A religious scholar by the name of Stephen Prothero has recently put out a book denouncing the idea that “all gods are one God” and that “all religions are fundamentally the same”. I have not yet had the chance to read the book, but I have read the Boston Globe article he wrote which reiterates his thesis. There are problems with his thought process – not the least of which being that he seems to have limited his study to the post-Christian world – but we’ll leave those aside for the moment. What I’m really interested in is how this idea relates to neo-Pagan thea/ology
I do, incidentally, believe that the whole of the universe – energy, matter, humanity, life, non-life, divinity, ALL OF IT – are made up of the same basic stuff, and can be reduced to that sole common denominator. We are all, on a macro-cosmic level, One. Physics has codified this idea more clearly than mystics: E=mc^2, matter and energy are the same and can be converted back and forth between states. But let us not forget the equally important and true Law of Correspondence: “As above, so below. As below, so above.”
The material world is full of mind-boggling diversity. We have plants, animals, bacteria, all with radically different biological functions and reproductive strategies. We have minerals, gasses, and organic compounds, all of which are put together by the same sub-atomic forces, but which combine and interact in radically different and inconflatable ways.
Let’s do a little thought exercise.
All organic compounds include carbon. So do many gasses, actually. But what else is made of carbon? Let’s take diamonds and graphite: two allotropes of carbon. Both are made up of the same pure C2 molecule, but arranged in completely different ways: flat sheets of molecular carbon appear to us as a fine grey-black powder that we use as an electrical conductor or to make pencil “lead”; arranged in a particular lattice, by heat, pressure, and time, however, the same carbon molecules become a diamond.
Diamonds and graphite are made from pure carbon but are in NO WAY the same.
This is why, as a hard polytheist, I do not conflate “gods” or “the Divine” with “the Absolute”.
You and I, organic life forms that we are, are made up of a great deal of carbon. Are we made of diamonds? Pencil lead? No. That assertion is absurd.
This line of reasoning is directly contrary to (some) Wiccan and other New Age assertions, that all gods and goddesses are really masks of the Great God and the Great Goddess, facets of them.
Myself, I would argue the reverse: that the gods and spirits and people and plants and minerals and gasses and sub-atomic particles of the world are made up of bits and pieces that abstract Absolute. Or that, perhaps, the Absolute is made up of us. But this is NOT saying that we are, in fact, fundamentally the same.
All gods and goddesses and spirits and ghosts and souls and Powers are not One God. To say that they are is akin to saying that all straight men and straight women and intersexed folk and genderqueers of any sex and gay men and lesbian women and white people and black people and yellow people and brown people and red people and purple people are All One Straight White Guy Living in the Suburbs Outside Topeka.
Correspondences are relationships, not equivalencies.