Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monism and Monotheism

I don’t feel like talking a lot about this, but I want to respond to RO in the comments. This also addresses the notion of ‘basic framework' he talks about in another post. I may actually try to do one - it would surely be instructive
• Monism is the notion that, at root, all things are One. This is most fully expounded in the Vedic notion of the Brahman – the all-mind that contains and reconciles all things in itself. Let me quote myself, from my ‘Toward a Pagan Mysticism’ monograph:

The idea that at the deepest level all things are united in a single thing/process/existence is a recurring presence in what we know of ancient spiritual philosophy. The Vedic Brahman, the Hellenic Anima Mundi, Norse Wyrd and Orlog all point to the idea of a ‘soul of all’ or ‘mind-material of all’ or ‘underlying unity’ that is within, and shared by, all things. If nature is One Nature, then in the same way the divine might be One Divine (though not One Person…). Monism is more prominent in the eastern systems, but occurs in various forms in western Pagan experience as well. … Monism has, in a few sects, sometimes rejected more folkloric polytheism, and many Pagans are skeptical of its value in our contexts, but it remains a menu-item in the list of IE models of mystical experience.

• Monotheism is the notion that only one being can truly be called ‘divine’, that one consciousness is the owner-operator of reality. This is always a specific being with likes, dislikes desires and intentions. There are only a few examples of monotheism in the religious world, almost all Abrahamic. Some sorts of Saivite Vedanta may come close, though they have too much of the brahman to imagine Shiva as caring about ‘what happens’…
• Monism does not hold that the all-mind is any specific person. It cannot love rather than hate, cannot be just rather than unjust, or express any other moral or conditional quality above another. Especially it cannot have a Providential Will that manages the cosmos.
• Monotheism denies the deity of ‘lesser’ spirits, positing a difference of kind between ‘God’ and the ranks of other spirits. Polytheism tends to see only a difference of degree between Gods, Dead and other Wights – Homer referred even to the gods as daemons.
• Monism holds that all manifest things are expressions of or constituent parts of the One. Thus ‘the divine’ can be multiple and also participate in the One, without making that One, itself, a god.
• I’ll admit that I don’t really know what a ‘monad’ is. Neoplatonism is really too late for my theological focus, and renaissance hermetic theology is right out at this point. (I tend to center around Homer and Parmenides, since we don’t have any Pagan Gaelic theology to read.) I assume there was/is a First Cause, but consider that far in the cosmic past, and not in any way equivalent to an owner-operator. I don’t find infinite regress unlikely – “it’s turtles all the way down…”


Auberon Draenen Wen said...

A monid is basicly backdoor monotheism.

The Gods now become like the sixteen year old girl that is a goth around goths, preppy around the preps, a good Christian girl when in church and when in bed...

well you get the idea. One god a lot of masks and the above can tell you exactly what I think of such a being. Maybe not respectful but if you had a person that was a Catholic when in a Catholic Church, then turned around and acting like a Druid with Druids, a Wiccan with Wiccans, a Buddhist with Buddhists, a Hindu with Hindus an so one that person wouldn't get much respect either.

Anonymous said...

Monism is no back or front door to monotheism. It simply is Part of Theology, be it polytheist or not.

A monad is the unit that, in itself, comprises the whole of the parts, Essentially. Greeks called the world Kosmos. Kosmos means order. According to Plato, everything participates ideally of a vital essence, so Kosmos as the idein, form, that informs all things ordered would be the monad of the world, the perennial idea of Order. Of course it´s immaterial, but nonetheless present in the world, for the world is Order. I´m surprised that by knowing Parmenides you don´t see the monadical implications in his teatrise!