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Edward P. Butler ([personal profile] endymions_bower) wrote2018-06-27 06:41 pm

Monotheism is Atheism, and some thoughts on Vedanta

Monotheism is Atheism, and some thoughts on Vedanta (from Twitter)

Sometimes one has to go where the fight is, not try to sublate the opposition. The fight over the term "polytheism" is one of those cases.
Eventually it will be understood that theism just *is* polytheism, and that monotheism properly understood is atheism.
Monotheism isn't just choosing one God and ignoring the rest, polytheists do that all the time. It's denying the others.
Even where monotheism claims to "absorb" the other Gods (i.e. immanent monotheism or "pantheism"), it does so by imposing dualism.
Or else "pantheism" is simply a polite term for polytheism, as Hegel already recognized at the height of this term's popularity.
Deny any divinity, and you deny all divinity.
All atheists recognize monotheism's iconoclasm as a decisive step toward their position, all see monotheism as more "evolved".
The historical disintegration in the West of monotheism into intellectualism, psychologism, and historicism is not accident, but telos.
It came about through the foreclosure of the space proper to theism as such, a space of ongoing theophany, multiplicity, manifestation.
Someone raised the issue of a supposed opposition between polytheism and advaita; as far as I can see, it doesn't exist.
To reduce what advaitins are saying to a head count of Gods seems to me an absurdly banal, and hence uncharitable reading.
This would be true even if one didn't give a damn about polytheism, but merely that philosophers be read as saying something of *interest*.
I've long said about the Platonists: if you don't care about polytheism, maybe you care about philosophers not being nonsense or trivial.
How I read it, the issue between advaita and dvaita is whether in theophany there are two terms or only one.
The issue of how many Gods there are doesn't arise. Nobody need accept my reading, I'm not an authority. But the possibility opens doors.
A reading of Vedanta that does not pit it against polytheism preserves the integrity of a tradition otherwise divided.
Make no mistake, there is no disinterested account of these issues in the West. Sundering praxis from philosophy in Hinduism is the goal.
Once we realize it's not a head count, the true philosophical issues between advaita and dvaita actually *appear*, and become fascinating.
Otherwise, it's easy for Westerners to dismiss Vedanta because it's treated as a religion in itself.
This was already done with so-called "Neoplatonism" in the West, this is how I can recognize the tactic so readily.
This was also done with Confucianism. In general, only the West is supposed to have philosophy, everybody else just has religions.

A knowledgeable advaitin recognises the Godly assemblage at the General Plane. The Absolute Plane doesn't concern anything let along this. To expand, when Bhashyas were written, nowhere is there a denial of Devas like Indra Mitra Varuna Agni etc. The vyavaharika satya is subject to all injunctions of Dharma Veda and Devata. The Absolute Plane need not concern itself with Poly-Mono concepts at all.

Indeed; but to extent there is a hierarchy, polytheism is superior because it does not say "This God is real, that one not."

True. Indeed, and not only that, Polytheism is sound in that it takes the pulls from the devotee rather than push into them. What I mean is that, there is credible conscious mapping of the Devotees' conception into the Divine rather than an instruction.

Yes, and a proper respect for the entire plane of manifestation.
If all things were equal, nobody in their right mind would claim Hinduism doesn't have many Gods. But I get why people do it.
They're playing respectability politics, plain and simple.

Conversely, I would say that monotheism, properly practiced, recognizes all Gods as God, and cannot exclude any divinity.

That's just recognizing that "God" is a class term, which polytheists have understood since the beginning of time.

Not necessarily. It could be worship of the One (Brahman, Being) of which/whom all gods (and everything else) are manifestations.

Being is the manifestation of the Gods, the Gods aren't manifestations of Being.
I have to say that I am not particularly interested in talking to monotheists about this stuff.
They have nothing to say I haven't heard.