Choosing Metaphors: theistic language in non-theistic spiritual practice
June 7, 2013
Metaphoric deities representing a faceless divine
In recent posts I have discussed my pantheism versus my atheism or non-theism. As I noted in a previous post, my practice does include divinity, but “my divine is not deity”. My divinity is Cosmos, is existence. It is not a deity in the sense of a conscious or separate entity.
However, I do naturally lean towards utilising anthropomorphism in my rituals and devotionals, and generally in my day-to-day spirituality. The central example of this is my connecting to the Cosmos as Gaia. I take this concept of Gaia and break it into concepts that I can meditate on, dedicate words to, light candles for. Some of these are metaphors of physical phenomenon or abstract concepts, but with the most central or overarching of them I have tended to utilise the language of deity.
I do feel comfortable with using theistic language. For me, it adds meaning to my rituals and my feeling of connectedness with what I consider to be the divine. The strange thing about a naturalistic or pantheistic practice is that the theism evoked can be quite fluid. Because I utilise specific deity-like figures in a metaphoric context, I am left free to pick and choose my wording as I please.
Virgin and crone as aspects of the mother
For the last nine months, I’ve been using a goddess metaphor largely based on that outlined by Glenys Livingstone’s Pagaian Cosmology. She utilises the archetype of the triple goddess within the context of Gaian naturalism. In this model, the three aspect are maintained in their original balance with each as important as the other.
But for me, the virgin and crone aspects of the triple goddess have come to represent a yin-yang metaphor of light and dark, manifest and unmanifest. It represents to me the great paradox of our individuality and uniqueness, contrasted with our ultimate connectedness and sameness. The mother aspect has become more overarching to me, and the virgin and crone aspects have come to be the two forces acting within this one force of the mother or changing creative force, Gaia.
The terms “virgin” and “crone” have never sat particularly well with me, however, as the concept of the triple goddess in its usual form has never been particularly meaningful to me. But I find it difficult to find any better way of defining those forces.
At the moment, I am moving away from personifying them. As interesting as I find personal deities within the context of the theory of archetypes, I do feel slightly uncomfortable or dissatisfied with equating these archetypes with aspects of the overarching tendency of the Cosmos. In some way, perhaps, the Cosmos is just too big for me to feel comfortable personifying it.
From metaphors to archetypes
Despite a naturalistic-pantheistic view of the divine, and my possible moving away from the anthropomorphic triple goddess, I am fascinated by anthropomorphic deity, and it will always be an aspect of my practice.
Deity as archetypes is something I’m becoming increasingly interested in, and my next chunk of reading on my list is a whole heap of Jung. Archetypes are very strong concepts to me – I believe they have a very real potential to represent or tap into some extremely basic instincts and aspects of humanity and our connection to the divine.
I’m interested in incorporating these into my practice in a different way to simply using them as metaphors for physical phenomenon – perhaps as a means of self-analysis and exploration. I definitely want to experiment more with my perception of archetypes and of deity, and maybe break out of the mould of metaphor I’ve been using so far.
I think the fluid nature of my perception of the divine is very freeing and potentially exciting. It leaves me open to trying out completely new ways of thinking about and practicing my spirituality.