Sunday, 30 April 2017

They

SM Stirling, The Sunrise Lands (New York, 2008), Chapter Seven, pp. 160-161.

Rudi Mackenzie reflects that the Gods are too real for it to be safe to meet Them except through dream, vision, prophecy or Their world. This reflection is based on what he has seen of his mother's experiences. Mathilda, a Christian, knows that, when Juniper Makenzie calls, They are likely to answer. The Changed world has returned to the days of Ys when a Christian questioned not the reality but the goodness of the Gods. Mathilda asks:

"'How can you think They're good, if They do things like that?'" (p. 161)

Rudi replies in part by quoting:

"'"Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me..."'" (ibid.)

Mathilda has learned that arguing doctrine with a witch is like trying to cut fog with an ax. This is because witches do not have the same attitude to "doctrine." Participation in a ceremony does not require belief. Pagans do not denounce Mars in favor of Tyr but identify the two war gods. Rudi's understanding seems to be as sophisticated as that of the Ysans.

SM Stirling suggested in the combox here that Classical pagans were embarrassed by Homeric myths when compared with Biblical texts but would have been able to evolve beyond them in the same way that Hindus evolved beyond the Vedas. I feel further that Buddhism, although several centuries older, is philosophically superior to Christianity because it is based on a critical analysis of received concepts and of universal experience, not on an interpretation of prophetic texts. But we must each find our own way through the "thicket of opinions," as the Buddha called it.

11 comments:

S.M. Stirling said...

Note that popular Buddhism didn't maintain the austere monism that the man himself preached -- it became much more of a "religion" in subsequent centuries, and in the Greater Vehicle form acquired an utterly baroque supernaturalist structure. The Buddha's original teaching is logically and ethically very coherent, and powerfully rendered, but I think that for most people it's not one that satisfies a lot of the integrative and emotional purposes that people "use religion for". It's very Apollonian as opposed to Dionysian.

S.M. Stirling said...

The neo-Pagans of the Changed world are very much "neo". The terminology draws heavily on the ancient Indo-European paganisms, but the underlying theology is heavily influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and neo-Platonic thought. It's very much of an "onion" faith; there are multiple layers which you can take it at, starting with the everyday ritual and working up to very sophisticated philosophical concepts.

The "inner" layers don't deny, but instead amplify and contextualize the outer ones, so that a folk-religion of everyday usage that is polytheist (and almost animist in a Shinto-like sense) seamlessly connects with the more unitarian stuff a sage does. The big difference with the Christian worldview is that it it emphasizes immanence and particularity rather than transcendence.

This is an important reason it has a different relationship with the "religions of the Book"; it's not philosophically defenseless the way Norse or Celtic polytheism was.

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Zen combines the directness and simplicity of zazen with the colorful symbolism of the Bodhisattvas for those who want that as well. Perfect. (Just about.) (In my opinion.)
Paul.

S.M. Stirling said...

I've always found the Buddhist-Shinto synthesis that the Japanese practice rather attractive.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Exactly! I have more than once expressed puzzlement over how a PHILOSOPHY as taught by Buddha in its "purest" form could have acquired, as you said, "...an utterly baroque supernaturalist structure." If I'm recalling correctly, Buddha himself had little interest in questions about God or "gods." So I had difficulty understanding how Buddhism gained so many of the "trappings" of a religion: such as monasteries, monks, nuns, ideas about deities, etc.

Sean

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

But I do question the reality of the pagan gods. No, no other gods exist except God. So, I would argue with the Christians of Gratillonius' time that they were making a mistake. Rather, they should have asked pagans how they KNEW there were many gods instead of one God. And used the philosophic monotheism of Plato and Aristotle to demonstrate that monotheism is a reasonable position to take. Once that had been done, they could have gone on to the Judaeo/Christian revelation.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
There was evidence for the Gods and there were Christian miracles in YS but this was the fantasy element.
Paul.

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Ancient Indian atheists were ascetic soul-pluralists or hedonist materialists. The Buddha combined meditation with no-soulism and presented a middle way between asceticism and hedonism. Chinese Ch'an Buddhism synthesized Buddhism with Taoism. Japanese Zen synthesized Ch'an with Shinto. I try to synthesize Zen with modern materialist philosophy. I accept neither rebirth nor hedonism. However: consequences of actions persist; pleasures are mental as well as physical and shared as well as individual so hedonism's got legs (it can go somewhere). I synthesize because I studied Hegel.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

True, but some of the Christians and Mithraists (who were close to being monotheists themselves) considered the Ysan gods to be demons. And thus, as both being created beings themselves as well as being evil, unworthy of and undeserving of divine worship.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Yes. Not nonexistent but demonic was the explanation.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And as time passed that seems to have become Gratillonius' personal, very private, view of the Ysan gods. Demonic.

Sean