Statement of Solidarity

We at Project Asterism stand with our Muslim friends affected by the bizarre and arbitrary travel ban instituted by President Trump. We believe in the value and necessity of diversity of all sorts not simply for the strength and survival of the American nation, but for the survival and flourishing of humankind. We believe that it is incumbent upon us as members of society to welcome those in need of succor and protection into our communities. We must work together in love to combat irrational prejudice and hatred.

This ban explicitly targets a religious minority within the United States, and as advocates of religious freedom, we must stand up against any attempt to limit or control religious expression. Polytheists must stand up against this ban not only out of love for others, but out of the need to protect ourselves. We are stronger together and we must recognize that a threat to a part is a threat to the whole. We too are religious minorities, and we are a far smaller community. We cannot afford to be silent. If we do not stand up now, who will stand up for us?

We Are Together

If Polytheism is to mean anything at all, if it is to have any lasting impact, then it must motivate us to engage with the world around us. Polytheism, beyond our individual theologies and traditions, insists that we recognize difference as a fundamental and necessary feature of the world. Polytheism is not merely a set of beliefs and doctrines. It is a way of being in the world.

Our polytheism must not be something we do in the privacy of our own bedrooms but something that infuses the whole of our beings, the whole of our lives. We must live our lives as the fullest expression of our faith. Even if we are not able to publicly express our faith, we are still responsible for our actions and the content of our hearts.

I have spoken previously about the importance of conflict. How we react to the challenges we face informs our character and gives our lives meaning. We cannot afford to turn away in the face of conflict and difficulty. We must have the resolve to confront and work through it. We must recognize and utilize our strengths. Only then are we truly living up to the promise of our faith.

Our polytheism should drive us to recognize that we are part of a network, a community. We are responsible not only for ourselves, but for the effect we have on the world, on the beings around us. Whatever we are, we are in relation. Our communities are our strength. Now, more than ever, we must not forget our roles in building and maintaining community. We must work together however we can.

We are all unique, and we all must bring our own particular skills and powers to bear. Each of us must respond to the call to action as best we can, utilizing our own unique talents, working as only we can. Remember: we are not alone. We are stronger together.

 

Conflict is Important

I think that conflict is a vital part of human experience, and that any spiritual framework must account for its importance. Through the lens of my polytheism, I understand the world as full of beings who are constantly experiencing and producing their own complicated, intersecting and overlapping truths. I do not see in the world a single source of transcendent truth, but instead a vast network of truth production. Our individual claims to truth, then, are contingent on the claims of the beings that surround us. Our experiences, our lives, are colored, influenced, and changed by all the others whom we inhabit the world with.

It is inevitable that we will encounter truth claims that are incompatible with each other. We must be careful not to dismiss such incompatibilities as only apparent, as though some perspective large enough or distant enough could dissolve them. When we deem conflicting truths to be merely apparent, we dismiss the lived experience that produced them. We end up insisting that to someone else, someone far enough away and sufficiently disinterested, the conflict disappears. We must avoid using this theoretical perspective of some distant being to disengage with the actual conflicts in front of us. We must not disregard the real experiences of beings we do not understand, or do not agree with.

Our very being in the world is predicated on being in the world with others.  We recognize ourselves through contrast with those around us, and understand others through their distinctness from us. We relate to each other and the world both through our shared, overlapping, communal experiences, and our discrete, individual and unique, personal experiences. The richness of our relationships, of our being in the world together, blossoms from the interactions of our private, personal experiences, and the experiences that we share communally.

Truth is threatened when we dismiss the views of others simply because they do not accord with our expectations. If we understand ourselves at least in part through relation, then we damage ourselves when we disregard the experiences of others. Our world is diminished. We restrict our own potential. Conflict challenges us to change our understanding. When we encounter viewpoints and truth claims incompatible with our own, we are presented with the opportunity to expand our world. Our limitations make us dependent on the viewpoints of others to help us understand our world; conflicts are a necessary part of our coming to terms with the complexity of our own lives.

We learn about ourselves and our relation to the world through conflict, and conflict teaches us about the views and experiences of others. Conflict is necessary and unavoidable. We should see conflicts as opportunities to come closer to the world, to learn more about ourselves and others. Conflicts show us, in sharpening detail, the complexities of the network of relationships that make up our lives, and presents us with an opportunity to test our understanding of the world. It challenges us with the possibility that our understanding is inaccurate.

However, even if we recognize, embrace and allow ourselves to be transformed by conflict, we do not automatically resolve the underlying problem. Our own personal transformation is simply not enough. We must also be motivated to act. Conflicts are resolved only when we ourselves resolve to take action. Our actions, then, change the world, and the conditions of the conflict. I do not mean, however, to oversimplify. This process is complicated and often tremendously difficult. The work may be larger than we alone can manage, and yet we must do our best. The decisions we make and the actions we take in the face of conflict reveal us to the world. We shape the world as the world shapes us.

The choices we make and the positions we take are not trivial, they are expressions of our personal relationship to the world and to the beings that compose it. As we move to resolve conflicts, we express our orientation to the world, we declare ourselves. By addressing conflict we resolve ourselves in relation to the world, we become ourselves more fully. Our choices and our actions shape us as we work to shape the world.

