When asked what I believe with regard to the number of the gods, my answer is generally simple, that I am a polytheist. I don’t think, at this point, that I need to explain what that means to most readers, but just for the record: I believe that the gods are many, distinct individuals.  For the most part, each is a separate god- Aphrodite is not also Venus, Ares is not also Mars. I think that there are a few exceptions, such as Odin/Woden/Wotan, but I don’t know enough about them to do more than say that I suspect that they are the same deity- and they are exceptions.

Sometimes, I’ll go so far as to mention that I am also a panentheist- believing that god or the divine is within everything. I’ve seen it asked to others in the past how one can reconcile the idea of there being both many gods and god within everything. It’s fairly simple in my mind, though I’ve only recently come up with a clear explaination:

I don’t believe in any one entity called “God”. I believe in many gods. And I believe in something that I refer to as “the divine” (I don’t really like this word for this use, but I’ve yet to come up with something better). I believe that what I call “the divine” is a basic building block of life for metaphysical beings. In other words, “the divine” is to gods and spirits as carbon is to people, goats and great saguaro cacti. I also believe that some of this divine stuff is contained within anyone or anything that has a spirit or soul. No, I’m not going to go so far as to call myself an animist and say that I believe that everything has a spirit or soul. So maybe that makes me a panen(somethings)theist or something. I can deal with that, and if it’s important, I’ll eventually figure the rest out.

What I can’t reconcile in all this- and don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly struggling, I’ve mostly accepted it as an occasional personal experience and while it baffles me a bit, I see no pressing need to justify it- is that from time to time, usually in a ritual or moments of particularly strong religious inspiration, I will abandon all belief in any other gods or any other concept of “the divine”- in these moments, there is only one god, and that god is Apollo. I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it, it just is that way.

Maybe it’s that there are times that His presence is so strong that He eclipses all possibility of any others in my limited human understanding. Or maybe something causes my perception to shift and in those moments, a monotheistic view makes the most sense.

I don’t know how it is that I can slide so fluidly between my normal polytheistic beliefs and those instances of monotheistic belief where Apollo is the only god (and please believe me, in those moments, there is no question in my mind abut it.) and just as seamlessly back to my normal beliefs, but it happens. I’d be curious to know if anyone else gets anything like this.

Note: It’s been a long time since I’ve discussed this online. The last time I did was on a list that was rife with neoplatonists who patted me on the head and insisted that Apollo most be the filter through which I understand The All. I am not a neoplatonist, I am not an emanationist, this is not what I am talking about. I welcome comment and discussion, but I do not want a replay of that.