Further thoughts on service and deities

Posted on January 22, 2008
Filed Under Buddhism, deity, Magic, service | 10 Comments

In my post on magic sometimes being like a bad acid trip, one thing I discussed was how being in service to the gods really involved those gods being in service to us. Where that concept comes from is Buddhism and how that particular belief system views gods. It acknowledges that the gods have more power in certain ways than humans do, but that very power is what entraps those gods. Those gods are limited and defined by what that power represents. They are attached to those meanings and cannot detach so long as people call on them to access what those gods represent.

The gods become interfaces of identity for people to work with. Those interfaces represent the deep structures, the nebulous concepts that people want to work with. The gods provide structure for accessing those deep structures. When a person serves a god of death, what are they really serving? Are they serving the actual god, or the concept of death as represented by that god, or the identity of death as given a face by that god? And why do they need to be in service to that god? In fact, such service from a Buddhist perspective is an attachment to that power, and yet such service can be liberating. By choosing to work with the deity and it’s method of identification with the deep structure they really want to connect with, people are ultimately getting the deity to serve them.

The deity shapes those people who serve it, provides them experiences they need, and ultimately ends up freeing them of the very attachment that drove them to serve the deity in the first place. Why? Because the deity has served its function, has served the people that serve it. A diety cannot, in the end, not serve the people that come to it. The deity is bound to service by the very power it has, and by what it represents. So long as people call on the deity, the deity cannot be free of the service or the power it has taken on. It is not free of the attachment to meaning, to the deep structure that people give it. The deity serves those people, even as it demands service. It’s very demand of service is calculated to give those people the experiences they need to have in order to grow. They serve their deities with devotion and lose themselves in that devotion and so come to understand what it was they were really seeking. Liberation results when that understanding is achieved. At that point, the person can decide if s/he really needs to be attached anymore to that concept. The deity’s work/service for that person is done when that occurs.

A deity cannot be free of it’s own service, it’s own power until people no longer need it. The very power it has creates obligation. Like a king who ascends the throne, the deity can never resign or abdicate it’s responsibilities. The king is always on duty, always on task. The king has power, but that very power binds him to the people, even when it doesn’t seem like it does. The same is true for the diety. It has power. It can compel people, it can control them, but it is also controlled by its own service. The most powerful diety has less freedom than the most powerless person because the deity is defined by the domain of influence and meaning it represents. It can never not be that.

This brings into question some intriguing concepts of identity as it applies to deity and to people. What is the role of meaning within identity? How is a person’s identity shaped by the attachments and meanings s/he takes on in life? What kind of service or obligation does this create and how is magic used to either enforce or free one from those meanings and attachments? What is the role of deity in the identity of a person?

These are some of the ideas I am pondering and working through in my own life and naturally, I’ll be expanding upon this a lot more in the books I write, but this is something for all of you to chew on in the meantime.

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