Friday, 31 May 2013

Thoughts on the Nature of Deity

A couple of weeks ago, chanting with Deva Premal and Miten, I was struck by the words of one of the mantras, the Moola Mantra, which translates as: 

Oh Divine Force, Spirit of All Creation, Highest Personality, Divine Presence, manifest in every living being - Supreme Soul manifested as the Divine Mother and as the Divine Father - I bow in deepest reverence.

One thing that struck me here is the mention of the Divine Mother and the Divine Father as manifestations of the Supreme Soul.  I wondered whether it could have been from contact with Indian thinking, especially through the Theosophical Society, that the idea of the balance of masculine and feminine as expressions of spirit came into pagan thinking (as it certainly wasn't around in the Christian background from which paganism sprang).  Not just that, but a respect for the divinity of every living being!

Ronald Hutton writes very interestingly in The Triumph of the Moon (Oxford Paperbacks, 1995) about the influences that led to what we know today as paganism.  According to his timeline, much of what we now follow as paganism developed around and after the industrial revolution, and would fit with influences from India through the British Empire.  Not only the form of much pagan ritual is found also in lodges like those of the Theosophical Society, but many important founders of modern paganism were likewise members: such as Dion Fortune.

These ideas are also found in Juddaism, at least as I understand it from Rachel Pollack.  She mentions several times Jewish scripture in which it is said (and I paraphrase): first there was no-thingness (ain), which opened out into infinity (ain soph), and then became divine light (ohr ain soph). From this came the One (Jehovah), from the One came the Two (masculine and feminine forms of the deity), from the Two came the Three (like Horus coming from Isis and Osiris, as in the Egyptian pantheon), and from the three came the ten thousand things (ie. all the amazing beings of the world).  For, possibly, a bit more clarity, you can check out the wiki entry on this.

How I read this, is that the idea of deity as beyond binaries, and certainly beyond monotheism, is present in a number of very ancient religious texts.  It may be easier for us to worship deity as masculine or feminine, as both, or as neither, depending on our cultural history and personal preferences.  Above it all, there is spirit, made manifest in the world, in every living being, as it says in the Moola Mantra.

I like the way Eowyn put it on her blog a couple of days ago: she talked about all deities being 'emanations of the Universal Consciousness that is present in all things'.  Personally, I connect more with feminine personifications of deity than with masculine ones.  Still, I make a point to put a variety on my altar, to try to broaden my own horizons.  I also like symbols that go beyond these binaries, for example the Om, or crystals, flowers, candle light.  I see the divine in all of these, and much more...


  1. I adore Deva Premal and her Moola Mantra is one of my absolute favourites. I have chanted it in ritual in the past. The words are so beautiful; I have read several translations. Also a huge fan of Ron Hutton. How I would love to be a student of his - can you imagine how fascinating the lectures must be???

    Personally, I don't have a preference for feminine or masculine personifications of deity,and in fact quite enjoy masculine deity. I remain on the lookout for a beautiful god oracle deck, but alas there hasn't been one. The ones out there aren't it! :)

    1. Yep, would love to attend some of his lectures. Even on non-pagan history, he is such a fascinating speaker :)

      Hilarious that searching for male deity depictions, you found another of my posts. That is a lovely if somewhat strange deck. Lots of writing on the backs. Still, quite cool that they give a mantra for every deity...