Zeus, Ganesha, Hanuman & Horus: Polytheism & Deep Ecology

Read Time: 5 minutes

Once the concept ‘nature’ was taken to mean the opposite of the concept God, the word ‘natural’ had to acquire the meaning of abominable…He[man] is by no means the crown of creation, besides him, every other creature stands at the same stage of perfection…and even in asserting this we go a little too far; for, relatively speaking, man is the most botched and diseased of all animals, and he has wandered furthest from his instincts.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

To the Christians, animals are supposed to have “no souls”. Hindu pantheism, on the contrary, sees not only a soul, but the one, eternal soul- the supreme soul, paramatma- in every living individual, human, animal or vegetable.” — Savitri Devi, The Impeachment of Man 

We have to learn today to get back into accord with the wisdom of nature and realize again our brotherhood with the animals and with the water and with the sea. It[the rejection of nature as a divinity] is not simply a characteristic of modern Americans, that is the biblical condemnation of nature which they inherited from their own religion. God is separate from nature, and nature is condemned of God.” — Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth 

Zeus steals away Ganymede in the form of an Eagle.

The notion of Deep Ecology, or a radically tenacious environmental philosophy that advocates the preservation of the natural world in its spontaneous splendor, is directly related to the traditionalist perspective that reveres the sacred perception of nature. 

However, the traditional perspective validating environmental preservation has swiftly been relinquished in favor of postmodern, industrialized monotony, a phenomenon that was invigorated due to the societal catalyst that was the industrial revolution. This could also be correlated to the rapid development of monotheistic religious doctrine that prioritizes human beings above the natural world, or, as being distinctly separate from it, and therefore subjecting it to anthropocentric exploitation. Passed away are the days of the euphoric worship of Dionysus within the forested plains of Ancient Greece, the wondrous adoration of Apollo in exaltation of the Sun in its warmth, and the sheer awe invoked upon the waves of Poseidon in aquatic torrents. No more is the thunderous rolling of Zeus and Thor upon stormy clouds of lightning, the admiration of Ra basked in the sun’s rays, and the Rites of Anubis found in popularity. 

The monotony of modern architecture that is elevated by the hand of Man is due to his degenerated, impeded ability to likewise exalt nature.

All three previously mentioned philosophers, Nietzsche, Devi and Campbell, agree on this central point: Modernized society has relinquished the value of the natural world in favor of a fabricated monument to the achievements of man, and in so doing, has destroyed, desecrated and defamed the intrinsically spiritual connotation of Nature. All three would likewise agree that a key component contributing to the depreciation of nature was the development of Monotheistic religion, or, the notion that all of this vast physical existence was crafted by the hand of a singular God that is independent from it. The very notion that nature itself is but a mere demonstration of the power of a God, rather than a part of it, is in itself an act of depreciation and debasement. 

Nietzsche would consider the rejection of Nature as an intrinsically divine phenomenon a likewise rejection of the “Will to Power”, or the intrinsic, instinctive passion to live in the full essence of life through both pain and pleasure, the enthusiastic embrace of all experiences of existence, and the preservation of Life as a sacred institution (insofar as any institution might be considered consecrated by Nietzsche) through procreation. All else that impedes upon the will to power might be readily and vehemently dismissed as a degradation of life, a degeneration. Observations of the evidently unnatural, modern tendency of society to differentiate between humanity and the natural world, and thus consider it a mere instrument to be exploited for the sake of luxurious convenience, could thus be rejected.

However, both Joseph Campbell and Savitri Devi extend this appreciation of nature to a theistic perspective, namely a polytheistic and pantheistic one. Both demonstrate criticism towards monotheism in its dismissal of the divine connotation of the natural world, deeming them “Man-centered” creeds that serve only the egotistical pursuits of the development of humanity, at the price of the exploitation of the natural world. The arrogant demeanor of the old testament deity Yahweh is a reflection of the attitude of mankind, that being, inconsiderate, egotistical, malicious, and concerned with other faculties of the world only insofar as it may serve them. This demeanor, which originates in Judaic text and permeates likewise throughout Christianity and Islam, serves to effectively dismantle the notion of monotheism on the ground of its rejection of the sacred world, not as an independent, divine phenomenon, but as a mere instrument to be subjected to the whims of human beings. 

All the splendor of the material world; all the grace, strength and loveliness of millions of beasts, birds, fish, trees and creepers; the majesty of snow-clad mountains, the beauty of the unfurling waves-all that and much more- is not worth, in God’s eyes, the immortal soul of a human imbecile.” — Savitri Devi 

Devi emphasizes the hypocrisy of “man-centered creeds”, in her argument that man is inherently superior to other species due to his intellectual capacity and rational faculties, but refuses to apply that same hierarchal structure to the various races within the human species (that do demonstrate notable differences in skeletal structure and genetic makeup). In contrast to these man-centered creeds, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, otherwise collectively known as Indian philosophy, rejects this hypocrisy and embraces a polytheistic perspective in which the divine is manifested through a variety of deities, likewise in the form of various species, rather than exclusively human ones. 

The two Hindu deities representing the destruction of obstacles, Ganesha(left) and Hanuman(right).

The accompaniment of the various deities with other divine incarnations of power in the form of other species presents a harmonious, mutual relationship between all forms of life, human or otherwise. This perspective is blatantly abandoned under monotheistic creeds, and due to this exclusivity, monotheistic faiths intrinsically reject a complete perception of all of existence, choosing instead to prioritize exclusively anthropocentric affairs. 

Through this logical analysis, we arrive at the notion that Polytheism/Pantheism is the most definite method of appreciating nature as an intrinsically sacred creation, rather than a mere extension of the power of a singular God.

In finality, it might also be acknowledged that the respect of other species does not necessitate a subversion of mankind’s dominion over them; it merely necessitates that such dominion be performed with honor, integrity, and gratitude. A lack of consideration for the integrity of other species distorts man’s dominion in the animal kingdom into a tyranny; the opposite distorts said dominion into a martyrdom. Only through the respect, integrity, gratitude and honor of other species, and the cooperative use of mankind’s advanced mental faculties, can Nature now be restored to her former splendor, and be appropriately appreciated as a divine creation.

By: Avialae Horton


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