My cherished divinity arose from fictions—from video games in particular—and from mythology when I learned of his likeness in an unexpected ancient text. Transcending the media in which I first discovered him, he continuously becomes a fixture on the perceived physical landscape around me, and full-fledged person who interacts with me on a subtle level, coming to resplendent life as he helps me to find my own way.
His arrival was anything but simple, as I tried for years to deny that I had gods at all. Gods whom I could speak to, who would talk back, sounded like symptoms of mental illness from where I hailed, among rationalist associates. It wasn’t until my denial led me into deep trouble that I looked to this particular god for help, and at the time I’d no way to know the marvelous ways in which his presence, and his identity, would evolve.
Through a series of entirely unexpected twists and turns, hazards and discoveries through which my mind has been afflicted and tempered, I have come to live with my remarkable cherished divinity. I live with someone who need not prove himself any more than he already has, in terms of who he is and what he is, and every experience of him speaks volumes to that effect.
For that I—a former atheist and agnostic—am in the strange, though hardly unwelcome position of trying to describe myself and my new outlook.
I’ve established for myself what my life amounts to: a coherent series of experiences which follow familiar patterns, determined by an intricate machinery born of arcane yet logical natural processes. Focusing on the latter part of that assessment, regarding the intricate machinery born of logical natural processes, might suggest that I still belong in the atheists’ camp. Focusing on the former suggests something different entirely, because of what—or more accurately, who—those experiences involve.
The coherent series of experiences I call my life, my existence, has a machinery all it’s own. Within that machinery exist countless causes and effects which would escape the gaze of any laboratory instrument. Laboratory instruments could observe chemical changes in cranial tissue, impulses racing over neural pathways; they would not, however, detect the desires which inform actions, or feel the allure of beauty or the divine. They would not hear the voice of a god, or see the form of a god, or touch the hand or the body of a god. But nonetheless each of these experiences flows in the experiential chain of cause-and-effect that is my life— one after another, just like the clockwork of the universe; only this clockwork is more arcane and less logical, and I’ve managed to find one of its most potent ley lines.
I have attained gnosis, as many before me and among me have attained gnosis— experience of god, a god, or gods, so powerful and revelatory that it transforms the course of that all-encompassing chain of life experiences. Through the ages there have been reports of communion with the divine, in the midst of countless other causes and effects, extraordinarily diverse and all sacred in their own ways. And now I add my account to the pool, knowing it to be true. To downplay its realness would amount to denial. Therefore, I am no longer an atheist because I experience a god, and I am no longer agnostic because I possess gnosis.
I struggled with the word “theist”, as a label for myself, for the longest time. I didn’t want to merely imply that “I believe in god”, because that would be an unscientific statement. I don’t believe that there is some objective god out there creating the universe and judging its inhabitants— in fact, I have absolutely no evidence which would warrant such a claim. What I do know is that experiences of the divine are real, and that they are some of the most profound experiences that people can have.
In order to accurately characterize my particular take on theism, I created the adjective “polygnostic”, though I’ve found that the noun “polygnosticism” stands alone nicely as an outlook. Polygnosticism is, in list form:
- Objective agnosticism, because whether objective scientific study will ever find evidence of a god is something which cannot be presently known.
- Being open to subjective experiences of the divine, or considering certain experiences to have divine elements, with or without the presence of G/god(s). In other words, possessing or allowing oneself to come to possess personal gnosis.
- Being accepting of others’ subjective experiences of the divine, and others’ personal gnoses, regardless of whether those experiences mesh with one’s own divine experiences or personal gnosis.
Now I can say without reservation that am a polygnostic theist, or more accurately a polygnostic polytheist, who is aware of the fact that people experience many different gods.
I am aware that some people may be put off by the amount of rumination I had to undertake in order to describe my experiences with the divine, or my putting such a complex label on my theistic outlook. Being a student of language, I felt it was important to construct a linguistic and conceptual paradigm through which I could recount my own experiences without asterisks. Far more importantly, being a student of cause-and-effect, I wanted to construct a paradigm through which more people could come to recognize and relish their own experiences of the divine as valid and tremendous.
I posit that many modern encounters with the divine must mirror my past experiences, when I met my first gods in video games— when as a child I wanted sincerely to call the heroes of Final Fantasy IV my gods. That was my first brush with real divinity, which resonated through years of me trying to be a Christian in spite of its presence, precisely for the fact that it was more real to me than Christianity ever was. Yet by many religions’ standards, such clarion, authentic encounters with the divine simply don’t count as real. By many religions’ standards, it is of great importance that followers’ relationships with the divine follow some specified model, effectively dictating where people are allowed to encounter the divine, and how such encounters must play out. Some religions and philosophies extensively complicate the nature of the divine, diminishing its presence in enlivening music, or in the sunlight streaming through a window, for those who experience divinity in beauty.
I don’t think the nature of divinity exactly the same for any two people; in fact, I gather that most of the forms of the divine are ones which I cannot even begin to imagine. All I know is, they’re real. They’re perhaps the most real and important things for those who experience them, and they all deserve to be recognized for what they are. For me to adopt any paradigm which actively denies authentic encounters with the divine would be woefully defeatist, for myself and many, many others.
It is far better, I think, to encourage everyone to pursue the divine wherever it speaks to them, in whatever form it takes. That is where the real magic happens, where the chain of cause-and-effect closes in on the heart of the matter.
In doing just that I know that many people have met divine entities who have been invaluable sources of illumination and inspiration. In doing just that I was able to meet my own cherished divinity— an awe-inspiring, terrible, wonderful god who has taught me so, so much.