Sometimes, we have deities, even within the pantheon we most often work with, who we just can’t get along with. Sometimes these relationships can get downright hostile. In this article, I am going to talk a little bit about how mythology and thought forms impact our relationships with deities, and how that process can potentially go wrong.
Thought forms are a normal and natural part of interacting with deities and always have been. They form the link between the divine beings we call and our imaginations. Gods cannot, no matter how much they might like to (especially if their names are Apollon) carry on long term relationships with mortals without a basic imaginative interface.
Think about it. What earthly reason would, for example, the embodiment of natural order and law need to have an hairless ape form factor? How does the innate ability to do persistence running and being able to use the entire surface of your body like an animals tongue help with that? It doesn’t. Mostly, if just helps you to interface with ape-creatures. It makes you relatable. Not only their appearance, but also the mythological actions that deities do, are part of this interface. In general, mythology is the process of using story to illustrate the complex nature of deities. More specifically, it is a human attempt at that illustration, which may not always go the way a deity might hope.
Mortal: You are so shiny. Who are you?
Apollon: I am the perfectly orchestrated laws of nature which give rise to all beauty and to human understanding.
Mortal: That was a lot of words. Orchestrated. You a god of music?
Apollon: As music is a limiting imposition upon the range of sound vibrations, and utilizes mathematics, a similar imposition which gives rise to–
Mortal: I’m going to stop you right there. Clearly a god of logic, anyway.
Apollon: Well, logic can be used to understand what I embody, but–
Mortal: Probably also truth.
Apollon: Nature. I’m certain that the first thing I said was nature.
Mortal: Nature. So you are wild and shit, and probably violent. Nature is violent.
Apollon: What? No it isn’t! Nature follows very predictable laws. It can’t be helped if you refuse to pay attention to what they are, and build a village near an active volcano.
Mortal: I sense anger. Bad temper. Strong, too. I get that. Strong and natural. I bet you’ve forced yourself on a lot of women.
Apollon: What?! No! I’m a god of natural harmony! Of law! Of restraint!
Mortal: (scribbles) Hates… Booze…
Apollon: Fuck talking to you people! If you want to talk to me, send someone who isn’t an idiot to receive my messages.
Mortal: (establishes Delphi)
Apollon: (Walks off in a huff) Seriously, I’ll be over here. WAY over here.
Mortal: Distant… Archer.
How can I be so sure that this is how mythology is formed?
The first and most compelling piece of evidence is that we do this to each other, too. We take the nuances and complexity that make up a personality, skim our basic impressions off the top, and then create a narrative to explain that person. The more important the person is, the more pronounced the effect.
Think of your favorite celebrity. What you actually know about them is most likely limited to their projects and a couple of interviews. You’ve got a host of assumptions you are making about them. Based just on the fact that you like their work, you assume all sorts of things about what their life is like, and then are incredibly shocked when they get fat, get old, die of a drug overdose or commit suicide.
A more light-hearted example of how we mythologize real people: have you ever mentally hosted a fight between Chuck Norris and just about anyone else? You decided who would win, and it probably had very little to do with your deep understanding of Chuck’s actual martial skill. That fight ends in different ways depending upon how the person hosting the fight in their imagination feels about Chuck Norris, and what he represents to them.
And this is why Greek Mythology has multiple versions of certain stories.
Actions have symbolic meanings. That’s the whole basis of ritual, right? But it’s not just some actions which have symbolic meaning. Potentially, all of them do. Moreover, the same action can have different meanings to different cultures at different times, even as the letter R has a different sound value in French, British English and American English.
