I’m going to try something a little different with this conversation. Usually, if I’m having a channeled conversation (automatic writing) I do so by connecting to the deity in question, and holding on to their energy, allowing them to use my hands. In this conversation, I tried holding on to two energies at once so as to facilitate a prolonged three-way conversation. The deities were Apollon and Hermes. The topic was meant to be something like, “Why do mortals have negative experiences of deities and what responsibilities, if any, do deities have towards mortals” — Then, Apollon bounded in, all excited about Platonic Ideals.
So, we talked about that instead. The salient ideas were really interesting, and the results highly entertaining.
A caveat when reading this: please be aware that Hermes did not actually school Apollon on history. He did emphatically insist that Apollon was wrong about the personal life of Descartes, but the actual factual details which appear in the conversation were a result of Hermes nabbing the mouse in addition to the keyboard, and pulling up Wikipedia. That is not something which Apollon would have considered doing, and if he had, he might not have been able to maintain the level of connection with me to pull it off.
A second thing I wonder about is this: to what degree are my words my own, and to what degree am I being inspired, or being used as a literary device to round out their conversation?
Thenea: Alright you guys. I have a thing that’s been eating me for days, and I think I want to talk to both of you about it.
Apollon: Hooray! Is it philosophical?
Thenea: My, you’re punchy.
Apollon: I love philosophy.
Thenea: Yes, that’s true.
Apollon: Today, actually, before you get onto your topic, I wanted to make a statement about Platonism and Neo-Platonism. I understand that this wasn’t at all what you want to talk about, but I think it bears exploring.
Thenea: Ok, shoot.
Apollon: It has been said, or could perhaps be inferred, that to be a god, you must be a god of something.
Thenea: Agreed. I cannot think of a counter-example.
Apollon: My concept is that deities such as myself are champions of, keepers of, or adherents to a particular Platonic Ideal, in by case, Truth, among many. It is not, as some have suggested, that a deity such as myself is a manifestation of the Platonic Ideal of Truth, or Deity, or whatever else. Rather, conceive of a Platonic Ideal as a farm wherein its various manifestations and permutations arise, grow, and eventually die. On that farm, there are many farm hands — Utu, for example, is perhaps among them, and me, and other deities of Truth.
Thenea: Utu is more a god of Justice, but I follow.
Apollon: Indeed. The specifics are unimportant. It’s the concept. What do you think of my concept?
Thenea: I like your concept.
Hermes: Apollo, that is a fine concept, but here is the thing. Does it really match up with your life experiences? Think about it. Like, Aphrodite. How much collaborating does she do with Ishtar or Bast?
Apollon: Not much.
Hermes: I bet you collaborate with other gods of Truth and Philosophy all the time, but truthfully, that’s the sort of domain it is. Consider: who do you know, mortal or divine, who was a philosopher in a vacuum, with no one else around to talk to?
Hermes: Dude, whatever, you didn’t even know Descartes.
Apollon: We can know from Descartes’s writings that he was not discussing or processing his ideas with anyone. In point of fact, the so-called “aberrant passage” results from his fear of being persecuted by the Catholic Church. We know from this that his ideas were heretical, and he would not have publicized them to his friends.
Hermes: DUDE DO YOU EVEN HISTORY??
Hermes: No. Check it. Isaac Beeckman? Philosopher. Tycho Brahe. F’ing heretic. Refuted the Catholic Dogma of the unchanging heavens with some nifty little proofs. Little. Known. Fact. Friends of Descartes.
Hermes: GO ASK YOUR MUSES, MUSAGETES!
Apollon: So it is.
Hermes: See, I knew those guys. I talk to everybody. I am the voice in every person’s head, asking them mischievous questions. Know why?
Apollon: That seems antithetical to your roles as rustic deity. And herald.
Hermes: Except. Remember when I took your cattle? Did that ’cause the laws of heaven were stupid. The Molu? Laws of nature were stupid. Theft? Laws of property are stupid. Me? My whole thing is finding laws and institutions that are stupid, and working to make them not stupid anymore, without hurting anyone.
Apollon: Really? Fascinating. Yet, you are making my point.
Hermes: … wut.
Apollon: Now in my initial analogy, I proposed that a Platonic Ideal was a thing which was shepherded, in tandem, or perhaps, as I suggested in my original analogy, tended like a garden. The thing is simultaneously larger than, and tended by, the deities which pertain to it.
Hermes: My ADHD. It has defeated me. I totally forgot what we were arguing about.
Apollon: I, however, did not.
Hermes: And you totally let me make your point.
Apollon: It was a fascinating argument which I was eager to hear.
Apollon: I admit, it was a bit douchey. I assure you, unintentionally so.
Hermes: Right, whatever.
Thenea: Apollon, your argument was that all deities collaborate, and Hermes was saying that only gods of philosophy might be inclined to. He wasn’t making your point, he just got excited about all the people he knows.
Apollon: And then got distracted from the distraction with which he distracted me by talking about himself.
