A Question to Ponder

So here is my ethical question for the day, a variation on one that I often have my students ponder and gnaw upon.

You have a deeply held ethical, emotional, political, etc.etc. (pick your poison) position/belief. It’s a core focus for your engagement with others, something that defines you and that you deeply cherish.

You have a powerful theophany with a Deity you adore more than all Others. That Deity directs you, in no uncertain terms, to take a position exactly opposite the one you hold, to give up your dearly held belief, to turn your world on its head, or, perhaps, to move to exactly the opposite side of the spectrum.

Like a good polytheist, you consult diviners, oracles and it is a true theophany. You pray and meditate desperately. Perhaps this theophany happens more than once. No matter what your diviners do, no negotiation is possible. You are being asked to change.

What do you do?

(i’ve been in this position twice with two Deities and after a few shaky nights and a lot of cursing and crying i did what They wanted. it was at the time devastating but i got over it and in the end things worked out much better than if I’d balked but not everyone is going to do that. I’ve seen people, colleagues I care about, in the same position who flat out refused. (the results of which are for them to tell not me).

So what do you do and how do you know to do it? People have been asking me privately a lot of questions lately about HOW to do devotion well, how I do devotion well. well, here it is. Dealing with things like this. I was talking about this, and some of the ethical questions I often chew on myself, with a friend this morning who said: you should post that. So here it is.)

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Posted on December 29, 2015, in devotional work, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I think, in the end, I would have to at least try to do it. I have to trust They are wiser and can see far more than I can, and that They have a good reason for setting such a difficult task. A bigger problem would be being told to give up a deeply important relationship.

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  2. Thank you for posting.

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  3. It has happened to me on several occasions…and I’ve pretty much done it without much fussing. (Not that fussing isn’t something that can’t or shouldn’t occur, but anyway…!?!)

    If I have been involved with someone or something, it isn’t going right, and I do divination to find out if my Deities approve of my continued interactions with those things or people, and I get a negative response, then that’s it. Several things in the last year, and in the last five months in particular, have been matters of “I’d like to still do this, but if the Deities say I can’t, I won’t,” and they’ve said I can’t/shouldn’t, so I haven’t continued on; and in some cases, when I’ve asked if I should break away from someone or something that I’m not happy about and I ask Antinous and Friends about it, and they say “No, stick with it,” I’ve stuck with it, even despite my anger or frustration or disappointment, etc. I trust They know what They’re doing, and thus have continued on where They have suggested doing so, and have severed ties and stopped activities where They have also indicated I should do such.

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    • with being involved with someone, my gods dislike that, no question .that person’s gone from my life. bye bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. that’s a hard line for me.

      I find it harder when I”m asked to violate a dearly held ethical stance, which happened once.

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      • Just to clarify: “being involved” doesn’t only mean dating/relationships/etc., it means having anything at all to do with a particular person, organization, etc., whether they are a friend, a religious associate, a collaborator on a project, etc.

        I haven’t had the ethical matter yet; I’ve wanted to sometimes be more compassionate than certain parties deserved, and was told by my Deities “No, you don’t have to do that, we don’t require you to and it is clearly hurting and upsetting you to try and live up to such a standard, so don’t bother with the people/situations where you’ll feel like that.” And, honestly, that’s fine. I try to have (as one of our prayers says) “my mercy and compassion and forgiveness extend to all,” but when it is scorned, it doesn’t extend in those directions any further.

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  4. For people dealing with this situation, it might help to ask the Deity in question to help you come to understand the reasons for Their wishes. Not as a tactic for negotiating out of it, since we’ve already made clear that this situation is a direct order, truthful, and not coming from a harmful entity–but as a way to help you adjust and adapt. I personally think that as people grow and change in life, it’s often necessary to give up cherished beliefs, sometimes even very central ones, and if we aren’t giving them up voluntarily, the Gods may need to intervene. They also may simply need us to change for Their purposes–a situation where Their needs or the greater good make such a change necessary. Sometimes we don’t get to know why, or we won’t understand it until time and further growth give us the necessary perspective.

