when I say that my religion is not political, and that for me, gods come before humans. Now, what privileged, socially-oriented so-called radical is going to come tell me I’m wrong about my own self-identification and my own priorities?

~ by Dver on July 20, 2016.

21 Responses to “Gods Before Humans”

  1. Right on! I don’t have much of substance to say to this, but I couldn’t agree with you more.

  2. I’m starting to get the feeling from a lot of the radical lefist pagans (not all of them, mind!), and radical leftists that use the same rhetoric despite often being anti-theistic, that there is some deep-seated, unspoken resentment that we aren’t Gods ourselves, and that we’re forced to interact with these other beings that have more power and knowledge than us in order to benefit from that, as thought they’re withholding something from us by simply existing.

    And then there was the implication at the end that we should think about shunning Gods who don’t have our politically correct interests at heart.

    Leftist transhumanist leanings crop up in the straaaangest places, I tell you.

    • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I think that resentment is one of main reasons they have difficulties even admitting the individual existence of the Gods.

      when you said they behave “as though they’re withholding something from us by simply existing” i think that is a brilliant insight. I think this is it exactly. It’s incredibly childish behavior. It’s not like what they’re doing is going to make them more of a god LOL. and it’s not like their behavior is going to change that natural hierarchy one iota. But I think that those of us who venerate the Gods and support and sustain that hierarchy through our work and devotion are direct threats to their insecurity and the way they see the world and so they are doing their best to contaminate our traditions.

      • It has a lot to do with the stranglehold that the secular religion of humanism et al has been the foundation of Marxism since the beginning, and therefore leftism as a whole. Leftists who reject Marxism are few and far between and I may have been the only G&R contributor who does. But I can barely call myself a Marxist anyhow. Marxism, being a cultural religion, has it’s own salvation doctrine, and SJ is part of that broken narrative. (Many of my thoughts on this has been influenced by John Michael Greer, who, if you’re not already familiar with him, you might hate.) In reading Star.Ships right now though, and the author’s basic premise that archeology is so broken in no small part to academia’s secular lens is very compelling to me. How much of our perception of human history change if we acknowledged that most of what we have ever done was because we loved the Gods and spirits instead of merely appeased or petitioned them?

  3. […] Read the entire thing here: Gods Before Humans […]

  4. Dver, thank you for this post. You have summed up their egotistical, small minded horse shit perfectly. It’s so clear that the Gods play no part in their world. They can’t seem to conceive of Them outside of their own limited human priorities and existence. It’s sad and I’d have deep compassion for their ignorance if they weren’t trying to poison our communities.

  5. I’ve been mulling on my own post in this discussion, myself. While I do have points of agreement with, honestly Ginger Drekisdoitter’s original post that this one about 80% plagiarised a couple key paragraphs of (also on G&R), and to some extent, his shoehorned-in afterthought of a rebuttal to Beckett, you’ve also brought up several points I am planning on bringing up, myself:

    * religion IS more than just the community practise that many people focus on. Polytheists, being a smaller and more scattered movement, seem to understand this better than an atheist would. Community practice is certainly important and valid for those who need it, but by assuming all aspects of religion must somehow include community practice, well, isn’t that an act of privilege, by way of erasing the experiences of others?

    * while I certainly agree that it’s important to have images of the gods that go beyond gender-conforming white people, and perhaps these images needn’t be confined to pantheons Whose worship originated outside Europe, but the gods also are not human, and can, and often do appear to people well outside human form. The oldest form of Eros regarded in Thespiae was an unwrought stone. Psykhe appears as a butterfly. The oldest graves of housecats, found on the island of Kypros, were found with seashells, a symbol of Aphrodite (Whose cult originated there), which suggest to me that She also presents as a cat. By focusing on human form of deities, we lose sight of Who They really are, which is, at the very least, more than human.

  6. […] of the more mature and clear thinking polytheists has just posted an important reply to the most recent round of BS from some of the Righteous Radical Social Justice Warrior crowd. It […]

  7. If the mono-culture sets up that we live in a fallen world and have original sin, it will seep into social justice workers who insist on policing the rest of us. I saw it in the Sixties in the local Christian churches, and of course in the 1850s, dueling Churches split over slavery – Southern branches using the Bible to condone it, Northern branches using the Constitution to abolish it. I do believe that it is a part of the Christian DNA, the social justice policing, since it means that we all need to confess to our guilt to absolved of it, and then the final Paradise promised by God will come.

    This mono-culture has definitely bled into and is now a part of the DNA of Neo-Pagansim. Somehow, (leftist) politics equates religious activity. Note, that the politics is never conservative in nature, which would embrace traditionalism.

    As for blogger of “Privilege and Gods….,” you will find going back three years, that he reacts to what Beckett writes. Much of the blogs are nearly instant rebuttals of a blog of Beckett.

    I have noted that social policing and micromanaging of others is a way to avoid peering into their own abyss of powerlessness. Polytheists, on the other hand, admit to their powerlessness and embrace it.

  8. I agree with you, but never underestimate the ability of the cultural Marxists to hunt down “privilege.” Perhaps you are “privileged” in being able to be alone🙂

    While I am here, let me say that I have found “Dwelling on the Threshold” to be a valuable book—it stays part of my bedside collection.

    • Ha, you’re right – and I’d say that I *am* privileged to be able to be alone (and I don’t see anything inherently shameful in that), but also at the same time one could say that being a mystic and being a natural loner actually puts me in one of their hallowed “oppressed” categories, as I am constantly having to fight against assumptions made by the vast majority, geared towards social, mundane thinking.

      Thank you, that’s so awesome to hear! I have one of your books close by as well (Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance, which helped get me started in mask-making being a prominent part of my practice).

  9. […] Alright, I need to jump into the fray here, because I'm really sick of the perspective of the solitary mystic being the ONLY perspective that isn't validated or honored by the so-called Social Justice Warriors. I could identify as a non-binary-gendered, multi-racial, differently-abled, neuro-divergent, polyamorous asexual and be lauded and supported, but I cannot simply say: My…  […]

  10. […] of Western civ in general, and modern approaches to polytheism in particular. In my comments on Dver’s recent response to John Halstead, I noted that many of us still seem to take a materialist approach to our religions – though […]

  11. I’ve had a lot of these thoughts myself and you’ve written it here much more elegantly than I ever could have. I have nothing useful to add, just “Yes! THIS!”

    Reading G&R is pretty similar to speaking with my ultra conservative Republican Catholic father- the beliefs are polar opposites, but the tone and the tactics are exactly the same.

  12. Sounds like this is primarily an American issue…. you guys are always squabbling amongst yourselves as though you dwell on Mount Olympus itself.

    Please tell me that you are, at the least, united in keeping Trump out of the driver’s seat?

    si deus si dea
    sive mas sive femina

    • It may be an American issue, for sure. Gods know we have a lot of problems right now that are at least somewhat unique to our country. The “radicals” claim to have lots of international support for their position, but I have no idea if that’s true, and I don’t see many non-Americans getting as aggressive about these same issues.

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would sincerely hope that no polytheist is foolish enough to vote for someone who is so vile and against so much of what we hold dear. While I don’t always agree with the tactics of the SJW’s when it comes political action, I think we’re at least going to be voting the same. I feel bad for the rest of the world who can’t vote against him, but will have to live with his international policy if he does get elected.

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