The map is not the territory


It seems that my prayers are not good enough for some people. Once I got past the hurt from this realization, I started to wonder why that might be the case. The only logical explanation I can think of is that my God is not good enough for them. Yes I do believe in God. Generally speaking Pagans believe in God, otherwise they would call themselves atheists or agnostics. Yes I am aware that there are a few Pagans who also consider themselves atheists or agnostics but that is another topic for another day and probably for another writer too.

God maps

I’m not terribly interested in God theory. I don’t like using words like monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, panentheism, animism, immanence and transcendence, as they are not generally well understood and more than one may apply to a person’s belief system.

Carl McColman discusses Pagan beliefs about deity in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Paganism:

“Monotheism, the concept that there is only one God, may seem at odds with paganism, which emphasizes both God and Goddess and in many forms accepts all the various Gods and Goddesses of world mythology. But to pagans, this is mostly a difference of language or philosophy. Many pagans believe that there is ultimately one source for divinity in the universe; to a pagan, that single source can be seen in many ways, as many different Gods. To Christians, Jews, or Muslims, that source can only be seen in one way, as the God of their approved teachings. So although monotheists and pagans have different ways of understanding Spirit, many pagans would see these differences as mostly a matter of interpretation.”

I believe that there is ultimately one source of life and I call that source God or the Divine. My God is pretty abstract, neither male nor female nor possessing any other human characteristics.

I believe that all life and activity on earth exists due to Divine forces, which are observable in the forces of Nature. Individual deities, gods and goddesses, are a way to give names and faces to those Divine forces and make it easier to interact with them. To some Pagans they are abstract archetypes and to others they are very real. They can be viewed as archetypal energies that are potentially as much a part of us as they are external entities.

I pray to God, angels, saints and my mom and dad and other family on the other side. Sometimes I even pray to Jesus. Yes I realize some Pagans would consider that to be heresy, but that’s too bad. It’s my belief system and I’ll pray to Jesus if I want to.

I work with specific deities when I need guidance on specific issues, as they are associated with specific qualities and purposes.

I don’t actually believe that my God is a different God to anyone else’s God. I don’t believe that there is one God for Pagans, another God for “true” Christians whoever they may be, another God for the “other” Christians, another God for Jews, another God for Moslems, another God for Hindus, another God for Buddhists, et cetera. That is just ridiculous to me. We all live in the same universe. God is everyone’s God, and the different words we use to describe God have no effect whatsoever on what God may or may not actually be from a completely objective point of view.

It’s not even all that relevant exactly what I believe about God, as it is highly subjective and hopefully evolving all the time. My point is, I believe that we all ultimately pray to the same God.

Holy days

At this time of year, whether we say “Merry Christmas”, “Blessed Solstice” or “Happy Holidays”, I think or at least hope what we actually mean is “Blessings on you and your loved ones during this holy season”. If people insist that others use the same seasonal greeting as them or celebrate the same seasonal festival as them, they have missed the point of the season and are suffering from a misguided sense of superiority along the lines of racism, sexism and homophobia. They are effectively saying “You have my blessings provided you think like I think and believe what I believe, as what I think and believe is more important or better than what you think and believe”.

The map is not the territory

The words we use to describe God are not God. The map is not the territory. Don’t eat the menu.

“A map *is not* the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a *similar structure* to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness … If we reflect upon our languages, we find at best they must be considered *only as maps*. A word *is not* the object it represents;”

Science and Sanity, Alfred Habdank Skarbek Korzybski (1879-1950)

“This awareness [Languages, formulational systems, etc., as maps and only maps of what they purport to represent] led to the three premises (popularly expressed) of general semantics:

the map *is not* the territory

no map represents *all* of ‘its’ presumed territory

maps are self-reflexive, i.e. we can map our maps indefinitely. Also, every map is *at least*, whatever else it may claim to map, a map of the map-maker: her/his assumptions, skills, world-view, etc.

By ‘maps’ we should understand everything and anything that humans formulate – including … biology, Buddhism, Catholicism, chemistry, Evangelism, Freudianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Lutheranism, physics, Taoism, etc., etc., …!”

Preface to the Fifth Edition of Science and Sanity, Robert P Pula (1928-2004)

This article was first published here


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3 Responses

  1. Helen says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting Adrian! 🙂

  2. The term I like to use is The All. It gives a nice feeling to the vastness and the inclusive nature of it (and all those theisms too.

    A blessing from a priest or patron of one faith is a blessing nonetheless. And we could all use a little more love and positivity in our life, can’t we? During this season, I choose to say the phrase spoken back at them such as Merry Christmas.

  1. Jan 11, 2012

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