A God-Fearing People – Against The Pretension That One Ought Not Perhaps Fear An Indo-European God

We had recently seen a claim from a prominent American witch that seemed to suggest it was improper to have “fear” of Gods. 

As they put it: 

“Not really something considered to be a healthy trait in a relationship – divine or otherwise.”

We could say quite a bit about this, but let’s just stick to the ‘Fear’ aspect. 

I recall three years back a conversation I’d had with an ex-HK associate I’d brought with me to Temple one night. It was Friday, at Mandir, and I was carrying out my Devi observances. He noted that his feeling viz. Devi was, very much, fear.

Now, this did not stop him from carrying out the observance elements I gave him there, and we had some ‘interesting happenings’ that evening that were fairly directly Devi relevant afterwards

But I recall asking him why he had said fear – not because I disagreed, but of interest

What he had said was that when one considers the .. immensity of Devi, all of that power & potency; and even before one gets to the more Wrathful forms in earnest .. well, there is indeed quite a lot to be affeared of.

And he’s absolutely right.

Anybody who is not – at least in potentia – afraid of the Gods … is quite possibly not seriously intellectually engaging with just what the concept of ‘God’ entails.

It doesn’t mean one is quaking in terror when going up to make an Offering, of course.

And we can certainly, I think, class ‘healthy respect’ as another way of looking at this paradigm. Because we are aware taht the Power in question … exists, and its more terrific (in the sense of ‘begetting terror’) potency is not aimed us, as we are pious devotees.

Yet fundamentally – it seems to me that anybody that bristles at the idea of ‘Fearing God(s)’ in such a manner as the OP … what they want is a ‘Personal Jesus’, or even ‘Buddy Christ’ style approach to religion and Gods.

One wherein it’s all ‘accessible’ and ‘positive’.

Now, the fascinating thing is – in some cases, particular humans do have very close relationships with even otherwise inordinately ‘Dread’ Gods ; or, at least, Facings thereof (that may be less terrorizing in practice).

There are accounts I can think of from the hagiographies of the Tamil Shaivite Saints wherein it is quite directly stated that this particular Saint was such a friend to Shiva that, well, you do get some very warm & amicable interactions on an almost ‘personal’ level.

Yet why I say this is ‘fascinating’ – is because if we consider a rather large quotient of Roudran scripture that is still to this day actively recited in the course of contemporary Shaivite piety … we have, no bones about it, a Terrifying God.

One Whose Wrathful Attentions, one is very swift to attempt to placate, to redirect, to ask very nicely to please slay somebody else with that Great And Mighty Arrow.

Now, of course, it is impressive that we have both of these Facings to the same God. And yet … we so often seem to fall into a trap of presuming that Gods are less complex, less nuanced in Their emotional range etc. than ordinary humans are. Curious, that.

In any case, lest I be thought to be commenting only upon a single Deific, in amidst a single IE religious sphere … I can think of quite an array of ‘Fearful’, ‘Dread’, ‘Terrifying’, etc. theonyms & epithets for the Gods in Ancient Greek / Hellenic and Old Norse / Germanic.

I personally would also suspect that in the absence of the ‘Fearful’ approach – i.e. approaching through the zone of Fear and Reverence intimately bound up with same – then one is quite likely ‘missing something’.

If there is an ‘immediate’ and ‘accessible’ approach straight to some feigned ‘ immediate ‘Friendship’ with a God  … then one is not putting in the psychological effort for a start. One is attempting to ‘short-cut’ things. And likely doing so sans some modicum of respect.

There is, again, much we could certainly say about this dimension – however I think that the core of the problem is rather adequately illustrated via this tweet that was sent in reply to the one I refer to in the OP:

“I don’t worship gods, I work with them.”

This was replied to with an apt:

“Then they aren’t gods.”

… and a rather bemusing riposte to said reply:

“The root word for worship is to work with or for. Christians don’t even know what the words in their Bible mean, bc many of them are working (worshiping) a political agenda.”