Apollon: Right. I will concede that I do not know love goddesses well enough to answer the question of whether they collaborate as scientists, philosophers, truth-seekers and musicians must in order to accomplish their aims.
Thenea: It seems to me that each of these things we mention, Love, Music… I’ll add on, Pottery, Painting, Knitting, Politics, Managerial Science, Drug Dealing… in the human world, at least, people of a particular profession do benefit greatly by sharing trade secrets. I think that the idea sounds like a reasonable hypothesis, but one that is ultimately untestable.
Hermes: No, you can totally test that. If what Apollo’s saying is true, then every time anyone, or anyone on Earth, let’s say, makes some staggering breakthrough, then all gods of that thing will automatically know. It argues that gods don’t learn so much as they are updated with new software.
Thenea: I feel like that observation wouldn’t prove our hypothesis. You’d observe that if deities were emanations of, rather than keepers of, a Platonic Ideal. Any hypothesis that states that there is contact between a deity and the Platonic Ideal, rather than that a deity simply goes off their past experiences and learnings, will be supported by your auto-update scenario.
Apollon: You may be right, Thenea.
Thenea: A model of the universe is only useful insofar as it has predictive power. If two models of the universe sound different, but render the same predictions about outcomes, then the two models are functionally identical. Apollon: The same in all respects, I suppose.
Hermes: So, what would be different about the universe if deities tended an ideal and its emanations like a farm? I’d wager you’d observe that deities would have the ability to make more profound changes in the way the ideal manifested.
Thenea: Yeah, and if it was the other way around, if deities emanated from the ideal, then you’d expect that they’d be tended by the ideal… in other words, your scenario, Hermes, the one you said earlier, actually proves that deities are emanations of higher principles to which they belong. If Apollon’s hypothesis were correct, we’d expect to see deities having to do a great deal of work to get ideals to flower into a myriad of concepts and forms.
Hermes: Which is a thing that happens.
Thenea: I imagine. Also, if you think about the Ideal as the soil, and the myriad concepts as the things growing out of it, it actually requires zero collaboration between deities. A lack of collaboration, each deity tending their own plot, each working to bring the ideal to full flower? That could actually go a long way to explain why different societies have different concepts of love, or war, or finances, or what have you.
Apollon: Hermes, can you sum all that up for us, so that people reading can understand it?
Hermes: I’m offended on their behalf that you think they couldn’t follow it… but as you like. Basically, there are two ideas here.
- Gods are gods, and being a god of a thing means you have power over it.
- Deities are parts of the bigger concepts, and that’s what makes them a god of whatever-it-is.
If the first thing is true, then we’d expect to see different societies with different ways of thinking about the same concept, and a big breakthrough in Uganda, for example, wouldn’t cary over to Norway.
If the second thing is true, then the gods, while they might not express the whole thing they are a deity of, when an applicable breakthrough happened, it would auto-update in all of the deities of that thing, because the larger concepts will have grown.
Apollo: An interesting re-statement, Hermes, but it poses a problem. In Plato’s original conception, Ideals are perfect and cannot be improved upon, only expounded upon.
Hermes: That is a stupid and depressing idea, and Plato is a Jackhole. I want to kill that idea with a shot-gun. Any objections?
Apollon: If… you think you can bring a proof against it?
Hermes: No. But I’ma let Thenea go.
Thenea: I think that a Platonic Ideal, if we are to extend our farming metaphor, is like sand.
Hermes: Sand. Ok.
Thenea: If you think about dirt, it looks like one substance, but it isn’t. It’s got bits of rotting and dead things which make it brown, minerals and so forth, and it’s got sand. Now, when we look at a plot of land, we usually don’t think about that. I’m going to argue that there are changeless Platonic Ideals, but they are Atomic in nature.
Apollon: I think I see where you’re going with this. Go ahead.
Thenea: Just like Aristotle used to think that Air was an essential element that made up the world because he didn’t know about Oxygen or Carbon Dioxide or Nitrogen, Plato couldn’t conceive of the various ideals and concepts that might go into things like Beauty and Love. Plato had this idea that there was an Ideal of Beauty, but really, if you think about it, Beauty is complicated. What a culture finds beautiful has to do with their values, generally, and with respect to what it means to be a woman, a man, or a person.
A society which values athletics will find an athletic build attractive. One that values wealth and opulence might prefer a softer frame that bespeaks indulgences. Really, Beauty is the intersection of things like Procreation, Personhood, Survival, Power, Wealth and Themis. Beauty is made up of stuff, just like the soil is.
The true Platonic Ideals, like the sand, I suspect, are barren. Unmixed, they are impossible to bring to full flower. They are true principles about the universe, like Entropy and Information, the tendency of things to come together and fall apart.
For our purposes, however, at least for religious purposes, it’s far more useful, I think, to deal in concepts that deities can be deities over. Thus, I think Hermes is right. Anything a deity is a deity of, by virtue of the fact that it has a composition, can be improved upon.
Hermes: *drops mic*
Apollon: I’m favorably convinced.
Hermes: So what was the thing you called us for?
Thenea: Oh… sod it. Nevermind.