Oh John

So Halstead tags me on Facebook today with this:

“Let’s acknowledge that all of us are talking about gods, but we’re talking about them on different levels. That all of our gods are “real” on some level, and not “real” on other levels. And that all of us are poly/theists on some level, and none of us are poly/theists on other levels. And that none of the levels is better or more right than any of the others. Let’s abandon this one-dimensional flatland metaphysics, and embrace a tropical rainforest ontology. Let’s stop talking like there is only one level to reality or that there is any set of defintions can possibly encompass all of those levels at once. There’s room enough in the ecology of the gods for all of our beliefs and ways of honoring them.”

and the link to his latest at patheos.

My response: nope. why? because this is just another sweet bit of rhetoric giving him and anyone else who wants it the right to edge their way into our traditions. It’s relativistic in the extreme. It would circumvent the very foundations of any religious tradition and the ontology –ooh what a big word he slips in there–that he pretends to care about. You know what ontology means, dear readers? It is a branch of metaphysics that explores the nature of being, in this case, Divine being; and ontology, metaphysics…these things are part of theology and all theologies are not actually the same. There is quite a significant division between actually acknowledging that the Gods exist and pissing around while pretending that you do.

Halstead always sounds so incredibly conciliatory and reasonable (well, maybe not always but often) in his rhetoric and I think that distracts people from what is actually being said here. The prettier his rhetoric is, the more reasonable he sounds, the more important it is to look beneath the surface for the viper hiding in the brush. 

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Posted on March 11, 2016, in theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. At this point I’m kind of convinced he’s just doing it to upset people.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even muster up a good ol’ Southern “bless your heart” in response to his garbage.

    I wonder if it’s better to just ignore him, or if it’s better to point out his nonsense.

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  3. Let’s follow his rabbit hole… If all Polytheists jump on his bandwagon all you end up with is a bunch of self-important psychobabble about archetypes. No more sacrifices, no more ritual, no more devotional practices (unless they’re directed towards yourself I guess…), no more sacred dance and song… You need true belief for that kind of beauty and fire. He wants to suck the life out of the very things that probably attracted him to our traditions in the first place

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  4. Who exactly is stopping him or others like him in having their own “worship” or space to “worship” in? What’s stopping them from making their own traditions? Not a damn thing. I can only agree this is a call to subversion and relativism. Gods are actually real on every “level”, they are why there are levels at all.

    Liked by 3 people

    • “That all of our gods are “real” on some level, and not “real” on other levels.”

      I’m a n00b and even I want to call BS on this.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. At this point, I have to agree with you and the other commenters. The only thing stopping He-Who-Spews-Noxious-Bullshit-and-Nonsense, is himself. However, that would deprive him of the entitled, knowledgeable voice he uses to hypnotize the audience and the spotlight he fights so hard to keep.

    Having said that, I shall now wait for the near inevitable moment he stalks me down, cries fowl, and engages in troll warfare.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Let’s follow his rabbit hole… If all Polytheists jump on his bandwagon all you end up with is a bunch of self-important psychobabble about archetypes. No more sacrifices, no more ritual, no more devotional practices (unless they’re directed towards yourself I guess…), no more sacred dance and song… You need true belief for that kind of beauty and fire. He wants to suck the life out of the very things that probably attracted him to our traditions in the first place

    Liked by 1 person

  7. No matter how he tries to slice that meat it’s still spam (pun intended). I still hear ‘I like your traditions but I think your gods are a fairy tale/personifications of natural forces/etc and don’t want to worship or see them as real separate entities’.

    He should just get honest with himself and call himself an agnostic, rather than heathen. I know other similar people who *do* call themselves agnostics. Nothing wrong with that.

    But plenty wrong with someone taking the heathen title and demanding that his position be validated by actual practicing heathens.

    Not intended as a personal attack on him – just my humble opinion.

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  8. Sorry, that may have been an oopsie on my part. Replace ‘heathen’ with ‘pagan’ in my above. But I stand by the rest of what I said.

    Sorry, my head is all over the place today.

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  9. What? I have been reading this sentence for the past 30 minutes trying process. I know this is the ontology of his position – but if he wrote this post to all (which includes hard polytheists) then I have a hard time understanding how a hard polytheist can accept that ontologically. I have a hard time understanding how he, with the knowledge that there are many ontologies and theoilogies due to the “poly” in “polytheism” (in community beliefs as well as in the gods), can present such an ontology. I would have to ask him to explain in more depth what he means there, especially when he places particular definitions on particular words, but my mind is all fuddled.

    For someone who snaps at others for crying out in absolutism, he sure can be absolutist himself. I wish he could just spend more time working on his own practice and working with his community instead of waging war like a damn Crusader. “I’m taking back what’s mine!”