We are, of course, Entirely unsurprised to find :

i) that the third respondent is incorrect about their etymology (‘worship’ in fact derives from a recognition of ‘worth’ – being worthy of reverence)

ii) the insistent claim that anybody who disagrees with this kind of ‘no, we don’t actually worship Gods’ …  is implicitly a Christian with some sort of inveterate political agenda.

Well-known worshippers of Gods (plural), those, conservative Christians, I suppose?

As we have said – I absolutely do not mean to imply that the only possible manner to properly think about our Gods is through mind-numbing terror, at some sort of omniscient tyrant that could end you with but half a thought.

And not least because ‘mind-numbing terror’ should seem to indicate that precious little ‘thinking’ was actually going on in the first instance.

[in decidedly the opposite form to the sort of not-quite-grasping-the-point some of these sorts in the original thread had hit upon]

But I do think that the above-quoted exchange indicates something rather regrettably fundamental:

Namely, that, as the saying goes, ‘[over]familiarity’ can all too easily ‘breed contempt’.

At least, in some people.

And thataway, ‘God’ as ‘Cosmic Vending Machine’ [i.e. you put in your tokens, you press the button and make your selection, in an entirely mechanistic fashion that is more ‘Deus Est Machina’ than ‘Deus Ex …’ which places the human operator at the center of everything] lies.

Besides – it is difficult to shake the suspicion that if we are talking about a Deific Whose Name is literally ‘Terror’, or ‘Death’, is ‘visage’d’ to match, and is spoken of in the mythology as having the power to annihilate even other Gods or worlds

and you aren’t at least a little ‘residually’ fearful on some level – then the only possible conclusion is that either you really don’t realize the implications of such a Being, or you’re just not taking the whole thing very seriously at all.

Perhaps feeling ‘above’ Them in some fashion, and therefore self-perceivedly ‘invulnerable’ to Their potencies and might.

In which case … why’re you engaging with (sorry, ‘working with’) Them in the first place, if you think yourself so superior.

Personally, I suspect that this is one of these ‘Modern’ and decidedly ‘Western’ problems. We’ve forgotten just what it is to be, in a word, ‘lesser’ (or, perhaps more politely – ‘subordinate’).

How do I mean this?

In most situations that the average 1st world Westerner encounters somebody with power over him or her, and who’s theoretically greater in standing … they’re just encountering another pretty ordinary human being.

Now, it’s true that a policeman with a gun, or a judge with a gavel (and we note that here, ‘Your Honour’ or ‘Your Worship’ is still in-use! – no ‘work with’ the Judge in sight) can wield a significant degree of literal ‘life-or-death’ potency over us.

Yet that doesn’t come from their essential nature or being. The policeman has a badge and a gun (and backup); the judge has a decidedly human system around them (and bailiffs). Even the President of a country is just a man or woman, mortal like you or I.

And, as it happens, at least in the West (most of the time … in theory) there are some decided limits upon just what any of these three figures (or, for that matter, one’s employer in the workplace) can feasibly do to you.

“I have rights!”

It levels the playingfield.

What does this mean? It means that we are genuinely unprepared to encounter something that is not a functional part of this paradigm -but which instead transcends it utterly

Because we insistently try and ‘make sense of it’ in our own familiar ‘down to earth’ (and wrong) terms

A God may appear in anthropomorphic form – or even, for that matter, actually in human form. We may think of Them – indeed actively hail Them – as being a King, a Lord.

And subconsciously, some of us think of those terms in their decidedly modern Western shading:

Where the most frightful thing the Queen of England can do, it would appear, is giving us Prince Andrew. And, perhaps, dissolve a Parliament (subject to Constitutional conventions and the very real risk that pushing the button leads to insurgent Republican sentiment elsewhere).
Robert E. Howard (he of Conan fame) once observed that:

“Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.”

