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Are the Deities all One? Well, no but also yes.

Within modern day polytheism there is quite a debate on the issue of whether the Deities are all separate individuals or aspects of one Supreme Deity. The former stance is referred to as hard polytheism while the later is called soft polytheism.

Note: soft polytheism is also sometimes used to refer to psychological/archetypal paganism or Atheopaganism. I however do not refer to Atheopagans as polytheists since – call me old-fashioned – I think you need to believe in at least one Deity to qualify as a Theist.

This debate reminds me of another one, in another spiritual tradition: that of the relation of the Atman (indivual soul) to Brahman (the Absolute) in Hinduism. For thousands of years in India, sages have asked themselves whether the soul is the same or separate from Brahman. Three main school of thoughts have arisen from this philosophical inquiry. One is Advaita Vedanta, which see the soul as identical to Brahman. Another is Dvaita Vedanta, which sees the  individual soul as entirely separate from the Supreme Soul. The third is Vishishtadvaita Vedanta, which posits that Brahman is one but characterised by multiplicity. I won’t go into details about these different philosophies but I can say that I have reached a similar conclusion when it comes to the relation of the individual soul to the Supreme Soul and the relation of individual Deities to the Supreme Soul.

The way I see it, the notion of one omnipresent Being and the individuality of each Deity isn’t incompatible. Think of it like this: in a novel there are usually several characters, each with their own story and personality. They are not all the same as the others; there wouldn’t be much of a point in having multiple characters otherwise. But they all emanate from and exist first within the mind of the person who created them, namely the author of the book.

The Supreme Soul can be seen as both the writer and reader of the book of existence. She works through and experiences Her creation while the individual souls only experience a limited amount of the totality of reality. So, in this sense they are all unique and different but also part of Her. And that goes for all non-supreme souls, whether Divine, human or animal.
When we worship the Deities who are under Her, we also worship and honour Her since they were created to carry out Her will.

This is why I personally don’t care much for the hard vs soft distinction within polytheism.


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