In Contemplation of the Gods

Since my 2nd semester of graduate school is wrapping up – I have one more presentation to give on Tuesday – I have spent some quality time on the Pagan blogosphere in the last few days. It made me realize just how much I have missed due to the busy school schedule I have, and I am a little frustrated and a bit overwhelmed by how much there is to catch up on. Overall, though, I’m glad I have so much to read through because it means I will have a lot to think about – and therefore write about.

One of the blog articles I read today was Ted Czukor’s “A Contemplation on Caregiving and Karma” over on PaganSquare. One particular passage jumped out at me:

The very act of being born exposes us to pain. To joy and pleasure, yes, but also to grief and pain. We purchased the whole package, and it was unfair to keep pestering God to change the rules. In fact…in fact…it may be that the gods themselves are subject to pain. And they have no one to pray to, to take it away.

This is not something that we usually consider, preferring to imagine ourselves hard done-by and taken advantage-of by powers superior to us. But think about it for a moment: If the price of human life is to be exposed to such pain as this – then what must be the price of attaining Godhead?

This passage actually slammed into me, as if opening my eyes to a new potential reality, and I literally had to spend about ten minutes digesting this before I could process it. That is generally the reaction I have to something when I come across new insights that ring as divinely inspired and profoundly true.

The idea that the Gods themselves feel pain is not a new one to me – I have explained before that the Worldbreaker face of Loki seems to me to be his grief transformed into rage, the pain of his loss an unnameable pain that drives him to the edge of despair and forces him into his role of the Destroyer of Worlds.

What actually hit me here was the idea that the Gods themselves have no one to turn to in order to unburden themselves of the pain they hold the way that we are able to turn to them and unburden ourselves. They bear their pain and our pain alongside it, and few of us ever notice that the Gods themselves carry incredible burdens, generally without a word of complaint.

Czukor makes a strong point, too, when they point out that many people who honor deities tend to blame those gods for the wrongs that fall into their lives. Over the years, I have seen many people blame the Gods for the misfortune that falls upon them, thinking that the misfortune itself is divinely inspired when the truth is that their actions have led them to the misfortunes they face.

I have also seen people grow distraught and even angry at the thought that one of their gods has abandoned them, that they have been left bereft of their gods as if being punished for whatever they have potentially done wrong. This is a thought that comes from arrogance, for the Gods are ever around us – when they seem to abandon us, it is only because we have stopped straining to hear them, too caught up in our own pain and blinded too much by the problems in our own lives to properly cherish the relationships we have with the Gods.

The Gods, who I have learned, are incredibly patient, will wait for decades, if not longer, to draw the right followers to them so that they may craft the best relationships they can with the people they feel are best suited to their paths. One of the things that I have been told by the Gods in the past is that my effort to truly hear them does not go unnoticed. How frustrating it must be to be constantly ignored!

The reason, incidentally, that I shifted my thinking from a monotheistic to a polytheistic framework is one evening that I spent at my ancestral home, contemplating the nature of the existence of a singular God. What came from that meditation was the understanding that the existence of such a God would be unbearably, unspeakably lonely – I empathized to the point I almost felt the need to escape that loneliness by any means necessary. That was the day that I realized that there had to be more than one God, and that was when the shift towards polytheistic understanding really began for me.

The question Czukor poses at the end – what is the price of obtaining Godhead – is not a question with an easy answer, nor a question that can be answered with any real degree of knowledge. There is a method of apotheosis in every religion, although some of those methods are lost to time, and it is the aim of many magical practices to eventually achieve apotheosis.

What kind of sacrifice would such a path require? What kind of hardship would a person face if they chose to walk that path? How many of the Gods are humans who simply reached Godhood? We know of a few – Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, the Dalai Lama – that became Gods in their own right. There have been many more, I am certain of this, but their names have either been lost to time or conferred to us as the names of the Gods we now worship.

I have heard as many people praise the Gods as damn them, failing to understand that the Gods themselves have agency and that having agency means that they, too, are capable of feeling. So, the next time you find yourself blaming a god for the problems you face, perhaps take a step back and contemplate the kind of pain you might be causing them.

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