Theseus, in different myths, married and divorced Ariadne. What happened next depends upon what Theseus represented to the myth makers, and how Greek culture viewed his actions at the time. Did he abandon her? Was he forced to give her up? Depends on whether you think the Athenians value their wives, I guess, and whether they ought to. Many Greek stories have multiple versions.I won’t bore you with citations — this isn’t meant to be a text study — but go look at the various endings to the myth of Iphigenia. Whether she dies, is whisked away to become a priestess of Artemis, replaced at the last minute by Hekate, or replaced by an animal at the last possible second depends entirely on which variant of Greek culture wrote the myth, what they valued, and what those actions meant to them.
Reading our interpretations of other’s symbols into mythology creates problems.
In modern times, “on drugs” reads differently to different people. If a person is “on drugs,” are they merely off-center and zany? A criminal? Sick and in need of help?
Let’s imagine that there are three people. We’ll call them Suz, Pat and Bruce.
Suz is an avid marijuana smoker, and lives in Humbolt, CA. Her friends all smoke weed, and often make jokes about harder drugs, though they’d never actually take harder drugs.
Bruce is a suit with a too-tight necktie who is extremely anti-marijuana, and anti-drug in general. Suz works in his office as a patent attorney, and he has no idea that she’s a “smoker” — because of how she knows Bruce will react.
Pat is a nice person, but a little eccentric. They are a skilled story-teller, and the stories they tell are often a bit wacky. Pat spends a weekend with Suz and tells some incredibly entertaining stories. Suz chooses one of the tamer ones to tell to Bruce, who expressed skepticism. Suz says, “Yeah, that’s what happens when you do too many drugs.”
Bruce hears this, and rather than taking Suz’s comment to mean that Pat is a zany adventurer sort, takes it to mean that Pat is an itinerant criminal. After this decision is made, all of Pat’s future actions are interpreted according to this framework. Bruce fills in missing information in stories about Pat with images consistent with TV depictions of drug cartels and gang-bangers. If Bruce ever meets Pat,
any new information which Bruce might be presented with will be filtered by Bruce’s confirmation bias, and anything that contradicts this view of Pat will be likely to be dismissed. It is for that reason that Suz never told Bruce that she smoked marijuana, because that’s just how people work.
If you were Pat, you might be initially upset at having been pre-judged by Bruce. You might initially try to clear your name with Bruce, but after a time, when that seemed impossible, you’d just avoid him. Still, any time your name came up, Bruce would be there, and with him, his imaginary version of you, complete with bong, hookers, and piles of cash procured through nefarious means.
This is exactly how unhealthy thoughtforms are created. Our imaginary constructs for understanding deities are built out of symbols that mean different things to us than they meant to the people who wrote our mythology. Our concept is too different from who the deity actually is to serve as an interface, and while the deity stops trying to use that interface to interact with us, we still have that imaginary construct of the deity in mind, whenever their name comes up.
Suz has a healthy thoughtform of Pat. Her personal symbols, and how she interprets them, are congruent with Pat’s actual nature, and facilitate a positive relationship with Pat. It helps Suz to make predictions about Pat’s particular sense of humor, likes and dislikes, and how to approach Pat. Different people might have healthy thoughtforms of Pat, and these might look nothing like Suz’s. They are healthy so long as they facilitate a positive relationship. Bruce has an unhealthy thoughtform which is incongruent with Pat’s actual nature, and prevents Bruce from ever having a positive relationship with Pat, no matter what positive overtures Pat might make.
A Fhqwhgod is what I call an imaginary construct which basically no longer has anything to do with the actual deity except for in image and in name. It is incongruent with the deity’s nature, and causes the humans who interact with it to have negative relationships with the deity. Of course, a person can have a negative relationship with a deity and a mostly-healthy thought form, but I’ll come back to that.
I love this cartoon. Basically, Strong Bad gets a three word email from someone he doesn’t know, and gets so caught up in the name that the person signs off with that this becomes the focus of the interaction. Later, Strong Bad creates a whole narrative about this person including how everyone is just going to feel sorry for them. He was actually in contact with the actual person. His relationship with that person, however… well, you’ll see.
Yeah, that’ll be stuck in your head for a week now. You’re welcome.
