Microcosm and Macrocosm

Microcosm and Macrocosm

More on Hard Polytheism

Continuing on with my discussion of hard polytheism and soft polytheism, I note that one of the slogans you see most often from hard polytheists is this: “the gods are not archetypes!”


They're referring to the psychological archetype theories of Jung and Campbell, which tend to treat mythological archetypes as existing purely within the human psyche and having no existence in the “real world.”

However, one of the world's largest and most ancient living polytheist traditions is Taoism, and Taoist belief explicitly does treat the gods as archetypes, who are believed to exist within the body/mind of the worshiper.


How is this consistent with actual religious devotion? Because it's a microcosm/macrocosm concept. In other words, Taoism sees the human being as a mini-universe and the universe as a giant model of the human psyche. The gods are archetypes within your own mind, but there is no distinction between your mind and the universe as a whole, so whatever is in your mind is also “out there.”


Obviously Taoism is not directly relevant to ancient European religion, but it is an example of how an archetype-based conception of deity can exist within an authentic living polytheism without compromising religious worship.


An “archetype” is a pattern or model from which other things are made. Platonists in the ancient pagan world saw the gods as archetypes in this older sense of the word. The gods were seen as divine models on which the mundane world was based, and were equated with the Platonic “ideas” or “forms.”


Based on these points, I don't think there's any foundation for making such a sweeping statement as “the gods are not archetypes”- depending on what you mean by the word, they can be just that.