Anyone who knows me well knows two fairly simple facts about my belief system. One, I believe everything – let me emphasize that, everything – has a spirit. This includes the rocks, the trees, the computer I’m typing on, the monitor you’re reading this post on, cars, bikes, planes, trains, the planets in our solar system and the stars in the sky. There are different levels and degrees of spirit, meaning some are quite large and expansive, and others are very small and specific. Not all spirits are awake, some aren’t necessarily even aware, but interaction can change that state.
Two, while I am no longer Gnostic, much of my theology has been strongly influenced by Gnosticism. Gnosticism, to oversimplify a very complex system, supposes that all that is emanated from one being, and the goal of religion and mystic practice is to return to a state of oneness with that being through experience of the sacred and knowledge of the “truth”, where we get the term gnosis from. I don’t believe in the concept of salvation; I don’t see it as necessary. The world is tough, and sometimes it sucks, but this is not always a bad thing. The world is the way it is because of how we make it and how we react to it; unfortunately, like it or not, people made their own mess. Yet the concept of the universe as spirit has stuck with me, not as an overarching spiritual authority such as in monotheism, but rather as a particularly large spirit which may or may not be even aware of its inhabitants.
Everything having a spirit includes the big conglomeration of galaxies, rogue stars, comets, supernovas, and black holes, at least in my estimation. So, to say that there is not a creature that could be considered the One slightly bothers me and my logic circuits. On the other hand, the spirits I deal with are of this world, to overturn a stereotype, so to believe that this One has any clue as to what I’m up to or what I’m doing or what goals I have for the future is a major stretch. This means that I don’t deal much with this creature directly. I have no problem approaching it – if I have to approach it at all – through the intermediaries that are my Gods and Goddesses. I honestly wonder if they wouldn’t approach it through intermediaries themselves, like the spirits of galaxies or something like. There is even the possibility that, like the Aesir and certain Jotuns, the Gods are sometimes opposed to these other larger entities. The point is, the One, the “All”, is much bigger than one planet or even one solar system.
For monotheists, the “bigger than” problem is a non-issue, because it must be for the monotheistic model to work in most cases. The notable exception to this is Deism, which surmises that God started everything going and then let it run. In other forms, however, God is still a personable entity, going so far as to send prophets, holy men, even His own son (in Christianity’s case) to right the course of not the entire world, or even one continent or immense region, but one small set of people for the first few millennia of existence. In fact, it was only after Christ’s appearance that we see a major drive to convince other nations of their inherent godlessness and try to convert them – before then, the primary conversions were a side effect of the conquest of land, or the natural interactions of neighbors. This makes the whole angle a hard sell for me, but that is partially what faith is for: the evidence of things not seen. Specifically, I’m talking about the motivations of an entity supposedly bigger than the universe and yet so focused on one minute detail of a developing planet. Incidentally, this baffling piece of logic is not what eventually led me away from my Lutheran upbringing, but it did cement my animistic approach to religion after I became polytheistic, a time which overlaps my research into Gnosticism and my settling into a solidly Pagan worldview.
It may be obvious to others that I believe the animistic model described two paragraphs ago to be superior to the monotheistic model. Anyone who thinks so, however, would be wrong. It certainly works better for me and my logic circuits, but there’s much to be said for monotheism. I’m just not the one to be saying it. On the other hand, there are certainly those who have accused me of being monist, or even monotheist, because I believe in an “All” or “One” at all. This, too, I feel is incorrect, because a monist ultimately sees the spirits as aspects of this greater being, and I do not. The simplest way to describe this is, I am not my germs. My germs live in my body, they feed off my cells, they may even benefit me, but I am still a separate entity from them, even though when someone is pointing to me, they are pointing to my germs, as well. They are also pointing to my hair, my clothes, my toes, my bones, and my spleen, all of which are a part of me at that point and time, but are not me, either. In this same way, I can talk about the All and the Universe as being One, yet still differentiate between the All and the Gods and Goddesses and other spirits.
Yet, the universe still exists as a spirit, just as our planet does, just as our continent does, or our country, or state, or city does. All of these things have spirits, have a life force beyond the measurable pulse of blood or crackling of electromagnetic energy in the animistic worldview I espouse. While some are greater than any person on this planet can comprehend, it is not outside the bounds of practice to deal with such entities. At the same time, I feel it is dangerous to expect personal service from the All as if one would a God. By the same token the Gods do not need to be insanely large to be powerful. In heathen terms, the Gods are not bigger than Yggdrasil, or the nine worlds, yet the power they wield is still quite formidable. Even humans have a great amount of power to affect their surroundings, especially in this age of cranes and bulldozers. Using the body analogy again, my germs can still make me sick.