I was asked the question: “can you explain how you can have multiple gods, who struggle with each other, or would you say there is some other entity deciding which god wins and which god loses in these struggles?”
It’s a pretty interesting one, and as far as I’m aware the person asking it hasn’t really got an Indo-European religious background – so I deliberately attempted to keep specialized (or, for that matter, non-English) terminology to a minimum. I’ve also, by necessity, folded in a brief look at somewhat contrasting perspectives on Fate and Free Will – and proposed a spectrum of synthesis positions that help to accommodate both within the relevant understandings of the world. Begins:
The answer I would run with is, effectively “both”, to varying extents. Think of it like a Westminster style Cabinet. There are multiple Ministers (some of Whom may be wearing multiple ‘hats’ each, and Who may even have overlapping areas of responsibility or be Associate Ministers acting alongside another, etc.) … but only one Queen.
And underpinning the whole thing is a form of constitution that is seriously vast, deep, and occasionally quite abstract seeming for those of us on the inside of the system. There’s some rather interesting legal writing about this produced by Lord Cooke of Thorndon which is quite conceptually relevant here for this understanding – but more upon that, perhaps, some other time.
Said constitutional order, said Common Law, is also effectively personified in said Sovereign – although the Sovereign is also acting within this framework, Herself. [it is therefore, not really accurate to seek to compare this to the US system of government – wherein, other than their enthusiasm for a ‘separation of powers’ rather than a Bagehotian ‘fusion of powers’ model … well, their Constitution with a Capital C doesn’t really have a personified embodiment … although I am slightly overstraining / massively oversimplifying the Westminster position of the Queen here for the purposes of illustration. Anyway]
Now, the fact that there is a single sovereign, a single crown … does not prevent the various ministers of the crown from having separate personalities, separate agendas – and occasionally working at downright cross-purposes with one another.
Although the perspicacity of the head of government [I am now somewhat departing from the current realities of Westminster governance where, as you know, head of government and head of state are … not strictly coterminous due to (d)evolution that has occurred over the previous 400 years or so] is such that they’re aware of these things and will probably have factored them into the plans for the administration [I suppose in UK terms it would be called ‘the Ministry’]
All of this maps rather well to the Hindu understanding which I am expounding. However, I have left out the various Sanskrit terms that stuff correlates to, because I’m endeavouring to keep this relatively straight-forward.
The Politics of the Heavens are a rather fascinating subject in Their Own Rite , of course – but it is probably enough for now to note that a deliberative ‘council’ model does appear in a number of Indo-European mytho-religious traditions.
With, intriguingly, the Greco-Roman Classical setup being the biggest upon the more ‘Dictatorial’ absolutist style of things, and the Germanic one tending to favour a much more council-style approach in some regards – that also has even Odin shown to be subject to the Law (or, if you prefer, the Lore – and there are a few reasons for phrasing it thus .. ) and capable of being cast out into Exile [now, how much of an actual punishment this might be for The Wandering God is, of course, another matter .. ]; which, of course, is not actually disharmonious with the Germanic understanding of kingship [or, for that matter, just about anybody’s understanding of Kingship] prior to certain relatively later political-philosophical developments .
The Vedic schema has multiple Gods acting as Rajas in particular realms, or in response to particular crises, or with oversight of particular functions; although also maintains both a collegial comity of Gods in particular positions … and occasional breaches of that. Most prominently in those situations wherein one or more deities get it into Their head(s) that They ought take on powers outside Their portfolio(s) (which can, understandably, cause problems out in the universe for obvious reasons if you suddenly have two Ministers acting at cross-purposes with the elemental forces of nature, say) and/or attempt to proclaim Themselves to be (falsely) Supreme. An attempt at a Coup, in some ways, we might phrase it as (or, perhaps, an attempt at a No Confidence vote in the House). And put down with sufficient force, as one should probably expect.
Now, the other concept of saliency is the Cosmic Drama one [again, I’m leaving the relevant Sanskrit terminology untranslated for simplicity]; and this is probably more immediately relevant in some ways to your line of questioning.
What this posits is that there are Two , a husband and wife pair in fact , that are – again, to speak both somewhat figuratively and in remarkably close coherency to the original Hindu conceptual syllabry – simultaneously the Producers , Directors, Script-writers, and Lead Actors in this Cosmic Play.
A not uncommon phenomenon in some more successful Hollywood stars in motion pictures today.
Although it must be said – as applies the Pair in question, the expression “an ego the size of a galaxy” is, perhaps, more literal rather than libelous. And not a negative thing.
Now, what does this mean in terms of the other Gods ?
Well, opinion on this is mixed in the Hindusphere.
Some effectively hold a position that renders us monotheist by proxy – all divinities just being refractions of the one over-divine. I do not agree with that , for a variety of reasons. But this is supposed to be a simple and (relatively) succinct response, so we’ll leave those by the wayside – except for one (brief) conceptual demonstration: the relevant metaphysics would plausibly have you and I being the same person (long story) … which is either not the case, or not a useful understanding for us to hold (or both) – because the fact we are having this conversation, the fact that you have asked a question because you don’t know something and want to know about it, and I am providing you with an answer to same because I’ve got some insight that I’m keen to share … well, nothing is gained here by acting as if we are the same person (not least due to the quite significant differences and asymmetries between us that means that this interaction can – hopefully beneficially – take place). But I digress.
My own position is rather different. And posits that yes, yes the Two running the show (and I, again, mean that rather directly – ‘the show’) are setting the script etc. [and there is some … quite interesting conceptry around which of those Two is more in charge – as is the nature with many a married couple … I have my own thoughts upon that, too, but we shall perhaps save those stories, too, for another time] … which opens the door to discussion over whereabouts on a spectrum from ‘hard determinism’ through to ‘(qualified) free will’ we think we are.
Again, I do think that we have (qualified) agency …. however, attempting to outwit Omniscience is … not likely to be especially successful. Which doesn’t matter so much because that’s … not really the point of existence. We’re not engaged in some sort of struggle against Ultimate Law. That is for Demons – and it is not at all coincidental that the Demons inevitably lose. (Although it should be noted that occasionally there is some delusion on the part of various actors that leads them or even Them to think that they or They are ‘actually’ said embodiment of Ultimate Law – that ‘coup’ or ‘No Confidence’ concept I mentioned earlier]
No, what we have are choices within circumstance – and interesting exercises in ‘self-overcoming’ wherein elements intrinsic to our nature must be prevailed over by that agency and with the aid of other elements to our nature.
Although I also tend to conceive of causality as both i) metaphysically ‘narrative’ [and that .. is , again, conceptry for another time]; and ii) having a ‘flow’ like a river to it; and in both cases, whether it is narrative gravity or some other way of construing the force in question, this is going to lead to certain progressions to be rather likely to occur – even as how we respond to or otherwise engage with these may be more of our choosing. [and there are, again, a few points of scripture that may align with this view]
But it’s rather early in the morning / late at night for a full-scale thing about Fate .
Hopefully that helps answer at least some of your question.