So it is in the religious (or ‘pseudo-religious’) sphere.

The injunction to remove even the possibility of ‘fear’ from proceedings of piety means willfully blinding one’s self to exactly what there was to be potentially afraid of in the first place.

And in the absence of that – while it is certainly possible for some to really continue to have an admirably apt approach to Divine engagement through sentiments of loyalty, duty, and love (as of a Parent) …

… in other cases, I do not think that this holds for everyone.

Screaming “YOU WORK FOR US!” at an obstreperous or obstructive human politician is one thing. Both accurate – and at times, eminently necessary.

But to do this towards a God?

Well, what can we say – it takes something that is a legitimate element to Indo-European religion (i.e. the somewhat ‘transactional’ (if we are to be crude about it) approach to certain aspects of the pious relationship built around rites, viz. ‘do ut des’ / Dehi Me, Dadami Te)

and it makes it most decidedly tawdry, indeed. It ‘sells out’ or ‘barters away’ the appropriate and due sense of reverence unto Them. And, I do think, it fundamentally cheapens us in the process, as well.

We lose something ‘human’ by losing sight of the truly Divine.

Now, lest I be misinterpreted about this – I am absolutely not making the case for a return to human monarchy in a bid to somehow stem this seeming-incessant flow.

For one thing – it’s (arguably) unnecessary. A better approach is simply education and thinking properly about these sorts of matters. As we have said – consider the implications of what a God is, even afore we get into the Death-Aspects and Terror-Visages, etc.

For another, I remain to be convinced that – given how (human) monarchy’s gone in various places over the past few hundred years in particular – this would actually meaningfully improve our perception of authority. In fact, it would often likely prove the exact opposite.

Even leaving aside the questionable competency of various human (would-be) rulers at rulership … it’s still placing a human in a role rather than turning the gaze skyward. A failable, mortal, overthrowable, limited figure at the best of times.

And that’s before we consider the worrisome spectacle of a latter-day Commodus or Elagabalus showing up and managing to simultaneously tarnish both ‘institutions’ … (not least through effectively attempting to claim, however seriously, to be certain divinities incarnate)

In any case, I am rambling now -and I ought draw things to a more swiftly measured conclusion.

The modern Western mindset that those comments aforementioned were a particular representation of – has not resulted because we no longer have Kings.

But merely because we no longer have Gods.

Change that fact, and the problem begins to (w)rite itself in earnest.

Some of us – but by no means all – have forgotten just what Gods are … and so our entire mental horizon of perspective has ‘flattened’ down here to encompass only a seemingly narrow band of this plane, and our banal frames of reference alone.

Hence why somebody can, apparently without reconsideration, phrase a tweet about why you shouldn’t have fear of Gods, in terms that also encompass this dimension as if it were just another flavour of abusive human (perhaps even intimate) relationship.

Somebody once observed that “wisdom is the beginning of fear”. That is correct. One must first apprehend thence understand that something is dangerous afore one can actually fear it. (or, at least, make the feasible presumption, perhaps upon instinct, that it might be)

The insistent ‘erasure’ of Fear (or even the vague possibility of such) from any perceptions of the Divine, therefore, we hold to be directly tantamount to the systemic erasure of Wisdom which goes alongside therewith.

And the curious thing is – reality, it’s something which persists regardless of whether you pay attention to it or not (at ten to five in the morning, we are not getting into the quantum physics arguments on this).

Phrased another way: one does not need to know one ought to have a sense of (fearful) reverence toward Gods (particularly of the literally Terrific facings thereof of insurmountable, all-conquering might) in order for it to be true.

But it most definitely helps to do so.

Jai Mata Di 

One thought on “A God-Fearing People – Against The Pretension That One Ought Not Perhaps Fear An Indo-European God

  1. Pingback: A God-Fearing People – Against The Pretension That One Ought Not Perhaps Fear An Indo-European God – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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