The process feeds upon itself. I see this process as fundamental to human experience, and so it is fundamental to my understanding of Polytheism. Polytheism moves us to recognize the complex network that we are each a part of, and it places our actions and our choices into that greater context. Our freedom to choose and act ripples outward through the network, and we ourselves are constantly affected by the choices and actions of others. Personal freedom is both ensured by and contingent upon the freedom of others.

Conflict highlights and reinforces the profundity of our personal freedom. The choices we make and the actions we take are contextualized in the greater network. As we work to resolve conflict, by whatever means we elect, we change the world and we change ourselves. We have the freedom and the power to transform our world, and in so doing we are caught up in the transformation all together. We cannot escape.

I Believe that Polytheism is Important Right Now

I believe that Polytheism is important right now because contemporary life presents us with unique challenges that traditional monotheistic worldviews are incapable of addressing. Our world grows ever more interconnected. Every day we are confronted with the struggles and triumphs of people living on the other side of the globe, and we ourselves now feel the aftershocks of those events. We are faced with increasing globalization, and both political and economic power is shifting from its established, centralized hubs to new and complex structures. Further, we are experiencing greater and greater demographic shift, as people move across the world, fleeing war, seeking refuge, or hoping for greater economic and social mobility.

We are struggling with increasing factionalism and ideological rigidity in the face of the rapid transformations that our world, that our societies, are undergoing. Many of us are frightened by these changes and are desperately clinging to ideas of the ways things should be and memories of the way things were. The world reveals itself to us to be a stranger and more complicated thing than we could have imagined.

The binary choice offered by traditional monotheistic worldviews simply is not elastic enough to cope with the changes we face. We can no longer afford the simplicity of yes/no, right/wrong, on/off. As long as we cling to a single, universalizing approach to truth, we will be simply incapable of understanding the world that we are living in. As long as we insist on asserting our allegiance to a single transcendental authority that is maintained as the sole arbiter of truth, we are eliminating the potential for an infinite number of other truths, of other ways of being, experiencing, and understanding. We are dooming ourselves to an endless cycle of conflict, destruction, and war.

If we are to move forward productively into this new and alien world, then we must be willing to engage meaningfully in dialogue with the myriad and distinct beings that we encounter. We must allow these dialogues to be transformative. We must allow ourselves to be changed by the viewpoints of others. We must be willing to work together to move forward, rather than rigidly and repetitively cleaving to our own preconceptions. An honest engaging with other truth claims requires the acceptance that our own understanding of truth is flawed or incomplete. To open ourselves to the other requires us to accept that we ourselves are only units contained within a larger system, not ourselves arbiters of that system. We live in a world amongst others of increasing difference. We deny the difference that we face at our own peril.

I assert that only Polytheism, only a polytheistic worldview, is capable of carrying us forward. Within Polytheism as I see it, truth becomes unmoored from singulars and spread across the entire system, into a complex network of truth production. Truth no longer originates from any single transcendent source, but is lived, experienced, and built by the manifold beings who compose our world. A polytheistic worldview is premised on incompleteness. It assumes that there is always more yet to be learned, that truth is an ever expanding set, rather than a singular preordained program. Truth is a process.

Polytheism allows us to engage with the other in a way that does not threaten our own identity because our own identities are engaged in the world as a whole. We are who we are in relation to the others we encounter. They change us as we change them. However, neither identity is lost in this process; we remain unique and irreducible.

Our particular embodiments condition our experiences of the world. Our histories are unique and inextricably ours. We grow and change as the world grows and changes, yet we remain ourselves, together. The particular being of others remains distinct from us, and ever inaccessible. We must admit, then, that there are sorts of truth that are forever locked away from us, ways of being that must remain mysterious and vague to our senses. We must be willing to accept that our limitations to do not place limits on the world, and that we ourselves may also be capable of transcending the truths that we have taken for granted.

We experience the world together. We become entangled in the world. Being embodied in the world, we incorporate the world into ourselves as we are made flesh in the world. We are in the world with others, and as our experience incorporates the world into us, we incorporate others into ourselves, as we are also incorporated into them. Our experience of the world is then co-created with the other beings we share our world with. We make truth together, living it with each other. We ourselves are forced to recognize our own otherness in the face of the others who surround us.

So a polytheistic relationship to truth forces us to see plurality as a fundamental feature of the world. We produce truth through a process of living and engaging with the beings that surround us. Truth becomes participatory. The tension between competing truths is recognized as powerful and real, and our choices, adjudicating between these truths, have real and meaningful consequences. The world is full of complexities, and as we move through it, we only produce more and more. We make the world a stranger place with every passing day.

Polytheism frees us from the hegemony of monotheistic truth. Our choices are invested with deep meaning, as we navigate the truth claims that surround us. The decisions we make speak of our own unique relationship to truth, and our actions become expressions of our own unique being. We ourselves become centers of truth production scattered amidst and entangled with other productive centers. Polytheism presents us with a world that is decentralized, fluctuating, and expanding. In short, it presents us with just the sort of world that we are moving toward.