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    • I actually really balk at that. It would never occur to me to ask Odin why. not my place to know. I don’t need to know. I was given an order and ideally i should follow it gracefully. I think my aversion comes to seeing too many people want to be hand held and spoon fed and have all the mysteries of the universe explained to them before they do the simple thing their Gods have asked (or not so simple as the case may be). it really pisses me off. LOL. I like and very much appreciate that you clarified that knowing why here wa snot to negotiate but to help adjustment. I think you’re probably right. But then sometimes the answer is no…you can’t know. oh that is fucking hard. I don’t think it hurts to ask though: may i know why? 🙂 thank you for jumping in here.

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      • so, I had a student once who whenever Odin told her to do something would go through days of “discussion” with him over it. That He allowed that boggled. I was always like ” what the fuck is wrong with you? Does he have to hand hold your every move? can’t you just do your fucking job?” why? because in the time it took her to get to whatever He was asking her to do (inevitably something fairly straight forward and simple — like hey, wear white for a week (that wasn’t the issue i recall but it was along those lines) i’d already done the work of five fucking people. that still pisses me off. I’ve been known to say, “Odin, i get you having other Godspouses but could you please pick some useful ones? I’d like to NOT be one of the few actually doing work.” (you do not know catty and bitchy until you’ve been around a group of Odin’s women. we do not generally get along). so boy, you scratched a cut with your very sensible comment. ^_^

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  5. Edward P. Butler

    I think that the problem with posing the question in this fashion is that it assumes that a belief is something that one can hold in isolation from all one’s other beliefs, which I think misunderstands the nature of what beliefs are. For a belief is not simply the assent to some abstract proposition. A belief that I do not understand is not a belief that I “have” at all. And I do not understand a belief if I do not possess a worldview in which that belief forms a coherent part. And so I would say that such a theophany has not been grasped so long as it is experienced as a simple command, because the mind which is addressed by using the notion of belief is not a thing that is commanded, that is simply not its nature. In Greek, “belief” is pistis, from peithomai, to be persuaded. It is not a gesture of insubordination to fail to be persuaded; rather, that failure is the indispensable beginning to the process of understanding.

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    • I think belief is …perhaps not the right word to use because when the Gods are actively present and pounding into your consciousness, is it then belief, or terrifying certainty of existence?

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      • Edward P. Butler

        I’m not using the term “belief” with respect to the existence of the Gods, but just exactly as you used it in the piece, namely “a deeply held ethical, emotional, political, etc. etc. (pick your poison) position/belief” that a theophany would demand one “to take a position exactly opposite the one you hold”. I think that this notion of how one “holds” and “takes” beliefs is flawed.

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  6. Reblogged this on Towards Polytheist Theologies and commented:
    A wonder ethical question to consider! I myself am thinking about this one. It’s important to think about these things… philosophy and theology are not just academic pursuits or abstract hypotheticals. They’re the flesh of all belief!

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  7. You’re absolutely right in that ‘belief’ is the wrong word. I think “identity” was more what i was going for, thinking of everything that we generally hold to make up our definition of ourselves.

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  8. The Gods are wiser and more far seeing than any human. No matter how firmly I held my belief of (insert subject here), if the Gods told me in no uncertain terms that I MUST change it, then I would do so. The Gods simply know better than I do.

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  9. Wow that’s a tough one. I can relate to this in that I really wanted to be a fantasy writer and professionally published within the secular market. When I first met my deity, Gwyn ap Nudd, he asked me to put that aside in exchange for journeying with him to the otherworld. I agreed because I knew it was a once in life-time opportunity and if I refused something magical and irretrievable would be lost. I entered his magical world and his patronage and it’s not something I regret for a moment. However the cost is I can’t have a career as a professional writer who can achieve secular sales. I’m allowed to write but it must be religiously in service to him and the spirits of the land. Which is far deeper and more beautiful and more fulfilling but means I have to make a living by other means.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      oh that hits very close to home for me. very early on I had to give up the career of my dreams and I struggled so much with that. It was worth it though, despite everything.

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