Continuing some thoughts on Diety and Service

Posted on January 24, 2008
Filed Under Buddhism, deity, service | 11 Comments

In my previous post about Deity and service I got some comments and they got me thinking further about some of what I was exploring in that last post.  One commenter, in particular, asked for some defintions.

1. Define Deity

I define a Deity as a pan-dimensional being that has its own existence, and lives on a different plane than this one. Deities can exist independent of people and they have their own power, but I also think that people provide the deity some of its power, and to a degree define it. The power is provided by the belief the people have in the deity. If people don’t believe, the deity doesn’t have as much power, as it would have if people believed in it. The deity is also partially defined by people, in terms of the sphere of influence or the meanings people provide it. Those meanings provide the deity power, but as I mentioned earlier they can also , to a degree limit the deity, because they also define where the deity exerts its power. A diety of love, for instance, doesn’t really have much influence over a battle. A good example would be where aphrodite gets wounded when she goes out into the battlefield…it’s not her place, not her realm of influence. She has power, but war isn’t included in that power.  Another interesting aspect to this is that while deities have power, the methods for how they use that power, as it applies to this plane of reality may involve the worshippers they have. Those worshippers are physical vehicles…they exist here…they enable the deity to influence events more directly than they might be able to otherwise…in shore the deities may need worshippers as a way of effecting reality…of course they also give benefits to their worshippers.

Now, I also think a deity can grow…one reason deities may have worshippers is to be able to not only have a pair of helping hands in the physical world, but also to be able to learn from the experiences people have here. They partake of those experiences vicariously. Invocation is a good example. you invoke a god and get possessed for a while so the god can use your body, but also experience this reality more directly.

Maybe the experiences deities get from people is what helps them grow and refine their power and even their existence…something to consider…and again this brings up the questions of identity I mentioned in the last post, both for the people involved and the deity.

2. Define “service”

In the context of the deity-human relationship, I think service occurs on both ends. The worshipper agrees to believe in the deity, agrees to serve the deity by performing tasks for the deity, and even letting the deity have access to hir, via invocation. At the same time, the deity serves the person. The person seeks the deity, because the deity represents access to some deep meanings. A deity of lust for instance provides access to the deepest layers of desire a person may have. The deity provides a medium or interface to access those deepest layers. The person needs to experience those layers, and the deity provides that opportunity.  The diety may also provide the person much needed lessons or discipline or other experiences that help that person come to peace with what the deity represents. It seems odd to me that, in fact, this facet of the deity-human relationship is rarely examined, as if people should not get anything out of the experiences they have with deity.

3. Define “Conditions of Service”

This falls back to number two. From my own experiences conditions of service seems to vary from deity to deity. Some deities want a one-time offering, others want more sustained work. My service to Babalon for instance is of a more sustained type. Conditions can change as well. Both the person and deity are living and the relationship that is had also changes. Likewise I think at least some conditions change as that relationship changes YMMV. 

4. Is a fish more “powerful” than an anteater?

Depends on the context…and in fact this question admirably applies to what has been discussed. Is a human more powerful than a deity? Certainly not in the native environment of the deity (The human might not even be able to exist in that environment). In Malkuth, it’s not so much more powerful, as a human has a type of power here that the deity may not have, which could be a good reason for the deity to want to have worshippers. Some might consider this blasphemous, but I think the following questions should be considered in some depth by people dedicating themselves to deities: Why does the deity choose me to interact with? What am I providing it, that it can’t get otherwise? What can I learn from this experience?

Asking and answering these questions can help us understand the effect of deity on our own identites, as well as on how we live our lives. It may help us consider as well, what we hope to learn from our experiences with the deity. finally, it may explain why some people sometimes stop working with particular deities…perhaps they learned the lessons they needed to learn…perhaps the deity learned what it needed to learn.


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  1. […] My perspective on the Divine is very similar to this, written up by my husband. It’s a more egalitarian perspective, and it more accurately reflects the relationships I’ve had with both deities and spirits/totems over the years. Granted, I also haven’t been a practicing shaman over that time, so that probably affects my perspective. […]