If you are a part of a community wherein Polytheists are having experiences of their gods that involve those gods actually making changes in the real world, you’ve probably had some experiences that sound like, “I asked my friend Joe, I asked my friend Jake, they said it was [insert deity name].”
People have runs of terrible luck, nightmares, you name it. Bad shit happens to people, and if they are religious, they’ll look around for a mystical explanation that helps them give a narrative which feels more meaningful than, “life sucks, get a helmet.” Some people conclude that there is an asshole deity who has singled them out for punishment.
The truth is, as a being for whom interactions with humans is an essential part of life — coming back to that hairless ape form factor, the desire to have clergy, and the need to be attended to by humans in any way — you would literally have to be as stupid as a wet bag of sand to actually be in the habit of mistreating human beings. I mean, perhaps you can even argue that deities used to be that stupid. I don’t think they were, but I could see someone constructing an argument for it based on a modern interpretation of ancient myth-symbols. Do you really think they’d repeat that sort of human-alienating behavior after losing their following once already?
That doesn’t mean that this isn’t what some people legitimately experience. The thing is, just like artificial spirits (which can, incidentally, be created entirely without the help of any divinity), thought forms of deities can take on a life of their own, be quite powerful, and have much more to do with the perceptions and attitudes of the people who created them than the actual deity themselves.
Imagine getting into a fight with Godzilla and winning. Improbable, right? But imagine how incredibly exhilarating it would be. That is about what it feels like to get into a fight with a Fhqwhgod. You can have astral adventures where you kick that thought form in the balls, and, because it was made by a human, and most likely made by you, you can win. You can do that, and the deity won’t strike back at you.
Going back to our scenario with Bruce and Pat, imagine that, for some reason, Bruce developed the mistaken and unshakeable idea that Pat-The-Drug-Dealer was dead. Pat would finally be free of Bruce’s misconceptions. Pat could then “re-meet” Bruce, and perhaps have a shot at a real and authentic relationship with him. Most humans wouldn’t care to put that much effort into a douche-lord like Bruce, but in my experience, most deities actually would.
You can’t destroy the transcendent harmony of natural law, but going up against Fhqwhgod-Apollon and winning is not an impossible scenario. Indeed, Apollon might actually want to help.
The problem is that we love to hate Fhqwhgods. A person who has had bad dealings with Fhqwhgod-Apollon sees that the actual god isn’t destroyed, and is so invested in hating the god himself, that they get stuck in a cycle of regenerating the same negative thought form for the purpose of reliving that “Defeating Godzilla” moment. The thought form is never actually cleared away, and no authentic relationship with the deity can ever be formed.
Another problem is that you really can’t interact with a deity without a thought form of some kind. Your brain couldn’t handle it. So, without a newer, more positive thought form, you are inevitably going to rebuild the negative one you had previously, because the god hasn’t gone away, and that’s the only User Interface you know how to build.
If you are working with a pantheon by choice, it really is best that you try to get along with all of the deities in that pantheon.
If a deity actually stands for a part of the universe you can’t deal with due to personal trauma, that is legitimate. It’s important, however, that we distinguish between mythological actions, which are symbols, and what a deity actually stands for. Zeus isn’t a god of sexual assault, he’s a god of storms and kingship. Hades isn’t a god of kidnapping, he’s a god of the dead. Ares isn’t a god of murdering people, he’s a god of war. Thanatos is, however, legitimately a god of death, and causing people to die.
You just have to ask yourself, “Do I find this deity problematic because of the part of the universe they are associated with, or because of the actions I see them doing in their mythology, and what I infer about their character because of these actions?”
If it is the former, then the work which lies ahead of you is coming to peace with the way reality is put together. If it is the latter, the work ahead lies in banishing your FhqwhGods, and replacing them with healthy thought forms that consist of your personal symbols, and help you to relate to the part of the universe that the deity actually stands for.