Neo Paganism - The Fourth Branch
Henotheism is based on the belief that a god may take on any form at any time and still have the same essential nature. The central idea is that one name for a god may be used in a circumstance where a particular aspect of this god is being represented or worshiped while a different name may be given to or used to describe or worship yet another aspect of the same god, but under a different circumstance. This is not meant to imply superiority of one over the other; just that a god can exist in many forms at once and worshiping or using different names does not necessarily imply polytheism. Henotheism allows one to believe in one Supreme Being and yet to be able to identify with and worship the various aspects of the one God as if they were indeed separate deities. By contrast, Monolatrism on the other hand is the recognition that there are many different gods, yet one consistently worships but one particular deity to the exclusion of all others. The primary difference between the two is that monolatry is the worship of one god who alone is considered worthy of worship, though other gods are believed to exist, while henotheism is the worship of one god as though there were no other gods. And then there is Polytheism, which is the belief in multiple gods, all of whom are worshipped as individual gods. Generally they are formed into a pantheon based upon regional beliefs and customs. And contrary to all three of the aforementioned is Monotheism which is the worship of one god exclusively. There are no other gods under this belief system and all aspects are but one when worshipping deity in this manner. Even the concept or aspects of evil are seen as a part of the one single aspect of the god under this system of belief. There are no other aspects as is found with Henotheism. Nor are there any other gods under monotheism as found in Monolatry. Are you confused yet? The Abraham based religions claim to be Monotheistic, but are these assertions really true? When one looks at the Hebrews there is found many passages that suggest that perhaps Judaism originally followed a path of monolatry. For instance the following passages from Exodus:
34:11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 34:12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
34:13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
The Christian religions claim that they adhere to a monotheistic form of belief. But is this assertion really true? Their beliefs originated from and often closely parallel the beliefs of the Hebrews.
One could also proffer the argument that the Christian belief is actually polytheistic based upon the concept of the holy trinity consisting of the god, son and Holy Spirit. Add to this the worship of various angels, saints, Mary, God, Jesus and what have you. An unspoken truth is that Christianity is assumed to be based upon the entity known as Jesus Christ when in fact it is based upon the teachings of the Apostle Paul. Up to now we have taken a brief look at the three branches of the Abraham tree of religions. But is there not a fourth branch sprouting from this tree? I refer to Neo Paganism. It is an established fact that the vast majority of Neo Pagans are of European descent and that they have a firm connection to one of the Abraham religions. Whether this connection relates to one being a former member of one of these religions, or family members who still are members or what have you. In fact, much of the structure that is utilized by Neo Paganism has its roots in the Abraham religious parameters. There are Neo Pagan churches, rituals based upon Catholicism, and many other parameters of religious tenets that can be found in the three Abraham religions. Yes, one can argue that the Christians were the ones that assimilated such parameters from pagans of old. But then Christianity, like the Muslims, grew out of the Jewish religion, a religion whose roots extend to antiquity and might I add, has tenets of paganism as part of their origins. Can one really delineate one from the other in this case? And is it so farfetched to suggest that Neo Paganism is yet another branch growing out of the Abraham tree? And if this is the case is such a branching off something to be hidden or feared? Do such roots impugn the individuality and/or direction of Neo Paganism? Or is it just an example of the human need/desire to be different from others and yet not so different? As far as religious beliefs, Neo Pagans tend to hedge their bets. They tend to follow both the Henotheism path and/or the Monolatry path. Sometimes it is very difficult to discern just which direction those of the Neo Pagan paths follow since there is no clear direction within the Neo Pagan community itself. As a student of comparative religions, I fully comprehend that no religion is pure and/or altruistic. It would be redundant to think otherwise, for religions are created by and administered by the hand of humans. Under such guidance, changes can and will occur. However as a witch who walks his path as an individual, I have to ask the question. Why can't the inhabitants of this asylum that we call civilization accept the fact that what you or I or the next person may not necessarily believe the same as the next individual? We are all part of the microcosm that we know as life. No one on earth can speak with absolute brevity about the macrocosm we know as deity. Why are human insecurities such that we will willfully impugn others that are not clones of ourselves when it comes to spirituality? Why are human insecurities so deep that we will resort to death and all sorts of atrocities against those that believe and the key word here is "believe" differently then ourselves? And trust me; no religion is above such actions, including Neo Pagans. I have deliberately skirted around examples of the Muslim religion in regards to this article for the very exact reasons that were just stated. In conclusion, perhaps these questions highlight the true mysteries of life that we claim to seek answers to as Jews, Muslims, Neo Pagans and/or Christians. Since there is so much in common amongst the four belief systems, I ask again, is it so farfetched that all four belief systems are branches of the same tree of religious direction???
My answers serve only my personal perception of religion just as yours serve you…