On Gods and Men

Asclepius, son of Apollo, help me understand. Guide my thoughts, call me to those things you wish for me to see. I acknowledge my biases and ulterior motives, my ignorance, my stupidity. I move my will to counter these dispositions, these structures, as best I can. I look with fresh eyes, cleared from the fog by your gentle light. Give me the words to paint what you show me.

Asklipiós Dóreios, you know that I will follow you anywhere, as I always have, if but only you lead me.

What is it I see?

A distinction; one you often bring to my mind, though as yet without the words I need.

It occurs to me in contexts which concern the difference of scale and focus between Pagan and Monotheist orientation.

I am told true religion ought to be universal, unbroken, and stamped for all to see with divine approval. But, Paganism, I am told, is nothing like this. Its traditions are cultural, not global; extinct, not continuous, and primitive, not reasonable.

So I am told.

I am told that you are not real, Divine Physician. They say you came and went with the people who first spoke your name; like a character whose stories stopped being told. And it is only stories you left behind, Paián. No footprints in the sand, no signatures in the sky.

I am told your stories make of you a man. Mortal in every way, and subordinate to better candidates of divinity.

So I am told.

You should have entered time and space, some will say, and allowed us to see what we long to know: that you are real, that you are here, that we can turn to you.

But in these conditions placed on things for them to be considered real, or concrete, I see what it is they are looking for and calling ‘divine’. An idealized version of ourselves; an ultimate moral agent, whose silhouette is traced by the longings of our deepest desires.

They search the heavens for signs of life; and strain to hear if anything answers to the name they call, blinding themselves to anything outside the tunnel of their vision.

But what order of things do they see us within, Healer? Does the world stop turning whenever we suffer tragedy? Are our lives marked with regular interventions from on high; shielding us from every wickedness and disaster, especially those that would otherwise make it seem our lives are no longer worth living?

Or are we rather left, in some sense, to our own devices; permitted, as it were, to face reality ourselves?

I say to them that we come and go, and the world keeps turning. Nothing spares us from the overwhelming, terrifying, horrors some of us actually face.

I say to them that we are obviously not central figures here, whatever one thinks of Gods. We are but one of innumerable others, scattered across Being and time, hierarchically ordered on a grand, cosmic-scaled ecosystem.

These expectations of you are too small, Kyros; you are so much greater. Whether or not there is an ideal, anthropomorphized version of ourselves out there; all things will still have at least this much in common: that they are each one thing, so that there is something it is to be one thing. They search the heavens for anything to answer the name they call; meanwhile, the One-ness common to all things continues to make each thing count as one.

You are that in each and every single thing which makes it to be one; that in them which is real. You are the whole of all things. All encompassing, ever present.

A God should not be that big, they must say. Such a thing would be too impersonal, and unrelatable…less a God than a mindless force.

But I look not for an idealized version of ourselves, I look for what is. And You are.

You reside in all things by being the one-ness in them whereby they are one thing. All things thus have their unity by being made of you. We are only ‘selves’ because you are our form of Self.

All things subsist in you. You give to each thing its unity: existence to the existing, necessity to the necessary, time to the temporal. And so I touch you everywhere I go, and see you wherever I look. Everything is made of your divine character.

There is nothing more personal.

The distinction returns to my mind: Paganism is about the big picture from a cosmic perspective, and our corresponding position therein. It is grand in each of its foci. But Monotheism is not. It is about us, and about things from our perspective. And so, true religion is defined by it in relation to us.

I say that what it is looking for is not what is true religion, or divine, but what is human.


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