    Like Richard Norris says very wisely in the comments above: I entirely agree. The time that he could be spending providing a meaningful “space” that he claims to not have, he’s wasting on engaging in battle with hard polytheists and then complaining that we’re “aggressive” when anyone replies to him.

    Everyone should do their thing. We don’t have to agree on ANY count to be right or to have meaningful relationships with the gods/to have a fulfilling learning experience as a pagan, but for fuck’s sake, it seems like some don’t understand that. And they don’t understand that because someone says you’re wrong doesn’t mean you actually are. It takes common sense and reflection for one to come to their own conclusions and take action, independent of a commenter’s influence, instead of whining saying, “Look, everyone, Galina said I’m wrong!”

    Blood pressure is going up. He has a lot of balls tagging you in that post. I agree with Laine; I think he’s doing this just to upset people now. And the worst part about it is that his community in no way benefits from this. The community in general doesn’t benefit from this. There’s a lot of time wasted in the ridiculous bickering (not to mention dangerous, as I personally think that what he says is dangerous and must be replied to). They are losing out on a lot of wonderful growth and commentary, to explore and develop in *their* paths as they wish, to make the best out of religion and to make something sustainable that doesn’t have to be earned by crowding into other ontologies for “space.”

    Oh no, I’m rewriting my letter here, aren’t I….

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I see it as the inability to understand the word “NO.” No is not yes to another question. No is no. However, given that he likes to tear down boundaries, he will have quite the following.

    The strand of Paganism that want free admittance to everything, the same strand that is in the New Age as well. The sense of self-entitledment and that we are only doing good. Both are wrap up in all of this – the desire for wholeness and goodness. Fences are meant to be torn down is their theology. John is only the standard bearer of this.

    There is a reason for a pomerian (I forget the proper spelling for the Roman boundary.) The inside is defined, the outside is defined, and the middle is defined. Passage is only allowed through the gate. Which is why Romans have so many Gods guarding the door starting with Janus. To protect within and without.

    And as for John, he does display cruelness when people continue to disagree with him.

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  11. What is it about the word NO that he does NOT (or refuses to) understand? NO NO NO NO NO. I do not live in your bifurcated world.

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  12. As someone who actually read Flatland, he’s managed to offend me on a literary aesthetic level as well. He just wishes his double-think arguments had has much depth as that small novel.

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  13. The Artist Assena V

    “That all of our gods are ‘real’ on some level, and not ‘real’ on other levels. ”

    Well, sure a non-believer could see it that way if by “real” one means real in the same way that characters in a cartoon are “real” as in someone drew them, or words on a paper are real because they represent ideas which really did form in someone’s head.

    What he fails to understand, though, is that when *we* say the Gods are *real* we’re using the definition of the word which means “An existence that is autonomous and independent of whether or not they are being perceived or thought about, in exactly the same way that your neighbor next door is real”.

    He’s getting even more weaselly with his words than ever. I don’t hate the guy, but the stuff he says on this particular subject are disingenuous and tiresome. Furthermore, I’m getting sick of hearing him say he’s “not attacking polytheism”, while not realizing that calling it “irrational superstition” is an attack on our mental faculties.

    I’m *extremely* rational, and not a bit superstitious about my religion–and I am a Hard Polytheist.

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  14. A god and an archetype are both “real”, but it is a confusion to suggest that neither is more real than the other: similar to how John’s thoughts depend on there being a John to think them, so that his existence is of a more fundamental sort than that of his thoughts, the gods are more fundamental than anything that depends on them, archetypes included. Any ontology that conflates subsistent being with parasitic being is indeed a rain forest, but one more at home in a Lewis Caroll novel than a respectable metaphysic.

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  15. I read Flatland also, and studied biology as well. The piece reminds me of the saying, “He has enough knowledge to be dangerous.” from “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

    From reading the discussion at the FB site and elsewhere, I see that for some strange reason, certain people want to be polytheist without being polytheist. It is like being assimilated by the Borg….. why can’t there be divisions. Why does there have to be unity? Why do we have to agree with everyone else? Why can’t we disagree?

    One thread that I see is that people are struggling with spirituality. Paganism as it is practised is not enough. It reminds me of New Agers who go from one spiritual thing to another in search of meaning in their life. I think that people co-opting polytheism because they see others who have found meaning.

    The basic problem is how to move from a I centered world to a God centered world. As long as Man is the center, there will be fights to contain the Gods, to diminish Them, to make Them less, and to keep Man as the center. This flows into Pop Culture Paganism, into AthoPaganism, and elsewhere. The self is the God, that is worshipped. The self creates and defines the Gods. The self creates the religion, which is a major part of Paganism – self-determined belief and self-determined religion.

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