Many Pagans arrive on this Path without the foggiest of how diverse Pagan schools of thought or belief are. They find themselves caught up in a melee of ideologies, contrasting ideas and ideals and some never move beyond this point. Some even give up on Paganism’s complexities. Personal Spirituality is an awareness and a heritage of Knowledge that has found expression and growth in the Neo-Pagan Movement.
The definitions I will provide in this article are purely academic and not meant to in any way presumptuously say that this is the “be all” and the “end all” of Paganism. May you,through it, find the freedom of expression of your personal understanding of the Universe and the Divine Nature which permeates it.
Many say that Paganism is a Polytheistic Path, so we will examine the word Polytheism to get a grasp on the concept and then through further definitions move closer to where you stand on your Path.
Polytheism is a term derived from the Hellenic ‘Poly’ (many) and ‘Theoi’ (Gods). It refers to the belief in many Gods. Modern Polytheism has many sub-categories that express different types of Polytheistic thinking.
Hard Polytheism holds that the Gods are separate and distinct one from the other, just as indicated in worldwide mythology. They hold that that the Gods are separate and distinct from one another as depicted in world mythologies.
Soft Polytheism is a modern refers to the belief that the Gods are all parts or fractions of a smaller number or single greater form of God (referred to as the One). It includes forms of Syncretism, Monolatry, Henotheism, Pantheism and Panentheism. The core of this form of Spiritual Belief System is in the single and underlying principle in the Universe.
Syncretic or Inclusive Polytheism emphasises that there is a limited number of Gods and acknowledges equivalent Gods from other Pantheons who share the same or similar functions. It can be combined with Hard or Soft Polytheism.
Unlimited or Exclusive Polytheism refers to the belief in the existence of an unlimited number of Gods and in the belief that the functions, forms and characteristics of the Gods are unique and are not inter-changeable with those of Gods in other Pantheons, irrespective of similarities.
Monolatry refers to the worship of one God who is superior to all other Gods. This implies that other Gods are acknowledged but are regarded as inferior and not worthy of worship.
Henotheism is the worship of one God without however, denying the possible existence of other Gods.
Kathenotheism is a form of Henotheism that stipulates however that more than one God may be worshipped, but not contemporaneously. It refers to the worship of different Gods at different festivals, choice of which is dictated by the circumstances an season.
Agnosticism refutes the possibility of mankind knowing the Gods or the Ultimate Reality.
Theism is the opposite to Atheism and refers to the belief in the existence of a God/Gods.
Atheism is the denial of the existence of God/Gods.
Theism refers only to the belief in the Divine but does not attach to it religious philosophy or theological dogma.
Classical Theism states that the Divine is Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and absolutely benevolent.
Monotheism is a term derived from the Greek ‘Monas’ (one) and ‘Theos’ (God) and refers most commonly to the belief that there is a single God or the simplified interpretation that Divine Unity or God’s Oneness is Singular and immanent.
Animism (anima is Latin for Soul) is one of the earliest forms of belief and refers to systems of belief that attribute a soul to every form of life, animate or otherwise.
Pantheism has its roots in the Greek words ‘Pan’ (All) and ‘Theos/Theoi’ (God/Gods). It is the fusion of “All Gods/Goddesses’ and is very closely linked to environmentalism in its revering of Mother Nature and eco-Spirituality in recognition of the Divine within the Universe, the last being the body of the God/Gods as well the gnosis that it is also within all it contains and does not transcend it.
Panentheism is similar to Pantheism for it too holds that God permeates everything but believes that the Gods exist and transcend the All. For Panentheism the Gods are greater than the sum of the parts of the Universe, transcend it in existence and extend beyond the Universe itself.
Deism is derived from the Latin word “Deus” (God) and refers to a belief structure that states that the Gods are external to the All, that they are not interactive or concerned with the affairs of men and do not intervene in what happens on Earth or in the Universe. Under this category you find Polydeism, Pandeism and Panendeism.