When I first became Pagan, when I tried for the first time using a polytheist perspective in thinking about the divine, I asked myself What are the Gods? And what do they want of us? I don’t claim any Revealed Truth on this question, but the tentative answers that I came up with twenty years ago still work for me.
I imagine a thundercloud, and lightning striking the ground. The clouds are undifferentiated and cover the entire sky (God is one, infinite and unknowable) but lightning bolts touch the Earth in
|Image from NOAA|
I also find the Kabalistic image of the Tree of Life to be helpful. The Tree (at least in the post-Elizabethan High Magic traditions that have made use of Kabalistic imagery) can be described as a map of creation. Ten Sephiroth, or spheres, describe ten stages of manifestation beginning with pure undifferentiated spirit at
|Tree of Life|
The individual Gods and the one unknowable G*d are like that, I think. An unusual rock or a pool of water may call to mind the awesome powers of creation, and a worshiper may fall to his knees and pray to it. A philosopher of religion may write a treatise on That Being Greater Than Which Cannot Be Conceived, but never feel the stirrings of awe in his heart or in his belly. Yet both are engaging with the same divine reality, just at opposite ends of the Tree.
So, during and after a week-long gathering of hundreds of Quakers, I find myself tossing around the word “God” as if I were a monotheist, and not worrying about it too much.