Jack of Many Trades

Gods, Powers, and Archetypes

Originally posted: 2013-01-15

I've been thinking about the nature of deity lately, inspired partly by some really interesting conversation on my the Cauldron and partly by a post on Aedicula Antinoi. This is a philosophy that I've been dancing around, off and on, since my early college days. I think it gets a little clearer every time I come back around, but I'm biased.

I'm guessing you've all heard of Plato's Cave, right? It's this little store where you can sell your name-brand stuff...

No, wait, that's his closet. His cave is a metaphor, not a store. It talks about how the physical reality we think we experience is, in fact, mere echoes of a higher plane full of more "perfect" ideal forms .

I've been thinking about how this also applies to the gods. To mutilate the cave imagery a little further, you can think of it this way. We all start down on the floor of the cave, where the shadows are. The stalagmites growing up from the ground are "small gods" - land spirits, ancestors, tribal deities, boddhisattva, maybe even some monks and magicians; they're those that know there's something above them and reach for that magic.

The Platonic ideals of deities- the Trickster, the Maker, the Wandering Storyteller, the Dark Lady, the Enlightened One- are, with all the other Platonic ideals, outside the cave, shining in. These are archetypes, and they stretch back to the Powers, the original elements that derive from the first principles. They can even make inroads to the rest of us inside the cave, reaching down with the drops of water to create the stalactites.

Sometimes a stalactite and a stalagmite meet, and form a column that reaches from the dark floor of the cave up to the light, and a local deity taps into the power and energy of the archetypes. These are the names that resonate through the centuries - G_d and Moses and Jesus, Krishna and Kali, the Buddha and Kuan Yin, Coyote and Raven, Athena and Osiris and Thor and Brigid, and on and on. Connections rise, swell, falter and fall.

You see this in some varieties of Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism, where demons and humans can become gods, and gods can be demoted or killed or choose to return to Earth and are sent through the same cycle of karma as everyone else.

I think that was the appeal of Waincraft for me- it's rare to see any religion at all that synchronizes to the degree that Waincraft does these days without being completely without structure. I don't think Waincraft itself is quite right for me either, but it's close, and it's nice to see it out there.

It's not just small gods and wights that can reach up for these archetypes, though. Anybody who's played RPGs of any flavor can name some - Fighter, Mage, Priest, and Thief are the obvious ones. A couple of people have pointed out to me lately that Alchemist has been echoing around me. We can just as easily reach for and invoke the Ideals in our spiritual search and draw them into ourselves.

This is where it ties back around into the firebird work for me. It's archetypal work, drawing on things within myself and things within the universe. Bringing forward the parts of myself that resonate with the idea of the Firebird helps me understand my own strengths and what I'm capable of.

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