Holding Multiple Paradigms

20140120-121832.jpgWhen seeking answers from the universe, it’s important to be flexible as to how the message is going to be delivered. These are all paradigms I’ve found useful at various points in my life.  Call me fickle if you want, but sometimes I’ll slip back and forth between several in the course of a day. Just like in an ecosystem, monocultures, or monoparadigms (to coin a phrase), are an unhealthy thing, whereas a multiplicity of potential thought processes is an expression of flexibility and diversity.  To invoke the ancestor Emerson, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

Default Paradigms:

Animist–This is where I end up most often. Yes, I talk to my tea kettle in the morning, and apologize to the cabinet door if I shut it too hard.  Animism is the key to mindfulness in my practice, because if everything is sacred and deserving of respect, then we can engage with difficult situations in new and creative ways.

Polytheist–Second most frequent default.  I blame it being dragged around half a dozen Gothic churches every morning whenever Dad was on sabbatical in France. You can’t tell me that having three or more altars to various holy figures doesn’t inspire polytheistic leanings. ‘Cause it does.

Practical Paradigms for Everyday Living:

Henotheist–Really more like serial henotheism if I’m totally honest. It’s kinda like serial monogamy. There will be times when I work very closely with a single deity for an extended period, to the exclusion of other gods.

Kathenotheist–basically a term similar to the one above, and perhaps more fitting for dealing with shorter time frames. “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” Sometimes I’m convinced Aranrhod is the be-all, end-all of all goddesses, sometimes it’s Cerridwen, or occasionally Brighid. Don’t even get me started on my flip-flopping between Gwydion and Gwynn….

Depression Paradigms for Those Low Moments in Life:

Apatheist–don’t care if there are gods. Even when this one rears its ugly head, I tend to go through the motions of offerings anyway. Ritual for ritual’s sake can be an important part of self-care, even if it’s hard to muster the energy for genuine belief in the moment.

Meta-Paradigms for Those Big Honkin’ Questions:

Sanctity of Natural Laws–Most often I’d agree that the divine can be found in everything, as evident in the natural laws of physics and chemistry. Those very basic building blocks, like the Law of Gravity or Thermodynamics, are pieces of the sacred.  However, I don’t necessarily believe that a sentient creator was necessary to set these divine laws in motion.

Agnostic–It’s a good idea to challenge default assumptions on a semi-regular basis. Agnosticism is a good tool for that.

Igtheist–This one is pretty much omnipresent in the back of whatever paradigm is currently operating. We aren’t capable of knowing the full extent of the divine. Creating a space for sacred doubt is what allows growth and change, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Omnist–All religions provide a possible path. Again, this is usually running in the background of my metaphysical philosophies, though I want to acknowledge up front that some paths are definitely not for me. I also struggle with this paradigm when encountering intolerant or violent religious practices, as I have a hard time justifying a belief that thrives on hurting others.


5 thoughts on “Holding Multiple Paradigms

  1. We seem to think alike, I think. I act like a henotheist in practice because [D’s title] consumes so much of my life, but then Dai shows up and fills me with awe.

    I totally talk to inanimate objects and I also have a tendency of naming them. I named my laptop [D’s personal name], actually (because it’s sleek, easy to use, and frequently has my hands all over it). 😄


    • Naming things just seems like a basic act of respect. Maybe it’s too many years of martial arts, but I definitely believe objects can be worthy of respect, just like any other creature. My other quirk is to refer to things that most people call “it” as “he” or “she”: spiders=feminine, stinging insects=feminine, crows=masculine, frogs=masculine, etc. I have no idea how I came up with these associations, but they seem to work for me!


  2. Pingback: Turning the Tables | The Druid's Well
  3. This is interesting, and I wonder whether rather than it always being a case of flipping it’s possible we hold all these together? And and and and rather than either / or? I see myself as an animist in the sense everything is inspirited but not in the sense of the new animism that sniffs at the notion of people seeing and worshipping ‘personified’ spirits and gods. I’m a polytheist as a worshipper of many gods. But since Gwyn became my patron my path has mainly been devoted to him, which seems very henotheistic. I see these as co-existing layers rather than paradigms I alternate between.


    • I guess in my practice, if I think about it even more carefully, it’s like different currents rising to the surface of a lake–all part of the same body of water, but different temperatures and even compositions. So from that perspective, it’s definitely more of a both/and situation.


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