In a previous post, I briefly touched on the possibility that in a just Universe, the gods are not immortal. Incredibly long-lived, perhaps; but not immortal – not when the Nature they exist and work within must also eventually end. This sparked a few other thoughts, that I thought I would share, and perhaps get some feedback on (as this is somewhat untested water for me) ….
Assuming the ideas I presented in my previous post are close to the mark, assuming the gods are not immortal, how might that work? The Abrahamic god, for example, seems to have been around in one form or another for a very long time – one branch (Judaism) claims a continuity that has spanned 3,000 years. That’s a long time, by our reckoning – and this is not to mention gods that were actively revered even before then, who despite not having (m)any followers left in the world today, are not recorded as having died at any point.
Do the gods exist, perhaps, outside of time? This was one thought that crossed my mind, even as early as that previous post of mine – perhaps in a different dimension of Being, or something along those lines, where the borders of science and magic get really fuzzy. The problem I have with this is that we have a pretty good idea that space and time are linked together. If you have something that exists, it stands to reason that it takes up space, and time must also exist alongside it. If a god can work in a region of space, then time can work on said god. It would not surprise me if there were a number of explanations for why this very basic logic is flawed; but I took the logic for what it was, and moved my thoughts a bit further.
In Heathenry, the event of Ragnarok is well-known. Among the Heathens I’ve known, beliefs range as to whether it will ever happen, whether it is about to happen soon, or whether or not it may have already happened. I bring Heathenry up because, with the events that take place during the final battle of Ragnarok, a lot of people are familiar with the notion that at least among Heathens, gods can and do die. It is also from this example, that I was reminded that even when some of the great gods die (Odin and Thor, to name a few), there are other gods who will take up the mantle of their forebears, and continue forward. Outside of Heathenry, there are numerous examples of gods who exist seasonally, or cyclically, dying and renewing themselves each year; so it is not just the Heathens who are familiar with the idea of a deity dying, I simply chose an example I thought might be more familiar for the mainstream reader.
It is at this point, where I started wondering whether or not it were possible that the gods may not be single beings within themselves; but functions or roles, filled by numerous beings? Here, I found myself swimming in some fairly unfamiliar water … despite my own thoughts concerning Relative Being, and the Universe as the supreme being, I’ll admit that I’m still very used to what I was brought up with: that being the idea of gods as single beings that stay with us pretty much until the end of everything. In theory, this would also preclude them from being immortal; and it might be easier for me to leave my mind with what it’s used to, rather than try to wrap it around something different … but then that wouldn’t really be my style.
Out of curiosity, if it should turn out that this were the case – that divinity is a function rather than a specific being (or family or tribe of beings) – what might understanding something like that mean for us? Would it change anything, or make any kind of difference? Friedrich Nietzsche is famously quoted as having said that “God is dead.” What he was referring (in part) to was the damage taken to Christianity in Europe as a result of the cultural shift toward science and technology in the 19th Century, and the resulting damage to the moral systems that were built upon the European sense of Christianity; but what if ‘god’ does periodically die, to be replaced by another being who strives to fulfill the same role? Where might these other spiritual beings come from? Where might they go afterward?