什么是polytheism?

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Banning non-Muslims from calling God “Allah” is tantamount to “syirik”, which refers to the sin of practicing idolatry or polytheism and is an unforgivable crime in Islam, respected Islamic scholar and former Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Asri Zainul Abidin has warned Muslims.(The Malay Mail Online-Oct 18)

阿拉的称呼闹得沸沸扬扬,如烧开的沸水,一不小心就会烫伤。上面剪摘玻璃市受尊重的前伊斯兰顾问的发言。

世上的主要宗教粗略分成两种,一神教和多神教。一神教英文叫着monotheism,那么顾名思义,多神教就是polytheism了。基督教、犹太教和伊斯兰是一神教,只膜拜唯一的上帝。多神教就很热闹,因为涵盖许许多多各式各样的神祗,如古希腊、古罗马、印度教、中国人传统宗教等。

对基督徒、穆斯林和犹太教徒来说,信奉多神是一种罪,是偶像崇拜(idolatry)。所以才有宗教师Asri博士以上的立场。

我才疏学浅,不敢卖弄,不过刚好听到有关的课,觉得有趣,贴上来分享。课程内容是哪里来的呢?当然是长达17星期的网络课程,《A Brief History of Humankind》,由The Hebrew University of Jerusalem的Dr Yuval Noah Harari教授的。
。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。

As animism, polytheism also  tends to believe in all these holy rocks and holy trees and demons and the fairies, but polytheists also believe very importantly, in very powerful entities which are called gods. Polytheists believe that yes, there are all kind of fairies and demons in the world, but at the end of the day, the world is governed, above all, by a collection of gods.

2000 years of monotheistic brainwashing have caused most Westerners, most people who believe in Christianity, Islam and Judaism to view polytheism as some kind of ignorant and childish idolatry, like praying to rocks and to all kinds of gods and goddesses. But this is a very unjust stereotype.

Polytheism in fact have a very strong logic behind it, the inner logic of polytheism, the central idea that led polytheists to believe in the existence of many gods, many different powers that rule the world. Polytheism does not necessarily dispute the existence of a single power or a single law that governs the entire universe, including all the different gods.

In fact, most polytheists and even most animist religions recognized the existence of such a supreme power or supreme law that stands behind all the different gods and demons and holy robes. 

For example, in classical Greek polytheism, all the gods, the Zues and Hera and Apolla and so forth were subject to an omnipotent and all encompassing power which is the power that really rules the world and this was called Fate, Moira or Ananke. All the gods are helpless in the face of Fate.

In Hinduism, in the Hindu polytheist  religion, there is also a single principle called sometimes, the Atman, which controls all the different gods and spirits, and also humans and animals, and plants and everything in the world. Atman is considered the eternal essence, or the eternal soul of the whole universe, as well as being the essence of the soul of every individual and every phenomena. Every individual, every tree, every rock is part of this Atman. 

So the idea that there is a single power or law governing the entire universe is not alien to polytheism. What is the fundamental insight of polytheism which distinguishes it from monotheism, from the belief in a single god like Christianity or Islam, is that the supreme power governing the world, according to the polytheists, is devoid of interests, have no biases and interests. And therefore it is completely unconcerned of the mundane desires and cares and worries of human beings.

It's pointless according to polytheists to come to the supreme power of the universe and ask for his help in gaining victory in war or ask for help in gaining health or causing rain to fall, because from the all encompassing vantage point of the supreme power of the universe, it makes absolutely no difference, whether a particular kingdom wins or losses this war, whether a particular city prospers or collapses, whether a particular person lives or dies. 

This is why the Greeks even though they thought that fate is the supreme power of the universe and even the gods are helpless in the face of fate.The Greeks did not waste any sacrifices or prayers on fate, because fate would not listen to you. 

Similarly, the Hindus built temples to almost anything you can imagine, but Hindus did not build temples to Atman, the eternal supreme soul of the universe, because this supreme power has no interests, no biases. So you can't make deals with it. You can't say, I'll sacrifice this or that, pray to you in this prayer or that prayer and in return, you will help me. Because it won't help you. 

The only reason according to polytheistic religion to affront the supreme power of the universe would be to renounce all desires, and to embrace the bad things that happen in the world alongside the good things, to accept defeat, to accept poverty, to accept sickness, to accept death. 

For example in Hinduism, there are some Hindus, the religious elite, known as Sadhus or Sannyasis, they devote their lives to uniting with the Atman. They devote their lives to achieving enlightenment. Enlightenment, according to Hinduism means to view the world from the viewpoint of this supreme, fundamental principal and to realize that from this eternal perspective, all the mundane desires and hopes and fears and ambitions of humans are completely meaningless and ephemeral phenomena. 

But most Hindus are not Sadhus, they are very much interested and have been for thousands of years in all kinds of mundane ambitions. And Atman is not going to help them achieve any of these ambitions. For assistance in such matters, like curing yourself from a disease, or winning a lot of money in the lottery, you cannot approach the Atman. 

So for these purposes, the Hindus approach the different Gods with their various haltshield powers. Now precisely because the powers of Ponchio, not all encompassing, gods such as Ganesha or Lakshmi or Saraswati. They have interests and biases. And because of that, humans can approach them and make deals with them.They can rely on their help in order to win wars, or winning the lottery, a lot of money, or cooperate from illness. 

This then is the fundamental insight of polytheistic religions like Hinduism.The supreme power of the universe has absolutely no interests and no biases. So if we want help with our mundane problems and ambitions, we must approach the partial and biased powers. And there are necessarily many such smaller powers, because once you begin to divide the all encompassing power of a supreme principal, you inevitably end up with more than one deity. 

Once you move from the supreme from the pinnacle of the pyramid, and you start dividing the power into all kinds of less encompassing powers than you get more than one. And this is why you have the Atman, and below the Atman you have all kinds of different gods. And each time, you may address a different god which may or may not help you in your ambitions. 

下回继续。
在英国有习惯法,替你先决定过马路应该看哪里。去到其他地方,不能仅靠一套规矩,不然可能横尸大路。宗教也是一样。

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

网络课和同学

原来像桃姐

巴厘岛