A key reason that polytheisms will never be regarded by some as "proper" religions is because the full potential of a polytheistic field need not be present for any given individual worshiper. That is, the polycentricity of polytheism is for many worshipers a practical possibility, but is not thematized by them. Many worshipers may worship a single God and regard the other Gods in the field as somehow dependent upon their chosen deity. There is nothing deviant about this sort of exclusive focus occurring within a polytheistic social field, nor is it evidence of some tendency for the field to transform into monotheism. These are not "pocket monotheisms" because they tacitly presuppose that other Gods, who exist for them in a dependent status, can be and are experienced by others as at the center. Where the polycentric polytheistic field is thematized as such, we have the perfection of a philosophical discourse about religion, but this perfection is not a condition for the existence of polytheism as such, or for its essential polycentricity.
Q. What is thematization here?
A doctrine that is thematized by somebody is explicitly held by them and articulated at least to some degree, as opposed to a doctrine that shows itself implicitly in their behavior.
To āṅgīrasa śreṣṭha (@GhorAngirasa ): It was our discussion that brought home to me how important a point this is. It goes to the fundamental difference in *kinds* of religion that we are dealing with between monotheism and polytheism, which many recognize, but conceptualize in varied and often inadequate ways.
@GhorAngirasa : A problem is that, the tacit presupposition "that other Gods, who exist for them in a dependent status, can be and are experienced by others as at the center" is not recognized as adequate in itself to fully justify the legitimacy of polytheism. Questions along the lines of, "Where is this recognition actually mentioned?" will arise. The monotheists and closeted monotheists will then argue that there is no such recognition and what one calls polytheism is simply an assemblage of "wannabe monotheisms".
Quite true, but this needs to be attacked, because the result is to treat the total polytheistic field as radically *contingent*, that is, as the result of purely contingent historical differences in affiliation, mere "sectarianism".
@GhorAngirasa : Absolutely. It is just that our thinkers & leaders are yet to fully grapple with this depth of discourse. Many of them would not be able to formulate a decent explanation of why this tacit recognition is more pronounced than one would give credit for & is indeed adequate.
Yes, precisely, and this is the erasure of polytheisms as religions, that they are conceived as mere material assemblages that necessarily disintegrate under analysis. This means that only credal faiths can count as "religions". It shouldn't be so difficult to demonstrate that the degree of intimate entanglement that we see between diverse sects in a common polytheistic field, even where they display strong "single-pointedness", goes far beyond that of a congery of "wannabe monotheisms".
@GhorAngirasa : Right now, I can easily think of two examples: 1. Of a dramatist-philosopher-logician from 10th century, jayanta bhaTTa whose work serves as a prototype for the religion/counter-religion distinction and also alludes to the 'tacit recognition' we speak of. 2. nAvalar, a devout and orthodox shaiva teacher from shrI lanka who had to contend with western missionaries attacking shaivam. In a certain polemical treatise, he raises a question often asked by the Padres, "Why do you attack only us when there are others within your own religion who believe in gods other than shiva (viSNu, etc) as supreme?" nAvalar proceeds to answer along the lines that these deities are recognized by his own deity & therefore worshiping them is no fault, while the "god" of the padres is not recognized; again, alluding to the 'tacit recognition' idea. Sure, both answers/models can definitely be improved. However, I was just citing these to highlight the resources available.
There is also the possibility, of course, that just as Platonism properly understood demonstrates the explicit, and not just tacit, recognition of the polycentric field, that this recognition is present in Indian philosophy as well, viewed properly.
kashcidvipashcit (@kashcit): "Official mention problem": Can be answered with http:// indiafacts.org/polycentrism-
A very thoughtful piece. It makes me wonder when the term "polycentricity" was first applied to Hinduism; I first encountered it in a book by Diana Eck from 1981, but I doubt she originated the usage. Of course, Max Müller says that to refer to "Gods" in the plural is as senseless as to speak of many centers of a circle. 😄
@GhorAngirasa: Julius Lipner might have been earlier. He certainly made much use of the term. At a lecture he gave in my home country, siMhapurI, recently, he did subtly contrast the tolerance of a complex, diverse Hinduism with the narrowness of monotheisms but was not comfortable about describing Hinduism as polytheistic but as beyond both poly and mono theisms.
I would say that those who have used the term in the past have more often than not wished to use it in this fashion, thinking thereby to evade the inescapable historical confrontation between monotheism and polytheism. Unless it is recognized that polytheism has in fact always been polycentric, this confrontation is inevitably staged on ground that favors monotheism.
@kashcit : Forgive my ignorance: Did the Hellenes consider anyone other than Zeus supreme at all?
Empedokles clearly considers Aphrodite supreme. Local cult elevates the God who is its focus to a supreme or virtually supreme status. See H. S. Versnel's extensive work on this phenomenon. Also, in the Hellenic theology according to Proclus and subsequent Platonists, Zeus occupies a position that is pivotal, but rather far "down" in the procession, corresponding to his place in the theogonic "timeline". We can say that for Orphics Dionysos transcends Zeus's authority, or brackets it without displacing it. Often this is how polycentricity works, by recourse to different forms of ultimacy, weaving a network of meaning in this fashion. The conservation of diverse modes of cosmic authority and metaphysical ultimacy by polycentric polytheisms is essential to the fundamentally pro-cosmic standpoint of these religions.
@kashcit : This calls to mind the benefits and dangers of calling hinduism a religion - https:// sites.google.com/site/
No, I think that is utterly the wrong approach. A "cultural ethos" will not be regarded as continuous over changes of lifestyle, and inevitably will be regarded as leaving space for a "proper" religion atop its welter of mere customs and folkways.